Seize 2017

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Money shouldn’t hold you back from real change in 2017

New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition. As in, the ancient Babylonians were setting self-improvement goals 4,000 years ago. And just like us, they were soon breaking them. If you’ve made promises to yourself about some major lifestyle changes in 2017, chances are good you’ll start to see some slippage sooner rather than later.

This year, I will…

Lose weight.

Stop smoking.

Get in shape.

Save money.

Sound familiar?

Bumming a smoke – or just a Coke – from a co-worker. Those leftover Christmas cookies. Ordering a little more than your holiday gift card could cover. It happens.

The reason New Year’s resolutions usually fail is twofold: They’re overly ambitious, and they don’t come with tangible plans attached.

You can, of course, sign up for a weight loss program or gym membership – those places are swarming with motivated newbies this time of year. And that kind of support and commitment is one way to tip the odds in your favor. But you’ll do even better by stepping back and taking a breath before you make any promises to yourself.

Say you want to get in shape. Well, what does that even look like? If you’ve been lounging for years, you won’t be running marathons this June. Just not going to happen. You’re more likely to overextend, burn out and even hurt yourself if you go all-in with twice-daily workouts. Then, disappointed with yourself, you’re back on the couch.

So start small. Make a list of things you can realistically do. Then incorporate them into your life one at a time. Take the stairs at work for a month before you join that yoga class. Keep up the yoga for a month, then start meeting friends for walks.

The “transform by baby steps” principle isn’t new, but people who’ve made real change happen in their lives swear by it. If your goals are tied to money, the psychology becomes a little more complicated. It probably involves you telling yourself things like this:

“I don’t have enough money to do that.”

“More money would solve most of my problems.”

“Making less money would be irresponsible and selfish.”

“I have a secure career path and I’m sticking with it.”

When you take the time to really dream about that thing you’ve always wanted to do, you probably hear some of those self-defeating justifications. That’s because most people make terrible life coaches for themselves. Money is an easy thing to hang your insecurities on when the thing you’re really afraid of is taking a shot at your ultimate goal and failing.

Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame is fond of saying, “Failure is always an option.” That’s because truly successful people have a string of failures in their pasts. Nothing worth doing is achieved without risk. Not opening your own bakery, writing that screenplay or traveling around the world. If you’re not chasing your dream, don’t blame it on money.

The Great Recession ripped the mask off money myths for millions. Here are some things the latest financial crash reminded us of:

You don’t need a lot of money to start a business.

Money in the bank doesn’t make you happier.

You can live on much less money than you do now.

No job is secure.

You’ll have more than one career before retirement – if retirement is even the ultimate goal.

Scary? Yes. But freeing, too. Yes, you might have family responsibilities – but those don’t have to include PlayStations and cable. Your true legacy could be one of ambition and excitement for those around you.

A new year doesn’t mean you should quit your job and buy a food truck if you can’t make a bologna sandwich. But 2017 can be the year you finally restore that muscle car in your dad’s shed, the year you actually enroll in a small business class, the year you get on a plane with nothing but a backpack and a map.

It’s easy to forget that money is just a tool to help us shape our lives according to our dreams. We’re not supposed to shape our dreams around accumulating more of it. Money isn’t the goal. A great life is.

Festive Decor For Less

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Create a festive holiday feel in your home for less

Hosting any kind of holiday gathering means putting up a few decorations to set the mood. If you’ve put off the job until the last minute, or you just have no desire to spend hundreds on an elaborate tree dripping with ornaments, here are some ideas to get you started without emptying your wallet.

Decorate the greenery you already own. Who says your ficus isn’t festive? A strand of LED lights won’t hurt it, and you might not want to take them down. The same goes for any sturdy houseplants – even cactus. Arrange them in a row against a wall for a nontraditional backdrop.

Put your leftover wrapping paper to use. Brightly wrapped books stand in for stacks of presents. You can also line serving trays or even fill empty photo frames with holiday paper. If you’re really crafty, you can create bows, place mats, streamers and even paper trees.

