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The Digital Age: Social Media Security for Parents

The rise of digital communication has been a tremendous benefit to all ages. It has changed the way we communicate and the expanse of who we communicate with. With all of the doors this technology has opened, it has created an increasing burden on parents to shelter and protect their kids in ways they’ve never had to before.

Nearly 75 percent of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 92 percent go online daily.  71 percent utilize more than one social networking site. With figures as high as these, parents want to be aware of the stakes and safeguards for their children.

Communication

Most experts agree that having open communication with your kids is one of the best security measures you can take. Let them know from an early age what is and isn’t acceptable. Remind them of these values by having consistent conversations with them about their social media habits. Creating an open space for them to speak honestly will help to establish reciprocal trust. This will also enable you to be on the alert if there is cyber-bullying happening.

Educate

While it may seem like your kids know more than you when it comes to technology, that doesn’t mean that they understand the responsibilities and risks that come with using social media. Remind them that there is such thing as “too much information” and what is posted online is forever.  Even when sites like Reddit which give the users the ability to remain anonymous, there is always a way to find out who they are. Alert them of potential scams, legal accountability and to refrain from completing questionnaires or giveaways, as most of them are seeking access to their personal information. The “don’t talk to strangers,” adage should still hold true online. Kids need to be aware of phishing scams and that they are a target because of their age.

Precautions

There are ways in which you can safeguard your children. Update their privacy settings frequently and make sure they create strong passwords and share them with you. Depending on the age, it would be wise to only let them have access to the computer when adults are around. Facebook has a minimum age restriction (13) for a reason. It can get tricky when it comes to mobile devices, but establishing a cut off time for electronics is a good way to safeguard their nightly web surfing. Only 55 percent of parents limit their child’s screen time. With parental assistance programs like Net Nanny and Mobile Watchdog, you are able to monitor internet usage without having to constantly look over their shoulder-something nobody likes!

Involvement

Finally, one of the best ways to keep your children safe is like any other hobby they are interested in – get involved! It is critical that parents become familiar with the social platforms their children are using. Even if you are not tech-savvy, get those apps downloaded and follow your kids! Awareness and education will keep you prepared for knowing the risks your children face in the digital age.

 

Creative Money Making Ideas for Teens

If you’re a teen, you know that making adequate money for your college fund and paying for the rising cost of items is challenging. School has never been as time-consuming and with the economic pressure to go to college and the rising rate in unpaid internships, you may be at a loss as to whether flipping burgers will help you in the short and long term.

We have come up with a list of creative ways you can earn some extra cash – without having to sacrifice your studies. Studies show that working 10-15 hours a week during the school year will even help to improve your grades. These can even be jobs you proudly add to your resume.  With all of these ideas, be sure to check with your parents to be sure it is a safe situation!

Make Money Online

You know the older generation shreds you for it anyways – so you might as well make some money at it! There are so many legitimate ways to make money by simply being on your phone or computer. You can do this from home, so your parents don’t have to worry about where you are.

Try out Swagbucks, where you can earn free gift cards for answering surveys and watching entertaining videos. Another legitimate site is Inbox Dollars, where you take surveys and try new products. If you’re thrifty, try out Ebay or BookScouter to make a profit off of used items!  Be very careful which sites you try to work with, and double check with your parents before starting as there are many scams out there.

Start a House Cleaning Business

There are many different types of people who need help cleaning their homes. They may not have the time or be physically incapable. With a little overhead of buying your own cleaning products, you could easily make $15 an hour if you are a great cleaner. Many of these people hire professional cleaning services which will charge double that, so you will be a competitive contender!

Turn Your Hobby into a Gig

Want to have your perfect employer? Go into business for yourself! This is not only a chance to earn some money loving what you do, but you will learn a lot about what it takes to be in business. You will be your own HR Department, Secretary, Marketing Department and Executive. There isn’t always a chance to do this as an adult, so go after your hobbies in full force now! You can refine your craft and find yourself accumulating many of the hard and soft skills it takes to be successful professionally.

Teach a Class

Do you have a skill that you would like to share with others? Maybe you are really good with computers. You could teach senior citizens the basics of the internet. Are you really good at math? Teach or tutor your peers. If you play an instrument, there will be hordes of parents ready to get a deal to have their children learn.

There are so many avenues of jobs you can do as a teen, although the options may seem scant at first glance. Build off of our ideas, or come up with your own. Having a worthwhile job will help to teach you independence and how to budget your money.

