The Breakdown to Becoming a Homeowner- May '24

No matter what stage you’re in, homeownership can be stressful. That’s especially true in today’s market, which has been hampered by higher loan interest rates, low inventory, and high-priced listings.

Whether you’re in the market for a new home or your first home, it’s easy to become intimidated by the prospect of homeownership. It doesn’t have to be scary. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can be prepared for the homebuying process.

Determine Your Homebuying Readiness

Before you even consider buying a home, it’s important to know how the homebuying process works and make sure you’re financially ready to make such a large purchase. Taking your total savings, debt, and credit history into consideration will help determine your qualifying loan amount, interest rate and how much you can afford as a down payment.

For down payments, the more you can pay up front, the lower your payments and the higher your equity. Typically, homebuyers try to put down 20%. This isn’t a requirement, but doing so could help reduce the interest rate on your mortgage.

Once you determine you’re ready to buy a home, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This will give you a solid understanding of the loan amount you qualify for, and it will eliminate that step when you are ready to make an offer.

Documents You’ll Need

Once you’re ready to apply for your mortgage or pre-approval, you can make the process more efficient by having the following documents and information ready for your mortgage loan officer.

  • W-2 forms from the past two years.
  • Pay stubs from the past 30 to 60 days.
  • Federal income tax returns from the past two years. (If Self-Employed)
  • Bank statements from the last two months.
  • Information about your other long-term debts.
  • Driver’s license and Social Security number.
  • Any other information your lender requires.

Once you are pre-approved and have an idea of what type of mortgage you need, it’s time to start home shopping. Be sure you stick to your budget as determined by the amount you were pre-approved for. Look at as many houses as you can, to get a sense of the type of home you need.

More Information

To get the homebuying process started, fill out our Mortgage Information Form.


These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.

Ensuring Your Family’s Future - April '24

Six Steps for Navigating the Financial Challenges of Raising Kids and Saving for the Future

According to the Brookings Institution, the cost of raising a child born in 2015, from birth to age 17, is $310,605. Of course, every family is different, and that amount doesn’t factor in college tuition, but it shows that once you add children to the equation, a significant amount of your annual expenses will be spent on their upbringing. Following are six financial planning tips to ensure your family’s well-being.

  • Save for their education — Just like retirement, it’s never too early to start planning for your child’s higher education. Consider creating a 529 plan for your children. It grows tax free, and your children will be able to make tax-free withdrawals if it’s used for a qualified expense — tuition, room and board, fees, and books. With a 529 plan, you can grow your child’s college education fund over time, lessening the burden of educational expenses in the future.
  • Buy a life insurance policy — If the unthinkable happens to you, a life insurance plan can ensure the loved ones who rely on you financially are taken care of after you’re gone.
  • Create an estate plan — Along with a life insurance policy, you should create an estate plan to determine what happens to your assets. You will also need to determine a guardian for your children if you should pass away before they are legal adults. The guardian you select can also be designated to manage the accounts you leave to your children until they reach a legal age.
  • Increase your emergency fund contributions — As we’ve stated previously, additions to a family increase expenses. If you haven’t done so already, recalculate how much you need in your emergency fund and adjust your monthly contributions to ensure you have enough saved for emergencies.
  • Don’t neglect your retirement accounts — With the additional expenses that come with having children, it may be tempting to stop contributing to your retirement accounts. Contribute less if you must, but contributing nothing will set you back and likely delay your retirement plans.
  • Meet with a financial adviser — Set up a meeting with a financial adviser to help identify areas in your finances you can adjust to ensure your family’s future.

These tips were provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.

How to Redefine Your Retirement in Your 50s - Mar. '24

Six Steps for Managing Your Finances as Retirement Creeps Closer


Age 50 is a major milestone. If you want to retire at 65, you only have 15 years left at age 50 to make sure you have enough money saved to accomplish your goals. That may not seem like a long time, especially if you’ve been working for the last 25-30 years, but there’s still time to ensure you will have what you need. Following are six steps to help you determine if your retirement plan is on the right track.

  • Eliminate debt — By age 50, you should have been able to eliminate or come close to paying off some of your largest debts, including student loans and a mortgage. Look at your remaining debts and prioritize paying them off quickly so you can contribute more to your savings.

  • Start planning what you want to do in retirement — What you want to do after you retire will determine how much money you need to save before you can do so. Start examining what your plans will include and if the amount you’re saving will allow you to achieve that goal.