Shine lights through glass. The new strands of affordable, battery-powered LED lights are perfect for coiling inside mason jars, glass vases glass building block cubes or even glass serving bowls. Because the LED strands don’t get too hot, you can incorporate ribbons or other ornamentation.

Raid the yard for supplies. Pinecones and freshly cut sprigs of coniferous trees make an easy mantel drape, table runner decoration or even a tiny tree stand-in. Pinecones are perfect for dipping in metallic paint or dusting with glitter – a great art project for little ones if you have some around.

Make Christmas cards into something special. With nothing but a hole punch, some thumbtacks and a few yards of yarn, you can fashion a meaningful wall or fireplace display from all the pretty cards you’ve gotten. If you don’t have enough cards, fill out your presentation by alternating cards with construction paper snowflakes.

Set a memorable table with kraft paper. Unfurling a roll of this basic brown paper over your dining room table is just the beginning. Kraft paper can be decorated with everything from Sharpies and stamps to glitter and glued-on pages from old books or sheet music. You can even set out piles of crayons for the party. And when you’re all done, just roll up and throw away.

Leave no ornament behind. If you’ve got basic tree decorations that didn’t make the cut this year, dress them up with a little metallic spray paint or glitter. Pile them on a cake stand or inside a glass vase, and voila! Instant centerpiece.

Don’t forget the pillows. You can wrap old Christmas sweaters around pillows and make them look like presents without sewing a stitch, or just tie decorative bows around solid bright throw pillows.

Break out the fancy glassware. Even if you don’t drink from your martini or wineglasses, you can dust the rims with sugar and fill them with colorful holiday candies, then stash them around the house for party wanderers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last-minute gifts don’t have to be lame. Unless that’s the idea.

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Some people are just hard to buy for. So you wait and wait, until suddenly it’s crunch time. Here are some not-so-lame gift ideas if you find yourself stuck.

Buying for someone who lives to laugh? Raise the everyday humor ante with these titles.

  • You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein. The memoir of a tomboy and a late bloomer, from one of Amy Schumer’s head writers.
  • American Housewife, by Helen Ellis. Twelve short stories of women under pressure range from the acerbic to the surreal.
  • I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro. The comedian’s personal tale of four months of tragedy has been known to cause laughter through tears.

Need something for that coworker who thinks they’re Wolfgang Puck?

  • Les Moulins Mahjoub Natural Preserved Lemons. Offer to be a taster for new recipes.
  • Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. Made with Madagascar bourbon. For intense flavor and those telltale “real vanilla” specks.
  • An apron with a measuring cheat sheet on it. Because the metric system is for people with funny accents.

Know an old guy who needs nothing? Maybe you call him your boss. Or “Dad.”

  • A wilderness fire starter. He’s not outdoorsy, you say? Doesn’t matter. Males love fire.
  • A scratch-off map of the world. He’ll be able to tell young’uns all his travel stories with a visual aid for a change.
  • Night Vision Driving Glasses. He’ll feel like a Navy SEAL when he’s going out to get milk after dark.

Passive-aggressive gifts for that woman in your life who gives out backhanded compliments, as in: “That outfit really creates the illusion of a waistline.”

  • A cellulite massager. That is all.
  • An illuminated makeup mirror. Tell her, “I think better lighting will just make all the difference.” Practice saying it with a straight face.
  • A succulent garden containing cacti. Because it’s prickly.

For the children in your life, or just people who live their lives as such.

  • Hatchimals. New for 2016, these spotted “eggs” eventually reveal magical creatures inside.
  • Kinetic Sand. Hours of fun and less messy than it sounds, too.
  • A Buddha Board. It uses water as vanishing paint, like Snapchat for doodlers.

Oh, someone fancies themselves an artist, do they?

  • Twistables Slick Stix: Hard to find in stores, these Crayola twist-ups are a dream combo of crayons, pastels and markers.
  • Dylusions Ink Spray: You could spray them, but most people stencil, stamp and paint to create dynamic transparencies with these waterproof acrylics.
  • Washi Tape: It’s like beauty you can unroll. Washi is an obsession on Pinterest, where crafters use it to mark up calendars, wrap presents and take scrapbooking to the next level.

