Tips for Cyber-Security When it comes to Your Mobile Device

Odds are you’re probably reading this blog post on your cell phone, which you found through an app on your smartphone and then used it to get directions to Raccoon Valley Bank. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a smartphone and use it on a daily basis. With so many people accessing, searching and downloading things on their cell phones, are we really using the same caution and protection we would use when it comes to our computers? Odds also are, you’re not. With a few tips, you can start better protecting your smartphone from things like data theft, malware and privacy invasion.

Needed Protection: You may be wondering what exactly needs to be protected when it comes to your smart phone. Luckily, they can be broken down into three categories.

  1. Device Protection – In case your phone was ever stolen, this kind of protection would wipe all information and data from your phone, which is beneficial if you utilize mobile or online banking.
  2. Data Protection – This protection was designed to keep work information from place of employment from being spread to your personal apps.
  3. App-Management Security – Having login information, credit card information and other personal information within apps should be protected from falling into the wrong hands. App-management security does just that.

Trusted Apps: Not all apps are created equal. Since it’s becoming increasingly easier for third-parties to create apps this means there are more apps out there than there’s ever been. One way to help protect yourself is to only download apps from the trusted app store. You should also review existing apps’ privacy policies and settings for permissions.

Public Wi-Fi: One thing you should know is public Wi-Fi is generally not secure. Hackers can get in-between you and the Wi-Fi connection point and when you’re submitting information on your phone you’re actually sending it to the hacker. It’s recommended to protect yourself using a VPN, which encrypts your data, essentially scrambling the information.

Jailbreaking Phones: While it may seem like the cool thing to do to format your phone without the factory standards, you’re actually setting your phone for several security risks. One of those risks is Malware and loss of personal information.

We hope these tips can better protect you and your smartphone. There are several companies that can protect your mobile devices, including Norton Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security. If you have any questions or concerns about you protecting yourself, we encourage you to contact us. Our team would love to assist you.

How to Get Smart with Your Credit

Today, practicing the simple credit concept of “living within your means” can be extremely difficult due to medical and housing costs growing more rapidly than the income in many American households. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t manage your credit and debt responsibly.  Here are a few tips to get your credit on track, even when times are tough.

 

  1. Understand what credit is.  According to Finance Solutions Credit 101, credit is your “promise to pay in the future for purchases made today.”  You may be aware that when applying for credit with a lender, your credit report will be pulled to determine your payment history, amounts owed, new credit and types of credit, which is all taken into consideration when determining your credit limit.  Understanding the terms and fees associated with your credit will help you make more educated decisions in terms of lenders, especially if you were to become overextended.

 

  1. Maintain healthy debt.  Maintaining healthy debt is all about making good choices.  This means developing a happy medium in terms of credit history, exercising timely bill payments and managing a variety of credit accounts.

 

A good example of this is the attractive additional 25% off at your favorite store in exchange for signing up for their store credit card at the moment of purchase.  Doing this once or twice is harmless enough, but if you are maintaining credit cards for a variety of stores, this can negatively affect your credit score by repeated hard inquiries and hidden terms not discussed in the rushed sign up process.  Overall, the potential damage to your credit may not be worth the immediate savings.

 

  1. Stay out of the credit danger zone.  Similar to points made in the previous two tips, you need to make good choices when it comes to purchasing on credit.  Watch your accounts carefully to avoid overextending yourself, keep your balances low and always pay your bills on time.

 

If you are in a position where you can’t pay your bill on time, communicate with your lender to make them aware of the situation and determine an alternate rate of payment. While emergency expenses do come up, you can handle them by preparing in advance.  If you don’t have an emergency savings fund built up, start one today and prepare yourself for the unexpected.

 

Managing your credit responsibly can be extremely difficult, and due to unforeseen circumstances you may already be in over your head.  Reach out to us to discuss your financial management needs today.  We are here to help you get on track!

Hunting for College Scholarships

The spring semester is quickly approaching. With the impending holiday break, what better way to spend your time than searching for scholarships? While it may not be on the top of your to-do list over your break, taking this initiative can pay off. Most college graduates leave with a diploma in one hand and $27,857, on average, of student loan debt in the other. Help yourself reduce that amount with these scholarship hunting tips.

