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5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

by Amanda Thrupp @ Ameris Bank

Will you know if your identity gets stolen? Use these tips to protect yourself against identity theft and help you know if you have been targeted.…

The post 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft appeared first on Ameris Bank.

Buy vs. Rent: The Small-Business Conundrum

by admin @ Avidia Bank

Your business is growing up, and it's time to consider investing in its future. The question for entrepreneurs is just how permanent your investment should be.

Here are four small-business resources — office space, employees, equipment and technology — and guidance to help you determine if you should buy or rent.

Home sweet rental

Your office is an essential component to your business. But unless you need a customized space or have no intentions of growing, leasing is the way to go, says Jonathan Wasserstrum, co-founder and CEO of SquareFoot, an online platform that helps connect business owners with office space.

Buying real estate ties you to a specific location and leaves you vulnerable to fluctuations in the real estate market. It also adds another worry to a business owner's already lengthy list of concerns.

"You have your own business to worry about and keep you up at night," Wasserstrum says. "Why add real estate to that list? If you own your space and the toilet breaks, you can't call the landlord to complain … you are the landlord."

To hire or not to hire?

When it comes to hiring, remember that business is cyclical, says Susan Solovic, who serves as a special advocate for the advocacy group Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

"It's feast and famine," she says. "You don't want to staff up for the feast time then find out in famine times that you're going to have to let someone go."

Until you feel like you are on solid financial footing, use contractors or freelancers. The one exception? Hire someone to complement your skills as a business owner if you know you don't have the ability to tackle every aspect of the job.

If you're not a strong people person, "you might want to bring in someone to be second-in-command to help with business development," Solovic says.

If you use contractors, make sure you do your due diligence: Interview them like you would any employee to avoid getting stuck with mediocre work or missed deadlines.

You can also consider the ultimate temporary workforce — interns. If you need marketing help, check out a local university to find students ready for resume-building experience.

However, even if the students are receiving academic credit for the internship, Solovic recommends paying them. Businesses with unpaid interns have to meet specific requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Thinking big

Small-ticket items, like equipment you might need in an office or retail store, have become relatively affordable and multifunctional. Instead of buying a scanner and a printer, you can get one piece of equipment that does both. This saves space and time, and could make spending the money to own the item more reasonable.

Now, say you own a construction company or a restaurant. The big-ticket items — construction equipment, stoves or refrigerators — are likely more financially cumbersome than an office printer.

When deciding whether to buy, consider how often you'll use the item, and weigh the cost of purchase and maintenance versus lease payments. If it's something you need often, like restaurant equipment, buying new (or lightly used) products is a good investment as long as the financing terms don't exceed the equipment's life span. If it's something you need for a few jobs here and there, like heavy equipment or trucks, consider leasing.

"You need equipment that is going to allow you to be productive," Solovic says. Ultimately, if you're in a position to consider buying a big item outright, your business is probably doing well. It's time to sit down with an accountant to help you budget.

Software and the cloud

Focusing on your business requires up-to-date technology, something small-business owners may not have the time to manage. Software as a service, or cloud-based programs that require a subscription payment, typically offer free tech support and automatic updates.

While subscriptions can be enticing, it can make more financial sense to purchase licenses for specific software, says Miguel Cuevas, founder of business operations consulting firm IT Systems Solutions Pro. Consider purchasing software if it can be used for at least three to five years and updates are available. You'll have to install it yourself.

If you go this route, Cuevas suggests scheduling an IT consultant to come in every month or so to perform updates and fix glitches.

When is it worth paying for a monthly software service? Cloud-based technology enables access to programs from multiple devices, making it a good option for businesses that involve travel or field work.

Jackie Zimmermann is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jzimmermann@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jackie_zm.

A Special Salute to Our Veterans

by Matt Williams @ Community Bank

Sacrifice? Honor? Service? These characteristics instantly trigger in our minds the American Heroes that make up our Military. Our military Veterans and those currently serving sacrifice a great deal for our country, many paying the ultimate sacrifice with their very lives. At Community Bank, we deeply appreciate the service of these brave American heroes. To […]

The post A Special Salute to Our Veterans appeared first on Community Bank.

Avidia Bank celebrates grand opening of Framingham branch

by admin @ Avidia Bank

Local officials and members of the business community joined Avidia Bank’s management team Sept. 27 to celebrate the grand opening of the bank’s newest location at 270 Cochituate Road in Framingham.  The one-of-a-kind facility will contain a unique digital experience as well as a team of expert bank representatives from the consumer, investment and commercial groups to serve the banking needs in Framingham, officials said. The new building features light colors and modern materials, including insulated metal panels and glass.

Read the write up from the Community Advocate here. 

Personal Checking Accounts - Community Bank

Personal Checking Accounts - Community Bank


Community Bank

Choose from a variety of checking accounts to find what's best for you - each includes great features and benefits.

Community Bank Announces New Headquarters

by Drew Hardin @ Community Bank

Community Bank is pleased to announce its plans to construct a new headquarters located in Flowood, Mississippi.  “We are proud to be a part of Rankin County, having been a member of this community for over twenty years. Community Bank is delighted to further our commitment to the area by bringing this new state of […]

The post Community Bank Announces New Headquarters appeared first on Community Bank.

Education

by Natasha Drozdak @ South State Bank

Through local initiatives and programs that promote financial literacy and responsibility, we work to provide opportunities at the Pre K-12,...

The post Education appeared first on South State Bank.

SunTrust Personal Checking Account Options and Banking Solutions

SunTrust Personal Checking Account Options and Banking Solutions


SunTrust

SunTrust offers convenient checking account options and simple ways to waive monthly fees. Use our tool to select the best checking account for your needs, and open a checking account online.

Help! I Lost My Debit Card

by admin @ Avidia Bank

A lost debit card probably means one of two things: You misplaced it, or someone stole it. Either way, don’t let panic set in.

Taking the necessary steps can limit any immediate damage and protect you from further risk.

1. Report the loss or theft

Report the loss to your bank or credit union as soon as you realize the card is missing. Cancel the debit card and make sure that a new one is sent your way.

2. Report bogus charges

Check your recent payment history for transactions you didn’t make. Jot down the details of any fraudulent charges, including the amount, merchant, location and processing date. Pass that information along to your financial institution, including the date and time you reported that your card was gone.

3. Follow up

After calling your bank or credit union, you may want to follow up by email or letter, repeating the information you’ve already provided. This serves as your written confirmation of the report, which the card issuer may request if it conducts an investigation. If you don’t have it, you may not be credited for any losses. You can use any secure messaging service that the bank offers, including online or mobile apps.

» MORE: You don’t have to pay for credit card fraud

Next steps

Your card issuer typically has 10 business days to investigate and an additional three to report its findings to you, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If the investigation takes longer, the bank or credit union must temporarily credit your account for the disputed amount, minus a charge of up to $50. From there, the bank may have as many as 90 days to resolve the issue, depending on the nature of the transactions.

Who owes what in case of debit card theft

Debit cards don’t have the strong fraud protections you get with credit cards. Still, federal law limits liability for a stolen or lost bank debit card, but only if you act quickly. The amount of money for which you’re on the hook is determined by how quickly you report the card as missing:

  • If you contact your financial institution within two business days of the discovery and fraudulent charges have already been made, the most you’ll be responsible for is $50
  • Wait longer, and your liability increases to $500
  • If you don’t inform your card issuer for more than 60 days after receiving your next statement, you’ll be on the hook for all unauthorized charges

Many major prepaid debit card issuers offer similar protections, according to the CFPB, but there may be some variation. Check the fine print to see what kinds of protections you get for each of your cards.

How to reduce your risk going forward

Taking a few precautions can reduce your risk of future debit card losses:

  • Keep your bank’s information accessible. You won’t have the customer service number that’s printed on the back of your card when the card is lost or stolen. Write that number down, along with your account information, and put it somewhere safe but accessible.
  • Monitor transactions. Keep an eye on your checking account on a daily basis and take action if you come across any suspicious transactions.

By following these steps, you can ensure that a missing debit card doesn’t lead to a financial catastrophe.

Spencer Tierney is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: spencer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SpencerNerd. NerdWallet’s John Gower contributed to this article.

Updated June 21, 2017

The article Help! I Lost My Debit Card originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Save More When Back-to-School Shopping Online

by admin @ Avidia Bank

Shopping for school supplies, electronics and clothing can be a chore — and an expensive one at that.

Families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average of $687.72 on back-to-school shopping, about $14 more than last year’s average of $673.57, according to the National Retail Federation. College students and their families plan to spend an average of $969.88, or about $82 more than last year’s $887.71 average.

Incentives such as discounts and free shipping make online shopping an attractive option.

“Retailers are trying to cater to everything that will make the consumer happy,” says Ana Serafin Smith, senior director of media relations at the NRF.

Here’s a lesson on saving when back-to-school shopping online.

Go bargain hunting

You wouldn’t want to buy a pack of notebooks only to spot the same item elsewhere for half the cost. Fend off buyer’s remorse by shopping around before you click the “order” button. Google Shopping can help you compare the costs of items on your list between retailers, or find coupons with a browser extension like Honey. Remember to factor shipping costs into the comparison.

Ask for a price match

If you find separate retailers selling an identical item at different prices, or if there’s a discrepancy between the same retailer’s prices in store and online, ask the site with the higher price for a reduction.

Retailers with price-matching policies — including Target, Best Buy and Newegg — will honor a competitor’s lower advertised price or reimburse you the difference on eligible items if you can provide proof of the amount within a specific time frame. At Staples, you’ll get the lower price plus 10% of the difference. Call the retailer’s customer service number for help price matching your online order.

Pursue student discounts

Students — and sometimes parents, faculty and staff — can save or score freebies by shopping on sites with student discounts or promotions. For example, Apple is discounting select Macs by up to $300 and the iPad Pro by up to $20, plus throwing in wireless Beats headphones for free with eligible purchases through Sept. 25. Check other retailers or student discount networks like Unidays for deals on electronics, supplies, clothing and more.

Buy online, pick up in store

If you order back-to-school supplies online and pick them up in store, many retailers will give you free shipping or order discounts, or will send you a coupon for a future purchase. On Walmart’s website, look for items marked “free pick up and discount”: At the time of this writing, we spotted an Acer touchscreen laptop for $251.65 with a $67.93 pickup discount, lowering the price to $183.72.

Rent materials or buy used

Newer isn’t necessarily better, at least not for your wallet. You can save on textbooks, calculators, clothing and other back-to-school staples by renting or buying them used. Explore options and pricing on sites such as Chegg, Amazon and Poshmark.

Bypass sales tax

This year, more than a dozen states are waiving sales tax on eligible back-to-school items — such as clothing, books and laptops under a certain amount — during sales tax holidays. Some areas waive local sales tax, too. These events typically last for a few days in late July or early August, both in stores and online. For example, Ohio and Virginia both offer tax-free weekends Aug. 4-6. If you live in a participating state, consider timing your back-to-school purchases around the holiday, and check the list of tax-exempt items and cost limits first.

You can still strategically time back-to-school purchases if your state doesn’t take part or you miss the window. The shopping season’s peak savings usually last through August into September, closer to the start of the school year.

Lauren Schwahn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.

The article Save More When Back-to-School Shopping Online originally appeared on NerdWallet

 

Compare Personal Checking Accounts | Comerica

Compare Personal Checking Accounts | Comerica


Comerica

Explore Comerica's different personal checking account options to find a type of account that meets your banking needs and fits your lifestyle.

Hawaii Personal Checking Accounts

Hawaii Personal Checking Accounts


First Hawaiian Bank

Our Personal Checking Accounts allow you to manage your money more easily and you can be confident your money's secure with one of the nation's safest banks.

A Welcome to Laurel, America’s New Favorite Home Town

by Daniel Luter @ Community Bank

Laurel, Mississippi has been center stage over the last few months with the new hit HGTV show “Home Town” making waves. The show features Ben and Erin Napier working to restore homes in Historic Downtown Laurel. It has been a delight for the Community Bank family to watch this show come to fruition and seeing […]

The post A Welcome to Laurel, America’s New Favorite Home Town appeared first on Community Bank.

A Lifelong Commitment to Community Bank

by Drew Hardin @ Community Bank

Community Bank hosted our Annual Stockholder’s event in March where we reflected on 2016 and looked forward to the exciting things to come in 2017 and beyond. Each year at our annual meeting, CB’s senior management takes the opportunity to recognize our staff-owners for their outstanding achievements. This year was no different, with one of […]

The post A Lifelong Commitment to Community Bank appeared first on Community Bank.

Corporate Career to Entrepreneur: How to Prep for the Leap

by admin @ Avidia Bank

After two decades in the workforce, Ohio businesswoman Deborah Wasylko found herself faced with the prospect of having to move to keep her job while dealing with challenges in her family life. Wasylko concluded that she had a choice: continue her corporate career or become an entrepreneur.

