Criminals Phish for Passwords to Re-Use on all Sites

Group of anonymous hackers or terrorists with laptop.It’s probably no surprise to most that cyber criminals have been targeting big brands of late. According to a survey from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), more than 54% of all targeted phishing attempts were toward just three brands in the second half of 2014: Apple, PayPal, and Chinese company Taobao.

The surprising news from this study was that it seems the phishers are now changing their tactics and targeting smaller companies more often. The companies that were victims fluctuated a lot toward the end of the year, indicating that perhaps the criminals are trying new strategies to see what works, while maintaining their success with the top brands. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the all phishing during the survey period involved the top ten brands, with over 1,000 separate instances per month.

Within the report is a suggestion that victims re-use passwords across various online sites. If the phishers can get those credentials from smaller sites in niche industries, perhaps they will be used in other places and result in success.

Most of us have multiple online accounts and it can get overwhelming to remember separate user name and password combinations for all of them. However, it is important to do just that for reasons such as this. This is a common strategy for cyber criminals and even though perhaps you are a frequent online shopper at a small local businesses that may be completely unknown to most, and therefore suspected to be less of a risk for a breach, re-using those credentials may get your bank account drained at some point.

Often smaller organizations are easier targets for hackers because they often cannot or do not invest the resources in hardened information security measures. After all, it’s not cheap initially. Cyber criminals know this and will take advantage of any open doors. And even if a company isn’t well-known outside of your small town, if it’s on the internet, it can be scanned and found by the bad guys. If they do find it and there is a weakness, they will exploit it.

So, don’t re-use login credentials. This was blamed in a breach of Yahoo! systems, as well as a theory in the Apple “naked celebrity” incident, the Uber breach of last year, and many others.

The most targeted sector for phishing attempts in this survey period was e-commerce with 39.5%. Not too far behind were banking (22%) and money transfer services (20.7%).

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Paying Student Loans

debt free zoneYou have the education. Now it’s time to start paying for it. Easier said than done. But the following information may make paying back your student loans just a little bit easier.

Exit Interview

If you have taken student loans, your school is required by law to give you an exit interview. This is simply a time to meet with a financial aid advisor to discuss your repayment obligations and options. Make sure not to miss the opportunity.

Grace Periods

Because some college students don’t get jobs immediately after graduation, lenders usually offer a grace period of about six months before you need to start repaying your student loans. Take time during your grace period to organize your finances and evaluate your options.

Create a Plan

Knowing what you owe and when you need to start making payments is the first step to handling your debt well and keeping that credit score high. Storing your loan paperwork in one safe place is another key to staying on top of your loans.

Ways to Repay

There are many different ways you can arrange your payment schedule, depending on what you can afford:

  • The standard payment plan, if you can afford it, will offer you the lowest total loan cost.
  • A graduated payment plan will start you out with lower payments that increase as time goes on. It’s convenient for now, but you’ll be paying more interest over the long haul.
  • With income-related payment plans, your monthly payment amounts are tied directly to your income instead of rising gradually no matter what your income.
  • Extended repayment allows you to make smaller payments for a much longer period of time. Of course, the longer you owe money, the more interest you pay, and the total amount in the end goes up dramatically.
  • Consolidation can happen when a lender offers you a lower interest rate and allows you to combine all of your loan payments into one convenient payment. You can save a lot of money over the life of your loan.

Don’t Default

Blowing off your loans is one of the worst financial missteps you can take. After six months of missed payments, you will likely be faced with collectors and a destroyed credit rating. So if you’re having trouble making payments, call your lender and find out your options (including deferment) right away.

Reducing Your Debt

Depending on your career path, there are few prime ways to knock out big portions of your loans:

  • Peace Corps: By joining the Peace Corps, you can get a 15% cancellation of your loans during your first two years and 20% during your third and fourth years.
  • AmeriCorps: If you like the idea of the Peace Corps but don’t want to leave the country, AmeriCorps could be for you. Get up to $4,725 toward your education.
  • Military Service: All five branches of the military offer education assistance programs. Check with your local recruiter to find out how they can help you.
  • Teaching: Depending on where and how long you teach, you can get complete loan cancellation or at least a deferment of some loans by filing specific understaffed teaching positions.
  • Legal and medical service: If you decide to study medicine or law, research programs that offer partial cancellation of loans for public service.

© 2000-2015 Visa. All rights reserved.

Automating Your Finances

easy-ways-to-automate-finances-fThese days, you can pay your mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, loans, and credit cards every month without lifting a finger. Automation is a great time saver—and it can also reduce your vulnerability to identity theft—but it is important to use it wisely.

How it works

There are few different methods you can use to automate paying your bills. If available, the most convenient option is to use your NASA Federal’s Bill Pay service. You log into your checking account online, input who, how much, and when you want to pay, and your financial institution sends an electronic or paper check. You can do it as a one-time thing or set up recurring payments.

Another option is to set it up directly with your creditor or service provider—generally all you need to do is let them know when you want the payment taken out of your checking account and submit an authorization form. For some bills, you may also have the option of having the payment charged to your credit card.

To avoid interest, don’t charge more to your card than what you can pay in full the next month. You can also use a third-party service to pay your bills. It generally does not make sense to shell out money for this if you can use one of the other two options, which are usually free.

Avoid complications

Putting your bills on AutoPay does not mean that you can completely forget about them. First, you want to make sure that you have enough money in your account to cover the withdrawals. If your $1,200 mortgage payment is supposed to be deducted, but there is only $800 in your account, then either your account will become overdrawn when the debit occurs or the debit won’t occur and the bill won’t be paid. Either outcome can result in fees.

You also want to verify that the withdrawal actually occurred when it was supposed to. Mistakes sometimes happen, and you are still responsible for paying your bills on time even if someone else messed up. Don’t forget to review your statements too—if you don’t, you may miss an unauthorized charge or notice of a change in terms.

Lastly, if you close a checking account or credit card that you are paying bills from, be sure that you update your bill pay information so that future payments are assigned to your new account.

Automatically save

Don’t just AutoPay. AutoSave as well. If you wait and see what money you have left over at the end of the month, you may find that you have little or nothing there. There are typically two options for AutoSave: have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited into your savings account, or set up an automatic, monthly or biweekly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. If you choose the second option, it is best to schedule this to coincide with your payday. By automating, it will be easier to build toward your goals and establish an emergency fund.

 

© 2013 BALANCE

Tips for Saving on Summer Travel

Piggy Bank on beach vacationWith summer vacation also comes travel season. It’s easy to get carried away under the sun with souvenirs, eating at restaurants and upgrading your accommodations. After all, how often do you treat yourself and go on a holiday? But the last thing you want is to face a big bill come fall. Here are some tips for budgeting accordingly, no matter what type of getaway you’re planning.

1. Be realistic about what you can afford. Hey, we all want an amazing, no-holds-barred vacation, but choosing a trip you can’t afford will likely add more stress to your life. After all, what’s the point of taking time to relax if you’ll be paying for it for several months to come?

2. Start a dedicated travel fund. It’s easier to save when you have a specific goal in mind. Think about where you want to go, research how much it costs and develop a consistent savings plan well in advance.

3. Create a trip budget. To help you, we’ve put together this free, web-based Travel Calculator, which can help you calculate the cost of gas, lodging, food and more. It’s also available as a free iPhone app, which you can download from iTunes.

4. Shop around. There are a wealth of sites that make it easy to compare fares from a variety of airlines, hotels and rental car companies, some of the most popular being Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. It’s a savvy traveler’s world—take advantage.

5. Protect yourself. When ordering tickets, make sure the sites you are using are legitimate. Once on your trip, safeguard your identity by keeping your passport, driver’s license and credit cards in a safe place away from view. Also make sure to make photocopies in case of theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft, read our tips for restoring your identity here.

6. Expect the unexpected. Credit cards get lost. Flights get delayed. Storms arrive unexpectedly. Keep unknowns in mind when planning your trip, and set aside an extra 10 to 15% of your travel budget for emergencies or surprises.

7. Take advantage of technology. Few travelers leave home without their smartphones and tablets since mobile technology devices are the screen of choice for many. Apps like Hotel Tonight and iFly Pro allow you to digitally book hotels, check in for flights and organize itineraries.

8. Consider alternative lodging. Companies like Airbnb or VRBO, services that allows you to rent unoccupied living space in other people’s homes, are increasingly popular – and in many cases, cheaper. Also, hostels offer cheaper lodging. But make sure you take the right safety precautions, like researching the area beforehand and keeping an eye on your belongings.

9. Use cheaper transportation. Compare the cost of airfare with gas prices; if you can drive to your destination, it might be cheaper. Also, consider public transportation like underground railways versus cabs.

10. Share your trip. Splitting the cost of accommodations, like a vacation house, with friends and family can help cut costs.

© 2000-2015 Visa. All rights reserved.

Staycation

staycationNo doubt, you’re familiar with the “staycation” phenomenon. In case you’ve been out of the loop, it’s the budget-savvy, stay-local version of the old-fashioned vacation. Many travelers are embracing the concept of saving thousands on airfare and lodging by spending time off near home and enjoying inexpensive activities in their area. Here are a few ways to get the most out of yours.

  • Create a solid staycation plan so you don’t get stuck doing errands and chores.
  • Turn off your cell and close that laptop. Limiting your time on tech means time off that more closely resembles a real vacation; it can also help you avoid racking up prime-time minutes.
  • Pick low-cost activities over high-cost ones; remember, more expensive doesn’t always mean more fun.
  • Check out all of the nearby spots you’ve wanted to visit, and consider daytrips. They’ll allow you to see the sights and enjoy a change of scenery without having to pay for an overnight stay.
  • Consider ordering food for takeout or delivery or bringing in a chef to cook for you. Without the costs of travel or accommodations, it’s easier to splurge on a few luxuries.

