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Stacie Patchett

Stacie Patchett

To contact Stacie Patchett, call 920-628-3700 or email her at [email protected].

This column was prepared by Thrivent Financial with an article from Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions Inc. ©2012 for local distribution by Thrivent Financial Representative Stacie Patchett. She has her office at 4321 N Ballard Rd in Appleton and can also be reached at 920-628-3700.

About Thrivent Financial 

Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization that helps Christians be wise with money and live generously. As a membership organization, it offers its more than 2 million member-owners a broad range of products, services and guidance from financial representatives nationwide. For more than a century it has helped members make wise money choices that reflect their values while providing them opportunities to demonstrate their generosity where they live, work and worship. For more information, visit You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Insurance products issued or offered by Thrivent Financial, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Appleton, WI. Not all products are available in all states. Securities and investment advisory services are offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., 625 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415, a FINRA and SIPC member and a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent. Thrivent Financial representatives are registered representatives of Thrivent Investment Management Inc. They are also licensed insurance agents/producers of Thrivent. For additional important information, visit

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its respective associates and employees cannot provide legal, accounting, or tax advice or services. Work with your Thrivent Financial representative, and as appropriate your attorney and/or tax professional for additional information.

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What does student debt look like in America? The numbers speak for themselves.

In 2017, the Pew Research Center published a brief based on data from the Federal Reserve Board. It revealed:

  • Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans by June 2017, more than two and a half times what they owed a decade earlier.
  • The median borrower with outstanding student loan debt for his/her education owed approximately $17,000 in 2016.
  • Higher educational attainment could mean more money owed — the median amount for those with a postgraduate degree, for example, is approximately $45,000.

With these kinds of figures, it’s important for families to start planning early on. As a part of that, parents and students should sit down together, discuss their goals when it comes to higher education and develop a smart strategy for evaluating expenses and handling debt. It may be wise to partner with a financial professional who can provide additional guidance and help answer important questions, including:

  • What is the true cost of college? Families should estimate the cumulative cost of education for schools on their children’s bucket list and evaluate what financial resources they have available to pay for tuition.
  • How can loans help? Families should take stock of the loan options available and identify what will work best given their financial circumstances and needs.
  • What scholarships and grants are available? Students should be proactive about exploring scholarship and grant opportunities and work with a guidance counselor to understand the criteria for applying.
  • What options do I have besides loans? Students have many options beyond debt including working while in school, looking for lower cost schools, living off campus to save money on housing costs, and enlisting the help of family and friends that may want to support their educational efforts.
  • How do I get rid of debt when I have it? Students with debt should have a strategy for paying back money quickly. Budgeting and refinancing can help graduates manage their payments month to month.

As a starting point, families can visit the internet for free tools and information on how they can work with their student to plan, pay for and even retire student debt balances as quickly as possible.

As with any major financial decision, investing in higher education requires forethought and planning. Children and parents should navigate the journey together, and be open to seeking help when they need it to make sure they are on the best path to being wise with money. 

Reference: “5 facts about student loans.” Pew Research Center Fact Tank.

You know how to tell your doctor where it hurts. You can tell your dentist about your toothache. So why can it be so hard to talk finances with your financial professional?

A meeting with financial professionals can admittedly be a source of stress for some. Managing money can seem intimidating, is sometimes confusing and is always very personal. While they’re easy to avoid, missing financial meetings can bring similar issues as skipping a dentist or doctor visit.

These meetings provide an important financial checkup for you to ensure your strategy is still on track and can help make sure your family and finances are protected. Like going to the doctor or dentist, it is important that you come prepared to ask the right questions. Ask these questions when you’re meeting with your financial professional.

1. Is my coverage adequate?

Ensuring proper protection against death, disability or injury is one of the most important things you can do for your family. Talk to your financial professional about cost concerns, protection options and how you can make sure that your family will be covered financially in the event of an untimely death, or disability. If you’ve had major life changes like the birth or adoption of a child, bought a house or got married — chances are your protection will need updating.

