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Level Up Your Summer Parties

Planning an unforgettable summer barbecue brings families together and makes memories for all. Whether you are hosting or attending a red, white, and blue barbecue for July 4th or just a family get together, here are some fresh recipes, themes and games to make this year a hit.

For those big planners, themed parties are a fun way to get everyone involved. This summer try centering your barbecue around a theme, like “outdoor movie night” or a pool party. If you don’t have a pool, a “bring your own pool party” is always a win on a hot summer afternoon.  Get everyone involved and keep guests cool with a classic, no-frills team water balloon fight. Stock up on blue balloons, red balloons, and white balloons, split your guests into teams, and let them go to town. This is fun for guests of all ages; it’s simple and relatively affordable entertainment to add to your festive party.

If you prefer a simple plan, get out the cornhole boards and set up a tournament. If your event is an annual affair, make a trophy that guests compete for every year.

 

Check out these easy main dishes that won’t keep your cook by the grill all day:

Grilled Glazed Chicken Drummies

Slow-Cooked Pork Barbecue

Best Ever Juicy Burgers

 

Side dishes are a must for a full plate:

Taco Dip FlagThis taco dip flag is a festive, delicious, simple dish for your summer parties! Served cold and can be made a day before to help save you time on party day!

Red White and Blue Salad. This red, white and blue salad is made with arugula, mozzarella, strawberries and blueberries

 

Don’t forget the grand finale, DESSERT!

No Bake Berry Ice Box Cake, The No Bake Berry Ice Box Cake is a very easy and tasty dessert in patriotic colors. It is healthier because it contains Greek yogurt and is sweetened with maple syrup.

4th of July Poke Cake with Fresh Strawberry Filling. Poke cake gets a patriotic twist. This 4th of July poke cake features a whipped topping with blueberries and a fresh strawberry filling for a delicious red, white and blue dessert.

 

Blueberry Strawberry Shortcake. This Blueberry Strawberry Shortcake recipe is a fun twist on a classic dessert! Made with fresh berries and piles of whipped cream, this recipe highlights the natural goodness of the fruit flavors and features a soft and tender shortcake.  Each component can be made ahead, making it easy to serve at a casual summer party!

How ever you choose to celebrate or spend time with friends and family this summer, do it with some style and shoot for the stars, and don’t forget to fly a U.S. flag to celebrate Independence Day!

The Power of Reinvesting in Our Community
Reinvesting in your community sounds great, but how does one really put that into action?

If you’ve ever wondered if it matters where you deposit your hard-earned money, let me assure you it does. Not only does banking locally support small businesses (community banks fund more than 60% of small business loans and more than 80% of ag loans), but as locally owned and operated businesses themselves, they are part of the economic engines that create 62 percent of new jobs annually. That’s powerful.

 

Community banks like First National Bank, Cortez take in deposits and distribute loans that feed into a self-sustaining micro-economy that keeps funds right here in Montezuma County. It is all part of a symbiotic relationship that community banks have with their communities. And the proceeds from those businesses employ residents, fund municipalities, and continue the cycle of locally based economic growth.

 

If you need more proof just consider the community bank impact on local communities:

  • Community banks outpace large banks in the average number of banks operating in both rural and urban markets by a 3:1 ratio.
  • Community banks are preferred small business lenders, with an 81 percent net satisfaction score compared to 68 percent for large banks and just 43 percent for online lenders.
  • Community banks operate in areas abandoned by others—serving as the only physical banking presence in nearly one in three counties.

 

But it is not just about stats. When customers contact First National Bank, Cortez, they are greeted by a talented team member who is attuned to their needs and empowered to act on their behalf.

 

And when our employees log volunteer hours in support of local civic organizations or non-profit boards or when First National Bank, Cortez contributes to local community fundraising events, we are working toward our goal of ensuring economic prosperity for the community we call home.

 

April is Community Banking Month, and I want to thank our customers for putting their trust in us for their banking needs. For our neighbors who may be considering a switch, please take a closer look at First National Bank, Cortez to discover how we can help you realize your financial dreams.

 

At First National Bank, Cortez we pledge to never lose sight of the all-important “relationship” and the personalized service our customers expect.

 

Remember, we are all in this together. Community banks like First National Bank, Cortez are only successful if our customers and communities are, too. That’s why community banks and our relationship business model have thrived for more than 150 years. We know what it takes to create successful local economies. Join us in helping to build a more sustainable, vibrant economy here at home.

 

How to Plan your Summer Vacation

Whether you’re flying down to Costa Rica or taking a road trip across the country, summer travel is an amazing experience. Some people favor spontaneous weekend trips, while others carefully plan out every stage of an international itinerary. Both are valid ways to enjoy your summer vacation, but if you’re planning an extended trip, you’ll get the most out of your travels if you plan ahead. Our vacation planning tips will help you experience the best possible summer vacation while staying within budget (and leaving enough room for spontaneous changes of plans).

BOOK FLIGHTS AND ACCOMMODATIONS EARLY

Summer travel is incredibly popular: approximately eighty percent of American adults travel for their summer vacation, with over fifty percent flying to their destinations. Travel prices can rise quickly when so many people compete for airline seats and hotel reservations. To get the most out of your summer vacation, we recommend planning well in advance and booking early.

WHEN TO BOOK SUMMER TRAVEL

If you know when and where you want to go for your summer vacation, booking flights and accommodations during the winter can score you some incredible deals. Most airlines and hotels offer discounts if you book early, with some early-bird discounts offering more than fifty percent off, saving you money so you can apply it to the rest of your vacation. It’s also important to make summer travel arrangements early if you plan on using frequent flier miles: available frequent-flier seats for peak times can fill up 300 days before travel dates.

