The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol


Small Business Saturday!

The leaves have fallen, temperatures are dropping, and once again, “Black Friday” is upon us. As most of you are aware, Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, and is both the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season and one of the busiest shopping days of the year. As we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, it’s important that we take the time to appreciate the impact of small businesses on our communities and on our lifestyles.

Tomorrow, November 28, is the 3rd annual “Small Business Saturday“, an effort by American Express to encourage us to shop at small businesses during this critical time of year. In addition to supporting smal businesses with your purchases tomorrow, I’d encourage everyone to read and share the following statistics with their friends and family. It’s important tat we  remember just how much small businesses contribute to our economy.

Small firms:
•    Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
•    Employ half of all private sector employees.
•    Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
•    Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
•    Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
•    Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
•    Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
•    Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
•    Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau and Intl. Trade Admin.; Advocacy-funded research by Kathryn Kobe, 2007 ( and CHI Research, 2003 (;U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Are you looking to start a small business? The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation provides many great tools for women and minorities looking to start a small business in Wisconsin. If you’re interested in getting started, check out their calendar of classes- 16 between now and Christmas – that will teach you about topics like business certification, credit score improvement, budgeting, Quickbooks, and many more.

Related Reading:

Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation


FAQ Unclaimed Property: How Does Unclaimed Property Become Unclaimed?


Property becomes unclaimed or abandoned when there has been no owner activity in relation to the account for a period of 5 years and when the owner has not been able to be contacted by the holder of that asset. A holder may include a bank, savings institution, credit union, insurance company, business or utility company.

OST Design large seal

Money Matters: Resources for Getting Out of Debt

We’ve committed most of the month of January to helping you get your fiscal house in order by GETTING OUT OF DEBT!

Our friends at provided to us a useful list of resources outside our blog series to help you get out of debt in 2014.  Please also find some useful tools by perusing our website:

For budgeting information or debt counseling at little or no cost, contact any of the following nonprofit organizations:

                                                                           American Consumer Credit Counselingsurprise-money1
24 Crescent St.
Waltam, MA 02154
Phone: 781-647-3377

<!–Debt Counselors of America
Phone: 800-680-3328
Money Management International
9009 West Loop South, 7th Floor
Houston, TX 77096-1719
Phone: 888-845-5669


National Foundation for Credit Counseling
2000 M Street
NW Suite 505
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 800-388-2227

As the nation’s largest financial counseling organization, the NFCC Member Agency Network includes more than 700 community-based offices located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. More than 3 million consumers annually receive financial counseling and education from NFCC Member Agencies in person, over the phone, or online. To locate an NFCC Member Agency in your area call 800-388-2227. Para ayuda en Español Ilama al 800-682-9832.

Money Matters: What Is YOUR Debt Load?

NOT buying a house

Debt Load

Last week, we talked about getting out of Debt.  How can you really do that if you don’t understand your “Debt Load?”  Our friends at provide a guide.  Are you out of your debt comfort zone? Does it seem as though you’re paying too much to bill collectors and not enough for savings and the things you enjoy in life? If so, it’s a good idea to figure out just how much debt you have and compare that to how much you earn. This will give you clear understanding of your financial health.  For online article, CLICK HERE.

Debt Load
The first step is to calculate your debt load. This is the sum total of all the money you owe:

  • Mortgage
  • Student Loans
  • Credit Cards
  • Even loans from friends and family.

Debt/Income Ratio
Once you have your debt load figured out, you’ll want to know just how big of a burden it is. You can do this the way banks and creditors do, by calculating your debt/income ratio – the amount you owe compared to the amount you earn. It’s easy:

  1. Calculate all your monthly debt payments – including credit cards, mortgage and child support. (If you don’t have fixed monthly payments, you can estimate your monthly payments at 4 percent of the total amount you owe.)
  2. Take your gross annual wages and divide them by 12. That’s your monthly income.
  3. Take your monthly payments total and divide it by your monthly income.
  4. Move the decimal point two digits to the right to make it a percentage. That’s your debt/income ratio.

Here’s an example. Let’s say your monthly income is $2,000 and your monthly payments on your debt load totals $500. If you divide 500 by 2,000 you get .25. Move the decimal point two places to the right and you get 25% as your debt/income ratio.

