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May 2020 E-Newsletter

8 Ways to Switch Up the New At Home Normal.

As COVID-19 sparks closures, cancellations and stay-at-home orders, household stressors are piling up. On top of health concerns, lost incomes and lack of child care amid the pandemic, there’s also coping with isolation, whether individually or as a couple or family.

Kate Nelson, a school administrator from Colorado, is adjusting to losing an income stream and working from home with distractions: a spouse, three kids and home-schooling assignments. Like others, she’s been using technology — videoconferencing and blogging — to help.

“My family, we are all spread out, and we’re very close,” said Nelson, 33. “Right now we’re talking every day. They’re in some ways a lot closer than they’ve ever been.”

As you take precautions against the coronavirus and stay at home, here are some services, discounts and ideas that may help lighten your load or strengthen bonds with loved ones.

1. Reinvent game night
A game of Pictionary via videoconferencing service Zoom was a hit with Nelson’s family. Multiple people can join a call and draw figures with Zoom’s whiteboard. A basic subscription is free.

Illinois couple and content creators Ruth and Thomas Phinney are able to work remotely as they abide by their state’s stay-at-home orders. But they’re still channeling their competitive streak, playing virtual games with friends on apps like Trivia Crack and Houseparty.

“We’ve been able to get into contact with friends that we haven’t talked to in a long time,” said Thomas, 25. “In a time that could be really anxious, we’re just trying to make the most of it.”

2. Go on dates, at home
The Phinneys are also preserving date-night traditions. Through their Date Mates YouTube channel, they document unique date ideas like the “Chopped Cooking Challenge,” based on the “Chopped” TV show that challenges chefs to make a dish with unconventional ingredients.

Thomas’ main course combined short ribs, root beer, bok choy and guava.

“It ended up being delicious,” said Ruth, 26. (She had to make dessert with cottage cheese, crescent dough, Frosted Flakes, mint and prunes.)

The couple also used a rewards credit card on grocery purchases to earn points, which they plan to use toward travel, eventually.

3. Treat yourself to dinner
If your budget permits, take a break from meal planning and order food for delivery. Uber Eats is waiving the delivery fee on eligible orders at select restaurants, and as with similar services such as DoorDash, you can facilitate no-contact deliveries.

Or you can go get the takeout yourself. Many restaurants are offering curbside pickup, and you might even cherish the car ride.

4. Host a virtual meeting
You don’t have to gather at a theater. Organize a video call with friends, stream the same film simultaneously from your own homes, and add commentary over popcorn or wine.

If TV is more your thing and you’re running low on shows to binge, Showtime’s streaming service has been offering a 30-day free trial.

5. Set up camp
Camping indoors or in the backyard can offer a change of scenery. Nelson’s children — ages 7, 4 and 2 — will soon be camping overnight in her family room.

The Phinneys are heading to their backyard. “We’ll probably do some stargazing, make hot dogs and tell scary stories or sing some songs,” Ruth said.

If you’re looking for non-scary campsite stories for kids, Audible is offering free audiobooks while schools are closed.

6. Change the routine
Nelson shares struggles and activities on her lifestyle blog, Avenue Kate, to help parents. One of her ideas: a scavenger hunt in which kids search for signs of spring around her property and document them with photos or drawings.

“Anything that changes up the routine for them and makes it feel like it is fun and out of the ordinary is kind of the focus right now,” Nelson said.

7. Try new workouts
If you’ve been wanting to get in shape, you may now have more time and resources. The YMCA launched free online classes via a program called YMCA 360 to help people stay active while indoors.

8. Find peace in meditation
If you’re feeling anxious about COVID-19, the Calm app for sleep and meditation is offering free resources.

Aileen Xu, 29, a California-based content creator via the Lavendaire blog and YouTube channel, uses meditation to be present and mindful. Xu focuses on being still, breathing and reeling her thoughts back to the present to avoid worrying about the future.

