April 2017

Inside this issue:

ATM Safety Tips:

  1. Keep your PIN number a secret. Never write it down or share it with anyone.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you observe suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the machine.
  3. Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM.
  4. Use your hand to "shield" the ATM keypad as you enter your PIN. Often, criminals attempt to capture your PIN using a tiny camera attached to the ATM.
  5. Always take your receipts or transaction records with you.
  6. Do not count or visually display any money you received from the ATM. Immediately put your money into your pocket or purse and count it later.
  7. If you are using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked.

Technology and Your Community Bank

We've always worked to deliver a top notch experience when you visit one of our six locations. That goal will never change. But, in our continuous pursuit to bring you a banking experience that is increasingly convenient, simple and secure we've made investment in technology one of our top priorities. Here's what we've been working on:

Mobile Wallet Compatibility: Load our credit and debit cards to your mobile wallet via Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay to make checkout at participating retailers a breeze.

Online Account Opening: If you're looking to open a deposit account, but don't have the time to get to one of our locations during business hours, we have a solution. Visit our website and select "Open an Account" from our Quick Links section.  From there you can select the type of deposit account you'll like to open and you'll be able to complete the entire application online.

Online Consumer Loan & Credit Card Applications (coming soon): Apply for a consumer loan or credit card where and when it's convenient for you.

Refreshed, mobile-friendly website (coming soon): Our renewed website, coming this summer, will make browsing on your phone or tablet easier than ever.

What Do Rising Interest Rates Mean for You?

If you've been keeping up with news stories about the economy lately you may have heard that the "Fed" has been raising rates, and is likely to do so more often in the future. What does this mean, and how will it impact you?

Who is "the Fed"?

The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States.  It operates independently of Congress and the executive branch. It is led by a Board of Governors who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The Fed has three mandates:

  1. Maximize employment
  2. Stabilize prices
  3. Moderate long-term interest rates

It accomplishes those mandates by raising or lowering the Federal Funds Interest Rate, the basis for other interest rates in the economy.

Does the Fed Funds rate impact me?

Yes. Even though consumers do not directly borrow money from the Fed, financial institutions that provide car loans and mortgages do. Since the Fed Funds rate is the basis for other rates, raising and lowering it affects the rates you can get from your bank. So if you're in the market to buy a house and you hear that the Fed may be raising interest rates soon, you know to act quickly so you can secure a lower interest rate for your mortgage.

Are higher interest rates bad?

No. While low interest rates on large purchases like homes are good for consumers, extended low interest rates (like we've seen over the past 10 years) means that the economy isn't growing fast enough and that consumer wages are not increasing at normal levels. Higher rates also mean that the Fed sees signs that the economy is getting stronger which is good for everyone.

If you have questions about the impact of the Fed raising interest rates will affect you, be sure to speak with one of our lenders. They'll be able to offer specific advice based on your accounts and circumstances.

How to be Smart about Student Loans, Part 1: After Graduation

Student loan debt has become a hot topic, and with good reason. In 2006, U.S. student loan debt hovered around $600 billion.  Today, that number has skyrocketed to $1.3 trillion.  By itself, that number isn't a bad thing - it means more Americans are going to college. However, the number of defaults is also approaching critical levels. Whether you've just graduated or haven't yet taken on any debt, there are strategies you can use to make your student loan story a success story. For part one of our two part student loan article we work backwards on the student loan issue with strategies on how to manage your student loans after graduation.

Get Organized

The first thing to do is to organize all of the information you have for all of your student loans. Make a list or spreadsheet that lists important information such as the name of the loan, the lender, interest rate, principal (amount of loan), monthly payment, and when repayment is scheduled to begin. Loans may have different grace periods (the amount of time after graduation you can wait before making your first payment), so the first payment may be due at different times for different loans.

Stay in Touch with your Lender

Many recent graduates relocate. Make sure that your lenders know how to reach you! Updating your contact information is often as simple as visiting the lender's website and filling out a form. It's also a good idea to stay in touch in case you start having difficulty making your payments. This can happen due to unemployment, injury, medical condition, or other financial emergency. Lenders will work with you to adjust your payments or your payment schedule but you have to let them know first.

Consider Consolidating

A consolidation loan combines multiple loans into one for a single monthly payment and one fixed interest rate. There are several pros and cons to consider, however. Consolidation often extends the repayment period meaning that while you will have a lower monthly payment, it will take you longer to completely pay off the loan. However, it can also provide an interest rate break, especially if you have variable rate loans, and a single payment is more convenient and simpler to budget for. Seek expert advice if you're considering consolidation as a strategy.

Don't Forget Tax Breaks

Many recent college grads just beginning student loan repayment aren't aware of the Student Loan Interest Deduction which allows taxpayers to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest paid on student loans depending on your income. The best part is, even if you do not itemize your taxes, you're still allowed to claim this deduction.

How to be Smart about Student Loans, Part 2: Before School (coming soon)

Community Support

Each year we commit a portion of our annual earnings to eligible nonprofit organizations that have a focus on charitable, educational or cultural purposes for area residents.  Contributions so far from January 1 to March 21: $10,543.