Northern Utah County Leads the Economic Growth Trend for Utah Apr 25, 2016, 11:23 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) recently released its 2015 Annual Report and Resource Guide. The report and other indicators show Utah’s upward trend in economic and population growth, with Northern Utah County being the fastest growth in the state.

Bank of American Fork is seeing from the banking side evidence to support the GOED report. Many businesses have continued to open and experience success alongside those established businesses that are experiencing growth.

In addition to the GOED report, other Utah indicators show:

-A 3.1 percent 2016 expected job growth in Utah compared to the national estimate of 1.7 percent, and a 3.7 percent unemployment rate in Utah compared to 5.3 percent nationally.

-Personal income projected to grow by 5.3 percent.

-Residential housing units constructed estimated to be more than 17,400.

-Forecast for permit authorized construction is $6.5 billion.

-Sources: 2016 Economic Report to the Governor, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, and Forbes.

In Northern Utah County, indicators include:

-Unemployment rate in Lehi, Utah is 2.9 percent with job growth of 5.37 percent.

-Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 47.8 percent.

-Source: Sperling’s Best Places

“We’re excited to see such positive economic growth in our state,” said Richard Beard, CEO, Bank of American Fork. “We see it firsthand all around us. People within our community have the opportunity to thrive and grow both their businesses and their families in a supportive environment. Jobs are being created, fewer people are out of work, families are purchasing homes; Utahns are in the right place at the right time.”

 

Explore What’s Near: Spring City, Utah Apr 22, 2016, 9:46 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Historic town Spring City is next on our list of must-see Utah spots.

 

Utah Spring CityI asked Christopher, a Utah native, about recommendations for fun weekend trips that I could do with my family, and Spring City, Utah was one of the first spots he mentioned. While Utah is more well-known for its sublime scenery and national parks, towns like Spring City are surely a reason Utah was recently named the top pick on Fodor’s Go List 2016.

Here’s what Christopher said about Spring City:

Spring City is a small Utah town in Sanpete County with about 1,000 residents.

When I was in sixth grade, my family lived in Spring City. I remember that two grades shared each class room. Our teacher for the fifth and sixth grades was Mr. Allred, the principal. One of the kids also got their tongue stuck on the frozen flag pole, just like in the movie “A Christmas Story.”

The entire city is listed on the National Register of Historic places, along with only Williamsburg, Virginia. This is because there are so many historic homes and buildings that have been preserved. One can get a good feeling for what a pioneer town looked like. It’s an agricultural town with many farm yards and barns also preserved. Some of my favorite buildings are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel which features beautiful hand-cut stone and a beautiful tower unlike any other church by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have seen; the Orson Hyde home; and Horseshoe Mountain Pottery, which has not locked its doors in more than 30 years. The best time to go to Spring City is on the Saturday before Memorial Day when many historic homes and buildings are open for tours and the town holds their annual Heritage Day Celebration.

Spring City is also home to artists like Joe Bennion of Horseshoe Mountain Pottery and Mom’s Stuff Salve. I asked him what keeps him in Spring City.

“I love Spring City because it is quiet, slow going and welcoming. Whether you stop at one of the two eateries, an art gallery or just the gas station people will take an interest in you and make you feel like they are glad you came.”

Spring City wagon

Tip: Besides choosing an economical location, which cuts down on transportation costs, one of the best ways you can have a good time without stressing about money is to budget ahead of time. Figure out the cost of each element of your trip and make sure it works for your overall spending plan. If you want to avoid feeling like a miser on your vacation, make sure you leave a little room for unexpected fun.

If you missed it, the first Utah staycation we talked about was a High Uinta Yurt Trip. Even though we’re nearly past our season for cross-country skiing, the High Uintas make for beautiful hikes during the summer!

Home Sweet Home: Exterior repairs and replacements Apr 18, 2016, 8:35 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Plan now for your home’s longevity

Start planning now for home repair and replacements so you aren’t surprised when the time comes around. Here are some estimates (although actual costs may vary) for the expected time until you need to make repairs or replacements in your home. When you prepare for possible costs, you’ll be more financially prepared for your home’s future needs.

Let’s start with the exterior. The elements will erode your roof, rain gutters, deck and paint—short of erecting a bubble around your house, you won’t be able to prevent it. You may also have assets exposed to the elements, like your air conditioner. You can keep your garage door and garage door opener in better condition by oiling its parts, but that doesn’t mean a replacement isn’t somewhere down the line. If your house is new, most of your external repairs and replacements are probably several years down the line, but it’s important to know the year your house was built or when they were last taken care of when you move into an older house.

