We’re Changing our Look!

mobileIt’s that time again.  To keep up with technology, we’ve spent the last several months preparing a new website which will be ready for launch in early December.  We also fine-tuned our logo a bit, which you can already see on our Facebook page.

You’ll find our new site especially “responsive.”  Meaning you’ll get a different look and feel depending on your electronic device… desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.

One added note:  If you’re an Online Banking customer, it will be a bit before you see a change in graphics to match our main website.  Don’t be alarmed.  Just be sure there’s a GREEN bar covering the web address when you log in to know it’s secure.

Let us know if you have any questions by emailing us or calling 888-485-4400 during regular business hours.

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Eight Black Friday Alternatives

MallThis Thanksgiving, after the Packers beat the Bears (again), you may be lacing up your running shoes for some Black Friday shopping.

However, if you’re lucky enough to have Friday off and would prefer to stay away from the crowds and the frenzy, here are EIGHT great alternatives to the normal Black Friday:

  1. Start your Taxes early – It’s never too early to get a head start on tax season. Organize your charitable donation receipts and use an online calculator to predict your tax bill (or refund!) for the year.
  1. Plan a Vacation – It’s not everyday you get the day off, so why not research vacation ideas for 2016, whether it’s a camping trip at Devil’s Lake State Park or a tour of Europe.
  1. Relax with a good book – How long have you been talking about reading that new book you picked up over the summer? Now’s the perfect time to crack it open! Or find a new one via the Bestseller List and download it!
  1. Create DIY gifts early – On a budget? Who needs to buy gifts when you can make them yourself? Your family will love the thought and time you put into it.
  1. Explore the Outdoors – Instead of going toward the crowds, how about you get away and take a hike? Find the perfect spot here.
  1. Get creative with your leftover turkey – Sometimes turkey sandwiches just don’t hit the spot. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite recipe.
  1. Put up your Christmas lights – If your family celebrates Christmas, this is the perfect time to put up your lights, bake your first batch of cookies and listen to holiday music guilt free!
  1. Save your shopping for Small Business Saturday – Instead of rushing around to big chain stores on Friday, why not skip the crowds, support local businesses and do your shopping the following day on Small Business Saturday.

We hope you all have a happy & safe Thanksgiving, no matter what you decide to do!

For more information on Great Midwest Bank, please visit us at www.greatmidwestbank.com.

Photo credit: djLicious / Foter.com / CC BY

Posted in Black Friday, Just For Fun, Saving/Budgetting, Useful Tips | Leave a comment

#YourStory: Joel & Linda

our storyRecently, Joel and Linda from Wauwatosa were introduced to us by a longtime Realtor friend. Owners of several rental properties in Wauwatosa, they had approached their current lender to refinance at more favorable terms.

Despite nearly thirty years of timely payments, the bank had evidently moved on to bigger and better things.  That’s where we stepped in to help.

What made us so different? According to Linda, it came down to five factors:

  • Personal care – Throughout the process, their Loan Officer was “believable.” At Great Midwest, our Loan Officers can walk down the hallway or pick up the phone and get a straight answer from a decision maker.
  • Experience – At Great Midwest Bank we’re proud to offer our customers what Linda described as “superior business expertise”.   We understand that some borrowers present unique circumstances.  We’ll take a team approach to custom-fit a solution.
  • The Extra Mile – Linda was appreciative that our Loan Officer offered a “road map” throughout the entire process – through appraisals, approval, payoff requests and closing, even going so far as closing at their home in Wauwatosa.
  • Custom Fit – The solution we offered wasn’t cookie-cutter, which is often all a big bank or mortgage broker can offer.  Joel and Linda had recently retired and their needs had changed. We followed a basic business concept:  Understand your customer’s need and find a way to make it work.  There’s still a place for that!
  • Mobile & Online Banking – Given the level of service we provided on their refinancing, they decided to move their checking accounts as well.  Our Mobile & Online Banking features offer everything they need to bank remotely.

Started 80 years ago as Milwaukee was surviving the Great Depression, Great Midwest Bank’s family and community values haven’t changed. We’re still friendly, experienced and passionate about helping Wisconsin homeowners like Joel and Linda.

Want to learn more about Great Midwest Bank and our services or share #YourStory with us? Call (888) 485-4400 or visit us online at www.greatmidwestbank.com.

Posted in Banking, Buying & Selling, Customer Service, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Leave a comment

We Are Officially 80!

Back on November 8, 1935, we first opened as Milwaukee Federal Savings

80 years, 9 branches, 94 employees and two name changes later, we’re still going strong as your Simply…Local dependable mortgage lender

Some things fade with time. At GMB, we’re Simply…Better. A sincere THANK YOU to our past and present customers and employees for helping us reach this historical moment. And here’s to 80 more years of great banking and great memories

How have you changed over the years? We’d love to see. Post your pictures in the comments section of our 80th anniversary post by clicking here.

Do you have questions about Great Midwest Bank’s legacy or mortgage lending process? Give us a call at (888) 485-4400 or schedule an appointment with one of our fantastic Loan Officers today.

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5 Savings Tips for Turkey Day

ThanksgivingNow that November has arrived, we can imagine you’re started to think about Thanksgiving Day plans. If you’re the lucky winner who gets to host this year, the cost can add up fast. However, with a little planning, that Thanksgiving Day price tag can be sliced in half. Here are five tips to help you save big this year

  1. Make it a potluck.
    • Why bare the burden of cooking for a lot of people? If your Thanksgiving dinner is going to include a number of different families, why not make it a potluck! Not only will it cut costs, it will also cut time and stress.
  2. Opt for simpler dishes with fewer ingredients.
    • More complicated does not always mean better. Try to keep your recipes simpler this year, to save money on ingredients.
  3. Start buying early and shop around
    • Don’t leave your shopping trip until last minute when grocery stores raise the prices. Shop around beforehand and stock up your freezer now.
  4. Don’t overspend on beverages.
    • Instead of buying 4 bottles of wine, a 24 pack of bottled water and a cooler full of ginger ale cans – try to change it up. How about switching to a trendy boxed wine (these are all the rage this year), filtered tap water and a couple gallons of apple cider instead. Of course, you could also make things even easier by asking guests to bring their own favorite drinks.
  5. Use natural decorations
    • Look out your window. Do you see all of those colorful leaves and twigs lying in your yard. Instant decorations! Gather them up, place them in a plain bowl and you have yourself some FREE decorations. Better yet if you have a garden to harvest!

Overall, remember Thanksgiving isn’t about how much you spend on dinner and decorations. It’s about family and being thankful for what you have.

Want more tips on money savings tips or the home mortgage process? Follow GMB on Facebook or Twitter today, or visit www.greatmidwestbank.com.

Photo credit: InaFrenzy / Foter / CC BY

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GMB is Simply…80!

GMB1You’re perhaps too young to remember, but a lot was happening 80 years ago. Fred Astaire sat atop the music billboard, Babe Ruth played his last baseball game, Elvis was born in Mississippi and, despite the Great Depression, on a crisp November day in Wisconsin a local banker named A.F. Wanta founded what would later become Great Midwest Bank to help his community get back on its feet.

That’s right! Great Midwest Bank is turning 80 years old! Help us celebrate our 80th Anniversary by showing us how YOU’VE changed over the years. It’s as simple as SNAP, POST.

SNAP: Find your favorite old pictures to share, or snap reenactments photos of them (that is, if you’re up for the challenge)!

POST: Click here to visit our Facebook page and share your photos and captions in the comments section of our 80th Anniversary Post.

Need help? Bring your photos to your nearest GMB location, and we will take care of the rest.

Even though a lot has changed since 1935, at GMB we’re simply…better. Better because of loyal customers like you.

Thank you for helping us to make the last 80 years great. Here’s to 80 more years of great memories, great banking and making the dream of owning a home come true.

Visit greatmidwestbank.com for more information or stop by one of our nine convenient locations today.

Posted in Banking, Customer Service, Customers, Just For Fun, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on GMB is Simply…80!

#YourStory: Matt & Pakou

By: Katie Lindquist

katie l

This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of helping customers Matt and Pakou buy their first house in Waunakee, just north of Madison. They found a beautiful brick two-story that needed some repair work and a loan product that would allow them to purchase the home and provide funds to begin a rehab project.

They initially began working with a mortgage broker but quickly realized the process and timeline was not as originally advertised.   With a closing date fast approaching, the broker communicated that they would not be able to provide their financing in time after all.  To make matters worse, the home sellers could not extend the closing date. Matt and Pakou were at risk of losing their dream house when their realtor mentioned Great Midwest Bank.  Said Matt, “Naively, I had assumed buying a house was simply a matter of being qualified for the money then finding someone willing to sell you a house. After having some very frank conversations with our realtor, she suggested we give Katie at Great Midwest Bank a call. Because they are a small, local bank rather than a broker for a national company, maybe they could make something happen.”

The first time home buyers reached out, and after hearing more about our bank, products, and process, they completed their application with us the same day. They were in desperate need of a quick turnaround, good communication, and the right loan product for their situation – all of which we were able to step in and provide.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone work as quickly and effectively as Katie did. Not just in the mortgage process but anywhere in my professional career. Katie got our application moving along in an incredibly short amount of time and was able to answer every single one of our (many) questions. She put us at ease with a process that until that point had been extremely challenging, at best,” confessed Pakou.

Together we decided on the GMB Portfolio product, which would enable them to purchase the home and at the same time borrow additional funds to get started on the remodel right away. Because Matt and Pakou knew they eventually wanted a fixed rate product, early on we also discussed and put into place a timeline for a post-rehab refinance. Everything came together in time and fortunately we were able to close their purchase on the original closing date! Just a few short months later, we wrapped up their fixed rate refinance with another smooth closing. Being able to provide a seamless experience like this is what makes our jobs as Loan Officers so enjoyable… and the most rewarding part is seeing buyers like Matt and Pakou turn a house into a home.

Matt ended his testimonial with, “Katie was able to make not only the initial rehab loan but the subsequent refinance both perfectly painless, and structured in a way that made sense financially. She was able to point out options for us that saved us money both in the short and long run. Honestly, for that alone it would have been worth working with her and Great Midwest Bank. The fact that she was also one of the most professional, pro-active, and friendly people I’ve ever met was the icing on the cake.”

Posted in Customer Service, Dream Home, first time homebuyers, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #YourStory: Matt & Pakou

Five Things That Could Decrease the Value of Your Home

bedroomIf you are thinking of selling your home somewhere down the road, there are a couple of things that the experts suggest that you NOT do because it could actually decrease the value of your home and make it less appealing to potential home buyers

Here are five things that could potentially decrease the value of your home or leave it sitting on the market for longer than you’d hoped:

Bold Paint Colors: When buyers view your home, bold colors may stick out like a sore thumb and they may look at it as an extra expense to have the walls repainted. If you decide to use a bolder color, we recommend using it on an accent wall with lighter shades.

Over-remodeled Kitchens: It’s one of the most important rooms in your home. However, there is a point where it can be overly done and doesn’t fit with the rest of your home. We suggest that you don’t go overboard—remodel so it matches the style and design of the rest of your home.

Ignore Landscaping: It’s the first impression that makes them want to walk in the door. Get rid of overgrown shrubs and plant new ones. If you have weeds growing in your lawn, apply a good weed killer. Fertilize the grass to make it look greener. Get rid of junk and toys in both the back and front yards.

Unfinished Projects: You may be doing them yourself or have hired a contractor who has not yet finished an improvement project. Either way, make sure it’s complete before listing your home for sale. Buyers may view it as costing them money or may not be able to imagine the finished project.

Wasted Space: Do you have a spare bedroom that has turned into a storage area? Or an office that is now an exercise room? Don’t leave them as-is. Return them to their originally intended use. Potential buyers want to visualize how every square foot can be used—especially if home prices in your area are somewhat tied to the square footage of your home.

