Category Archives: Uncategorized

Student Loan PSA: What Student Debt Really Looks Like

Student Loan PSA

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, Alpine 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.

I need to Find What?! Why You Need a Life and Estate Organizer

Photo of Nicole Fasano, author of blog.

Nicole Fasano, J.D., CTFA, Vice President, Wealth Advisor & Trust Officer

“I need to find what?!” is a question often asked after a loved one’s death. From the typical documents, such as life insurance policies, to the less obvious, such as stopping automatic payments from online banking, there are a lot of papers that must be identified after a death in order to administer an estate. How will your executor or successor trustee know what insurance company or bank you used or who you used as your attorney or accountant? This can become a tangled web of information for your loved ones.

You can make this process easier by creating a Life and Estate Organizer.  A Life and Estate Organizer sets forth all the information your loved ones may need upon your incapacity or death.  Below are a few examples of the information generally put in a Life and Estate Organizer.

Contact Information

There are many people who need to be contacted upon death. Family needs to be contacted to make funeral plans. Your attorney and accountant should know of your death. Your executor or successor trustee will likely need to work with your attorney to administer your estate and your accountant to prepare your final tax returns.  Putting this information in your Life and Estate Organizer lets your executor or successor trustee know who they need to contact for funeral arrangements and further administration.  Make sure you include phone numbers and addresses.

Estate Planning

Do you have a Will?  Do you have a Living Trust?  Who is your attorney?  Where are the original documents? Your executor needs to know that they are the named executor and have a document to prove it. Make sure you have a document stating what estate planning you have, what attorney you used, and where you keep the original documents.

Personal Finance and Assets

It’s also important to document where you bank.  What bank do you have checking and savings accounts with?  What bank holds mortgages, auto or personal loans?  The banks will need to be alerted when there’s a death to stop any potential fraud and receive all of the correct information for your estate. Also, your executor/successor trustee should know where you keep your insurance policies, for your life, home and auto. Original life insurance policies generally have to be turned in to the company upon death so it’s important that your trustee knows where you keep the originals.

Digital Assets

A consideration that is fairly new, and therefore often forgotten, is your digital property. You want to make sure your executor/successor trustee has the websites and your usernames and passwords. You would need this for any sort of digital property, such as, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Photos (Instagram, Flikr), Online Business (Ebay, Etsy), Book, Music and Movies (iTunes, Amazon) or any other digital assets you may have.

We often forget how much information we have stored mentally. That all goes with us at incapacity and death. At Alpine Trust & Investment Group we provide the necessary resources to create your Life and Estate Organizer, helping you to plan for the future. Although it can be a tough subject to broach, it’s important to understand how important this will be for your loved ones, providing them a little peace of mind and clarity in an otherwise difficult time.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Mortgage Loan Documentation Requirements

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Rob Grindle Mortgage Banker, NMLS #462766

Buying a house can be overwhelming. Whether it’s your very first house, second, or even third, it’s always helpful to talk through the necessary steps to owning a home. Finding the perfect home can take weeks or even months. No matter how long your search is, one thing is for certain: When you find “the one,” you want things to move along quickly to secure your financing.

An important step in maintaining a smooth, hassle free process is making sure that you have the necessary loan documents readily available. Below is a simple checklist to use when you are applying for a mortgage.

  • Previous three years of Federal Tax Returns with all schedules, A, C, E, if any
  • Previous three years of W2s for ALL jobs
  • Five recent pay stubs showing year to date earnings
  • Two recent checking and savings statements (All pages, including blank pages and cancelled check pages
  • One recent 401k, 403B and/or IRA statement
  • Photo ID

By having all of the required documents in place, the more likely the home buying process will be quick and efficient. Remember, the more organized you are prior to finding that dream home, the sooner you’ll be able to call it your own.

