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January 2019 E-Newsletter

How to Save $500

Here’s a hint: Skipping your daily coffee isn’t going to cut it.
Little luxuries are a popular punching bag for financial gurus, but they’re usually not what really keeps you from reaching financial goals. Instead of eliminating lattes to save that first $500 — and beyond — try changing your mindset.
 
Why $500? It can be a solid start to building an emergency fund. It might not seem like much, but that amount can keep a car repair or an unexpected medical expense from going on your credit card.
 
NerdWallet gathered perspectives from a financial planner, a blogger and a writer and strategist on how to get started.
 
» Want the basics? Here’s what you need to know about emergency funds
 
Change the way you think about saving
It’s tough to save when that means saying no to things you want (or could really, really use).
“Most people tend not to save because they feel like it means delaying gratification or sacrificing something now for some future benefit, and that’s really hard for anyone to do,” says Eric Roberge, certified financial planner and founder of Beyond Your Hammock, a Boston-based financial planning firm.
 
Roberge suggests a perspective shift. “Stop looking at it as savings. Start looking at it as purchasing more freedom, flexibility and choice for yourself in your life,” he says. “The more you save, the more freedom you buy to use in your life when you want to leverage it.”
 
While $500 is a smaller goal, it’s also specific, which Roberge says is helpful. “If you just say you want ‘more money,’ then you’ll never have enough,” he says. “That’s a moving goal post.”
 
‘Grow the gap’
Financial blogger Paula Pant started seriously saving while earning $21,000 as a newspaper reporter. Back then, Pant, the founder of AffordAnything.com, didn’t have many places to economize. “At a certain point,” she says, “especially if you’re lower income, you just can’t cut any further.”
 
To build her savings, Pant turned to freelance writing. She used the money to travel and, eventually, buy real estate and quit her 9-to-5.
 
Writing — or freelancing — might not be your thing, but there are other ways to make money alongside a full-time job. You can dogsit for Rover.com, for example, or rent out your car when you’re not using it with Getaround.
 
» Increase your income: Side hustles you can start with no money

Or maybe there are ways you can cut back on spending. If so, Pant suggests focusing on three main areas: housing, transportation and food.
 
“It’s easy to point the finger at things like getting a manicure,” she says. “But the reality is that if you get a manicure once a month and it costs $20, I can tell you exactly how much you’ll save.” For real savings, she says, keep the manicures and downsize your home: “You’ll save a lot more money.”
 
» Not sure where to cut back? Try NerdWallet’s easy ways to save

Either way, you’ll want to increase the difference between what you earn and what you spend — or “grow the gap,” as Pant says.
 
Make it automatic
So you’ve decided to save, and you’ve found space in your budget. Next, make it habitual. That’s the approach writer and strategist Erika Sabalvoro takes.
 
“I found that the most effective way to pinch some money for an emergency fund is by treating it as a bill to pay,” she says. “It was a bill, billed by my future self to my current self.”
 
Many banks and credit unions offer automatic savings transfers, making it easy to move money on a schedule you choose. But most savings rates are low; the national average is just 0.09%. Picking a high-yield savings account with an annual percentage yield closer to 2% will help your balance grow faster.
 
» If you’re looking for a new account, check out a few of our favorite banks and credit unions

Sabalvoro says she started by putting aside $35 here and there, and increased the amount as her circumstances changed. If she has money left over at the end of the month, she’ll add that to her “take care” fund, too. She says she uses this term, rather than “emergency fund,” because she sees the money as an all-purpose buffer that gives her choices, say, to leave a bad job.
 
But sometimes it comes in handy for actual emergencies. Sabalvoro recently sent multiple months’ worth of rent checks at once to avoid late fees and online payment costs. She asked for them to be cashed as they came due, but her landlord cashed them all at once.
 
“I thought, oh gosh, good thing I got it covered. It was really helpful,” Sabalvoro says of her savings.
Like Sabalvoro, you might find that your emergency fund picks up steam once you’ve made space in your budget, but getting started is the most important thing. You never know when you’ll need to dip into your savings — the only sure thing is that you will.
 
More From NerdWallet Alice Holbrook is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: alice.holbrook@nerdwallet.com.
The article How to Save $500 originally appeared on NerdWallet.

With Mobile Pay, You Can Go Without a Wallet at Checkout

When you’re at the checkout line this holiday season, you could juggle your bags and dig into your purse or billfold for your credit or debit card. Or you could use that phone you’re already clutching, or that new smartwatch strapped to your wrist. Many stores now accept mobile wallets, a technology that lets customers make payments via smartphone or watch.
 
Mobile wallets come in different digital forms. There are device specific platforms, such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, which are compatible with Apple and Samsung devices, respectively. Google Pay works with multiple platforms, including Android devices.
 