Are you ready to take the plunge and sell your home? Meet with one of our Great Midwest Bank Loan Officers today. We can help you get started on the next chapter of your life in a new home.

(via LoanOfficerMagazine.com)

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography / Foter /CC BY

Posted in Buying & Selling, Homeowner tips, Remodeling, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Five Things That Could Decrease the Value of Your Home

#YourStory: Justin & Nicole

JustinIn early July, I had the pleasure of working with new customers Justin and Nicole who were buying a home in Hales Corners.  Like many others before him, Justin found his way to me by word of mouth.  I took a call at home on a Saturday morning.  Justin was frustrated.  Now, I knew he had been to other lenders, but it wasn’t until he wrote me a nearly four page testimonial that I learned he’d truly been through the “ringer.”

First, a bit of background.  Justin is a full-time corporate pilot.  Flies a really cool jet for some local executives traveling on business from the metro-Milwaukee area.  But does anyone remember a little thing called the Great Recession?  Corporate jets were one of the first things to go for many companies.  As a result, Justin, like so many others who were “dislocated” from their jobs during that 2-3 year span, suffered financially.

But four years had passed and Justin cleared up some debt while his work stabilized.  After being hired permanently in his current position, and knowing that he had some help from family for a nice-sized down payment, he and his wife set out to buy a home, a place to call their own.

He stopped at his own bank where he was handed some forms and a fax number.  After two weeks, he finally had his response.  Because of his past financial woes, they couldn’t help.  The next option was a mortgage broker, who recommended FHA financing.  After more difficulty getting in touch, and with the help of his Real Estate agent, after SIX weeks, Justin finally had his pre-approval letter.

Turns out the letter wasn’t worth the paper on which it was written.  Which is why I often suggest to clients that “all pre-approvals are not created equally.”  Too often, to appease a prospective borrower, lenders will provide a letter and hope for the best, only to result in disappointment.

That’s when Justin found me on that otherwise quiet Saturday.  We met face-to-face on Tuesday.  I spent a good part of our meeting understanding his past financial difficulties and learning about his new job.  Bottom line was they had two weeks to close on this home.  Not to mention they had given their Landlord notice.  Justin wrote, “ I have to tell you that as a pilot and someone who likes order, what a relief it was to have Jon hand me a checklist,” adding that he finally felt like he was dealing with a professional.  We ended up closing – using the GMB Portfolio product – on the originally scheduled date.

He finished his testimonial as follows: “Our closing not only happened on its original date, but had no hiccups and took less than an hour!  The experience with Great Midwest Bank is exactly what I had in my head of how it should have happened from the beginning!”

Happy we could help Justin.  One Customer at a time!  And makes my job extremely satisfying!

So what’s #YourStory? Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!”

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#YourStory: Eric & Angie

Jon Reetz - website#YourStory continues with a home purchase a couple of years back in Fox Point.  Our borrowers – Eric and Angie – were purchasing their first home.  And by most standards, this was a “plain vanilla” mortgage loan request.  Solid borrowers that had prepared very well for the event.

Their product of choice was a very popular one – a long term fixed rate.  We often talk about Borrowers fitting in the “box” required for these types of loans.  And Eric and Angie were a perfect fit.  But their story wasn’t so much about the Product.  Let’s face it – most lenders offer very similar, competitive rates and work to minimize costs.  Great Midwest filled that requirement, along with local loan servicing.

Instead, this was about the Process.  Eric and Angie took the right first step with a thorough pre-approval so they could shop for a home with confidence.  They signed an offer to purchase the home and Great Midwest Bank ordered an appraisal.  Enter the Bump in the Road.  The appraisal suggested the home was worth a bit less than the agreed upon price.  Eric called me, obviously concerned.  I advised, based on experience, they discuss it with their Real Estate agent and consider a lower, amended price.  Which they did.  Which the seller agreed upon.  Problem solved.

