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MONEY MATTERS May 2013 Copyright 2013 The Valley News & The Herald-Journal


Business Directory Bank Iowa............................Pg6 Farm Bureau Financial (Carrie Schuster).................Pg3 Great Western Bank.............Pg5 Miller, Shearer, Lashier.......Pg7 Page County Federal Savings ................................Pg4 Raymond James...................Pg4 Weitz....................................Pg8

Is early retirement a possibility for you? Retirement is a goal for nearly every working adult. Long considered a time to enjoy the fruits of a life’s worth of labors, retirement has become something else entirely over the last several years, when the struggling economy has convinced many aging workers that their opportunity to safely retire may never present itself. But retirement does not have to feel like a wild goose chase with the end goal nowhere in sight. In fact, many men and women who develop a plan early on can retire early, reaping the rewards of their success at an age when many people are still wondering if they can retire at all, much less retire early. * Conduct an immediate audit of your finances. The road to early retirement begins, quite frankly, very early. If your retirement goal is to retire early, conduct an audit of your financial situation as soon as possible, even if you are a relative newcomer to the professional sector. Examine all of your debts and other liabilities, as well as your income and your potential earnings. It may be difficult to forecast potential

earnings, but paint a realistic forecast with regard to your earning potential, and then use that to determine your standard of living and how much money you will need to maintain that standard upon retirement. This should give you an idea of how close or how far you are from early retirement and what you need to start doing now so early retirement can be a reality later on. * Don’t sell savings short. Men and women who retire at the traditional retirement age can count on certain benefits that early retirees aren’t eligible for. Senior discounts can decrease the cost of living for typical retirees, who can also access retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA without paying a penalty. Younger retirees are not eligible for senior discounts, and accessing a retirement account before a certain age can result in a substantial penalty. So men and women whose goal is to retire early should not underestimate the value of a healthy savings account. Retiring early will require a more robust savings account than if you were to retire at a more typi-

cal age, so calculate how much more you will need to save in order to retire early. Once you have calculated that figure, ask yourself if it’s realistic that you can save that money and what effect this increased emphasis on savings may have on your quality of life between now and the day you’ve targeted for early retirement? If you cannot realistically save enough money or if you have to sacrifice too much to make early retirement happen, then you might want to reconsider this goal. * Accept sacrifices. Making sacrifices with an end goal of early retirement may be easier for younger men and women who have yet to grow accustomed to a certain standard of living. Regardless of their age, however, those who hope to retire early will need to accept that they will have to make certain sacrifices to achieve their goals. These sacrifices can be considerable, such as downgrading to a smaller home, or relatively minor, such as cancelling a cable television subscription, but for the average worker they will be necessary to make early retirement happen. The ear-

lier you can make these sacrifices the easier they will be, as it won’t be as hard to sacrifice something you’re not used to having. In addition, the earlier you make these sacrifices the quicker you will be on the road to early retirement. * Periodically reassess how it’s going. The road to early retirement will have its peaks and valleys, so periodically reassess how your plan is going and if you need to alter the plan in any way to make early retirement a reality. This reassessment should be conducted annually, and you must be completely honest with yourself. If the plan is going off course, determine the cause and if there’s anything you can do to catch up or if you need to change your targeted retirement date. Early retirement is a goal for many people. And despite the uneasiness many people feel with regard to retirement, early retirement can become a reality for diligent men and women who develop a plan and stick to that plan in the years to come.

Will paper money eventually become obsolete? 617 W. Sheridan Ave., Shenandoah 712-246-3097

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Is paper currency a dying breed? What about checks and savings bonds? Many of the currency that has survived throughout centuries may eventually go the way of the dinosaur. There’s no denying how daily life has been transformed by technology. With the proliferation of e-mail, online shopping, text messaging, social networking, and the myriad other digital avenues that fill up a person’s day, the concept of writing something on paper -- or paying for something with paper -- may seem archaic. After all, now you can wirelessly transfer funds from one bank account to another or pay for items with the click of a mouse.

