Women & Money: Be Strong, Be Smart & Be Secure

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In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re examining the challenges that women face on their path to financial security. Earlier this year, CIBC, one of Canada’s largest financial services provider, released a survey that sought to uncover existing gaps between women’s money concerns and life goals. Its findings reveal that the majority of its 3,200 respondents lack knowledge of financial planning, a shortcoming that is negatively affecting how women manage their personal finances.

Despite the majority of respondents agreeing with the statement that financial security is a strong contributor to their happiness, the survey revealed financial mistakes that we are all guilty of making.  Failing to save earlier in life and not investing when they were younger, were singled out as women’s greatest financial regrets. When asked what personal wealth advice they would offer their younger selves, 56 percent of respondents said “start saving earlier,” 50 percent said “start investing as soon as possible,” and 44 percent said “start planning for retirement earlier.”

The importance of planning for retirement through proactive savings and investment plans in well known, but many women continue to severely underfund their long-term financial security. The majority of respondents expressed confusion about how best to make their money work for them. Among the women polled, only 10 percent felt knowledgeable about investing, and just 15 percent felt confident about their retirement planning. Additionally, nearly half of women polled who own investments prioritize capital preservation and predictable returns. As retirement planning is a primary concern for many women, increasing knowledge about investment strategies and how to maximize long-term returns, are fundamental to financial wellbeing later in life.

The survey also revealed an added burden women face: making financial sacrifices for the sake of others. Seventy percent of respondents have made significant financial sacrifices, including reducing working hours and putting their careers on hold to care of loved ones, which can put them at a considerable disadvantage to men when it comes to saving for retirement. In fact, almost 30 percent of females polled said that they have reduced or stopped saving as a direct consequence of childcare or eldercare responsibilities.

Of course, the survey’s findings aren’t all dispiriting. Women are increasingly taking control of their household’s finances. Nearly 55 percent of respondents said they are primarily responsible for household budgeting, while 41 percent take charge of long-term savings goals and 39 percent decide how their household’s money gets invested.

Taking charge of your finances is more than a matter of strength, it’s a matter of necessity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women continue to earn 81 percent of what men earn. On top of that, women statistically live longer than men and often face discrimination in terms of career advancement opportunities. This means women have to work harder and save more money than men.

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4 Tips to Help You Achieve Your Financial Goals

So how can you take control of your finances and build a secure future for yourself and your loved ones? Follow these 4 tips of course!

Make Saving for Retirement a Top Priority – You can take charge of your financial future by taking full advantage of a company retirement plan. At a minimum, contribute up to what your employer will match. Ideally, you’ll want to set aside at least 10 percent of your annual income for retirement savings in your twenties and slowly increase that figure to 30 percent by the time you’re 40. The younger you begin saving for retirement, the better, but it’s never too late to start.

Invest as Much as You Save – No one likes risk, but many women are playing it too safe with their investments, potentially missing out on long-term gains that can help you better achieve your goals. For a goal like retirement with a long time horizon, you will ideally want a diversified portfolio that has strong potential for growth.

Work with a Trusted Financial Advisor – No one has time to learn the ins and outs of financial management. That’s why working with a qualified support team can be a great confidence booster as they walk you through the entire process of getting your personal finances aligned with your long-term goals. When looking for a financial advisor, make sure they’re a fiduciary, these advisors are legally required to always act in their clients’ best interests.

Create a Comprehensive Financial Plan – Many financial plans focus exclusively on investment portfolios, maximizing returns to help ensure that you achieve a competitive return on investment. But what you really should create is a comprehensive financial plan which goes far beyond saving and investing and helps you look holistically at the interrelated parts of your financial situation. A comprehensive plan reviews your income, expenses, investments, retirement planning, insurance needs, income taxes, and estate planning needs, and assesses how they all fit together within the context of your long-term goals.

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Not Enough Money for a Savings Plan? Think Again

SavingsFinancial experts offer plenty of advice when it comes to effectively managing your money. A quick online search for money tips yields millions of results, each providing readers with unique perspectives about what is required to live a fiscally responsible life. Yet, if you take some time and peruse the top 10 articles, or the top 100, you’ll find one tip repeated again and again: save more money.

Whether contributing to a retirement plan, building an emergency fund or simply depositing a small percentage of your take-home pay into a savings account, growing a nest egg is one of the smartest actions you can take to improve your financial situation. Financial advisors all agree that resolving to set aside between 5% and 10% of your monthly salary for savings is a resolution that you will be happy you made.

Why So Few of Us Save

For many, increasing our savings is not new advice. Experts have been touting the importance of building our financial reserves for decades. Despite this well-established advice, few of us actually do it. According to a recent survey by Bankrate.com, over 20% of Americans fail to set aside any of their annual income for short or long-term goals. And of those who do save, another 20% save 5% or less of what they earn. Financial advisors contend that we are in the midst of a savings crisis and these statistics support their claim.

If savings are the key to financial success, why do so few of us actually make an effort to save more? The answer lies in a common excuse. “I don’t have enough money to save,” is the number one reason survey respondents commonly cite as to why they do not have a savings plan. Although it’s true that we are increasingly finding ourselves under more and more financial pressure as the cost of living continues to rise around the globe, this excuse reveals something important about the act of setting aside money, namely, you’ll never feel like you have enough of it to save.

Developing a Savings Mindset

It’s a common misconception that savings plans require you to set aside large sums of money each month. The first goal of any savings plan is to get you into the habit of saving. Starting with as little as 10 dollars a week can be a great way to boost your savings mindset. Once setting money aside has become a habit, you can adjust your weekly or monthly targets as your circumstances change. For example, if in the future you receive a pay raise at work, your savings mindset will encourage you to reflect on your long-term savings goals and set aside a proportion of your promotion towards achieving them.

Stack of money coin with trading graph.

Grow Your Savings with Micro Investments

Developing a savings habit is important. No matter how much money you are able to set aside each month. And thanks to technology, there’s another way to amplify your savings and get your money working for you. I’d like to introduce you to Micro Investing. Micro investing applications are eliminating barriers to traditional investing. With micro-investing, you’re purchasing fractional shares, which means you can reap the benefits of economic growth without requiring a large outlay of cash. Thanks to interfaces that guide your investment decisions based on your unique financial situation and goals, these apps make it easy to invest your money.

Popular micro-investing platforms include Betterment, Stash, Acorns and Robinhood. The majority of micro-investing apps allow users to purchase small shares of ETFs or exchange-traded funds. ETFs are inherently diverse because they track a broader set of assets instead of a single stock. Diversification is ideal for cautious investors, and it’s something micro-investing apps help you achieve with carefully curated portfolios that match your risk tolerance and financial goals.

If you’re new to the complex world of investing or simply lack the funds required to purchase complete shares, micro-investing apps can offer you a way to grow your savings with limited risk. Although micro-investing will not yield explosive financial growth, it can be an excellent way to learn more about investing and your personal risk tolerance.

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Disclaimer

SolidTrust Pay is not an investment advisor or fiduciary and this content is provided for educational purposes only. Before purchasing any investment, please evaluate your financial situation and personal risk tolerance.


Is Your Cryptocurrency Safe & Secure?

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2019 may already be a distant memory for many of us, but if you own cryptocurrency, the year was marked by some exciting highs and disappointing lows. Fortunately, prices are again rising and experts predict that 2020 could be a breakout year for bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies. Whether or not you trust the predictions of digital currency pundits is completely up to you. After all, security titan John McAfee famously predicted that bitcoin would be valued at $1 million by the end of 2020. McAfee has now changed his tune. Earlier this month on Twitter, he confirmed that his prediction was nothing more than a “ruse to onboard new users.”

Despite the widespread dissemination of misleading, contradictory and downright false information about the cryptocurrency market, decentralized digital currency adoption continues to climb. But this news hides an insidious fact: cryptocurrency theft is rapidly increasing. According to blockchain analysis firm Chainanalysis, hackers successfully breached 11 cryptocurrency exchanges in 2019, stealing more than $283 million worth of cryptocurrency. If you look at data from the last decade, these hacks represent the highest number of security breaches at digital currency exchanges in a single year. For comparison, only 6 major exchangers were breached in 2018.

Fortunately, these numbers hint at some good news. Thanks to improved security and transaction verification systems, hackers are escaping with less and less cryptocurrency from exchanges. The $283 million loss is less than one-third of the $875.5 million worth of crypto that hackers stole in 2018. Of course, hackers are by no means only targeting exchanges. Their operations are for more complex than that. According to security provider Carbon Black, the first half of 2019 saw nearly $1.1 billion in cryptocurrency fall into the hands of cybercriminals. Exchanges comprised only 27% of attacks, with businesses (21%), private users (14%) and government (7%) accounting for almost 70% of documented cryptocurrency theft.

Why Hackers Target Cryptocurrency?

Blockchain, the ledger technology on which cryptocurrencies like bitcoin rely on, is very secure. The problem rests with who is able to make transactions on the blockchain. The answer to that question is anyone. Because the identity of individual cryptocurrency wallet holders is never known, digital currency’s anonymity and personal privacy conspire to make it the perfect tool for scammers and hackers. In this manner, the decentralized peer to peer nature of cryptocurrencies that draw users to it, also conspires to work to the advantages of individuals determined to use it for illicit purposes.

How To Protect Your Digital Assets

Whether you’re a seasoned financial strategist of a first-time cryptocurrency investor, you’ll want to take the necessary time to thoroughly scrutinize your chosen digital currency exchange. Look for third-party audits, which are an excellent sign that the organization you are considering purchasing cryptocurrency from is well-run and safe.

Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure that your cryptocurrency wallet is secure. Cold wallets that rely on hardware authentication and that are physically disconnected from the internet when not in use, provide you with the highest security of any cryptocurrency wallet. There are no known incidences of hardware wallets being compromised, and when used correctly, experts single them out as the ideal cryptocurrency storage solution.

