The Importance of Understanding Your Personal Finances
According to recent studies from the Jump$tart Coalition, most Americans don't know enough about managing their finances to create a secure future for their family. Only 40 percent of adults keep a budget and track their spending. Nearly three-quarters of American families live paycheck to paycheck, and more than 25 percent have no emergency savings fund. With these troubling statistics in mind, here are a few examples of how to increase your knowledge of basic consumer finance concepts and improve your life.
Know Where you Stand Now
The first step in getting a handle on your personal finances is to know your current situation. You can't make a plan to improve your situation if you don't know what your situation is right now. So, make a budget that only tracks the money coming in and going out, along with where it goes. Don't try to change how you spend money for the first month or two - just monitor how your finances currently work. Use that as your basis for building a better budget moving forward.
Long-Term Impact of Today's Choices
Saving and investing work best if you start early. Compound interest and long-term market trends mean that the earlier you start, the better the results over time. Understanding that concept can make it easier to motivate yourself to start saving for retirement or college now rather than putting it off for ten years and buying a new car first, or to put money into an EdVest account each month instead of a more expansive (and expensive) cable package.
Learn How to Apply what you Know
Several studies by different financial education organizations indicate that a large portion of Americans do understand basic financial topics; what they don't know is how and when to apply that knowledge in the real world. The best way to apply what you've learned is to start with one action at a time and turn it into a habit. For example, a common savings concept is to "pay yourself first," meaning to save before you start spending rather than saving only what is left in the budget at the end of the month. To make that automatic, talk to your bank about setting up an automatic transfer of funds each month from your checking to your savings account.
Building a foundation of personal financial know-how can have a massive impact on your potential to build wealth, stay out of debt, and live with less stress caused by financial problems. April is Financial Literacy Month, so check with your local bank to see if they are offering any special programs to help you or your family expand your understanding of your finances.
Free Shredding Day Event - May 14th
On Thursday, May 14th, we will host a free document shredding event to help businesses and community members spring clean their confidential materials. Properly disposing of sensitive and confidential information will help declutter your home and office, as well as keep your identity safe from thieves.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, and most crimes are conducted through simple means of collecting papers thrown in the trash. Without a program in place, the daily trash of every household or business contains information that could be harmful in the wrong hands. Shredding information at the source minimizes the risk of confidential information getting into the wrong hands. That’s why we are teaming up with Confidential Records and Shred Right to provide professional document shredding events at our 3 branch locations.
The Shredding Event is open to the public and will be held in the parking lot at each branch location.
Where and When:
- La Crosse Branch from 11am – 1pm
- Onalaska Branch from 2 – 4pm
- St. Paul Branch from 1pm – 3pm
What Can I Bring to Shred?
- Credit / Debit / Gift cards
- Financial Paperwork
- Tax Documents
- Confidential Materials
- And much more!
There’s no need to spend time removing stables or paper clips; these materials are all accepted for shredding. Please note that there is a three box (or 100 pound) limit per person for items to shred.
Security Q-Tip: Information Security Spring Refresher
A quick glance at the calendar reveals that spring is here and it is time to spruce up and refresh our surroundings after a long winter. While this generally relates to house cleaning and gardening, spring is also a great time to “refresh” your safe computing habits at home and at work.
The following simple, yet highly effective, information security best practices will help ensure the security and confidentiality of sensitive information (e.g. personal and financial information).
- Lock your computer when unattended (Control/Alt/Delete).
- Use a strong passphrase consisting of a minimum 8 character alphanumeric characters/symbols. A good example of this would be IL!ke2RunFar!!.
- Do not click on links in suspicious and/or unsolicited emails or text messages.
- Be alert for social engineering tricks. Ask questions/verify suspicious requests received via phone, email, or text, especially those claiming to be from IT.
- Verify correct fax number/recipient prior to transmission.
- Double check and verify that recipient(s) of electronic and/or printed documents containing sensitive information are appropriate and authorized.
- Store/Secure printed documents containing sensitive information when unattended.
- Utilize encryption when transmitting sensitive information via email and/or removable media like a USB drive.
- Refrain from transmitting sensitive information via text message.
Remember: When it comes to Information SecURITy…YOU ARE IT! It’s everyone’s responsibility.
11 Common Money Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
It's hard to make smart money choices all the time, but you can avoid some all-too-common and expensive errors. Whether it's budgeting by the month, instead of the year, or forgetting to save for future emergencies, these mistakes can mess with your finances unless you take steps to correct them. Here are 11 blunders almost everyone makes and how to stop yourself from falling into the same trap.
1. Budgeting for the Short Term: Research suggests that creating an annual vs. monthly budget works best, largely because we feel less confident in our annual estimates so we tend to add more cushioning for unexpected expenses. In a 2008 study, college students underestimated their monthly expenses by 40 percent, but overestimated their annual expenses by 3 percent.
