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August 2020 E-Newsletter

Tips For Reopening Your Store During And After The Pandemic


Working From Home
Although we are still in the middle of this pandemic, restrictions have now begun to lift, allowing some businesses to reopen their doors. But in this crazy post-coronavirus world, reopening your store isn’t as simple as flipping your open sign.

In fact, even with these rolled back restrictions, 67% of people still aren’t comfortable with visiting a retail clothing store and 78% are not comfortable with sitting down at a restaurant. So how do you overcome these hurdles?

Make Safety Your Main Priority
This pandemic has shone a spotlight on the way that companies treat their employees. The health and financial security of employees is now one of the top concerns for 90% of consumers when they decide which brands they use. Anyone who is caught not supplying their workers with completely safe conditions or is seen as not doing enough for their well-being could be quickly publicly shunned.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the backlash from failing to meet proper employee safety recommendations is going to dissipate anytime soon. Experts agree that what your brand does now will have long-term consequences that could leave you in a difficult situation for months or even years after the pandemic has subsided. 

Therefore, you need to make sure that you are prepared to take the proper steps to help safeguard the health and safety of your employees before you think about reopening.

But what exactly does this entail? My clients are asking this every day.

Provide a hands-off experience.
In China, some retailers are making sure employees always work with the same group. This way, if one gets sick, they just quarantine the group, they don’t shut down the entire department store.

It used to be that companies strived to provide their customers with a comprehensive hands-on experience. Instead, retail spaces are now trying to make sure that they provide an experience that is as hands-off as possible. This means doing everything that you can in order to make sure that there are minimal physical interactions between customers and employees. 

A lot of clothing stores are taking steps to help achieve this. For example, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap have all either closed most or all of their fitting rooms and will begin to hold returned merchandise for 24 hours or longer. By doing so, they help to make sure that employees are not having to go in and frequently help customers with the process of trying on clothes. Instead, they can safely direct the customers to wherever their desired clothes are located while safely maintaining a safe distance.

Use the right materials.
One of the most frustrating things about COVID-19 is that it can continue to infect people even when they avoid contact with anyone else. This is due to the fact that it has been shown to be able to live on various surfaces like cardboard, plastic or stainless steel for anywhere from 24 to 76 hours. So even if an infected person is long gone by the time another customer enters the same area, they could touch something they breathed on and consequently become infected themselves. 

By using the right materials, this risk can be diminished. For example, copper is able to kill the virus within four hours of initial contact. By including more copper surfaces throughout your store, you can help ensure that germs pose a much smaller threat to employees and customers.

There is also the option to use antimicrobial materials to help further protect against coronavirus. You can make floors, walls, countertops, shelves and a lot more out of antimicrobial materials. So by preemptively stocking up on these antimicrobial structures, you can create one of the safest stores in the city.

In the Medly Pharmacies, which we are designing now, we created the Shiro chair that allows people to sit back-to-back, minimizing the chances of spreading the virus. They are also large enough to maintain the proper distance while allowing you to sit next to your kids if they are with you.

Make sure your store projects a sense of cleanliness.
If all employees are constantly wearing masks and encouraging or requiring customers to do the same, then not only are you helping to reduce the chance of the disease spreading, but you also send a clear message to your customers that you care. 

Another strategy that is becoming more popular is using ultraviolet light to kill coronavirus. This technology is being experimented to disinfect clothes and dressing rooms after they have been used, according to The New York Times (registration required). Stronger and wider UV lights will kill almost any virus, but since they are harmful, the entire operation needs to be performed behind closed doors. That's not an easy task to implement quickly, especially for small retailers.

You should also consistently perform thorough cleanings of your shopping area. While it might seem like this would interrupt shoppers as they attempt to make their purchases and make them frustrated, it actually tends to have the opposite effect. When customers see that you are taking cleaning seriously, it can help them trust your store more, which will increase the chances of them coming back during this pandemic.

While no one has the perfect answer on how to successfully reopen a store during this pandemic, following these tips can make success more likely. The big question remains: Are customers interested in your brand? In the values it represents? If customers were not excited to go into your store before the pandemic, they will be a lot less likely to do so now. Stores need to connect with customers at a deep emotional level. If the magic isn’t there, start connecting with your audience.

