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August 2015 E-Newsletter

New Branch – Eagle Crest South!

Coulee Bank is proud to announce the opening of our new banking location at Eagle Crest South in La Crosse. We look forward to serving the individuals of the Eagle Crest South community!

12 Upcoming Midwest Festivals to End Your Summer

With the summer quickly coming to end, it’s time to get in those last family outings and enjoy your time together before the busy school season begins! To help plan for last hoorahs, we have compiled a list of the 12 Upcoming Midwest Festivals to End Your Summer with a bang!

  1. Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, WI: The fair in this Milwaukee suburb features lots of contests, including hog-calling, cookie-stacking and cream puff-eating. Aug. 6–16.
  2. Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival in Richmond, MN: This 36th annual family-friendly festival includes music on five stages and workshops at El Rancho Mañana Campground, 20 miles west of St. Cloud. Aug. 6–9.
  3. Ashley for the Arts Music Festival in Arcadia, WI: This nonprofit festival is in the southwest Wisconsin bluffs, half an hour north of Winona, Minn. Tickets are $5. In addition to music, there will be a hot-air balloon launch, car show, arts, a youth obstacle course and Saturday fireworks. Aug. 6–8.
  4. Country on the River in Prairie du Chien, WI: Dierks Bentley is among the headliners performing on two stages on St. Feriole Island. Aug. 6–8.
  5. Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis, MN: This large juried art fair in the Uptown neighborhood draws crowds. Use a Nice Ride bike or download a free bus/train pass,, to avoid congestion and to get to the two other art fairs in south Minneapolis. Aug. 7–9.
  6. Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, IA: See a diaper derby, outhouse races and mullet contest, and don't miss the butter sculptures. Aug. 13–23.
  7. Irish Fest in Milwaukee, WI: Celebrate all aspects of Irish, Irish American, and Celtic Cultures at this exciting festival. Aug. 13-16.
  8. Boundary Waters Blues Festival in Ely, MN: Ten bands play Friday and Saturday on Fall Lake, five miles east of Ely. There's camping on-site. Aug. 14–15.
  9. Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, MN: See the Luminarium, try beer flights at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, eat food on a stick and listen to free concerts. Aug. 27–Sept. 7.
  10. La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival in La Crosse, WI: Explore the Driftless Region via your bicycle. Guided interest rides are suitable for families, kids, easy riding, and great views! Sep. 4-7.
  11. Taste of Madison in Madison, WI: This free benefit festival on Capitol Square includes 300 menu items from more than 80 restaurants, all priced at $1-$4. There's also music on three stages. On Sunday, there's a lighted boat parade on Lake Mendota, followed by fireworks. Sept. 5–6.
  12. Great River Folk Festival in La Crosse, WI: This festival in Riverside Park includes children's activities and craft demonstrations. Aug. 28–30.

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Retirement Savings Tips: Impact Your Financial Future

Are you saving for your retirement? The infographic below will help you to learn why saving now can benefit you later on in life.



Community Event: Register to Win SOLD OUT Taylor Swift Tickets!

Seven-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift brings her 1989 World Tour to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for three sold out shows!  Fortunately, with our friends at Z93, we have purchased four tickets in a suite for Saturday, September 12th – and we want to share them with you!
Here's how you can win:

Grand Prize

Sign up at either of our La Crosse or Onalaska bank locations for the Grand Prize of 4 Taylor Suite Tickets and transportation! Enter as much as you want. One entry per location per day.

Swift Stops

Sign up at any of the Z93 Swift Stops. Hang around and have some fun with Z93, because at the end of the stop they’ll draw the winner of a pair of Taylor Swift tickets and transportation.

Swift Stops will be at:

  • HG Orthodontics: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 12pm.
  • Brother’s Bar: Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 7pm.
  • River Rat’s: Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 6pm.


Register online for one of two pairs of Taylor Suite Tickets and transportation.

Click here for official contest rules.