When you’re last-minute shopping, Amazon Prime and other free-shipping sites can be your best friends, but don’t count out locally owned brick-and-mortar stores for inspiration and unique finds. Just make sure you go in with a list and a plan.

You also might be tempted into grabbing a few things for yourself – just admit it now – but make sure that’s built into your holiday budget, too.

 

 

Smart Holiday Gift Giving

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Who doesn’t love to be a bighearted Santa at this time of year? Giving nice gifts to your friends and family feels even better than getting gifts (well, most of the time). But equating big hearts with big spending is where we often go wrong.

So how much should you spend on gifts? We can’t give you a specific dollar amount because every budget is unique. However, the average amount spent last year on gifts was $800, and with an average household income of $50,000 you could adjust your spending to your income. But that doesn’t mean that is the correct amount for you. The best plan to is to understand your budget and what you can afford. And, most importantly, stick to your budget.

Here are some ideas to help you rein in your holiday spending.

Make a list and check it twice

Remembering at the last minute that you forgot a gift for Aunt Sue or your boss is a surefire way to bust your budget. Make a list of everyone you want to buy a present for and then make sure you include that gift in your budget.

Buy in advance

You know you won’t find the best deals the week before Christmas, so keep your eyes open for deals year-round. The earlier you start, the more money you’ll save because you won’t be in a rush and you’ll be able to take advantage of sales. And don’t forget wrapping paper. Buy after the holiday and sock it away. Plus, if you’ve done most of your shopping early, you’ll be able to enjoy the season more.

Make ordinary things “presents”

Save up some of the things you would buy for family anyway and put them under the tree. This might include items that are replaced frequently like batteries and shoes, or winter clothing that you might not need at the start of the season. Opening the gift is half the fun no matter what’s inside.

Wrap “family gifts” to add to kids’ presents

The annual family membership to the science museum or zoo, movie or restaurant gift cards, or even homemade coupons for a “Father/Daughter Evening” are expenses you incur throughout the year but are more fun to unwrap as a present Christmas morning.

Cut out the adults

You’re probably not the only one you know who is stressed about finding the perfect gift and, of course, being able to afford it. Sometimes if you’ve been giving presents to each other for years, a little gift-giving hiatus is the perfect gift.

Raising Selfless Children

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Our children are growing up in an age filled with relentless messages to consume more, more, more, as well as immediate access to almost anything. Add to that the rapidly evolving technology available to them and the ever-present competition among peers, and the difficulty of raising selfless children in a materialistic world can seem impossible. But it’s not hopeless, of course, and there are plenty of things you can do to help them maintain a level of humility. Here are a few ways you can start:

Set limits, and when you say “No,” mean it.

One reason kids become selfish is they get too used to getting their way. It’s important to be clear about what you expect of them and then adhere to those limits. Giving in to tantrums, whining, complaining or attempts to make you feel guilty simply teaches them that they get their way if they complain enough.

Go through possessions with them and donate to charity.

You already know kids are constantly outgrowing clothes and toys. But don’t just deal with them on your own, make time to go through their belongings with them and donate some to charity. It is very useful to give them an understanding of the lives of the less fortunate and how some help can really make a difference.

Do chores with them.

Kids don’t innately understand that hard work pays off. Assign chores and then help them complete them. They may not understand that the house looks nice because you spent hours cleaning it, but if they do their part they can see concrete results and how it directly affects their world.

Nurture empathy.

Babies are by nature selfish, and so are young kids. It takes awhile for them to realize the world isn’t centered on them, so encourage them to consider how others feel. You nurture their empathy by helping them understand the mindset of someone else. “Imagine you just moved here and are walking into school for the first time. How would you feel?”

Reinforce selfless acts.

One of the quickest ways to increase selflessness is to “catch” them doing unselfish acts and praise them. Doing so will encourage them to repeat the behavior. Just remember to describe the behavior and point out the impact it had. “Did you see the smile on your brother’s face when you shared your toys? You made him so happy.”