Buying a home is an emotional experience.  You should count on experienced Professionals – the Loan Officer, Real Estate Agents and Inspector – to guide you along the way. “…We were very anxious about our first home purchase.  While we qualified for an excellent rate, we wanted to work with a company that we could trust as an advisor in the process. Great Midwest Bank was just that – such a consultative approach to mortgage lending. Great Midwest Bank we could trust, Great Midwest Bank told us what to expect every step of the way, and Great Midwest Bank brought us a solution to a situation we had no clue how to handle.  Our experience — Simply Awesome!”

Anytime Eric! We’re glad you’re loving the home. And thanks for the great testimonial!

So what’s #YourStory? Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!”

Posted in Banking, first time homebuyers, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, Testimonials, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #YourStory: Eric & Angie

#YourStory: Henry

henryThis is Henry’s story.  A couple of months back, I received an email from a local realtor in a panic.  One of her clients, Henry, had just been denied a loan to purchase a condominium.  But the interesting fact here, like so many other situations we see, was that Henry had taken the appropriate steps to get pre-approved for a new home.

His was a typical example which, in retirement, he was downsizing from his current home.  That home, in fact, was already under contract and scheduled to close the same day he would move into his new Nashotah condominium.  He had plenty of down payment funds as a result.  So what, you say, is wrong with this picture?

His original lender somehow overlooked the simple fact that he had some negative credit history a few years back.  And that history was no fault of his own.  Henry had experienced a serious health issue and, because he was self-employed at the time, his business suffered.  And that was compounded by the recession our country was facing at the same time.

Enter the Great Midwest Bank Portfolio Loan.  A perfect example of common sense mortgage lending.   In short order, GMB turned the situation around and made Henry a big fan:  “…thank you for everything you have done. Your service was great and the application process was quick and easy. The people at GMB listened to me and did not make judgements based only on numbers.  I have already given your name to two friends looking to sell/move in the near future.  Believe me when I say I will be a walking, talking commercial for you and GMB.”

You bet Henry.  Glad we could help!  So what’s #YourStory?  Send me a note or tell us on Facebook!

Posted in Customer Service, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #YourStory: Henry


Jon Reetz - websiteIf you’re a current customer, you probably know some of #OurStory.  In the words of our 4th Generation Family-Run Bank President, Dennis Doyle, “we know who we are, and we know who we are NOT.”  Any successful organization tends to do something very well.  For Great Midwest Bank, it’s residential mortgage lending.  And now nearly 80 years into #OurStory, it’s that simple approach we take that continues to be the key to our success – and to the satisfaction of our amazing & loyal customers.

I started with Great Midwest in 2002.  I witnessed the sudden jump in real estate values for five years.  And the dramatic drop that followed.  Now nearly six years or so on this side of the “mortgage-meltdown,” I’m happy to report a vibrant real estate market in Wisconsin.  Though the mortgage industry has seen significant changes brought on by more restrictive rules and regulations, Great Midwest Bank continues to be that common-sense lender that Wisconsin has relied upon since 1935.  We were born at the height of the Great Depression and weathered a World War and the Great Recession aforementioned.  Sticking to what we know, I guess you could say we’re here to stay.

And if you’re wondering about the hashtag, we’ve adapted to the times.  We’re sharing #OurStory in all kinds of places.  Not just on our website, but on Social Media too.  Over the next few months, we’ll share some of #YourStory too.  Highlighting when we’ve helped Wisconsin families achieve the dream of getting into – or back into – a home of their own.  Have a story to tell?  Let us know via email!  We’d love to share it.

our story

Posted in Just For Fun, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Our Story, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on #OurStory

5 Great Ways to Save on your 4th of July BBQ

‘Tis the season for fireworks and BBQ! But that doesn’t mean you should let your finances go up in flames!


Five great tips for saving on your 4th of July BBQ:

  1. BYOM: Why not ask your quests to bring their own meat. Not only will this save you money, it will also ensure everyone is eating something they handpicked and sure to enjoy. In fact, why not make the whole BBQ a potluck!
  1. Ditch paper plates and invest in plastic dinnerware. These can be washed and stored for a few years. This way you won’t have to use your nice dinnerware, but you also wont be running out to buy new paper plates every time you want to have people over.
  1. Invest in a quality grill & take care of it. Cheap grills not only have shorter life spans, they also tend to burn more fuel, whether you’re using charcoal or propane or something else.
  1. Pay attention! Make sure you know how to work your grill (sometimes it’s easier said than done) and don’t burn the food! Clean it regularly!
  1. Plan ahead and make your own ice! If you spend the week leading up to your BBQ making ice you’ll have no need to go out and purchase a big bag of it. Why buy something you can make at home for free?

