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September 2015 E-Newsletter

5 Ill-Conceived Pieces of Retirement Advice

One size doesn't always fit all, especially when it comes to retirement advice. In fact, some of the most time-honored rules of thumb for managing your finances after the end of your primary working years may not make sense in your specific situation.

On the other hand, they might make perfect sense. As is usually the case, whether retirement advice can be classified as good or bad for you really depends on your situation.

Bankrate presents arguments from the standpoint of the devil's advocate to help you see the old standards in a new light. If nothing else, this exercise may help induce a healthy dose of skepticism when you hear or read advice that passes itself off as the truth.

Reconsider these potentially ill-conceived retirement solutions.

Solution No.1: You Can Always Work

Not so fast, says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. While Cunningham agrees that working has many pluses -- not only does it boost income, but it's good for your mental and physical health -- too many unknowns make it chancy to count on a job as part of your retirement package.

She says a lot can go wrong with plans to work into perpetuity:

  • Your health can decline.
  • Your spouse's health needs may cast you into the role of caregiver.
  • Your company may have other ideas.
  • Circumstances could make a move away from your job's location attractive.
  • Plan to work if you want, but don't make it a necessary part of your financial equation.

"Continuing to work is a plus, but only if it's on your terms," Cunningham says.

Solution No. 2: Pay Off The Mortgage

While getting rid of debt doesn't seem like it could have a downside, there are circumstances where paying off a mortgage might not be such a great move.

Michael PeQueen, managing director and partner with HighTower Las Vegas, a financial planning firm, says the decision to rid yourself of a mortgage is often an emotional decision rather than a financial one.

Sure, a paid-for home can bring peace of mind, but it's not always the right strategy. Depending on the interest rates involved, it might make better financial sense to invest the cash that would go into freeing yourself from your low-interest home loan and instead put your money into higher-yielding investments.

PeQueen explains how it works: "Let's say a female becomes a widow in her early 60s. That could leave her 30 or 35 years worrying about inflation taking a significant portion of her portfolio. Locking it into a guaranteed low rate of return by paying off a fixed-rate mortgage really could cost her tens of thousands, if not more, over her lifetime," he says.

Solution No. 3: You Need X Amount a Year

You do the math and decide you need $80,000 a year to retire, so you want to put everything in relatively safe vehicles to generate that amount. Fine, but that's based on the value of today's dollar. What will it take to maintain your lifestyle in 10, 20 or even 30 years? It's not that easy to quantify what you'll need in the face of unpredictable inflation rates.

David Twibell, president of Denver-based Custom Portfolio Group, says when investors grab numbers out of the air, they often forget that their money -- while theoretically growing over the years -- will be worth a lot less based on inflation.

Consider that in January 1975, the inflation rate was 11.8 percent. March 1980 brought inflation up to a whopping 14.8 percent. The past few years have seen a relatively low rate of inflation, but some say that won't last.

Even if it stays at a benign 3 percent a year, over time your purchasing power erodes significantly. A thousand dollars today would be worth $412 in 30 years.

That unpredictability is why Twibell advises against overloading your portfolio with fixed-return vehicles like bonds and annuities with a low rate of return.

"The typical response I get when initially talking about retirement planning is, 'I just need $80,000 a year.' Obviously, $80,000 today is far different from $80,000 two decades from now," Twibell says.

Solution No. 4: It’s Smart to Downsize

Getting rid of the big house once the kids are gone may seem like a good idea. But like any other type of financial decision, it's good to crunch the numbers first and not simply assume that downsizing is right for everyone.

HighTower Las Vegas' PeQueen says the fees to buy and sell a home, plus the costs of moving and preparing both homes for these transactions, can negate any financial gain for at least the first few years. And, PeQueen says, a smaller home doesn't necessarily translate to a lower cost of living.

"In downsizing to a better location, for example, you have to factor in the increased costs, such as homeowners association fees and a higher tax rate," he says, adding that surviving spouses often opt for downsizing because memories of happier times prove difficult and they want a new start emotionally.

"And that's fine, but you also need to look at all options because holding onto their current home could actually be the cheaper option," PeQueen says.

Solution No. 5: Skimp on 401(k) Savings

Sometimes life pelts you with not-so-great surprises; you're short on cash due to medical bills, home repairs or college expenses. Your budget is already tight, so how do you come up with the money you need? That 401(k) nest egg looks mighty tempting to tap, but you've heard enough times that it's not a good idea. So how about lowering your retirement contributions to increase your income temporarily?

Experts say the solution to your cash flow problem may take some creative thinking (an additional part-time job, working overtime, selling something). But you should not sacrifice your 401(k) contribution.

"Stopping 401(k) contributions is convenient when times are tough," says Ted Lakkides, CFP professional and founder of Cygnet Financial Planning, "but there are (plenty of other) items that can be trimmed off a budget if a person has the guts to look."

Lakkides says it's best to comb through current expenses to find that cash, but if lowering your retirement contribution can't be helped, then avoid going below the employer's match point. If you feel you must do so, maintain at least a 1 percent contribution, he says, and hike it to former levels or higher as soon as possible.

He provides this warning to those who do give in and lower their 401(k) contribution: Be prepared for major tax-time sticker shock.

"They will owe income taxes on the extra money they didn't put in their 401(k)s," he says.


The History of Oktoberfest USA – La Crosse, Wisconsin

Approximately 5,000 miles and over 150 years of history provide the only major differences between La Crosse, Wisconsin and Munich, Germany during late September and early October each year. This time of year both Munich and La Crosse are filled with “merrymaking” and a carnival atmosphere known in both cities as Oktoberfest.

One of the achievements which helped La Crosse gain a 1961 All-American City Award, Oktoberfest, USA, is one of the few authentic Old World folk festivals held annually in the United States. Each year, numerous local industries, civic and fraternal groups, plus hundreds of area residents working on a voluntary basis, combine their efforts with those sponsoring La Crosse Festivals, Inc., in developing and presenting the annual autumn festival.

Origins Of Oktoberfest In La Crosse

The first Oktoberfest, USA, was held on October 13, 14, and 15, 1961…but the planning began many months before. In early 1960, civic leaders had agreed that La Crosse needed a community wide activity of some sort. The city had been without such an event since 1921. Because that earlier celebration had been a winter carnival, many of the leaders were in favor of renewing this idea as a La Crosse tradition.

However, there were problems involved with holding a winter event on the same dates each year. First, as we all know, it is virtually impossible to predict the winter weather in Wisconsin from day to day, much less a year in advance. Second, assuming the worst, the costs of providing artificial ice and snow were prohibitive. Finally, there were several winter carnivals in the area, including the internationally known St. Paul Carnival. The proximity of Minneapolis and its highly successful summer festival, Aquatennial, tended to rule out a similar event. Although neither festival was completely dismissed, it was agreed upon that a fall celebration was the best answer.

During the fall of 1960, several officials of the La Crosse based G. Heileman Brewing Company were also discussing an annual promotion. News of these discussions spread through the firm, eventually reaching the malt house, where two of the employees of German origin suggested an autumn festival similar to the Oktoberfest held annually in Munich. The idea was quickly accepted, for two primary reasons:

  • October is the time of color, as the leaves change from summer green to the brilliant fall colors.
  • Early October usually marks the end of the harvest and the preparation for winter. It was believed that a festival at this time would provide an ideal “relief valve”.

As the idea for an Oktoberfest grew, it quickly became apparent that there would be much more to do than could be handled by a single firm. It was agreed that the Oktoberfest should be a completely civic enterprise. Early in 1961, brewery officials contacted the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce and proposed the idea to chamber members. It was accepted, and both agreed that the chamber would act as the sponsoring organization.

An Oktoberfest Committee was established to oversee the proposed annual celebration. This committee set forth five primary objectives for the fall festival:

  • To promote local pride in La Crosse
  • To obtain national publicity for La Crosse
  • To promote “tourism” to La Crosse and the Coulee Region
  • To involve a large number of people
  • To break even financially, while remaining a non-profit organization

The almost unbelievable growth of Oktoberfest, USA, since that first year, has made a reality of all of the objectives. It was conceived as a holiday for the community, and accepted by the community on those terms. In 1962, the name “Oktoberfest” was registered with the State of Wisconsin. In 1963, “Oktoberfest, USA” was registered and listed as a trademark with the federal government. In 1965, the newly-formed La Crosse Festivals, Inc., purchased the assets of Oktoberfest from the Chamber of Commerce and became the sponsoring organization.