  1. Scour the internet: The internet will be your best friend when looking for scholarships. One place to start searching for scholarships is looking for those that are tied to your major or interest. Check with your college, department and university websites for opportunities. Read emails professors send out, since they can contain scholarships that can randomly come across their desks. Try searching for fun scholarships for things like being over six feet tall, being left-handed, or other unique characteristics. You’d be surprised what you’d be able to find!
  2. Shop Local: Most community organizations have a scholarship program. This is an easy opportunity to connect with members of your community to find out more. Check with your high school counselor, who probably has a list of local organizations that offer scholarships. Talk to your local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, churches, your parents’ employer and other businesses within the area for more opportunities.
  3. Resources: Use your resources! Outside of using search engines and local scholarship opportunities, you can search for scholarships on databases dedicated to helping students find scholarships. Below are website resources you should enlist during your search:
  4.      College Board’s Scholarship Search
  5.      FastWeb
  6.      Scholarships.com

If you’re looking for more tips or solutions to help fund your higher education, our team of professionals are ready to assist you today. We’d love to help you set up a savings plan or loan option to help meet your needs. Contact us or stop by today!

Using the Holidays to Teach Your Kids about Money

When fall hits, that means that the holidays are approaching. During these special occasions, kids are exposed to a different setting where they get gifts, large meals, cards, and more. That’s why Raccoon Valley Bank believes that this time of the year is a great opportunity to teach your children about money. Below are a few ideas on how to incorporate your children into the holiday financial mix!

Identify the costs of the holiday season.

Gifts are a big cost, and children never realize how much it adds up. By putting a monetary limit on the gifts each child and family member gets, your kids will be able to see the value of each gift. Wrapping paper and gift bags are also a cost you need to identify to your child, along with the supplies needed such as tape and tissue paper. Cards and letters to family members can add up too, especially if you’re using postage. By allowing your child to understand that the cards they receive and send actually cost money, they will appreciate them more and try to find a way to save, possibly by making their own. Finally, the meals made for each holiday add up quite a bit, so this is another helpful way to teach your child about finances.

Limit gift giving outside of immediate family with homemade gifts.

This is another way you can cut costs if you have people outside of your immediate family you’d like to give gifts to. Ideas for these easy and efficient gifts include:

  • Cookies
  • Cake in a mug or other mug mixes
  • Spice rubs
  • Trail mixes
  • Brownies
  • Tea & hot chocolate

The ingredients for these gifts can all be bought in bulk, making them inexpensive options.

Take your children shopping with you.

When you bring your child with you shopping, tell them what the budget is. Then, let them look for items that are on sale or have special deals.

Use your receipts to create a tally of your expenses.

Not only does this help you keep track of what you’ve spent, but it also shows your kids how small costs can add up over time.

Teaching your children the value of money will help them grow to be financially responsible. So when you go to get groceries for a holiday dinner or gifts for a family member, have your child be involved in the process. You can also set up a savings account with Raccoon Valley Bank to teach your kids the value of saving!

Understanding the Psychology Behind Spending

The words “budget” and “exercise” can often be put in the same category—both are necessary for a healthy lifestyle but are far from fun.

If you have trouble sticking to a budget, you’re not alone. There are some very powerful reasons why human beings feel compelled to spend money—and there are some things you can do to psychologically trick yourself into spending less.

The Need for Control.

A study in Journal of Consumer Psychology found that compulsive shopping was linked to a need for control. Those momentary feelings of happiness associated with a new purchase weren’t linked to the item itself but to the sense of control a person felt about their life in that moment.  

The Need to Compete.

It’s true—we really do feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. Advertisers know this, so they often play on our desire to be like the people in their ads and on our fear that we’re falling behind our peers. This includes tapping into our need to look our best, be recognized and accepted by others, taking control of our health or being loved.  

What you can do about it.

Luckily, you don’t have to let your brain trick you into spending more than you should. A few ways you can fool yourself into spending less include:

·         Only carrying cash. Decide ahead of time how much you will need and stick to that.

·         Don’t shop when you’re in a bad mood.

·         Scan your social circle. Are your friends pressuring you to spend beyond your means?

·         Identify where you spend the most money and take steps to resist temptation. For example, do you spend too much eating out? Make sure your pantry is stocked so you won’t be tempted to spend too much at restaurants.

·         Question yourself as you go to make a purchase. Are you really happy about that new TV, or are you trying to escape a problem at work or home?

While we’re hardwired to want to spend—especially in our consumerist society—a little bit of planning and restraint can go a long way to keeping us on financial track. Raccoon Valley can also help you stay on track with a variety of banking products. Give us a call or stop on in today!

New Season. New You. New Financial Goals.

