Alpine Trust & Investment Group Officers Promoted

JO_ML Bill Roop, president & CEO of Alpine Bank, has announced the promotions of two Alpine Trust & Investment Group employees, Julie O’Rourke and Michele Lind.

 Julie O’Rourke, CFA, CFP® was promoted to Executive Vice President and Senior Trust & Investment Officer.  Ms. O’Rourke joined Alpine Trust & Investment Group in 2004 and has over two decades of investment management experience. She Chairs the Investment Strategy Committee, is responsible for monitoring the economy and markets, and leading department-wide portfolio strategy decisions.  Ms. O’Rourke supervises the team of investment professionals and manages the investment and financial planning processes.  She works with institutional and high net worth clients.

Prior to joining Alpine Trust & Investment Group, Julie spent 15 years serving as portfolio manager, working with both large institutions and individuals at all stages of wealth. She successfully led a team of equity research analysts as they worked together to manage equity mutual funds. Julie has counseled many different types of institutions regarding the construction of investment policies and appropriate asset allocation.

She has been quoted in several print publications and has appeared on both television and radio to speak about investments, the markets and the economy. She has presented to the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII), the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office Smart Women / Smart Money seminar, as well as to numerous economic and financial market outlook symposiums.

Julie graduated from Rockford University with a BS in Finance and attained the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1995 and the Certified Financial Planner TM (CFP®) designation in 2008.  She is a member of United Way’s Impact Council and the Boone County Council on Aging Endowment Committee and volunteers at St. Mary Parish.

 Michele Lind, CFP® has been promoted to Assistant Vice President & Investment Officer.  Ms. Lind joined Alpine Trust & Investment Group in March 2009.  She manages portfolios of individual trusts and guardianships, investment agency accounts, and 401(k) plans.  She is responsible for monitoring the economy and markets as a member of the Investment Strategy Committee.

Prior to joining the investment group, Michele spent 20 years in the financial planning and investment industry with various positions in administration and marketing, sales and project management, and bank brokerage management.

Michele is a graduate of Rockford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics/Finance.    She earned the Certified Financial PlannerTM designation in 2005 and holds Life and Health Insurance licenses for the state of Illinois.

Michele currently serves on the Finance Committee for Womanspace of Rockford.

New Year’s Resolutions For Your Finances

Are you making a New Year’s resolution this year? You may try to lose weight, get more organized, or try a new hobby. But what are you doing about your finances? If you aren’t using a budget, this is a great time to start one. If you budget already, the New Year is a great time to improve your already good habits!

To get started, track all of your spending for a week. Write down everything you pay for with credit card, debit card, cash, or check.  Keeping this record will help you track where your money is going. After you know where your money is going, you can determine where some cuts can be made.

To start 2015 on the right foot, commit to making one or two of these money-saving resolutions:

Own up to splurges – Everyone has weaknesses – a fancy cup of coffee every morning, expedited shipping, appetizers more expensive than your meal.  You don’t need to cut these out completely. Sometimes we all need a little reward! But don’t forget to include them out of your budget. Be honest with yourself about the small splurges you make and include these expenses along with your more practical expenses.

Pack a lunch one day a week – While this may seem simple to those who regularly pack their food, it seems like a lot of work if you aren’t used to it. The extra time brown-bagging it takes intimidates many of us so we don’t bother and hit the drive thru again. Plan ahead and build more time into your schedule for shopping and meal preparation. Ease yourself into the routine. Just bring your lunch from home one day a week. Try bringing in some leftovers from the night before or a frozen dinner. If the savings drive you to brown-bag your lunch more often, that is an added bonus!

Use comparison shopping apps – If you are part of the smartphone world, you can use your high-tech device to help you save money. Many major retailers have their own apps with special deals and coupons. There are also apps available that allow you to scan a product’s barcode and it will tell you if the item is cheaper somewhere else.

Go generic on one name-brand item – We aren’t saying you need to stop buying name-brand products altogether. Start small. Pick just one thing to switch over to generic. Maybe something like your shampoo? Fancy coffee creamer? What about your household cleaner? If you notice the difference in taste or performance, you can always switch back. But you may find that the only thing you are missing out on is the higher price tag.

Learning how you really spend your money is the first step towards saving. If you need any help with your budget or personal finances, contact Alpine Bank. Our friendly staff would be happy to answer any questions you have.

Shop Smarter, Not Harder

Before you have even had time to finish your Thanksgiving leftovers, the Christmas shopping season is here! Even if you have a long Nice List this year, there is no need to stress. We have some tips on getting through this holiday shopping season without running your wallet and your sanity dry.

