Category Archives: Personal Finance Article

7 Fun and Frugal Valentine’s Day Activities for Singles

Sure, we all know that Valentine’s Day is a contrived holiday, manufactured by the greeting card companies. But that doesn’t mean that you want to be excluded from it just because you’re unattached – especially if you’re newly single. The truth is that even if you feel like the only kid in class to not get a heart-shaped card, you can take back the day.

Being single on Valentine’s Day is a bonus for frugal fun-lovers. You don’t have to splash out on pricey fixed-price dinners at overcrowded restaurants or break the bank on expensive bling for someone else.

It’s just you, and you can make it a day to show your love for all kinds of significant others, or indulge in some much-needed self-care. Check out these seven ideas for celebrating single-style without blowing your budget.

1. Host a game night. Share the love with your single pals by inviting them over for some frugal festivities. Ask everyone to bring a drink or snack – and the most ridiculous gift they can find for under $10. Think heart-eyed emoji slippers, prank rubber chocolates or anything in a snow globe. Give a small prize for the most hideous.

Then settle in for a friendly game of low-stakes poker or Exploding Kittens. Or make a drinking game of watching “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” Every time someone says “amazing,” “journey” or “dramatic,” you take a sip of your drink.

2. Try something new. Forget about wallowing over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or crying into your beer. Get out and have a mini-adventure. Trying activities you’ve never done before helps distract you from any left-out feelings you may be having, while expanding your horizons. It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top bucket-list item, so long as you’re outside of your comfort zone.

Find a new trail to hike or cross-country ski. Check out that offbeat museum you’ve been meaning to visit. Or take a free class in photography, camp cooking or salsa dancing. You might even make some new connections that could lead to lasting friendships.

3. Watch a movie marathon. Celebrate the fact that you don’t have to share the remote with a partner. Gather friends or enjoy a solo night with the couch all to yourself. Choose a theme, pop some popcorn and then let the film fest begin. Watch a bunch of “Star Wars” movies, binge on bro-mantic comedies or get your blood pumping with a handful of horror flicks. Just stay away from sappy romance films. Those can be scarier than “Saw II” on Valentine’s Day night.

4. Head out. There’s nothing like a night out with friends to help you forget Cupid and appreciate the freedom that comes from being unattached. Skip the candlelit restaurants and share some plates at a cheap Chinese joint or greasy spoon. Then head to a fun place where the couples-based marketing is at a minimum: your favorite dive bar, a minor-league hockey game or your local bowling alley or pool hall. Make a friendly wager over the game: Whoever loses has to divulge their most embarrassing moment or belt out a cheesy song.

If you want to be around a whole community of like-minded people, plenty of venues cater to singles ready to paint the town any color but red. Set a budget, then check your local listings for drink specials, scavenger hunts, anti-Valentine’s Day poetry slams or anything else that celebrates your singledom.

5. Have a DIY spa night. Snuggle in with your best single pal and give each other home facials, try new hairstyles or colors and paint your nails an outrageous hue. You’ll feel pampered and privileged without emptying your purse.

6. Give it away. Know a widow or widower, a shut-in or just someone who’s lonely? This day can be especially hard for them. Reach out and connect. Share a box of chocolates and some jokes, or help them with a home repair.

Or volunteer to help at the local soup kitchen or nursing home. There’s nothing like seeing others less fortunate than you to put your own life in perspective. And you’ll get the kind of warm fuzzies an overpriced bottle of champagne could never bring.

7. Enjoy some puppy love. As anyone who’s ever watched an internet video knows, there’s nothing like an adorable pet to instantly lift your mood. Spend some time enjoying the unconditional affection of your tail-wagging best friend, whether it’s with an extra-long walk or some overdue grooming.

If you don’t have a dog (or cat) of your own, offer to pet sit for a friend while they’re on a date. Or take it a step further and volunteer at the local shelter. It’s a great way to test whether you’re ready to commit to a long-term animal relationship.

5 Ways to Make Room in Your Budget to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is a familiar burden to Americans. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are carrying credit card debt or have had it in the past, according to a new NerdWallet survey. And that debt isn’t cheap. Households that regularly carry credit card debt pay an average of about $1,300 a year in interest on that debt.

If you want to get out of debt fast – and who wouldn’t? – you need to free up more money in your budget to put toward your balances. Basic personal finance advice calls for canceling (or shrinking) your cable package and brown-bagging your lunches to save money. Those kinds of small changes are definitely a good start. However, the most effective way to make room in your budget is to focus on major elements of that budget: income, housing, transportation, education and medical costs.

