Summer Safety 101

Seasonal

Between backyard barbecues, lakeside swimming, and late night fireworks, this sunny season is full of exciting outdoor activities. With all those hours spent outside, be sure you’re staying safe and healthy throughout the summer months with these helpful tips courtesy of Bank of Blue Valley!

  1. Sunshine and Heat

When it comes to summer nothing says July like a warm sunny day. After an extended time in the sun, your body can be at risk for some serious health concerns. You can work to avoid issues like dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sunburns by drinking water regularly throughout the day and liberally applying sunscreen. Another way to avoid this painful issue is to steer clear of the sun between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm. This is the peak of heat during the day, and while it still remains bright both before and after, these four hours may cause the most damage.

  1. Water and Pools

With common summer activities such as playing in sprinklers, boating, and river floating, your children could be facing more obstacles than you think. If your children have yet to learn to swim, floatation devices are a must! Investing in some local swimming lessons can not only give your child a fun weekday class, but also potentially save their life. It’s great to introduce your children to swimming and getting comfortable in the water at a young age. There are classes available for parent and child, teaching little ones as young as six months!

  1. Fireworks

The fourth of July would not be complete without fireworks. Unfortunately they aren’t always used up after this festive holiday. If you’re near a group or family launching their own firework display, be sure to stay back at least 100ft. Never point a firework at someone, or allow them to point one at you. Fireworks can be dangerous and we at Bank of Blue Valley recommend watching the beautiful displays by professionals, rather than launching them yourselves.

  1. Lawn Mower

This weekly task is something that is best reserved for parents and children over thirteen years of age. With more than 80,000 mowing related accidents in the United States each year, it may be best to let the little ones stay inside while this outdoor chore is being completed.

Enjoy your summer adventures, and stay safe this season! You’ll always have a shady spot to stop by at Bank of Blue Valley.

The Most Common Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Cyber Security

Phishing is a common term for the unfortunate schemes hackers and online criminals use to lure users into giving their personal information. Typically disguised as familiar online activity, these scam artists have cleverly found several distinctive ways to attempt to trick YOU into handing over your private details. Be on the lookout for these common phishing scams next time you’re roaming the web!

  1.   Foreign Lottery Scam

With this tactic you generally receive an email informing you that you have just won the lottery of some far-away land! To obtain these exorbitant funds you simply have to send a small fee to cover the transfer cost. A simple online search will show that this thrilling lottery is no more than phony website with a long distance phone number. Typically if the sending address doesn’t look familiar, or if you have not applied to any foreign lotteries, it will be a dead giveaway that this email is just an attempt to get your information and your money.

  1.   Survey Scam

Do you like supporting the humane society or other animal organizations? This scam takes advantage of your online history and sends you a survey to submit your opinion on issues that matter to you. Instead of using your responses on animal treatment, this system discovers your email address, and other relative personal information, to hack your account and send out further spam emails.

  1.   Online Banking Scam

Most phishing schemes disguise themselves as something familiar, often as PayPal or even your personal bank. This particular scam typically indicates that some type of immediate action is needed, and your financial account is at risk. Before sending any type of reply communication, check the source of the email, and call your personal contact at the organization to see if the email is legitimate. If you question the validity of any portion of the email, delete it and call the company this con artist is attempting to masquerade as ASAP.

  1.   Clickbait

Social media has a hacking arena all its own. With links scattered across newsfeeds, it’s often hard to determine what is genuine and what is clickbait. Clickbait is a link generated using common controversial issues to get you to click on it. Once clicked, the link may switch to a Facebook login, where you login again. Unfortunately this false login page is a common maneuver by cyber criminals to get your social media login. Having this information, online criminals can now access your account and spam the people you are connected with.
If you think you’ve been a victim of an online phishing scam and your personal banking information has been compromised, call Bank of Blue Valley. We’ll help you watch for signs of identity theft within your personal bank accounts.

What’s Your Spending Style?

Personal Finance

Everyone spends and saves differently. There are spending personalities on all ends of the spectrum that range from extreme spenders to tireless penny pinchers. Discover what type of spender you are with this helpful quiz courtesy of Bank of Blue Valley.

