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September 2019 E-Newsletter

6 Ways to Save Money on School Lunches

Go litterless.
A lot of parents still use disposable zip-top bags, paper bags and disposable water bottles that they throw away each day. The cost adds up because you have to constantly buy more. A better option is to buy containers and reusable water bottles and fill and wash them each day. It’s maybe $20 for a container versus $5 for the bags that you throw away—but you only buy it once and use it for years.

Use Raw Instead of Prepackaged Ingredients. 
Raw ingredients cost a lot less than prepackaged items. For example, instead of purchasing cheese strings, buy a brick of cheddar cheese and cut your own sticks. Instead of buying yogurt cups, get a 750-millilitre tub and dollop it into your own small containers. The same can be said for baby-cut carrots. They’re much more expensive than buying a two-pound bag of carrots you can peel and cut yourself. As parents, we’re always weighing convenience and cost. If cost is an issue, then prep ingredients at home—or get your kids to help out!

Try More Affordable Protiens. 
Not enough parents are getting their kids used to beans, lentils and chickpeas, which are very affordable. They can be super kid-friendly, too. Try throwing a few chicBack to Schoolkpeas or red kidney beans into a little grain or fusilli salad with cucumbers and carrots. It will cost a lot less than adding meat, tuna or cheese, but still provides much-needed protein.

Buy Frozen Fruit.
When you can’t afford $6.99 for a half-cup of blueberries, check the freezer aisle, where you can get three cups for the same price. In the morning, I take sliced frozen peaches or mangoes from the freezer and defrost them in a little bit of warm water. Then I drain and pack them. By lunch, they’re perfectly ready to eat. Just send along a fork.

Turn Your Dinner Extras Into Lunch.
If there are leftovers from dinner, immediately put them into lunch containers. This makes my job easier because it’s a lunch I don’t have to make, and the kids are happy because it’s food they like.

Plan, Plan, Plan.
Sit down on the weekend and plan what you’re going to have for lunches and dinners—this will help you write a grocery list that actually meets your needs and doesn’t result in wasted food. Try using a meal-planning app, like Today’s Parent Mealtime.

The article 6 Ways to Save Money On School Lunches originally appeared on Today's Parent.

Business Corner: Whats a Good Business to Start?

It is always a good time to start a business. In fact, highly successful businesses have been started in both the best and worst of economic times.

The question Back to Schoolthat arises, though, is what business to start. Interestingly, my criteria (listed below) for the right choice of business is pretty much the same as my checklist for creating a winning business plan. So, make sure you stack up well against these criteria. If you do, you should be able to both develop a business plan worthy of investment capital and to grow a successful business.

1. Make sure you have unique qualifications.
When developing a business plan, I always say the most important question to answer is “why are you uniquely qualified to succeed?” If you have no unique qualifications, then it’s hard to succeed, and easy for others to copy you. Unique qualifications can include your experience, intellectual property, relationships, etc.

In choosing a good business to start, think about your unique qualifications. What can you do better than anyone else? What do you have great experience and expertise doing? Interestingly, this is why so many restaurants fail. Oftentimes, new restaurant owners have no experience and expertise managing a restaurant. As a result, failure is likely. Conversely, when a restaurant owner launches a second, third, etc., restaurant, because of their experience, they are much more likely to succeed.

2. Make sure there is a “pain.”
Always look for a market pain or need. Because that’s why people tend to spend their money on. For example, if people in your town have to travel 20 minutes to the nearest dry cleaner, then there might be a significant need for a dry cleaner there.

In general, the greater the pain, the greater the chances your business will succeed. Importantly, not all new ventures solve massive pains. For example, many internet and mobile app ventures solve an entertainment need rather than a pain. However, while some of these ventures become multi-billion dollar enterprises, the vast, vast majority of them fail.

3. Make sure the business is fundable.
No matter how good your business idea is, if it requires funding and you can’t raise it, it doesn’t matter.

The ideal business is one that you can at least start with finance your provide yourself, or with a reasonable amount of financing. Conversely, if you have a great idea, but it requires $100 million in initial funding, you’re not going to raise it. Large investors will not bet on an unproven startup, unless the founder of that startup has a long track record of taking companies public and/or returning sizable returns for investors.