Still, the general public has been hard-pressed to give up on paper money altogether. But other alternatives are chomping at the bit, and it may not be too long before all money is digitalized, or before the world reverts back to gold, silver or another currency that has actual intrinsic value. Even now, some ATMs in areas like the United Arab Emirates and in India dispense gold and silver coins, diamonds and even jewelry. Just last year, Mumbai became the first city in the world to launch a machine that dispenses diamonds. Consumers are increasingly turning to debit and credit cards to pay for

products in stores and online. The rise of mobile credit card readers attached to smartphones and tablets has enabled everyone from small business owners to regular individuals to collect money by swiping a credit or debit card and having the funds automatically deposited into an account of choice. Wallets are being redesigned to be more compact for front-pocket use since many people now carry only cards in their wallets. Although it once seemed like paper currency would always be around, such a concept is quickly falling by see PAPER, Page 3A


Things to consider before inviting an aging relative to move in As many seniors age, their ability to live independently is compromised. An older adult may suffer from a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible for him or her to drive an automobile or manage day-to-day life independently. In such instances, many younger relatives opt to invite an aging parent or grandparent into their homes, a decision that men and women should not take lightly. Asking an aging relative to move into your home is often a selfless decision rooted in the affection you feel for that person. But there are certain things to consider about your home as well as your finances before inviting an aging relative to move in. Kathy Johnson of Nurses on Call in Clarinda gave

some advice on factors when confronted with the possibility of moving in a relative. Nurses on Call provides an in-home evaluation to help determine needs and services to be provided. Nurses on Call works with doctors to determine needs. Space in the Home When your household is taking on a new member, you will obviously need to find some space for that person. But if you’re currently at full capacity, then you will need to determine if the space you have is truly capable of handling an additional member of the household. Seniors often value their privacy, so sharing a room is not an ideal option nor one your relative is likely to embrace. “Is the home quiet and calm? Will the arrangement give everyone in the

family enough privacy?” Johnson asked. If you determine you’ll need to remodel or add a new suite to your home, it’s important to know that such projects can be very expensive, with a room addition very likely costing close to or more than six figures. “It’s Important to consider what expenses will be involved. There are also emotional considerations, older adult feelings and family dynamics,” she said. But men and women with lots of available space in their home may find their home is not ideal for seniors, either. For example, seniors whose physical condition is less than ideal might not be able to get up or down stairs easily and might find walking from room to room in a large house to be too physically taxing. Before inviting

PAPER Continued from Page 2A

join the federal employees who were able to invest in savings bonds by purchasing them through payroll deductions. Removing paper currency in all forms has its share of pros and cons. The U.S. government has said that taxpayers will save about $300 million the first five years after the changeover to digital social security checks. By not having to send out more than 100 million checks, the federal government will save millions on postage and printing costs. Electronic currency also benefits the environment. A significant concern with regard to electronic currency and receipts is the likelihood of identity theft, as data breaches occur with some frequency. In September 2012, some major financial institutions, including like Bank of America and PNC Bank, found their Web sites were

sporadically inoperable due to a cyber attack that may have been tied to an Islamic terrorist group. This isn’t the first time a technical terrorist attack has occurred. These situations often open the eyes of people who realize how susceptible personal information can be when only backed by digital numbers and codes. It’s hard to stash zeros and ones under your mattress for safe-keeping. Also, unlike paper money that limits what thieves can take, digital breaches can lead to entire accounts being wiped out if the breach is not noticed in time. Other personal information, such as spending habits and shopping patterns, may be deduced from electronic information stored with accounts, raising questions about privacy.

