Talking Finances With Aging Parents

 

Older gentleman using tablet

Finances are a subject many families are hesitant to discuss, especially between parents and children. But as your parents age, there’s a chance that they may become less capable of managing their finances. This can be a delicate subject to approach for everyone involved. While you may be met with some resistance when bringing up the topic, it’s important to have open discussions with parents about their finances and potential issues they may face as they age.

You don’t want to wait until past due notices start piling up or your parents fall prey to a scam to have these discussions. It’s easier to talk about it in advance than to fix an issue after it’s happened.

Here are some suggestions for preparation steps you can take right now.

Be responsible with your own finances

If you plan on helping your parents, you should be in a financially secure place yourself. Make sure that your own financial strategy accounts for your aging parents.

Find the best way to approach the subject

You probably know best about how your parents may react to a conversation about their finances. If they wouldn’t react well to a formal meeting, try to work finance-related topics into your regular conversations. Be patient, as they may not open up initially.

Is there an existing plan?

Talk to your parents about their needs and priorities. Determine if they have an estate plan in place, or if they are working with a planning professional. If they haven’t done so recently, they may want to look into doing so.

Some of the items that may need to be addressed include (but are not limited to):  

  • Current will
  • Living trust
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Medical directives
  • Insurance policies
  • Credit card and loan documents
  • Bank and investment statements
  • Social Security information

Don’t go it alone

Be sure to include your siblings in your conversations. They can help ease some of the burden on you and provide support while you talk to your parents.

Be respectful

It can be hard for parents to feel like they are letting go of their independence. They’ve spent most of their lives running a household and being in charge. Many of these suggested steps can be taken gradually, and you can make adjustments as your parents become more comfortable with discussing their financial picture.

If you have questions or are interested in discussing further, please contact your American Federal Banker.

Financial Tips for College Students

 

Female Student on Laptop

As we near the starting season for colleges and universities, it’s a great time for students to brush up on their financial know-how. These 10 tips from the American Bankers Association are designed to give students an edge on mastering personal finance.

You are in charge.

You are responsible for your finances, and you should act accordingly by creating a realistic budget or plan and sticking to it.

Watch Spending.

You control your money, determining how you spend or save it. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
Use Credit Wisely. 

Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. 

How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.

Utilize Your Bank Account. 

Banks are more than money in a vault. They offer valuable services that students can benefit from like check cashing, debit cards, online banking, personal loans, direct deposit, financial education and more.

Lookout for Money. 

There’s a lot of money available for students, you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships and look for student discounts.

New is Out. 

Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in as good of shape as new ones.

Entertain on a Budget. 

Limit your hanging out fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and most are free to students. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.

Be particular when it comes to money. 

Don’t just trust anyone with your money. Be skeptical of classmates, friends or salespeople that have ideas for your money.

Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared. 

When your car or computer breaks down or when you have to buy that unexpected bus ticket home, you need to be ready. No matter how small the amount you should start putting some money away immediately.

This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. 

Your parents or your banker are a good place to start, and remember, the sooner the better.

 

If you have questions or are interested in discussing your finances in-depth, please contact your American Federal Banker.

Tips to Save for a Home Down Payment

Couple in front of new home

In recognition of American Housing Month, American Federal Bank and the American Bankers Association is highlighting six tips for saving for a down payment on a home.

When considering buying a home, the down payment you put upfront plays a major role in your future housing expenses. The amount you save can greatly influence your interest rate, monthly housing payment and also your need for mortgage insurance. As you prepare for the home buying process, here are six tips to help you cut the extra costs and save a substantial amount for your down payment.

Develop a budget & timeline

Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month – that will help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a separate savings account

Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash.

Shop around to reduce major monthly expenses

It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renter’s insurance, health insurance, cable, Internet or cell phone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor your spending

With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (e.g. nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Look into state and local home-buying programs

Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants. 

Celebrate savings milestones

Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This will help you stay motivated throughout the process.

We’re Here to Help!

If you’re interested in learning more about buying your first home, or any other mortgage products, contact your American Federal Banker.

5 Important Questions When Choosing Your First Home

a cul-de-sac of suburban homes

In recognition of American Housing Month, American Federal Bank and the American Bankers Association are highlighting five questions first-time buyers should consider before purchasing a home.

Owning a home is a great investment, but before jumping into the market it is extremely important for consumers to consider the costs involved and budget accordingly to ensure they’re able to meet all of their financial obligations. American Federal encourages consumers to consider these questions before beginning their housing quest:

How much money do you have saved up?

Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment or deposit on a rental. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. Security deposits on rentals are usually about one month of rent and more if you have a pet. But be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency fund. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.

How much debt do you have?

Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income. Recent regulatory changes limit debt to income (DTI) ratio on most loans to 43 percent.

What is your credit score?

A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Both renters and homebuyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for the rental you want or a low interest rate on your mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay moving into a new home and take steps to raise your score. For tips on improving your credit score, visit aba.com/consumers.

Have you factored in all the costs?

Create a hypothetical budget for your new home. Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factor in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and other basic maintenance costs like replacing the air filter every three months. If you are planning to buy a home, factor in real estate taxes, mortgage insurance and possibly a home owner association fee. Renters should consider the cost of rental insurance.

How long will you stay?

Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. On the other hand, renters have greater flexibility to move and fewer maintenance costs. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.

We’re Here to Help!

If you’re interested in learning more about buying your first home, or any other mortgage products, contact your American Federal Banker.

Tanner Kratochvil Joins American Federal Bank in Grand Forks

Tanner Kratochvil of Grand Forks, North Dakota has been named Associate Banker at the Grand Forks Sales Office of American Federal Bank.

TANNER KRATOCHVILTanner holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration Degree from the University of North Dakota. He’s originally from Grand Forks. He has several years’ experience in the banking industry, and spent several years as an associate with American Federal.

Tanner can be reached in our Grand Forks office. Please feel free to contact him with questions about your banking needs.

Standing Out in a Competitive Housing Market

In a fast-moving market where homeowners are receiving multiple offers, it’s important to work with an experienced lender to determine all your options.

young couple holding keys up to their brand new financed home

The Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors recently released some statistics on our local real estate market. As of February 28, 2021, there were 1468 active listings year-to-date. In that same timeframe in 2022, active listings were at 1085 –  roughly a 25% decrease. So, there’s obviously fewer homes on the market this year, which generally means greater competition as a buyer.

Likewise, the average length of time homes stayed on the market was 66 days. In 2022, it’s 48 days. That means it’s a roughly 27% shorter window in which an average home is on the market this year. That shorter window generally means there’s more urgency for offers to move quickly.

Ways to gain a competitive edge

Most non-first-time homebuyers exist in a buy/sell scenario where they are getting contingent financing –  where the purchase of the new home is dependent on the sale of their current home. One option to consider that could make your offer more competitive is a bridge loan. A bridge loan is temporary financing that can be used either towards a down payment, or in some cases, the whole purchase itself. Home-sellers typically like certainty, and avoiding the question mark that comes with a contingent offer might give you a competitive edge.

In some situations, it’s also possible to get both a contingent and non-contingent pre-approval. If you’re in a competitive buying situation, your non-contingent offer might be more attractive to the seller in that it, as stated earlier, provides them with more certainty. In some cases, a seller will actually accept a lower, non-contingent offer over a higher contingent offer. It could be the difference between securing your next home or having to continue your search.

In a competitive market, it’s especially important to discuss these potential options with your banker so you give yourself as many advantages as possible. Contact your American Federal banker today for more information!

 

 

Tips for a Smooth Tax Season

Tax season is here. Although few of us are typically excited about it, one thing that always makes it run more smoothly is being properly prepared. A little organization can save you (and your tax preparer) a lot of headache down the road.

Jackie Marquardt
Jackie Marquardt

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you have your necessary documents in order. Some of the things to gather depending on your specific situation:

  • W2 forms from all employers
  • If you’re self-employed: 1099 forms, records of income and records of expenses
  • Documentation of retirement Income or unemployment income, if applicable
  • Mortgage statements and property tax bills
  • College tuition and/or student loan statements
  • Childcare expenses
  • Receipts for charitable donations
  • Medical and dental bills

Your preparer also may ask for a current photo ID. Likewise, if you’re expecting a refund, it will be good to have your bank account and routing numbers handy. (Keep them safe, of course!)

You also may want to have some specific questions in mind for your preparer. Depending on your situation, these could include:

  • What can I do to improve my tax situation?
  • Are there any changes I should make in the upcoming year? (Contributing more to healthcare or retirement accounts, increasing charitable donations, etc.)
  • How will extra income (such as money from a side hustle) affect my taxes?

You’re paying for their expertise, so don’t be afraid to ask! Also, always remember that you can always count on your American Federal Banker for any questions you have regarding your finances. We’re here to help you succeed!

