Saving for Tuition 18 Years in Advance

tuition

After you get to see those little eyes open, it’s like a whole new world has unfolded before you. When you’re elbows deep in changing diapers, cleaning up whoopsies, and trying to sleep more than four hours a night, the last thing on your mind is college savings. At Raccoon Valley Bank we understand the chaos which ensues with each new addition to your family. To help you prepare for this upcoming transition, we’d like to help you find the best educational savings account for your little bundle of joy before he or she arrives!

There are two primary types of accounts when it comes to saving for your child’s ongoing education. Similar to retirement savings accounts, both of these options do require various stipulations when it comes to distributing the saved funds. Here we’ll show you the pro’s and con’s to each option, to help you better determine which option will suit you and your needs best.

The Coverdell Savings Account: This account option utilizes after tax dollars, which means there are no taxes on distributions when the funds used for education. The account does have a nationwide $2,000 a year contribution limit, in addition to various income restrictions. While you and your spouse may manage and contribute to the fund, once the child turns eighteen, he or she will own the account and all the funds within it.  However, once the child is of age, he or she may only use the funds for education related expenses without incurring an additional distribution tax.

The 529 Savings Account: This account option also utilizes after tax dollars, which again indicates no future taxes on distributions if the funds are used for education. The account does not have income limitations, however, each state stipulates their own yearly contribution limit, typically ranging from $100,000 to $350,000 per year.  For this account type, the physical savings account, and the funds within it remain yours, only designated toward a specific beneficiary (which you can change up to once per year.)

Let’s compare the two when looking at national average college costs across the U.S.

If you choose to save using the Coverdell account option, suppose you save $2,000 per year for eighteen years, yielding a total of $36,000 of total out-of-pocket contributions. Add in the compound interest of those eighteen years, and you’ll find yourself with approximately $80,983 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of in-state public college in the U.S. is $20,090 or $80,360 for a four-year degree.

Alternatively, if you choose to save with a 529 account, you can save more than $2,000 per year, say $3,500 per year instead. Multiply those contributions by eighteen years, and you’ll have $63,000 in total out-of-pocket contributions. After calculating your compound interest into the equation, you’ve grown up to $141,562 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of any college in the U.S. is $35,370, or $141,480 for a four-year degree.

As you can see, both of these accounts allow you to make much more through the benefit of time and compound interest. Just like your retirement savings, the sooner you start contributing, the more interest you can earn. While the Coverdell allows you to give the account to your child, the 529 shows better savings opportunities, allowing you to maximize your potential interest.

If you’d like to learn how you can start saving for your upcoming chick-a-doo, stop by and speak with one of our dedicated personal bankers at Raccoon Valley Bank today! We’d love to help your family continue to grow!

Eat This Not That

eatthis

Like many Generation X’ers, we grew into adulthood alongside this viral diet book, which showcased the epitome of dieting in the late 2000’s. Now a decade or two later, there are still some relevant tips and tricks we’re excited to share here. See how Raccoon Valley Bank can help you switch up your spending, by eating THIS instead of THAT, to put some extra bang in your buck.

