Have you ever explored the full meaning when someone says, “I’ve got your back?”
Is it that they’re committed to watching out for you and taking care of things that you are likely to miss?
Are they dedicated to being that second set of eyes and hands for you when necessary?
Is it someone willing to help when you need assistance, even before you know you need it?
How about somebody who will literally enter into a physical battle on your behalf?
Have you ever taken the time to consider who’s got your back in your business?
Perhaps it’s an advisor who has a single-minded area, whether it be law, accounting, or lending.
Maybe it’s that individual who’s able to rise 30,000 feet for a broad view of your world and then tell you how your business fits in your life, particularly during stressful times.
Maybe it’s the person who can keep the bigger picture in mind when aiding you in your day-to-day business battles. Or someone who can pull you aside – despite your protests that you ‘don’t have time’ – and offer strategic perspectives and advice you can trust.
These “have your back” individuals will ask questions that stop you in your tracks, that allow you to take a deep breath while the stress of the moment leaves your body. They do this without fear that their questions might be simple, naïve, or lacking a complete understanding of your business.
They don’t worry if they’re the biggest thought leader or genius in the room. They’re focused on helping you slow down, making certain that you’re not ignoring the larger implications of whatever task is at hand.
They maintain the big picture, yet they are at the street level, working right alongside you. They open their network and introduce you to the accountant, the attorney, the banker, even the medical professional, and ask them for exceptions on your behalf, all because they truly believe you are exceptional.
These are the people who see you for who you are, believe in what you are trying to accomplish, and give all they’ve got to help you get there. In effect, fully defining what it means to say, “I’ve got your back.”
We all need someone like this, don’t we? I know who it is for myself and the impact they continue to make in my world. Who has your back, in your business, and in your life?
During financial industry conferences and meetings, this seemingly innocent question surfaces almost without fail.
AUM = “assets under management.”
To me, that question is a veiled and vulgar way of trying to find out the total assets being managed by our firm. When using the term “assets,” the person inquiring doesn’t mean the humans and their lives that we’re helping to navigate. Rather, it’s all about the dollars and cents under our direction. The question they’re really asking is, “How much of other people’s money do you control?” To many in our industry, this is the badge of honor that they believe measures success.
I believe that “assets under management” is a crappy way to categorize clients.
I also believe that if all you have is financial capital, then you don’t really have all that much.
While it’s an important data point for valuing a business, it unfortunately doesn’t indicate the true value of a financial professional or their client base. At Note, we have a different standard of that value for both.
We like to think in terms of “lives under management.”
When considering the “assets” we manage, our focus turns to people we advise. The human beings we help to successfully navigate their personal and financial challenges. Challenges such as:
Investing their limited resources of time and money in starting a business.
Taking on the financial capital risks of borrowing money to begin and/or grow a business.
Sweating-out the personal guarantees needed to secure loans in early-stage businesses, or businesses under stress.
Lost sleep and compromised health due to the pressures of financial and business risks.
Business distractions that prevent clients from being “present” with their family, spouse or significant other, and the resultant dissatisfaction over a loved one being mentally somewhere else.
Often when we begin advising clients, they find themselves in uncharted waters as we help them navigate their “lives under management.” Yet because of our years of experience, we know the management plan we are creating for them will deliver results. We’ve seen it. We can smell it. We know it, often before those we are working with actually experience it.
We also know that helping people transition their sweat and tears into something of value, and extracting that value over time in the form of financial capital, can give them valued independence. People can live in ways that allow them increased control over their time. They can enjoy extended vacations. They create the ability to transition their business to family or employees, or sell their businesses and move on to their next venture with a smile on their face.
Most importantly, they become fully aware that they are not simply “assets under management.” They are human beings who we value and whose lives we are helping to build and enjoy.
This simple three-word phrase is one I’ve heard throughout my career, in instances that often stick in my mind. One of those relates to a couple I worked with for more than 20 years. Early on, I provided the husband with financial advice about an insurance policy, which he then purchased. Sadly, he subsequently contracted an illness that caused him to become disabled for the remainder of his life.
As I do with all clients, I attempted to get back together with the couple for an annual review of that policy, and the details of how it worked. More often than not the appointments were scheduled and cancelled as “unnecessary,” with the wife always concluding, “We’re all set.”
