The Finances of Becoming a New Parent

Cute KidHow can something so small cause such a major upheaval in your life? Not the least of this upheaval is financial. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average middle-income family will spend over $241,080 raising a child until the age 18—and that does not include any college costs.

But just as you find the extra time and energy you will need to take care of the little bundle of consuming joy, you will find ways to work it out financially.

Planning for Parenthood Brace yourself. You will be spending much more than expected to buy things you never even thought of. Start planning financially for having a baby as soon as you can—before conception if possible.

Set aside as much as you can every month in a savings account. The actual event of birth can be expensive as well as all the first time purchases you’ll make. Don’t forget to save some money for your maternity or paternity leave. This is usually unpaid time off work.

How much do you need? As much as you can save. Any funds left over make a great starter for a college fund. If you’ve amassed a considerable amount well before the due date, you can invest in a short-term certificate or other insured investment. But don’t tie up your entire fund in investments. Babies will not sign contracts and they have not agreed to your schedule.

Have a brainstorming session with an experienced parent to figure out all the things you need to purchase before the delivery. It will be extremely helpful to have most of what you need before the baby is born. Your spare shopping time after birth is reduced drastically. If you need to shop after the baby is born, try the Internet. Nobody on the Internet cares how loud your baby is crying, what you are wearing or what time it is when your baby gives you a free moment to shop.

Here’s a starter list for your brainstorming session. This is far from a complete list, but it will help get you thinking.

  • Car Seat By law, you can’t even take the baby home from the hospital without one.
  • Crib You want one that meets the highest safety standards.
  • Bassinet One with wheels will add to your mobility around the house.
  • Stroller Consider getting one that’s part of a stroller/car seat combo. It makes transitions easier.
  • Baby Monitor “Baby calling Parents, come in, Parents.”
  • Safety Gate Keep your newly mobile child away from staircases and other hazards.

Maternity and Paternity Leave Most companies don’t provide paid maternity leave—and don’t have to. The Family and Medical Leave Act, which only applies if a company has more than 50 employees, ensures mothers should be able to return to their old job or an equivalent job up to 12 weeks after they begin their leave. The actual policy varies from company to company, especially if the company has fewer than 50 employees.

If you are a father, ask your employer about paternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act does not cover this time, but many employers are offering the same or similar benefits to their male employees.

Plan monetarily for maternity and paternity leave, as it is unpaid. You may be able to save up sick time and vacation time to continue receiving income for several weeks. But most likely, you will lose some income during this time.

Copyright © Visa

Handling the Unexpected

Unexpected PictureThere’s nothing harder to plan for than unexpected events that impact your life and finances. Yet loss of a job, the death of a loved one, illness or other unexpected occurrences happen at one point or another in most of our lives. The key to successfully surviving these life-changing events from a financial perspective is to anticipate hard times. Shore up your financial situation before you are hit with an unexpected expense, so you will be covered in the event something happens.

The Importance of an Emergency Fund Because we cannot predict when life will throw us an unexpected challenge, it is important for everyone to build and maintain an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses. The key to building an emergency fund is to set money aside every month, no matter how small the amount. This Emergency Fund calculator can help you get started.

Financial experts recommend that, unlike retirement funds, emergency savings should be kept fairly liquid, in a savings account or a money market fund. Hopefully you will never need it. But if you do, you’ll be glad it’s there.

A New Financial Picture Once the immediate financial matters are taken care of after an unexpected life event, it will be time to take stock of your new financial situation and create a plan for yourself moving forward. Whether you have faced job loss, divorce, illness or another event, you should create a new budget reflecting your situation. This is the first step toward financial security and rebuilding your emergency fund, which you may have tapped into to manage a financial crisis.

To develop a budget, write down your current expenses, indicating whether each expense is a necessity or a luxury. Pulling out recent credit card bills and bank statements can help with this process. Next, estimate your monthly income, including only income that you are certain you will receive. Then compare your income to expenses. If your expenses are higher, you will need to trim your expenses until your income is higher than your expenditures.

 

Copyright © Visa

Use Children’s Allowance to Teach Valuable Money Skills

allowance

One of the hardest parts of parenting is allowing your children the freedom to learn from their own mistakes. We all want to protect our kids from harm, but if sheltered too much, they won’t be ready to deal with real-world challenges when they leave the nest. This is true for managing money just as with avoiding physically dangerous situations.

So, how to teach your kids sound financial habits? Try setting a good example with your own spending behavior. If you consistently spend beyond your means, don’t set aside emergency savings and don’t use a budget, your kids might imitate your behavior and set themselves up for problems down the road.

Involve your kids in budgeting for their own expenses at an early age. How you structure an allowance, what expenses it should be used for and the appropriate age at which to begin will vary by family, but here are a few helpful guidelines:

The goal of an allowance should be to teach children how to handle money wisely, not to reinforce good behavior—otherwise, your kids might think it’s okay to forego completing chores, getting good grades or treating others well, if the only consequence is missing out on a few dollars. It’s better to link those good behaviors to developing a sense of family responsibility and cooperation. Plus, when you put a price tag on good behavior, you might start seeing an outthrust palm every time you ask them to answer the phone or pass the salt.

Develop a needs-based allowance amount. Track your kids’ discretionary (toys, candy) and non-discretionary (school lunches, school supplies, clothes) expenses. (You’ll be shocked.) Then, depending on their ages and maturity, decide which expenses you want them responsible for managing, and set a reasonable amount for each category—this will be their allowance.

