Opening an IRA may be easier than you think Dec 16, 2014, 8:30 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged when you start thinking about or reading about retirement savings. Even if you’re thinking this topic is a little heavy for what you want to focus on today, give it a chance. Opening an Individual Retirement Arrangement (or IRA) may be easier than you think. Read this short article for an overview of how to get started, with the tools to do it built right in.

First, decide which type of IRA you want to open. Here are the types Bank of American Fork offers:

• If you think you’ll be in the same tax bracket upon retirement and you want to pay taxes on the income later, consider: Traditional IRA. Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution.

• If retirement isn’t in your near future but you want to save a little from each paycheck, and you anticipate an increase in your salary as you get closer to retirement, consider: 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.

• If you’re the sole owner of your business, consider: 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 (25% of compensation up to $50,000) than a Traditional or ROTH IRA.

  • Then, decide how much you can afford to contribute right now and out of each paycheck. Variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with either a $500 or a $5,000 minimum opening deposit. Either way, Bank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you’re guaranteed a steady return and are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee.

You can open your IRA by visiting one of our 14 branches or by calling 800-815-BANK.

Once you decide how much you can afford to contribute each month and set up an automatic payment (your banker can help you set that up), give yourself a few months to get used to living without that money in your pocket each month. Once it feels normal, increase your contribution.

Saving for retirement might feel overwhelming, but getting started by simply opening an IRA and setting up a contribution will put you on the right track. You’ll feel more prepared and be more prepared.

Traveling for the holidays? Debit card tips to help you out Dec 09, 2014, 11:06 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Your Bank of American Fork VISA® debit card is accepted worldwide—but we need to know your travel plans in order to help protect you. We’re happy to make a note on your account so your card will work when you’re using it out of the state or out of the country.

If you don’t notify the bank of your travel plans, you may end up with a temporarily blocked card. When we see something suspicious or out-of-the-ordinary, like transactions in another part of the country or world, and don’t know you’re traveling, we may place a block for your safety.

Here are some other tips about debit cards to keep your holiday travel as smooth as possible:

• To ensure an uninterrupted trip, let us know what your travel plans are in advance. You can do this at any time in advance of your trip and it should only take five minutes. Call us at 800-815-BANK or log into your online banking and follow instructions for making a travel note there.

• Some states and some international destinations are automatically blocked for our cardholders’ security. By providing us with your travel details, we can allow transactions during the period of time you’ll be in another place and then resume the blocks once you return to protect your card.

• Your Bank of American Fork VISA® debit card will work regardless of the currency of the transaction. However, for transactions that are processed in currencies other than the US Dollar, VISA® will assess a 2% Foreign Currency Transaction Fee.

• Some hotels, car rental agencies and airlines will place a large hold on your debit card funds that may remain in place for three to five days the transaction—usually in case of damages that you might be responsible for. Keep this in mind, in case it affects travel funds you’re counting on having in your checking account.

• Consider keeping two forms of payment with you when you travel. In case of a lost or stolen card and an emergency, you won’t be left in a lurch.

• Consider applying for a free, low fixed-rate Bank of American Fork credit card that can be used for additional security and convenience with travel and other expenses. 

VISA® and the name VISA are federally registered trademarks of Visa.

7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer without Stretching Your Savings Dec 01, 2014, 9:08 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Spending tips for the holiday season

Courtesy of American Bankers Association

As the holiday shopping season begins, the American Bankers Association is encouraging consumers to plan ahead to avoid excessive debt in the New Year.

“Develop a plan in advance of the holidays, and be sure to check it twice,” said Gov. Frank Keating, CEO of the American Bankers Association. “Assessing your finances and spreading out your holiday spending are terrific ways to avoid starting the New Year with debt you’ll regret.”

Below are seven holiday spending tips from ABA to help consumers have a financially happy New Year:

Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.

Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each.

Shop early, spend carefully. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.

Avoid traps. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. And don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.

Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card, preferably the one with the lowest interest rate, and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.

Save your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too. Bank of American Fork’s online money manager can also help you keep track of how much you spend in a certain budget category, like gifts or holiday food items.

Keating noted that banks are committed to helping consumers responsibly handle credit and save for the future.

“Banks offer a wide menu of options to help you save for the holidays and other expenses,” said Keating.  “Ask your banker about a customizable savings plan.”

The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $15 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $11 trillion in deposits and extend more than $8 trillion in loans.

Talking about elder financial abuse on Mountain Money Nov 17, 2014, 8:20 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

This summer, Tracey Larson, Bank of American Fork’s resident expert on age-friendly banking, talked to Doug and Larry on Mountain Money about the reality of elder financial abuse. The hosts talk about stories they’ve heard and ask, “Who can you trust?” Tracey talks about prevention, detection and checks and balances. Listen to the short segment here, with Tracey on at about 26:23.

Local strides in protecting seniors and caregivers sparking national push Nov 11, 2014, 9:47 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Today, on Veteran’s Day, we’re thinking of the many Utah seniors who are also veterans. Up to $1 million a day is stolen from Utah seniors (see here). Recently Bank of American Fork received the 2014 American Bankers Association Community Commitment Award for Protecting Older Americans, a national award with only one recipient. Bank of American Fork has a unique passion and five-part initiative designed to help support caregivers and protect seniors from fraud. Behind the initiative are employees that are passionate about helping the seniors and caregivers in the communities where they live and work.

Tracey Larson is one of those employees. Larson, a special projects manager at Bank of American Fork, is the head of the bank’s age-friendly initiative. Her passion stems from being a daughter of senior parents.

“There was a shift for me that caused me to become really passionate about supporting age-friendly banking,” said Larson. “It was when I started to hear the stories. I remember my first meeting on a committee that included hearing first-hand stories of elder and vulnerable adult abuse. I cried.”

Besides her passion for making banking and finance safe for seniors and their caregivers, Larson has the know-how and detailed eye that make it natural for her to move the initiative from words on paper to action in the community.

For example, Bank of American Fork has an age-friendly champion at each branch who receives extra training on how to spot fraud or a stressed caregiver. Although all Bank of American Fork employees are trained to look for and report suspected fraud, the training for age-friendly champions is more comprehensive and goes far beyond what regulators require.

Because of employees like Tracey Larson, Bank of American Fork is making strides in helping to prevent elder financial abuse. Because of the bank’s innovations like account tools to help protect seniors and education about how to protect loved ones, awareness of this widespread problem is growing. To move prevention beyond Bank of American Fork customers, the bank is collaborating with other organizations and financial institutions to make offerings like this nationwide.

If you are a senior who needs, or may soon need, help with your finances or a caregiver of a loved one, you are not alone. Visit blog.bankaf.com/seniors. Ask your banker about what resources are available to you.

Tracey Larson, vice president and special projects manager at Bank of American Fork, accepted the 2014 American Bankers Association Community Commitment Award for Protecting Older Americans, from John Ikard, American Bankers Association chairman, on behalf of Bank of American Fork in Dallas on October 21. Larson is also the financial representative for the Governor’s Commission on Aging and is also a member of Provo’s Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Coalition.

Help Utah children by donating stuffed animals through December 16 Nov 04, 2014, 5:00 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Project Teddy Bear in its 15th year

The little boy was so traumatized by neglect and abuse that he spoke to his therapist from inside a cardboard box for two years. Inside, he clung to his trusted teddy bear—the only one he felt comfortable with enough to have inside with him. This child—and thousands of others like him—has benefitted from your donations to Bank of American Fork’s Project Teddy Bear. Each holiday season, we collect new and clean, gently used stuffed animals to give to children at family support centers across Utah. Many of the children are victims of abuse, neglect, poverty or addiction. Some have been taken from their homes into state custody during the night; others have been moved from one foster home to another; yet others have experienced the violent loss of a loved one.

When these children, and perhaps all children, can hug and hold their own teddy bear, it brings comfort and a feeling of safety.

You can help. Project Teddy Bear is an opportunity for you to join with the communities in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties, and donate teddy bears and other stuffed animals.  Starting this month, all Bank of American Fork branches will be accepting donations of new or clean and gently used stuffed animals through December 16.

Family Caregivers: The Invisible Army Nov 03, 2014, 7:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Ways to lighten your load when you’re helping with a loved one’s finances. 

Are you a caregiver? Are there caregivers in your circle? Help is available. Here are some of the tools available to help you manage your loved one’s finances.

Education. Having good intentions is important, but it’s hard to act in the best interests of your loved one if you don’t know how to safely and effectively manage someone else’s money. Some critical things you can do are to keep separate accounts, maintain good records and keep learning. If you have questions, consult available resources like Navigating Your Rights, your banker, a trusted financial advisor or blog.bankaf.com/seniors.

Protection. Consider view-only access instead of joint accounts. With view-only access, a helper can access a bank account to see every level of detail but cannot make a transaction. This allows a senior to maintain independence as the only legal decision-maker, but allows for an extra set of eyes to watch for scams. If your loved one decides he still wants to have a joint account, consider giving a second family member view-only access to protect the senior from fraud and the joint account holder from false accusations. The caregiver with view-only access should regularly monitor for theft. The key here is coordinating caregiving duties among families to avoid confusion about what is happening to a loved one’s money.

If you’re a caregiver, remember that you are not alone. There are people who care and resources available to lighten your load. If you have questions, ask for an age-friendly champion at any Bank of American Fork branch or at 800-815-BANK or visit blog.bankaf.com/seniors.

Get a free copy of Navigating Your Rights Nov 03, 2014, 6:30 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Pick up your free copy at any branch.

The new edition of Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for Those 55 and Over is available for free in any of our 14 branches. In the new edition, Jilenne Gunther covers more than 55 subjects and 200 questions, like “What documents are needed for estate and end-of-life planning?” and “How do I choose a quality, long-term care facility for a loved one?” Navigating Your Rights is the only comprehensive legal and financial resource for Utah seniors and their caregivers. Stop by any of our branches (see the back of this newsletter for a map) and pick up your free copy today (while supplies last). You can also visit www.LegalGuide55.utah.gov for the full web version.

VISA® gift cards Oct 30, 2014, 8:47 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Looking for the perfect gift for employees, those hard-to-please relatives and friends?

We have the solution: a VISA® Gift card. Bank of American Fork’s VISA® Gift cards allow recipients to decide how they want to spend their money, saving you the hassle of shopping for all the people on your list. They’re the perfect gift for any occasion, including those coming up—holidays and end-of-the-year employee rewards. To purchase a gift card or to find out more about the fees that apply when you purchase a gift card, please visit our website or your nearest branch.

VISA® and the name Visa are federally registered trademarks of Visa.

Community banking strikes a balance between personal touch and smartphone tech Oct 27, 2014, 8:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Rise of mobile banking prompts local banks to take a look at customer care 

The most-recent generation of Apple smartphones has arrived, and with it, a budding sense of excitement about how mobile technology stands to reshape the way we handle money.  New smartphone technology, including mobile apps for banking and financial use, has brought a new level of convenience to money management. More than half of smartphone owners are now taking advantage of banking and finance features with their new devices, and that number only continues to grow.

Many customers, however, fear they can only have the convenience of mobile banking at the expense of personal care offered by their local bank. While some community banks have been slow to adopt new mobile tech, Bank of American Fork tries to adopt the best mobile trends without forgetting its promise of small-town service.

Studies show that mobile banking, along with other mobile-phone financial services, has significantly grown in popularity among smartphone users. According to the 2014 Consumers and Financial Services Report, 51 percent of smartphone owners use mobile banking, and 12 percent of smartphone users who do not currently use mobile banking anticipate using it within the next 12 months.

People who use mobile banking like it because of the convenience, especially when depositing checks and keeping track of funds. Some people also feel more secure because their bank is in their pocket.

“Our society is on the go more than ever and banking needs to be at our fingertips,” said Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork. “Keeping up with technology and the wants of our customers means our banking apps should be easy to use, efficient, effective and provide a quality service to customers who might not have time to make a stop at the physical bank.”

Mobile banking empowers people with the freedom to bank how they want to rather than according to the bank’s schedule. For example, depositing checks—a task that used to require a branch and teller—can be done via mobile banking apps.

Mobile banking might be growing in popularity and technological development, but face-to-face assistance remains important for many customers. Community banks like Bank of American Fork preserve the relationship customers want and need, and the high level of customer service expected of community banks.

“Providing the best customer service is our highest priority, and is built into our purpose statement,” Beard said. “But we are also keenly aware of the wants and needs of our customers in terms of technological development and updates. That’s why we’ve made sure our mobile banking is up to date—whether a customer wants to view her account, transfer funds or deposit a check.”

Some banks struggle to preserve human contact with the increase of mobile banking. But Bank of American Fork retains personal-touch customer service. When customers make calls, they reach people—and without the frustrating sequence of pushing buttons and waiting for a long time before connecting.

Mobile banking is on the rise. While people may begin to prefe

r the ease of using their phones and tablets for many of their banking needs, Bank of American Fork is making sure its technology is promoting better customer service, not replacing it.

Bank of American Fork's history of innovation goes all the way back to having one of the first computers in American Fork, Utah, which guests were invited to come and see.

 
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