“I decided to start a corporate gift company, because that’s what I love to do,” says Wasylko, the founder and president of Baskets Galore, which creates gift baskets for corporate clients. She had long been enthusiastic about visual design and making people feel cared for, she says, and her new venture touched on both interests. “It was my opportunity to re-engineer my career and follow my passion.”

The allure of becoming your own boss seems strong: As of 2014, there were more than 29 million small businesses in the U.S, up 6% from 2010, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But excelling in an office doesn’t mean you’re bound for entrepreneurial success. In addition to many logistical and financial challenges, the transition from employee to entrepreneur involves a distinct shift in mentality. Before you make the leap, take these steps to make sure you’re ready beyond the numbers.

1. Talk with other entrepreneurs

The best way to psychologically prepare for the jump from a corporate job to calling the shots is to talk with those who have already made the transition.

“You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every single time,” says Cathy Posner, a small-business coach in Ohio.

Ask other entrepreneurs how their roles in corporate America prepared — or failed to prepare — them to run a small business. What do they wish they had done differently? What do they wish they had known ahead of time?

And, most importantly, would they do it again?

2. Identify your resources

A small-business mentor from SCORE is invaluable to entrepreneurs, Posner says. This free program, which is supported by the SBA, connects seasoned professionals with small-business owners. A mentor can help you turn your understanding of corporate goals into a business strategy. He or she can help you define your services, determine the fees you’ll charge and give advice on daily business tasks you may not have handled before, such as marketing and managing employees, Posner says.

Ultimately, you are your best resource. The skills you developed in a corporate environment — project management, organizational skills, employee management — will be even more important, says Posner. “Everything that you do starts to be magnified.”

Wasylko particularly appreciates having learned in the corporate arena how to remain calm in the spotlight, giving presentations in front of executives or large crowds. As a fledgling business owner, “I wasn’t intimidated, and I had more poise as a result of doing all those things: being clear, being decisive, being organized,” she says.

3. Prepare yourself for uncertainty

Being an entrepreneur involves higher highs and lower lows than working in an office, Posner says.

“In many corporate environments, your responsibilities can be pretty segmented,” she says. But when you’re a small-business owner, “the buck stops 100 percent at you.”

Brainstorm ways to keep yourself grounded in the face of uncertainty. After JJ DiGeronimo transitioned from Silicon Valley startups to running a consulting firm for women in tech fields, she found she had to redefine what success looked like.

“I think entrepreneurship brings out your own deficiencies, and for me, a lot of that was around self-identity,” DiGeronimo says. After years of identifying with her title and salary, she found herself in a role that emphasized the less concrete objective of personal and professional growth.

“Our society often aligns success to money, but as an entrepreneur, it can take time to make money,” she says. “Finding ways to align to the goodwill of your work is important.”

DiGeronimo found support from fellow entrepreneurs, blogs and books; a favorite was “The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources.”

4. Network, collaborate, repeat

In a corporate environment, you’ve likely already dipped your toes in the networking pool. Take advantage of those connections before you leave your 9-to-5. Contacts and resources may prove invaluable, and you never know who may become a client. Networking events are also a good place to meet other business owners with whom to collaborate, Posner says. For example, wedding photographers and florists often cross-promote services.

And networking groups provide a partial replacement for one of the major benefits you’ll lose after leaving your job: colleagues.

“When you go off and work by yourself, sometimes you need that energy,” DiGeronimo says. “You need that soundboard.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. Jackie Zimmermann is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: jzimmermann@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jackie_zm.

The article Corporate Career to Entrepreneur: How to Prep for the Leap originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

 

Checking Accounts | Personal Banking

Checking Accounts | Personal Banking


Gate City Bank

Gate City Bank has several checking account options to fit your lifestyle. Open a checking account today with our online application.

Personal Checking Accounts

Personal Checking Accounts


Cadence Bank

Cadence Bank offers Personal Checking Accounts for individuals, couples and families. Learn about Personal Checking options via Cadence Bank.

Five Easy Ways to Save Money Every Day

by Amanda Thrupp @ Ameris Bank

Saving money doesn’t have to take a toll on your current lifestyle. Making minor changes to your routine can add up to major savings. Use these…

The post Five Easy Ways to Save Money Every Day appeared first on Ameris Bank.

Personal Checking Solutions - Ameris Bank

Personal Checking Solutions - Ameris Bank


Ameris Bank

When you bank with Ameris Bank, opening and keeping up with your checking account online is easy. With lots of options—they’re designed to meet your needs.

