A Few Potential Tax Savings Reminders
It is once again that dreaded yet unavoidable time of year…tax time. While many taxpayers have already filed their 2012 tax return, many more are still gathering information and preparing to submit their returns. As the deadline approaches, we at MutualBank would like to take an opportunity to send a couple of reminders and highlight some potential tax-saving efforts for which customers may be eligible.
First of all, make sure you have received all of your important tax documents for the year. If you have a mortgage or consumer loan, an IRA or Health Savings Account, or an interest-bearing deposit account like a CD or Savings account, then you will most likely have a corresponding tax document for each of those accounts. In addition, review your tax documents for accuracy. We want to make sure that our records match your records to ensure error-free reporting. If you have any questions or concerns about the tax documents you have received, or if you think you should have received one and didn’t, our Customer Support team will be glad to help resolve these situations.
This time of year also presents opportunities to maximize your tax return for the previous year. Customers who have an IRA or a Health Savings Account may still be able to make contributions to count towards last year’s taxes. The IRS allows this as a way to take advantage of maximum contribution limits and the potential tax-deductibility of many contributions. The tax-filing deadline (April 15) is also the deadline for these prior year contributions, so eligible customers wishing to make use of this opportunity should stop by their local Financial Center at the earliest convenience.
If you are curious about your eligibility to make these types of contributions, or if you have any other tax-related questions, we strongly encourage you to seek tax advice from a CPA or other qualified tax professional. Though tax time can be hectic and frustrating, a little planning and preparation can alleviate much of the stress of filing your return.
For banking questions, please call or email Customer Support at 800-382-8031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jared Matchette is MutualBank's Deposit Product Analyst.
Why Is Change So Hard?
I was “hanging out” with some lady friends a few weeks back. And the discussion came up about banking and using online banking. Of course, I had to weigh in on this discussion.
One lady expressed that she was upset that Social Security was about to require electronic deposits for Social Security funds. She was upset by this change, and further, she noted would never trust using the internet for banking.
Change is hard! I expect that when Henry Ford introduced a motorized vehicle, that many expected that invention would never take hold. Look at us now! At the time, I expect it took a little while for that horseless carriage idea to catch on.
In the early 1940s, women worked primarily in the home and were the primary child bearers and caretakers. With the advent of WWII, a much greater need came about for women to leave the homes and go to work in all sorts of industries supporting families and the war effort for the United States. And I would venture a guess that the multitude of ways women make a difference in & outside the home since that time have multiplied exponentially – think Melissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! Yet, it was likely difficult for some of those women of the 1940s to leave the home and learn a trade, go in to an office to work, and contribute in a different way.
I grew up in a simpler time as well. In the 60s, there were no cell phones, no computers, and no computer games. I remember a time when we didn’t even have a television in our home – we couldn’t afford one. We had to actually talk to one another, go outside to play in the neighborhood, use our fingers to dial a telephone, and once we got a TV, we had to get out of our chair to change a television channel. My daughter today has no concept of this. Change is hard.
I was an Office Manager in the 90s when the fax machine was ‘born.’ Now I think of the fax as antiquated technology. Likely, many of us balked at moving from receiving our wages in cash, to receiving a hand-written paycheck. Then we moved to a typewritten paycheck, still hand-delivered. Today, it is all automated – the money gets into our accounts faster than ever before with the same or better accuracy, because of technology. Change is hard.
I expect folks in my age range (notice I’ve gone from a certain age, to a “range”) – in our 50s and more mature– are somewhat divided on technology. Some are very ”techknowlegeable,” and some are not. Making that change is, no doubt, difficult. As few as five years ago I absolutely refused to try or use LinkedIn or Facebook. I’m now regularly using both, learning Twitter, and using Klout, and even blogging in and outside my bank.
I continue to advocate, even gently encourage, my fellow 50-somethings to consider using the internet – and in particular, online banking & bill pay. It is not going away. In terms of safety and the risk management of using such things as online banking and bill pay, everyone must be diligent. I am confident the same was said of using dollar bills instead of gold pieces, checks instead of dollar bills, mail instead of hand delivered payments. Give careful consideration to learning to use the internet for your banking needs. I use a colleague’s example. His son is in his 30’s and has lived all across the country, including New York City. He has been with the same bank since college, and he has never set foot inside a brick & mortar building. (By the way, did you know you can open a checking account online and apply for a mortgage online!?) Change is hard – yet, it is all around us.