“The only thing you have control over is the present moment,” she says.

The article, 8 Ways to Switch Up The New At Home Normaloriginally appeared on NerdWallet.

How to School Kids on Money Lessons During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Kids and FinanceDue to COVID-19-related school closures, parents are stretched thin. And while it may not be possible to follow your child’s lesson plans to the letter, having your kids at home more than usual provides a chance to show them how you make day-to-day financial decisions.

The in-home isolation can be difficult. But games, activities, family competitions and even just honest conversations can impart crucial life skills kids will need as they get older and gain greater financial independence.

For younger kids, cash is king
Pocket change is a powerful learning tool. Even very young children can learn the name and appearance of each kind of coin. As they get older, they can begin putting combinations of coins together.

Michele Hansen of Arlington, Virginia, uses coins to teach her 6-year-old daughter.

“She emptied out our piggy bank of spare change and made a dollar with different combinations of coins,” she says. “We also did a little foreign exchange with coins left over from past trips. Using coins made it easy for her to visualize it.”

Turn shopping into a game
Even if you shop online now for meals or groceries, or leave your kids at home when you go to the supermarket, you can use the experience to teach budgeting and comparison shopping, while reinforcing math skills.

Deanna Hurn, founder of Miracle Math Coaching in Fairfield, California, recommends letting your kids pick a meal they want this week and having them create the shopping list. Set a budget and have them peruse your grocery store’s website. But don’t let them put items into a shopping cart and have the website do the math for them just yet — instead, ask them to write down each item and its price. Encourage them to compare brands and tell you why they’re picking one brand over the other. Once their list is complete, they can manually add up the total cost of all the items.

Your kids will learn how to identify the cost per unit, how to maximize a budget, and even how many items to buy to last a certain amount of time. If you have more than one child, have them compete to see who can come under budget by the highest margin. At the end, put all the items in the shopping cart and see what the final price is once taxes and delivery costs get factored in.

Let the conversations flow
  • Tell tales with financial lessons. James Philpot, associate professor of finance and director of the financial planning program at Missouri State University, is working on a program that uses Aesop’s Fables to teach kids about finances. “The Tortoise and the Hare,” for example, discusses the benefit of slow and steady saving, and staying the course for the long term.
  • Have kids interview relatives. Mary Ng, a high school math teacher in Brooklyn, New York, assigns her students projects where they interview family members about their budgets and retirement savings. Not only is it a great excuse for a video call with family members your kids can’t visit right now, but it’s an exercise that provides perspective and empathy.
  • Talk with your high schooler about post-graduation plans. With so many industries taking a financial hit because of COVID-19, your teen may be second-guessing their career plans. “Look at the people who are still working. What kinds of jobs do they have?” Philpot says. “This is something your average teenager who is bound for college or technical training would want to think about. It plays really well into career selection.”

Be honest about your situation
“One important thing to remember is that kids are watching you when you think they aren’t,” Ng says. They can see if your bills pile up, they can hear if you fight about money. Being honest with kids in age-appropriate ways can provide reassurance when times are tough. You don’t have to be a money expert to be a positive example for your kids, either.
“It’s totally OK not to have the answers and to learn together,” Ng says. “It’s good for your kids to see that learning about finances can be a lifelong thing.”

The article, How To School Kids On Money Lessons During The COVID-19 Outbreak, originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Business Corner: 5 Ways to Support Businesses During the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has forced restaurants, retailers and other businesses across the country to scale back or shut down their operations. A federal relief package makes available over $300 billion in loans and grants for small businesses, but not all businesses qualify. Still, you can do your part to help suffering business owners and their employees. Here’s how.
Support Small Businesses
1. Order take out or delivery
If you have room in your budget — and need a break from that pasta and canned-food stockpile — grab a bite from a local joint. As restaurants, cafes and other eateries suspend dine-in services, many have pivoted to delivery and to-go orders. And they’re counting on your continued patronage to survive.