Oktoberfest 2015

Don’t miss this year’s pre-fest activities on September 20, 2015 (Special Fester Announcement), September 23, 2015 (Parade Marshal Announcement), and September 29, 2015 (Mrs. Oktoberfest Introduction).

Oktoberfest will start on October 1 and go thru October 4, 2015. For a full schedule and list of activities visit


Taylor Swift Concert Ticket Winners & One Last Chance to Win

Seven-time GRAMMY winner Taylor Swift brings her 1989 World Tour to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for three sold out shows!  We purchased a suite full of tickets for Saturday, September 12th and made dreams come true for 6 Taylor Swift fans!
Click here for contest rules.

TaylorSwiftConcertTicketWinners.jpgWinners of 2 Suite Seat Tickets & Transportation

  • Elizabeth Walters of La Crosse - Swift Stop at HG Orthodontics
  • Dani Hill of Onalaska - Swift Stop at Brothers Bar
  • Mai Yang Vue of Holmen- Swift Stop at River Rats
  • Brooke Verbeke of Winona - registered and won online
  • Jenny VonWald of La Crosse- registered and won online

Grand Prize Winner of 4 Suite Seat Tickets & Transportation

  • Anna Kivi of La Crosse - registered and won at Coulee Bank in La Crosse and Onalaska

One Last Chance to Win

Mark and Mike found an extra pair of tickets and they're giving you one LAST CHANCE TO WIN!

THE LAST CHANCE SWIFT STOP is Thursday, September 10th at Shenanigans Entertainment Center & Sports Bar from 6:00PM - 7:33PM.

Security Q-Tip: Be Aware: Spear-Phishing On The Rise

Bogus e-mails promising ways to make a quick buck have been around for years (e.g., Nigerian e-mail scam). But criminals’ tactics are improving. We are seeing a dramatic rise in electronic payment fraud, particularly in the manufacturing sector, but across all industry segments. 

See the recent Wall Street Journal article, Hackers Trick Email Systems Into Writing Them Large Sums. According to the article, and the FBI, companies across the globe lost more than $1 billion from October 2013 through June 2015 as a result of such schemes. 

A common method hackers are using, called “spear-phishing,” is targeted at individuals and involves a working knowledge of the organization (e.g., CEO’s vacation schedule, a vendor, etc.). This intelligence makes it more effective than traditional “smash and grab” phishing schemes. 

An example of a spear-phishing scheme might look something like this: 

For this example, let’s say the CEO is Jennifer Johansson from Acme Company. The hacker sends an e‑mail, appearing to be from the CEO, to the controller with a request to send a wire transfer. The incoming e-mail address comes from what looks to be a personal e-mail address (jjhohansson@gmail,com) or an address that looks substantially similar to the CEO’s business e-mail address (jjhohansson@acmeccompany,com). In both instances, the e-mail is coming from an actual e‑mail address, just one that does not belong to Jennifer. This message is typically sent while the CEO is traveling for business or on vacation. 

The request is followed with specific wire transfer instructions to pay a vendor, who in some cases is a current vendor of the company. To the controller, the e-mail and wire instructions look legit, so the payment is made. It may be several days or weeks until it is discovered that either the vendor didn’t exist or payment was made to an account that was not the vendor’s. When it is discovered, it becomes a very expensive lesson in cyber security.  

So what can you do to avoid this type of an attack?

  1. Train your employees. Conduct formal cyber security training for your employees on how to protect themselves and your business.
  2. Don't broadcast your travel schedule. Executives, and especially CEOs, should not use an automatic "out of office" reply for messages coming from outside the company. Hackers can use a broadcast initial spam e-mail as a reconnaissance tool to find people who are out of office to target for an attack. Also, travel information should not be shared on social media channels. 
  3. Authenticate payment requests. Set up internal policies and procedures that prohibit making payments without a secondary authentication. The secondary approval should be made through a different communication method than the first. In our example, the controller should have either spoken with the CEO or used a text message to authenticate the request. Because the request was sent via e-mail, an e-mail response to authenticate would not be acceptable.
  4. Talk to your bank about enhanced security features. Your bank should be able to recommend options to reduce risk. One common method is to set up dual controls (i.e., one person can set up a payment request, but another needs to approve it before it is processed).  

All businesses should be on high alert and consider the preventative methods suggested above, especially employee training. This would also be a good time to have a conversation with your business insurance agent about the cyber security coverage for first-party and third-party damages. 