You have heard me share some of the positives of moving to online banking & bill pay – the most precious to me, is the time I have back in my life. I also just got a discount on my personal car insurance by moving to electronic statements – one less piece of mail to track. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me excited. And yet, change is, indeed hard.
What Do MutualBank and Queen Have In Common?
You probably were not expecting to learn how the band Queen and MutualBank are similar! I raise my hand; I am guilty- guilty of being a rabid fan of Queen and of MutualBank. So I thought I would take a moment to share the top five ways these two things connect. I know you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see what I mean! Here it goes!
5. Queen was a group with a lot of variety in the type of music they presented. From a hard rocking song to an operatic overture, no two songs were ever quite the same. MutualBank’s checking accounts are the same way. We have an array of checking account products to choose from. From our most basic free checking accounts, to an interest bearing checking account, to a money market account, we have your covered.
4. Queen had a long track record of consistent quality music and even today has great fans worldwide. MutualBank has been offering quality products to our customers since 1889. Our checking account products offer some of the highest incentives offered!
3. Queen had one of the most charismatic and engaging front men in the history of rock with Freddie Mercury. MutualBank has thirty-one Financial Centers that offer the highest of quality service over Indiana and that can help you with all your checking needs! Let our “front men and women” help you!
2. Queen diversified its music by playing not only for large crowds in stadiums to even a cozy club. MutualBank’s service is about the customer first and foremost. If your needs are such that you simply need a checking account or if you are someone that needs a wide amount of services, MutualBank has you covered!
1. Listening to Queen’s music can raise your mood and a good mood offers lots of benefits! MutualBank’s checking accounts offer UChoose Loyalty Rewards! How cool is it to get paid for using your account for things you buy anyway? With UChoose Loyalty Rewards, MutualBank also gives you the benefit of points for having accounts with the bank!
Despite your choice in music, all of this applies to you! MutualBank offers a wide range of products, services and benefits to fit anyone’s tastes!
Rock on MutualBank!
Written by Debra Jones-Price, Financial Center Manager, Bethel Financial Center, Muncie
Safety and Social Media
Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and others have exploded in growth over the last few years. Most of us have several social media accounts and use them frequently to communicate with others. As with any online activity, social media does have risks so we do have to follow best practices when using social media sites.
By following these guidelines you can greatly reduce risk in social media:
- Manage your accounts – make sure that you change your passwords often and don’t use the same password for all social media sites.
- Secure your accounts – social media sites update security systems frequently so make sure that you periodically review your account security settings and limit the amount of information you share publicly with non-friends.
- Online scams - Facebook scams such as free gift cards, phony charities, and “watch this amazing video” are all used to trick people into divulging private information to steal identities. Sites like Facecrooks can help alert you to current scams that are circulating via Facebook.
- Keep anti-virus/anti-malware applications up to date on your computers and phones.
- Making friends – Make sure you use caution when accepting new friend requests on social media sites. We’re seeing an increase of fraudulent social media profiles of people posing to be from companies where they actually don’t work.
- Verify friend requests from businesses – If you haven’t conducted business with a person requesting friendship then don’t accept the request. If you are unsure then call the business to verify the person is with that company.
- If you do call, use the phone number you have on record from a business card or phonebook. Do not use any information contained within the requesting persons profile as it may be false.
- MutualBank will not ask for personal, financial, or username and password information over social media channels.
- If you suspect any of your social media profiles have been compromised, change your password immediately and call the customer support number listed on the social media site to report it.
Remember, you can call us anytime. Let us know if you have questions or concern for your bank accounts. Call 800-382-8031or email email@example.com.
This blog is brought to you by John Mickle of Risk Management and Compliance.
Thank Those Who've Helped You
Recently I had the opportunity to succeed my manager who is retiring after a long and full career. As I reflect on those people who have helped me reach many of my career aspirations, including this gentleman, it struck me, once again, how lucky I have been to have had people that have taken time, effort, and energy to mentor me. Many of these people were busy with their own work and yet they stopped what they were doing to give me some time, to lend me a hand, or guide me in one direction or another.
My first bank manager is the reason that I found banking to be so much fun and the reason that I chose this as my career (a decision that I still feel wonderfully blessed to have made). He took a very naïve, young man, fresh out of graduate school with no real sense of what I was going to do professionally, and guided me to think seriously about banking. He gave me opportunities to succeed (and sometimes fail) and helped me learn from each of them. He gave me the chance to manage others and helped me learn how to do that too. Sometimes he taught me on the job, sometimes on a Saturday morning run. But always he kept reassuring me that I “had what it takes” to succeed in this career if I wanted to.
