Don’t Trust that Text… You Might Get “Smished”

The newest ruse called “smishing” is a variation of phishing where cyber thugs use SMS text messaging to target mobile banking customers.  Several articles suggest that we are in the early stages of mobile threats and that cyber criminals are still figuring out the best way to gain access to your personal information via cell phone. 

Malware, which is short for malicious software, is still the most pervasive fraud out there and can attack any computer through e-mail or poisoned Web downloads.  This is how criminals take control of your computer and ultimately your finances.

Obviously, mobile banking is becoming more and more common.  Criminals know this and will become very efficient at digging for your information.  Please make sure you and your friends are aware of this situation and if you receive a text that says it’s from your bank and to call the 1-800 number, go to your bank’s website to get the contact info, don’t just call the number provided in the text… You might get “smished”.  Your bank will never text you for the purpose of soliciting information.

Guest Blog by Tim M

Holiday Shopping – Unwrapped

I can’t believe there are less than two months until Christmas.  I’ve been trying to come up with ways to save some money this holiday season, so I’ve been doing a little research online. I ran across an article yesterday that listed 19 gift ideas that would save you money. It sounds like your typical holiday shopping guide, but it’s not quite that simple. Each gift on the list will supposedly save the receiver money as well.

As I went through the list of ideas I had to laugh. In my opinion, several items on the list would make terrible gifts! So, in order to be fair, I polled my coworkers and we decided which items would actually be good gifts to give to friends and family. Here’s what we came up with: 

  • CFL Light Bulbs or LED Light Bulbs – good for the environment, and they last forever!
  •  Newspaper Subscription – coupons and news about great deals!
  •  A Coupon Book – I hope the reasoning behind this one is obvious.
  •  Candles – can be used for light during late-night storms and smell great.
  •  Gas Card – probably the best idea ever… I will say no more.
  •  Metal Water Bottle – use, reuse, repeat.
  •  Water Filter – paired with a metal water bottle you could save someone hundreds of dollars!
  •  Crockpot & Recipes – yum, yum and yum. I had Crockpot roast just yesterday.
  •  Smart-Power Strip – doesn’t feed on electricity, even when your electronics are turned off!
  •  A Day Planner – not sure I agree that this will save you money, but it’s a great gift and one I always appreciate.
  • Stamps and Envelopes – I’m forever running out of stamps and thank you notes, this idea gets an A++.
  • A Finance Book – learn to manage your finances from a book… OR just log into our handy-dandy website for FREE!
  • Gift Cards/Certificates – one of the best inventions known to man. I LOVE getting these. Top of my list this holiday season? An Amazon gift card! So I can buy books for my Kindle!
  • A Favorite Indulgence – my second, favorite gift idea. It probably doesn’t make sense, so here’s an example. My friend loves Bath and Body Works lotions, but doesn’t buy them much because of the expense. For Christmas, I could buy her a favorite scent. That will save her money – and is guaranteed to make her day!

Here’s a few gifts on the list that we thought weren’t such good ideas:

  • Rechargeable Batteries & Recharger – the batteries always seem to be running out of juice.
  • Reuseable Shopping Bags – they may help save the environment, but we couldn’t think of a store that gives a significant discount if you use them.
  • Wind-up Flashlight – these things are awesome, but the ones I’ve received as gifts are already dead and won’t recharge. Plus, some of them take a lot more work than a simple twist of a handle.

To see the complete list and reasons these 19 items were picked visit the actual blog at, http://frugalliving.about.com/od/christmas/tp/Gifts_that_Save_Money.htm

     
 

 

Fall Fever

Fall is my absolute, favorite season. I love the color, the smell, the weather, the holidays and the food. I’ve heard that people who are pessimistic like fall and people who are optimistic like spring. I don’t feel like a pessimist… but I’m not sure how you can diagnose yourself when it comes to things like that. Anyhow, I’m telling you all this because there is only one aspect of fall that I dislike…

The stores! Every fall I feel the need to empty my wallet (and bank account) buying meaningless decor, gifts, smell-goods, clothes, food, you name it… I want to buy it. And the stores take advantage of helpless shoppers like myself. They make in-store displays extravagant and beautiful. They put out fragrances that are pleasing, festive and cause shoppers to feel good when entering a store. Sure, they do similar things year-round, but for some reason I am hit harder September through November.  I have an endless supply of pumpkins, candles, leaves, and Halloween decor. Do I have a single Easter decoration? No sir! I can’t say that I’d display such items – even if receiving them as gifts.

