Author Archives: Bank Alpine Blogger

3 Negative Financial Habits You May Be Teaching Your Children

Whether we want to realize it or not, the way we were raised has a tremendous impact on how we make decisions as an adult. April is Financial Literacy Month and Alpine Bank wants you to consider the negative financial habits that you may unintentionally be teaching your children.

Good financial habits for kids

Saving money is just one financial habit kids can learn from their parents

Did you know most children’s financial habits are formed by age seven? It’s widely known that children pick up on words, dress style and food habits at a young age, but it hasn’t been predominantly communicated that financial habits were on the list of precautions to take when around children.

Children under the age of eight years old may be able to count and recognize money, but it’s suggested that they do not have an understanding of the difference between “luxuries” and “necessities”, meaning they see items, not the amount of money spent to purchase them. It is crucial that financial education starts at a young age.

Here are three common parenting behaviors that can negatively influence children’s money habits.

  1. You Spoil Your Children: Your child may expect that they can and should still get whatever they want when they grow up. The problem is they may not have the income to support the ability to live large. Challenge yourself to put money in a savings account for your child instead of giving them games, clothes and toys.
  2. You Make Financial Decisions on a Whim: Go out for dinner? Sure. Go see a movie? You bet. Go shopping for new clothes? Why not? If you are always saying yes to questions that involve buying something, you are showing your kids that financial decisions should be made without much thought. Sure, it may be fine to go out for dinner tonight, but explain to them that this means they’ll have to sacrifice that movie night later in the week.
  3. You are Very Frugal: Whether you need to keep a tight budget or you are a penny pincher, this money saving tactic could potentially affect your child’s spending habits in the future. It has been shown in a few studies that excessive spending can be a side effect of living an extremely frugal childhood. Talk to your child and explain the reasoning for being careful with money so that they can learn the benefits of saving and not feel resentful.

Since children learn a lot from their parents, Alpine Bank wants you to celebrate Financial Literacy Month by improving your financial habits while educating your children on how to stay financially successful. Make a commitment to help your child grow into a financially independent person this April.

Are You Making These 8 Common Home Buying Mistakes?

home-mistakes

Life contains certain landmark events: birth, getting your driver’s license, graduating from high school, getting married and so on. One of the most important decisions you will make in life is purchasing a home, whether it is your first home or the home you plan to live in until you die. It can be a very exciting process, but entering that process unprepared or getting caught up in it can spell trouble.

In order to help those of you looking to purchase a home this year, Alpine Bank has put together these eight common home buying mistakes in order for you to be better prepared and to make buying your home a highlight in your life.

Mistake #1, Forgetting About the Extra Costs- here’s a rundown of the costs you can expect to pay: mortgage (principal with interest), property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities appraisal fee, credit report fee, escrow fee, closing costs and your real estate agent’s fee.

Mistake #2, Loving a House Too Much- getting caught up in all the features of a home can easily lead you over your budget. Stay practical with your needs.

Mistake #3, Buying More Home than You can Afford- a good rule of thumb here: if you are purchasing a home with another person, base the payment on only one of your incomes. That way, if something happens you will still be able to make payments on your home.

Mistake #4, Not Making a 20 Percent Down Payment- anything less than 20 percent likely means your lender will require costly private mortgage insurance.

Mistake #5, Not Having an Inspection Done- choose someone you trust and make sure it is done by the book. Nothing is worse than your foundation beginning to leak a year into living in your new home.

Mistake #6, Buying with Bad Credit- predatory lending is still alive, and is a sure way to end up in a home with a mortgage you can’t afford. Improve your credit score first before buying.

Mistake #7, Too Much Credit Activity- when you are in home buying mode, you should be doing two things only: paying bills and saving money. Anything else could mess with your credit.

Mistake #8, Not Being Committed to Staying Put- if you have a hard time with commitment, i.e., signing a one-year lease on your apartment makes you break out in hives, then homeownership is not for you. Make sure you are ready to live in the area for a while.

We hope recognizing these fatal mistakes helps you in your preparations for purchasing a new home, or at least gives you some guidance if the actual buying process is still a way down the road. Feel free to contact Alpine Bank’s mortgage lenders about these or other mortgage concerns.

