Wednesday, July 27, 2016

5 Questions To Ask Before Taking Out A Car Loan

There are two kinds of debt - the kind that can be helpful to your overall financial picture, and the kind that can be detrimental. Helpful debts are those that allow you to make necessary purchases and build a strong credit rating. Detrimental debts are those that make your monthly budget so tight that you don't have room for essentials (causing you to miss payments) or debts that have outrageously high interest rates. We talk frequently about detrimental debts and you can get out from underneath their grasp, but this week, our banking experts at the Lake of the Ozarks are here to discuss a beneficial debt: auto loans.

Taking Out A Car Loan

Taking out a car loan can be a great way to fund the purchase of a new vehicle. Since buying a car often makes much more sense financially than leasing, an auto loan can be a great way to make this purchase a possibility. Before finalizing your new loan, however, it is important to make sure you are making the loan choice that makes the most sense for you. 

Questions To Ask Before Taking Out A Car Loan

First Bank of the Lake is here to help you make the right decision. Before taking out your next car loan, be sure to ask your lender the following questions.

1. What Is The Loan Term?
The average term for car loans has been steadily increasing over the years. While short-term loans are still available, car loans are now offered for as long as 60, 72, or even 84 months. Before officially signing your new loan, find out what the term is and make sure you are comfortable with it.

2. Is This A Fixed Interest Rate?
Some car loans offer fixed interest rates, which means that the rate will stay the same throughout the duration of the loan. Other loans offer variable interest rates, which means that the rate may change during the course of the loan. In order to ensure your financial security, a fixed rate loan may be the better bet.

3. When It's All Said And Done, How Much Will I Have Spent On My Car?
In order to determine which loan option is the cheapest, it is wise to ask this question; the cheapest loan is not always determined by the lowest interest rate. For example, a loan with a higher rate may still be cheaper in the long run if it has a shorter term.

4. Is My Monthly Payment A Fixed Amount?
Most people find it much easier to plan their monthly budgets when they know exactly how much certain payments will cost them each month. Before officially signing on your new loan, find out if the projected payment about will remain constant on a monthly basis. If you have a variable interest rate or a balloon payment at the end, for instance, this payment amount will likely change.

5. Can I Pay Off My Balance Early?
It can be impossible to predict where your financial future is headed. Once you get your principal balance down to a manageable amount, or if your financial situation should improve significantly before then, you may want to pay off your remaining balance in full. Some lenders charge a penalty fee for this. Ask your lender to see if they allow this an option and if you will be penalized for it.

First Bank Of The Lake Can Finance Your Auto Loan!

If you are considering taking out a car loan at the Lake of the Ozarks, contact our local bank in Osage Beach MO. We offer a variety of personal loans at the Lake of the Ozarks to help you finance the purchase of your new car quickly and easily. For more information about our auto loan options, visit our website or call us at 573-348-2265.

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, July 20, 2016

Today's Debt Dilemma: Department Store Debt

Consumer debt is on the rise. Mortgages, car loans, and student loans make up a significant portion of the overall debt hanging over American households, but they aren't the only factors. Credit card debt is becoming an increasingly prominent burden for many Americans, and one specific type of credit card debt is on a particularly rapid rise. Our Lake of the Ozarks banking experts are here to examine this particular sector of credit card debt: department store debt.

Department Store Debt

"Would you like to open a [insert store name here] today and save 10% off your purchase?"

We have all heard this offer countless times. After waiting in line at our favorite store, we finally approach the checkout counter to pay for our items. The opportunity to save 10% (or more) off our total purchase often seems too good to pass up - but is it, really?

Kohl's, JC Penny, Macy's, Banana Republic, Target... Almost all of today's big brands offer a corporate credit card. When consumers use their credit card to pay for their items, they receive exclusive discounts. However, it is critical consumers realize that though they are store-specific, they are still credit cards in every traditional sense of the word. A purchase made on a department store credit card today will still need to be paid off tomorrow, and debt, interest, and associated fees can rack up quickly if the cards are not used strategically.

Advantages Of Department Store Credit Cards

Before delving too deeply into the danger of department store credit cards, it is worth acknowledging that these cards do offer some benefits when they are used correctly.