The second mentor in my career was my grandfather. He helped me see the true potential that I had within the industry. He guided me into an MBA program to help me learn more about business. But most of all, he showed me every day in his business dealings that honesty and integrity were critical to true success and the ability to go to sleep at night knowing that I had done the right thing.
Finally, the gentleman that just retired showed me that I can be successful as the manager of the business banking group. He sent me an e-mail right before he left giving me encouragement to stay steadfast, to continue to reach for those goals, and then said, I know “you have a good skill set. Just be yourself!!!” What a great confidence booster he gave me. He helped me learn so much about myself while teaching me about the business of commercial lending.
And so it is that I write this blog encouraging every reader to find the opportunities to mentor someone. That person may be someone you work with, it may be a customer, it may be a neighborhood kid, or it may be your grandson (or granddaughter). Whoever it may be, when you mentor someone you give them the courage, the confidence, and the belief that maybe they can do something that they hadn’t even dreamed they could do. And if you have been mentored, take a moment and drop that person a thank you letter, e-mail or phone call to let them know how much you appreciate their help in getting you to where you are today.
Who Says You Can't Have Fun at Work?
If asked how you would describe where you work, what would you say? If you asked me I would say challenging, caring, and fun. Yes, I said fun. Sometimes work is a place where employees take a deep breath before walking through the door each morning reciting affirmations to simply get them through the day. Not me. When I walk through the door each morning of MutualBank, I think of how thankful I am for working at a great organization who challenges me to produce my best work.
Core values of Class, Character, Compassion, and Competition are engrained in each MutualBank employee from day one. Somewhere in these core values you will find that fun is intertwined. Culture plays a big part in this. Top leaders know that a job needs to get done, customer relationships are vital, shareholders want to see a return, and employees are more likely to do these things well when they are having a little fun.
It’s okay to talk about having fun at work – it’s not a forbidden topic. Heck, this past Monday was national “have fun at work day”. This national "have fun at work day" indicates that having fun at work is an important piece of the workday. So what do MutualBank employees do to have fun at work?
To answer the above question in detail would take more than this blog will allow, so I’ll give you a couple examples, and pictures, of employees having fun at Mutual.
The Bank has a dedicated committee to ensure all employees have opportunities to have fun. Mind you, managers in our organization understand the importance of the fun factor and make sure it happens in their department when there isn’t an organized event taking place.
Let’s start with employee luncheons. Luncheons are held and some sort of activity is usually planned. Activities have included three-legged races, corn hole tournaments, cookouts, and even piñata busting. Recently, MutualBankers wore MutualBank UCrew shirts to celebrate our MutualMan Super Hero. Not only did employees wear the t-shirts, they took pictures as a department wearing the attire with an opportunity to win a prize for creativity. See our Human Resources Department below:
At least once a month employees wear jeans with a donation to local community non-profits. Departments often take advantage of popular events like the Super Bowl to sport their favorite team’s colors and decorate their departments. The most recent took place in our Kosciusko County. In their annual United Way fundraising campaign employees created “Call Me Maybe” videos to tout the Call 211 feature of the United Way. This was cool and I guarantee they had fun making it! Check out the Syracuse Financial Center video where employees from different parts of the company were included.
The list could go on and on! The fun even extends outside of the workday and includes company parties, coffee and canvas events, and a picnic where employees had a chance to sink our Bank President in a dunk tank.
The career I’ve had at MutualBank, going strong for 13 years now, has been and will continue to be, fulfilling because I like to have fun while getting my work done. Going to work shouldn’t be work – it should be fun! If you are interested in a career and having fun at it, then I would encourage you to check out our career opportunities. MutualBank is always looking for the brightest, most creative and fun individuals to help our customers live a better life. Now, ask yourself again how you would describe your place of employment. If you want to have fun while being challenged to get results then MutualBank just might be the place for you.
The Mind of a Commercial Lender
Have you ever wondered what it is that your banker is really looking for when they talk with you about a credit request? Well, wonder no more, I invite you into the brain of a commercial lender (enter with caution as it is a scary place!)
- Have you developed and maintained an ongoing business relationship with your banker? Bankers need to have an ongoing dialogue with clients to best serve their needs. We are here to provide money, certainly, but we are also here to establish a long term relationship whereby we can help our clients achieve their goals. Whether it is remote deposit or online banking, ACH or wire transfers, your banker has the products and services that can help our customers grow. But we cannot do that if we do not know what those goals are.
