Wednesday, January 27, 2016

6 Finance Tips For Couples Moving In Together

Sources vary on the exact percentage, but the fact remains that an increasing number of couples are choosing to live together before they get married. This decision usually stems from a desire to spend more time together and to give the idea of marriage a potential "test run" before tying the knot. Because they are not yet married, however, many couples tend to underestimate how financial factors will influence their relationship once they live together. As your financial resource at the Lake of the Ozarks, we want to share some important tips for you and your partner before you move in together.

1. Make It A Habit To Talk About Money
Talking about our finances is considered almost taboo in our culture, but if you are moving in with your boyfriend or girlfriend (or fiance), it is imperative that you be able to have upfront, honest conversations about your financial situation. Who will pay for the rent? How will you divide the cost of utilities? What about groceries? If the need for a major repair arises, who will be responsible for covering that cost? It's important to be upfront about what you are willing and not willing to pay for. While it's impossible to prepare for every possible situation, it's important that you and your partner be comfortable discussing your finances together so you can address each new situation as it arises.

2. Devise A Plan Ahead Of Time
Don't wait for things to become issues. Before you ever officially decide to move in together, start talking about how financial responsibilities will be divided. In a perfect world, you should aim to split all your expenses as evenly as possible. However, many couples choose to alter this percentage based on who makes more money. For example, the individual with the higher-paying job might pay for 60% of all expenses, and the other individual might only be responsible for 40%. Ultimately it does not matter how you choose to divide your financial responsibilities, as long as you both feel comfortable with the agreement.

3. Agree That Nothing Is Set In Stone
Setting up a plan for how financial responsibilities will be divided once you live together is important, but it's equally (if not more) important to recognize that the plan you have devised could easily need to change in the future. Your financial positions may change, and the plan that you originally agreed upon might start to seem unfair or unrealistic. If you have already set the precedence that it is acceptable to talk about your financial situations, then it will be easier to adjust your strategy as needed.

4. Keep Your Financial Accounts Separate
The decision of whether or not to join your accounts after marriage is up to you, but if you are still in the dating (or even engagement) phase, we strongly recommend that you keep your financial accounts separate. After marriage, there are laws in place to protect divorcing couples in which one of the partners had significantly more money before the relationship, but there are no such laws governing break ups. Since you cannot predict the future outcome of your relationship, it's best to play it safe and keep your accounts separate for now.

5. Agree On A Budgeting Strategy Ahead Of Time
Even if you agree to keep your finances separate, it may be wise to set up a joint budgeting system before moving in together. This will allow you to allocate how much money will be required to cover the fixed costs of living, such as rent, utilities, groceries, car payments, insurance, etc. It will also allow you to track how much money each individual is spending so you can verify that the expenses are being divided fairly. If you end up getting married someday, you will be able to morph your budget to accommodate your needs as a married couple.

6. Be Honest With Each Other
Ultimately, whether or not you and your partner choose to cohabitate before marriage is entirely up to you. If you do choose to live together ahead of time, we hope that these tips will help to set you up for success. At the end of the day, it's simply important to be aware that sharing your life with someone has a lot of implications, financially and otherwise. As long as you are able to be honest with each other about each of your needs, you will be well on your way towards finding solutions that work for both of you.

First Bank Of The Lake Is Here For You!
Whether you're looking for a personal loan at the Lake of the Ozarks, a place to establish a joint checking account in Osage Beach MO, or any other banking need, we hope you'll remember First Bank of the Lake. Our staff members will be honored to help you in any way we can! Visit our website to learn more about our banking services at the Lake of the Ozarks.

First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!
4558 Osage Beach Parkway
Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Thursday, January 21, 2016

5 Money Mistakes To Avoid

Every single person in the United States (and hundreds of other countries) will use money at some point in their lives. Despite this complete pervasiveness, however, many people fall victim to common money mistakes every single day. This week, First Bank of the Lake is here to help you get smart about your finances and avoid some of these common mistakes.

Mistake #1:
Not Keeping Track Of Your Budget
If there's one simple trick that separates the financial masters from the beginners, it's keeping track of your budget. Budgeting is the best way to get a realistic picture of how much money you have coming in, how much is going out, and where it is going. Without a budget, you can't know exactly how much money you have leftover at the end of the month (if any) or where you can cut costs if/when the time comes.

Mistake #2:
Failing To Keep An Emergency Fund
If you have $5,000 in your savings account at the Lake of the Ozarks, how much can you afford to spend? The simple answer is "not all of it," but exactly how much you can afford to spend will depend on your monthly income and total amount of expenses. Most experts recommend keeping enough in your savings account to survive for three to six months without income. Build up to this by putting $100 from every paycheck into your emergency fund.

