Planning Your Spring Garden for the Best Return

Seasonal

Spring is just out of sight, and for prospective spring gardeners, the time to start seed germination is almost here! With seeds for some summer produce taking up to three months to prepare for planting, planning ahead of time can truly make or break both personal and commercial growers. Before you start organizing your garden for the season, we offer these helpful tips to help you make the most of your agricultural investment:

Grow Heirloom: Tomatoes are a staple of countless summer gardens, but what will differentiate your juicy produce from other countless selections at the market? Variety! With new strains of tomatoes being discovered each year, blue, striped, and white fruits can offer your family and customers a unique and delicious twist on a summertime classic. The basic large red tomato has an average price point of approximately $3.50 per pound, but smaller heirloom varieties often go for more than $5.00 per pound. With one plant typically producing over 20 pounds of fruit, you could easily make $100 off of one heirloom plant!

Learn to Preserve: Once you’ve harvested the tomatoes grown above you can continue to tack on the savings by processing those fruits into recipes which can be canned. Packaged goods like salsa and pasta sauce can run about $3.00 a piece; however, you can create a pantry full for the low cost of the plants and reusable mason jars.

Add Some Flavor: Personal herb gardens have continued to grow in popularity over the past several years, and 2017 is no different. With many urban gardeners opting to plant their own seedlings, you’d think the retail need would decrease; however, the opposite may be occurring. With an influx of gardening comes an influx of use. Many home cooks are beginning to learn the benefits of using fresh herbs, and they’re not always cheap. Generally, a small bunch of herbs can run between $1-3. Most healthy plants are able to produce a consistent amount of bunches throughout the summer, and even into fall. If you have one plant that offers 50 bunches at $2 apiece, that’s a simple $100 earned for just one plant.
With so many incredible plant varieties to choose from, we’re sure your next garden will be a success! Whether you’re planning to sell your crops at the weekend farmer’s market, or stock a pantry your grandmother would be proud of, the practice of gardening has proven to be a money saver for you and your family. If you have any other great gardening tips, be sure to share them with us on our Facebook page.

6 Steps to Scoring Your Savings Goal

Savings

Do your savings goals make you feel frozen? Get back on the ice this season, and let Putnam Bank help you win your personal financial game. We’ll show you how to keep pushing forward with these strategic hockey tactics:

Find the 5-hole.

One of the first and most important ways to save is to keep your eyes open! Whether it’s taking advantage of grocery store specials, buying household items in bulk, or cutting spending from your monthly budget, the biggest opportunity you have while saving money is continually searching for new ways to save.

Complete the hat-trick.

Before you start saving for the short-term items, be sure you have the long-term set in place. Just as in hockey there are three things you need to make the best play of the game. Start by setting up an emergency savings account, to help guard your savings. Follow up by opening a personal retirement account, such as an IRA, to continually grow your savings. For the last trick of the play, we suggest creating a 529 or Coverdell account to help save for your child’s future education. These three accounts will help you not only score your savings goals, but assist you in winning your entire financial game as well.

Put your debt on the boards.

Show your debt whose boss, and push it against the glass. By aggressively paying off your outstanding debt, you make additional funds available to further your monthly savings. We recommend paying the minimum payment on each debt, and then using any surplus funds to add extra payments to help pay it off sooner. Once you have paid off a debt, use the funds from that allocation to help erase the next obstacle, one payment at a time.

Place your spending in the penalty box.

While working on your savings goals, look into your monthly spending to see where you can cut costs. Consider reducing your funds for eating out and entertainment. The extra money can go towards your debt, or once paid off, can help you achieve your savings goal sooner!

To help, there are some innovative apps available that can help you visualize your various expenses.

Beat the buzzer.

Saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Like hockey, if you don’t play until the end, you may lose the game in the last five minutes. To help prevent this, we recommend working with a personal financial adviser, ensuring your funds are in the right place at the right time. If you make a pass and transfer them to stocks too late, you could lose money and valuable time. We suggest creating a strategic and well-coordinated retirement plan to make certain all your savings get time on the ice, and your key players continue to stay in the game.

Drop your gloves for additional fees.

Whether it’s big banks searching for unnecessary add-ons, or potential financial advisers looking for a percentage of earnings, don’t be afraid to negotiate fees you deem excessive. The business is certain to have referees to let you know if you’re asking too much; however, it never hurts to ask!

With our affordable deposit accounts and expert financial coaching, we look forward to helping you sink your upcoming goal in the back of the net! Stop by and meet our dedicated team today!

