flagler county community bank

Getting Ready for “Back to School”

It’s that time again. New friends, new teachers and new routines – how do you make the transition from the lazy days of summer to the school year without making life chaotic and stressful for you and your kids?

That’s the question on every parent’s mind right about now. As we move into the second week of August, we begin to realize that “back to school” is just about back!

Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence your child’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically, according to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The transition from summer to the classroom can be difficult for both you and your children.

But we as parents can help our children (and the rest of our family) manage the increased pace of life that the new school year brings by planning ahead, being realistic, and maintaining a positive attitude. Here are a few suggestions from the NASP to help ease the transition and promote a successful and rewarding school experience.

Before School Starts

Good physical and mental health. Be sure your child is in good physical and mental health. Schedule doctor and dental checkups early. Discuss any concerns you have over your child’s emotional or psychological development with your pediatrician. Your doctor can help determine if your concerns are normal, age-appropriate issues or require further assessment.

Review all of the information. Review the material sent by the school as soon as it arrives. These packets include important information about your child’s teacher, room number, school supply requirements, sign ups for after-school sports and activities, school calendar dates, bus transportation, health and emergency forms, and volunteer opportunities.

Mark your calendar. Make a note of important dates, especially back-to-school nights. This is especially important if you have children in more than one school and need to juggle obligations.

Buy school supplies early. Try to get the supplies as early as possible and fill the backpacks a week or two before school starts.

Re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines. Plan to re-establish the bedtime and mealtime routines (especially breakfast) at least one week before school starts.

Turn off the TV. Encourage your child to play quiet games, do puzzles, flash cards, color, or read as early morning activities instead of watching television. This will help ease your child into the learning process and school routine. If possible, maintain this practice throughout the school year.

Minimize clothes shopping woes. Buy only the essentials. Summer clothes are usually fine during the early fall, especially in Florida. Check with your school to confirm dress code guidelines.

Designate and clear a place to do homework. Older children should have the option of studying in their room or a quiet area of the house. Younger children usually need an area set aside in the family room or kitchen to facilitate adult monitoring, supervision, and encouragement.

Select a spot to keep backpacks and lunch boxes. Designate a spot for your children to place their school belongings as well as a place to put important notices and information sent home for you to see. Explain that emptying their backpack each evening is part of their responsibility, even for young children.

Freeze a few easy dinners. It will be much easier on you if you have dinner prepared so that meal preparation will not add to household tensions during the first week of school.

The First Week

Clear your own schedule. To the extent possible, postpone business trips, volunteer meetings, and extra projects. You want to be free to help your child acclimate to the school routine and overcome the confusion or anxiety that many children experience at the start of a new school year.

Make lunches the night before school. Older children should help or make their own. Give them the option to buy lunch in school if they prefer and finances permit.

Set alarm clocks. Have school-age children set their own alarm clocks to get up in the morning. Praise them for prompt response to morning schedules and bus pickups.

Leave plenty of extra time. Make sure your child has plenty of time to get up, eat breakfast, and get to school.

For younger children – send a brief note to your child’s teacher. . Let the teachers know that you are interested in getting regular feedback on how and what your child is doing in school. Be sure to attend back-to-school night and introduce yourself to the teachers.

Extracurricular Activities

Go for quality, not quantity. Your child will benefit most from one or two activities that are fun, reinforce social development, and teach new skills. Too much scheduled time can be stressful, especially for young children, and may make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork. When evaluating extracurricular activities, consider your family schedule and personal energy level. Multiple activities per child may be too much to manage, particularly if the activities have overlapping times, disparate locations, require your attendance, or disrupt the dinner hour.

These are some great tips for helping parents and kids get back into the swing of “back to school.”  So with this said, here’s to a great 2013-14 school year!

Understanding FDIC Insurance

In our day-to-day business, we find that a banking concept that is oftentimes confusing and misunderstood by many of our customers is FDIC insurance. So today I thought I’d take a moment and shed some light on both the history of FDIC insurance and how your deposits are protected today.