 

 

Win a $250 Savings Account (Kids only)

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From the Pig, For the Kids

You could win a $250 Kirby Savings Account by simply being creative. Stop by any Missouri Credit Union branch starting October 21 and ask for a mini Hank. Take your mini Hank home and decorate him or just take a creative photo of him. Upload the photo to Instagram and one lucky kid (12 or younger) will win a $250 Kirby Savings Account.

Supplies are limited, so get your mini Hank while you can! Contest runs through November 4. Winner will be announced the following week. Entry limit one per child.

How to Enter:

  1. Decorate your mini Hank.
  2. Snap a photo.
  3. Follow @missouricreditunion on Instagram.
  4. Upload your Hank photo to Instagram.
  5. Tag MCU in the photo.
  6. Include #FromThePigForTheKids in the post.

Complete list of rules and regulations below.

Contest Rules

Sponsor:

The Contest is sponsored by Missouri Credit Union (MCU) with principal place of business at 111 East Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203.

Binding Agreement:

Each person entering this contest agrees by the act of participation to be bound by these rules and procedures of MCU’s Hank Contest.

How to Enter:

During the Contest Period:

  1. Stop by any MCU branch and pick up a mini Hank. *Supplies limited
  2. Decorate your mini Hank, snap a photo and upload it to Instagram.
  3. Follow Missouri Credit Union – @missouricreditunion.
  4. Tag Missouri Credit Union in your photo.
  5. Include #FromThePigForTheKids in your caption.

By uploading your Submission, you agree that your Submission conforms to the Photo Guidelines and Content Restrictions as defined below (collectively, the “Guidelines and Restrictions”) and that Sponsor, in its sole discretion, may remove your Submission and disqualify you from the Contest if it believes that your Submission fails to conform to the Guidelines and Restrictions.

Guidelines and Restrictions:

Photo Guidelines:

  • The Submission must be in JPG or PNG format.
  • The Submission cannot have been submitted previously in a promotion of any kind or exhibited or displayed publicly through any means.

Eligibility Restrictions:

You must be 12 years old or younger to enter this contest, live in Missouri, and “follow” MCU’s Instagram page. Parental consent is required. A consent form will need to be signed upon retrieval of the mini Hank. Parents may use their personal Instagram account to enter on behalf of their child. Limit one entry per child.

Employees, contractors and official officeholders of MCU; advertising and promotion agency representatives; agents (“Contest Entities”); and members of the Contest Entities’ immediate families (parents, siblings, children, spouses, and life partners of each) and members of the households (whether related or not) of such employees and officers are ineligible to participate in this Contest.

Entry Deadline:

Your Hank photo must be submitted between midnight (Central Time) Oct. 21, 2016 and midnight (Central Time) Nov. 4, 2016.

How the Winner is Selected:

The winner is selected at random. Entries limited to one per child.

Notification of the Winner:

Becoming the winner is subject to validation and verification of eligibility and compliance with all the terms and conditions set forth in these rules. If a potential winner is disqualified for any reason, there will be a redrawing for another winner. The potential winner will be notified by direct message on Instagram, at Sponsor’s discretion. If a potential winner does not respond to the notification attempt within three days of the first notification attempt, then such potential winner may be disqualified and an alternate potential winner will be selected.

Photography Requirements:

Your photos cannot contain any content, element, or material that violates or infringes another’s rights, including but not limited to privacy, publicity or intellectual property rights, or that constitutes copyright infringement.

If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or that are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any people appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary.

In addition, the Submission must not:

  • Be derogatory, offensive, threatening, defamatory, disparaging, or libelous, or contain any content that is inappropriate, is indecent, or otherwise does not comply with the theme and spirit of the Contest.
  • Disparage Sponsor or any other person or party affiliated with the Contest.
  • Contain material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.
  • Contain material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any state where Submission is created.

Elimination:

Any false information provided within the context of the Contest by an entrant concerning identity, age, mailing address, telephone number, email address, ownership of rights or noncompliance with these Rules or the like may result in the immediate elimination of the entrant from the Contest.

Release:

By receipt of any prize, winner agrees to release and hold harmless the Sponsor, Administrator, and Instagram, and their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotion agencies, and prize suppliers, and each of their respective parent companies and each such company’s officers, directors, employees and agents (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from and against any claim or cause of action, including but not limited to personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property, arising out of participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize.