Mistake #3:
Not Saving For Retirement
If you want to set yourself up for a relaxed and successful retirement, the best thing you can do is start saving for retirement from your very first paycheck. If your company offers a 401(k) match program, set aside as much as you can every month. If your company does not offer any retirement planning benefits, contact us about our IRAs at the Lake of the Ozarks. Even if you only set aside $50 per month for now, it will make a big difference in the long run.

Mistake #4:
Not Setting Up An Estate Plan
No one wants to think about dying, but the truth is that none of us will live forever. It's important to set up a proper estate plan dictating what will happen to your assets after you pass away. Failing to properly plan your estate can result in steep taxation, which means that more of your money will go to the government and less will go to your heirs. Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you determine what type of estate plan best fits your needs.

Mistake #5:
Forgetting To Do The Math Before Taking Out A Loan
You've heard that your new car loan comes with an interest rate of 3.5%, but have you taken the time to determine what that really means? It means that if you take out a 4-year loan for $25,000, the total amount you will pay (with the cost of interest added) is $26,827. The interest amount may not be much in this example, but consider a 30-year mortgage loan for $250,000 with an interest rate of 4.125%. By the time it's all said and done, you will have spent $436,185 on your home (not including the closing costs, private mortgage insurance, and other fees). When shopping for personal loans at the Lake of the Ozarks, it's important to consider the total each option will end up costing you in the long run.

Let US Be Your Financial Resource!

When it comes to choosing your bank at the Lake of the Ozarks, it's important to find one that will keep your best interests at heart. If you're shopping for a new bank in Osage Beach MO, we hope you'll keep First Bank of the Lake in mind! We would be honored to work with you in whatever capacity you need.

First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!
4558 Osage Beach Parkway
Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Prepare For Tax Season NOW

2016 is already upon us, and tax season will be here before you know it. Preparing for taxes can seem overwhelming, but there are several things you can do to make the process easier and get ahead of the curve. Keep reading to find five tips to make filing your taxes a painless experience, courtesy of your Lake of the Ozarks bank.

1. Organize, Organize, Organize

The first step to filing your taxes is to gather all the necessary forms. By early February you should receive several important documents:
  • W-2 from each place you received a salary from at some point in 2015
  • 1099 for any interest earned
  • 1098 for mortgage interest paid

While there is not much you can do to get these forms ahead of time, you can start organizing your records from other deductible expenses you have made throughout the year. Create a file for all tax-related documents to have on hand once it's time to file your taxes.

2. Use The Free File Program

Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers the Free File program every year? This program is available at This program becomes available in mid-January and offers two different options:
  1. Brand-name software, provided by IRS commercial partners, that is available to individuals and families with incomes of less than $60,000.
  2. Online fillable forms available to all income levels.

The online fillable forms are electronic versions of the standard IRS paper forms and are great options for individuals who are comfortable filing their own taxes.

3. Deduct, Deduct, Deduct

Overlooking deductions is the equivalent of giving money away. Many people are familiar with certain deductions, such as the child and dependent care credit (a credit that can be claimed if you have paid a provider to care for a child while you either worked or looked for a job), but some people may not realize that there are many other opportunities available. Some examples include:
  • Charitable contributions paid through payroll deductions when employees retain pay stubs as proof
  • Job search expenses (cost of travel, resume printing, etc)
  • Earned income tax credit for lower-income families

Your tax professional will be able to help you determine which tax credits may apply to your situation.

4. Avoid Tax Refund Loans

Some tax preparers may offer tax refund loans or other immediate refund programs, advertising that you will be able to get your money much quicker. However, the reality is that you will not actually receive your money much sooner, and you will have to pay for the privilege of having received your refund early. The IRS expects to issue more than 90% of refunds within 3 weeks when filed electronically. If you want to make your refund more efficient, file electronically and request that your refund be delivered via direct deposit. The IRS reports that more than 75% of refund recipients will use this option. (By comparison, paper refunds will take a minimum of 7 weeks for refunds to be issued).

5. Beware Of Scammers

Unfortunately, scam artists and unethical tax preparers come out in full force during tax season. Every individual should be aware that the IRS will never email you to ask for confidential financial information; if you receive such an email, it is a phishing scheme. Additionally, you would be wise to avoid tax preparers who earn commission based on the size of your refund. This commission structure gives preparers an incentive to inaccurately fill out your tax forms, which puts you at risk with the IRS. To protect yourself, always ensure that your tax preparer guarantees to pay any and all penalties that may result from inappropriately prepared forms.