Rob Grindle

Mortgage Banker, NMLS #462766

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Start a New Business in 5 Easy Steps

Business Financing

Getting your business off the ground isn’t always as easy as it seems. With a laundry list of to-do items, it can be hard to prioritize which needs have to come first. Luckily, Alpine Bank is here to help! By following these key stepping stones, we’ll help you get on the path to success with your new business venture.

  1. Develop a business plan. Determine what it is you want your business to do, and how you want to do it.
  2. Capital. Capital. Capital. Make sure whether you’re working with investors, securing a business loan, or putting up the money yourself, you have all the funds you need in addition to a large cushion for overhead and operating expenses.
  3. Get it in writing. With options such as an L.L.C, Corporation, S Corporation, Nonprofit or Cooperative, you’ll want to protect your personal finances with a legal structure for your business.
  4. Make it official. After registering with state and local tax agencies, you’ll need to obtain the appropriate permits and licenses to make your business compliant with local laws and regulations.
  5. Get people in the door. Ensure you have an effective marketing strategy, or list of transferred clients to get your business off the ground. The old saying, “If you build it they will come,” no longer applies. Make sure everyone in your area knows you’re opening, and offer a valuable incentive to help encourage them to stop by.

Local businesses are the backbone of small town America. If you’re looking to set-up your own new shop, Alpine Bank is eager to help! Our experienced business lenders are here to find you the best business financing option for your needs!

Save $3,500 this Year by Removing These 6 Things

Saving Money

 

Saving money is no easy task! Only after dedication and determination, can you look successfully into your account to see the difference saving can make. At Alpine Bank, we’re excited to help you achieve your financial goals, and we can’t wait to get started! If you’re looking to tuck some funds away for an emergency savings, or vacation fund, these six tips can help you accumulate $3,500 in savings over the course of the next year.

  1. $720: Cut the cable – at $60+ each month this common expense eat up your budget in a hurry!
  2. $1400: Brew your own java – instead of grabbing a latte on your way to work make your own cup of joe and save that extra $4/day.
  3. $600: Plan Your Meals – instead of playing by ear each night for dinner, make a dedicated meal plan each week and stick to it. This will help cut costs on eating out and unused groceries. Remove one dining out meal each month and see the difference this can make!
  4. $468: Workout at home – the average gym membership runs $39/month which over the course of the year can add up quick. Try online workout videos and create a routine which uses various household items.
  5. $312: Pack your lunch – With most quick lunches running about $10/each, sneaking away for lunch could be costing you! Try packing a lunch from home to avoid these expensive dining options. Changing just three lunches each month could save you more than three-hundred dollars!

 

Learn how to open up your ideal savings account at Alpine Bank to get started on your savings dreams today!

Retirement Planning: The Basics

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Determine your retirement income needs

It’s common to discuss desired annual retirement income as a percentage of your current income. The problem is that it doesn’t account for your specific situation. To determine your specific NEEDS, you may want to estimate your annual retirement expenses.  You can use your current expenses as a starting point, but note that your expenses may change dramatically by the time you retire.  You should also take inflation into account. The average annual rate of inflation over the past 20 years has been approximately 2.3 percent. (Source: Consumer price index data published by the U.S. Department of Labor, January 2015.) A realistic estimate of your expenses will tell you about how much yearly income you’ll need to live comfortably.

Calculate the gap

Once you have estimated your retirement income needs, take stock of your estimated future assets and income. These may come from Social Security, a retirement plan at work, a part-time job, and other sources. If estimates show that your future assets and income will fall short of what you need, the rest will have to come from additional personal retirement savings.

Figure out how much you’ll need to save

By the time you retire, you’ll need a nest egg that will provide you with enough income to fill the gap left by your other income sources. But exactly how much is enough? The following questions may help you find the answer:

  • At what age do you plan to retire? The younger you retire, the longer your retirement will be, and the more money you’ll need to carry you through it.
  • What is your life expectancy? The longer you live, the more years of retirement you’ll have to fund.
  • What rate of growth can you expect from your savings now and during retirement?
  • What do you want to do in retirement?

