Tips for Cyber-Security When it comes to Your Mobile Device

Odds are, you’re probably reading this blog post on your cell phone, which you found through an app on your smartphone and then used it to get directions to First Security State Bank. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a smartphone and use it on a daily basis. With so many people accessing, searching and downloading things on their cell phones, are we really using the same caution and protection we would use when it comes to our computers? Odds also are, you’re not. With a few tips, you can start better protecting your smartphone from things like data theft, malware and privacy invasion.

Needed Protection: You may be wondering what exactly needs to be protected when it comes to your smart phone. Luckily, they can be broken down into three categories.

  1. Device Protection – In case your phone was ever stolen, this kind of protection would wipe all information and data from your phone, which is beneficial if you utilize mobile or online banking.
  2. Data Protection – This protection was designed to keep work information from place of employment from being spread to your personal apps.
  3. App-Management Security – Having login information, credit card information and other personal information within apps should be protected from falling into the wrong hands. App-management security does just that.

Trusted Apps: Not all apps are created equal. Since it’s becoming increasingly easier for third-parties to create apps this means there are more apps out there than there’s ever been. One way to help protect yourself is to only download apps from the trusted app store. You should also review existing apps’ privacy policies and settings for permissions.

Public Wi-Fi: One thing you should know is public Wi-Fi is generally not secure. Hackers can get in-between you and the Wi-Fi connection point and when you’re submitting information on your phone you’re actually sending it to the hacker. It’s recommended to protect yourself using a VPN, which encrypts your data, essentially scrambling the information.

Jailbreaking Phones: While it may seem like the cool thing to do to format your phone without the factory standards, you’re actually setting your phone for several security risks. One of those risks is Malware and loss of personal information.

We hope these tips can better protect you and your smartphone. There are several companies that can protect your mobile devices, including Norton Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security. If you have any questions or concerns about you protecting yourself, we encourage you to contact us. Our team would love to assist you.

 

How NOT to Get Hacked

not hacked

Every day you hear tips and tricks to ensuring the safety behind your personal information. While many of these offers and promotions are advertising a safety service, at First Security State Bank, we believe you can handle the majority of these precautions yourself! See what steps you’ll need to take in order to best prepare for your financial future. We’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

DO: Store your passwords in a secure app like LastPass.

DON’T: Write your passwords on post-it’s which you keep around your desk.

Remembering your passwords is important, but leaving them unattended for hackers could be dangerous. Ensure you keep your details out of plain site by utilizing secure password storage apps such as LastPass or Dashlane. Not only will this help you forget your passwords less often, but it helps you create more complicated passwords to help keep unwanted hackers at bay.

DO: Use social media to connect with friends and family.

DON’T: Connect with people you don’t know or share personal account information.

Even though social media can be a great way to interact with people you know, many users become choose to become connected with individuals they’ve never met. If you find yourself with a friend request from someone you don’t recognize, always decline it, to keep you and your contact safe. If for some reason you’re unsure if you know the individual or not, you can always message them to see how you’re connected instead.

DO: Shop online and find great deals.

DON’T: Use your debit card when shopping online.

Both your debit and credit card can be used online, however, only your credit card offers a zero fraud liability with no strings attached. Should your debit card become compromised you will need to act more swiftly, and you may even have to wait weeks or months before you see any stolen funds returned to your checking or savings account. Always be proactive and use your credit card if you plan to purchase online!

While these three strategies will help to keep your personal information safe, there are always new tips and tricks to learn! Check back on our blog each month to see how you can continue to improve your personal cyber security, courtesy of First Security State Bank.

Money Magic Tricks

Magic is one type of entertainment that will never go out of style. Whether it’s David Blaine and his shocking stunts, or newly famous films such as Now You See Me, this classic art has proved to truly stand the test of time. While First Security State Bank may not be the best at slight of hand, we do have a few savings tricks up our sleeves! See if you can understand the steps to these financial stunts and make your fiscal success appear out of thin air.

Make your money disappear (into your savings!)

Before you’re tempted to spend those hard earned dollars, we’ll show you how to make them vanish, and then reappear! By logging into your online banking, you can set-up recurring monthly transfers for a set amount from your checking to your savings. This way, your funds will get tucked away before you even knew they were there! The extra money saved can contribute to your retirement, education, or even an exciting getaway.

Cut your debt in two.

Tired of paying pesky credit card debt, a mortgage, or student loans? This helpful hack can show you how to saw that number in half, and potentially make it disappear. Financial talk show host Dave Ramsey has a proven method called Snowballing Your Debt. By continuing your monthly minimum payments, and using extra funds to “attack” one debt at a time, you can then rollover extra money from the fully paid loans into paying off the next biggest debt and then the next. Before you know it you’ll be debt free, and looking for another financial trick to master!