This year the gentleman passed away. His widow contacted me to ask if I could provide her information on his life insurance beneficiaries. When I shared the information, she was shocked. She indicated that she and her husband had modified their wills to ensure select individuals they had originally noted as beneficiaries on the policy would not receive any proceeds.
I advised her that since such a policy is a separate contract with the insurance company, changing their wills did not change the beneficiary designations. I explained that unless an insurance contract is modified, the policy is paid out according to the original terms.
At that point, the widow became upset, saying her husband would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the amount of money that would be going to certain beneficiaries. She said she understood that she and her husband had cancelled a number of appointments with me and clearly they were not as “set” as they both thought.
I advised her that I was sorry but, as difficult as it was to watch it unfold, the proceeds were being paid out exactly as they had been written. In the end, it was an expensive and painful lesson for this woman about the consequences of not being “all set.”
Medical professionals require an active relationship with their patients in order to establish and maintain a baseline of their health. Without that baseline there is no reference for how much a patient has changed, how their current health varies from “normal”, or how to ensure their ongoing wellness.
The same is true for financial professionals.
Without a baseline understanding of a client’s personal and financial situation and a game plan for the future, advising is often nothing more than business transactions that sometimes include opportunistic purposes to sell products to a client without clear objectives.
Today, professionals in every field are recognizing the risks of advising “we’re all set” clients; those who don’t proactively participate in the planning process. They are also facing increased liability costs of attempting to advise reactive individuals in today’s litigious society. Many are notifying such clients of non-compliance and pruning them from their client/patient lists. Not a great place to find yourself when you need professional help and realize you are not “all set,” not insurable, not prepared for retirement, not liquid and not protected by any kind of safety net or parachute.
The next time you’re inclined to dismiss a professional who is trying to serve you and maintain an active relationship, think twice. Agree to meet with them and keep that appointment. Maintain your baseline. Let your professional lead you through their established processes and provide you with proven solutions. Make sure that ultimately, when you say those three little words, you really are, “all set.”
In the decades I’ve spent advising individuals on their businesses and their wealth, I’ve observed that people are often concerned about having the “right answers.” It makes sense. We all want to be correct, feel affirmed, and know we’re on the path of success. However, I’ve learned that to arrive at the “right answers,” you need to ask the right questions. At Note, we believe great advisors ask great questions. The kinds of questions others might not.
Questions you never get to fully contemplate in the day-to-day demands of running your business.
Questions which, by the time you recognize they should have been asked and addressed, rob you of valued financial capital and time.
“What made you decide to start this line of work?”
“Are you still doing it for the same reasons?”
“What has to happen over the next three years for you to feel professionally fulfilled and successful?”
“When was the last time you took off a couple of weeks, or even a month, from your work?”
“If you don’t have the support in place to take a month off or more, what do you think would happen to your business if you become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness, injury, or premature death?”
These kinds of essential business questions don’t stop there. For many business owners, there are succession concerns that can implicate partners, family, and employees.
“How do you plan on getting out of this business alive?”
“Are your children working for you? If so, do they expect to own the business someday?”
“Can you identify key employees in your company?”
“Do they know they are your key employees?”
Some business owners have shareholder involvements.
“Have you reviewed your shareholder agreement to make sure those integral to your business aren’t robbed of ownership positions, like your children?”
“How might this impact partners and co-shareholders you might have?”
“Does your shareholders agreement address liquidity needs that may occur during their lives—college education funding, unanticipated expensive medical care, helping a child with a home down payment or a grandchild with their education?”
“Can these needs create the unintended consequences of diminished business focus, or loss of a key shareholder?”
There’s also the challenge of managing relationships with varied business advisors.
“Do you have a collaborative team of advisors—an accountant, a tax expert, a lawyer, an operations pro? “How do you coordinate communication among them all?
“Do you have one core advisor facilitating such communication? Or do you find yourself spending your business time interpreting the work of each one of your advisors for everyone else?”
“How’s that working for you?”
If any of these questions hit a nerve, I want you to know that I see you and the challenges you’re facing. That’s why I’m passionate about asking great questions that grab your attention and give you pause. Questions that inspire the right answers for your family, your business, your wealth, and your legacy.
If you are self-employed, you shouldn’t count on the payroll tax break the president has issued via executive order — at least not yet.
