9 Tips to Green Your Home and Save Money

1. Location, location, location efficiency. Carefully consider the location of your home. If you’re close to work, shopping and entertainment, you may not need a car. Without a car you would save money on gas, car insurance and maintenance, not to mention reduce pollution. If you’re thinking about moving further out, try to find something near public transportation and shopping.

2. Light up the house, not the electric bill. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs will save you about $6 a year in electricity costs per bulb and more than $40 over its lifetime. According to ENERGY STAR, if every American home replaced just one light bulb, we would save enough energy to prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Remember to recycle used CFL bulbs. Go to http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling for recycling locations.

3. Some like it hot, hot, hot…or cold, cold, cold. Closely monitor your thermostat. Adjusting it just a few degrees while you’re out can save energy and money. You can make it easier by installing a programmable thermostat. Use fans and close the blinds during the warm months and let the sun in for natural warmth in the winter. Also, change your filter every three months.

4. Make it mean-green-clean. Cleaning supplies can be expensive and are made with toxic chemicals. You can save money and the environment by making your own cleaning supplies. All you need are some basic household ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax to clean everything from windows to tile.

5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Sticking to this mantra can help you save money around the house. Use a rag instead of paper towels. Buy products in bulk, concentrate or refillable containers to reduce packaging waste. Look for products made from recycled content. And don’t forget to recycle!

6. Win-dos for your windows. There are a number of ways you can make your windows more energy efficient without replacing them. For better insulation from the weather you can caulk exterior joints, put shrink wrap on them or hang blackout curtains.

7. Fan the green flames. To keep your refrigerator running efficiently, keep the fan clean. The motor won’t have to work as hard if the fan is clear of debris.

8. Decorate green. Houseplants are like living air-filters. English Ivy, rubber trees, peace lilies and red-edged dracaena can help clean the air and look pretty too.

9. Vampire energy is sucking you dry. On or off, anything plugged into the wall sucks energy. Vampire power costs U.S. consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Unplug your electronics and appliances when they’re not in use.

Resource information provided by American Banker’s Association. For more green home solutions, visit: epa.gov/greenhomes

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Derby Week Safety Tips

We are officially in the midst of Derby week! With “the most exciting two minutes in sports” comes a week full of great events. As we quickly approach the first Saturday in May, Stock Yard’s Security Team wants to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time while providing some essential safety tips:

Plan your trips carefully. Think about where to park ahead of time, and consider walking a little further to and from the event. Depending on the event, street closures could send you on an unexpected detour, so make sure to plan an alternate route accordingly. Designate a driver who will be responsible for getting everyone to and from safely.

Never go alone. Especially if you are in an area you are not familiar with.

Always lock your car, and hide valuables pre-trip. Don’t leave any valuables in plain sight. Additionally, ensure that your home will be safe while you are away for an extended period of time. Let a trusted neighbor know where you will be, and have them keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.

Keep your cash, ID and your cell phone in a front pocket to prevent being pickpocketed. Be conscious of where you put your cash – particularly after placing a bet at the track. Make sure that your belongings are not in a place where thieves would be able to snatch.

Ladies – If you bring a bag to the races, make sure it is not oversized. The track has some specifications on what size bag to bring, and the larger the bag, the easier it is for thieves to sneak into your belongings. Be sure not to accidentally take any of the banned items as well.

Be on the lookout for counterfeit notes. Derby time is also a time for a significant rise in counterfeit notes entering the Louisville Metro area. Right now, the $20.00 note is the most counterfeited in America.

Be aware of your surroundings.  Situational awareness is key to staying safe in any environment.  If you need help call LMPD at 502-574-7111 and give them your location. If you find yourself in the middle of an emergency, call 911 immediately.

Be aware, be alert, be ready, and be safe. Best wishes for the winning Derby ticket and most of all have fun!

Save or Spend: 5 Ways to Make Your Refund Count This Tax Season

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the nation’s taxpayers received an average tax refund of nearly $3,000 in 2015. This year, with more than 70 percent of taxpayers receiving a refund, the American Bankers Association is highlighting five tips to help them make the most out of their windfall.

“Tax season is a great time for consumers to reassess how they allocate extra cash,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “It’s wise to take steps toward securing your financial well-being like storing your refund for rainy days or using it to get a jumpstart on saving for retirement.”

To help consumers make the most out of their money, ABA has highlighted the following tips:

• Save for emergencies. Open or add 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. Click here for more information regarding Stock Yard’s account options.

• 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. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Where can you get one? Stock Yards can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored.

