What to Buy and What to Skip in April

The days are getting longer and warmer, and that means summer is just around the corner! Though April is a mid-season month without any major shopping holidays, you can still score some great deals. There are also many items you’ll want to put on your waitlist until prices drop in another month or so. We’ve got all the info for you so you can shop smart! Here’s what to buy and what to skip in April. 

Buy: Cruise tickets

If you’re looking to get away from it all, April is a great time to book that springtime or summer cruise. You can find deals on cruise tickets to Bermuda, Europe and other exotic locations this month. Take action and score the vacation of a lifetime at a discounted price.

Skip: Mattresses

Unless your mattress is giving you unbearable back pain, you’re best off waiting until Memorial Day when deep discounts make purchasing a new mattress easier on your wallet.

Buy: Car parts and accessories

If you need new wipers, tires, brakes or another car part or accessory, this is the month to pick them up! April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions. If your car needs servicing, or even just a tune-up, you can get this done for less this month, too. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

Spring is just getting underway, and all things outdoors are still retailing at full price. If you can wait until Memorial Day sale events happen, you can upgrade your grill and deck out your patio in the finest gear for a lot less money. If you wait even longer, until July or August, you’ll potentially find even steeper discounts. 

Buy: Secondhand treasures

Spring-cleaning season means crowds of people are clearing out the clutter in their closets and around their homes. Many of these treasures may end up in secondhand stores or get sold at garage sales around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for already-loved clothing to spruce up your wardrobe, or gently-used furniture to replace your outdated pieces, April can be a great time to pick up priceless pre-owned treasures. Hit the secondhand stores early in the week for the best pickings, as they tend to get the most donations over the weekend when people do their cleaning.

Skip: Vacuums 

April might be time for deep-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean cleaning gear is discounted this month. Unless you’re desperate for a new machine, you’re better off waiting until vacuums go on sale during Black Friday sale events. 

Buy: Tax day giveaways

Filing taxes can be a headache at best, and downright painful at worst. Retailers want to make April 15th a little easier on the wallet for consumers, so many of them will run special promotions and events on this day. Look for giveaways, freebies, deep discounts on goods and more when tax day rolls around.

Skip: Refrigerators

If your fridge seems to be on its way out and you’re in the market for a new one, it’s best to hold off a bit on this purchase if you can. Retailers will soon be rolling out new models, and if you can wait until Memorial Day, you can find a new fridge in last year’s model at a fantastic price. 

Buy: Mother’s Day gifts

It’s never too early to think about making mom happy! And if you buy your Mother’s Day gifts in April, including jewelry and chocolate, you can save a bundle, too. 

Skip: Baby gear

Like all products that are upgraded annually, baby gear sees its biggest discounts when new models are rolled out, in January and February. This includes cribs, strollers, car seats, highchairs and more. 

Buy: Cookware

April is the unofficial kickoff of wedding season, when cookware becomes a popular gift. In a bid to attract customers, retailers offer steep discounts on pots and other cookware this month. Round out your own collection of cookware, or start stocking up on wedding gifts for less.

Tax day notwithstanding, April can be a time of fantastic finds and springtime memory making. Have a wonderful, bargain-filled month!  

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals this month? Tell us about it in the comments. 

The Best Way to Spend Your Paycheck

Everyone loves payday, but too many employees don’t know how to allocate their paycheck in a way that best serves their financial needs. Use the tips outlined below to learn how to manage your paycheck responsibly. 

1. Automatically deduct contributions

Your first step in managing your paycheck is making sure you are deducting the optimal amounts. Your employer will likely deduct funds for your health care plan and taxes, but you can determine how much tax is withheld by changing a few elections on your W-4. If you receive too large a tax refund for the prior year, or you’re stuck with a big bill when you file, consider adjusting the amount withheld on your W-4. Also, be sure to take full advantage of any employer-matching offers for your retirement funds — don’t give up free money! 

2. Budget for necessities 

After your contributions are deducted from your paycheck, you’ll be left with your take-home pay, or net income. You’ll use this money for covering expenses until the next payday, so it’s best to budget first for necessities, such as your mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, insurance premiums, etc. You can use the “envelope system” to actually put cash away for necessities or set up a detailed old-fashioned budget, which prioritizes your needs. You can also choose to use the “50/30/20 budget” that sets aside 50% of your income for needs. 