2. What are some creative ways we can refine my strategy to help maximize benefits?

This is the area that a financial professional can really help you. They can help you organize your financial strategy in a way that factors in things like taxes and market volatility, and they will know what changes are on the horizon that could affect you. They can also help you use staple financial products in unique ways. These are applications many average folks don’t know about but can offer different advantages to your financial strategy.

3. How are my financial strategies aligning with my values?

Having a financial strategy that allows you to align your finances with your values is another important topic to bring up. If you have charitable causes you want to support, or volunteer trips you want to take, make sure your financial professional knows about them and he/she can help you develop ways to bring your generosity to life.

4. Tell me about the strength and stability of your company or organization.

Insurance is only as strong as the ability of your financial institution to pay out claims when you need to claim a contract. Make sure to investigate the strength and stability of any company you’re working with to ensure it is financially sound enough to make good on its obligations.

5. What should I do differently in the next year?

This seems like an easy question, but you’d be amazed how few people ask it. Your financial professional is often in a unique position to help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your future strategy needs. Making sure you’re diversified in the market and ensuring your future protection needs are just two of the many variables to consider. Yearly meetings with a financial professional can help you hone your financial strategies for the upcoming year and help keep them as healthy as possible.

Your time is valuable; and your financial future is even more valuable to you and your family. Make sure you’re maximizing both and ensure you get the most out of meeting with your financial professional.

Despite a turbulent job market and economy, if you are a recent college graduate, there is much to be optimistic about as you leave campus and head out into the real world. No one ever said life on your own would be easy, but achieving post-graduate financial bliss can be a reality. These six tips offer a starting point for recent graduates who are ready to put their education to work for a secure financial future.

Get real about your paycheck

Compared to the minimum wage jobs you survived on through college, the annual earnings at your first post-graduate job may give you dollar-sign eyes. Don’t be fooled, though; after taxes, benefits, living expenses and student loan payments, your remaining monthly spending money could amount to less than half of your gross income. Being realistic about your paycheck doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun, but learning to be smart when it comes to budgeting will allow you to enjoy the finer things in life with a clearer conscience.

Your credit score matters

Thought you were done worrying about test scores? Think again. Whether you want to get an apartment, mortgage, car or a new job, your credit score says a lot about you and can make or break these important financial steps. Credit reports are available on many sites on the internet and can be free or retrieved for a small fee. Examine your report regularly for accuracy and pay off any existing credit card debt as soon as possible. Credit card interest is wasted money and any outstanding debt can hurt your credit score.

Look out for number one

After expenses and taxes, your paycheck may look too slim for comfort, but protecting your assets, health and income is worth the additional cost. If you have an apartment, renter’s insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your possessions. Health insurance is also a must, whether you get it through your employer or stay on your parents’ plan. Your paycheck is worth protecting, too. Disability income insurance is not just for those with physically demanding jobs, as most claims are from illness, not injury. Preparing for the unexpected comes at a small price when considering the costs of not doing so.

Save for the fun stuff

Again, being responsible with your finances doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. You have worked hard to start your career and should reward yourself. The best way to spend smartly is simply to spend less than you have. Diligent saving allows for the occasional splurge without having to feel guilty or anxious about your decision to spend. Consider directly depositing a certain amount from your paycheck into a savings account for a “fun fund.”

Save for the grown-up stuff, too

Your parents’ nagging may start to quiet now that you’ve graduated, but their retirement planning advice is worth listening to. Start investing now — you won’t regret it. While you are just starting your career and retirement seems a long way off, successful investors know the longer your assets remain invested, the greater their potential for growth. The cash you forfeit now will pale in comparison to the amount you’ll end up getting back at the end of your career if you start as early as possible.