If you’re searching online travel sites for summer vacation deals, set up alerts for deals that match your travel plans. It’s wise to do this with more than one travel site, as different sites often have different deals. Here’s one of our secret summer vacation tips: clear your browser when you search for flights, to avoid website prices from going up based on your search history. It can make a big difference.

Booking early also helps you avoid missing out: popular destinations fill up early. US national park campgrounds are a prime example: if you want a summer camping spot, you need to book as early as possible. While you’re planning, consider signing up for TSA Precheck, a program that speeds up how fast you can get through security. TSA’s Global Entry program helps you breeze past customs on your return home if you’re traveling internationally.

SETTING A BUDGET

Your summer vacation budget has a significant impact on your travel plans, how long you can travel, and where you’ll stay. Set yourself a realistic budget and follow these simple summer vacation tips:

  • Start saving early. Put aside some cash every month for your summer travel. After a year of savings, you’ll have a decent vacation fund to draw upon, and you can plan ahead based on how much you’ll have saved come vacation time.
  • Work with a travel sites Watch for airplane and accommodation deals at Expedia or similar travel sites. If you set price alerts on Expedia, you’ll get automated notifications as deals that match your budget come available.
  • Look for free activities. Museums and art galleries often have specific days when they offer reduced or even free admission. Parks, public art installations, and beaches all provide free entertainment and fun.
  • Avoid restaurants where tourists gather. You can usually get cheaper meals outside of the popular tourist spots. You’ll have more choices, and often have better dining experiences.
  • Choose your transportation wisely. While it’s often best to rent a car for your trip, if your destination has a good transportation system you may be able to use that instead. making your vacation more sustainable. Oahu’s bus system, for instance, will take you almost everywhere you want to go in Honolulu. Using public transportation also lets you book cheaper accommodations outside of the main tourist resorts, saving you even more money.
  • Consider an all-inclusive resort. If you’re worried about overspending on meals and activities, an all-inclusive report charges one price for your room, meals, and activities.
PACKING PROPERLY AND CHOOSING YOUR LUGGAGE

Choosing the right size luggage for your summer vacation is important: you want enough room to bring back souvenirs and any shopping you might do without traveling with too many bags. If you like to shop, packing additional bags into a check-in suitcase provides additional packing space at the end of your vacation, although you’ll have to pay the airline for extra baggage.

If you prefer to travel light, you might be able to pack everything you need in your carry-on luggage. Weekender bags make great carry-on luggage, and like backpacks and travel totes, can double as beach or shopping bags at your destination.

Here’s one of the most helpful vacation planning tips you’ll ever hear: everything you pack at the start of your trip should have a purpose. Choose clothing that can be mixed and matched and ideally has multiple uses: a large tee shirt could be used as sleepwear, worn on a day trip, or used to cover-up at the beach, for instance. Use our advice on what to pack for a weekend getaway as a base, and add extra clothing to reflect how long you’ll be at your destination. Don’t overpack though, and remember many hotels offer laundry facilities.

Take the same purposeful approach to other packing items, including toiletries and electronics. Use toiletry bags to keep shampoo, soap, and other liquids separated from your clothing, and consider a bag to hold your devices’ charging cables and emergency batteries. Packing cubes help you keep your clothing organized, while shoe bags and laundry bags keep your clean clothes away from damp or dirty items.

BEST TIME TO GO ON YOUR SUMMER VACATION

You’ve got all summer, so when is the best time to travel? Flights and hotels tend to be more expensive in July and August when most families choose to vacation. If you’re traveling alone or with other adults, you can score some deals if you travel during the summer’s low seasons, which include June and September.

If you’re flying, midweek and Saturday morning flights tend to be the least expensive and are less likely to be as crowded. However, you choose to travel, consider travel insurance, which can save your vacation budget if you have to cancel your plans due to personal reasons or if a serious event like a hurricane threatens your destination.

As for where to travel this summer, that’s up to you.  And have fun!

 

10 Smart Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

Nothing makes winter more bearable than a nice tax refund! There are lots of different ways you can use your refund, but why not use it to improve your life? (And I’m not talking about buying a bigger TV.)

Here are 10 smart, rewarding ways to make the most of your refund.

 

  1. Save it as an emergency fund

This one goes first for a reason! You absolutely MUST have an emergency fund. Ideally, it should be about 3-6 months of your expenses. You never know when you’re going to get injured, or go through a health crisis, and can’t work. Or you might need an expensive repair to your home or car. Or even lose your job. If a goal of 3-6 months seems impossible, start with a goal of just $1,000. Your tax refund can be a great jump start to any size emergency fund! It really stinks when any of those things happen. But what makes them hurt all the more is when you don’t have the money to pay for them. Imagine being able to cover the cost of that unfortunate event, instead of having to borrow money, or go into credit card debt over it. Peace of mind really is priceless.

  1. Pay off credit card debt

Unfortunately, credit card debt can be like a runaway train you’ll never catch. Even if you make the minimum required payment every month, it can take years to pay it off. And if you keep charging while you still have debt, you’ll just continue to be buried. Consider taking your tax refund and applying all of it to your credit card debt. Even if that doesn’t pay it off completely, seeing your balance lower significantly is SO motivating. If you find yourself grumpy that you can’t use your refund for something more fun, try picturing yourself free from credit card debt. It can happen!

  1. Catch up on past due bills

Are you perpetually behind on your bills? Receiving a tax refund is the perfect solution! Use that money to get caught up. You could start with the bills you’re furthest behind on, but definitely pay the ones that charge late fees. You’ll start next month with a clean slate. Not to mention getting to live a life without creditors calling constantly.

