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Cyber Security 101 – Learning the Basics to Keep Yourself Protected

Welcome to Cyber Security 101. Grab your pen and paper, it’s time to take some notes about cyber security! While there won’t be a test at the end, there are real-world consequences to disregarding your online security. You wouldn’t want your personal information in the hands of the wrong person.

With so much to think about, you’re probably wondering where you’re supposed to start. Luckily for you, Sunset Bank and Savings is here to school you in all things cyber security.

Careful Clicking – Between social media, websites and emails, we’re clicking on things all the time. Sometimes these links can be associated with what’s called “phishing attacks.” This is a tactic used to gather your personal data, like passwords and credit card numbers. Most of the time this type of attack occurs within an email. That’s why it’s critical to verify email addresses from trusted entities you know. Never open documents from these unusual email senders.

Password Protection – Creating complex passwords may seem like a no-brainer but about 35 percent of users have weak passwords and about 65 percent of passwords could be cracked. The goal should be to make it something that’s unrelated to you, so not using your birthday, your dog’s name, etc. We suggest using a password generator, or even making your password a sentence.

We understand you log into numerous accounts daily, and you can’t possibly remember all of these unique passwords. Even though your password list could be three feet long, you should never write them on a sticky note and perch them on your computer screen. Check out password management apps to help you keep all of your passwords in order.

Savvy Shopping

Online shopping continues to grow and is more enticing with offers like free shipping, online exclusive products and sales. With such a shift in purchasing habits, our security habits should also be changing. You should only be shopping on secure sites, which can be identified by the “https” at the start of the web address. If there’s no “s”, the site is not encrypted and your information may not be secure.

Another way to protect yourself is to never give more information than required. If they don’t ask for your phone number or address, do not provide it. This information could fall into the wrong hands. Always be sure to read their privacy policy so you know where your information is going and how it’s being used.

Staying Up to Date

If you don’t already, now is the perfect time to get an antivirus or antimalware software program for your internet accessible devices. These programs work to protect your devices and help you stay ahead of any attempts to break security on your computer.

For those who have a security program in place, make sure you’re updating the software regularly. Software companies are constantly working to fight potential security risks, so whenever there’s an update available take the time to download it.

We hope you took some great notes and are ready to tackle all things cyber security. By taking these few steps you can help protect yourself from a world of trouble and inconvenience. If you have any more questions about cyber security, contact us today. We’d be happy to answer your questions. Class dismissed!

 

Understanding the Psychology Behind Spending

The words “budget” and “exercise” can often be put in the same category—both are necessary for a healthy lifestyle but are far from fun.

If you have trouble sticking to a budget, you’re not alone. There are some very powerful reasons why human beings feel compelled to spend money—and there are some things you can do to psychologically trick yourself into spending less.

The Need for Control.

A study in Journal of Consumer Psychology found that compulsive shopping was linked to a need for control. Those momentary feelings of happiness associated with a new purchase weren’t linked to the item itself but to the sense of control a person felt about their life in that moment.

The Need to Compete.

It’s true—we really do feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. Advertisers know this, so they often play on our desire to be like the people in their ads and on our fear that we’re falling behind our peers. This includes tapping into our need to look our best, be recognized and accepted by others, taking control of our health or being loved.

What you can do about it.

Luckily, you don’t have to let your brain trick you into spending more than you should. A few ways you can fool yourself into spending less include:

  •         Only carrying cash. Decide ahead of time how much you will need and stick to that.
  •         Don’t shop when you’re in a bad mood.
  •         Scan your social circle. Are your friends pressuring you to spend beyond your means?
  •         Identify where you spend the most money and take steps to resist temptation. For example, do you spend too much eating out? Make sure your pantry is stocked so you won’t be tempted to spend too much at restaurants.
  •         Question yourself as you go to make a purchase. Are you really happy about that new TV, or are you trying to escape a problem at work or home?

While we’re hardwired to want to spend—especially in our consumerist society—a little bit of planning and restraint can go a long way to keeping us on financial track. Sunset Bank and Savings can also help you stay on track with a variety of banking products. Give us a call or stop on in today!

3 Tips on How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful

While songs on the radio promise that this is a holly, jolly time of year, for most Americans, the holidays are anything but. A Healthline survey found that an average of 63 percent of adults in the U.S. experience an increase in stress level during the holiday season.

In a way, it seems almost unavoidable. Our routines are interrupted as we travel or host guests. Our healthy eating and exercise habits are thrown out the window. Our finances find themselves in a freefall as we spend just a little too much to buy that perfect gift.

