intracoastal bank

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.

Small businesses Fall Prey to Cyber Attacks

Hackers are expanding their sights beyond the large multinational companies to small business owners. A recent survey conducted by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 77 percent of small business owners in the U.S. believe that their company is safe from cyber criminals and 83 percent of them don’t have a cyber security plan.

However, the threat to small businesses is greater than ever. The Secret Service and Verizon Communications, Inc.’s forensic analysis unit, which investigates cyber attacks, cites that a majority of their responses to data breaches over the last couple of years have been at companies with 100 or fewer employees. Visa, Inc. estimates that approximately 95 percent of the credit card data breaches it discovers each year are on small businesses.

Hacking small businesses is big business and unfortunately, it is going to get worse before it gets better.

The reason for this is three-fold. The first reason is that a majority of small companies have now gone to computerized systems, digital record keeping and conduct most their financial transactions online. The second factor is that most small companies don’t have the resources (financial, tools and manpower) or the time to fully secure their businesses from today’s ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated threats. The last and most significant factor is complacency. Most small business owners have the unrealistic mindset that this isn’t going to happen to them. After all, what could a hacker possibly want with a small company anyway? These high-tech criminals want their bank account information, employee lists, including social security numbers, and their customers’ credit and debit account information.

Typically, cyber threats on small businesses come from several sources, the most popular being outside the organization and from within the organization when an employee or an ex-employee steals data. Most financially motivated attacks rely on computer code that the hackers plant on victims’ computers, often as attachments or links in emails sent to employees. While these malicious programs are well known to security experts, the hackers tweak them frequently to render them undetectable to antivirus software.

The bottom line is, the costs of a breach can put a small business out of business. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. However, the following is a list of best practices for small business:

-Use secure web browsers.

-Maintain up-to-date firewall and antivirus protection as well as an intrusion detection system.

-Establish policies that stipulate how and when employees can access the Internet, especially when accessing the computer system from home or a mobile device.

-Run automatic computer updates.

-Never open emails, attachments or links from unknown sources.

-Never have sites remember passwords or financial information.

-Shut down computers when not in use.

-Businesses that use online banking for wire transfers and ACH origination should have a dedicated computer for those functions.

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

Setting and Sticking to a Holiday Shopping Budget

Every year the holidays seem to begin earlier and earlier. Both Walmart and Target started bringing out their Christmas decorations and merchandise before the Halloween candy was even off the shelves.

Not only have the holidays been thrust upon us sooner, but they’re also getting more expensive each year as well. Yes, the holiday season is a time of giving, however, it’s important to remember that we can’t give more than we have. We’ve let the Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and all the one-night-only, anxiety-inducing sales get the better of us. After all, who wants to pass up a good deal…right?

But as many families continue to struggle financially with today’s tightening economy, getting a good deal is smart, but getting carried away, allowing our credit card balances to balloon, is not. If we set a strict budget and stick to it – not being naughty but nice – we can get gifts for everyone on our shopping list while avoiding the after-the-holiday blues of falling into debt.

Here are some helpful tips to ensure that all of our holidays are “oh so merry:”

1. Make a budget – Yes, just like everything else in our lives that involves money; we must create a budget. We need to come up with a realistic amount of money we can spend. No, this isn’t the amount of money we can afford to charge on our credit cards and pay off in increments by next year’s holidays. This is the amount we can spend in cash and still be able to afford the holiday dinner with all the trimmings.

2. Make a List and check it twice – Before we head out the door or get on our computer, we need to make our list of the people we plan to buy gifts for this year. Like grocery shopping, having a prepared list will keep us on financial target and keep us from impulse buying. We must prioritize our list – family, friends, tithes, teachers, etc. We must determine an amount we plan to allot to each of the people on our list and then make sure the total dollar amount equals our budgeted figure. If we are over budget, we must – as difficult as it seems – remove people from our list or spend less on each person. WE MUST STAY WITHIN OUR BUDGET!

3. Pay Cash – We must avoid the temptation to use debit or credit cards. We typically spend 12-18% more money when we use our credit cards. If we are going to the store; we should bring cash. If we are going to use the Internet, a debit card is better than a credit card, but the best way to stay within our means is to use a prepaid card.

4. Be creative – People love getting gifts that are homemade and come from the heart. We can make pies, cookies, jellies, etc., and wrap them up festively to give to friends, teachers, co-workers, etc. We can give the gift of time – make coupons for a nice dinner for someone, babysitting – take care of friends’ children so they can have a nice evening out. This is a great gift idea for dads/husbands – give wives a coupon for a day all to themselves.

