August 14, 2023 Weekly Update

We do love it when someone refers a family member or friend to us.  Sometimes the question is, “How can we introduce them to you?”   Well, there are multiple ways but a very easy way is to simply forward them a link to this webpage.

Here are this week’s items:

Portfolio Update:  Murs and I have recorded our portfolio update for August 14, 2023

This Week’s Podcast – Protecting Against Cybersecurity Threats

Listen in to learn the importance of having strong and complex passwords for your home and office networks and avoid using one password for multiple sites. You will also learn the importance of being mindful when opening emails, using public Wi-Fi, sending sensitive data, and more to avoid cyber-attacks.


This Week’s Blog – Protecting Against Cybersecurity Threats

Cybersecurity threats are a major threat to your retirement planning. Thirty or more years ago, protecting against cybersecurity threats wasn’t an issue. Today, institutes are hacked, data is leaked, and it can put your retirement at risk as a result.

We don’t want this episode to scare any of our listeners. Instead, we want to empower you by providing the steps that you need to take to secure your retirement against a potential cyberattack.

Protecting Against Cybersecurity Threats

Cybersecurity threats are a major threat to your retirement planning. Thirty or more years ago, protecting against cybersecurity threats wasn’t an issue. Today, institutes are hacked, data is leaked, and it can put your retirement at risk as a result.

We don’t want this episode to scare any of our listeners. Instead, we want to empower you by providing the steps that you need to take to secure your retirement against a potential cyberattack.

Understanding Our Obligation to Clients as a Financial Advisor

Before we dive deep into how you can protect against cybersecurity threats, we must mention that as a financial advisor, we must do everything in our power to protect our clients and ourselves.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that, as financial advisors, we’re always being trained to ensure that we protect our clients against cybersecurity attacks to the best of our ability.

Unfortunately, there are always risks of cyber threats, but we can make it a big challenge for hackers. We know that if you follow the keys steps below, you will not be an easy target for hackers that would love to obtain your information or gain access to your accounts. Using the following list can help you remain safe on the internet.

14 Steps to Protecting Against Cybersecurity Threats

1. Create a Different Password for Each Site That You Use

Passwords are the gateway to your email, social, banking, retirement and other financial accounts. If you have a weak password, it can easily be cracked using a brute force attack. However, and more importantly, you want your password to be:

  • Long and include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and a special character
  • Different for all sites that you use


Imagine someone figuring out your Facebook account’s password and then they look through your account settings, find your email address and try logging into your email account. If the passwords are the same, they’ll now have access to your email and can request password reset links and take over many accounts at once.

If you’re like most people and know it’s going to be a real challenge to remember passwords for dozens of websites, you can use what is known as a password manager. A few options are:

  • LastPass
  • 1Password
  • Bitwarden
  • NordPass

On top of having a unique password for all your accounts, we do recommend changing your passwords every 30 days and at the very least, once a year.

If an institute gets compromised, changing your password every quarter, six months, or when a site asks you to will help protect you if a leak does occur. 

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

If a site offers two-factor authentication, enable it. Why? 

Two-factor authentication takes time to get used to, but it adds an extremely powerful level of protection to your account. We like using text messages for authentication because that means the person would need to hack your phone in person, which is extremely unlikely.

 You’ll need to:

  • Put your password into a site
  • Verify it’s you through a text message, email or application that sends you a code that changes every time

You’ll still need to redo your password every six months. These two simple steps go above and beyond in terms of assurance that you have as low of a risk of having your account compromised as possible.

3. Keep Software and Devices Updated

All your Internet-connected devices should be updated as soon as a patch or update is available. Keeping your PC, mobile phone, tablets, laptops, and other internet connected electronics updated ensures that your device has the latest software, which may add useful features, but more importantly often eliminates bugs and security holes.

4. Beware of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks have been around since the creation of email, yet they still accounted for 40% of breaches in 2022. Be aware of phishing emails and social media messages.

The hacker will be “phishing” for information and even include dangerous links that load a virus onto your device. Hackers will make the email look like it’s official and from:

  • Friends or family
  • Financial institutions
  • USPS, FedEx, or other delivery services

Some hackers will even send you a text with one of these links. Do not click on those links. Instead, go to the official website and see if there’s an issue. Amazon emails and texts are one of the most faked and they often say there was a “problem with your delivery,” along with some sort of link for you to click.

Log into your Amazon account to confirm there’s a problem because these links are often malicious.

NOTE: The IRS will never contact you via e-mail or text.

5. Secure Your Home Network

For a moment, consider all the devices that you have logged into your home network. Your Wi-Fi, router, Nest (ecobee), Alexa devices, cameras, and so on connect to your home network. Smart devices can be hacked.

You want to have strong, unique passwords on your router and change to a high-end encryption when available.

6. Be Mindful of Public Wi-Fi

We learned about this issue from a cybersecurity professional that we talked to in the past. You may log into a public Wi-Fi at Starbucks, hotel, or at the airport, but the hacker can create a Wi-Fi that they control that allows them to access your information.