2. Overspending on Housing: It's almost impossible to get ahead financially unless you save a significant chunk of your income -- ideally $1 of every $3 you earn. But many people get tripped up by their housing costs. Traditionally, financial advisers have encouraged buyers to spend about one-third of their income on housing. But for many people, especially anyone with student loan debts, child care payments, or other hefty expenses, that's too much money.
3. Skimping on Career Investments: Investing in a career coach or development course can help you snag a promotion, get "unstuck" from a career rut, or transition into your dream job. The price of one-on-one coaching typically starts at around $200 an hour, but less formal advice can come from meeting with experienced colleagues over lunch or coffee.
4. Spending for the Reward: Rewards credit cards sound good in theory, but in reality, they encourage you to spend more than you would otherwise. Economists dub this phenomenon "purchase acceleration," because you ramp up your spending when that reward is in sight. Rewards cards also tend to carry a higher interest rate than non-rewards cards.
Instead, consider a rewards checking account, like our Kasasa Cash or Cash Back accounts. They earn great rewards like 3% back on purchases up to $300/month (with a maximum of $9 earned per month) or 2.55% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) on balance up to $15,000; all with $20 in ATM refunds each month. Qualifying for your rewards is easy, and there are no monthly service fees or minimum balance requirements. Learn more here.
5. Failing to Negotiate Prices: Even department stores often offer some wiggle room on their posted prices, and big-box stores usually match competitors' prices. Research online ahead of a shopping trip so you know what other retailers are currently offering. Many consumers fail to realize that prices are flexible and don't bother asking for a better deal.
6. Earning Income from only one Source: Few workers hold onto the same job or work for the same company their entire careers these days. While some job changes are voluntary, many also come from layoffs. By earning income from a variety of sources, workers can increase their financial stability. Options for new sources of income include freelance work, selling crafty creations online, or offering coaching services in your area of expertise.
7. Taking on Too Much, or Too Little, Debt: Not all debt is bad. It can enable you to return to school, buy much-needed professional outfits before receiving your first paycheck, or even cover your rent during a tough month. Being so afraid of debt that you avoid it altogether can force you to miss out on opportunities, while taking on too much can lead to financial ruin.
8. Trying to Beat the Market: Timing the market would require a "Back to the Future" style time machine. That's why investing a little bit at a time, regardless of the market's behavior, is the safest way to go. Retirement accounts like a 401(k) that automatically transfer money from your paycheck each month make it easy to invest this way.
9. Paying Too Much Attention to the Dow: Focusing too much on the ups and downs of the market just causes stress. When the market's plunging, focus on your hobbies, family, and getting outside instead. Avoid cable television news, which often treats every dip in the market like a major crash. If your investments are well-diversified, then you've done all you can.
10. Counting on Social Security: Just as today's 30-somethings start thinking about retirement in 2033, the Social Security trust fund is scheduled to run out. If nothing changes, benefits will shrink to about three-quarters of what they are now, because only money that is being paid into the system will be paid out. That means young professionals need to plan on funding the bulk of their retirement with their own savings.
11. Overspending on Gifts: Instead of splurging on gifts you're not even sure people really want, why not give recipients something handmade (and filled with love), like baked goods or a coupon to spend time together. You can also consult websites like Pinterest or Craftster.org to find unique DIY gift ideas.
Free Mobile Deposits
Staring May 1, 2015, you can make mobile deposits via our mobile application, for free!
Our mobile app lets you bank on the go. Access your account whenever you are and at any time! It’s free to download and offers quick access for managing your bank accounts so you can check your balances, pay bills, transfer money, view transactions, locate our branches and free ATMs, and so much more. We are now offering free mobile deposits, allowing you to deposit checks anywhere, anytime. It’s fast, secure, and (best of all) FREE.
To make a deposit within the mobile app, you simply endorse your check and capture images of the back and front. It’s that easy! To get started, download our free app in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. For Android phones or tablets, download our app in the Google Play store.
You use the same ID and Password for Mobile Banking that you set up through Coulee Bank Online Banking on our website. If you have any questions, please call our operations department at 1-866-784-9550.
Business Corner: 8 Business Practices That Increase Productivity
Productivity is on the decline in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that during the fourth quarter of 2014, nonfarm business output increased by 3.2 percent, and hours worked increased by 5.1 percent; but productivity itself decreased by 1.8 percent. This is a disturbing trend for any business to deal with, for both salaried workers and entrepreneurs.
Accordingly, businesses need to look for tools to help their workers become more productive. This is especially important for new startups, where the margin for error is less than generous. Some suggested tools to try:
1. Focus on Creating Value at Work
Identify one habit, one action that you do daily that is detracting from your productivity, then remove it. Once you do that, you'll be headed in the right direction. Even better, replace that habit with something that has value. Humor is one such idea: Studies show that humor can actually increase workplace productivity.
2. Beware the Afternoon Doldrums
Do this while avoiding chugging so-called energy drinks, which are mostly sugar and caffeine. Try an alternative energy booster, like green tea.
3. Say "No" to Distractions
Mobile apps offer a tempting opportunity to tune out of your mundane work tasks and tune into an exciting game or an attempt to balance your checking account. Promise yourself a reward of 30 minutes of game play after work, if you get a certain project completed -- and save your online banking duties until you can sit down to a nice meal or you're headed home.
4. Live a Healthy Life
Small business operators pull long hours. They snack when they should eat a good meal, and they miss an inordinate amount of sleep. A finance director we know says, “I help bad credit customers attain car loans for more than 14 hours every day, sometimes with little more than a snack to keep me energized.” The result? Success, sometimes -- but also poor health.
Productivity is all about working steadily at a goal, not about burning out, with a visit to the hospital thrown in. Break your goals into small, bite-sized chunks of work that can be done in less than an hour. And take mini-breaks in between, doing healthy things like deep breathing or snacking on celery and radishes.
5. Start your Day the Night Before
Lay out your work clothes, plug in the coffee maker, and check tomorrow's weather and traffic forecasts. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol after 6 pm. Go to bed early. Sound like you're in training for something? You are in training, for the sport of productivity. You can break training for the weekends and holidays.
As for those longer sleep times, they are what made Benjamin Franklin so productive during his long life: "Early to bed and early to rise." The early morning hours are the least distracted hours in the day. Set your alarm for just 30 minutes earlier to test out the results for yourself.
6. Cap your Business Meetings at Just 15 Minutes
Seem impossible? Try it and see. Or hold all your meetings standing up -- that might have the same result!
7. Don't Be so Reactive
Time management is crucial to the success of every startup. Every email does not have to be answered right away; every person who stops by your desk does not need to be allowed to eat up a half hour with idle chit-chat; every voicemail does not need an immediate response. Focus on priorities instead of reacting to every immediate stimulus.
8. Don't Forget your Employees
As an entrepreneur, you should know that your employees will never be happy or very productive if they worry excessively about tying productivity directly to compensation. The gap will continue to widen. Work with them to create ways to make their work a source of pride and pleasure. Awards and bonuses are nice, but it’s even better to take a personal interest in all your employees, from janitor to VP. When they know you care about them as people, their productivity will increase.
Enhancing team productivity is often at the top of the to-do lists of many managers, owners, and entrepreneurs. And it should be. Where you can go wrong is putting the pressure on the teams themselves to “work harder” in order to boost efficiency and productivity. Instead, use these 10 tips to increase team satisfaction, reduce turnover, and streamline business processes without burning everyone out.
Coulee Investment Center: Can You Afford Early Retirement?
Early retirement is a phrase many Americans wish they could turn into a reality. While retiring in your 50s or early 60s sounds enticing, it typically requires years of planning to make sure you've accumulated enough retirement assets to last for 20 or 30 years or more. It's important to factor in how an early retirement could affect your Social Security benefits, options for health insurance, and the nest egg you plan to rely on for ongoing living expenses.
Social Security and Medicare
Those who collect Social Security at age 62, the earliest age when most retirees are eligible, face a permanent reduction in benefits. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, collecting benefits at age 62 will result in a 25% reduction in the monthly benefit you would have received by retiring at 66.1
Those born in 1960 or later will experience a permanent 30% benefit cut if they choose to begin collecting benefits at age 62 instead of their full retirement age of 67. In contrast, delaying benefits past full retirement age results in a higher benefit, with a maximum delayed retirement credit of 8% annually for those who were born in 1943 or later and wait until age 70 to retire.
Regardless of your age when you retire, Social Security is not likely to pay all of your living expenses. Social Security currently comprises 35% of the aggregate income of Americans aged 65 and older, with remaining income coming from employer-sponsored retirement plans, wages, and other sources.2
Finding health insurance is equally important if you plan to retire early. Eligibility for Medicare begins at age 65, and those who retire earlier typically must obtain health insurance on their own or through a former employer, which can cost thousands of dollars annually in premiums.
Saving and Budgeting
Early retirement typically requires a larger nest egg to finance living expenses over a longer period of time. Contributing as much as you can afford to qualified retirement accounts, such as an IRA or an employer-sponsored retirement plan, can help you build this nest egg. Retiring early requires advanced planning to make the situation work to your advantage. If you have the financial resources to do it, you may want to start the process at your earliest opportunity.
1Source: Social Security Administration.
2Source: Social Security Administration, Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, September 2014.
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Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance products offered through LPL Financial or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and Coulee Investment Center are not registered broker/dealers and are not affiliated with LPL Financial.
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