If you’re in the Fergus Falls area, please feel free to contact me directly:

Bank: 218.739.3377
Direct: 218-998-4590
Email: [email protected]

Jackie Marquardt
Personal Banker

 

 

 

American Federal – Safe and Sound

Recent news and activity around the world have caused many people to contact us with concerns about the markets, deposits, and the overall stability of things.

We would like to take a moment to reassure our customers:

  • American Federal is well-capitalized and well-positioned to weather potential economic events. Founded in 1891, we are a are long-established institution dedicated to the communities we serve.
  • Our performance is rated superior by national financial services rating organizations. We have a long history of stability, steady growth, and strong returns. Our success has come through solid business practices, acquisitions, and strategic growth.
  • Your deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000. No consumer has lost a single penny in the history of this insurance fund. You don’t have the same level of protection when your money is outside the banking system.
  • Your banker can advise you on how you can maximize FDIC coverage on your deposits.

Should you have any further questions, please reach out to your local American Federal Banker, who would be happy to answer your questions.

The Importance of a ‘Saving Mindset’ for Young People

For many people, building savings is something they have yet to master. This can be especially true for individuals who have just entered the workforce or have just gotten started in their career. Often times, with an influx of new money, people find themselves spending more. However, getting into good savings habits early can have many benefits for you in the long run.

‘Paying Yourself First’A Saving Mindset

As a new employee, you may have limited experience in your spending and saving habits. You’ll likely have student loans, rent and other bills or debts to tackle. This is why establishing a savings baseline is a great way to get into the right mindset. Determine a percentage of your income that you’ll automatically put away each month. A good goal is 10-15%, however any amount you choose is a good start! Set it up as an auto-deposit into a dedicated account – a practice commonly called ‘paying yourself first.’ You likely won’t miss the money, and your future self will thank you!

Growing Your Emergency Fund

Medical emergencies, a down economy, unexpected auto repairs… these are just a handful of financial issues that can come at you out of nowhere. Having savings built up is one of the best ways to protect yourself. Many financial experts suggest saving three to six months of your salary, but naturally you can adjust as you see fit. Having the funds on hand can make sure you’re prepared for unexpected expenses and can also keep you from having to make decisions that will hurt you in the long run, such as having to use a high-interest credit card to cover an unexpected expense.

Learning to Budget

One of the best benefits of saving early is it forces you to budget. Budgets can be a little intimidating, but at the end of the day, the key to financial success is making and keeping to a budget. Knowing what you have coming in and where your money is going is critical to being in control of your finances. There are plenty of tools on how to create and draft your budget, but speaking with an American Federal Banker about your needs and your goals is also a great place to start.

You’ll Thank Yourself…

One thing is certain: setting up good savings habits will set you up for success in the future, and you will thank yourself down the road. Contact your American Federal Banker with any questions you have on savings, opening accounts, auto-deposit options, and other tools that can help you set yourself up for success!

American Federal Employees Earn ‘Sales Star’ Recognition

Eighteen American Federal Bankers and employees have earned ‘Sales Star’ recognition from American Federal Bank for outstanding sales and sales referral performance in 2021.

A “Sales Star” is the highest honor of recognition an employee can earn at American Federal. American Federal’s 2021 Sales Stars are:

  • Betty Amundson, Associate, East Grand Forks
  • Bill Anderson, Market President, Crookston
  • Paul Craigmile, Market President, Hallock
  • Dan Erdman, Associate Banker, Crookston
  • Brian Frisk, Ag/Business Banker, Crookston
  • Chris Grettum, Personal Banker, Downtown Fargo
  • Brooke Hassel, Associate Banker, Crookston
  • Amber Hilt, Loan Originations Analyst, Fargo Home Office
  • Jason Jaeger, Business Banker, Fargo Downtown
  • Michael Kjelshus, Ag/Business Banker, Grand Forks
  • Joanne Loeslie, Associate, Grand Forks
  • Dustin Morris, Ag/Business Banker, Fergus Falls
  • Becky Myhra, Senior Associate, Wahpeton
  • Dan Paulson, Market President, Fosston
  • Ryan Paulson, Ag/Business Banker, Fosston
  • Alison Perez, Personal Banker, Grand Forks
  • Clayton Quade, Ag/Business Banker, Fosston
  • Jon Swenson, Ag/Business Banker, Hallock

In recognition of their achievement, American Federal “Sales Star” employees and their families were invited to attend a weekend Sales Star Retreat, training seminar and awards banquet in their honor at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN.