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Nov 20, 2014

Holiday Gatherings: Counting the Costs


Maximize fun and minimize holiday stress this season by spending within your budget! Take a moment to review some of the helpful tips provided by Community Bankers of Wisconsin. With a little planning you can make the holidays extra enjoyable—without breaking the bank! 


From Thanksgiving to Three Kings Day, many Wisconsinites budget carefully for holiday gift giving. But what about holiday entertaining? Have you ever hosted a party where the guest list grew beyond what your budget—or location—could handle? Or maybe last-minute menu additions or Packer decorations pushed the price of your gathering skyward.

Whether you're considering a Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas morning breakfast, or a late-night New Year's celebration, a little planning can help you relax and enjoy the event as much as your guests.

Food and beverages are often big budget items. If you're a skilled chef and truly enjoy every minute spent in the kitchen, fine. If not so much, consider purchasing a main entrée or festive dessert from your local caterer and then adding your own sides, breads, and garnishes. You don't need to serve each guest a mini beef Wellington. Google "frugal recipes" to find tasty dishes that fit both your budget and your available preparation time.

Remember, time is money, too. If you spend so many hours in the kitchen or on crafting party decorations that you're exhausted by the time of the party, you will have defeated the point of the event - even if you do end up with useful leftovers or decorations you'll reuse.

Don't hesitate to ask your guests to help by bringing a dish they're known for, a vase of flowers, a bottle wine or jug of cider. If a guest has a flair for food presentation, maybe he or she would be willing to come early and help with the final touches.

Your guests might also like to help with any entertainment or the party ambience. They may have music, videos, or photos to share, or crafty decorations to show off. Crafting a wreath, ornament, or gingerbread house could even become a party focus, with guests taking home their creations.

Don't forget craft malls or discount the discount stores. You may find the perfect invitations or decorations at your nearby Dollar Store or outlet mall. Your home may also be a source of items saved from previous years that you can adapt to your newest party theme. Hint: candles can dress up any table, even if the candleholder is hollowed-out apple or a mirror repurposed as a reflective tray.

If many guests have young children and you have the space, pool your resources to hire a teen to plan activities and watch over the young ones. The kids will be thrilled to have their own party and the parents will be happy their children are safe and close at hand.

For other ideas, visit these websites:

The Wisconsin Public Service company offers energy saving tips during the holidays, including entertaining.

A Wisconsin Law Journal article offers tips for office parties, and some can be useful for consumers, too.

The Festival Network lists Wisconsin craft fairs where you can purchase exquisite items or collect ideas for decorations to create yourself.

Nov 7, 2014

Auto Buying Answers


With winter weather on the way, autumn is a common time for Wisconsinites to think about upgrading their vehicle. What make and model? New or used? Buy or lease? The car buying process means lots of questions. Read the article below, do some research and contact Bank of Luxemburg for information on our auto loans. We’ll help you get rolling!

Your Next Car: New or Used? Buy or Lease?

Worried that your clunker won't last another Wisconsin winter? Many people shop for new vehicles in the fall, hoping to get a great deal on outgoing models and last quarter sales.

For most consumers, buying a used car makes more financial sense than purchasing a new one. Used cars cost less, depreciate less, and have lower insurance premiums.

On the other hand, a new vehicle will be more reliable and present lower maintenance and repair costs. If you are financing your purchase, dealer zero-percent-interest and other incentives may make a new vehicle as affordable as a used one if you plan to keep it six years or longer.

When considering a new vehicle, consumers are often attracted by the lower monthly payments of leases. Leases, which typically run for three years, do have some advantages. In addition to lower monthly payments, they may offer lower maintenance costs, and the consumer can simply turn the car in at the end of the lease or buy it for a preset price. If you use a leased vehicle for your own business, the monthly payment sometimes can be deducted on your income tax return (check with your tax professional).

But a lease gives the consumer no equity in the vehicle, limits the number of miles driven (usually 12,000 or 15,000 per year) without penalty, and requires higher insurance premiums. A lease also prevents the consumer from customizing the car and may include added fees that increase the overall cost. Plus, if circumstances change and a consumer needs to end the lease before the contract ends, this can be costly. For most consumers, buying makes more financial sense than leasing.

Of course, other factors may trump financial ones - if the latest technology and amenities are important and you plan to upgrade every three years, a leased vehicle may make perfect sense. But if you commute long distances and could not reasonably limit your mileage, or have young children and pets and are concerned about wear and tear on a leased vehicle, buying may be your best option.