  1. Budget for wants

Once you’ve set aside money for your needs, you can use some of the remaining funds for wants, or discretionary expenses. This can include entertainment costs, dining out and clothing, in addition to what you really need. Here, too, you can put away the cash you need for a spending category into an actual envelope, mark down the amount you can spend in that category on a paper or in an app budget, or simply keep in mind that 30% of your paycheck can be spent on these expenses. 

  1. Pay yourself 

Now that you’ve taken care of your needs and wants until the next paycheck, it’s time to think about the future. Put a percentage of the remaining funds into savings, including IRAs, college saving plans, CDs, investments, emergency funds and the like. Use your predetermined amounts, or 20% of your take-home pay, if using the 50/30/20 budget. If you have any outstanding consumer debt, be sure to pay toward it as well. 

  1. Don’t feel forced to spend it all

Many people mistakenly think they need to spend all of their paycheck before the next one arrives. If you’re left with extra money at the end of the month, there’s no need to waste it. You can beef up your savings, get ahead of your debt or stash some cash away for an expensive time of year, like the holiday season. 

Learning how to wisely manage a paycheck can take some time, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it will be easy and almost happen by itself. 

Your Turn: Do you have any tips on paycheck management? Share them with us in the comments.

All You Need to Know About Taking Out a Home Loan in 2022

The real estate market has shifted tremendously since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as we approach the two-year mark since COVID-19 reached the U.S., the market continues to adjust to the changing economic environment, rising inflation and fluctuating demand. If you’re looking to take out a home loan in the near future, it’s important to learn about the current market trends and what you can expect in the coming months. Here’s what you need to know about taking out a home loan in 2022.

Market trends

Experts are predicting a somewhat cooler real estate market in 2022. Here’s what to expect among some of the different factors in the market. 

  • Supply and demand. 2021 was the year of frenzied bidding wars, as the supply of homes on the market fell well below the heightened demand. Despite these conditions, home sales were up by 44% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to Realtor.com. Looking forward, experts expect the demand to remain high in 2022, but they also anticipate the supply of available homes to inch closer to the demand as more new-construction homes hit the market. In addition, the trickle-down effect of the end of the government’s moratorium on foreclosures will likely increase the supply of available homes on the market. 
  • Home prices. In 2021, the average price of homes rose to an estimated 14.75%. According to the National Association of Realtors, home prices will continue to increase in 2022, but at a far more modest rate of just 2.8%. Fannie Mae projects a 7.4% increase, while mortgage bankers expect home prices to rise 5.1%. 
  • Mortgage rates. Mortgage rates remained at historic lows in 2021, with the average 30-year fixed-rate hovering around 3% at the end of the year. Economists expect mortgage rates to increase in 2022, but to continue to remain relatively low. The National Association of Realtors claims that mortgage rates will increase to 3.7% in the first quarter of 2022, while Fannie Mae anticipates the 30-year fixed mortgage to average 3.3% throughout the year.

Tips for buying a house in 2022

If you plan on buying a house in 2022, here’s how to make the most out of your search:

  • Get pre-approved. It’s always a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage before you start your search. It’s even more important in a sizzling real estate market like the one buyers are facing today. A preapproval gives you a leg up on bidding wars, shows potential sellers that you’re serious about buying and helps you keep your search within parameters you can afford. 
  • Shop around for a mortgage. While mortgage rates are still relatively low, each lender sets their own rates and closing costs. Shopping around before choosing a mortgage lender can save you money in the short term and long term. 
  • Use a local real estate agent. In a tight housing market, it’s important to use an agent who knows the area well and can give you a realistic picture of what you can expect to pay for the home you want. 
  • Prioritize carefully. Every homebuyer has a wish list of features they’d love to have in their new home and neighborhood. But, when supply is limited, absolute must-haves need to be chosen carefully. Narrow your list as much as possible before beginning your search, as it will help you to avoid disappointment later on. 

Keep these tips and considerations in mind as you begin your quest for the perfect new home. A little “pre-home” work can help make a big difference in the enjoyment of your home and your overall financial health for years to come!  [If you’re entering the market for a new home, we can help! Advantage One Credit Union offers home loans for qualifying members that feature competitive interest rates, an efficient and smooth application process, and the personalized service you’ve come to expect. Call, click or stop by today to get started.] 

Your Turn: Have you recently taken out a home loan? Tell us about it in the comments.

Leaving Your Job? Make Sure Your Wallet is Ready

One of the many pandemic’s lasting effects on the U.S. economy is the so-called Great Resignation of 2021. Employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs in droves. In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a whopping 20.2 million workers left their jobs from May 2021 through September 2021. Reasons for the high turnover range from availability of federal economic aid to general burnout, which reached a turning point during the pandemic. 

If you are considering becoming a part of the Great Resignation, it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before you give official notice at your job to cover any gaps in employment. Below, we’ve outlined some important steps to take before you leave your job.  

Review your savings

Before giving up a steady paycheck, make sure you have enough savings to tide you over until you find new employment. Ideally, you should have an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses to help you survive periods of unemployment, such as when you’re between jobs.  If you don’t have this kind of money saved up, consider pushing off your resignation until you can put together a nest egg to help you get by without a paycheck. 

Check your benefits 

If your job includes employee benefits, like retirement funding, be sure to review them carefully before giving notice. Here are different options to consider for the most common employee benefits: 

  • Health insurance. Work-sponsored health coverage generally ends on an employee’s last day at work, though coverage will sometimes continue until the end of the month. Similarly, some companies start covering new employees on their first day of work, while others have a waiting period that can last from 30 to 90 days. If you’ll have a gap in coverage, try to negotiate for early coverage when securing your new job. If this is not possible, thanks to COBRA, you can continue your current health coverage at your own expense for 18 months after you leave your job. It’s important to note, though, that this can be a pricey option. You can also purchase a short-term policy through the marketplace. 
  • Pension. If your previous place of employment came with a pension, you may be able to keep it or take out the money when you leave. This depends on whether or not your contributions are vested and the other rules of the pension plan. In general, if you were only at this job for a short while, you likely will not be able to hold onto your pension. If you have a choice, it can be better not to take out a pension in a lump sum because you will likely get a better return with a pension than on other investments. If you do take out your pension, you may want to roll it over into an IRA or a 401(k), which is tax-deferred. 
  • 401(k). If your old job came with a 401(k), you’ll need to decide what to do with the funds. You can keep the account as it is without making any additional contributions, roll over the funds to a new 401(k) program, roll the money over into an IRA or cash it out. Consider the investment options in your current 401(k) when making your decision. 
  • Life insurance. Don’t forget to consider a possible gap in your life insurance coverage when leaving a job. You may be able to continue paying for coverage until you have a new plan through your next place of employment. 

Assess your risk tolerance

Before accepting a new job, make sure you can handle a possible blow to your income. Many jobs will present new employees with the possibility of better pay in the future, while initially only offering a starting salary. How comfortable are you taking a risk with a new job that doesn’t guarantee as much financial security? 

Adjust your budget for your new salary

If your new job comes with better pay, or you’ll be bringing home a smaller paycheck for now, you’ll need to adjust your budget accordingly. You may want to increase the contributions you make toward your investments or find a new place to park your cash, such as a Advantage One Credit Union Savings Account, for the extra income while you decide on a more permanent strategy. On the flip side, if you’ll be earning less money now, look for ways to trim your budget so your paycheck can stretch to cover all your expenses. 

Leaving an old job and looking for a new one can be an exciting opportunity, but it’s important to make sure your finances are in order before taking that leap. Follow the tips outlined here before giving notice at your place of employment to ensure ongoing financial security.  

Your Turn: Have you recently changed jobs? Share your best tips and strategies in the comments. 

New Year, New Money Habits: How to Stick With It in 2022

If you’re like most people, you likely start each year with a list of resolutions to help you improve various aspects of your life. The list may include resolutions to help you become more physically fit, further your career growth and improve your personal relationships. Another category of resolutions you may make centers on those that affect your finances. 

If the latter is true, there’s probably a good chance that your list of resolutions for the new year looks the same, year after year … after year. Yes, it’s easy to come up with ways you can improve at year’s end, but seeing those resolutions through and actually making them happen is another story entirely. 

Spend less, save more, pay down debt — how can you make 2022 the year you actually stick to these and other financial resolutions? 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips that can help you keep your financial resolutions throughout the new year. 

Set measurable goals

Don’t just resolve to be better with money this year. Set realistic, measurable goals to help you stay on track and to ensure you’re actually making progress. For example, you can resolve to increase your spending by a certain amount by the time you hit the mid-year point, decide to trim your spending in a specific category by a set percentage or promise to pay all your bills on time for the entire year. 