4. Lump Sum Principal Payment

If you’re all caught up on your bills and have an emergency fund, consider making a large principal payment on your mortgage or student loans. If you owe less in principal, you’ll pay less interest. If you did this with your tax refund every year, you’d cut down the duration of your loan by years. Better than buying some useless “stuff” that you’ll soon forget about. Especially when you’re stuck paying your mortgage or student loans until you’re 70 years old.

    1.  Contribute to a ROTH IRA

A Roth IRA is a retirement account that grows tax free until you’re 59 1/2 years old. Applying your tax refund to it can be very meaningful in the long run. If you applied your $2,700 refund to a Roth IRA just once, it would grow to $10,000 in 20 years (assuming  7% average yearly earnings). If you contributed $2,700 every year, it would grow to about $118,000 in 20 years. You can do this in addition to a 401k from work. It’s pretty easy to open a Roth IRA. Stop by First National Bank, Cortez and our knowledgeable Relationship Bankers will help you open a Roth IRA. You will get old eventually. And you’ll certainly want to retire someday.

  1. Invest in yourself

If you’re not convinced to use your tax refund for savings, debt payment, or retirement, try using it to improve yourself in some tangible way! Is there a class you could take or skill you could learn that would allow you to make more money at your job? Consider using your refund to cover it. Maybe you could take a few hundred dollars, and put it towards starting a very small business or side hustle. That way you’ll start earning extra money! The key here is to think it through, and only invest in something you truly believe could improve your life.

  1. Make a small home improvement

Is your hot water heater or furnace on its last leg? Be proactive and replace or repair it before it becomes a big problem. Spruce up your bedroom with a new coat of paint and a comforter. A little facelift can really go a long way! If your appliances are old and costly to run, investing in a new one could potentially lower your energy bills. A programmable thermostat is a great way to save money on your utilities. The temperature in your house doesn’t matter too much when you’re sleeping or not home.

  1. Save for something big

Do you have a big expense coming up? Or are you planning an expensive milestone vacation? If you have your financial ducks in a row, apply your tax refund to a big event. Maybe you’re saving for a wedding, or your child’s graduation party. Use this money to boost that savings account! Or save it for Christmas. It always seems to come around sooner than we expect and cost more than it should. Having money set aside ahead of time sure beats putting these expenses on a credit card. (And then paying for them months or years after the event has passed.)

  1. Contribute to an education fund

Our children grow up SO much faster than we think they will. Higher education is super expensive, so you may want to consider opening a 529 college savings plan. The money will grow tax free and can be used for almost any educational expenses. Contributions may even be tax-deductible.

10. Just put it in your account

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you need a safety net! Aside from an emergency fund, your checking account should have a buffer. Some months have higher or unexpected bills. Here’s the trick – you’ll need to put it on your checking account but not change the way you spend your money. Pretend it’s not even there! This requires some accountability on your part. You and your bank account will appreciate the money cushion soon enough.

How will you spend your tax refund?

Hopefully these 10 smart uses for your tax refund have given you some ideas. If you were really hoping to use it for something “fun,” maybe compromise and use 10-15% of it for a more frivolous purchase or experience.

Your future self would definitely appreciate it if you make wise choices with your money today!

 

Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Rule

Implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) is gathering momentum. Most notably, as of the new year the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is accepting reports of beneficial ownership information (BOI) from companies through its BOI E-Filing System

The key requirements of the Beneficial Ownership Rule and BOI Reporting Rule are compared side by side in this chart, with material differences between the analogous requirements highlighted. 

Below are highlight certain important aspects of the BOI collection and reporting regime, which are critical parts of CTA compliance:

Reporting companies formed on or after January 1, 2024, must report their BOI to FinCEN within 90 days, while existing reporting companies have until January 1, 2025, to file their BOI report (BOIR). The BOI reporting requirements generally apply to companies domiciled or doing business in the United States (with the exceptions noted below). The existing and independent obligation of banks to collect and verify beneficial ownership information under the Beneficial Ownership Rule currently remains in place as-is; however, as part of the reforms mandated by the CTA, Treasury is directed to revise the Beneficial Ownership Rule to: (1) bring it into conformance with the BOIR Rule; (2) account for the access of financial institutions to BOIR in order to confirm the beneficial ownership information provided directly to the financial institutions; and (3) reduce any burdens on financial institutions and legal entity customers that are unnecessary or duplicative in light of the BOIR database. Based on the CTA mandate, it appears that financial institutions may still be required to collect beneficial ownership information from legal entity customers under the revised Beneficial Ownership Rule but may be able to rely on the BOI database to verify such information. The Beneficial Ownership Rule revision, which is expected to be proposed and finalized in 2024, will complete the three elements of the BOI Reporting Rule mandated by the CTA, the first two rules (BOI reporting and BOI access and safeguarding) having been finalized in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Top 20 Christmas Movies Ever

The Christmas season naturally puts us in the mood for cozying up around the TV, snow falling gently outside, fireplace crackling. Of course, with the hundreds of Christmas or Christmas-adjacent movies that come out every year now, it can be tough to settle on exactly which one you’re in the mood for.

To help guide you, we’ve listed our picks for the best Christmas movies ever — featuring a grab bag of sentimental classics, adult-oriented comedies, and animated favorites — and details on where you can stream them all.

 

  1. The Santa Clause (1994)

If the thought of seeing Tim Allen in a Santa suit makes you dream of sugarplums, this is the film for you. The Home Improvement star accidentally kills Santa and has to take his place. It’s not It’s a Wonderful Life, but it has its moments. Plus, there’s Judge Reinhold!

