6 Tips for Your Financial Spring Cleaning

As Americans kick off the spring season by cleaning, sorting and tidying up around the house, Phenix-Girard is encouraging consumers to add financial organization to their spring cleaning to-do list. To help, Phenix-Girard has highlighted six tips for organizing your financial house.

“People are motivated to get things done when the weather warms up and the flowers bloom, which makes it an ideal time to look closely at your savings and spending habits,” said Menza Dudley, President . “Putting in the work now will help you live your best life in the months ahead.”

Phenix-Girard recommends these six tips to help consumers organize their finances:

·      Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child, or become a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving – and stick to it.

·      Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.

·      Set up automatic bill pay. By signing up for automatic bill pay, you’ll never have to worry about a missed payment impacting your credit score. You can set it so that money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.

·      Sign up for e-statements, paperless billing and text alerts. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house—physical and financial—more clean and organized, and will help protect you from fraud.

·      Check your credit report. Every year, you are guaranteed one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports and check them for any possible errors. Mistakes can drag down your score and prevent you from getting a loan, or cause you to pay a higher than necessary interest rate.

·      Manage your money on the go. Utilize your bank's mobile app to check your balance, pay your bills, transfer funds, deposit a check and send money to friends from wherever you are.

Important Information to Know When Opening a New Business Account

For Our Business Customers:

When you open a new account or apply for a new loan on or after May 11, 2018, you will be required to provide information about your beneficial owners.  

A Beneficial Owner is:

  • Each individual who owns 25% or more of the company.
  • One individual who has significant managerial responsibility for the company.

Why We Need this Information 

To help the government fight the funding of terrorisim and money laundering activities, Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify and record information that identifies each person who opens an account.

Section 326 of the USA PATRIOT Act requires that financial institutions identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of all legal entity customers at the time a new account is opened.  The identification and verification procedures for beneficial owners are very similar to those you currently follow as individual customers.  

When you open an account, we will ask you to identify the beneficial owners of your company, as defined to the left.  You will need to provide the following for each beneficial owner:  Name, Address, Date of Birth and other identification information that will allow us to identify and verify the identities of your beneficial owners. We may also ask for a driver’s license or other identifying documents for each beneficial owner. 

Information You Will Need to Provide

  • Name
  • Address (Personal or Business)
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number 
  • or Tax Identification Number

Acceptable Forms of Identification

  • Driver’s License
  • State-Issued Identification Card
  • Passport
  • Alien Identification Card

7 Worthwhile Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

According to the Internal Revenue Service, more than 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers received a tax refund averaging nearly $3,000 in 2017 and will receive get a similar amount this year. As Americans receive their refunds along with additional benefits coming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December, Phenix-Girard Bank has highlighted seven tips to help them use their money wisely.

“Tax season is the perfect time to hit the reset button on your finances,” said Menza Dudley, President. “Your refund can help put you on the right path towards reaching your financial goals. Consider using it to pay off debts or creating an emergency fund.”

To help consumers make the most out of their money, Phenix-Girard Bank has highlighted the following tips:

  • Save for emergencies.  More than 60 percent of Americans are not prepared for unexpected expenses. You can prepare by opening or adding to a savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three-to-six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.
  • Pay off debt.  Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Save for retirement, your child’s education or future health expenses. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored. Look into opening a tax-advantaged 529 education savings plan to ensure school expenses will be covered when your child reaches college age. Or save for future health expenses with tax-free dollars by investing in a Health Savings Account. 
  • Pay down your mortgage or student loans.  Make an extra payment on your mortgage or student loans each year to save money on interest while reducing the term of your loans. Be sure to inform your lender that your extra payments should be applied to principal, not interest.
  • Invest safely with U.S. savings bonds or municipal bonds. The U.S. Treasury allows for savings bond to be purchased using your tax refund for as little as $50. Savings bonds earn interest for a maximum of 30 years.
  • Invest in your current home.  Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home.  This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term – and with tax credits (as long as Congress continues to renew the program).
  • Donate to charity.  The benefit is two-fold: Giving to charity will make a difference in your community, and you can also claim the tax deduction, if you itemize.

Phenix-Girard Bank also stressed the importance of lower-income workers filing a tax return—even if their income is too low to trigger any federal tax liability—in order to potentially claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  Depending on a recipient’s income, marital status and number of children, the EITC can result in a refund of up to $6,318 to help them achieve financial goals.

7 Tips to Prevent Tax Id Fraud

As the 2018 tax season gets underway, Phenix-Girard Bank is urging all customers to take extra precaution when filing their return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.

“Fraudsters are using very clever tactics to get a hold of your personal information and submit false tax claims,” said Menza Dudley, President. “Consumers must be suspicious of any communication from the IRS ¾ through email, text or social media ¾ that requests personal information, and should keep a watchful eye out for missing W-2s and mail containing sensitive financial information.”

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week Jan. 29-Feb. 2, Phenix-Girard Bank is offering the following tips:

·       File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.

·       File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.

·       Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.

·       Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.

·       Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.

·       Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.

·       Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

·       Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.

·       Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.

·       Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:

o   Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-525-6285

o   Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742

o   TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289

·       Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC and the IRS

Cybersecurity Awareness Basics

Consumers increasingly rely on computers and the Internet — the “cyber” world — for everything from shopping and communicating to banking and bill-paying. But while the benefits of faster and more convenient cyber services for bank customers are clear, the risks posed by these services as well as the strategies for preventing or recovering from cyber-related crimes may not be as well-known by the average consumer and small business owner.

Common cyber-related crimes include identity theft, frauds, and scams. Identity theft involves a crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data to open fraudulent credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, withdraw funds from deposit accounts, or obtain new loans. A victim's losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses but also substantial costs to restore credit history and to correct erroneous information in their credit reports.

For more information, check out he FDIC's website on Cybersecurity Basics.