Some Basic Tips For Choosing a Bank

The bank you choose to hold your money involves some exploration and consideration. Research various institutions to find the best one that fits your account and lifestyle needs. Safety and reputation are two important factors to consider when you make this decision.

Determine Your Financial Needs

Your financial needs are an important factor in the search for a bank. Opening checking and savings accounts is a common practice for many consumers. Some people prefer to bundle all their financial activities with one institution and if you also have loans such as a mortgage, car loan, home equity line of credit, and person loan, you might prefer to open checking and savings accounts within the same business.

Credentials

The credentials and reputation of the institution should also factor into the decision. Larger banks are generally a reliable choice due to FDIC deposit insurance. Check with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to find out if a business is insured under this coverage.

Think about Physical Convenience

Physical convenience can be a key consideration in this decision. You might opt for a location that’s convenient from your place or work or your residence. Consider extended hours offered by some institutions if you work alternative shifts and you cannot visit during regular business hours. Online services can help with many types of transactions, offering services such as bill payment, automated deposits, and access to balance information. Find out about the location of ATMs you can use for no or low fee transactions. Some banks are national companies, providing customers with access to service and accounts from virtually anywhere in the country. Other businesses are local, providing no ability to travel and visit brick-and-mortar branches.

Explore Fees and Service

Every bank has a unique structure for fees and services. You will need to contact any institution you consider to find out these important details. Ask about account fees, minimum balances, ATM fees, overdraft protection, and overdraft fees. Find out how the they handle international travel to see if you will be able to get assistance with foreign currencies. Some businesses offer more services than others, some involving additional fees and some not.

Consider Personalized Service

Choosing a national company can afford you many conveniences. However, it’s important to realize that you may sacrifice some personalized service with this decision. A variety of services from a national business may be fine for many consumers. If you prefer a more personalized touch with a hometown brick-and-mortar branch, you may be happier with a local entity. Anyone with a busy lifestyle and a variety of financial activities such as IRAs, loans, credit cards, and online bill payments may be better suited to a large, national company. People with simpler lifestyles might opt for a local business instead.

Weigh all information carefully to make the best choice for your financial needs. The one you choose should provide all of the services you want.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

As tax season fast approaches people begin to look to accountants for assistance in preparing their yearly mathematical nightmare. Matt Stevens is a local accountant at U.S. Bank and has completed his fair share of tax returns. Stevens strives for excellence in every way possible, while behind the desk analyzing numbers strategically making his next move. “The numbers consume my computer screen day in and day out, but this is what I love this is my soul. My strength is math and if it wasn’t for math I would be out of the job not to mention the money is excellent.” Stevens said.

Most people despise dealing with the entire math involved in their daily lives and that’s why they turn to accountants. The constant and critical need for accountants earns them an average of 60,000- 85,000 a year according to (salary.com). Not only do accountants deal with numbers they have to deal with clients and if you have unhappy clients you’re going to get an earful from the business or person who hired you. “I take care of my clients, this is how I keep them coming back, and I’m in this for the long haul so I treat them as if they were family.” Stevens said.

There are many concerns to deal with being an accountant. People are not only trusting you to do their taxes, but also trusting you with their life savings in many cases. This is where fraud can come into play and is often publicized in the media which can give accountants a bad name in the public eye. “Of course you’re taking a risk when you’re putting your money in someone else’s hands, but like I said if you screw someone over, then you have lost a lifelong customer and your reputation.” said Stevens. Unfortunately, a few people who have entrusted their life savings into accountant’s hands find their money missing in their time of need such as for college, health care expenses, and retirement. The legality of cheating someone simply isn’t worth it; most of the people who get caught money laundering don’t do much jail time, maybe two to five years, but who wants to spend time in jail?

“A lot of people would find the job boring, but think about how much time you spend on your phone or behind your computer screen playing a video game like Candy Crush. It’s basically the same thing for accounting except I’m doing something I love, making money at it, all by working with numbers”, said Stevens. “I mainly use Microsoft Excel for my work, to me it’s like the Bible of accounting, it’s hard to do business without it, but of course you need to have a good business sense too,” said Stevens.

Why do numbers get such a bad rap? “Numbers get a bad rap simply because the teachers can’t teach it, in most cases it’s you get it or you don’t, and if a student doesn’t want to do anything with math then they more than likely won’t need a majority of the stuff we learn throughout school, where as I use it all the time maybe not algebra, but spread sheets and Microsoft excel. Quite frankly if the other person doesn’t want to learn math then that’s okay with me, because that just means more business for me which turns into more money and a more secure future for me,” said Stevens.

Is money everything? In a world consumed by branding and marketing, yes, money is everything in this material world; you have kids who can’t even spend three days without going to the mall, but that is a story for another time.

The future is bright for accountants as the tax codes continue to get more difficult and Americans in general become worse at math. As a result, people need someone like an accountant to work numbers for them. In a Huffington Post article it stated, “U.S. students rank 31st in the world in math just a few points higher than the very bottom among the OECD (i.e., developed) countries. One earlier exam, called TIMSS, had U.S. twelfth-graders at the very bottom of the OECD in math. So the government stopped giving that test to U.S. twelfth-graders.” All of these statistics means more opportunity for people to get good paying, secure jobs in the field of accounting or mathematics.