Start out slowly with only a few discretionary expenses, then gradually add others and increase their allowance as they become more confident. Realize that they’ll probably make a few mistakes—that’s part of the learning process.

Stick to your guns. If your son burns through his allowance by Tuesday and then begs for a new toy on Wednesday, tell him “no;” giving in sends a mixed message about the importance of budgeting. Use it as an opportunity to explain the importance of saving for things they really want and learning to live without those that don’t matter. Nobody likes delayed gratification, but the sooner they learn it, the easier life will be later on.

Use an allowance to teach important life lessons. Try to include an amount your kids can set aside for charitable giving. For example, my son knows he must donate 10 percent of his allowance to charity. Dedicate another portion to savings. You might offer to match savings account contributions to teach the value (and rewards) of saving.

Remember, the sooner your kids learn how to manage their own money, the sooner you’ll be able to concentrate on your own.

 

By Jason Alderman

Tips on Securing Your Home Network

Securing Home NetworkMost everyone now has some kind of network inside their home or small office. Unfortunately, this means we are leaving a few vulnerabilities inside what we believe is our fortress of internet security. Just because all your “stuff” is behind your locked front door, doesn’t mean it will never get stolen. So, just like you may have a firewall turned on at your router, does not guarantee the bad guys won’t make their way in.

There are many reasons for this, including products being shipped with vulnerabilities and consumers not patching them right away, default passwords on all devices not being changed upon installation, and manufacturers not even bothering to supply fixes to the vulnerabilities shipped with their own products.

In any case, there are a few simple, but general steps to make sure your small network is as safe as it can be:

  • Change the default password on every device. When doing so, make sure it’s a strong passphrase that includes more than 8 characters, has a special character, and includes upper and lower case letters.
  • Update the firmware as soon as it is installed. This is done right after it’s connected to the network and often times, a dialogue will appear asking if you want to check for updates. Yes, you do.
  • Turn off features that you don’t need to use. Many devices come with all kinds of “extras” that are really just noise. You don’t need them, so don’t activate them.
  • Read the manual for the device(s). There is usually important information in them about proper installation.
  • Try to separate the network segments, if possible. If your TV doesn’t need to be on the same segment as your computer, put them on different ones.
  • If you don’t need to connect it to the internet, don’t. You may think this is silly since we’re talking about a home network, but if you have a “kid” computer that doesn’t need Internet access, don’t grant it. Also, many people have smart TVs, but don’t use the functionality they provide. If this is the case, don’t connect it.

Don’t be afraid to call the support group for the vendor if you have questions. Honestly, they will not think less of you and you don’t have to tell your friends you did it.

 

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

 

Facebook Scam Video Steals Info and May Download Malware

Scam AlertFacebook reaches a lot of people. That is why scammers and fraudsters love using it. Recently, users saw a video of a pregnant woman posted with a sensationalized title encouraging users to click to see “What Happens To This Pregnant Lady.”

Any time something that urgent or “exciting” shows up on any social media such as Twitter, Snapchat, or something else, it should be met with much skepticism. These are typically frauds or scams of some type. In this particular case, if it is clicked, it not only takes the user through a series of clicking of other things such as other YouTube videos, it also may download malware.

PregoDon’t click on these links. They are generally not legitimate and while in the best cases they merely advertise some product, at worst they may con you into giving up sensitive information such as banking login credentials. In many cases, they end up installing some type of malware on your system that could include ransomware.

It’s also important to keep all systems updated with anti-malware software. There are many choices if you don’t have something installed, so do some research to find out which one is best for you.

In the case of this particular video, the user is asked to “share” it before it will be shown. Yet, once it’s shared, the page is redirected to another YouTube scam page requesting proof you are human by clicking a bunch of fake images. Then another page appears requesting personal information. That leads to a rash of scam phone calls and spam email messages. Each time the ruse is successful, the scammers get paid and the user never sees the video.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

New Malware May Destroy Your Records

Spam, Virus, Phishing Email EnvelopeThe phishers are at it again trying to steal your login credentials. They are sending out email messages trying to trick people into installing new and dangerous malware to do the spying.

Cisco researchers have found a new malware that can avoid detection. It’s called Rombertik and if it is discovered or even analyzed, it also has the ability to destroy the master boot record of the system. It is designed to steal sensitive information and login credentials from the browser.

There are several ways to identify phishing attempts. Typically, there is something that isn’t quite correct in the “To” and “From” lines of the message. When it arrives in your Inbox, it might look like it came from someone you know or perhaps a well-known financial institution or retailer. However, when you open it and look at the entire address, it is garbage.

Another indicator is that the message has a lot of grammatical and spelling errors.  The language is often not used correctly in the body of the message and there are a lot of punctuation mistakes as well.

A good rule to keep in mind is to never click on any links or open any attachments from anyone you don’t know or if it’s unexpected. Verify by making a quick phone call, sending a text message, or some way other than replying to the email you received to confirm that it’s OK to open.

Also, if you need to make changes to your online accounts, go into them directly and make the changes rather than clicking links.

It sounds elementary, but if a warning message about a phishing attempt appears on your screen, take a look at it before dismissing it blindly. Don’t let security warning fatigue get to you. The tools are there to help.

Rombertik performs checks on the system once it’s launched and after it confirms it isn’t being analyzed, it decrypts and installs on the computer. If it determines it’s being analyzed, it will try to destroy the Master Boot Record and subsequently reboot the computer so that it becomes unusable.

 

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security