How to Get Smart About Your Credit

Credit is an incredibly important factor of your financial health, but many of us shy away from looking at it, talking about it, or maintaining it. Don’t let this be you! Whether you’re new to credit, looking to fix it, or need to discuss credit with your children, the following advice is for you.

What is credit?

Let’s start at the very beginning—what is credit? According to Experian (one of the three credit bureaus of the country), credit is the ability to borrow money with the understanding that you’ll pay it back later. Credit can be in the form of credit cards, retail credit cards, personal or vehicle loans, student loans, mortgages, service credit and more.

Did you know? 79% of Americans have at least one credit card in 2020.

 

What’s a credit score?

A credit score is how you’re graded on your “credit worthiness.” This will determine from whom you’ll be able to receive credit, how much money you’ll be able to borrow, and details such as your interest rates. For a more thorough look into credit scores, check out our blog What is a Credit Score and How Can it Help Me?

Who needs to know about credit?

Everyone needs to know about credit! Children will benefit from learning about money basics with the understanding that credit is not “free” money, as many children seem to believe. Teens should learn about credit before or around the time they begin their first job or head off to college as they may need to apply for a vehicle or student loan. Adults need to be familiar with credit as it affects their ability to apply for a mortgage, for example.

Did you know? You can “freeze” your credit to discourage scammers, fraud, and identity theft by contacting all three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and requesting a “freeze.”

What affects credit?

There are several factors that can affect your credit both positively and negatively. To name a few that weigh on your score include:

  • Debts such as medical bills, car payments, utility bills, student loans and mortgages—all your debts are combined and compared with your income to determine borrowing ability
  • Age of accounts as in the longer they’ve been opened (the older they are), the more stable and reliable of a borrower you look like
  • Number of accounts in that too many accounts make you seem like a risky borrower, while only opening accounts you need make you a more responsible borrower.

 

How can I improve a bad credit score and maintain a good credit score?

If you’re looking to improve your credit score, be mindful that it takes time, patience, and consistency. If you see any “fix credit quick” messages online, it is a scam. When improving your credit, slow and steady wins the high score. Start here:

  • Determine your current debts and budget, avoid spending more than you earn
  • Avoid opening more credit lines to pay debt
  • Pay down balances with high interest first
  • Continue to make every payment on time, every time

 

If you’re looking to maintain a good credit score, keep these in mind:

  • Pay more than the minimum amount due, paying the entire balance is best
  • Check it often for mistakes or fraudulent activity
  • Keep credit utilization low by avoiding credit limits
  • Avoid closing old accounts—they help your credit age

 

How can I explain credit to my kids and teens?

What children and teenagers learn about money in their childhood will affect them into their adult years. Start early by teaching young children money basics (check out our KidsPlus program.) and that despite how it may seem, credit cards are not free money!

When talking with teenagers about credit and credit cards, it’s essential that they’re familiar with the following:

  • Managing their own money
  • How to create a budget
  • Balancing a checking account
  • Understand how interest works

 

Teenagers and younger children must be diligent and responsible not only with their money, but with the potential dangers of entering their personal information online. When discussing credit with your children, it’s also necessary to discuss scams, fraudulent activity, and the possibility of identity theft.

 

With “Get Smart About Your Credit Day” approaching this year on Thursday, October 21, we hope that you take the time to brush up on credit management and make a plan to support your credit health.

 

 

 

Sources: MoneyUnder30, Consumer Finance, The Balance, Experian,

https://www.moneyunder30.com/credit-repair

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-get-and-keep-a-good-credit-score-en-318/

https://www.thebalance.com/teach-your-child-about-credit-cards-960193

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/faqs/what-is-credit/

couple saving money

Is Saving Money Truly Important?

Is Saving Money Truly Important?

Yes, saving money is truly important! According to a 2019 Bankrate survey, a mere 18% of Americans have six months’ worth of living expenses saved? While many factors contribute to individuals not saving, we believe that we can empower ourselves to make the changes that are in our control and that will benefit our financial situation.

Who should be saving money?

Everyone should be saving and it’s never too late to start! Introduce your children to the concept of saving with our KidsPlus resources. They’re super fun and an engaging way to teach your children concepts they’ll use their entire life.