Buy & Sell 10 Different Cryptocurrencies with SolidTrust Pay

Did you know that you can now buy and sell 10 different cryptocurrencies directly from your secure SolidTrust Pay e-wallet? At SolidTrust Pay, we’re looking towards the future. That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to buy and sell cryptocurrency using your secure STPay e-wallet. To begin, simply add your cryptocurrency wallet to your SolidTrust Pay account and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your smartphone or desktop computer. You can learn more about setting up 2FA HERE. Your Bitcoin deposit is then instantly converted to U.S. dollars. Read our handy get-started guide HERE.

To withdraw your SolidTrust Pay funds into your cryptocurrency wallet, go to My Money > Withdraw Funds and select the Altcoins option. Please ensure that you have enabled 2FA on your account and have added an external digital currency wallet before proceeding with a cryptocurrency withdrawal. For step-by-step instructions, please click HERE.

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Protect Your eCommerce Accounts from Threats

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Which category of shopper do you fall into? Would you rather purchase everything you need from the comfort of your home over the internet, or do you enjoy the sensory and tactile experience of venturing out to a store? Despite predictions of a coming “retail apocalypse,” in which online shopping would do away with our need for bricks and mortar stores, retail establishments continue to thrive in the digital age. Yet, a new report commissioned by UK law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, suggests that by 2028, 53 percent of all retail sales will be made online. If this statistic is correct, the global retail industry will undergo unprecedented change in the near future as retailers innovate and cater to the changing desires of shoppers.

From its humble beginnings in 1994 with the sale of the Sting album “Ten Summoner’s Tales,” to the creation of the platform economy which includes companies like Airbnb, DoorDash and Uber, e-commerce has rapidly evolved into a trillion-dollar industry. Advances in mobile technology, artificial intelligence and faster internet speeds are poised to push e-commerce even further. Already, on-demand delivery, auto-replenishments and augmented reality are slowly finding their way into the industry, giving online businesses improved ways to interact with their customers.

Your Private Data is Under Threat

Despite these exciting advances, it may surprise you to learn that e-commerce is under threat. These sites are a favourite target for hackers who will do whatever it takes to gain access to your personal data. According to a report by cybersecurity firm Shape Security, more than 90 percent of an e-commerce site’s global login traffic comes from cybercriminals. Hackers use specially designed programs to flood a site’s login fields with stolen data procured from the dark web. These attacks are called “credential stuffing” and are successful as often as 3 percent of the time. This may not sound like a high percentage, but the costs quickly add up for online businesses. Last year, this type of fraud cost the e-commerce sector around $6 billion.

In a credential stuffing attack, criminals will purchase usernames, email addresses and passwords from large data breaches and test them on nearly every website and mobile app that they can access. Eventually, hackers will input your stolen information in a login field and gain unauthorized access to an account. They will then collect any pertinent information about you that can be monetized. Credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers and answers to security questions are all desirable targets because hackers can use this information to access additional accounts you may have or bundle the data and sell it to other nefarious criminals.

If you believe e-commerce sites are doing their best to safely secure your personal information, new research questions that common assumption. According to Magneto, roughly 22% of online merchants are neglecting security best practices and are putting their customers’ data at risk. Overlooking PCI compliance, requesting unnecessary information and failing to keep software updated are the most commonly overlooked practices. And if you think that a business will promptly notify you about any data breaches, thereby enabling you to quickly change your login credentials on accounts that may be vulnerable to a hack, think again. On average, it takes 15 months from the day credential data is stolen to the day an intrusion is revealed. This means that criminals often have more than a year to try out your credentials on an endless number of sites before you are even aware that your personal data has been compromised.

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Don’t Fall Prey to Credential Stuffing Attacks

So, if you can’t trust e-commerce sites to protect your personal and financial information, what can you do to prevent yourself from falling victim to a credential stuffing attack? The easiest solution is to change your passwords often. Cybersecurity experts now recommend that you change your passwords every 30 days and store them in a secure password manager like KeePass or LastPass. These services not only ensure that you don’t have to remember your passwords, but they can also automatically generate complex passwords for you.

You will also want to avoid using the same password for each of your online accounts. This way, if one password falls victim to a data breach, your other accounts remain secure. Ideally, you should have unique login credentials for every site you use. Finally, it’s important to create strong passwords. Safe&Secure is a poor choice for a password because it can be easily cracked by a brute force attack. Instead, try the sentence method. First, think of a random sentence and transform it into a password by taking the first two letters of every word. So, “I was born in South London on Saturday,” becomes IwaboinSoLoonSa. You can also add numbers and special characters to make the password even more secure.

It is our hope that this post has encouraged you to reevaluate how you create and use online passwords. As one of the easiest steps you can take to safeguard your personal and financial information on the internet, we urge all of our valued members to use strong, unique passwords for each of your critical accounts.

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