Today, Sunset Bank and Savings would like to help bring the holidays back to the merry time they should be with these tips on how to combat holiday stress:

1)      Stick to your spending plan.

It’s true when they say it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift-giving. Obsessing over the perfect one not only causes more stress, it can also cause you to overspend. If you start overthinking, stop, put the item down and walk away (or minimize your browser and walk away). Think about the big picture—that ultimately, spending quality time with family is better than anything you can buy them.

2)      Use Moderation.

You may not get to your exercise routine every day, due to schedule restraints. As long as you get up and move every day, give yourself a pass. Before you know it, the New Year will be here and there will be plenty of social pressure to exercise. In the meanwhile, practice watching portion sizes and passing on the extra cocktail. By all means, sample the sweets at the table—just cut yourself bite-sized pieces instead of an entire slice.

3)      Focus on what you have to be grateful for.

It can be easy when you have guests getting underfoot or are inconvenienced at the airport to resent having to spend time with friends and family. In these moments, remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for—especially the fact that you have loved ones to spend time with. Not everyone is so lucky.

While Sunset and Savings Bank can’t cook your turkey or shop for gifts, we can help you reduce your stress when it comes to finances. Set up an appointment with one of our bankers today!

4 Ways You Can Budget With an Irregular Income

 

If you work sales, freelance or are self-employed, you have a major issue to contend with when it comes to personal budgeting—an unpredictable income. While this can make it hard to plan your monthly spending, it’s not completely impossible. Today, Sunset Bank and Savings would like to offer you these tips to budgeting on an irregular income:

1)      Calculate the Bare Bones.

These are the minimum expenses you need to cover every month, usually in the form of your absolute essentials. Rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, debt repayment and transportation all fall into this category. This way, you know what you absolutely need to get by.

2)      Figure out your discretionary expenses.

These are all the expenses you have after you’ve paid for the basics. This includes the cable bill, streaming services, entertainment, eating out and hobbies. Once you add that to your bare-bones spending, you can figure out how much you spend on average each month.

3)      Use the Zero-Sum budget.

This is where you use the income you brought in from last month to live this month. Once your bare-bone expenses are paid, put away a certain amount for savings, retirement and investments. The rest can then be spent on discretionary expenses.

4)      Have an emergency fund.

It’s recommended that you have three to six months’ worth of expenses in the emergency fund. That way, if you have a lean month, you won’t have to forgo paying a bill. This can be tricky to build, especially if you have no savings to begin with.

A few ways to build this up include setting aside a certain percentage of what you make each month or allocating unexpected income (such as selling something, a gift, a tax refund, etc.) directly into your savings account.

By following these steps, you should find yourself with less of a headache when it comes to living on a balanced budget. If you haven’t already set up a savings, checking or retirement account, come see the experts at Sunset Bank and Savings today. We can help set you on the right financial path.

 

 

Tips for Cyber-Security When it comes to Your Mobile Device

Odds are you’re probably reading this blog post on your smartphone, which you found through an app on your smartphone and then used it to get directions to Sunset & Savings Bank. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a smartphone and use it on a daily basis. With so many people accessing, searching and downloading things on their smartphones, are we really using the same caution and protection we would use when it comes to our computers? Odds also are, you’re not. With a few tips, you can start better protecting your smartphone from things like data theft, malware and privacy invasion.

Needed Protection: You may be wondering what exactly needs to be protected when it comes to your smartphone. Luckily, they can be broken down into three categories.

1. Device Protection – Apple offers Activation Lock, Android has Factory Reset Protection, and Samsung has Reactivation Lock. In case your phone was ever stolen, this kind of protection would wipe all information and data from your phone, which is beneficial if you utilize mobile or online banking.

2. Data Protection – This protection was designed to keep work information from your place of employment from being spread to your personal apps.

3. App-Management Security – Having login information, credit card information and other personal information within apps should be protected from falling into the wrong hands. App-management security does just that.

Trusted Apps: Not all apps are created equal. Since it’s becoming increasingly easier for third-parties to create apps this means there are more apps out there than there’s ever been. One way to help protect yourself is to only download apps from a trusted app store. You should also review existing apps’ privacy policies and settings for permissions.

Public Wi-Fi: One thing you should know is public Wi-Fi is generally not secure. Hackers can get in-between you and the Wi-Fi connection point, and when you’re submitting information on your phone you’re actually sending it to the hacker. It’s recommended to protect yourself using a VPN, which encrypts your data, essentially scrambling the information.