Whether you buy or lease a new or used vehicle, decide what you want before you enter a showroom. Focus on the total price, not just the monthly payment required. And be willing to walk away if the deal you are offered isn't what you want.

 Web resources worth checking out:

·      USAA on the best and worst times to buy a car.
·      Consumer Reports on buying vs. leasing. This site also offers many calculators to explore various options for your family.
·      Visit Edmunds.com for an analysis of buying a new or used Honda Accord vs. leasing one.
·      The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions offers a brochure on leasing, including the need for Gap insurance, to cover your costs if, in the event that your vehicle were totaled or stolen, the balance of your lease exceeded what you would receive from your insurance claim.
   
Source: Your Community Banker

Jun 17, 2014

Home Sweet Home--Home Buying 101


Home Sweet Home

With interest rates still historically low and the school year winding down, many people are starting to think about looking for a new home. Whether you’ve done it a few times before or are a first-time homebuyer, there are many things to keep in mind. Read the following and don’t hesitate to contact a Bank of Luxemburg mortgage professional with questions.

Home Buying 101

With a generally improved employment picture and continuing low mortgage interest rates, more Wisconsinites are considering buying a home this year. Whether you have your eye on a starter home or a new construction, planning ahead can help ensure you’re happy with your new abode after move-in day.

Maybe you’ve been planning for a while and are clear about what you want. In any case, be sure to consider whether you want to live close to your job or particular schools, the size of the ideal yard, your desire for a garage, the number of rooms, and the composition of the neighborhood—young families, retired couples, or a mixed group?

You can also benefit from identifying your lender, such as a community bank. Consider whether it’s important to have a good relationship with a local banker if questions arise down the road.

Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. A lender will pre-qualify you for a loan of a certain amount, which can help narrow your house search. Based on your credit report, income, and assets, a lender can also provide pre-approval, guaranteeing a loan up to a certain amount and shortening the mortgage application process.

You can then contact a real estate agent who is a buyer’s broker and will help identify potential properties that fit your needs. You can also look at properties yourself and then contact the seller’s realtor on your own, but beware that this agent is working in the interests of the seller. When you’re ready to make an offer, your buyer’s broker can help you draft the offer to purchase. You may want to include various contingencies, such as specific repairs or a home inspection to prevent any maintenance issues or other unwelcome surprises later.

After you reach a deal with the seller, your lender can help you decide which type of mortgage is best for you—for example, a fixed rate mortgage where the monthly interest and principle payment remains the same for the life of the loan or an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) where the lender may increase the interest rate over time. Your lender can also help you apply for government loans, such as FHA, VA, or WHEDA (Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority) loans.

The last stage of home buying is the closing, when you sign the mortgage note and related paperwork. Ask about any item you do not clearly understand. If you are unhappy with any part of the transaction, several regulations including the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act are designed to help resolve problems. Begin by contacting your lender. Other resources are the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-669-9777.

These tips are largely from “Buying a Home,” a brochure published by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Read it by following the Financing brochure link on this web page: www.wdfi.org/ymm/brochures/default.htm.

Apr 14, 2014

What does Community Banking Mean to Us?


Bank of Luxemburg is proud to be a community bank. That means that all the members of the extended Bank of Luxemburg “family” are happy to serve our friends and neighbors, support our local economy and take part in hometown activities.


Community Banks Keep Rural America Growing
Just one of the many ways community banks build more economically
sustainable communities.

Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2014)—Community banks keep rural America growing by lending to local farmers and ranchers, said the Independent Community Bankers of America ® (ICBA) and thousands of its community bank members that are celebrating ICBA Community Banking Month this month. Community banks are able to serve as financial first responders to the agricultural community because they operate locally—knowing their marketplace—and putting local deposits back to work in their communities through loans to local farmers, ranchers, residents and small businesses.

“Community banks are pivotal to the overall health and financial success of rural America because they provide an overwhelming share of credit to local farmers,” said ICBA Chairman John H. Buhrmaster, president of 1st National Bank of Scotia, N.Y. “Many community banks have been serving farmers for well over 100 years. And because community banks are small business owners—like farmers and ranchers—they are better able to serve their agricultural customers because they know both the local market and have highly specialized expertise in the agriculture business.”

Community banks have consistently been the largest provider of agricultural credit within the commercial banking sector and are often the catalysts for new and expanded business opportunities within their communities to ensure long-term economic viability and vitality. In fact, community banks with assets under $10 billion provide more than 75 percent of all commercial bank agricultural loans, and banks with assets less than $1 billion provide nearly 60 percent of all commercial bank agricultural financing.

