Many Hats - Brenda Hittmeier

PTA President and Beyond – Brenda Hittmeier, Managing Director Billings, CFP®

How does a Texas girl who arrives in Montana in 1984 with plenty of sandals and sundresses survive a season she’d never experienced – winter – and go on to become the Managing Director of our Billings Wealth Management group?

Brenda Enjoying Winter

Brenda Enjoying Winter

Her story is one of serendipity and her extreme intelligence certainly had something to do with it as well.

Why financial planning?

No one should be surprised that Brenda, president of her children’s elementary school PTA, was interested in offering meaningful programs for parents well beyond bake sales and fundraisers.

At the suggestion of a few of her Investment Club members, Brenda invited , Barbara Burg to a PTA meeting to present a program on how to save for your child’s higher education. Ms. Burg, who held the certification of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™,delivered an excellent program to the PTA parents on the importance of basic financial planning.

This struck a cord with Brenda who was so intrigued by the idea of financial planning that, after the talk, she began a 24-month course of study for her CFP®. With her youngest in Kindergarten, Brenda had 2 ½ hours each day to study and, of course, once the children were off to bed, she studied long into the night.

After completing her course study, Brenda went to work for DA Davidson part-time. As her children grew, her job responsibilities increased and changed over the years.

How did she find her way to Stockman Wealth Management?

In 2013, noticing a help wanted ad in the Billings Gazette that seemed to be written exactly for her qualifications, Brenda applied with the encouragement of her husband, Pat. She quickly answered, admitting she may not have even spell checked her responses. At the time, Ron O’Donnell was ready to move Stockman Asset Management in a new direction. Along with Eric George, the three planned a 30-minute coffee interview which turned into a two-hour meeting. The rest is history.

Fly fishing in Yellowstone

Fly fishing in Yellowstone

The Crux of Financial Planning

Today, Brenda manages the Billings office. She leads the team knowing that the work done for clients is not so much about actual dollars and cents but rather about the psychological and emotional nature of money. An individual or family financial plan, while based on money, holds so much more than a dollar amount. The peace of mind and security that can be given to clients is truly at the heart of what financial planning is all about. Goals that are put in place and worked on over years and decades offer peace of mind knowing that a firm foundation supports your individual plan.

Outside of Work

Over the years, Brenda has embraced living in Montana’s four seasons, especially winter. She can be found hanging out with her husband most weekends at their cabin in Red Lodge. They love hiking, skiing, fishing and her new found warm-weather sport of mountain biking. She humbly explains she is horrible and her whole family is scared she will injure herself. When asked about her proudest achievement, Brenda explains (and Pat agrees) that the pinnacle is raising three wonderful humans, all independent and making their own contributions to the world. There is no greater satisfaction than that!

Hiking in the Beartooths

Hiking in the Beartooths

To put together your personal financial plan, please contact us at any of our three offices in Billings, Helena or Missoula.

Wealth Management Disclosures

Cynthia by John Deere Combine

Crop Insurance

By Cynthia Ries ,AFIS Licensed Agent, Stockman Insurance

Crop Insurance

Not usually a dinner conversation, but definitely could be. Take a moment this evening to assess your plate of food. Steak, baked potato, green beans, slice of wheat bread, bowl of fruit? Perhaps you’re a salad eater – greens, almonds, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes. If crop insurance didn’t have its place, you may be staring at an empty plate. And what about those clothes you wear? Any cotton fabric? Thank you crop insurance!

Crop insurance, across the United States, ensures the people who put those products on your table and on your back, can continue to do so year after year. Unlike many of our jobs that continue regardless of weather, crop and livestock producers hang on the words of daily weather forecasts knowing it could affect the outcome of their income for the year. Enter crop insurance – to help mitigate their risk, as well as the risk of the bankers who invest in them.

It’s not “just” crop insurance

For those of us who sell this “animal,” there are two primary types of crop insurance – crop hail insurance and multi-peril crop insurance (MPCI). For the sake of simplicity, we will look at the basics of these two types of insurance. Crop hail insurance – just like it sounds – insures against damage to crops caused by hail. MPCI covers crop loss due to all types of weather-related disasters – crop hail, drought, excessive moisture, and excessive heat – as well as plant disease, insects, wildlife, earthquake, volcanic eruption….the whole gamut!

Barley photo 2 by Hayley 2018

Barley photo by Hayley

Let’s narrow it down to Montana

Although Montana is one of the larger states, we are not considered one of the big players in the crop insurance world. As a small grains state, primarily wheat and barley (plus hay, corn, oats, canola, safflower, sugar beets, potatoes, dry peas, sunflowers, apples, cherries, bees, livestock, etc.) reports indicate there are 10.5 million acres covered by crop insurance, with farmers paying $67.7 million for crop insurance. For a comparison, look at the smaller state of Georgia that grows primarily cotton, peanuts, hay, and sweet corn. 2.7 million acres are insured and farmer premium is at $62 million. 75% less acres insured than Montana and farmers paying a premium equal to 90% of ours! Bigger cash crops worth a lot more per acres….more to lose per acre!

Because we know Montana

In Northcentral Montana, I am familiar with wheat, barley, dry pea varieties, hay, canola, oats, and flax. How do the farmers in my area decide the “right way” to insure their crops? They crunch numbers with their bankers, we look at different options available for their crops, run quotes, analyze numbers for a total crop loss vs partial loss, how much they can budget for premiums….and more. Over 90% of insurable farmland in the US is covered by MPCI… almost a given for farmers. And, because it is a federally subsidized insurance, it is “affordable” for farmers. MPCI is usually the underlying insurance for the bulk of the farmers. Crop hail insurance is then stacked on top of the MPCI for some farmers. Why?

