Each quarter we send out a newsletter to our customers, packed with great information. Here are the highlights from our latest issue, and a few previous editions. Enjoy!
Summer 2015 Edition:
- Simplifying Your Financial Life
- Why Every Business Needs a Referral System
- Essentials to Keeping your Computer Safe
There are many reasons to organize and simplify your financial life. Eliminating clutter, saving time and reducing stress are surely among them. And here's another motivating factor: Not keeping tabs on your finances can be costly if it results in fees or interest charges you could have avoided, investment losses, additional taxes or other pitfalls. Here is a checklist of nine basic things you can do to get your money matters in order.
1. Use direct deposit. Ask to have your pay, pension or Social Security benefits automatically deposited into your bank account. Direct deposit is safer, easier and more convenient than getting a paper check in the mail and then having to deposit it into your bank account. Direct deposit also gives you access to your money sooner than with a paper check.
2. Automate recurring bills. Many merchants, such as insurance companies or utilities, will allow you to pay recurring bills with an automatic withdrawal from your checking account or through a charge to your credit card. However, be sure to record these transactions in your check register to avoid overdrawing your account. And if you charge the bills to a credit card, pay the balance in full by the due date to avoid interest charges.
Charter Bank offers free online Bill Pay that allows you to pay bills quickly and easily. This feature allows you to pay bills electronically, view payment history, and more. "Bill Pay transactions are entirely paperless transactions, and it can reduce the chance of incurring a late-payment fee," said Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC's Community Outreach Section.
3. Explore online and mobile banking. These services allow you to review deposits and withdrawals, keep track of your balance, transfer funds between accounts - all at your convenience.
For example, with electronic banking you can quickly review your account and make sure you didn't forget to record any debit or ATM card transactions in your check register.
4. Put some savings on autopilot. Arrange with your bank or employer to automatically transfer a certain amount into savings accounts or investments on a regular schedule. "Automatic savings programs can make it easy to build an emergency fund or save for the future," said Joyce Thomas, an FDIC financial educator in the Community Outreach Section.
5. Consider consolidating accounts. Think about how many different financial institutions you use and how many accounts (savings, checking and investments) and credit cards you have. You may be able to simplify your finances, reduce mail and paperwork, and avoid certain fees by consolidating multiple accounts and by having all of your accounts at one place like Charter Bank.
Also, consider canceling the credit cards you never use, preferably well before you apply for another loan — in case dropping a long-time card temporarily lowers your credit score. "Review your credit reports to make sure you know which accounts are listed as open and active," advised Reynolds.
6. Look into automated money-management tools. Software that you download to your computer or Web based services can give you an updated snapshot of all your account information in one place. The programs also can help you organize your finances, understand how you spend your money, and spot a potential fraud or theft (by providing a regular summary of account balances).
7. Update your will and other legal documents, and make sure your family knows where to find them in an emergency. These additional documents can range from bank statements and pension records to directives that govern what happens to your bank accounts, property and other assets if you become incapacitated.
In addition to reviewing your will (and letting loved ones know where to locate the original), check the beneficiaries listed on life insurance policies and retirement accounts and consider having or updating documents (such as a "durable power of attorney") that would enable someone to handle your finances or other personal matters if you lose the ability to do so.
8. Get your other papers under control. Even if you rely on technology, it's difficult to go completely paperless. Start with a central filing system at home for your bank, tax, insurance and other financial records. Also designate one place for gathering your bills.
9. Don't let a disaster catch you off guard. If an emergency were to occur and you had only few moments to evacuate your home, perhaps for several days or even weeks, would you have access to cash, banking services and the personal identification you need to conduct your day-to-day financial life?
The bottom line, according to Reynolds: "By spending a few minutes organizing and simplifying your financial life, you can save many hours and perhaps significant amounts of money."
FDIC Consumer News
Originally published by: Marc Wayshak
In today's world of Yelp reviews and Google searches, it's easy for businesses to forget about the power of customer referrals. You see, prospects are bombarded by loud advertisements and slick salespeople all day long. But that's far from what they really want.
What they really want is this: to learn about a business or service from trustworthy friends and acquaintances that vouch for it themselves. As a result, every business needs a robust referral system to continually connect with highly qualified prospects.
But don't just take it from Marc! Recently, he had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Cates, founder of Referral Coach International and author of the new book, Beyond Referrals - How to Use the Perpetual Revenue System to Turn Referrals into High-Value Clients. During the interview, he explained why businesses must have a referral system in place, and shared the keys to establishing a successful referral system. His advice can help you dramatically increase your business immediately.
Cates calls referrals "forgotten gold." Most businesses are aware that they should be focusing more on getting referrals -- but they don't, because they don't have a referral system already in place. Building such a system from the ground up can seem like a time-consuming and challenging task. But before throwing in the towel on establishing a referral system, first consider the upside to getting more referrals:
1. There is no cost: When Cates first began working with one of his clients, they calculated their cost per lead to be a whopping $400. Once they developed a referral system, says Cates, their cost per lead dropped precipitously.