Prize:

The winner will receive a $250.00 Kirby Savings Account. Any additional taxes or expenses associated with the awarded prize are the responsibility of the winner. Any additional taxes or expenses associated with the awarded prize are the responsibility of the winner and their parent.

Advertising Disclaimer:

Acceptance of any prize shall constitute and signify winner’s agreement and consent that Sponsor and its designees may use the winner’s name, city, state, likeness, photo, Submission and/or prize information in connection with the Contest for promotional, advertising or other purposes, worldwide, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, including the Internet, without limitation and without further payment, notification, permission or other consideration, except where prohibited by law.

Change in Rules:

These rules may be modified at any time at the sole discretion of MCU.

Payment Plans for Airline Tickets: Smart or Not?

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Read the fine print before buying airline tickets in installments

Airfares have been inching downward in recent months, thanks to lower fuel costs and more seats on new planes. The new lower prices are tempting many consumers to consider once-in-a-lifetime trips that would have previously been out of reach for them.

Those same would-be travelers are now facing temptation from a trend that lets people book their flights and pay for them in installments. Basically, you can now put your plane tickets on layaway.

The idea of layaway has been making a comeback lately. When you want to make sure you get an in-demand, big-ticket item, layaway allows you to claim it for a fraction of its final price, and then make small payments over time. When you’re done paying, you take your purchase home. It’s a concept popular with parents planning for holidays and couples shopping for engagement rings.

But does it make good financial sense?

CheapAir.com lets you take out a loan for your flight and pay it back over three, six or 12 months. The business model is aimed at people who don’t use credit cards, but it’s also for those who just can’t afford that flight to France all at once. A similar philosophy is in place at startup site Airfordable.com, where travelers pay a third of their ticket costs up front, then pay the rest off in monthly or biweekly installments.

Major carriers like American Airlines have had layaway-esque programs for years, but they usually require travelers to apply for an airline credit card to qualify.

These new offerings open air travel up to people who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – charge their fares in the past, usually because of bad credit. Buying tickets well in advance is usually a surefire way to get the best deals, too – even if you can’t pony up for the whole amount at the moment.

But when you look a little more closely, paying in installments has its drawbacks. A CheapAir loan is based on your credit history, with interest charged between 10 percent and 30 percent. Airfordable doesn’t charge interest, but it tacks on a flat 20 percent fee. In the end, the average traveler might not be much better off paying in installments than putting tickets on a credit card and paying them off that way.

An even better option is to squirrel away the funds for trips using a targeted savings account. You can even set up your direct deposit to direct a set amount from each paycheck, keeping your travel money separate and insulated from your everyday spending while you watch it grow.plane-airplane-airliner-passenger-sky-sky-cumulus-clouds-clouds-flight-flight-aircraft-wing-wing-morning-bright-sun-beautiful-background-blur-bokeh-wallpaper

That way, when you do purchase tickets online, you can pay your card off immediately and avoid taking that interest hit. You might have to put off your trip for a while if you want to get early-bird fares several months before takeoff. But it means you’ll have more spending money – or even more nights in a hotel – when you get there.

Paying for airfare a little bit at a time is a great idea when it’s earning interest for you. It’s not so great when you’re tied into a high-interest loan or paying more than you have to for your seat.

 

7 Things 20-somethings Should Know

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Jobs you don’t leave at the end of summer. Real bills to pay. Planning for life beyond next weekend. If you’re an average 20-something, life’s probably getting serious. And if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you may be right. Or you might just need some time to figure it out. Here are few pointers.

Everybody Is Confused

No one has it all figured out and people who tell you they do, don’t. This shouldn’t concern you. After a mistake, and you will make many, keep moving forward. You can’t make all the right decisions but you can make your next decision the right one.

Just Say Yes

Don’t turn down opportunities to gain experience. You may think you know where your career’s going, but you’re probably wrong. Saying “no” to a task or responsibility you don’t think will be useful is missing the point. Saying no is saying no to the opportunity. Saying yes expands your skills and simply helps you be a better you (which always pays off).

