Saving with a 401k: 4 tips for success

Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study Leaving Money on the Table image showing retirement savings gap no caption required description Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey graphic showing savings gapWe’re in the middle of National Save for Retirement Week as well as the open enrollment season when millions of employees enroll for benefits at their companies.

That includes the 401k. Saving with a 401k plan remains one of the best ways you can build your retirement nest egg.

I work with thousands of companies across the U.S. who invest a great deal of time and resources each year to design retirement plans that their employees will want to take advantage of. It’s no secret why.

Just as we know from our own research, they know that people with access to a 401k-type plan save a median of 10 times more than those without access to a similar plan!

Why? I believe it’s the ease of systematic, payroll-deduction investing and savings, plus the potential of a company match that may come along with a 401k.

In addition, the latest findings from our Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study tell us that an overwhelming majority of people with access to 401ks wouldn’t have saved as much for retirement without the plans, and that they make it easy to save for retirement.

When selecting benefits, it’s completely understandable that people think in terms of “must have” and “nice to have” or “mandatory” and “elective.” But participating in a 401k shouldn’t be considered optional or something put off until later.

Seventy-two percent of the middle-class consumers we surveyed about retirement say they should have started saving for retirement earlier, and 55 percent say they plan to save “later” for retirement in order to “make up for not saving now.”

4 keys to 401k plan success

  1. Make sure you’re in the plan. It can be tempting to sacrifice for the short term when there are so many competing expenses, but starting sooner rather than later helps.
  2. Save at least enough to take full advantage of a company match, if one is offered. If you can’t get there right away, create a plan to increase savings rates on a regular basis until you’re there. Even gradual changes help.
  3. Look at your asset allocation. That’s where your money is invested within the plan. If you aren’t inclined to make your own selections, consider a type of managed account in your 401k, or a target date fund.
  4. Examine your budget. People in our survey tell us they are saving about $125 a month on average, and about half said they would cut spending tomorrow in certain areas to save for retirement. Taking inventory of your income and how you’re spending money can help identify opportunities to redirect dollars toward retirement. See how even small steps can add up to big savings with this retirement-savings calculator.

Finally, if you have questions, ask your retirement plan provider.

Enroll in your company’s 401k and start saving today.

Infographic showing results of the 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study No caption required description 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement study infographic

About Joe
Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He oversees employer-sponsored retirement plans as well as institutional trust and custody services provided by Wells Fargo, with a mission to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

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Our anti-bullying commitment goes beyond Spirit Day

I am concerned about the many forms of bullying that impact today’s youth: Intimidation on the playground, isolation in middle school, cyberbullying in high school. Adults also face bullying — workplace harassment and domestic violence are a reality for far too many people.

Whatever its source, there are common feelings that unite all of us who have ever been bullied or watched our children be bullied: A sense of hopelessness, overwhelming defeat, and even fear of the future.

CEO John Stumpf poses with Wells Fargo team members in San Francisco on Spirit Day.

This problem is a serious one, and LGBT youth are especially vulnerable. According to the latest National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 80 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed last year because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The effects of bullying have resounding consequences. LGBT students who face bullying and violence are more likely to skip school, receive lower grades, and drop out of school. They are also less likely to attend college. According to studies by the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis-intervention services, LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than young people in general.

Wells Fargo’s dedication to addressing this issue will be displayed on Spirit Day, Oct. 16, when team members join millions of supporters in the U.S. wearing purple to show their solidarity with LGBT youth.

I’m proud to work at an institution that stands steadfastly for hope and opportunity. These are core values for Wells Fargo across all communities it serves. And where there is hope and opportunity, there is no tolerance for a bully.

Significantly, our commitment extends far beyond this one day. Wells Fargo is one of the largest corporate supporters of organizations such as GLSEN, the Trevor Project, and GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Last year, for example, we partnered with GLSEN to get Safe Space Kits into every middle and high school in the U.S., so that each school is equipped with a curriculum and the tools for creating visible allies and safe havens for students when they feel threatened. That means more hope and more opportunity when kids need it most.