See double dollars on your retirement plan.

If you’re like most Americans and need to play a little catch-up on your personal retirement savings, this trick is sure to impress! To really maximize your saved dollars, we recommend diversifying your retirement accounts, by allowing one to be maintained by your employer (401k) and creating a separate account for you to contribute to on your own (IRA.) By automatically withdrawing money from your paycheck through your 401k, you can potentially invest MORE while having it managed through your employer. In addition to this, creating a dedicated IRA to store personal savings dollars in allows you to explicitly manage the growth of your continued contributions. Know what’s better than one retirement savings account? Two!

Pull extra money out of a hat.

Just like magicians, a good budget can help you find things you never knew were there – like money! Whether you’re using traditional methods like the envelope system, or more digital options like the YNAB, the end goal is still the same. To help you save even faster, you can couple your budget with additional savings tips and tricks on common recurring expenditures such as groceries, and you’ll see the savings in no time!

The Best Advice from Today’s Entrepreneurs

Sometimes finding the perfect idea for a new business can be easier said than done. Often you start by asking yourself a series of questions. Where is there a need? What can be created more efficiently? How can I solve a recurring problem? These are all great prompts to help you when looking for a concept for your new business. To help inspire your next venture, First Security State Bank would like to share some of our favorite quotes from several of today’s most influential entrepreneurs.

“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner.” – Chip Gaines, HGTV’s Fixer Upper.

While Chip may add some much-loved humor to HGTV’s Fixer Upper, his ambition and work ethic are what help him and his wife Joanna, continue to succeed in both their real estate and retail ventures. This dynamic duo also proves that one business does NOT limit you to other opportunities. If you have a true passion for entrepreneurship, you can plant the seeds for multiple ventures so long as you tend to them as they grow.

“Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and your industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.” -Mark Cuban, ABC’s Shark Tank.

Mark Cuban started growing his businesses at an early age, showcasing that even a small idea can grow into something big. In 1990 Cuban sold his first computer consulting business for $6 million dollars to CompuServe. Not even a decade later, Cuban and business partner, Todd Wagner sold their new online audio company for nearly $6 billion dollars.  Cuban is one of the best examples of growing your earnings and turning a penny into a fortune.

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” -Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda Gates began her career as a programmer for Microsoft. Soon after she and Bill began to build the company, they decided to push their wealth into various organizations to help others around the world. While there are various tax write-offs that make this a helpful tool for any business, this gesture also allows the company to share its love and showcase its own values through these acts of generosity. The Gates family is a great illustration of not only how to generate success but also using that platform to help improve the lives of countless others.

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.” -Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Richard Branson is known for his cavalier lifestyle, passion for quality, and continuing desire to grow his expanding empire. While Branson may have begun his entrepreneurship in print, he soon expanded to international corporations and other industry diversification. His journey to wealth held its fair share of trial and tribulations, however, today his company, Virgin Group, oversees more than 200 companies, proving that early business lessons can eventually pay the best dividends.

“When I sat down to write about mistakes that have lead to my success, I had a much tougher time coming up with them than I would expect. Heck, I’m sure I’ve made hundreds of mistakes! Thing is, I often don’t look at them that way.” -Stephanie Izard, James Beard Award Winning Chef

Chef and entrepreneur Stephanie Izard knows that sometimes the best ingredient to a successful business is a good attitude. No matter how far her restaurants and industry successes take her, Izard is always seeking out new tricks and techniques to continue improving her business. Her efforts paid off in 2013 when she was awarded the James Beard title of Best Chef: Great Lakes, for her innovative work at Girl and the Goat. This culinary creator showcases the key indicator of a great entrepreneur, grit.

Whether you’re looking to start a restaurant or a software company, there are some key components you’ll need to get started. Our dedicated business bankers are here to help guide you through the entrepreneurship process and help you discover the best financing solutions for your upcoming venture. If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, stop by First Security State Bank’s nearest branch today!

Money Advice Gone Wrong

money advice

Sometimes the best intentions can lend themselves to producing the worst results. While many friends and family members may offer quick solutions to your financial anguish, often times, the best education, is understanding those lessons first hand. At First Security State Bank we’d like to showcase several of the most common pieces of advice we hear, and what you can do to remedy these particular miscommunications.

Bad Advice #1: You have to go to college to get a decent job.