the wayside. The United States Department of the Treasury announced that paper checks for Social Security payments would be a thing of the past starting in 2013. Recipients can have the money deposited electronically in a bank account. For those without accounts, deposits can be loaded on a Direct Express Debit MasterCard to be used for purchases just like any other debit/credit card. Many people already have witnessed the phasing out of government tax refund checks. A large number of people file their income taxes via the Internet, receiving any refunds electronically. Payroll and other benefits are increasingly becoming digital-only as well. Even paper savings bonds are being reduced. Privatesector employees can now

an aging relative into your home, be sure the space available in your home is suitable that person and their particular condition. “Remember the accessibility issues. Are there rugs, does space allow walkers and wheelchairs, shower safety? Is there space for equipment and or supplies,” Johnson said. Proximity to Medical Facilities Many seniors need to visit medical facilities more frequently than younger men and women. This makes the proximity of your home to doctors’ offices a significant factor to consider before inviting an aging relative to move into your home. If your home is far off the beaten path or in an area where access to

medical care is sparse, then your loved one’s health may be compromised if he or she moves into your home. Discuss your loved one’s medical condition and history with them before extending an invitation. If he or she has considerable medical needs and your access to reliable medical facilities is limited, then you might need to move before you can comfortably house an aging relative or explore other housing options for this person. Personal Finances The cost of caring for an aging relative is considerable. According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the average cost of in-home care for a parent who requires a home health aide was slightly less than $22,000 per year in 2011. That’s a considerable

amount of money, especially for men and women whose own retirement is imminent. Because those costs are so substantial, many men and women care for their aging relatives on their own, which can still prove quite costly over the long haul. Taking on that role might impact income you sorely need, especially if you’re forced to scale back your workload so you can better care for an aging relative. Inviting an aging relative to move into your home is a decision that requires careful consideration of a host of factors. “Include them in as many decisions as possible. Help them feel like they are at home, not visiting,” Johnson said.

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Financial tips for single parents Easy ways for couples to avoid Single parents face a number of obstacles, not the least of which is how to effectively manage their finances. Managing finances for a family is not easy when both parents live under the same roof, much less when one parent is going it alone. Many single parents find themselves putting their long-term financial plans on the back burner. That’s often a byproduct of juggling many responsibilities at once, which makes it easy to ignore the one that might not have an immediate effect on the family. But focusing on long-term financial goals might be even more important for single parents than parents who still live together. The latter typically has the luxury of dual incomes, while the former must make his or her single income go a lot further. As daunting a task as long-term financial planning can seem to a single parent, there are steps single parents can take to secure their financial futures. Examine spending habits and look for places to save money. In order to plan for your financial future, you need to know how you’re spending your money in the present day. Examine your spending habits to see if there are any areas where you might be able to trim some fat and

divert those dollars toward securing your financial future. If you’re struggling to save even a little money each month, then look for areas where you might be able to save, such as reducing your cable television package or carpooling to work to save money on fuel. Being a single parent can be hectic, so it’s easy to lose track of your spending habits. But once you examine those habits, chances are you can find ways to save some money. Clarinda Community Center Manager Janette Wilson said single parents are common at the center which provides donated clothes and household goods for those in financial stress. “I’d say two-thirds of our customers are single parents,� she said. “Some don’t have anything for their household. We can provide them up to three outfits and household goods.� Knowing the needs of others, Wilson said the center emphasizes people who already received items to not return for more for another two months. Wilson said it’s common for single parents to also use the center to acquire clothes for their children. “We don’t have everything for kids, like see SINGLE, Page 5A

overspending as retirement nears By KRISTAN GRAY Staff Writer

When empty-nesters no longer need to financially support Junior, many couples find extra money in their budget, instead of just the couch cushions. Paid off college tuition can give parents a sense of financial freedom they may not have had in a quarter of a century, but financial freedom can also lead to overspending and jeopardizing retirement. “Besides extravagant spending, there are numerous other hazards and pitfalls that can jeopardize even the best laid plans,� said Kurt Henstorf, president of First Heritage Bank. Henstorf said proper budgeting and planning for retirement can help to avoid many of these obstacles. “There are many tools and calculators available to aid in this planning process. One of the best ways to start is to contact your community banker to aid in locating these tools and beginning the planning process.� It’s understandable to go on a financial bender that doesn’t involve Disney World once the kids are finally out of the house, but it’s important to well-manage the financial ebb and flow. The following are some ways