Make a list: Write down everyone that you will be buying a gift for – even if it is something small! Jot down some gift ideas for each person along with the maximum amount you can spend on their gift. If you tip your mail carrier, baby sitter, or doorman at Christmas, don’t forget to include them on this list. This will help you determine your holiday budget.

Spread out your shopping: Even if you won’t listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, you can still start your holiday shopping before December! Keep your eyes open all year for the perfect thing for your loved ones. That way when December arrives, you will already have a head start on your shopping and can avoid some of the hassle. Make sure you put all the early purchases in a designated space so you don’t forget about what you bought earlier in the year.

Do your research: If you aren’t sure what specific brand or type of item to buy, check online for reputable reviews. Sites like Amazon.com offer user reviews and ratings that make it easy to see feedback. Comparison sites like Pricegrabber.com can help you find the best online price as well.

Take advantage of no-cost holiday shipping: Many retailers will offer last-minute shoppers the gift of free shipping that is guaranteed to arrive on or before Christmas Eve. If you prefer to shop early, many websites offer free shipping when you spend a certain amount or more.

Don’t let holiday shopping get the best of you or your budget. With a little extra effort and planning, you could save yourself some money and stress. For additional budget tips, talk with a member of our staff at Alpine Bank. We are always willing to help with any of your personal finance concerns.

Alpine Bank Announces New In-Store Branch Officer

WandellShondra_11_2014Alpine Bank is pleased to announce Shondra Wandell has been promoted to In-Store Branch Officer, at the Schnucks East State branch located at 6410 East State St., Rockford.  Ms. Wandell has been in the banking industry for over 9 years, with nearly six of those years with the Alpine Bank family.  She is a lifelong resident of the Rockford area and received her Associates of Arts degree through Rock Valley College.

Ms. Wandell stated, “I’m lucky to be a part of a company that cares about their employees and is very involved in the community…We give our time and attention to show [our account holders] we really are a bank you can actually like.”

She remains committed to the area she has always called home, by continuously volunteering at Alpine Bank sponsored events.  She is also secretary for JuBell-ee Festival, a non-profit which holds a concert once a year to raise money for local charities.

 

Beat Rising Food Prices

As we forge head first into winter, experts are saying that some common food items are going to cost more. The prices of oranges, bacon, chocolate, cheese, deli meats, chicken, butter and pasta are predicted to increase due to environmental issues like disease and drought. Follow these steps to beat the rising prices of food.

1.    Stock up during sales – Check your supermarket’s website or weekly ad to find out which nonperishable items are on sale. If you have room to store the items, buy them whether you are out of them or not to avoid a price hike in the future.

2.    Buy the store brand – Most brand name items are pricier than the generic store brand. It is time to reconsider your brand loyalty for the sake of saving some cash.

3.    Coupons – Clipping coupons no longer requires a few hours with scissors in hand. Most stores make it easy to find coupons online or through the store’s app. Many stores offer exclusive discounts via their app!

4.    Shop local – If you are doing your grocery shopping at a store that is pricier than others, you will feel an even bigger blow when food prices spike. Consider switching to a lower-priced store for your everyday needs and working in trips to other retailers that have better prices for specific items.

5.    Find alternatives – Many items get more expensive because they are out of season. Substitute vitamin C-rich fresh fruits with vegetables like kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts that are in season. You can also beat the cost of rising meat by avoiding the pricier cuts like steaks, pork tenderloins and skinless chicken breasts.

You don’t need to break your budget at the grocery store this winter. With some thoughtful planning and adjustments, you may actually lower your bill! At Alpine Bank, we encourage you to lay out your finances at the beginning of the season and plan ahead to ensure you are fully prepared. Alpine Bank can be reached at (815) 398-6500 or stop in at one of our locations! We hope to serve all of your financial needs

Alpine Bank Honored as Top 100 Workplaces

TWP_TOP100_Chicago_Portrait_2014_AWOn Thursday, November 13, Alpine Bank was recognized by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top 100 Workplaces in the Chicagoland area.

We’ve always believed that our employees are one of our greatest assets and it shows.  Our employees enjoy working here and we appreciate their passion for helping people, businesses and our communities.

President and CEO, Bill Roop, stated, “We are truly honored to be chosen as one of the top 100 places to work.  Our employees are the ones who truly deserve this.  We believe that Happy and Productive employees are the foundation for our success.”

“One area we focus on every day is ‘Happy Employees, Happy Customers’,” says Lesly Couper, Marketing & Communications Senior Vice President.  “Our employees take it to heart and treat every customer and coworker with respect.”