Security Q-Tip: Protect Your Data from Hackers

If your data has been hacked, you're not alone. One in 4 Americans were hit by information security breaches in the past year, according to an April 2015 survey from the American Institute of CPAs. The survey also found that no age group was spared, though older adults were more likely to fall victim than millennials. The damage can be great, too. Of those surveyed, 20 percent indicated identity theft pulled down their credit score.

Your data is never going to be breach-proof. Indeed, you can't stop hackers from infiltrating your insurance company, bank, or favorite big-box store. But you can build a stronger wall of protection around the networks and personal information you hold dear.

Here are five things you can do to protect yourself:

Protect Your Network

You do what you can to keep your home protected from break-ins -- you may even have a home security system -- but your computer network needs protection, too, says Christopher Budd, threats communications manager at Irving, Texas-based Trend Micro, a global security solutions provider.

"Home network routers are a particular area of vulnerability" to hackers, he says. Why? Because we don't often think to update their security.

To start, says Budd, make sure that network routers are password-protected -- and that you're not using factory-supplied default passwords. Second, make sure the network is updated.
If you don't know how to do it, you're not alone, says Budd. Most Americans don't, and it's hard to do solo. "In my career, I've had 30 professional certifications and I get nervous updating my router because if it goes badly, my home network is dead in the water," Budd says.

You have two options: Call your Internet provider and have them walk you through it, or hire a professional to do it for you. Budd recommends the latter.

Don’t Trust Anyone

You know not to click on links in suspicious-looking emails from what sort of looks like your bank, but phishing scammers are getting more sophisticated and are using more outlets to try to catch your personal information.

"With the rise of social media, phishing attacks continue to grow and become more sophisticated," says Mark Stevens, vice president of global services and support at Digital Guardian, a Waltham, Massachusetts, cyber security firm. "Now attackers can use the messaging feature in social media as another medium in addition to email."

Hackers also have shifted to "spear phishing," which is when you get a message addressed to you personally claiming to be from a person you know or a company you've done business with seeking your personal information. If it appears the person or company knows you, you may be apt to let your guard down.

If you're suspicious of a message, even if it looks real, don't click on the link. Instead, call customer service and ask whether they sent something to you. If they did, then you can resolve the issue over the phone. If not? Trash the email and report it as spam.

Don’t Trust Removable Devices

USB drives and CDs are convenient ways to move information from one machine to another, but they also can transfer malicious software to your computer if one of those files is malware-infected.

"Most users think (malware) is only on websites and email, but it can also be hidden in downloadable files, photos and videos. Once these infected files are saved to a USB drive or CD, then the removable device also becomes infected," Stevens says. "From there, once the removable device is infected, then any computer that hosts the USB drive or disc will also carry the malware."

To protect yourself, make sure you're running updated anti-virus software on your computer.

Lock Down Your Password

This may sound obvious, but a lot of consumers still don't get it. "We're seeing people use '123456' and 'password' commonly," says Andy Steingruebl, director of customer and ecosystem security for PayPal.

In order for your passwords to remain secure, Steingruebl says to make sure you don't use the same one on multiple accounts and change them regularly.

And don't store them in Web browsers, says Trend Micro's Budd. "Malware that gets into your system can do everything on your system that you can," he says. "If passwords are in your browser with the password saved, the malware can use your browser with the password saved."

Lock Down Your Phone

Your phone knows a lot about you, and most smartphone apps want access to your data. Unless they really need that information, don't give it, and don't store passwords in your phone either.

If you're downloading apps, make sure they're from a reputable source, like iTunes or Google Play. Sure, that off-brand site may look cheaper, but there could be a reason for it: The real profit is what it shifts off your phone.


15 Money Saving Tips for College Students

Most college students are living on a budget. If not, they’re likely students getting themselves into a cycle of debt. While neither is fun or easy, you can become smarter about the way you spend your money. Keep in mind that the key to financial success is being aware of how you’re spending your money.

Know that there’s a difference between being cheap and being spending savvy. There’s nothing wrong with living within your means, rather than beyond. For those of you who are in college or just about enroll, we have put together this list of 15 Money Saving Tips for College Students.