PNC

PNC


PNC

We can help you gain the confidence you need to make important financial decisions for you, your family or your business.

Compare Personal Checking Accounts | KeyBank

Compare Personal Checking Accounts | KeyBank


Key.com

Looking for a personal checking account to fit your needs? You have options, from interest-bearing to hassle-free. Compare KeyBank checking accounts online!

Is an IRA right for you?

by Drew Hardin @ Community Bank

Our very own Tina Gadd explains what an IRA is and how it might be the right option for you this tax season.

The post Is an IRA right for you? appeared first on Community Bank.

Avidia Bank branching out beyond Hudson

by admin @ Avidia Bank

Avidia Bank has spent its nearly century and a half based right around the Assabet Valley, where it keeps its headquarters in Hudson. But now the bank is making a bet on an eastward expansion toward a much more crowded Boston market. The bank borrowed $25 million this summer to finance growth that starts with a new branch in Framingham scheduled to open Sept. 25 at 270 Cochituate Road.  "We feel that the opportunities are east of here," said Margaret Melo Sullivan, Avidia's executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer. "That's where we feel the opportunities are and where we can grow our business lines."

Read the full press release in the Worcester Business Journal here. 

Assabet Valley Bancorp Completes Private Placement of $25 Million of Subordinated Notes

by j.bonetti @ Avidia Bank

Hudson, MA (July 31, 2017) – Assabet Valley Bancorp (the “Company”), the no-stock mutual holding company for Avidia Bank (the “Bank”), announced today the completion of its private placement of $25.0 million in fixed-to-floating rate subordinated notes due 2027 (the “Notes”). The Notes bear a fixed rate of 5.50% for the first five years and will reset quarterly thereafter to the then current three-month LIBOR rate plus 360 basis points

The Company intends to use the net proceeds from the offering to support capital levels and further growth and for general corporate purposes. The notes are intended to qualify as Tier 2 capital for the Company for regulatory purposes and the portion that the Company contributes to the Bank will qualify as Tier 1 capital for the Bank.

Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P. served as the sole placement agent for the offering and was advised by Goodwin Procter LLP. The Company was advised by Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP.

This press release is for informational purposes only and shall not constitute an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy the Notes nor shall there by any sale in any jurisdiction in which such an offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. The indebtedness evidenced by the Notes is not a deposit and is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) or any other government agency or fund.

About Avidia Bank

Assabet Valley Bancorp is the no-stock mutual holding company for Avidia Bank. Avidia Bank is a mutual savings bank that was formed in 2007 by a merger between Hudson Savings Bank and Westborough Bank. Avidia Bank is headquartered in Hudson, Massachusetts and has ten full-service branches located in Worcester and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts. Further information can be obtained by visiting its website at https://www.avidiabank.com/

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, including statements of goals, intentions, and expectations as to future trends, plans, events or results of Company operations and policies and regarding general economic conditions. In some cases, forward-looking statements can be identified by use of words such as “may,” “will,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “expects,” “plans,” “estimates,” “potential,” “continue,” “should,” and similar words or phrases. These statements are based upon current and anticipated economic conditions, nationally and in the Company’s market, interest rates and interest rate policy, competitive factors, and other conditions which by their nature, are not susceptible to accurate forecast, and are subject to significant uncertainty. Because of these uncertainties and the assumptions on which this discussion and the forward-looking statements are based, actual future operations and results may differ materially from those indicated herein. Readers are cautioned against placing undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements. The Company’s past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance. 

Click here to download the Assabet Valley Subordinated Notes Press Release

How To Protect Your Identity

by Daniel Luter @ Community Bank

As you gear up for summer – planning your vacation, kid’s activities, or even the back yard barbeque, taking steps to prevent fraud before it happens is one of best things you can do to make for a relaxing summer. 8 Fraud prevention tips: Routine review of your account activity is important. Review your monthly […]

The post How To Protect Your Identity appeared first on Community Bank.

Culture Arts

by Natasha Drozdak @ South State Bank

Initiatives and organizations that support arts and culture in the communities we serve, including local museums, art educational programs, music...

The post Culture Arts appeared first on South State Bank.

2017 CRA Public Comments

by Christine Okoye @ South State Bank

Letter to Mathew Lee Letter to Adam Drimer Letter to Eike and Exhibits

The post 2017 CRA Public Comments appeared first on South State Bank.