Failure Is Part of Success

You will not be a complete success at everything you try. But if you keep trying you will succeed more and more often.

Unless You Master Money, Money Will Master You

Spend less than you make. Always. Don’t become house- or car-poor. Put something toward retirement now, no matter how small. Learn about investing before you try it on your own. Avoid easy credit card pitfalls and loans that can lead to issues that take decades to fix. Learn how to make your money work for you. (MCU members have access to our Dollar Dashboard with scores of helpful budgeting and planning tools.)

You Will Have to Work With People You Don’t Respect

You’ll interact with a wide range of personalities and some you won’t like very much. In short, however, bite your tongue and get the job done. You don’t have to be friends but you do need that paycheck as well as the valuable experience of dealing with difficult personalities.

Find a Balance Between Work and Life

You’ve probably already heard the advice to be the first to arrive and the last to leave at work, and it is crucial that you demonstrate hard work and commitment to your job. But it is also important that you don’t overdo it. Leave time to be you outside of work and you’ll be a better, happier and smarter employee.

More Books, Fewer Texts

Reading skills are still important, especially when it is done in bursts beyond 140 characters. Reading books cover to cover will increase your creativity as well as your thinking and analytical skills. You’ll tell better stories too.

One final piece of advice: Enjoy the ride and good luck.

 

Protect yourself from debit card fraud

Debit cards – which require a personal identification number (PIN) and deduct money straight from your checking account – offer convenience without the debt-related downsides of credit cards. That convenience can be a double-edged sword, though, because debit cards are tied to your checking account, which most people think of as their everyday spending cash. img_4297

If someone uses your credit card illegally, you won’t take a financial hit while you’re getting the situation resolved, and most major card companies have a zero-liability policy on fraudulent transactions. Financial institutions are offering more protection for debit cards, but it’s far less stressful to protect yourself from fraud in the first place.

Follow these tips to keep your debit card use under wraps.

Protect your PIN.

The first and most important rule to follow is to always protect your PIN. Don’t share it with anyone. Memorize it instead of writing it down somewhere. Never give it out over the phone, and always cover keypads with your hand when entering the code.

Whenever possible, use only ATMs associated with your card issuer, and do it during regular business hours. Don’t use an ATM if other people are milling around.

Choose ATMs wisely.

Stay away from ATMs that seem to be in disrepair. Be wary of card machines at convenience stores and gas pumps as well. It’s easier to set up “skimmer” devices on them to steal your information when you swipe or insert your card. To spot skimmers, look for different-colored materials on the façade of the ATM, partially obscured lights, misaligned on-screen graphics, protruding parts on the card reader and sluggish keypads.

Keep balances lower.                                         

Think twice about keeping a large balance in checking or savings accounts that can be accessed via ATM. Check your account charges and balances regularly, and sign up for daily bank alerts if offered. Use debit card controls on your financial institution’s mobile banking app. Many users are now able to activate and deactivate their debit cards as many times as they wish. Compare monthly statements with your receipts.

Write down contact numbers for your checking account holder and credit card companies and keep them separate from your cards. Alert your bank or credit union immediately if your card is lost or stolen, and let them know if you plan on traveling out of state, to prevent potential blocks on your card. Always have other forms of payment on hand when you travel in case this happens.

Like cash and credit cards, debit cards deserve a place in your wallet. They can be a great way to track your spending and keep debt from getting out of control. Just remember that you need to use extra caution to keep your funds safe.

Hank In The House

Hank here, your favorite guest-blogging piggy bank. And no, I don’t type. That’s what the interns are for.

Well, it’s political season. That usually means lots of politicians calling each other names. Some people call this mudslinging, but that’s just wrong. For one thing, it doesn’t involve actual mud at all. And they also say it like it’s a bad thing, which it is not. Bathing in mud is one of life’s great joys. So sling all the mud you want at me.
As you can tell, I have some strong feelings on the subject. I even made a TV commercial about it. Check it out.

Now, I’m not running for office or anything but that doesn’t mean you can’t go into your local Missouri Credit Union and tell them you think ol’ Hank is doing a swell job.

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