  1. Buy or rent used textbooks and sell last semester’s books back. And, don’t buy books you will only need for a short period of time – check them out from the library instead.
  2. Don’t make impulse purchases.
  3. Limit the number of times you eat out monthly. And when planning meals, make dinner with friends and split the cost of groceries.
  4. Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees. And if you have a credit card, pay it off as quickly as possible. (It’s good to establish credit, but a bad credit score follows you everywhere.)
  5. Walk, use public transportation, or ride a bike instead of having a car.
  6. Live with others so you can split rent and utilities and cut out expensive cable packages you don’t need.
  7. Don’t buy the most expensive college meal plans. Figure out what you actually consume and get the correlating package.
  8. Shop where they offer student discounts. There are so many places that offer discounts to students with a school ID.
  9. Look into a campus gym versus a gym in town. Many colleges offer memberships for free or at a reduced rate for students.
  10. Don’t buy unnecessary school supplies. Why buy cumbersome notebooks when you can type on your laptop? It’s better for the earth too.
  11. Take advantage of what your campus has to offer in terms of activities, rather than spending money on going out. Many campuses have an array of museums, offer movie nights, and other social events for cheaper or, sometimes, for free.
  12. Skip expensive spring break and summer trips – look into alternatives, like volunteering or vacations close to your university.
  13. Go to class. You’re paying for it and skipping is like throwing money out the window!
  14. Make your own coffee. While coffee shops are convenient, they charge hefty prices that really add up over time.
  15. Use a free tool, like FinAid’s Student Budget Calculator or create your own with your family to stay on top of your finances.


Business Corner: 6 Tips for Avoiding Financial Disaster When Starting a Business

Starting your own business could be the ticket to the personal autonomy and financial independence you’ve always wanted. If it doesn’t work out as planned, though, it may feel more like a nightmare--particularly if it’s made a mess of your personal finances.

That’s why, before embarking on a new venture, it’s important to be on solid financial footing and have a plan in place to ensure that your personal wealth will be protected, regardless of how your business fares in the future.

1. Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

The only thing worse than having a business fail is having a business fail after you’ve invested all of your money in it.

“Entrepreneurs tend to be serial optimists,” says Nate Wenner, principal and regional director of financial advisory firm Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors. “But you need to be prepared for the potential downside of different scenarios.”

“I’ve had clients liquidate their IRAs to start a business, take every dollar out of their checking accounts or max out their credit cards to fund their businesses and keep them operational,” he says. “Sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn’t. If things don’t go well and you’ve cashed in everything, or you’re thin on your own personal financial assets, what’s your fallback?”

2. Maintain A Good Emergency Cash Cushion

The standard rule of thumb is to have three to six months of emergency cash on hand. However, Eric Roberge, a certified financial planner and founder of investment-advisory firm Beyond Your Hammock, says entrepreneurs need a much bigger cushion – especially if they have no other income stream.

“I’d keep two years of expenses held back that you can live on," he says. "You don’t want to be stressed out about your finances while you’re starting a business."

Having a strong financial foundation in place was key for Manpreet Singh when he co-founded TalkLocal, a home-services marketplace that connects consumers to local pros. Singh, who also happens to be a chartered financial analyst, says, “One thing people don't realize is that, at the onset, the entrepreneur is a company's only asset. So, if the entrepreneur is failing financially, the business doesn't stand a chance.”

“My fate and the fate of our business was so intertwined that I initially treated myself like the business itself. I moved back to my parent's home and we even launched the business from the basement,” he says. “Cohabitation was a simple way for me to cut my largest personal expense. Meanwhile, holding onto my day job held greater benefits than costs for the year or so that we spent refining our product and business model.”

3. Don’t Co-Mingle Your Assets

Keeping business and personal expenses separate is a must when starting a business, whether you’re shelling out small sums of money or making a significant financial investment.

Any money you spend on valid business-related expenses – anything from consulting fees to office supplies -- is deductible from the business income. The more deductions you have, the less you’ll owe Uncle Sam.

Experts recommend opening a separate business credit card and business bank account as well as putting an accounting system in place to track your expenses. Accounting software such as QuickBooks is a good low-cost option but if the business requires more extensive expense tracking it might be prudent to hire a bookkeeper.