 

How to Plan Spring Break on a Budget

Travel

Spring break is a magical time of the year when school is out, the beaches are calling, and wanderlust seems to finally hit at full force. Before you jet-set to your next destination, make sure you’ve saved enough to enjoy this vacation without the addition of debt. To help cut the costs, but not the fun, Putnam Bank offers these proven money saving tips:

  1. Split Costs – Make the most of your money, and divide the cost of a room among you and your fellow friends. Paying $150 a night may be a high price tag, but by splitting the cost, you can stay twice as long!
  2. Drive Instead of Fly – If your traveling troop decides to book a trip abroad, then this tip may not apply, but for eager spring breakers traveling south, driving instead of flying could save you hundreds!
  3. Try Alternate Accommodations – Who says a hotel is the only appropriate place to stay. With innovative new offerings on VRBO and AirBnb, you can find deals that not only save you money but offer a unique setting as well.
  4. Get Groceries – One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is the food. Cut down on this cost by hitting up the local grocery store when you arrive. You can grab breakfast items, and other easy foods to prepare to avoid exorbitant dining fees.
  5. Maximize Free Activities – Things like going to the beach or relaxing by the pool can be both enjoyable and cost effective. Since there are typically no entry fees you can enjoy this fun-filled relaxation again and again.
  6. Bring Your Own- Everything is more expensive on the beach. Food, drink, shade, you name it! Instead of purchasing everything ala carte pack a reliable beach kit with everything you need for the day. Don’t forget sunscreen!
  7. Utilize Your Rewards – What’s the point of having travel rewards if you never use them? By putting those points to work you can cover the cost of your flight and/or room, and reserve your money for food and fun.

7 Financial Goals to Make 2017 a Success

Money Management

Putnam Bank challenges you to make 2017 the year of financial prosperity. With an emergency fund, sound credit, and a monthly budget, you can conquer any fiscal goal so long as you keep moving toward it. We recommend these seven goals to optimize your money management potential:

  1. Check Your Credit Score. There are many websites available which allow you to view your current credit score across the three reporting bureaus; however, the only federally authorized FREE site is annualcreditreport.com. This site gives users one free report from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian every year. By keeping regular track of your score, you can ensure that no fraudulent inquiries have been made, and no outstanding debts are currently being held against you. After all, a higher credit score, could mean potential savings elsewhere.
  2. Make a Monthly Budget. This tool is invaluable when building your personal financial success. By creating a plan for each dollar you earn you are no longer reacting to your spending, but proactively telling your money where it should go. Adding this transparency to your spending can often showcase areas where you may be spending more than desired. After adjusting your monthly allocations you can then reassign some of those dollars to help build your personal savings, and other areas of improvement.
  3. Automate Your Savings. “Out of sight, out of mind,” or so the saying goes. Adding processes to your budget, such as automated savings, can help you accumulate money before you miss it. Before you start planning your spending for the month, determine how much you want to save. So long as your fixed monthly expenses are covered, you can then create an automatic monthly transfer from your checking to your savings. By doing this the same day you are paid, the funds will be gone before you even know to miss them. You can then budget the rest of your spending to cover flexible categories like groceries, entertainment, and more.
  4. Start an Emergency Fund. In order to safeguard your savings, you’ll need to create an emergency fund. This particular account offers protection against unexpected expenses or dilemmas that could otherwise infringe upon your diligent accrual of funds. It is often recommended to begin by saving $1,000, and then gradually work up to three or six months’ worth of income. By adding this cushion to your personal finances, you ensure that you are financially stable enough to weather storms both big and small.
  5. Submit Your Taxes Early. Tax fraud is an increasingly relevant issue, posing many problems for both the IRS and tax paying citizens. We suggest completing your tax return as soon as possible in order to help keep potential criminals from using your information to their benefit. Additionally, if you have a potential tax refund, the earlier you file your return, the sooner you are able to receive it.
  6. Maximize Your 401(k). We recommend revisiting your HR materials to find out the specifics of your company’s 401(k) plan, and to make the most of your diligent savings. If they will match up to ten percent, and you’re only contributing six, you could be missing out on free funds! Additionally, if you want to retire by a certain age, you may need to adjust your contributions to maximize the years you still have during your employment.
  7. Pay Down Your Credit Cards. Interest rates on credit cards are infamous for being consistently high. If you have multiple credit cards which carry a balance, we recommend paying down the account that has the least amount on it. By continuing to pay the minimum installment on each card, you can then assign any additional funds to the card with the lowest value, to help pay it off sooner. Once the first card is no longer carrying a balance, you can then utilize the monthly installment and the additional funds to put toward the next card, and continue through the accounts.