Community banks stimulate rural economies in a multitude of ways, including creating off-farm jobs, maintaining the local tax base and facilitating development of the infrastructure and public services necessary to keep rural communities vibrant.

“We pride ourselves in being the community bank in Kewaunee, Door and Kewaunee Counties and being there for their financial needs,” said John Slatky, President of the Bank of Luxemburg.  “When our farms and rural businesses do well, our communities thrive.  The Bank of Luxemburg is there to support these businesses”

Mar 31, 2014

Retirement Options by DeAnna Tittel

Helping you save today for your vision of tomorrow.

What is your vision for retirement? Golfing the front nine on your favorite course? Relaxing on the beach in Florida? Or, maybe you haven’t even thought about it yet. Often, once you’ve formulated a vision for the future, questions and uncertainty can arise like, “Do I have enough saved? Will my lifestyle change? Can I afford to move?” Whatever your vision entails, it’s important to make sure you’re headed down the path of financial security. The experts at Bank of Luxemburg can help you every step of the way.

Get started on your plan now … whatever it may be! 
First, learn about Bank of Luxemburg’s IRA options as presented by Bank of Luxemburg Vice President of Retail DeAnna Tittel in this short video. DeAnna will explain two IRA options – a Statement IRA and Certificate of Deposit (CD) IRA. Get the details, determine which option is best for you, then visit your local Bank of Luxemburg to consult with an expert on opening an IRA and get one step closer to your vision for retirement. 


Feb 28, 2014

Bank of Luxemburg Opens Sturgeon Bay Branch

To Our Current and Future Customers:

On January 13, 2014 Bank of Luxemburg was pleased to open our ninth branch at 519 South Lancing Street in Sturgeon Bay. This new location, just off Wisconsin highway 57, across from Witt Ford, provides great convenience and easy access.

Bank of Luxemburg’s values community involvement and we look forward to becoming an active part of the Sturgeon Bay community. Many of our staff members are long-time Door County residents and you can count on them to deliver exceptional personalized service to you, our friends and neighbors. You’ll see Bank of Luxemburg employees making a difference right away as we help raise money for local charities, sponsor sports teams and show our pride at other community events.

We are proud to have Greg Stephan as vice president of commercial lending in Sturgeon Bay. Greg will draw on his many years of Door County banking experience as he heads up the bank’s local loan approval process.

Our new Sturgeon Bay location extends the bank’s service area throughout Door County. It will also offer added convenience for existing customers travelling through Sturgeon Bay and Door County residents who previously used our branch in Forestville. And, of course, we always welcome new customers who appreciate the security of a locally owned community bank that has been serving customers across northeast Wisconsin since 1903.

We often say “community bank,” but what does that mean exactly? Community banking is simple … It’s local individuals depositing money and investing in the Bank of Luxemburg. Then, that money is kept right here in our area as we lend that money to other local individuals and businesses.

For more information on Bank of Luxemburg, visit us online, or call or stop by any branch—including our new Sturgeon Bay location—and talk to one of our friendly hometown bankers.

 At Bank of Luxemburg our motto is “Local. Loyal. Lasting. See what a difference it makes.” I invite you to experience the Bank of Luxemburg difference for yourself!

Sincerely,
John Slatky
President Bank of Luxemburg



Feb 4, 2014

Tax Prep with John Kaye


Tax Preparation Tips
By John Kaye, CPA

Tax time is here! Are you wondering whether to do your own taxes or use a qualified tax professional? First, consider this: there have been approximately 100 new tax law changes in the past year alone. Then, consider your own tax situation. How complex is it? Did you have any major life events, changes in job status, property sales or other things that complicate your 2013 tax return? Unless you situation is extremely straightforward, you might be better served be using the services of a tax professional.

First call and schedule an appointment. Next make sure to gather all your receipts and important paperwork from the previous year. If in doubt, bring it along. Finally, make a list of questions you have for your tax pro.

At your appointment, you should talk about things you can do to optimize your tax situation for next year. Remember, it’s never too early to start planning. You should discus things like setting up an individual retirement account (IRA) or a health savings account (HSA)—depending on your situation both of these accounts could potentially impact your tax bill.  Bank of Luxemburg can help you with setting up IRAs or HSAs

If you have any questions or want to locate a qualified tax professional, contact us here at Bank of Luxemburg at (920) 845-2345.