Current Affairs

­

18 Cyber Security Tips for 2018

cyber security

18 Cyber Security Tips for 2018

Here are 18 helpful cyber security tips for 2018 to keep your electronic data and devices safe.

  1. You are an attractive target to hackers. Don’t think, “It won’t happen to me.”
  2. Lock your computer when you are away from it. Even a few minutes is enough time for someone else to destroy or corrupt your information.
  3. Avoid unintentionally installing spyware on your electronic devices; never click on links within pop-up windows.
  4. Be wary of free downloadable software; you may be exposing your computer to spyware programs by downloading programs from questionable websites.
  5. Install both anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer, and make sure they are compatible.
  6. Take a little time to review, understand and use the privacy settings on social networking sites.
  7. Turn off the option to automatically download attachments in emails.
  8. Be wary of unsolicited attachments in email, even from people you know.  Many viruses can “spoof” the return address, making it look like the message came from someone else.
  9. Use different passwords on different systems and accounts.
  10. Don’t use passwords with personal information that can be accessed or guessed; use capital and lowercase letters, numbers and characters.
  11. Report spam email messages.
  12. Never click on a link in an email from someone you do not know.
  13. Stay safe when shopping online. Only do business with reputable vendors. Some cyber attackers create malicious websites that appear to be legitimate; always verify the site before supplying any personal or financial information.
  14. Never plug an unknown USB drive into your computer to try to identify or locate the owner.
  15. Monitor your accounts (email, social media, banking, etc.) for any suspicious activity. If you see something unfamiliar, it could be a sign that you’ve been compromised.
  16. Disable Bluetooth when you’re not using it, to help prevent hacking.
  17. Hackers have strategies for attacking devices through public Wi-Fi. Keep firewalls enabled at all times; turn off file sharing when using  public Wi-Fi.
  18. Remember you can be a victim of cyber crime offline, too.  If someone calls asking for sensitive information, say no. Call the company directly to verify before giving out information.

Sources: Department of Homeland Security; Heimdal Security; Cisco

By |January 3rd, 2018|Current Affairs|

Congress Finalizing Tax Reform Bill

The U.S. House and Senate have each passed different tax reform bills and are working together to reconcile the differences. The goal is to deliver a final tax reform bill to the president before Christmas.

“Both bills are big improvements to America’s out-of-date tax code,” wrote Adam Michel, a policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, in a recent article comparing the two packages. “Both bills cut taxes for individuals and businesses, largely repeal the state and local tax deduction, and allow businesses to invest more in the American economy through temporary expensing.”

Though nothing has been finalized as of this writing, a common theme seems to be allowing fewer itemized deductions for individuals and to balance that by increasing standard deduction amounts. For example, the personal exemption of $4,050 for income taxes would be eliminated and offset with a higher standard deduction of $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. (The current standard income tax deduction is about half that – $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples.) Deductions for state and local income and sales taxes (SALT) will likely be capped at $10,000. In contrast, the child tax credit is expected to increase from $1,000 currently to $1,600 or more.

In anticipation of potential changes, those who typically itemize on their income tax returns may want to consider accelerating deductible expenses in 2017. For example, they could pay second-half property taxes and/or make a January mortgage payment before year-end. They could also make their fourth-quarter estimated state income tax payment by year-end.

By |December 18th, 2017|Current Affairs, Taxes|

Ease Financial Burden of Funeral Planning

gravestones and funeral planningLosing a loved one is never easy. To make matters worse, it’s difficult to make major financial decisions when you’re feeling overwhelmed and heartbroken. Funerals can be a significant expense. The average cost is about $10,000 according to the funeral-pricing site Parting.com. Thankfully, understanding the different expenses, knowing your options and planning ahead can help ease both the emotional and financial burden of funeral planning.

“In the best of all worlds, you or a loved one will have included funeral arrangement wishes in your estate planning,” said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president at Charles Schwab. “That can save a lot of guessing, and money, for the people you leave behind.”

She recommends putting your preferences in writing and giving copies to family. Since the will is often not found or read until after the funeral, putting these preferences or instructions in your will is not advisable.

Tips to Ease Financial Burden of Funeral Planning

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal funeral rule allows funeral providers to charge a basic services fee that customers have to pay. The basic services fee includes services that are common to all funerals, regardless of the specific arrangement. These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties.

If budget is a concern, understand that you’re not legally required to purchase optional goods or services from your funeral provider. There are other businesses that may offer a lower price for things such as transportation, flowers, caskets, urns, facilities for memorial services, and more.

The FTC has an online guide that can help you plan manage your funeral planning and budget. www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0301-funeral-costs-and-pricing-checklist.

 

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By |November 20th, 2017|Current Affairs, Estate Planning|

Retirement Age Rising

Legendary singer Tony Bennett, who at age 91 still tours and performs for live audiences, has quipped, “It’s too late to retire.” More and more, Americans seem to share Bennett’s sentiment; they are postponing retirement and spending their golden years on the job. Recent studies show the average retirement age rising.

Retirement Age Rising

For men, it is just shy of 65 years, up from 62 in 1985. For women, since 1985, average retirement age has increased from about 60 years to 62. Today, about 20 percent of people 65 or older work at least part-time – the highest rate in 55 years. Among 70- to 74-year-olds, 19 percent work – that’s an 11 percent gain since 1994. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts if current trends continue, by 2024 about 36 percent of 65- to 69-year-old American workers will still be in the labor force.

While some older workers who delay retirement do so because they need the money, others continue working because they remain healthy, highly-skilled and happy at their jobs. A recent study by Transamerica found that 44 percent of later-retirees continue to work by choice. In other words, many people are working longer not because they have to, but because they want to.

“By the time you’re in your 60s and 70s, you’ve probably worked yourself into something you enjoy doing,” explains Jacquelyn James, an expert on aging at Boston College.

In addition to improved health and longevity, factors contributing to later retirement include:

  • changes to social security have improved incentives to keep working;
  • fewer workers are covered by traditional pensions;
  • people with more education tend to work longer; and
  • many jobs today are less physically demanding than in the past.

Older workers also tend to thrive in knowledge-based jobs – such as finance, law or business – according to Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen.

By |October 23rd, 2017|Current Affairs, Retirement|