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Financial Fitness Blog

Seven tips to ready your teen driver for the road

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark Blog PhotoEnsure the safety of your teen driver, and others, by actively preparing them for the open road. Here are seven tips to ready your teen driver for the road.

  1. Slow down. Many inexperienced drivers simply take corners too fast–even though they are within the speed limit–especially on highways. Make sure your child is aware of this and encourage them to slow down.
  2. Be prepared. Rapidly changing weather conditions are typical in Wisconsin. Allow your child to get a feel for different conditions by taking them to a large, empty parking lot when it's slippery and have them use the anti-lock brakes, take some sharp turns, and experience a fish-tailing skid, as well as how much longer it takes to stop.
  3. Be defensive. Teach your teen how to anticipate, predict, and know how to react quickly in case another driver catches them off guard. Remind them to pay attention and increase the distance between the car they drive and others around them.
  4. Tune out. While any type of distraction can be dangerous, texting in particular poses a greater threat because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. There are many smartphone apps on the market that are designed to help teens resist the temptation to use their cell phone while driving. Learn more about the dangers of texting by reading our article, "Is texting the new DUI?"
  5. Click it. Seat belt use in not optional. Remind your son or daughter that seat belts are there for a reason (for all passengers) and it's the law.
  6. Set limits. With as little as 30 hours of behind-the-wheel practice time, your teen may not be ready for the open road even if they passed the exam. Ease them into driving by setting rules and guidelines for where and when they can drive, and who they can have in the car.
  7. Put in the time. In Wisconsin, those between the ages of 15½ and 18 must follow the Graduated Driver License (GDL) process. The GDL requires a child under age 18 to have 30 hours of driving experience (10 hours of which must be at night) before they receive their license. Track your teen’s time behind the wheel and make sure to expose them to a variety of driving situations. The more practice they get, the safer they’ll be.

Ready to get out on the road? Be sure to read our article on how (and when) to "Add a Teen Driver to Your Policy." Still have questions? Give us a call, we're happy to help.

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

The long-term investment strategy solution to stockphobia

(Retirement) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoEconomic events over the last decade have caused many Americans to take a pass on stock market investments. Reluctance to take on any risk could hurt investors in the long run, especially the 20 and 30 somethings who will need to save more on their own to fund their retirement. Unlike those who retired before them, the youngest investors will pay a higher price tag for retirement thanks to increased longevity, the shift away from employer funded pensions, uncertainty about Social Security, and inflation.

Certainly, avoiding the stock market will prevent you from experiencing the market downturns, but it also removes any possibility of benefitting from market gains. These market gains can play an important part in building up enough savings for retirement. To save enough without employing stocks will require you to sock more away each pay day—a lot more.

Employing a long-term investment strategy offers a balanced approach to both risk and reward. To work, it requires a well-diversified investment portfolio (including stocks), the willingness to ignore what’s going on in the market day to day, and a focus on your end goal.  Stocks are a portfolio’s heavy hitters. They can hit home runs and they can strike out. But investors who are willing to ride out the volatile returns of stocks over long periods of time generally have been rewarded with strong positive returns.

If you just can’t stomach the thought of stocks, be prepared to direct more of your money toward retirement.

Michelle Slawny, CFP®
Worksite Benefit Consultant

There's still time to contribute to your IRA for 2012

(Retirement) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoDid you know that IRA contributions for a specific tax year can be made until your tax return deadline for that year? So this year, you may apply IRA contributions (up to the 2012 limit) by April 15, 2013 to the 2012 tax year. This can be done in Traditional or Roth IRA accounts.

Be aware you cannot apply automatic contributions to a prior tax year. You will need to write a check for any contributions made in 2013 that you wish to apply to 2012. For 2012, individuals may contribute a maximum of $5,000, or $6,000 if age 50 or older.

For 2013, the maximum combined amount you may contribute to all of your Traditional and Roth IRAs is $5,500 if you are under age 50 and $6,500 if you are age 50 or older. However, contributions can never exceed your earned compensation for the year (if your earned compensation is less than the applicable limit, you may only contribute up to the amount of your compensation). You may also contribute on behalf of a spouse who doesn’t have earned income.

Wisconsin public school employees, their children, parents, and parents-in-law may participate in the IRA program offered by WEA Trust Member Benefits. We also accept rollovers from a variety of retirement plans. Remember to ask about fees when looking into any IRA program. Our WEAC IRA program is a great option because we do not charge commissions, and our low annual administrative fee is lower than the fees charged by many other providers. For more information, call us at 1-800-279-4030.

Michelle Slawny, CFP®
Worksite Benefit Consultant

Should you care about your credit score?

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark Blog PhotoThe short answer is, yes. Information in your credit report is used in various ways by potential lenders, landlords, insurance companies and even some employers to make decisions about you. While companies use different sets of factors related to your score to make their decisions, it's safe to say that the higher your score, the better.

For example, credit card companies give a more favorable interest rate and a larger line of credit with a higher score. Insurance companies look at many factors to determine the level of risk associated with each individual they insure. Some factors from your credit report are included in your insurance score, which is used in rating and underwriting. Studies indicate that people with a lower credit score are more likely to have a loss than those with a higher score.

The good news is that you can work towards raising your credit score if it's less than stellar. We can help you get started with our short credit score quiz.

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant