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.

Thanks to you, teddy bears become best friends of at-risk children! Dec 21, 2015, 10:56 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Project Teddy Bear donates 18,831 stuffed animals to children in Utah

Many young kids will find one small piece of joy this Christmas with a teddy bear given to them at care centers throughout Utah serving at-risk children. The teddy bears are donated to the care centers from branches of Bank of American Fork and Lewiston State Bank as part of Project Teddy Bear.

“Sometimes children come in with nothing but the clothes on their back,” said Alex Essig, Kids Place asst., and Adoption Respite Supervisor for The Family Place. “These teddy bears are a great way to offer them some comfort and safety when they come from an environment where that might not have happened.”

The 16th annual Project Teddy Bear brought in 18,831 stuffed animals during the 2015 holiday season. Richard Beard, president and CEO of People’s Utah Bancorp, holding company of People’s Intermountain Bank, which provides banking services through the branches of its Bank of American Fork and Lewiston State Bank divisions, presented the stuffed animals to several Utah treatment centers during a ceremony Thursday.

“When it comes to kids, there is nothing more important to us than to do what we can to help them find joy and happiness during this holiday time,” said Beard. “We are a community bank and all of the members of the various communities our branches serve are very important to us. In addition to our day-to-day business operations, we want to do all we can to serve.”

The staff at The Family Place in Logan, Utah provides counseling, education classes for parents and children, and provides the Kids Place. Kids Place helps families that are in an emergency situation and need a safe place to bring their children when no other option is available. It also allows parents to bring their children to a safe place to socialize with other children and for other reasons.

“Depending on the child, they may be coming in not knowing why or what’s happened, or may be upset,” said Essig. “The teddy bear we receive from Lewiston State Bank is a great way to calm the child down and gives them something to talk with when they might not feel like talking to an adult. It’s so amazing to see. Even though they just met the teddy bear, that teddy bear quickly becomes their best friend.”

The mountains of stuffed animals were donated by customers and community members, and will benefit abused, at-risk and traumatized children.  Children will receive the stuffed animals when they’re experiencing trauma or will use them in play therapy.

The Greenhouse Center for Growth and Learning in Pleasant Grove, Utah works with parents and children who need counseling and therapy. Many of the children they work with live in foster homes awaiting adoption. Some have issues with attachment or have to deal with other complex issues.

“When children come here they have usually experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, broken families or other situations,” said Elsebeth Green, co-owner, clinical director, and therapist at Greenhouse. “Bank of American brings us these stuffed animals, which is a real blessing for us because we give each child a gift on their very first visit. They have often lost everything. They go to our closet and pick out a teddy bear, stuffed animal or a quilt made by people from the community.”

Bailey’s Moving & Storage, who donated boxes, moving supplies, trucks, and labor to Project Teddy Bear, delivered the stuffed animals to the Utah crisis centers.

Including children, teenagers, and adults, the community has donated more than 110,000 teddy bears and stuffed animals since Project Teddy Bear began in 1999.

Bank of American Fork employees and American Fork High School students boxed up the 18,431 bears up for delivery to the centers by Bailey’s Moving & Storage drivers. In Logan, Lewiston State Bank employees boxed up the 400 new stuffed animals to go to Cache Valley centers.

Center employees received and sorted the stuffed animals, which will be given throughout the year to children and parents during therapy sessions and to take home.

Guest post by Amy Falke 

Numbered below are the Forbes tips, followed up with how MyRate Checking compares.

Checking:

1. No monthly fee – MyRate Checking has no monthly fees.

2. No minimum balance requirement – MyRate Checking has no minimum balance requirement.

3. No limitations on the number or method of transactions – Done.

4. Free ATM access – Our customers have access to the nation-wide MoneyPass® network. Those that meet MyRate Checking qualifications have up to $15/month in out-of-network ATM-fees reimbursed.

5. Online and mobile access – Our mobile apps are superior, our bill pay system just underwent a powerful upgrade and mobile check deposit is free for consumer accounts.

Savings:

1. Federal deposit insurance – Member FDIC? Sure thing.

2. Liquidity – All the convenience of a checking account, but a better interest rate than most savings accounts when qualifications are met.

3. A competitive interest rate – The Forbes article said anything higher than .70% is competitive. MyRate Checking is currently at 1.60% APY* on the first $25,000 (more than double this competitive rate) when monthly qualifications are met. When qualifications are not met, the APY is still .10% for that month, which is the APY our other interest-bearing accounts offer currently. MyRate Checking is designed to maintain a rate higher than most CDs. See ad below for details.

4. Online and mobile access – Our recent mobile upgrade has powerful and free tools like mobile check deposit and bill pay.

5. Sub accounts – A MyRate Checking account works well with other Bank of American Fork checking or savings accounts. See this article about automating your savings.

 If you want to look at the Forbes article in its entirety, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/06/30/how-to-choose-a-bank-account-10-things-to-look-for/ . Forbes will redirect you to its current home page if you click on links to its specific articles.

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One woman’s story about finding a way to protect seniors from fraud Dec 01, 2015, 9:00 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Have you heard the story of how we came to be so involved in helping to protect our senior customers, and other seniors nationwide, from fraud? We became involved, in part, because of a girl who wanted to help her grandma. It became much more and we’re grateful to help other banks and organizations learn how to protect seniors from financial abuse.

There’s something you can do to help protect yourself or your loved ones. Start by learning a little more about elder financial abuse here.

Children Helping Children: Project Teddy Bear Nov 30, 2015, 9:33 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

ProjectTeddyBear_BankAF

Project Teddy Bear started on Friday. Are you participating?

  

 Click to enlarge graphic.

You hear us talking about Project Teddy Bear every year, but now you know where the bears go and why this project is critical to Utah children.

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This blog includes articles, information, tips and advice on all things money by the financial experts at Bank of American Fork. But this blog is not one-sided; we want to hear what you think. Share your ideas, experiences and comments to get the dialogue going.

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