Likewise, if you require outside funding, make sure the business fundamentals are such that investors will receive a sizable return on investment (ROI). Because, no matter how solid the opportunity, if investors don’t feel they will earn a fair return, they won’t invest.

Keep these three factors in mind when choosing a new business to start and when developing your business plan. When all three are in your favor, the sky is the limit to your success.

If you have any business related questions, our Business Banking Team is here to help!

This article, What's A Good Business To Start, originally appeared on

Coulee Security Tip: 10 Easy Ways to Prevent Malware Infection?

Yes, it’s possible to clean up an infected computer and fully remove malware from your system. But the damage from some forms of malware, like ransomware, cannot be undone. If they’ve encrypted your files and you haven’t backed them up, the jig is up. So your best defense is to beat the bad guys at their own game

While no single method is ever 100 percent fool-proof, there are some tried and true cybersecurity techniques for keeping malware infections at bay that, if put into practice, will shield you from most of the garbage of the Internet.
Without further ado:

Protect Vulnerbilities.
One of the most ingenious delivery methods for malware today is by exploit kit. Exploit kits are sneaky little suckers that rummage around in your computer and look for weaknesses in the system, whether that’s an unprotected operating system, a software program that hasn’t been updated in months, or a browser whose security protocols aren’t up to snuff (we’re looking at you, Internet Explorer).
Back to School
Here are some ways you can protect against exploits and shield your vulnerabilities:

1. Update your operating system, browsers, and plugins. If there’s an update to your computer waiting in queue, don’t let it linger. Updates to operating systems, browsers, and plugins are often released to patch any security vulnerabilities discovered. So while you leave those programs alone, cybercriminals can find their way in through the vulnerabilities. Bonus mobile phone tip: To protect against security flaws in mobile phones, be sure your mobile phone software is updated regularly. Don’t ignore those “New software update” pop-ups, even if your storage is full or your battery is low.

2. Enable click-to-play plugins.
One of the more devious ways that exploit kits (EKs) are delivered to your computer is through malvertising, or malicious ads. You needn’t even click on the ad to become infected, and these malicious ads can live on prestigious, well-known sites. Besides keeping your software patched so that exploit kits can’t do their dirty work, you can help to block the exploit from ever being delivered by enabling click-to-play plugins. Click-to-play plugins keep Flash or Java from running unless you specifically tell them to (by clicking on the ad). The bulk of malvertising relies on exploiting these plugins, so enabling this feature in your browser settings will help keep the EKs at bay.

3. Remove software you don’t use (especially legacy programs).
So, you’re still running Windows XP or Windows 7/8.1? Microsoft discontinued releasing software patches for Windows XP in 2015, and Windows 7 and 8 are only under extended support. Using them without support or the ability to patch will leave you wide open to exploit attacks. Take a look at other legacy apps on your computer, such as Adobe Reader or older versions of media players. If you’re not using them, best to remove.

Watch Out For Social Engineering.
Another top method for infection is to scam users through social engineering. Whether that’s an email that looks like it’s coming from your bank, a tech support scam, or a fishy social media campaign, cybercriminals have gotten rather deft at tricking even tech-savvy surfers.
By being aware of the following top tactics, you can fend off uninvited malware guests:

Read emails with an eagle eye.
Phishing is a cybercrime mainstay, and it’s successful only when readers don’t pay attention or know what to look for. Check the sender’s address. Is it from the actual company he or she claims? Hover over links provided in the body of the email. Is the URL legit? Read the language of the email carefully. Are there weird line breaks? Awkwardly-constructed sentences that sound foreign? And finally, know the typical methods of communication for important organizations. For example, the IRS will never contact you via email. When in doubt, call your healthcare, bank, or other potentially-spoofed organization directly. Bonus mobile phone tip: Cybercriminals love spoofing banks via SMS/text message or fake bank apps. Do not confirm personal data via text, especially social security numbers. Again, when in doubt, contact your bank directly.

Do not call fake tech support numbers. 
Ahhh, tech support scams. The bane of our existence. These often involve pop-ups from fake companies offering to help you with a malware infection. How do you know if they’re fake? A real security company would never market to you via pop-up saying they believe your computer is infected. They would especially not serve up a (bogus) 1-800 number and charge money to fix it. If you have security software that detects malware, it will show such a detection in your scan, and it will not encourage you to call and shell out money to remove the infection. That’s a scam trying to infect you. Don’t take the bait.