“Tell me and I forget

Teach me and I remember

Involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Tips to Reduce Financial Stress – From Panic to Plan

If you are feeling overwhelmed and losing sleep at night because of your finances, you are not alone. There are many factors that can contribute to financial stress such as: kids, marriage, debt, pregnancy, job status, and physical health.  According to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 survey, 64% of stress is attributed to money. If you are experiencing a creeping sense of panic over your finances, take a deep breath and exhale. We are going to walk you through a simple plan to get you back in control.

1). Identify Stressors

Take time to write out a list of everything that is weighing on you. This can be financial burdens or anything that adds to your anxieties. Maybe you are struggling to meet your mortgage payments or taking care of an aging parent. Maybe it’s an addiction to spending with a mountain of debt surrounding you. Everyone has a story and struggle. Listing out and identifying these is not only therapeutic but will be the start of knowing what you can and cannot change. What are the problems, and what are your realistic goals? Take this financial stress test to get a better understanding of where you are at and where you would like to be.

2). Create a Budget

This will be the map to the end of your tunnel. Doubtless, you have heard the importance of budgeting. Now it is time to heed those words into your plan. There are many financial gurus out there with their preferred budgeting outlines. We would recommend speaking to one of our financial advisors at Sunset Bank & Savings or learning more about people like Dave Ramsey and his program. When you are crafting your budget, keep in mind the goals you have created and the daily habits you want to develop. This is how you learn to make the most of your income. By adding a goal of establishing an Emergency Fund, you will help to eliminate future stressors should and when misfortune occurs.

3). Stay Positive & Get Help

The key to staying on track is staying positive. Once you have your budget set, you are able to track your spending. You may fall off the wagon a time or two, but don’t let shame keep you from starting over. Reach out to a trusted friend or join an accountability group like Shopaholics Anonymous. Be sure to let them know your goals and your struggles. Having someone to keep you accountable will help you to not only relieve current stress but prevent future panic.

 

Dreamin’ of Summer- Saving for Your Next Vacation

The monotony of the day to day can get you down in the season of cold and gray. However, that beach on your screensaver doesn’t have to be an esteemed fantasy if you are ready to take some action. You can turn your ideal vacation into a reality by starting to save and plan that getaway now, before travel season hits in full.

Create a Budget

If you are thinking about a vacation, you are definitely going to need to establish a budget to keep your spending in check. Some budgeters swear by the 50/30/20 rule. This is a simplified budget where you allot 50% of your after-tax income to necessities, 30% for wants and 20% for savings. Adjust this as you need. We all know that adding kids into the mixture of vacations increases prices exponentially, so you may want to increase savings, and see what you can go without.  See if you can even tap into a Grandparents Travel Grant.

Set Up an Account

Stop by Sunset Bank & Savings to speak with one of our specialists about options for savings accounts. We recommend setting up an automatic withdrawal to come from your account each month, or asking your employer to put a portion of your paycheck into a different account. For a majority of people, if the money is there, it will get spent, so having an automatic savings will keep you on track of your goals.

Decide How Much You Need

Get a grasp of how much your vacation will cost you. That means calculating hotels, food and flight. However, don’t forget the expenses you will still have while traveling. You will still have your normal bills and you may need to pay a local kid to get your mail or a business to board Fido. Divide this amount by the number of weeks until your desired vacation date.

Go the Extra Mile

When calculating this all out, don’t be dismayed. This vacation can be attainable for you, as long as you stick to the process. It just may not be in the exact time frame you desire. Keep yourself motivated by listening to music, looking at pictures and eating food reminiscent of your destination. Go the extra mile to scrap for savings everywhere you can. Clean out your closets and post them for sale. Start a change jar or carpool to work. You will be surprised that by putting in the extra effort your savings can increase fairly quickly as your spending depletes and scrappiness grows. Best of luck, and please let us know how we can help you reach your goals at Sunset Bank & Savings!

 

Cheap Updates to Improve your Kitchen’s Value

Mario Batali said “The kitchen really is the castle itself. This is where we spend our happiest moments and where we find the joy of being a family.” Do you find people leaving the comfort of your plush rugs and pillows to only be leaning against your laminate counter talking for long periods of time? If you find your guests and family so gravitated to the kitchen, why not make it a significant experience for them?

Sunset Bank & Savings is here to give you ideas for how you can improve the value and experiences of your kitchen on a budget.

Lighting

Having the right lighting can dramatically change the vibe of your kitchen. Even if this is the only tip you utilize, it is sure to make a difference. You can typically find reasonably priced lighting at large hardware stores, or online. Pendant lights are a current trend that people are drooling over.  If you have old-school vintage lighting, you can update it by replacing the lights with Edison light bulbs and spray painting with a metal finish or coordinating paint. Additionally, adding under cabinet lighting will help to soften the kitchen. This can help it to appear bigger and more welcoming to those large groups that always find their way into your kitchen!