6 Investing Lessons from March Madness

The NCAA championship basketball tournament is an annual highlight for sports fans, earning the nickname “March Madness” for the frenzy that teams and fans alike become caught up in during the four weeks of tournament play. Filling out a bracket is perhaps the only thing more popular than watching the tournament games. Like investing, bracket picks are a matter of balancing expertise, expectation, risk and reward.
1. It’s about getting the most right, not being perfect.
Your investing, like your bracket, is not going to be perfect. The mathematical odds of correctly picking the outcome of every game in the NCAA Tournament are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (for the record, that first number is 9 quintillion). Statistically, each person on earth would have to fill out more than a billion individual brackets before one would be perfect.
The odds of all your investments continually producing above-market returns are probably even lower. Successful investing is about making as many wise decisions as possible and getting more investments right than wrong.
2. Diversify.
No one turns in a bracket with results for just one or two teams and expects to earn enough points to win. People fill out the entire bracket to gather enough points and ensure that losses in one region can be compensated for with wins in another. Diversification is hugely important to investors as well. No matter how sure you are of an investment, it’s never a good idea to put all your money in one place.
3. Anything could happen, but it usually doesn’t.
Although there are always some upsets, favored teams usually do reasonably well. Investors shouldn’t think that diversifying among long-shot stocks is a recipe for success. You could successfully score on every upset game of the tournament if you only picked underdogs, but there is no way those few successful games could make up for all the losses where things went as everyone expected.
4. Last year’s tournament was last year.
Past performance guarantees nothing about the future. Investors (and basketball fans) should never assume that their best picks from last year will have a repeat performance. A team wins because of skill and management; a hot stock should only be kept if there are sound reasons for its past (and future) success.
5. Lucky systems are a myth.
Humans are hardwired to see patterns. It’s a survival instinct that helps us find the things that we need and avoid dangerous situations. Superstitions form when people notice a pattern and choose to only remember the times when it worked, reinforcing useless behavior. A foolish investment (or bracket) is one that relies on superstitious or “hunch” decision-making. Investments are ownership in a company, not a gamble. Successful companies are the key to successful stocks.
6. The drama goes up the more you watch.
Though watching the action of a live game is the most exciting part of the NCAA tournament, it’s one of the worst ideas in investing. Drama is good entertainment, but it almost never helps an investor. Watching every twitch of the market only leads to bad decision-making. A wise investor stays as detached as possible from daily stock fluctuations.
How they’re different: Investing is not a competition
It’s important to remember that good investing is not about being the best investor in the world; it’s about securing enough money for your future. Unlike March Madness, you shouldn’t worry about “beating” others’ investment strategies. A sound strategy might not be as impressive as someone else’s high-risk approach, but it can still be successful.

 

Link to PDF of Alpine Trust & Investment Group newsletter: AB Newsletter March 2014

 

How to Reward Yourself Without Breaking Your Budget: 10 Ideas

10-frugal-ideas

In last month’s post “10 Ways to (Smartly) Blow Your Tax Refund,” we listed “treat yourself” as a way to use your tax refund. In this post, Alpine Bank wants to elaborate more on how treating yourself can be a reward without costing money.

Think about the things you like doing most; how many of them cost money? Some of the biggest rewards in life don’t cost anything or have relatively little expense. Here are some frugal ideas to help you treat yourself.

  • Pour a nice glass of wine- red wine has been shown to help your heart, so pour yourself a glass and de-stress.
  • Soak in a hot bath or hot tub- a great way to relax after a long day.
  • Turn some pages- is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, but just haven’t gotten to? Find your nearest bookstore, grab a copy and turn into a bookworm.
  • Park it- as the weather (hopefully) warms up, find a park near your home or work and take in a nice afternoon or evening.
  • Pound the pavement- it costs you nothing to go for a walk or run, and it is an investment in your health!
  • Catch a flick- try an early movie time on a weekend before the crowds arrive and movie prices go up.
  • Have someone else cook- order in from your favorite Chinese place or that new place on the corner you’ve been wanting to try.
  • Call someone and chat- life can get busy, so call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and catch up.
  • Clear your DVR- if you have one, go through and watch everything you’ve recorded.
  • Indulge your guilty pleasure- from reality TV to playing your favorite music and singing along, do what makes you feel good! 

How do you reward yourself? There are many great things to do around our communities that cost little to no money, so be sure take a look at all the Rockford area has to offer.  Alpine Bank hopes you find something new and exciting, and we look forward to seeing you again!

5 Ways to Start Retirement Planning Before You Turn 30

retirement-planning-before-30

Retirement is for the birds, right? If you’re not even 30, why should you worry about it? You have student loan debts to pay off, rent or your first mortgage to pay, a tepid job market to navigate and insurance to be worried about. Retirement? You’ll think about that when you’re 40.

 

If you follow this train of thought, you’re on the wrong train. Retirement planning may be more crucial when you’re younger because it dictates how you approach your finances as a whole for the rest of your life. Remember the 2008 recession? Millions of Americans lost their retirement nest eggs and either had to go back to work or extend their working years.

 

You don’t want to end up working until you’re 67 or 68, right? Here are five ways you can avoid that fate:

 

Get a sense of what you need- but please don’t freak out. You need a goal in order to save properly, and there are seemingly endless resources available, at Alpine Bank and online, to help you see what you’ll need for retirement.

 

Prioritize- before you start funding your retirement, take care of your immediate needs: establish an emergency fund and pay down your debts.

 

Fund your 401(k)- if your employer offers a 401(k), opt in, especially if there’s a company match involved.

 

Get your IRA on- no 401(k) option? Try a traditional or Roth IRA. A traditional IRA lets you make tax-free contributions, while money in a Roth IRA grows tax-free.

 

Chill out- yes, saving and investing in your future early can really pay off. It also takes time for all that to happen, so be patient, don’t stress over each rise and fall and keep your eyes on the prize.

