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Financial Fitness Blog

Spend wisely: six financially smart ways to spend your tax refund

(Money Management) Permanent link

Brenda Blog PhotoThe average American receives an annual tax refund of about $3,000. If you received one this year, consider using your refund to improve your financial situation. Here are six great suggestions:

1. Pay off debt. Focus on paying off credit cards and other high interest debt. Use our credit card pay off calculator to see what it will take to pay off your balance.

2. Add to your retirement savings. Add to your current retirement savings plan or open an IRA (Roth or traditional). Unsure which one? Use this tool to determine which IRA may be right for you.

3. Buy more protection. Umbrella insurance, which provides liability coverage above the limits in your auto and home insurance policies, is often overlooked as an important part of your financial security. Long-term care insurance also helps protect your assets and may be worth a look. It has been called “the greatest uninsured financial risk today.” This is because the majority of costs for extended care services needed during recuperation from strokes, accidents, and illnesses are not covered by your health insurance or Medicare.

4. Save, save, save. Start an Edvest or other 529 college savings plan for your kids or grandkids. Build up an emergency fund. Start a money market account with a higher interest rate to save for a vacation, a new car, or home remodel. Whatever your goal, you’ll feel better knowing you have a head start on your savings. Our savings calculator can help you find out what it will take to reach your goal.

5. Share the wealth. Consider giving some or all of your refund to your favorite charity. Often monetary donations to charitable organizations are tax deductible, and you’ll feel good knowing your money will go toward helping others in need.

6. Consider a planner. If you are in need of a comprehensive financial plan, assistance with investments, or estate planning, you may want to use your refund to purchase the services of a financial planner. For help deciding what services you might need and how to find the right planner for you, read the “Do you need a $ planner?” article in the spring 2013 issue of your$TM magazine.

If you received a sizeable tax refund this year, you may want to consider adjusting your income tax withholding. Doing this will reduce your annual refund, but you will be taking home more money each paycheck instead of letting Uncle Sam hold on to it (interest free)!

Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planner


Women to pay more for long-term care insurance

(Insurance) Permanent link

Kelly Blog PhotoIf you're considering purchasing long-term care insurance, you may want to look into it soon. Rates for new LTCi applications for women are expected to increase about 40% as women account for more and higher claims than men. Some long-term care insurers have begun to file new policies with gender-based pricing with the Wisconsin Department of Insurance and expect to start implementing new rates this spring.

Some of the facts that support that industry's trend for higher premiums for women include:

  • Home health care patients: 64% female vs. 36% male
  • Assisted living residents: 73.6% female vs. 26.4% male
  • Mean stays in days for assisted living residents: 957 female vs. 636 male
  • Total nursing home residents: 1,061,700 female vs. 430,500 male
  • New claims opened in 2010: 64% female vs. 36% male

(Source: 2011 Sourcebook by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance)

If you have questions or would like more information, we offer on-site educational seminars at UniServ offices and other venues throughout the state as well as online group seminars (visit You may also schedule a personal phone or online appointment with our long-term care specialists seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call 888-247-5905 or visit

Long-term care (LTC) insurance products are underwritten by multiple LTC insurers. Program administered by LTCi Marketing Administrators, (LiMA).

Kelly Behnke, CIC, CISR, ACSR
Personal Insurance Consultant

Free financial tools at your fingertips

(Money Management) Permanent link

Brenda Blog PhotoHave you checked out the free financial planning resources on this Web site? They can help you with your financial decision-making and retirement planning.

Financial calculators

These free calculators are organized by category to make them easy to use. Print the report screen results for your review. Categories include:

There are too many calculators to list here, but a few you may be interested in using include a credit card payoff calculator, a college savings calculator, a mortgage qualifier, and a calculator to project your Wisconsin Retirement System benefits. We also have a variety of retirement planning calculators related to projections, savings, distributions and personal risk assessment.

Budget Worksheet

Use our interactive PDF form to help you understand your monthly household income and expenses. Totals will automatically generate, and you can easily print it out for reference.

Financial seminars

We offer free financial seminars all year round at locations near you. This summer, we have a special seminar series entitled, “Your Road Map to $ucce$$.” Seminars include our Don’t Be Jack™ financial learning game, information on long-term care insurance (free lunch included), and a presentation that addresses questions about your retirement benefits and offers tools to assess your retirement goals.

Learn more and register online at

Personal consultations

Set up a time convenient to you to talk with a Personal Insurance or Retirement Savings representative. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about our programs and services. Visit our consultation page.

P.S. Remember, Money Smart Week is April 20-27. There will be financial education classes available all around the state. Learn more at the Money Smart Week Web site.  

Money Smart Week is a registered service mark of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planner

Let us help you improve your financial wellness

(Retirement) Permanent link

Michelle Blog PhotoWe love that April is National Financial Literacy Month. Spring is a great time to focus on your financial needs and take advantage of opportunities that could help improve your bottom line.

Member Benefits supports Wisconsin public school employees all year round by offering high-quality products and services to help them achieve their financial goals. We offer four financial planning services to help you at every stage of life. Here is an overview of this service that may help you with your planning.

  • One-hour consultation: For those just starting out or those new to investing, we can help you evaluate your retirement savings options and determine your goals.
  • Portfolio Analysis: This provides a comprehensive analysis of your current investment portfolio and gives your recommendations.
  • Retirement Income Projection: If you are 11+ years from retirement and wondering if you’re on track, we can help you discover adjustments you may need to make.
  • Retirement Income Analysis: If you are within ten years of retirement, this service will help you evaluate your current financial position and determine your readiness for retirement.

To learn more about these services and schedule an appointment, call 1-800-279-4030, select Option 1, and then Extension 6730.

For even more financial resources, see our article entitled, "A wealth of resources for National Financial Literacy Month."

Michelle Slawny, CFP®
Worksite Benefit Consultant