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October 2017 E-Newsletter

Equifax and Fiction: 4 Data Breach Myths to Dismiss

The details of the massive Equifax data breach are jaw-dropping.
The personal data of 143 million Americans — names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and in some cases driver’s license and credit card information — were exposed to criminals. Equifax waited weeks before saying anything. The company tried to charge consumers to lock down their data, before reversing course under withering criticism. Its website crashed; its phone representatives offered little more than sympathy.
Those are the sad and frustrating facts — and they make a lot of misinformation easier to believe. Some rumors we might want to be true, because they’d save us hassle.

But beware, these are just plain wrong:
1. Equifax is calling you
How great would it be for Equifax to call and offer to freeze your credit or sign you up for monitoring, saving you the trouble of trying to get through its phone menu or crashing website?
You may already know you have to give some identifying information to verify that it’s really you. Scammers know you know this, too.
The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers not to fall for callers pretending to be Equifax. Don’t believe it even if caller ID says it’s Equifax, because scammers can “spoof” their numbers.
Rule of thumb: Don’t give information to someone who calls you. Initiate the call so you can be sure where your call is going. If you’ve already given your information to a suspected scammer, report it to the FTC.
2. If you freeze your credit, you can’t use your credit cards
Not being able to use credit cards would create major inconvenience and disruption in many lives. But freezing your credit is not like the old advice to literally freeze your credit card in a block of ice to avoid overspending. It affects your credit files, not your existing credit cards.
Freezing closes access to your credit files to those who don’t already have access. You and your current creditors can still access them. But scammers won’t be able to open new accounts in your name. Lenders won’t open new accounts if they cannot see your credit history.
Important note: A freeze stops new accounts — but it won’t keep anyone with your current credit card information from using it. Keep an eye on current accounts so you can spot fraudulent charges right away.
3. You need to freeze your credit only with Equifax
Yes, Equifax had the breach. But thieves may now have the key to your finances, and Equifax is just one of the doors that information can open. Freezing your credit at all three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — is the best way to keep anyone from accessing your credit.
Tip: If you can’t freeze your credit right now — for instance, you’re mortgage or car loan shopping — consider a fraud alert. For 90 days (longer if you are active-duty military or have been an identity theft victim), applications in your name receive extra scrutiny.
4. You are an identity theft victim
You’re not, at least not yet. Unless scammers are already using your information to open new accounts, the damage isn’t done. While taking the necessary steps to lock down your data is a time-consuming hassle, it is nothing compared with the frustration of unwinding new accounts set up in your name.
Be an informed consumer: The bureaus are pushing “credit locks” hard as an alternative to freezes. These may carry a fee, and still let the bureaus sell you onto lists for promotional offers from businesses. Read the terms and conditions before you choose any freeze, lock or credit monitoring service.
And now, 4 things you can believe
  • With your personal data potentially released into the wild, the world is a different place. The threat requires vigilance to safeguard your finances.
  • Freezing your credit is the single best thing you can do to prevent abuse of your data over the long term.
  • Checking your credit reports needs to become a habit. It can give you a heads-up when there’s a mistake, or worse, possible identity theft.
  • This is forever.
The article Equifax and Fiction: 4 Data Breach Myths to Dismiss originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Base Your Business on Real Trends, Not Fads that Fizzle

For every story of an entrepreneur who was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on a fad, there are probably 10 more about the poor guy who, after the craze, found himself with a warehouse full of product that won’t sell.
“It was popular for a while, but then no one wanted it anymore,” says David Choi, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and business professor, speaking of an acquaintance who bet big on a 1980s fad, the Rubik’s Cube.
Starting a business is a wager on the future. Sure, it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle with a fad, and some, like the Rubik’s Cube, see a resurgence years after their heyday. But are you willing to pour your blood, sweat and tears — not to mention your money — into an idea that could fade as quickly as it emerged?
As an entrepreneur, you choose where to focus your efforts and resources. To be more than a flash in the pan, your business should address specific customer problems, offer solutions and latch on to trends that unfold over years and decades, not months.
Here are five ways to tell if your business aligns with a lasting trend:
1. You solve a problem
The annals of entrepreneurship are rife with solutions in search of a problem. It should be the other way around.
For example, Choi says, online shoe retailers solve a problem of selection and convenience by offering customers wide variety and home delivery. But a monthly subscription service that ships high-fashion shoes with a celebrity’s stamp of approval? That’s a tougher case, he says.
“Do you really need advice from [a celebrity] on what kind of shoe you want to wear?” asks Choi, who directs the Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University.
2. You have a strategy to find customers
“Early adopters” are consumers who jump on new technologies and whose early buy-in can influence those in the mainstream. They’re great customers in the beginning, but they shouldn’t be the only ones, says Joe Foxton, a New York entrepreneur who runs an online-marketing firm and mentors startups.
“These people just love to be the first to latch on to a new idea, but they can be flighty and fickle,” he says. If your early adopters move on to the next thing before you can tap into a broader market, your sales could fizzle fast.
Customer acquisition is no small task. But as a start, Foxton advises, your business should address the demands of more mainstream customers and make it easy for them to add your product or service to their current routine.
3. You tap into big underlying trends
Some view subscription boxes as a fad. But Charlie Ritchie is bullish on his business, a specialty-tea subscription service called Tea Runners, because it’s supported by strong underlying trends.