While a college degree does open additional doors, it is not required for many well-paying jobs available around the nation. Social figures like Mike Rowe, have made it their personal mission to spread the message that you can earn a living without having to sink into debt. Whether you’re interested in IT, manufacturing, grocery management, or other skilled work, you can find numerous positions through technical training or management programs, and avoid the majority of debt most four-year college students incur.

Bad Advice #2: Having debt is okay if you pay your minimum payments.

While it is important to make installments on your loans or debts, eliminating them all together should be the desired end goal. Did you know that when credit reporting companies review your credit score, there are five factors considered? The two most important factors are your payment history and your debt to income ratio. If your monthly debt payments require more than 43 percent of your income, that may raise a flag to any future potential lenders.

Bad Advice #3: To build your credit score you need to purchase everything on your credit card.

While it certainly helps to have a long and healthy track record associated with your credit card usage; having an on time payment history is far more important. This payment history represents the largest factor of your credit score, which the reporting bureaus track. By never spending more than you have, you can make certain you are able to pay your bill in full each and every month. This action may have the potential to help foster growth for your credit score.

Bad Advice #4: Retirement savings can wait.

Contrary to what many young adults think, right now is the most important time to start saving for retirement. While later in life you might have more disposable income to save, you’ll also have less time before you need those funds. Once compound interest enters any equation, time becomes the most valuable commodity for growing your wealth. For instance, if you saved the Roth IRA maximum of $5,500/year starting at age 25,  you’d have $1.17 Million by the time you’re 65. Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on those kinds of savings?

We think you can tackle any piece of advice with a few grains of salt. If you’re curious what your next financial move should be, stop by First Security State Bank and speak to one of our dedicated personal bankers. Our team of financial experts is here to help you and your family succeed; get started today!

Saving for Tuition 18 Years in Advance

tuition

After you get to see those little eyes open, it’s like a whole new world has unfolded before you. When you’re elbows deep in changing diapers, cleaning up whoopsies, and trying to sleep more than four hours a night, the last thing on your mind is college savings. At First Security State Bank we understand the chaos which ensues with each new addition to your family. To help you prepare for this upcoming transition, we’d like to help you find the best educational savings account for your little bundle of joy before he or she arrives!

There are two primary types of accounts when it comes to saving for your child’s ongoing education. Similar to retirement savings accounts, both of these options do require various stipulations when it comes to distributing the saved funds. Here we’ll show you the pro’s and con’s of each option, to help you better determine which option will suit you and your needs best.

The Coverdell Savings Account: This account option utilizes after tax dollars, which means there are no taxes on distributions when the funds are used for education. The account does have a nationwide $2,000 a year contribution limit, in addition to various income restrictions. While you and your spouse may manage and contribute to the fund, once the child turns eighteen, he or she will own the account and all the funds within it.  However, the child once of age, may only use the funds for education related expenses without incurring additional distribution tax.

The 529 Savings Account: This account option also utilizes after tax dollars, which again indicates no future taxes on distributions if the funds are used for education. The account does not have income limitations, however each state stipulates their own total contribution limit, typically ranging from $100,000 to $350,000.  For this account type, the physical savings account, and the funds within it, remain yours, only designated toward a specific beneficiary (which you can change up to once per year.)

Let’s compare the two when looking at national average college costs across the U.S.

If you choose to save using the Coverdell account option, suppose you save $2,000 per year for eighteen years, yielding a total of $36,000 of total out-of-pocket contributions. Add in the compound interest of those eighteen years, and you’ll find yourself with approximately $80,983 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of in-state public college in the U.S. is $20,090 or $80,360 for a four year degree.

Alternatively, if you choose to save with a 529 account, you can save more than $2,000 per year, say $3,500 per year instead. Multiply those contributions by eighteen years, and you’ll have $63,000 in total out-of-pocket contributions. After calculating your compound interest into the equation, you’ve grown up to $141,562 in total educational savings. Fun Fact: The national average for a year of any college in the U.S. is $35,370, or $141,480 for a four year degree.

As you can see, both of these accounts allow you to make much more through the benefit of time and compound interest. Just like your retirement savings, the sooner you start contributing, the more interest you can earn. While the Coverdell allows you to give the account to your child, the 529 shows better savings opportunities, allowing you to maximize your potential interest.

If you’d like to learn how you can start saving for your upcoming chick-a-doo, stop by and speak with one of our dedicated personal bankers at First Security State Bank today! We’d love to help your family continue to grow!