Where to watch The Santa Clause: Disney+

 

  1. Gremlins (1984)

Not a Christmas movie, per se, but Joe Dante’s mischievous monster-mash comedy is set during the holidays in a snowy Norman Rockwell-esque town. Plus, who didn’t want a cuddly little pet like Gizmo waiting under their tree on Christmas morning? That is, assuming you didn’t feed it after midnight…

Where to watch Gremlins: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

 

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Okay, so it’s not the best installment in the Griswold family saga. Still, Christmas Vacation is worth watching alone for Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie and Chevy Chase’s fumbling encounter with a buxom department store salesperson.

Where to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Hulu

 

  1. Scrooged (1988)

No one does “Bah, humbug” better than Bill Murray’s Frank Cross, a heartless TV exec in this darkly comedic retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Yes, it’s pretty much the same film as Groundhog Day — jerk becomes a better man on the eve of a national holiday — however, that doesn’t stop it from being the perfect prickly antidote to Yuletide sap.

Where to watch Scrooged: Paramount+

 

  1. Die Hard (1988)

New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to L.A. to see his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and winds up attending the Christmas office party from hell, thanks to Alan Rickman’s memorable Teutonic baddie Hans Gruber (who finds a one-man killing machine along with a lump of coal in his stocking!).

Where to watch Die Hard: Hulu

 

  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

An older man working as a Macy’s department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) claims to be Kris Kringle, and he convinces innocent kids — and even the most cynical adults — that he’s the real deal. There’s something undeniably sweet about this perennial classic, despite that, if it were made today, he’d be handcuffed and thrown in the slammer.

Where to watch Miracle on 34th Street: Disney+

 

14. White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney deck the halls in this Yuletide classic. Who cares if the movie’s as syrupy as a Vermont maple? The Irving Berlin songs are timeless.

Where to watch White Christmas: Netflix

 

13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton and Henry Selick may seem more of a natural fit for Halloween than Christmas, but the maestros of the macabre’s stop-motion holiday fable crafted pure eye candy.

Where to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas: Disney+

 

  1. Trading Places (1983)

All right, so maybe this one’s not technically a Christmas movie, either. But the sight of a down-and-out Dan Aykroyd in a Santa suit eating a slab of salmon through his grungy cotton-candy beard fills us with the holiday spirit.

Where to watch Trading Places: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

 

11. Home Alone (1990)

Writer John Hughes added heart to Thanksgiving with Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In Home Alone, he takes a less sentimental approach to the holidays with the tale of 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (the adorable Macaulay Culkin), who’s left alone by his family only to face down — and outwit — a pair of bungling burglars. Let’s be honest, you can enjoy this one any time of the year.

Where to watch Home Alone: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

 

  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This made-for-TV Rankin and Bass classic features Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman, telling the eternally sweet story of an outcast with a very shiny nose and an elf who wants to be a dentist. An annual must-see.

Where to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Amazon Prime Video (to buy)

 

  1. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Better known as ”the movie with Heat Miser.” Santa (Mickey Rooney) has a cold and decides to take a year off from his Christmas duties. It’s up to a pair of elves (Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells) to save the day. But first, they must get past Heat Miser and Snow Miser — the best Christmas baddies since the Grinch.

Where to watch The Year Without a Santa Claus: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

 

8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The Muppets and Jim Henson’s workshop take on Dickens in this fur-and-felt adaptation of A Christmas Carol, with Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Mrs. Cratchit, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Who do we petition to get this one aired on TV more often?

Where to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol: Disney+

 

  1. Bad Santa (2003)

Billy Bob Thornton spikes the eggnog in this bruise-black comedy about a disgusting, drunk department store Santa/con man who’s out to rob stores on Christmas Eve with his elf sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox). Here’s one for parents looking for something to pop on after the kids are asleep.

Where to watch Bad Santa: Pluto TV

 

  1. Love Actually (2003)

A roundelay of lump-in-your-throat London love during the holiday season from the confectioners behind Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999). You could fill a stocking with all of the terrific moments in the film. But none is better than when a group of kids brings down the house with their rendition of Mariah Carey’s ”All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Where to watch Love Actually: Netflix

 

  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Forget the over-caffeinated Jim Carrey version, Chuck Jones’ animated made-for-TV take on the Dr. Seuss classic is the one you want to watch (over and over again). “The Grinch hated Christmas — the whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Where to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Peacock

 

4. Elf (2003)

The best Christmas flick of the century. Granted, the century hasn’t been that long, but still. Will Ferrell is priceless as the oversized elf who ventures far away from the North Pole to search for his father. I have a niece who was so obsessed with this movie that, one December, she made me watch it three times in a row. I didn’t mind a bit.

Where to watch Elf: Hulu

 

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Some holiday movies just make you feel good when they come on. They wrap you in a comforter of warm, cozy nostalgia. To me, and I’m guessing a lot of you, this is that movie. I could watch those Peanuts kids do their herky-jerky dance on an eternal loop and never get tired of it. Plus, if there was ever a movie that made you want to take home the saddest, leafless tree at the nursery, this is the one.

Where to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas: Apple TV+

 

  1. A Christmas Story (1983)

Okay, I know a lot of you who’ve gotten this far are going to be upset that this isn’t No. 1. I love it, too, especially when Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsley) pal gets triple-dog-dared into touching his tongue to a frozen metal flagpole. So, please, don’t shoot my eye out with an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle!

Where to watch A Christmas Story: Amazon Prime Video (to rent)

 

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

I know; big shocker that this is No. 1, right? Well, sometimes movies are considered masterpieces for a reason, and this is one of those times. If you think Frank Capra’s holiday staple is feel-good hooey, watch it again. It’s funny, heartwarming, profound, and an annual reminder that the holidays are about more than presents, thanks to Jimmy Stewart’s turn as George Bailey. If you don’t have a sugarplum in your throat by the end credits, you need to come in from the cold.