Closing Comments

Remember that under the Affordable Care Act, individuals and families will be subject to fines if they did not have health insurance coverage in 2015. These fines are already much higher than they were in 2014 and are increasing every year, so if you are not already insured, be sure to make health insurance a top priority.

If you are not prepared to submit your tax return by April 15th, you may be able to file for an extension. If you complete the necessary forms by April 15th, the IRS will give you six months (until October 15th) to file your tax return. If your extension request is not properly filled out or submitted, however, your request may be denied.

Your tax professional will be able to help you ensure that your taxes are handled properly and efficiently. For all your other financial needs, we hope you'll remember First Bank of the Lake as your financial resource at the Lake of the Ozarks. From checking accounts to savings accounts and personal and business loans at the Lake of the Ozarks, our bank in Osage Beach MO has everything you need.

First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!
4558 Osage Beach Parkway
Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

6 Tips To Boost Your Credit Score

Your credit score impacts almost every aspect of your life. Among other things, your credit score will affect:
  • What type of interest rates you can get on loans
  • How expensive your home and auto insurance will be
  • What type of cell phone plan you are eligible for
  • What new credit cards you will able to get

Since it affects so many parts of your life, it's important to protect your credit rating and keep it as high as possible. First Bank of the Lake is here to help you raise your credit score with these simple reminders.

1. Make All Your Payments In Full And On Time
This is the most important thing you can do. In order to keep your credit score high, it is imperative that you make all your monthly payments in full and on time - utilities, mortgage payment, cell phone payment, credit cards, loans, etc. Credit card companies typically include a "minimum payment" amount on your monthly statements, but only making the minimum payment can hurt your credit score. Set up calendar reminders to remind you when to make each payment.

2. Keep Your Revolving Balances Low
Your credit card is an example of a "revolving balance," which is in essence a small loan where the amount is constantly fluctuating. When you make a purchase with your credit card, you are borrowing money from your creditor. When you pay your credit card bill, you are repaying that loan amount. Believe it or not, the amount of outstanding debt you have at any given time can affect your credit score. Credit experts recommend keeping your credit card balance at 30% of your total credit limit. If you find yourself continually bumping up against you credit limit, it may be time to ask for a credit increase.

3. Minimize Your Number Of Credit Balances
The number of credit lines you use on a regular basis may negatively impact your score. One way to increase your credit score is to pay off any outstanding balances on credit cards you use infrequently and instead focus all of your spending on one or two cards. Don't automatically cancel your cards after paying them off, however. Every active card continues to send your information to the credit bureau every month; if you haven't used the card, these reports will reflect responsible spending and no unpaid balances. Keep in mind that creditors may cancel cards that has not been used for a long time, so you may want to make an occasional purchase on your unused cards (and pay it back in full and on time, of course).

4. Pay Off Debt
Don't be fooled: some debt is actually a good thing. By taking out loans and repaying them on time, you show yourself as a responsible borrower and your credit score should reflect your good standing. Debt only becomes a bad thing when you have too much of it and you are unable to pay it off. Once you get one loan paid off, you can begin applying that payment amount to another debt's principal.

5. Space Out Your New Accounts
Every time you open a new line of credit (take out a new loan, open a new credit card, etc), your credit score takes a small hit. If you apply for multiple new accounts in a short amount of time, these small hits can add up. If you are shopping for a new loan, it is important to do so in a timely manner. If multiple creditors pull your report for the same type of loan in a small amount of time (e.g., an auto loan), the credit bureau will realize that you're simply shopping rates and will lessen the negative impact.

6. Monitor Your Score
Finally, don't forget to monitor your score on a regular basis. You are actually entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Ordering a report from one of these bureaus every four months can keep you on track of your credit history. Negative marks typically remain on your credit report for seven years (even after the debt has been settled), but you may be able to get it removed. It never hurts to ask!

Credit Questions? First Bank of the Lake Is Here For You!
Your money is your lifeblood, and no one understands that better than our team at First Bank of the Lake. We are honored to be your trusted financial resource at the Lake of the Ozarks. If you have any questions about your credit history or are in need of any banking services in Osage Beach MO, don't hesitate to reach out to our bank at the Lake of the Ozarks. We will be happy to help you in any way we can.

First Bank of the Lake - Striving For Excellence
Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

Located at the entrance to the Osage Beach Premium Outlets!
4558 Osage Beach Parkway
Suite 100
Osage Beach, MO 65065

(573) 348-2265