Payroll taxes are normally shared by employers and employees. Each covers a 6.2% tax to fund Social Security, as well as a 1.45% tax to fund Medicare.Self-employed people foot the entire bill for these levies themselves, at a cost of 15.3%, and pay for them as part of their quarterly estimated taxes
The president’s executive order would suspend the employee’s share of payroll taxes from September 1st through the end of the year. It would cover workers who make no more than $4,000 per biweekly pay period or $104,000 annually.
It is currently unclear whether this relief would apply to the self-employed, which is raising a number of tax concerns including whether employers or employees could face surprise tax consequences and compliance issues related to the executive order.
Separately, business owners, including independent contractors and freelancers, are already eligible to defer the employer’s side of the Social Security tax via the CARES Act. Under this provision, employers may choose to defer the share of tax that would have been paid from March 27 through Dec. 31. They would then pay 50% of the amount owed next year and the remainder in 2022.
With so many unanswered questions, the best course of action if you are self-employed is to continue to set aside your self-employment taxes and pay them as usual. At the very least, you should wait until further guidance is issued by the Treasury Department to decern on whether you qualify to defer this slice of the tax.
If you have questions, or need to talk about this or any other financial issues, give us a call. We’re to help
There are many statistics about the gender pay gap worldwide. For example, in the United States, women still only earn 82 cents to a man’s dollar. It is also well acknowledged that women, on average, outlive men. So, the importance of women saving and investing to help make up for this deficit is obvious.
The thing is, according to a study conducted in the late 90s by Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean, while women have many traits that would make them good investors, they are far less confident than men in their investing ability. In fact, data from several studies over the years show that even when women have investment accounts, they hold the majority of their money in more conservative holdings like bonds and cash.
The question becomes, how to get women not only to invest, but to invest more aggressively when appropriate. The following five tips can help.
1. Begin With an Emergency Fund
The first step to financial security is having enough cash in a savings account to cover at least three-to-six months’ worth of unexpected expenses. This fund will not only help you in case of an emergency, but can also give you the confidence to start investing and help weather a market downturn.
2. Look to retirement
Whether you’re in your 20s or your 40s, you can’t afford to wait to start saving for retirement. And even though women are known to put others’ needs first, when it comes to retirement, you have to think of yourself. Take full advantage of a company retirement plan like a 401(k). In fact, this is a great way to begin investing. Contribute at least up to the company match, more if possible. Don’t have a company plan? Consider an IRA. The point is to save as much as you can as soon as you can. Living to 90-plus is becoming more common. You need to be prepared.
3. Invest in stocks
Your first thought may be that you don’t want to take the risk. Market downturns definitely happen as we’ve recently seen, but being too cautious can also put you at a disadvantage. Stocks are an important part of any portfolio because of their long term potential for growth and higher potential returns versus other investments like cash or bonds.
As evidence, consider this statistic: a dollar kept in cash investments from from 1926 to 2019, would only be worth $22 today. That same dollar invested in small-cap stocks over those 93 year would be worth $25,688 today.1
So where to begin? Many broad-based mutual funds and exchange-traded funds make it easy to invest in a cross-section of stocks. An index fund or target-date fund can make it even easier. Using a robo advisor can also be a good way to begin. You don’t have to know a lot to start; you just need to know where to start.
4. Plan for Other Financial Goals
What are your other goals—a down payment on a home, a child’s education or a vacation? Investing a portion of your savings in stocks may help you reach those goals faster, with the caveat that money you think you’ll need in three to five years should be in less risky investments. Stock investing should ideally be long-term, understanding how much risk you can stomach, and how much risk you can afford to take.
5. Ask for Help and Advice
When you have questions, ask your benefits administrator, your broker, even a knowledgeable friend or family member—but ask. There are also lots of online investing resources to explore. Need more? Consider working with a financial advisor.
A financial advisor is sort of like a personal trainer, someone to guide you and keep you going when you might otherwise be tempted to call it quits. He or she should understand your feelings, situation, and goals. Never hesitate to ask questions, including how your advisor is paid.
No time like the present
Time is a crucial factor in investing. If you have many years ahead of you to invest—and you commit to keeping your money invested—time will likely help you weather the inevitable market ups and downs. That’s not to say you can’t start investing later in life, but keep in mind that money you’ll need in the short-term should not be in the stock market.
That said, women need to develop the knowledge base and confidence to make the most of their hard-earned savings and build financial independence through investing. It doesn’t take a lot of money; it just takes getting started. Contact Angela Hall, CFP, if you’re ready!