It’s a new season and a new month, making it the perfect time to set new financial goals! While money management may not be your strongest asset, we believe with a little goal setting, discipline and a little help from Raccoon Valley Bank, you can end up surprising yourself how much of a financial all-star you really are! Start with these quick tips and watch your money grow.
Create a budget and stick to it – Budgets don’t have to be hard. Write down your outgoing expenses and any incoming money. If you’re spending more than taking in, it’s time to eliminate some costs. If you need help with monitoring your spending, we can help you get on track.
The importance and purpose of a budget is to help you spend less than you earn so you can save money. So by not sticking with the budget, what’s the point of having one? Create it, use it, and stick to it.

Eliminate Wasteful Spending- For the next round of bills you receive look at them closely. Do you need every service you’re paying for? Are you being charged unknown fees? Go through your bills with a fine tooth comb and raise any flags so you’re not nickel and dimed.

We live in a time of instant gratification, but that often leads to financial consequences. Before every purchase, ask yourself “Do I really need this?” If you find the answer is no, leave it behind and move forward.

Build Your Savings – Every time you’re paid, the first deposit should be into your savings account. Essentially, you’re paying your future self for emergencies and retirement.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to set up your 401k or 403(b). Generally, companies match their employees to a certain percentage and that’s free money you should be taking advantage of today.

Leave money you’re saving alone. There are penalties for withdrawing money early from certain accounts. Why pay a penalty for money you worked hard to put in there? Let it sit tight and watch it grow!

We hope these tips help you work towards your financial goals this month or season. We are available to help you with your financial management if you need it. Just call or stop by to get your goals underway.

 

3 Tips on How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful

While songs on the radio promise that this is a holly, jolly time of year, for most Americans, the holidays are anything but. A Healthline survey found that an average of 63 percent of adults in the U.S. experience an increase in stress level during the holiday season.

In a way, it seems almost unavoidable. Our routines are interrupted as we travel or host guests. Our healthy eating and exercise habits are thrown out the window. Our finances find themselves in a freefall as we spend just a little too much to buy that perfect gift.

Today, Raccoon Valley Bank would like to help bring the holidays back to the merry time they should be with these tips on how to combat holiday stress:

1)      Stick to your spending plan.

It’s true when they say it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift-giving. Obsessing over the perfect one not only causes more stress, it can also cause you to overspend. If you start overthinking, stop, put the item down and walk away (or minimize your browser and walk away). Think about the big picture—that ultimately, spending quality time with family is better than anything you can buy them.

2)      Use Moderation.

You may not get to your exercise routine every day, due to schedule restraints. As long as you get up and move every day, give yourself a pass. Before you know it, the New Year will be here and there will be plenty of social pressure to exercise. In the meanwhile, practice watching portion sizes and passing on the extra cocktail. By all means, sample the sweets at the table—just cut yourself bite-sized pieces instead of an entire slice.

3)      Focus on what you have to be grateful for.

It can be easy when you have guests getting underfoot or are inconvenienced at the airport to resent having to spend time with friends and family. In these moments, remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for—especially the fact that you have loved ones to spend time with. Not everyone is so lucky.

If you have any tips or tricks to cut the stress out of your holidays, feel free to share in the comment section. While Raccoon Valley Bank can’t cook your turkey or shop for gifts, we can help you reduce your stress when it comes to finances. Set up an appointment with one of our bankers today!

 

Fall and Winter Home Prep to Save You Money

As the seasons change, so do your bills. However, finding new ways to save can be tricky when you’re already super savvy. By creating a good savings foundation during the fall and winter, you will be able to start 2018 off in a healthy financial state. That’s why Raccoon Valley Bank has compiled a list of tips and tricks to prepare your home for the seasons to come in order to save some cash!

Install energy-efficient windows

A low-emissivity glass also known as Low-E glass helps block the rays of the sun up to 90 percent, and keeps the heat inside when it’s cold. Energy Star estimates those who replace a single-pane window with an energy-efficient model will save $126-$465 annually. Now multiply that times the number of windows you replace and you’re looking at quite the savings.

Lower water heating temperature

If you lower your water heating temperature, you will save 4-22 percent yearly on your bill. Instead of allowing the water to get scalding hot, you can set it to only become warm which will increase your savings every time you shower, wash your hands, or do dishes.

Adjust the temperature

By turning back your thermostat by 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day, you can save up to 10 percent each year on heating and cooling bills. Each time you raise your heat by one degree, your heating bill raises three percent, so it’s important to avoid that mistake.

Weather stripping

Thirty to 40 percent of your heating costs are lost to air leaks, according to Energy Star. That’s why it’s important to find where drafts are coming from to cover the leaks with weather stripping materials, which start off at around $5.