Jailbreaking Phones: While it may seem like the cool thing to do to format your phone without the factory standards, you’re actually setting your phone for several security risks. One of those risks is Malware and loss of personal information.

We hope these tips can better protect you and your smartphone. There are several companies that can protect your mobile devices, including Norton Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security. If you have any questions or concerns about protecting yourself, we encourage you to contact us. Our team would love to assist you.

Hunting for College Scholarships

The spring semester is quickly approaching, and with the impending holiday break what better way to spend your time than searching for scholarships? While it may not be on the top of your to do list over your break to take the time to find and apply for scholarships, taking this initiative can pay off in the long run. Most college graduates leave with a diploma in one hand and $27,857, on average, of student loan debt in the other. Help yourself reduce that amount with these scholarship hunting tips.

1. Scour the internet: The internet will be your best friend when looking for scholarships. One place to start searching for scholarships is looking for those that are tied to your major or interest. Check with your college, department and university websites for opportunities. Read emails professors send out, since they can contain scholarships that can randomly come across their desks. Try searching for fun scholarships for things like being over six feet tall, being left-handed, or other unique characteristics. You’d be surprised what you’d be able to find!

2. Shop Local: Most community organizations have a scholarship program. This is an easy opportunity to connect with members of your community to find out more. Check with your high school counselor who probably has a list of local organizations that offer scholarships. Talk to your local Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, churches, your parent’s employer and other businesses within the area for more opportunities.

3. Resources: Use your resources! Outside of using search engines and local scholarship opportunities, you can search for scholarships on databases dedicated to helping students find scholarships. Below are website resources you should enlist during your search:

a.       College Board’s Scholarship Search

b.       FastWeb

c.       Scholarships.com

If you’re looking for more tips or solutions to help fund your higher education, our team of professionals are ready to assist you today. We’d love to help you set up a savings plan or loan option to help meet your needs. Contact us or stop by today!

 

How to Get Smart with Your Credit

Today, practicing the simple credit concept of “living within your means” can be extremely difficult due to medical and housing costs growing more rapidly than income in many American households. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t manage your credit and debt responsibly.  Here are a few tips to help you get your credit on track, even when times are tough.

  1. Understand what credit is.  According to Finance Solutions Credit 101, credit is your “promise to pay in the future for purchases made today.”  You may be aware that when applying for credit with a lender, your credit report will be pulled to determine your payment history, amounts owed, credit history, new credit and types of credit, which is all taken into consideration when determining your credit limit.  Understanding the terms and fees associated with your credit will help you make more educated decisions in terms of lenders, especially if you were to become overextended.
  2. Maintain healthy debt.  Maintaining healthy debt is all about making good choices.  This means developing a happy medium in terms of credit history, exercising timely bill payments and managing a variety of credit accounts.

A good example of this is the attractive additional 25% off at your favorite store in exchange for signing up for their store credit card at the moment of purchase.  Doing this once or twice is harmless enough, but if you are maintaining credit cards for a variety of stores, this can negatively affect your credit score by repeated hard inquiries and hidden terms not discussed in the rushed sign up process.  Overall, the potential damage to your credit may not be worth the immediate savings.

  1. Stay out of the credit danger zone.  Similar to points made in the previous two tips, you need to make good choices when it comes to purchasing on credit.  Watch your accounts carefully to avoid overextending yourself, keep your balances low and always pay your bills on time.

If you are in a position where you can’t pay your bill on time, communicate with your lender to make them aware of the situation and determine an alternate rate of payment.  And we get it, emergency expenses come up, but the best way to handle these is to do your best to prepare for them.  If you don’t have an emergency savings fund built up, start one today and prepare yourself for the unexpected to avoid unplanned credit charges.

Managing your credit responsibly can be extremely difficult, and due to unforeseen circumstances you may already be in over your head.  Reach out to us to discuss your financial management needs today.  We are here to help you get on track!

 

 

Top Five Savings Hacks

We all could stand to save a little more money. Whether it’s for an upcoming purchase, a rainy day fund or an emergency fund. Saving money is a skill that benefits you throughout your life. It’s not easy to save, but Sunset Bank has some hacks that you can implement right away to start developing better habits.

Set a Budget

In order to know how much you can save, you need to know exactly how much you’re spending. Sit down and develop a monthly budget to track your necessary expenses versus your monthly income. Any remaining income can be put right into your savings account.

Give Yourself a Goal

It’s easier to put money away when you know what you’re saving for. Whether you’re saving for a vacation, a car or a down payment for a house, you’ll find more success with your saving efforts if you set a monthly goal.