Don’t pass up free money

Many employers offer pretax savings through their retirement accounts. Because your retirement contributions come out before taxes, your taxable income is decreased, saving you money. For example, a $100 contribution from your earnings to a pretax retirement account would reduce your paycheck by only $75 if you’re in the 25 percent tax bracket. If your employer matches a percentage of your retirement contributions, it is wise to contribute the maximum amount of their match so you’re not passing up “free money.”

Money is one aspect of adulthood that college graduates should tackle head-on in order to start living independently. Personal finance may seem daunting, but don’t be discouraged. All of the tips mentioned above boil down to common sense: spend less than you earn, stay protected through proper insurance, maintain good credit and save for the short and long-term. If you follow those steps, you will be off to a great financial start in the next chapter of your life.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 15:43

And other financial lessons from the past

If the recent financial turmoil has taught us anything, it’s that maybe we should pay attention to the age-old clichés that our parents and grandparents passed on to us. “Take it one day at a time” is the new reality for most Americans when it comes to financial recovery. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” — a poster child for diversification.

You get the idea. So keeping the “what’s old is new again” mantra in mind, here are some famous clichés from generations before that we think could serve us well this year and beyond.

1. Don’t cry over spilled milk. The recession is over and it is time to start putting the pieces back together. It might take a while (patience is a virtue after all), but you need to start somewhere.

2. Save for a rainy day. Call it an emergency savings fund, rainy day fund or what you will. The idea is simple, but changing our behavior is not. Money is easy to spend and there’s no question that there is still plenty of “gotta have it now” in us all. It’s time to slow down on spending and start saving.

Next, resist the temptation to raid your savings! While most Americans have plenty of credit card debt (and the issue needs to be addressed as part of your financial picture), resist the temptation to raid the savings to pay it all off immediately. Also, resist the desire to raid the savings for cash purchases. If you succumb, whenever the fund is used, the amount withdrawn should be replenished as soon as possible.

3. A penny saved is a penny earned. For an emergency savings fund, a standard savings account or money market account should meet your needs. However, thinking even longer-term, consider certificates of deposit (CDs). CDs help force you to commit your money for a period of time, so they can help you start to make your savings a more permanent habit. It should be noted that the money is not accessible for the term.

4. You’re walking on thin ice. The economy got bad enough that some of us had to sacrifice the standard financial protection that we always took for granted. If you terminated your life insurance contract, now is the time to begin shopping around for a new one. It’s hard to think about, but if something happened to you would your family be able to maintain their current lifestyle? Could they stay in the house so the kids would not have to move and switch schools? The time to protect your family is now. And, you know what they say, never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

5. Home is where the heart is. It’s also where much of your equity probably is too. Look into home equity loans to help you consolidate debt and get back on your feet. Lending standards are now tighter, but banks want your business and will work with you to meet your needs.

6. Another day, another dollar. Unless you are sick as a dog. While your savings should help protect you if you lose your job, what happens if you get sick or injured and cannot work for a period of time? Consider disability income insurance to help cover living expenses and protect your savings should that happen.

7. Lend a helping hand. Reach out to others in need through charitable giving and by volunteering your time and talents. There is plenty of need out there right now and every little bit helps.

8. Stop and smell the roses. We have all been through a lot the past several years, virtually none of us untouched by the financial turmoil. Perhaps your most important investment is time spent with family and friends.

The money taken out of your paycheck every month may be unwelcome now, but it can give you monthly income later in life. 

However, some question if Social Security will last long enough for those in the workforce now to be able to receive these benefits. According to Social Security trustees, enough reserves exist for the system to pay 100 percent of promised benefits until 2033 without further reform. Full benefits are available at age 65 for those born before 1938, gradually increasing to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. There is more to Social Security than just applying for retirement benefits when you are eligible at age 62 or over. By waiting, you can maximize your benefits, which will increase every year you choose to wait to file for Social Security retirement benefits. 

