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Financial Fitness Blog

Prep your home for winter

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark Blog PhotoProper home maintenance can help prevent damage caused by snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Autumn is a great time to winter-proof your home.

Trim back trees. Ice, snow, and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break—damaging your home or car as well as injuring someone walking on your property.

Use caulk and weather stripping. Many small cracks and gaps around the perimeter of your home can add up to significant heat loss during winter months. To keep the heat from escaping through these spaces, inspect the perimeter of your home and apply caulking or weather stripping wherever necessary. Use caulking to protect water pipes and make sure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping to prevent snowmelt from seeping in.

Repair steps and hand railings. Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries in the home. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.

Clean out gutters. Be sure your gutters are clear so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming—a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house, causing damage to ceilings and walls.

Prevent plumbing freezes. Drain all of your garden hoses and insulate exposed plumbing pipes. If you can't turn off the water to your hose from inside the house, you can purchase an insulating cover for the outside faucet. Drain your air conditioner pipes and, if your air conditioner has a water shut-off valve, turn it off. A burst pipe can cause significant water damage inside and create a slipping hazard outside your home.  

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

2012 Financial Mentor Awards

(Money Management) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoThe results are in for the winners of the 2012 Financial Mentor Award! The award is given to Wisconsin public school employees who take the time to mentor their colleagues on the benefits of good financial planning and saving for retirement.

We also received a number of comments from those who nominated a mentor that illustrate the effort people make to help others. Mentors “persistently, yet patiently, encouraged me to begin my financial retirement planning and walked me through the process of researching and then initiating my investment portfolio”; took time to “chat with me at the lunch table about the value of starting a TSA and putting in as much money as possible”; and always “make sure employees understand how changes in Social Security, WRS, or benefits impact them.”

We tip our hat to these well-deserving winners. Besides recognizing them here, each winner receives a personal certificate of recognition.

Keith Barton
Milwaukee Public Schools
Sarah Campbell
Wisconsin Dells School District
Jerry Danner
Lomira School District
Kris Debruine
Oostburg/Cedar Grove-
Belgium School Districts
Mary Frisch
Arcadia School District
John Hansen
Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District
Chris Heller
Appleton School District
Deb Huppert
Prescott School District
Sue Jasman
Mayville School District
Beth Killian
Arcadia School District
William Kirsch
Waukesha School District
Frank Koczan
Sheboygan Area School District
Mark Leschke
Appleton School District
Ken Loest
Fond du Lac School District
James Mani
Lakeshore Technical College
Tim McCarthy
Glendale School District
Brad Miller
Two Rivers School District
Bob Moeller
WEAC Madison
Sandy Nass
West Suburban UniServ
Kathleen Schneider
Madison Metropolitan School District
Judy Van Wattingen
Lakeshore Technical College

Do you have a financial mentor in your school? Maybe it’s you. Nominations for 2013 mentors are now being accepted online. 

Michelle Slawny, CFP®

Year-end is closing in—plan ahead for deadlines

(Retirement) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoWell, we’re into the final quarter of the year and that means deadlines. For those who are planning to take withdrawals from their 403(b) or IRA account before the end of 2012, mark your calendars with appropriate deadlines for requesting withdrawals.

Lump-sum withdrawals (Request deadline: December 14, 2012)
If you are planning to take a lump-sum withdrawal from your WEA TSA Trust or WEAC IRA account before the end of 2012, your original written request form must be received (not postmarked) by us on or before December 14, 2012, in order to process by year end. If we receive your form after December 14, it will be processed the second week of January 2013. Unfortunately, we cannot accept requests via fax.

403(b) and IRA exchanges/transfers/rollovers (Request deadline: December 7, 2012)
Exchanges, transfers, and rollovers require a two-week processing time. Your completed paperwork (including approved TPA transaction authorization) will process by the end of December if we receive it by December 7, 2012. This includes requests for IRA recharacterizations and conversions.

Avoid penalties from contributing too much!
For those still contributing to a 403(b) TSA, watch your contribution limits, especially if you contribute at or near the allowable amount. It’s up to you—the participant (not your employer)—to pay attention to limits. Contribution limits for 403(b) accounts are $17,000 for 2012; however, employees age 50 and older can contribute an additional $5,500 for a total of $22,500. 

Michelle Slawny, CFP®

Fewer pay cycles? Don’t shortchange your IRA or 403(b)

(Retirement) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoMany districts are reducing the number of pay cycles from 24 to 20 per year. If you have a set dollar amount deducted per paycheck for 403(b) or IRA contributions, you need to adjust that amount so you can continue to meet your retirement savings goal. 

Pay cycle graph

For example, if you want to save $2,000 per year and have been receiving 24 checks per year, your contribution per paycheck would be $83 (for a total of $1992). However, if you are now receiving 20 checks per year, that $83 contribution will accumulate to just $1660 by the end of the year. To stay on pace to reach your yearly goal, increase your contribution to $100.

If this affects you, contact your business office today and fill out a Salary Reduction Agreement to modify your contribution withholdings.

Michelle Slawny, CFP®