Do you suffer from a similar illness? Do you want to stop obsessive, autumn buying habits? Well… here’s a couple tips that may be helpful this season – or even during other seasons if you’re a boisterous Easter bunny, passionate Patriot or even Santa Claus’ head elf:

  • Make a list before a trip to the store – and stick to it.
  • Each time you buy new decorations get rid of the old ones. Lots of people can’t afford decor at big-box stores, so help them out by donating your old decor to thrift stores.
  • If you’re grocery shopping go to the grocery store instead of a catch-all store like Walmart or Target. You’ll be less inclined to buy things other than bread, milk and cheese.
  • Take along a friend or relative that is less likely to buy compulsively. I have a good friend who will follow me around the store and ask me “Do you really need that?”. Usually I don’t have a good explanation and end up putting items back. Now, when I go shopping without her I hear her voice in my head…
  • Put yourself on a budget. Go to the store with a specific amount of money in mind and don’t spend a penny over. In the end you’ll thank yourself.
  • Set seasonal items aside. If a week goes by and you haven’t opened the packaging then you probably don’t need to keep it. I’m a big return-er. (Conversely, if you’ve used the item all season, and left the tags or stickers on it… don’t return it! Nothing annoys me more than people who work the system and figure out ways to buy an item for one event, so they can return it later and get their money back.)

Any other ideas let me know! I’m always looking for ways to cut down on excessive spending.

Back-to-School Tips!

It’s that time again! Time to put the kids to bed on time, buy school supplies and figure out where they stashed their backpacks after the end of last school year. And then, when you can’t find the backpacks – OR the lunch boxes – you go out and buy new stuff for everyone… just to be fair.

Here’s a few tips I’ve found to be useful over the years. See if you can convince your kids to try them out and maybe you can save some time, money or peace of mind!

  • Make everyone clean their bedrooms before school starts. It helps everyone get a fresh start – and you may be able to locate lost school supplies like backpacks.
  • If you are still paying for your kids’ lunches you might consider getting then a checking account for storing lunch money. It’s a good way to build responsibility. Instead of bugging you every day for money your child can learn budgeting while you’re still able to bail them out of trouble. Budgeting will become very important to them when they’re halfway through the month and have no lunch money left.
  • Pack sack lunches – it’s healthier and cheaper. Or, make them pack their own. My Mom had a mantra – pack your own lunch or eat school lunch. Due to our nasty school lunches I learned very quickly how to pack a lunch – of course, Mom sometimes had to watch how many sweets we were throwing into the sack, but for the most part we ate well.
  • If your child is in college convince them to buy textbooks used. Bookstores charge high prices because they can – not because they should.
  • Pull out the remaining supplies from last school year and make the kids use them up before you buy all new stuff. We used to spend a fortune on school supplies every year because I thought I had to have new stuff. And hey, who doesn’t like new stuff? I’m just thinking that we probably threw away a lot of good stuff because it was “old”. And that gets expensive.

Any other ideas? Leave us a comment if there’s something I’ve failed to mention! We love money savers – and time savers. And I know there are tons of Moms out there with great ideas. We’d love to hear them!

Tips for Building Your Credit

I’ve been doing some research lately on building my credit score. I know that within the next five years it will be time to search for and buy a house, so it seems like a good time to start preparing. Probably shortly after the house will come the children, so saving will be a big issue as well, but we’ll handle one thing at a time for now.

The thing I keep reading - when I search for credit information online - can be conveyed by a simple formula: checking + savings = stability. If you’re able to manage both accounts well it’s going to show creditors that you are stable in your decisions and responsible with your finances.

After that, everyone seems to offer a slight variation on these 3 simple guidelines:

  • Pay your bills ON TIME
  • How much available credit do you use? Experts suggest that you never max out all of your credit options. It is recommended that you never charge more than 30% of the credit limit offered to you.
  • Don’t charge more than you can pay off in a month. It’s a slippery slope. If you ever stop paying off your credit card balance at the end of every month then you will only get further behind each month after that. In fact, sometimes I make a payment each time I get paid – which means I make a credit card payment every two weeks – that way I have a better idea about how much money I can actually afford to spend.