Commitment must extend beyond one day, one month, and even one year. So remember that this important work must continue as long as bullying is a threat to anyone.

About Pat

A 36-veteran of Wells Fargo, Callahan leads the company’s Chief Administrative Office, which includes management of Corporate Communications, Enterprise Marketing, and Government and Community Relations.

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Terry Kalb: A wish brings hope for my Make-A-Wish princess

Terry Kalb with her daughter Alyssa

Alyssa and I prepare for our princess primp session at the Princess Academy in Folsom.

Editor’s note: Make-A-Wish, Wells Fargo, Disney, and many others helped grant 7-year-old Alyssa’s wish to go on a Disney Cruise Line® cruise, and more. Her Make-A-Wish princess weekend began in Folsom, California, during the Folsom Pro Rodeo. Covering the story, I met Alyssa’s mom, Terry, and invited her to share her story here on the Wells Fargo Blog. For more on Alyssa’s story, visit the Wells Fargo Stories website.

By Terry Kalb

Alyssa: “Mommy, do you think my wish is going to come true?”

Me: “I don’t know. You have to believe.”

This was a conversation I had in April with my daughter, Alyssa, after we visited The Wishing Place at Make-A-Wish Northeastern California and Northern Nevada in Sacramento.

Alyssa had four wishes: to be a princess; to go on a Disney cruise; to meet her favorite country music star; and to have a pair of “cowgirl boots.”

Alyssa Kalb practicing her princess wave in Folsom

Alyssa leads the way as we practice our princess waves in downtown Folsom.

Once she wrote her wishes down, Alyssa got a key to unlock the door to the magical wish room. Music played about making a wish. She put her key in the keyhole of the wishing well, and made her wishes.

The lead-up to the big surprise (Make-A-Wish granting one of those wishes) began July 2 when she rode down Sutter Street in the Folsom Pro Rodeo’s annual parade and cattle drive as the 2014 “Folsom Pro Rodeo Princess.”

Our family and another Make-A-Wish recipient rode in the Wells Fargo stagecoach. The kids were pumped and overwhelmed by all the attention. Alyssa waved to the fans and truly felt like a princess. She thought that was her fulfilled wish!

However, her dad, Rick, and I knew the big moment was set to come the next evening at the rodeo, but even we didn’t know exactly what would happen. We started that day with breakfast, followed by a trip to the Folsom Zoo — where we’ve ridden the train every year since Alyssa’s big sister, Alexis, was a baby — and then a waterpark before I got a call. Would the girls and I like a princess makeover, too?

Alyssa Kalb and family in the hospital

How far we’ve come: Celebrating Alyssa’s fifth birthday together as a family in the hospital in 2012.

We soon found ourselves heading to The Princess Academy in downtown Folsom, which was funny because we had walked by it on the way to breakfast and taken the kids’ pictures in front of the sign.

The girls and I spent a few hours there and it turned out to be Alyssa’s favorite part of the weekend.

Alyssa and Alexis picked out their princess dresses and had their hair and nails done and their faces painted while sipping tea, snacking on mini cupcakes, and listening to Disney movie soundtracks.

The owner told the girls that they already were princesses and beautiful for who they were. She was just bringing out the inner-beauty they already possessed. What a wonderful message to hear because I’ve told that to my children so many times myself. Alyssa has had to deal with some children who have not been very nice to her, and some former friends who fell by the wayside this past year.

Photo of Kalb family arriving at the rodeo

We rode into the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena in a white carriage.

At The Princess Academy, even Mommy played dress-up because the girls wanted me to, and why not, I thought to myself? You need to make the best of all these moments because they can be gone in the blink of an eye.

The owner and her daughter took us out on Sutter Street to practice walking and waving like a princess. Alyssa had so much fun, and truly enjoyed the moment. We learned how to blow a kiss to the cars. Our princess lessons finished, we headed back to reality to get ready for our ball: the Folsom Pro Rodeo.

