For the Students

May 15, 2023

If you have a student or know a student who has a bent towards entrepreneurship, there is a very cool program that I recently came across that they might want to know about. There is funding and training for high school, college and university students age 15-29 to start their own business for their summer job. What a great way to make some money and build some valuable life and work skills! One of the most important financial investments any of us can make is in ourselves, and our ability to earn an income. The younger we start, the better!

Start a summer company: students | ontario.ca

 - Jessica Holvik

5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Cyber-Crime

May 15, 2023

Cyber crime is big business, and the criminals are getting better at making their scams look real. One of my family members was almost scammed twice in the last few months. Last year, a friend of mine got to the point of bringing cash to a bitcoin machine, terrified of what the people who accessed her computer were going to do if she didn’t pay them. There happened to be a police officer walking by at that moment, who reassured her it was safe not to pay them. Both of these people are very smart, but the scammers know how to play on our emotions.

Though I wrote most of this section of the newsletter quite a while ago, the point has been driven home again when I learned this week that one of the firms that provides third party support to investment firms and dealers was hacked recently, and important client information was exposed. Protections are being put in place right away for affected clients, but it highlights the increasing risk we all have with more and more of our information out there, accessible by people who would use it to their advantage. Note that if you are affected by this, you will be notified by the fund companies, and you will also be receiving a phone call from me to explain the breach and what you need to do to protect yourself in this specific instance.

Getting scammed or having your identity stolen can be financially devastating. The weakest link in the security chain is the humans, so that means you and I. We are not experts in this area, and we recommend that you do some reading from people who are experts to find out what else you need to do to be safe, but here are some tips that could help you to be more protected than you are right now:

   1. If you receive an email or text that feels off, trust your instincts and do some checking.

A) Hold your mouse over an email address to see the true email address that sent the email. Does it match other emails you have received from that person or company? Is it spelled correctly? Does it have any extra letters added or changed?

B) If the email or the text message asks you to click on a link or call a number, don’t use the link or contact information they have provided. Go to the website of the company and find the information to contact them directly.

C) Ask someone else for their opinion.

D) If it sounds too good to be true, or if it is creating a sense of urgency or fear, there is a very high probability it is a scam.

   2. Use passwords that are at least 16 digits long for all your online accounts.

A) 20 is even better, but more than that probably won’t make you more secure.

B) Using a phrase can make it easier to remember and to type. E.g. FlubberIsMyFriend2!

C) Don’t use seasons, years, or details connected to you like pet names in your password.

   3. Use different passwords for all your online accounts. If one account gets compromised, they won’t be able to use that information to get into any of your other accounts.

   4. When asked for security questions for an online account, choose questions and answers that wouldn’t be found anywhere online. There is a LOT of information about many of us out there, posted to the internet by us or others.

   5. OUR TOP TIP: Use a password vault to store your passwords and all sensitive information you need to remember and have access to. Some respected options are LastPass, Keeper, Dashlane, and 1Password.

A) A password vault is a software that stores your passwords, usernames, and web addresses in a secure way. The only person who will have access to the passwords is you, and anyone to whom you give the “master password” for your password vault. The data is encrypted on your phone or computer, so the data that gets sent to the password vault company is unreadable by them or anyone who might get access to their files.

B) Using a password vault makes it easy to use long passwords, and to use a different password for every website (see tip 2 & 3). Often the software will fill in the username and password for you when you go to the website (if you are logged into the vault). If it doesn’t do it automatically, it makes it very easy to copy and paste the username and password. This also saves you time.

C) There are free versions, and paid versions. If you only have one device that you need the passwords for, the free version could do the job. If you have more than one device, paying for the full version means you have all your usernames and passwords accessible on all your devices. If you change a password on one device, the new password is available on your other devices. It also means if you lose the device that you normally use to store your passwords (e.g. your phone), you won’t lose all your passwords. You can also purchase family memberships that will allow you to share logins between family members. My husband and I started our boys using this as teenagers, and they use it all the time.

D) This is also a great estate planning tool. If you were to pass away, would your spouse/executor know how to access all your online accounts to get the information they need? To pay bills while they wait for probate? To get access to your family photos? To notify your online contacts that you have passed and shut down those accounts? If they have your master password or emergency access details, they will always have the most current login information for you.

Financial security is about more than saving enough and investing enough for the future. It’s also about protecting what you already have. Unfortunately, digital security is a big part of that today. 

- Jessica Holvik

The New First Home Savings Account

May 11, 2023

If you or someone you know is trying to save for their first home, there is a new account type that should be available sometime this year that will help with that. This also applies to people who have owned a home in the past, but not in the last 4 calendar years. Contributions to the First Home Savings Account (FHSA) will be tax-deductible, like an RRSP. Growth in the FHSA will be tax-free, and withdrawals will also be tax-free, if they are used to buy your first home. You essentially get to earn both employment income and investment income tax-free, if you are using it to save for your first home. There are some limitations on this, of course. The maximum you can contribute in one year is $8,000, and in your lifetime it is $40,000. This is a fantastic opportunity, for the right people, to be used at the right time. I have a number of clients who will eventually be in a place to use this account to save for a house, but it is not right for them yet. For example, the money in the account must be used to buy a house within 15 years. If you are not saving enough to be able to buy in 15 years, it’s better to save somewhere else for now. Also, if your income is low, and will be higher later, it might make sense to wait to add to the FHSA until you are in a higher tax bracket. If you or someone you know is saving for a first house, contact me to advise you on what is right for your unique situation. 

-Jessica Holvik

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