Replace light fixtures

If you replace your home’s five most frequently-used light fixture bulbs with energy efficient ones, you can save $75 a year. Imagine if you did that with more bulbs!

Fix leaking faucets

If you fix a leaky faucet, you will save $35 and 1,661 gallons of water if it drips one drip per second. Little things like a leaky faucet end up having a big impact on your bills over time, so be sure to check your nozzles.

We hope these home hacks will help you save this fall, winter, and hopefully the seasons to come! Contact Raccoon Valley Bank if you have questions about what else you can do in order to grow your savings.

6 Ways to Maximize Online Holiday Shopping

Let’s face it, Black Friday—and Cyber Monday—aren’t for everyone. You rise at the crack of dawn and either have to fight the crowds or hope you have faster WiFi than other shoppers.

Luckily, these aren’t your only options when it comes to getting deals around the holidays. Raccoon Valley Bank has compiled this list of online resources to help you stretch your gift-buying dollar:

1)            Use Coupon sites.

The most popular site is Groupon, but there are other online coupon sites that can save you money as well! Sites such as Couponcabin.com, coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com all have thousands of deals and coupons for online retailers.

2)            Buy discounted gift cards.

Places such as Sam’s Club have gift cards for restaurants that are up to 20% off, and can make great stocking stuffers. If you don’t have a membership, there are other places where you can buy retailers’ gift cards at a discount, such as Gift Card Granny and Card Cash.

3)            Free shipping offers.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll already be able to take advantage of this. But if you’re not a Prime member or are shopping elsewhere online, FreeShipping.org has coupon codes for free shipping on some 4,000 stores.

4)            Cash back.

If your credit card offers cash back, the holidays are a great time to rack up points. We would caution that you have enough cash on-hand to pay off everything you charge to the card, as you don’t want to start the New Year with debt.

Credit cards aren’t the only way to earn cash back. Sites like Ebates.com and Extrabux.com offer cash-back for online purchases at certain stores.

5)            Buy used.

Sometimes, a new iPad isn’t in the budget. If that’s the case, you can buy gently-used electronic equipment at Glyde.com. You can even set up price alerts for certain items. Another gently-used online retailer is Swap.com. Items such as toys, games and DVDs still in the original box can be purchased for a fraction of the original cost.

6)            Deals on electronics.

Online retailers such as NewEgg.com and Fry’s Electronic are well-known among IT and tech professionals for their steeply discounted prices on everything from laptops to component computer parts. If you’re looking for a reputable place to buy inexpensive electronics, these websites are worth checking out.

Remember, the holiday season doesn’t have to break the bank! Next year, you can start planning ahead by starting a Christmas club account. This special savings account makes it easy for you to put aside the money you need to check off everyone on your list!

Four Ways to Raising Your Financial Game

Whether you’re a football fanatic who’s happy that your favorite team is finally back on the field or you can’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a punter, football can actually teach you a lot about managing your finances. Don’t believe us? Check out the Raccoon Valley Bank game plan that can help you get a financial win.

It’s Important to Win on Offense, Defense and Special Teams

Good teams need to play well in all three aspects to win games. In your finances, your offense is your income. If you think of dollars as yards, the more money you generate, the more secure you can be. If income is your offense, then spending is your defense. Coaches don’t want their defense to be on the field too long, so keeping the spending to a minimum is the best way to keep your finances in check. Your special teams are items like investing. You only need them a few times per game, but you need them to perform well when they’re on the field.

Defense Wins Games

If spending is your defense, controlling spending is the best way to ensure your defense is successful so you can get a financial win. Taking a defensive approach to your finances that controls spending and saves a little each and every month may not seem like the most exciting thing, but it will get you a win. Slow and steady saving can help you be successful for a long time.

Understand the Game Clock

The game clock can dictate how a team plays. At some times, you can be aggressive, while other times may call for a more conservative approach. Taking an aggressive approach, such as making a smart investment, can help you improve your financial situation quickly. However, a more conservative and steady saving approach can help you accrue wealth, too, it may just take a little longer.

Surround Yourself with Good Coaches

A good coach trusts others to develop players and game plans. There are a lot of financial experts that have a wealth of knowledge that you can take advantage of by providing a unique perspective, including right here at Raccoon Valley Bank. Trust these financial experts to use their experience to help you get a win.

Just as a good game plan can help your favorite team on the gridiron, it can help you with your finances. If you have any questions, contact Raccoon Valley Bank and we’d be happy to help you develop the right game plan.

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