House-Costs-Infographic-Exterior

One way to make sure you’re ready for repairs is to divide the amount you think you will need (use our guide for an estimate—using the higher number in the range is one way to avoid unexpected costs) by the number of years until you will need to repair or replace. Then, make sure you set aside that amount each year until the time comes for repair or replacement. You can try setting up automatic transfers if you aren’t sure whether you’ll be able to set the money aside instead of spending it.

We have more handy guides coming up for kitchen, bathroom, living room and basement repairs and replacements, so come back!

Personal Finance Considerations for Graduating High School Seniors Apr 14, 2016, 8:29 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

As the school year begins unwinding for the year, graduating high school seniors will face a myriad of opportunities, challenges and obstacles. One of the greatest obstacles will be an increased responsibility of personal finances.

Acquiring a job will be front and center for many high school seniors. Jobs they can work during the summer (or longer) to help pay for college, provide income for activities and entertainment, and provide for themselves and others. Regardless, the first step to personal finance responsibility will be the acquisition of a job.

“Many young people don’t yet have the experience needed to make good personal financial decisions,” said Marcia Clements, Central Region Operations Manager, Bank of American Fork. “They graduate and find they need to quickly understand how to manage their money, prepare to make life-event choices and purchases such as cars, college and rent, and learn the basic habits that will provide them with a lifetime of good financial decisions.”

A few basic financial practices that will be important for high school seniors to consider and learn include:

Saving and Planning – One of the best practices of personal financial management is to learn to pay yourself, or in other words, save. One suggestion is to save 10 percent of your income in a savings account. As the fund increases, it opens opportunities for high school seniors to consider other longer-term investments or make plans to pay for needed purchases. Consider setting up an automatic payment to your savings account each month when your paycheck comes in, so you only have to make the decision to save once.

Interest – Learning how interest can work against high school seniors if they rack up credit card and other debt causing expensive and lengthy pay back schedules, and how it can work for those who save and invest and let compound interest increase over time.

BudgetingBudgeting is one of the hardest management tools to learn, but even the simplest budget – a plan of how your money is spent over a period of time – can be one of the strongest personal finance techniques high school seniors can learn. It creates financial discipline and strong financial management. Find a budgeting tool that works for you, whether it’s paper, an Excel spreadsheet or trying the top budgeting apps available on your smartphone.

Credit – Graduating seniors often want to begin establishing credit, but they should be very careful. Any form of credit will require strict discipline to make payments on time and to avoid racking up too much debt. Gas cards, checking overdraft and other simpler forms of credit are good places for high school seniors to begin. Establishing credit will be important when high school seniors are ready to purchase homes and other high-cost items.

Courses and Training – Any class, course or resource focusing on personal finance can be invaluable for high school seniors to take in preparation for good personal finance.

These are just some of the many areas of personal finance high school seniors should consider as they graduate this spring. Additional resources are available at blog.bankaf.com.

Take advantage of $5K tax deduction this week Apr 11, 2016, 9:38 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your taxable income for your 2015 taxes, consider the advantages of an IRA—you have about a week to make contributions to an IRA for last year. This year, you have until April 18—an extra couple of days! Contributions to IRAs can be made as late as the first due date of a tax return, and can be considered retroactive to the previous tax year, so you can still make a qualifying IRA contribution and get the tax benefit if you qualify for your 2015 tax filing. For 2015 the dollar limits for IRA contributions are $5,500 if you are age 49 and younger, $6,500 if you are 50 and older.  If you don’t have an IRA, Bank of American Fork can help.

Xsmall - IRA with floating moneyBank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you are guaranteed a safe return and you are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee. Depending on the type of IRA you choose and subject to IRS rules, you can earn tax-free or tax-deferred income. When you are eligible, you can receive distributions from the money in your IRA.

Here are the types of IRAs we offer:

-Traditional IRA: Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution

-Roth IRA: Allows contributions of after-tax income, if qualified. Qualified distributions of principal and interest are tax-free. After retirement, distributions are not required.

-SEP IRA: SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It allows a business to make contributions toward its employees’ retirement using IRAs. These are especially popular with sole proprietors, where the business owner and the employee are the same person. SEPs allow a higher maximum contribution than a Traditional or ROTH IRA. (See IRS for eligibility requirements)

At Bank of American Fork, variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with a $500 minimum opening deposit.

Don’t wait any longer to start your retirement savings and save on your taxes. Open an IRA today! At Bank of American Fork, our friendly staff can meet with you and show you firsthand how we can help you secure a strong financial future. Call 1-800-BANK to set an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you.

Consult your tax advisor for details.


 

Shred old, confidential documents free at bank Apr 04, 2016, 4:28 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Bank of American Fork hosts shred day at branches in Pleasant Grove, Highland, Murray

Shred DayDo you have a backlog of confidential documents that you want to get rid of? On May 7, 2016 Bank of American Fork customers and non-customers can bring their documents to the Pleasant Grove, Highland or Murray branches to be shredded by Shred-it shredding services.