Ameris Bank Announcements

by Jessica Riley @ Ameris Bank

2018 is off to an exciting start for Ameris Bank. We recently announced our fourth quarter 2017 financial results, the signing of a definitive merger…

The post Ameris Bank Announcements appeared first on Ameris Bank.

South State Advisory Privacy Notice

by Christine Okoye @ South State Bank

South State Advisory Privacy Notice PDF  

The post South State Advisory Privacy Notice appeared first on South State Bank.

Attention All Summer Travelers!

by Drew Hardin @ Community Bank

Traveling this summer? We want you to share your travels with us! Maybe it’s to the beach, the mountains, a trip overseas or maybe just to grandma’s house that is on the agenda. Wherever you may be heading, be sure to bring your Community Bank debit card along for your chance to win a $1,000 […]

The post Attention All Summer Travelers! appeared first on Community Bank.

6 Financial Aid Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask

by admin @ Avidia Bank

While many colleges will soon send bills for this fall’s tuition, most won’t expect payment until late summer. That gives college-bound students and their families time to finalize financial aid details. Here are six basic, but crucial, things to know about using student loans, scholarships and more to pay for college.

1. When I take out a student loan, where does the money go?

Student-loan dollars go directly to your school and are typically applied to outstanding tuition and fees first. If there’s money left over, the bursar’s office will issue you a refund of the remaining balance through a check, debit card or electronic bank account transfer.

Tip: Don’t panic if you get the tuition bill before your financial aid disbursement. Colleges cannot credit federal aid to students’ accounts sooner than 10 days before classes start.

2. Can I use my student loans to cover living expenses?

Yes, if there’s money left after tuition and fees. If you’re living on campus, the school will apply that money toward room and board costs. Students living off campus will receive a loan refund and they should plan to use it for necessities like rent, food and transportation.

Tip: Just because you can take out loans for living expenses, doesn’t mean you should if you can cover those costs another way. Remember, you’ll have to repay anything you borrow, plus interest.

3. How do I get money out of my 529 account?

Simply contact your plan provider — you can make a withdrawal online or you can make a request via phone or mail. The complicated part is figuring out how and when to use 529 savings — that’s a topic worth consulting a financial advisor or tax professional about.

Tip: Money you withdraw from a 529 plan is tax-free if used for qualified higher education expenses. You’ll owe federal income taxes and a 10% penalty on earnings from the withdrawn amount if you use the money for nonqualified expenses like transportation, and fraternity or sorority dues.

4. What should I do if I didn’t get enough financial aid to cover my college costs?

First, appeal your aid award letter with your college if your financial situation has significantly changed since filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If your situation is largely the same but you need more college funds, contact the school’s financial aid office to ensure you’re aware of all options. Some colleges may offer more financial help if you show proof of a better aid package from another institution.

Beyond that, be creative when pooling college funds. For example, apply for scholarships and plan to work part-time during school. As a last resort, you may need private student loans. If you go this route, compare your options before borrowing to make sure you find a loan with the best interest rate you qualify for.

Tip: Many campuses offer payment plans that allow families to swap a lump-sum tuition bill for smaller, monthly installments.

5. Do I have to pay taxes on financial aid money I receive?

Generally, no. Student loans, and most gift aid dollars, aren’t considered taxable income. You’ll owe taxes on grants and scholarships only if they total more than your qualified education expenses.

Income earned from a federal work-study job is taxable. Employers will deduct taxes from your paychecks, and you should report work-study income when filing taxes.

Tip: Money earned through a work-study job won’t count as income on your next FAFSA. In other words, a work-study job won’t prevent you from qualifying for financial aid in the future.

6. Can I get financial aid as a part-time student?

Yes, but you may not get as much money. For instance, part-time students who qualify for federal Pell Grants will receive a prorated amount based on the number of credit hours they’re taking.

Students need to be enrolled at least half-time, meaning they’re taking classes worth at least six credits each term, to be eligible for federal student loans.

Tip: It’s not too late to apply for federal financial aid for this summer or fall. The FAFSA deadline for the 2017-18 school year is June 30, 2018.

