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The Best Financial Apps of 2019

smart phone financial apps

It’s no secret that the smartphone has transformed modern life, and one of the biggest changes is the way it’s changed banking. From tracking expenses to making purchases and even investing, financial apps are becoming more powerful and useful every day. As 2019 approaches, we’ve put together a short guide of our favorite financial apps to help you keep your budget organized in the coming year.

Best App For Budgeting: Mint

These days, few people actually handle all of the money they make on payday. Instead, between direct deposits and online bill pay, it can seem like money simply disappears. Mint helps users keep their finances in order by tracking and categorizing expenses. The Mint app securely connects to your bank account to analyze your spending. Simple tools and payment calculators can help you plan for your monthly bills, get out of debt, and even set some money aside.

Best Savings App: Digit

One of oldest ways of saving money was saving your change. However, in a world filled with digital payments, there weren’t a lot of cyber pennies laying around. That’s where Digit comes in. The app uses rules that help you save money without thinking about, like the round-up rule. This causes purchases to be rounded up to the nearest dollar amount and transfers the digital spare change to an online saving account. Before long, you’ll have a rainy day fund stashed away!

Best Mobile Deposits App: Points West Mobile Banking

Online banking allows for just about any transaction to be handled digitally. The only problem is handling paper checks. Instead of waiting around for the bank to open, now you can quickly and securely deposit checks with your smartphone with the Points West Mobile Banking app. Available as a free download in both the iOS and Android Play stores, PWCB Mobile Deposit accepts most check types, including money orders, payroll, personal and government checks. In most cases, the funds will be made available to you the first business day after the day of deposit.

Have a favorite financial app we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments! Visit the Points West Community Bank website today to learn more about our mobile banking!

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How To Avoid Cyber Monday Scams

online shopping cyber monday

While Black Friday has been a huge shopping holiday for years, Cyber Monday only recently gained popularity. Although Cyber Monday is primarily a shopping day for online-only retailers, many small businesses continue their sales through Cyber Monday. This means there are nearly endless deals and sales all weekend, and the fact is some of them really are too good to be true. In order to avoid any Cyber Monday scams this year, keep the following guidelines in mind while shopping online.

Only Buy From Trusted Stores

Although nearly every online retailer participates in Cyber Monday, not all of the websites are legitimate. In the last few years, the rise of “drop shipping” has allowed anyone with the time to create a website the ability to sell products without housing any inventory. Although it has revolutionized e-comm retailers, it also means online companies can disappear overnight. When buying holiday gifts online, be sure to stick to trusted, name-brand retailers. Otherwise, you could end up paying for items that take months to arrive from overseas, if ever.

Be Careful of Coupon Sites

Even though most Cyber Monday sales offer instant savings on purchases, many online shoppers like to get the best deal possible. Unfortunately, this often results in searching for coupon codes listed on questionable sites. Although there are tons of apps and third-party tools for gathering online coupons, there are just as many scam websites. These sites will often feature excessive pop-up ads and fake links that are not associated with the company from which you wish to make a purchase. Another red flag is a coupon site asking for your login information. Ultimately, it is a wise decision to be wary of giving away your email address or login information anywhere online other than when checking out.

Try Shopping Local

If shopping online for Cyber Monday brings you too many worries, there’s always the option to shop locally instead. In Northern Colorado, plenty of local businesses honor Black Friday sales through Cyber Monday. Plus, with so many retailers located in your local community, there’s a chance you’ll find a truly unique gift.

Have more tips for avoiding online scams during holiday shopping? Let us know in the comments, or contact Points West Community Bank today for more online shopping tips!

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Year-End Financial Planning

No matter the stage of life you’re in, it is always wise to take some time to evaluate your financial plan at the end of the year. Before you know it, it will be 2019! Here are some things to consider doing for year-end financial planning.

Evaluate Your Progress

It’s important that you check your progress frequently throughout the year to make sure you are on track. At the end of the year, you should take a look at the whole picture. Are you on the path to your goals? Or have you run into obstacles keeping you from staying on track? Evaluate how you did over the last year, and come up with a plan to keep you on track for next year.

Review Current Cash Flow

The end of the year is also a good time to review your cash flow. There are certainly changes that happen throughout the year, and now is a great time to take a look at your monthly budgets to find areas in which you can make painless cutbacks. Anything to save a few extra dollars can keep you on track for your long term goals.

Revisit Retirement Planning

Life can change on a dime, and if your situation changes, you might want to revisit your retirement planning. Maybe you got a raise and you can contribute more to retirement savings rather than buying a new car that you may not need but want. Take another look at your retirement plan and goals to see what makes the most sense for you and your plan.

Consider Changes You May Face in the Next Year

Maybe 2019 is finally the year you pursue your dream of staring your own business or buy that dream house. Consider what kinds of large investments you might be making next year. If you are looking to buy new home, check your credit score. If it’s not great, plan on ways to make it better before you make that move.

Talk With Your Financial Advisor

The best thing you can do is talk to your financial advisor. It’s their job to make sure you are in line with reaching your goals, be it retirement savings, buying a new house, or starting a business. They can help relieve some stress and confusion about what kinds of changes to your plan you should be making.