If you’re a teenager, you’ll want to save for college, a car, or your first apartment. If you’re an adult, you should be saving for an emergency fund, retirement, and any lifestyle changes such as obtaining a mortgage, or starting a family.

Did you know? Three in ten adults have no emergency savings at all.

When should I start saving money?

Plan to start as soon as possible—even today. Getting started is the hardest part but small steps will literally add up. Plus, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment which will propel you towards your goal. Be your own motivation and get the ball rolling!

  • Today: Place some change in a jar or at least $1 into your savings account.
  • This week: Aim to have at least $5 saved.
  • This month: Make a concrete plan with actionable steps and goals.

Why should I save money?

When you proactively and consistently set money aside, your future self is being set up for success. You also benefit in the present. Here’s how:

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Cover emergencies: home or auto repair
  • Unexpected events: medical bill, relocating for a job
  • Lifestyle changes: job/salary change, getting married, having children

Did you know? Nearly 40% of Americans would need to borrow money to cover a $1,000 expense.

How should I start?

The action steps after your plan has been created is undoubtedly the hardest part. There are two main ways: earn more money and spend less—or both. Also consider setting aside a percentage or certain amount in situations such as:

  • Salary increase/raises
  • Inheritances
  • Tax refunds
  • Gifts from holidays, birthdays, graduations, etc.

If you want saving to be seamless (who doesn’t?), we suggest updating your Auburn Savings checking account to include Simple Change Savings. This program rounds up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar amount that you choose and automatically deposits the change into your checking or savings account.

No matter your current age or financial status, we hope you recognize the importance of a solid savings plan. It’s integral to your present wellbeing and your future financial situation.

 

 

Sources: Bankrate

https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/financial-security-june-2019

3 Things to Know Before Filing Your 2020 Taxes

3 Things to Know Before Filing Your 2020 Taxes

It’s time again to file your taxes! This year’s tax season will be slightly different than last year, but don’t worry—we’ve pulled together the top three things to keep in mind before you file your taxes for the 2020 tax year.

1. File Online

If you normally prepare your taxes on paper and file them by mail, consider filing online this year. Online tax preparation software is available, and it’s very easy and user friendly to use. It’s also much faster—your tax returns will be accepted on average in 21 days, compared to paper filing which takes 6-8 weeks to be accepted.

Make the process even faster by using direct deposit as a means to collect your tax refund. Waiting for the IRS to cut you a paper check will leave you waiting even longer. Once you’ve filed online, you can track the status of your federal returns here and your Maine state return here.

Pro tip: If your 2020 income was under $72,000, you can file your federal taxes online for free with the IRS’s FreeFile.

2. Check Important Dates

Because the IRS has been busy processing the second round of stimulus checks, the date you can start to file your taxes this year was pushed back to February 12, 2021. Normally, tax season starts in late January after businesses have sent W2s and other organizations have sent appropriate tax forms to individuals.

Along with the date to start filing starting later than normal, the due date for filing your taxes has been extended to May 17, 2021. Last year, the deadline was pushed back to July 15 to accommodate the IRS processing the first round of stimulus checks. Here are more important dates to remember:

  • February 12, 2021: tax season started; IRS began processing tax returns
  • February 22, 2021: the IRS’ Where’s My Refund tool was updated
  • March 1-5, 2021: refunds started to reach those who filed online, with direct deposit and who claimed EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and ACTC (Additional Child Tax Credit)
  • May 17, 2021: deadline for HSA, IRA and retirement account contributions
  • May 17, 2021: deadline to complete and file your federal and state taxes
  • October 15, 2021: deadline to file for those who requested an extension

3. Stimulus Checks

As part of the 2020 CARES Act, a majority of Americans received economic impact payments (more commonly called stimulus checks). There have been two rounds of payments: the first round began last spring, and the second started in late winter.
When you file your 2020 taxes, you’ll be asked about the “Recovery Rebate Credit.” The Recovery Rebate Credit is meant to see if you received any or all of either of these stimulus payments, and if you have not, you may be able to claim them as a refund on your taxes. It’s important to note that these payments are not taxable, meaning you cannot claim them as income.

