Net Income Ahead of Plan and Last Year for the First Half of 2014

Rod Nelson

CEO Rod Nelson reports a net income of $6,335,210 for the first six months of the year for Merchants Financial Group, Inc.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) reported net income of $6,335,210 for the first six months of the year. The income is both ahead of plan and ahead of last year’s income of $6,104,872 for the first half of the year, according to MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson.

Nelson pointed out that MFGI has continued its focus on credit quality and has experienced significant loan growth. Mortgage activity, while not at the levels of the past several years, also contributed positively to growth.

“Our growth was excellent across our entire organization. All of our regions finished the first half of the year above plan,” Nelson said. “I believe it is a direct result of the service-oriented approach that all of our employees embrace when interacting with our customers and co-workers.”

Nelson said that as he looks forward to the remainder of the year, he expects continued strong performance, including achieving planned income for the last six months of the year.

Five Common Online Banking Mistakes

7-14 OnlineMany will argue that banking online has been the best invention since sliced bread. And there’s no doubt about that: no more statements and papers — everything is on your computer or mobile device, right at your fingertips.

But while banking online is certainly a feat that will make your life easier, there are some things that people do without even realizing it can be hazardous to your account safety. For your own security and protection, avoid these top online banking mistakes:

1. Don’t use an easy-to-guess password – You may be surprised at how many people don’t use original passwords, and how dangerous it can be. In an analysis of 32 million passwords done by Imperva, an Internet and data security company, found the top 10 passwords are: 123456, 12345, 123456789, Password, iloveyou, princess, rockyou, 1234567, 12345678 and abc123. These give hackers an easy in to your account. If you’re using one of these or something similar, consider changing it. Note that the best passwords are ones that use both letters and numerals and involve both lowercase and uppercase characters. Also, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi – When it comes to online banking, accessing community Wi-Fi is a no-no. Why?

“People generally don’t bother to check out the security characteristics of public networks before logging on, plus wireless transmissions can be intercepted by nearby Bluetooth-type devices,” says Richard Barrington, a spokesman for MoneyRates.com. That includes public libraries, too.

“The PCs [at libraries] are subject to viruses and spyware that you have no control over,” explains Robert Sicillano, a consultant for McAfee, an expert on identity theft.

3. Don’t dismiss anti-virus protection - This kind of software helps detect and protect you from malicious software (malware) and computer viruses. That’s important because “[Common viruses like] trojans and worms can infect your computer and use keystrokes and other tactics to get your bank credentials,” warns Sol Nasisi, chief economist at BestCashCow.com. It’s best if you set up your protection software to automatically update daily. Also, sometimes your financial institution may provide free software, so be sure to ask about it if you’re unsure.

4. Don’t ignore your account - Check your account regularly. That will help ensure nothing suspicious is going on in your checking and savings accounts. Try checking it once a day or week, but at minimum, you should be looking at it once a month. If you see any suspicious activity, report it to your bank immediately.

5. Don’t post password hints on social media – It sounds obvious, but don’t share any super personal information on any of your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Doing so makes it easy for criminals to use this information and possibly open up an account in your name, or even use it to guess what your password is.

“It’s important to be careful sharing your pet’s name, your children’s names, or the name of the high school you attended, especially if you use this information as account passwords or answers to security questions,” says Lisa Robinson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group. “Never share your mother’s maiden name, your Social Security number, your bank account numbers, or your user names or passwords for any account.”

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Seven Ways to Save at the Supermarket

7-14 SupermarketFood shopping is an essential part of living for every family. But over the years, prices on fare have increased steadily, causing households to spend more and more on their weekly groceries. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American family shells out nearly $540 a month on food, with an average of approximately $312 for groceries.

But unlike your mortgage or gas bill, what you spend on food is flexible. Start with these tips to reduce your supermarket spending today:

1. Scour store sales and stock up. While many people think it’s the coupons that save families in groceries, it’s more so store sales — and combining a store sale and a coupon is one of the best money saving things you can do. Also, when something nonperishable that you use is on sale, it’s a good idea to stock up. It may seem counterintuitive at the time to spend more money (since you’re buying more), but in the end, you can save hundreds. Meats are also good to buy in bulk when they’re on sale, as they will freeze well.

