Cyber Security: Part Three

This is my final blog on cyber security tips. This time I am focusing more on tips for our mobile devices and public wifi. We are very vulnerable on public wifi networks and because we use our mobile devices all the time, they are more susceptible to attacks.

  • Use a PIN or a password for your mobile device.
  • Keep your device’s operating system updated.
  • Only install apps from trusted sources.
  • Don’t transmit or store very personal data on the device.
  • Back up your mobile device’s data often.
  • Use public wi-fi wisely. Do not conduct personal shopping or banking business while on public wifi.
  • Bank and shop online only on trusted devices and networks. Logout of these sites when you have completed your transactions.

Cyber Security: Part Two

This is my second blog on cyber security. It’s important to remember that it CAN happen to you and that anyone who uses the internet for any type of personal or financial business is subject to hackers.

  1. DO keep your software up to date. Software companies constantly improve and update against security threats.

 

  1. DO use good password management:
  • Use long passwords – 20 characters or more is recommended (use a variety of capital letters, symbols and numbers)
  • Use a strong mix of characters, and never use the same password for multiple sites
  • Update your passwords periodically, at least once every 6 months (90 days is better)

 

  1. Be careful what you click! Avoid visiting unknown sites (clicking on ads or pop ups) and never download software from untrusted sources.

 

  1. Protect your sensitive data; DON’T keep social security numbers, credit card information, bank passwords or account numbers on your mobile devices or devices you use on public networks.

 

  1. Install and use anti-virus software from trusted sources.

 

  1. Back up your data to an external hard drive (best) or trusted cloud services.

 

  1. Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.

 

  1. Be careful about what you share on social media sites.

Cyber Security: Part One

I recently attended an information security update seminar and wanted to share with you a few things I learned.

When it comes to compromising security to your financial accounts or other personal records, hackers have a new and very effective way to obtain your information. They actually get you to send it right over to them. This is called phishing (say fishing) and it’s easy to spot these attempts to compromise your online security if you know what to look for.

Phishing is defined as the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Attackers are getting very clever about infecting your computer system, stealing your logon credentials or even transferring funds by engaging you through personalized email, mobile apps and any social media you might use.

What you should look for:

  1. Text messages from unknown numbers (DELETE them)
  2. Text messages that try to get you on the phone with someone (if this seems like an important message from your bank or other business, call the institution from a verified number, on your credit card, from your files, etc. DO NOT RETURN the call to a number provided in the text or email)
  3. Emails that seem credible but are asking you to click on a link to update password or other personal information (DO NOT CLICK!)

Assume all of these types of messages are fraudulent:

  • Emails, text messages from a vendor requesting you change bank accounts
  • Emails, text messages clearly labeled from the company president
  • Emails, text messages requests to set up a new vendor (this is for businesses)
  • Emails, requests from senior management to immediately wire refund money to a customer (this is for businesses)

These types of attempts to steal your information are sent more often in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) than any other day.

 

Client Trust: How to Build it and How to Keep it!

We are very proud of the clientele we have served after 30 years in business (with many of our clients having been with us 20 years or more).

As a business owner and in working with government executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s always good to remind ourselves about good business basics.

We all know that customers won’t buy from people they don’t trust or someone they don’t like.

Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge:  The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success offers these points about business relationships:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Value the relationship
  3. Be curious about people
  4. Be consistent (when a customer can predict your behavior, the customer is more likely to trust you)
  5. Seek the truth (always be honest and always share what you think to be in your client’s best interest)
  6. Keep an open mind (this reinforces that you always have their best interests at heart)
  7. Have a real dialogue (seek real conversation with customers during meetings, personal or business issues)
  8. Be a professional (people trust people who are serious about what they do).
  9. Show real integrity (be willing to take a stand, even when it’s unpopular with your customer or your company)
  10. Have a sense of humor (this one is my personal addition!)

 

Source: https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how- to-build- customer-trust- 9-rules.html

Feeling Entrepreneurial? Lessons from the Shark Tank

The reality TV Show, Shark Tank gives great insights about how to make big money from your big idea. Michael Parrish Du Dell author of Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business reveals some of the show’s most useful lessons.

Lesson 1: The best business offers are simple, affordable solutions to real world problems rather than complex, expensive solutions

One of the big success stories from the show was ReadeRest, a magnet that clips to your shirt and provides a secure place to hang your reading glasses.

Lesson 2: Pick an effective name

Your business name should be catchy, tasteful and it should also reflect what your product or service is or does.

Shark Tank success story, The Painted Pretzel was just that, elegantly packaged gourmet chocolate covered pretzels. After winning the heart of a Shark Tank investor the product now comes in more than a hundred varieties and is sold in major stores across the country.

Lesson 3: Play up your “secret sauce”

What are the big differentiators about your product or service that make it stand out and is not easily replicated?

New Jersey entrepreneur Aaron Krause invented a round yellow sponge made of a special foam that was actually patent-worthy. The sponge material will change textures based on the water temperature. His Scrub Daddy product solved needing a different cleaning sponge for soft or hardened debris on plates or pans.

Lesson 4: Perfect your elevator pitch

Generally speaking, you have about 60 seconds to sell your ideas. If you are pitching a business idea for an investor, be sure you can be compelling in 60 seconds while creating the impression that an investor will be missing out on a big opportunity if they don’t invest in you. Be inspirational, explain your company’s current financial picture and share how you plan to make the company more profitable.

