More Tips on Safe Mobile Banking

More tips on safe mobile bankingWhen done properly, online banking can provide a safe and convenient platform with which to conduct and manage financial transactions. But recent threats have shown that criminals are able to hack into just about any computer, including yours, and get information that doesn’t belong to them. In this blog we focus on how to protect your mobile banking device.

Take precautions to guard your device
The FDIC’s Senior Policy Analyst Elizabeth Khalil recommends mobile bankers “always secure the device with a strong PIN or password in case the device falls into the wrong hands.” This ‘strong PIN’ should never be written down in an obvious place. If someone were to steal your device this passcode may be all that keeps them from taking over your identity.

One of the best ways to secure your mobile device is to utilize its password feature in conjunction with an “auto-lock” or time-out setting. For example, set your phone or mobile device to automatically lock in 2 minutes of inactivity. That way a user will have to tap in the secure access code to even begin using the device’s apps.

Most phones and tablets allow users to utilize a passcode that is not just 4 numbers, but rather a “strong” combination of letters and numbers that are not easy to guess. By using upper and lower case letters, or by using a numerical code with no specific order, it will be much more difficult for someone to guess your password, should the device fall into the wrong hands. It is better to use different passwords for different devices, and to change these passwords periodically. Under no circumstance should you ever give these passwords to anyone, and you should also never leave these devices unattended.

Be Wary of Where You Do Your Business
One of the biggest ways you can expose your information on the web is by completing transactions on unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as a connection at a coffee shop or internet café. Because these sites are open to a majority of people, hackers and fraud artists have much easier access to the connections and to your account.

Take Extra Care if Your Device is Stolen
If your device is lost or stolen, immediately contact your bank and card providers to report the missing device and to prevent possible fraud and unauthorized transactions. Some phones or other devices actually have remote access capabilities that allow you to erase sensitive data if your device is lost or stolen, so also check with your wireless provider to see if they can provide this service.

Do Your Homework on Apps
Never assume that any app, despite its name or professional appearance, is what it claims to be. Some con artists create fraudulent apps to trick users into believing it’s a legitimate service. To avoid getting duped, remember that the best place to download apps, especially from a banking site, is on the bank’s own web page. You can often protect these apps with a password, but make sure to make it different from your device’s main password.

Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Emails, No Matter Who They’re From
Some scams will email you from fake bank sites attempting to get your personal information. These emails usually include an urgent plea that the bank needs your passwords or security numbers to verify an account, while others offer too good to be true deals which are designed to get you to give your information to a fake website.

The principles to safe online banking are fairly simple. The most important part of secure mobile banking is to think differently, balance the risk and the convenience factors. By making sure your devices are secure and being wary of what you download or open on your device you will be far more successful in protecting yourself from online identity thieves.

For more information on protecting yourself from identity theft, visit the FDIC’s website or check out our other recent blog on how to avoid scams.

Shopping for a Mortgage

Shopping for a mortgageIf you want to buy a house, chances are you are also searching for the perfect mortgage. In fact, it is often better to find out the amount of loan for which you are qualified. Getting “pre-qualified” is a great help in narrowing down the list of homes you can afford, and is a great tool for negotiating the purchase price.

If done right, securing a home loan can save you a considerable amount of money

Get Information from Multiple Sources. Depending on your location and what kind of loan you are looking for, you will probably get different quotes from different financial institutions. By comparing information and pricing from each institution, you can more fully understand your mortgage options. You may choose to consult a real estate broker since they have a wide access to varying lenders, allowing you to pick from an even larger selection. Keep in mind, however, that they are not inclined to pick out the best deal for you unless they have been contracted as your agent.

Make Sure to Check out Rates. When talking to lenders and brokers, make sure to ask for a list of up-to-date interest rates and check where the quotes rank in terms of price. These rates can either be fixed or adjustable. For example, if an adjustable rate loan goes up, so will the monthly payment. You can ask how this adjustable rate will affect payments. It’s possible your payments will even be reduced when rates drop. Make sure to ask about the APR (annual percentage rate) to understand all other possible credit charges.

Points and Fees. Points are fees that are paid to the lender or broker linked to the interest rate. Often the more you pay, the lower the rate so check your local newspapers that document currently available rates and points. Also, make sure to ask for the dollar amount in your quote, saving the hassle of interpreting points. Fees also play a large role in home loans and should be given in estimate to you from your lender or broker. Make sure you fully understand each fee, how it’s divided up or how this point and fee system works.

Down Payments and Mortgage Insurance. Many down payments have shifted from the common twenty percent up-front purchase to only five percent. If you choose to not make a twenty percent down payment however, it is likely you will be required to purchase PMI (private mortgage insurance) as back up for the lender if your payment falls through. Luckily, government programs like the FHA, VA, and Rural Development Services can help to make down payments substantially cheaper. Ask about the lender’s requirements for a down payment and if any special programs or services are offered. If a PMI is required, make sure to also ask for the total cost of insurance, what the monthly payments will cost and how long you will be required to carry PMI.

Know Your Rights. Always remember that The Equal Credit Opportunity Act forbids brokers and lenders to discriminate based on color, race, religion, national origin, gender, marital status, age or handicap. These laws mandate that a consumer cannot be refused a loan, charged more or offered less favorable terms based on these characteristics.

When shopping for a mortgage the “shop, compare and negotiate” rule will make sure you fully research costs of all your options. Always ask for details to compare costs to find the best possible deal. Memorize key terms and details and explore all fees to make sure you understand what your loan will cost in the long term. And for more information on mortgage terms and advice check out the HUD booklet or website.

The Impact of Inflation – Installment 1

The impact of inflation - installment 1

Inflation 101 – What to know, what to do

Inflation is perhaps the single-biggest influence on your economic situation. It is not properly understood by many, nor do many people make good decisions in light of it.

Peoples Bank is making the effort to address what may be an important gap in the financial efforts of its customers and others with 4 blog posts. We hope this information is more than instructive, we hope that it is meaningful, helpful. Feel free to write us with your comments, and don’t hesitate to share the link with others.

The first installment will define the term and describe it in real-world terms. Subsequent blog posts will describe what you can do about it (personally), what tools are available to deal with it and how your retirement can be improved by dealing with it.


What Is Inflation and Why Should You Care About It?

Prices: Up, up and away

Inflation occurs when there is more money circulating than there are goods and services to buy. The process is like trying to attend as old-out concert at the last minute; there is more demand for tickets than there are tickets to go around. As a result, tickets may trade hands for far more than their stated prices. When there’s a lot of demand for goods and services, their prices usually go up. The law of supply and demand produces price inflation.

Inflation cuts purchasing power

When some people say, “I’m not an investor,” it’s often because they worry about the potential for loss. It’s true that investing involves risk as well as reward. However, there’s also another type of loss to be aware of: the loss of purchasing power.

Inflation is painful enough when you experience a sharp jump in prices. However, the bigger problem with inflation is not just the immediate impact, but its effects over time. Because of inflation, each dollar you’ve saved will buy less and less as time goes on. At 3% annual inflation, something that costs $100 today would cost $181 in 20 years.

Time is Money
Now In 20 years
House $275,500 $497,584
Gallon of Milk $3.81 $6.81
New Car $28,352 $51,207
Note:If inflation averaged 3% annually,everyday objects could cost much more in the future.

 

How is inflation measured?

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI). The most widely quoted inflation measure, this tracks the price change from month to month of a basket of goods and services used by the average consumer.
  • Personal Consumption Expenditures(PCE). This statistic adjusts for the fact that rates, the Federal Reserve Board takes into account so-called core PCE (which excludes food and energy because their prices can vary dramatically from month to month).
  • Producer Price Index (PPI). This measures inflation from the standpoint of sellers rather than consumers.

How high is high?

