Virtually all markets rose during the third quarter. Emerging markets, energy, and technology stocks were particular standouts. Volatility remains eerily low. Bonds had a decent quarter despite another rate increase from the Fed.
Odds of another rate hike in 2017 have risen following recent utterings from Yellen and other Fed movers and shakers. They continue to expect an emergence of inflation. Perhaps they are even more alarmed by the extremely large (and unnecessary) tax cut that is in the pipeline.
In response, the dollar is up and bonds are down.
As you have likely heard, Equifax, one of the nation’s three main credit reporting agencies, announced last week it was the victim of a major hack that exposed the personal information of at least 143 million Americans. Hackers were able to gain access to consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license and credit card numbers.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself given the recent events:
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your record at all three of the credit reporting agencies. For a small fee, you can “freeze” your records from being accessed by anyone. This will prevent anyone from being able to open a credit in your name and is the most effective tool at preventing credit fraud. There is no impact on the use of your existing credit cards and other lines of credit when a freeze is in place.
Here are the links for each credit reporting agency on how to put a freeze on your account:
- Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Experian: http://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/preventing-fraud/security-freeze/
- TransUnion: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring will not prevent criminals from fraudulently opening accounts in your name but it will allow you to monitor your credit for unauthorized activity. Equifax has offered one year of monitoring for free for all Americans. They have also clarified that signing up for this service will not exclude you from being able to participate in a class action law suit in the future. Credit Karma and Capital One’s Credit Wise are other free services that are available.
- Request a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and check for any activity you don’t recognize. You are entitled to one report per bureau annually so one strategy is to request a credit report from one of the three bureaus every 4 months.
- Closely monitor your credit card statements for unusual activity.
- Be especially vigilant regarding scams in upcoming months:
- Avoid any links in emails supposedly from any of your financial institutions; go directly to their website instead
- Ignore text messages and phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize
- File your taxes early ahead of any potential scammers
- The IRS typically initiates contact via regular mail; disregard any threatening phone calls supposedly from the “IRS” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-to-know-its-really-the-irs-calling-or-knocking-on-your-door-0
- Add two-factor authentication to your online access to your bank and Schwab. Two factor authentication, as well as voice ID, can be added to your Schwab account by contacting Schwab Alliance at 1-800-515-2157.
More information on how to protect yourself can be found at:
Please contact your financial advisor with further questions and concerns.
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Corporate America continues to do just fine, thank you.
Health care insurance costs continuing their inexorable rise upwards.
The National Academy of Sciences recently released a study showing that individuals that spent money on time saving services reported having greater life satisfaction. The researchers surveyed individuals in the US and in Europe and found that although levels of wealth are increasing, that it is coming with a cost: increased demands on people’s time. The study found that participants reported feeling happier after spending money on time saving purchases such ordering takeout food than they did on material purchases such as clothing. So if you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, think about hiring a maid and treating yourself to a nice run outside or some quality time on the couch!
Another day, another lackluster economic statistic from the manufacturing sector.
We all know that terrible feeling that occurs after you have watched the series finale of your most recent favorite show. Now what to watch?! Is there anything else out there that can replace it? We have all been there, read on for a few suggestions from The Family Firm staff and see if any of our recommendations tickle your fancy.
Are the banks being strangled by over-regulation? It's a fascinating debate that is playing out in Congress now. Certainly the House thinks so, and has passed a bill repealing many/most of the regulations established after the financial crisis.