The DO’s and DON’TS of Using Credit Cards

creditcard

Using a credit card is a great stepping stone to help boost your personal credit history. By proactively managing your ongoing finances, you can showcase to potential lenders that you know how to fulfill your repayment promises. What many people don’t know, is that simply having a credit card does not automatically indicate an increase in your credit score. To help you succeed with your credit, First Security State Bank has put together our most commonly asked do’s and don’ts when using credit cards.

DO: Pay your balance in FULL every month or every two weeks.

DON’T: Keep a balance even if the interest rate is low

While keeping a balance less than 30 percent won’t drastically harm your credit score, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. We recommend never spending more than you can pay off each and every month. By keeping yourself to this standard you can make certain to never become a victim of expensive credit card debt.

DO: Choose a card that will compliment your lifestyle.

DON’T: Pick your credit card based on mail or TV offers.

There are countless websites and apps centered on helping you find the ideal credit card. Instead of signing up for a credit card through the mail, start perusing sites like NerdWallet to discover which card fits not only your spending but your rewards preferences too! Before you start applying, remember to only apply for a credit card if you need one. If you plan on using more than one, wait six months or more before applying for a new line of credit. This will help to keep your credit score on track and assist in preventing any unwanted dips.

DO: Use reward points to save money.

DON’T: Spend more just to get additional points.

While some credit card options certainly do offer some great sign-on rewards, remember that added debt and expenses are never worth the hike in points. The money you manage is yours, and it’s real! While the points are truly a great perk, never let them outweigh the tangible money you currently have in your individual accounts. If you allow this to happen you may find yourself with a mountain of debt, equivalent to half the vacation you can no longer afford to take.

DO: Have more than one card when you can pay them all off on time.

DON’T: Cancel a credit card without researching its history.

There are certain cards that boast the best rewards when utilized for specific industries, and others that can add extra perks for those all-encompassing purchases. To make the most of these various benefits, we recommend using multiple credit cards for your household’s purchases, only once you’ve maintained a zero balance on one for more than six months. If you feel confident in managing multiple credit cards, you’ll find great advantages of using the rewards behind the various programs and their associated bonus structures.  However, if you close a card, always check and see if that card hold your longest history of a credit line. Should that be the case, you may not want to cancel it, as it could create a slight dip in your credit score.

Teaching Your Children the Basics of Online Security

child online

If you’re like many parents in the United States, your preteens and teenagers may be running circles around you when it comes to utilizing the latest technology. Whether that’s Facebook’s latest updates, new iPhone technology, or the latest app hitting the scene, the amount of new knowledge and innovation seems endless. For your growing children, this may look more like an endless playground than a minefield, but at times it can be both. To help your children use technology while still remaining safe we recommend these simple suggestions:

Passwords are important. Instead of defaulting to the same password for every account, explain to your son or daughter why they should have a complex password for each separate account. Cyber criminals are able to gain access to all your accounts instead of only one when they discover the passwords are all the same. The strongest passwords contain lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Great apps like LastPass can help to store all current passwords in addition to creating stronger password options.

Privacy matters. On Facebook and most other social media outlets, there are always options to make your profile private or public. For children, and adults, we strongly recommend keeping your personal online profile private. While you and your children can connect with friends and other known acquaintances, it can become dangerous to push your information out to anyone who wants to read it. For instance, if you post about leaving for a family vacation, and the profile is set to public, potential thieves could now view your home as an easy target while you’re away.

Don’t talk to strangers. Just as you had the “Stranger danger,” discussion with your son or daughter when they were younger, this message follows a similar point, but within the chat rooms and friend requests online. While in an ideal world, we wouldn’t face issues like catfishing or cyberbullying, the truth is that these actions can cause real world issues and aren’t always left online. To promote in-person communication, remind them of the importance of speaking with friends and family outside of the web, and if they ever do need someone to talk to you and your family are always there to listen.

Only use secure wifi. After school, your teen may head to a part-time job or extracurricular activities. If they’ll be going away from your home or school, be sure to encourage them to steer clear of unsecure wifi. While many afterschool hotspots offer free wifi for customers, often there may be potential cybercriminals broadcasting a false signal. These unsecure signals can give them access to your child’s computer if the wifi is accepted. The criminal could then access personal information, passwords, or hold the computer access for ransom. To avoid situations like this, instruct your teen or preteen to only use wifi at home and at school unless you have approved an additional location such as the library.

Teach your children how to use the internet responsibly, and perhaps they can show you how to capitalize on the creative and efficiency tools it offers. At First Security State Bank, we think that family is one of the most valuable parts of life and we want to help your family grow. If you’d like to start a checking or savings account for your teen or preteen, stop in today, we’d love to help you get started.