to avoid overspending while protecting the retirement golden egg. Spend with cash. Many people find it difficult to track spending with debit or credit cards. An effective way to manage cash is to withdraw a set spending amount from the bank once per week. Are you frequently running out of money each week? Perhaps you’re spending more than your income can support. A military man, who would only give his name as “Hankâ€? said, “My wife and I only use dollar bills when we buy things. We refuse to use any coins we may have in our pockets to make purchases even if the result is getting ninety-nine cents back. Then, when we receive a pocket full of change after our purchase, we save it all in a piggybank at home. After a year of doing this, we usually have saved over $500 each year. That’s a very non-intrusive way to make yourself save when you think money is tight at the end of every month. “Dear Diary‌â€? Those who must adapt to newfound disposable income may be reminded of when they became first time wage-earners learning to live within a budget. A financial journal will track daily and monthly

expenses as well as larger purchases like that new $25,000 84-inch TV. Log regular monthly expenses and each and every purchase made, including coffee at The Sanctuary. After a few months’ activity, analyze the journal to see if any expenses can be trimmed to further put toward retirement. Like Hank said, if you save your pennies, your dollars will add up. Don’t spoil yourself rotten. Once your last child is finally self-supporting, the temptation to buy yourself a “Parent of the Year� reward trip to one of Richard Branson’s private islands might prove overwhelming in the longterm. Your monthly expenses should be lower, so if you discover the cost of living has increased, you might be forced to determine which of your expenses are luxuries and which are necessities. Seniority has benefits. Accepting “senior� discounts may be a tough pill to swallow, but it can spark a windfall to your bank account. Investigate which businesses offer discounts to those aged 55 and older. This can help you save a substantial amount of money over time, and no one has to know you’ve started cashing in on your “experience�.

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Financial advice for couples expecting their first child By TESS GRUBER NELSON Managing Editor

For couples expecting their first child, the nine months leading up to the baby’s birth is an exciting and anxious time. In addition to being thrilled to meet your wee one, there are doctor appointments to go to, showers to attend, names to pick out, numerous baby items to purchase and the baby’s room to decorate. But this is also the time soon-to-be parents need to make some important decisions regarding finances. Raising a child is expensive, and one that couples should start preparing for the moment they learn a baby is on the way, if not

SINGLE Continued from Page 4A diapers,� she said. Wilson is grateful for the community members who do donate to the clothes, household goods and food pantry at the center. “People here are very generous,� she said. Purchase health insurance. Many single parents have no health insurance, which is a recipe for financial disaster should a medical emergency arise. Kids might qualify for free or low-cost government-sponsored insurance if neither of their parents has employersponsored health insurance. But that still leaves your family’s present and future finances in jeopardy should you face a medical emergency. Medical costs can quickly add up, draining your finances and leaving you and your children facing an uncertain financial

even earlier. One of the things expectant parents need to consider and discuss maternity leave. Susan Blane at Bank Iowa in Shenandoah said expectant parents should figure out how much time off they will need, and how much of that time will be paid or unpaid. On top of that, she added, “Start setting money aside, perhaps in an account titled “Baby Days�. This money can also be used to help with the hospital expenses not covered by insurance, future daycare costs, etc.� In addition to finding out about maternity leave for the mother, or even father, couples should discuss whether they will even both return to the workplace after

the baby is born. A dualincome home is normal in today’s society, but if the cost of daycare is going to cost as much, or more than one income, maybe it’s best to have one of the parents stay at home with the child until he or she starts going to school. Another thing to discuss is, with another person joining the family, what about housing needs? Expectant couples often feel this is a good time to abandon apartment living and try to find a house. However, depending on your circumstances, it may be in the couple’s best interest to stay in the apartment for a couple years as a way to save up money for a home. Establishing a financial

