Worried About Data Breaches? Protect Yourself with these Tips

Recent data breaches have many of us worried that our most sensitive personal and financial information is at risk—with good reason.

For our part, OSB is continually working to ensure that your data remains secure. One way we are doing this is with the introduction of our new Community Checking Account options. Both our Advantage Checking and Advantage Plus Checking accounts feature IDProtect® which includes comprehensive identity theft monitoring and resolution services as well as other features to help you keep your identity safe. You can review these account options here.

Our Online Banking system is also designed to protect you from data theft. It has many safeguards to secure your account information including authentication, SSL, exclusive encryption software, high-end firewalls, and automatic sign-off. For additional details please review the security information on our website.

If you are not utilizing IDProtect® through our Advantage or Advantage Plus checking accounts, here are some other tips you can use to help keep your sensitive information safe:

  1. Monitor your accounts regularly. Keeping an eye on your bank and other financial accounts is part of being fiscally responsible and allows you to take prompt action if unauthorized activity does occur.
  2. Report suspicious account activity immediately. If you believe that your OSB Online Banking access ID or passcode has been compromised, or if an unauthorized transaction has occurred, let us know within two business days to mitigate your financial exposure. If you think that your credit information has been stolen, contact one of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  3. Set up automatic fraud alerts. In addition to self-monitoring your bank and credit accounts, set up automatic fraud alerts using tools offered by financial services providers like OSB. The three major credit reporting agencies listed above all offer free fraud notifications, too.
  4. Consider a credit freeze if you are concerned. If you believe you have been impacted by a data breach, you may want to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to ask for a lock on your credit files to stop any new credit information releases until you can determine if your information was actually stolen.
  5. Check your credit report. Each year, you are entitled to one free credit report from all three major reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Requesting these reports should be a regular practice to proactively monitor the security of your information.

Unfortunately, data breaches are becoming more commonplace in our digital world. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take every measure you can to protect yourself from identity and data thieves. Choosing one of our Community Checking Accounts with IDProtect® services is a great first step as is implementing the tips above. If you have any questions about our Advantage Checking or Advantage Plus Checking accounts and the protection they provide or OSB’s commitment to your security please contact us.

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Make Time to Enjoy These Local Autumn Activities

Fall is one of the best times to get outdoors for some quality time with family and friends and there’s an abundance of fun fall activities in our local area to enjoy. From walking through rustling leaves on a nature trail, to finding treasures at craft shows and downtown shops, to cheering on young athletes at school sporting events, the fall season in southeastern Michigan has something for everyone.

Although the weather has been warm recently, the sure signs of fall are appearing! The leaves are changing color—and a new crop of delicious apples is coming into season, which means that apple picking, another favorite fall family activity is ready to enjoy at local orchards in Jackson County, Lenawee County and  Washtenaw County. If you’re ready to celebrate this year’s harvest season, here are a few of the area’s local farms and orchards you may want to visit:

In Jackson County—Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm was established more than 60 years ago. It is located at 11025 S. Jackson Road in Cement City, Michigan. This full “farm experience” truly has something for everyone, including an orchard, cider mill, farm tours, a bakery, plus a cidery and wine cellar. There’s even special live music events throughout the season.

In Lenawee County—Carpenter Farms in Adrian, Michigan is a place that’s perfect for making family memories. The working farm offers lots of fun activities during the fall season including a corn maze, hayrides and pumpkins, a petting farm and more. Plus, you can take a great family snapshot in their beautiful fall photo-staging display.

In Washtenaw County—Part farm, part orchard, part county fair—a trip to Wiard’s Orchard in Ypsilanti, Michigan adds up to a ton of family fun! Located at 5565 Merritt Road, you can plan to spend a full afternoon at Wiard’s to enjoy lunch and take in all of the amusements such as games, slides, the corn maize, tractor rides, pony rides, paintball and a trip through the haunted woods. Not to mention, you’ll want to spend time picking apples and pumpkins in the u-pick area and paying a trip to the country store featuring baked goods and more.

These favorite fall destinations are just a sampling of the outings that you and your family can enjoy in our local community. By exploring all of the fall activities and events in Jackson County, Lenawee County and  Washtenaw County you’ll make the most of one of the most beautiful times of year in southeast Michigan.

Seeking Success? Start by Finding Your Sweet Spot

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

While everyone has a different definition of success, striving for it is a driving force for many of us. Setting and achieving goals, working to bring a vision to life and making progress in our personal and professional lives are all examples of the kinds of success we seek.

Success can seem elusive as we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances and setbacks. This can be frustrating, especially when you are looking to make a career move or reach a personal goal. While there are rarely many shortcuts to finding success, finding your sweet spot can help make it considerably easier.

Your sweet spot defined. What do we mean by “sweet spot”? It’s the intersection of the things that you are good at (usually these things come relatively easy to you) and the actions that will help you achieve your particular goal. Finding your sweet spot allows you to operate with efficiency, strength and, usually, positive results. So how do you find that special place in your heart and mind that can accelerate you on the path to achieving what you want? It’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these four steps:

Visualize and write down what you want to achieve. As legendary author and inspirational speaker Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.” Many of us want to achieve goals related to fitness, finances and family, but we keep our goals in our heads and in very general terms. Covey’s advice is to envision in your mind and articulate on paper (or your electronic device) in very specific detail, exactly what you want and the steps you need to take toward getting it. While this may seem simple, it is a very powerful principle, too.

Identify your inner strengths. Once you have a specific vision and goal in your mind and in written form, you need to leverage your core competencies—the strengths that make you unique and can help you achieve your goal. Make a list of the unique talents you have that you can use to help move you in the right direction. For example, maybe you want to increase your success in your professional life by finding a different job opportunity. Without knowing what your aptitudes are and looking only superficially at the kind of position you want, rather than what will use your best skills and personal characteristics, it is unlikely that you will be successful in finding a role where you can reach your full potential  and be truly satisfied.

Listen to your family, friends and fans. While you can’t let others determine your definition of success, don’t discount what people tell you about your strengths. If the praise you receive is sincere, it can help point you in the direction of your sweet spot. Consider writing down the actions that you have been recognized for doing exceptionally well and your positive characteristics that people often comment on, then look to find common themes. These will likely be indicative of what internal strengths will help you achieve your goal with relative ease.

Put it all together. Now that you have a clear goal and a clear idea of the strengths and internal resources you have to achieve it, it’s time to use your sweet spot to activate your success. Make a plan with specific action items of what you need to do to achieve your goals and then match them up with your greatest aptitudes that will allow you successfully complete them.

Final thoughts…Nothing is more rewarding than setting a goal and actually achieving it, but sometimes we stand in our own way by not doing the work required to know where our sweet spot lies in terms of being successful. Spending just an hour or two to envision what you want and tap into the internal power you have to achieve it can make your journey on the path to success easier—and your accomplishments that much sweeter.

Go from Panic to Peace of Mind with these Professional “Post-Mortgage” Tips

OSB COmmunity Bank mortgage promotion 2017 flyer

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

Once you have found the perfect home, secured the mortgage loan that you need and have sold your existing property, real moments of panic can set in when you realize how much you have to do as you take possession of your new house. The list can seem endless: packing, unpacking, coordinating movers, changing your address, setting up utilities, and getting your new home move-in ready. This transition phase is overwhelming for many people, but you can restore your peace of mind if you use the following tips to simplify the process:

Clear your calendar. Trying to pack, coordinate appointments for utility hook-ups and deliveries, plus accommodating meals and daily living activities when your home is in moving mode is stressful enough. If you can, take some time off work or at least make the weekends obligation-free so you can accomplish what you need to get done.

Clear your closets. In addition to freeing time to get ready for your move, you should free yourself (and your new home) of unnecessary items. Before you even start putting anything in a packing box, make the tough choices about letting go of the possessions you no longer need. If you move extra stuff to your new place, it will not only add to the physical congestion there, but also make you feel more stressed about finding a place for it.

To divest of your unwanted items, consider having a garage sale, taking items to  consignment shops or donating them. Some moving companies will help you drop off unwanted items at non-profit organizations that can use them—be sure to ask your movers!

Have a packing plan. Make sure you think about the layout of your new house when packing boxes, putting items that you want to go in the same room together. Labeling boxes according to the rooms they need to go to and/or the names of items in them will save you valuable time when unpacking.

Pack a box of essentials. One of the first things to pack is a box with all of the “urgent” things you’ll need at your new home as soon as you arrive such as toilet paper, paper towels, a note pad and pen, cleaning supplies, snacks and drinks. This will save you time and the hassle of searching through boxes or having to run to the store in the midst of moving in.

Time moving-related appointments right. Once you’re ready to move, you’ll realize how many appointments there are to schedule! There’s cable and/or internet services, appliance deliveries and more, so try to consolidate as many of these appointments to a single day as possible so you only have to wait at home for a specific period, rather than at multiple times on multiple days. Also, consider scheduling them before your actual move-in date to make the day you move a little less hectic.

Enlist help when you need it. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to manage a move alone. You can ask friends and neighbors to pitch in when they can, but even this may not completely relieve the stress, since you’ll have to plan for them and direct them, too.

One of the best ways to make sure everything gets done efficiently is to use professional home concierge services. These services, where a professional comes to your home and takes on the tasks of moving preparation for you can save you significant time and frustration. Plus, you’ll be amazed at the difference a professional touch can make when organizing your closets, cupboards—and even your garage!

Let OSB help you simplify the moving process with a special offer. At OSB we want to make every part of the mortgage process easy for you—and we want to help you avoid any panic over other things related to moving, too. That’s why when you establish a new mortgage or refinance an existing loan at OSB now through December 31, 2017, we’ll provide you with a complimentary hour of services from Brooklyn’s own Simplified Living Concierge Services to help you get settled more easily in your new home. See details of the offer above and be sure to contact me if you need assistance with your home financing needs.