Student Loan PSA: What Student Debt Really Looks Like

Education

Obtaining your secondary education can be a landmark goal on your journey to success. By opening up opportunities, and enhancing your capabilities, the study of a discipline gives you the skills you need to conquer your future ambitions. More often than not, student loans offer a helpful supplement when financing this experience. However, many students are able to obtain these financial aids without having to budget or offer a credit history, causing a higher likelihood of default among student borrowers. To help avoid this, Putnam Bank suggests answering the following questions before choosing how to pay for your collegiate participation:

What are you starting with?

The first question you should ask yourself is, ‘What money do I have to begin my education?’ If you have applied for and received scholarships, those should first count towards tuition and books. Additionally, if you have any financial support from relatives, these funds may be allocated best at the base of your budget during your college planning. By totaling the sum of these two amounts, you can determine the support outside your own savings that will be contributed towards your future learning efforts. Knowing whether or not this amount will be offered on a recurring basis can help you then decide what financial steps you need to take in order to save, earn, and/or borrow the remaining funds necessary.

How much and how often can you contribute?

After learning your total amount of support, it is now possible to create a plan of action to facilitate the rest. Depending on your length and type of education, your costs may vary drastically. When selecting both a field and institution of study, the factor of price is an important one to consider. By thinking of your education as an investment, you can ensure that you choose both a rewarding and promising career path to help you repay any debt you do incur during this time. To help decrease overall expenditures, many students take on a part-time job to supplement the costs of their education, along with the associated room and board. Utilizing this choice can decrease the overall amount of your anticipated loan, and help you avoid the additional expense of interest. Should the cost your education still be more than you can currently cover, the option of a student loan may be a viable solution.

What is student debt?

While obtaining an education has potential and opportunities, the accompanying debt can often be overbearing. In order to minimize this, we recommend borrowing only the minimum amount needed. By opting for a lesser sum, you are able to save your future-self hundreds or thousands of dollars on interest alone. For example, the average debt for a United States student is approximately $37,172. With borrowers averaging ten years for repayment, the potential cost of interest alone can add up to over $9,000.

Choosing the best option to finance your education can affect your life well past college. To help you make the most informed decisions, our team at Putnam Bank offers sound financial advice and information. To learn more, stop by one of our locations, we’d love to get to know you and your education aspirations.

The Cost of Kids: How to Plan for Your Growing Family

Personal Finances

At Putnam Bank, we understand that adding to your family may not only be an emotional decision but a financial one as well. With the growing costs of childcare alone, it’s important to have a well-rounded plan for covering the expenses of your expanding household. In order to plan most effectively, we recommend structuring your budgeting into these three stages:

Beginning or Before Pregnancy: Examine your current health insurance to determine an estimate of cost for both prenatal care and delivery expenses. While many insurers offer prenatal care at no or little additional cost, the price for delivery can be complex. Study your monthly premium, annual deductible, and out-of-pocket limits for the calendar year to help establish these costs before the baby is delivered.

After Birth: Once the baby is born, there will be traditional costs such as health care, food, diapers, clothing, and more. However, many new parents also spend more on take-out meals to help lessen their time cooking. These expenses, along with a decrease in income for parents on maternity leave, can cause many parents to slide into debt. To help alleviate the burden of these growing figures, we recommend creating a monthly budget to designate every dollar to a purpose. By allocating a specific dollar amount to each area of your spending, you can ensure that all of your costs are covered while also planning for the future.

During the First Year: As your child continues to grow, the costs for new clothes and equipment will continue to grow with them. Many expectant parents can spend upwards of $16,000 during the first year of their child’s life, and variables such as location, number of children, and other factors can contribute to the overall costs as well. When possible we recommend saving for each step in your child’s growth. From birth to three month’s they’ll need many one-time purchases, but during the later stages, you may have adequate time to save for each time period’s necessities.

Continue to grow your finances as you grow your family using Putnam Bank’s trusted deposit services. We’ll help you organize your funds, and make the most of your savings.

Can You Really Save on Travel: True or False?

Saving Money

Checking numerous sites for the best deal can be labor-intensive, and potentially counterproductive. With many American travelers turning to vacation book sites and apps, Putnam Bank is curious if they really save you money. After thorough research, we’ve discovered these four truths to successfully budgeting your next getaway:

TRUE: Travel sites offer money-saving opportunities.