Bonus tip: To make it easier, keep those goals SMART: 

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-based

Spend mindfully

Creating a budget can take some time and lots of number crunching, but it’s not the real challenge of financial wellness. The hard part comes when you’ve got to actually stick to that budget and make it part of your life. And one reason many people don’t end up keeping their budget is because they spend money without consciously thinking. 

Resolve to be more mindful about your spending this year, which means actually thinking about what you’re doing when you swipe that card or hand over that cash to the cashier. You can accomplish this by taking a moment to think about what you’re purchasing and how much you’re paying for it. You can also set yourself up for better success by staying off your phone while you complete your in-store transactions.

Bonus tip: To make this easier, use this calculator to determine how much you actually earn in an hour, and to see how much of your work time you’re “spending” when you make a large purchase. Is it really worth the price?

Partner up with a friend

According to MyFitnessPal.com, dieters who share their food diaries with a buddy lose twice as much weight. It’s basic psychology: When we know we have to answer to someone else, we’re more likely to stick to our resolutions — and this works for financial resolutions as well. 

Choose a friend who is in a similar financial bracket as you are and has a comparable relationship with money. Also, it helps if they have similar resolve to set and stick to those financial resolutions together. Set up a weekly time to review progress (or regression) you each have made, and make sure you both come prepared with details and proof to show how you’ve handled your money. 

Bonus tip: To make it even easier, you can use a money management app, like Mint, to help you track your spending, find your weak areas, and stay accountable for your friend. 

Write it down

In an era where some people can go without touching a pen and paper for days, writing down New Year’s resolutions can seem obsolete, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. The act of putting your financial resolutions into writing will help to imprint them on your memory. Plus, you’ll have a list of your resolutions to reference throughout the year to help keep you on track. 

Bonus tip: Writing doesn’t need to be physical in order to count. You can use a resolution-tracking app, like Strides, where you can record, track and reference your New Year’s resolutions at any time with just a few quick clicks. 

Sticking to your financial resolutions isn’t easy. Follow the tips outlined here to make 2022 the year you truly get your finances into shape. 

Your Turn: What are your financial resolutions for 2022? Share them with us in the comments. 

Should I Buy or Lease a Car Now?

Q: It’s no secret that the semiconductor chip shortage is driving up the price of both new and used cars, but I do need a new set of wheels. Am I better off buying or leasing a car now? 

A: The chip shortage and other factors relating to the pandemic and inflation have created a tight auto loan market, the likes of which haven’t been seen in years. 

As a result, finding a new or used car that meets your criteria is challenging in today’s market. Unfortunately, though, leases have also risen in price and there is limited availability among many models. 

If you need a new car right now, what’s your best choice? 

Let’s take a deeper look at buying and leasing a car, paying particular attention to factors that are unique to today’s market, to help you determine which option makes the most sense for you. 

Buying a car in 2021

If you choose to buy a new or used car, you’re looking at inflated prices and a supply shortage that’s been ongoing for months. Expect to pay approximately $40,000 for a new car and $23,000 for a used car, according to Edmunds.com. You’re also unlikely to get the service you may be used to getting at a dealership since salespeople likely have more customers than they can serve at present. This can translate into reluctance to move on the sticker price and in a delayed processing of a car purchase. 

Leasing a car in 2021

The leasing market has not been spared the after-effects of the chip shortage and resultant lag in supply of new vehicles. Many lease companies are struggling to service customers while facing a shortage in available cars. The rising prices have hit this market, too. 

If you’re nearing the end of a lease, you may be in luck. Auto dealerships are in desperate need of cars to sell, and they may offer to buy out your lease at an inflated price, leaving you with extra cash to finance your next car. The dealer pays the leasing company what you owe, and gives you a check for the remaining equity. Of course, you’ll also be facing high prices, but it may be worth getting a head-start on your purchase. 

Buying VS. leasing

In every market, there are some drivers who are better suited toward owning a car and others who benefit more from leasing. Here are some important factors to consider when making this decision: 

  • How long do you hold onto your cars? If you like to swap in your cars for a newer model every few years, a lease may be a better fit for your lifestyle. On the flip side, if you tend to hold onto your cars for many years, consider buying a car instead. 
  • Insurance costs. Leases require full insurance coverage, which can be pricey. When you own your vehicle, though, the amount of insurance coverage beyond what is required by law is your decision. If you like having full protection, including GAP insurance, which pays the difference between what you owe on a car and its true value if it’s totaled in an accident or stolen, a lease may be a better choice for you. If, however, you tend to purchase just minimum coverage, you may be better off purchasing your vehicle. 
  • Mileage. If you usually put more than 10,000 miles on your car each year (the standard amount allowed by most leasing companies before charging extra), you may be better off buying a car. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still need to pay for those miles in depreciation costs of the car. 
  • Maintenance costs. When you lease a car, most maintenance costs are on the leasing company. You’ll need to spring for anything related to wear and tear of the vehicle, but most other repairs will be covered. You’ll also have the option to pay extra for tire protection, and dent and scratch insurance. 

When you own your car, you’ll be footing the bill for all these costs, plus any maintenance needs. To minimize these costs, don’t finalize a car purchase without first ensuring it’s in good working order. You can do this by using its VIN (vehicle identification number) to look up its history and by having it professionally inspected by a mechanic.

While individual circumstances vary, in general, you can expect the cost of purchasing and leasing a vehicle to break even at the three-year mark. While a lease may offer you cheaper monthly payments, you’ll likely earn back two-thirds of the price you paid on a car if you sell it after three years. 

Today’s auto loan market makes every decision challenging. If you’re choosing between buying or leasing a car, be sure to weigh all variables carefully before making your decision. 

Your Turn: Do you buy or lease your cars? Which factors drive that decision? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Your Complete Guide to Secure Mobile Banking

In response to the rise of mobile banking scams, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published new guidance on unauthorized electronic funds transfers, or EFTs. With more people using electronic banking as a holdover from pandemic times, it’s important for consumers to be aware of its vulnerabilities and how to protect themselves from scams. Here’s what you need to know about the risks of mobile banking and how to stay safe. 

What are the risks of mobile banking? 

Banking through your mobile device is quick, convenient and efficient. There’s no longer a need to stop by the credit union on your way home from work to deposit checks, make a transfer or review your recent account history. Most banks and credit unions now allow you to do all that and more at any time, and from anywhere, using your phone and a mobile banking app. 

Unfortunately, though, like all transactions that take place over the internet, mobile banking has some inherent risks. First, hackers can break into a phone and an account to steal money and information. Also, phishing scams that target people over the phone can trick them into sharing login information with scammers who may then hack into the account. Finally, bogus emails and messages appearing to be from your credit union can lead you to unknowingly install malware on your device. 

Mobile banking scams can be difficult to spot and are frighteningly prevalent. In fact, according to a report by data science company Feedzai, the first quarter of 2021 saw a 159% increase in banking scams over the last quarter of 2020. This is likely due to the fact that the volume of banking transactions are returning to their pre-pandemic norm and many of them are happening online. 

How to bank safely online

Instances of online fraud may be mounting, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up the convenience of mobile banking. Follow these protocols for online safety and bank with high confidence: 

  • Use a VPN to hide your IP address. A VPN (virtual private network) will give you a private network, even when you’re using public Wi-Fi, thus preventing scammers from tracking and hacking your mobile device. It’s important to note that some VPNs can work so well that your own credit union won’t recognize you, so be sure to choose one that provides each user with a designated proxy IP. This enables select accounts to recognize the user while providing protection from hackers. 
  • Always choose multi-factor authentication. Most money apps will require this, but if your chosen app allows you to make this choice, be sure to say yes to multi-factor authentication. 
  • Never share your password or save it to your device. All of your passwords should be confidential, but the password you choose for an online banking app must be top secret. Don’t share your password with anyone. Follow suggested guidelines for choosing a strong password, including alternating between uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols; and choosing a unique password you don’t use elsewhere. Also, choose a security question that cannot be answered by searching through the personal information you post on your social media platforms. 
  • Brush up on your knowledge of scams. It’s important to keep yourself updated on the latest banking scams and to know how to recognize a scam if you’re targeted. Never answer a text or email that asks for your account details, even if it appears to be from your credit union. Finally, always be wary of unsolicited phone calls and banking alerts. 
  • Protect your phone. With the wealth of sensitive information it holds, a smartphone should be protected just like a desktop and laptop computer. Consider installing an antivirus app on your phone as well as a location-tracking app so you can find your phone if it gets lost. Be sure to lock your phone after using it, log out of the mobile banking app when you are done and always keep your phone in a safe place. 