This hack is a little more advanced. Imagine that a hacker sitting in Starbucks creates a Wi-Fi name “Starbucks Guest,” and you log into it. Now, they can filter your traffic and gain access to your accounts.

If the Wi-Fi requires a password, it’s often encrypted and safe. However, if you can log into the Wi-Fi without a password, this is where the real risks exist. 

7. Backup Important Data Regularly

Important files can become corrupt, you may delete them, or someone else may access them. You may also lose a device with important files. You can and should backup your data regularly. There are options to do this offline, but most people use a cloud service or something like:

  • Dropbox
  • Carbonite
  • Box
  • OneDrive
  • Amazon Cloud Drive
  • iCloud 

Regular backups will also help preserve data if you fall victim to ransomware.

8. Educate Yourself

Spend time educating yourself on recent advancements in cybersecurity. A little education can go a long way in helping you protect against new attacks that may circumvent old security measures.

9. Secure Social Media Accounts

More than half of the world’s population is on social media – that’s a lot of people. You want to secure your:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter (X)

Navigate to your account’s settings and adjust your privacy settings. Some people put a lot of information on their social media accounts, and a hacker or thief can use this information to exploit you in some way.

For example, there are stories of people posting vacation pictures on a public social media account, and a thief finds their house number and breaks into their home. You can avoid this by strengthening the privacy settings on your account and posting less identifying information about yourself.

10. Encrypt Sensitive Data

Encryption is a bit of a complex topic for anyone who isn’t tech-savvy, so we recommend a simple approach: avoid sending sensitive data online. If you call us and ask us to send you a statement, we won’t send it directly via email because it’s risky.

Using secure financial portals that are encrypted is an option, but you can install encryption on your devices, too.

In the body of your email, never ever send:

  • Account information
  • Password
  • Identifying information 

11. Secure Mobile Devices

If you’re on your cell phone playing with apps, talking to your grandkids or spouse, there’s a good chance that you have a lot of sensitive data on your device. We recommend adding a layer of security to access your smartphone and mobile devices, such as:

  • Pin number
  • Password 
  • Biometric face recognition
  • Thumbprint

Securing your phone so that you’re the only one who can use it is very important. We also recommend setting up the “Find my Phone” setting on the phone so that you can remotely erase data on the phone and locate it if it has been stolen.

12. Limit Access to Personal Information

If someone asks you to provide personal information, such as your name, address, or date of birth, be very cautious when providing this information. While this information may not be enough to do anything too malicious to your account, anything else may be a security risk.

Hackers will take this information and use it to try to find more, to learn as much as they can about you.

Unless you know the person that you are talking to and can verify it’s them, be very cautious of providing any information. Hackers may even call you with scary news, such as “your grandchild Stephanie has been in a car accident, and we need your credit card information on file.”

Instead, be cautious of these calls, texts, or messages and be 100% positive that you know the person you’re giving your information to on the phone, in email, via text or so on.

13. Use Secure Browsing Practices

Be wary about information that you send online and be sure to use safe browsing practices. For example, you’ll want to:

  1. Visit only trusted websites
  2. Look for the “https” in the website URL
  3. Be wary of pop-up ads
  4. Don’t download anything from unofficial sources

14. Regularly Review Account Activity

A regular review of the activity on your account will help you:

  • Identify if an account is compromised
  • Freeze accounts before serious damage occurs

If you go six months without reviewing your accounts and information, you risk allowing someone to steal your data for this length of time.

While we covered a lot in this article (you can listen to the podcast here), it’s important to go through each step one at a time. Following these simple steps will help you protect your data and identity online.

Click here to view our recent books on securing your retirement.

Cybersecurity 101: How to Secure Your Financial Accounts, Phone and Email

Are you trying to secure your retirement? If so, a lot of clients we have are majorly concerned about cybersecurity. In an instant, a hacker can get into your bank account, transfer your savings over to their own accounts and leave you to pick up the pieces.

These individuals or groups may also hijack your email account and try mailing your financial advisor to make changes to your portfolio or give them access to your accounts. Additionally, someone can log into a retail account and rack up a ton of debt.

In our recent podcast, we had the opportunity to sit down with Nick Espinosa, CEO of Security Fanatics, a cybersecurity expert, to ask him a lot of questions to help protect our clients. Nick has worked with Fortune 100 companies and small businesses. He is a writer and even has Ted Talks where he teaches people about cybersecurity.

And he was more than willing to share some knowledge with our audience.

How to Keep Your Data Safe When Shopping Online

Shopping online is something a lot of people do. It’s a lot easier to go on Amazon and simply order a new pair of pants. However, in the middle of these transactions, you put a lot of trust in a third party that now has access to your credit or debit card information.

How can you stay safe when shopping online?

Nick claims it’s a “loaded question.” Everyone is online, and the pandemic accelerated online shopping and even working from home. The best way to protect yourself is awareness. Technology is constantly innovating, but the threats out there to steal your information or gain access to your accounts are also accelerating with its own technology.

A few questions to ask are:

  • What happens if someone breaks into your phone?
  • What happens if someone gains access to your computer?
  • What information would be found on these devices?

