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This Week In Your Wallet: Breaking Down Brexit

On Friday morning, many of us woke up to the news that the United Kingdom officially voted to leave the European Union — in popular lingo, “Brexit,” or the British exit of the E.U. The decision brought about the worst global sell-off in history (markets lost a combined $2.08 trillion that day), with additional losses in the U.S. Monday.

As I wrote for TODAY.com, the markets hate to be surprised, and this was a doozy. You can expect continued volatility as this shakes out in the coming months, but don’t allow it to derail the plans you’ve already put in place. It’s a good time to review your portfolio. Money earmarked for long-term uses (i.e. retirement, maybe college, etc.) should stay where it is. If you’d put short-term assets at risk that really didn’t belong in stocks, consider moving those you can’t afford to lose to safer havens. And remember, no move is often the best move.

Fidelity research tracked 401(k) investors who — in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009 — moved their money out of stocks and into bonds or cash, and never went back. Over time, their accounts grew by 27 percent. But 401(k) investors who kept their stock investments throughout the 2008-2009 period saw their account balances grow by 157 percent. “Market volatility, with swings both up and down, is to be expected — the typical retirement saver will see multiple market swings in their career,” says Jeanne Thompson, vice president of thought leadership at Fidelity Investments. “If you want to take some sort of action during periods of volatility, this can be a good opportunity to make sure your asset allocation is on track and that you are contributing enough to take advantage of a company match.”

Saving Is Fun(d)

And while we’re talking savings — a new Bankrate.com report shows 66 million U.S. adults (28 percent) have zero dollars socked away for emergencies, and nearly half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund that could cover three months’ worth of expenses. Unexpected medical bills and car maintenance come up, and it’s usually not a question of if but when. Saving is a habit just like any other, and since humans aren’t exactly wired for long-term thinking, the best way to start is to automate savings so they flow from your paycheck into an account where you’re dedicated to keeping your hands off — if you don’t see it and you can’t touch it, you won’t spend it. Start saving with a goal of $2,000 in your emergency fund, and after that, try for three to six months’ worth of expenses. Your future self will thank you.

How To Manage Money When One Spouse Goes Self-Employed

Let’s say your spouse is planning to take the leap and go full-time with his or her side gig. You may be happy for them and/or thrilled they’re following their passion, but a little doubt likely flits across your mind: What about the money? Now that he or she likely has a less steady income for a period, Forbes has a few things you can do as a couple to manage the finances. First, build up an emergency fund (ahem, see above), ideally before he or she quits the day job. Use two checking accounts, one for fixed expenses and one for variable ones, so that a less profitable month just means reining in discretionary spending. Also, make sure to consider savings as a fixed expense like a bill so that neither of you falls behind on the future. For more tips on how to turn a passion into a business, check out episode two of my podcast, HerMoney with Jean Chatzky, where I speak to the co-creators of the hit podcast Criminal.

Privacy Pointer

In other news, a recent photo posted by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has the Internet talking about security. One Twitter user spotted that in the background, there seemed to be tape over the camera and microphone jack of Zuckerberg’s laptop. This suggests he’s concerned about hackers using a process called “ratting” using remote-access trojans, a type of malware, to gain access to his computer’s camera or microphone. Zuckerberg is a prominent target, but The New York Times reports that people who aren’t billionaires or CEOs are also at risk, citing a report saying it’s a growing problem for consumers, with young women being targeted more often. So what can you do? Update your computer’s software, and use anti-malware and a firewall to protect your computer (PCMag has a list of some of the best anti-virus programs for 2016). And maybe stick some tape over your computer’s camera and mic jack when you’re not using them — just in case.

Productivity Hacks

Finally — maybe the week’s off to a less-than-productive start, or maybe you can feel the mid-week slump looming. TIME’s Motto has four techniques for beating procrastination, starting with picking a system — any system — and sticking to it. That could be carving out a certain amount of time each day to focus (and leaving your phone on silent in another room), working for thirty-minute periods or using your own to-do list of priorities. Another key? Since time is money, figure out where yours is going. Are you going down Internet rabbit holes or scrolling through your Twitter feed? Create a “time budget,” or track yourself for a day, and then create a productivity goal that works for you.