It’s worth checking with your usual haunts, even those that don’t normally offer these options. Some have made exceptions. In certain places, bars are serving up cocktails to go, for example.

Have a steady income? Consider placing orders for relatives and neighbors as well, especially those who are elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Janice Jucker, co-owner of Three Brothers Bakery in Houston suggests moving up holiday gift-giving.

“If you know you’re going to give 20 pecan pies to your friends and family, buy them now. They’re sitting at home anyway, they probably would appreciate it,” she says.

2. Leave a tip
If you can afford it, consider tipping 5% to 10% more during this crisis. So if you usually tip 20%, bump it up to 25%.

3. Buy gift cards
Gift cards and certificates can act as much-needed free loans for businesses. Purchase them from the places that provide goods and services you enjoy — hair salons, movie theaters, restaurants and so on. You can redeem those gift cards later on and still help out your favorite businesses now.

4. Shop online 
Clothing boutiques, home-furnishing retailers and other establishments have shuttered storefronts indefinitely. But many still have fully operational websites. As you shop for items while hunkering down, look to small businesses first. For example, purchase a book from your neighborhood bookstore’s website before heading to Amazon. (You may be pleasantly surprised to find abundant sales going on, too.)

Businesses without an online checkout option might fulfill orders over the phone or via email, so reach out to staff members with inquiries.

5. Make a Donation
Look for businesses and organizations you’d like to give money to. Some fitness studios, tutoring services and other businesses are now offering virtual services for free or accepting donations. Relief funds have also been set up for bars, restaurants, food service workers and others in need. The nonprofit James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund, for example, provides financial assistance to independent restaurants.

Another charitable choice: Don’t ask for a refund. If you bought tickets for a now-canceled event, such as a show at a local playhouse, treat the ticket price as a donation. Your contribution will be appreciated.

If you have any small business loan questions, reach out to our Business Lending Team.

This article, 5 Ways to Support Businesses During the Coronavirus Crisis, originally appeared on

Coulee Bank Mortgage Center: Take Advantage of the Low Mortgage Rates!

As many know, mortgage rates have hit historic lows. This is great news for those who want to sell and or buy as it makes homes much more affordable. This holds true for first time homebuyers, those that want to build or even someone bAdobeStock_75720233.jpeguying a second home or investment property.

Many buyers, especially first time homebuyers, are concerned about the down payment they may need. There are many loan programs designed to help with this process and talking to a Coulee Bank Mortgage Loan Officer is the first step. Our mortgage lenders can help determine what is within a person’s budget and what programs are available.

And of course for those of you that already own a home, whether you are looking to reduce your payment, your loan term, pull cash out or any combination of these, it is a great time to refinance. You can use the equity in your property to pay off bills, add to the home, make an investment or maybe even buy another property.

Please reach out to a Coulee Bank mortgage lender to see if any of these options are right for you.

Coulee Investment Center: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Recovery Act

You may be aware at the end of March, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and it is now law. This is the third piece of legislation that Congress has passed to help Americans deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.

This historic and sweeping legislation was created to help keep workers paid and employed, allows businesses to remain operational and makes necessary health care system enhancements to stabilize the economy. We want to make sure you are aware of certain provisions designed to help you.

• Retirement Assistance – Retirement plan withdrawals for COVID-19 affected individuals, access to plan loans, waiver of RMDs for 2020 and allowance for plan amendments

• Individual Assistance – 2020 tax recovery rebates for incomes up to $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for married couples

• Small Business Assistance – Paycheck protection program, loan assistance, loan forgiveness, employee retention credit and tax benefits.

Here is an overview of these key provisions and FAQs related to each of the key highlights.

We’re here for you via phone or email and look forward to discussing the CARES Act or answering any other questions to help you with your financial needs. Call Shari Hopkins to schedule an appointment at 608-784-3904.
Shari Hopkins, CFP®, LPL Financial Advisor
Coulee Investment Center at Coulee Bank

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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