Talking to Your Child About Money

Money can be a difficult—and in some cases, almost taboo—topic to discuss wHappy familyith your children, but as a parent, it’s important that you help your children and teenagers develop good financial habits that they can carry with them into adult life.

Here are a few ideas to help get your children thinking about smart saving and spending habits:

Young children

It is never too early to start helping your child develop a healthy respect for money and to help them develop some good financial habits. The practice of using an allowance can be worthwhile if it does the right things.  To teach your youngsters the basics, try the following:

  • Set a weekly allowance to match the age of the child – a five year old gets $5.00.
  • Tie the allowance to some required chores, like setting the table for dinner or keeping their bedroom clean.
  • Divide the allowance into three spending categories: 1/3 for immediate spending, 1/3 saved for some specific near-term purchase (like a small new toy) and 1/3 for a longer-term goal (like a major new toy).

Teenagers

This is often the most difficult time for children to deal with financial issues.  Peer pressure, a desire to have what friends have and the growing realization that they cannot have everything they want and do everything they want can add tension to any conversation about finances.  It is also the time when children can start understanding more involved financial issues and when financial habits are formed.

The allowance approach gets more complicated for teenagers, as the costs of items they want goes up and they are doing more things that cost money.  Now could be the time to discuss how a job could help them afford the things they want.  After-school and summer jobs are an ideal way for children to learn that money is earned, and not something that mom or dad will always provide.  A job can also teach children about responsibility since their employer will be relying on them to be present and punctual.  If an outside job is not possible, consider paying them an hourly rate for more chores and insist they treat it as a job.

Helping your child establish a checking account, or even prepare his or her own tax return will go a long way to helping them understand that money is a serious matter and that someday they responsible for their own financial decisions.  If your child gets a checking account, be sure you teach them how it works and that they must reconcile their account every month.

Keep the conversation going

Be open to discussing finances with your children.  Children are naturally curious about what they see their parents doing and you can turn that curiosity into teaching opportunities.  The conversations must certainly be age appropriate, but when your child sees you writing checks, it’s an ideal time to start talking about the importance of paying bills and balancing your budget.  A question about what it means when the TV news tells what the stock market did can lead to a more serious discussion about money and long-term financial goals.  And a discussion about choosing a college can be an eye-opening experience when your child learns what it costs.

Take advantage of these opportunities and by the time your child is ready to leave home, they will have a foundation to better prepare themselves for their financial future.

Start your children on the path to financial success. When you open a Kids’ Club account for your child at Community Bank, they’ll become a member of our Green Team. As a Green Team member, they’ll receive quarterly newsletters packed with fun activities to encourage healthy financial habits, and they’ll earn rewards for saving money! Stop in to your local branch for more information!

Don’t Be a Victim — Protect Your Mobile Phone From Cybercrime

Secure MobileMobile banking can be as safe as (and even more convenient than) banking from your home computer, as long as you take the same precautions. Imagine the following scenario:

You receive a text message or an automated phone call on your cell phone saying there’s a problem with your bank account. You’re given a phone number to call or a website to log onto and asked to provide personal identifiable information like a bank account number, PIN, or credit card number to fix the problem.

While the message may seem legitimate, beware: It could be a smishing or vishingscam, and criminals on the other end of the phone or website could be attempting to collect your personal information in order to help themselves to your money. While most cyber scams target your computer, smishing and vishing scams target your mobile phone, and they’re becoming a growing threat as a growing number of Americans own mobile phones and enjoy the convenience of mobile banking.

“Smishing” (a combination of ‘SMS texting’ and ‘phishing’) and “vishing” (‘voice’ and ‘phishing’) are two of the scams the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning consumers about as mobile banking becomes more popular. These scams are also a reminder that cyber-crimes aren’t just for computers anymore.

Here’s how smishing and vishing scams work:

Criminals set up an automated dialing system to text or call people in a particular region or area code (or sometimes they use stolen customer phone numbers from banks or credit unions). The victims receive messages like: “There’s a problem with your account,” or “Your ATM card needs to be reactivated,” and are directed to a phone number or website asking for personal information. Armed with that information, criminals can steal from victims’ bank accounts, charge purchases on their charge cards, create a phony ATM card, etc.

Sometimes, if a victim logs onto one of the phony websites with a smartphone, they could also end up downloading malicious software that could give criminals access to anything on the phone. With the growth of mobile banking and the ability to conduct financial transactions online, smishing and vishing attacks may become even more attractive and lucrative for cyber criminals.

