Online Security

Post by: Valley Financial Group and Billy Wolfe Jr.

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It seems like our entire lives have been digitized. Everything that anyone could ever want or need to know about us is out there, somewhere, waiting to be accessed. This is why it is so very important to make sure that your identity, information and finances are properly secured to prevent a catastrophe such as the one we have just witnessed. For those readers who do not know, Equifax is a company that monitors the financial dealings of all adult Americans in order to judge the exact risk attached to lending them money. On July 29th, Equifax became aware of a security breach to their network, releasing the identity information of 143 million Americans, almost the entire adult population. They did not release their findings until almost a month later, and the chaos has been whirling ever since.

Millions of Americans are asking the questions, "Am I safe? Who has my information? What do I do now?", but the most important question being asked is "How do I protect myself?.” It is imperative for people nationwide, be they computer experts or technologically challenged, to ensure that their identity and financial well-being is protected online to the best of their ability.

The first step, especially after a fiasco such as the one described, is to closely monitor your credit reports, cards, and check to see if any loans had been taken out in your name. The next few tips apply to general internet safety, and even though they may seem obvious to some, are vital to protecting your accounts and information. Easy things, such as having strong passwords, each one unique for its account, could mean the difference between having a hacked social media account and having your identity and financial information stolen. Making sure your computer's anti-virus software is up to date is another seemingly trivial thing that could save your information.

For all those online shoppers out there, be sure of the website's authenticity before typing in your card number and personal information. Don't reveal anything too personal or give away any private information on social media, even if you think only your "followers" or "friends" can see it. But perhaps the most obvious, the simplest, and definitely the most important of these is to just be smart on the internet, to trust your gut when something seems a little off, and to be careful just where or to who you give out your information.

Like we said, the world is becoming digital, so it’s never been more important to know how to stay safe on the web.

 

The misery of being an Eagles fan.....

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Post by: Valley Financial Group

Philadelphia's hopes and dreams for the fall and winter lie with the success or failure of its hometown Eagles.  It's Groundhog Day around this house.  Green is everywhere.  I'm thinking about spray painting my 4 kids' hair red or strawberry blond, not sure exactly what Carson Wentz hair color actually is, but he is going to take us to the Promised Land just like Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Koy Detmer, Rodney Pete, Bobby Hoying, the other Detmer, Jim McMahon, Randall Cunningham, and Ron Jaworski were going to.  I probably missed one or two but they didn't win us anything either! Not that memorable! 

The last two times the Eagles were in the Super Bowl was 1980 & 2004!  Jaws threw a ton of interceptions and McNabb puked, literally threw up in a real game, the Super Bowl, and he is still upset that a handful of crazy fans booed him on draft night.  Who should be mad at who after that game?

Anyhow, this is supposed to be a financial blog, so if anyone is wondering how the S&P 500 ( that is the investment benchmark everyone seems to like to compare their portfolios to) finished the years the Birds lost in those 2 Super Bowls.  In 1980, the S&P 500 finished at 135.76 and in 2004, it finished at 1,211.92 (www.Fedorimerate.com).  Today it is at 2,476.55!!  Think about that growth.

Many of our own personnel accounts have not had this type of performance.  There are many reasons why; not invested solely in the index, timing, noise (media, neighbor & family members, etc) and we don't have a crystal ball.  However, according to Vanguard a diversified portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds have averaged historically about 8.7% (https://www.vanguard.com/us/insights/saving-investing/model-portfolio-allocations ).

What the S&P 500 performance may tell us is, “it's time in the market not timing the market” and a diversified portfolio should make you believe despite everything that happens (elections, recessions, protest, war, gas prices, etc.) over time if you stick with your plan and review the plan positive results should occur!

Now for the Eagles, hopefully Carson Wentz takes the Eagles to the Promised Land.  However, the road to a Super Bowl victory is most likely going to take time and I have no plans on not believing that he and the team can't do it!  The result may not be as positive as a diversified portfolio over time, but the alternative is much worse and that is being a Cowboys or Giants Fan. Go Birds!

 

A major shark bite out of your wallet.....

Post by: Valley Financial Group

"Beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship." -Ben Franklin

We all know the feeling. You just sat down to watch some Shark Week with friends or family, all excited to watch educational documentaries disguised as exhilarating TV, when a commercial break comes around. No big deal, you've never been phased by advertisements before, but then you see it. The three worst words in the English language for anyone ages 6 to 22. BACK. TO. SCHOOL. Adults can remember the devastation of the first commercial or billboard of the summer they spotted as children just as the dog days of summer were getting into swing, while the younger generation still has fresh wounds and vivid memories of that simply evil phrase. It may seem like a few silly words that mark the twilight of the summer, but what these words mean to us at different points in our lives is telling of where we stand on our journey.

