Category: Education

4 Steps to Safeguard Your Security

cyber security

Who knew four little steps could be the difference between keeping your information secure, and falling victim to cyber predators. With today’s current cybercrime tactics, you can never be too careful! At Putnam Bank we want to help ensure you and your finances stay safe, and offer these four strategic steps to boost your personal cyber security.

  1. Safeguard your passwords. Instead of desktop post-it notes, store your passwords somewhere secure like the LastPass app. Not only will apps like these help you remember which password to use for what, but because they’re all stored in one place, you can continue to make more complicated to create an added layer of protection.
  2. Do NOT use public wifi when possible. While hot spot coffee shops may offer high-speed wifi to customers, never sign on until you have confirmation from a store employee that the business is genuinely offering the service. Many cyber criminals will prey on locations such as these to gain access to both your devices and your information. We suggest waiting until you’re on your own dedicated wifi to access secure information such as your bank account or credit card portal.
  3. Never give out your personal information. Cyber criminals are getting cleverer each and every year. With many phishing schemes now incorporating the names of your family or distant relatives, these complicated schemes can make it seem essential to share your banking or credit card information. No matter what the occasion or reason, NEVER give out your personal financial information out over the phone or online. Always contact the representative you know, or call the business’s official number to authenticate the request before acting on it.
  4. When purchasing online, always choose credit over debit. Thankfully credit card providers such as VISA and Mastercard offer zero percent fraud liability for their customers. For this reason, it is far safer to make purchases online via your credit card compared to your debit card. While your debit card can certainly be used online, should it become compromised, you could be out those stolen funds until the proper insurance or reports are filed.

There are always new ways to be proactive when it comes to your personal security. If you have further questions on how to keep your financial information secure, our team is here to help! Give us a call or stop by your nearest Putnam Bank location to speak with one of our personal bankers today.

The Best Advice from Today’s Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs

Sometimes finding the perfect idea for a new business can be easier said than done. Often you start by asking yourself a series of questions. Where is there a need? What can be created more efficiently? How can I solve a recurring problem? These are all great prompts to help you when looking for a concept your new business. To help inspire your next venture, Putnam Bank would like to share some of our favorite quotes from several of today’s most influential entrepreneurs.

“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner.” – Chip Gaines, HGTV’s Fixer Upper.

While Chip may add some much-loved humor to HGTV’s Fixer Upper, his ambition and work ethic are what help him and his wife Joanna, continue to succeed in both their real estate and retail ventures. This dynamic duo also proves that one business does NOT limit you to other opportunities. If you have a true passion for entrepreneurship, you can plant the seeds for multiple ventures so long as you tend to them as they grow.

“Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and your industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.” -Mark Cuban, ABC’s Shark Tank.

Mark Cuban started growing his businesses at an early age, showcasing that even a small idea can grow into something big. In 1990 Cuban sold his first computer consulting business for $6 million dollars to CompuServe. Not even a decade later, Cuban and business partner, Todd Wagner sold their new online audio company for nearly $6 billion dollars. Cuban is one of the best examples of growing your earnings and turning a penny into a fortune.

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” -Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda Gates began her career as a programmer for Microsoft. Soon after she and Bill began to build the company, they decided to push their wealth into various organizations to help others around the world. While there are various tax write-offs that make this a helpful tool for any business, this gesture also allows the company to share its love and showcase its own values through these acts of generosity. The Gates family is a great illustration of not only how to generate success but also using that platform to help improve the lives of countless others.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.” -Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Richard Branson is known for his cavalier lifestyle, passion for quality, and continuing desire to grow his expanding empire. While Branson may have begun his entrepreneurship in print, he soon expanded to international corporations and other industry diversification. His journey to wealth held its fair share of trials and tribulations; however, today his company, Virgin Group, oversees more than 200 companies, proving that early business lessons can eventually pay the best dividends.

“When I sat down to write about mistakes that have led to my success, I had a much tougher time coming up with them than I would expect. Heck, I’m sure I’ve made hundreds of mistakes! Thing is, I often don’t look at them that way.” -Stephanie Izard, James Beard Award Winning Chef

Chef and entrepreneur Stephanie Izard knows that sometimes the best ingredient to a successful business is a good attitude. No matter how far her restaurants and industry successes take her, Izard is always seeking out new tricks and techniques to continue improving her business. Her efforts paid off in 2013 when she was awarded the James Beard title of Best Chef: Great Lakes, for her innovative work at Girl and the Goat. This culinary creator showcases the key indicator of a great entrepreneur, grit.

Whether you’re looking to start a restaurant or a software company, there are some key components you’ll need to get started. Our dedicated business bankers are here to help guide you through the entrepreneurship process and help you discover the best financing solutions for your upcoming venture. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, contact us today!