Tips to Protect Yourself From Cyber Scams:

  • Don’t respond to text messages or automated voice messages from unknown or blocked numbers on your mobile phone.
  • Treat your mobile phone like you would your computer; don’t download anything unless you trust the source.
  • When shopping online, use a legitimate payment service and always use a credit card because charges can be disputed if you don’t receive what you ordered or find unauthorized charges on your card.
  • Check each seller’s rating and feedback along with the dates the feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with a 100 percent positive feedback score, with a low number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails (or texts or phone calls, for that matter) requesting personal information, and never click on links or attachments contained within unsolicited e-mails. If you want to go to a merchant’s website, type their URL directly into your browser’s address bar.

The Importance of Budgeting

So you’re all grown up and earning a steady paycheck—hooray!CoffeeWorker

Now it’s time to consider how you’re spending it.

If you’re trying to lead a better, smarter financial lifestyle, it’s important to understand how you’re using the money that you have. Having a budget for yourself is a simple way to help better manage your income. Tracking your income and expenses each month can shed light on bad spending habits and make you more accountable for where your money goes each month.

You can start a budget using old fashioned pen and paper, or if you’re more technologically inclined, Excel or Microsoft Money can be a good way to go. For smart phone users, there are many apps available like BUDGT or Mint that can help you keep track of your income and expenses from your smart phone.

As you start creating your budget, think about how much control you have over your expenses. Things like rent, taxes and insurance are probably pretty well set. Other expenses, like food, entertainment and gifts are more controllable. Just by thinking about these items, you may be able to find ways to spend less and save more. If nothing else, you can make judgments about which expenses are most important to you.

Generally speaking, a personal budget will enable you to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. With that understanding, you will be in a better position to make informed financial decisions, to monitor your spending and to potentially identify ways to spend less on some items so you have more to spend on more important things or to save.

Creating and maintaining a budget takes commitment, and sticking to your budget takes self-discipline. But remember that there are many different apps and programs available to help with budgeting so that wherever you go, you can take your good financial sense with you!

Ready to get started? Check out this article from Investopedia for more tips on getting started!

Friday Focus: St. Mary’s Arts Council

The St. Mary’s Arts Council plays a pivotal role in bringing the arts and culture to the smac2013local community. This week, we caught up the Art’s Councils Director of Outreach, Nell Elder, who spoke with us about the Arts Council’s work, some of great partnerships the Arts Council has forged with other community organizations and what you can do to help support the arts!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The St. Mary’s County Arts Council is dedicated to investing in the arts and increasing the awareness of the value of the arts and how the arts can enhance the quality of our community and our individual lives. We provide ladership to arts organizations and artists, encourage new creative endeavors in St. Mary’s County and invest in the cultural treasures specific to our County.

The majority of our funding comes from the Maryland State Arts Council, which we distribute in the form of grants to nonprofit arts organizations. Last year, we awarded over $20,000 of grants to nonprofit organizations in our community. The Arts Council board is dedicated to raising more money, specifically for arts education in the county. We are organizing and hosting a variety of art-related fundraisers throughout the year, and promoting individual and corporate donations.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)? 

A:  We have recently partnered with the St. Mary’s County Library to manage the Lexington Park Library Gallery. The gallery was started by Candy Cummings, a local artist who had the vision to have a Community Gallery in the Library. She made it happen and has continued to run it for the past 10 years. Candy lost her long battle with cancer in November and her wishes were that the Arts Council take over the management of the Gallery.

Last year, we partnered with The House of Dance and hosted the Cha-Cha-Ching Dance Event. This event spoke to the diversity of the arts in St. Mary’s County and to the diversity of the people who are interested in the arts. We raised more money for arts education and we increased awareness of the importance of the arts to quality of life.

Additionally, we recently partnered with Community Bank of the Chesapeake to showcase the work of local artists to the public. The Bank was recently remolded to accommodate a quarterly art exhibit and is now one of the venues where local residents can have access to original visual art.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Increasing public awareness that the arts are of vital importance to any growing, vibrant community is our number one priority. When we have any kind of budget cuts, the arts are the first to go. We need to change our thinking. Art is not just something you hang on the wall, but an essential part to our lives. People are looking for places to live, work, and visit where quality of life and access to the arts are an important thread in the fabric of any county.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A:  We have a reception for Candy Cummings’ work at the Lexington Park Library Gallery on January 29 from 5-7 p.m. A plaque honoring Candy created by local artists Mary Ida Rolape and Dhyana Mackenzie will be unveiled at the reception, and will hang permanently in the Gallery.