FALSE: The lowest value is found on the hotel’s or airline’s website.

Many travel booking sites offer discounted airfare and accommodation, boasting the same services, only at a fraction of the cost. However, many times these sites merely display the cost an airline or hotel already has on their own site at no additional reduction. Select providers have begun to reduce participation in these travel search engines, and strive to instead offer their continued customers the best value straight from their own corporation.

TRUE: Credit cards are the most secure and affordable payment option while abroad.

FALSE: Airport currency exchange is worth the convenience.  

While there are many different options to exchange currency before your next trip, the safest method of payment during your getaway will still be your credit card. With many options now offering no currency exchange fees, you’re sure to avoid unwanted conversions costs while still protecting your finances. According to both Visa and Mastercard, credit card users are held liable for zero percent of any fraudulent charges. This means that should your credit card information become compromised during your stay, you won’t lose any funds because of it.

TRUE: Traveling outside of the peak seasons offers great savings.

FALSE: The skiing in Colorado is great in June.

While it is true that avoiding the crowds can save you and your family some extra dollars, it may not be worth it if it means decreasing the activities of your trip completely. Instead of limiting your travel timeline, we recommend looking for alternative accommodations such as VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), along with creative dining options, to maximize your destination’s budget. These additional savings can help to bring your overall cost down, while still making your dream vacation a reality.

TRUE: You can save a lot of money by using airline miles.

FALSE: Airline credit cards are worth the annual fee for a yearly vacation.

Unless you plan to fly every month, an airline credit card is hardly worth the cost. While these cards offer tempting miles for flights, increasing numbers of travel options are blacked out throughout the year. The annual credit card fee for United, American, and Delta, costs approximately $95.00 after your first year of use. While boarding in group one can be a well-enjoyed perk, it doesn’t boast much ROI for fliers who are simply looking to reach their annual destination.

As you begin to plan your next vacation, Putnam Bank looks forward to helping you save the funds to make it happen. Stop in today and learn how to open a designated savings account!

How to Save for Retirement at Every Age

Retirement Savings

How much do you need to retire? Will you continue working after age 65? Do you want to travel during your retirement? These are just a handful of questions that are important for retirement preparation. Unlike saving for a home or a new vehicle, saving for retirement requires long-term commitment and goal-oriented benchmarks. At Putnam Bank we want to help you succeed as you save, and offer these milestone marks:

Age 18-25: During this point in your life, you are discovering what you want to do, and how to get there. Focus on creating a solid foundation through a monthly budget, and designated emergency fund. If your employer offers a 401(k) option we highly recommend utilizing its potential by contributing the maximum amount your budget will allow. Always be sure to take advantage of a company matching policy if available.

Age 25-35: In addition to your 401(k), we also suggest opening an IRA. This enables you to continue to save without having your funds tied to an employer. Now is a great time to take advantage of other tax beneficial accounts, such as an H.S.A., 529, or Coverdell account. Both the 529 and Coverdell accounts aid you in saving for your child’s education without the burden of taxes.

Age 35-45: One of the key aspects of retirement is making sure your money is where you need it when you need it. An experienced financial adviser can help you invest in appropriate stocks, bonds, and other financial strategies. Together you can construct a plan to ensure your risk decreases as you age, and be certain the funds you need are available upon retirement.

Age 45-55: Now is the time to examine your current career path, and determine the year at which you would like to retire. Although the average age of retirement is 66, this may not hold true for you. Whether you decide to retire later at 72, or earlier at 57, you’ll need to have this number available to help continue the development of your savings. To easily calculate your current savings projection, this tool can provide information to help you make the most informed decision for your specific goal.

Age 55-66: During this time you may begin to qualify for distributions from your 401(k) and IRA. By postponing these distributions, you can continue to save, and work to build your retirement nest egg before you need it. Additionally, look into various employment options upon retirement. If you decide to work part-time for enjoyment, it could mean added savings to help you afford splurging in the future.

Age 66 and up: Once you have officially retired, you will begin to take distributions from your 401(k) and IRA. While both a 401(k) and Traditional IRA require you to accept funds after age 70 ½ , a Roth IRA can remain untouched until you decide to use the money. For this reason, we recommend using a Roth IRA when your income levels allow.

We look forward to joining you on your journey to retirement. Whether it’s in 10 years or 50, it’s never too early to start saving! Call Ray Perry today at 860-928-6501 x3076 to arrange your complimentary financial consultation.