  • Learn more about Social Security — How long you have worked and how much you have paid in Social Security taxes will determine your benefit, which you can start to collect at age 62. When you turn 50, you may want to create an account at so you can get a better idea of how much you will be able to collect and how your other savings will impact your Social Security.

  • Pad your retirement savings — At age 50, experts suggest you should have about five to six times your annual salary saved up in retirement accounts. If you are behind in your savings, you are allowed to make catch-up contributions. With a 401(k), you can contribute an additional $7,500 per year for a maximum of $30,000 each year once you reach age 50. You can also contribute an extra $1,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA for a maximum of $7,000 in one year. Calculate how much more you can contribute to ensure you will have enough to retire.

  • Update your estate plan — Age milestones are a great time to review your estate plan and make necessary adjustments. Along with a last will and testament, your estate plan should include a financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney and a living will. You should also review beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement plans and other investments.

  • Meet with a financial adviser — Have a professional review your finances and provide an unbiased opinion. A financial adviser can help you gauge whether your savings are on track and help you set a tentative retirement date, so you can rest assured that you will be able to do what you want when you do retire.

These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.

The Dos and Don’ts of Your First Credit Card- Feb. '24

Getting your first credit card can be an exciting moment. It's a significant financial milestone that represents financial independence and responsibility. If not used carefully, however, they can also lead to financial pitfalls. To help you make the most of your first credit card experience, here are the dos and don’ts you should follow when using your first credit card.

Do apply for a credit card early — Most experts agree that you should apply for your first credit card as soon as you are old enough — at age 18. This allows you to start building a credit history right away, which can help when you need to apply for a loan later in life.

Do your research — One of the biggest mistakes you can make when getting your first credit card is not doing your research. Choosing the wrong credit card can result in unnecessary fees, high-interest rates and missed rewards opportunities. Compare different credit card options to find a card that fits your financial goals and spending habits.

Don’t ignore the fine print — Understanding the terms and conditions of your credit card will help you use it more responsibly. Pay close attention to the interest rates, grace period, minimum payment requirements and any additional fees you may incur.

Don’t overextend yourself — Once you start using your credit card, don’t buy more than what you will be able to pay back each month. Try to use it on a couple of small items each month, so you can build a history of paying off your balance. If you charge more than you can afford in any given month, you may be forced to carry a balance that will incur interest and will cost you more to pay off. It could also cause serious damage to your credit score.

Do pay your bill on time — Missing payments or paying late can result in large fees and cause harm to your credit score, making it more challenging to secure loans or favorable interest rates in the future. Most credit cards offer the option to set up automatic payments. Set up this tool right away to make sure you always pay your bill on time.

Don’t apply for multiple credit cards at one time — Applying for too many credit cards at once can hurt your credit score as each application will trigger an inquiry on your credit report. That can potentially cause your score to drop. That’s why you should do your research ahead of time and know what type of card you want to use, then only apply for cards that fit your needs.

Do monitor your credit — Checking your credit report annually is the best way to ensure you haven’t become a victim of identity theft or that errors haven’t been made on your credit history. You can access a free report by visiting or by calling 877-322-8228. Check your report each year for inaccuracies. As you build your credit history, you may also want to consider using a credit monitoring service to stay updated on any changes.

Don’t treat credit cards as free money — Anything you charge on a credit card is essentially a loan that must be paid back. Treating credit cards as free money can lead to reckless spending and mounting debt that will cause severe harm to your ability to be approved for a loan. It can also make it more difficult to find housing or to obtain certain services.

Getting your first credit card is a significant step in your financial journey. Avoiding common mistakes with your credit cards — whether it’s your first card or your fifth — is essential to building a healthy credit history and achieving financial stability.

These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.

New Federal Reporting Requirements for Business Owners - Jan. '24 pt. 2

New federal reporting requirements (Corporate Transparency Act) took effect on January 1st, 2024, that may require you to report your business entity’s beneficial ownership information to the federal government. So how do you know if your business will be impacted? The US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a guide to help you understand the requirements and qualifications. Click here to download the guide or visit for additional resources.

More information on the act:

Starting in 2024, many business entities across the US will need to comply with the Corporate Transparency Act. The intentions of the CTA are to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption, and tax fraud. The act establishes beneficial ownership reporting requirements for specific corporations, LLCs, and other entities formed to do business in the US.