Just before sunset, we climbed into a white princess carriage and entered the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena. We waved to the crowd as the carriage stopped in the center. A former rodeo queen took Alyssa’s hand and escorted her off as we followed. Princes, princesses, fairy godmothers, and fairies began to file down the stairs toward us from the crowd, carrying gifts in pink bags.

The fairy godmother talked about how fairies had been with Alyssa through this journey (I took her large chemotherapy pills, broke them up into a dust, and put it in her apple juice, which I said was pixie dust medicine from fairies to make her feel better, and also left little gifts and notes of encouragement.).

Alyssa hugs Terry as she learns about the Disney Cruise

As soon as she heard she was going on a Disney Cruise Line cruise, Alyssa bolted into my arms for a big hug, and we enjoyed the moment.

They sprinkled “pixie dust” over Alyssa and asked her to close her eyes. Then the fairy godmother (Wells Fargo’s Karen Woodruff) told Alyssa about the wish granted by Make-A-Wish: She was going on a Disney cruise.

In two seconds, Alyssa turned around and ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. She was so excited and had tears in her eyes. We stayed afterwards to watch the rodeo and fireworks. That was the latest the kids had ever stayed up.

When we arrived back at our hotel, Alyssa, Alexis, and their brother Ricky eagerly unwrapped the gifts. Alyssa paused and told me, so sweet and innocently, “Mommy, the prince kissed my hand!”

As parents, Rick and I are delighted and overwhelmed by how these events unfolded, from meeting with Make-A-Wish, to pick out Alyssa’s rodeo outfit weeks earlier, to riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach, seeing the Wells Fargo team members dressed as princesses, and leaving the rodeo arena in the carriage while rodeo hands held up letters that spelled PRINCESS ALYSSA.

Alyssa Kalb swims with a dolphin

While on our cruise Sept. 20-26, Alyssa enjoyed swimming with a dolphin.

I soon learned that two of the Wells Fargo team members at the rodeo had childhood cancer themselves (Business Banker Josh Hart who was a prince, and his wife, Carly, who dressed as a fairy). And Carly had even been a Make-A-Wish recipient!

Both volunteer for the charity and wanted to be part of Alyssa’s special night because of their own experiences. Which brings me to the point of this post: “So what is the power of a wish granted?”

This mom’s answer after having been blessed personally by this wonderful charity: The hope that better days lie ahead and that there’s sun behind the clouds.

As a family, we’ve all been under an indescribable amount of stress, and cancer affects everyone. This past summer marked the first time in two years, for example, that we could enjoy simple things like going swimming together as a family.

Even as a 7-year-old, Alyssa understands the reason she has this Make-A-Wish opportunity is because of her brain tumor. Looking forward to her wish kept her hope alive that wishes do come true — an idea I’ve reinforced often over the last several months. We need to have hope and faith, and believe. I can’t imagine what our cancer journey would be without it.

Alyssa Kalb gazes out at the ocean from her Disney ship

Alyssa looks out at the ocean from our ship. It was one of our best vacations ever and a stress-free week.

While it is a slow-growing cancer, Alyssa still has her tumor and has had the first of several MRI scans in the years ahead as her doctors keep watch on the growth. We set sail on our Disney cruise in September — enjoying every moment, making more memories, and continuing to pray our little girl will have a stable tumor and a long life ahead of her. It pains me to think otherwise, and to think I even have that option!

The cruise trip answered all the questions Alyssa asked me right after she’d learned the wish had been granted at the rodeo, whether it was “How many states do we fly over to get to Florida?” Or “How long is the plane ride?” Or “Can we eat dinner with Minnie Mouse?” plus new ones such as, “What’s it like to swim with dolphins?”

Make-A-Wish and Wells Fargo not only made a little girl’s wish come true but lifted the spirits of her entire family.

To everyone who helped make the magic happen for us and for illustrating again the difference people can make by working together, thank you. And a special thanks for our wonderful cruise to Disney, which has helped Make-A-Wish grant more than 88,000 wishes globally since the first official wish to go to the Disneyland® Resort 33 years ago.