  1. EAT Dried Beans NOT Canned Beans: While many Americans are used canned beans as a pantry staple, you can save more than 50 percent when you take the time to cook with dried beans instead. According to the Bean Institute, dried beans typically run about $0.15 per serving, with canned store brands bean coming in at $0.34 per serving, and your national brand of canned beans costing approximately $0.48 per serving. Additionally, if you cook your beans in a stock you can add additional flavor to your dish for only pennies per serving.
  2. EAT Bulk Sized Snacks NOT Pre-packaged Portions: When trying to pack a child’s lunch, or meal prepping for yourself, it can be easy to turn to those pre-packed time savers. However, if you’re looking to lessen your grocery spending for the month, we recommend buying your family’s go-to snacks in bulk. Great retailers such as Sam’s Club, Costco, and Amazon offer great bulk pricing to help your household reduce their monthly expenses.
  3. BUY Store Brand NOT Name Brand: Speaking of name brand, forget your brand loyalty and seek out the options that truly stretch your dollar the farthest. Great pantry staples like canned tomatoes, sugar, flour, stock, etc are consistently less costly than their national brand counterparts. Enjoy those extra dollars somewhere else in your budget, and see how much you can save off your grocery bill using this simple switch.
  4. EAT Bread & Butter Roast NOT Flank Steak: Although these two cuts come from differents parts of the cow, they do offer very similar tastes. The bread and butter roast runs typically a few dollar less, but is still just as tender and buttery when sliced thin. Both options offer a great beef taste, however, when shopping for the entire family, this bread and butter alternative could save you several dollars per person!
  5. EAT Ground Pork NOT Ground Beef: Many people are familiar with ground pork when it comes to meatballs or brats, however, did you know you can supplement ground pork for beef in many other recipes? Something as simple as Hamburger Helper can be used just as easily with this more affordable alternative. If you purchase the ground pork unseasoned you can ensure it only has the flavors you and your family want, compared to its spicy Italian sausage counterpart.
  6. EAT Frozen Pizza NOT Delivery Pizza: Often you can find a frozen pizza at your local discount grocer for approximately $3.33 each. However, if you choose to purchase from a national chain you could be paying as much as $10.99 for a medium pizza depending on your brand. An added benefit of frozen pizzas is the sales cycle of many chains. If you wait until this frozen entree goes on sale you could snag them for as little as $2.50 each or less!
  7. EAT Frozen Fruits and Vegetables NOT Canned Fruits and Vegetables: Not only do these frigid foods save you money but calories too! While the canned items can offer more convenience, they typically contain syrup or oil to help keep the produce fresh. Avoid these extra calories and costs by purchasing the frozen option instead.
  8. EAT Whole Chicken NOT Rotisserie Chicken: This change-up is purely time-related. You can cut the cost of your meal in half or more by taking the time to roast your own whole chicken at home instead of purchasing one which has already been prepared. While you may need additional ingredients such as olive oil, herbs, and spices, they come at a fraction of the cost and can be used for countless other dishes in your kitchen. Not to mention you can make your own stock with the scraps!

We love cooking, and we can’t wait to hear how these tips and tricks can help your family succeed! Be sure to share your favorite success stories and recipes on Raccoon Valley Bank’s Facebook page. We’d love to see which hacks have helped your household the most.

5 Strategies to Shrink Debt

Personal Finances

Minimizing your debt can always seem like a mountain of to-do lists. With various recurring payments, differing interest rates, and due dates that never seem to end, if you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

 

While having a credit card, or other outstanding debt, isn’t a situation anyone wants to find themselves in, a surprising 38.1% of American households carry credit card debt.  Couple that with a total household debt average of $134,643.00 and the idea of debt starts to seem more common than you’d think!

 

While we know that having debt isn’t always the best solution, but Raccoon Valley Bank is here to help you conquer it. We’ve found five proven ways to reduce your debt, and stop your spending process from adding more! Take a look at the five tools below, and see if they help you become debt free!

 

  • Find New Ways to Save: Whether it’s reducing your grocery bill, finding more affordable clothing options, or simply turning to the cash-only budget. There are numerous ways you can save. In fact, we recommend blogs such as The Simple Dollar, Making Sense of Cents, and Penny Hoarder to continue bolstering your savings knowledge.
  • The Snowball Method: This is by far our favorite way to reduce your overall debts. While you may need to start with finding some new ways to save, once you can allocate some extra dollars, you can put  this effective method in action, eliminating your debts. Simply pay the minimum amounts on all outstanding balances, and then using the surplus funds, add to your smallest payment to help pay it off sooner. Once your smallest debt is completely paid, you can rollover the funds being used for that into your next largest debt and so on. Repeat this process until all the debts have been paid off.
  • Refinance Your Current Loans: The snowball method will help you erase debts one by one, however, using this other strategy you can see about reducing those payments in one quick action. Speak with one of our dedicated lenders to see if your home mortgage or personal loan can be refinanced at a lower rate to save on monthly payments. This may make a small dent, but every little bit counts!
  • Freeze the Credit Cards: In order to proactively prevent yourself from overspending, freeze all credit cards you currently have in your possession. This step helps you to force yourself to spend only what you have. If you decide to use cash only, the envelope system may help you save even further!
  • Set Up Automatic Transfers: This one simple trick can save you hundreds each and every year! By using your online banking as a resource, you can create an automation to ensure you are never tempted to spend those extra dollars. Instead of waiting for them to be spent, allocate them in your savings plan, and tuck them away for paying down debt or building your emergency fund to eliminate emergency debts.

