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October 2019 E-Newsletter

Seven Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes

Carving up the cost oBowl Of Halloween Candyf Halloween 
Halloween is a big spending holiday because of its widespread appeal for adults and children alike, says Joyce Hicks, associate professor of business at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. All that spending makes Halloween a huge money maker for retailers. Costumes are often expensive because consumers are willing to pay the prices, Hicks says — especially for popular characters. “A good retailer knows if the demand is going to be that high, they can actually up-charge and mark up the costume even more than they originally planned,” she says.

Spookily simple strategies to save 
So are you stuck paying a high price for something you wear only one day out of the year? Not so fast. “There’s Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for whatever reason, you hardly ever hear anyone talk about a Halloween budget,” says Nora Yousif, associate vice president at RBC Wealth Management in the Boston area. But budgeting can work for this holiday, too. If you plan to celebrate, Yousif recommends setting aside some money to devote to Halloween and then being smart about how you spend that allocation. To help you out, we rounded up frugal tips from experts. These won’t help you decide whether to be Wonder Woman or Minnie Mouse, but they can help you cut costs on whatever outfit you don.

"If the price tag on the tattered zombie costume at the Halloween store gives you a fright, it’s time to look for ways to shed some of the cost. "

Do it yourself
Sometimes accessories are all you need. Many shoppers buy a few items and combine them with pieces from home rather than buy an entire costume, says Devin Rubink, spokesman for Your unique creation will save money and make you less likely to compete in a “who wore it better?” contest.

Pick a different version of the same character.
There are often multiple versions of costumes for the same character, Rubink says. So find one that fits your needs. Sort by style or price point.

Skip your first choice
Your second or third choice might be more affordable than your first. Trendy costumes will likely see higher demand and higher prices, so consider going with something that’s more likely to be discounted, Hicks recommends. For instance, if there are too many ghosts left on the shelf, the store will want to unload them.

Expand your search
Yousif says you’ll generally pay a premium for items in the Halloween section, but you can usually find accessories or makeup in other departments for less. There’s always the thrift store, too.

Don't lose site of November
While decorations can be used year after year, Hicks points out that many consumers throw away their costumes once Nov. 1 arrives. So when the expensive accessories start calling your name, remember that Halloween is just one day.

Stay True to your finances
Hicks says there’s a sense of unaccountability associated with Halloween. After all, you’re wearing a costume that masks your true identity. But don’t let that unaccountability spill over into your spending. “Anything that’s outside of your budget should not be included in your purchase,” she says.

The article, 7 Ways to Save on Halloween Costumes with DIY and Moreoriginally appeared on NerdWallet.

Business Corner: The Best Apps for Mobile Payment

Mobile payment apps allow your business to accept payments from customers on the go, and they can track business expenses. Here are our top options.

Paying with phone1. PAYPAL HERE
PayPal reacted to the emergence of Square — more on that product below — by creating an app that lets businesses attach PayPal’s card reader to a tablet or other device and use it as a portable register. The PayPal Here app is ideal for businesses that need to get paid on the go.

This payment app is a good fit for businesses such as food trucks, beauty salons and retail shops. Its users get a small, portable card reader that attaches to a phone or another mobile device to take fast, convenient payments. Square also offers a point-of-sale system called Square Register for businesses with a brick-and-mortar store. Square’s point-of-sale app is compatible with iOS and Android devices.

Shopify is a good option for online businesses. It lets you easily build and customize your online store with templates, accept orders and payments online, and integrate your shipping carrier. You can also integrate with and sell products on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Pinterest. To accept in-person payments, Shopify offers two card readers: a tap, chip and swipe reader that accepts contactless payments and a chip and swipe reader.

Revel is ideal for larger brick-and-mortar businesses that need a robust POS system. It requires an iPad but offers several hardware options and add-on applications. You can integrate features that are specific to your type of business. For example, restaurants can get ingredient inventory management and tableside ordering, and retailers can get inventory tracking and gift-card programs. Revel’s hardware is preconfigured, so you can take it out of the box, plug it in and get started.