High-end, exotic and rare tea varieties are a small but growing segment, the Tea Association of the U.S.A. says. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly shopping online, analytics firm comScore notes.
Ritchie, whose business is based near Vancouver, British Columbia, doesn’t think about the big market trends every day. Still, they form a foundation for his strategy: to make high-end tea easier to try for those who don’t already drink it.
“I like tea, and I like the opportunity in this space,” he says.
4. You think long and broad, not short and narrow
Fads happen over months or a few years and typically are characterized by the intense interest of a relatively small group in a narrow set of products. Trends build over years or decades, unfold across different industries and affect broad swaths of people.
Choi points to the rise since the 1990s of craft beer. He attributes it in part to the shifts in baby boomers’ priorities toward quality and taste over quantity and standardization. Those changes sparked a proliferation of craft breweries, which differentiated their beers from the less flavorful mass-market brews that dominated the industry.
Trends related to the aging of the baby boom generation also influence many other sectors — autos and health care, to name two — and don’t seem to be letting up.
5. You see competition as a good sign
Conventional wisdom holds that it’s best to be the first mover in a market, but the lack of serious competition can be a red flag, Foxton says.
If others have determined that a trend is worth investment, it can validate your idea. At the very least, a successful similar product may be a sign that your idea is more than a fad.
“You can’t imagine a new use case that doesn’t exist unless you’re Steve Jobs,” Foxton tells entrepreneurs he advises, “and you’re not Steve Jobs.”
The article Base Your Business on Real Trends, Not Fads That Fizzle originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Retirement Savings Q&A

Approaching retirement should be an exciting time in your life – you have traveling, spending more time on hobbies, and generally enjoying your golden years to look forward to. However, for many, retirement is a source of stress and anxiety instead. Have you saved enough? Do you need to keep working part-time? How will you pay for unexpected medical bills? Creating a retirement plan early and reviewing it often is key to alleviating some of this stress. Here are a few questions to consider when checking up on your retirement plan:
How much do I need to save?
Experts recommend saving 10 percent of your annual income towards retirement for the first decade of your career. After that, increase your contributions to 15 percent of your annual income. To calculate if you're on track, there are three general benchmarks: 1) by age 35, you should have the equivalent of your annual income in savings; 2) by age 45, aim to have three times your current annual salary saved up; and 3) in your final years in the workforce, you should have at least eight times your final salary in your nest egg. 
How much risk am I taking on?
If you haven't reviewed or adjusted your retirement plan in a long time, you could end up losing a big chunk of it. Typically, the younger you are, the riskier the investments in your retirement portfolio. This is because the potential for higher returns outweighs the risk of losing money because you have enough time to make up any losses prior to retiring. As you get closer to exiting the workforce, that balance shifts. Talk with your plan administrator and reassess your risk tolerance every 10 years to ensure that you're not taking on more than is advisable for your situation. 
Where should I save?
There is a wide variety of retirement savings vehicles. A few of the most popular are IRAs and 401(k)s. A 401(k) is directed by employers and contributions are deducted from paychecks, before taxes. The account is then taxed when a withdrawal is made. An IRA account is an individual account that provides tax advantages that a regular savings account does not. There are two types of both IRAs and 401(k) plans, Roth and Traditional. The basic difference is when you have to pay the taxes on the account. With a traditional retirement account the taxes are paid when the money is withdrawn. With a Roth account the taxes are paid upfront (when the money is added to the account), making them especially valuable to younger savers. 
What will I owe Uncle Sam?
Finally, when evaluating the state of your retirement plan, be sure to factor in your current tax bracket as well as the bracket you expect to be in when you retire. If you're in a lower bracket now, make larger contributions to any Roth accounts you have, since with that type of account the tax is taken out as you pay in. With traditional retirement accounts, taxes are paid when you withdraw. Roth accounts are especially valuable to younger workers, as they are more likely to climb into higher tax brackets as they age, meaning they would owe more in taxes on the same amount of money later in life. 