Additionally, On January 31 The Arts Council is sponsoring Guitar Fest at the Three Notch Theater:

21744 South Coral Dr. Lexington Park, MD.

Afternoon 2- 5 PM  Guitar Workshop

Evening 7-11 PM  Guitar Fest

Featuring:  Rob Levit, Hammett Ups, Dave Mileto, Brandon Aksteter, and many more. An Art Exhibit by Color and Light Society of Southern Maryland will also be featured.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: Every resident of St. Mary’s County should be a part of the arts council by going to our website:

www.stmarysartscouncil.com and signing up for our email newsletter

You will receive our monthly newsletter that highlights all of the arts related events in our county. Events include music and art classes for adults and children, exhibitions, music performances, theater events, historic tours, poetry events, wine tasting events and more. There are also volunteer opportunities like helping with our Annual Gala, Artwalk in Leonardtown, Lexington Park Library Gallery just to name a few.

Every resident should donate to the Arts council by going to our website www.stmarysartscouncil.com

Why? Because every dollar you give goes directly to local arts organizations, local artists, and opportunities for more arts education for our children.

Every artist should join our Artists Registry by going to our website www.stmarysartscouncil.com

Why? Because by doing so, we will connect you to the local arts community and increase your visibility as an artist. We also recommend that you join the MD State Arts Council so that you know of State opportunities in the arts.

Community Bank is proud to partner with the St. Mary’s Arts Council to showcase local artists. Stop into our Charlotte Hall branch and see original works from many talented artists!

Resolution Series: Get Out of Debt

Whether it’s a student loan, a car loan or a credit card, most people have some sort of Young couple calculating their domestic billsdebt hanging over their heads that they’d like to pay off. Take a moment and think about the debt you have. Maybe it’s a home loan or medical expenses. Maybe it’s debt you’ve carried through the holidays that you now need to start paying back. Whatever debt you have, make the resolution this year to tackle it head on! Here are some tips to help you manage your finances and pay off your outstanding debts:

  1. Know what you owe. Listing all of your debts out (along with associated interest rates) will help give you a better understanding of exactly how much money you owe, and might also shed a little light on how you got into debt in the first place. It will also help you prioritize your repayment plan of attack.
  2. Stop spending. If your credit card spending is out of control, stop using your cards immediately. Put together a monthly budget for yourself that will allow you to pay your bills without depending on credit.
  3. Stick to a budget. Budgeting is key to paying off your debt in a timely manner. Planning out your monthly expenses, trimming unnecessary costs wherever possible and holding yourself accountable for making your payments will allow you stay on track and eliminate that debt as quickly as possible.
  4. Attack high-interest debt first. Rank your debts in order from the highest to lowest interest rate. Concentrate on paying down your high-interest debt as quickly as possible; you will save money in the long run.
  5. Find out if a balance transfer is right for you. Transferring a credit card balance can sometimes be a helpful strategy to employ when you’re managing your debt. Card companies typically offer introductory offers of very low or zero-percent interest rates for several months, which can give you time to make payments without worrying about interest accruing faster than you can pay it off. When transferring a balance, be sure to always read the fine print before accepting an offer.

Making the decision to start paying off your debt is the easy part — putting it into practice requires thought, planning and discipline. If you find yourself still struggling to make payments, always be sure to contact your lender or card company before you miss a payment. In many cases, they will be willing to work with you to structure a repayment plan that works for you. 

Learn more about how you can stay debt-free with these tips!

Friday Focus: Walden Sierra

Providing comprehensive behavioral health services and recoveWalden Logory support, Walden Sierra has been a powerful force for good in the community since 1973. This week, we spoke with Walden’s Christine Timmerman, who shared her organization’s story with Friday Focus.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).

A: For over 40 years, Walden has been at the forefront of behavioral health in the Southern Maryland Region. Since 1973, we have continued to grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and families, all while working hard to improve the overall health of our surrounding community. Our comprehensive array of services is designed to provide clients with the help they need, when they need it. Our mission at Walden Sierra is to contribute to the well-being of the Southern Maryland community: “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow”. Walden’s vision is to consistently provide the best behavioral health treatment and recovery support services to Southern Maryland.

The name Walden was inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau. St. Mary’s County has been home to Walden since 1973. Walden is a local, community based 501(c)(3) nonprofit CARF (Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) accredited organization, with six different locations in Southern Maryland.

Central to our programming is our 24 hour local crisis hotline, 301-863-6661. This hotline is one of the oldest local, professionally staffed hotlines in operation in the United States. From the hotline, Walden is able to help individual community members and better understand unmet community needs. We have used this information to build our programming as a response to community needs.