What’s your typical lunch during the workweek?

A: A packed lunch, typically leftovers from the night before.

B: A variety of prepared lunches from home and a handful of takeout meals throughout the month.

C: I usually grab something from one of the local restaurants during my lunch break, occasionally I’ll bring something from home if it was really good.

D: I can’t get through the day without my latte in the morning, and a solid lunch out of the office in the afternoon.

How important is your credit score to you personally?

A: I live and breathe by this number, it influences almost all of my buying decisions.

B: I check my credit every month, it’s important to know where you stand.

C: I have a general idea where I’m at, but it’s not the first thing on my mind.

D: What’s a credit score?

If you want a something that is $3,000 but you only have $1,500 available funds in your account what would you do?

A: Wait until I can save the additional $1,500 I need before purchasing it.

B: Compromise on a similar item that only costs the $1,500 I currently have.

C: Purchase the $3,000 item, paying $1,500 up front, and putting the rest on credit.

D: Purchase the $3,000 item and put it all on credit.

What does retirement savings mean to you?

A: Roth IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, and personal savings.

B: Using my work benefits along with personal savings.

C: I think I get something for retirement through my place of employment.

D: Something I don’t have to worry about until I’m older.

When you see an exciting impulse buy, how do you manage the situation?

A: I remind myself I’m here for these 5 items and nothing else.

B: I remember I already bought a small impulse buy yesterday, so this one could potentially harm my budget.

C: I made it through the work day today, I deserve this.

D: I already have 4 other things I wasn’t expecting to buy, what’s one more?

If most of your answers were [A] then you are a Penny Pincher: For you, finances are the key to your existence. All aspects of your financials are crafted into a strategic plan to make the most out of your various savings accounts. You’re the first to suggest a restaurant based on cost, and the last to splurge on a large purchase. Typically you’re also the person other family members typically ask for well-rounded financial advice.

If most of your answers were [B] then you are a Balanced Budgeter: In your world, the life of a budget doesn’t have to centered around a hunker down mentality. A budget is a fluid medium that is meant to be customizable to you and your needs. Occasionally an added expenses or unforeseen purchase is needed or warranted, but overall, you ensure you and your family stay on track with a well thought out financial plan.

If most of your answers were [C] then you are a Cautious Creditor: Although much of your financial expertise is based on credit card rewards, and other point benefits, you do care about your money management. While not all your choices are made to help boost your savings, there are certain measures you take on a continual basis to help push your financial goals forward.

If most of your answers were [D] then you are a Debt Developer: Often times you spend more than you intend. Between check-out line snacks, and lunch time splurges, your bank account just tries to keep up. Understanding your financials isn’t necessarily first on your list of priorities, but there are certainly some things you know you could improve. You appreciate the things you purchase and genuinely enjoy the experience of shopping.

 

No matter what type of spender you are, Bank of Blue Valley is here to help you succeed. For everything from setting up savings accounts, to consulting on wealth management, we have everything you need to continue your financial success. Give us a call at (913) 338-1000 or stop by today to get started!

Money Lessons at Every Age

Personal Finances

No matter what your age, there are always exciting new aspects to understand in the realm of money management. This year help your children get a head start on their financial education with these key lessons courtesy of Bank of Blue Valley.

2-5 Years Old: The Three Jars Activity

In your child’s youngest years it is important to give them a basic financial understanding. You can help your little ones comprehend savings, spending, and donating through three simple jars. Each week give your child 50 cents or a dollar, all in quarters. It is then their decision whether they want to save it for a bigger toy or purchase, spend it on something smaller, or donate it to help others in need. This activity works to help create a general thought process of the three common ways to spend or accumulate funds.

5-13 Years Old: Budgeting Basics

For everything from buying groceries to new clothes for school, you can help your child learn how to budget by setting a spending limit for your various shopping trips. By allowing your little ones to participate in the purchase process, you can help educate them in the importance of staying on or under budget. Let them help you find bargain deals or clip coupons to reduce cost. When the expenditures come in under the budget, reward their efforts with a small treat.