Tax Beneficial Accounts

Personal Finances

One of the most proactive ways you can protect your personal finances is to take advantage of tax beneficial accounts. Though these accounts are typically tied to retirement savings, this is not always the case. At Putnam Bank we want to help you make the most of your money by explaining these account options:

Health Savings Account (HSA): Currently tied to your insurance provider, this account allows you to save pre-tax income in an interest bearing account. The funds within this account can be rolled over annually, and are meant to help supplement the cost of various medical and childcare needs. However, there are limits on how much you can save for this account, the 2017 limit for an individual is $3,400 per year, and $6,750 for a family. You can access these funds using a debit card or written check to cover qualifying expenses outside of your insurance offerings. Another great perk of this account is that it can be invested. Work with a financial adviser to invest in mutual funds, stocks, and bonds to help your money mature, and grow your funds even more.

Work Sponsored Retirement Account (401k): Many companies now offer this account as a corporate benefit. By automatically withdrawing pre-tax dollars from your monthly income, you are able to save for retirement before you even receive your paycheck. The funds you contribute, along with those matched by the company, can then be invested into a variety of options, pushing your money to continue multiplying. Since these funds are meant to act as a retirement savings, any early withdrawals have a 10 percent penalty in addition to the income taxes due. However, once you reach age 59 ½, you can begin taking regular distributions from this employer-sponsored plan.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a great example of a non-work sponsored retirement account. Generally offered in two versions, the Roth IRA and the Traditional IRA, both offer various tax incentives so you get the best bang for your buck. Each account has a contribution limit of $5,500 a year, or $6,500 for those age 50 or better.

  • In a Traditional IRA you contribute pre-tax dollars into an interest bearing account, which can then be invested into an array of opportunities to expand growth. If you remove funds from this account prior to age 59 ½ you will incur a 10 percent early-withdrawal penalty along with paying State and Federal taxes. At age 70 ½, the account requires you to begin taking minimum distributions. This retirement savings option is open to anyone, with no immediate requirements.
  • With a Roth IRA there is no age requirement for distributions, and after five years, you can withdraw as much as you like up to the total amount of contributions. The only amount you cannot withdraw is the interest earned after contributions. The main tax benefit with a Roth IRA, opposed to the Traditional IRA, is that contributions are post-tax dollars, but distributions bear no tax. This means if you are at a higher tax bracket upon retirement, you do not have to pay additional taxes to withdraw those funds, potentially keeping more of your savings. This account option does have an income limit, which disqualifies single filers whose adjusted gross income is more than $132,000, and $194,000 for joint filers.

Start maximizing your money and look into your account options today! Our experienced team will answer any questions you have, and help you choose the best account to get the most value out of your long-term savings.

Fix-Up Your Budget

Budgeting

HGTV’s latest hit show, Fixer Upper, has fans and home buyers looking for new ways to save and restore old homes. While Chip and Joanna have become experts in home renovation, they’re not too shabby when it comes to finances either. Using their home building skills and our banking knowledge we offer these top tips to help fix up your budget in 2017:

  • Build a Strong Foundation

Just as a home cannot stand without a solid base, neither can your personal finances. To begin building the foundation to your finances, it is imperative to start a monthly budget. This system can help you organize how much money is coming in and out each and every month, allowing you to allocate funds for both spending and saving.

  • Make the Most of the Unexpected

Shiplap has become a household world thanks to Joanna’s love of this Texas home material. Often covered up by sheet rock, it is always a great find to add something special to the house. Similarly, should you uncover any income that you weren’t expecting, we suggest making the most of it by contributing to your IRA or other savings fund.

  • Take Advantage of Open Space

It seems every time Joanna finds a wall in a home project, you hear the words, “Open space.” By constructing areas that are connected instead of separated, she’s uncovered a way to not only make a home more welcoming but your spending too. Add this concept into your budget, and enjoy the feeling of flexibility in your monthly allocations. If your household remains stocked from bulk ordering, or your entertainment is your kiddos for a month, embrace those savings and shift your spending to another room of the house.

  • Always Take Free Advice

Chip and Joanna offer endless tips and tricks to their home flipping business. Always full of great ideas, and sage advice, these two make a consistent effort to give their viewers a leg up on their next home project. Similarly, our team at Putnam Bank wants to help you work to achieve your next financial goal! Whether it’s saving for your first home, purchasing a new vehicle, or setting a plan for your retirement, we’d love to offer our experience to help make your financial dream a reality.

 
Whether you watch Fixer Upper every week or are just starting this addicting series, we hope you keep your eyes peeled for other great financial tips. You may find more money management advice than you’d think!