Source: Wipfli e-newsletter:

Smart Money Tips for Millennials

As a millennial, you enjoy advantages when investing: time and the power of compounding.

The investing maxim Rule of 72 clearly demonstrates the latter. Divide 72 by the long-term growth rate you expect to earn on your investments to estimate how many years you need for your money to double in value. For example, if you accumulate $5,000 in retirement savings by age 25 and expect to earn an average yearly return of 8%, your money may double in approximately nine years.

At 34, you may already have $10,000 saved for retirement – funds that can continue to grow for the next 30 years.

Brave the market. If like many millennials you're uncomfortable with the risk of the stock market, realize that investing can greatly help you save for retirement.

Stocks can also protect you from inflation. Cash savings lose purchasing power over long periods of even mild annual inflation; stocks don't. As a young-adult millennial, consider having at least 70% of your retirement accounts invested in stocks or equities.

Low-cost, target-date mutual funds can be great investment vehicles when you start to save for retirement. As you age, these funds automatically adjust how much of your investment resides in stocks.

Meet with a financial advisor to determine what asset allocation best suits your situation.

Use your workplace retirement account. A 401(k) is a valuable retirement savings tool that many companies offer as an employee benefit. It's convenient and painless: You fix a percentage of your pay to defer (save) directly out of your paycheck. After the initial setup, 401(k)s require little maintenance, and soon you won't even notice the money missing from your pay.

For 2015, investors younger than 50 can contribute up to $18,000 per year to an employer-sponsored plan. You sock away this money pre-tax, which means you pay tax on the contributions when you start taking distributions in retirement.

Typically, a Roth 401(k) works well for millennials because contributions are after-tax and, as long as you meet the criteria, your distributions in retirement are tax-free.

Don't overlook the plusses of 401(k) saving – your potential employer match, for one, which means your company matches a portion of what you kick in. At the very least, contribute enough of your salary required to receive the match. For example, if your employer matches one quarter of the first 6% contributed to the plan, contribute at least 6% of your salary to receive the full match.

Matching contributions are often subject to a vesting schedule. If you leave the company before you are fully vested, you forfeit some or all of the money your employer contributed (but not the money that you contributed to the account). Your employer may hold enrollment meetings to explain terms and conditions of your 401(k). If so, it's a good idea to attend.

Monitor your credit score. So you pay off credit cards and student loans and you pay all your bills on time? You still need to track your credit score.

Your credit score probably comes from Fair Isaac Corp., and takes into account such factors as your payment history, amounts you owe, the length of your credit history, your new credit and the type of credit you use. Your score falls between 300 and 850: Generally, above 750 denotes excellent credit, around 650 fair and less than 600 poor credit.

Federal law permits you three free credit reports each year from one of the major reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can obtain one report from a different agency every four months. Sign up for your report at

When you receive your report, ensure that all your information is correct – and hasn't fallen into crooks' hands. Verify the accounts and loans listed and look for signs of identity theft such as strange credit card charges, denials of credit, unfamiliar accounts and bills that arrive at unusual times. If any of the information appears suspicious, immediately contact the company that issued the report.

Did you finally reach your emergency fund savings goal? Start saving for your fantasy European vacation? While it sometimes requires sacrifices, a financial plan to reach your goals can bring you comfort and give you time to enjoy life.


Business Corner: 10 Ways to Land the Best Employees

Everyone wants to find their dream employee: someone who works hard, exudes positive energy, and brings great ideas to the table.

But landing these types of employees requires more effort than simply posting a job description, especially for small businesses that may not have the same resources as larger companies.

If you're committed to hiring top-notch people for your business, you may need to step up your recruiting strategy. Here are 10 tips for hiring (and keeping) the best employees:

1. Invest in a thorough recruiting process.

You might feel rushed to fill a position, but finding the best fit can take a lot of time. If you're looking for quality candidates, you'll need to develop an in-depth recruiting process that includes dedicated hiring managers, a referral program, using a variety of job listing sites, and even looking at your competitors for potential candidates.

2. Emphasize your unique company culture.

Although you may not be able to offer amazing perks yet, you still have something promising to offer: a tight-knit company culture with high growth potential. Be sure to reiterate what makes your company a great place to work, whether it's an extremely collaborative environment or the potential to move up quickly.