14-18 Years Old: How to Build Your Financial Reputation

Correctly making payments is a pinnacle point in proper money management. Whether it’s purchasing your first car, home, or other personal purchase, learning how to correctly pay off your loan, can be the difference between good and bad credit. Get started on this important lesson with a quick tutorial on how you pay any monthly bills or debts. Show your child your system to give them an introduction into how the process will take place. Once they choose to purchase a car or other item through a personal loan, you can walk them through the payment process online, and help them make a calendar of when installments are due.

Whether your little one is two or twenty-two, there is always something new to learn. Stop by Bank of Blue Valley and see how you and your family can improve your money management skills today!

How to Save $1,000,000 by Retirement

Saving for Retirement

Retirement may seem an eternity away; however, even if it’s a dream 20 years down the road, saving for retirement shouldn’t wait until the goal is in sight. Rule of thumb says you’ll need $1,000,000 in savings to retire comfortably. Our experts at Bank of Blue Valley recommend taking the following steps to save with the future in mind:

  • Determine when you want your $1 million. The typical age of retirement is 65, but you may be shooting for a few years earlier or later. Whatever the age affects how much you need to save each month, so calculate years left to save based on current age and breakdown monthly savings requirements thereafter.
  • Start saving ASAP. Compound interest rewards those that begin saving earlier rather than later. A $10,000 investment at age 25 could yield tens of thousands of dollars more by 65 than if that same $10,000 were invested at 35.
  • Spend less than you save. It’s basic math. You’ll have money left to save only if income exceeds expenses. Buying a home within your range, purchasing cars secondhand, and paying for vacations out of savings and not on credit protects you from dipping into debt.
  • Opt for automatic. Research your employer’s 401k or retirement-based plans and determine what percent you’d like funneled from your paycheck and into your savings. If your employer matches contributions up to a limit, work to reach their maximum to make the most out of your savings.
  • Set-Up an Emergency Fund. Expect the unexpected. A flooded basement or dying car engine can send you spiraling out of your savings plan if you haven’t budgeted for rainy days. Set up a $1,000 emergency fund as soon as possible, and work to expand it to anywhere from 6-12 months of income to protect you from larger surprises, like medical issues or unemployment.

The road to a million takes time and discipline, but it’s exceedingly possible. For further savings strategies, make an appointment today to meet with one of our trained financial experts today.

7 Tips to Decrease Your Gardening Costs This Season

Saving Money

Gardening season is upon us! Whether you’ve been gardening for decades or are flexing your green thumbs for the first time, save some green as you grow this spring with these helpful tips from Bank of Blue Valley:

  1. Study the sun. You can burn hundreds of dollars by accidentally placing plants in areas that receive too much or too little sunlight. Take time before planting to make notes on the sun’s path across your yard, scoping out key sunny and shady spots along the way.
  2. Invest in mulch. A layer of fresh mulch aids in protecting against soil erosion while cutting the costs of weed killer.
  3. Reuse newspapers. Before you lay down protective mulch, spread layers of old newspapers directly onto the soil to block weeds and lock in moisture. Eventually the newspaper decomposes while saving on water costs in the long-run.
  4. Try natural bug protection. Instead of buying pricey pesticides and bug zappers, place fabric softener sheets next to outdoor light fixtures to deter flying insects.
  5. Make your own weed killer. Eco-friendly and inexpensive, you can create your own weed killer by mixing 1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 ounce of liquid dish soap. Put this mixture in a spray bottle and directly apply to weeds for the maximum effect.
  6. Start composting. Create nature’s best fertilizer in your own backyard by forming a small compost pile of kitchen and yard waste. Not only do you reduce your footprint by saving space in a landfill, but your homemade compost saves you money and increases the yield of your plants.
  7. Plant the pricier edibles. To save money, time, and precious garden real estate, invest in planting herbs and vegetables that would normally cost you a bundle at the grocery store. Grow pricier crops such as raspberries, shallots, and basil yourself and buy cheaper produce like lettuce, carrots, and parsley at your local farmers markets.