For most people, a lot of information may be accessible in these situations, and maybe you even saved passwords to the device, opening up a treasure trove of data to a hacker.

Protecting against these threats requires some diligence.

Enable Encryption or Set It Up

If someone steals your PC or phone, encryption ensures that they cannot read any of the data on the device. Unfortunately, a pin code isn’t enough to stop someone from potentially accessing files on these electronic devices.

Late-model iPhones and Android devices have automatic encryption, but it doesn’t work well with pin codes.

It’s easy to clone a phone and continually try cracking the pin code.

Instead, you want to use:

  • Long passwords
  • Biometrics, such as thumbprint

If you use these advanced security settings, you’ll encrypt your phone using a method that is very difficult or impossible to break.

Storing Passwords in a Password Manager

Many people rely on password managers because we know that people shouldn’t reuse their passwords across sites. Password managers can help you manage site passwords by:

  • Generating very secure passwords
  • Remembering the passwords for each site
  • Storing passwords using encryption

However, many password managers also synchronize across devices, so the passwords are available on your smartphone, PC, etc.

Hackers are working to break into these password managers because they’re a treasure trove of data. One thing to understand is that if you do use a password manager and there’s an update available for it, download the update immediately.

A security flaw may be the main reason for the update, and if you say, “Well, I’ll update that later,” you’re inviting hackers to steal your information.

Two-factor Authenticator

Two-factor authentication is changing the way people secure their accounts. Using this authenticator adds an extra layer of protection to your account, making it exponentially safer.

Hackers are lazy, and they will go after low-hanging fruit to hack.

Enabling multi-factor authentication requires you to verify the person logging into your account is you. Even if a hacker knows your password, without having access to your phone or wherever the authentication is received, they can’t get into your account.

Threat Detection Systems

A threat detection system sounds so advanced, but it’s crucial to realize that you have a minicomputer in your pocket if you have a smartphone. Your mobile devices are powerful, and they need the same protection as your PC:

  • Antivirus 
  • Antimalware
  • Anti-phishing
  • Etc.

We’re downloading things all the time. However, it’s easy to infect someone on Facebook or Twitter because these platforms do not actively scan files we upload to friends. It’s as simple as a hacker sending a blurry image of you from your mom’s Facebook account, asking if it’s you and then infecting you when you open the image.

The image may even be a doctored image of you, so you would reply, “Yes, awesome picture, mom,” and not realize that your smartphone is now infected with a virus.

Protecting Against a Phishing Scam

Phishing can take on many forms. For example, a Nigerian Prince may email you stating they have millions of dollars they want to transfer to you. Of course, most people are aware of these types of scams and will not fall for them, although some people still lose their entire retirement in these schemes.

There is also something called “spearfishing,” and Nick sees this often in the corporate and individual world.

The main problem retirees face is that they didn’t grow up with the technology that we have today. Nick claims that the vast majority of phishing victims are over age 60 and are the main target of hackers.


Let’s use an example. A hacker starts looking through someone’s email and sees that this person is a 22-year-old male named Johnny. As it turns out, Johnny often sends emails to his grandmother, and she’s the perfect target for phishing.

The hacker may use Johnny’s email to:

  • Send an email to grandma
  • Craft a story about how he’s stranded in London, and someone stole his wallet
  • Grandma sends the money

Grandparents will do anything for their grandchildren, and since grandma knows Johnny is in London, she doesn’t even realize that the mail may be from a hacker. Verifying that the person sending an email is real is as simple as picking up the phone and calling Johnny on his usual phone number.

If you call Johnny, you’re using two-factor authentication to verify that Johnny is really in trouble and can send him money.

Phishing can also happen on fake forms online. For example, someone may own, and the site looks exactly like the real Amazon. However, when you type on your account information, it may redirect to Amazon, and you don’t realize anything was amiss.

The problem is that the hacker captured all of the form information and can now access your Amazon account and make purchases.

Sometimes, there’s an infection on a smartphone or PC. When you’re on your device and on Facebook, a pop-up may appear on the screen that says, “Call 1800 scamm-me.” You call, and the person steals your information.

Additionally, someone may text you from Bank of America saying there’s an issue with your account, so you click on the link and don’t realize it’s not a legitimate one. In this case, it’s crucial to call the bank yourself or log into your account by going to the official site yourself and verifying that there’s an issue with your account.

It’s far too easy to recreate a site, create this sense of an urgent problem with your account and fall into the grasp of a hacker who wants nothing more than to hack into your bank account. You need to do your due diligence to keep your information safe when logging into your bank account or receiving emails.

The key to keeping yourself safe online is to educate yourself and don’t make it easy for hackers to hack you. Use complex passwords and two-factor authentication, and always verify that the person mailing you for money is actually the person you want to help.

A healthy retirement is one that you actually get to enjoy. If you’ve worked hard, did everything right and then lost everything in an instant, it would be a horrible feeling. Focusing on your cybersecurity and just following the basics above will protect your retirement from hackers.

If you’re saving for retirement and want expert advice, schedule a call with us to see how we can help.