I have also read a few tips for getting better credit, once you’ve had problems or for building credit if you don’t have any:

  • Piggyback on someone else’s credit – In other words, get added to another person’s credit card so you can build up your own. Just make certain that they are financially stable and have good credit themselves. It’s not going to be much help to piggyback off of someone owing $30,000 to various creditors.
  • Get a store credit card – It’s usually much easier to get credit from a store, however you also must realize that it will be a slow process to build credit this way. They don’t help as much as some of the other options. Also, they tend to have higher interest rates, so when you aren’t able to pay the balance off in one month’s time then you end up having more problems than before you got one.
  • Get a secured card from a bank – These usually require a security deposit or collateral of some kind. The only thing about this suggestion that is hard is most people who need credit usually don’t have anything to put up for collateral. So unless they have a stack of cash sitting around and can put up the cash, it would be hard to secure this type of card.

So, one last thing that might help you out if you’re looking to get a credit card is to have a list of things you should look for in a credit card. The top three I’ve heard about are:

  • No application fee
  • Low annual fee
  • Credit will be reported to Equifax, TransUnion, & Experian – the three major U.S. credit bureaus

Don’t know what your credit score looks like? Request a free report now via the Central National Bank website. Click the Credit Report button at the bottom, right of our home page.

Go Green in January!

All this talk about the environment and global warming has me thinking about my part in the play called life.  What do I do to “Go Green”? Am I really making that much of an impact? How can I do better?

The answer to the first question? I recycle – some.  Have you ever tried to sort recyclables in an apartment that doesn’t really have space for a trash can? This is my life. It also pains me to admit that I sometimes grab a new water bottle from the fridge instead of refilling my aluminum bottle that sits on my desk.  The coffee table is a good recycle bin for magazines. When the pile is tall enough that it starts to block my view of the TV I load up a sack and haul it all away. I try to do the same with cardboard boxes, but that is easier said than done. First, you flatten them, then struggle to keep them flat, and finally find somewhere to stack them. It all comes down to one BIG PAIN.

The answer to the second question isn’t easily found. I often ask myself how one person could alter the fate of the world by deciding to recycle. At first it seems impossible, but by doing lots of thinking I’ve come to this conclusion.  If I recycle and I make a big-ridiculous deal out of it, then 5 of my friends will feel guilty enough to start recycling in their homes. The goal in the end is for people everywhere to recycle, right?  If everyone tried to outdo a friend, then ultimately we would impact not only the environment, but the lives of everyone around us. Screwed up as it sounds, it works.

So… ideas for improvement? One super-easy option is to sign up for E-Statements. You might ask how one piece of mail will help in the grand scheme of things. Look at it like this: if you can eliminate at least two pieces of paper for each account (checking and savings) once a month, for a year, then you cut approximately 48 pieces of paper and 24 envelopes from your yearly usage. It may not seem like a lot, but for a pack-rat like me it makes a huge difference. With E-statements I simply file the statement away by date in an electronic folder on my computer. I can easily find them and if I ever truly need to print one out I can do so without a problem.*

Now… where did I put that aluminum water bottle – time to fill it up again…

*If you’re going to store your statements on your computer it’s a smart idea to back up your files on an external hard drive or other storage device. It’s devastating to lose everything when the computer crashes… trust me.

Banking Glossary

It’s hard for me to remember my first day that I started at the bank. I know I took a lot of tests to get familiar with regulations and procedures. I learned my responsibilities as a teller and where to direct people as they came in the building.
But one thing that took me weeks to figure out was all of the acronyms! People that work in banks talk in letters sometime. Sample sentence you could hear in any financial institution.
 
-“Excuse me sir did you want your APY or your APR on your CD?”
-“I would love to open your account; I just need to do an OFAC check.”
-“Just let me get you a form that can change your POD on your IRA.”
- “Here is your balance taking into account your ACH credit and the ATM withdrawal.”
 
See what I mean!!! So please by all means you do not hurt your bankers’ feelings at all if you ask what an acronym stands for. We try very hard to stop the technical bank talk when explaining things to customers, but every good banker slips now and then.
 
If you find yourself in an alphabet soup of a conversation at your local bank just smile and ask your representative for your copy of the banking glossary!

Are Podcasts the New Encyclopedia?