Mobile banking scams are on the rise, but by simply following the tips shared above, you can use your phone to bank with confidence, knowing your money and your information are safe.

Your Turn: How do you bank safely online? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in August

Q: I’d love to pick up some great bargains as the summer winds down, but I’m not sure what I should be buying this season. Which products typically go on sale in August and which should be pushed off for another time?

A: As host to the second-biggest shopping season of the year, the tail end of summer brings some fantastic finds, but some overpriced products as well. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in August. 

Buy: Outdoor toys 

Outdoor toys, like sandboxes, bikes, inflatable pools and more, typically get big discounts in August. Check out sites like Overstock, Wayfair and look for markdowns on playground sets at retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. 

Skip: Major household appliances and mattresses

If you’re in the market for a new oven, mattress or another major household purchase, you’re best off waiting until September. Retailers tend to slash the prices on these items by 30% or more during Labor Day weekend sale events. Plan ahead by checking out upcoming sales in the weeks leading up to Labor Day. Doing so will help you land the best prices on your purchases.

Buy: Swimwear

Stores and online retailers need to clear out their summer stock to make room for the autumn and winter line, which gives you the perfect opportunity to snag a super swimsuit deal! You can walk away with great finds at ridiculously low prices you won’t find next spring. Stash your treasures for next year’s beach season, or keep them for a winter getaway to warmer climates with sunny shorelines. 

Skip: iPhones

If you’re looking to update your iPhone, you’re best off waiting it out a month or two. The new iPhone 13 is expected to be released in mid-September. Older models typically see a price cut when new models hit the market. So, whether you want to score the best price on an older phone or you’re willing to pay anything for the latest and greatest in iPhones, put the brakes on that purchase until September. 

Buy: School supplies and kids’ clothing

With back-to-school shopping seemingly starting almost as soon as school is out for the summer, August is already late in the season. It’s also when school supplies and kids’ clothing tend to see generous markdowns. Stock up on supplies to last all year long and get your kids outfitted for the coming season at rock-bottom prices in August.

Skip: TVs

Don’t run out and buy a new TV just yet. If you need a new flatscreen, you’re best off waiting for Black Friday to get the best deal.

Buy: Office supplies and furniture

Back-to-school sales means you can also cash in on office supplies and furniture. If you’re one of the many Americans working from home, you may need to restock your home office with basic supplies or to upgrade your office chair or desk. Why not save on these purchases by paying for them in August?

Skip: Fall clothing

Fall apparel will just be hitting the stores in August, so you likely won’t be seeing any steep discounts on fall wear until October at the earliest. It’s best to buy just a few autumn basics during the Labor Day sales and fill out the rest of your wardrobe later on in the season. 

Buy: Patio furniture 

Those wicker table-and-umbrella sets can get pricey! Pick up a sweet deal on patio furniture by buying your sets and single pieces at the end of the season. While you’re giving your patio a facelift, you’ll also find grills, outdoor decor and more on sale in August.

The final dog days of summer bring a flurry of marked-down products and end-of-season sales, but there are some items that are best purchased during another time of year. Stay ahead of the retail game by using this guide to learn what to buy and what to skip in August.

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals in August? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Is Plaid Safe?

Q: When using peer-to-peer payment apps, banking apps and free-trading apps, I’m often redirected to the Plaid network, where I’m asked to input personal information. Can I feel safe using Plaid?

A: The instinct to be wary of any service that’s asking you to share sensitive information is appropriate and commendable. Most financial apps will ask you to share your banking information, and some will even ask you to share your Social Security number. But it begs the important question; Should you be sharing this information?

While the safety and security of each financial app is individual, apps that are powered by Plaid are safe to use. Plaid is a reputable company that uses encryption and industry-standard security measures to protect your sensitive information.

Here’s what you need to know about Plaid.

What is Plaid? 

Plaid is a financial technology company that serves as an intermediary between financial services and their users. Apps like Venmo, You Need a Budget and Robinhood use Plaid to securely link their users’ financial accounts to their own platforms. This way, the financial apps do not have access to their users’ information; they instead rely on Plaid to supply it for them.

Plaid works by using a universal Application Programming Interface (API) to share users’ data with other applications. APIs are software intermediaries that allow two different applications to communicate. Plaid has developed an API that can be used by any financial institution or application, making it simpler and safer for users to share their financial information digitally.