Pro Tip: File early to prevent potential scammers of committing identity theft or fraud.

With these things in mind, we suggest that you start the filing process as soon as possible. If you had major life changes last year that drastically change your filing process, consider getting advice from a tax preparer. Act fast, though, as tax preparers will be helping many people virtually this year and may affect available appointments. If you’re still feeling uneasy about doing your taxes this year, check over our Tax Time Checklist and reach out to us for more guidance. You can always bank on us.


Auburn Savings Bank does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be taken as tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult a qualified tax professional before engaging in any transaction. Source: nerdwallet.com, irs.gov, turbotax.intuit.com

Keeping it Personal While Keeping it Private

Keeping it Personal While Keeping it Private

 

Auburn Savings takes your security very seriously.

We will never ask for your personal information over the phone or in email. If you’ve been contacted and have been asked to provide any personal information, or if you have questions or concerns please call us immediately at (207) 782-6871 or toll free at (888 ) 282-7287.

 

Protecting your passwords:

  • Use a 13 digit password that uses a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters
  • Don’t write down your passwords, carry them with you, or keep an in obvious place
  • Don’t use the same password for everything
  • Don’t use personal information in a password such as: birthdays, addresses, special dates/names, etc.
  • Change passwords every 60-90 days

 

Protecting your identity:

  • Don’t carry your social security card with you
  • Only carry around the credit cards you may need, leave the rest at home in a safe place
  • Shred old financial statements, “junk” mail offers, credit card offers
  • Watch your credit reports closely—they contain all your personal info needed to steal your identity
  • Monitor your credit card statements each month to ensure there have been no fraudulent purchases

 

For more information on how you can protect your security, please visit:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft

 

 

How to Avoid Scams and Keep Your Finances Secure

How to Avoid Scams and Keep Your Finances Secure

 

The Federal Trade Commission received 3.2 million reports of fraud in 2019, resulting in consumers losing more than $1.9 billion to financial fraud. These scams aim to steal, deceive or manipulate their way to your money. This is done by attempting to gain banking or credit card information, personal information (social security number, birth date, etc.), or access to your devices with the goal of obtaining your money fraudulently.

From January 1, 2020 through April 15, 2020, The FTC reported $13.44 million dollars already lost to financial scams this year. Don’t fall prey. Learn how to be vigilant and educated in keeping your financial and personal information safe.

 

Scams Don’t Discriminate

Scams prey off vulnerable situations and victims of these scams range from millennials to seniors. Don’t assume that you are “too smart” to fall for a scam. According to the FTC, everyone—regardless of age, education, gender, geographic location or ethnicity—can fall victim to scams.

 

How Do Scams Happen?

Scams trick you by looking legitimate. (Some more than others.) Scammers try to take advantage of you through scare tactics and impersonating institutions or people you know by sending seemingly normal correspondence that ask you for cash, payment or personal information. They can do this several different ways:

  • Phishing – When a scammer tries to impersonate a trusted source and requests or seeks to gain personal information.
  • Spoofing – When a scammer tries to disguise a communication as a trusted source in order to imbed malicious malware that can damage your operating system and critical applications while it scans for information.

Both phishing and spoofing can be done through emails, texts, phone calls, social media, pop-ups or bogus websites claiming to be trusted sources.

 

How to Identify a Scam

If it looks or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of anything that requires you to “pay a fee” in order to claim a prize.

Some red flags of fraudulent activity include:

  • Claiming “free money”
  • Flashy images (piles of cash, expensive cars)
  • A new website domain (may indicate a fake website)
  • Unexpected prizes if you “pay a fee”
  • Access to COVID-19 tests*, treatments or high demand products
  • Stimulus checks or tax refunds that you have to pay a fee to access

*As of May 18, 2020, there are currently no at-home COVID-19 tests or treatments available to consumers.

Remember, your bank, the government and legitimate businesses will never randomly call you and ask for your personal information or account information and will never request you to pay or send money via money transfer or by putting it on a gift card.

 

Avoiding Scams

One way to avoid being scammed is to be familiar with how businesses normally correspond with you. If you receive a call or text claiming to be from your utility company but they usually email you, do not respond! This has the potential to be a scam.

 

The most important thing to remember is to keep your personal information safe. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Check all of your financial accounts as often as possible—daily is best
  • Don’t click on URLs or links from unsolicited emails, texts or on social media
  • Never respond to unsolicited correspondence: hang up, delete, ignore and report
  • Never allow remote access to your devices
  • Be wary of unusual payment methods (bitcoin, money transfer, gift cards, etc.)

 

Help Spread the Word

If you see a scam, notify your local authorities and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint right away. Share the information with your friends and family, and help spread the word by reporting suspicious activity on social media. Visit maine.gov or consumer.ftc.gov for more information on reporting scams and frauds.

 

Auburn Savings is committed to keeping your financial information safe, private, and secure. In fact, your security is our priority. Remember, as your financial institution we will never call, email, text or contact you requesting personal information or payments.

When it comes to safeguarding against fraud: you can bank on us.

What’s a Credit a Score and How Can it Help Me?

What’s a Credit a Score and How Can it Help Me?

Confused by credit reports, scores and what makes them either good or bad? Think of your credit report as the complete history of your financial life thus far. It contains all the highs and lows of your financial decisions and is representative of your money management journey. Now, think of your credit score as the grade of your credit report. Both are incredibly important, but let’s dive a little deeper in your credit score.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is the 3-digit numerical grade that represents the history of your credit report. The higher the number, the better your credit score. There are two major credit scoring models, FICO and VantageScore. These models differ slightly, so you may have two different credit scores, although they should be similar and in the same range.

The credit score range by FICO looks like this:

  • Poor 300-579
  • Fair 580-669
  • Good 670-739
  • Very Good 740-799
  • Excellent 800-850

Keep in mind that what one lender may think of as a “good” score may be “fair” to another lender. You can get free credit checks many places including Experian.com, transunion.com, freescoreonline.com and creditkarma.com. If you check your credit score often, you’ll always know which range you fall into, giving you confidence and considerable consumer power.

How is my credit score determined?

When it comes to the actual scoring of your credit, there are a few important factors that account for different percentages of your score.

  • 35% – Payment history This is the most important factor. If a bill is 30 days past due, you can be penalized with a fee and up to 100 points off your credit score. That will stay on your credit report for seven years!
  • 30% – Credit utilization This refers to how high your balance is in relation to the limit on that particular line of credit. You’re safe keeping balances under 30% of your limits but under 3% is ideal.
  • 15% ­– Credit history This is the average age of all of your credit accounts. When you open new accounts, your credit score may fall slightly because the average age will change.
  • 10% – Credit diversity These are the different types of credit accounts you have (credit cards, student loans, auto loans, etc.). Having credit diversity can build up your credit by showing lenders that you’re financially responsible and can handle different kinds of accounts.
  • 10% – Credit Inquiries This happens when a lender runs a credit application (with your approval) and checks your credit history and score.

Pro Tip: By setting your bills to autopay, you’ll be helping your credit score increase.

Why is your score important?

A credit score in good standing will never go out of style. When you apply for loans or other types of credit, lenders will see your high score and know that you’re a safer bet than someone with a lower score. Having a high score takes patience (building credit history), consistency (always paying on time) and constraint (don’t open accounts that you don’t need). These three things alone will enhance your credit score over time. Also, a high credit score can save you money by being eligible for lower interest rates on different credit products (auto loans, credit cards, mortgages).

What can I do to raise my score?

Your everyday spending habits will be represented in your credit history and your credit score. Keep these in mind whenever you’re making a purchase or thinking about making a purchase:

  • Always pay your bills on time
  • Pay credit card balances in full each month or ASAP
  • Practice keeping low credit utilization
  • Stay out of debt by paying more than minimum balances and by spending within your means
  • Apply for lines of credit only when necessary

Having a credit history is not a bad thing—it can actually work in your favor. It’s all about your spending habits and how you approach money management. A good credit score can set you up for financial success, get you approval on a loan or mortgage request, and help you save money on future purchases.