Free Seminar: Year-End Tax Update

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Learn how to prepare for your year-end taxes by joining us for this FREE business session featuring speakers from JRM and Associates. Session will be held on Thursday, December 4 from 7:30 -9:30 a.m. at Stoney Creek Inn (3060 S Kinney Coulee Rd, Onalaska, Wisconsin).

Topics Covered:

  • Tax Credits and Other Services from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • New Tax Provisions related to the Affordable Care Act
  • Tax Law Changes and Updates
  • Tax Strategies to Implement Before Year-End

Session includes breakfast.

RSVPs are appreciated for planning purposes:
Becky Herrmann
blherrmann@merchantsbank.com or 608-779-8268

Tricia Barnes
tricia@jrmcpa.biz or 608-781-8712

What is Most Important to Homebuyers?

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If you’re looking to put your home up for sale, there are an array of things to do that can entice a potential buyer. For starters, you can clear the clutter, clean the carpets and try to paint over your kid’s fingerprints on the walls.

But besides making your home as picturesque as it can be, it’s important to understand what real estate buyers are really looking for in the current day and age. Like homes change, so do homebuyers, and now those of the Gen X and Gen Y population are taking the home-buying floor. It turns out they have some pretty high standards, which differ greatly from what previous generations sought in a home.

“It’s critical that real estate professionals understand what embodies a quintessential home for the Millennial generation, which vastly differs from the traditional norms of generations before them,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, which conducted a survey on the essentials of what current homebuyers are seeking. According to the results, a whopping 77 percent of next-generation homeowners would prefer a home that encompasses the technological capabilities they grew up with and have become accustomed to (smart phones, apps, etc.).

“These survey findings allow our brand to continue to best serve the next generation of homebuyers and find homes that can or do appeal to their lifestyles and unique spirit,” says Chris. “Understanding technologies to communicate with this generation is now only one piece of the puzzle for agents; ‘smart’ technological capabilities must now be ingrained into the home itself.”

The survey results proved that technology was a huge part of what next-generation homebuyers crave in their home. In fact, 56 percent said home technology capabilities topped “curb appeal” in terms of importance in a home. What’s more, if a home didn’t live up to their advanced technology standards, 64 percent said they’d rather not live there. One of the most important technology components that participants wanted was an energy-efficient washer and dryer (which 57 percent said they’d like this commodity in a home), followed by a security system (46 percent) and a smart thermostat (44 percent).

Additionally, 77 percent of those surveyed said they’d rather purchase an “essential” home instead of a large, luxurious abode. Forty-three percent even went so far as to say they’d rather the home be less “cookie cutter” style and more customized to their level of practicality. For example, 1 in 5 Millennials surveyed stated they would more appropriately name their dining room a home office, which is what they’d more commonly use the space for. Also, 43 percent would prefer to use their living room as a home theater.

Technology in the home doesn’t end there for this present home-buying crowd. Fifty-nine percent surveyed said they’d prefer more space in the kitchen for a TV (over a second stove), and if possible, they’d like to have a form of entertainment in each room in the house. While kitchen renovations are and have always been a main precedence , now Millennials say the most desirable part of the room are tech updates. And, 41 percent of participants said they’d likely brag to a friend about a home automation system over a newly redone kitchen.

The desire for a technologically-equipped home is not a shock among Millennials, but results that didn’t include anything about technology included that 82 percent of participants said they’d rather invest in a home that needed renovations if given the choice between that and relying on their parents’ money.

In addition, other commodities homebuyers wish for in their home include walk-in closets, home offices and hardwood flooring. With that said, if your current home does come equipped with one or all of these things on current buyers’ wish lists, it may be a good idea to emphasize them in your listing. Also, given how important technology is to current homebuyers, before you list your new home, you may benefit from transforming your home into a “smart home.”

Not sure where to start? Your financial institution is the best place to help with all your real estate needs.

Loans are subject to credit approval. Merchants Bank is an equal housing lender. Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Money Ball is Back

MoneyballAVApple Valley students will once again have the opportunity to earn money making lay-ups, free throws and half-court shots during Merchants Bank’s Money Ball halftime shootout at Apple Valley High School basketball games this season.

Last year students earned $1,680 and Merchants Bank matched the $1,680 with a donation to the Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club. Brian Wester, of Merchants Bank in Apple Valley, said the format will be the same as last year. The first Money Ball  game is November 25.

“It’s a great way to support the students and the booster club. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for the crowd,” Wester said.

Students sign up before each game and are chosen in a random drawing to be the Money Ball half-time shooters at select home games. The student receives a $10 gift card for a made lay-up, a $25 gift card for a made free throw, and $100 in cash for a made half-court Money Ball shot. Last year, three students made a half-court shot. If the half-court shot isn’t made, the jackpot continues to grow each game until the shot is made.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes

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Ingredients:
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1″ pieces
4 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut in 1″ pieces
2 chicken bouillon cubes
6 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
salt, to taste

Directions:
Place sweet potatoes, carrots & bouillon cubes in a large, heavy pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender. Drain, reserving 6 Tbsp of cooking liquid, and place in a bowl. Mash the vegetables with the reserved cooking liquid. Add remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or reheat, covered, in a 350° oven for 15-20 minutes.

