After inquiring with our clients,  it seems that many are not particularly active in logging on to our various online sites.  Most are not interested in following their investments on a frequent basis; rather, they use our annual review meeting as a “deep dive” into their portfolio and their financial plan.  Others are concerned about cyber security, and are loath to set up yet one more online site that may be prone to hacking and identity theft.

Still, for a good number of clients the online views are useful tools.   Here I will give an overview of the online sites and the safeguards that can be used to address the cyber security issue.

Overview of Online Sites

We have three online sites, each of which provide different information.  All can be found in the upper right of the front page on our website at  www.FinancialPlanInc.com.

1) Your TDA Accounts  This site is powered by TD Ameritrade Institutional,  our custodial firm.  Here you can view your TD Ameritrade Statements including positions and transactions, and the annual 1099 tax statement.

2) Client Web Portal This site is facilitated through Morningstar Office, our portfolio accounting software.  Here you can view the balance and transactions in all of your holdings under our management,  whether they are under the custody of TD Ameritrade or elsewhere.  This might include life insurance, annuities,  529 plans, or 401ks.  This site displays good data on your holdings when researching various data points including expense ratio, turnover rate, yields, credit ratings, price to book ratio, performance, and others. It also contains an accurate asset allocation by asset class and region.

3) Financial Plan Dashboard This site is offered through E-Money, our Financial Planning software. Here you can  view your balance sheet, cash flow reports, straight line and Monte Carlo projections.  It also contains a vault that has your important documents such as insurance policies, estate plan documents, and others.  For those who wish to connect their bank accounts to this site,  it will also display a history of expenses by category. This site also provides a real-time view of all of your investment accounts. It is the most comprehensive of all the online sites.

If you wish to log on to any of these sites and are unable to do so,  feel free to rely upon our operations directors.  Bonnie, Jeanne and Justin are here to help you. The three online sites  are accessed from our website, and the buttons (which are in the upper right portion of our front page) look like this:

 

Cyber Security Issues

Let’s lay a few things on the table:

  •  Your information is all over the internet.  Even if you do not have a computer, you have information online with most institutions with whom you do business.  From bank and investment accounts,  to medical, accounting, legal firms, credit card companies, lenders, and retail chains—your personal information is online.  For better or worse,  this is the reality in the information age.  If you are active on email, online retail, and social media, your information is even more widely disseminated across the web.
  •  If hackers really want to compromise you,  they will.   No matter how careful we are, there is no foolproof method to completely protect yourself from online hackers and identity thieves.

This does not mean that we shouldn’t try to protect ourselves as much as we can.  We can reduce our exposure,  in much the same way that a home security system will reduce your chance of being robbed.   Common steps that can be taken include:

1) Make sure that the firms with whom you do business are careful both with electronic and paper information.  Financial Plan uses robust encryption, firewalls, and shredders* to protect your information.  When you do business with a new firm,  look at their privacy policy.  If their agreement with you allows them to sell your data, avoid doing business with them. If your firms have insurance to reimburse you in the event of theft,  all the better.  TD Ameritrade has an Asset Protection Guarantee,  which will reimburse you in the event that you lose any securities or cash to a hacker. (*if you don’t own a shredder, you are welcome to bring it into us and we will shred it for you).

2) Make sure that you are careful.  Use strong passwords. Documents with personal information should be shredded before being placed in the trash. Don’t open email attachments from an unknown source.  Don’t give out any personal information when requested by an unknown party over the internet or telephone.

3) Sign on to fraud alerts from one of the three credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian; or better yet,  place a freeze on new accounts with all three agencies. If you place a freeze, no one will be able to open an account in your name until you lift the freeze. Note that there is a cost for this.

4) You might consider signing on to Lifelock or one of the other identity theft protection services.  They are reasonably priced, and have good customer reviews.

 

Required communication:  Notice of material changes to our ADV disclosure document:

Financial Plan’s assets under management may now include “held away” accounts that are not under the custody of TD Ameritrade Institutional.   This reduces our conflicts of interest when we are advising that a client transfer funds from one managed account to another.

Currently, our Brochure may be requested by contacting us at (360) 383-5764 or james.twining@FinancialPlanInc.com. Our Brochure is provided free of charge.

 

 

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