Better Late Than Never: How to start saving in your 40s

Couple planning finances

If you’re in your 40s and have no nest egg to speak of, don’t panic. There are things that can be done. No matter what led to this situation, you can try some of the following tactics to build up a retirement fund as quickly as possible. The most important thing is that you start now.

Ask Questions

The first step in creating your retirement fund is to identify your goals. That means asking yourself some questions, and being brutally honest with the answers. When do you want to retire? How many years will you spend in retirement? How much cash will you need yearly during retirement? When will you start taking Social Security payments and how much will they be? Be as thorough as you can with these questions so that you set your retirement goal as accurately as you can.

Revise Your Budget

Now that you have a rough idea of how much you’ll need in retirement, it’s time to revise your budget so that you can save more. First, go through all your expenses and see where you can cut back. According to one report from Chase, the average American household spends about $500 per month on unnecessary expenses. Once you have your spending slimmed down and the excess funneled toward your 401(k) or other retirement account, see if that puts you on target for your goal. If not, it’s time to think of making big changes, like downsizing your home.

Revisit and Adjust

The final step in kicking your retirement savings into high gear is going back to your goals. You now know how much you can save and are stashing as much as you can. Will it be enough? If not, you might need to revise your retirement goals. You can also consider delaying Social Security payments even longer than you initially thought. If you wait to start taking checks past your full retirement age (FRA), your payments will increase. For example, if your FRA is 66 and you delay payments until 70, your check will be 32 percent more. Hey, we never said saving for retirement in your 40s is easy. We just said it could be done.


Article written by Chris O’Shea, originally published by SavvyMoney.


Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $19,760,000 for 2019

Greg Evans, President & CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced year-end earnings for 2019 with net income of $19,760,000, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans. The earnings exceeded MFGI’s plan for the year by more than $2.6 million and is an increase of 4.7% over 2018 earnings.

“I’m extremely proud of our long track record of repeatable, sustainable earnings growth. Our success resulted from a total team effort, with each of our 480 teammates intensely focused on an extraordinary service orientation and a tremendous spirit of collaboration,” said Evans.

Key contributors to Merchants’core earnings for 2019 included strong business growth in both loans and deposits, mortgage loan volume significantly above plan and a net income contribution from First National Bank of Northfield, which was acquired by MFGI in August. Evans also credits an intense focus on credit quality and Merchants’unique community banking approach for another strong year.

Total year-over-year deposit growth for Merchants Bank from 2018 was 12.13%, and consolidated deposits when factoring in the Northfield acquisition increased 26.49% to just over $1.8 billion. Organic loan growth for Merchants Bank was 7.54% in 2019, and the addition of Northfield’s loan portfolio to the consolidated balance sheet contributed to total loans at year-end being $1.7 billion (growth of 20.6%).

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) also owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. is a publicly traded company. Ownership is made up of its more than 480 employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Jim Allen Reflects on His Time at Merchants before Retirement

Jim Allen with family and coworkers

Jim Allen has been at Merchants Bank for all of 25 Years. He started on March 14, 1994 as the organization’s first specialized Ag banker. He became the St. Charles Market President in 2000. With that much time in the bank, he’s learned some things about business in a small, cozy community. Before his retirement at the beginning of 2020, we asked Jim to reflect on his time with Merchants.

Q: What is one of your fondest memories from working at Merchants?

In banking you make a lot of deals. When you’re able to create a new relationship or help someone buy a farm it’s always a good feeling. Business comes and goes but the friends you make can last forever. My longest memories are from the fair – such a wonderful community event. I’ve also been fortunate to work with a phenomenal team in St. Charles as well as have meaningful relationships with coworkers across the company. Back in the day we were in Winona once a week for loan committee – we didn’t do meetings over the phone or computer. Any success we’ve had has been thanks to this strong team.

Q: Do you have any fun stories you’d like to share?

 Oh, gosh. A good one is when I came back from vacation in Hawaii and the staff had dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and leis. That was a surprise. You know that’s Sandra Pasche that got that together.