1. Increase your income. To come up with more money to pay off debt, you can spend less or make more. A lot of the advice you see focuses only on the spending side, especially since many people doubt that they can squeeze more money out of their current job. But nothing says your day job is the only way to make more money.

If you’re an hourly employee, put in for overtime, if possible. If you’re salaried, pick up a second job on nights and weekends. Use your skills to make money on the side writing or designing, doing carpentry or odd jobs, house-sitting, pet-sitting or babysitting, tutoring or consulting – the list goes on. Sell your crafts, if it’s something people want. Or sell things taking up space in your home on Craigslist or eBay.

The point is that there are many ways to bring in extra cash to help pay off your credit card debt. Consider your skills and available time and brainstorm how to make extra money in a way that makes sense for you. After that, you can start thinking about how to cut costs.

2. Downsize your housing or get paid to host others. Housing is the largest expense in many budgets, and people tend to treat it as a fixed cost, or one that never changes. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. If you’re a renter, explore options for downsizing when your lease is up. If you’re a homeowner, consider whether you have more house than you need, and whether your interest rate is higher than market rates. A sale, or even just a refinance at a lower rate, could translate into hundreds in savings each month.

Another option: renting out a room in your house, either long term or through a short-term rental service like Airbnb. Check whether your city has any restrictions on room-sharing. It isn’t a legal option everywhere.

3. Get where you’re going cheaper. Vehicles have costs regardless of whether you’re driving them, but it’s significantly cheaper to drive your car less, so it’s worth minimizing your drive time. Save on gas, insurance and maintenance by ditching your car entirely to walk, take public transportation or bike – whatever is realistic for your lifestyle.

If you live in a large city where space comes at a premium and you don’t have a vehicle, you may even be able to rent out your parking space, if your home has one. Again, check your area’s restrictions.

4. Same education, lower costs. You can make schooling cheaper without lowering the quality of that education. If you, your spouse or a child is in school, look into scholarships and grants. It’s a common assumption that scholarships are only for the best students, but there are plenty of need-based scholarships available, too. Look for scholarships online and ask your school’s financial aid office about those offered directly by the school.

Each year, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form that determines whether you qualify for federal loans and grants and how much you qualify for. Federal student loans often have better terms than private loans, and grants don’t have to be repaid. Meanwhile, some merit-based scholarships require that you have filled out the FAFSA, even if you weren’t planning on applying for aid. Basic rule of thumb: Don’t turn down free money. It doesn’t come along that often.

5. Lower your medical costs without compromising your health. We don’t recommend bargain shopping for medical care. However, if your employer offers a flexible spending account or health savings account option, you can put money away to pay for health care tax-free. Keep in mind, though, that while HSA money can be rolled over from one year to the next, FSA funds are typically “use it or lose it” each year. Also, both accounts have maximum contribution limits.

If you incur medical expenses, try to avoid paying with a high-interest credit card. You may be able to set up a payment plan with your doctor’s or hospital’s billing department interest-free, so definitely ask. If you have the cash to pay for the majority of the balance, try to negotiate a discount for paying it off in a lump sum.

Credit card debt is costly, but by focusing on the large items in your budget, you can pay it off faster, saving yourself time and potentially a lot of money. Examine your budget to see what kinds of changes work best for you.

Keep your investment fortunes on track for the new year: Pape

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? Did anyone you know?

Probably not. No one seems to bother any more because any resolutions that are made typically don’t last a week.

So I’m not going to suggest any financial resolutions in this first column of 2017. I will, however, offer a checklist of three key things you should do to ensure your investment fortunes stay on the right track in what promises to be a turbulent year.

Rebalance your portfolio

The year just ended was a remarkably strong one for stock markets. The S&P/TSX Composite finished up by 17.5 per cent while the Dow advanced 13.4 per cent, establishing new records in the process. Meantime, bonds had a rough year. If you earned 4-per-cent total return on your fixed income holdings, you did well.

Assuming those results were reflected in your own account, your asset mix is probably out of whack at this stage. You have greater exposure to the stock market than you originally intended, which leaves you more vulnerable to a correction.

Solution: Sell some of your stock winners to reduce your exposure. Failure to rebalance your portfolio at least once a year will leave you more vulnerable to any market correction. Caution: Consider the tax consequences before you pull the trigger. If possible, see if you can offset some gains with capital losses.

Re-evaluate your bonds

Most people think the 30-year bull market in bonds has come to an end. That may be so, although if you recall the experts were saying the same thing last year at this time after the Federal Reserve Board raised its key rate in December 2015. Instead, bonds went on a strong run that lasted through most of the summer before plunging late in the year on expectations the incoming Trump administration would bring in stimulus measures that would feed inflation and prompt more rate increases.

Solution: If you own good-quality, actively managed bond funds, I would keep them. Professional managers are well equipped to deal with the bond turbulence we’re experiencing. If you are making new investments, stay short-term. Bonds with maturities of less than five years are less vulnerable when interest rates rise. More aggressive investors may want to add some high-yield bonds to their mix.

Build your cash

No matter how you look at it, the stock market is overvalued. We will almost certainly have a correction soon and it could be a major one. Investors appear to have priced in all the potential gains from Donald Trump’s business-friendly promises and ignored the downside of his protectionist threats. Once he takes office and his words start to translate into action, I expect reality to kick in and stocks to pull back. The year ahead could be one of high risk and great opportunity. In those circumstances, a significant cash reserve will be an advantage.

Solution: If you sell some stock winners, don’t be too quick to reinvest the proceeds. You may be able to do so within the next few months at cheaper valuations. Keep your money in cash for now, identify the stocks you’d like to own, and be ready to move when they go on sale.

My final suggestion is to consider where you are on the financial emotion scale. Imagine what your reaction would be if 2017 turned out to be a repeat of 2008 (I’m not expecting it will be but this is a worst-case scenario). Would you be sanguine? Uncomfortable? Devastated? If the latter, your portfolio is not in tune with your mindset. Fix it, and soon.

The Value of the Insurance Review

Why should you speak with your insurance agent each and every year?

How Speaking with an Insurance Agent can Help you.

What can your insurance broker learn by speaking with you?

Consumers of Insurance – often are unaware that their Insurance needs are constantly changing. Changing for a full variety of reasons. One particular example that is rather obvious is clients becoming newly married. Talk about Insurance Coverage Changes! First they need to Select the One Insurance Company or Insurance Agent to represent them. Then they quickly need to move to changing and modifying coverages. Next they will be Exploring newer and often higher liability amounts. Pooling risks never seemed so intricate. However not all coverage changes are so grand and as clear.

One example of a coverage change that is not so obvious is when kids go off to college. Think that your personal property coverage for your kids merely extends to their off campus apartment? You better call your insurance agent as their is a whole mix of changes that may need to be made for both the auto, home, and umbrella policy.

What Else Could Be Changing:

The Coverage that is required by your home, either by valuation or coverage type.

The number of insureds in a home, either by birth, death, or moving out.

Changing of lifestyles as in kids moving off to college, insureds divorcing or retiring.

An expanding or shrinking net worth.

Changes in careers. One Spouse who stops working.

Purchase of Investment properties or other specialized land purchases.

Collections and Valuations Coverages such as wine, comic books, coins, etc.

There is of course the obvious reason that your home or auto insurer may be cancelling your insurance for many different reasons.

This is really just a partial list.

Why you should Check in with your Insurance Broker?

As you can see from the short list of items above, a lot about your life could be changing. Much of your risk profile could be different year over year. Since property coverage is based on what you own, its easy to understand why you should reconsider your insurance needs.

Since liability coverage to a certain extent is loosely based on a liability profile and asserts owned, one can also imagine why their insurance should change as well.

Since so many of these things will be changing year over year, Clients that often speak with their insurance agency typically have a better and more customized coverage program in place. With more information an Insurance broker will be more likely to lower your overall costs and just focus on the coverages that you need and want and not insurance that does not best fit your lifestyle.

In summary the next time your Independent Insurance Broker reaches out to schedule 15 minutes of your time, take his or her call – he may be able to save you money and increase your insurance coverage.

8 Tips to Improve Your Financial Communication

What makes a couple successful in their financial relationship? Ameriprise Financial surveyed over 1,500 couples (those married or living together for at least six months) to learn about their money conversations and how they make decisions. The results revealed eight ways you can improve the financial health of your relationship:

1. Understand your partner’s money mindset. It’s normal to have differing views and habits about money, but that doesn’t mean you can’t agree on your financial goals. Couples who report being on the same page financially work to understand their partner’s approach to money and keep the lines of communication open.

2. Make finances a priority and don’t give up. Couples who are willing to have the hard conversations and who work together to find financial harmony will reap the benefits over time. As you might expect, the study found that couples who had been together longer tend to have better communication and are on the same page when it comes to financial matters.

3. Agree on financial goals. It’s tough to pool your money with someone who overspends or who isn’t willing to save for the vacation you’ve always dreamed about. Sharing financial goals does bring you closer together-or at least it’s one less thing to argue about. To make it easier to save, challenge yourselves to add a timeframe to each goal so you know what you’re working toward first.

4. Assign and accept financial roles and responsibilities. Most couples split up tasks such as paying bills or monitoring investments. Clear responsibilities allow you to hold one another accountable without worrying if the cable bill was paid. However, be sure to work together on tasks such as retirement planning that requires close collaboration.

5. Invest in your future together. Make it a priority to set aside a portion of your earnings for short- and long-term goals, including retirement. Know how much you collectively have in retirement savings-a surprising 23 percent of couples are unsure of this number. If you have kids, talk about how much you’d like to contribute to their college expenses so you can save accordingly.

6. Set a spending limit. Spending habits were the leading cause of contention for couples. Consider setting a spending limit to ensure you’re on the same page as your partner regarding large expenditures. On average, couples said a purchase over $400 should trigger a discussion.

7. Understand that disagreeing is okay. According to the Ameriprise study, even couples who say they’re in financial harmony disagree on financial matters. What’s important isn’t that the partners don’t always agree, but that 82 percent resolve their issues and move on.

8. Enlist a professional to solidify your financial plan. When you need an objective opinion – or a deciding vote – meet with a financial advisor. Together the three of you can create a financial plan that meets your specific needs as a couple.

Ultimately, it feels good when you are in sync with your partner regarding financial decisions and can work together toward managing your finances. Couples who actively work on improving their financial relationship will likely be less frustrated over money matters and may even feel better about their relationship overall.

10 Financial Opportunities to Consider in 2017

The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of your financial life. Have you done all that you can to put yourself in the best possible position? Or, have you missed out on some important financial opportunities? Take a look at where you stand and consider these key opportunities that could make a big difference in your financial life in 2017 and beyond:

1. Revisit your financial goals

You may have established financial goals a year ago or maybe it has been several years. Either way, it makes sense to revisit your goals and make sure they are still consistent with the direction of your life and dreams for the future. Make adjustments if anything has changed.

2. Build a sufficient emergency fund

One of the most fundamental forms of financial security is having money set aside in a “rainy day” fund to meet any emergency needs. You don’t want an unexpected expense to result in a major financial setback. It’s best to have a minimum of three-to-six months of expenses set aside, and up to a year if you can.

3. Save on interest payments

First and foremost, if you have outstanding credit card debt, make it a priority to pay down this costly form of borrowing as fast as you can. Also, take a closer look at the interest rate on your home mortgage. If it’s notably higher than today’s market rates, look into refinancing to reduce your monthly payment and put the money you save to better use.

4. Take advantage of your workplace retirement savings plan

If you participate in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan at work, make sure you are, at the very least, contributing enough into the plan to take full advantage of any employer match. It’s a “free money” opportunity and should not be overlooked. To the extent you can afford to do so, consider contributing more than the match amount to your plan.

5. Capitalize on “catch-up” contribution rules

If you are age 50 or older, you can boost contributions to your workplace savings plan and individual retirement account (IRA) by taking advantage of so-called “catch-up” rules. This can mean investing tens of thousands of additional dollars over time to help secure your financial future.

6. Establish Roth savings if you qualify

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s allow you to build retirement savings with after-tax dollars where all distributions may qualify for tax-free treatment in the future. The potential for tax-free income in retirement can be an important benefit.

7. Make sure you are comfortable with your portfolio

Are you constantly worried what could happen to your portfolio in a market downturn because you’re taking on too much risk? On the flip side, do you think your portfolio needs to be more aggressive to keep up with your financial goals (knowing that there’s always risk with reward)? If you come up short in either area, it may be time to revisit your investments and make appropriate changes.

8. Review your protection strategy across all aspects of your life

Do you have sufficient life insurance in place to protect your loved ones? Is disability income coverage part of your mix? Are you protected against the risk of specialized care costs later in life? Are your home and personal possessions properly covered? Make sure you have a comprehensive protection strategy in place to prepare for unexpected events.

9. Get a handle on your taxes

Review past tax returns and your current financial situation with a tax professional who can help you find potential ways to reduce your tax liability. If charitable giving or volunteering is important to you, consider the tax implications of your donations.