Where to watch It’s a Wonderful Life: Amazon Prime Video

Simple Ways to Save More in the New Year

Before we know it, the new year will be upon us. Are you ready with some New Year’s Resolutions? Many of our customers are eager to save more, in part to offset some of the increase in prices of everyday goods and in part to help ensure that they’re ready for retirement. If you’re hoping to achieve one of those goals, we have a few tips to help you get a solid start to a great resolution.

The rule of 1%

It might not sound like much, but 1% can make a big difference to your retirement savings. If you increase your annual savings contribution by just 1% of your gross annual salary, you aren’t likely to feel it now, but by the time you get to retirement, your account balance will show it. The best part is, it’s true whether you plan to retire in ten years or thirty. For example, if you earn $80,000 per year, your 1% additional contribution means less than $16 per week, but it could result in a tidy sum for your retirement savings. And you’ll barely notice!

Saving for today

It’s no secret that the cost of many regular goods has increased, making our paychecks thin faster. If your resolution is to find ways to cut costs in the new year, here are some things to consider:

  • Find free or discounted entertainment. Cortez and Montezuma County offer many free events throughout the year. Furthermore, many places offer discounts to students, seniors, first responders, and more—check in advance to see if you qualify for a reduced fee.
  • Shop consignment and thrift stores. These days, it’s trendy to be unique in your style, and you’re bound to find some amazing pieces at great prices at thrift shops, and you’ll be supporting local small businesses. Also, consider selling your unwanted items to a local consignment store.
  • Consider interest-earning savings accounts. While free checking accounts are a good way to avoid fees, consider stashing a portion of your cash into a savings accounts that earn interest like our Banquero Savings (hyperlink) that not only lets you earn up to 4.58% APY and is also free to use with no monthly fees, or minimum balance requirements. Please speak to an FNB Relationship Banker  for further information about applicable fees and terms. Rates subject to change.

Whether your goal is to save more for your golden years or keep your daily spending on track for now, the new year is a good time to start. Just keep your eye on the prize, and you’re likely to find that a small sacrifice now will mean greater reward in the years to come.

Travel Emergencies, Are You Prepared?

With Winter just around the corner we will be seeing colder days coming so now is a good time to get prepared. Do you have a winter emergency kit in your vehicle?

 

There are many different kits you can purchase but you might consider building your own. Some key things needed in an emergency kit in no particular order are: First Aid kit, Flash light (with new batteries) blanket or sleeping bag, gloves, coat, hat, water bottles, rope, box of crackers or granola bars, jumper cables, auto/travel tool kit, flares/reflective flags, whistle to signal for help, compass and road map (just in case the next item doesn’t work), cell phone charger (you never leave home without this one right), small bag of cat litter for tire traction, windshield scraper , small shovel, waterproof matches and candles.

 

Safe Travels!

6 Thanksgiving Hacks for Busy Moms

“Today I have to start the rolls, cranberry sauce, and dressing, and then I’ll work on the five types of cookies I always make, and then tomorrow, the potatoes and beans. But I have no idea when I’m going to clean the house!” Sound familiar?

There’s no “easy button” for Thanksgiving. Everything must be straight out of Grandma’s recipe book, and the house needs to look like it belongs in Magnolia Journal. Or does it? Could a mom, say, cheat a little and preserve some sanity? Absolutely! And here are 5 Thanksgiving hacks to help you do it.

1. Clean only the areas you’ll open up to your guests.

Yes! You can do this! Where are the areas that you don’t want people to enter? Is it your master bedroom, laundry room, or basement? Is it that one guest bedroom where all the “stuff” goes? Close the doors and focus on the other parts of the house. Cleaning only the areas that matter will free up a lot of time and energy.

Bonus Tip: Don’t let yourself get distracted by deep cleaning. This is not the time to clean every window or reorganize the closet because that will take up too much time. Stay focused!

2. Make meaningful dishes yourself, but buy the rest.

Let go of the thought that every dish should be homemade. It’s at your house, so you get to decide what’s homemade. Think about which recipes are traditions that mean something special (it might not even be the turkey!) and buy the rest from a store or restaurant.

Bonus Tip: Two popular restaurants to “cheat” from are Bob Evans and Cracker Barrel.

3. Use elegant but disposable plates and napkins.

This is the best Thanksgiving hack, if you’re willing to put your mom’s old china back in the cupboard. Have you seen the disposable plates that look just like real ones? They’re sturdy, pretty, and not very expensive either. Your guests might not even notice. And after it’s all over, the worker bees of the family will be happy there are fewer dishes and more time to play games or veg out!

Bonus Tip: While plastic or paper plates are awesome, plastic silverware tends to break when cutting your food. So unless you need extra silverware, stick to your usual flatware. It’s easy enough to throw it in the dishwasher afterward.

4. Use what you already have.

For some reason, hosting usually gives me an urge to buy a bunch of new things. And while it’s kind of fun, it will take a lot of your time and money. Use what you have. Look around your house. Need activities? Gather a printable Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt, playing cards, and board games and put them out on the tables. Need decorations? Use tablecloths you already have, and fill bowls with apples or pears. Keep it simple.

Bonus Tip: Put your kids to good use and have them create place cards for each guest. They don’t have to be fancy—they’ll be cute, and that’s even better.

5. Make it a potluck dinner.

If your house was volunteered as the best location for Thanksgiving this year, then you have the right to make it a potluck! As the host or hostess, you can provide a few big items like the main dish, plate settings, and drinks. Let the guests provide the rest! Even those who have a bit of a drive can bring something simple like a pie or chips.

Bonus Tip: Create a sign-up sheet to ensure you don’t end up with four sweet potato casseroles.