Please consider sharing the hope that comes from a wish granted by supporting the Make-A-Wish chapter in your community.

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Point Foundation – one student’s story

As president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, I get a lot of letters. That’s not surprising, because we support nearly 20,000 organizations each year (even more if you include gifts by our team members), and people regularly let us know what they think about those decisions. Some of the letters that inspire me the most come from LGBT students who have received scholarships from Point Foundation.

Since 2001, Point Foundation has been helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students reach their academic and leadership potential.

Point Foundation provides much more than scholarships, though. It also offers vital support resources like mentorships, leadership development, and community service training for young LGBT people at risk for family conflict, depression, suicide, and other problems. Wells Fargo is the foundation’s largest funder, including a four-year, $1.5 million commitment we made in 2012 for scholarships, which builds on our long commitment to diversity and inclusion as a company.

Numbers are one thing, but there are stories behind those numbers. One foundation scholar’s letter that I read recently wasn’t just the story of a life changed, but a life saved.

Point scholar Cary Crall.

Point scholar Cary Crall.

Meet Cary Crall, a Point scholar and student at Harvard Medical School. A few months before he wrote me, he’d spoken with a young man wresting with suicidal thoughts in the psychiatric emergency room. During what was obviously an intense and emotionally charged conversation, the suicidal young man came out as gay.

I’ll quote from Cary’s letter, since he tells the story much better than I can. After his patient came out, he wrote, “…I told him that regardless of what he experienced at home or school, there were people in the world who would love him unconditionally, and who desperately wanted him to fulfill his potential.”

If the story ended there, that would be wonderful enough. But there’s more. Cary not only pulled that young man back from despair and hopelessness, but convinced him to apply for a Point scholarship.

And then Cary did something else.

“My experience with this young man inspired me to start a therapy group within my medical system focused on serving young men from immigrant families dealing with issues of coming out,” he wrote. “This project has been a joy every step of the way.”

This isn’t just a story about why Wells Fargo supports the LGBT community through the valuable work of organizations like Point Foundation. It’s also about how vital it is to support our young people and help them reach their potential no matter who they are.

Good engenders good. And when people get back hope, they tend to spread that hope and goodwill with others. That’s one of the most important lessons —and gifts— that we can ever give.

Point scholars on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Point scholars on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

About Tim

A 34-year Wells Fargo veteran, Hanlon leads the company’s Strategic Philanthropy and Partnerships team and its national and international charitable giving programs, which distribute grants to nearly 20,000 nonprofits each year.

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Soldiers to Summits vet: New life dawns atop Mount Whitney

Editor’s note: Wells Fargo sponsored Soldiers to Summits, a mountain-climbing program of No Barriers USA, which aims to empower wounded veterans to overcome obstacles. Veteran Jody Brower – husband of a Wells Fargo bank branch manager – previously blogged about preparing for the event, and here he reflects on the experience.

Jody Brower and Soldiers to Summits team atop Mt. Whitney

Brower (kneeling, in green, to the right of the flag) and the Mission: Mt. Whitney team on the summit. Photo by Didrik Johnck

The idea of sitting on top of the world and watching the sun rise seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime.

So, after five days of climbing, our team of 13 wounded veterans – climbing California’s Mount Whitney as a part of Soldiers to Summits – decided we would take the final steps of our journey by moonlight.

The days preceding that decision had been an adventure. Though we felt as prepared as possible thanks to two previous training climbs, nothing can fully prepare you for the rigors of climbing 14,505 feet. We’d willed ourselves through fatigue, fear, a day of heavy rain, dropping temperatures, and the increasingly thinning air that made it harder and harder to breathe.

Our journey was a tough one. But then again, we’re familiar with tough journeys.

The 12 summit team members and I served our country in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Army National Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. And those journeys included post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, back and spine injuries, loss of limbs, and other wounds. We were all trying to find our way. And we were all willing to go to the top of a mountain to do so.