The webpage also contains guidance documents, answers to frequently asked questions, introductory videos, quick reference guides, and other resources to ensure that reporting companies and the business community have the tools they need to comply with the new reporting requirements.

If you have questions about the reporting requirements, you can contact FinCEN’s general Regulatory Helpline by visiting

As your next step:

Go to to determine if your entity needs to report information about their beneficial owners—the persons who ultimately own or control the company—to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). You can also subscribe to FinCEN Updates for future guidance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The webpage also contains guidance documents, answers to frequently asked questions, introductory videos, quick reference guides, and other resources to ensure that reporting companies and the business community have the tools they need to comply with the new reporting requirements.

This information was provided by the Iowa Secretary of State.

How You Can Spot and Prevent Financial Abuse - Jan. '24


Each year millions of senior citizens are victimized by financial fraud or theft of money, property, or valuable personal information. Since the types of abuse may differ widely, it is important to take a variety of precautions. Here are suggestions for protecting yourself and your loved ones:

Choose an advisor carefully. If you are considering hiring a new broker, attorney, accountant, or other professional, even someone recommended by a friend or relative, it is best to independently look into that person’s background and reputation before investing money or paying for services. Make sure you not only understand the role the advisor will be playing, but trust that this individual will do what is best for you and your finances. Do not be afraid to ask questions or say no--after all, it is your money!

Be careful with powers of attorney. At some point, you may want to have a power of attorney, a legal document that authorizes another person to transact business on your behalf. While powers of attorney can be very helpful, be careful whom you name as your representative. A Power of attorney can be easily misused because it allows the appointed person to do everything you can do, including taking money from your account and borrowing money in your name.

Protect your personal financial information. Never give out your bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, or other sensitive information unless you initiate the contact. These requests may come from an unsolicited phone call, text letter, email, or a person who shows up at your door. Be especially wary of someone who congratulates you about winning a prize or lottery but first demands payment for taxes or other fees.

Keep your checkbook, account statements, and other sensitive information in a safe place. Shred paper documents containing sensitive information that are no longer needed.

Closely monitor your credit card and bank account activity. Review your account statements as soon as you receive them and look for unauthorized or suspicious transactions. If you find any, report them to your bank immediately.

Review your credit report. One way to monitor your finances is to order your free annual credit report. Credit agencies are required to provide you with a free report once a year, upon request. The big three agencies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Check to make sure all of the information on your credit report is accurate and complete. Check for the inquiries from companies you do not recognize; report to the credit-reporting agency if you see anything suspicious.

Take your time when deciding on a major financial decision or investment. Make sure you understand the transaction and ask questions if you do not. If necessary, ask a lawyer or financial advisor to help you understand the documents and discuss what is best for you. Walk away from anyone who says you must decide or otherwise do something right now.

Finally, here are additional tips:

  • Beware of callers asking for money or information. To reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, consider signing up for the national Do Not Call Registry at If you are on this list, be suspicious of calls from any company or organization that you have reason to believe is not eligible to contact you under the registry’s rules.
  • Do not comply with requests from strangers to deposit a check into your account and wire some or all of it back. If you send the money and the check is counterfeit, you may be held responsible by your financial institution for the losses.
  • If you use social media, many security experts advise against posting the names, addresses, birthdates, and daily activities of relatives because those can be used by a thief. Grandparent scams are on the rise. This type of scam involves con artists who look for personal information on the internet that they can use to call or email an elderly person and pretend to be a relative in distress — such as a grandchild being injured, in jail, or lost in a foreign country — and needing money sent fast.

This article is a summary of the following:

“Fraud against the Elderly.” FDIC, 1 Sept. 2023,

Online Holiday Shopping Tips - Dec. '23

Click here to view PDF version

Shop securely, use your Mobile Wallet – Nov. ‘23

Add your Washington State Bank cards to your mobile wallet

No matter how you choose to shop, your mobile wallet makes it even easier to pay. Simply add your Washington State Bank cards to Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ or Samsung Pay. Then you can enjoy a new secure way to pay — in-person, in-app or online.

Here’s why you should set up your mobile wallet today:

Reduce fraud

Your actual card number is not stored in your mobile wallet and never used when you make a purchase. Instead, a separate token account number is assigned when you load your credentials to the wallet. Your transaction information is encrypted, making for a secure shopping experience! These payment codes are unique to every transaction, so they can’t be reused by a fraudster for another purchase. Your mobile wallet is also protected by your device’s security settings, so only you can unlock it with your biometrics and passcodes.

Save time & make contactless payments

We know your time is precious and most purchases take only a few seconds to complete. Just hold your mobile device over the payment terminal at the store after activating your wallet and selecting the card you would like to use. You can pay in an instant when you shop online or within an app too by simply choosing your Washington State Bank cards from your mobile wallet. Your mobile wallet pulls in your credentials automatically — so you don’t have to look for your card or type in your information. You can make a safe, touch-free transaction with your cards. There’s no need to present a physical card when you’re shopping in person.

Need help? Click here for more information and links to your phone provider's troubleshooting page.

How To Avoid a Scam- Oct. ‘23

Four Signs That It’s a Scam

  1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the FTC, Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.

They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.

  1. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

  1. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

  1. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you can only pay by using cryptocurrency, wiring money through a company like MoneyGram or Western Union, using a payment app, or putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card.

Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), then tell you to deposit it and send them money.

How To Avoid a Scam

Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists that you can only pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, a payment app, or a gift card. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

Report Scams to the FTC

If you were scammed or think you saw a scam, tell the FTC at

This article comes from the FTC:

How to Create a Strong Password – Sep. ‘23

As our lives continue to become more digital, the need for password protection has increased to secure our devices and accounts.

The Elements of a Strong Password

Strong passwords consist of letters, numbers, and characters making them harder to guess. Longer passwords increase the number of possible variations and therefore make it harder for cybercriminals to crack.

An extra character could add years to the amount of time it takes for a bad actor to crack the code and obtain your password in a brute-force attack. In these types of attacks, hackers use programs to try various combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols in search of the right password. They try multiple passwords in split seconds and are more likely to correctly guess short passwords consisting of only letters and numbers.

Making something easy to remember and harder to guess can be as simple as using a passphrase and tossing in a few symbols and numbers that only you know. The extra complexity is worth your time. According to this tool, a complex 12-digit password takes 117,399,454 years to crack. On the flip side, a computer can crack a 5-character password in under a second.

Passwords to Avoid

A good password is difficult for someone else to guess or crack. Generic passwords like “password” or “12345” are easier to guess. A strong password uses the entire keyboard. “Qwerty” is another common password due to these letters being right next to each other on the keyboard. If it’s easy for you to type, it’s easy for hackers to guess. 

Avoid using personal information. Passwords that use your nickname, date of birth, or your pet’s name could make you vulnerable to hackers who may find out your password by looking up your public information and social media profiles. 

How to Create a Strong Password

Use a password generator.

A password generator is a tool that automatically generates strong, secure passwords. It can help you come up with a sequence of random symbols to use as a password for any device or account needing restricted access.  Another tip is to choose a passphrase rather than a password. Passphrases take the first letters, numbers, and punctuation to generate what appears to be a random combination of characters. The perceived randomness makes it more difficult to guess or crack by brute force. For example, “Green Bay won the first Super Bowl 35-10” becomes “GBw1stSB3510.”

A different password for each account you own.

Two-thirds of Americans use the same password for multiple accounts. Once that password is guessed or captured, it makes all other accounts with the same password more susceptible to being compromised. Having a strong password for each account limits the potential damage if a hacker happens to get ahold of one of your passwords. 

Save yourself a break-in and think about adding a few more characters to your password today. 

This article was provided by Shazam. Andersen, Nathaniel. “How to Create a Strong Password.” SHAZAM, 9 Aug. 2023,

4 Tips to Guide Your Financial Management-Aug. 2023

Old mottos ring true when it comes to your finances

90% of Americans say money impacts their stress level, according to a survey by Thriving Wallet. While this fact may not be new, there are many old sayings about money that can guide people toward wiser financial management.