Consider these four tips before applying for Social Security:

1. Don’t assume it won’t be there. Social Security is projected to last at least until 2033, so the first mistake is writing it off as a resource that won’t be available. Planning early for the role Social Security will play in your retirement will prevent you from being caught off guard and missing out on increased benefits once you are ready to start collecting.

2. Know your situation. Retirement income planning is critical. Social Security has many nuances, so a personalized approach is necessary to get a better grasp of your retirement future. By using your current information from the Social Security Administration, financial representatives may be able to create scenarios to give you an idea of how the age you begin receiving distributions can affect the monthly amounts you will receive. For example, if you’re divorced or widowed, a financial representative will be able to calculate the different ways you can claim benefits and how they can affect your retirement strategy. 

3. Wait to draw. Now that you are planning for it, you can figure out when the right time for you to start receiving benefits. For many people, this will most often be after the age that you are eligible to start collecting full benefits. For every year that you delay, Social Security benefits will increase by a set percentage, eventually putting your monthly benefit above 100 percent. Delaying can also multiply the benefits after it is adjusted for cost of living and can potentially reduce the number of years benefits are subject to income taxes. Factors to consider as to when to file for your Social Security benefits include: health status, life expectancy, need for income, future employment and survivor needs. A financial representative can help you build all of this information into an overall retirement strategy.

4. Get your financial house in order. If you delay your Social Security benefits, you will need to have another way to pay for your needs while you are not working. If you planned early enough, you will likely have adjusted your finances so that you are prepared. Again, talking to a representative can help you plan the best option for the interim time before Social Security paychecks.

Social Security can be confusing, but talking to a representative can help you clarify the role it can play in your retirement strategy. Once you have a strategy in place, you will better be able to enjoy your retirement years without worrying about the next paycheck. 

No matter where you are in your life, you have a lot of decisions to make. When to buy your first house. What school to attend. Is it the right time for a job change? As things change in life, those changes influence your financial decisions too.

Following is a high-level overview of the financial information you should be aware of and consider during the various stages of your life. This is intended to be informative only, and everyone’s needs will vary based on their personal situation. You should always seek advice from a licensed professional when considering the purchase of financial products.

In your 20s

In your 20s, you’re usually just starting off in your first job and struggling to make ends meet; beginning to build a financial portfolio is probably not at the top of your to-do list. However, this can be a critical time as it can set your financial foundation for the rest of your life. A top priority should be building an emergency savings account to help you get through an unexpected loss of a job or a large and unexpected financial obligation. This should be separate from your normal savings and should only be drawn from under extraordinary circumstances. Also consider looking into disability income insurance to make sure your income and savings are both protected if you were ever unable to work due to a long-term illness or injury. Disability income insurance will serve you well throughout your career but the sooner you purchase, the better protected you’ll be. Additionally, this can be a time to begin thinking about starting an investment portfolio if you have the means, as the longer you’re invested the greater potential for long-term growth. Work with a financial professional to ensure your investments align with your appropriate level of risk for your specific situation.

In your 30s

Your 30s are the prime time to continue building a solid financial future. Hopefully you’re comfortable in your career, perhaps have gotten married and may even have begun building a family. This is when your financial options start to open up and you may want to start thinking about life insurance to offer protection for your family’s future against an unexpected death and loss of income. Term insurance for yourself and coverage for your children are usually affordable, easy to procure and can offer additional financial protection for you and your family.

This is also when you should be getting serious about your savings plans. Retirement savings should be at the top of your mind as you’ve started to make more money in your 30s and are becoming more comfortable navigating your bills and expenses. IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities and other retirement savings tools are important for you at this stage since the earlier you start saving, the more you’ll accumulate. And it’s never too early to start thinking about college savings for children.