Another one that was just a shock was when my wife, Shar, and I were honored as king and queen of the Winona County Fair. No one told us that was happening. I was working in the Lions Club food booth and Cindy Timm with the Fair Board made up some silly excuse to get me into the entertainment tent for the ceremony. They had told my family this was happening, so some of them were in attendance, but I didn’t know why before the event. A friend took our photo after. It was a really touching moment.

Q: What makes Merchants special?

Merchants is truly a unique organization. I had done my research before signing on with the bank and it was clear that it was a pretty good place to work. I had found that employees that work with Merchants stay – which really says something about their satisfaction.

Merchants really appreciates their people – and it shows. They started the Employee Shareholder Ownership Program (ESOP) a couple years after I started at the bank. Providing every employee a ‘buy-in’ where they work is exceptionally valuable. They are also just so appreciative of the hard work everyone puts in. A pat on the back, just that recognition and appreciation, is so important in company culture. 

Q: What wisdom do you want to leave your Merchants family with?

I would say it’s important to appreciate this organization and the ownership stake you have in it. We are fortunate to work with a successful, stable organization – not everyone can say that. The management style and teams, from the board of directors on down, have all of the employees’ best interests at heart – and that level of care really matters.

Q: What are you excited about for Merchants Future?

I think that the Northfield acquisition has been the best acquisition process that I’ve experienced. The bank and community of Northfield is so clearly a great fit for the Merchants’ culture – it’s very exciting progress. It’s great to see that Merchants continues to grow, be progressive and stay in the game. You want to see that from your organization. Merchants applies such care to everything it does – and you can feel that comfort.

Jim and his family have lived in the St. Charles area his whole life – starting in Eyota and moving to St. Charles in 1999. Jim and Shar plan to stay in St. Charles.

Merchants Bank’s Leadership Class Completes Service Project to Benefit Hospitalized Children and Ronald McDonald House


16 leadership class students along with Training Director, Kristine Valk; Chief Human Resource Officer, Bed Ede and Merchants Bank Equipment Finance President, Rick Barry packed 244 Cheer-Up Boxes.

Merchants Bank staff members partnered with Cheeriodicals to deliver 244 Cheer-Up Boxes to patients at Mayo Clinic Children’s Center and families at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, MN on January 14. The boxes were assembled and delivered as part of a service project for Merchants Bank’s I Believe Leadership Series class.

“Servant leadership is a key theme of the I Believe Leadership Series, which was created to help grow and develop leaders at all levels of the Merchants organization. Each class selects a service project and this year’s class selected Cheeriodicals to give back to families in need in the Rochester area,” said Kristine Valk, Training Director and Leadership Series creator.

Leadership class participants raised $18,460.00 to purchase supplies for the 244 Cheer-Up Boxes and partnered with Cheeriodicals to coordinate box assembly and delivery, with the majority of the funds donated by Merchants Bank staff and board members. The Cheer-Up Boxes are made up of age-appropriate magazines, activity books, puzzles, craft projects and games for children to enjoy during their stay at the hospital or Ronald McDonald House. An additional $3,100.00 was donated directly to the Ronald McDonald House.

The I Believe Leadership Series program is a yearlong, homegrown leadership development curriculum for Merchants Bank employees. The program focuses on servant leadership to align with the company focus on making a positive impact in the communities Merchants Bank serves. This year’s class is made up of 16 employees from across the organization’s locations and includes staff from both customer-facing and support departments. As part of the annual curriculum, the class chooses a service initiative. This year the class selected Cheeriodicals.


Lucas Stangl, Ellen Morehouse, Maralee Berg and Mollie Brink pack Cheer-Up Boxes on January 14.

“Everyone in the leadership class felt privileged to be able to make the Cheer-Up Boxes and spread some joy. The experience of hand-delivering them to patients and families and seeing their smiles was something I won’t forget,” said Ellen Morehouse, Credit Support Manager and Leadership Program Project Co-Chair.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) also owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875. Member FDIC.

Larry Bodin Joins Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker

Larry Bodin, Commercial Banker

Larry Bodin has joined Merchants Bank as Vice President/Commercial Banker, according to Shawn Sackman, Senior Vice President and Senior Lending Officer, Merchants Bank-Onalaska.

