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July 2018 E-Newsletter

 Affordable Ways to Refresh Your Home

Home improvements can rejuvenate a stale dwelling. But remodeling and renovations could set you back thousands of dollars for each room.
 
A “midrange minor kitchen remodel” — including hardware, countertops, flooring and a refrigerator — is about $21,000, on average, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report. But with the right approach, you can give your abode some TLC without busting your budget.
 
“If you’re strategic with the planning, especially if you’re willing to put in a little sweat equity, there are definite simple fixes that you can make,” says Dan DiClerico, a home expert at HomeAdvisor.
Try these ways to update your home for less.
 
Rearrange the furniture
Here’s a solution that won’t cost a dime: a new room layout. You can work with what you already have to make your space feel new again. Consider ideas like moving the bed to the opposite wall or swapping the location of the sofa and chair in the living room.
 
Grab a paint brush
Slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls for a quick makeover. Hiring a professional to tackle the entire interior can set you back close to $2,000, DiClerico says. But you’ll cut costs by taking on the project yourself.
Don’t have the time or money to paint the whole house? Choose one or two areas that you spend the most time in, such as the living room or bedroom.
 
“If you’re able to do it yourself, certainly under $100 is going to get you a bucket of paint and all the necessary tools to totally transform that space,” DiClerico says.
 
Try the same tactic with furniture. Fresh paint or a new finish can revitalize old cabinets, tables, dressers and other items.
 
Replace fixtures and hardware
New light fixtures, faucets or cabinet hardware can give a room a completely different look and feel. Cosmetic changes can benefit your wallet, too. You can find cabinet handles and knobs at most home improvement and hardware stores for a few dollars each. Some faucets and shower heads reduce water use, which means you could save money each month.
 
» MORE: How to create a budget
 
Limit your upgrades
You don’t have to revamp every inch of a room. DiClerico suggests that you “splurge on the things you’re interacting with on a daily basis.” So rather than shell out half a year’s salary for a complete kitchen remodel, upgrade a few select items.
 
“You can do a sweep of appliances — the fridge, the range, the dishwasher — for a few thousand dollars or less,” DiClerico says.
 
Explore other ways to scale back on costs. You might purchase a coffee table or chair in lieu of a living room set, or install new flooring in a small, heavily trafficked location instead of every room.
 
Accessorize
Redecorating can be much more affordable — and just as effective — as major upgrades. You can cozy up a space and add a pop of color with throw pillows, lamps, area rugs or plants. Dress up windows with brand new curtains. Or, pick a statement piece for the wall, like a large work of art or mirror.
 
“It’s about zeroing in on the focal points in that space to get the bang for the buck,” DiClerico says.
 
Cover your furniture
Salvage couches and armchairs that have minor wear and tear with slipcovers. While getting a piece of furniture reupholstered or buying an entirely new piece can cost hundreds to several thousand dollars, you can buy a quality cover for less than $100.
 
Shop smart
Knowing when and where to shop can help you trim expenses. For example, January white sales are prime time for discounted bedding. Presidents Day sales in February often include furniture, while November’s Black Friday deals feature appliances. Map out your purchases accordingly, if you can.
 
Check thrift stores, yard sales and local online marketplaces like Craigslist throughout the year for cheap or free secondhand furniture and home goods.
 
“Making your home more beautiful, more functional, more energy efficient shouldn’t have to put you in the poorhouse or into debt,” DiClerico says. With careful planning, you can find solutions within your budget.
 
More From NerdWallet The article Affordable Ways to Refresh Your Home originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 It's Not All About Money: Financial Wisdom for Young Adults

At 21, you’re a financial adult. But chances are you still don’t know what you don’t know.
We asked personal finance experts and financial planners what newly minted adults need to know about money. Their bottom line: Be sure your balance sheet includes some joy, too.
 
How to think about money
 
A job you love saves money. How you earn a living affects how you spend, says Kathy Kristof, a longtime financial journalist and editor of SideHusl.com, a website that evaluates gig opportunities. If you hate your job, you’re likely to spend more to distract yourself from all you put up with at work.
 
Spend on joy. Diane Harris, editorial director of Considerable, a financial and lifestyle site launching later this summer, and former editor-in-chief at Money, says she wishes she had understood at 21 that spending on experiences and people you love brings more joy than accumulating stuff. Budget for happiness.
Buy freedom. Delaying gratification is hard. But savings give you the means to act when you need to, says Krista Smith, a fee-only certified financial planner in Atlanta. “Your savings are often what saves you when you finally get the courage to leave a bad relationship and need to pay a security deposit on a new apartment, when you bust a tire on the highway, or when a family member’s health is failing and you need a plane ticket NOW.”
 
Time is money. When you buy something, you trade minutes or hours of your life for it. It’s a good way to decide if it’s worth the price.
 
Practical tips for keeping more money
 
You need less than you think. It’s OK to drive a beater, live with a roommate and buy secondhand. It’s a great way to set yourself up for wealth later. You’re just starting out, and it’s smart to live as if you’re broke, Kristof says.
 
Live on less than you make. A lot less, if you can. Expenses add up quickly. Learn to cook and to use household tools, for example. Those skills can make a big difference in your budget.
 
Travel cheaply while you can. You may not mind hostels and bunk beds now. There’s a good chance you’ll feel differently later. Go.
 
Don’t lose “found money.” Smith says if she had saved even half of holiday and birthday checks, money from selling textbooks and the occasional $20 bill when she was starting out, she could have been in a position to avoid credit card debt later.
 
Thinking ahead
 
Save money now — don’t wait. It’s tempting to put it off. Even Harris, who was a personal finance writer advising others to save, didn’t do it. “I would have SO much more money for retirement now if I’d heeded my own advice,” she said. If your employer provides matching retirement funds, that’s essentially free money.
 
Cash in on compound interest. The sooner your money starts earning money for you, the longer it will work — and the less you have to save. Compound interest is the interest that your interest earns. In time, your balance may increase as much as or more from interest than from your contributions.
 
Build your credit. Your credit history matters. Pay on time, every time. A good credit score may keep you from having to pay utility deposits, help you get approved for a lease or result in lower car insurance.
 
Know what loans cost. Lenders are likely to approve you for more than you can reasonably repay. Before you sign, make sure you know how much you are borrowing, and the total of your payments. The faster you pay something off, the less you’ll pay in interest.
 
More From NerdWallet Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.
 
The article It’s Not All About Money: Financial Wisdom for Young Adults originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Coulee Bank Q-Tip: Computer Security

Scammers, hackers and identity thieves are looking to steal your personal information - and your money. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself, like keeping your computer software up-to-date and giving out your personal information only when you have good reason.
 
Update Your Software. Keep your software – including your operating system, the web browsers you use to connect to the Internet, and your apps – up to date to protect against the latest threats. Most software can update automatically, so make sure to set yours to do so. Outdated software is easier for criminals to break into. 
 
Protect Your Personal Information. Don’t hand it out to just anyone. Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. So every time you are asked for your personal information – whether in a web form, an email, a text, or a phone message – think about why someone needs it and whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy.
 
Protect Your Passwords. Here are a few ideas for creating strong passwords and keeping them safe:
  • Use at least 10 characters; 12 is ideal for most home users.
  • Try to be unpredictable – don’t use names, dates, or common words. Mix numbers, symbols, and capital letters into the middle of your password, not at the beginning or end.
  • Don’t use the same password for many accounts. If it’s stolen from you – or from one of the companies where you do business – thieves can use it to take over all your accounts.
  • Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not ask you for your password.
  •  If you write down a password, keep it locked up, out of plain sight.
Consider Turning On Two-Factor Authentication. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your password is compromised.
 
Give Personal Information Over Encrypted Websites Only. If you’re shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address. That means the site is secure.
 
Back Up Your Files. No system is completely secure. Copy your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. If your computer is attacked by malware, you’ll still have access to your files.

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.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0009-computer-security

Coulee Investment Corner: Children and Wealth: Important Lessons Start Early in Life

Wealth can be a mixed blessing -- one that creates great opportunity as well as weighty responsibility -- especially for children. As a parent, grandparent, or concerned relative, you hope to pass on what you have learned about managing and preserving wealth to the younger generation. However, you want the family legacy to be about more than astute money management; you want it to reflect your personal values, which may include a social conscience and philanthropic ideals.
 
How do you combine financial knowledge and charitable intent in your wealth management lessons? Following are some thoughts for your consideration.
 
Shared Concerns
 
Multi-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have vowed to leave the majority of their fortunes to charity, reasoning that a large inheritance would do their children more harm than good. Wealthy families across America face similar concerns.
 
To counter these and other potentially negative effects of wealth, many parents are committed to educating children about finances from an early age. Studies show that marketers start targeting children as early as age two. So the sooner you start talking about money, the better. Explain the meaning and purpose of employment, the importance of managing credit and paying bills, and the best way to handle cash through banks and ATMs. Let children practice what they have learned about earning, saving, spending, and giving money through their own experiences with allowances and after-school jobs.
 
As a child matures, his or her financial education should become more rigorous. Learning how to balance a checkbook, create a budget, respect the role of credit and debt, and develop strategies for funding important goals such as a college education helps teens make the important transition from child to adult.
 
While parents generally are competent educators about financial matters and can serve as a child's most important role models, they could use some support. In that regard, schools need to be proactive in teaching, motivating, and creating a greater awareness of both the benefits of money management and the short- and long-term impact of poor financial decisions. Many high school graduates are unable to balance a checkbook and lack the basic financial survival skills involved with earning, saving, and investing money. Parents should urge schools to incorporate personal finance topics into their core curriculum or to offer personal finance as a stand-alone "required" life skills course.
 
Set a Charitable Example
 
If we want to ensure future generations of volunteers and donors, we must teach our children how to give of their time, skills, and money. Adult family members can set an example by pursuing their own philanthropic and volunteer activities, or by encouraging the whole family to get involved in charitable activities based around a shared interest, such as the outdoors, sports, or religion.
 
Ensure Your Legacy Through Incentive Planning
 
Wealth holders often worry that the important values they pass on to heirs during their lifetime will be lost once they are gone. For these individuals, creating testamentary trusts that allow you to reward your children's desired behaviors or discourage undesirable activities can be a meaningful addition to an estate plan. For instance, a trust may offer educational support for heirs who pursue a specific field of study or attend a particular institution.
 
A trust may promote "family values" by providing income support to heirs who choose to stay at home to raise children or who foster or adopt children in need. Alternatively, a trust can withhold benefits from heirs convicted of a crime or who fail conditional drug or alcohol testing.
 
Financial advisors play an important role in the creation and success of a legacy by helping you articulate the values, beliefs, and priorities you want to perpetuate and the methods to achieve your goals. Working together, you can offer meaningful relationships that go beyond a financial inheritance.
 
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