Save big and have a blast with these great ways to save at your 4th of July BBQ this year!

For more savings tips make sure to follow Great Midwest Bank: http://simplylocalbank.com/#facebook

Photo credit: schreiblockade / Foter / CC BY-ND

Posted in Homeowner tips, Just For Fun, Saving, Useful Tips | Comments Off on 5 Great Ways to Save on your 4th of July BBQ

You Did It!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou followed the steps, got your ducks in a row and moved into your new home. Over the last few months we provided you insight on the mortgage process as well as tips on selecting a great realtor, finding the perfect home and on how to move.

Your boxes are unpacked, your furniture is in its spot and your cabinets are full of pots and pans. You’re ready to put your feet up and relax, but before you do, there are a few more things to consider:

  1. Fill out a change of address form at the post office.
    • This will route your mail to your new address. However, to make sure you don’t miss anything after the post office stops forwarding your mail make sure to contact the senders and inform them of your new address.
  1. Update your driver’s license with your new address.
    • This can be completed at a DMV office or often online, just be sure to complete this task shortly after your move.
  1. Send out change of address cards.
    • These days many people just send a text or an email to tell people they’ve moved, but with so many cute change of address cards out there we still believe in sending them snail mail.
  1. Host a housewarming party.
    • This is a great excuse to invite everyone over to see your new home all at once. Open the windows, fire up the grill and chill the drinks. Be proud of your new home and show it off!

We’re so happy you’ve gotten your ducks in a row. But there’s one more thing to remember… enjoy your new home!

Haven’t started the home buying process yet? Complete a mortgage preapproval online or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our friendly, experienced loan officers today.

Photo credit: It’sGreg / Foter / CC BY-ND

Posted in Banking, Buying & Selling, Dream Home, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Pre-Approval | Comments Off on You Did It!

3 Financial Tips We Learned From Dad

dadBecause Father’s Day is right around the corner, we thought we would take a minute to pass on some words of advice from the some of the men in our lives that have influenced us the most, our dads.

Not only did these wonderful guys help to shape what we find interesting and what we find funny, they also tried to pass along words of wisdom to help us live independently as we grew up.

Here are three of their tips that we still hold dear to this day:

  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees

Maybe we were fooled by the green color of those leaf-like bills, but at an early age our fathers made sure we knew money isn’t something that just appears like wild strawberries.  It’s something that should be earned. Not only that, but these days being financially independent is essential if you want the freedom to live the life you want.

  1. Always give back

This isn’t something our fathers taught us, but rather something they showed us. Through their volunteering, financial donations and willingness to help out their neighbors, we were taught young that supporting your community is one of the most rewarding things a person can do.

  1. You can’t take it with you when you go

It’s true! Our fathers never forgot to remind us that life is short, so live it to its fullest. Don’t spend too much time saving and not enough time living. While it’s important to be financially responsible, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t splurge on a trip to Italy or a cooking class once in a while.

Take some time this Father’s Day to call your Dad and thank him for all of the memories, the adventures and the words of wisdom. And for those of you who are dads yourself, don’t forget to pass along these essential lessons to your kids.

Want to learn more about ways to save? Visit us online at greatmidwestbank.com or at one of our nine convenient locations.

Photo credit: lucianvenutian / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

moneyWorking hard, paying bills, and putting money aside for your needs and wants in the “now” are so often automatic in our day-to-day lives – so why aren’t we thinking about or planning for the future? According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly one-third of workers have almost no retirement savings or investments (< $1,000), and a staggering 57% are underprepared with less than $25,000 for retirement.