Just before beginning our climb, we volunteered at New Directions for Veterans, a nonprofit that provides services and transitional housing for homeless veterans. We spent time getting to know the veterans there, and after a game of softball between our team and theirs (we lost), we had even more inspiration.

Jody Brower leads a group of climbers up the mountain

Brower leads a group of climbers up the mountain. Photo by Didrik Johnck

As we began our climb on Saturday, Sept. 6, I felt more excited than nervous. Our summit team was eager to tackle this mountain, and to see the view from the top. We climbed during the day and camped each night. Initially, the weather was beautiful, but as we reached higher elevations, the cold was hard to ignore. We had incredible sleeping bags that kept us quite warm at night, but those bags added to the weight of the gear we were carrying. Adjusting to breathing at that altitude, while carrying heavy gear, was actually my biggest challenge during the climb.

When things got tough, I was motivated by watching the veterans alongside me. More than anything else, I could feel the same energy from everyone: “We can do this.” My teammate David, an Army veteran who has a prosthesis after being injured by an IED in Afghanistan, was navigating that mountain like a champion. It was incredible to watch and it pushed me even more.

Our expedition leaders and guides planned for us to begin our final ascent at the first light of day on Sept. 11. But the night before – as we camped at 11,500 feet – we sat together and talked about the possibility of summiting in time for sunrise. There were risks. Climbing without the benefit of sunlight would make it even more of a challenge. But we also talked about all of those times we make a decision not to do something, and then look back on that decision with regret.

This entire experience was about challenging ourselves. So after a lot of discussion, we made a unanimous decision to climb overnight and summit before sunrise.

When we began the final leg of the climb, we were lucky enough to be guided by the light of a bright, full moon. I’d expected the moment of summit to be exciting, and loud, and joyous. But those initial moments after all 13 of us reached the top, were calm, somber, and thoughtful and, more than anything else, they brought an amazing sense of peace.

This view of the sunrise atop Mount Whitney greets the climbers. Photo by Didrik Johnck

Sunrise view atop Mount Whitney. Photo by Didrik Johnck

As we watched the sun rise, it was so incredibly serene that we seemed to be on another planet. We were so far away from every problem, from every obstacle, from every self-doubt. We all took a moment to reflect on our paths, on our present, and on what we wanted for our futures. That sunrise was the perfect symbol of a new day dawning in our lives.

Before leaving the mountaintop, we took pictures, hugged, and high-fived. There was an unspoken understanding of closing one chapter of our lives and starting a new one. One where we know our own strength, and we believe in ourselves just a little bit more.

Some of us are talking about getting back together to climb Mount Rainier, in Washington state, next. All of us are talking about how this experience has helped us to find a new purpose in our lives. For me, it’s about wanting to help other veterans find their way.

No Barriers USA taught us that in spite of our challenges, we can still achieve greatness. I think of how different our world would be if everyone knew that of themselves. I hope that as you read this, it inspires you to think about the purpose of your own life, and what brings you joy. What brings you peace? What are you passionate about? How can you use your talents and passion to help others? You can achieve greatness. So go after it!

My wife says she feels like Soldiers to Summits “lit a fire” inside of me. I think it’s lit a fire inside all 13 of us. We just needed to climb to the top of a mountain to find the match.

See the Wells Fargo Stories website for more Soldiers to Summits coverage, including a video recap of the climb.

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5 credit-building tips for financial health

what makes up your credit score infographic for use atop post in text like we normally doA recent Wells Fargo survey shows that one-third of Americans worry more about their finances than their health.

Just like regular medical check-ups, regular reviews of your credit can help keep you financially healthy and may even increase your cash flow through lower interest rates.

To help promote financial health and wellness, we are reviving our popular Free Credit Score and Complimentary Credit Report program. In addition to becoming one of the more than 800,000 customers who have  taken advantage of this program since we first offered it in 2012, we encourage you to integrate the below tips into your daily life.

Credit-building tips

  1. Check your credit report annually. Make sure your credit report contains current and accurate information. Errors could negatively affect your credit score and even be a sign of possible identity theft. Request a free copy of your credit report at least once a year by visiting
  2. Pay your bills on time. Your payment history is one of the biggest factors in your credit score – including things that may surprise you like on-time payment of your rent and cell phone bill. Using free online tools such as Wells Fargo’s Budget Watch can help you stay on top of monthly expenses.  And, pay more than the minimum payment whenever possible to keep your debt level manageable and reduce the cost of borrowing.
  3. Keep monthly debt at no more than 35 percent of your gross monthly income. Lenders look at the amount of debt a consumer has compared to their monthly income when making credit decisions. To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, add up what you owe each month in rent/house payment, credit card payments, student and other loans, and then divide that total by your monthly income before taxes. For example, if your monthly income before taxes is $3,000 and you owe $1,000 in monthly payments, then your debt-to-income ratio is 33 percent. To keep track of your monthly income and expenses, consider using a budget worksheet like the Hands on Banking Budget toolkit.
  4. Understand how strong credit affects your bottom line. Your credit score influences the interest rate you qualify for when applying for all types of loans. The lower the interest rate, the less you’ll pay in interest. Many websites, including, offer calculators that help consumers understand how interest rates affect their payment and the total cost of the loan.
  5. Establish and maintain healthy credit — even if you don’t need a loan. Lenders aren’t the only businesses who use credit scores to make decisions — many insurance companies, cell phone providers, and landlords do, too.

If you haven’t checked your credit score lately, visit a Wells Fargo banking store or go online to score and learn how you can get a unique personal access code to receive a free credit score and complimentary credit report. We’re offering the service Oct. 1 – Nov. 16, 2014 as part of our support of the American Bankers Association’s Get Smart About Credit program — a national campaign to raise awareness about the responsible use of credit.

To learn more about how to responsibly manage your finances and achieve your financial goals, visit any one of these free online resources:

Here’s to your financial health!

Rating your credit score chart with categories and definitions

About Gary
Korotzer leads the Wells Fargo Consumer Credit Solutions Marketing team, where he oversees marketing support for multiple lines of business, including Credit Card, Personal Lines and Loans, Direct Auto, Fee-based Services, Rewards and Student Lending.

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Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator stokes innovation in finance

From the 27 years I’ve worked here at Wells Fargo, I can tell you that we’re very focused on innovation and bringing new technologies inside our company. We leverage technology to provide value and value-added services to our customers.

We’ve been doing this a long time. Back in 1995, we were the first bank in the nation to give customers free Internet access to balances in their checking, savings, line of credit, and credit card accounts. That same year, a new company called Virtual Vineyards became our first customer to make a secure payment over the internet.

So, when we saw an opportunity to meet more entrepreneurs like that — companies that are just starting out — and bring them into the fold, we decided to build the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator. It’s when we bring their ideas in, and our people at Wells Fargo see that happening, that it really unleashes the creative talent across our company. And I think that’s a huge advantage for us.

Believe me, I talk to a lot of technology companies from around the globe, and it amazes me how many cool and potentially game-changing ideas are out there. So what we’ve built with this accelerator is a way to find innovative ideas faster and turn them into companies that can help us serve our customers better. Ideas about mobile, big data, analytics, and security. The next big things.

Watch a video about three business that went through the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator on the Wells Fargo Stories website.

Our Startup Accelerator is fundamentally different, in my estimation, because it focuses on innovation — not return on investment. Sure, we put up as much as half a million dollars to give each startup a chance to grow. But what we get in return is an early look at the next big ideas that will help us serve our customers even better. The startups also get a big push in the direction of being ready to sell their services to anyone — not just Wells Fargo.

Another difference is that our Startup Accelerator dedicates a Wells Fargo mentor to each company, making introductions for them to the appropriate people at Wells Fargo, which has about 90 lines of business. We collaborate with the startups — incubate their idea with our experience and resources. After six months or so, some of them might become our vendors.