 Source: Schwab Center for Financial Research. The data points above illustrate the growth in value of $1.00 invested in various financial instruments on 12/31/1925 through 12/31/2019. Results assume reinvestment of dividends and capital gains; and no taxes or transaction costs. Source for return information: Morningstar, Inc. Based on the copyrighted works of Ibbotson and Sinquefield. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The indices representing each asset class are CRSP 6-8 Index (small-cap stocks) through 1978, Russell 2000 thereafter; and Ibbotson U.S. 30-day Treasury bills (cash investments). Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Parts of this blog were excerpted from an online article by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz,CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable
Retirement. A time in life to which we all look forward. However, According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, 26.8% of those between the ages of 65-75 continued to work—a number that is expected to rise to 30.6% by 2026.
There are varying reasons Americans are postponing retirement, from economic stability to personal fulfillment. Whatever the reason, and however long you might plan to remain working, there are retirement-related financial concerns that should be addressed in your sixties to ease your eventual retirement transition and avoid potential snags down the road.
Wait to File for Social Security
Just because you reach “full retirement age”(FRA)doesn’t mean you have to collect Social Security benefits, especially if you’re still working. The longer you wait, the more your benefits will increase—up to age 70.
Monthly benefits increase between six and seven percent for every year you delay from age 62 to your FRA, and then grow eight percent a year between your FRA and age 70. If you are healthy and longevity runs in your family, you stand a good chance of increasing your lifetime benefit by postponing your start date.
Enroll in Medicare Part A
If you’ve already filed for Social Security, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B at age 65. But if you haven’t, you have a choice to make.
Most people will benefit by enrolling in Medicare Part A at age 65 whether or not they continue to work. There are no premiums, and enrolling now will help you avoid potential penalties or delays down the road.
If you’re covered by your employer’s plan and your company has 20 or more employees, that plan will remain your primary coverage. If you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary insurer.
*Another caveat: Once you enroll in any portion of Medicare, you can no longer c*ontribute to a Health Savings Account. So if you’re relying on your HSA to boost your savings, you’ll need to postpone Medicare.
Consider Postponing Medicare Parts B and D
If you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees, you’re probably best off enrolling in Medicare Part B and Part D when you turn 65. But if you work for a larger company, you may well be better off sticking with your employer plan and enrolling in Medicare once you retire. This link to a Medicare.gov website provides information on costs and coverage that may help you make a decision.
Once you leave your job, you will generally have eight months to enroll in Part B or face a penalty. Part D also has a late enrollment penalty if you go more than 63 days without “creditable” prescription drug coverage. Creditable means that your existing insurance is expected to pay as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage.
Continue to Save for Retirement
No one should ever walk away from an employer’s 401(k) match, but it makes sense to try and save more. The good news is that as long as you are working, you can continue to contribute the legal maximum ($26,000 in 2020) to your 401(k) regardless of age. If you anticipate being in a high tax bracket come retirement, you might want to consider a Roth 401(k), if available.
You can also contribute up to $7,000 to either a traditional or Roth IRA as long as you have earned income, although in 2020 Roth IRAs are restricted to those who earn less than $206,000 (combined income for a married couple filing a joint return) or $139,000 (single).
Note that the 2019 SECURE Act extended the age limit for contributing to a traditional IRA from age 70½ to 72.
Don’t Forget About Required Minimum Distributions
The CARES Act passed in March of 2020 has temporarily suspended all required minimum distributions (RMDs) for 2020, regardless of age. This includes 401(k)s and traditional IRAs.
Starting in 2021 when the CARES Act expires, we will revert back to the RMD rules established by the 2019 SECURE Act. If you did not turn 70 ½ by 2020, you can wait until the year in which you turn 72 to start taking your required distributions.
Also note that earning a paycheck means you can delay taking a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your 401(k). As long as you are working (and you don’t own more than 5% of the company), that requirement is waived until April 1 of the year you retire. There are also no RMDs for Roth IRAs at any age.
Think About Your Mortgage
Conventional wisdom says we should pay off our mortgages before we retire, but it’s important to look at your mortgage in the context of your complete financial profile. Before you rush to pay off your mortgage, especially if that involves selling securities or will reduce your liquidity, you should consult with your financial advisor.
Plan How to Turn Your Portfolio into Your Paycheck
Switching from saving to spending and depleting what you’ve worked so hard to build can be a difficult transition. Before you stop working:
Review your net worth statement to understand exactly where your stand.