 

However you and your family decide to decrease your household’s debt, Raccoon Valley Bank is behind you! We’d love to talk about your family’s financial goals and help you identify the best tools to help you get there. Give us a call, or stop by your nearest branch to get started today.

7 Absolutely FREE Activities for the Kids

Financial Education

Whether it’s during the summer or after school, keeping your children occupied takes a truly creative mind! This season, Raccoon Valley Bank is excited to share some of our favorite and affordable activities for all of your little ones to enjoy!

 

  1. Take advantage of your local library and their summer and afterschool programs. Even if it’s only an hour a day, this simple strategy can keep your child learning while they play, saving you some green along the way. To bring that fun home, register your child for a library card, and show them how to check out books and take them back. ! Extra tip: If you make a game out of reading, such as who can finish a new book first, you may even instill a passion in them for reading and learning.
  2. Set up camp in your backyard, tent and all. There’s nothing like the great outdoors, except when the indoors are just steps away! Ease your little one’s into the wilderness by creating a camp in your own backyard. You can complete the evening with a s’more roast, campfire stories, and stargazing to make the most of the nighttime.
  3. Bike around town, and enjoy a pit stop at the park. Set a route for a bike ride, and see if you can end at a park close to your home. The bike ride can allow your kids to explore the town, and burn some extra energy before winding down with some playtime outdoors.
  4. Head out for a swim at your local state park and enjoy the cool water or beach. Every state has some unique local parks, many with their own watering hole! Instead of paying the fee to visit your local pool, consider making a day trip to enjoy the warm sand and cool waters of your nearby rivers or lakes. For extra savings, pack a lunch and cooler to make the most of your day without having to spend a dime on admission or food.
  5. Create a fun scavenger hunt around your home or neighborhood.  A scavenger hunt can be as simple or as complex as you make it. For some of the younger kids, it may be beneficial to keep it around your home. However, if you have pre-teens to keep occupied, creating a neighborhood or town-wide scavenger hunt could be the perfect afternoon activity. Setting up the scavenger hunt ahead of time, will help you plan your route, and determine the best prize for those who finish it.
  6. Bring some grub, and have a picnic at the park. You can do this fun-filled activity for lunch, dinner, or both! Pack a bag or cooler with some great bites to eat, and find a table or bench at your nearby park. The kids can run and play for a bit, and then come enjoy a delicious homemade meal before diving back in for round two. If you want to really make this activity sweet, pack some of these individual cherry pies for dessert!
  7. Volunteer for local organizations and give back to your community. Keeping busy isn’t always about entertaining your children or yourself. Sometimes, it can be about something greater, like helping others. Organizations such as The Salvation Army, your local Food Bank, and the County Humane Society, are always looking for helping hands to assist in their day-to-day activities. Let your little ones choose which one they want to be a part of, and see if volunteering once or several times a week can fit into their schedule!

 

We love getting children involved in personal finance at an early age. If you’re searching for more affordable activities for your little one to enjoy, consider some of these fun-filled games to help them understand the basics of personal finance! Everything from mobile apps to hands-on activities can help them grow their own financial education.

Money Advice Gone Wrong

Money Management

Sometimes the best intentions can lend themselves to producing the worst results. While many friends and family members may offer quick solutions to your financial anguish, often times, the best education, is understanding those lessons first hand. At Raccoon Valley Bank we’d like to showcase several of the most common pieces of advice we hear, and what you can do to remedy these particular miscommunications.

 

Bad Advice #1: You have to go to college to get a decent job.

While a college degree does open additional doors, it is not required for many well-paying jobs available around the nation. Social figures like Mike Rowe, have made it their personal mission to spread the message that you can earn a living without having to sink into debt. Whether you’re interested in IT, manufacturing, grocery management, or other skilled work, you can find numerous positions through technical training or management programs, and avoid the majority of debt most four year college students incur.

 

Bad Advice #2: Having debt is okay if you pay your minimum payments.

While it is important to make installments on your loans or debts, eliminating them all together should be the desired end goal. Did you know that when credit reporting companies review your credit score, there are five factors considered? The two most important factors are your payment history and your debt to income ratio. If your monthly debt payments require more than 43 percent of your income, that may raise a flag to any future potential lenders.

