Yearly Archives: 2018

­

Understand and Reduce Wi-Fi Risk

Shannon Curkendoll researches cyber security to help clients understand and reduce Wi-Fi risk.

Shannon Curkendoll researches cyber security to help clients understand and reduce Wi-Fi risk.

Cyber criminals continue to come up with new ways to gain access to your electronic devices and, in turn, your most personal data. According to Komando.com, numerous new hacking techniques have emerged in just the past few months that exploit small flaws in routers, browsers and Wi-Fi security. SureCloud recently published a report on how password auto-saving features of internet browsers and unsecured home routers can put you at risk. It’s important to stay up-to-date on cyber secuity issues to better understand and reduce Wi-Fi risk.

“By renaming a malicious Wi-Fi access point to impersonate yours, a hacker then waits until your gadget connects to the fake router under his/her control, hoping that you won’t notice the difference. Once connected, the hacker can then have full control,” Komando reports.

Home Wi-Fi routers aren’t the only systems that are vulnerable. Few public Wi-Fi services have secure routers, even in locations where you might expect high security.

Cloud security company Coronet released a report in July that studied Wi-Fi security in America’s 45 busiest airports. According to the report, to maximize traveler convenience, most airports provide free or low-cost Wi-Fi. Regrettably, Wi-Fi security is often sacrificed in exchange for simplicity, leaving networks unencrypted, unsecured or improperly configured.

“Until such time when airports take responsibility and improve their cyber-security posture, the accountability is on each individual flyer to be aware of the risks and take the appropriate steps to minimize the danger,” stresses Dror Liwer, Coronet’s chief information systems officer. This advice applies to users of any public or unsecured Wi-Fi.

“Most of the time, individuals find themselves hastily connecting to public Wi-Fi networks to save themselves from overage charges on their phone bills,” wrote Justin Dolly, Malwarebytes chief security officer, in an opinion piece at CSO.com. “Investing in an unlimited data plan will not only eliminate your need for accessing insecure Wi-Fi networks, it will also often allow you to use your mobile device to create a personal internet hotspot.”

A personal hotspot creates an encrypted wireless network, which prevents people on devices near you from accessing your network without a password.

If you’ve used public Wi-Fi, SureCloud recommends that you clear your browser’s saved passwords and don’t save credentials for unsecured HTTP pages. Also delete saved open-networks and don’t allow automatic reconnection.

By |October 8th, 2018|Current Affairs|

Think About Estate Planning

Aretha Franklin’s death without a will is a reminder that “you better think” about estate planning.

On August 16, Aretha Franklin passed away in her home after a long, private battle with pancreatic cancer. The Queen of Soul died without having a will or trust in place. Now her family must wrestle with not only their grief, but also the lengthy, complicated and expensive process of probate. Take this news as an important reminder to think about estate planning. Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person’s assets and distributing them to creditors and inheritors.

How Often Do You Think about Estate Planning?

Franklin’s exact net worth is unknown, but it is estimated at roughly $80 million and includes the rights to many of her hit songs, according to Wealth Management Magazine. The complete lack of estate planning on Franklin’s part will likely result in the federal government taking a huge tax bite out of that figure, leaving less inheritance to her four sons. At the moment, there are no indications that any of Franklin’s heirs are in conflict regarding next steps. Unfortunately, without documented instructions for distribution of her estate, that could easily change.

When music legend Prince died two years ago, he also left behind no will or plan for what should happen to his $500 million estate. In addition, it was unclear who had control of his royalty rights and his unreleased music. Both performers led deeply private lives. Yet, without a will or trust in place, each of their estates now can and will be laid bare for all to see.

Everyone needs a will. The legal document expedites the settlement of an estate, keeps proceedings from going to probate, and helps keep private matters private. This is true regardless of the size or scope of your estate, legacy or fame.

By |September 24th, 2018|Current Affairs, Estate Planning|

529 Education Savings Plan Updates

529 Education Savings Plan UpdatesIn July, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of the Treasury announced new regulations related to recent tax law changes that affect 529 plans. The 529 education savings plan updates have to do with k-12 education and rollovers to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) allows distributions from 529  plans to be used to pay up to a total of $10,000 of tuition per beneficiary (regardless of the number of contributing plans) each year at an elementary or secondary (k-12) public, private or religious school of the beneficiary’s choosing.

Another TCJA change allows funds to be rolled over from a designated beneficiary’s 529 plan to an ABLE account for the same beneficiary or a family member. ABLE accounts are tax-favored accounts for certain people who become disabled before age 26, designed to enable these people and their families to save and pay for disability-related expenses. The regulations would provide that rollovers from 529 plans, together with any contributions made to the ABLE account cannot exceed the annual ABLE contribution limit ($15,000 for 2018).

To learn more about the changes, visit the IRS official website.

To learn more about 529 plans and how they can help beneficiaries, as well as those who contribute funds, click on our article below.

Grandparents Can Help Pay Grandchildren’s Education

By |September 10th, 2018|College Planning, Current Affairs, Taxes|

Exponential Growth of ETFs

Patrick Eng addresses the exponential growth of ETFs.

The advent of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) took place a little more than 25 years ago with the creation of the SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY) in January 1993.  Yet, ETFs remained an obscure and little noticed trading vehicle for many years before it was embraced as a widely accepted investment choice by retail investors. An emphasis on passive investing and low-cost investment products in the past 10 years has driven the exponential growth of ETFs.

In the early 2000s, there was less than $100 billion in assets under management in ETF form. Today, that figure approaches $5 trillion. By comparison, the mutual fund industry now has about $19 trillion in assets, according to Investment Company Institute.

ETFs trade like stocks and are primarily passive investments that endeavor to replicate the performance of an index. In the case of the SPY, it is the S&P 500 index with 500 stocks bundled into a trust that trades on the exchange as if it was just one stock. ETFs are generally more tax-efficient than stocks, because they tend not to distribute a lot of capital gains and passive tracking of an index usually doesn’t require frequent trading.

There is plenty of room for the ETF market to continue to grow. In fact, ETFs have eclipsed the hedge fund market, which grew to $3.22 trillion globally in 2018, according to a report by Hedge Fund Research. Projections by BlackRock estimate ETF assets will grow to $12 trillion in the next five years.

As a potential investor in ETFs, knowing what resources you currently have and what resources you still need to reach a specific financial planning goal is critical. Picking the investment product that will help you reach that goal is the last step in the process – a step with which your advisor can assist.

Along with mutual funds and hedge funds, ETFs are investment vehicles that may help you get where you want to go.

By |August 27th, 2018|Investing|