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Sighting Land Ahead

Nearly a year and a half after the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, many of us are finally experiencing life returning to normal. But this new normal has been a long time in coming. And sometimes it seemed we might never emerge from these stormy waters to a place of calm.
We know everyone has had their own unique journey through this difficult period. Some families found their daily life hardly disrupted by lockdowns, shortages and delays.
Many, however, struggled with hardships and heartache ranging from lost childcare and distance learning, to job loss, financial set-backs, separation from friends and family, illness, and sadly, even, in some cases, the loss of loved ones.
Whether you found the Pandemic smooth sailing or a near-shipwreck, we hope you know that we're your resource whenever you have financial concerns or questions. Because although so much has changed throughout this extraordinarily challenging time, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to helping you build, protect, and enjoy your financial security.
Please let us know if we can help you, your family, or your business turn this new normal into a time of new opportunities. We're always just a phone call or email away.

Regaining Momentum

There’s a reason why so many of us make New Year’s resolutions: social scientists have proved that time and again we’re much more likely to keep a goal we make at the beginning of something, like the start of a new year.
Of course, the start of 2021 had many of us holding our breath, wondering what might emerge from the chaos that the Pandemic had created in so many of our lives.
Now, though, as most of us are finding life returning to a semblance of normal, this could be as good a time as any for a fresh start. Think of it as a New End-of-the-Year resolution.
Whenever you do set goals for yourself, here are some tried-and-true ways to increase your odds of following through:
  • Write your goals down. Putting your goals into writing helps you think concretely about what you want to accomplish, and that, in turn, is more likely to lead to your success.
  • Tell someone close to you. Letting someone know about your goals makes you accountable to another person.
  • Make sure each goal is measurable, so you know when you’ve accomplished it. The less precise your goal, the less likely you are to achieve it.
  • Put a time limit on your goal. Open-ended goals give us permission to put off our efforts.
  • Don’t think in terms of all-or-nothing. Achieving some progress toward a goal is better than nothing at all. Besides, you may have set an unrealistic goal in the first place. So congratulate yourself for all the victories – big or small.
  • Give yourself some grace if you make mistakes along the way. If you approach a goal thinking you’ll never have a setback, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, think of each setback as a learning experience that gives you new information about how to succeed.
  • Make sure your goal is something that’s meaningful to you, not something you feel you should do. There’s lots of societal pressure to do certain things, such as exercise or eat better. But if you truly don’t care about something that society -- or someone close to you -- tells you that you should be doing, you won’t do it, no matter how worthwhile the goal.
  • Cyber Threats and Your Financial Security

    With sophisticated computer hacking and ransomware attacks garnering dramatic headlines lately, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the technology we’ve come to rely upon both at work and at home may be putting us at risk.
    While these dramatic cyber-attacks are wreaking havoc for their victims and racking up huge financial losses, few of them are the result of sophisticated criminal strategies. Instead, most cyber-attacks can be attributed to one simple cause: human error.
    That’s right: Each day, computer users are making careless mistakes that allow cyber predators to take over the critical technologies of their businesses or seize control of their computer or online data. Let’s look at the most common ways we make ourselves vulnerable to cyber criminals.

    Online Risks and Remedies



    No, we didn’t misspell fish. Phishing is a criminal tactic of pretending to be someone or something else in order to trick you into revealing personal information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers or other critical data that can expose you to risk. Many times, phishing emails will direct you to a phony website that has been “spoofed,” that is, dressed up to look exactly like a legitimate website, such as your bank’s. The criminals are hoping you’ll enter your username and password into the fake site so they can capture it and use it to drain your bank account or rack up charges on your credit card.
    Some criminals take phishing to an even higher level by adding a bit of “social engineering” to their attacks. In these attempts, the crook will use information gained from your social media accounts –such as Facebook or Instagram – to pretend to be someone you might know or who is a friend of a friend. These phishing attempts may involve repeated contacts with you, building rapport and trust, until they convince you to part with money or information that they can use to defraud you.
    Increasingly, cyber crooks, whether targeting individuals or businesses, are becoming especially creative in the bait they use to entice their targets to click those malicious links to spoofed sites or to download trojan viruses. For example, employees may receive an email looking like it has been accidentally sent to the employee from HR with confidential company-wide salary information. Or individuals at home might receive an email warning an Amazon or UPS delivery is delayed, with a link to click for more details. So, before you click that link, take a careful look at the sender's email. Scammers will often mimic many of the elements of a legitimate email, so it takes a keen eye to see the difference. But the time you spend verifying that the email you've received is legitimate may help save you plenty in the end.


    There’s a good reason why ransomware has been garnering headlines lately: the attacks have cost businesses millions of dollars and disrupted everything from oil and gas distributions to meat processing. It’s happened because the cyber crooks were able to take over their victim’s computer systems, seizing data and making it impossible for them to function unless they hand over a sizable ransom.
    One tactic that perpetrators have been deploying is to infiltrate third-party services that businesses depend upon. The criminals embed viruses into the third-party’s code, which is then downloaded by other businesses unaware of the danger. Cyber criminals also exploit vulnerabilities in the code of software companies’ marquee products, such as Microsoft’s Exchange Server, which ultimately distributes their malicious code far and wide.
    For businesses, the best defense is to turn to the professionals: a cyber security expert can assess your vulnerabilities and help you implement remedies. But even if you don’t have a business, keep in mind that individuals are also frequent targets of ransomware attacks and should be taking defensive measures.
    One of the best tactics for all concerned is to back up your computer systems frequently. That way, if your system is breached and you can no longer access your data, all you have to do is reinstall the latest backup.
    Also, make sure to update your software regularly. Software companies are keenly aware of the dangers posed by weaknesses in their code and will frequently send out patches and updates to close any vulnerabilities they find.
    Lastly, remember that human error is what most often gives cyber crooks entrance into your computer systems, whether to steal data and log-in credentials or to plant malicious viruses. So avoid clicking on suspicious links, being careless about the sites you visit, or downloading suspect files.