4. Diversify Your Investments

Most people understand the benefits of having a well-diversified investment portfolio, yet business investments are often excluded from the group.

“If you’re taking on the high risk of starting a business, your other investments need to be much more conservative,” Roberge says. He believes in diversifying between a range of asset classes, including stocks, real estate, commodities, bonds and cash to reduce overall risk.

In addition, he says, entrepreneurs need to be mindful about loading up on investments in their area of expertise. For example, if you own a lot of tech stocks and then start a tech company, you are overloaded in the sector, which “completely shifts the allocation…you have to make sure you understand what that means for your risk going forward.”

5. Make Sure You’re Adequately Insured

There are a lot of things that could go wrong when starting a new business, so it’s a good idea to speak with a financial professional to determine where insurance policies may be helpful in mitigating certain risks.

Marguerita Cheng, chief executive of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, says disability insurance is one of the most important (though often neglected) forms of insurance for business owners.

“Disability insurance protects your greatest asset: your ability to make income," she says. "If you are the sole breadwinner, that is really important.”

Additionally she says there are other options depending on the type of business you’re running. There are certain policies if you’re working from home, purchasing expensive equipment or even using your car for business purposes. There are also policies to protect people in the business, such as errors-and-omissions policies, which cover damages related to professional advice; directors-and-officers insurance to protect against legal action brought against a company director or officer, and key person insurance, which pays out if your partner or a key employee dies.

6. Don’t Forget The IRS

Speaking with a tax expert is one of the most valuable things you can do to ensure you’re setting up your business structure properly and maximizing your deductions.

It’s also important to make sure you don’t make any costly mistakes, which is easy to do since IRS rules can be tricky to understand. For instance, one common tax misstep that entrepreneurs make is failing to pay themselves a salary.

“A lot of people are running so thin that they don’t pay themselves a salary for a long time, either trying to get the business cash flowing or to avoid going further into debt,” says Wenner.

However, if the business is audited and the IRS sees that the business is not paying you and therefore the government is losing out on those tax dollars, it could be an issue.


Coulee Investment Center: You Don’t Need Your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Money Now?

Shari-with-title-png.pngIn July last year the IRS finalized regulations allowing qualified longevity annuity contracts (QLAC) for traditional 401ks, 403bs, 457b plans and traditional IRAs. What does this mean for you? This means that a person is allowed to take up to 25% of their overall account balance(s) but not more than $125,000 from their retirement accounts and use that money as a premium to fund a qualified longevity annuity contract. This would allow the person to defer taking the RMD up to age 85 rather than taking the money out and paying taxes on it at 70 1/2.

A person may have many QLACs just as you may have many IRA, 401k, 401b or 457b accounts but the maximum a person can put in a QLAC is $125k or 25% of the combined balances. Roth IRAs or Roth conversion balances are not included and do not allow QLACs.

Once the owner of the QLAC reaches 85 and 1 month, the owner must start taking an income stream. This income can be on a single life or joint life and will continue as long as the person or the spouse lives or until the premium is returned.

The new ruling allows someone who is required to take their RMD at 70 ½ to defer taking that money – which therefore means deferring taxes up to a maximum age of 85. While the maximum may seem small to some people, if you don’t need the income and could save yourself from paying more in taxes, why wouldn’t you want to review the option?

Do you have to wait until 70 ½ to take advantage of this option? No, you can fund the QLAC at any time and make multiple deposits before finally beginning to take the annuity income. The start date of income stream can typically be changed (for example: if originally you thought you wanted to start income at 78 but then changed your mind and wanted to delay further to age 83) There may also be return of premium guarantee depending on the provider.

If you are a person who does not rely on the income from a required minimum distribution or wants to reduce your tax liability at age 70 ½ or older, contact Shari Hopkins to review your situation to see if a QLAC is right for you at 608-784-3904.

Neither Coulee Investment Center nor Coulee Bank guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. Coulee Investment Center and Coulee Bank do not give tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal professional.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank or Coulee Investment Center are not registered broker/dealers and are not affiliated with LPL.

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