For details on the rankings, please visit: http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-chicago-tribune-2014-top-workplaces-20141114-story.html

Guard Yourself Against Identity Theft When You Travel

Are you trading in a week of Illinois winter for a beach trip this winter? Or maybe traveling out of state to visit family for the holidays? Whatever your travel plans are, it is important to understand the risk of identity theft.  Practice these bits of advice to guard yourself against becoming a victim of identity theft.

1.       Tell your credit card company that you will be traveling

Fraud departments are becoming increasingly attentive to unusual activity on your card. This is a great way to detect any problems but it can also end up leaving you with a frozen account when you are out of town. Notify your bank before leaving home to avoid any hassle. This is especially important if you are planning to leave the country and won’t have phone service to verify your charges!

2.       Secure your mail

Ask a trusted friend or family member to pick up your mail each day while you are gone. Your mail may contain important information such as credit card numbers and personal data that could lead to identity theft. Don’t post the dates of your travel plans on Facebook either. That is pretty much inviting strangers into your empty house.

3.       Clean out your wallet

If you are traveling to a popular tourist destination, you need to safeguard against pickpockets. Go through your wallet and take out unneeded credit cards and personal information. A common travel tip is to make copies of all important documents such as your passport, driver’s license and health insurance and leave them with a trusted friend or family member. In the event that your wallet is stolen, you will be able to access the information.

Identity theft is a very real crime that we are all at risk for. It is important to be vigilant and monitor your financial and credit statements closely for suspicious activity. Please contact Alpine Bank if you are worried about your financial security and we would be happy to help you secure your accounts and keep your money safe. If you are planning to travel, consider one of our Holiday and Vacation savings accounts. These not only help you save up but also keep your money safe!

5 Simple Steps to Organize Your Finances TODAY

 

Keeping your personal finances organized can save you money and stress

Keeping your personal finances organized can save you money and stress.

Are you a purger or a hoarder? Either way, important financial documents are probably being ignored. This can result in late fees, overdraft charges and other costs that could be prevented if an organization system was set in place. Use Get Organized Week as an opportunity to start fresh and try some of these tips from Alpine Bank to organize your personal finances.

  • Choose a system that works for you. There are many free web-based solutions that allow you to record your bills and payments online. Other people choose to use the classic paper and pencil method. Whichever method you choose, commit to it.
  • Get the tools you need. This may mean getting folders to organize each payment into categories such as taxes, credit cards, investments etc. It is important to establish a uniform way to store all of your paper bills and documents to prevent them from being misplaced or ignored.
  • Pay your bills as soon as they come. Getting the payment out of the way helps to prevent papers from piling up on the counter where they can easily be lost or thrown away. Many late fees are charged because the bill was simply forgotten about.
  • When possible, pay bills online or through email. Digital payment systems help cut down the clutter as well as the chances of losing a paper document. An automated payment system can be handy for fixed monthly costs too!
  • Keep everything in one place. Some people choose to organize bills into folders or a single notebook while others scan and save bills into a designated computer file. Even something simple like keeping receipts in a shoebox or designated desk drawer can help keep track of your files. There are many different methods so you can choose which is best for you.

Organizing your finances may seem like a daunting task but once you get in the swing of a certain method, you will notice that it is an easy way to cut back on the clutter and stress that fills your life.

Preventing a Financial Fall

Don't let low temperatures raise your bills this fall

Don’t let low temperatures raise your bills this fall

As the leaves begin to change and the countdown to Halloween begins, there is no doubt that fall is here. The change in the seasons also brings different expenses you’ll have to account for when budgeting during the fall months.

Alpine Bank wants to make sure you’re financially prepared for the coming months, so let’s take a look at some expenses you and your family could be facing in the next couple of months.

Heating- Farmer’s Almanac and other forecasts are predicting that we will be pulling out our snow shovels a little earlier than usual this year. This means you will also be relying on your furnace more. A thorough maintenance examination by a technician is a good place to start, and changing out the filter each month will help air flow efficiently so you spend less on heating.

Electricity- As the days grow dark earlier, you’ll be flipping on light switches and lamps earlier in the evening. Be smart about what lights you have on and off, and create a plan for keeping unused appliances unplugged to help with energy savings.

Warmer clothing- When you’re out shopping for pants, sweatshirts and jackets, try retailers that routinely mark down prices and have sales. Many companies now have apps and websites that make it easy to compare and find the best price.

Food- If we face the predicted severe fall and winter, you could see rising food prices at the grocery store. This calls for a shopping list filled with items that can easily be made into casseroles or crock pot recipes that can feed your family for more than one meal. Again, you may need to comparison shop at different stores for the best deals.

Through smart budgeting and careful planning of how your heating and electricity are used, you can make it through the fall with relatively little change in your expenses. If you need help with your finances or have additional questions, ­­­­­­­Alpine Bank would be glad to help!