At Bank of American Fork, we care about your safety. One of the ways you can protect your identity is by properly destroying unneeded documents that have personal information on them, including documents that are out-of-date or documents you have saved electronically. Make sure you know the recommended amount of time to keep hard copies of important documents. You may be able to find the time period for keeping different types of documents with the respective organizations—for example, you might find the recommended amount of time to keep tax documents at www.irs.gov.

At Bank of American Fork’s shred day, customers may have up to five boxes of documents shredded (beyond five, we ask that you wait in line again if other customers are waiting) and will be able to watch items being shredded by a camera on the side of the shred truck. Shred-it can also provide free dated certifications of destruction.

Please note, the following can go into the shred truck: computer paper, colored paper, staples, paperclips, black binder clips, hanging file folders, magazines, phone books, spiral notebooks, two-part equi-fasteners, checks, brass fasteners, brochures and rubber bands. We will not be able to shred: cardboard, carbon paper, plastics, three-ring binders, microfiche or food wrappers. Small amounts of compact discs and cassettes are acceptable.

All paper shredded by Shred-it will be recycled. For every ton of paper recycled, 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 6,993 gallons of water and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space will be saved.

Remember to invite your friends and family to come on Saturday, May 7 from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Bank of American Fork’s Pleasant Grove, Highland and Murray branches. Find the addresses online at www.bankaf.com.

 

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When to Save for Retirement vs. Your Kid’s College Fund Mar 22, 2016, 8:50 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Margarette Burnette, NerdWallet

Retirement v College Fund

If you’re a parent who wants to save for your child’s college, it’s smart to start early so your money can build over time. For the same reasons, it’s also smart to start early to save for your own retirement.

It can be difficult to figure out how to choose between these important financial goals.

The advantages of saving for retirement are probably obvious — you’ll be able to pay bills during your later years when you’re no longer working. But there are also important benefits to putting away money for your child’s college education. You can help your child pay for his or her schooling without going into debt from student loans.

Here are some ways to decide the best method to set aside your cash.

Start with your retirement savings. If you haven’t put away money for the future, or you have only a small amount saved, this is where you should consider focusing first.

There will be a lot of options for your child to pay for his or her college education, including scholarships, grants and loans. But you probably won’t have as many choices to fund your life after you leave the workforce. So you’ll want to make sure you build a cash cushion for yourself.

Financial institutions such as Bank of American Fork have many options for saving, such as individual retirement accounts that often offer tax advantages. And putting money away for retirement doesn’t have to crimp your current budget. You can start by contributing a small amount each month, and then gradually boost your monthly contribution once a year.

It’s also important to note that some retirement accounts can help fund both college and retirement goals. For example, with some IRA accounts, you can take out early withdrawals for eligible education purposes without a tax penalty. Talk with a tax expert to determine if this could be a good option for your financial situation.

Consider a separate college savings account after you’re on track with your own retirement savings. One popular type of college savings vehicle that also has some tax advantages is the 529 college savings plan. With this type of account, you generally don’t have to pay taxes on the earnings if they are spent on qualified educational expenses. And another bonus is that plans administered by some states, including Utah, offer state tax benefits to residents.

Along with your own savings, you may also want to have your child open his or her own kid savings account. That way your child can practice saving money to help pay for future expenses.

It can be tough to decide where to start when it comes to saving for your later years vs. your child’s college education. But if you focus on building your own retirement savings first, and then contribute to your child’s education fund as much as possible after that, you’ll be in the best position to help your child without running out of money to pay for your own future.

© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Explore What’s Near: High Uinta Yurt Trip Mar 14, 2016, 5:09 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Hit the top places to travel in the US without leaving your state

If you had asked me before I lived in Utah whether I’d ever try cross-country skiing, I would have definitely said no. It looked more like work than fun. A few years ago I gave it a chance—by gave it a chance, I mean I did it because it was required for a class I took—and I went places I couldn’t have visited otherwise.Travel-High Uintas

Utah was recently named the top pick on Fodor’s Go List 2016. You might already know some of the wonder that Fodor tells readers about: “[Utah] promises exceptional scenery, unforgettable adventures, and something for everyone.” If you don’t, or if you’re tired of the same old trips, we’re here to help you find some of that exceptional scenery hiding a few miles away, or help you discover an “unforgettable adventure.”

Other publications have also named Utah a top 2016 travel destination. The New York Times named Park City, Utah one of the 52 places to go in 2016.

It can be hard to find the right balance of an “unforgettable adventure” and not risking your retirement or kids’ college funds to do it. Traveling within Utah is a good way to save money vacationing and feel connected to the places around you.

