Baylake Bank Offers Tips for Post-Recession Finances, Including Hints for the Holidays

November 4, 2010 —The National Bureau of Economic Research said the recession officially ended in June of last year, making it the longest recession since World War II, lasting 18 months. But many consumers are hardly celebrating the news, and millions are still struggling.

Economists made their determination based upon data that showed the lowest point in business activity, which was in June 2009. But to be clear, this does not mean that the economy has returned to normal; rather, it is in the process of recovery.

In Wisconsin, there are positive economic signs. Unemployment stayed the same in August as July, at 7.9 percent. And housing starts reached a four month high – which shows optimism by consumers.

So what can you do to help yourself rebuild financially after the recession? Your “survival kit” needs to start with an assessment of where you are at financially in terms of meeting current expenses and future savings. Here are some specific tactics to consider:

• Take advantage of very low interest rates and low home prices.
• Buy your first house.
• Refinance your existing home.
• Pay yourself first. Saving even a little money each month can go a long way.
• In addition to building your short-term savings (“emergency funds”) put away as much as you can for long-term, retirement savings too; the earlier & more consistently you save, the easier it is to build up a comfortable retirement fund. Be sure to take advantage of any matching contributions your employer may offer.
• Review your insurance coverage to ensure that it adequately balances the cost of your policy with sufficient risk coverage. Since this balance changes as life events happen, you should review your policies at least every couple of years.
• Automatically have a certain percentage (ideally 10 percent) of your paycheck going into a savings account at the bank.
• Save all your loose change rather than spending it.
• Work to improve your credit score or keep a high score – Madison is reported to have the second highest credit score of all cities in the country at 785; and a total of three Wisconsin cities (Green Bay and La Crosse are the other two) made the top 10 list.
• Consolidate credit cards.
• Always be on the look-out for creative ways to cut your expenses, such as going out for lunch on special occasions instead of going for dinner, which is typically more expensive.
• Stay true to your new budget and your new frugal ways.
The holidays present a special financial challenge. With all the shopping for friends, family, and co-workers, many people end up charging everything to a credit card. But if the balance isn’t paid off right away, it will mean paying for gifts – plus interest – for months after the festivities are done.

You can reduce your holiday financial stress by planning purchases in advance:
• Start by looking at your monthly budget and determine a realistic amount that you can spend on holiday gifts.
• Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for and those you may want to buy gifts for.
• Set a limit on how much you will spend on each person on your list.
• Add to that gift budget any money you will spend on holiday cards, postage, decorations, and holiday entertainment.
• Compare your gift budget against the money you first determined you really had available to spend and make adjustments where you can.
• Decide where to shop – and shop early. You may find deeper discounts the closer you get to the holidays, but you will also have a limited selection of items. Shopping early also gives you time to comparison shop.
• Keep receipts so returns are easier.
• Pay attention to return policies for items you purchased.
• Shop clearance racks.
• Be creative with your gifts. Try homemade gifts, or consider donations to a favorite charity instead of a store bought gift.

For more ideas and to determine best options based on your specific situation, you should meet with a financial advisor; financial professionals can help you set a course, and stick to it.

Marcia Peterson
Marcia Peterson

Private Banker

Nancy Bycek
Nancy Bycek
Private Banker

Marcia Peterson and Nancy Bycek are Private Bankers for Baylake Bank which serves its communities from 27 financial centers in Brown, Door, Green Lake, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Outagamie, Waupaca, and Waushara counties and from its web site at www.baylake.com. For more information call 920.743.5551 or 800.267.3610.Member FDICEqual Housing Lender.