These are exciting times. The world is thick with entrepreneurs and college kids who are constantly dreaming up big ideas. We want to meet as many of them as we can.

The deadline for applications for this first program is midnight tonight, Oct. 1. More than 200 startups applied from around the world. See the map below. Details about the spring 2015 program will be announced soon at Stay tuned.

Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator applicant locations

About Steve

Ellis is head of Wholesale Services at Wells Fargo, which launched the award-winning Commercial Electronic Office® internet portal in 2000 — the first online banking platform for business customers in financial services.

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Exploring innovation with Wells Fargo Labs

Digital Labs photo app

Hill demonstrates how a customer might use a smartphone to check in and access Wells Fargo systems at a banking store.

Wells Fargo has launched a digital “lab” where we test innovative concepts focused on digital experiences for our customers. It is a place where team members and customers test and learn about new ideas in the making.

Sparking new digital ideas and enabling digital innovation are some of Wells Fargo’s goals.

Why is this so important? The convergence of digital technologies is changing the landscape of every industry. These changes, in turn, are influencing perceptions about financial institutions and financial services.

Millennials are one group that sees financial services transforming in the future. Here are some findings on how millennials feel about managing their finances, according to a recent survey by the Millennial Disruption Index:

  • 68 percent say that in five years, how we access money will be totally different.
  • 70 percent say that in five years, how we pay for things will be totally different.
  • 53 percent don’t think their bank offers anything different than other banks.
  • One in three is open to switching banks in the next 90 days.
  • 73 percent would be more excited about a new offering in financial services from Google, Amazon, Apple, PayPal, or Square than from their bank because they say they believe innovation will come from outside the industry.

Given these changing perceptions, we have a great opportunity to envision new experiences for our customers. We’re exploring:

  • How financial experiences would look across tablets, smartphones, smart watches, Google Glass, and more.
  • Checking account balances on a smart watch.
  • Scanning checks with Google Glass.
  • Scanning price tags to determine if your budget can support a purchase.
Digital Labs demo center

The Wells Fargo Digital Innovation Lab in San Francisco.

One idea we’re piloting in the lab right now is “pre-staging” activities: starting a transaction request (such as a check deposit with cash back, ordering foreign currencies, or sending money overseas) on a mobile device but completing the transaction through another channel.

Many of our customers do their banking through drive-up tellers — in fact, we have more than 4,000 banking stores with drive-up teller lines. The pre-staging pilot is targeted to those customers who use the drive-up teller line. It works like this: Before you approach the teller line, you log in to, authenticate yourself, and begin the transaction on your smartphone. Then, you receive a one-time passcode on your phone that identifies you to the Wells Fargo banker. Then the banker can see:

  • Who you are.
  • What type of transaction you’re there to complete.

This approach not only expedites the transaction, but it also provides an efficient way to authenticate customers through a digital device.

About Miranda

Miranda Hill is Wells Fargo’s Digital Labs manager. This year, she was selected as one of “30 Innovators to Watch”  in Bank Innovation magazine’s annual list which recognizes leaders in financial technology.

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Investor optimism up, but market skepticism still a drag

If you Google “risk aversion,” you’ll likely get a definition that sums up the mindset of many U.S. investors. The Wikipedia version reads, “The reluctance to accept a bargain with an uncertain payoff rather than another bargain with a more certain, but possibly lower, expected payoff.”

That’s a fitting description of the findings in our third quarter Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor Optimism and Retirement Index survey.

Investor optimism infographicIn the four years we’ve conducted the research with Gallup, one of the basic questions we’ve always asked is if people think it’s a good time to invest in the financial markets. Despite the investor optimism index score reaching its highest level, +46, since the Great Recession, the response remains roughly split down the middle. This ambivalence is interesting since the S&P 500 is up nearly 200 percent over the 2009 lows following the financial crisis.

Digging a bit deeper in the current survey, we asked if the cautious approach of investors was “wise, because it protects investors from market loss” or “unwise because it prevents investors from realizing significant market gains.”