 

Bad Advice #3: To build your credit score you need to purchase everything on your credit card.

While it certainly helps to have a long and healthy track record associated with your credit card usage; having an on time payment history is far more important. This payment history represents the largest factor of your credit score, which the reporting bureaus track. By never spending more than you have, you can make certain you are able to pay your bill in full each and every month. This action may have the potential to help foster growth for your credit score.

 

Bad Advice #4: Retirement savings can wait.

Contrary to what many young adults think, right now is the most important time to start saving for retirement. While later in life you might have more disposable income to save, you’ll also have less time before you need those funds. Once compound interest enters any equation, time becomes the most valuable commodity for growing your wealth. For instance, if you saved the Roth IRA maximum of $5,500/year starting at age 25, you’d have $1.17 Million by the time you’re 65. Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on those kinds of savings?

 

We think you can tackle any piece of advice with a few grains of salt. If you’re curious what your next financial move should be, stop by Raccoon Valley Bank and speak to one of our dedicated personal bankers. Our team of financial experts is here to help you and your family succeed; get started today!

When to SAVE and When to SPLURGE

Budgeting

When you and your sweetheart set your budget each month, there are a variety of factors at play. Where can you get the best deals on groceries? How many date nights will you have each week? Do the kids have any sporting activities that require new equipment? At Raccoon Valley Bank we recognize that everyone’s budget is different. No matter which categories you enjoy most, we’d love to showcase some great examples to help you find extra ways to save, and better identify which costs are worth the splurge.

 

SAVE: The best areas to find savings.

 

  • Weekly Groceries: If you don’t need the atmosphere or the free samples, there are numerous discount grocers which can save you BIG for weekly grocery runs. Coupling those savings with a pre-planned menu, and sale scanning can further reduce your overall food costs.
  • Kids Activities: During both the summer months and those after school hours, you may find yourself searching for activities to keep your children occupied. Whether that’s going to the pool, attending various summer camps, or finding an after school caretaker, keeping your kiddos active can be easier said than done. To help reduce these costs, we recommend season passes to recurring parks/activities, along with fun and affordable activities at home, which you can do with a number of household supplies.
  • Exercise: If you have ever purchased a gym membership you didn’t use, you are not alone! Many Americans see a gym membership as automatic attendance, when truly, it may be easier for you to workout at home. With so many new calisthenic exercises, yoga, and free-weight routines, there are a variety of tools out there to help you stay in shape without having to pay that monthly membership fee.
  • Travel: Searching “travel savings” on Google will inevitably leave you with pages of results. One fantastic tip we’ve found is purchasing travel through membership programs such as Costco, even if there’s not one in your area! There are countless reports of happy customers who not only saved money but had a much better experience when compared to booking it themselves.

 

SPLURGE: The expenditures worth the extra cost.

  • Budgeted Special Occasions: Occasions like your child’s birthday or you and your spouse’s 30th anniversary deserve a special treat. While we do recommend saving for these outings in advance, so long as the funds are budgeted for, feel no regret in celebrating your family’s happiness.
  • Childcare: Raising a child is no simple task, and for most parents the number one expense after a mortgage is childcare. We recognize that there are certainly savings opportunities to be had, however, in the long you’ll find that a friendly and reliable caretaker can make the world of difference on your child’s happiness, and your sanity, for years to come.
  • Healthcare: Your health and the health of your family members is paramount to everything else in life. Whether you’re looking to find a reliable family practice physician, or are seeking long-term care treatment, now is not the time to scrimp and save. Making sure that your family is well taken care of and continues to live a happy and healthy life means you’ll have plenty of time to save for nearly everything else life throws your way.
  • Toiletries: Toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.; these are items you use every day. If you’re using poor quality products to save a few cents you may find yourself with dry skin or poor hygiene. While it’s not necessary to purchase the most expensive option available, know that spending the extra dollar or two is well worth the cost to avoid potential problems.

 

Whether you’re looking for a place to store your savings, or budget your spending, Raccoon Valley Bank has the perfect solutions for you. Stop by your nearest branch today and learn about our personal savings and checking services.