Revel also integrates with QuickBooks and PayPal.

If you have any business related questions, our Business Banking Team is here to help!

This article, POS System: Find the Best One For Your Business, originally appeared on NerdWallet

Coulee Security Tip: How to Report Identity Theft

Reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission is your best way to alert authorities to fraud. It’s also important to put a fraud alert on your credit accounts. Here’s how to report identity theft to authorities and other organizations so that you can start your recovery.

Report Identity Theft to the FTC
Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at or 877-438-4338. This preserves your rights, including your ability to get fraudulent accounts off your credit report. At the site, you can also get a customized checklist to help you repair the damage. In most cases, reporting your identity theft to the FTC will mean you don’t need to file a report with the police. If you believe your identity was stolen via mail theft, report it to the U.S. Postal Service.
Credit Report
Here are some ways you can protect against exploits and shield your vulnerabilities:

1. Place a fraud alert with credit bureaus If you suspect your personal information has been exposed, place an initial fraud alert on your credit files so that applications in your name get extra scrutiny. This alert is available to anyone who suspects identity theft. Contact any bureau, and it will take care of notifying the others:

Equifax: 800-525-6285
Experian: 888-397-3742
TransUnion: 800-680-7289

The alert entitles you to another round of free credit reports, beyond the ones you get every 12 months via These can help you discover fraudulent credit accounts.

2. Contact the companies involved
For fraudulent charges on an existing credit card, in most cases, you have zero liability as long as you report the problem promptly to the card issuer. The card will be canceled and you will get a new card with a different number. Remember to update autopay accounts, and consider grouping all recurring charges on a single card to simplify things if this should happen again.

If you need help removing bogus charges from accounts, use the credit bureau dispute process. If new accounts were opened, call the customer service department to get help closing them.

The FTC has a sample letter you can use if written notice is required. You may be asked to provide a copy of a police report. In all cases, keep notes of the date and time you called, whom you talked to and what steps you were told to take.

3. Consider stronger protection
Watch for and dispute errors on your credit reports to make sure everything was taken care of. You can access free credit report information from TransUnion via NerdWallet. Then, think about protecting yourself in the future. A credit freeze is considered the surest way to ensure your credit isn’t used without your consent. Credit freezes with the major credit bureaus are free.

If you don’t want to place freezes, you can get an extended fraud alert that lasts for seven years. Like the initial one, you need only contact one of the bureaus. But this time you’ll need to provide documentation, including an identity theft report:

Equifax: Mail this form to Equifax Information Services LLC, PO Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069, or fax to 888-826-0597.

Experian: Send this form to Experian, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013 or upload the needed documents.

TransUnion: Send this form and requested documentation to TransUnion, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.

Coulee Bank has partnered with Deluxe Provent to provide you with integrated suite of identity theft protection. Learn More! 

This article, How to Report Identity Theft, originally appeared on NerdWallet

Coulee Investment Center: Longevity Risk and Retirement Income

How long might you live in retirement? Think carefully. Your answer could influence whether you have enough money for a comfortable retirement or just scrape by.

According to pension mortality tables, at least one member of a 65-year-old couple has a 72% chance of living to age 85 and a 45% chance of living to age 90.1 This suggests that many of us will need to plan carefully to ensure that we don't outlast our assets.

Live Long and Prosper
The first step in tackling longevity risk is to figure out how much you can realistically afford to withdraw each year from your personal savings and investments. You can tap the expertise of a qualified financial professional to assist you with this task. Or, you can use an online calculator to help you estimate how long your money might last.

One strategy is to withdraw a conservative 4% to 5% of your principal each year. However, your annual withdrawal amount will depend on a number of factors, including the overall amount of your retirement pot, your estimated length of retirement, annual market conditions and inflation rate, and your financial goals. For example, do you wish to spend down all of your assets or pass along part of your wealth to family or a charity?

Protecting Your Retirement Paycheck
No matter what your goals, there are ways to potentially make the most out of your nest egg. The remainder of this article examines how a strategy might play out with assets held in taxable accounts.