FDIC insurance was created back in 1933 in the wake of the Great Depression. It was instituted as a result of thousands of bank failures in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. During that precarious financial time, many bank customers lost staggering sums of money. Gaining access to money in banking institutions during this crisis was on a first come, first serve basis – if customers didn’t get their money out of the bank before it went under, they were out of luck. On the coattails of this financial disaster, individual states attempted to insure deposits. However, they were all unsuccessful.

Amid fear and chaos, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Banking Act of 1933 into law. This act created the FDIC as a temporary measure to restore order to the U.S. banking system. Consequently, bank failures and bank runs (the concerted action of depositors who withdraw their money because they believe the bank is about to fail) quickly declined, suggesting that the FDIC was a successful measure in bolstering consumer confidence and the banking system in general. The U.S. Treasury funded the initial FDIC insurance with $289 million. These funds were repaid to the Treasury in 1948.

FDIC was made a permanent agency under the Banking Act of 1935. This new act refined how the organization would work (e.g. under this act the insurance was now funded by banks instead of the U.S. Treasury). Today, the FDIC proudly notes that since the Banking Act of 1935 was enacted “no depositor has lost a single cent of insured funds as a result of a failure.”

The goal of this permanent agency was and still is to promote trust in our banking system. Simply put, if your deposits are FDIC insured, the U.S. government stands behind the promise to make them whole if the bank fails.

The FDIC runs an insurance fund – a giant pool of money that can be utilized in the event of a bank failure. The money in this fund doesn’t come from taxpayer dollars as some depositors assume. The money is funded through premiums paid by FDIC insured banks and the earnings on the assets in this fund. These banking institutions pay into this fund to pay their depositors if they should someday fail as well as to help pay for other banks that fail.

On July 21, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act. This act, in part, permanently raised the current standard maximum insurance of $100,000 to $250,000.

So, what does this mean to you?
This means that in the event of a bank failure, the FDIC insurance coverage limit of $250,000 applies per depositor, per insured depository institution for each account ownership category.

The FDIC insurance covers all deposit accounts at insured banks and savings associations, including checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and certain retirement accounts. This insurance however does not protect money invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, life insurance policies, annuities or municipal securities. It is important for depositors to understand these distinctions.

What are the basic FDIC coverage limits?

Single Accounts (owned by one person with no beneficiaries) – This is a deposit account owned by one person and titled in that person’s name only, with no beneficiaries. All single accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $250,000.

Joint Accounts (two or more persons with no beneficiaries) – This is a deposit account owned by two or more people and titled jointly in the co-owners’ names only, with no beneficiaries. If all co-owners have equal rights to this money, each co-owner’s shares of all joint accounts at the same insured bank are added together and the total is insured up to $250,000.

Revocable Trusts (Formal and Informal) – A revocable trust account is a deposit account owned by one or more people that identifies one or more beneficiaries who will receive the deposits upon the death of the owner(s). A revocable trust can be revoked, terminated, or changed at any time, at the discretion of the owner(s). The term “owner” means the grantor, settlor, or trustor of the revocable trust.

This ownership category includes both informal and formal revocable trusts:

• Informal revocable trusts — also known as payable on death (POD), in trust for (ITF), testamentary, or Totten Trust accounts — are the most common form of revocable trusts. These informal revocable trusts are created when the account owner signs an agreement — usually part of the bank’s signature card — stating that the deposits will be payable to one or more beneficiaries upon the owner’s death.

• Formal revocable trust — also known as Living trusts or family trusts — are formal revocable trusts created for estate planning purposes. The owner of a living trust controls the deposits in the trust during his or her lifetime. The trust document sets forth who shall receive trust assets after the death of the owner.

Deposit insurance coverage for revocable trust accounts is provided to the owner of the trust. However, the amount of coverage is based on the number of beneficiaries named in the trust and, in some cases, the interests allocated to those beneficiaries, up to the insurance limit. A trust beneficiary can be an individual (regardless of the relationship to the owner), a charity, or a non-profit organization (as defined by the IRS).