Do not believe the cold callers.
On the flip side, there are those who may pick up the phone and try to bamboozle you the good old-fashioned way. Tech support scammers love to call up and pretend to be from Microsoft. They’ve detected an infection, they say. Don’t believe it. Others may claim tBack to Schoolo have found credit card fraud or a loan overdue. Ask questions if something feels sketchy. Does the person have info on you that seems outdated, such as old addresses or maiden names? Don’t confirm or update the info provided by these callers. Ask about where that person is calling from, if you can call back, and then hang up and check in with credit agencies, loan companies, and banks directly to be sure there isn’t a problem. Bonus mobile phone tip: You can block calls until pigs fly, but there will always be a scammer ready with a new number (especially one that looks similar in area code and first three digits to yours). Many cybersecurity programs for Android and iPhone can put the bulk of those calls to rest, meaning an unidentified number needn’t stress you out as much. Of course, when in doubt, screen your calls.

Practice safe browsing.
There’s such a thing as good Internet hygiene. These are the things you should be doing to protect against external and internal threats, whether you’ve lost your device and need to retrieve it or want to stay protected when you shop online.

“While many of the threats you hear about on the news make it seem like there is no way to protect yourself online these days, the reality is that by following some basic tips and maintaining good habits while online, you will evade infection from over 95 percent of the attacks targeting you,” says Adam Kujawa, Head of Intelligence for Malwarebytes. “For that last 5 percent, read articles, keep up with what the actual security people are saying, and follow their advice to protect yourself.”

So here are some of the basics to follow:

Use Strong Passwords and/or password managers. 
“A strong password is unique, is not written down anywhere, is changed often, and isn’t tied to easily found personal information, like a birthday. It’s also not repeated for different logins. Admittedly, that’s a tough cookie to chew on. If you don’t want to worry about remembering 5,462 different rotating passwords, you may want to look into a password manager, which collects, remembers, and encrypts passwords for your computer.

Coulee Bank uses a Three Step Security Shield Approach.

Make sure you're on a secure connection.
Look for the proper padlock icon to the left of the URL. If it’s there, then that means the information passed between a website’s server and your browser remains private. In addition, the URL should read “https” and not just “http.”

Log out of websites after you're done.
Did you log into your healthcare provider’s site using your super-strong password? You could still be leaving yourself vulnerable if you don’t log out, especially if you’re using a public computer. It’s not enough to just close the browser tab or window. A person with enough technical prowess could access login information from session cookies and sign into a site as you.

Layer your security.
All the safe browsing and careful vigilance in the world can’t protect you from all the threats out there. Sometimes you need a professional to catch the poo that cyber monkeys are flinging. So to keep your machine clean, invest in security software and layer it up with the following:

10. Use firewall, anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-exploit technology.
Your firewall can detect and block some of the known bad guys. Meanwhile, Malwarebytes products use multiple layers of tech to fend off sophisticated attacks from unknown agents, stopping malware and ransomware infection in real time and shielding vulnerable programs from exploit attack.

Security professionals agree a multi-layer approach—using not only multiple layers of security technology but also user awareness—helps keep you protected from the bad guys and your own mistakes. Now go forth and fight malware!

Coulee Bank has partnered with Deluxe Provent to provide you with integrated suite of identity theft protection. Learn More! 

Q-Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.

Coulee Investment Center: Retiring? Take Control of Your Assets

After years of saving and investing, you can finally see the big day -- retirement. But before kicking back, you still need to address a few matters. Decisions made now could make the difference between your money outlasting you or vice versa.