2 …But don’t be fooled by said sales. Many times, a store will list a product for something along the lines of “buy five for $10” when, if you do the math, you may only be saving a couple cents. Also, keep in mind that when sales like these are listed, many times, you don’t need to buy five products, or whatever amount listed to get the sale price. So, for example, if a sale is for “two for $5,” buying one will cost you $2.50. Retailers are just listing that price in hopes that you’ll buy more. Don’t fall for it!

3. Clip coupons. Search your Sunday newspaper or visit websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com where many manufacturer coupons can be found and printed for free. There are also sites such as CouponMom.com, LivingRichWithCoupons.com and TheGroceryGame.com that offer up-to-date sales-tracking services for most states and grocery chains. In addition, it’s a good idea to shop at the stores that double your coupons (usually under 99 cents).

4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Even if you know you’re on a budget, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that you’re likely to spend more money if you don’t eat beforehand. So, before you hit the market, have a meal or take a snack with you if you’re on the go.

5. Use cash. “It’s psychologically more difficult to fork over cash than a credit card,” says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com’s household savings expert. It’s said that using cash when grocery shopping will cut your spending by about 25 percent. Before going grocery shopping, stop at an ATM so that you’re fully stocked up on cash. You could also start a “grocery jar” and drop a few bucks into it each day or week, and use it solely for food shopping.

6. Keep your focus. Does a product ever catch your eye so much that you evidently stop and examine it, mulling over whether you should purchase it? It turns out that the more you interact with a product, the more likely you are to buy it.

“Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment,” says Paco Underhill in the book Why We Buy. Another way to avoid impulse buys? Ride your bike or walk to the store.

“It’s amazing how focused you can be when you are limited to one shopping bag full of groceries,” says Ross Williams, writer at simplemindedinvestor.com. “Once you are very conscious of each purchase, it seems to carry over even to the small items where space isn’t really an issue.”

7. Check over your receipt. Just because a product is on sale doesn’t mean the register will automatically ring it up correctly. Always watch your products being scanned and if something trips you up, don’t be afraid to ask politely if that price is correct.

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Protect Your Mobile Phones and Tablets

SecurityENWith the continuing evolution of technology, mobile phones and tablets are becoming prevalent in their use, taking the place of computers for many people. We want to remind you that it is equally as important to protect your mobile phones and tablets with antivirus and anti-malware apps as it has been to protect your computer.

This need for protection has been brought more into focus lately with a malware that locks devices attacking the users/customers of larger financial institutions. While we believe that community banks like Merchants are low on the priority list of these attacks, we still want you to be prepared.

The good news for iPad and iPhone users is that there isn’t any need for the use of antivirus and anti-malware apps. It has been taken care of in the design of the device.

For Android devices, like non-Apple phones and tablets, there are a number of different of apps that can be used to combat viruses and malware. We’ve listed a number of them in alphabetical order for you and encourage you to research these apps more in depth. You can download all these apps from the “Google play” store:

  • 360 Mobile Security – Free.
  • Antivirus and Mobile Security – Free.
  • Antivirus Mobile Security – There are paid versions available.
  • AntiVirus Security Free by AVG – Free.
  • BitDefender AntiVirus Free – Free.
  • Dr. Web Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Hornet AntiVirus Free – Free.
  • Lookout Security & Antivirus – Free.
  • Mobile Security Antivirus FREE – Free.
  • Norton Security Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Mobile Security and AntiVirus by Avast – There is a free version and paid versions.
  • Mobile Security and Antivirus by ESET – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Zoner AntiVirus Free – There is a free version and paid version.

Bobbi Kasel Promoted

KaselBobbiBobbi Kasel has been promoted to Assistant Vice President/Personal Banking Manager, according to Merchants Bank in Hastings President Bruce Goblirsch.

