Meet Connie Fort, Assistant Manager of Consumer Loans at Merchants

Connie and her husband, Tim

Connie and her husband, Tim, at the Grand Canyon

When did you start your banking career?

Connie: Twenty-six years ago I started at Merchants in Winona as a Commercial Lending Assistant. I knew that I wanted to get into lending, so I switched and became a Customer Service Representative. I stayed in Customer Service for seven years and then became a Credit Analyst. During that time, I learned that I was the kind of person who wanted to be in front of customers. A few years later, the Consumer Lender position opened up and I’ve been here for ten years now. Before Merchants, I worked at a brewery in La Crosse…can you believe that?

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Connie: Make sure to check your credit rating. There are a few websites that allow you to download a free credit report and you can bring in the report and we can go through it together. It’s also helpful if you come with an idea of how much you want to borrow and then together we can determine how much equity you have in your home.

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

Connie: To save, save, save. You do not buy anything until have saved for it. My parents were very frugal with their money and they passed that on to me and my two sisters.

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?

Connie: I would buy a cabin up north. We love to be outdoors…just canoeing or spending time on the lake. It’s just an awesome way to relax and forget about everything.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Connie: When I think of green, I think of Spring and the pretty trees and blooming flowers.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Connie: I want to change my bedroom because we don’t have a master bath. We’ve found out that when we have family visiting and we have to share the same bathroom it can become difficult.

Contact Connie today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Tortilla Roll-Ups

BlogRecipe-TortillaRollups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package dry Ranch dressing mix
  • chopped onion, if desired
  • 8-10 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • extra salsa

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and spread a thin layer of mix on each tortilla. Roll tortillas and refrigerate 30 minutes. Cut rolls into bite-sized pieces and serve with salsa.

 

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

Myths About Home Equity Lines of Credit

Merchants Bank, Home Equity Loans, Home Equity Lines of Credit

You may be able to use the equity in your home to your advantage with a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC. While the idea sounds simple, the details of a HELOC can be confusing. Here are a few common HELOC myths explained.

Myth: A Second Mortgage and a Home Equity Line of Credit are the same thing.
There are two types of loans that use the equity in your home as collateral. They are either a Second Mortgage (also known as a Home Equity Loan) or a Home Equity Line of Credit. Each works differently and which loan type works best for you is often determined by the purpose you have chosen to take out the loan. The interest rate the bank charges on either of these can take several factors into account, such as your credit score, the loan to value or the loan type.

A Second Mortgage, or Home Equity Loan, is simply borrowing money, using the equity in your home to secure the loan, much as a personal loan may use the equity in a car to secure the loan.

A Home Equity Line of Credit is a revolving loan that works very much like a credit card. The equity you have in your home secures a credit line with a variable interest rate that is available to you for a certain amount of time (usually ten years). The monthly payments are determined by how much money you owe the Bank, not by how big the line of credit is. As you pay down the amount you owe on your line of credit, the rest is available for other uses. The line of credit works well for do-it-yourself projects or a series of projects because you only make payments on the money you’ve already used.

Myth: I can only use my HELOC on purchases for my home.
A Home Equity Line of Credit can be a great way to get that new roof or finally finish the lower level, but it can also be used to buy a new car or to pay for a college education. The flexibility of a HELOC means you can make your home equity work for current financial needs. In addition, the interest you pay on a Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit may be deductible on your federal tax return. The interest you pay on car loans, credit cards and almost all other loans definitely is not. We suggest you consult your tax advisor regarding interest deductibility.

To learn more about Home Equity Lines of Credit, visit our website or contact your local Merchants Bank today.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Year to Shareholders and Re-elects Directors

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) held its annual meeting Thursday, April 9, formally reporting income to shareholders and re-electing four members to the MFGI Board of Directors.

MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson reported that the organization had an exceptional year, recording $12,349,695 in net income in 2014. It was MFGI’s second best year in terms of income, less than $100,000 behind 2012’s net income of $12,439,492.

“Our shareholders deserve this good news made possible by the positive work of our employees and the continued support of our valued customers,” Nelson said. “We look forward to a successful 2015.”

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Michael F. Cichanowski, Chief Executive Officer, We-no-nah Canoe, Inc.; Richard J. Pope, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, WinCraft, Inc.; Timothy A. Murphy, Partner, Rippe, Hammell & Murphy; and Bruce E. Ryan, President, Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc.

Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat, Merchants Bank President and Chief Banking Officer Greg Evans and Chief Information Officer Rodney Nelsestuen were featured speakers.

MFGI has more than $1.5 billion in assets and holds 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, Rushford, Lanesboro, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Merchants Capital, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Merchants has more than 425 employees, many of whom give significant volunteer time to organizations in their communities. Additionally, during 2014, Merchants Bank made charitable donations to nearly 300 organizations. The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Meet Andrea Lisowski, Consumer Loans Manager at Merchants

From l-r: Andrea's friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

From l-r: Andrea’s friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

When did you start your banking career?

Andrea: It will be thirty years this June. I have been very fortunate during my time here. I started at Merchants a floater, basically going between a few different departments like bookkeeping and proof. After that I was afforded the opportunity to learn several different positions, including being a Teller, working in our Loan Servicing Department and also as a Customer Service Representative. I’ve been in Consumer Lending for 25 years. This department has a lot of experience…we’ve all been all here a long time and have a great knowledge of several different departments.

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Andrea: Think about a HELOC as something that can meet your immediate and future needs. You need to have a longer term thought process in mind, because it’s a flexible product that has many possible uses. You may need a new roof this year, but will you have any house updates next year or the year after that? Do you have a child going to college in the near future? I believe our HELOC is one of the best products that we offer. If you’re disciplined in your borrowing, it’s an option that could make a lot of sense for you.

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

Andrea: If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. They also taught me the Envelope Saving plan. It does work if you stick to it!

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?

Andrea: My husband and I have always wanted to do a “stadium tour.” Buy luxury RV and go with some friends around the country to different baseball or football stadiums. That would be fun.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Andrea: The green turf of a football or baseball field. My husband and I have enjoyed many great memories of our kids on the field!

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Andrea: I would do a bathroom remodel. We’re limited in space and we only have one bathroom. I’d make our current bathroom larger and add on another where we could fit it.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Contact Andrea today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Cheesy Hash Browns Recipe

BlogRecipe-CheesyHashBrowns

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. package hash browns
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

 

Directions:

Mix all ingredients and place in greased pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

 

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