Tag: finance

Steps To Secure Your Financial Privacy

Safeguarding personal financial data has never been more important, as an increasingly digital world has made online banking that much more prevalent. Cyber crimes are a significant concern. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no less than 422 million individuals were impacted by cyber crime in 2022, and nearly 33 billion accounts are anticipated to be breached by the end of 2023. Cyber crimes are happening every day, even if the public only hears about the largest data breaches.

Financial institutions as well as retailers and other businesses that require the use of personal financial information are obligated to safeguard customer data. According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial institutions protect the privacy of consumers’ finances under a federal law called the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That law governs banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and companies providing many other types of products and services. The law dictates how financial institutions can collect and disclose customer’s personal financial information.

Individuals also have key roles to play in protecting themselves. Though even the best precautions cannot completely secure your financial privacy, every little effort is worth it to reduce your risk of being victimized by data theft. These tips from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority can help individuals safeguard their privacy.

· You have the right to opt out of the sharing of some of your personal information with affiliates and non-affiliates of a financial institution. For example, you can opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers by way of credit bureaus selling information about you to lenders or insurance.

· Increase awareness of phishing scams. These often are emails that appear to come from legitimate firms or financial regulators asking for personal information. These entities would never ask for account numbers, passwords, credit card information, or Social Security numbers through email. Verify all communication with the financial institution by contacting that institution directly at the number listed on your account statement or bill.

· Be aware of where you click online. Never click on a questionable link or download a suspicious email attachment.

· Strong passwords can keep accounts more secure. Resist the urge to use the same password across many accounts. Once that password is compromised, the cyber criminal may be able to try it on your other accounts. Consider using a password manager to suggest and save strong and unique passwords for each account.

· Utilize multifactor authentication whenever it is available. MFA adds an extra layer of protection by using a password as well as a unique code or biometric to unlock the account.

· Conduct all financial business on a personal device on a secure network. Delete the cache and history frequently to avoid leaving a digital trace.

These steps can help protect financial security. Individuals need to be diligent in safeguarding their information from cyber criminals.

3 Steps To Simplify Tax Prep So You Can File On Time

Spring is noted for the sense of rejuvenation it inspires when temperatures warm up and flowers begin to bloom. But in the United States, the onset of spring is followed shortly thereafter by tax season, which typically generates entirely different feelings than the first sight of spring blooms.

The deadline to file tax returns in the U.S. in 2023 is Tuesday, April 18. With that deadline looming, now is a good time to consider these three basic tax preparation tips, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

1. Access your IRS account. Individuals can access or create their IRS account at irs.gov/account. That ensures taxpayers have the latest information about their federal tax account and enables them to see information about their most recently filed return. A visit to irs.gov/account also allows individuals to make payments and apply for payment plans, among other options.

2. Organize your tax records. The IRS urges taxpayers to wait to file their returns until they have all of their records, including:

– Forms W-2 from employer(s)

– Forms 1099 from banks, issuing agencies and others payers, including unemployment compensation, dividends, pension, annuity or retirement plan distributions

– Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2, or other income statement if you worked in the gig economy

– For 1099-INT if you were paid interest

– Other income documents and records of digital asset transactions, including convertible virtual currency and cryptocurrency, stablecoins and non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

– Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to reconcile advance payments or claim Premium Tax Credits for 2022 Marketplace coverage

– IRS or other agency letters

– CP01A Notice with your new Identity Protection PIN

3. Check your Individual Tax Identification Number. The IRS notes that an ITIN only requires renewal if it has expired and is needed on a federal tax return. An expired ITIN can delay the processing of a return, which in turn can delay tax credits and refunds.

Taxpayers filing with the help of a licensed tax professional are urged to contact that individual to inquire about any additional information they may need to file a return on time. Make such an inquiry well in advance of the deadline to file so you have sufficient time to gather all of the necessary documentation.

More information about filing taxes is available at irs.gov.

Tips To Pick The Right Time To Retire

Professionals work hard to achieve both short- and long-term goals. Retirement certainly qualifies as a long-term goal, and many people spend decades building and investing in a nest egg that they hope will help them enjoy their golden years to the fullest extent.

The decision regarding when to retire is affected by a host of variables, so what’s a good time for one individual may not be ideal for another. However, professionals on the cusp of retirement can consider these tips as they try to pick the right time to retire.

Consider Age-Related Benefits

Both the United States and Canada feature government-sponsored retirement income programs and it behooves individuals to familiarize themselves with the rules of those programs so they can maximize their benefits. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) allows individuals to begin receiving full CPP benefits at age 65, but they also can get a permanently reduced amount the moment they turn 60. The CPP also allows people to receive a permanent increase if they wait until turning 70 to receive payment. Similar age-related rules govern the Social Security benefits program in the United States, where individuals can begin claiming benefits at age 62, though those benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. If individuals wait until they’re 66 or, in some cases, 67, to claim Social Security benefits, they will receive their full benefits. The Social Security Administration notes that those who can wait until age 70 to claim benefits will receive as much as 132 percent of the monthly benefit they would have received at full retirement age.

These distinctions are significant, especially for people who will be looking to government-sponsored programs to provide significant financial support in retirement. Individuals who won’t rely as heavily on such programs may be able to retire earlier.

Pay Off Your Debts

Carrying debt into retirement can be risky. In general, it’s ideal to pay off all debts, including a mortgage and car payment, before retiring. Doing so can provide more financial flexibility and make it easier to manage unforeseen expenses, such as those incurred due to health problems.