Walden has received several excellence awards over the years. Some of these awards include: the Sunshine Peace Award, the NAMI Social Impact Award, and the Better With Less Award. We take great pride in what we do to help the community here at Walden Sierra, and we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our community partners, leadership team, and management team.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: Walden’s favorite moments are when someone in need of our services has been given the resources and support to achieve the utmost care that Walden can provide for them. Each year, we provide our community with an Annual Report informing Southern Maryland of the impact that Walden Sierra has had on the community, and the resources that we have provided to those in need of services. The Annual Report highlights our mission statement, provides our location information, the services Walden provides, and the amount of increased clients we have provided services to. In 2014, Walden Sierra received 13,634 calls to our 24-hour hotline, there was a 150% increase in clients receiving recovery support through Walden Sierra: Cove location in California, MD, and we received many testimonials and feedback about the experiences our clients receive at our facilities throughout the year. Here are just a few:

“Walden is a very welcoming and open-hearted place. Treated each other like family and had an ear open at all times.”    — Anonymous 

“All the staff have been incredible on my long road to recovery. They have not given up on me.” — Anonymous 

“I am very happy with the treatment I have enjoyed and learned a lot by coming here. I feel stronger about the way I feel and how I’m control everything. My body and mind are more clear. The staff have been fun and have shown me so much. Thank you. I am grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime. There is no other treatment program I could have asked for to help me succeed.” — Anonymous

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: WAYS TO DONATE – Financial Donations

Every dollar makes a tremendous difference and is greatly appreciated. We rely on donations from individuals, groups, and businesses as well as foundation grants to help us keep our underfunded programs going.  As a result, individuals and families can access many of our services regardless of their ability to afford them. Donations can be directed to a particular Walden program.  The majority of the general donations we receive go toward off-setting the costs of our crisis and emergency services and our services for vulnerable populations. All donations can be claimed for tax benefit. Donors are welcome to contact us to ask for a tour or to speak with a Walden staff member about our current needs and projects.  Thank you for supporting Walden!

Improving Your Fuel Economy in Cold Weather

The start of a new year means we’re nearing the height of the winter driving season, and colder temperatures could have an impact on the fuel ecoman pumping gasoline fuel in car at gas stationnomy of your car. Fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional gasoline car’s gas mileage is about 12% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. It can drop as much as 22% for very short trips (three to four miles), and can be even worse if you drive a hybrid.

Why is winter fuel economy lower?  Cold weather affects your vehicle in more ways than you might expect:

  • Engine and transmission friction increases in cold temperatures due to cold engine oil and other drive-line fluids.
  • It takes longer for your engine to reach its most fuel-efficient temperature. This affects shorter trips more, since your car spends more of your trip at less-than-optimal temperatures.
  • Heated seats, window defrosters and heater fans use additional power.
  • Warming up your vehicle before you start your trip lowers your fuel economy — idling gets 0 miles per gallon.
  • Colder air is denser, increasing aerodynamic drag on your vehicle, especially at highway speeds.
  • Tire pressure decreases in colder temperatures, increasing rolling resistance.
  • Winter grades of gasoline can have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends.
  • Battery performance decreases in cold weather, making it harder for your alternator to keep your battery charged. This also affects the performance of the regenerative braking system on hybrids.

In severe winter weather, your MPG can drop even further:

  • Icy or snow-covered roads decrease your tires’ grip on the road, wasting energy.
  • Safe driving speeds on slick roads can be much lower than normal, further reducing fuel economy, especially at speeds below 30 to 40 mph.
  • Using four-wheel drive uses more fuel.

What can I do to improve my fuel economy in cold weather?  You may not be able to completely mitigate cold weather’s effect on your fuel economy, but you can do some simple things to help your gas mileage:

  • Park your car in a warmer place, such as your garage, to increase the initial temperature of your engine and cabin.
  • Combine trips when possible so that you drive less often with a cold engine.
  • Don’t idle your car to warm it up. Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven.
  • Don’t use seat warmers or defrosters more than necessary.
  • Check your tire pressure regularly.
  • Use the type of oil recommended by your manufacturer for cold weather driving.
  • Remove accessories that increase wind resistance, like roof racks, when not in use.
  • If you drive a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, preheating the cabin while plugged into the charger can extend your vehicle’s range.
  • If you drive a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, using the seat warmers instead of the cabin heater can save energy and extend range.

Community Bank reminds you to be safe while driving in winter weather!