3. Offer a well-rounded benefits package. 

Even if you're a small business worried about revenue, you still need to invest in employee benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. Many candidates will consider it a deal breaker if you don't. Since there are so many policies to choose from, you'll want to learn as much as possible about them. You may even want to reach out to an expert to help you with this process.

4. Provide excellent training and support.

 The onboarding process is crucial. Remember that there's always a learning curve, and the first few weeks of training are pivotal and can actually save you time in the long run. Provide materials, set up one-on-one or small training sessions, and walk new employees through your processes. Also, don't hesitate to answer any questions they may have.

5. Empower them to succeed.

There's nothing worse than a manager who doesn't believe you can actually do your job well. Tim Berry, founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software, was able to grow his company from zero to 35 people by giving employees good salaries, excellent healthcare, and the freedom and independence to do their jobs.

"The clincher was a culture that had people empowered by their own jobs without a lot of detailed micromanagement, which matters a lot when it's a job they relate to and believe in," he says.

6. Be honest about the role.

The bait-and-switch tactic rarely ever works. Never make false promises about the position; you'll only set up the candidate (and ultimately yourself) for disappointment. Be truthful about what the role requires, whether it's grueling hours or dozens of business trips a year. By laying out the nitty-gritty details about the position, you can filter out candidates who aren't truly a fit for the role.

7. Make your website amazing.

Is your company's website accessible, fun, and easy to navigate? Does it give people a general idea of what it would be like to work there? If not, you may want to spend some time revamping your website, particularly the careers section. Many small businesses have sections describing their team members — it's always nice for candidates to see who they would be working with.

8. Give them some flexibility.

Many small businesses allow employees to work remotely as needed and have flexible hours, and this can be a huge draw for candidates. This freedom is often viewed as an advantage over large corporations, which often require everyone to just clock in and clock out. By giving your team a bit of wiggle room, you're sending the message that you trust them to manage their own time efficiently.

9. Spruce up the office.

First impressions matter — and that includes the one candidates have of your office space. If it's drab, messy, or sterile, candidates might be turned off by the environment and not want to work there. That's why you need to make the office look like a fun, inviting place to work. You could give the walls a fresh coat of paint, adjust the lighting, put up artwork, buy fresh flowers, and enforce a strict clean-up-after-yourself policy.

10. Make sure your existing employees are happy.

While you're courting new candidates, don't neglect your existing employees. A high turnover rate is always a bad sign, and new employees will see it as a red flag. Compensate your employees fairly, create room for growth, and praise them for their efforts. Boosting morale will make your company a more attractive place to work.


Coulee Investment Center: Naming Beneficiaries: What You Need to Know

Shari-with-title-png.pngA major issue in estate planning is whom to name as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, pension plan accounts, IRAs, and annuities. This important decision often doesn't take into account the substantial estate and income tax consequences the beneficiary may incur.
So before you name a beneficiary, you may wish to gain a basic understanding of beneficiary designations.
One of the first things you need to know is that, in many cases, beneficiary designations supersede a will. That said, not only is naming a beneficiary important, it is equally important to make sure that your beneficiary arrangements are consistent with your other estate planning documents.

Not All Beneficiary Designations Are the Same

You can name a beneficiary for many different financial products and investment vehicles. And each has some subtle nuances that are sometimes difficult to discern. In addition, because naming a beneficiary is a legal arrangement, there is certain language you must use to ensure your wishes are accurately recorded and executed. That's why it is important to consult with a qualified financial professional when making decisions about beneficiaries. Aside from determining whom you will name as your beneficiary, you'll also need to consider the following:

  • Age of beneficiary Most policies and plans will not directly transfer assets to minors until a trustee or guardian is approved by a court.
  • Ability of beneficiary to manage assets Perhaps a trust set up in the person's name would be better than a direct transfer.
  • Pension plans Unless waived by the spouse in writing, the law requires a spouse to be the primary beneficiary of the account. 

Professional Assistance a Must

Naming beneficiaries is a complex matter that requires a great deal of forethought to help ensure that your decisions are in concert with your financial and estate planning goals. A qualified financial professional can assist you in reviewing your beneficiary designation and help you make choices that are appropriate for your situation.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management 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 Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.

© 2015 Wealth Management Systems Inc. All rights reserved.

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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