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

The article 6 Financial Aid Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small Businesses

by admin @ Avidia Bank

The impact of the Equifax data breach that compromised the personal data of over 145 million individuals has left many confused, frustrated and downright angry. And while massive attacks on large corporations make headlines, small businesses have just as much, if not more, at stake.  According to data analyzed in a report by Hiscox, an insurance provider, cyberattacks are likely to have a bigger financial impact on small businesses. The 2017 report found that small businesses with under 99 employees faced an average cost of $36,000 after a cyberattack. Less advanced security protection, a smaller budget dedicated to cybersecurity and fewer resources for a fleshed-out IT department make small businesses an ideal target for hackers.

What, exactly, is a cyberattack?

A cyberattack is an unauthorized attempt to expose, destroy or access your data. According to a survey of 700 business owners by BuyBizSell, an online marketplace for small businesses up for sale, 1 in 10 small businesses have been attacked. The three most common attacks cited were general malware, web-based attacks, and phishing scams or social engineering.

General malware. Short for malicious software, malware acts against the intent of the user, and can come in the form of a virus, Trojan horse or worm. Ransomware — a form of malware that demands money to avoid a negative consequence, like permanently deleting your data or publishing it publicly — costs small businesses approximately $75 billion a year, according to a 2016 report by cybersecurity company Datto.

Web-based attacks. A web-based attack is when malware gets access to your computer via the internet. There are multiple ways for this to happen, including malicious websites that present themselves as legitimate, and hackers who insert malicious code into the code of a legitimate website.

Social engineering scams. A social engineering attack is when a hacker tricks you into giving up personal information like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or bank information. It is also known as phishing.

How can I protect myself and my customers?

Educate yourself

For October, which is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Microsoft is offering a series of free cybersecurity workshops for small-business owners, co-sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a self-guided online course in cybersecurity basics.

Create a cybersecurity plan

Your cybersecurity plan should include an employee training program and incident response plan. The first step to securing your network is to make sure your employees understand security policies and procedures. Training shouldn’t be a one-and-done deal; schedule yearly or semi-yearly refresher courses to keep security top of mind. Help your employees understand the importance of updating their software, adopting security best practices and knowing what to do if they identify a possible security breach.

The faster you act in the face of a cyberattack, the better you’ll be able to mitigate the damage.

An incident response plan will have crucial information such as:

  • whom to contact
  • where data and data backups are stored
  • when to contact law enforcement or the public about a breach

The Federal Communications Commission offers a cybersecurity planning guide to help small-business owners create a plan to protect their business. (You can download your customized plan at the bottom of the page after you create it.)

Be smart about passwords

The NIST advises government agencies on password best practices. According to the organization’s Digital Identity Guidelines, released in June 2017, NIST recommends passwords be at least eight characters long and notes that length is more beneficial than complexity. Allow your employees to create long, unique passwords that are easy for them to remember.

If you deal with highly sensitive data, you may want to require multifactor authentication, which requires users to present at least two identifying factors, like a password and a code, before gaining access to systems or programs. Think of it like an ATM, which requires a combination of a bank card and a PIN to access funds.

Increase your email security

According to cybersecurity company Symantec, in 2016, 1 in 131 email messages were malicious — this is the highest rate in five years.

Basic email safety precautions, like not opening suspicious attachments or links, are a first step that can be covered in your employee training plan. If you deal with clients’ personal data, you can also encrypt documents so both the sender and the recipient need a passcode to open it.

Use a firewall and antivirus software

A firewall acts as a digital shield, preventing malicious software or traffic from reaching your network. There are many kinds of firewalls, but they fall into two broad categories: hardware or software.

Some firewalls also have virus-scanning capabilities. If yours doesn’t, be sure to also install antivirus software that scans your computer to identify and remove any malware that has made it through your firewall. It can help you control a data breach more efficiently by alerting you to an issue, instead of your having to search for the problem after something goes wrong.

Secure your Wi-Fi network

Any type of Wi-Fi equipment you receive will not be secure when you first buy it. And no, you shouldn’t keep the default password that comes with your device — there are resources online for hackers to access default passwords based on model numbers of popular routers, so make sure your network is encrypted with your own, unique password. Your router will likely allow you to choose from multiple kinds of passwords; one of the most secure is a Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) code.

You’ll also want to hide your network, meaning the router does not broadcast the network name. If customers or clients will need access to Wi-Fi, you can set up a “guest” account that has a different password and security measures, which prevents them from having access to your main network.

Protect your payment processors

It’s crucial to work with your bank or payment processor to ensure that you’ve installed any and all software updates. The more complex your payment system, the harder it will be to secure, but the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council offers a guide to help you identify the system you use and how to protect it.

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The article Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small Businesses originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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