By Charles Hall II, Midwest BankCentre

When we think about spring cleaning, most often we think about physically cleaning our living space, throwing away things we don’t need and organizing various areas of the home. Why not adapt that same tradition to our finances? The thought alone may be overwhelming for many but like any other task we take on, setting goals is always a good place to start. Don’t try to accomplish a financial overhaul all at once. Choose a manageable task and stick to that one job. You can always return to do more next week, next month or even next year. Below are a few of the many manageable financial spring cleaning tasks to get you started:

1. Scan, upload and backup – Pull out those boxes of important papers and first decide what goes and what stays. Before tossing documents, check with banks and financial services companies, including your 401(k) provider, to learn how long they retain electronic copies of your records. After scanning your documents, upload them to a separate hard drive and/or a reliable cloud storage service. If you want to avoid this becoming a yearly task, simply GO PAPERLESS and download your various statements on a monthly basis.

2. Assess your bank accounts – It’s important that your banking relationships are beneficial to you. If you have too many accounts, close the ones that you have not used within the past year and if needed, switch to an account that adds a little interest or offers some sort of cash back. Banking options continue to evolve with accounts now being offered online only (a great option for a savings account that isn’t easily accessible to you), bank debit cards that can be put “on hold” from the user’s mobile banking app to prevent fraudulent activity and even accounts designed to help repair your credit. While maintaining a healthy banking relationship is important, don’t be afraid to see what other banks are offering. This is also a great time to either update or add beneficiary designations to your accounts as well.

3. Negotiate with your service providers – Nothing excites me more than a deal and service providers are great at offering initial deals to get you on board but fail at offering deals on an ongoing basis. However, the last thing they want to do is lose a customer so why not ask how you can save money or if they can match the price of a competitor. The savings won’t always be substantial but every little bit of savings helps. When it comes to cable, an alternative option is to use free or less expensive services such as Hulu and Netflix.

Implementing financial spring cleaning tasks like these can help take the stress out of managing your finances and in some cases save you money or even make money for you. No matter what your current financial state is, consistent financial wellness is an attainable goal.


By Sierra Dean, Justine PETERSEN Community Investment and Outreach VISTA

You’ve still got time before taxes are due on April 17, 2018, but why not complete your taxes early? If you’re surprised by a tax bill, don’t fret; set up payment options that suit your needs. If you’re getting a refund, completing your taxes early will ensure you receive your refund much sooner.

If you are receiving a refund it’s important that you manage the funds appropriately. What better way than to get things organized early? Here are a few options to get you started:

  • Save for an emergency – The unexpected could happen to any of us and we need to be prepared for it. This could include a job loss, vehicle repair, or an illness. Without an emergency fund, you could end borrowing money from friends, family or even taking out a personal loan. Before you receive your refund, it’s a good idea to shop around for a high interest savings account or CD’s with minimal or no fees. Reputable online banks offer savings account that are not linked with your everyday checking account and not as easily accessible as brick and mortar banks. It’s recommended by financial experts to save for at least 3-6 months of living expenses. To avoid being intimidated by the recommended time frame, start by saving for 30 days of living expenses then 60, then 90 and so on.
  • Figure out why you’re saving, so that you know you’re working towards a goal. Your goal can be either short or long term. Short term goals could include emergency fund, vacation, or down payments for a car or home. Long term goals could include retirement, child’s education, or a remodeling project. Picking the appropriate tools for your goals is essential because they’re so many products out there in the market today. If you know that your savings consist of short term goals then you may need to consider obtaining a Savings or Money Market account. For long term goals you may want to look into an IRA, Investment Products, Stocks, Mutual Funds, or 529 Plan.


  • Paying off debt could be another option for you. Paying off those credit cards with the high interest rates could save you a ton of money. On average Americans created $1,000 more debt due to holiday spending, so pay it off as soon as you’re able to. Also, if you’ve shopped online lately, certain online retailers will automatically save your credit card information. Clear the cookies from your computer to remove your information from those sites. This could help you cut down on buying items that you don’t need because now you need to go searching for your credit card to make the purchase. Instead of paying off your car at one time, deposit the funds into an account and setup auto payments to pay the remaining car payments. This way you will continue to maintain or build good credit along the way.


Once you file your taxes and you notice that you owe, pay whatever you can on the bill. The convenient and easiest way to pay your tax bill is to setup an Installment Agreement. Also, talk to a Tax Accountant for more information.


By Sierra Dean, Justine PETERSEN Community Investment and Outreach VISTA

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to be financially fit? Getting it done and staying on task could be a challenge. We all tend to become easily sidetracked, find ways to make excuses, or just procrastinate.

At the University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year goals. Considering that 45% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution and of those 25% of resolutions fail within the first week. It would be great if we could get that achieving number higher.