Financial Resolutions: Saving More Money

Financial year 2015Saving money is one of the most common financial resolutions people make, but can also be one of the most difficult to keep. Starting a savings plan takes discipline and yes, some sacrifice. With bills, debt and other monthly expenses to worry about, you may easily find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, with little left over to put away. Still, having savings is incredibly important; you never know when a life-changing event like an employment change, the birth of a child or unexpected illness could occur.

There are countless resources out there to take you step by step through how to meet your savings goals, but to get you started, here are a few quick tips you can start doing today.

Pay yourself first. A good habit to get into is to pay yourself each month as though you were paying a regular monthly bill. Map out your monthly expenses and determine a reasonable amount that you can contribute (remember, anything is better than nothing). Make the first check you write each month to yourself, and hold yourself accountable—just as you wouldn’t skip paying your electric bill, don’t skip out on paying yourself.

Set up an emergency fund. While you may want to save for any number of things, building an emergency fund should be a priority. Try to save three to six month’s salary for emergencies only. This way, you have a financial cushion to help you through anything that life throws your way.

Start using a monthly budget. Keeping a budget to track your monthly expenses is a great financial habit to get into; budgeting will help you see how much you spend each month and where you can cut back. As you identify and eliminate unnecessary expenses, adjust the amount you pay yourself each month. It may not seem like much, but little sacrifices now can make a big difference in the long run!

Saving money is something you should commit to doing for the rest of your life. Establishing these good savings habits now will help you lead a healthier, more prosperous financial life for the years to come!

Friday Focus: Focused on our Community

In the summer of 2013, Community Bank of the Chesapeake kicked off a brand new blog series called “Friday Focus”. The goal of the series was simple: to help boost awareness for the many nonprofit organizations hard at work in our communities.

After a year and a half, and over fifty interviews, we wanted to take a moment to thank the organizations we have featured for the work that they do. Every one of these organizations fills a special role in the community; from helping families in need with  food, shelter and clothing to providing opportunities for cultural enrichment to protecting our lands and natural resources.

The New Year is a time for resolutions, and there’s no better time to make a new commitment to getting out and getting involved! This year, consider joining or supporting one of these organizations; there are so many ways that your time and talent can help. And don’t forget to check our blog on Fridays as we continue to get the inside scoop on new nonprofits throughout 2015!

A Community That Shares (ACTS)

Accokeek Foundation

Adult Day Care of Calvert County

Alzheimer’s Association

Annmarie Garden & Sculpture Center

American Red Cross

Anathoth House, Inc.

Barstow Acres Children’s Center

Belle Grove Plantation

Calvert Hospice

Humane Society of Calvert County

Calvert Nature Society

Calvert Library Foundation

Cedar Lane Senior Living Facility

Center for Children

The Center for Life Enrichment

Children’s Aid Society

Charles Regional Medical Center Foundation

Charles County Holiday Trail

Charles County Dive Rescue Company 13

Christmas in April—St. Mary’s County

Christmas in April—Calvert County

Conservancy for Charles County

Dahlgren Heritage Museum

Fairy Godmother Project

Greenwell Foundation

Historic St. Mary’s City

Humane Society of Charles County

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum

King George YMCA

Lifestyles of Maryland

Mattawoman Creek Art Center

Nonprofit Institute at CSM

Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society

Project Echo

Rappahannock Community Foundation

Rappahannock Goodwill Industries

Rappahannock YMCA

Southern Maryland Food Bank

Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy

Southern Maryland Animal Welfare League (SMAWL)

Sotterley Foundation

St. Mary’s Museum Division

The Arc of Southern Maryland

The Community Foundation of Southern Maryland

Toys for Tots King George

Toys for Tots Calvert

United Way of Calvert County

United Way of Charles County United Way of Rappahannock

Vacations for Vets

Windows of Strength, Limited

Zonta Club of Charles County

Do you know of an organization that would make a great Friday Focus feature? Contact Monica Meinert at meinertm@cbtc.com or 240-427-1048 for more information about the blog series.

New Year’s Resolutions

Financial year 2015As the year winds down, many of us begin to think about our New Year’s resolutions.

For some people, a resolution might be working in an extra trip to the gym each week, or agonizing over ways to avoid that extra piece of chocolate cake. But another good (and, some might argue, more painless) option is to commit to improving your financial life. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start saving for retirement but never really had a chance to explore your options, or maybe there’s some debt you’d like to pay off. Think of 2015 as a new start, an opportunity to take control of your financial future and make smarter, better decisions about how to manage your money.

In the spirit of this season of resolutions, we’re kicking off a new blog series that will help you start working toward whatever financial goal you set for yourself this year. Check back every Tuesday in January for tools and tips on everything from saving money to sticking to a budget!