7 Items Worth the Splurge

splurge

When you make your savings plan, you often don’t think about the things you should spend extra money on. While scrimping on other items such as groceries or kids clothes could help you in the long run, there are some expenditures that could cost you in the future if you don’t pony up for the better option. At First Security State Bank we suggest taking a second look at these seven products, and see if you need to upgrade the next time you buy:

Toilet Paper: You may not think it’s necessary, but let’s be honest; when you’re staying at a hotel that doesn’t have the good stuff, you notice. Household items such as toilet paper or garbage bags are bought to complete a task, and if they don’t complete it well or comfortably then it’s time to reconsider your options. We believe this product is worth the extra couple bucks, but we do recommend saving by buying in bulk!

Office Chair: If you’re like many Americans, you may spend a majority of your day sitting down. To avoid chronic back pain, and a slew of other ailments, we recommend investing in a comfortable and reliable office chair. If your employer is willing to pay for all or a portion of the chair, be sure to offer your measurements to be sure their options fit your height and weight specifications.

Mattress: Did you know you spend 33 percent of your life sleeping? For such a large portion of your time, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the best sleep possible. Avoid those box store less costly options, and test out a few of the higher end options available in your budget. Not only can you sleep better, but you may find yourself spending less on coffee or energy drinks as well.

Pillows & Bed Sheets: While the mattress will make the biggest impact on the quality of your sleep, upgrading your thread count and purchasing the proper pillows can make a world of difference as well. Something as simple as changing the firmness of your pillow could help you sleep through the night more soundly.

Work Clothes: Sweats, shorts, and other home attire may not require the added expense, but the clothing that you wear to portray yourself at work should come across as professional while also remaining intact over time. We suggest finding one or two brands that fit both your budget and your style, and selecting key basic pieces to compile a wardrobe of endless combinations.

Garbage Bags: Do you enjoy it when you go to take the trash out in the early morning and just as you reach the bin, the bag breaks across your feet? No, neither do we. We agree that it is more than worth the extra dollar or two for the name brand bags that won’t break. Afterall, if the bag breaks, that means you’ll need to take a shower too!

Data Plan: Every cell phone provider seems to come out with a brand new plan option as soon as a new phone is released. While the choice of phone is completely up to you, we think that the data plan should cover not only what you think you’ll use, but some buffer room too. Instead of paying the expensive overage fees every time to go over your data limit, we recommend purchasing a more comprehensive plan to ensure you have a little extra space when you need it.

These seven things will prove their worth in the long run, and many items only require a one-time investment. If you have any other items you think we should add to our list, let us know on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

Why Checking Your Credit Score Matters

Credit Score

Across television ads, online banners, and even chit-chat among relatives, the phrase, “Check your credit score,” seems to be popping up everywhere. If something so important needs constant reminders, why does it have such a key importance in your personal finances? Well, the truth is that it doesn’t, your financial actions do.

A credit score is comprised of five different measures which indicate how you as an individual are perceived in terms of repayment and risk. Individuals who pay their bills on time, have been utilizing loans and credit cards, and don’t maintain too much debt, typically have a higher score. While the score itself is seen by potential lenders as a positive or a negative, the true meaning it portrays is to showcase whether you as an individual are a promising person to repay any funds you are lent. This score can be changed for the better or the worse depending on the actions you take.

This is why checking the report itself can be beneficial for your personal financial reputation. By reviewing your history on a recurring basis you can quickly identify any mistakes or missed payments that need correcting and do so in a timely manner.

For those who do not check their score, scenarios such as the following could occur:

Say you accept a job in another town, and after moving, you realize you still need to forward your mail. After a week or two in the new place, you go online and make the switch. However, unknownst to you, there was one last utility bill that was mailed to your prior address after you moved away. Weeks go by, even months, only now you’re connected with a new utility company, and you have new bills to pay. Behind the scenes, however, your credit score could be declining, because that one last bill has now been reported to collections. Your credit history will now note that a payment has been missed, and the longer it is missed the more it could damage your credit score.

Situations like this happen to many Americans, and while sometimes they can’t be prevented, the damage they cause can be minimized by checking your credit score on a monthly basis. Instead of allowing a payment like this to retain a balance for over 120 days, you can catch it in under 90 and minimize any potential negative effect on your score.

This is just one example of how checking your credit score can impact your financial health for the better. Other benefits include fraud prevention, better financial negotiation, and more accurate personal financial records.

If you’re ready to get started checking your credit score, we recommend Capital One’s FREE Credit Wise service, available for current and noncurrent Capital One customers. Our team at First Security State Bank would be happy to walk you through the information from this service and we are always available to answer any questions you may have.