future. Health insurance is a safety precaution single parents sorely need to avoid a potentially perilous financial future. Purchase supplemental insurance. Single parents don’t have the safety net of a second income to fall back on should something happen and they are unable to work. Many employersponsored disability benefits provide just a fraction of your total income, which likely won’t be enough to keep you and your family financially afloat for very long. Supplemental insurance can help fill that gap between your total income and the disability benefit provided by your company, likely protecting your savings and ensuring an accident doesn’t hinder your long-term financial goals. Save for retirement. Saving for college is a goal for many parents, regardless of their marital status. However, single parents

with limited incomes should emphasize retirement savings over college savings. That’s because financial aid, which many kids rely on to attend college, is based largely on a family’s income level. So even kids from low-income households will be able to attend college if their grades are up to par. But single parents must save for retirement to secure their own financial future and ensure they can still afford to support themselves when they are no longer working. Establish a will and an estate plan. All parents should have a will and an estate plan that specifically spells out how their money should be distributed to their children and who should act as their child’s guardian in the case of the parents’ death. This is especially important for single parents who may or may not be able to rely on a child’s other parent for support.

safety net is also a good idea for expecting couples. Many financial advisors suggest both singles and couples have between three to six months’ income saved in case of emergency, such as a layoff or an accident that prevents you from working. This is especially important for expecting

couples that will soon have an additional mouth to feed. Lastly, it’s almost a necessity to purchase life insurance. Both Blane and Andrea Swank of City National Bank stress its importance. “ “Life insurance is perhaps the most important purchase expectant couples can make once they learn a baby is on the way,� said Blane. It’s understandable if young couples without children have no life insurance, but that child on the way will be relying on his or her parents for financial support for at least the next 18 years. Blane said life insurance ensures you can provide that support even if something happens to

both you and your spouse. On the topic of insurance, Blane added that expectant parents need to make sure the baby will be covered on a health insurance plan immediately after its birth. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, on average a family that earns between $40,000 and $70,000 annually will spend $250,000 to raise one child to the age of 17. With that being said, having a child is not only a momentous occasion for a family but for the family’s finances as well. However, by following the tips above, you’re well on your way to providing a better life for you, your spouse, and your child.

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Saving money can reduce stress and improve overall health Financial concerns, including not having enough money to pay bills or worrying that money will run out, are a leading cause of stress. Finding new ways to save money can help reduce these feelings of stress and improve quality of life. According to the YouGov poll for the Institute of Financial Planning and National Savings and Investments in the United Kingdom, roughly two-thirds of people worry about money. An American Psychological Association poll indicates 80 percent of Americans state the economy is a significant cause of stress, while 83 percent of women and 78 percent of men are stressed about money. Stress can contribute to a variety of health ailments, including anxiety, depression and cardiovascular problems. Stress can also worsen preexisting conditions. Finding ways to reduce stress may lead to a longer, happier life. One way to reduce stress is to take control of your finances so that money issues do not compound stress. Finding a way to save more money might do the trick.

* Examine the contents of your storage unit. Storage units can help people who have to temporarily house items between moves or during home renovations. But storage units can be a waste of money when they’re used as a place to store clutter. Spending $100 or more per month to store seldom used items can quickly add up to a large amount of money. Visit the storage unit to determine if you are storing items you have not used in some time. You may be able to switch to a smaller, less expensive unit, or you may realize you don’t need the unit at all. * Take inventory of your unused gift cards before your next shopping trip. Gift cards are a financial windfall for some people and a convenient go-to gift for others. Simply offer a gift card and the recipient can go on a shopping spree of his or her choosing. But unless they are used shortly after they’re received, gift cards easily can be forgotten or lost. Recipients may forget about them after they’ve been stashed in a mail drawer or purse that has been retired to the back of the closet. Before your next shopping excursion, check to see if you