5. Be a savvy shopper- Look for coupons, clearances and sales. Shop early – avoid those last minute anxiety driven impulse buys.

6. Be honest – If we are going through tough financial times – lost our job, pay cut, etc. we need to let our family and friends know that money is tight for us this year. Sharing the holidays together is the best gift of all.

Whether we’re ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once again. Let’s not make it one that leaves us disheartened long after we’ve packed the decorations away. In the true spirit of the season, let’s make it about having fun, spending time with our family and friends and making lifelong memories.

Happy holidays from our Intracoastal family to yours!

Getting Ready for Tax Season

 

We’ve turned back our clocks, started buttoning up our houses in preparation of our winter, begun pondering the impending holidays and have given brief reflection to the end of yet another year.  As we rapidly move through the third quarter of 2012, most of us are subtly reminded of what’s looming on the horizon….the dreaded tax season!

If you are like most people, you hate thinking about preparing for tax season. Many people procrastinate because they think they have plenty of time before that April deadline. Unfortunately, this rarely is the case and we end up scrambling, oftentimes missing eligible credits and deductions and overpaying Uncle Sam.

 

However, with some planning and preparation, filing your taxes doesn’t have to be the nerve-racking, hair-pulling hassle it typically has been. Here are a few tips to help you get ready and make this year’s tax season less stressful.

 

  1. Get your paperwork together. When preparing for tax season, go through your past returns. This will help spot items you may have forgotten or remind you of questions you may want to ask you tax preparer. Prepare a folder labeled “2012 Taxes and begin filing important tax documents, statements and receipts and as you get additional end of the year items (e.g. 1099s, W-2s, etc.) add these to your file.  It’s a good idea to retain this folder with a copy of your tax return every year. It will be a lifesaver if you’re ever audited. Note: If your name has changed in the last year and you haven’t applied for a new social security card, do so now, so that it reflects your new name by tax time.

 

  1. Decide what’s the best way to do your taxes – filing yourself or hiring a CPA. Today, programs like Turbo Tax can save you money. But depending on how complicated your return is, and how much your time is worth, a CPA may be worth hiring.

 

  1. Have a chat with your working teen. If your teenager works and will be filing a return make sure you find out whether he or she is claiming himself or herself.. Typically he or she shouldn’t. Most teenagers don’t make enough money to claim themselves.

 

  1. Be Patient. Although it feels great to have your taxes done early, don’t be too overly zealous. Make sure to wait until every form you need has arrived. It will cost you more if have to file an amended return.

 

Remember, taxes are a necessary evil.  They are bound to cause some anxiety. But if you leave yourself enough time and start preparing early by following the steps above, tax season will be a breeze…or at the very least, a great deal less stressful!

 

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!

Planning a Memorable Family Summer Vacation without Breaking the Bank

As the last bell rings for the school year and the kids head out the doors gleefully chanting, “No more school,” their cares are left behind and replaced with thoughts of staying up late, sleeping till noon, hanging out at the beach, and just “chillin” with friends.  Unfortunately, for most of us parents, our worries and homework have just begun.  Our once toyed with ideas for this year’s perfect summer family vacation must NOW turn into a planned, scheduled, and booked reality. The struggle for most of us is not the vacation itself, but ultimately providing a memorable experience for the entire family that doesn’t deplete the savings account or burn the numbers off our credit cards.

So, how do we create the perfect blend of quantity and quality, while remaining fiscally responsible?  Actually, it’s easier than we think.  As busy, intelligent, organized overachievers, we tend to overcomplicate and overplan everything, including the family summer hiatus.  So, let’s begin by thinking outside of the proverbial box and get back to some old fashioned basics; the availability of limited technology and the K.I.S.S. principle.

Today’s technology has undermined the true definition of vacation.  Think back to a time when you couldn’t be called, emailed, texted or posted while away from the office or the house. To really allow yourself and your family to take a quality break from everyday modern life and the sophistication that accompanies it, make a family pact to leave technology behind.  Bring one cell phone, designated only for emergencies, and put an “on vacation” voicemail message on the remaining phones and an auto reply on emails.

With technology in check, let’s begin planning a vacation that both our budget and family will love!  This is where the K.I.S.S. principle applies – keep your adventure uncomplicated. The challenge is to find age-appropriate activities that aren’t mind-numbing for adults or boring for kids. The ultimate family vacation choice is one that provides a simple mix of physical activity, education, and sightseeing opportunities.  So, after doing a bit of homework, here are my top three frugal, yet memorable family summer vacation ideas to get you going.