In your 40s

In your 40s, many people have teenage children, tackle new challenges and opportunities in their professional lives and have established a level of income they can rely on comfortably. You can start to work with your child to investigate the various options (savings, aid, loans, grants, etc.) to help pay for postsecondary education. This also might be a time to start considering additional life insurance, as your assets and need for protection have grown as you’ve prospered both personally and professionally. Since you’re probably about halfway through your career, you should also start to keep an eye on the retirement horizon and on your overall retirement strategy. Make sure it aligns with your goals and dreams for after your career ends.

In your 50s

Your 50s are an exciting time in your financial life. Your children have probably left the nest and retirement is just around the corner. You should think about establishing a floor of guaranteed income, possibly by purchasing an annuity or insurance product, to meet your essential expenses that will continue into your retirement. This is the time to start considering how you want to live in retirement and beyond. What level of income would you like after you retire and how will you maintain your standard of living? Are you protecting your savings from the high costs of extended care? Whether you’re looking to purchase long-term care insurance or not, this is also a time when you should discuss your extended care plans with loved ones, and how that might affect everyone involved.

In your 60s

In your 60s, your retirement has probably arrived or is right around the corner. This is where managing assets, investments and financial strategies are critical. Even at this stage of life it is important for you to have some of your financial assets in an investment portfolio carefully managed for growth consistent with your risk profile. Meeting regularly with your financial representative at this life stage will help you stay on track with your financial goals. This is also a time to consider leaving a legacy through a life insurance policy that designates your children or a favorite charity as a beneficiary. The death benefit from life insurance can ensure that your spirit of generosity lives on and the causes you care about will be supported in the future. Another option for securing your future is Medicare supplement insurance, which will help with medical bills not covered by Medicare. This protection can help safeguard your retirement assets from additional costly medical bills.

No financial journey is the same. We all have different needs and goals at different stages of our lives. However, with a solid financial program in place along with the support of a financial professional, you can be prepared to make a lifetime of wise financial choices. 

If you are the parent of a college-bound student, you may soon face a whole new world of an empty nest, financial aid and questions about doing laundry. What you might not realize, though, is that with this new transition, there are some important considerations you need to keep top of mind, specifically life insurance and the updating of legal documents.

Below are some important tips (besides never mix your whites and darks) as your kids leave the nest. 

Life insurance needs

Although it may not be top of mind during this exciting time, it is important to make sure you have the right level of life insurance coverage. 

  • No one wants to think about the unthinkable, but you might want to increase your own life insurance coverage or obtain coverage on your student if:
  • Your current coverage would not be sufficient to pay off student loan debt and meet the surviving spouse’s other financial needs, too. 
  • You take out a Parent PLUS or home equity loan. 
  • You co-sign with your child on a student loan. 

Legal document needs

Strange as it may sound, if a college student age 18 or older is hospitalized while at school and is unable to communicate, the parents might not automatically have the right to tell doctors and hospital staff what medical procedures to use or not use. Also, if the adult student is not able to communicate for an extended time, parents might not be authorized to move funds from the student’s accounts. As legal adults, students over the age of 18 need their own advance medical directives, health care agent form and durable power of attorney for financial management, naming those who could legally act on their behalf. Below are some key terms and ideas to discuss with an attorney to ensure you’re prepared in the event that your child is incapacitated. 

Important definitions

  • Advance medical directive – Allows you to plan your health care before you may be unable to make sound decisions yourself.
  • Health care agent form – Allows you to appoint another person to make your health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate them yourself.
  • Durable power of attorney for financial management – Gives someone the right to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Leaving for school opens up a whole new world for both children and their families. By taking a few minutes to review your financial and legal situation now, you will be prepared for this new stage of your life. 

On Tuesday, September 26, Dan Bellerud of Thrivent Financial will present a college planning workshop. This free 90-minute college planning workshop will help attendees learn how academics, admissions and financial strategies can work together to help save money on college — without jeopardizing the financial and retirement strategies of parents. The workshop will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at Liberty Hall, located at 800 Eisenhower Drive in Kimberly. To reserve a spot, call Stacie at 920-628-3700 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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