Resources:

Read reviews of local restaurants, museums, spas and more—www.yelp.com/

Search for unique spots in your area that you may have never thought to visit—www.roadsideamerica.com/

A good resource for scoping out nearby tourist attractions—www.usatourist.com/

Browse upcoming events near you—www.eventful.com/

How Much Annual Income Can Your Retirement Portfolio Provide?

Header

Your retirement lifestyle will depend not only on your assets and investment choices, but also on how quickly you draw down your retirement portfolio. The annual percentage that you take out of your portfolio, whether from returns or the principal itself, is known as your withdrawal rate. Figuring out an appropriate initial withdrawal rate is a key issue in retirement planning and presents many challenges.

question markWhy is your withdrawal rate important

Take out too much too soon, and you might run out of money in your later years. Take out too little, and you might not enjoy your retirement years as much as you could. Your withdrawal rate is especially important in the early years of your retirement; how your portfolio is structured then and how much you take out can have a significant impact on how long your savings will last.

Gains in life expectancy have been dramatic. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, people today can expect to live more than 30 years longer than they did a century ago. Individuals who reached age 65 in 1950 could anticipate living an average of 14 years more, to age 79; now a 65-year-old might expect to live for roughly an additional 19 years. Assuming rising inflation, your projected annual income in retirement will need to factor in those cost-of-living increases. That means you’ll need to think carefully about how to structure your portfolio to provide an appropriate withdrawal rate, especially in the early years of retirement.

Current Life Expectancy Estimates

Men Women
At birth 76.4 81.2
At age 65 82.9 85.5

Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 168, October 2014

Conventional wisdom

So what withdrawal rate should you expect from your retirement savings? The answer: it all depends. The seminal study on withdrawal rates for tax-deferred retirement accounts (William P. Bengen, “Determining Withdrawal Rates Using Historical Data,” Journal of Financial Planning, October 1994) looked at the annual performance of hypothetical portfolios that are continually rebalanced to achieve a 50-50 mix of large-cap (S&P 500 Index) common stocks and intermediate-term Treasury notes. The study took into account the potential impact of major financial events such as the early Depression years, the stock decline of 1937-1941, and the 1973-1974 recession. It found that a withdrawal rate of slightly more than 4% would have provided inflation-adjusted income for at least 30 years.

Other later studies have shown that broader portfolio diversification, rebalancing strategies, variable inflation rate assumptions, and being willing to accept greater uncertainty about your annual income and how long your retirement nest egg will be able to provide an income also can have a significant impact on initial withdrawal rates. For example, if you’re unwilling to accept a 25% chance that your chosen strategy will be successful, your sustainable initial withdrawal rate may need to be lower than you’d prefer to increase your odds of getting the results you desire. Conversely, a higher withdrawal rate might mean greater uncertainty about whether you risk running out of money. However, don’t forget that studies of withdrawal rates are based on historical data about the performance of various types of investments in the past. Given market performance in recent years, many experts are suggesting being more conservative in estimating future returns.

Note: Past results don’t guarantee future performance. All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.

Inflation is a major consideration

To better understand why suggested initial withdrawal rates aren’t higher, it’s essential to think about how inflation can affect your retirement income. Here’s a hypothetical illustration; to keep it simple, it does not account for the impact of any taxes. If a $1 million portfolio is invested in an account that yields 5%, it provides $50,000 of annual income. But if annual inflation pushes prices up by 3%, more income–$51,500–would be needed next year to preserve purchasing power. Since the account provides only $50,000 income, an additional $1,500 must be withdrawn from the principal to meet expenses. That principal reduction, in turn, reduces the portfolio’s ability to produce income the following year. In a straight linear model, principal reductions accelerate, ultimately resulting in a zero portfolio balance after 25 to 27 years, depending on the timing of the withdrawals.

Volatility and portfolio longevity

When setting an initial withdrawal rate, it’s important to take a portfolio’s ups and downs into account–and the need for a relatively predictable income stream in retirement isn’t the only reason. According to several studies done in the late 1990s and updated in 2011 by Philip L. Cooley, Carl M. Hubbard, and Daniel T. Walz, the more dramatic a portfolio’s fluctuations, the greater the odds that the portfolio might not last as long as needed. If it becomes necessary during market downturns to sell some securities in order to continue to meet a fixed withdrawal rate, selling at an inopportune time could affect a portfolio’s ability to generate future income.

Making your portfolio either more aggressive or more conservative will affect its lifespan. A more aggressive portfolio may produce higher returns but might also be subject to a higher degree of loss. A more conservative portfolio might produce steadier returns at a lower rate, but could lose purchasing power to inflation.

Calculating an appropriate withdrawal rate

Your withdrawal rate needs to take into account many factors, including (but not limited to) your asset allocation, projected inflation rate, expected rate of return, annual income targets, investment horizon, and comfort with uncertainty. The higher your withdrawal rate, the more you’ll have to consider whether it is sustainable over the long term.

Ultimately, however, there is no standard rule of thumb; every individual has unique retirement goals, means, and circumstances that come into play.

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IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. NASA Federal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.