How does Plaid work?

When you sign up for any of the 3,000+ financial applications currently powered by Plaid, you’ll be asked to choose your financial institution from a list that’s provided by Plaid. Next, you’ll enter your banking login info and password. Some apps will have you create a new password at this point. Once you’ve logged in, Plaid securely shares the information you’ve chosen to link, such as your checking account number, with the app you’re using.

It’s important to note that Plaid itself does not move money around. The technology merely enables other financial apps and their users to send funds from one account to another. Plaid holds onto your encrypted password information without touching your money, while the linked financial app can move your money, but cannot access or know your login credentials.

Is Plaid safe?

Sharing personal information with an app can be unsettling — and it should be. However, you can rest easy, knowing that Plaid uses the highest levels of security possible. When you link your checking account with a financial application by using Plaid, the company instantly encrypts the sensitive data and then shares it with the application using a secure connection.

According to the Plaid website, the company uses these measures to keep your information secure:

  • End-to-end data encryption. Plaid uses a combination of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to keep your personal information completely safe.
  • Multi-factor authentication.  An extra login step adds another layer of security.
  • Cloud infrastructure. Plaid uses secure cloud infrastructure technologies to enable quick and safe connection.
  • Robust monitoring. The Plaid API and all related components are continuously monitored by a security team.
  • Third-party security reviews. Security researchers and financial institutions regularly audit Plaid’s API and security controls.

When using an application that is powered through Plaid, practice standard online safety measures. Check the URL to ensure you have the correct site, look for the lock icon and the “s” following the “http” in the address. Also, make sure the security settings on your device are updated and set to their strongest levels. Finally, if you need to choose a new password for the app, be sure to choose a strong, unique code and not to share it with anyone.

In a world that is increasingly mobile, Plaid safely connects users to thousands of financial apps and 11,000 financial institutions across the country. Follow basic online safety protocol, keep your login info private, and you can use Plaid knowing your information is secure.

Your Turn: What steps do you take to keep your data safe? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
getdivvy.com
plaid.com

How to Adult: Personal Finance for the Real World

Title: How to Adult: Personal Finance for the Real World

Author: Jake Cousineau

Paperback: 235 pages

Publisher: Independently published

Publishing date: March 23, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • High school graduates, college students and any other young adult who needs to prepare for the financial realities of adulthood.
  • Young adults who’ve made money mistakes due to a lack of financial education and want to learn how to better handle their money in the future.

What’s inside this book?

  • A clear, easy-to-understand explanation of financial topics, like compound interest, mutual funds, insurance deductibles, Roth IRAs and more.
  • Practical examples and real-life anecdotes to bring financial lessons home.
  • Hands-on tools to help readers jump-start their financial journeys.
  • A “Build Your Skills” section at the end of each chapter inviting readers to test their knowledge and retention of the chapter’s material.

5 lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  1. The foundational concepts of personal finance and building wealth.
  2. How to avoid costly financial missteps.
  3. How to budget, save and invest your money wisely.
  4. How taxes and insurance work.
  5. How to prepare for life’s big expenses.

3 questions this book will answer for you:

  1. What are the financial basics I need to know to make it in the real world?
  2. How can I avoid making money mistakes as a young adult?
  3. Can I learn about finances without breaking my brain over complicated jargon and complex concepts?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “This! This is what I needed when I was in high school. It is also what I needed when I was in college, and when I bought my first car, and when I bought my first house, and when I opened my first credit card. Every high school student in America should have to pass a class that uses this book. The real-world examples are relatable and make the reader feel like they are armed with the knowledge they need. It doesn’t just make you book smart. It makes you street smart.” — Stukent Personal Finance
  • “In How to Adult, Jake Cousineau engages readers using a blend of storytelling, analogies, charts and research to deliver key financial lessons. Whether it’s comparing index funds to sports teams, or interest to pineapple on pizza, Jake has a gift in delivering financial advice in a way that will educate adults, young and old alike!” — NGPF Personal Finance
  • “The author does an excellent job of explaining complex concepts in clear terms using common language. I learned something new about taxes despite having filed them for the past 15 years. Clever and approachable. Highly recommend.” — Zach G

 Your Turn: What did you think of How to Adult? Share your opinion in the comments.

Learn More:
amazon.com
thefishow.com