There are also merchant apps, such as those from Starbucks and Walmart that have mobile wallet capabilities but can be used only at specific stores. About one-third of smartphone owners who access mobile wallets use those downloaded from specific retailers, says Karen Augustine, a manager of primary data services at Mercator Advisory Group, a payments and consulting research firm.
 
Still, many consumers are sticking with their cards due to concerns about safety or the familiarity of good old plastic. But if you’re ready to give mobile wallets a try, here’s what you need to know to get started.
 
Where mobile wallets work best
Shoppers who don’t want to carry physical wallets and cards — or who are scared of losing a card— may find mobile wallets helpful. Many early adopters have been young adults who wear smartwatches or carry phones nearly everywhere and are willing to try new forms of payment, Augustine says.
 
Those who want an easier way to track store rewards might also benefit from mobile wallets. A mobile wallet can keep track of rewards program information, making it easier to get credit for qualifying purchases.  Merchants and credit card issuers might also offer promotional bonus rewards for mobile wallet transactions.
 
How mobile wallets work
To start, you’ll need to load your bank information onto your preferred mobile wallet device. That generally means entering a credit card or debit card number and security code, and accepting the terms and conditions in the mobile app.
 
When it’s time to make a payment, show your device at the checkout line. You typically complete the transaction by placing the device near the terminal and scanning a barcode or using a biometric reader that may, for example, scan your fingerprint to sign off on the purchase.
 
Mobile wallet adoption has stalled
Despite the ease of using mobile wallets, less than half of all smartphone owners use the technology, and adoption has not grown over the past three years, according to Augustine. One problem may be that some don’t consider it to be much more convenient than using a regular credit or debit card, she says.
Concerns about safeguards are another issue. Many consumers are more worried about the security of mobile wallet payments than traditional card payments, says Ryan Grogman, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, a retail consulting company. But mobile wallets do have some security advantages over regular credit and debit cards.
 
How bank information is kept secure
Mobile wallets rely on near-field communication, or NFC, which uses a chip in the mobile device to wirelessly communicate with the merchant’s payment terminal. The devices communicate using special short-term codes to verify customers’ identities and don’t reveal actual credit card numbers.
 
Along with NFC technology, smartphones typically add their own layer of security. You probably need to use a fingerprint reader or enter a code to unlock a screen, for example, to access the device and its digital wallet.
If a consumer loses a smartphone or watch, they know their information likely lives behind a locked screen, and its sensitive contents can be erased remotely. With a physical card, a criminal could steal it and start making fraudulent purchases before a consumer even knows the card is gone.
 
Most people have a host of payment choices, and they don’t mind juggling and digging for their plastic at checkout. But that hardware in their hand or on their wrist can double as another way to pay for their holiday shopping.
 
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.
 
More From NerdWallet Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Margarette.
The article With Mobile Pay, You Can Go Without a Wallet at Checkout originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Business Corner: Four Offline Revenue Opportunities to Pursue in the New Year

As we come to the end of the year, this is a great time to think about and plan the growth strategies of your business for the New Year. It's an opportunity to do a deep dive and course correct what needs to change.
You may have crushed it this year and are celebrating huge wins. Or, it was slower than you wanted and you’re looking for new ways to add revenue. Either way, entrepreneurship is a constantly evolving journey. You don't "arrive." You keep building that greater vision.

You can take your knowledge, skills and expertise and use them to generate multiple streams of revenue all over the world. You are the fuel that keeps your business running. Use these offline revenue streams to experience even more growth and opportunity in your business.

1. Speaking at events, conferences and associations.
Every day, there are conferences happening in which speakers teach audiences about their topic and what the entrepreneur does in their business. There are smaller events that are industry-specific but still pay speakers for training. There are associations meetings in which groups come together to learn tactics, strategy, and to be inspired. Again, speakers are booked to train at these events and are paid well.

Public speaking is a scary proposition for a lot of people (in general), but we’re entrepreneurs. If you can get over self-limiting beliefs around public speaking, you can book lucrative global opportunities for your business. These speaking gigs want your knowledge and training on your topic. They will pay you a fee, cover any travel experiences, and let you promote your other offerings in your business.
 
2. Local consulting with privately-held companies.
You’ve built up your business for a reason. You’re good at what you do and there are other companies that could benefit from that knowledge -- especially locally. Privately-held companies are owned by an entrepreneur or family. They don’t have all the red tape of a large organization. The owner(s) can hire you on the spot if they see value in what you offer.

There are local companies right in your backyard that need and want what you have. With all the opportunity in the market, these companies wouldn’t view your business as competition. You can approach local companies with topics and ways you could teach them how to grow their business. Local consulting could be a great addition to your revenue streams that wouldn't require a huge time commitment.

3. Global corporate consulting.
In the same vein as local consulting, global corporations need training. While there are people on staff in an organization, they prefer a fresh and outside perspective, and they’re always willing to pay for training. You can be booked to consult as corporations all over the world. In fact, the main part of my business is traveling to twenty plus organizations a year consulting on the topic of digital marketing. I’ve consulted at some of the largest corporations in the world.