• Put it toward a down payment. The biggest challenge that most first-time home buyers face is coming up with enough money for a down payment. If you intend to buy a new home in the near future, putting your tax refund toward the down payment is a smart move.

• 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. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit. Click here for more information on how to make the most of your investment.

Resource information provided by American Bankers Association

6 Money Mistakes Newlyweds Should Avoid

With wedding season upon us, many newlyweds will soon be managing their finances as a pair. The American Bankers Association is encouraging couples to waste no time addressing how they will handle money issues as spouses and financial partners.

“Developing a financial plan can often take a backseat to the excitement of a wedding,” said ABA president and CEO. “But it’s important to remember that this is not only a marriage of hearts but also a marriage of finances.”

To help couples start their journey on strong financial footing, ABA warns consumers of these post-wedding money mistakes:

  1. Avoiding the money talk. Discussing your finances can be a bit uncomfortable for many couples, but those who tackle it head on will be better for it. Understand your partner’s financial goals and spending habits. While you may have different answers, this conversation can help you develop an approach to money management that works for both of you.
  2. Not setting a budget. A mistake many couples make is not establishing a budget early on. After assessing your finances as a pair, determine how you’ll spend your money each month. Are there certain expenses that you should be cutting back on and others you should be saving up for? Coming to an agreement on these things and setting a budget will be beneficial for the health of your bank accounts and your relationship.
  3. Not having a plan for your accounts. There is no ‘right’ way to manage your accounts. Couples can choose to have exclusively joint accounts, a joint account as well as separate accounts for saving or personal spending, or keep things entirely divided. Discuss your preferences together and decide what makes you both the most comfortable.
  4. Failing to set up an emergency fund. Life is full of surprises and unfortunately, some of these surprises can be expensive. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid precarious financial situations should something come up. It’s important that you decide together how you’ll set aside the money.
  5. Not establishing a minimum cost for discussing big expenses. While not all purchases demand a conversation, more expensive ones that impact the family budget should. Determine what that threshold is as a couple. For any expenses above that cost, you both should be in agreement on whether it’s a necessary purchase.
  6. Forgetting to update your beneficiaries. Now that you’ve officially tied the knot, you should likely identify your spouse as the person who will receive the benefits of your will, life insurance policy and financial accounts like your 401(k), checking and savings. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for an emergency to arise to handle this.

    Resource Information Provided by the American Bankers Association

6 Pointers to Help Seniors Live at Home Longer

The vast majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes as they grow older, also known as aging in place. More than 90 percent of the baby boomer population prefer to age in place, according to a recent Georgetown University survey.

“America’s 50 and older population is expected to increase by 20 percent in the next 15 years,” said American Bankers Association President and CEO Frank Keating. “It’s important that older adults and their families plan ahead to ensure they have the housing they need for a safe, comfortable and independent life.”

Here are some tips for older Americans considering aging in place:

Take a hard look at your finances. Arrange a meeting with a trusted family member or friend and a banker. It’s critical to understand your financial resources, how long they’ll last and what housing options are the most cost effective for you. Be sure to consider all costs associated with aging in place, including:

  • Home modifications
  • Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
  • In home caregiver for house upkeep and medical purposes
  • Property taxes and home insurance

Assess your home and determine what modifications are necessary. While staying in your home is preferable for many, there are often design changes that must be made to ensure it’s also safe and comfortable.

  • Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home.
  • Update lighting inside and outside of the house so that all walkways and stairs are well lit. Clear pathways throughout house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping
  • If a bedroom and bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing an elevator or chairlift. At a minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, or near the toilet.

Make security a priority. Older Americans are often targets for scams and other criminal behavior. Be cautious about who you allow in your home and disclose sensitive information to.

  • Install up to date and easy to use locks. Make sure your front door has a peep hole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.
  • Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor, etc.

Look into community resources. If mobility is limited, look in to services offered in your area. Many communities have established non-profit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost.

Be prepared for possible emergencies.

  • Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
  • Consider a Personal Emergency Response System. Transmitters can be worn as a bracelet or around your neck and require the simple push of a button to send a signal to a call center.
  • Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.

Reevaluate every six months to make sure all needs are being met. As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or as needed, to sit down with your trusted family or friend and make sure your current living situation is still the right one.

Resource Information Provided by the American Bankers Association. 

7 Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

As Americans begin the process of filing tax returns, identity thieves are scheming to get their hands on that money. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years.

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.

Follow these tips to help prevent tax ID fraud:

  • 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. Visit our website for contact information.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
  • 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 at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

Resource Information: American Banker’s Association