Revocable trust coverage is based on all revocable trust deposits held by the same owner at the same bank, whether formal or informal. If a revocable trust account has more than one owner, each owner’s coverage is calculated separately, using the following rules:

• Revocable Trust Deposits with Five or Fewer Beneficiaries — Each owner’s share of revocable trust deposits is insured up to $250,000 for each unique eligible beneficiary named or identified in the revocable trust (i.e., $250,000 times the number of different beneficiaries), regardless of actual interest provided to beneficiaries.
• Revocable Trust Deposits with Six or More Beneficiaries — Each owner’s share of revocable trust deposits is insured for the greater of either (1) coverage based on each unique eligible beneficiary’s actual interest in the revocable trust deposits, with no beneficiary’s interest to be insured for more than $250,000, or (2) $1,250,000.

Determining coverage for revocable trust accounts that have six or more beneficiaries and provide different interests for the trust beneficiaries can be complicated. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you need assistance in determining the insurance coverage of your revocable trust or should you have any questions concerning your FDIC coverage.

America Saves Week

The week of February 25 – March 2 is “American Saves Week.” “America Saves Week,” which was coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council, was started in 2007. America Saves is a national campaign comprising more than 1,000 non-profit, government and corporate groups that encourages individuals and families to save money and build personal wealth. The Consumer Federation of America manages the America Saves campaign. The American Savings Education Council is a national coalition of public and private institutions committed to making saving a priority for all Americans.

“America Saves Week” provides an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings habits and a chance for individuals to assess their current savings status – how much they have saved in their non-retirement and retirement savings.

Results from the 2012 Annual National Survey Assessing Household Savings showed that having a savings plan with specific goals and objectives has beneficial financial effects, even in lower-income households. But the key is to have a plan to save!

So, let’s get started.

A great place to begin is by setting a goal. What would you like to save for – an emergency fund, a home, a vacation, a new car, pay off revolving credit card debt, retirement, etc.? Knowing what you are saving for provides the motivation to save. Note: If you don’t have an emergency fund, this should take precedence over your other saving goals. You should have at least $500 of emergency savings – this will alleviate using high interest rate credit cards for unexpected expenses. After this saving goal has been achieved, the next goal is to put money aside to pay off any credit card debt.

The next step is to make a plan. How much are you going to save monthly? The best way to come up with this figure is by making a budget. Yes, I know, the ever-dreaded budget. But unless you know where your money is going you can’t determine how much you can save…more importantly where you can save…where you can cut back. The most important factor in making a budget is making an accurate budget – accounting for every expense to include your daily Starbucks Vanilla Latte habit. The budget process is very similar to a diet – you don’t know how much you are eating until you keep an accurate food log. Your expenditure log is your budget. I can promise, this exercise will be extremely eye opening.

The final step is to begin saving automatically. Routinely putting money away is difficult for most of us. But if you make saving automatic, you will never miss having that money.

Once you determine how much you are going to save each month or pay period, either have your employer direct deposit that portion of your paycheck into a savings account or if your employer doesn’t use direct deposit, immediately transfer that part of your pay into an established savings account. The most important piece of this savings plan is discipline. Once you determine how much you are going to save, treat this amount like a bill – pay it and pay it on time!

For more information on “America Saves Week” and/or helpful tips on saving, visit AmericaSaves.org. You can also follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter.

Children Become Main Target of Identity Theft

In a world where technology is king, identity theft has become a growing problem. Identity theft can go undetected for years, especially if the victim is a child.

Identity theft among children age five years or younger doubled in the past year. Children are being targeted for identity theft 35 times more than adults (www.jacksonsun.com, Tips to Prevent Child Identity Theft, Randy Hutchinson, Jan. 4, 2013).

Social security numbers that belong to children are unused. They are a blank slate for identity thieves. Once this thief steals a child’s information, it may be years before it is detected. Most identity theft occurs over the Internet. Typically the thieves steal the child’s social security number, attach a different name and birth date to it and proceed to open credit cards, auto loans and even home mortgages.