It’s clear that anyone not using the present to plan for retirement will likely be setting themselves up for a less than golden future. But it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement. Try one – or more! – of these three ways to take advantage of retirement savings opportunities right now to build yourself a more secure future:

  1. Open Up a my Social Security Account

Social Security benefits play an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t forget about your my Social Security account! This free account can help you determine what your benefits will be and when will be best for you to start receiving them.

  1. Save Early and Save Often, No Matter How Much You Earn

Starting retirement savings early is the best way to take advantage of compound interest and establish good savings habits. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and never turn down “free money” that comes in the form of employer contributions or matches. Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are also a great way to save, with some tax benefits in the process. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may also be eligible to participate in the new myRA program. myRA is a simple, safe, and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.

Need help finding ways to save? Canceling your cable could save you $50 a month. That comes out to $600 a year! For more ideas like these, visit America Saves online.

Starting early isn’t possible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch-up. Calculate what you will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Once you have turned 50, you can make “catch-up contributions” – an extra amount beyond the normal limits that you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans.

  1. Take the America Saves Pledge

Those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. Make your commitment to retirement savings today and receive regular advice and support via email and/or texts while you save money. America Saves will provide you with the motivation and advice you need to reach your savings goal.

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org. America Saves is proud to be part of the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through mySocial Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

Written by guest blogger Tammy Greynolds (America Saves)

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013 / Foter / CC BY-SA

Posted in Financial Planning, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Saving/Budgetting, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

Planning Ahead When It Comes Time To Moving

babyMoving can be a very stressful process. Packing, cleaning, driving, lifting and unpacking an entire house is not always an easy task. To make things a little easier on you, we’ve developed a list of considerations to use for planning the big move.

Things you should consider when planning your move:

  • What do you NEED to bring with you? Consider making some donations or possibly having a rummage sale before the move. More cash and fewer things to move sounds like a win/win.
  • What packing supplies will you need? Think about stopping by your local grocery store to pick up free boxes!
  • After making a considerable down payment on your new home, will you be hiring a moving company? Consider asking family members or bribing your friends to help with the move and transportation. (After all, every family has that outdoors loving cousin with the huge truck!) On another note, if you’re moving to another state, look into renting a portable moving pod. It might be more convenient than driving a moving van.
  • While your children and pets are obviously an important part of the move, having them around can be dangerous for their safety and slow down the process. Think about asking someone nearby to watch them for you during the move.
  • When you reach your new home, is there plenty of space to park the moving van or truck? If you’re going to have your own driveway that’s great, but for those of you moving to a location with less parking space, consider ways to make sure you’re not moving your stuff from a parking spot three blocks away.
  • Think about creating a plan for where your furniture is going to go in your new home, and label the boxes. Doing this will help make sure the moving in process is efficient and there will be fewer hazards to trip over in the front rooms.
  • Consider packing your essentials in a separate bag or box. It would be a shame to have to spend your first night in your new home without your favorite ninja turtle pajamas.

The better prepared you are the easier moving will be and the sooner you’ll be all settled in to your new home! For more tips on the home buying process click here to check out our other blog posts, or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our friendly Loan Officers today.

Photo credit: CarbonNYC / Foter / CC BY

Posted in first time homebuyers, Homeowner tips, Moving, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Planning Ahead When It Comes Time To Moving

Kids Or Not, This Is Why You Should Live In A Good School District

bussWhen searching for a new home it’s easy to focus on the home itself. “I’d like 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with an attached garage and hardwood floors.” While these are important things to consider in the short term, when it comes to a long-term investment there are other important factors. Near the top of the list is a high quality school district, whether you have kids or not.

A good school district is important for your children, yes. But did you know buying property within a good school distract can also increase the resale value of your home?

In 2013 the National Association of Realtors conducted a survey with 1000 participating home-buyers. 22% of the participants considered the proximity to a school as very important to their buying decision. Moreover, 29% considered the school’s quality important.

In fact, buyers might be willing to either pay up to 20% more, live in a smaller house or sacrifice amenities like an extra bedroom to live in a high quality school district.

On the other hand, while properties found within high quality school districts also tend to weather poor real estate markets, these homes also often have higher property taxes. We know… you hear higher taxes and you run away screaming. But we wouldn’t recommend making that your deciding factor.