If you're still not sure where you are with your retirement savings, or want to learn how you can start saving more, talk to you banker or financial advisor about your options.
An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at

Coulee Bank's Q-Tip: Scam of the Month: "Fake-tortion" Phishing Attacks

There is a new, sophisticated email scam you need to watch out for. Bad guys first send emails with links to inappropriate websites to business email addresses, and then follow up with extortion threats, claiming your workstation is infected and that they "know what you just looked at", and say they will send a video to all your email contacts, because they "recorded what you were watching.”
If this type of scam email makes it through the spam filters into your inbox, do not click on any links, do not reply, and delete the message (or click on the Phish Alert button). Do not download any software to check your computer for viruses, but follow procedure to report these types of criminal emails.  Remember: Think Before You Click.  It is more important than ever these days.
Let's stay safe out there.
Q-Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.

Coulee Investment Corner: Is Long Term Care Insurance a Good Idea? 

There is a good possibility that you or your spouse will eventually require some form of long-term care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of people aged 65 or older will enter a nursing home for some period of time during their lifetimes.1
Whether you or your spouse will be among this group is impossible to predict. But it is wise to consider how you might pay for long-term care and whether long-term care insurance is a good idea for you.
Cost of Care
Perhaps the first consideration is determining the potential cost of long-term care. Below is a summary of current costs according to the Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey.
Median costs in the United States:1
  • $212/day for a semi-private room in a nursing home
  • $240/day for a private room in a nursing home
  • $3,500/month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
  • $20/hour for a home health aide
  • $19/hour for homemaker/companion services
With health care costs rising every year, these expenses can be expected to grow substantially over time. Furthermore, neither Medicare nor Medicare supplemental coverage, also known as Medigap insurance, typically cover long-term care. Medicaid will cover a large share of such services but only if you meet stringent financial and functional criteria. What's more, most employer-sponsored or private health insurance plans follow the same general rules as Medicare. Therefore, most people who need long-term care must pay for some or all of it on their own.
Cost of Insurance
Like life insurance, long-term care insurance policy premiums largely depend on your age and health. If you take out a policy when you are young, you can expect to pay comparatively low premiums during the life of the plan, while starting a new policy when you are older will entail significantly higher monthly premiums. A 65-year-old in good health can expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 a year for a policy that covers nursing home care and home care, with premiums adjusted for inflation.2
Most long-term care policies sold today are federally tax-qualified, which means the premiums paid and out-of-pocket expenses for long-term care may be applied to the medical expense deduction of the federal tax code. (Typically, taxpayers may deduct the portion of medical and dental expenses that exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income.) Additionally, long-term care benefits received are not taxed as income up to certain limits. Consult with a tax advisor to learn more about the tax implications of long-term care insurance.
Long-term care policies are complex and vary widely. But in general, long-term care insurance typically covers the following:
  • Nursing home care
  • Adult day care
  • Visiting nurses
  • Assisted living
  • In-home assistance with daily activities
LTC includes a range of nursing, social, and rehabilitative services for people who need ongoing assistance due to a chronic illness or disability. LTC insurance can be used by anyone at any age who suffers an accident or debilitating illness, but it most frequently is used by older adults who need assistance with essential physical needs, such as bathing, dressing, or eating.
Other Considerations
Deciding whether to purchase long-term care insurance will depend on your personal situation. You may want to consider your family health history, your level of assets to potentially pay for long-term care, and your feelings about relying on family members for support. Probing these and other individual circumstance can help you make a well-informed decision.
1Source: Genworth, 2014 Cost of Care Survey, 2014.
2Source:, 2013 (latest available).
Required Attribution
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content.
© 2016 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.

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