Sixty percent not only said “wise,” but nearly one-third of investors told us they consciously avoid including stocks in long-term investment accounts. This attitude rose to 42 percent for those with less than $100,000 in invested assets and fell to 20 percent for those with more than $100,000 in invested assets.

Given those results, some words for the wise on investing for retirement:

  1. Sitting on the sidelines is not a strategy. Investing in the market can be beneficial for saving for a long-term goal such as your retirement.
  2. Market timing doesn’t work. You can miss out on the benefits from the rising trends while the downward trends give you the opportunity to buy at a lower cost.
  3. Start with a small percentage from your paycheck. Saving/investing regularly over long periods of time is the best way to grow your assets for retirement.

For more information on retirement and investing, see Managing Your Money in Retirement.

Investor optimism infographic

About Wimbish
Wimbish is the director of Retail Retirement for Wells Fargo and oversees the company’s strategies to help retail customers plan for and live a comfortable retirement.

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Campus Protothon banks on Stanford, UC Berkeley ideas

According to a recent survey we conducted, the Great Recession taught 9 out of 10 millennials the importance of saving. But what’s missing are the simple, personalized, and engaging solutions that help more than 70 million-plus millennial financial services consumers actually begin saving and building long-term financial health.

Who better to help us develop these financial services and bust the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle than millennial consumers themselves? That’s the idea behind our first Campus Protothon Oct. 13 for students from Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

innovation, technology, millennials, California, banking, hackathon, challengeA protothon is a participatory design experience, where people from different backgrounds and skills come together in teams to generate ideas and design “prototype” solutions. Think of the competition as a “code-less” hackathon — a chance to create something amazing from just an idea, with creativity as the only requirement. We’ll empower up to 25 students from each school with tools, knowledge, and support. They’ll bring the ideas to tap online and mobile platforms and revolutionize millennial money management. All currently registered Stanford and UC Berkeley students who are California residents and at least 18 years old as of Oct. 8, 2014, are eligible.*

Getting involved

Attend one of two optional information sessions:

  • UC Berkeley: School of Information, 202 South Hall, Sept. 30, 5-7 p.m. Pacific time
  • Stanford University: Kehillah Hall, 2/F, Koret Pavilion, Oct. 6, 5-7 p.m. Pacific time

From a valid UC Berkeley or Stanford email address, please email with your name, address, campus information, resume, and — in 500 words or less — a response to the following statement: Tell us what “financial health” means to you and others in your generation. The deadline is 6 p.m. Pacific time Oct. 8. Up to 25 students will be selected from each university according to the Judging Criteria section in the Official Rules. Please email for the Official Rules.

The Protothon experience

On Oct. 13, we’ll shuttle Protothon participants from Stanford and UC Berkeley to our downtown San Francisco campus. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they’ll work in teams to solve and present their solutions to a financial health problem.

Wells Fargo leaders will serve as mentors and advisors throughout the day. Winning teams will receive cash prizes ($10,000 first prize, $5,000 second prize), the potential for startup funding through Wells Fargo, and an invitation to attend an Oct. 23 awards ceremony in Silicon Valley with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and Wells Fargo leaders.

I’m excited about the day and what it will bring because, as Wells Fargo’s millennial segment manager, I see the incredible contributions this generation makes every day at Wells Fargo, across financial services, and around the world.

Believe me, the best is yet to come!

About Alec

Based in San Francisco, Hughes leads Wells Fargo’s efforts to better understand and meet the financial needs of the more than 70 million millennial consumers in the U.S. — the most technologically advanced and educated generation in the nation’s history.

* THIS IS A JUDGED CONTEST. NO ENTRY FEE OR PURCHASE REQUIRED. From a valid UC Berkeley or Stanford email address, email in 500 words or less a response to the following question: tell us what “financial health” means to you and others in your generation.  The deadline is 6 p.m. Pacific time Oct. 8. Up to 25 students will be selected from each university according to the Judging Criteria in the Rules.  Please email for the Official Rules.

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