Kasel started with Merchants in 2004 as a Customer Service Representative, was promoted to Personal Banking Officer in 2005, and became the compliance officer for the Twin Cities Region in 2007.

“Bobbi has done a great job in building our consumer lending business, and she has been instrumental in the growth and development of our bank in Hastings,” Goblirsch said. “Her knowledge of our customers and their financial goals has been an important part of our growth.”

In addition to her other responsibilities, Kasel manages the customer service and teller staff in Hastings.

“It’s a pleasure to serve our customers and meet their financial needs in whatever way we can,” Kasel said. “We have a great team here in Hastings, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Why You Should Automate Your Savings

Do you have a savings account? Most people will respond “yes.” But the real question is: is it actually accruing money?

Many people want to save, but when it comes to essentially adding money to their savings account, they’ll find they’d rather use the income for other things. Evidently, saving money is easier said than done. But in the long run, putting money away is much more helpful than harmful.

So how can you make sure that you’re saving as much as you can? One of the best ways to save is to set a certain payment from your paycheck to automatically go directly into your savings. It is worth it.

“You have to automate your savings,” says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “If you wait until the end of the month and try to save what’s left, there’s typically nothing left over.”

The easiest way to go about this is to treat your savings like your other bills.

“That automatic payment toward your retirement or your emergency savings is just like any other bill,” McBride says. “You’re getting it taken care of right off the bat when you receive your paycheck.” So if you get paid bi-weekly, you’ll be putting aside money twice a month.

“Paying yourself first clears the biggest hurdle for saving, which is simply not being in the habit of saving,” McBride continues. “It takes care of saving money before you have a chance to spend it. About how much to put aside, experts recommend putting 10% of your take-home salary into savings. But if you’re not able to put away that much, don’t fret. As long as you’re consistent, your savings will build.”

If you’re saving for multiple things, consider setting up multiple accounts for each item. Where’s the benefit in that?

“Labeling the various accounts with a specific name that reminds the account holder of what they are saving for can help deter them from withdrawing money from that account and subsequently spending it,” explains Diane Morais, deposits and product integration executive at Ally Financial in Charlotte, NC.

“You can build an emergency savings fund while building a retirement fund or a college fund at the same time,” McBride adds. “You have to attack both at the same time in the same way by automating your contributions.”

Start automating your savings today. It’s quick, painless and, in the long run, will be worth it.

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Join Us this Summer

Our staff invites you to join them at these great events throughout the Summer. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.  

July 12: Pan-O-Prog Parade, 5:30 p.m., Holyoke Avenue in Lakeville.

July 17: Hampton Community Appreciation Picnic, 11:00 am.–2:00 p.m., across the street from Merchants Bank-Hampton. Merchants Bank staff will be serving grilled hot dogs with all the fixings!

July 19: Leprechaun Days Parade, 11:00 a.m., Rosemount High School in Rosemount.

July 19: Deer Creek Speedway Corn Growers Ethanol Night, 6:00 p.m., in Spring Valley. Sponsored by Merchants Bank-Rochester.

July 19-20: Cannon Falls Wine and Arts Festival, 10:00 a.m.–5: 00 p.m., in Cannon Falls. Sponsored by Merchants Bank-Cannon Falls.

July 20: Rivertown Days Parade, 12:00 p.m. in Hastings.

July 23: Rosemount Community Appreciation Picnic, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Merchants Bank-Rosemount. Merchants Bank staff will be grilling hot dogs and serving refreshments in the Bank parking lot.

July 24: Apple Valley Community Appreciation Picnic, 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Merchants Bank-Apple Valley. Merchants Bank staff will be serving refreshments, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers in our parking lot.

July 25: Cottage Grove Community Appreciation Picnic, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Merchants Bank-Cottage Grove. Merchants Bank staff will be grilling hot dogs, and serving pulled turkey sandwiches and refreshments in the Bank parking lot.