Build your retirement fund: Save, save, save

When you know roughly how much money you’ll need, your next goal is to save that amount. It’s never too early to get start saving (ideally, begin saving in your 20s). You may want to arrange to have certain amounts taken directly from your paycheck and automatically invested in accounts of your choice. This arrangement reduces the risk of impulsive spending that will threaten your savings plan.

Understand your investment options

You need to understand the types of investments that are available, and decide which ones are right for you. If you don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to do this yourself, hire a financial professional. He or she will explain the options that are available to you, and will assist you in selecting investments that are appropriate for your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Note that investments may involve the risk of loss of principal.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

What Is Inflation and Why Should You Care About It?

ABANK_12_FacebookPrices: Up, up and away

Inflation occurs when there is more money circulating than there are goods and services to buy. The process is like trying to attend a sold-out concert at the last minute; there is more demand for tickets than there are tickets to go around. As a result, tickets may trade hands for far more than their stated prices. When there’s a lot of demand for goods and services, their prices usually go up. The law of supply and demand produces price inflation.

Inflation cuts purchasing power

When some people say, “I’m not an investor,” it’s often because they worry about the potential for loss. It’s true that investing involves risk as well as reward. However, there’s also another type of loss to be aware of: the loss of purchasing power.

Inflation is painful enough when you experience a sharp jump in prices. However, the bigger problem with inflation is not just the immediate impact, but its effects over time. Because of inflation, each dollar you’ve saved will buy less and less as time goes on. At 3% annual inflation, something that costs $100 today would cost $181 in 20 years.

Personal Financial Planning

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Financial planning is the process that can help you pursue your goals by evaluating your whole financial picture, then outlining strategies that are tailored to your individual needs and available resources.

The financial planning process

Developing a comprehensive financial plan and putting it in place generally involves the following steps:

  • Take account of your income, assets, regular monthly expenses, and liabilities; evaluate your insurance, your investments and savings, and your estate plan
  • Establish and prioritize your financial goals and set a time frame for each
  • Identify areas of financial concern and financial strengths
  • Monitor your plan and make adjustments as your goals, time frames, and circumstances change
  • Use the services of financial professionals who have the expertise necessary to provide objective information and help you implement your plan results

Set and prioritize financial goals

Determining financial priorities and goals is ultimately the responsibility of you and your family. Start by making a list of your short-term goals (e.g., new car, vacation) and your long-term goals (e.g., home purchase, child’s education, retirement). Then try to prioritize those goals. How important is each goal to you and your family? How much will you need to save in order to reach each goal? Once you have a clearer picture of your goals, you can work toward establishing a budget that can help you pursue them.

Establish a budget

Creating and maintaining a budget may not only help you target your financial goals, but regularly reviewing and updating your budget can help keep you on track. To develop a budget that is appropriate for your lifestyle, you’ll need to identify your current monthly income and expenses.

Start by adding up all your income. Next, add up all your expenses. It helps to divide them into two categories: fixed expenses (e.g., housing, food, clothing, and transportation) and discretionary expenses (e.g., entertainment, vacations, and hobbies). You’ll also want to make sure that you have identified any out-of-pattern expenses, such as holiday gifts, car maintenance, and home repair.

Once you’ve added up all your income and expenses, compare the two totals. If you find yourself spending more than you earn, you’ll need to make some adjustments. Look at your expenses closely and cut down on your discretionary spending.

Tips to help you stay on track

  • Stay disciplined: Make budgeting a part of your daily routine
  • Distinguish between expenses that are “wants” and expenses that are “needs”
  • Avoid using credit cards to pay for everyday expenses: It may seem as though you’re spending less, but your credit-card debt may continue to increase

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Six Small Ways to Save Big Money

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Instead of focusing a lot of effort on making many changes to your spending habits, these six areas of your financial life can yield big savings and earnings with just a few small tweaks.