Storage

Get that clutter put away! Not only will your kitchen look smaller, but having too many items on the countertops can keep it from looking modern as the minimalist look is on the rise. Look for new ways you can utilize your storage, or create more. Maybe it’s time to get rid of some appliances that you never use. You could sell these to make some extra cash to go towards revitalizing the room. You can purchase a pull out storage kit and drawer organizers to maximize what you have for space, without needing to do a complete cabinet remodel.

Paint

You don’t have to be an expert designer to use paint! Although it may be tedious, it’s a cheap way to up the value of your home by making it look fresh and clean. Here are some items you can paint do dramatically change the feel of your kitchen.

  • Cabinets- If you don’t have the money to spend to update your tired cabinets, grab some sandpaper, primer and a light colored paint. Professional designers recommend light or citrus colors. Even removing some of your cabinet doors to showcase your favorite dishes will modernize the room. Paint the inside shelves white to really make it pop!
  • Focal Wall- Paint one wall in your kitchen a few shades darker than the walls, to create an accent wall. This will give more dimension to your home and be a quick fix. Try out Chalkboard paint to make it even more fun!
  • Island- If you have an island, paint this a bright color.
  • Floors- If you have weathered floors, look into mixing it up with painting them a fun design like these. This is much less expensive than completely replacing your flooring and you can always add a comfy rug to add even more appeal.

Accessories

If you don’t have the time to complete a large project, these simple additions are another option.

Put new handles and pulls on your cabinets that are sleek and current. Don’t choose anything that has too much character, as most likely whoever you are selling your home to won’t find it amusing.

You may not be a plumber, but it doesn’t take too much skill to replace your faucet. There are so many options on styles and functions, you will be pleased with how much you can enjoy this simple addition.

While you don’t want to darken your kitchen too much, adding window treatments amplifies style and privacy. You can make your own out of kitchen towels or buy roman shades.

You may not have spent the whopping average of $21,907 on a kitchen remodel, but you will definitely have added value to your kitchen and to your guests’ experiences!

 

Love and Money: Five Common Mistakes

No couple likes to fight, especially when it comes to finances. Unfortunately, money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. And this isn’t only a problem for couples who are tight on money, as a survey has shown that the more your income increases, the more finances will put a strain on your relationships. What this shows is the importance of being on the same page as your partner when it comes to finances, no matter your incomes.

Sunset Bank & Savings has compiled a list of five common mistakes couples make with their money and how you can avoid them to lessen the stress on your relationship!

  1. Not Talking About Money Before Marriage

It’s important to have an idea of your future partner’s spending style. Is your partner tight with money because they grew up not having a lot? How does this impact how they envision your lifestyle to be once married? What’s their credit score?  It is important to have this conversation, in order to refrain from becoming as upset or surprised when one of you splurges/invests. This keeps a nice checks and balances. Take this fantastic quiz to figure out your money type!

  1. Not Having a Budget

If you are too late to avoid mistake #1, this is the perfect time to have that conversation with your spouse. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Take stock of what you have coming in, what you owe and what you have for “extras.” This will help to prevent keeping secrets from each other about your spending, because everything is on the table.  Be sure the budget works for BOTH of you, long term.  You can even get your kids involved in order to teach them about money and why having a plan to stick to is important.

  1. Not Having Separate AND Joint Accounts

Are you a couple who only has a joint or separate account? We recommend both! Joint accounts make it easier to share in bills and debt together. However, it is still important to have your own account, so you can still feel autonomous in your decisions to splurge (within range of your budget).

  1. Waiting 30 Years to Pay off Your Mortgage

Just because it is an option, doesn’t mean you really need to take 30 years to pay off your debt! If you do take the full term to repay the debt, you will pay significantly more in interest. Every extra payment that you make towards your home will be applied to the principal balance. This will enable you to sign that last mortgage check much sooner, enabling you to put money toward retirement, or other goals you have together.

  1. Letting One Person Make Decisions

Even if only one of you is bringing in a salary, it is imperative that you are both involved in the financial decisions. If you have one person who is physically making the payments, you should both be reviewing your finances monthly, and making adjustments as needed. Friction can happen when one spouse makes the financial decisions causing the other to feel like a child with a set amount given to them each month. Even if one of you is more financially smart, both should be included in the decisions. There is less of a need to keep secrets from one another when you both have purchase power and communication about your short and long term goals.

Making a plan and sticking to it together can help lessen financial stress in your relationship. If you feel stuck on where to begin, set up an appointment to speak with one of our specialists at Sunset Bank & Savings to help get you both on track to being in charge of your finances.

 

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.