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Heartbroken over Heartbleed? –Here’s How to Protect Yourself

Posted on Apr 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

heartbleedThe Heartbleed bug has resulted confusion and concern.  Many web users may have to update their passwords for the affected sites.  However, most experts are  recommending that people wait until each affected website contacts them to ensure that the password is changed only after a patch for the bug has been completed.

The bug, which went undetected for two years, compromised the security of the Internet by leaving a gap in OpenSSL, an encryption technology used to protect sensitive data.   It is estimated that the bug has affected as much as two-thirds of the Internet.  In order to see if any of the sites your frequent have been affected, you can go to Lastpass.com/heartbleed or here to check.  Many large and critical sites were not affected, such as most banks and financial institutions, but Facebook, for example, was affected.

For more information on how to protect yourself, read these related stories:

What you can do about the Heartbleed bug?

Heartbleed: What you need to know.

Here are some other great tips for enhancing the security of your on line passwords:

  • Keep them in a secure location and do not share them.
  • Try not to use the same passwords for everything.
  • Use a strong password that includes at least 8 characters as well as numbers, Uppercase, and symbols.
  • Consider using a password generator tool like LastPass to store all of your passwords securely.

To Help Plan for Retirement, Consider a “Stay-cation”

Posted on Apr 15, 2014 in Budgeting, Plan Retirement

jpegascendI recently read an article about families who were celebrating Spring break by indulging in $100,000 family vacations.  Although I enjoy travelling, I have to admit that I would have terrible buyer’s remorse over spending such a hefty sum for a vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, I celebrated a big birthday last year with a trip to Italy.  I budgeted and planned for years for that vacation, as it was always a dream of mine.   I enjoyed the trip, but was also glad to be home.  It made me wonder if  long, expensive travel excursions were just not my thing.

This year, I want to plan a staycation in order to enjoy my local area.   I find that I take for granted all of the fun and amazing activities that Columbia, SC  has to offer.   I am often too busy with work to spend quality time on Lake Murray,where I live, or partake in the events that are happening in and around my area.

I think it would be great to “unplug” from the computer (even lock it away in the safe so I know I won’t be tempted to do work) and  pretend that I am on a 7 day vacation in my home city.  Here is my partial “to do” list for my staycation: Read More

Costs Matter-How Much are You Paying in Investment Fees?

Posted on Apr 2, 2014 in ETFs, Fee-Only Financial Planning, Financial Education/Literacy, Investment, Mutual Funds, Passive Investing

video-cashmgmtMany of my prospective clients come into my office either not knowing how much they are paying in investment fees or mistakenly thinking that they are receiving their investment counsel for free.  It is no wonder this occurs.  Fees are often embedded in the form of loads (either front-end when the fund is purchased or on the back end when it is sold), commissions, and expense ratios.  These hidden fees make it difficult to ascertain total investment costs for your portfolio. 

Many financial statements appear to have no fees deducted, but just because you can’t see a fee, does not mean it is not present and having an effect on your portfolio.

So how do you determine the fees you are being charged? Read More

Has the Fed created a Madoff market?

Posted on Mar 25, 2014 in Economy, ETFs, Fee-Only Financial Planning, Investment, Mutual Funds, Passive Investing

We are now experiencing the fifth most powerful bull market in stocks since 1900. The Federal Reserve, through its quantitative easing program, has lowered interest rates to near zero, thereby forcing investors to search for income in nontraditional places.  In response, dividend yielding stocks and high yield “junk” bonds have soared in price. If you review the trajectory of the S&P 500 over the past year, it appears that the market is advancing without any significant corrections.   

S&P 500 Source: Yahoo Finance

The market continues to shrug off risks. Despite poor economic data, decelerating growth in China, still unresolved European debt woes, and increasing tensions between Russia and her neighbors, the market continues on its march upward.  The only data the market seems to respond to are signals from the Federal Reserve that they may increase interest rates.   For now, the stock market assumes that new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen “has its back.”  The dovish Yellen appears to be an advocate of an accommodative policy through 2015.

Investors can become complacent believing that this pattern will last indefinitely.  To wit, the flow of money into stock funds reached an all-time high in 2013 as memories of the crisis of 2008 faded. The belief that market gains can be achieved consistently with no apparent risk of correction is not only naive, but dangerous.    Investors in Bernie Madoff’s fund were likewise transfixed by the steady, impressive returns that seemed to move with no correlation to the financial markets.  Sometime when things seem to be too good to be true….. Read More

Avoiding 529 Account Pitfalls

Posted on Mar 17, 2014 in Plan for College

video-collegeThe South Carolina Future Scholar 529 plan is an excellent way for parents to save for college, but there are some important rules to understand in order to ensure that you make only “qualifying “ distributions, so that you don’t have a surprise tax liability. Read More

Could you retire in your 30s?

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 in Cash Flow, Financial Management, Plan Retirement

video-relationshipsThis article by Andrea Coombes for MarketWatch covers the story of a young couple who decided to retire early.  No, they did not retire at 60, or 50, or even 40.  They decided to quit work in their 30s.  Their goal was to amass roughly 25 times their annual spending.  They reasoned that if they could live simply and frugally, on roughly $25,000 a year, they could aggressively save enough to retire from their demanding jobs in the technology industry.  This would allow them to both be active in raising their 8 year old son.  Read More