At Bank of Blue Valley, it’s always growing season when it comes to building your wealth. If you’re looking to prosper your financial gains stop by and give us a call at 913-338-1000 today!

Budgeting 101 for Young Adults

Creating a Budget

You’ve taken all the tests, memorized all the vocabulary, and made your way across the stage. But what comes next? After graduation there are many questions that come with your diploma. Things like, how am I going to pay for rent? Or, how much should I budget each month for food? Not everything in life is as simple as A, B, C, or D. That’s why Bank of Blue Valley is excited to help young adults with the complex questions of budgeting and personal finance. Find the answers to your financial curiosities with our handy Budgeting 101 study guide!

  1. Identify money coming in. Look past the salary or hourly rate on your contract and focus on take-home pay. How much will you bring in after taxes? When do you see this pay-off – weekly, biweekly, or monthly? Factor in other sources of cash flow too, like earned interest or paychecks from a part-time job. Understanding what you own dictates how you spend.
  2. Establish money going out. Divide monthly expenses into three major categories: fixed costs, savings, and discretionary. Rent, utilities, food, gas, and debt comprise the fixed costs and determine funds for the remaining categories. Savings should include an emergency fund as well as allocation for retirement or down payments on vehicles or homes. Discretionary – the Fun Fund – is the most flexible and can ebb and flow with changes in income and expenses.
  3. Balance steps 1 & 2. The purpose of budgeting is to provide control over your financials. That means ensuring that money going out doesn’t exceed money coming in to keep your head above the debt line. If you find your listed expenses exceed your income, pick one of two options: seek ways to boost income or scale back expenses.
  4. Pick a management system. Armed with a financial plan, equip yourself with tools to help you stick to it. Traditional but trusted, the envelope method helps you keep funds in physically separated expense categories. Once money runs out from that month’s envelope, it’s gone unless funds can shift from other envelopes. A number of free or low-priced mobile apps can give you even tighter control of your budgeting, providing real-time updates of spending and handy visuals of your progress.
  5. Track progress. A long-term financial plan is simply a series of short-term goals. Monthly check-ups help you gauge success from the month, making sure you stayed on target. You can adjust funds as income or expenses fluctuate and spot ways to economize your budget.

Want to take your budgeting up a notch? Meet with one of our financial experts, who will work with you to plan a secure financial future. Give us a call to set up your appointment today!

The Top 10 Things to Add Value to Your Home

Home Equity

Just like purchasing your home, selling it is a journey all its own. Whether you’re aiming to sell your home in one year or five, you can make a number of small changes that offer a big return on your home’s value. Try these key improvements and see the effect on your next home assessment.

  1. An eye-catching entrance. As the gateway into your home, your front door will set the tone for what’s within. Update your door bell, paint the front door, and hang a spring wreath to tie it all together.
  2. Energy-efficient updates: Updating appliances, windows, and fixtures, to their more green counterparts can set your home apart with the attractive promise of future savings.
  3. Low-maintenance landscaping: While flowers are eye-catching, shrubs and drought-resistant greenery make great visual impact with the promise of less hassle.
  4. A thorough clean. A deep clean of carpets, curtains, and corners will make your home sparkle and create a positive first impression. Hiring a professional cleaning service may also help to remove hard-to-clean grime and overlooked areas.
  5. De-cluttered rooms. A tidy house doesn’t always feel open. Heavy curtains, overstuffed couches, and rooms devoid of sunlight can make buyers cautious of square footage. Rid the room of nothing but bare essentials and simplistic furniture to maximize the area of the space.
  6. Extra mirrors. To double the feel of any room, strategically place mirrors to create an illusion of extra space.
  7. Small updates to big places. Kitchens and bathrooms are focal points in the selling process. Without the time and cost of a major remodel, small updates like new lighting, fresh paint, or modern accessories can add value to your home on a budget.
  8. Revamped flooring: Thin or threadbare carpets can raise alarms for buyers as they visualize the daunting need to replace the tired flooring. As your budget allows, replace your home’s carpet beginning with high-traffic areas and working outwards.
  9. Modern lighting. Updating light fixtures to a timeless and simple feel, help to elevate a home’s design and gives the potential buyer a blank canvas to imagine life in their new home.
  10. A professional opinion. In under an hour, a trained interior designer can provide suggestions for small tweaks, such as furniture arrangement or paint color adjustments, which can increase your home’s value with limited investment.