5 Affordable Summer Vacations

summer vacation

One of the best things summer brings, aside from the beautiful weather, is time to enjoy with your family. Whether that’s planning a fun weekend adventure, or carving out a week to go exploring, your kids are sure to remember these getaways for decades to come. After years of trial and error, we’ve discovered some ideal destinations where you can stay in budget while enjoying all the perks of your family’s time away.

Wisconsin Dells, USA

This midwestern hot spot is filled with many of the nation’s premier water parks. With options at every price range, many resorts include park passes and discounts on other area activities. For those looking to save some extra funds, we recommend finding accommodations with a kitchenette. This added feature allows your family to cook meals instead of having to eat out at pricier restaurants, plus the kids will appreciate the extra time in the pool!

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

One of the most difficult parts of organizing a vacation is finding all the activities for you and your family to enjoy. At GO Adventures in Tamarindo, they have a bit of everything for your little ones to experience. Back at the hotel, they can run across award winning beaches, and spend the day relaxing in the sand. For those days you want to venture out, there is always an endless supply of options, and not to mention delicious food!

New Orleans, USA

This city is filled with a rich and vibrant history perfect for family vacations. With countless historical tours, you and your little ones can learn about the history of the South while enjoying some truly decadent dishes! Exciting excursions such as airboat tours and crocodile encounters will give your kiddos stories they’ll be anxious to share back home! For added savings, we recommend booking a home rental to avoid costly hotel fees and save some extra money by trying out your own creole recipes.  

Vancouver, Canada

This vibrant town, just north of the border, is filled with fun and flavor! Enjoy all the best bites and adventures alongside your family at the Granville Island Public Market, and then take a walk through the Vancouver Aquarium, to watch your children learn all about Canada’s sea creatures. No matter what you and your family decide to do, you’ll be warmly greeted throughout one of the happiest cities in the world. Just be sure to remember your passport!

Austin & Waco, USA

These two sister towns are separated by just over 100 miles, but offer fun-filled activities in both locations. By combining the two cities for this memorable trip, your family can step on the set of Magnolia Market and savor the mouth-watering taste of Franklin Barbecue, all in one fell swoop. Austin will provide an endless list of new restaurants and tours, while Waco can set the tone for the ride home with classic family-fun that the whole clan can enjoy.

Wherever your summertime travels take you, Raccoon Valley Bank is here to help safeguard you and your finances while you’re away.

The Latte Factor 101

latte factor

Making your way through the drive through every morning before 7:30 may give you a refreshing start to your day, but at what cost? The ideology that coffee shops and other retailers capitalize on is the notion that these small expenditures add a little excitement to your day without a hefty bill. However, when you enjoy perks like these on a daily basis, they add up, and quick!

Financial author, David Bach, is the mastermind behind the Latte Factor. This helpful calculator enables shoppers to see not only the cost of an individual purchase but the lost value it could cause for further investment as well.

For example:

If you purchase a $4.45 grande latte from Starbucks every weekday for the next thirty years, the total cost of your daily coffee is $34,786.29. However, if you had put that weekly $22.25 expenditure into an investment with an average earnings rate of eight percent or more, you could have made $109,225.02 in earned interest during that time. This showcases the true cost of a daily latte as the overall product expense ($34,786.29) + the lost interest ($109,225.02) = ($144,011.30)

While less than $5.00 a day may seem like chump change, compounding these expenses on a long-term level can showcase helpful savings opportunities to maximize your retirement savings efforts and limit unnecessary spending.

This equation doesn’t work just for coffee either! If you find yourself splurging for a fast-food lunch break, buying extra sodas at work, or even paying for a magazine you hardly read, you’ll soon find that all of those little expenses can make a big impact.

To help break some common splurging habits Raccoon Valley Bank recommends the following:

  • Before making a purchase, ask yourself, “Should I spend these funds or should I invest them?”
  • Use free services like our Online Banking or Mint to visualize your spending and see areas where you can cut excess.
  • Remember the rule of 7. On average, invested funds will double every seven years, without any added contributions.
  • Utilize accounts like IRA, HSA, and 401(k) to maximize the dollars you invest and save.

If you have any questions on how to get started, or want to learn more about how to make your money work for you, our trusted personal lenders are here to help. Just stop by or drop us a line to set-up an appointment today.

