3 Financial Tips for Snowbirds

eNews-Snowbird

Coordinating your winter travel plans can be chaotic. In the midst of preparing for your trip, keep in mind these three tips to ensure smooth sailing while you’re somewhere warm.

1. Communicate your change of address.

There are several businesses that should be aware of your change of address for the winter season, including Merchants Bank. To ensure you continue to receive important financial, medical or family information or to discontinue specific subscription services, you should contact the following regarding your address change:

  • Your bank
  • The Post Office
  • Your local newspaper (if you have it delivered)
  • Other delivery services

To alert Merchants Bank of your address change, stop in or call your local branch (link to contact us page) to let us know of the change. Please include dates of departure and return as well as the names of other account holders living at your address.

2. Know how to access your bank account information.

Managing your money across a few states or a country is critical to helping you feel at ease during your trip. Make sure you are comfortable with getting information about your accounts and managing your money through one of the following free options:

Or, if you prefer assistance enrolling in any of the listed services, simply contact our Electronic Banking department at 866-496-0522.

3. Be diligent in protecting your identity.

In the course of your travels, there are a number of circumstances that could impact the chance of identity theft. You could lose track of a card, leave financial statements in the mailbox, or post publically on a social media site that you’re out of town, which lets criminals know that your house is empty. Review our security tips to ensure that your personal information is safe.

Click here to view our Snowbird Kit.

In Memory of Pete Roehl, Merchants President 1986-2000

If Merchants Bank could be embodied in a person, it would be Pete Roehl. He was decent, caring, kind, loyal, sincere, dedicated to helping others, committed to always doing the right thing and a leader. As President and CEO of Merchants Bank and Merchants Financial Group from 1986-2000, he oversaw Merchants’ growth from $167 million to $500 million.

When, at the age of 79, his heart stopped beating on August 27 of this year, the Merchants Bank family lost a person who helped shape the culture of the Bank into what it is today – a true community bank where employees take leadership roles in making our communities better places to live, and where those employees take pride in knowing their customers by name.

One of Pete’s many gifts was the ability to make you know you mattered. When he asked how you were, he wanted the real answer – good or bad – because he cared.

Asked about his success a number of years ago by the Winona Daily News, Pete said: “I think my successes stem from a real and sincere caring for people. I like people. If you respect them, they feel that and give it back to you.”

Pete was at Merchants for 33 years in total, beginning in 1968 as a business banker. After his retirement in 2000, he continued to serve on the Board of Directors until he turned 75 and then as a Director Emeritus. His legacy continues in many ways, including through his grandson Ryan Meyer, who works in the Bank’s Operations department.

Our world was better because he was here with us. We will miss him, and we pledge to continue to honor and celebrate his memory every day through our actions.

Meet Machelle Anderson, Cash Management Specalist

Machelle Anderson after a hole-in-one on the Pezhekee National golf course in Glennwood, MN.

Machelle Anderson after a hole-in-one on the Pezhekee National golf course in Glennwood, MN.

When did you start your banking career?

Machelle: I started in banking in 1978 at First National Bank in Cannon Falls. I was actually a waitress at a local café in town and one of our regulars helped me get a job at First National. I’ve had many roles during my banking career including customer service, tellering, information technology, bookkeeping and became a Cash Management Specialist when First National was acquired by Merchants Bank in 2007.

What is your top banking tip?

Machelle: I think we all need to play an active role in making sure our bank accounts are secure. It’s so important to pay close attention and monitor your accounts for fraud, especially now.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Machelle: My parents encouraged me to start saving at a young age. I’ve had a savings account since I was a little girl. They taught me that you can spend a little money on the “fun stuff” and still grow your savings account.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

Machelle: I was very close to my grandmother, Irene, on my dad’s side. It would be fun to share that experience with her.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Machelle: Golf courses! I golf a couple of times a week. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and nice weather in the summer.

If you could start your own business, what would you do?

Machelle: To be honest, I don’t think I would start my own business. I would much rather spend my time volunteering because it’s something I truly enjoy. I’m active in a few community organizations now and I would like the chance to volunteer for more organizations. I like meeting new people and trying new things.

Click here to learn more about how our Cash Management Specialists, Machelle and Tammy Johnson, can help your business.

Do You Have a Spending Problem?

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

If you’ve ever checked your bank account and wondered where all your money went, or how you could possibly have such a small sum, you may have an unintentional spending problem. And that’s harmful because overspending can lead to mass amounts of debt and dissatisfaction with yourself.