Here’s the Utah location and activity I’m glad I discovered:

I learned to cross-country ski in Utah Valley at local parks and in Provo Canyon. I found affordable ski rentals at Outdoors Unlimited—look at local shops for prices. I only went two or three times before going with a group of friends on a cross-country skiing trip in the High Uintas, where we skied from one yurt to the next on a four-day cross-country skiing-backpacking trip. I felt prepared and competent enough to have a great time. Anytime you do a high-adventure activity, make sure you have the right equipment, supplies and training to do it safely. It might be easier than you think, but it’s important to check expert advice.

I started downhill, or alpine, skiing when I was young and loved it from the start. As I would head inside for lunch each day, I saw cross-country skiers nearby and couldn’t imagine why that was a fun alternative to alpine skiing. As it turns out, it’s not an alternative. It’s a totally different activity and workout. Also, there’s less technical skill required to learn and enjoy cross-country skiing than I thought prior to trying it out, and it’s inexpensive compared to other winter sports.

For families or individuals who enjoy walking or hiking together, cross-country skiing is a good winter activity to try. You can enjoy a slow, leisurely pace or really pick it up and feel all of your muscles burn (cross-country skiing is one of the most aerobic sports).

Here’s how my trip through the Uintas went down, and some details that might help you plan.

The High Uinta National Forest is a good place to try out cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and a winter “camping” experience without sacrificing fun or spending a fortune. There are several yurt systems managed by private companies in the Uintas (Google “yurts in the Uintas”). You can reserve the night or nights you need, head out with some adventuring essentials and still have a warm bed to sleep in at night.

The Lily Lake Hut System has five yurts in the north slope of the Uinta Mountains, which are inside Utah, but sit just thirty miles south of Evanston, Wyoming. The drive from Utah Valley into the Uinta Mountains takes you through that bit of Wyoming before you make it in to the trailhead. The yurts sleep six-eight on bunk beds, but I can attest that most accommodate a larger group if you’re willing to squeeze, and cost $50-$75 per night to reserve, depending on the day of the week. You can also check out some of the other yurt systems here, here and here.

The yurts are 1.5-7.5 miles from the trailhead so we skied to one of the nearer yurts the first night, built a fire in the wood stove, played card games, explored in the nearby aspens, made a hot dinner and then relaxed. The following days we headed out to the next yurts we had reserved and enjoyed new scenery the whole way. Since the yurts are only accessible by ski or snowshoe, you can really get away from it all.

The Uinta Mountains are home to aspen groves and hundreds of glacier-formed lakes and are home to elk, mule deer and moose—all of which are out during the winter. Skiing through the mountains that are home to Utah’s highest peaks, with the sun and blue skies reflecting on the snow, is a neat and unique experience.

 

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In the Federal Reserve’s view, most indicators showed an improved economy at the end of 2015, prompting the Fed to announce it would begin raising short-term interest rates in support of growing confidence and based on what was then new economic data.

With the Fed announcement, Bank of American Fork believes this is a good time for consumers to cautiously evaluate their current financial strategies. Saving should over time become more advantageous to consumers if the economy continues to show signs of improvement and as interest rates climb. Savings accounts, money market funds and other savings vehicles could provide increased interest rates for consumers.

The cost of financing homes and autos will probably increase though as interest rates climb. In both cases, consumers will probably not experience quick, dramatic changes in interest rates, but instead see a slow move upward as the Fed raises rates over time.

During the past few years as the U.S. economy slowly recovered from the Great Recession, the Fed used its economic policy-making influence to keep its target interest rate low – near zero since about 2009 – to help the delicate economy reboot and start the long process of recovery and growth.

 

Pros and Cons of the Federal Reserve’s Announcement to Raise Interest Rates Jan 11, 2016, 8:57 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

During the past few years as the U.S. economy slowly recovered from the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve used its economic policy-making influence to keep its target interest rate low – near zero since about 2009 – to help the delicate economy reboot and start the long process of recovery and growth.

Today, with most indicators showing an improved economy, the Fed announced it would raise short-term interest rates in support of growing confidence. In its November policy meeting, the Fed didn’t raise interest rates but left the door open to do so in December, which it did, based on the new economic data.

There are pros and cons associated with the Fed’s policy to begin raising interest rates. With low interest rates, consumers pay less to finance higher-priced items paid over longer periods of times such as homes and autos. The biggest con is found in savings accounts, where the low interest rates make little to no dent in returns creating little incentive to save.

With the Fed announcement, saving will become more advantageous to consumers with the added benefit of knowing the economy is improving. The cost of financing homes and autos will increase though with the higher interest rates.

Now may be a good time for consumers to consider refinancing their mortgages or other loans at low interest rates before they rise.

 
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