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Resolve to improve your financial life

Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success.

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Photo by Joshua Hoehne from Unsplash.com

Counting calories isn’t the only way you can resolve to bring about positive change in your life. If you’re like many people, it may be a good time to start counting your way toward better financial health.

The past year brought financial setbacks to nearly all. In fact, many say the current quality of their financial lives are worse than they hoped. In 2017, topping the list of setbacks were transportation issues (23%), housing repairs or maintenance (20%), and the inability to keep up with debt and falling behind on bill payments (16%). Arguably, COVID-19 worsened everything.

“We continue to see a lot of anxiety about money,” said Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “Three-quarters of (people) said something causes them financial stress, and it’s most often not saving enough and debt that are to blame.”

Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success from the experts at NEFE:

1. Get debt under control.

Take a hard look at what you owe. If there’s a clear warning sign of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt load next year by 5-10%. That might mean reducing impulse shopping. When you face temptation, delay the purchase and give yourself time to consider whether it’s a wise move that fits within your budget.

2. Save now and do so often.

Preparing for unexpected events like medical emergencies can help reduce the financial impact of a life-changing event. Emergency savings can offset unexpected costs and help you get back on solid footing. A good rule of thumb is to have 6-9 months of income set aside. If that feels out of reach, start with a smaller goal, even as little as $500. When it comes to saving, it’s also a smart idea to think long term. Review your long-term savings and ensure they are on target for your retirement plans.

3. Shop for better services.

You may be surprised by how much you can save when you periodically shop for the most competitive rates on your recurring bills. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value on your insurance policies, cell phone plan, internet and utilities. Ask your providers about current rates and any promotions available to long-time, loyal customers. Then look at alternative providers to determine where you can trim some spending. Be sure to understand your current offering thoroughly so that you are comparing apples to apples.

4. Understand what’s behind your financial decisions.

If you ever wonder why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making.

Consider taking the LifeValues Quiz at smartaboutmoney.org, where you can also find help with setting goals and getting your finances in order.

Budget Better

To take control of your money and your financial life, it’s important to get organized. The most effective tool is a budget. Creating a budget can help you meet personal goals such as buying a house or car, or taking a vacation. It also can help you prepare for emergencies and manage debt.

Income: Start by listing all income sources, including wages, bonuses and tips, as well as non-employer income such as child support, alimony or Social Security. Generally, you’ll want to look at your recurring income, but also include long-range, infrequent income that you anticipate, such as tax refunds.

Expenses: Next, take into account all of your recurring monthly bills. If you have major periodic expenses, such as a six-month auto insurance premium, account for it in monthly increments so you can save up and have the money ready when the payment comes due. Remember to account for the bills you pay (mortgage or rent, utilities, etc.), as well as unspecified items like lawn maintenance and personal hygiene purchases.

Categorize Spending: Some people find it helpful to break expenses into categories, such as housing, transportation, health, personal, entertainment and so on. The key is to capture every point where money is going out so you can get a thorough picture of your ongoing expenditures. It can take a couple months to get a true understanding of what your typical spending looks like.

Savings: An effective budget doesn’t just capture what’s going out; it also reflects what you’re able to keep. If you haven’t already, outline a savings plan that allows for an emergency fund, regular savings, retirement and investments.

Debt: Consistently paying down the accounts you owe with the maximum amount you can afford is the surest way to reduce your debt load. Account for each debt you owe in your budget, and establish a payment plan that shows how much you can allocate to each account each month.

Strategies

Tips to achieve healthy headspaces for a productive workplace

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty.

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The world’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working remotely is a challenging setup in the quarantine economy, as employees struggle to balance work and personal life. Moreover, uncertainty and isolation during the pandemic have caused various physical and mental health problems among employees. 

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty. In a recent webinar entitled “Leap Forward” hosted by Eastern Communications, key opinion leaders gathered to discuss ways on how productivity can be boosted in today’s work from home setup. 

Prioritize employee well-being

Cat Trivino, MindNation Chief Marketing Officer, shared that companies that make the well-being of their employees a top priority not only create a healthier workplace but also produce a happier and more productive workforce.