When we're young, these words carry dread, foreshadowing another year of projects, presentations, and homework in the far too near future. As we grow a bit older, the phrase “Back to School” means a major shark bite out of your wallet! You can hear the Jaw’s Theme song “duunn dunnn…duuunnn duun…dun dun dun dun dun dun dundunnnnnnnnnnn dunnn

You are going to spend money.  According to the National Retail Federation, families will spend $673.00 on clothing and school supplies per child. http://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/2016/08/03/high-cost-going-back-school/88033328/

That does not include any of the money you will spend on your children’s fall athletic programs. Seventy-six percent of Americans live pay check to pay check and a majority of Americans do not know what the financial cost is to run their household. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-look-at-the-average-american-budget-and-how-the-average-american-can-start-saving-more/ Understanding your family’s cost of living, will help you plan better for the unexpected shark attacks to your bank account like the cost of sending your children back to school.  Please email courtney@valleyfinancial.com if you would like to receive an expense worksheet to know what it costs you and your family to live! 

Go Fishing

Post by: Valley Financial Group

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." –Henry David Thoreau

Market is at an all-time high! Real estate booming! Political Turmoil! Noise everywhere! Clients asking what should I do?

Our answers this summer:

1. Create a financial plan if you don't have one already.

2. Review the your financial plan 2 to 4 times a year

3. Go Fishing

Yes, go fishing! The benefits from fishing could possibly improve your financial behavior and success. Whether you are a hard fanatic or a casual first timer, it seems like almost everyone has gone fishing once or twice in their lives. Some people live for the thrill of the catch and others can't stand to sit still long enough to make any progress. Whatever your opinion and skill level, it’s nearly impossible to deny the benefits of taking a few hours to sit with some good people and not worry about a thing (market pull backs, real estate bubbles, World War 3) except whether that tug was a bite or another huge clump of seaweed.

The world being as connected as it is now leaves us with almost no time away from the constant rush and noise of modern life. Fishing can be the escape that we need all of our absurdly busy schedules. It can be the opportunity to turn off our phones and computers and forget everything exists besides you and whoever's on that dock or boat with you.

I'm not personally the biggest fisherman in the universe, but some of my favorite days have been spent by the bay or in the ocean fishing with family and friends with my worries, stress, and, perhaps most importantly, my phone all left at home. It’s summer, the season when the best memories are made with the people who matter most. So grab a pole and find some water. Grab some snacks and drinks. But most importantly, grab some people you'll love doing nothing with, waste a few hours praying for a bite, and don't forget to leave that phone in the car & CNBC turned off. Your financial statements will probably benefit from it!

Reviewing your will...

Post by Valley Financial Group

“You may delay, but time will not.” Ben Franklin

Nothing is more important than family, and making sure that those we love will be taken care of if the worst were to happen. There is never a bad time to review your will to ensure your family's security, but there are several occasions where reviewing and potentially revising your will should be a priority.

1.      Firstly and perhaps most obviously, would be with the arrival of a new child or any other new family member who could be a beneficiary of your last will and testament. If upon your death, young children are immediate beneficiaries under your will, you will want to have addressed the idea that their inheritance should be held in trust until a more suitable age and you will want to name your choice for the guardian of their money rather than leaving it to the uncertainties of the orphan court process.

2.      Secondly, if you move into a new state, check to see if your new home state has any different regulations, including but not limited to how they handle estate taxes as well as the transfer of property ownership.

3.      You should also consider updating your will if you were lucky enough to come into some money recently. Maybe you had a good year at work. Maybe you won the lottery. Maybe you had a billionaire uncle you didn't know about until his entire fortune was left to you and only you. Regardless of how you earned it, a recent surge in income should at least force you to look over your will and make sure that those you care about get what they need and deserve.

4.      Lastly, maybe you've had a change of heart. Most people like to work ahead of the game and draw up their will at a young age, maybe right after they get married or some other important occasion, but years down the road, there may be some significant changes in our lives that could affect what we want to leave behind and who we want to leave it to, so changing your will at any point because your mind changed is never a bad thing.

Reviewing your last will and testament will ensure that your loved ones and relatives will be safe and secure in the worst case scenario, and ensuring their well-being is one of the most important things you can do.