10. Solidify your legacy plan

Make sure your will, health care directives and trust documents reflect your current priorities. Review and if necessary, update beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, bank accounts and insurance policies.

Take the time to review these tactics for your personal situation. Checking these items off your list can help you start 2017 on the right foot and may make a significant difference for your financial future.

 

10 Personal Finance Tips That Will Change Your Perspective

Here are 10 unique financial tips that can change your perspective:

1. A car can last a lot longer than five years. It’s just a hunk of metal and plastic rolling around on four tires. If you can avoid attaching your ego to your automobile, you can save a lot of money by driving your car for several more years. Put that car payment into your retirement account instead and see what happens.

2. Know the five types of financial emergencies. Are you prepared for each of them?

  • Home-related issues, such as a furnace breakage or a leaking roof
  • Major car repairs
  • Funeral-related issues. Either paying for a funeral or travelling to one
  • Medical issues
  • Job loss

3. Spend five minutes on your finances each evening. A single TV commercial break can last five minutes. Review all of your financial transactions for the day. You should have four minutes to spare after you’re done. Follow up on any discrepancies.4. Create small money goals. These should be easy to accomplish.

  • I’ll spend less than $75 on food this week.
  • I’ll save at least $25 each Friday and deposit it in my savings account.

5. Acquire renter’s insurance. It’s only a couple of dollars each month but can replace your items in case of theft or fire. Even your old computer and milk crate shelves are worth something to you.6. Find ways to entertain yourself that are free. Much of the money you spend only serves the purpose of making you feel better. Instead of distracting yourself by purchasing things you don’t need, find some free forms of entertainment.

  • Books and videos from the library
  • Attend free concerts or listen to music at home.
  • Throw a Frisbee.
  • Play cards with friends.
  • Exercise.
  • Meditate.
  • Plant a garden.

7. Pay off your small debts first. You’ll build momentum this way and feel a greater sense of accomplishment. The other alternative is to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. It makes more financial sense, but it’s not as satisfying. Decide for yourself.8. Consider how much it costs to use an item one time. People often don’t like to buy an expensive mattress, but consider how many times, and how many hours, you’ll use it. Even an expensive mattress only costs a few cents each night over the lifetime of the mattress.

  • How much would a $75,000 Mercedes cost to drive each day? Assuming you keep the car for 5 years, that’s roughly 1800 days. You’d be lucky to sell the car for even 50% of what you paid for it. $37,500/1800 = $21/day. That doesn’t even include the cost of insurance or the interest on your monthly car payments.

9. Avoid having too much in your savings account. Unless you need the money in the very near future, there are better places to store your money. Put your money to work for you with investments. Make a list of a few and choose the one that makes sense.10. Create a financial mantra that supports your financial goals. Use it each day.

  • I only buy things I need.
  • I bring my lunch to work.
  • I save 10% of my income.

A little unconventional advice can be a good thing. Open your mind to new ways of looking at old challenges. You’ll find solutions you’ve never considered.

10 Ways To Teach Kids About Money

Did your parents teach you about money when you were growing up? Did they emphasize the value of having good credit and how to live within your means? Did they teach you how to buy groceries, put money aside for emergencies, and pay yourself first? What are some ways that you can pass this knowledge on to your own kids?

Here are 10 ways to teach kids about money.

1. Bring your kids to the bank and the ATM when you deposit and with draw money. Get them familiar with how the banking system works.

2. Explain to them that the money they earn is usually electronically deposited into their bank account and that it is important to pay themselves first, ten percent of the amount deposited. This ten percent is then automatically put into some sort of savings account. The rest of the money is reserved for living expenses.

3. Talk to them about paying rent or a mortgage, spending money on food, fuel for the car, car expenses, TV expenses, electricity, heating etc. Explain the importance of turning off lights when they leave a room.

4. Teach them to delay instant gratification by saving for the item they want. They will appreciate and value it more when they acquire it.

5. Teach them what it means by depreciation. Explain that when a new car is driven off of a lot that it instantly loses value. Would it not be more prudent to purchase an older car for them to use as their first car. Explain what it means by getting value for their dollar.

6. Teach them how to cook from scratch. Not only will they eat better but they will save a lot of money by not eating in restaurants.

7. Teach them how to properly use credit cards. If they have a balance on a credit card they must pay off the credit card in full each month. They may opt to purchase credit cards that they put a limited amount of money on it instead of carrying cash in their pockets.

8. Teach them to only purchase items they want on sale. Regularly bring them to thrift shops to buy items that they need. Have them celebrate whenever they acquire something 50-75% off the regular price.

