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Financial Fitness Blog

Use common sense to reduce your risk of vehicle theft

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark DannehlAccording to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), vehicle theft is one of our nation’s most costly property crimes. Surprised? A survey on behalf of the NICB and LoJack (a company that sells electronic tracking devices) found that one-third of Americans admit to having left their car while it was still running, making it an easy target. Forty percent of those surveyed don’t hide their valuables in their vehicle, and one-third have left purses, wallets, or bank statements out in the open, raising their risk of identity theft as well.

Here's some friendly reminders:

  • Close your windows and lock your doors.
  • Never leave your keys in the car.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Don't leave valuables in your car.

Just using some common sense precautions can greatly reduce the risk of theft. Not only are they simple habits to make, they're free!

The WEA Property and Casualty Insurance Company Family Car Policy covers the theft of your car when you purchase comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage also protects you in the event of a fire, vandalism, hail, and other events. (Identity theft coverage is included in Member Benefit's home insurance coverage.) Call us at 1-800-279-4010 to learn more.

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

Property and casualty insurance programs are underwritten by WEA Property & Casualty Insurance Company. The terms and conditions of your coverage are exclusively controlled by your written policy. Please refer to your policy for details.

5/29 is College Savings Day

(Money Management) Permanent link

Brenda EcheverriaMay 29 has been dubbed "529 College Savings Day" by many states in an effort to focus some attention on the college savings vehicles known as 529 plans. A 529 is a tax-advantaged savings plan offered by a state that makes it easier to save for college or other post-secondary education. Wisconsin’s plan is called Edvest.

In light of the upcoming attention being brought to this program, we thought you should know about a few changes for 2013:

Distributions now include technology expenses. A qualified distribution from a 529 plan now includes the cost of any computer technology, related peripheral equipment (such as a printer), and Internet access if they are required by the school or program the student is attending. They must be used by the beneficiary of the plan during the years he or she is enrolled at an eligible educational institution (generally a college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary institution).

Increased gift tax exemptions. Your contributions to a 529 plan qualify for a $14,000 annual gift tax exclusion, up from $13,000 last year.

Dropping plan prices. There is a downward trend in management fees due to pressure from states and competitive bidding among plan management companies. Average total expense ratios are lower than just two years ago. Be sure you understand all fees and expenses associated with the plan as they vary from plan to plan. You aren't necessarily limited to your state's plan.

Contact your 529 plan administrator or financial advisor for any questions you may have.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has a nice overview of 529 plans, including questions to help you decide which plan may be best for you. Visit for more information.

Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planner

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be legal or tax advice. Consult your tax advisor or attorney before taking any action.

Seek balance when investing

(Retirement) Permanent link

Brenda EcheverriaStocks have historically had the greatest risk as well as the highest returns among the three major asset categories (equities, fixed-income, and cash equivalents). Stocks are a portfolio’s “heavy hitter,” offering the greatest potential for growth. The volatility of stocks makes them a risky investment in the short term. But investors who have been willing to ride out the volatile returns of stocks over long periods of time generally have been rewarded with strong positive returns. A long-term investment strategy offers a balanced approach to both risk and reward.

Best practices associated with long-term investment strategy often include the following:

  • Spread out your risk. Diversifying, or putting your money in different types of investments, has long been recognized as an effective way to manage your risk. In theory, when certain types of investments are declining in value, other types are gaining value. A well-diversified portfolio can lessen the impact of market volatility.
  • Save early and save more. Contribute as much as you can to your savings plans as early as possible to get the full benefit of compound interest. Compounding happens when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings, and then those earnings are reinvested and so on.
  • Put investments on auto pilot. If stock volatility creates a lot of stress for you, Target Retirement Funds may be a good option. Target Retirement Funds are a one-decision investment designed to build assets with minimal personal oversight. These funds automatically identify and maintain an age-appropriate asset allocation throughout your investing years—so you won’t have to think about it until you’re ready to make withdrawals in retirement.

Target retirement funds invest in a mix of stock and bond funds that steadily become more conservative as they approach their target date. The principal value of a target retirement fund is not guaranteed and may gain or lose value now and after its target date.

Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planner

Thank a teacher

 Permanent link

Teacher Appreciation Week

Congress officially declared May 7 as National Teacher Day in 1980, formalizing an official "thank you" day to thousands of teachers nation-wide. Here we pay tribute and say thanks to the men and women who teach our children each and every day.

When Americans are asked which occupations contribute the most to society's well-being, they answer teachers–second only to military personnel–according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. (Scientists were third and medical doctors fourth.)

In Wisconsin, graduation rates are consistently at the top. In 2014, Wisconsin enjoyed the second-highest graduation rate in the country–88.6%  (tied with New Jersey) compared to the national average of 81%. Iowa, the top ranked state for high school graduation rates, was slightly higher at 90.5%1.

As of the 2013-2014 school year, ninety-eight percent of Wisconsin's 59,511 teachers are highly qualified–meaning they are fully licensed in their subject area1. Fifty-three percent of teachers in Wisconsin hold a Master's Degree. On average, 80% of teachers have five years or more of teaching experience. Students in Wisconsin enjoy a low student to teacher ratio, with one teacher for approximately every 13 students in Wisconsin2.

Be sure to thank a teacher this week for all that they do for our children. After all, "teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions." ~ Author Unknown

For more teacher facts and statistics, view our Teacher Appreciation Week Infographic. Also, visit our Facebook page and join the conversation. 


1.  Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction 
2.  U.S. Department of Education


Melting snow + spring showers = potential for water damage

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark DannehlRecent spring showers in Wisconsin and potentially heavy snowfall in the northern region (in May!) are raising concerns for flooding. When it comes to home insurance, many people aren't aware that flooding generally is not a covered loss. Home insurance policies have very limited coverage for water damage. Water damage due to drain and sewer backup or sump pump overflow may be covered if you’ve added an endorsement to your policy.

Don’t wait until your home is filled with sewer water to learn if you have this coverage. Look at your policy or contact your insurance company. If the coverage is included at the inception date of the policy, the coverage begins on that date. However, if it’s added to or increased on an existing policy, there is generally a 30-day waiting period.

You can check into purchasing flood insurance by visiting to see if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

If you have a home policy with Member Benefits and have questions about your coverage, give us a call at

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

Underwritten by WEA Property & Casualty Insurance Company. The terms and conditions of your coverage are exclusively controlled by your written policy. Please refer to your policy for details.