While improvements are not a guarantee of improved value, they can make all the difference when drawing in interested buyers. If some of your home-improvement projects require a bigger investment than your budget expected, our lending officers at Bank of Blue Valley can work to help you secure the home equity line of credit you need.

How-to Give Your Children a Financial Education through Their Allowance

Financial Education

Allowance when treated as an educational opportunity, gives your child hands-on experience in budgeting, saving, spending, investing, earning, negotiating, and tracking their money. With these tactics, you and your child can make the most of their allowance while growing their financial literacy.

  • Shy away from a weekly allowance. A bi-weekly or monthly allowance better reflects a real-world payment schedule than a weekly handout. Additionally, staggered money instead of a steady cash flow opens opportunities to practice budgeting for both spending and savings goals.
  • Pay financial not household chores. Paying your children for completing basic household duties can shift their helpfulness from intrinsic to monetary. Instead, link their allowance to financial chores, or spending responsibilities that they take off your hands. While you cover school lunch and back-to-school clothes, vacation souvenirs or sporting event concessions are up to their discretion, teaching them to make financial decisions from a young age.
  • Open a savings account. It’s never too early to start saving. Open a savings account with your child and explain the power of compound interest. Establish the plan that they will use 10% of their total monthly allowance to funnel into savings, enabling them to budget the remaining 90%.
  • Show them the options for their funds. Teach your children the potential their money has by creating four labeled jars for spending, saving, giving, and investing. Each time your kids are given money via chores or other revenue sources, have them choose which jar to put the funds in. The spending jar can be used on small purchases like candy bars or little toys, and the saving jar can be put towards larger items that take more time to save.

With each dollar your children learn to save, they will continue to propel their education forward. If you’d like to get your little one’s financial education off to the right start stop by Bank of Blue Valley today and enroll them in their very own checking account.

Taking Baby Steps to Eliminate Debt

Money Management

As of 2015, the average American with credit card debt owes $15,762 – and that’s just credit. Auto loans, student loans, and mortgages add thousands of dollars and years of repayment to your personal finances. However, debt doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Once you have made the commitment to work towards financial freedom, follow these steps from Bank of Blue Valley to begin eliminating those personal debts.

  1. Establish an emergency fund immediately. Unexpected events can take a harder hit on your savings than unbudgeted spending habits ever could. Even if you’re juggling a current debt or two, work to set aside $1,000 as soon as you can in a separate emergency checking account. As you chip away at remaining debt, this cushion can protect repayment plans from being flattened by a faulty car battery or flooded basement.
  2. Adopt the Debt Snowball method. Instead of listing them highest to lowest by interest rates, arrange debts from smallest to largest. Paying off a handful of small debts in the same time it’d take to chip away at a large one eases burdens, yields immediate results, and provides motivation to continue saving.
  3. Reduce your rates. Refinancing your mortgage and negotiating lower interest rates on credit cards can make a big impact. Reevaluating your health, life, and auto insurance policies may also reveal services you don’t need, or it can spur you to shop around for providers with lower rates.
  4. Chop extraneous expenses. Create a list of unavoidable monthly expenses – rent, utilities, gas, and food. Create a second list of leisure expenses – gym memberships, cable, eating out, and clothing. After budgeting for the necessities, pick a few discretionary categories you’d like to keep with reduced spending, but cut the rest. Putting your spending on a diet is easier when you allow yourself a few modest outlets.
  5. Evaluate progress monthly. Creating a multi-year financial plan for eliminating debt is the first step, but not the only one. Perform a monthly check-up on your spending to monitor your continued budgeting plan. This can also provide a boost of encouragement when you see progress, and you may even spot ways in your new financial routine to make your budget even more cost-effective.

It is a long road to eliminating debt, but it’s within your ability to travel it. Don’t go it alone – contact one of our advisors today to help you create and stick to your financial plan.