How much is too much?
Only you can know for sure how much debt is too much. If you’re feeling a financial squeeze every month because of credit card bills, you don’t need anyone to tell you you’re out of your debt comfort zone – you know.

But as a general rule of thumb, a debt/income ratio of 10 % or less is outstanding. If it’s between 10 – 20 %, your credit is good, and you can probably borrow more.

But once you hit 20 % or above, it’s time to take a serious look at your debt load. Creditors will be less likely to give a loan to someone with such a high debt/income ratio, and those that do will probably charge higher interest.

Worse, if you have a debt/income ratio above 20 %, chances are you’ll feel a strain on your budget.

The 28/36 Rule
Another helpful guide is one mortgage lenders use: the “28/36 rule.” It stipulates that your debt shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income, while your total debt service – including your house payments and utilities – shouldn’t be more than 36 percent.

Mortgage companies will also compare debt load to annual income. They’ll typically loan up to three times what a person makes in a year. So if a home buyer earns $30,000, they might qualify for a $90,000 mortgage.


Wisconsin Saves Fun Tip: New Years Resolution: Get Out of Debt!

OST Design large sealThe Wisconsin Office of the State Treasurer proudly teams up with WWBIC (Wisconsin’s Womens Business Initiative Corporation) for “Wisconsin Saves.” Each week, we will share with you a savings courtesy of WWBIC. This week, how to kick off the New Year with a cleaner fiscal house. We take at a look at how to GET OUT OF DEBT…..WWBIC

Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt is the #3 goal Savers select when they pledge to save. That does not come as a surprise since a 2012 survey showed that 45% of families with annual incomes under $50,000 rely on credit cards to pay for basic needs such as rent, utilities, insurance and food. Large consumer debts can also keep you from saving and building wealth.

The good news is that there is hope. With planning, discipline, patience, and maybe some outside help, almost anyone can reduce their debts and start to accumulate wealth.

Are you in Trouble?

If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, then you probably need to get your debts under better control:

1.Can you only afford to make minimum payments on your credit cards?
2.Do you worry about finding the money to make monthly car payments?
3.Do you borrow money to pay off old debts?
4.Have you used a home equity loan to refinance credit card debts, then run up new revolving balances on your cards?

Money Matters: New Budget for a New Year, How to Rework it!

gold piggy bank

Rework Your Budget

Knowing where your money goes is an eye-opening experience and an education in itself. Why not start off the New Year right with a fresh look at your finances.  What is working from last year that you can carry over. What should you leave in 2013?  Our friends at have an easy way to get started!   This calculator will help you by tracking your expenses. Keep a log and jot down whatever you spend. In this way, you will be able to take control of your money and your current financial situation.  CLICK HERE for that calculator and your ticket to rework your budget!  Happy New Year!

Money Matters: 12 Days/Ways to Save Money During the Holidays!

holiday moneyTired of starting the new year with a pile of debt? Shop smart, and you can enjoy the holidays without putting yourself in the poor house. Here are 14 tips to help you make the most of your time and money:

1. Decide how much you can spend.

“Most people go about it all wrong,” says Ric Edelman, author of “Financial Security in Troubled Times.” “The first thing they do is come up with a list of people (to buy for).”

Instead, Edelman recommends setting your holiday budget before you go near a store.

One big mistake? People overlook the little extras when they draft a budget. Include everything from postage for Christmas cards to holiday party favors and home decorations to the cost of boarding a pet if you’re traveling.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

Armed with your budget, take a cue from St. Nick by making a list of all the people you want to buy for. Then go over the list and decide how much you can spend on each, Edelman suggests. Don’t have enough money to cover your holiday budget? Go through it again, and cut names or amounts. Once you settle on a dollar amount for each person, that’s it. “If you can’t afford a sweater, get something else,” says Edelman. “Focus on the amount you’ll spend, not what you’ll buy.”

For big families, develop a gift list with other relatives, advises Mark Gorkin, a licensed clinical social worker known as “The Stress Doc.” “You shouldn’t have to buy something for everyone,” he says.