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bank or rely on a coin-counting machine at your bank. * Stop losing receipts. Who hasn’t delegated an ill-fitting item to the back of the closet because of a lost receipt? Missing receipts often deter people from going to a store to return or replace items that do not fit or did not work out. Instead of being stuck with a piece of useless clothing, be mindful of receipts, always opting to have them put into your wallet instead of just leaving them in the bag. New smartphone apps enable you to scan and store receipts if you’re prone to losing them. Also, some retailers track purchases, particularly among loyal customers -- those who present a card or key ring bar code to scan -- and can easily look up prior purchases without a receipt. * Make payments on time. Failure to make certain payments on time, particularly credit card bills, may incur interest charges. Those few dollars in late fees or several hundred dollars in interest can quickly add up. Set up auto payments whenever possible so you can avoid late fees and interest charges.

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have any gift cards that might save you money. * Stop wasting food. The National Resources Defense Council says the average American discards as much as $43 worth of food each month. That amounts to more than $500 per year, which is a large portion of the food budget to simply toss in the trash. Store foods so that they are easily visible in the refrigerator so that lettuce doesn’t turn brown or you forget about those strawberries that are now covered in fuzz. If you are prone to produce amnesia, simply buying frozen vegetables can help prolong shelf life and save you money. * Put loose change to good use. While not much can be purchased for under $1 these days, that doesn’t make loose change worthless. Coins can quickly accumulate and add up to big bucks. According to the coin-counting company Coinstar, across the country there may be approximately $10 billion in coins just sitting around unused. Keep a bank or jar by the entryway to your home so you won’t forget to save all of that loose change each day. When the jar is filled, roll it up and bring it to the

The Baby Boomer generation is one of the most influential demographics in the world today. Boomers represent roughly 28 percent of the total population of the United States, according to “Baby Boomer” magazine, and this means they are the largest generational segment as well as the single largest economic group in the United States. They hold 70 percent of the U.S. wealth and are expected to inherit millions of dollars over the course of the next 20 years. Baby boomers comprise a population of adults who were born between 1946 and 1964. That makes boomers people who are between 49 and 67 years old. Many of these baby boomers have grown to be household names and influential individuals in all areas of business. Actor Brad Pitt is a baby boomer, as is President of the United States Barack Obama. Director Peter Jackson, singer k.d. lang and business mogul Donald Trump all belong to the baby boomer generation. Here are some additional facts and figures about baby boomers: * Baby boomers have more discretionary income than any other age group. * Baby boomers own 80 percent of the money in savings and loan associations. * Baby boomers spend more money than

other groups. * Baby boomers account for nearly half of all consumer demand. Baby boomers have been known to have an unprecedented impact on American culture, society and the economy, and that influence is bound to continue for several more years.


assets should you break up. If these arrangements are not documented, unmarried couples who break up could find themselves in a contentious financial battle not unlike couples going through a divorce. * Maintain some financial independence. Older, unmarried men and women who choose to cohabitate with their partners should still maintain some financial independence after moving in together. A joint checking or savings account might work down the road, but initially keep these accounts separate to avoid any disputes. Keep paying your own bills, including car payments and credit cards, at the onset as well. * Update certain documents and policies. Upon your death, a partner with whom you cohabitate does not have the same legal rights of inheritance as would a spouse. As a result, it’s important for unmarried individuals who cohabitate with their partners to update their wills, especially if they have been cohabitating for an extended period of time and want their partner to be taken care of in case of their death. In addition to updating information regarding beneficiaries, older men

and women might want to update certain information regarding their health, like who should take legal responsibility for medical decisions should one partner become incapacitated. In addition to updating your will, update any existing life insurance policies and retirement benefits to include your partner if you so desire. * Discuss any changes with your family, especially any children. When you make changes to your will, those changes will affect your beneficiaries. Upon making these changes, discuss them with your existing beneficiaries so your partner does not have to deal with relatives whose feelings might be hurt upon your death. This might not be an easy discussion, but you will want your partner to have your family as a support system upon your death. Older, unmarried couples are choosing to cohabitate more and more. While the incentives to doing so are numerous, there are some precautionary measures couples should take before moving in together