Exclusive Discounts
The most obvious (and possibly the most enticing) advantage department store credit cards offer is that they allow shoppers to save money on their purchases. If you frequent a particular store, it may be advantageous to take advantage of this opportunity to save.

Opportunity To Build Credit
If department store credit cards are used correctly, they offer the same opportunity to build your credit score as any other credit card does. By keeping your outstanding balance at 30% (or less) of your credit limit and paying off your balances completely, you can show the credit bureau that you are a responsible buyer. It is often easier to get approved for a department store credit card than by major credit card companies, so this can be especially valuable for consumers who are looking for ways to rebuild their credit ratings.

Disadvantages Of Department Store Credit Cards

In spite of the benefits they offer, department store credit cards can do more harm than good if they are used incorrectly.

Spending Temptation
It's hard to resist a good deal. The knowledge that you could save off your total purchase (or whatever other special offer the store decides to extend) can make it incredibly challenging not to go shopping, even if you would not have otherwise gone. In these instances, you may be spending less than you would have without the discount - but you're spending more than what you would have spent if you hadn't been coerced into going in the first place.

High Interest Rates
It's true that it is often easier to get approved for a department store credit card, but the flip side is that these credit cards often have the highest interest rates of all credit cards. If you fail to pay off your balance completely or on time, you may rack up expensive payments (and large amounts of debt) very quickly.

Department store debt is one of the fastest-growing types of debt in our country today. Before jumping at the chance to save money on today's purchase, think about the impact the new credit card could have on your finances tomorrow. If you don't trust yourself to handle the card responsibly, paying full price today could be far less costly in the long run.

First Bank Of The Lake Is Here For Your Banking Needs

At First Bank of the Lake, we offer a variety of banking services to meet our clients' unique and varied needs. We are proud to offer personal checking and savings accounts, business checking and savings accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), money market accounts, certificates of deposit, small business loans, and personal loans. For more information about our banking services at the Lake of the Ozarks, visit our website at We look forward to serving you!

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, July 14, 2016

9 Ways To Cut Your Summer Energy Costs

Homeowners often view utility costs as a necessary evil. No one likes paying their monthly utility bills, but we nonetheless rely heavily on our standard utilities such as water, electricity, gas, internet, TV, trash, etc. During the peak temperature extremes of summer and winter, certain utility bills (such as gas and electricity) can increase substantially. First Bank of the Lake is here to help you save some money this summer with these strategies for cutting back on energy costs.

1. Open Windows When Appropriate
If the temperatures are dropping to the upper sixties at night, consider turning off your central air and opening windows before going to sleep. As long as you close the windows and turn the air back on before it heats up again the next day, this can be a great way to reduce energy costs. 

2. Rotate Your Fans Correctly
Ceiling fans can be a massive energy-saver when they are used correctly. During the summer months, make sure your ceiling fans are rotating counter-clockwise. This will enable them to push air straight down, creating a cool breeze throughout your home.

3. Avoid Hot Appliances
When in use, your oven and stove can warm up your home and make your air conditioning have to work harder to cool it down. On especially hot days, save yourself this extra energy pull by cooking on the grill outside or using the microwave - or sticking with foods that don't need to be cooked at all.

4. Turn Off Lights When Not In Use
If you aren't in a room (or if there is still daylight outside), there is no reason to use the extra electricity required to keep the houselights burning. Switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs can be a smart move, too, but simply keeping your lights off when not in use may make a difference.

5. Set Your Thermostat As High As Comfortably Possible
If you find yourself sleeping under a pile of blankets at night or wearing a sweatshirt around your house in the evening, chances are good that you've got your thermostat set unnecessarily low. Set your thermostat as high as comfortable during the summer, and increase it by a few degrees during the afternoons when your family is away at work or school. There's no point in paying for colder air than necessary.

6. Lower The Blinds
If there is a lot of sunlight pouring into your home, your AC will have to work much harder to keep it cool. Lowering/closing the blinds or closing the curtains can make your air conditioning's job much easier (thus reducing your energy bill).