- Does your business need a loan -- or an equity infusion? Banks are interested in making loans; they are not interested in being the owners of the business. Equity is that device that helps a business weather a storm, loans are those tools that help a business grow and operate. The two are mutually exclusive. Banks are in business to make loans. Equity funds should come from the business owners.
- Can you clearly explain your firm’s “value proposition?” If you cannot explain why a business should do business with you then stop what you are doing, figure that out, and then resume whatever it was that you were doing. Why should someone buy from you as opposed to your competition? That question needs to be clearly (and concisely) articulated first!
- Do you have a plan that covers the good, the bad, and the ugly? Things happen, and sometimes you have to figure out what that means for your business. To always assume the “good” means that when the “bad,” or worse yet, the “ugly” happens the business isn’t prepared to handle the outcome. So . . . what are you going to do in your company if it gets “ugly”? If you can answer that question you will be in much better shape to help your banker help you.
- Have you developed at least two ways to repay the loan? Bankers have an axiom that goes like this “only cash repays loans.” There, that is our great big secret. Now that you know that then you know how we view the primary source of repayment. But how else can the loan be paid off if the cash isn’t being generated for some reason (see point #4 above). If you can demonstrate how else the loan might be repaid you have helped the bank and they in turn can be more helpful to you.
So now that you have seen into the mind of a commercial lender I hope you will take away from this discussion that it isn’t too scary a thought process. Indeed, the more certainty that the banker has that the loan will be paid “as agreed,” the more likely that you will not only receive a favorable loan decision, but also the best interest rate.
Your MutualBankers are here to help you accomplish your goal. Get started by contacting a MutualBanker near you!
Chris Caldwell is Senior Vice President of Business Banking for MutualBank.
Giving is the Spirit of MutualBank
Winston Churchill said:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Giving is the spirit of MutualBank. We have four values which guide how we do business: Character, Compassion, Class and Competition. MutualBank has had a long standing history of giving back to the communities we live and work in, but our Jeans Day program goes beyond a company gift. It’s an opportunity for MutualBank employees to ‘make a life’.
Inevitably when you talk with someone who runs a nonprofit, they always say their greatest need is money. Our Outreach Committee found a way to meet the greatest need of the local nonprofits while giving our employees the opportunity to make a difference. The Outreach Committee decided to incorporate a monthly "Jeans Day". Jeans days occur on the last Friday of the month and it costs an employee at least $5.00 to participate. The benefit to the employee is that they get to wear jeans to work. Bankers are typically traditional and conservative, so this is a step outside the box! The benefit to our community; however, is greater than we imagined.
A bank of our size, $1.4 billion, typically has a plan for sponsorships and certain organizations they support year after year. The best part about the Jeans Days is that the beneficiary of the funds, for each of the counties we serve (Delaware, Randolph, Grant, Wabash, Kosciusko, Elkhart, St. Joseph counties) are local to each county. Some months, the funds go to a national effort, like the American Red Cross, but the funds stay local in each of the communities we serve. Other months, the funds are given to different nonprofits who serve a certain segment of our community footprint. Either way, the funds, with the exception of one Jeans Day in 2012, stay in the county in which they were raised.
The one month I am referencing when funds did not stay in the counties we serve was in March 2012. In early spring, there was a horrible tornado in Southern Indiana, near Henryville, that leveled the town. It was one of the most devastating natural disasters our state has seen. As a result, we had an “Emergency Jeans Day” to help our fellow Hoosiers in their time of need. Proceeds from this effort went to the American Red Cross to aid those Hoosiers in need.
We believe by giving our employees the opportunity to show compassion, we are helping them ‘make a life’. We are proud of our employees and the impact they have on the communities we serve. It is our pleasure to share that in 2012, our employees have helped over 20 different organizations raising $14,264.03!
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
I hope I have become wiser as I have aged. For I have surely aged! I work in Human Resources & Training at the bank, and we had a great manager’s round table discussion the other day, and I had possibly the best question that has ever come up in one of our sessions. A young, very new manager asked: “If you knew then, what you know now (about managing people), what would you do differently?”
And every manager in the room had an answer. This was a great reflective question. We had engaging and wise comments shared, and so, I am going to turn this question inward, twist it a little, and share: “If I knew then, what I know now, about preparing for my financial future, what would I do differently?”