Four Ways to Enhance Your Finances

  1. Tighten your belt — If your finances have taken control of you, it may be time to take a long, hard look at your budget. Look for items you can cut, such as subscriptions you’re not using or no longer need. Tightening your belt may also mean making some lifestyle changes and giving up something, such as cutting back on the number of trips you make to your favorite coffee shop.
  2. Save for a rainy day — An emergency fund can help when unexpected expenses come up. Most experts recommend having three to six months of living expenses in your emergency fund. Building an emergency fund will take the sting out of your finances when the inevitable rainy day arrives.
  3. A penny saved is a penny earned — Saving for the future with a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or IRA, is crucial to ensuring you are financially secure when you’re ready to retire. Because these types of accounts earn interest, your account can grow even if you’re unable to contribute. And if you contribute regularly, it will grow even faster, earning you more pennies on the pennies you save.
  4. Pay yourself first — Make saving automatic by pledging to pay yourself first. Whether it’s adding to your retirement savings, emergency fund or general savings, you will never regret having more money saved for when you need it most.


If you’d like to open a Savings Account or learn more about how to set up automatic transfers, contact our Customer Service Department at 800-714-2287.

These tips were provided by the Iowa Bankers Association.

Medicaid: Spotting the scams – July 2023

With the pandemic’s health emergency declaration over, the requirement for the state to keep people enrolled in Medicaid has ended. This means people that are eligible for Medicaid must re-enroll in their state’s program or find new insurance if they are no longer eligible. When big changes that can affect millions of people arise, scammers will follow. Here’s what to know to avoid being a victim of Medicaid fraud:

  • Medicaid won’t charge to renew or enroll. They also won’t ask for money or personal information like your credit card or bank account number. Learn more about eligibility for Medicaid in your state at
  • Visit to compare insurance plans, coverage, and prices. allows you to compare prices, check eligibility for healthcare subsidies, and begin enrollment. This site will only ask for your monthly income and your age to give you a price quote. If anyone asks for your bank account or credit card number to give you a quote, that’s a scam.
  • Scammers try to sell medical discount plans that are not major medical. Medical discount plans are not a substitute for health insurance, though some plans do give actual discounts. Some of these scam plans charge a monthly fee for supposed discounts but give very little in return. If you’re considering one, find out if your doctor participates in the plan and check what coverage it gives for major events.

If you think you’ve spotted a scam, tell your friends and family about it so they can protect themselves. Then tell the FTC at and your state attorney general.

This article is a summary of the following: Kando-Pineda, Carol. “Medicaid: Spotting the Scams.” Consumer Advice, 27 June 2023,

What are Trigger Leads & How Do I Opt-Out? – June 2023

It has been brought to our attention that many of our loan customers are being contacted by lenders from other banks or credit unions, or insurance companies trying to sell them either a better rate or more coverage. These are all caused by the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union, Equifax) selling your personal information as trigger leads. Below is more information on why this is happening and how to limit the amount of contact you receive from these sources.

What is a Trigger Lead?

John Goranson, CRCM for the Iowa Bankers Association states that “a trigger lead is a marketing product sold by the three major credit bureaus to lenders who are looking for customers with certain specifications like loan types, ZIP codes, or FICO scores”. When Washington State Bank has a customer or potential customer ask us to pull their credit report, this signals the major credit bureaus the consumer is shopping for credit. The CRA (Credit Reporting Agencies) will then provide this information to subscribers (lenders, insurance agencies) interested in your information. The goal of the lender or insurance agency is to try and sell you (the consumer) a better rate on the loan you’re looking to obtain or more coverage on a current loan.

Are Trigger Leads Legal?

Unfortunately, yes. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, trigger leads are legal and are thought to be beneficial to the consumer who is truly shopping for the best rate. We understand these things can be extremely frustrating for our current customers and potential customers who do not want to be contacted about these things. One thing we want to make clear, Washington State Bank will never sell or share your personal information to any third party for marketing purposes.

How Do I Prevent These Contacts from Occurring?

Thankfully, there are ways to lower the amount or completely get rid of the unwanted prescreened solicitations and trigger leads for five years or permanently and it’s free. To opt-out of being contacted via email or mail, register at The consumer should find they have quit receiving emails or mail within one to two weeks. If you want to add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry, this can be done at This site is also free and should take effect within 24 hours, but due to the possibility of the trigger lead occurring before registering, it could take up to 31 days to quit receiving these calls or texts. Unsolicited phone calls and text messages can still occur even after registering from political or charitable organizations, surveys, collection, or spam “information calls”.

WSB knows how frustrating these forms of unsolicited contact can be. We hope these tips will help our customers and community members lower the number of times they are contacted. If you have any questions about calls, messages, or mail you have received regarding your loan with Washington State Bank, please call (800) 714-2287 and ask to speak to someone in our Loan Department or stop into your nearest location to speak to a lender today.