HOW TO KEEP YOUR ONLINE BROKERAGE ACCOUNT SAFE by Paul Ferraresi

News of the Equifax data breach justifiably upset millions of Americans – essentially every individual with a credit record of any kind.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (idtheftcenter.org), a nonprofit that works to educate the public about identity theft, data breaches, and cyber security, says, “A social security number is the most valuable piece of information to identity thieves and can result in many different forms of identity theft.” They not that the crooks don’t care whether your credit is good or bad, and though you aren’t automatically a victim of ID theft due to the Equifax breach, you should take this threat seriously. It is worth signing up for their weekly newsletter to stay on top of the most recent malicious attacks.

You should update your security questions and answers, regularly monitor your accounts, and promptly report any concerns and check with your wireless service provider for steps it may recommend for protecting mobile phone accounts.

To protect yourself right now, Equifax has put up a website intended to tell you whether your data was compromised.

When I checked on the status of my family’s data, I got the message: “Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.” Equifax recommends that anyone affected enroll with its partner firm, Trusted ID, which monitors credit files and informs you if your data have been used to open a new account

A better layer of protection, though far from perfect, is to place a security freeze on your credit at each credit rating agency. To do so, you have to visit each firm’s specialized website and fill out a form. At the end of the process, you will either receive a personal identification number, or be able to generate one yourself. When you know you will be applying for a new line of credit, credit card, or auto loan, find out which credit rating age4ncy the vendor uses. A day or two in advance, unlock your credit file so your application can be processed.

A major complaint about its freeze process was that the site generated PIN was made up of month, date, and year and time stamp of the freeze which could be easily hacked. The PIN is now a random number.

Experian’s site was experiencing such high traffic that it was very slow to respond. TransUnion has an identity protection product call True Identity that’s free. You select your own user ID and password. Requiring just a request and identity verification, smaller player Innovis, a unit of CBCInnovis, cased in Columbus, Ohio, is by far the easiest of credit freezes to put in place. Confirmation of the request comes via snail mail.

Another step you can take is to turn on two-factor authentication for all financial websites and apps. This might mean your fingerprint is part of the login process on your smart phone, for instance, or that you must type in a code that changes periodically, along with your password. That will protect existing accounts. When you open a new account, enable two-factor authentication at the start.

Looking for Online Courses by Paul Ferraresi

In today’s society one must keep learning. Plus getting educated on something new is always an adrenaline shot to me.

Here is a listing of some places to start your search. Happy learning.

THE GREAT COURSES
The site offers 500-plus courses. Most lectures are about 30 minutes, and courses range from 6 to 96 lectures (most in the 24 to 36 range). Courses can be purchased as online modules or on DVDs or CDs. Prices generally range from $15 to $230. There’s also a subscription plan called the Great Courses Plus (thegreatcoursesplus.com), with access to multiple courses for $19.95 a month or $179.95 annually. Amazon Prime also offers a menu of Great Courses for $7.99 per month.

BIG THINK
Topics range from business and technology to health and entertainment. Instructors include such well-known experts as fitness guru Jillian Michaels and Bill Nye “the Science Guy”. Every week there’s a new 45 to 60 minute podcast on a different subject, plus articles and videos, all free. For a fee there’s also Big Think Edge for professional and business development.

UNIVERAL CLASS
History, DIY projects and cooking are some of the courses available. Students can earn continuing educational units, which certify professional development in some fields. Average time commitment is 10 to 20 hours, including class time, assignments and exams. Pricing ranges from $59 for one month of unlimited courses and certification to $189 for a year of unlimited courses.

YALE UNIVERSITY
Professors from this school offer an array of free courses, from the liberal arts to sciences, on YouTube and at Open Yale Courses (oyc.yale.edu). Lectures are supplemented with syllabi, transcripts and other resources. Sorry, no Ivy League credit, though.

EDX
Developed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, edX (edx.org) strives to make higher education available to more people. Time commitments range from about 45 minutes for a single lecture to 2 to 3 hours a week for up to 12 weeks. Most courses are free.

COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT-Recommended by Paul Ferraresi

