Posts Tagged ‘ finances ’

3 Easy Ways to Protect Your Bank Account

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

credit card theifOne small mistake—that’s all it takes to compromise your financial security.

This realization dawned on me following the recent Target debit and credit card hack, where nearly 40 million account details were stolen as part of a Thanksgiving weekend security breach. Fox News reports that this is the second-largest credit card breach in American history.

I got to thinking: If their hi-tech systems could be compromised, putting millions of people at risk for credit card fraud, then I imagine it’d be a walk in the park for some cyber wizard to snag my credit card details from an unsecured online transaction, clean sweep my bank accounts and leave me empty handed. That’s not a pretty picture, so I decided it was time to take action and adapt new practices for protecting my personal data.

While I’m not willing to do anything too extreme, like stop using credit cards altogether or stash my critical documents in a safe box buried out back, I’ve found a few low-hassle ways to instantly boost my security and protect my assets (or at least what’s left of them after the shopping extravaganza I went on last week):

1. Safeguard and monitor your information. No matter how well secured your personal documents are, it always pays to have a back-up file handy, just in case. To regain my peace of mind after the Target incident, I downloaded the free app, Lifelock Wallet, which allows me to store digital copies of my bank account details, tax forms and more on my iOS or Android smartphone, so I can access them on-the-go and have a duplicate to reference in case of emergencies. Not only does it allow me password-protected access to my personal data at all times, it enables me to remotely monitor fraudulent bank account activity and even cancel a credit card in the case of loss or theft.

2. Manage pre-approved offers. On average, I receive 2-3 pre-approved credit card offers per week by mail. While I used to just shred up the documents (always a good first step) and safely dispose of them, a smarter move is to contact each source and ask to be removed from the mailing list. That way, it’s less likely that an impostor will be able to intercept my mail and open up a line of credit in my name. An easy way to do this is to visit OptOutPre-Screen.com, the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website that helps you manage pre-screened offers. I could choose between opting out of offers for just a limited time or permanently—and can choose to reinstate the offers at any time.

3. Update passwords regularly. Keeping track of all my different passwords can be tricky, so I’m always tempted to make them all the same or to rely on a few simple favorites to rotate on occasion. But creating complex passwords, each containing special characters, digits or a mix of upper and lower case letters, that are updated often is one of your best bets for keeping your digital information secure.

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Image: Credit card theif illustration via Shutterstock.

 

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Stuck at Stella’s: How Teaching Money Lessons to Our Kids Paid Off

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Pink piggy bank and moneyEditor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

How are you teaching your kids to be dollar-wise? How will you know if it works? I’m the son of a fruit peddler (Max’s Mobile Market), and I grew up impoverished. I didn’t know I was poor, though, because my mom managed to make do on dad’s meager earnings and provide us with everything we needed. My own income as a pediatrician and professor is heartier than my dad’s was, but so are our expenses. So as a family, we are very careful. Our kids grew up respecting the value of money and knowing how many different priorities need to be met in the life of a family. My wife and I made sure they were part of important buying decisions as they were growing up, and we would remind them how many boxes of apples Grandpa Max had to sell to pay for school clothes when I was little.

A phone call a couple years ago told us we must have done something right. Our daughter, then a college senior, called to tell us she was stuck at Stella’s—a quaint, Euro-style cafe just off campus where students hang out, study, and Facebook. On a day when she needed to get away from distractions and work on her senior thesis, our little girl took her laptop to Stella’s where, for one dollar a day, patrons can get unlimited Internet access and nurse a chai for hours. Accidentally, my otherwise tech-savvy child clicked the “5 days for $5″ button on Stella’s WiFi prompt instead of the “1 day for $1″ button. She freaked. Well, semi-freaked. “Five dollars is a lot of money! I would never have paid that much on purpose!” she told us from Stella’s, where she was now encamped until “17:54:38, 2/11/12,” as her digital receipt read.

“Go home, sweetie—you don’t have t stay there the whole time. Work at home; you have Internet at your house. Make dinner. Take a shower.”

“That’s not the point, Dad. I paid for it; I should use it. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste!”

Stella’s wasn’t really going to let her sleep there till Saturday, but if they would have, she might have. Actually, she probably wouldn’t have slept for fear of wasting paid Internet minutes. In the big scheme of things, five dollars is a just a drop in the college expenses bucket. Not so much a bucket, really, as a sinkhole. But it’s a good thing when your kids worry about all the little drops that fill the bucket. It means they were listening. Listening to us compare prices, debate priorities, and make tough choices as they were growing up.

Kids will inevitably resent some of the “no’s” we must tell them. The “no” to the must-have toy they saw on TV, the cool clothes all the other kids are wearing, the video game the neighbors got for Christmas. Without our coaching and explaining, the “no’s” can seem arbitrary and unfair. But, ideally, making your kids part of the budgeting process from an early age, teaching them about charity and those who are less fortunate, and working with them to make compromises everyone can live with will help your kids become financially responsible by the time they’re old enough to get stuck at a place like Stella’s.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

 

Image: Piggy bank on paper money dollar pile via Shutterstock.

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Will Millennials Be Able to Afford to Raise Children?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

“How will I ever be able to afford to raise a child?” This question has been on the mind of many Millennials (including my own) recently. Recent reports of what it costs to raise a child are filling us with panic, especially since we know that it’ll be years before we start families (when the cost will be even greater).

Redfin says that Baby’s first year alone costs about $26,000, and CNN Money reports that it costs $241,080 to raise a kid from birth to age 18. That doesn’t even include the cost of college!

There are many good reasons for these numbers to put us into this premature panic. The cost of living has gone up since we were born in the 80s and 90s. We’ve seen our families go through the economic recession while many of us were in college and watching our tuition rise year after year. Because of this, many of us graduated with tens (even hundreds) of thousands of dollars in student loans and hunted for jobs during a recession. It’s difficult to make ends meet for just one person, so it’s no wonder the thought of having enough money to afford a good life for a child makes us anxious.

A few friends of mine (including my awesome friend Melanie who did the CNN Money study) have calculated how much they think they need to make and save each year to be able to afford a child. However, knowing that number and being able to save it are two very different things. Who knows if it’ll be possible to actually save up that much based on current financial commitments. I’m very eager to see how financial stress will impact the next generation of families. Will knowing these mega costs make Millennials create smaller families than our parents and grandparents made?

Millennial moms, how much influence has money had in your family planning?

Image: Woman with piggy bank via Shutterstock

 

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