Yes, I was a not-so-smart-but -thought-I-was-da-bomb-college-graduate-newlywed-burgeoning-career person, way back when, and as I am now aiming for some financial goals so I can live comfortably in a few years, here’s how I answered my own question:
If I knew then, what I know now, I would do these things differently, to plan for a more secure financial future:
- Spending a retirement payout instead of rolling it over. When I changed jobs, I’d have NOT spent my retirement plan money on a one-time vacation to Florida. I’d have rolled it over to an IRA, or something…. I took a tax hit then, and have 4 years less retirement savings. Geesh…
- Accepting or applying for multiple credit cards. I would not have kept taking credit cards from stores, and big banks, and using them. It took me a long time to dig out, and using the credit cards became a very bad habit;
- Not officially closing those open credit cards after paying them off. I would have closed those credit cards and notified the stores/banks, not just cut them up as I paid them off. Those all show up (or they did) on my credit report, and could have adversely affected my credit score;
- Immediately rolling dividends back into stock. I got a tiny bit of a stock inheritance from a great uncle. I spent those first dividend checks. If I could go back, I would have rolled those over back into the stock starting the moment I got it.
- Taking the time to learn, really learn, about my company benefits. What all did I leave on the table?
- A company match in a 401(k) – that’s FREE money I might have walked away from;
- Understanding and utilizing Flexible Spending Accounts to reduce my taxable income – especially when I was paying for child care;
- Staying with a company until I was fully vested in a pension or other retirement plan – I left 6 months shy – twice in my career. Darn it!
- Understanding my health plan and what was covered and not covered. Did I miss some benefits?
Hindsight is 20/20. So, hopefully I’ve learned. If nothing else, maybe my ‘shoulda coulda wouldhave’s’ will help someone else make better decisions.
Practice Safe Holiday Shopping
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The holiday shopping season is in full swing! Are you ready? Do you still have lots of shopping to do? Have you already shopped on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or all three? Chances are that many of us still have plenty of shopping left to do before Christmas and that will be inter-mingled with work and family gatherings as well as travel both short and long trips.
In the middle of all of this activity, it’s very important to keep track of your holiday spending habits especially when shopping online and travelling over the holidays. Doing so will help protect your money and reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions occurring.
Following these guidelines can make your holiday shopping and travel more financially secure:
- Use a low limit credit card for online shopping. Your liability is $50 on fraudulent charges using your credit card.
- Know who you’re shopping with. Be leery of unknown or obscure shopping websites. Stick with well-known shopping sites from reputable retailers.
- If it’s too good to be true…it probably is. Don’t fall for incredibly cheap or free deals commonly seen on Facebook.
- Look for the padlock and https on your Internet browser window. Secure online shopping sites should use the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology for securing online transactions. You should see a padlock icon at the bottom or top of the browser status bars that you are using and https in the address bar.
- Make sure that computers and smart phones used for online shopping are patched with the most up to date software.
- Try not to conduct online shopping on public WiFi networks.
- Use anti-virus / anti-malware software on your PC and smart phones and make sure they are updated. This can help prevent a virus infection if you happen to end up on a bogus shopping site.
- Make sure you use online banking to check your shopping activity and don’t wait for a mailed statement to arrive to verify online shopping activity. By the way, have you signed up for MutualBank’s online banking? Learn how to get started.
- Use your statements, MutualMobile or MutualBank’s Personal Online Banking to review transactions…are you signed up for eStatements yet? Get your statements quicker via email!
- View your cleared checks to make sure they were not altered in any way to change the payees or dollar amounts.
- If you swipe your card, check the card reader especially on gas pumps, ATMs, and other self-service payment terminals for card skimming devices…see ABC News “Credit Card Skimming Tips To Protect Yourself” for more information. It is simple…just lightly tug on the card reader to ensure that it’s secure before swiping your card. A card skimming device will easily pull off as it’s usually taped or lightly glued on top of the existing card reader. If the reader pulls off do not use the machine and report it immediately to authorities.
- Travelling over the holidays and planning on using your MutualBank debit card? Make sure you Call Before You Travel to ensure uninterrupted debit card use!
Remember that you are the best defense against online shopping fraud! If you suspect that you have been scammed please call MutualBank Customer Support at 800-382-8031. Also please report any online fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Have a safe and happy holiday season from MutualBank, helping you live a better life!
This post is written by John Mickle, Risk Management and Compliance at MutualBank