Saving for Tuition 18 Years in Advance

After you get to see those little eyes open, it’s like a whole new world has unfolded before you. When you’re elbow deep in changing diapers, cleaning up messes, and trying to sleep more than four hours a night, the last thing on your mind is college savings. At Putnam Bank we understand the chaos that ensues with each new addition to your family. To help you prepare for this upcoming transition, we’d like to help you find the best educational savings account for your little bundle of joy before he or she arrives!

 

There are two primary types of accounts when it comes to saving for your child’s ongoing education. Similar to retirement savings accounts, both of these options do require various stipulations when it comes to distributing the saved funds. Here we’ll show you the pro’s and con’s to each option, to help you better determine which option will suit you and your needs best.

 

The Coverdell Savings Account: This account option utilizes after tax dollars, which means there are no taxes on distributions when the funds are used for education. The account has a nationwide $2,000 a year contribution limit, in addition to various income restrictions. While you and your spouse may manage and contribute to the fund, once the child turns eighteen, he or she will own the account and all the funds within it.  Once the child is of age, he or she may only use the funds for education related expenses without incurring an additional distribution tax.

 

The 529 Savings Account: This account option also utilizes after tax dollars, which again indicates no future taxes on distributions if the funds are used for education. The account does not have income limitations; however, each state stipulates their own yearly contribution limit. The limit typically ranges from $100,000 to $350,000 per year.  For this account type, the physical savings account, and the funds within it remain yours, only designated toward a specific beneficiary (which you can change up to once per year.)   

 

Let’s compare the two when looking at national average college costs across the U.S.

 

If you choose to save using the Coverdell account option, suppose you save $2,000 per year for eighteen years, yielding a total of $36,000 of total out-of-pocket contributions. Add in the compound interest of those eighteen years, and you’ll find yourself with approximately $80,983 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of in-state public college in the U.S. is $20,090 or $80,360 for a four-year degree.

 

Alternatively, if you choose to save with a 529 account, you can save more than $2,000 per year, say $3,500 per year instead. Multiply those contributions by eighteen years, and you’ll have $63,000 in total out-of-pocket contributions. After calculating your compound interest into the equation, you’ve grown up to $141,562 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of any college in the U.S. is $35,370, or $141,480 for a four-year degree.

 

As you can see, both of these accounts allow you to make much more through the benefit of time and compound interest. Just like your retirement savings, the sooner you start contributing, the more interest you can earn. While the Coverdell allows you to give the account to your child, the 529 shows better savings opportunities, allowing you to maximize your potential interest.

 

If you’d like to learn how you can start saving for your upcoming chick-a-doo, stop by and speak with one of our dedicated personal bankers at Putnam Bank today! We’d love to help your family continue to grow!

Why Checking Your Credit Score Matters

Personal Finance

Across television ads, online banners, and even chit-chat among relatives, the phrase, “Check your credit score,” seems to be popping up. If something so important needs constant reminders, why does it have such a key importance in your personal finances? Well, the truth is that it doesn’t, your financial actions do.

A credit score is comprised of five different measures which indicate how you as an individual are perceived in terms of repayment and risk. Individuals who pay their bills on time, have been utilizing loans and credit cards, and don’t maintain too much debt, typically have a higher score. While the score itself is seen by potential lenders as a positive or a negative, the true meaning it portrays is to showcase whether you as an individual are a promising person to repay any funds you are lent. This score can be changed for the better or the worse depending on the actions you take.

This is why checking the report itself can be beneficial for your personal financial reputation. By reviewing your history on a recurring basis you can quickly identify any mistakes or missed payments that need correcting and do so in a timely manner.

For those who do not check their score, scenarios like the following could occur:

Say you accept a job in another town, and after moving, you realize you still need to forward your mail. After a week or two in the new place, you go online and make the switch. However, unbeknownst to you, there was one last utility bill that was mailed to your prior address after you moved away. Weeks go by, even months, only now you’re connected with a new utility company, and you have new bills to pay. Behind the scenes, your credit score could be declining because that one last bill has now been reported to collections. Your credit history will now note that a payment has been missed, and the longer it is missed the more it could damage your credit score.

Situations like this happen to many Americans, and while sometimes they can’t be prevented, the damage they cause can be minimized by checking your credit score on a monthly basis. Instead of allowing a payment like this to retain a balance for over 120 days, you can catch it in under 90 and minimize any potential negative effect on your score.

This is just one example in how checking your credit score can impact your financial health for the better. Other benefits include fraud prevention, better financial negotiation, and more accurate personal financial records.

Our team at Putnam Bank would be happy to walk you through your credit report and is always available to answer any questions you may have.

 

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.