7. Replace The Air Filters
When is the last time you replaced the air filter in your HVAC system? Most heating and cooling experts recommend replacing your filter once per month during summer. If your filter is clogged or dirty, your system will have to work harder to pull air through it. This can raise your energy costs.

8. Unplug Electronics When Not In Use
Even if the power is off, certain appliances and electronics pull electricity and can contribute to a higher electric bill. Television sets, cable boxes, DVD players, phone chargers, modems, and computers are prime examples of electronic devices that pull electricity even when the power is off.

9. Set Your Hot Water Heater To 120°F
What is the thermostat in your hot water heater set to? If it's set higher than 120°F, you may want to consider lowering it. Most people rarely use water hotter than 120° - in fact, higher temperatures can result in scalding. There is no point in paying to heat your water to temperatures you cannot use.

Happy Saving!
By incorporating these energy-saving strategies into your daily life, you should be able to help lower your summer energy costs. Smaller energy bills in the summer mean more money leftover to dedicate towards retirement savings, summer vacations, education, or anything else you can imagine. If you are looking for a safe place to set up a savings account at the Lake of the Ozarks, we hope you'll consider First Bank of the Lake. We look forward to serving you!

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Financial Planning Tips For New Parents

Ask any parent, and they'll tell you that raising children comes with a great deal of financial responsibility. The most recent data on the total cost of raising a child is from 2013, at which point the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the cost of raising a child from ages 0-18 to be $245,340 (not including the cost of college tuition). While new estimates have not been published, we imagine that that number has significantly increased over the three years since its initial publication.

With so many thousands of dollars going towards your newest family member, it is important that you be proactive in your financial planning. Our bank at the Lake of the Ozarks is here to help with these simple but critical financial planning tips for new parents.

Financial Planning Tips For New Parents

1. Create A Safety Net
As soon as you find our you're expecting, you should make building a financial safety net a top priority. Having a financial safety net can make a world of difference if unexpected complications arise that may require more costly medical bills or that the mother spend more time away from work. At a minimum, we recommend building a safety net that could last you six months in the event that both parents were to lose their sources of income.

2. Build A Budget
If you have never kept a budget before, now is the time to start. From purchasing clothing, diapers, and other basic supplies to covering extra medical and healthcare costs, raising children requires many significant expenses. By creating a budget, you can track how much money you have coming in and what expenses it's really going towards. If you start to have trouble making ends meet, you can use this information to determine what areas you can afford to cut back in.

3. Start Saving For The Future
If you want to provide financial assistance for your child's future, such as their college education, it is best to start saving sooner than later. It takes time to build up a big savings fund, and the sooner you start, the more time you will have to accomplish it. You will also have the added advantage of extra time for compound interest to work to your benefit. Saving for your own retirement is also important; raising children may only get more expensive as your children get older, so it is best to start your saving habits while they're young.

Savings Tips For New Parents

Managing your finances strategically is critical, but it's only part of the puzzle when it comes to saving money while raising kids. Here are a few other suggestions to help you cut back on your child-rearing costs:
  • Opt for gender-neutral clothing. By sticking with green, yellow, and gray/black onesies, you'll be able to reuse the little outfits if/when you have another baby (regardless of the genders). 
  • Purchase convertible baby gear that can be used for multiple purposes. Rather than buying separate rear-facing and front-facing car seats, for example, buy one that can be used for either purpose. Cribs that eventually morph into toddler beds provide another example.
  • Buy clothes with room for your baby/toddler to grow into them. Little ones often grow remarkably fast, so starting with a little extra wiggle room will help them last longer.
  • Shop at thrift stores. Even if it is in great condition, a pre-owned item will always be cheaper than a brand new one.
  • Use everyday items instead of "baby" items. For example, consider using an everyday backpack instead of a diaper bag. Many items that are specifically marketed to new parents are much more expensive than their everyday counterparts.

Remember First Bank Of The Lake For Your Banking Needs!

First Bank of the Lake is dedicated to your financial success. If you are looking to save money in preparation for your new baby, we invite you to set up a savings account at the Lake of the Ozarks at our local bank. We also offer IRAs in Osage Beach MO to help you save or retirement or your child's education. Visit our website to learn more about our financial 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