Farmers who live in hail prone areas of our state are very familiar with crop hail insurance because odds are they will see hail damage at some point in every crop year. Crop hail insurance pays a loss from a whole different approach than MPCI. And, a farmer could suffer substantial hail damage and still not receive a payment from their MPCI policy. What??

Here’s why –again, a simplified explanation of the difference between MPCI and hail insurance:

MPCI losses are determined by the amount of crop that is REMAINING. For MPCI, your crop is insured based on crop yields that are determined by a rolling average of what YOU grow on your farm. When you have a loss, the adjuster will look at what part of your crop is still harvestable. 5 bushels? History has proven you can grow 30 bushels? You will receive a payment for a percentage of those bushels that make up the difference.

HAIL losses are determined by the amount of crop that is GONE. Hail insurance is purchased by dollars per acre. No history involved. What value do you think your crop is, or your expenses are, that you have exposed in the field and want to recover? $100/acre? $400/acre? Within the limits set by companies, you have plenty of choices on how to apply crop hail. Typically, $100/acre is where most of my customers will start and add on more coverage (something you can do with crop hail, not MPCI) as the crop matures. So, a hail storm comes through and an adjuster is sent out. The adjuster will take counts in the field and determine what percent of the crop IS GONE. It doesn’t matter if you have a 15 bushel crop or a 60 bushel crop. If 50% of the crop is gone, you will get paid 50% of the $100/acre.

Trust me, this is a simplified explanation of crop insurance! I have been a licensed agent, specializing in crop insurance, for nearly 30 years and every year, I have the opportunity to learn something new about crop insurance, particularly MPCI. Unlike crop hail insurance, which remains basically the same year-after-year, MPCI – for the most part, changes every year!

Cynthia by John Deere Combine

Cynthia Ries ,AFIS Licensed Agent
Stockman Insurance

So, look at your dinner plate tonight and know that more than likely, all those food items are insured with some kind of crop insurance. They don’t come from a grocery store. They come from a field somewhere that is exposed to Mother Nature and crop insurance helps to ensure it gets to your table.

Insurance Disclosure

Many Hats – Court Appointed Special Advocates

Many Hats – Court Appointed Special Advocates

The people of Stockman are involved in their communities in many ways. We have scout leaders, soccer coaches, non-profit board members and we have a very special group of three CASA volunteers who shared their insights and stories with us.

The Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, was established in 1977. In Montana, approximately 2,000 children every year, suffer abuse and neglect. These children often find themselves in a courtroom, crowded with a judge, a representative from a foster care agency, biological parents, family members, attorneys and other courtroom staff. These children need an advocate – someone to speak on their behalf.

Katie Lawler

CASA of Lewis and Clark and Broadwater Counties

Katie Lawler - Award

Katie Lawler – Award

I have been a CASA for 10 years and have been the fundraising chair of their annual Light of Hope Banquet for 9 years. I was drawn to the CASA program because of the amazing work they do on behalf of the most vulnerable population in our community – children.

Throughout my experience with CASA, I have had the privilege of getting to know 13 kids, all of which ended their cases in safe, supportive and loving homes through adoption by their amazing foster parents, or reunification with their birth parents. Being a CASA Advocate can be a challenging undertaking, as the majority of these kids have experienced things that most of us can not even begin to imagine. The process can sometimes be a long one, but it is 100% worth it in the end!

Tanna Yerger

CASA of Yellowstone County

Tanna Yerger - CASA Badge

Tanna Yerger – CASA Badge

About 2 years ago, I was sworn in as a CASA. Since then, I have had the privilege of helping 7 children be reunited with at least one of their birth parents. Volunteering for CASA is not for the faint of heart, but it is by far one of the most rewarding programs I have experienced. Having the opportunity to give children a voice in a situation that is completely out of their control is only the tip of the iceberg. In many cases, the children we work with are given access to services that they may not have otherwise been given such as dental care, medical assistance, and help in school.

I firmly believe that CASA makes a difference in our community. It is a privilege to help these children feel more in control of their lives despite their circumstances. Often, they are placed in foster care and are separated from their siblings. As a CASA, I have the ability to help set up a time and place to allow these siblings to be reunited and spend time with one another, even if it’s only for an hour. Seeing the look on their faces makes every difficult day worth it!

Acacia Madill

CASA of Yellowstone County

Acacia Madill - Swearing In

Acacia Madill – Swearing In

I became a part of the CASA program in November 2019 and am currently working on a case with 4 kids. I was drawn to CASA because I wanted to help children navigate through the system to hopefully continue on to have successful lives despite their negative circumstances. I also want to be a voice for their wishes and best interests.

CASA is a wonderful program that is helping to enrich the lives of children as they go through the system. Being a CASA is very eye opening to a world that I didn’t know existed prior to volunteering. It is rewarding to be the constant for those innocent kids that are thrown into a world they have no control over as they are sometimes bounced from place to place and without their biological parents.

Thank you!

We thank all of our state’s CASA volunteers for helping abused and neglected children in Montana to find a permanent home and the opportunity to thrive. To learn more about the CASA program or to volunteer, visit their website.

Bank Disclosures