Inflation rates year by year from 1914 to 2014

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI

The average inflation rate as measured by the CPI has been roughly 3% since 1914. Since the early 1980s, it has remained relatively stable, usually between 1.6% to 4.6% annually. However, the inflation rate has varied much more dramatically in the past. During the Great Depression, it often ran in the negative numbers. The country actually experienced deflation in 1921, when the inflation rate was -10.8%.

On the other hand, inflation also has been much higher than most of us have ever experienced. Just prior to 1920, the U.S. suffered from four back-to-back years of double-digit inflation. The worst was in 1918, when prices rose by an astounding 20.4%. More recently, in 1979 the annual inflation rate hit 13.3%, driven at least in part by higher gas prices.

Installment 2: How can you fight the Effects of Inflation?

Contact our Peoples Investment Services, Inc. representative at 828-464-5620 or  www.raymondjames.com/PeoplesInvSvcs. 

This information, developed by an independent third party, has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. The material is general in nature. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer, and are not insured by FDIC, NCUA or any other government agency, are not deposits or obligations of the financial institution, are not guaranteed by the financial institution, and are subject to risks, including the possible loss of principal.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013

How to Recover from a Financial Setback

How to recover from a financial setbackOne of the most frustrating and emotionally grating experiences is when you are forced to deal with a significant financial setback. Whether you are struggling with a home foreclosure, the despair of a recent divorce or even the embarrassment of bankruptcy, financial setbacks can be an uphill battle that may seem unbeatable. But while debt may be cutting into your expected lifestyle, don’t despair. You can overcome a financial setback with planning and execution. Here are a few tips and resources to help you recover from a past bankruptcy, divorce or other setbacks.

Getting Past Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy can be demoralizing and embarrassing, but is actually more common than you might think and can happen to anyone. In fact, statistics from a study at the University of Michigan show that at least one in eight Americans will contemplate filing for bankruptcy, which is around 13% of the population. Remembering you are not alone will take away from the personal shame.

Also, rather than succumbing to guilt or shame, try to use this as a learning experience rather than a personal downfall. Analyze how the situation got out of hand, and try to use this knowledge to bounce back and avoid bankruptcy pitfalls down the road.

Reestablishing Credit After Divorce
Divorce is a painful process and can deeply affect you emotionally and financially, but there are some tips that can at least help maintain a strong credit score in this tough time. First, you are going to want to reestablish credit in your own name apart from your former spouses. Make sure to get the three credit reports mandated by the government site AnnualCreditReport.com. This will help you avoid any mistakes on your credit account. Also, get rid of joint credit accounts that you shared with your former spouse, and try to keep up on your credit payments. If you don’t have credit in your name, now is a good time to apply for a second credit card that requires you to pay cash up front.

Get Professional Help After Major Credit Problems
One of the best solutions to failed investments or financial setbacks is to seek the advice of professional consulting. A good place to find financial advisers and monetary help is at the Financial Planning Association or the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. Wherever you go, assistance from HUD-certified counseling agencies can help you set a strong plan for financial recovery.

Work on an Emergency Fund After Financial Mistakes
Not to be confused with a rainy day fund, an emergency fund should be a separate savings account that should save between $3,000 to $10,000. This fund is not to supply a one-time need in a tough time, but instead acts as a back-up account to see you through longer periods of monetary struggle, such as a job loss or marital separation; it provides a cash-flow cushion when it’s really needed. By keeping an emergency fund before periods of financial grief, you can also be better prepared for a financial blunder, whether it’s an investment that tanked or even an expensive identity theft. Keep in mind that a fund this large will take a while to accumulate so make sure to start setting aside some money as early as possible to build towards buffering financial storms. It is a wise investment to maintain your future accounts.

Financial setbacks and struggles can be incredibly difficult to deal with, but remember that even these tough times can be overcome. Just keep in mind these tips to rebuild your credit build several smaller savings accounts, and above all else don’t feel guilty. Financial troubles will at one point or another attack the best of us, and it is up to us to work towards recovery. The faster you’re ready to recover, the faster you can bounce back.