Consider Your Retirement Living Expenses

It goes without saying that a sizable nest egg will be a necessity for anyone hoping to live comfortably in retirement. But the tricky part is figuring just how big a nest egg might need to be. In such instances, individuals can speak with a financial advisor and discuss what their retirement living expenses will be. Conventional wisdom based on the Consumer Price Index suggests individuals will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income after calling it a career. But even that figure is not set in stone, as rising inflation, such as the rapid spike experienced in 2022, can quickly put retirees in financial jeopardy. By estimating the expenses they might have in retirement, individuals can begin to see just how close or far away from retirement they may be. Budget for inflation so any spike in living expenses can be easier to manage.

Many individuals recognize that there’s no perfect time to retire. But a few simple strategies can help professionals make the best decision possible.

How to Be a Smart Credit Consumer

Financial planning encompasses a host of strategies designed to help people enjoy the fruits of their labors. Financial planning is often associated with saving for retirement. However, smart credit management is an integral component of financial planning that can begin paying dividends long before adults are ready to retire.

Capital One notes that the benefits of a good credit score include lower credit card and mortgage interest rates, which can save individuals tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their home loans. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission reports that the better an individual’s credit history, the easier it is for that person to establish utility services, including electricity and internet service.

With so much to gain, individuals should do everything they can to be smart credit consumers. These strategies can help consumers use credit to their advantage as they look to gain from this vital component of financial planning.

Recognize the factors that affect your score. A credit score is generated using a formula that takes various factors into consideration. These factors include payment history, credit utilization rate, length of credit history, and credit inquiries, among others. Each variable is important, but paying balances in full and on time each month is a great way to build a strong financial reputation in the eyes of creditors. In addition, avoid overutilization of credit, especially if you can’t pay balances in full each month.

Check credit before looking for a job. One easily overlooked benefit of being a smart credit consumer is its impact on individuals’ ability to find a good job. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urges individuals to check their credit reports before they begin looking for a job so they can correct any mistakes that may be on their reports. That’s because some employers look at applicants’ credit reports as part of their background checks. Smart credit consumers recognize that monitoring their credit is just as important as utilizing it wisely. Consumers can access reports from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for free once every 12 months.

Don’t wing it. Much like successful retirement planning is often the culmination of decades of hard work, strategizing and saving, becoming a smart credit consumer involves commitment to a well-developed plan to utilize credit. Impulsive use of credit can quickly compromise individuals’ credit histories and financial reputations, so develop a plan to use credit wisely and stick to that plan. A successful credit utilization strategy should be rooted in paying bills on time, and ideally in full, each month to avoid potentially costly interest charges. Identify any bad credit utilization habits and do your best to eliminate them. If necessary, work with a financial planner to develop your credit utilization strategy.

Various strategies can help individuals become smart credit consumers and reap the rewards that a strong financial reputation has to offer.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

How to Get & Keep Your Finances in Order

In 2015, analysts with the Government Accountability Office found that the average American between the ages of 55 and 64 had accrued roughly $104,000 in retirement savings, a shockingly low figure that would make it very difficult for men and women nearing retirement to maintain their quality of life into their golden years. Things don’t look much better north of the border, where the 2015 Global Investor Pulse Survey from the asset management firm BlackRock found that the average Canadian in the same age group had amassed an average of just $125,000.

While many people fear retiring with small nest eggs, that fear has apparently not been enough to inspire men and women to commit to saving more money for their golden years. But retirement saving is essential, especially since life expectancies are rising. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, global life expectancies at birth are expected to rise to 76 years by the mid-21st century. That’s a far cry from the mid-20th century, when global life expectancy from birth was roughly 48 years.

Longer life expectancies mean men and women will have to find ways to make their money last throughout their retirement. The earlier adults figure out how to keep their finances in order, the more money they will have when the time comes to retire. The following are a handful of strategies men and women can employ to rein in their finances in the hopes of saving more for retirement.

· Review your finances at least once per month. Hectic schedules or fear of the financial unknown make it easy for adults to ignore their finances for long stretches of time. But adults should review their financial situation at least once per month, examining how they are spending their money and if there are any ways to cut costs and redirect dollars going out into their retirement accounts. Redirecting as little as $100 per month into a retirement account can add up to a substantial amount of money over time.

· Pay monthly bills immediately. Many adults receive monthly bills for utilities, rent/mortgage, phone, and television/Internet. If you have the money in your account, pay these bills the moment you receive them. Doing so is a great way to avoid overspending on other items, such as dining out or shopping trips, and then finding yourself scrambling to pay bills come their due dates. Once all the monthly bills have been paid and you have deposited money into your savings/retirement accounts, then you can spend any leftover money on nights out on the town or new clothes if you feel the need.

· Buy only what you can afford. It sounds simple, but many adults would have far more in their retirement accounts if they simply avoided buying items they cannot afford. According to a 2015 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of NerdWallet, the average credit card debt per indebted American household in 2015 was $15,762.07. Adults who want to get their finances in order and start saving more for retirement should put the plastic away and only make purchases with cash or debit cards that take money directly out of their bank accounts once the card is swiped.

· Downsize. Downsizing is another way to free up more money for retirement savings. Empty nesters can save money by downsizing to a smaller home or even an apartment. Drivers who no longer need room for the whole family can downsize from SUVs or minivans to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Adults also may be able to downsize their entertainment, switching from costly cable packages to basic plans or cutting the cord entirely and subscribing to more affordable streaming services.

Getting a grip on spending can help adults save more for retirement and ensure their golden years are not compromised by lack of funds.


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