Have a great week,

Jean

‘Gig Economy’: How Apps Can Help You Be Your Own Boss

This morning on TODAY, I talked with Savannah Guthrie about the “gig economy.” A growing number of people are ditching the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule for non-traditional income methods. This includes app-enabled tasks like ride-sharing services, home-sharing platforms and handyman listings. I talk with one man who works as a for TaskRabbit and rents his home on Airbnb. Why is the so-called “gig economy” on the rise? A society of people wanting things done on demand.

 

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Don’t Overshare In The Sharing Economy

Temperatures and kids’ excitement levels are on the rise, summer travel is right around the corner, and this year AAA says more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) are planning to take family vacations. And chances are, as a result of the sharing economy, and the rise of services from Airbnb to Uber and all the others in between, those vacations look a little different than they did just a few years ago.

Oversharing Canva 4Sharing everything from housing to transportation offers great money-saving opportunities, no question, but it also raises new challenges as far as protecting your identity is concerned. According to a recent LifeLock survey, 25 percent of consumers have already been victimized. With nearly 10 million new cases of identity theft each year, that number is only going to climb.

So how do you keep yourself safe this season? By taking precautions before you go—and while you’re on the road.

People are nosy

Which do you think is riskier: leaving your home unlocked for a week or allowing strangers to rent out your home? You might be surprised to hear that a good half of Americans think it’s the former. But get this: 41 percent of Americans admitted to having looked through someone’s personal items when visiting their home. Yes, renting out your home to other travelers (via services like Airbnb) can be a great way to earn extra income, but while you’re away, make sure you aren’t unintentionally sharing information about your personal identity. Identity theft can be just as damaging as a break-in. Before you head out, tidy up and lock away documents and personal possessions, such as your Social Security cards, birth certificates, bills and banking statements.

In the sharing economy, leave no items behind

If you’re looking to dodge airport parking fees or rental car costs, ridesharing services, like Uber, Lyft and Via, can cut costs. That is, unless you leave valuable information behind. LifeLock found that 24 percent of people have left wallets or phones in taxis or ridesharing services. Make sure you always check the seat before you hop out so that someone doesn’t drive off with your personally identifiable information.

Notify your post office, paper deliverer, and card companies

A pile of newspapers and an overflowing mailbox both say, “Hey! I’m not home.” Mail theft can lead to identity theft (and not just by strangers). Despite these risks, 37 percent of Americans are unlikely to put their mail on hold with when they go on vacation. To avoid “familiar fraud” (i.e. fraud committed by people who know you), call your post office and newspaper and have them place holds on your mail and newspapers instead of asking a neighbor or friend to do the job. Also, alert your bank and credit card companies that you’re going out of town, and more specifically, where you’re going. Doing so prevents the embarrassing scenario of having your debit or credit cards denied while you’re traveling.

Avoid TMI with #latergram

As tempting as it is to live tweet, Instagram or post your fabulous vacation on social media, don’t. Because in addition to sharing the cool things you’re doing, you’re also sharing the fact that you’re not home and perhaps not paying attention to your financial accounts, either. Instead, post #latergrams. Wait until you get home to post the details of your adventures. As they say, better late than never.

There’s a lot to be said about taking advantage of the sharing economy—and the benefits it brings to our lives, including our summer vacations. That said, with any activity that may expose your personal information, use caution. Even if the sharing economy saves you money and gives you more travel options, if you lose your identity on your trip, it’ll be a bad vacation.

With Kelly Hultgren

Here’s how you can save money — quickly — for an emergency

A survey by The Federal Reserve Board found 47% of people would have to borrow money or sell something to come up with $400 for an emergency. This morning on TODAY, I talked with Matt Lauer about tracking spending and capping expenses.