But how can you know for sure if you have a spending problem? If you’re surmising the thought, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you having a hard time following a budget?
  • Do you feel the need to shop every day or more than once a day?
  • Do you buy things when you’re sad, angry or other emotion to justify feeling that way?
  • Are your friends and family commenting about your spending or telling you to stop?
  • Are you going over your credit card limit on a monthly basis?
  • Do you ever wonder, “Where did my last paycheck go?”
  • Do you have a hard time finding a place for all the items you buy?
  • Do you avoid looking at your bills?
  • Do you have a range of items you don’t use?
  • Are collectors and creditors on your case about past-due bills?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a spending problem. Follow these tips to take steps toward cutting back on your spending:

Get rid of your credit cards – If you know you use plastic for most of your purchases, it’s advised that you cut them up and only carry cash. Yes, credit cards are convenient, but research shows that you spend less when you only have cash.  According to a 2000 study, consumers are willing to spend more for something when they use a credit card rather than cash. So next time you’re out, test this theory by leaving your credit cards behind and only bringing with you a small amount of cash.

Track your spending – This is especially useful for those who can’t fathom where their money is going whenever they check their statement. Simply jotting down what you spend every day will help you identify patterns. Did you grab a coffee before work? Head to the mall on the weekend? Get a car wash? Every penny you spend should be written down and added up to see how much you’re doling out each day. If you’re a techie, you might like keeping an online diary or downloading a journaling app to your smartphone.

Purge – If it’s clothes that you buy a lot of, go through your closet and dresser drawers and make a pile of all the items you haven’t worn in the last year or those that you don’t like anymore.

“Identify the clothes you love, and get rid of everything else,” says author Donna Smallin. “If you haven’t worn something for a year, there’s something wrong — it’s not your style, or it doesn’t fit right — and there’s no point in holding onto it.” You might find that most of your clothing items are in pristine condition, and if that’s the case, head to a local thrift store, who will offer you money for certain items. You’ll feel better and make a little extra cash in the process. If any of the clothes you want to get rid of are slightly ripped or stained, then you may consider donating them to charities.

Purge — the online version – You know all those daily deal e-mails that are clogging up your inbox — Groupon, RetailMeNot, etc.? Unsubscribe to these. These e-mails are marketed to make you want to spend money, and you don’t need that kind of temptation. Doing this may also help you realize how many e-mail lists you’re on, which can be eye-opening to an overspender who wasn’t sure whether or not they had a spending problem.

Avoid situations that make you spend – If you’re aware of when you spend the most, try to skip those occasions as much as you can. For example, if you tend to overspend when eating out with friends, suggest to the group you’d like to have a potluck dinner party instead. Or, if you dish out money on clothes more than anything else, it’s best to keep away from the mall at all costs.

Seek help – There’s no shame in speaking with a professional about your spending habits. If your spending is too far out of control, then you’ll likely benefit from talking to an expert. Many psychotherapists are trained to help people with compulsive spending.  Also, ask your friends, family or spouse for their help as well. After all, it’s hard to change your ways without support from your loved ones.

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Five Great Live Albums

AlbumsSure, even in the digital age people listen to full albums. With the rise of the mp3, however, most listen to individual tunes loaded to an iPod or other mp3 device instead of listening to a full album, start to finish. It is for that reason that the heyday of the live album format really was in decades past, and to find the best live albums of history, we need to look to the past. Here, for your consideration, are five of the best live albums ever made.

“Live!” – Bob Marley and the Wailers

This live recording by the late Bob Marley is a seminal recording of the reggae genre. It features tracks such as “No Woman, No Cry,” “I Shot the Sheriff”, and other popular Marley songs that are perfect for chilling out and listening to through a headset. Marley’s comforting, but strident live vocals set against a reggae beat offer up a tone of independence and mellow joy.

“Johnny Cash at San Quentin” – Johnny Cash

This classic live album from the 1960s showcases the talents of country music icon, Johnny Cash. Recorded in full at a concert for inmates at San Quentin State Prison, this album features live vocal performance of Cash’s hits, including favorites such as “I Walk the Line” and “A Boy Named Sue,”the humorous song that became one of Cash’s most memorable recordings.

“Live at Leeds” – The Who

Aptly described by Slate.com as a “deeply pleasurable listening experience,” this album by British band The Who is a long-playing musical journey. It includes everything from the classic earworm tune “My Generation” to selections from the band’s psychedelic rock opera, “Tommy,” the story of a “pinball wizard” that was eventually turned into a movie starring Roger Daltry and featuring Elton John.

“Take No Prisoners” – Lou Reed

In this live album, Lou Reed riffs on all sorts of subjects, creating a live album that meanders through observations, stories, and takes listeners on a true musical journey. It features songs such as the once-popular and still memorable “Walk on the Wild Side.” Take a listen to see why Reed is considered to be a forefather of the punk and new wave musical genres.