Make a retirement budget and stash away a minimum of a year’s worth of cash.
Review your portfolio to make sure you have the appropriate balance of risk and safety.
Consult with your financial advisor to create a tax-efficient drawdown strategy.
It’s great to choose to work for as long as it’s financially and personally rewarding, but planning carefully for the eventual transition to retirement can make the next phase of life even more fulfilling.
This blog was excerpted from an online article by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable
In meeting with and advising our clients, one of their most important concerns is focused on ensuring their family’s future. Within that conversation often comes the question of the best way to leave money to their grandchildren.
In many ways, leaving an IRA can be a good alternative. The money continues to grow tax-deferred and when the grandchildren do inherit it, they’ll have options about when and how to withdraw the money. However, it’s not quite as simple as just naming them as the beneficiaries.
First, the distribution rules can be complicated and each beneficiary may have different needs on when it would be best to distribute the assets most effectively.
Second there is the consideration of what happens should grandchildren inherit the money while minors.
Third, it’s important to consider how the distributions will be taxed. Below are some points to keep in mind ere are some things to address in advance.
MINORS CAN’T INHERIT AN IRA OUTRIGHT
The age of majority generally ranges from 18 to 21, depending on the state of residence. So it would be wise to consider establishing a custodian, typically the minor’s legal guardian, for young grandchildren. The custodian would manage the money until the child reached his or her state’s recognized age of adulthood. At that time, the child would have complete access to the funds.
If you don’t designate a custodian, the child’s parent would have to ask the Probate Court to assign a property guardian. To avoid this complication, it would be best to name a custodian (often a parent) as part of your beneficiary designation.
CONSIDER SETTING UP A TRUST
This requires a bit more expense and time (you will need to work with an estate planning attorney), but it will give you more control over how and when the money can be used. For instance, while you might be thinking the inheritance would be used for education or a down payment on a house, a young beneficiary might be more tempted to buy a fancy car.
The choice of a trust depends on how much money you’re talking about and how concerned you are about your grandchildren handling their inheritance responsibly.
GRANDCHILDREN GENERALLY WON’T BE SUBJECT TO RMDs,BUT THEY WILL HAVE TO DISTRIBUTE THE ASSETS WITHIN TEN YEARS.
Prior to the passage of the SECURE Act, which became effective as of January 1, 2020, most heirs were able to distribute Inherited IRA assets over the course of their lifetime—with the caveat that they had to take RMDs. However, under the new law, only certain types of beneficiaries have this option, and grandchildren are not one of them (unless they are disabled or chronically ill.)
Grandchildren generally fall under the category of ‘Designated Beneficiary,’ which means that they can distribute the assets however they like, without RMDs each year—as long as all assets are distributed within 10 years.
In other words, your grandchildren can take some assets out each year or just leave all the assets in the account until the last day. However, any assets that are not distributed by the end of the 10th year will be subject to a 50% penalty.
How the assets are distributed within that time frame could have important tax considerations, so it’s best to consult with a financial advisor. Because of the SECURE Act rules, if you are married, in some cases it may make more sense to name your spouse as the designated beneficiary to take advantage of spreading the distribution over his or her lifetime and then they can name your grandchildren as beneficiaries.
UNLESS YOUR IRA IS A ROTH, THE GRANDKIDS WILL MOST LIKELY HAVE TO PAY INCOME TAXES ON DISTRIBUTIONS.
Distributions from earnings and deductible contributions from a traditional IRA are considered ordinary income, so unless you’re passing on a Roth IRA that was established for at least 5 years or more prior to your passing, taxes will be due on distributions.
If the Roth five-year holding period has not passed, the earnings are taxed at ordinary income rates. Your grandchildren will have to pay income taxes on distributions at their own tax rate or they can wait until the five years holding period has passed to receive tax-free distributions.
THREE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
1. It’s best that your grandchildren (or their custodians) understand that they will not be able to make additional contributions to an inherited IRA (however, if they have earned income, their parents can set up custodial IRAs for them).
2.It is important for everyone to understand that your grandchildren would not be subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, regardless of their age when they take a distribution.
3.The inheritance may have an impact on student financial aid considerations for your grandchildren. Consider all of these issues into your overall plan.
Naming a grandchild as an IRA beneficiary can be a tax-smart way to pass on money—both for you and for your grandkids. You just want to make sure that you set it up to everyone’s best advantage now, so it can truly be an advantage to the kids later on.