    Your Best Defense

    Here’s how to best protect yourself from most cyber attacks:
  • Don’t automatically click on links in emails. Instead, open your web browser and enter the correct web address into the navigation pane. That way, you’ll know for certain you’re at the right location.
  • Trust but verify. If you get a strange email with suspicious links or attachments from someone you know, don’t automatically assume it’s safe. They may have had their contact list hacked and someone may be pretending to be them. When in doubt, don’t hit “reply.” Instead, create a new email to reply to the contact. And much as you might want to respond with a nasty retort to a fake email, resist the urge. If you do, you'll confirm to the crook that he's hit upon a "live" email which he can then sell to other crooks.
  • Make your social media profiles visible only to people you know, not strangers. And in the “about” sections, don’t include such personal details as your phone, email, current city, or other identifying information that could help a criminal steal your identity. Crooks routinely scan the profiles of potential targets to glean information they can use to steal your identity.
  • Learn how to “hover.” Crooks may be able to spoof an email account or web address, but they can’t hide the address revealed when you hover your cursor over the end and right click to display the actual address or email. If they are anything other than what they should be, delete the email immediately.
  • Create a unique username and password for each of your online accounts. That way, if one site is compromised and your sign-in credentials exposed to criminals, it won't give them a "golden ticket" to all of your other accounts. And yes, keeping track of multiple passwords is a pain, so consider using a "password manager," such as 1Password or Dashlane.
  • Trends to Watch in the Months Ahead

    Economists and investors worldwide are putting their money on the health of the U.S. economy and the resilience it is demonstrating as it rebounds post-Covid. It seems they have reason to be optimistic. Consumers, flush with savings they amassed during the past 18 months, have re-emerged from lockdown ready to spend. The one big question mark on the horizon remains Covid-19's Delta variant, posing a more highly infectious and dangerous risk, especially to unvaccinated populations. With the caveat that this unpredictable factor may upend all expectations once again, economists on balance on watching developments in these major areas:

    Inflation on the Rise

    Thanks to Pandemic-triggered disruptions in manufacturing and supply chains, consumers and businesses alike are finding many goods and services difficult to find. And as every student of economics knows, when demand goes up and supply goes down, prices rise. As consumers emerge from lock-down, they’re hitting the malls and retailers with a vengeance, with a long-simmering demand for everything from food and clothing to housing, new vehicles, and travel. Meanwhile, some industries, such as semiconductor manufacturers which produce technology for everything from computers and phones to refrigerators and autos – are only slowly returning to business as usual. As a result, economists are predicting that inflation will rise throughout the year, hitting 5.5 percent by year end, a level not seen since 1990. But they advise it should quickly return to more sustainable levels once supply and demand equalize. As of now, the Federal Reserve, which deploys the levers of the U.S. Government to try to manage inflation, is keeping a watchful eye on the situation but has yet to signal any plans to intervene in the near future.

    Workers and Wages

    Another factor fueling higher inflation is the scarcity of workers, especially in low wage jobs. Many workers had been reluctant to return to work fearing exposure to Covid-19 or struggling with a lack of childcare and having to help children with distance learning. Others, especially those at the lowest rungs of the wage scale, found it easier to stay home and collect enhanced unemployment benefits. The combined effect of these factors has made it harder for employers to staff low-wage positions in food service, hospitality, and other traditionally low paying fields. Another trend surprising some analysts is the rate at which employees are quitting their jobs. Surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal noted that this was actually a good thing: when employees quit, it typically means they’re moving on to better jobs. And that may point to the larger trend: desperate for workers, employers are finally starting to raise wages that have been stagnant for years, with a federal minimum wage unchanged since 2009 at $7.25. That wage would need to be $9.18 today just to retain its 2009 purchasing power. Of course, many employers are raising prices to recoup their higher payroll costs, thus contribution to overall inflation rates.

    A Pandemic of Productivity

    With so many non-essential employees working remotely during the Pandemic, business analysts discovered something surprising: while poor performers got even worse with no one looking over their shoulder, the vast majority of remote workers actually put in longer hours and got more done than when they showed up at the office every day. But work-from-home had its downsides as well, such as greater difficulty in collaboration, poorer communication, and delays in completing projects. For management, hiring and training new employees became much more difficult, while employees found it’s harder to get noticed by the upper ranks, so promotions and performance raises are harder to justify. Many struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance while the office intrudes into the home. As employers and employees sort out the gains and pains of remote work, many companies are pursuing the middle ground: a hybrid return-to-work plan that has employees in the office for a set number of days and working remotely the rest. But there are still plenty of other firms -- especially those in finance and banking -- that dislike remote-work and have announced their intention to bring all workers back soon.