 

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Tips For Recent Graduates To Help Avoid Identity Theft

If you’ve got a newly minted graduate in the family (or you’re one yourself), congratulations! Launching, whether you’re doing it from high school into a college or university, or from college into a new apartment and career, is exciting. Unfortunately, when it comes to your identity and personal information, it’s also a process that exposes you to more risk than usual.

According to research conducted by LifeLock, nearly two-thirds of students reported that they were not very concerned about fraud (one probable reason that fewer than one-quarter even detect fraud when it happens to them). Yet, when it does hit, 15% say the impact is moderate or severe—that’s higher than among other age groups.

More worrisome, colleges and universities—among them U.C. Berkeley—have been victimized fairly steadily by data thieves in recent years. As the head of information security for the school told reporters, it’s difficult to protect an academic institution because you can’t just shut it down in the face of a major breach.

Bottom line: The best way to keep yourself safe during times of life transition (graduation, as well as many others) is to take several steps to protect yourself ahead of time. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Lock up your personal information—and password-protect your computer and phone. Students are four times more likely than other computer users to be victims of “familiar fraud,” in other words, to have their information stolen by people they know. Living in a dorm with a person you don’t know (or don’t know well) and other students frequently popping in and out puts you at risk. Any documents with identifying details, from passports to bills, should be put (or even better locked) away. This is the same reason your mailbox should have a key.
  • Watch the sharing. It’s tempting to broadcast details and photos of this fabulous new life of yours on social media. Be careful. The more you share, the more you’re open to having your identity stolen. Why? Because by providing details like your pet’s name, birthday, mother’s maiden name, and location, you’re giving a smart thief all the information necessary to create a faux you and apply for credit in your name. Be selective about what you share and who you allow to see it.
  • Pay attention to your credit (or, parents, do this for your children). If you’re sending kids off to college or out into the world as an authorized user on your credit card, chances are you’re doing so to help them build a credit history. If you’re not doing this—and your kids haven’t applied for credit themselves—then the mere existence of a credit history is a sign of trouble. You can check your credit report (or your child’s) for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Finally, have the talk with your kids. Not that talk, the one about how important their identity is as they enter the adult world—and how taking steps to secure it is up to them.

‘Quickie Mortgages’: Are They Really As Easy As They Claim?

This morning on TODAY, Savannah Guthrie and I talked about “quickie mortgages” — a new, largely automated process that allows many borrowers to get loan confirmation very quickly. It’s mostly done online, but calling is also possible, and it usually takes 10 minutes or less. Now is a good time to have financing locked in before you go home shopping — it’s both spring and a seller’s market, which makes everything a little more competitive. Check out the segment below.

 

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Four Crucial Ways To Buckle Down On Your Bills And Save Money

This morning on TODAY, I spoke with Savannah Guthrie about four ways to save on bills. I believe time is money, so one of the services I highlighted was Unroll.me, a tool that helps cut down on email subscriptions that you may spend too much time looking at (maybe they even tempt you to do more online shopping). I also talked about ways to save on prescriptions, as well as monthly bills. Check out the video below for more. (You’ll also see my shoe get stuck in the TODAY set!)

 

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Behind On Your Taxes? 5 Ways To Expedite The Process

We’re in the home stretch as far as tax filing season goes, and according to the IRS, more than 30 million Americans haven’t filed yet. If that’s close to home, this morning on TODAY I shared 5 tips to speed up the process if you’re behind on taxes. Take a peek!

 

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#startTODAY Spring Forward

Ever wondered how to get your credit in order, or which debt you should tackle first? This morning on TODAY, Jill Martin, Joy Bauer and I answered your Facebook questions about “spring cleaning” as far as organization, health and finances. Check it out.

 

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Spring Clean Your Finances

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your house. This morning on TODAY, I talked with Matt Lauer about five ways to spring clean your finances — including knowing what to save and what to toss. (Example? Save tax forms for three years, and keep asset paperwork for the lifetime of the asset). Another good tip is to treat your desktop like your actual desk — keep it organized with folders that match the ones in your filing cabinet. Check out the video below to see more ways to spring clean your finances.

 

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