First, you'll likely need ready access to a cash reserve to help pay for daily expenditures. A common rule of thumb is to keep at least 12 months of living expenses in an interest-bearing savings account, though your needs may vary.

Then, consider refilling your cash reserve bucket on an annual basis by selectively liquidating different longer-term investments, timing gains and losses to offset one another whenever possible.

Developing a Diverse Income Strategy
Responding to the current interest rate environment is one way to potentially squeeze more income from your savings and stretch out the money you've accumulated for retirement. For example, if rates are trending upward, you might consider keeping more money in short-term certificates of deposit (CDs).2

The opposite strategy may be employed when rates appear to be declining. Most retirees need their investments to generate income. Bonds may help fill this need. "Laddering" of bonds can potentially create a steady income stream while helping reduce long-term interest exposure (see illustration).
Laddering bonds is a popular strategy used by income investors. This strategy involves buying an assortment of bonds of different maturities and staggering the maturities over time. In the above example, an investor initially buys bonds with maturities of one, two, and three years. As each bond matures, it is reinvested in another three-year bond to retain the staggered bond ladder. Total yield (income) is potentially higher than if continually reinvested in one-year maturities. Risk is also potentially reduced due to investing in a mix of maturity rates.

A common way to help temper investment risk is to spread it out by diversifying among different types of securities. A retiree seeking income can use the same strategy by adding dividend-paying equities to his or her portfolio. But be aware that diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against losses in a declining market.

These stocks potentially offer the opportunity for supplemental income by paying part of their earnings to shareholders on a regular basis. Another potential attraction? Qualified stock dividends are currently taxed at a maximum rate of 20%, rather than ordinary federal income tax rates, which currently run as high as 39.6%. Also, keep in mind that investing in an equity-income mutual fund, which generally holds many dividend-paying stocks, may help reduce risk compared with investing in a handful of individual stocks.

Adding Annuities to the Mix
One way to potentially provide regular income and address longevity risk is to purchase an immediate annuity. In exchange for giving an insurer a specific amount of money, you're guaranteed income for either a specific period of time, or life. Keep in mind, however, that guarantees are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

One tactic might be to figure out your annual expenses and determine how much income you'll receive from Social Security and pensions (if any). Then, consider purchasing an annuity that will make up any shortfall. This potentially allows you to cover your regular expenses. Then, you can put your other investments to work pursuing growth.

There are many types of annuities, so speak with a financial professional to carefully weigh your options, and be sure to examine fees and other charges before buying.3

Accounting for Growth
Finally, be cautious about being overly conservative with your investments. Many people may live 30 or more years in retirement. Therefore, your portfolio may need a boost of stocks to outpace inflation over the years.

These are just a few ideas for developing an adequate income plan during retirement. Consider sitting down with a qualified financial professional to discuss these and other strategies that might be appropriate for your situation.

Have financial questions? Shari Hopkins, our Certified Financial Planner, will provide you with financial guidance through every stage of your financial journey.
© 2017 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.
1 Source: Society of Actuaries, Risky Business: Living Longer Without Income for Life (2013).

2 Certificates of deposit (CDs) are FDIC insured and offer a fixed rate of return if held to maturity.

3 An annuity is a long-term tax-deferred investment vehicle designed for retirement purposes and may contain both an investment and an insurance component. Guarantees are based on the claims-paying of the issuer and do not apply to a variable annuity's separate account or its underlying investments. Withdrawals from annuities prior to age 59½ are subject to a 10% additional tax. Gains from tax-deferred investments are taxable as ordinary income upon withdrawal. Issuing companies may also charge surrender charges for some early withdrawals. Neither fixed nor variable annuities are insured by the FDIC, and they are not deposits of -- or endorsed or guaranteed by -- any bank. Investing in variable annuities involves risk, including loss of principal.

Required Attribution
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems, Inc. or its sources, neither DST Systems, Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall DST Systems, Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2017 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.
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