June Tips

Take Control of Your Money With a Financial Cleanse

“Cleansing” has become very popular in recent years. We’re benefiting from cleansing our diets, our closets, our desks and even our computer files. But what about our finances? Research shows that financial stress can negatively affect our health, career and relationships. Could a financial cleanse have a similar positive effect on your life?

Whether your motivation is to increase your retirement savings, reduce debt or just avoid living paycheck to paycheck, this four-week financial cleanse will help you clear out all the junk from your accounts and replace it with healthy spending and saving habits.

Week 1: Track Everything

Your goal for the first week is to figure out where every dollar is going. It sounds tedious, but you’ll be surprised at what you find. In addition to your regular monthly bills, look closely at your day-to-day expenses, like lunches out, morning coffee, date nights and impulse purchases.

This first week is also the time to develop a permanent tracking system for your money. Use a notebook, spreadsheet, or one of the many finance apps available for your smartphone or computer. Whatever works best for you. You’ll also need to create a permanent budget, but that will come in week four.

Week 2: Reduce Where You Can

You made it through the first week, and you’re probably surprised at some of the things you spend your money on. This week, it’s time to review all your spending and cut out what you can.

Look at the list of your spending and separate purchases into “need to have” and “want to have.” You may even need to include a “What the heck was I thinking?” category. That’s OK! Once you have all your spending categorized, challenge yourself to eliminate as many recurring discretional purchases as you can. Start small, like morning coffee on the way to work. Make coffee at home and bring it with you instead. Sure, that might only save you $10 or $15, but like they say, every journey starts with the first step.

Week 3: Set Your Goals

You’re halfway through the cleanse! Feeling any “lighter” yet? This week is all about setting your financial goals. You’ve been focusing on specific spending; now let’s look at the big picture. It’s time to set some goals. Set both short- and long-term goals, and make sure they are realistic and achievable.

Week 4: Create a Budget

You know what you’re spending money on, and you’ve set your financial goals. Now the fun part! It’s time to build a monthly budget that reflects what you’ve learned about your spending and the goals you want to achieve.

There are a lot of tools, including apps, software, websites and paper, available to help you. Choose what works best for you. You can also visit the First Nebraska Bank Financial Education Center to find more helpful information, including our online monthly budgeting tool.

You’re now on the way to building positive money habits! The key to making this financial cleanse effective, is to stick with it. Review your budget daily at first, then weekly and monthly to make sure you’re on track to reach your goals. You will probably have to adjust the budget from time to time, especially the first few months.

If you have any questions, or would like help reviewing your finances and goals, we’d love to help. Make an appointment with a financial expert at one of our 10 locations, and we’ll help keep you on track to achieving your financial goals.

Is Your Password Secure Enough? It Depends

“I’m sorry, but your password must be at least 12 characters long, contain at least one upper-case letter, two numbers, one special character and two hieroglyphics. You cannot use any passwords you have used anywhere in the last 20 years, and it cannot contain any letters found in your name, your mother’s name or the name of your postal carrier. Don’t worry, creating a valid password will get easier with practice. And you’ll get plenty of practice because your password will expire in 10 days.”

OK, that might be exaggerating. A little. Online passwords have become a necessary but cumbersome part of our daily lives as we struggle to maintain our security and privacy. As hacking tools advance, password requirements have become more complex in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Is there a point at which the increased complexity of our passwords is no longer effective against those who want to steal them? The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believes there is a point, and that we’ve reached it. Paul Grassi, a senior advisor at NIST sums it up this way: “The traditional guidance is actually producing passwords that are easy for bad guys and hard for legitimate users.”

Will Password Requirements Become Less Cumbersome?

To give you a little background: The NIST is a federal agency that works within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission is to advance standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security. Although the NIST does not create regulations, its guidelines become best-practice recommendations across the security industry.

The newest NIST guidelines are somewhat surprising. They recommend less complex passwords, without special characters or a mix of lower and uppercase letters. They prefer simple, long and memorable phrases instead. Grassi said, “If you can picture it in your head, and no one else can, that’s a good password.”

He also said that being forced to change your password every 90 days is not effective. “I’m pretty sure you’re not changing your entire password; you’re shifting one character,” he said. “Everyone does that, and the bad guys know it.”

For now, the new NIST guidelines are meant only for low-risk accounts. Accounts that contain financial information or other sensitive data will still be required to use traditional password standards.

It’s encouraging to see that we might be moving toward more user-friendly password standards, but it will be a while before they can be used with your most secure accounts.

First Nebraska Bank, while intrigued with this new trend, will continue to use the strictest password standards to maximize your personal and financial security.