Who Says You Can’t Make a Snowball in the Spring?

snowball

While the weather can be as predictable as the Powerball, one thing that you can always count on through the seasons is your ability to snowball anytime you want. However, before you start creating snowmen out of ice shavings, let’s first cover what a snowball is. Typically in financial terms, snowballing is an action in which you structure your debt payment to decrease the overall time and cost associated with any accounts payable you have.

Here’s how it works: To begin a snowball, you first need to know what debt(s) you have on the table. By creating a list of your known debts, and also checking your credit report for any unknown ones as well, you can ensure you have all your bases covered. Then, using that information, prioritize your debts by amount from smallest to largest. Once you have them organized you can begin to set-up or continue minimum payments across all installments.

For the next step, you’ll want to look through your current spending and earning to see if there are ways you can allocate additional funds each month to pay off your debt. Whether it’s an extra $50 or an extra $500, every penny matters!

These additional funds can then be assigned to the debt you indicated at the lowest amount. Each month you’ll have a little extra money to help pay off that expense even sooner. Once the balance reaches zero, the snowball officially begins! Now that you have eliminated one payment, you can utilize all the funds that were going towards that expenditure and push them towards the debt with the next lowest amount.

Continue to do this process until each unwanted debt is paid off. Debts such as your mortgage are a great thing to pay off early, but may not be necessary to include in your debt snowball. Our helpful mortgage lenders can always assist in restructuring your payments if you are truly passionate about eliminating all debt.

If you’re ready to get started, we have some great money savings tips to help you find those extra dollars!

  • Switch to a Discount Grocer: You could reduce your monthly grocery bill by up to half when you shop at a bulk or discount grocer instead of a brand-oriented chain.
  • Bring Your Coffee and Lunch: Both of these items could be costing you more than you think! The typical American lunch runs approximately $12.00 and an average latte could cost you $3.50 a day. By bringing both food and beverages from home you can drastically decrease your monthly expenditure for dining.
  • Take Advantage of Apps: New technology based tools like Mint, Honey, and RetailMeNot, offer continuous and unique ways to save and manage your personal finances. By taking advantage you can not only save on unexpected items but better visualize your budget through tracked spending categories.

At Raccoon Valley Bank we are excited to help you succeed on your journey toward financial success. If you’d like to set-up automatic payments, or monthly transfers, our Online Banking can help! Visit our website to get started today.

How to Start a Garden without Splurging

don't splurge

Sunshine, flowering blooms, and the smell of something new, planting season is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and begin planting your summer garden. If you’re like most hobbyists, you find your plants each year at area greenhouses and nurseries searching for that perfect pop of color.  This year, Raccoon Valley Bank challenges you to try something different and save both time and money with these helpful gardening savings hacks:

Start from Seed: Instead of purchasing six packs of blooms, enjoy entire plots of flowers at only a fraction of the cost. A packet of mixed annual seeds may run three to four dollars and can fill an entire garden with colorful and productive plants for years to come. For some varieties, you’ll want to start them indoors using seedling pots and potting soil. After a few weeks, they’ll be ready to transplant outdoors!

Direct Sow: For some heartier varieties of plants, you can skip the indoor growing and head straight to the outdoors. These cold-tolerant flowers grow best without the shock of transplant. Some great examples are sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and nasturtiums. If you’re planning on using any of your flowers for indoor arrangements, be sure to plan to direct sow succession plantings as well.

Make Your Own Compost: Natural fertilizer is composed of decomposing organic matter. Avoid paying the high cost of produced compost and create an outdoor container for your table scraps throughout the season. Allow them to deteriorate along with grass clippings and other yard waste to make a nitrogen-rich supplement to aid your garden’s growth. This added nutrition will help your plants blossom and produce more flowers throughout the year.

Save Your Seeds: To further save on costs, learn how to collect your garden’s own seeds. After harvesting several plants, collect and dry their seeds to use for planting next year. You can save them in handmade envelopes and categorize them to easily find them each year. Typically seeds that are properly dried can be successfully planted for up to three years.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start gardening! If you have a true passion for gardening and are looking to start a small business or make some renovations to your outdoor area, our experienced team can lend a hand. We’d love to hear your next gardening goal and discover how we can help you achieve it.

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