Source: Bottom Line Personal, Volume 37, No. 5

How Long Should You Keep Tax Records?

How long should you keep personal paperwork related to your finances? If I had to rank the most often asked question at the office, this one is at the top!

So, we prepared this cheat sheet to help guide you but you should always feel free to call us any time with any questions.

How long you keep documents depends on what kind of document it is.

  1. TAX RETURNS

Minimum of 3 years

The IRS has 3 years to question items on your tax return and can bill you for additional taxes that may be owed. Additionally, you have 3 years to file amended returns to seek a refund.

The IRS can go back up to 6 years if they determine a return omits more than 25% of income. If fraud is proven there is no limit to how far they can go back.

State tax returns may need to be retained longer

  1. Real Estate Documents

Hold on to indefinitely

You should have a folder for each piece of real estate you own.

Retain for 3 years after you dispose of the property

  1. Securities Transactions

Hold on to indefinitely

Hold on to purchase documentation as you will have to provide purchase date and cost on your return the year you sell the asset.

Keep records showing stock splits, dividend investments and  non-taxable distributions.

  1. IRA’s and 401K’s

Keep paperwork for three years AFTER the funds have been depleted.

Consider keeping paperwork documenting any distributions from IRA’s or 401k accounts

BUSINESSES EMPLOYEE TAX RECORDS

  1. Keep payroll tax records

4 years after the due date for employees to have filed tax returns

  1. Worker health coverage forms

3 years after filing deadlines for the documents

  1. Asset Costs, Depreciation

Retain indefinitely

Before you dispose of any documents, always review them for information that may be needed at a later date.

 

 

Does Convenience Cost More?

Does technology help you save money or does it encourage you to spend more? Because you can use different websites and apps to compare prices and shop for deals it’s logical to think that technology will help you save money.

A recent survey conducted by the AICPA  (Association of International Certified Professional Accountants) found that 95% of its survey respondents say they have used personal technology to make a purchase. Half of those respondents felt that using personal technology helps them better manage their time and save money because of being able to find special offers and compare prices.

However, Neal Stern, CPA and a member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission says that, “Personal electronics make you a constant target for marketing. Will that enticing email offering 30% off cause you to trade your money for one more item in the closet that you really don’t need?”

The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers tips for consumers about how to use personal technology, stay on budget and balance cost and convenience when making purchases:

  • Keep yourself accountable-people who struggle with impulse purchases should use cash
  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Check out the AICPA’s Feed the Pig website; it’s full of creative apps to help you stay on track with your budget
  • Don’t store payment info on websites where you shop. The extra time and effort it takes to enter payment information when you shop can help curb impulse shopping

 

Source: 4 in 10 Americans say technology leads them to pay more for convenience by Samiha Khanna

http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2017/apr/americans-proiritize-time-and-money-equally-201716478.html

Fear Not the Audit

For many people in the business world the word audit causes anxiety. After 30 years in business though, we have found more-often-than-not that audits bring about positive results for companies or special districts. Audits reveal vital financial information but they also offer insight about business processes and revenue generation ideas.

Recently, Deloitte conducted research finding that 91% of surveyed companies said that audits reveal opportunities to improve business performance. Additionally, 62% of respondents say that it was somewhat likely that they would have missed important insights if the audit had not occurred.

To insure maximum positive results, some prep work will be required. Here are a few tips about how to prepare for an audit:

  • Establish audit protocol and details with your CPA prior to scheduling the audit
  • Discuss special transactions or any accounting irregularities prior to the audit
  • Decide who will be on point at the office to assist with any needed information
  • Coordinate schedules with your executive team and bookkeepers so that everyone can be ready

We have conducted hundreds and hundreds of successful audits. Our clients have found the audit process to be very positive for their organization. Let us know if you have questions or if you would like to speak with some of our clients for insights about the audit process.

Jimmy Buffet, Margaritaville and Secrets for Living Well

I read this in Parade on May 5. Jimmy Buffett, “Margaritaville” singer’s mother, Mary Loraine “Peets” Buffett, had a lot to do with shaping her son’s style and outlook on life that I thought it would be fun to share.

Mama Buffett’s life rules:

  1. Read often, even the classics.
  2. Accept everyone for who they are, not what they do.
  3. Be well-traveled.
  4. Learn to be a listener. Shhh!
  5. Live by the sea.
  6. Listen to your spirit and find joy.
  7. Education, like money, doesn’t make you happy or successful.
  8. Love and family are the best things we have.

 

Rising Health Care Costs and What to do About It

It’s not great news for business owners or households around healthcare costs.

A recent report by Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits forecasts that the average family health care plan will cost $18,142, up 3.4% from 2015.

A recent ccn.com story went on to share that overall workers are paying more for healthcare deductibles with single coverage health insurance plan carriers paying $1000 or more in deductibles costs. This represents a 31% increase from 2011.

The big news in 2016 was that Americans are paying more for insurance, pharmaceuticals and doctor appointments. The increased costs late in 2016 represented the biggest increase since 1984.

Until lawmakers and the health industry can work together to create a plan to slow down increasing costs and charges, businesses and individuals will need to plan the best they can for healthcare.

Now is a good time to plan for the year ahead. Our office is happy to meet and discuss strategies for your household or your business. Give us a call.