Young families want to start out on the right foot, and for many that means addressing finances and developing a plan so their finances help instead of hinder them in the years to come. Addressing finances often means tackling debts, and eradicating or significantly reducing debt is essential for young families. But being beholden to debt isn’t the only mistake young families make. The following are a few common mistakes that young families focused on their future should avoid. * Getting by without a budget. It’s possible to live without a budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s prudent. Living without a budget makes it hard to corral spending or to know just how much you’re spending each month. This can help you trim

some of those extra costs that can make it difficult to save for your future. The first couple of month living on a budget might be rocky, and you might need to make a few adjustments along the way. But establishing a budget will make it much easier for you to meet your long-term financial goals. * Failing to save money. Some young families feel their savings account is their home, the value of which they expect to appreciate considerably by the time they’re finished paying off their mortgage. There’s no telling if the value of your home will keep pace with inflation over the next several decades, so it’s important to save money and keep saving as the years go by. * Saving for college as opposed to retirement. Parents, of course, want

their children to go to college, and many would prefer that their kids won’t end up buried in debt to afford tuition. * Living above their means. Young families in which Mom and Dad both have strong credit scores and histories will find they’re attractive to prospective lenders. As a result, it can be easy for young families to fall into the trap of living above their means, whether it be buying a home that stretches their budget or a car that might be flashy but is ultimately unaffordable. Today’s families face a financial future that’s as uncertain as any in recent memory. That reality only emphasizes the importance families must place on making sound financial decisions that don’t put their futures in jeopardy

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Moving in together is something typically associated with young couples, but more and more unmarried men and women over the age of 50 are choosing to cohabitate. According to an analysis of 2012 U.S. Census data conducted by the Performance Reference Bureau, roughly 10 percent of the 15.3 million opposite-sex unmarried cohabiting partners in the United States are between the ages of 55 and 64, while 15 percent are between the ages of 45 and 54. Such figures indicate that living together as an unmarried couple is no longer exclusive to younger couples. The incentives for older, unmarried couples to cohabitate are similar to those for younger ones, but older couples should heed a few financial pointers before deciding to move in together. * Iron out the financial details ahead of time. Young couples who move in together often do so as a precursor to getting married. Such couples do not typically have much in the way of financial assets and, as a result, do not need to come to any formal agreement regarding their finances. Older couples, however, might be bringing a more substantial financial portfolio into the relationship, and these finances can complicate matters. Before moving in together, older couples should document their finances and how household expenses, including a mortgage if one exists, will be paid. Decisions regarding who will receive the tax breaks you might be eligible for when paying a mortgage should also be considered. Documenting your financial situation can protect your

Financial mistakes young couples need to avoid

Miller, Shearer, Lashier & Co, P.C. Certified Public Accountants 513 W. Sheridan Ave., P.O. Box 307, Shenandoah, IA

130516-54788

Financial tips for unmarried, older, couples sharing a home

Phone: 712-246-2029 Fax: 712-246-2053 Email: mslcpa@qwestoffice.net

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How to go about getting approved for a mortgage Real estate professionals say the market is rebounding, and many would-be home buyers are eagerly awaiting their opportunities to purchase their own homes. Fresh data indicates that the inventory of properties is quickly drying up and soon the market is poised to point in the sellers’ favor. According to Allen & Associates, a real estate appraisal, consultant and research firm based in Colorado, properties in the area listed for sale are below the sixmonth supply of inventory. Now could be the time to get a good deal on a home, provided buyers are able to secure mortgages. No matter how many affordable homes are available, if a buyer cannot get approved for a mortgage, then his or her chances of owning a home are slim. In the wake of a tumultuous economy, many lenders tightened restrictions on mortgage lending. And even though the economy has rebounded, many lenders have continued to follow strict guidelines before lending money. In