All in all, living within the boundaries of an excellent school district can be great for your kids and great for your home’s resale value. If you’re looking for your next home to be an investment, we’d definitely recommend talking to people in the neighborhood..

Haven’t begun the home buying process yet? Come pay us a visit at Great Midwest Bank to begin the mortgage process today!

Photo credit: madame.furie / Ashley Modern / CC BY-SA

Posted in Buying & Selling, Homeowner tips, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, Moving, Useful Tips | Comments Off on Kids Or Not, This Is Why You Should Live In A Good School District

Banking the Way it “Used to Be!”

bankDon’t get us wrong. At Great Midwest Bank, we offer competitive rates that stack up against the best of them. But we want you to know that banking is not just about low rates and costs.

Why else might you choose Great Midwest Bank?

  • Community Oriented

We’re a family-run, community bank and all about relationships.  Whether participating in a charity run or promoting financial education, we’re passionate about helping and building our communities.  After all, word of mouth is our best form of marketing.

  • Customer Service

We pride ourselves on going above and beyond to help make your experience smooth, whether it’s a mortgage or checking account you’re considering. Lots of companies talk the talk.  We live it, because our ownership structure and financial strength allow us to do so.  As a mutual bank, we’re working for you, not for Wall Street.  We deliver service like it “Used To Be” from most any bank. 

  • We’re Simply Local

We often say, “Mortgages are what we DO.”  Being Wisconsin-based, we understand this market.  Your loan is processed and approved by folks right here, people who understand your city, your town, and your neighborhood. This can make a huge difference in getting your financing approved.

To learn more about Great Midwest Bank, our deposit account options or the home mortgage process stop by one of our nine locations or drop us a line.

Great Midwest Bank. Your Simply…Local, Simply…Social Bank.

Posted in Banking, Customer Service, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages, What Makes Great Midwest Bank so Great? | Comments Off on Banking the Way it “Used to Be!”

Step 4: Closing On Your Dream Home!

step 4You’ve done it! Your ducks are in a row, you’ve found a new place that you can’t wait to call Home and your mortgage loan has been approved. Now all that’s left is Step 4 of the Home Buying Process – The Closing!

You’re almost out of the water, but to make sure this step goes smoothly here are 5 tips:

  1. Consider scheduling your closing as soon as your offer to purchase is accepted. Remember that most offers to purchase reflect an “on or before” closing date.  With enough lead time and a cooperative seller, you may actually be able to consider moving the date up.  Think about a date other than the end of the month or a Friday.  You’ll increase your chances of an extra-smooth process.  Schedule time off from work as you’ll need to be there in person.  Sellers often “pre-sign” ahead of closing.  Buyers almost always attend, though exceptions do exist.   We’re flexible on a closing location, so pick one of our offices or one of the real estate agents’ offices that works for you.
  1. Expect an email from us a few days in advance of closing with a final, exact dollar figure. You’ll need a cashier’s check from your bank or plan to wire transfer funds to us ahead of time.
  1. Before signing on the dotted line, have your Real Estate agent schedule a time with the seller to do one final walk-through of the home. You can double-check that the seller has followed through on necessary repairs and didn’t decide to give you a brand new graffiti filled wall as a house warming gift.  And make sure all garbage and belongings are removed.  We’ve heard plenty of stories about sellers leaving a garage full of “stuff.”
  1. Do some wrist exercises…because you’re going to be signing a number of documents. But because we maintain servicing of many of our mortgage products, there’s less here than at most other lenders.
  1. Closing should last no more than an hour, often less. Because we manage our own closings, our funds are immediately available.  So no waiting after you sign like many other lenders.
  1. The house is yours! Get your keys and move in!

Still looking to get your ducks in a row? Visit or talk with one of our experienced Loan Officers to get the process started!

Posted in Dream Home, first time homebuyers, Get Your Ducks in a Row!, Homeowner tips, Loan Officer, Local Bank, Mortgages | Comments Off on Step 4: Closing On Your Dream Home!