Getting ready for retirement can be pretty exciting. With such a huge lifestyle change, you should consider
to start laying the groundwork now. Here are some tips to help you through that transition.
Create a realistic budget
Your early 60s is a great time to start crunching some hard numbers on your retirement budget. You’re
probably just a few years from your actual retirement date at this age, which means you’re close enough to
be able to accurately estimate your income and expenses, but far enough away to manage any corrections.
When planning your retirement budget, remember that some expenses may decline in retirement, but your
medical expenses will most likely go up as you age. Plus, be sure to include any long-term care expenses.
Set a firm retirement date
As you approach 60, you probably have an idea of when you’d like to retire, but now could be a good time
to set that date in stone. One option to ease into retirement is to switch from a full-time to a part-time work
schedule rather than quitting your job entirely. If your employer is open to this idea, it can give you a chance
to test drive retired life instead of fully committing to retirement. Plus, having a little extra income during
your first few years of retirement can be a big help. This is also a good time to determine when you should
claim Social Security to maximize your benefits and factor that into your planned retirement date.
Determine your retirement lifestyle
Let’s say that your dream retirement has always been to move to Florida and live out your days on the golf
course. You’ve probably done a fair amount of research online at this point and maybe have spoken with
friends or family who are now living in the Sunshine State. But as the big day is fast approaching, it’s probably
a good idea to confirm that this is still what you want your retirement to look like and to make some concrete
plans to make them a reality.
In-depth research is a must no matter where you plan to live in retirement — whether it’s in another country
or a nearby assisted-living community. Aside from obvious factors like the weather, you should also consider
factors like state and local taxes, the local real estate market, proximity to friends and family, access to the
kinds of activities you enjoy, and access to high-quality healthcare. Of course, the best way to determine
whether a living situation is right for you is to try it out beforehand. If possible, take some of your saved
vacation time and spend a couple of weeks living as you plan to in retirement. Remember, you’ll likely be
spending the rest of your days in this place, so due diligence ahead of time is vital to your future happiness.
Review your portfolio
Soon you’ll be switching over from putting money into your retirement accounts to taking money out. If you
haven’t already done so, you should rebalance your investments in preparation for retirement. For example,
you may want to change the types of stocks you’ve selected. High-dividend stocks can be useful during
retirement because of the regular income they generate. This is also a good time to take your account
statements to a financial professional who has experience in retirement planning and ask for guidance.
Most pensions offer you the option of receiving your money either in a lump sum (meaning you get it all at
once) or as an annuity (meaning you get a check every month as long as you live). There are pros and cons
for both options, so your own personal circumstances will determine which one is the best for you—although
COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT —
4 TIPS TO GET YOU READY
COUNTDOWN TO RETIREMENT—4 TIPS TO GET YOU READY
for many retirees the guaranteed income of an annuity may be the better choice. Lump-sum payouts can be riskier because it’s up to you to use the money wisely. There’s the possibility that retirees can make poor investment decisions or spend the lump sum too quickly and run out of money too soon. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced and disciplined investor, you may be able to put that lump sum to work and end up with more income than you would get from an annuity. Be sure to consult with both your Human Resources contact and your financial professional at length before deciding which option to take.
No matter what your vision of retirement is, working with the right financial professional can help immensely. Be sure to contact your financial professional today to help you plan and take the necessary steps toward a stress-free retirement.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments or products may be appropriate for you, consult with your financial professional.
Adult Financial Education Services (AFES)
August 2017

COLLEGE MATH by Paul Ferraresi

While High School seniors are suffering serious cases of senioritis on their final sprint to graduation, many of their parents are cracking the books and crunching the numbers.

The majority of first-time, full-time undergraduate students received financial aid at four-year public institutions (83%) and four-year private institutions (89%) during the 2013 – 14 school year, the most recent years for data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Average published prices for 2016 – 17 are $20,090 for in-state public schools, $35,370 for out-of-state public schools and $45,370 for nonprofit private schools, according to the College Board. Annual price tags top $65,000 at some of the nation’s most elite schools.

All families should file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because each school calculates a personalized expected family contribution (EFC) and determines aid awards differently. Thanks to recent changes, the FAFSA is now based on actual income from two years ago instead of estimated income from last year.

It doesn’t look like schools are changing their aid packaging philosophies as a result of the earlier availability of FAFSA data, but they are awarding aid sooner.

Upon receiving their award letters families should recalculate their net prices, and use a comparison of net prices to appeal to the less generous colleges for more financial aid. College Navigator, a free tool from the U.S. Department of Education, can be used to see if a college front-loads grants to freshmen or also awards upperclassmen.

Student’s should search for scholarships on free websites (Cappex’s database can be found at www.cappex.com/scholarships). Families should look to take advantage of education tax benefits, like the American opportunity tax credit and the student loan interest deduction.

Students needing loans should first access federal student loans because they’re cheaper, more available and have better repayment terms.

Rate on federal student loans, which reset each July 1 are based on the last 10-year Treasury auction in May, are fixed for the life of a loan.

Borrow as much as you need not as much as you can. Every dollar you borrow will cost about two dollars by the time your repay the debt.

Pay No Interest Until 2019 with These Credit Cards: Recommended by Paul Ferraresi