Tips for Personal Finance

Monitoring income and expenses is a tedious process that requires patience and foresight. While it may be dull to balance your checkbook and ensure bills are being paid, the security provided from managing your money is priceless. By employing a few simple techniques you can make the process both easy and enjoyable.

When I first entered college, I found myself having to manage my first income along with a sizeable amount of bills-rent, groceries, cell phone and recreation money. I spent the first semester going out to eat, to the movies and buying unnecessary items. I soon found that I had blown my savings from my summer job. Instead of having a comfortable financial cushion, I was soon living off a meager income from a part-time campus job-lets just say ramen noodles became a fixture of my diet.

Unfortunately, I had not set up a balanced budget to ensure I was paying all my bills, saving money and allotting for “fun” money. I had overlooked one of the crucial steps for managing money: I did not set up a budget to know how much I was making or spending. It is important to sit down with your pay stubs, bills and receipts to determine how much money can be allotted for each item. In fact, this basic step is really half the battle to ensuring a sound money management strategy.

The repercussions of not having a balanced budget can often cause you actually to lose money. For instance, many banks charge overdraft fees when you buy an item and do not have sufficient funds. While in college, I often found myself not only with depleted bank account but also a hefty overdraft fee-usually around $35 dollars-after not closely monitoring my spending. It is hard to imagine now, but I was actually paying for my poor money management choices.

So, what are a few simple steps to balancing a budget? The first step you must do is actually total the money you receive monthly. Add the sum of all the income or support you receive-whether it is from a job, rental property or a relative. After figuring out your monthly income, next add up all your monthly bills-rent, mortgage, cell phone, water, gas, electricity etc. Once you have both of these numbers, subtract your total income from your expenses and what remains constitutes your surplus from each paycheck.

Now, many people decide to spend their surplus income on personal hobbies or entertainment. While it is certainly appropriate to spend a portion of your income on these items, it is not wise to spend all your extra money on dining, clothes or other luxury items. Instead, saving a portion or investing your money in a personal project allows you to invest in yourself and help you grow as a person. For example, I spent my summers while in college working for a landscape company, so I could invest in my education and myself. Although I had a lot of surplus money from the job-I lived with my parents during the summer and had almost no bills-I choose to invest and save for my education. This investment took years to pay-off, and I had to sacrifice going out and having fun; however, the “nest egg” I saved over the summer helped me pay for college expenses and develop a better future.

Finally, it is important to not see money management or a budget as a hindrance to your life. Instead, it is important to view it as a necessary tool to ensure a successful future. When I save money now, I do not feel as if I am “sacrificing” for tomorrow; rather, I recognize that I am ensuring I will have a safety net later in life. By positioning saving money as a “precaution,” it reframes it as a necessity and a much more essential part of my livelihood-rather than a burdensome sacrifice.

So, the next time you find yourself out of money at the end of the month or paying overdraft fees, reflect back on the techniques you are employing for managing money. Make sure you have developed a balanced budget, allotted “fun” money and are investing in your future. Whether you are a young professional or an individual nearing retirement, it is never too late to develop the skills necessary to managing money. Most importantly, do not think of budgeting money in detrimental manner. Rather than seeing it as a deterrent to your current life, view it as a necessary insurance policy to ensure a bright and secure future.

Take a Day to Organize Your Finances

If you’re like most people, you periodically set aside time to clean out your home, garage or closets. It’s equally as important to take time to organize your finances. The following checklist can help you get started:

· Cancel unused credit cards – If you’re paying an annual fee on a credit card or other account that you don’t use, you’re throwing money away. So, cash in any rewards points you have earned and then cancel the account. Of course, take into consideration whether canceling the card will negatively affect your credit rating.

· Cancel unused memberships – If a new at-home exercise routine has replaced your trips to the health club or gym, or if you’re no longer playing golf at a course you belong to, consider canceling your membership. Even if you have to pay a fee, you may quickly recoup your financial losses.

· Consolidate accounts – You don’t necessarily need multiple checking, savings, investment, retirement or credit card accounts, yet many people maintain them – often because it takes extra time up-front to consolidate. Maintaining numerous accounts can increase the amount of time you spend opening mail, reconciling statements, keeping records and paying bills. When it comes to credit, you may also earn more rewards if you stick to one or two cards.

· Negotiate better deals with your service providers – Whether it’s your cable, Internet or waste removal company, chances are you can negotiate a better rate. Simply take time to get quotes from competitors. If they are offering lower rates for the same services, go back to your service provider to see if they will price match to keep your business. If not, switch to someone new.

· Update your financial records – Make a list of your current financial accounts, contacts and passwords. Keep this information in a safe and secure place.

· Update your beneficiary designations – Your beneficiary designations override your will. So, if you’ve experienced a marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or death, make sure your beneficiary designations reflect your wishes.

· Review your home and auto insurance coverage – Make sure your coverage reflects your present needs. Also, price shop the same coverage with different providers. Whether you switch to a new provider or use this information to strike a deal with your current provider, you could save a significant amount.

· Simplify your investments – If tracking various investments is stressing you out, consider asset allocation or managed accounts. Attempting to manage and track too many investment accounts can require a great deal of time and, if you’re not on top of the details, can prevent you making the best investment choices for your portfolio. Consider working with a financial professional to help you organize your finances and help you determine what kinds of investments might work best for you.

Consult your financial advisor for more ideas and strategies on ways you can save.