The child usually doesn’t have a clue until he or she applies for credit card, a student loan, a job or possibly an apartment lease. The identity thief may be a family member, sometimes even a parent, who is having financial difficulties or someone completely unknown to the family or the victim.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are several red flags that indicate that your child’s personal information has been comprised. The following warning signs have been identified by the FTC:

  • Your child gets calls from collection agencies or bills from credit card or other companies, or offers of credit.
  • Your child or family is denied government benefits because they are already being paid to someone else using your child’s social security.
  • The IRS or another governmental agency asks you to confirm that your child is employed – even though your child has never had a job.
  • After filing your tax return listing your child as a dependent, you are notified by the IRS that your child’s social security number and information is listed on someone else’s tax return.
  • Your child gets a notice from the IRS that he or she has failed to pay taxes even though he or she has no income.

Although some of the advice for preventing identity theft applies to both adults and children e.g. don’t provide personal information in response to unsolicited emails or other messages, keep documents containing personal information secure, if you are scanning personal information make sure that your antivirus is up to date and it’s password protected, and shred unwanted personal documents, some special tips for children include:

  • Talk to you child. Go over the importance of his or her privacy settings on social media sites and when it’s appropriate to share information and photos – also what information shouldn’t be shared, e.g. address, complete birthdate, etc.
  • Don’t carry around your child’s social security card or his or her number. Keep his or her card in a safe place. Just like your social security number – memorize it and have your child memorize it.
  • Make sure you fully understand how your child’s information is being used at school. Read notices explaining your rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, including the option to not have your child’s information released to third parties.
  • Check your child’s credit report close to his or her 16th birthday or earlier if you suspect a problem. You can check this once a year for free.
  • If you determine that your child’s personal information has been compromised, immediately contact the three credit bureaus and follow their instructions for resolving the problem. File a report with the FTC and consider filing one with the police if the theft involves your child’s medical or tax records. Finally, contact every company where your child’s information was misused. Ask these companies to close the fraudulent account and flag it to show it resulted from identity theft.

Important numbers to keep on hand:

Equifax – 1-866-493-9788
Experian – 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – 1-877-438-4338

Experience the Celebrated Colors of Fall Close to Home

Although we Floridians are continuing to experience muggy, summer-like days, most other areas of the country are meandering into one of the most beautiful seasons of the year – fall.

Even though I’ve lived in Florida for over twenty years, having grown up in New York, fall remains the season I miss most. Oh sure, northern Florida gets a taste of fall, but it is quite dull in comparison to the vibrant, rich colors observed by our colder states.

One of the many benefits of living in central to northern Florida – other than the fact it doesn’t snow or more accurately, accumulate snow here – is our close proximity to the true fall – the kind all of us more northern transplants fondly remember and often yearn for each year around this time.

A recent Southern Living article I came across listed the best places in the south for experiencing the radiant colors of fall. I thought I’d share a few with you which are fairly close to home.

So, before this incredible color-packed foliage disappears (peak season is usually the second and third week of October), pack a bag, gas up the car and take a delightfully unexpected trip and celebrate the true colors of fall!

Enjoy your trip and tell me all about it when you return!

1. Ellijay, GA
Ellijay is located on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest, about 80 miles north of Atlanta. This town and surrounding Gilmer County are known for being the apple capitol of Georgia, claiming 10 pick-your-own apples orchards.

2. Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Clermont, KY
This forest is located just south of Louisville in Clermont. It includes 14,000 acres of fields and forests and 35 miles of hiking trails. For the biking enthusiast, there is a bike route that winds along the beautifully fall-colored Long Lick Creek.

3. Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury, NC
This state 7, 024 acre park, which boasts some of the best colors of fall in North Carolina, is approximately 30 miles north of Winston-Salem. You will find mountains rising more than 2,500 ft., cascading waterfalls and more!

4. Lover’s Leap Loop Trail, Hot Springs, NC
The Lover’s Leap Loop Trail overlooks the French Broad River and the town of Hot Springs, North Carolina. A hiker’s heaven – offering 1.6 mile miles of the Appalachian Trail. With its panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you won’t want to miss this!

5. Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, TN
This most visited national park offers acres of fall colors and incredible wildlife to include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and black bears. This park spreads across 800 acres of the southern Appalachian Mountains, winding through Tennessee and North Carolina.

6. Natchez Trace Parkway, TN
The Natchez Trace Parkway runs through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. It connects the cities of Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi. Approximately 100 miles of this parkway runs through Tennessee and passes through such towns as Leipers Fork, and several historic spots.

Sending Your First Child Off to College – A Survival Guide

As the lazy days of summer begin to wane, many parents are facing the overwhelming task of preparing their first child for college. Gearing up your first-time college student with the necessary supplies for dormitory life is a significant part of this preparatory process. Appointing your child’s first home away from home can seem particularly daunting. With the faithful assistance of Google, I sifted through the seemingly infinite articles, topics ranging from saving for college to dealing with being an empty nester, and compiled some great advice from parents who’ve “been there, done that” and survived to tell their stories. Hopefully, these tips will guide you, somewhat painlessly – a few bouts of tears, sadness and momentary nervous breakdowns are be expected, through this life-altering endeavor, accomplishing the feat both efficiently and cost effectively, ultimately creating a memorable rite of passage for you and your child.

Must-haves for your Freshman College Student

1. A small refrigerator and microwave –
Even if your child is on the meal plan, there will times when he or she will want to sleep in or just have the convenience of eating in the dorm.

2. Linens and Towels –
Dorm mattresses are covered with a plastic waterproof material – you will want to purchase a mattress cover for comfort. You will need a full set of twin sheets, including pillowcase, and of course, a pillow and a comforter. You may want to buy two sets of sheets to alternate between washings. Note: Look for dorm/college length sheets (usually found at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond) because a college bed is longer than a traditional twin bed. Towels – three large bath towels and three washcloths or a bath sponge are recommended.

3. Storage Bins –
Find ones that will fit under the bed to allow more space.

4. First Aid Kit –
In addition to necessary over-the-counter medicines (e.g. aspirin, cold medications, etc.) and required medications, you will want a first aid kit containing bandages, antibiotic ointment and other basics.

5. Laundry detergent and quarters –
Dorms are equipped with commercial washers and dryers, requiring quarters and your own laundry supplies.

6. Night Light –
Courtesy goes a long way to a lasting friendly roommate relationship – your child won’t annoy his or her sleeping roommate by turning on a bright light when he or she comes in late.

7. Memorabilia -
Your child may never admit to being homesick. Either way, bring a piece of home – a framed family picture is perfect.

8. Shower Caddy –
Fill it with shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor, shaving cream, etc.

9. Power Strip –
Dorms don’t have enough outlets to keep up with the electronic demands of today’s kids.

10. A debit card –
If your child hasn’t opened a checking account yet, it’s time to do so.* Make sure to order a debit card for the account. The debit card will come in handy for all of his or her ancillary needs (e.g. groceries, school supplies, an occasional night out, etc.). A debit card is safer than cash, there’s no waiting for checks to clear, it provides more accountability than a credit card, and with online management there is immediate access to the account balance.

*Stop by our branch and one of our courteous team members will be happy to assist with this.

Okay, before you hit the aisles of your favorite discount store or begin filling the shopping cart on your most frequently visited house ware internet site, step back, take a deep, cleansing breath and utilize what’s remaining of your common sense. Today’s freshmen have access to a tool we didn’t have when our parents packed up the wood paneled family station wagon and carted us off to college – the Internet. They can gain valuable information about each other by connecting on Facebook; their likes and dislikes as well as what kind of supplies and furniture each person is bringing. Although, the element of surprise is gone, the potential for duplication is eliminated, allowing the parents to divide and conquer the communal wares still outstanding.

Before you can blink your weary, occasionally tearful eyes, the momentous day will arrive. You’ll check and recheck your to-dos, must-haves and the various can’t live with outs, pack the car and set the GPS; destination, Collegetown, USA. As you head down the highway, trying to collect your thoughts and maintain composure, remember one very important thing – parenting doesn’t end….ever. You’re just suiting up for the next phase of life with your child. Who knows, when all is said and done, you just might end up being best friends!