6. Eat at 6.

For some reason, most people have their Thanksgiving meal at noon or in the early afternoon. But why add pressure to the day by eating so early? By moving it to 6 p.m., you’ll give yourself more time to prepare. And if certain people come early, they can help you cook.

Bonus Tip: In addition to changing the time, change the date! By hosting on Saturday, you add flexibility for those who work during the week.

The whole time you’re preparing, keep the big picture in mind. The goal of the holidays shouldn’t be to impress but to enjoy each other’s company. You can’t enjoy anything if you are stretched too thin. So do whatever you have to do to make sure you have a little energy left over to be present with the people around you.

New Digital Online Banking Experience

First National Bank, Cortez has upgraded our online and mobile banking platforms! This improved digital platform offers a full-service, forward-thinking digital banking experience to our customers, is much more user-friendly, and contains some enhanced security features.

First Time Login

To log into your online banking for the first time you will need the following information:

  • You must know your User ID and Password
  • Setting up multi-factor authentication will be required
  • You will need to download our new app to access mobile banking

Visit our online banking page or call us to learn more.

Building a CD Ladder
If you haven’t heard of a CD ladder, it’s basically a savings strategy where, rather than putting all your funds into one certificate of deposit, you invest in several CDs with staggered maturity dates. This allows you to earn the higher rate offered by CDs without locking up all funds for the entire term of one product.

 

Here’s an example of how you could set up a CD ladder. Perhaps you want to build a CD ladder with three rungs. If you have $7,500 to invest, you could divide the funds equally into three CDs with different maturity dates. Such as:

 

$2,500 into a 6-month CD at 4.82% APY*
$2,500 into a 12-month CD at 4.60% APY*
$2,500 into a 24-month CD at 3.09% APY*

 

When the first CD matures after six months, you can cash out or continue to build your ladder by reinvesting the funds into a new high-yield CD. When the seventeen-month CD matures, you can use the proceeds from that account to open a new CD, and so on. You can continue the process each year for as long as you want to maintain the CD ladder.

 

To learn more about our CD rates and terms, please call or come by the bank to visit with a relationship banker!

 

*Annual Percentage Yields (APYs) are effective as of 7/18/2023. The minimum balance to open any of the CDs mentioned above and earn the advertised APY is $2,500. A penalty may be imposed for early withdrawals.

1071 Rule - Just Say No

At a time of growing threats to privacy and security in an increasingly plugged-in world, a new federal regulation threatens to make the problem worse for the residents and small businesses of Montezuma and Dolores Counties and other communities nationwide. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently finalized a rule, commonly known as the “1071 rule” that will require financial institutions — including First National Bank, Cortez and all other banks in our community — to burden small-business customers with invasive questions and then publicly report the data they collect to the federal agency.

Policymakers in Washington should step in to block this misguided rule given its harmful impact on privacy and its potential to restrict access to credit to the small businesses that drive the nation’s economy, particularly the women- and minority-owned businesses this rule is designed to help.

Protect your privacy. Write to your member of Congress and just say no to the 1071 Rule and to the collection and reporting of your personal information.

You'll Feel Better Without Clutter

The power struggle between you and your stuff

The problem isn’t merely the amount of stuff in our homes, or our lack of organizational skills, but in the meaning and power, we let our “stuff” have. Often without realizing it, we give possessions a disproportionate amount of our time and energy—leaving us with schedules that don’t match our values. For instance, in the pursuit of a bigger house, nicer car, and all the latest gadgets, we may end up working longer hours or becoming selfish instead of spending time on things we would say really matter, such as our family or health.

In other words, as the saying goes, sometimes “we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”

It’s an exhausting pursuit to get—and then organize and maintain—a lot of possessions, and that may very well be why minimalism is a growing movement. According to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of theminimalists.com, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

How clutter affects emotions

Human beings crave order and peace. Think about opening a closet. Would you feel better if stuff comes flying out because it’s packed in so tightly, or if everything is neat and ordered in its place? Which gives you more peace?

Having too much stuff—or stuff that is disorganized—can affect you mentally and physically. In a study in Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, a group of anthropologists, social scientists, and archaeologists found a link between an overabundance of household objects and the homeowners’ health. These crowded houses—termed “stressful home environments”—proved that clutter not only looks bad, but it also makes us feel bad as well.

Just as external chaos can lead to internal chaos, so can external peace lead to internal peace. According to Karen Reyes, a professional organizer from Kearneysville, West Virginia, “We feel better when our ‘castle’ is orderly, creating less stress. Anything that we are able to do to alleviate clutter brings a little more peace to our lives. Emotional baggage sometimes comes along with unorganized lives. It’s quite liberating to lose both.”

Once the process of reducing the excess gets started, you might be surprised at how it overflows into other areas of life. For example, a study by the Association for Psychological Science found that simply working at an orderly desk could promote generosity and healthy eating.

Decluttering looks different for everyone. Some are content with just purging duplicates and inessentials, while others cut to the bare minimum. Whatever your goals, keep these simplifying principles in mind:

  1. Approach it as a lifestyle, not a choice

You didn’t accumulate all that stuff overnight, so you won’t be able to get rid of it overnight either. It’s a process, a way of housekeeping, not just a weekend event. So be patient with yourself as you learn new habits of shopping, donating, and organizing.

 

  1. Think of it as making room for more important things

You are making room for what you need and love by getting rid of what you don’t. “Having less stuff to think, worry, or even obsess about frees people up to focus on more important things in life, such as family, friends, religion, and hobbies,” says professional organizer Karen Reyes.

  1. Put every item through the three-question test

Before buying something new, or while deciding what to keep of your current possessions, ask yourself:

Do I need it?
Do I love it?
Do I have a place for it?