Calculating Your Retirement Needs.
First, figure out how much income you may need. When retirement was years away, this exercise may have involved a lot of estimates. Now, you can be more accurate. Consider the following factors:
• Your home base -- Do you intend to remain in your current home? If so, when will your mortgage be paid? Will you sell your current home for one of lesser value, or "trade up"?
• The length of your retirement -- The average 65-year-old man can expect to live about 17 more years; the average 65-year-old woman, 20 more years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Have you accounted for a retirement of 20 or more years?
• Earned income -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022, 23% of people aged 65 or older will still be employed, almost twice the proportion that prevailed in 2002.1 If you continue to work, how much might you earn?
• Your retirement lifestyle -- Your lifestyle will help determine how much preretirement income you'll need to support yourself. A typical guideline is 60% to 80%, but if you want to take luxury cruises or start a business, you may well need 100% or more.
• Health care costs and insurance -- Many retirees underestimate health care costs. Most Americans are not eligible for Medicare until age 65, but Medicare doesn't cover everything. You can purchase Medigap supplemental health insurance to cover some of the extras, but even Medigap insurance does not pay for long-term custodial care, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental care, private-duty nursing, or unlimited prescription drugs. For more on Medicare and health insurance, visit Medicare's consumer website.
• Inflation -- Although the inflation rate can be relatively tame, it can also surge. It's a good idea to tack on an additional 4% each year to help compensate for inflation.

Running the Numbers.
The next step is to identify all of your potential income sources, including Social Security, pensions, and personal investments. Don't overlook cash-value life insurance policies, income from trusts, real estate, and the equity in your home.

Also review your asset allocation -- how you divide your portfolio among stocks, bonds, and cash. Are you tempted to convert all of your investments to low-risk securities? Such a move may place your assets at risk of losing purchasing power due to inflation. You may live in retirement for a long time, so try to keep your portfolio working for you -- both now and in the future. A financial advisor can help you determine an appropriate asset allocation.RobberBaronChart.jpg
A New Phase of Financial Planning.
Once you've assessed your needs and income sources, it's time to look at cracking that nest egg you've built up. First, determine a prudent withdrawal rate. A common approach is to liquidate 5% of your principal each year of retirement; however, your income needs may differ.

Next, you'll need to decide when to tap into tax-deferred and taxable investments. The advantage of holding on to tax-deferred investments (employer-sponsored retirement plan assets, IRAs, and annuities) is that they compound on a before-tax basis and therefore have greater earning potential than their taxable counterparts.2 However, earnings and deductible contributions in tax-deferred accounts are subject to income tax upon withdrawal -- a tax that can be as high as 39.6% at the federal level. In contrast, long-term capital gains from the sale of taxable investments are taxed at a maximum of 20%.3 The key to managing taxes is to determine the best strategy given your income needs and tax bracket.

Also, tax-deferred assets are generally subject to required minimum distributions (RMDs) -- based on IRS life expectancy tables -- after you reach age 70½. Failure to take the required distribution can result in a penalty equal to 50% of the required amount. Fortunately, guidelines do not apply to Roth IRAs or annuities.2 For more information on RMDs, see the IRS's RMD resource page or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040

A Lifelong Strategy.
A carefully crafted retirement strategy also takes into account your estate plan. A will is the most basic form of an estate plan, as it helps ensure that your assets get disbursed according to your wishes. Also, make sure that your beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance policies are up-to-date.

If estate taxes are a concern, you may want to consider strategies to help manage income while minimizing your estate tax obligation. For example, with a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT), you move assets to an irrevocable trust and then receive an annual annuity for a specific number of years. At the end of that period, the remaining value in the GRAT passes to your beneficiary -- usually your child -- generally free of gift taxes. Another option might be a charitable remainder trust, which allows you and/or a designated beneficiary to receive income during life and a tax deduction at the same time. Ultimately, the assets pass free of estate taxes to a named charity.

It's easy to become overwhelmed by all the financial decisions that you must make at retirement. The most important part of the process is to consult a qualified financial professional, a tax advisor, and an estate-planning attorney to make sure that you're prepared for this new -- and exciting -- stage of your life.AdvisorArticleImage_Sept_web.jpgHave financial questions? Shari Hopkins, our Certified Financial Planner, will provide you with financial guidance through every stage of your financial journey.

1 Source: Source/Disclaimer: 1Source: Labor Force Projections to 2022, Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts prior to age 59½ are taxable and may be subject to a 10% additional tax. Neither fixed nor variable annuities are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and they are not deposits of -- or endorsed or guaranteed by -- any bank. Withdrawals from annuities may result in surrender charges.
3 A 3.8% tax on unearned income may also apply.

Required Attribution
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems, Inc. or its sources, neither DST Systems, Inc. nor its sources 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. In no event shall DST Systems, Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2017 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.

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

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