New Year, new beginnings, and new life, as some would say. Let’s grasp on how to keep our promises to ourselves when we make resolutions. Here’s some a few ways:

  • Be specific about what your goals are. Don’t just say that you need to save money or that you need to lose weight. Write down exactly how much money you want to save and how much you would need to save monthly. So, if you want to have $2,000 in your savings account after 12 months, then you need to automatically deposit $167 into your savings account monthly.
  • Make a list of things that you will accomplish each day to get you towards your goals. Start off small, don’t overwhelm yourself with too much on your to do list. If you’re working towards saving, then your list may consist of different banks or credit unions to reach out to in order to find the best interest rate.
  • You could possibly write down different ways to make more money by doing the things love like, writing, drawing, sewing, knitting, etc. Turn your interests into cash flow and deposit the extra money into your savings account.
  • Surround yourself with wealth minded individuals and start to attend reputable seminars or workshops that pertain to the process of wealth building. Remember, building wealth does not happen overnight, consistent savings is the foundation that wealth and prosperity are built on.
  • Write down your goals, then hang it on your wall, post it on your desktop, or even save it as your screensaver on your phone. Have fun with it!

Keep going after the prize and you will get there eventually. Make sure you celebrate every small win!


By Angie Henderson, AFC

Did you know that there’s a new financial guidance resource for St. Louis’ veteran population? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has launched a new, nationwide initiative to assist our nation’s veterans in the area of personal finance and the best part is – it’s FREE!

There are roughly 250,000 service members who leave active duty every year. Veterans face unique financial challenges compared to their peers without military experience. They often deal with major career changes when they leave the military, which can affect their income. They also grapple with moving often, which can make it difficult for spouses to earn money, further challenging the household budget. So it is easy to see how personal finances often top the list of concerns of newly separated veterans. To help with those struggles, the CFPB recently launched a Financial Coaching Program to help veterans take control of their finances.

The goal,” says Holly Petraeus, CFPB’s Assistant Director and head of the Office of Service Member Affairs, is to assist military personnel and their families in getting the financial education they need to make better consumer decisions. “The idea is to help them proactively take control of their finances at crucial moments and end up becoming financially stable and achieving the financial goals they’ve set forth,” she says.

So what is financial coaching? Financial coaching is a tool that empowers the client to take charge of their personal finances. Through a series of one-on-one meetings, a client can expect to receive support and guidance to pinpoint their financial goals, identify barriers that may be keeping them from attaining their goals, recognize what they can do to achieve them and come up with a plan of action to help them accomplish their objectives. Financial coaches can help access financial education, find resources and seek the right financial interactive tools that will work best for the client to make well thought out and confident decisions while working toward their financial goals.

The coaching services are provided free of charge, funded by CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. “(The coaches) give one-on-one advice and encouragement, driven by the client,” Petraeus says. “When we can set up our veterans for success, it benefits all of us,” she adds.

Interested? Contact your St. Louis metropolitan area coach today to set up a confidential one-on-one appointment at (314) 201-0308 or

Estate Planning Without an “Estate”

Web photo 2014When the words “estate planning” come to mind, many people think of billionaires such as Bill Gates or Mitt Romney. These wealthy Americans certainly do have an estate and a very complex estate plan. However, anyone with a few dollars in the bank or a life insurance policy technically have an estate. Your estate is anything you’ve accumulated over your lifetime. Therefore, it’s important to have an estate plan even if you don’t feel like you have an “estate.” Below are a few tips to consider, including some information that may surprise you:

  • Basic Will – We all know that a will is used to give our property to certain people or charities upon death. However, did you know that wills also provide for guardianship provisions for children? If you have children who are not considered adults in your state of residence and you don’t have a will, you may be putting your family at large risk in the event of a tragedy. For example, let’s assume two parents are married and have one child. If both parents passed away in a car accident and did not have a will with guardianship provisions, the children may have guardians appointed by the state. These guardians may be family, but it may not be the family member(s) you envisioned raising your children. Having a will is very important for children and even adults who need special care.
  • Revocable Living Trust – This estate planning tool is a bit more complex than a will, but can offer many more benefits. Please remember, a trust isn’t just for the wealthy. If you have a car, a house, some investments and a bank account, along with children under your care, a trust may be for you. First, if used properly, a trust has the potential to avoid probate court in the event of death. Avoiding probate may mean saving probate court expenses, saving months of time dealing with the probate court system and keeping your estate private versus going through the public court system. Second, a trust has the ability to dictate how assets are distributed among family, friends and charities. For example, you may want to give money to a grandchild, but only if they use if for college. If not used for college, you may want them to wait until age 35 to receive any monetary gifts. With a trust, this type of unique request can be made. There are also many other potential benefits to a trust that are unique to each person and family. What’s the downside? It’s going to cost a little more to create than a basic will.
  • Payable on Death Agreement – This handy tool is common with banks, but not every state allows such an agreement to be used. In the states of Missouri and Illinois for example, they are allowed. Adding a “POD” agreement to a checking or savings account allows those assets to pass to the named beneficiary upon death without probate court intervention. The best part about POD is that it’s generally free to do at your local bank. Please keep in mind, special rules apply when appointing minor children, incapacitated adults or other unique beneficiaries on a POD form.
  • Transfer on Death Agreement – Like the POD mentioned above, the TOD has the ability to keep assets such as vehicles or non-IRA investments out of probate. As an example, in the state of Missouri, you can add a TOD beneficiary to the title of a vehicle. In the event of death, the vehicle may then be able to pass to the TOD beneficiary even if a loan exists on the vehicle. Each state varies greatly on TOD rules, so be sure to check with a legal professional for any questions.

Hopefully this list of popular estate planning documents has been helpful. Please be sure to speak with a qualified estate attorney before making any changes to your estate plan. This can be a very complicated topic, so professional guidance is important.

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