Are you financially literate? Take these short quizzes to see

OK, tax day is over – you can breathe a sigh of relief.
But wait – don’t relax yet. April is Financial Literacy month – just how savvy are you about your finances? You can test your knowledge with these financial literacy quizzes and see how you stack up compared to based on high-school seniors across the country. The quizzes are part of the Jump$tart
Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college.
If your scores are embarrassing, don’t despair. There are some excellent consumer tools to help you get your financial house in order. Here are a few:

  • As part of Financial Literacy Month, the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America would like to help motivate you to save. To sweeten the pot, they are giving away $500 to help one person reach their savings goal. Pledge to save by signing up to receive periodic text tips on saving, and you might win. You must sign up between April 1 and April 30, 2013 and you must be 18 years of age or older to win. Plus, standard text messaging rates might apply, depending on your plan.
  • – a resource brought to you by 20 agencies and bureaus of the U.S. Federal government that work on improving financial literacy and education. It includes great tools, such as Budgeting Worksheets, Calculators, and Checklists.

Helpers & Helping in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Monday’s tragic events at the Boston Marathon have left many of us shaken – particularly being in our own backyard and affecting people we may know. But true to the cliche, even this cloud had a silver lining – evidenced by the incredible bravery of first responders, medical personnel and many private citizens who put their own lives at risk to save others. No doubt, more lives would have been lost without the courage of “the helpers.”
It’s hard for any of us to come to grips with senseless violence, but particularly hard for kids. On the web page Tragic Events in the News, Fred Rogers offers resources, tips and discussion about how to put scary, confusing disasters and world events into perspective for kids. Some of his sensible, comforting advice is good for adults, too!
Also see Resources in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, a list of helpful links from our Employee Assistance Program.
Ways You Can Help
The One Fund – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, Inc. to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013.
American Red Cross – You can always donate funds or blood to the American Red Cross – but you may want to wait a few weeks. Right now, the Red Cross says it has sufficient funds and blood supply to deal with events in Boston, but the need for blood is constant. People often rush to donate to a specific tragedy but donating on a regular basis can be more helpful.
Boston Children’s Hospital continues to aid in the recovery following the explosions. You can support the hospital’s efforts with a donation to the Marathon Program, which supports the hospital’s areas of greatest need, or the Emergency and Trauma fund, which helps kids and families get the emergency treatment they need when tragedy strikes.

A conman you should listen to

He’s been called the world’s greatest conman. Leonardo DiCaprio played him in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can – based on his successful cons while impersonating a Pan Am pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. And he might just be one of the best people to listen to when it comes to protecting your identity.

Today, Frank Abagnale is one of the world’s most respected authorities on the subjects of forgery, embezzlement and secure documents. He’s been consulting with the FBI and with governments, businesses, and financial institutions around the globe for more than 35 years.
We spotted a recent article in The Guardian about how Facebook users risk identity theft that offers some great security tips from Frank – its worth reading. His biggest message is not to expect social media companies to protect your identity – its your responsibility to stay safe. Some of his advice:

“If you tell me your date of birth and where you’re born [on Facebook] I’m 98% [of the way] to stealing your identity,” he said. “Never state your date of birth and where you were born [on personal profiles], otherwise you are saying ‘come and steal my identity’.”

He also advised Facebook users to never choose a passport-style photograph as a profile picture, and instead use group photographs.

Click through to read the whole article and view the video interview. He’s worth listening to!

A conman you should listen to

Passwords for more than 6 million LinkedIn accounts were leaked by hackers this past week, and just after that was announced, there was a leak of more than 1.5 million eHarmony user passwords. The strong advice from security experts: Change your passwords now.
Here’s the scoop: you should change your passwords for these accounts, and if those passwords were used on any other accounts, you need to change those, too. Run, don’t walk, to change passwords if any of those accounts are related to your financial data.
Creating and managing passwords is a nuisance for many, but it is one of your first defenses against preventing identity theft and illegal access to your important accounts. It’s something you should take seriously.
Here are some security tips:

  • Ideally, you should use separate passwords for each account. At the very least, create and memorize unique, separate, and strong passwords for your banking and your email accounts, and any other accounts that have financially sensitive information. Do not re-use those passwords on other sites. That way, you would limit damage and exposure if one account is compromised.
  • Take the time to learn about and create strong passwords. Microsoft Security Center offers simple advice on creating strong passwords, as well as a secure password checker, a tool that you can use to test the strength of a password.
  • Make it a routine practice to change passwords regularly, particularly for key accounts. At a minimum, do it twice a year at daylight savings when you change your fire alarm batteries.
  • Avoid storing credit card information online. Enter it in every time when making a purchase. Today’s convenience might be tomorrow’s headache.
  • Never enter a password into an email or a site you have clicked through an email. Phishing can be very convincing. Instead, if you get a notice from a bank or some other account, go directly to the website from your browser and sign in there.
  • Consider a password managing service. While we can’t make a recommendation for a specific service, some popular ones frequently cited on tech forums include LastPass, KeePass, and 1Password. These have different features and benefits, and help solve the problem of remembering and storing passwords. While there are free versions of password management services, this seems important enough to consider paying an annual service fee for.

See our other posts on ID theft and scams.

April is National Autism Awareness Month

The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s. According to the Autism Society, autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. The prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 88 births in the United States and almost 1 in 54 boys.
Here are some autism resources for parents, teachers and friends:

Here are two autism-related video clips that we enjoy. The first clip is by Temple Grandin, perhaps the worlds most famous person living with autism. Diagnosed with autism as a child, she talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.
The second video is an uncle talking with and about his autistic nephew. Its by the Winn Brothers from the What You Ought to Know series.