Simple Steps You Can Take for a Smoother Mortgage Experience

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

If you think that applying for a mortgage loan is right up there with getting a root canal—you’re not alone. Many home buyers, and homeowners looking to refinance, find the mortgage application process frustrating—or even painful. At OSB, we strive to make your mortgage experience as simple as possible (see the infographic below for a complete picture of our mortgage process). In addition, taking the steps below can make your mortgage experience even smoother:

Step 1: Choose the right lender. If you’re not working with the right lender, securing a mortgage loan can be a painful process. It’s important to be comfortable with your lender. For example, if you want to have someone to guide you through the process and be able to answer your questions in a timely manner, an online mortgage option is probably not for you.

At OSB, we work to streamline your mortgage application and make getting a mortgage as easy as possible with personalized service to help you feel as comfortable and confident as possible.

Step 2: Provide your financial information promptly. Buying or refinancing your home requires that you provide significant amounts of financial and personal information to your lender. From bank statements to pay stubs your lender should let you know exactly what they need from you in order to process your mortgage application. To avoid delays, make sure you provide the specific items requested in a timely manner.

Step 3: Tackle your taxes. You will need to provide current tax returns as part of the mortgage application process and you must have your taxes filed for the past two years. If you have any delinquent tax payments or unfiled taxes, you’ll need to ensure that they are taken care of so the processing of your mortgage application can proceed.

Step 4: Manage your account balances and credit. Your bank balances and credit score will be evaluated by your lender as part of the mortgage loan decision so it is wise to make sure they are in good order.

Tip: When it comes to your bank account, it’s best not to make large deposits during your loan application, as it may affect your loan decision. In addition, avoid taking on any new debt during the loan process (e.g. Hold off on buying new furniture and appliances until after your mortgage closes.), since all of your debt will influence your debt-to-loan ratio which is a critical aspect of any mortgage loan application.

Let OSB help you smooth out the mortgage application process. Applying for a mortgage shouldn’t be a burden. OSB is dedicated to making your loan process simple and streamlined—and these tips can help you take the right steps to make your mortgage experience even smoother! Need help with a mortgage loan? Contact me at 517.592.1058 and we’ll get started!

mortgage path to the american dream

 

 

 

OSB’s SBA Financing Helps Small Businesses Adjust to Market Changes

Michelle Brasseur, an OSB Community Bank Senior Commercial Lender, tells how the flexibility of  SBA loans can provide financing relief to small businesses.

“There are so many fantastic advantages for businesses who access SBA financing solutions through a local community bank. Early in my lending career SBA was the primary loan product that I worked with, but for the past 18 years I would say that SBA, and specifically SBA 7A, is one of the loan products that I would consider when structuring loans for clients.

This year I discovered an amazing servicing opportunity that was truly a lifesaver for one of our clients at OSB Community Bank. As a family owned business in an industry that has been experiencing declining sales and margins, this client was facing financial challenges. The stress of these conditions was showing on the client’s income statement and balance sheet. When our client requested additional financing, we had to explain that what they really needed to do was reduce expenses to align with the reduction in their current and projected sales. We encouraged them to work with their accountant to see what expenses they could reduce.

Soon after, the client came back to me with solutions to significantly reduce their expenses, showing their commitment to making the changes necessary for their survival. As a result, the bank felt comfortable looking at what financing options we could offer to them. After doing some research, I discovered that you can extend the maturity of any SBA loan up to 10 years. Doing this allowed us to provide payment relief to our client, whose business continues to do well today.”

Reinvesting in Our Community, One Organization at a Time

OSB’s President & CEO, Rick Northrup shares what’s at the heart of OSB’s passion for helping small businesses grow.

As a community bank, OSB understands what makes our neighborhoods, villages, and towns unique. We focus on lending to the small businesses and organizations that make us who we are.

A recent example illustrates this:

A charter school in our community was looking to grow and move into a new facility.  The school had been operating in a rental building and the administration wanted to own a building in order to control the school’s future and growth. Although the school and staff had been in operation locally for many years, the only financing available to them was from large, out-of-town financial institutions, which was expensive with very disadvantageous terms. The school could not afford this type of financing without inhibiting its growth. In fact, the school would have had serious financial struggles under the terms, placing its long-term success in jeopardy.

At OSB, we looked at the situation and found that the school’s students had very high academic results; the school’s staffing was strong and experienced; and the school also had committed parents. The building that the charter school wanted to purchase was an old elementary school, which would allow the school to double in size. At the time, the school was serving over 140 students, representing over 100 local families. The school and its plans made sense to us.

The team at OSB got to work, examining the school’s track record, business plan, staff, and education philosophy.  We also investigated the school’s collateral, learning about the potential for reestablishing a school there for the long-term, and understanding its value. When all was said and done, OSB offered a package of term loans and line of credit financing that allowed the school to meet its goals, without placing its financial future in jeopardy.

Since purchasing the building, the charter school has grown and is on track to double its size, as planned.  For the current academic year the school is serving over 200 students and 150 families. Soon the school expects to serve 300 students.

This is how OSB Community Bank reinvests in our community, making things better for all of us who share this little corner of the world—one organization at a time.