2. You'll increase your closing ratio: The closing ratio of a cold call is typically under 1 percent. The closing ratio of an inbound lead usually ranges between 15 percent and 30 percent. In sharp comparison, the closing ratio of a strong referral can be as high as 80 percent.
3. You'll make larger sales: In today's market -- where prospects are hugely distrustful of salespeople -- it's difficult to close larger sales. When a prospect is introduced to your organization through someone that he trusts, you are more likely to close a larger sale as a result.
4. Referrals beget referrals: When you make a sale from a referral, that new client is going to be more inclined to refer you to others in his network as well. Think of it this way: You're creating an army of unpaid salespeople who recommend you to other potential prospects.
Now that we've discussed the benefits of referrals, let's explore the key elements to an effective referral system, according to Bill Cates:
1. Have a referral mindset: It all begins with becoming aware of the opportunity that's in front of you and taking advantage of that opportunity. Most salespeople let referral opportunities slip by when their customers give positive feedback.
2. Work on your "referrability": You need to become referable to your customers in two ways. First, you need to make sure that it was a total pleasure to do business with your company and that you were invaluable to your customer. Second, you need to be aware of how you stay in touch with your customers over time. Do you fall off their radar once you do business together or do you stay closely connected? Make sure it's the latter.
3. Be proactive: It's your job to promote referrals all the time. The next time your client praises you, Cates recommends that you reply with this: "Thank you so much! Please don't keep me a secret." And then, more important, actually ask for the referral! Salespeople often try to get referrals without asking. Customers are not mind readers -- it's your responsibility to ask.
4. Turn referrals into introductions: Referrals are no longer enough anymore -- you need to be connected through an introduction. This means that you must ask to be introduced directly, through the most appropriate medium -- face-to-face meeting, phone call, or e-mail.
5. Manage your referrals: How you treat a referral will determine whether that referral source will give you more referrals. So be meticulously organized with your referrals, calling them immediately. Be sure to keep your referral source in the loop and send him a handwritten note or a gift.
By developing a referral system, you create a company culture based on servicing your clients. Your customers are a sales force in their own right -- don't let them keep you a secret!
Computers house so much of our personal data that it’s essential to set up protective measures in case of cyber-attack or mechanical failure. These must-do steps dramatically increase the odds your computer (and your privacy) will remain safe from the latest online criminal activity and let you salvage your most important files if your computer becomes irretrievably infected.
Updates are not optional
Updating the software on your system, including the operating system, is an absolute necessity. If you don’t download new versions of programs like Adobe Flash, your computer is more susceptible to malware. Updates to your operating system help address new threats.
To keep your system up to date, you can use the Windows or Mac Updates to make sure you’re getting the necessary adjustments. Review your computer’s options by looking at its settings to review if automatic updates are enabled.
Install malware protection
Trojans, viruses, keyloggers, zombie code, spyware, adware and more are continuously finding new ways to make it onto your PC. But many people are infected by malware that has been around for years, simply because they don’t have decent security software installed. There are many malware protectors available for purchase or free to download, just do your research to determine which option would be best for you.
Use strong passwords
Many of us just use one or two passwords for all the sites we visit. Who can keep track of a couple dozen unique passwords anyway? But if one of those sites gets hacked and they weren’t using proper encryption techniques, criminals will now have your password for sites like Amazon, eBay, and PayPal.
There is a simple three-step solution:
- Make passwords strong
- Use different passwords for each site
- Use a password management system to track them all
A strong password usually should have at least 8 characters (the longer the better), with a mixture of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and, if the site allows, special characters. But it should also be something you can easily remember. The good news is that studies have shown password length may be more important than whether you’re using fancy characters. So the password “IgrewupinBrooklyn” may actually be incredibly difficult to crack. You can also consider lying when creating password security questions. Public information that can be Googled (street you grew up on, etc.) makes you an easy target for hackers trying to get your password. You will be the only one to know if you lie in your passwords or security questions.
When your system is infected beyond repair or compromised and wiped, you need to have a backup of your critical documents so they’re not lost forever. Your two major backup solutions are online storage and external hard drives.
Online storage offers a few gigabytes for free with a cost to get access to more. If you back up thousands of large files, like photos and videos, you may have to pay a monthly fee. Cloud-based storage is perfect for saving important can’t-lose documents and the best of your photos. Backing up is as simple as signing up for one of the services and putting your documents into a special folder that will sync to your cloud storage account. With online storage you can access your files from anywhere with a computer, tablet or phone and an Internet connection. Most of the cloud-based storage services provide encryption of files while they transfer from your computer to their servers, but the files will usually be stored unencrypted on the server. If you want an extra level of privacy protection, consider a program that encrypts files before uploading them.
External hard drive backups are a good option if you want instant access to very large files or if you have tons of files and don’t want to pay a monthly fee. But if a fire, flood or theft takes out your home computer, it will likely destroy your external hard drive as well.
Be sure to take all of this into consideration when deciding your preferred method of data backup.
These tips combined with your own computer knowledge can help prevent malware from attacking your computer, keeping your information safe and computer as up to date as possible.
Written by Katharine Knibbs