If not, bid it “a fond but firm farewell,” and don’t look back, says Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

  1. Remember, more isn’t better; better is better

It’s the long-standing debate: quality versus quantity. When it comes to simplifying, the answer is to go with quality. Rather than buying multiples of lesser quality, invest in one or two high-quality items that are reasonable for your budget and time of life. More isn’t better; better is better.

  1. Make list of what you want out of life

Do you want to travel more? Have more family time? Spend less time on housework? What possessions will help you toward that end? Keep those goals in mind as you organize and clean. When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, make four piles: keep, donate, sell, and trash. Follow through with each pile quickly. Otherwise, you may end up pulling things out of the give-away pile and bringing them back into your closet or kitchen.

Financial News: 6 Scams that Target Your Bank Account

6 Scams That Target Your Bank Account

Here’s how to recognize banking scams and how to protect your money.

Credit cards come with fraud protection, but bank transactions don’t necessarily have the same protection.

Scamming is rampant. More than 40,000 people filed scam reports with the Better Business Bureau in 2022, and the median reported dollar loss was $171 million according to that year’s BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. A lot of those scams are targeting your bank accounts.

And though federal law limits liability for credit card fraud, it’s not the same for bank scams, such as being given a fake check you deposit and then send part of the amount to a fraudster.

Luckily, you can protect yourself and your bank account by learning how to identify six common bank scams.

Check Overpayment Scams

Check overpayment fraud is a popular scam that targets sellers from online auctions and classified advertisement websites. During a transaction, the scammer will pay the seller with a bogus check for more than the amount of the item. The scammer will then ask the seller to wire the difference back after making the deposit. The seller will be out not only a returned item fee from the bank, but also whatever cash the supposed buyer received.

How to avoid this scam: Independently verify a buyer’s name, address and phone number. A check that comes from an unknown party should be a red flag. If you are selling an item to someone in Ohio, but the check lists the name of a dental office in the District of Columbia, the payment may not be legitimate. Regardless of how insistent a buyer may be, never cash a check and immediately wire money from it. Talk to your bank if you have any concerns about a payment you receive.

Credit Card and Bank Account Scams

You may get emails or calls from someone who claims to be from your credit card issuer or bank. The messages may ask you to call back to discuss a problem or to click on a link to update your account information. In some cases, scammers may even claim they are investigating possible fraud on your account and ask for details such as your account number or Social Security number to investigate further. These are all attempts to get you to hand over sensitive information.

How to avoid this scam: Do not click on any email links or attachments. Scam phone messages may include a callback number, but you should ignore that. Call the phone number on the bank website or the number on the back of your debit or credit card. Otherwise, you could find yourself on the phone with the scammer rather than a bank representative.

Charity Scams

Not everyone asking for a charitable donation may be on the up and up. For example, you could receive a call asking for donations to the local police department or to military families. The crooks elicit information about your bank account or debit card to make the donation over the phone, giving them full access to your checking account.

How to avoid this scam: To make sure your good intentions don’t go to waste, the safest way to give to a charity is by choosing an organization you know and trust. Also, be careful about sharing your personal information with people who reach out by telephone or email.

Online Lending Scams

Victims of these scams are often those who have trouble obtaining a bank loan. They may receive an email from a supposed lender or find a website offering easy access to money. After the scammer obtains bank account details, the victim may send a loan payment or direct deposit. The victim may also be asked to make an immediate good-faith payment, but as with the check overpayment scam, the “loan” is fraudulent.

How to avoid this scam: Always check reviews and the Better Business Bureau rating of any company offering a loan. If you can’t find reviews or ratings, the business may not be real.

Employment Scams

Younger adults are more likely to be the victims of employment scams than other age groups, the Better Business Bureau reports. In most of these scenarios, the crooks offer a job but request personal information or money for “training” or “equipment.”

How to avoid this scam: Never send money to a potential employer. You should not have to pay for equipment, background screening or, generally, the promise of work. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Award Scams

In these scams, you are typically told you’ve won a foreign lottery. Crooks will send you a large check to deposit into your personal checking account. You will then be asked to immediately wire a portion of the funds to pay for government taxes and administrative fees.

How to avoid this scam: If you didn’t enter the contest, then you didn’t win it. Note that if you participate in a foreign lottery via mail or phone, you are violating federal law. Also, U.S. lottery winners typically pay taxes on a lump-sum payment in the year the money was received or each year on installment payments.

Protecting Yourself From Bank Scams

Keep common scams in mind, and remember how to avoid them before you put your funds at risk. Scammers will continue to come up with creative ways to get into people’s bank accounts.

Criminals often look for people who are searching for jobs, dating, selling products and even do-gooders looking to help the needy.

Do Banks Refund Scammed Money?

Most of the time, you may be responsible for the fraudulent items that were negotiated in your bank account. Contact your bank immediately if you suspect unauthorized transactions or money missing from your account, advises the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You’ll need to notify your bank within 60 days after your bank sends your statement showing the unauthorized transactions. If you wait longer, you could owe the full amount of any transactions that occurred after the 60-day period and before notifying your bank, according to the CFPB.

With fraudulent checks, deposits could later be reversed, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. You’ll need to pursue the person who gave you the check if you want to be reimbursed.

If you think you have been the target of a scam, you should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on its website or at 877-382-4357.

 

Top 10 Benefits of Reading for All Ages

Top 10 Benefits of Reading for All Ages

 

Calling book lovers and avid readers of all ages! Have you ever wondered what the benefits of reading are aside from leisure and education? From learning new words to maintaining your mental health, books can do it all! In case you needed a reminder of how important regular reading is for our wellbeing and literacy, here are the top 10 benefits of reading for all ages:

  1. Reading Exercises the Brain

While reading, we have to remember different characters and settings that belong to a given story. Even if you enjoy reading a book in one sitting, you have to remember the details throughout the time you take to read the book. Therefore, reading is a workout for your brain that improves memory function.