 

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Ann Vanderloo Named a 2014 Super Mortgage Professional by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business

Ann Vanderloo, Mortgage Loan Officer in Lakeville

Ann Vanderloo, Mortgage Loan Officer in Lakeville

Merchants Bank Mortgage Lender Ann Vanderloo has been named a 2014 Super Mortgage Professional by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business.

Vanderloo received the honor after being nominated by a customer or client. More than 20,000 recent home buyers and all Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business subscribers were asked to cast a ballot to identify Twin Cities’ super mortgage professionals. After the nomination, an independent research company, Crescendo Business Services, conducted the evaluation process.

Vanderloo joined Merchants Bank in Lakeville in 2009 and has more than 25 years in community banking as a mortgage professional. She is an expert in residential construction lending.

“I’m grateful for the honor and the ability and resources that Merchants Bank provides to help my customers to find the right solution for their particular needs,” Vanderloo said.

If you’d like to learn more about how Vanderloo can help you, you can contact her by phone at 952-841-4268, by cell at 612-889-4667, by email at amvanderloo@merchantsbank.com, or you can connect with her through the Merchants Bank website.

Be Green by Wasting Less Food

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If you are searching for new ways to be environmentally friendly, you may have noticed that many options, such as installing solar panels in your home, can require an initial expense that may be hard to manage before the cost savings add up to offset the expense. There are ways to help save the planet that don’t cost anything and can even create instant money savings, however, and learning how to waste less food is one of the easiest and most rewarding.

According to Good Housekeeping magazine, it is estimated that people waste a third of the food they purchase on a weekly basis. This is an obvious drain on your wallet, and nobody likes to waste money, especially when it is continuously wasted for the same reason, week after week.

Not only is it unpleasant to have mystery food items rotting in your fridge, this wasted food can also have a negative impact on the planet. Many people don’t realize that by finding ways to throw away less food, they can actually help reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warning.

“When food is disposed in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide,” states the EPA.

If you want to stop spending money on food you don’t use and help fight against climate change, the following tips are a great place to start.

Make a meal plan

When you make a meal plan, you are less likely to end up wasting food. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be too elaborate or take much time at all. For example, if you plan to order pizza one night and know that you typically have one day’s worth of leftovers from each meal, then you should only plan to cook three dinners. This means that you don’t need to buy chicken, pork chops, hamburger and fish, unless you plan to freeze one of those items.

 Stick to your list

Once you’ve made a meal plan for your dinners and lunches (breakfast items typically don’t go bad as quickly and don’t require as much planning) write a grocery list of items you will need. If you stick to that list when shopping you will spend less time lingering in the aisles, which will help you ignore the tempting impulse buy items that are craftily displayed to grab your attention when browsing. Furthermore, sticking to your list will help you avoid purchasing more than your family can eat in a week.

Check your fridge’s condition

Even if you don’t have too much food, it can still go bad if your fridge isn’t keeping it at the right temperature.

“Check that the seals on your fridge are good and check the fridge temperature, too. Perishable food should be stored at 37 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum freshness and longevity (keep your freezer at 0 degrees or just a little lower),” states Good Housekeeping.

Rotate pantry and fridge items

When you bring home new groceries to store in your pantry and fridge, bring the older items to the front of your shelves first. This will help you remember to use up items that are closer to going bad, before breaking into the new packages.

These tips are easy to incorporate into your life and can help you start saving money and the planet today.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

New Tellers and Customer Service Staff Here to Help

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At Merchants Bank, we are happy to welcome new employees and celebrate new positions filled by current staff. These frontline employees are all looking forward to serving you. Take a moment to congratulate them.

Julia Engeldinger has joined Merchants Bank as a part time Teller in Caledonia.She previously worked at Doc’s Blue Moose in Spring Grove as a Server and at Spring Grove Collision as an Office Manager. Julia enjoys spending time with her three children.

Nicole Fritz has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller at Rochester-Green Meadows. She previously worked at St. Jude Up’til Dawn for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as an Assistant Director and at Mr. Pizza South as a Server. Nicole was born and raised in Rochester. She is a recent graduate of Winona State University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Finance.

Christine Mueller has joined Merchants Bank as a Customer Service Representative in Winona. She previously worked at Winona National Bank as a Lead Teller. Chris and her husband have two children. Chris enjoys walking, golfing, scrapbooking and spending time with family and friends.

Jordan Schultz has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Winona. Jordan is also works at Walmart as an Accounting Associate. Jordan was born and raised in Lewiston, MN. In high school, Jordan went to the state tournament for golf and is currently a senior at Winona State University. He enjoys sports, outdoor activities and spending time with friends.

Briana Wiegan has joined Merchants Bank as a Teller in Onalaska.Briana also works at Walgreens as a Beauty Advisor. Briana considers herself a history nerd and especially enjoys World War II and ancient civilization. She enjoys the outdoors, horseback riding and has been duck hunting since she was 11 years old. She has been to Mexico, Russia, Honduras, and Belize.