First, determine right now that you do have what a big organization wants. If you’re doing it in your business, you can train on it to an audience and market of any size. Corporations having been hiring consultants since the beginning of business. There is a huge need. Then, use tactics to book your first corporate consulting gig.

4. Host your own mastermind meetups. 
Your audience wants more of you. They want training by you in person. You can host small events or an in-person mastermind meeting. You can do this in your home or host it at a fun exotic location. It can be a work/play type of situation. This can be done in one or multiple days. You can teach your whole system or break it down into parts over several meetings.

The point being, you can train in more ways than courses, coaching, products, and services. Give in-depth training through in-person events. You can host these once a month or once a quarter. These also tend to draw in higher-end clients.

The Internet and social media have created great opportunities for us as entrepreneurs. Offline opportunities can work hand-in-hand with what’s available online. Don’t limit what’s possible in your life and business. Make this New Year an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and experience explosive growth in multiple ways.
 
This article 4 Offline Reveunue Opportunities to Persue in the New Year originally appeared on entrepreneur.com. 

Coulee Bank Q-Tip: Best Services for Online Security

The number of Americans impacted by financial fraud has increased every year since 2014, and security experts predict it will only become more common.

More than 16 million Americans were victims of fraud last year, resulting in almost $17 billion of losses for U.S. consumers, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research. As tactics used by fraudsters advance, it’s become harder for the average consumer to identify a scam when they see one.

It’s no surprise, then, that fraud protection was the service most valued by bank customers in a survey conducted for MONEY by market research firm Morning Consult. Eighty percent of Americans rated fraud protection as “very important,” more than any other feature.

Yet, the simplest and most effective way to protect yourself from bank fraud isn’t necessarily something provided by your bank. Instead, it’s about educating yourself.

Learning to be a skeptical consumer who can identify different kinds of fraud is one of the most effective methods for keeping your accounts safe in 2018, security experts told MONEY. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to cyber scammers.

Don’t Click That Email Link
The vast majority of cyber crime, including a significant percentage of bank fraud, starts with a phishing email, Roger Grimes, computer security specialist at KnowBe4, a security awareness training company, tells MONEY. Phishing emails are messages sent by scammers made to look as if they are from legitimate companies. Hackers send them out hoping you’ll think the email is real and open it, and then unwittingly provide sensitive information so they can gain access to your accounts.

“Consumers have to be super skeptical of any email that arrives asking for any personal information,” he says. “Even if it’s claiming that your account has been hacked or your bank account is overdrawn.”

If an email claiming to be from your bank, or even someone on the phone, asks you to provide your pin number or password to confirm your account, that’s a red flag, says Grimes. Your bank should never ask you for either.
“As soon as they ask you for your pin or your password, that’s a bad guy,” he says.

This all may sound obvious, but phishing emails have grown more sophisticated as consumers have grown more aware. It can be hard even for wary customers to spot them while quickly reading through their inbox. One habit you can develop to avoid the trap? Don’t click any links in emails you receive claiming to be from your bank, says Kurt Long, creator and CEO of FairWarning, a data security company.

“Instead, go directly to your bank’s site, log in and see if there are any problems with your account,” he says. Phishing is so prevalent that banks do not ask for any kind of account verification via email.

Request Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication offers an additional layer of security by confirming your identify through multiple devices. One of the most common types is two-factor authentication, when a code is sent to your cell phone when you try log on to certain websites or apps. Sending a code to your cell phone helps the bank or other institution confirm it is in fact you.

Some banks allow you to set up two-factor authentication yourself. For example, if you use Bank of America, you can simply sign into your account and under the Profile & Settings section go to the Security tab. Then scroll to “Extra Security at Sign-In.” From there, you can choose whether you want authorization codes sent to your cell phone or email address moving forward.

If your bank doesn’t automatically provide you with an option for multi-factor authentication, ask if they can set it up for you.

“This way, cybercriminals cannot gain access to your account because they do not have access to your personal device that supplies the additional verification,” Long says.

Know How Your Bank Communicates
One of the easiest ways to cultivate an eye for bank fraud is being familiar with the kinds of messages and notifications your bank does and does not send to customers.

Long suggests bank customers reach out before a specific incident occurs to ask how a bank will contact you and what type of information it usually requests. “If your account’s login credentials are stolen, how would the bank contact you to reset your login information?”

Once you have a clear understanding of the typical forms of communication used with customers, you are less likely to be tricked when scammers contact you in an unusual way.

Always take a second look or listen when it comes to an email, text message or phone call from someone claiming to represent your bank. Trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right about the message, and go directly to your bank’s website or call them back yourself instead.

“If you’re skeptical,” Grimes says, “you’re going to be safer.”

This article The One Thing You Need to Do Now to Protect Yourself from Bank Fraud originally appeared on time.com.