  1. Reading is a Form of (free) Entertainment

Did you know that most of the popular TV shows and movies are based on books? So why not indulge in the original form of entertainment by immersing yourself in reading. Most importantly, it’s free with your public library card!

  1. Reading Improves Concentration and the Ability to Focus

We can all agree that reading cannot happen without focus and in order to fully understand the story, we have to concentrate on each page that we read. In a world where gadgets are only getting faster and shortening our attention span, we need to constantly practice concentration and focus. Reading is one of the few activities that requires your undivided attention, therefore, improving your ability to concentrate.

  1. Reading Improves Literacy

Have you ever read a book where you came across an unfamiliar word? Books have the power to improve your vocabulary by introducing you to new words. The more you read, the more your vocabulary grows, along with your ability to effectively communicate.  Additionally, reading improves writing skills by helping the reader understand and learn different writing styles.

  1. Reading Improves Sleep

By creating a bedtime routine that includes reading, you can signal to your body that it is time to sleep. Now, more than ever, we rely on increased screen time to get through the day. Therefore, by setting your phone aside and picking up a book, you are telling your brain that it is time to quiet down. Moreover, since reading helps you de-stress, doing so right before bed helps calm your mind and anxiety and improve the quality of sleep.

  1. Reading Increases General Knowledge

Books are always filled with fun and interesting facts. Whether you read fiction or non-fictions, books have the ability to provide us with information we would’ve otherwise not known. Reading a variety of topics can make you a more knowledgeable person, in turn improving your conversation skills.

  1. Reading is Motivational

By reading books about protagonists who have overcome challenges, we are oftentimes encouraged to do the same. The right book can motivate you to never give up and stay positive, regardless of whether it’s a romance novel or a self-help book.

  1. Reading Reduces Stress

Reading has the power to transport you to another world and away from the monotonous daily routine. By doing so, reading can decrease stress, lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure.

  1. Reading Sets a Positive Example

Reading is a key component of early literacy development and you can set an example of just how crucial this is by modeling the behavior yourself. Children are excellent at mimicking the adults around them which means that if you regularly set aside some “me time” for reading, your children will learn to do the same.

  1. Reading Teaches Empathy

Books allow us to experience realities outside of our lives. They teach us to relate to others by often putting us in the shoes of the narrator. This simple technique is called empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Reading builds on empathy by constantly presenting us with thoughts and scenarios outside of our perspective.

3 Ways to get Financially Fit for 2024

This season, make a plan to turn over a new leaf when it comes to your money.

Fall is a time of transition — back to school, turning back the clocks and even getting back into real clothes as we head back to work. But what if you took on a different type of regimen this fall — one of financial fitness.

With post-pandemic spending on the rise and holiday shopping already in full swing, there’s no better time to check in on your finances. Here are three things you can do right now to improve your finances and start fall feeling a little more in control of your money.

 

What’s the first step toward getting your finances under control?

First and foremost, you want to be aware of your money. We know it’s the last thing you want to do. But we also know you care about your money and you cannot make changes until you know where the money is going.

Follow your money for a few weeks. Track your spending by looking back at credit card or bank statements, or jot down notes in your phone when you’re making purchases.

A lot of times, we make very aspirational budgets and we forget how much money we spend on small purchases or impulse buys. Those are often the easiest things to cut out, and if you don’t know they are happening you can’t cut them.

 

Is it better to invest or pay off debt?

The common question: “If I were to come into some money would it be more beneficial to pay off my mortgage outright? Or would it be better to take that money and put it into investments and continue to pay my mortgage casually, you know, for the next 30 years.”

Debt is an issue for many Americans, whether it’s your student loans, a credit card or even a mortgage.

First you need to actually look at all of your debts and find out what interest you are paying on each of them. Once you know what you owe, then you can prioritize.

There are two methods to paying down your debt — the avalanche and the snowball. With the avalanche, you pay down your debt that has the highest interest rate first, regardless of the balance. That will save you the most money in the long run.

For those who feel super overwhelmed, the snowball method, where you knock out your smallest debts first, may be a better option. That way, you can take bite-sized pieces of your goal until it’s done.

In some financial situations a person might get a better return investing the lump sum and paying off the mortgage slowly, depending on the interest he’s paying on the loan.

A caution that we should consider is to not be “really good” about spending during this tracking time since you want to get a true picture of where your money is really going. You want to be totally honest with yourself here.

 

What should an emergency fund look like?

The common question: “How many months of expenses should be saved up in a savings account?”

Once you know where your money is going, you can start saving for your goals.  Too often we fall into the trap of waiting to save the money that’s left over, but here’s the thing — money is almost never left over, if it’s in your account, you’ll want to spend it.

When it comes to the question about savings, it’s a good rule of thumb to have three to six months of living expenses set aside for emergencies.

Wondering how to do that?

Start by taking the amount of money you’re looking to save and divide it by the number of paychecks you have until you want to reach your goal. If a person wanted to save $3000, that would be $250 per month for a year.

Another key thing to do is to automate your savings. We do it for things like our retirement accounts or health savings accounts, but you can use this trick for anything you’re saving for.

Many banks will let you have multiple savings accounts for free, so look into high yield savings accounts which can generate a little more interest than your standard checking or savings accounts.

Set up your automatic transfers, when payday hits, you can move your money into those different accounts for different goals. Pretend like the money was never in your checking account in the first place. PAY YOURSELF FIRST

Appling these tips to your finances this fall, and you will be off to a great financial start for 2024!

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