Does money stress you out? We’re here to help you and start your financial year off on the right foot.
Our Customer Service Representatives have helped thousands of families, each with their own unique financial situation, understand their finances and make plans for a better financial future. Four of them are sharing their top tips for budgeting, tracking your money, creating goals and saving more.
- Dawn Farrell: Customer Service Supervisor in La Crescent.
- Meghan Manor: Personal Banker in Winona.
- Kally Whalen: Customer Service Representative in St. Charles.
- Rachel Wyttenbach: Customer Service Representative in Onalaska.
How would you describe your role? How can you help someone better manage their finances?
Dawn: I am here to learn about your financial needs and help you find the best banking options for you and your family. It really starts with a simple conversation. We’ll talk about your current situation and your goals and I can recommend services to help you meet those goals.
Meghan: I am your go-to, first point of contact for any questions regarding your financial relationship with Merchants Bank. I specialize in all deposit and online services and can help with personal loan products too. Even if I can’t open every product at the bank, I can connect you to a department that can! I also agree that our numerous electronic services are great tools to help you manage your finances and can walk you through how to use them.
Kally: I aid and assist you with your everyday banking needs. One of my top tips is to monitor your accounts and cards regularly. Merchants Bank has many online and mobile options that make it so easy!
Rachel: I am responsible for guiding you through the account opening process and whatever banking services you need in the future.I love working with customers to identify banking tools that make their lives easier.
What are your tips for establishing attainable financial goals?
Dawn: If you are planning an event in the future – like buying a home or car, going on vacation or saving for retirement – I would suggest having a specific bank account set aside for that purpose. We have plenty of savings options and putting the money in a designated account can really help you see how you’re progressing towards your savings goal.
Meghan: I think the first step to saving money/budgeting is making sure you’re aware of everything going in and coming out of your accounts. Always keep track of your balance! Make sure there are no unauthorized charges sneaking out of your account without your knowledge. Waiting for a paper statement in the mail is not enough anymore. Use our online or mobile banking resources if possible – and log in daily! Once you have a good idea of your regular expenses, you can start building a savings plan.
Kally: Set your financial goals based on a budget. To create a simple budget, just start with your fixed and flexible expenses – like a mortgage payment or rent, food, gas, etc – and income. Once you put down some numbers, you’ll be able to determine what extra money, if any, you may have at month end or each pay period. From there, you can decide how to use those funds based on financial goals you’d like to achieve. You may want put the money in a savings account, make an additional credit card payment or mortgage payment, etc. And remember to manage and track your goals on a regular basis…it’s important to review them at least once a month and make adjustments as needed.
Rachel: Open a savings account at the same time you open a checking account and set up a monthly automatic transfer. You won’t have to think about transferring the money back and forth – it does the saving for you! If you are able, increase the transfer increment every six months. You will be amazed how quickly $20 multiplies! For example, you’ll be amazed at what you can save going out to lunch one less day per week x 4 weeks/month x 12 months/year. It adds up! You could even set up an automatic deposit for that lunch amount to be transferred from your checking to a savings account each week, or month and have a nice little savings cushion at the end of the year.
What’s one step a person could take immediately to start saving more money in 2018?
Dawn: Write down a budget for the year now. Make sure it includes a plan for savings and stick to it.
Meghan: I would recommend using a Merchants Bank Summer or Winter FUNd account. They are great products to help save automatically without having to manually make an effort to do so. Even if you aren’t saving for Christmas or a summer trip, use them for your own needs. Save for taxes, for a new vehicle, for a home, etc.!
Kally: I would also encourage opening a Merchants Bank Summer or Winter FUNd. One feature I really like to mention is how these accounts are built to help you accumulate money – no withdrawals are allowed. Deposits are automatically made 10 months of the year and you receive a check either in June or November for all of your savings plus accrued interest. By depositing directly into a Summer/Winter FUNd, it’s easy to forget you’re setting extra money aside and you can’t access it like a normal savings account so the money stays put. Our Certificates of Deposit* can also be a good option for saving money depending on your situation.
Rachel: Pay attention to your expenses by reviewing your monthly statements or transactions through Online or Mobile Banking. Take note of where you spend the most money and determine whether or not you can reduce that dollar amount.
Our Customer Service Representatives are available to help answer your questions and open new accounts at a branch near you. To make an appointment, contact your local Merchants Bank.
*$500 minimum deposit required