5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Financial decisions can be tough enough under normal circumstances. They have become especially challenging during these uncertain times. If you’re feeling stressed and concerned about your finances, you’re not alone. Here are five things you can do (or not do) with your money to increase your financial health right now.
1. Don’t Touch Your 401k
Markets fluctuate over time, and returns often come with risks. While COVID-19 is making the markets more uncertain than ever, keep your eye on the long-term prize. Most 401K or IRA plans are made up of a diverse asset portfolio. Your retirement strategy should remain the same as it was back in February. In all likelihood, the market will bounce back.
When it comes to investing in your retirement, the best thing to do is aim to have a monthly contribution of 10-15% of your total income.
2. Build Emergency Savings
Unexpected times like these are why you need to try to maintain an emergency fund. We recommend keeping 3-6 months’ worth of take-home pay set aside. If you have an emergency fund, go ahead and tap into it now. That’s why it’s there. You will have time to build it back up when this pandemic passes.
3. Refinance a Loan
March 2020 marked a period of extreme market volatility. To help stabilize and protect the economy, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to record lows. These low-interest rates could save you money if you choose to refinance your mortgage, private student loans, or other debts. Traditional advice is to refinance when rates are 1-2% below what you are currently spending. Make sure to keep an eye on your closing costs, so you make a decision that’s best for you.
4. Time Your Taxes
If you haven’t filed your taxes yet and you expect to owe money to the government, there’s good news. The deadline to file has been extended to July 15. Nebraska has also made the same extension for filing state income taxes. If you’re expecting a refund, go ahead and file early to get your money sooner.
5. Make a Plan and Take Control
You can only control what you can control. The good news is that your financial decisions and behaviors are 100% under your control.
Use this time at home to rethink how you’ve spent your money in the past. This is a great time to start building healthy financial habits, while many of the typical trappings of big spending, such as restaurants, sporting events, and travel are on hold. Are there things you’ve spent money on that you have no memory of a month later? Which purchases sit on a shelf collecting dust or cluttering your space? Would that money have been better served by helping to build your emergency fund?
At First Nebraska Bank, we’re proud to offer valuable financial educational opportunities to our community through our partner, Everfi. See what we have to offer here.
Zoom’s Rapid Popularity and Potential Security Issues
Eric Yuan, Zoom founder, and CEO, recently stated the company was not expecting the mass expansion that came after the Coronavirus hit. According to Yuan, at the end of 2019, there were about 20 million users on Zoom. In March of 2020, they reached 200 million.
There have been several features of the Zoom software raising concerns for employees, business owners, and government officials. These concerns have caused Zoom to scramble to correct its security flaws as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, here are some issues you should be aware of:
One popular Zoom act right now is called “Zoom-bombing.” While it may be innocent pranking for some, it raises privacy concerns for others. Zoom-bombing is when uninvited attendees break into and disrupt Zoom meetings. Zoom-bombing is possible because all meetings started by the same host automatically share the same default meeting ID by default. Also, by default, all meetings can be joined without the need for a password. If you’re hosting a Zoom call, please go into your application preferences and change these settings.
2. Cloud Recording
Another Zoom concern is something called “cloud recording.” This feature allows hosts to record meetings and text transcripts of chats made during the call. This information is then saved to the cloud, where it can be accessed by other users within your company. Zoom does allow users to narrow the audience to only pre-approved IP addresses.
3. Data Sharing
Being able to set up an account using Facebook is a common practice for many online applications. Typically, those apps are up-front about how they share information with Facebook. Zoom has been accused of not being transparent about the fact they may share your data with Facebook, even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
4. Webcam Control
Another security flaw allows hackers to take control of webcams and microphones on Mac computers using Zoom. This vulnerability also enables an attacker to gain root access to the host computer.
Another issue people have with Zoom is something called “attention-tracking.” This feature allows the host of the Zoom call to see whether attendees are using the app or window in the foreground. That means if students or employees don’t have the video chat front and center, their professor or manager will be able to tell. While this may seem appealing to some meeting hosts, it does cause distrust for many users who feel their privacy is being compromised.
How You Can Stay Safe
By updating some security settings in Zoom, you can significantly reduce the risk of having your information compromised.
- Configure Zoom to generate new meeting IDs for each call.
- Set your meetings to use a password for entry or use Zoom’s waiting room feature to control who joins.
- Don’t use zoom to share passwords or other confidential information.
- Consider turning off cloud recording, or set it, so only the meeting host has access.
- Limit screen sharing to only the host.
- Consider anti-tracking software to control how Zoom, or other apps, share your information.
- Send meeting requests directly to participants. Don’t share them publicly.
- Zoom is adding security fixes often, so make sure you’re using the latest version.
- Set remote work/IT policies to require that Zoom is configured as securely as possible.
Zoom has other security suggestions on a blog post.
While all of these steps can help, many cybersecurity experts are advising anyone with especially sensitive data or conversations to consider a more secure alternative.
Microsoft Teams: This service is included in all Office 365 subscriptions. If you haven’t taken advantage of this new chat and video conferencing software from Microsoft, it may already be a part of your software license.
Apple FaceTime: If security is paramount for your discussion, Apple’s FaceTime service offers video conferencing for up to 32 individuals, with all communication featuring end-to-end encryption. Not even Apple has access to the data communicated through its service. However, all employees must have an Apple device (Mac, iPad, or iPhone).
Google Duo or Google Hangouts: This service is included with all G-Suite business licenses. While it may not feature end-to-end encryption, it offers (via a transparent user interface) many of the privacy features users are looking for Zoom currently lacks.
Cisco WebEx and GoToMeeting: These video chat applications have been around for many years, and each offers a different set of robust features similar to those provided by Zoom.