  1. The Road Trip Vacation

Even with higher gas prices, the All-American family road trip is still one of the least expensive options.  Choose an ultimate destination (e.g. Washington D.C., Black Hills, South Dakota, Las Vegas or any of our incredible National Parks) and then plan a route which offers interesting, fun stops along the way.  When making your lodging reservations, don’t forget discounts provided by membership organizations and be sure to ask for budget-conscious deals and/or accommodations where kids stay free.  To reduce food costs, look for restaurants with kid’s menus or where kids eat free. Another option is to book a room with a refrigerator or kitchenette.  By preparing some meals yourself, you can reduce your restaurant costs.  So, grab your GPS, pack a large cooler, stop at grocery stores along the way, sing silly songs, play I Spy and the License Plate Game, watch the sun rise and set, and make some wonderful memories.

  1. The Close to Home Vacation

Living in Florida provides a multitude of day trip opportunities.  Make your home your hub.  Depending on the number of vacation days, take in as many local attractions as possible.  Some great suggestions might include spending the day at one of Florida’s beautiful natural springs, venturing out to an unfamiliar beach spot, a trip to the zoo (I’m partial to the Jacksonville Zoo) or even spending the day at one of your family’s favorite theme or water parks.  There are two important prerequisites to make the close to home vacation an enjoyable one.  First and foremost, remember this is a vacation – have a plan with a predetermined schedule of events.  Remind yourself that memorable family quality time doesn’t include cleaning out closets, landscaping the yard or painting the house. Second, as stated earlier, make a family pact to keep this time technology free.

  1. The Camping Vacation

This can be the traditional camping experience, vacationing at any of the many Florida or National state or private parks or the innovative summer “family camp” programs.  Like summer camps for kids, a “family camp” experience comes complete with beautiful settings, simple lodging, meals, campfires and an assortment of imagination stretching activities. Now if you’re feeling really adventurous, this can be combined with the Road Trip vacation.

Although the Road Trip, the Close to Home, and the Camping vacations are my top picks, I’m sure there are many more great ideas out there.  If you have a personal favorite, let me know – I’d love to hear from you!  In the meantime, remember that family vacations are important.  There’s the quality time spent together away from life’s distractions, the laughter and fun and most importantly, memories that will last a lifetime.  So, start Googling, begin planning, and have a wonderful vacation!

The Hot Bank Technology Trends – Creating the Perfect Blend for Our Customers

As we move into the second quarter of 2012, we see the U. S. community banking industry stepping up their technology budgets.  This movement is a result of the industry trying to capture their future market; the Generation Y (Gen Y) customers (Yurcan, Brian, “8 Bank Technology Trends That Will Shape the Industry in 2012,” www.banktech.com, January 3, 2012).

The Gen Y market, comprising people born between approximately 1979 and 1999, is enormous.  The immensity of this demographic is only outsized by its future earning potential.  This group, made up of approximately 80 million adolescents and young adults, earn approximately $214 billion annually and are expected to earn $3.4 trillion, compared to the estimated $2.8 trillion earnings of the baby boomers by 2018 (Constantine, Greg, “Tapping Into Generation Y: Nine Ways Community Financial Institutions Can Use Technology to Capture Young Customers,” www.firstdata.com, April 2010).

In an effort to meet the growing technological demands of a technologically savvy market and to make banking easier and more convenient for our customers, Intracoastal Bank is initiating several exciting new services in 2012.  Some of these new services include:

  1. A newly installed ATM which will eventually be an automated banking center, allowing transactions to be done 24/7.  Business and Personal customers will be able to make deposits using image technology; no deposit slips or envelopes are needed.  This ATM will allow bulk cash and checks to be deposited.  The machine will add up the checks and cash to be deposited and confirm that this number matches what the customer enters.  The customer will receive a receipt of their transaction with images of all checks deposited for their records.  This machine is so smart that it can even detect counterfeit bills and will reject them.
  1. A new and improved Mobiliti Banking. We currently offer mobile banking, but we are taking it to a whole new level.  There will be 3 ways to access the mobile banking feature: text messages, website or by downloading an app to your phone. Besides checking account balances, making transfers and looking at account history, customers will be able to pay bills with their smart phones.
  1. The addition of Account Create to our website.  This allows new and existing customers the opportunity to open accounts 24/7. This new service alleviates having to come into the bank during designated hours to set up an account.
  1. The addition of LinkLive to our website.  This gives our customers the opportunity to have online chats with our Personal Bankers when they have questions.  This program also allows our Personal Bankers to view a customer’s desktop in order to assist them with their online banking issues.