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July 2017 E-Newsletter

How to Take the Heat off Your Summer Budget

Summertime brings more than sunburns and barbecues — it can also send your monthly expenses through the roof. But with a little work now, you can enjoy the hot season and avoid pinching pennies in the fall.
                              
“Ideally, one saves a little bit of money in each of the cooler months and then spends down those funds in the summer,” says Michael Schupak, founder of Schupak Financial Advisors in West New York, New Jersey. But, if you've failed to plan your budget that far ahead, all is not lost.
 
Saving on travel
Plan vacations wisely, paying for as much as possible in advance. Lodging, transportation and entertainment in many cases are less expensive when booked ahead. And getting started early means there will be less scrambling for money later.
 
If you're down to the wire and don't have enough money for a big trip, visit family who'll put you up or plan a staycation this year. Crashing on a relative's couch or being a tourist in your town may not be a dream vacation, but it is still a break and can give you a head start on saving for next year's trip.
 
Saving while at home
On the home front, find out if your utility company offers a flat rate plan. This can spread power, heating and cooling costs across 12 equal monthly payments, eliminating spikes on your bill caused by more people, like school-age children, being at home during the day in summer.

Older children home for the summer may spend their days raiding the fridge. Couponing is one way to save on groceries, but it can take a lot of effort to see measurable payoff. Instead, encourage your kids to cook and limit convenience foods — those that are easy to eat mindlessly — on your shopping list.

If you are looking for supervised activities for younger children, an overnight summer camp or full-time day care, generally the most expensive choices, aren't the only options. If you didn't budget for these big-ticket items, look for local day camps, which are often run by religious or community organizations and parks departments and are a fraction of the cost of child care.
 
For next year, Schupak recommends estimating how much expenses climb in the summer and setting aside — through automation, if possible — a portion of each paycheck for a summer fund.
 
Other tips for cutting summer costs
  • Opt for free or cheap weekend activities
  • Cut out streaming subscriptions
  • Encourage older children to get a summer job for their own spending money
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by USA Today.

4 Keys to Successful Debt Consolidation

When your personal finances teeter on the brink, your first instinct might be to do something drastic. Freeze your credit cards in a block of ice. Vow to never eat out again. Forgo your Netflix subscription.

These tactics may help, but financial experts say paying off debt requires a more comprehensive plan. One common strategy is debt consolidation, rolling multiple debts into a single loan or credit card at a lower interest rate.
 
“Consolidating debt into one spot can be empowering and helpful from a psychological standpoint because it feels manageable,” says Mathew Isaac, associate professor of marketing at Seattle University's Albers School of Business and Economics.
 
But debt consolidation is not a solution for everyone.
 
Consolidation works best for high-interest-rate debts such as credit cards. Households that carried credit card debt last year had balances averaging $16,748, according to an annual study by NerdWallet, a personal finance website.
 
"People whose income and expenses won't allow them to resolve debt problems through consolidation or credit counseling should consider bankruptcy," says John Rao, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.
 
Consolidating your debt is only the start of a long process. Here are four keys to making it work.
 
Make a realistic budget
“In order for consolidation to work well, there has to be a clear plan of attack,” Isaac says.
"A basic budget allocates money for debt payments, an emergency fund and contributions to retirement savings, but that isn't enough when consolidating," says Lara Lamb, a certified financial planner at California firm Abacus Wealth Partners.
 
"Successful budgeters avoid adding debt by accounting for infrequent expenses, such as car registration fees, as well as times of the year when expenses run high, like the holidays," Lamb says.

They also leave room for fun.
 
“People will go on a spending ‘diet' and then feel like they've restrained themselves for so long that they go out and splurge,” Lamb says. “A realistic budget gives you enough to spend on things you value and you love.”
 
Quit using your cards
A cardinal rule of consolidation is not using your credit cards as you pay off debt.
 
"People cut up their cards, lock them away or freeze them in ice, methods that seem extreme but experts say can be effective. Such tactics are known as “commitment devices” and help people achieve long-term goals," says Rebecca Rouse, director of the Financial Inclusion Program at Innovations for Poverty Action, a nonprofit that has conducted research on debt repayment.
 
"To stay committed, write down why you want to be debt-free and how often you will make payments, and set periodic reminders to check your progress," Rouse says.
 
"Locking away cards doesn't mean closing accounts, which could hurt your credit. The one exception to the no-use rule is a nominal charge on your card every few months — paid on time and in full — to keep the account active and your credit intact," says Shawn Tydlaska, a certified financial planner at California firm Ballast Point Financial Planning.
 
Compare consolidation products
Balance transfer cards let you shift over debts from other cards and charge no interest for a limited time — the best ones offer from 15 to 21 months — after which a double-digit interest rate kicks in. Most cards charge balance transfer fees and require good credit scores and high incomes to qualify.
 
To improve your chances of getting one, add up all potential sources of income — including money in your savings account and 401(k) — and list that total on your application, not just your salary, Tydlaska says.
 
Personal loans for debt consolidation typically come with lower interest rates than credit cards, and you can borrow more money. Rates depend on your credit profile and how much debt you have. A lender that sends money straight to your creditors can remove the temptation to spend that cash instead of using it to pay off debt. Only a handful of lenders offer this option.
 