order to secure a mortgage with a good interest rate, buyers must take control of their financial situations and fix problems that could lead to loan rejection. Many things can impact a mortgage application. Here are the ways to overcome liabilities and improve your standing with prospective lenders. * Know your credit rating. Your credit rating is a score that lenders rely on when deciding whether or not to approve your mortgage application. The higher the credit rating, the more attractive you look to prospective lenders. But the lower your score is, the more difficulty you will have getting a loan. Should you get a loan with a low score, you may have to pay a higher interest rate than someone with better credit. Prior to making any big financial decisions, such as applying for a mortgage, it is vital to find out your credit score. You can request a free copy of your credit report, which includes your credit score, once a year from the three major credit

reporting agencies in the United States and Canada: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You also can pay for your credit report. * Address any issues on your report. Once you know your score, you can take steps to address any issues on the report. Pay down revolving consumer debts, such as credit card balances and auto loans. Report any errors on your credit report so they can be adjusted. Pay bills on time and address any notices of collections before they make it onto your permanent record. If you will be applying for a loan soon, avoid opening any other credit accounts for the time being. * Maintain steady employment. Having a job is often vital to getting a mortgage. Lenders tend to look for long-term financial stability, which is best illustrated by maintaining steady employment. Jumping from job to job may be a red flag to lenders, so it’s better to make a switch after you have been approved for a loan. * Save, save, save. Having more

money in the bank lowers your loan-to-value ratio, or LTV. This will make you appear less risky to lenders. Individuals who have saved for a considerable down payment on a home are also seen in a better light. * Make sure you have a credit history. Some people are too cautious with their credit and think closing accounts or avoiding credit entirely will make them more attractive to lenders. But this can backfire. Lenders will want to see a strong credit history that indicates your ability to pay your

debts on time. * Get a cosigner. If you are uncertain about your ability to secure a loan on your own, then consider a cosigner to make you more attractive to prospective lenders. The cosigner helps guarantee the lender that your mortgage payments will be made. People looking to buy a home in the near future must make themselves attractive to mortgage lenders, many of whom are still reluctant to approve loans for candidates without strong financial backgrounds.

The best thing about value investing? Creating value for our investors. HICKORY FUND BEST 3-YEAR FUND - MID-CAP CORE

weitzinvestments.com Past performance does not guarantee future results. The investment return and the principal value of an investment in the Fund will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than the original cost. Investors should consider carefully the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the Fund before investing. The Fund’s Prospectus or Summary Prospectus contains this and other information about the Fund, and should be read carefully before investing. For a copy of the Prospectus or Summary Prospectus, visit weitzinvestments.com or call 1 800 304 9745. Weitz Securities, Inc. is the Distributor of the Weitz Funds.The Lipper award for Best Three-Year Fund Mid-Cap Core was based on consistent returns among 318 funds evaluated on risk-adjusted returns as of November 30, 2012. Lipper Analytical Services, Inc. is an independent mutual fund research and rating service. ©2013 Weitz Securities, Inc. Lipper Fund Awards designations do not constitute and are not intended to constitute investment advice or an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security of any entity in any jurisdiction. As a result, you should not make an investment decision on the basis of this information. Rather, you should use Lipper Fund Awards designations for informational purposes only. Certain information provided by Lipper may relate to securities that may not be offered sold or delivered within the United States (or any State thereof) or to, or for the account or benefit of, United States persons. Lipper is not responsible for the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information that you obtain from Lipper. In addition, Lipper will not be liable for any loss or damage resulting from information obtained from Lipper or any of its affiliates.© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved. Thomson Reuters/Lipper and the checkmark logo are the trademarks or registered trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world. Published by Thomson Reuters, 30 South Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5EP. 47001977 0911

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