Learn to Say No

Saving money means cutting back on unnecessary expenses so you can limit your spending. That means saying no to going out for dinner with friends, skipping that trip to the movies and spending more time at home where you can save money.

Stick to Cash

Instead of using your debit card to make every purchase, take out cash at the beginning of each week or pay period within your budgeted amount. Once you’ve gotten the cash, leave your debit card at home. You’ll be surprised how much more careful you are as you think about whether you really need to spend the cash.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

It’s easier now to save than ever before thanks to technological advances. Keep track of your account balances using Sunset Bank’s online banking, or download a budgeting app to your smartphone to keep yourself honest as you save.

If you don’t have good saving habits right now, don’t worry. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s never too late to start saving. If you want more help with managing your finances more effectively, please contact Sunset Bank and our staff will be happy to help!

Using the Holidays to Teach Your Kids About Money

When fall hits, that means that the holidays are approaching. During these special occasions, kids are exposed to a different setting where they get gifts, large meals, cards, and more. That’s why Sunset Bank & Savings believes that this time of the year is a great opportunity to teach your children about money. Below are a few ideas on how to incorporate your children into the holiday financial mix!

Identify the costs of the holiday season.

Gifts are a big cost, and children never realize how much it adds up. By putting a monetary limit on the gifts each child and family member gets, your kids we be able to see the value of each gift. Wrapping paper and gift bags are also a cost you need to identify to your child along with the supplies needed such as tape and tissue paper. Cards and letters to family members can add up too, especially if you’re using postage. By allowing your child to understand that the cards they receive and send actually cost money, they will appreciate them more and try to find a way to save, possibly by making their own. Finally, the meals made for each holiday add up quite a bit, so this is another helpful way to teach your child about finances.

Limit gift giving outside of immediate family with homemade gifts.

This is another way you can cut costs if you have people outside of your immediate family you’d like to give gifts to. Ideas for these easy and efficient gifts include:
• Cookies
• Cake in a mug or other mug mixes
• Spice rubs
• Trail mixes
• Brownies
• Tea & hot chocolate

The ingredients for these gifts can all be bought in bulk, making them inexpensive options.

Take your children shopping with you.
When you bring your child with you shopping, tell them what the budget is. Then, let them look for items that are on sale or have special deals.

Use your receipts to create a tally of your expenses.
Not only does this help you keep track of what you’ve spent, but it also shows your kids how small costs can add up over time.

Teaching your children the value of money will help them grow to be financially responsible. So when you go to get groceries for a holiday dinner or gifts for a family member, have your child be involved in the process. You can also set up a savings account with Sunset Bank & Savings to teach your kids the value of saving!

Tips for Cyber-Security When it comes to Your Mobile Device

Odds are you’re probably reading this blog post on your cell phone, which you found through an app on your smartphone and then used it to get directions to Sunset Bank & Savings. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own a smartphone and use it on a daily basis. With so many people accessing, searching and downloading things on their cell phones, are we really using the same caution and protection we would use when it comes to our computers? Odds also are, you’re not. With a few tips, you can start better protecting your smartphone from things like data theft, malware and privacy invasion.

Needed Protection: You may be wondering what exactly needs to be protected when it comes to your smart phone. Luckily, they can be broken down into three categories.

1. Device Protection – In case your phone was ever stolen, this kind of protection would wipe all information and data from your phone, which is beneficial if you utilize mobile or online banking.

2. Data Protection – This protection was designed to keep work information from place of employment from being spread to your personal apps.

3. App-Management Security – Having login information, credit card information and other personal information within apps should be protected from falling into the wrong hands. App-management security does just that.

Trusted Apps: Not all apps are created equal. Since it’s becoming increasingly easier for third-parties to create apps this means there are more apps out there than there’s ever been. One way to help protect yourself is to only download apps from the trusted app store. You should also review existing apps’ privacy policies and settings for permissions.

Public Wi-Fi: One thing you should know is public Wi-Fi is generally not secure. Hackers can get in-between you and the Wi-Fi connection point and when you’re submitting information on your phone you’re actually sending it to the hacker. It’s recommended to protect yourself using a VPN, which encrypts your data, essentially scrambling the information.

Jailbreaking Phones: While it may seem like the cool thing to do to format your phone without the factory standards, you’re actually setting your phone for several security risks. One of those risks is Malware and loss of personal information.

We hope these tips can better protect you and your smartphone. There are several companies that can protect your mobile devices, including Norton Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security. If you have any questions or concerns about you protecting yourself, we encourage you to contact us. Our team would love to assist you.