3. Pay cash.

“If you know that you’ve had trouble in (years) past, do a cash-only Christmas,” says Clark Howard, co-author of the book “Get Clark Smart: The Ultimate Guide for the Savvy Consumer” and host of a nationally syndicated consumer call-in show. His holiday advice: set a limit, take that money out of your credit union or bank, “and when that (money’s) gone, it’s over.

4. Think of credit cards as short-term loans.

Ideally, you’ll want to pay everything off immediately. Have a choice of cards? Always use the card that offers the lowest interest rate. A good idea is to track your credit card spending just as you would if you were writing a check. Remember: It’s really easy in the flurry of the holiday spending to run around and not keep track.

5. Put yourself on your shopping list.

It sounds selfish, but it’s really smart. “There are things you would not have bought for yourself that you end up, on impulse, buying (for someone else),” says Howard. The best antidote is to give yourself a little splurge, too.

6. Allow enough time for all your holiday preparations.

Who hasn’t run out for a gift at the last minute and ended up paying top dollar? But whether you’re shopping, baking or wrapping presents to send cross-country, budgeting your time can end up saving you tons of money.

7. Don’t overlook the value of intangibles.

Do you want to give someone a gift but don’t have the money? If you’re already baking cookies for your family, making an extra batch as a present for a neighbor is fairly economical. Want to help a friend who’s got a lot on her plate? Offer to baby-sit, walk the dog or take an elderly relative for an outing. The cost is next to nothing, but the gift is priceless.

8. Send e-cards.

They’re free, don’t require postage and no one has to wash their hands after opening them. Some even play music, making them a fun, free way to catch up with far-flung friends and family.

9. Just say “no” to toy lust.

If your kids still believe in Santa, help them draft real-world wish lists. In the post-Santa years, set some financial boundaries, and give them some choices. “The child still gets a chance to choose,” says Gorkin. “But you help the child remember there are still real limits.”

10. Look for meaning over glitz.

“Especially when you get into your 40s and you’ve got everything you need, words and gestures mean more,” says Rachel Ashwell, author of “The Shabby Chic Gift of Giving.” A thoughtful gift can be anything as simple as a set of dice (message: life’s a gamble) to a few beautiful bottles collected for minimum cost at various flea markets or antique marts, Ashwell says.

11. Shop for weddings at Christmas.

Even if your big day is a year away, holidays are a great time to get a deal on bridal gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses. “This is the slowest time of the year for bridal apparel shops,” says Fields, who also co-authored “Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget.” “No one goes shopping for wedding dresses in November or December.”

12. Get married during the holidays.

Shopping for a wedding date? December offers some pluses in the budget department. “Most churches are already decorated for Christmas, which means you get to save a lot on flowers,” says Fields, who estimates that couples can cut at least $500 from their budgets by planning Yuletide nuptials. The downside is that because of holiday parties, many caterers, bands and DJs are booked for the season, which means it’s not a great time to plan a huge event. But if you have your heart set on an intimate gathering, you can have the wedding of your dreams and a nice nest egg to start your new life together.

13. Take a vacation.

Resorts and cruise ships are hurting for business, says Edward Hasbrouck, author of “The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World,” which makes this a great time for a luxury getaway. “They’ve paid for the hotel (rooms), and that’s a cost they’re stuck with,” says Hasbrouck. “Similarly, cruise lines are in particularly bad shape.”

“If you want to get away, you will see all kinds of hotels offering truly unprecedented bargains,” says Hasbrouck. “For not much, if anything, more than Motel 6 prices, you can have a much nicer hotel. This will make it quite tempting to get away over the holidays.”

But shop around. The same room at the same hotel can fetch vastly different prices depending on how it is booked. Look up the hotel online, through a broker and through the hotel chain’s website; chances are the prices will be different, and you might need the special codes listed on those sites to get the deal, according to Howard.

“What I like for people to do with hotels is try various online search sites, then call the hotel directly and call central reservations,” says Howard. “No matter what price is quoted, act shocked. Say, ‘Don’t you have anything better than that?'” Just like hotels, rental car companies are hurting for business and offering some good deals — daily rates for less than $20, according to Howard — so do your homework.

14. Remember the reason for the season.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, keeping the holiday’s spiritual message front and center is a good antidote to the holiday gimmies. “Instead of spending weekends leading up to Christmas in the mall, it would be a lot better gift to spend your time with your family,” says Howard.

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