 

The earlier you save, the more your money gets the benefits of compound interest. You don’t have to start out dumping huge amounts into your account; all that matter is that you start. The Investment and Retirement teams at Alpine Bank can also be a trusted resource for this and other information regarding retirement, so be sure to get in touch with them if you have questions.

10 Ways to (Smartly) Blow Your Tax Refund

tax-refund

Ah, the good old tax refund. It’s like an extra pay day, isn’t it? While it may feel like you’re getting “extra” money, you’re really just getting back what was kept out of your paychecks throughout last year. If you had that money in the first place, you probably would’ve been responsible with it, so it makes sense that you should do the same when you’re refund arrives in your back account or in your mailbox.

Last year, the average tax refund was $2,790, which is a good amount of money for most families. Alpine Bank has come up with 10 ways you can use your chunk of change from Uncle Sam a little wiser this year:

Pay off high interest debt- credit card debt is the main culprit here, with most credit cards having an interest rate of 11-16 percent. That’s debt that stacks up against you quickly.

Start a down payment fund- if you’re looking to purchase your first home or move your family, your tax refund can serve as the foundation for your down payment.

Invest in your retirement- any money saved now will grow and be there for you in retirement.

Contribute to your emergency fund- the 2008 recession taught us you can never have enough easily accessible cash saved up.

Seek financial advice- finance books are widely available, and most can be very beneficial. Just make sure you do a little research on the author first.

Make an extra mortgage payment- fun fact: making an extra payment on a $250,000 30-year mortgage with a 5 percent interest rate shortens the mortgage by five years and saves you about $41,000 in interest.

Do good- don’t need the extra money? Make a donation to your favorite charity or community organization instead.

Invest in yourself- your own education is the best investment you can make, especially if you want to increase your earning power.

Do something new- take a cooking class, go wine tasting or find another way to expand your life.

Treat yourself- make sure it’s something you need, and try to buy local to keep money in the local economy.

Your tax refund is your chance to do something productive. Big screen TVs and new tablets are nice, but do they help you achieve your goals? Just something to think about as you await your tax refund this year.

Financial How-to: Become a Savings Rockstar in 2014

The most common financial resolution people make is to save more money. Considering about four in 10 American adults have no savings except what they have put aside for retirement, and six in 10 American adults do not have an emergency fund in place to cover three months of expenses, you could say America has a money saving problem.

However, Alpine Bank is here to help you put your savings account to work this year. Here are a few tips to give your piggy bank something to smile about:

Set up a budget and savings plan- this will help you see where you can cut expenses to put them into your Alpine Bank savings account. Through budgeting you should be able to see how much of each paycheck or other income you can put into savings.

Recognize that it doesn’t take much- a common mistake is thinking saving money means living on less. That’s not necessarily true. If you get paid twice a month, that’s 24 deposits to your savings account in a year.

Pay yourself first- make your first transaction on every payday a transfer for a set amount from your checking account to your savings account. Better yet, set up automatic payments to move that amount automatically every week, two weeks or however often you get paid. You can’t miss money you never had.

Create an emotional attachment to saving money- money is already an emotional subject, but the stronger connection you make with saving it the more you’ll view each possible expense in a different, better light.

Ask yourself one question- “Do I really need this?” Stopping and thinking instead of making an impulsive purchase can end up saving you loads of money over the course of a year.

Try out these tips in your life to see how much money you can save. If you need any help with managing your savings for now or in the future, get in touch with your nearest Alpine Bank location today.

A New Year, a New Website for Alpine Bank

It’s a new year, and here at Alpine Bank our New Year’s resolution is to continue providing the best service to our amazing customers. Part of that resolution lies in our new website. We designed it specifically to be more customer-friendly and easier to navigate while still offering you all the information, forms and other items you need for your financial life.

Alpine Bank wants to take you on a “guided tour” of our website’s important features to help you adjust to our new home on the web. Here are a few of the highlights:

online-bankingOnline Banking Login- logging in to your Online Banking account is one of the most important features of the website, and we’ve made sure it’s displayed prominently on the home page for easy access.  You’ll also notice the cursor automatically displays in the Online Banking login option.

service-pages
Service Pages-
if you need to find more information about any of our products and services, the main navigation is for you. Here you’ll find our various product categories. By hovering over the main category name, you will produce a dropdown menu of more exact services you may be searching for.

left-hand-nav
Quick Links-
underneath the Online Banking login in the left hand menu you can also find quick ways to jump to specific services Alpine Bank offers. You can find any of our branch or ATM locations, login to your trust or investment account, jump to information about our online services and even apply for mortgage pre-approval online.

social-media
Social Media-
we love engaging with our customers and letting people know what we’re up to next. Our social media links at the top left of the page link our profiles on various social networks, and the social feed in the middle of the home page gives you a look at our latest social updates.

You may find it useful to spend some time poking around and finding where everything is at. If you have any questions about the new website, please don’t hesitate to contact your nearest Alpine Bank location or call us at 815-398-6500. We hope to see you soon!