Stop in and talk to your Points West Community Bank representative about your goals today! Find the nearest location to you here.

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Understanding IRAs

Traditionally, when people think of retirement savings, they think of a 401K. The second most common type of retirement savings plan is an Individual Retirement Account or IRA. However, many people don’t quite understand what an IRA is. An IRA is an investment tool individuals use for retirement savings. There are several types of IRAs including, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, and SEP IRAs. These accounts usually consist of savings accounts, stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. Typically, individuals take traditional and Roth IRAs, and small businesses and the self-employed take SIMPLE and SEP IRAs. We will discuss the different accounts below.

Traditional IRA

In a traditional IRA, contributions are tax deductible in most cases. This means that you can claim contributions as a deduction on your tax return and the IRS will not tax. However, when you retire and withdraw from the account, it is taken at an ordinary income tax rate. With a traditional IRA, yearly individual contributions cannot exceed $5,500. If you are 50 or older, yearly contributions cannot exceed $6,500.

There are rules that you need to be aware of in terms of how much of your contributions are tax deductible. These can depend on if your employer offers a retirement plan or not. They also depend on your modified adjusted gross income. You can read more about those rules here.

One last thing you should know about traditional IRAs is that beginning at age 70 and a half, traditional IRA savers are required to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs), based on their life expectancy and account size. Failure to do this may result in tax penalties equal to 50% of the amount of the RMD.

Roth IRA

This kind of IRA is not tax deductible, but qualified distributions are tax free. This means you can contribute to a Roth IRA using after tax dollars, and as the account grows you do not face taxes on investment gains. When you retire, you can withdraw money from the account without incurring any income taxes. Roths also don’t have RMDs like traditional IRAs. This means, if you don’t need the money at age 71, you don’t have to take any out and you don’t have to worry about paying a penalty.

There is however a limit to how much you can contribute to a Roth IRA, and it is based on your income or your household income. Talk to your financial advisor to see where your limit would be.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA

A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA is typically used by the self employed. An SEP adheres to the same taxation rules as a traditional IRA. However, the contributions limit is a bit different. The contribution limit for an SEP IRA is limited to 25% of the individual’s compensation or $55,000, whichever is less. With an SEP for small businesses, employees do not make contributions.

See IRS rules and regulations for complete details at https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/individual-retirement-arrangements-iras.

SIMPLE IRA

A SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) IRA is typically used by small businesses. It also follows the same taxation rules for withdrawals as a traditional IRA. It is different from a SEP IRA in that employees are allowed to contribute to their accounts. The employer is also required to make contributions as well. All contributions to accounts are tax deductible. Similar to the three other IRAs, there are contribution limits for the employee. Contributions cannot exceed $12,500, with a $3,000 catch up limit for individuals 50 or older.

If you are ready to begin saving for retirement, come talk to our bankers today!

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Understanding Your Paycheck

Understanding your paycheck

If you’ve never looked at the anything but the bottom line on your paycheck, or took a look at all the deductions and were too confused to make heads or tails of it, deciphering all the deductions on your paycheck can be confusing at first. Knowing where your money is going is an essential part of budgeting, and it starts with understanding your paycheck.

 

Understanding Your Income

It’s the foundation for your paycheck (and your career), so understanding income is the first step to commanding a working knowledge of your paycheck.

  • Regular pay: This is what it sounds: It’s your pre-tax earnings. If you’re salaried, this amount should be the same from paycheck to paycheck. Hourly workers’ regular pay is based on number of hours they work.
  • Overtime pay: If you’re an hourly worker putting in long days, you qualify for overtime earnings for all time over 40 hours in a workweek. By federal law, you receive 1.5 times your regular hourly rate for all overtime.
  • Other pay: This represents other sources of income if you earned it. It may report holiday pay, sick pay or other forms of pay not based directly on your work.
  • Taxable Wages: This is the grand total of your earnings, and is typically broken out by the federal and state level.

 

Understanding Your Paycheck Deductions

This portion of your paycheck is a lot less fun than the income portion. It’s also a lot more confusing if you don’t know what each deduction represents.

  • Federal Income Taxes: The U.S. income tax system is a pay-as-you-go system. Each paycheck, your employer withholds a portion of your income (the exact rate is based on your earning level) and uses it to pay your portion of those taxes.
  • FICA: Shorthand for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, FICA deductions pay for Social Security and Medicare. You pay 6.2 percent on your first $128,700 in earnings for Social Security and an additional 1.45 percent on all earnings for Medicare.
  • State taxes: Much like federal taxes, Colorado taxes earned income at a rate dependent upon how much you earn.
  • Other Deductions: Depending upon your employment situation, you may have enrolled in healthcare, retirement, disability insurance and other programs.
    • Certain retirement plans (like IRAs) and healthcare decisions (HSAs, for example) reduce your overall taxable income. These amounts are reduced from your taxable wages before deductions are calculated.

Understanding your paycheck gets easier when you become accustomed to tracking them. Your pay stubs aren’t just informational reading for payday, either: Make sure you store them in a secure place. You may need them in the future to secure loans, sort out accounting errors or file your taxes.

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