According to Premier Value Provider’s Employee Mental Health survey in 2020, the highest levels of critical stress (31%), anxiety (47%), and depression (46%) were recorded during May 2020 and this was most prevalent among the younger workforce. 

“Normalize conversations around mental health and overall wellbeing, as well as advocate self-care. Seeking help during this time is important because we get to put to practice that empathy that the world so badly needs, and you need to practice that with your team. Make sure that they feel that openness and that trust to talk about these things,” she added.

A mentally healthy workforce in general will not only improve productivity but also boost employee morale and retention. 

Utilize digital tools for seamless and easy collaboration

Part of helping employees when it comes to their well-being is also giving them convenient yet efficient ways to collaborate while working from home. According to Diana Montes, Eastern Communications’ Strategic Manager, facilitating seamless communication and easy collaboration in the workplace can decrease stress levels.

Based on her experience, integrated tools like cloud-based solutions help in the effectiveness and well-being of a workforce. They also maximize the use of these collaboration apps by staying connected even for non-work-related activities.

“Here at Eastern, we’re quite grateful that even before the pandemic hit, our systems for productivity and collaboration were readily in place. So essentially, we just transferred physical meetings, discussions, and consultations virtually,” she said.

Montes also recommends using a project management tool or planner app to monitor the progress and overall productivity of the entire team on a certain project. Everyone involved has visibility and this way they can prioritize projects that need more assistance.  

“I also receive reports about the amount of time I spend using these collaboration tools and it gives me a notion of when to take on more work or slow down. This helps very much since like I said, sometimes we just lose sight of how much work we’ve already been doing at a particular period,” she added. 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of developing an overall strategy that puts employees’ well-being first. Through Eastern Communications’ Leap Forward series, businesses are able to learn digital solutions and strategies from experts that will ensure business continuity while supporting the health and morale of the team.

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Strategies

In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be?

New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

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Photo by @chromatograph from Unsplash.com

In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be? New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

Whether you’re buying a house, a car, or second-hand furniture, it’s likely you will need to negotiate the price, so being able to negotiate effectively could save you significant cash.

Behavioral economist Professor Lionel Page from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said opening offers in real-world negotiations are sometimes intended to signal the “toughness” of the buyer – but whether this strategy actually works was not known.

“This experiment allowed us to study whether and how the level of the opening offer influences the beliefs of buyers and sellers, their actions and the final bargaining outcome,” said Professor Page.

The researchers conducted the experiment using a bargaining game where players exchanged offers for a split of $10. The aim was to mimic the start of a typical negotiation process.

They found that the success or failure of a negotiation depended not only on the final offer on the table but also on the emerging dynamics of the bargaining process.

“The intermediary offers made during a negotiation can be interpreted as suggesting either kind and compromising intentions, or unkind and uncompromising ones,” said Professor Page.

“And the perception of these intentions can, in turn, influence the final outcome. Low offers are perceived as disrespectful, so players react negatively and can be spiteful in their counter-offers.

“In a substantial number of cases, the responder chose a ‘‘punishing’’ counter-offer that was lower than what he believed was the buyer’s minimum acceptable amount,” he said.

This means it is not the best strategy to always be as tough as possible in a negotiation.

Previously there has been two conflicting views on first offers in negotiations, said Professor Page.

One view is that a low opening offer works as an “anchor” that moves the final offer in the direction of the first offer.

The second is that a more reasonable initial offer achieves a better outcome because it doesn’t sour the atmosphere and endanger the agreement.

Professor Page said their study showed support for both these ideas.

“We found that there is a small window where an offer is lower than an equal split, but not so low that it triggers negative emotions. It was viewed as ‘fair game’ to start the negotiation at this point.”

So in summary to strike a good bargain your opening offer needs to be not too hard, or you risk a spiteful counter-offer, but not too soft either, or you might be taken for a ride.

The study: Driving a hard bargain is a balancing act: how social preferences constrain the negotiation process, by Professor Lionel Page and Dr Yola Engler was recently published in the journal Theory and Decision.

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Strategies

5 Practical ways to keep your finances safer online

Kaspersky’s fresh data for Q2 2021 showed a 60% increase in mobile banking Trojan attacks blocked in the region versus same period last year.