Enlist moral support for your goal
"Debt may feel like a shameful topic, but peer support is a powerful motivator and can hold people accountable," say Isaac and Rouse.
 
Debt support groups, online forums or a close family member can keep you on track to reach your goal. 
 
The article 4 Keys to Successful Debt Consolidation originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Coulee Bank Q-Tip for Summer Fun

The kids are out of school, the inflatable pool is warming up in the back yard, and the mosquitos are stopping by in the evening to say hello!  Yes, it is finally Summer!  That means it is time for the exodus to the pools and beaches.  But before you hit the road for Wally World, you might take a moment to think about home and family security.
 
Social media is a great place to post vacation photos, but don’t post them until AFTER you return home.  Posting photos or comments like “We are having a great time wrastling crocs and sampling the fried gopher here in St. Oakmite, and glad we won’t be back at work for another week!” might as well tell criminals “Hey, we won’t be home for a few more days so help yourself to our belongings.”  I know, you wouldn’t do that, but will your kids?  If you use an “out of office” notification in your email or voicemail, you might consider not referencing vacation plans there either.
 
Before you hit the road, you may also consider taking all the credit cards, membership cards, IDs, etc. out of your purse or wallet and take inventory.  In the event, your purse or wallet is lost or stolen it will be a lot easier to notify all the credit card companies and such if you know who to contact.  A quick and easy way to do this is to take a photocopy of them (or a photo with your phone, IF  you don’t keep your phone inside your purse).  Get images of both sides, since the contact info is usually on the reverse side.
 
Remove garage door opener remotes from vehicles parked outside or at airport lots.  Most people have their home addresses somewhere in their vehicle (look in the glove compartment and see if you find your home address), and if you have a removable remote control in your car it is a simple matter for a criminal to break into the car and find your home address, then take the remote that will let them into your home.  Some garage door openers have a setting to turn off or lock the doors.  This prevents anyone from driving by with some fancy gadget that can mimic your code entry.
 
If you have any hidden keys under a mat, behind a planter, under a rock, etc. remove it.  Most hiding spots are not as clever as we all want to believe, and a practiced criminal will find it.  Finally, do what you can to make your home look inhabited.  Have a friend put out the trash, take in the newspaper (tell your kids what a newspaper is), have lights on timers, and maybe have a radio playing inside the house. And don’t forget the bug spray.  Have a great trip!
 
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.
 
Source: https://www.10dsecurity.com/

Coulee Investment Corner: How - and When - Do I Sign Up for Medicare?


Medicare Part A and Part B
If you are already receiving Social Security benefits before you turn age 65, no sign-up is required for Medicare Part A or Part B. Part A is basic hospital insurance; Part B helps to pay for medically necessary services such as doctor visits or outpatient care. You automatically become eligible on the first day of the month you turn age 65. In most instances, your Medicare card arrives in the mail three months before your 65th birthday. Premiums for Part B (there is no premium for Part A) will be deducted automatically from your Social Security check.
 
If you are not receiving Social Security benefits, you will be required to sign up for Part A and Part B. Contact your local Social Security office three months in advance of your 65th birthday to start the process.
 
When You Wait
If you receive medical insurance from another provider (such as your employer or a partner's employer), you can wait to sign up for Medicare. To avoid paying a higher premium, you will be required to enroll during the eight-month period that begins during the month your employment ends or the group health coverage ends, whichever is first.
 
If you did not sign up for Part B when you first became eligible and you do not have employer-based coverage, there may be a late enrollment penalty when you do sign up.
 
 
Medicare Part C and Part D
Both Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, and Part D, which is prescription drug coverage, are provided by private insurers whose plans are approved by Medicare. To learn about plans that may be available to you, log on to www.medicare.gov and click on the "Plan Choices" link on the left.
 
Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part C frequently provides many services that are also available through Part A and Part B (Original Medicare). You may want to contact several providers of Medicare Part C to learn how their offerings compare with Original Medicare. Certain plans include prescription drug coverage, which means you may not have to purchase Medicare Part D separately.
 
When to Sign Up
You can sign up for Medicare Part C when you first become eligible for Medicare. You can also sign up between January 1 and March 31 or between November 15 and December 31 each year. If you sign up at the beginning of the year, you can't join or switch to a plan with prescription drug coverage unless you already had Medicare Part D. If you sign up toward the end of the year, your coverage will begin January 1 of the following year.
 
You can join Medicare Part D when you initially become eligible for Medicare or between November 15 and December 31 of each calendar year. You typically can join Part C or Part D by filling out a paper application, calling the plan, or enrolling online. Even if you don't take many prescriptions, you may want to consider signing up for Part D as soon as you become eligible. If you wait and try to sign up during a subsequent enrollment period, you may be charged a late enrollment penalty and be forced to pay higher premiums.
 
Medicare is an important benefit for many Americans, but there are rules that beneficiaries need to follow. It may be in your best interest to familiarize yourself with these rules to make sure that you capitalize on the benefits available to you.
 
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