“Wings Over America” – Paul McCartney and Wings

Here, former Beatle Paul McCartney performed with the band that backed him after The Beatles disbanded: Wings. It’s a three-record set that mixes McCartney hits with Beatles tunes, including favorites “Blackbird” and “Yesterday.”

These five suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of great live albums for you to consider. Some of the best recordings of live performances are from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and make for some great listening, indeed.

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Five Ways to Save Money on Textbooks

Find the textbooks you need without depleting your college nest egg.

Find the textbooks you need without depleting your college nest egg.

On average, college students spend around $655 per year on textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores. And with the cost of tuition and other school expenses, no college student wants to be spending — or should be spending — that much for their books.

“Textbooks are the top hidden expense of college,” said Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), a leading advocacy group on the issue of textbook costs. “It’s common to find price tags over $200 each for introductory subjects like Calculus and Biology, and to add insult to injury, many of the books end up worth mere pennies by the end of the semester.”

No matter what subjects you’re studying, there are many ways to save on your books. Avoid blowing a hole in your budget with these cost-cutting tips:

  1. Don’t buy at the bookstore. Your college bookstore is the last place you should be purchasing your textbooks. School bookstores are known to jack up the prices since it may be the most convenient way to get your books — but it’s certainly not cost effective.“It’s crazy how much students can save,” said Ashmore Bodiford, national street team manager for BIGWORDS.com. “Students wait in these super long lines forever at bookstores. They feel like they’re getting ripped off — they’re wasting gas and time shopping in bookstores and not online.”
  1. Buy used. Think about it: does a folded page or a highlighted paragraph really make all that difference in the content you’re studying? Because textbooks are used, the prices are much lower, but will still give you the same experience. Plus, many “used” textbooks tend to be in pretty good condition. Find pre-owned textbooks online at websites like Amazon and eBay. Tip: using the ISBN number, which defines the exact textbook you need (edition, volume, etc.), can help you find the correct textbook quickly. You may also find useful promo codes at sites such as RetailMeNot.com or Ebates.com to increase your savings even more.
  1. Share with a classmate. If you feel comfortable going halves with another student for your textbook, then who says you can’t? That way, you can split the price and both of you will be able to save on your textbooks. Just be sure to first see what your professor’s teaching style is before you decide to share.
  2. Rent. A rented textbook will typically be around 40% of the list price. Check out websites such as Chegg.com or BookRenter.com, or even see if your campus bookstore allows you to rent your books.“As long as it’s not a textbook that they want to hang on to for a reference in the future, renting is definitely a good option for [students],” says Rhonda Nesheim-Kauffman, manager of NIACC Book Zone in Mason City, IA. “They can see the savings when they first purchase the book.”
  1. Check out ebooks. If you own an e-reader, ebooks may be an option for you. They’re cheaper than buying and offer the convenience of always having them on you whenever you carry your e-reader. It’s especially useful if you’re taking classes that require historical texts, fiction, biographies, poetry and essays, as these are the texts you’ll likely find easily on an e-reader.

“Overall, the biggest tip is to shop around and be a smart consumer,” says Allen. “There are more ways to save than ever before, so make sure to know your options and figure out which one offers the best benefits.”

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Do You Know When to Open a Checking Account for Your Child?

FirstCheckingYour child may get an allowance, have a neighborhood gig mowing lawns or a part-time job at a department store. So when is the right time to talk about opening a first checking account? Follow these tips to determine when to open an account and what features make sense for your child.

Is my child ready for a checking account?

First, your child should have experience with spending money – whether from his or her piggy bank or birthday cash. It’s also best if your child has already opened a savings account. This bank account can help him or her learn the importance of saving money before giving them the purchasing power that comes with a checking account.

Typically it’s best to open a first checking account when your child starts his or her first job, around the age of 16. At that time, your child can have his or her paychecks directly deposited, learn how to use a debit card and practice the process of balancing a checking account.

What kind of checking account is best for my child?

To help your child learn the basics of banking, it’s important that you choose an account with the following features:

  • No minimum or monthly maintenance fees – These fees can be both stressful and confusing. It’s best to find a fee free checking account.
  • Online account access – You can teach your child money management any time with easy access from your home computer.
  • Debit card – A debit card can illustrate how bank transactions work.
  • Convenient bank location – Going to the bank is part of the learning process for your child. You want to be close enough that both of you can visit to make deposits and see your customer service representative with any questions.

Merchants Bank’s Free Checking account is a great solution for your child’s first checking account. Free Checking features free access to Online and Mobile Banking, no minimum account balance, a free debit card and more. To find out about all of the features of our Free Checking, click here. To open an account, make an appointment for you and your child at your local Merchants Bank location (link to locations web page).

*$50 minimum deposit required to open Free Checking account. Some restrictions may apply.