I have recently given in to the powerful machine that is Apple’s ITunes. I got an ITunes card for Christmas and thought what the heck I will go download that new Rhianna song I like. I’m really out of touch with music these days, I listen to talk radio, so it was almost hard to use the entire card and I ended up downloading a lot of songs that I liked from years ago. I was searching the store and I clicked on the podcasts link. I had heard of podcasts, I had just never downloaded one. I delighted when I found a plethora of information, entertainment, and news all for free! I barely remember how to use a card catalogue; I’m not sure where in the library where the encyclopedias are, but with this new resource my curiosity cup has been filled!! In about two minutes I can download opinions and resources on anything my little heart could desire. Last night I tried the business category. I listened to a couple of shows about money management and got a little more information about what our economy is going thru. I really like this method of delivery because it is more thought out than the evening news and there is not that implied drama to keep people tuned in. After that I decided to search for a subject that there couldn’t possibly be a blog on, knitting. Not only is there one blog about something that would be really hard to learn by listening but there are more than I could browse! I downloaded a few and am looking forward to listening to them tonight to see what talking heads could possibly have to say about my beloved hobby. Podcasts are much like websites; anyone can do them so it’s best not to take everything to heart. People can bestow expert titles on themselves and as far as I know there are no podcast police to stop them. So listen, enjoy, and if you want cold hard facts find the encyclopedia section at the library!!

Central Secret Agent Savers

Working in the banking industry I see the mistakes that the younger generation makes when dealing with their finances. As a parent I have also realized that I can directly influence my children on financial responsibility.  Here are some staggering statistics that should impact all of us.

  • American teens spend $175 billion annually
  • Young adults (ages 20-24) are the fastest growing group declaring bankruptcy
  • Today’s teens and young adults will inherit $12 trillion+ over the next 20 years
  • 85% of students graduate from high school without any instructions in personal finance

I believe these numbers should be eye openers to all parents. You might be asking yourself: “What can I do to instill good spending habits and financial education in a child’s life?”

Central National Bank recently addressed this question and found a great way for kids to learn about savings, and finances with it being fun.  Beginning January 1, 2009, the Central Secret Agent Savings account is a program where your child becomes a secret agent and helps rid the world of wasteful spenders. The account is only $5 to open and comes with a piggy bank, newsletter and a secret agent badge.  Your kids will continue receiving quarterly newsletters which will keep their finances at the top of their mind all year long. Each newsletter consists of missions, jokes and fun activities. When a child brings in their piggy bank full of money to a Central National Bank branch they can pick from a selection of cool secret agent gadgets.

I recently signed my four-year-old daughter up for the account and already she has embraced the concept. She picked her agent name, “Agent Diamond,” and is filling her piggy bank up so she can earn prizes.

If you are interested in teaching your child about the fun of saving money check out a Central National Bank near you and learn more about our Central Secret Agent Savings account.

Winning Ticket

 

I almost won the lottery last night. I’m not kidding.  I bought my very first lottery ticket ever, I was nice to people all day and in my head I promised to give the nice man who sold me the ticket 5K of the winnings. Karma was on my side, I was going to win!


I’ve never played the lottery before and I wasn’t quite sure of all the details. So I got on the Kansas Lottery website, found out when the winning numbers would be posted and how to claim my prize when I won.

When 9:10pm rolled around I was hitting refresh on my computer screen frantically waiting for my winning numbers. It was a rush I had spent all evening calculating all the money left over after paying off my bills. I was even taking out 40% for the taxes I would have to pay. I’m realistic I knew Uncle Sam would want his share, but I’m not greedy.  


I was going to be responsible with my lottery money. I was only going to give myself one good shopping day and after that putting the rest away for my son’s college and retirement. I wasn’t going to buy a new house or new car just pay off the ones I have and debt free I would get to DECIDE if I wanted to have a job!!


Sigh. Needless to say as I write this I didn’t win the lottery. I didn’t even get two numbers right that would have won me my dollar back that I spent. The numbers were posted at 9:16pm and they were not my numbers. I was a little disappointed that karma did not pull thru for me but I also hope that the winner somewhere out there would have been as responsible as me.


If this turbulent year in politics and finance has taught me anything it has been pay off the good times you already had so in the future you can have interest free good times. (I think those will feel better!)

 My short term goals have changed from leave the state of Kansas to live a fabulous life in Paris or Toronto to drive my car until it is paid off, then keep driving it until I can buy my next car with cash.


But one thing is for sure, someday I will buy another lottery ticket. All that dreaming was worth the dollar I paid for it!