Updated: December 12, 2017
If you’re carrying a balance on a credit card (or cards), it’s likely you’re wasting your hard-earned money on interest fees. Did you know there’s a way to avoid paying interest? 0% intro APR credit cards can save you a ton of money because they don’t charge any interest for the term of the card’s 0% intro APR period, which means they can help you pay down (or off) your balance as well as save you some dough on new purchases. Right now credit card issuers are offering surprisingly long 0% intro APR periods, and the best part is you don’t need excellent credit to get them. If you have good credit — usually thought to be a score around the 700s — you can save some serious cash with five cards that have 0% intro APRs so generous you won’t pay a dime of interest on balance transfers or purchases until 2019! There’s even a great card for those with average credit, typically considered to be a score above 670, who also want to earn cash back.
We’ve researched the top 0% intro APR credit cards on the market, and narrowed the field down to the 5 that have the longest 0% intro APRs that we’ve reviewed. These cards will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and as we mentioned above, are available to those with just good (or even average) credit.
Longest 0% Intro APRs
Citi Simplicity Card – No Late Fees Ever
If you want to transfer your balance to a card with a REALLY long 0% intro APR that’s available to those with good credit, the Citi Simplicity Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is the perfect fit. You’ll enjoy an incredible 21-month 0% intro APR on both balance transfers and purchases. That means you’ll sail interest-free straight into 2019, saving a bunch of money in the process. The Citi Simplicity Card has a 3% balance transfer fee, but when compared to the interest you’d pay on your current credit card for 21 months, this one-time fee is no big deal — and you’ll still save a ton of money. In addition to the super long 0% intro APR, the Citi Simplicity Card also has no late fees — ideal for anyone who might be a bit tardy with their payments — no annual fee and no penalty rates for late payments. Add free monthly Equifax FICO Scores to all these benefits, and the Citi Simplicity Card – No Late Fees Ever is a smart pick for anyone with less-than-perfect credit who wants to save money on interest fees.
Citi Diamond Preferred Card
Just like the Citi Simplicity Card, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card offers a ridiculously long 21-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases. This phenomenal 0% into APR is available to you if you have just good credit, and the card has no annual fee. Note that there is a 3% balance transfer fee (min. $5), but this is a pretty standard charge, as we noted above. Additional card perks include the ability to select your payment date, allowing you to sync it up with your paycheck, a personal concierge service, extended warranty protection and free monthly Equifax FICO Scores. The Citi Diamond Preferred Card will hit the spot if you want a card with a crazy long 0% intro APR term and a low ongoing APR.
No Balance Transfer Fee
BankAmericard Credit Card
This card is the perfect fit for anyone who doesn’t want to pay to transfer their credit card balance. That’s because in addition to having no annual fee, BankAmericard Credit Card charges absolutely no balance transfer fees as long as you make your transfers in the first 60 days you have the card (after that, it’s a 3% balance transfer fee, $10 min). You’ll also enjoy a lengthy 15-month 0% intro APR on both purchases and on balance transfers (balance transfers must be made in the first 60 days). Although it’s not quite as long as the 21-month 0% intro APR offered by Citi cards we detailed earlier, the no balance transfer free might make up for it. To find out for sure, use our free and easy Balance Transfer Calculator to see which card will save you the most money.
Long 0% Intro APRs and Cash Back Rewards
Discover it — Cashback Match
Providing the same features and benefits usually only given to those with excellent credit, the Discover it – Cashback Match card is an excellent combination of a 0% intro APR, no annual fee and great cash back rewards, and it’s available to those with average to excellent credit (typically a credit score of 670+). First off, you’ll get an 14-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases (note there is a 3% transfer fee). Plus, you’ll earn a very generous 5% cash back in categories that rotate each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum (currently $1,500), and an unlimited 1% back on all other purchases. From now through December 31st the 5% back categories are Target and Amazon.com, just in time to earn cash back on all your holiday shopping. You do need to sign up each quarter to receive the 5% back, but this is quick and easy to do with reminder emails from Discover. On top of that, Discover will match all of the cash back you earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $300 cash back in your first year, Discover will match it and give you a total of $600 back! All-in-all, Discover it is the perfect combination of a 0% intro APR and lucrative cash back rewards, and you only need average or better credit to qualify.
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express
If you like generous intro bonuses, cash back, and 0% intro APRs, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is right up your alley. It starts off with no annual fee and a 15-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases (there is a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 min). On top of that, you’ll get a $150 intro bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. And you’ll get an ongoing 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores like JCP, Kohls and Macy’s, and 1% back on all other purchases. Other card perks include purchase protection, extended warranty, return protection, car rental insurance and travel accident insurance.
Long 0% Intro APR and Mobile Phone Protection
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa
If you want to protect your mobile phone, take advantage of crazy-long 0% intro APRs, and pay no annual fee, Wells Fargo Platinum Visa is the card for you. It starts off with an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases. There is 3% balance transfer fee for the first 18 months, then it’s 5%, but if you’re moving your balances over from higher-interest cards it could definitely be worth it. A big card bonus is that you’ll also enjoy mobile phone protection if you pay your phone bill with this card, reimbursing you up to $600 if your phone is stolen or damaged (there is a $25 deductible and a max of 2 claims annually). This protection is perfect for anyone who has known the pain of dropping their phone or having it taken from them. Altogether, this card hits the sweet spot for those interested in protecting their mobile phone who also want to pay no interest fees until 2019.
To see more cards that will help you avoid credit card interest, check our rankings of the best 0% intro APR credit cards. And if you’re planning to transfer a balance, be sure to plug in your transfer amount, monthly payment and credit level into our free Balance Transfer Calculator to see which card will allow you to save the most money.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.