Coulee Bank's branches are open. See the safety measures that have been implemented at our branch locations.

The article, Tips For Reopening Your Store During And After The Pandemic, originally appeared on Forbes.com

5 Steps to Take if You’ve Lost Your Job

Woman Filing TaxesA record 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since March as a result of the economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. The total number is staggering, particularly when you consider the impact a sudden job loss has on the lives and families of those who’ve been let go.

If you’re among those who have been laid off, you may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious about your financial stability. That’s understandable, but don’t let panic or fear guide your reactions. Now is the time to take stock of your situation and control what you can. Here are five tips to help you manage your finances during this difficult time and establish good habits that can serve you well into the future.

1. Manage Your Expenses
After a job loss, re-evaluate your monthly spending and look for ways to reduce your expenses. Consider cutting discretionary services that you can handle yourself, such as house cleaning, landscaping or other household tasks that you’ve previously hired others to do.

Also, use the opportunity to reach out to your service providers of essential items — like internet, phone service and insurance coverage — and see if you can trim back these expenses. Now would be a good time to negotiate a lower rate, especially if you haven’t done so in some time. This move can reduce your expenses without sacrificing important things.

2. Obtain Healthcare
As the global health crisis evolves, now is not the time to be without health insurance. If your employer provided you with a severance package, check the details to see if you qualify to remain on the company medical insurance and for how long. It’ll give you some time to decide how to handle health insurance, once you’re no longer on the company plan.

Typically, you have three health care options to choose from. 

  • If you’re married, and your spouse remains in his or her job and it offers health coverage for you, then that’s most likely the family’s best bet. 
  • You can also choose to go on COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), which may allow you to continue the insurance coverage through your former employer for potentially 18 to 36 months. This will usually be your most expensive option, since you must pay the full premium on the coverage without your company’s subsidy. 
  • The third option is to search the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Depending on the state you live in, there can be a variety of plans that offer an array of coverage options. You’ll need to do some research. You also might check with your doctors to see if they take the coverage before committing to a specific plan.

3. Avoid Tapping Retirement Accounts
Though you may be looking for ways to make ends meet after losing your job, tapping your retirement accounts should be a last resort for covering expenses. Normally, by withdrawing money from your 401(k) or IRA before age 59½, there’s a 10% penalty on the distribution, plus you have to pay income tax on your withdrawal as well. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, the CARES Act, which passed in March, lifted the penalty for 2020. If you’re financially affected by the coronavirus crisis, you can take a distribution up to $100,000 penalty-free, and spread the tax payment on the money over three years.

However, I discourage using this option if you can avoid it. By pulling money out of a retirement account now, you’re selling your assets during a downturn, which means you’re selling more shares. This reduces the number of shares in your portfolio, which cuts into how well your portfolio will compound moving forward. It potentially puts your retirement at risk.

4. Decide What to Do With Your 401(k)
While you should avoid making an early withdrawal from your nest egg, you’ll need to decide what to do with your employer-sponsored retirement account if you have one. This may not be your first thought, but it’s an important decision to consider now that you no longer work at the organization. If you like your investments, then you often have the option to keep it within the employer retirement plan. Look into whether there’s an extra fee for doing so.

Another option that many investors prefer is to roll their 401(k) over into an individual retirement account (IRA). By doing so, you’re often able to access an increased number of mutual funds and investing strategies. It can offer a more flexible and personalized way to allow those funds to grow, even after you find your next job.

As you’re considering what to do with your 401(k) discuss with your tax and financial professional all the pros and cons of any action you might pursue so that you make a fully informed decision.

5. Leverage government relief options
Last, but not least, make sure to sign up for unemployment insurance benefits if you qualify based on your state’s rules. The CARES Act also provided an additional $600 more per week in unemployment, under the new law, running through the end of July. While unemployment benefits may not cover all of your expenses, they can provide a much-needed influx of cash, potentially paying for your health insurance and other essential needs.

The CARES Act has a variety of provisions set in place that may provide relief to those who have lost their jobs. Creditor protection, foreclosure protection and eviction protection are among the benefits that the CARES Act provides. Take the time to understand how this bill can provide relief for your situation.

Losing a job can present you with many financial challenges and decisions. However, taking these steps can help you get through this challenging time and protect your financial future.