9. Teach them about the magic about compound interest! This one tip may make them millionaires by the time they retire!

10. Teach them to take courses on how to invest of their money. As they get older have them find a mentor that has achieved what they want to achieve financially and have them do what he or she did. Remember, one of the most important skills they can learn is how to handle their own money.

Three Simple Tips to Manage Your Money

Have you ever had problems managing your money? I believe so, most of us have. It is important to understand that beyond the economy you live in (and the debts you have to pay at the end of the month), there is always a way to improve your financial situation if you know exactly what to do as a business or private individual. I have found this topic very interesting and useful for everyone since money plays an important role in our daily lives. I am usually reading about financial issues and I inform myself very often through the experts’ opinions. I want to share with you three essential points that will help you improve your financial situation and make your life so much easier.

First, define your goal. It is pretty difficult to achieve what you want if you do not know what you want to buy. In fact, you do not know the best way to have a successful budget because your financial goals are not even defined. Financial success is almost impossible and very stressful without a clear objective. If you do not know how much revenue you want to generate, you will not know how much work you should do to achieve it. Having a clear idea of what you can afford to avoid living beyond what you have is essential. Clear goals help you avoid unfavorable situations such as financing a lifestyle with credit or simply buying stuff you do not need. This tip works for everyone in any situation, not only for companies but also for individuals. With this first step, you created a foundation, which will help you build your financial success.

Second, control your expenses excessively. The problem is not how much you spend but what you buy. It is important for you to know what goods and services you need to purchase in order to live. Sometimes people feel suffocated by not having enough money. However, they do not realize that if they only purchase the things they need, they would have more money to spend on other things. When you know where your money is going, you are able to make more efficient decisions in business or personal finances. Controlling your expenses also allows you to keep track of misleading, incorrect or inaccurate information in important areas, such as your credit report. Another benefit of controlling your expenses is that you can determine how long you will have to save money to purchase a non-essential good or service. Some easy methods to control your expenses include an Excel sheet to track transactions, a handwritten list at the end of the day, or even applications on your mobile device that notify you every time you spend something with your cards.

Third, plan ahead. Planning is very important because it helps you to be prepared for any situation in the future. When you make a plan efficiently, you are able to reduce the necessary time and effort to achieve certain goal. Planning will help you control your expenses by identifying the best options for your investments. When you plan ahead, you gather the necessary information to make informed decisions and avoid adverse transactions. For example, paying down the debt with the highest interest or creating an emergency fund to avoid getting back into debt if an emergency happens, are easy decisions when you have a well-developed financial plan. Having defined goals, controlling your expenses, and planning are connected. You can develop a plan to achieve your goals and control your expenses.

Remember to follow these three great tactics to improve you financial situation and your life.

Banking Problems

Bank fraud is on the rise. When a close friend shares with you their banking problems you begin to realize just how close to home the problem really is. A close friend who takes care of our one hundred old mother checked her bank account on Friday and noticed the balance had dropped. She stopped at one of the bank branches to find out what was going on, and while in the bank the balance dropped to less than two dollars. Alarmed, she showed the statement to the bank teller, who checked the account. “I’m sorry your accounts have been frozen, please take a seat and we will get someone to help you.” Three hours later and several inquires, no one came to her aid.

After Four hours of waiting, she checked her balances again on her cell phone. Two checking accounts and one savings account showed negative balances of over $888,000.00 each! Well over 2.6 million, and still no explanation from the bank. They would only tell her that the manager was busy with other problems and they would call her. As of noon on Saturday still no call. We paid her with cash so she make a family reunion on Sunday with no credit cards or debit card for cash. She is trying to get a lawyer, but with the weekend it will be hard to get any help.

I normally check my accounts once a week, but now it will be a daily habit or at least every other day. Word of advice, avoid using debit cards for purchases. This may have been how the fraud occurred, or someone in the bank decided to take a long vacation.

I also inquired about the possibility of opening an account in order to have checking and ATM card at another bank or even switching banks. A hold on any first time deposit is ten days while they do a check with other banks, and if there is a frozen account they will not open an account for you until the existing account is unfrozen. I currently have accounts at three different banks with small balances in each for flexibility.

With the ability to transfer funds between accounts, it make sense to keep funds for business and hobbies separate from household expenses. One last point, automatic deposits to a problem account become unavailable also, so be sure to stop automatic deposits if the problem occurs. These problems will only get worse as social media grows. A hard fact of life we all will have to live with.