3rd Quarter 2017

Inside this issue:

The Digital Vault: How We Protect Your Information

Not that many years ago financial institutions routinely emphasized the safety of customer funds when placed on deposit with the bank.  That message was reinforced through the use of vaults, alarm systems and, in some cases, iron bars on windows.  But in today’s information age the emphasis has transitioned to the safety of your personal information.  At The Peoples Community Bank we start this process by not disclosing personal information about our customers to anyone except as required by law and expand on this through the following means:

•    We’ve constructed structural and technological walls to contain customer information and we run frequent tests to ensure that our systems work.
•    We retain outside experts to test our systems for information security.
•    We require key suppliers and business partners to furnish information about their system security and further require them to meet our security standards.
•    We have instituted vigorous training and oversight of all staff and restrict data only to those within the bank who need it to perform their job function.
•    We employ encryption technologies to all customer data.
•    We shred all documents daily that contain sensitive customer information.
•    We have multiple layers of security on our website to keep information of both online and mobile banking customers secure.
•    We require multiple, and very strong, passwords for each employee that is given access to internal systems.
•    We maintain all operational and data processing systems in a secure environment that protects your account information from being accessed by third parties.

While not all inclusive (we don’t want to give away any secrets) the above will give you some sense of the lengths that we undertake to prevent your financial information from being compromised.  We take pride in the fact that our systems have never been breached and have procedures in place 24/7 to ensure that that continues to be the case.  

We believe that the basis of your relationship with our bank is trust.  To that end the safekeeping of your personal information is a priority for us and the reason we lay claim to Simply Good Banking.

We’ll Match It:

From July 1st until August 4th we are accepting donations in our lobbies on behalf of Walk with G.R.A.C.E. and 4PeteSake. These two charities do a tremendous job of supporting our communities, a key goal for our bank.  We are pleased to partner with them in raising funds for their respective causes. In an effort to make your contribution go further, we will match the first $1,000 raised. Simply stop by our Richland Center, Spring Green, Plain or Arena locations to make a donation before August 4th. 

The Next Great Stage:

Last October after the final show of the summer season had come to an end, the performers and staff at American Players Theatre (APT) said their farewells and gave way to construction crews who were ready to break ground on the $7.7 million renovation project set to take place over the course of the next several months.  The project, known as “The Next Great Stage”, was intended not only to improve the audience’s experience through various lighting and audio system updates, but to make some needed upgrades to the stage, storage, rehearsal facilities, and performer accommodations. 

We had a chance to tour the facilities and speak with some of the project stakeholders shortly after construction had begun last fall. Through that conversation two things became very clear; 1. Keeping the aesthetic that has made APT the renowned theatre experience it is was paramount and, 2. Using local businesses to bring this project together was of particular importance. 

We again had the opportunity to tour the grounds this spring as construction was winding down and were able to witness those local contributions firsthand. Kraemer Brothers (KBI), the general contractor headquartered in Plain, did a masterful job of taking the creative vision set forth by APT and bringing that to life while maintaining the strong building standards that they are known for.  Carrie Van Hallgren, APT’s Managing Director commented, "One of the benefits of a small community is the opportunity to work closely with your friends and neighbors.  Our local partners in this project, The Peoples Community Bank, Kraemer Brothers, Westbrook, and many others, have provided exceptional service.  They understand APT, what we do, and our particular needs.  The support of the River Valley community has been, and will be, key to APT's success. We are lucky to be here."

The renovation project wrapped up as scheduled in time for the start of the 2017 season. If you’re interested in seeing a show at the new and improved Hill Theatre at APT, tickets are available at tickets.americanplayers.org or you can call the Box Office at 608-588-2361 for assistance.

How to be Smart about Student Loans, Part 2: Before School

Student loan debt has become a hot topic, and with good reason. In 2006, U.S. student loan debt hovered around $600 billion; today, that number has skyrocketed to $1.3 trillion. By itself, that number isn't a bad thing - it means more Americans are going to college. However, the number of defaults is also approaching critical levels. For the second installment of our two-part student loan article we look at ways to prepare for the financial burden of college.

Create a Strategy
First and foremost, create a strategy early. The longer you have to save, the bigger the impact will be. However, if you're starting late, resist the temptation to pull from other savings like retirement funds. Parents: Never forgo saving for retirement in order to build up a college fund. There are many resources available to help students pay for college but there's no such thing as a loan to retire. 

College Savings Programs
One great way to save money for college, if you're able to start early, is through the Wisconsin College Savings Program. This program, made up of the 529 EdVest and Tomorrow's Scholar college savings plans, enables consumers to save tax-free dollars to pay for future post-secondary education costs. You can find out more about the program by speaking with one of our Investment Center representatives at (608) 795-2120.

Another great college savings option is our College Saver CD which allows students up to age 25 earn a premium rate while still being able to withdraw funds twice per year after high school graduation without penalty. To learn more, call or stop by and speak with a Personal Banker at any of our locations.

Scholarships and Grants
Applying for grants and scholarships should be part of every college-bound student's strategy. National grants include Pell Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants and National SMART Grants, but local scholarships also go a long way. Civic organizations, religious institutions, and local businesses often have meaningful amounts of aid available to students willing to fill out an application. Keep an eye out for our bank’s scholarship opportunity each spring! And don't forget to ask the school itself how you can maximize their financial aid package. If you've been accepted to more than one school, it might even be possible to negotiate for a better package. 

Student Loans
Federal loans, whether subsidized or not, are a better option than private student loans for most consumers. Because federal loans are cheaper and have more flexible repayment options, students with financial need should always exhaust their federal options before looking to private loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has more information and resources on student loans available on its website at www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college. The most important thing to remember when applying for loans is to know how much you need. Having a defined "ceiling" in mind will help prevent you from taking on more debt than necessary. 

Community Support

Each year we commit a portion of our annual earnings to eligible non-profit organizations that have a focus on charitable, educational or cultural purposes for area residents.  Contributions so far from January 1st to June 27th: $26,437.