The article, 5 Steps To Take If You've Lost Your Joboriginally appeared on Kiplinger.com

Coulee Bank Mortgage: 4 Tips for Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Realtor
Whether you're buying or selling a home, choosing a real estate agent is one of the most important decisions you'll make. A great agent has your best interests at heart, understands the market and works to get you the best deal. 

Finding one who fits your needs is crucial to having a great experience and getting the most for your time and money. Use these tips for choosing a real estate agent:

Interview several agents before choosing. Start with referrals and some online research, then speak to your top three picks. There are a variety of questions you should ask, but you also want to make sure you generally like and trust the person.

Check their marketing plans. How will your house get in front of the potential buyers who need to see it? Take a close look at the agent's listings, website and social media pages to see if they’re updated regularly and with engaging content. 

Learn about their experience. Years are a good sign, but it's not the only measure of experience and success. Do they have any special credentials? How many sales do they close every year?

Find out how they communicate. Do you prefer to text, call or email? Find an agent who can communicate using your preferred method, and ask how often you can expect to hear from them. You want someone who will keep you in the loop and be available to answer your questions as they arise. 

Are you in need of a great agent who can help guide your sale or purchase? Reach out to a Coulee Bank mortgage lender today for a personalized recommendation.
 

Coulee Security Tip: Why Email Attachments Can Be Dangerous?

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Some characteristics that make email attachments convenient and popular also make them a common tool for attackers:

  • Email is easily circulated – Forwarding email is so simple that viruses can quickly infect many machines. Most viruses do not even require users to forward the email—they scan a users' mailbox for email addresses and automatically send the infected message to all of the addresses they find. Attackers take advantage of the reality that most users will automatically trust and open a message that comes from someone they know.
  • Email programs try to address all user's needs – Almost any type of file can be attached to an email message, so attackers have more freedom with the types of viruses they can send.
  • Email programs offer many "user-friendly" features – Some email programs have the option to automatically download email attachments, which immediately exposes your computer to viruses within the attachments.

What steps can you take to protect yourself and others in your address book?

  • Be wary of unsolicited attachments, even from people you know. Just because an email message looks like it came from someone you know does not mean that it did. Many viruses can "spoof" the return address, making it look like the message came from someone else. If you can, check with the person who supposedly sent the message to make sure it's legitimate before opening any attachments. This includes email messages that appear to be from your internet service provider (ISP) or software vendor and claim to include patches or antivirus software. ISPs and software vendors do not send patches or software in email.
  • Keep software up to date. Install software patches so that attackers can't take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. Many operating systems offer automatic updates. If this option is available, you should enable it. 
  • Trust your instincts. If an email or email attachment seems suspicious, don't open it, even if your antivirus software indicates that the message is clean. Attackers are constantly releasing new viruses, and the antivirus software might not have the signature. At the very least, contact the person who supposedly sent the message to make sure it's legitimate before you open the attachment. However, especially in the case of forwards, even messages sent by a legitimate sender might contain a virus. If something about the email or the attachment makes you uncomfortable, there may be a good reason. Don't let your curiosity put your computer at risk.
  • Save and scan any attachments before opening them. If you have to open an attachment before you can verify the source, take the following steps:
    1. Be sure the signatures in your antivirus software are up to date.
    2. Save the file to your computer or a disk.
    3. Manually scan the file using your antivirus software.
    4. If the file is clean and doesn't seem suspicious, go ahead and open it
  • Turn off the option to automatically download attachments. To simplify the process of reading email, many email programs offer the feature to automatically download attachments. Check your settings to see if your software offers the option, and make sure to disable it.
  • Consider creating separate accounts on your computer. Most operating systems give you the option of creating multiple user accounts with different privileges. Consider reading your email on an account with restricted privileges. Some viruses need "administrator" privileges to infect a computer.
 
Coulee Security 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: Mid Year Outlook 2020 Video 




LPL Financial Research Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick reviews LPL Research’s 2020 midyear outlook on the economy, stocks, bonds, and the second half of the year.


Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and/or Coulee Investment Center are not registered as a broker/dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using Coulee Investment Center, and may also be employees of Coulee Bank. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from, and not affiliates of Coulee Bank or Coulee Investment Center. Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are: 

LPL disclosure

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