Want to know more? Give us a call at 716-256-1682, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make an appointment to help you ensure your family’s future.
This article was excerpted from an online post written by Carrie Schawb Pomerantz, CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable.
Over the last three months at Note, we have been engaged in virtual meetings with clients, working on ways to sustain their businesses in these trying, pandemic times.
Although a crystal ball might seem like the most needed tool in our advisor’s arsenal right now, here are some “good business” fundamentals we regularly share with clients that are important in any economy.
Hire the Best CPA, Attorney and Financial Advisor you can afford. Anything less can often become a big expense. Along the same lines, free advice often proves to be the most expensive.
Accumulate cash for opportunities and challenges. Keep in mind that other’s challenges may become your business opportunity.
Define the Core Values of your business and communicate them to all involved. Make sure to deliver customer service that clearly supports those values
Examine how to WOW your customer in a way that Amazon-at-your-door cannot.
Invest in the best employees you can attract.
Empower your employees to make decisions. Give them a budget for fixing mistakes and providing the highest level of service in their customer interactions.
Ask someone brutally honest and unfamiliar with your business or services to act as a customer and then grade their experience.
If you have questions or concerns about your business or need to discuss COVID-19 financial issues, we are here to help. Please contact Sarah Neuner at email@example.com or (716) 256-1682 to make an appointment to meet in our office, via phone or virtually, online.
Have you ever noticed an unauthorized withdrawal from your bank, brokerage, or credit card account? Such suspicious activity can mean only one thing: Your finances have been invaded.
If this has happened to you, know you are not alone. According to a November, 2019 Nilson Report, “Credit card fraud losses in 2018 reached $27.85 billion.
The good news is that if you find yourself the target of financial fraud, there are steps you can take to limit losses and help prevent unauthorized activity from happening again.
1. Act fast
It’s in everyone’s interest to identify suspicious activity as soon as it surfaces. Your financial institution can freeze the compromised account, issue a new card, reset a password, and perhaps even help track down those responsible. Be sure to initiate contact through a known number or website; never respond to an unsolicited email, phone call, or text—no matter how legitimate it may seem.
Financial institutions generally have security policies that outline how they handle fraud—including your liability, if any, in the event of unauthorized activity.
Viruses and malware are commonly tied to fraud schemes. Indeed, if a virus is left unchecked it can capture your new username and password, even if it was changed after the initial breach.
2. Go wide
Whenever you spot fraud in one account, change the credentials on any other accounts with the same usernames and/or passwords. Better yet, assign a unique password to each financial account, as well as every site where you store bank account or credit card information.
Of course, it can be difficult to keep all those passwords straight. Password managers, such as Dashlane and LastPass, can generate a unique password for every account, keep track of them all, and even securely auto-populate username and password fields.
3. Stay Alert
In addition to fraud alerts, many credit card issuers can notify you when they process online or over-the-phone transactions that don’t require a physical card. In 2018, such transactions accounted for 54% of all fraudulent activity worldwide involving credit, debit, and prepaid cards. Bank and brokerage accounts also offer alerts and notifications for certain types of transactions.
Regularly review your statements and credit report to ensure no fraudulent activity flies under the radar. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) is required to provide one free credit report annually, so consider requesting a report from one of the agencies every four months.
Placing a security freeze with Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax can prevent others from opening a new credit card or loan in your name. Better yet, place a freeze with all three agencies to ensure maximum protection. If you need to apply for credit in the future, you can temporarily lift the freeze using a password or PIN.
4. Double up
Activate two-factor authentication: This safeguard, now standard among financial firms, issues a single-use code via email or text that you need to enter along with your username and password to gain access to your account.
Enable biometric recognition: Biometrics let you unlock a device or log in to an account with your face, fingerprint, or voice. Unlike passwords, biometrics can’t be written down (or lost) and are much harder for criminals to replicate.
Go the extra mile
In addition to the above four steps, consider reporting your experience to TheFederal Trade Commission. The agency’s reporting process isn’t designed to resolve individual incidents or recover funds, but your report helps them track trends in fraud and better understand the methods criminals are using, which may help financial firms improve their defenses.
It’s also a good idea to file an Identity Theft Report at identitytheft.gov. This entitles you to extra protections, such as placing an extended fraud alert on your credit report and preventing companies from collecting debts that result from identity theft.