  1. Insurance

Many insurance carriers offer a bundling discount if you purchase multiple insurance plans through them. If you have two cars, insure both with the same firm, and consider using that firm for your rental or home owners insurance too. Ask your broker for other discounts you might be eligible for. Another great way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductible to lower your monthly premiums.

  1. Your home

If you’re currently looking for a new home, try to purchase one that costs less than what you think you can afford, and don’t forget to factor in association fees, taxes, homeowners insurance and other costs that come with owning a home. If you already own a home, consider refinancing to potentially save hundreds each month. Finally, making your home safer (by installing a smoke detector, for example) can decrease your home owners insurance premiums.

  1. Debt payment

If you can, pay off your credit card bills in full each month so you won’t ever have to pay interest. To prevent having to put large amounts of money on a credit card with a high interest rate, save up an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. If you’ve already charged a sizable debt, develop a debt repayment plan and work it into your budget so you can pay off your cards as soon as possible and pay less interest in the long run. If you’re in good standing, it’s worth it to contact your credit card company to request a lower interest rate.

  1. Spending plan

Think of your budget as a way to organize your spending, not necessarily limit it. You can automate your finances to make sure your savings and investing goals are always met and your bills are always paid on time. This will save you money by avoiding late fees and penalties. By having a budget, you’re less likely to waste money on purchases you’ll later regret.

  1. Taxes

Make sure you’re taking advantage of applicable deductions and credits. To lower your taxable income, contribute money to a 401(k), IRA or 529 plan. To minimize your capital gains tax, consider selling some of your investments at a loss—but make sure you’re not using taxes as your main motivation for selling. Another easy way to get a tax deduction is to make a charitable contribution. Finally, a Health Savings Account is a tax-free way to save money for health expenses. The money goes into the account tax-free and is exempt from taxes upon distribution.

  1. Investing

The best way to get a return on your investment is to start early. Open a retirement plan and begin contributing as soon as possible so your money can experience the “magic of compounding” that only happens over time. Keep in mind that frequent trading and investing small amounts over time may cost more in commission and fees. Research the fees associated with your investments to make more strategic decisions or consider switching to a lower cost plan.

Sometimes the smartest financial moves (such as investing or buying insurance) can quickly eat away at your budget. By making small changes in these six areas, you can save significant amounts of money without significant effort.

Investment and insurance products are: not Alpine Bank products; not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.

Time Can Be a Strong Ally in Saving for Retirement

ABANK_16_Facebook_v4Father Time doesn’t always have a good reputation, particularly when it comes to birthdays. But when it comes to saving for retirement, time might be one of your strongest allies. Why? When time teams up with the growth potential of compounding, the results can be powerful.

Time and money can work together

The premise behind compounding is fairly simple. Your invested dollars may earn returns from those investments, then those returns may earn returns themselves–and so on. That’s compounding.

Compounding in action

To see the process at work, consider the following hypothetical example: Say you invest $1,000 and earn a return of 7%–or $70–in one year. You now have $1,070 in your account. In year two, that $1,070 earns another 7%, and this time the amount earned is $74.90, bringing the total value of your account to $1,144.90. Over time, if your account continues to earn positive returns, the process can gather steam and add up.

Now consider how compounding might work in your retirement plan. Say $120 is automatically contributed to your plan account on a biweekly basis. Assuming you earn a 7% rate of return each year, after 10 years, you would have invested $31,200 and your account would be worth $45,100. That’s not too bad. If you kept investing the same amount, after 20 years, you’d have invested $62,400 and your account would be worth $135,835. And after just 10 more years–for a total investment time of 30 years and a total invested amount of $93,600–you’d have $318,381. That’s the power of compounding at work.

Keep in mind that these examples are hypothetical, for illustrative purposes only, and do not represent the performance of any actual investment. Returns are likely to be different each year, and are not guaranteed.

Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.