“Larry has extensive experience in and knowledge of the La Crosse market, which means he understands the opportunities and challenges local businesses are facing. His relationship-first approach combined with his banking background will make him a trusted resource for our customers,” said Sackman.

With more than 20 years of experience in business banking, Bodin is knowledgeable in both commercial lending and business deposit solutions. He was previously a Business Banking Relations Manager and Market President for BMO Harris Bank in La Crosse. Bodin is also a veteran of the United States Navy.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of Merchants Bank, which has such a strong character and reputation in the La Crosse market,” said Bodin. “I believe banking should be all about the customers and that’s Merchants’ philosophy too.”

Bodin currently serves on the Board of Directors for Chileda, Inc., the La Crosse Area Family YMCA and the VARC Foundation. He and his wife, Elaine, are active volunteers in the La Crosse community. His hobbies include fishing, golfing and motorcycling.

The Merchants Bank Commercial Lending team is comprised of more than 40 local experts, available throughout our regional footprint. In addition to traditional commercial loans, Merchants bankers specialize in ag banking, SBA loans, floor plan financing and equipment lease financing. As a regional banking leader, Merchants can assist businesses of any size with their business financing needs, including Treasury Management and deposit services.

Merchants Bank is a full service community bank with 19 bank locations in southeastern Minnesota, two bank locations in west-central Wisconsin and a leasing division, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, in Edina. Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) owns the First National Bank of Northfield, with two banking offices in Northfield and a loan production office in Bloomington, Minn. Headquartered in Winona, MN, MFGI has more than $2 billion in assets. Merchants was founded in 1875.

Meet Marcus Krings, Credit Card Manager at Merchants Bank


Marcus Krings (right), Credit Card Manager at Merchants Bank, pictured with his brother, Adam at a tough mudder competition.

Get to know Marcus Krings from the Credit Card department at Merchants Bank.

When did you start your banking career?

Marcus: I started in 2006 as a Lead Teller at another financial institution. I came to the Electronic Banking department at Merchants in 2012. I moved to the Credit Card department in 2016 and became the Credit Card Manager in 2018. I was promoted to Credit Card Officer at the beginning of 2019.

What is your best credit card tip?

Marcus: It sounds simple, but make your payments on time and don’t spend beyond your means to keep yourself out of trouble. If you’re not sure where you stand, call your credit card company (which is hopefully the friendly, local people at Merchants Bank!).

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

Marcus: Money doesn’t grow on trees; you have to earn it to spend it. It’s kind of funny that I’m in credit cards now, but the principle still applies.

If you won $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Marcus: I would take my family to Disneyland (or maybe build a zombie bunker).

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Marcus: Sour apple gummies. Those are still delicious.

What are you looking forward to most in your new position as Credit Card Manager?

Marcus: I’m excited to continue to grow our customer base, work with the wonderful team at Merchants Bank and provide an exceptional experience to our customers. Helping our customers understand credit products and use them wisely is very rewarding.


Loans are subject to credit approval.

Meet Kathy Simon, Credit Card Specialist



Kathy with some of her co-workers: (l-r) Carol Bell, Kathy Simon, Ashley Wagner, Marcus Krings

When did you start your banking career?

Kathy: I started as a teller when I was 20 years old. I came to Merchants Bank in 2008 as a File Clerk, and then moved to Loan Servicing and Credit Cards.

What is your top banking tip?

Kathy: I would say check your statements for fraud. We see credit card fraud daily. If you pay attention to your statements, either paper or online, you may be able to catch fraud in time. If you suspect fraud on your account, the window to act is within 60 days from the statement’s cut-off date.

Acting as soon as you suspect something is always best. Or better yet, download our SecurLOCK mobile app on your mobile device to monitor your Merchants Credit Card daily. Many other cards have similar apps; take advantage of them to protect yourself.

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

Kathy: My mom always said, “Put money away for a rainy day!” That’s such a “mom” thing to say, isn’t it? It was great advice. A little saved goes a long way later.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one fun thing you’d do with the money?

Kathy: I would travel to Europe and give some to family and friends.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Kathy: It’s a toss-up between trees and avocados. If I had to pick, I’d say trees.

Click here to learn more about Credit Cards at Merchants Bank. Credit cards are subject to credit approval.