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Photo by Blake Wisz from Unsplash.com

Kaspersky reveals its Q2 2021 mobile threat report for Southeast Asia (SEA) where it has monitored a 60% uptick in the number of attacks using malicious mobile bankers detected and blocked in the region. 

Mobile banking Trojans – or bankers – are used by cybercriminals to steal funds directly from mobile bank accounts. These malicious programs typically look like legitimate financial apps, but when a victim enters their security credentials to try to access their bank account, the attackers gain access to that private information.

Overall, since the beginning of 2021, Kaspersky products have foiled 708 incidents across six countries in SEA. This is already 50% of the total number of mobile bankers blocked in 2020 which was 1,408.

Indonesia and Vietnam logged the most number of incidents during the first half of the year. However, globally, the two countries are not among the top 10 countries affected by this threat. Vietnam is only 27th and Indonesia is 31st as of June this year.

The five countries with the most number of mobile banking Trojan detections in Q2 2021 are Russia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, and France.

*Mobile banking Trojans attacks detected from users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the country

While the number of mobile banking Trojan attacks in SEA remains low, 367 incidents from April to June 2021 versus 230 detections during the same period last year, the continuing pandemic continues to force users to start using mobile payment systems.

“We are almost at the second year of the pandemic which has fast tracked the mobile payment adoption in the region at a breakneck speed. During the beginning of this health crisis, our survey already showed that the majority of internet users here have shifted finance-related activities online, like shopping (64%) and banking (47%),” comments Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

The same survey revealed that seven in 10 (69%) are worried about conducting financial transactions online and 42% of the respondents admitted to being afraid about someone accessing their financial details through their devices.

In addition, another Kaspersky report titled “Making Sense of Our Place in the Digital Reputation Economy” discovered that the majority (76%) of 861 respondents from SEA confirmed their intent to keep their money-related data away from the internet. The sentiment is highest among Baby Boomers (85%), followed by Gen X (81%), and Millennials (75%).

“Clearly, there is an awareness about the threats present when we do banking and payment transactions through our mobile phones. But there is still a gap between knowing and acting on it. So to help users from SEA embrace the power of their smartphone and also keep their finances safe, we suggest some practical tips but also encourage everyone to please look into using security solutions as a safety net in case they accidentally clicked a malicious link or downloaded a rogue mobile banking application,” adds Yeo.

Here are some practical tips from Kaspersky which you can do to beef up your money’s safety online:

1. Get a temporary credit card

Cyber criminals have developed incredibly sophisticated techniques and malware that can sometimes thwart your best efforts for safe online shopping. As another level of security for safe online shopping, you can use a temporary credit card to make online purchases, in lieu of your regular credit card. Ask your credit card company if you can be issued a temporary credit card number.

Just remember to avoid using these types of credit cards for any purchases that require auto-renewal or regular payments.

If a temporary credit card is not possible, an alternative is to use a credit card with a low credit limit.

2. Dedicate a computer to online banking and shopping

If you have more than one computer, it may be wise to dedicate one for online banking and shopping only. By avoiding using the computer for any other Internet browsing, downloading, checking email, social networking, and other online activities, you effectively create a ‘clean’ computer that is totally free of computer viruses and any other infections. For added security for safe online shopping, install Google Chrome, with forced HTTPS. This ensures you are visiting only secure websites.

3. Use a dedicated email address

Create an email address that you will use only for online shopping. This will severely limit the amount of spam messages you receive and significantly reduce the risk of opening potentially malicious emails that are disguised as sales promotions or other notifications.

4. Manage and protect your online passwords

Using strong passwords and using a different password for each online account is one of the most important things you can do for safe online shopping. We know it can be difficult to remember so many different passwords, especially when they are composed of numerous letters, numbers, and special characters. But you can use a password manager to aid you in keeping strong passwords for multiple accounts.

5. Use a VPN

If you absolutely must shop online while using public Wi-Fi, first install a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN will encrypt all data that is transferred between your computer or mobile device and the VPN server, preventing hackers from hijacking and viewing any sensitive data you input.

In the Philippines, Kaspersky endpoint solutions like Kaspersky Total Security (KTS) that have a password manager and  VPN features is currently included in its 9.9 promos in Shopee and Lazada.  Filipino customers can enjoy up to 50% discount.

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