What Happened With Security At Intel?

In the world of tech, security breaches are no anomaly. Nearly every week brings Lock on computer chip boardscreaming headlines about a breach that can potentially expose thousands, if not millions, of users to hackers and identity thieves. But early this month, a potential breach was discovered that may require tens of thousands of computers and Android phones to be redesigned.

A huge security flaw was found in the architecture of computers and devices designed by Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of PC microprocessors. Further research revealed that there were actually two separate vulnerabilities, both of which could allow hackers to access the most sensitive parts of computers, and by extension, the information contained therein.

The flaw was discovered by Google researchers who claim it affects nearly every modern device used today. And, of course, there are many questions being asked by many consumers:

  • Does this mean we all need to trash our computers and smartphones?
  • Are we all at risk of being hacked?
  • What steps has the company taken to repair the problem?
  • Does every computer need to be redesigned?

So many questions! No worries, though; we’ve got answers. Here’s what you need to know about the Intel vulnerabilities:

The two flaws

The exposed bugs are respectively called Meltdown and Spectre, and each presents a separate potential problem.

Meltdown is considered to be the less significant threat and has already been fixed in many computers with an effective patch.

The Spectre vulnerability is a bit more problematic. It involves the foundation of the chips that form the computer’s infrastructure. This means it is likely that the problem cannot be fixed unless the devices are redesigned and replaced.

Perhaps more frightening is the fact that the flaw affects an allegedly secure area of the chip architecture, where information like passwords and encryption keys are stored. If exploited, it can grant hackers unchecked access to all this information.

It is important to note that the two discovered flaws represent problems in the hardware of the product, and not in the software, making them more difficult to patch. This also means the number of affected devices is astronomical, and includes operating systems like Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS Chromebooks and more.

Can the flaws be fixed?

As mentioned, the Meltdown flaw can be easily amended with a patch. While the patch effectively resolves the vulnerability, it also tends to slow down computer systems by a full 30%. In some cases, it has caused systems to crash unexpectedly. Despite these drawbacks, Intel urges all consumers to use the patch.

Spectre, on the other hand, has no known fix. While fearful consumers are demanding a redesign, many experts claim that redesigning computers may not even resolve the flaw. That’s because there is currently no known solution for the problem. This can mean that it will be many years before computers and chips include complete fixes for the Spectre flaw.

Aside from Intel’s patch, frantic mitigation efforts have been coming from every corner of the technology industry, from chip vendors to OS vendors like Microsoft and Apple.

Several weeks after the flaws became public knowledge, every major tech company has released patches or an updated system that can effectively resolve the flaws.

Have the flaws been exploited?

The greatest threat these flaws pose is to serve as an easy hunting ground for hackers. But there’s good news: There have been no known exploits of the flaws thus far. In fact, the company is keeping all the details of the two problems under wraps, so attackers won’t know specifically how to access them for entry into private computers and devices.

How has Intel responded to the flaws?

Security researchers have actually known about the flaws for months – and have been secretly working to patch them during that time. In fact, most consumer systems are already patched against Meltdown.

Intel has also made several statements in response to the discovery, though it hasn’t addressed the problem of Spectre and the potential need for a massive redesign of its product.

“Check with your operating system vendor or system manufacturer and apply any available updates as soon as they are available,” Intel said in its initial press release. “Following good security practices that protect against malware in general will also help protect against possible exploitation until updates can be applied.”

Is Intel the only company that has been affected by the discovery?

Intel is taking most of the heat for the two flaws, but research revealed that, while Meltdown mostly impacted Intel chips, Spectre affects other chips, including AMD and ARM processors and IBM’s Power chips.

Fingers continue to point at Intel, as the world’s largest company of chip makers. The company clearly knew about the problem for some time and failed to let the public know. Critics also claim Intel is not responding to legitimate concerns, and is continuously brushing off pointed questions about Spectre.

As a consumer, what do I need to do now?

First, don’t panic. As of now, the vulnerabilities have not been exploited by hackers. Second, know that Intel is hard at work trying to fix the flaws and will keep sharing patches and updates as they become available. Be sure to apply any updates as they reach the market and keep your antivirus software updated and operating at its strongest level.

Your Turn: Do you think Intel is doing all it can to mitigate the two flaws?



What You Need to Know about Government Shutdowns

After experiencing a government shutdown for about a half-week, you may have beenImage of the capital in the background yellow caution tape in foreground wondering what longer shutdowns mean for you. Which government offices and agencies stay up and running, and which of them are shuttered until the shutdown ends?

Here’s what you need to know about government shutdowns.

What is a government shutdown?

A government shutdown is an official closure of all nonessential government offices due to a lack of approval of the federal budget for the approaching fiscal year. Approval can only be reached if Congress passes every one of the spending bills related to the federal budget. If no agreement is reached, the shutdown continues, forcing many federally operated programs to halt all their work and services. Some programs will stay open, operating on a contingency plan. Others will subsist on cash reserves for as long as they last.

In short, a shutdown cannot be resolved until a compromise is reached and a spending bill is passed.

What happens to government employees?

A government shutdown doesn’t mean an extra week’s vacation for federal workers. Quite the contrary, as thousands of federal employees are placed on furlough, or on unpaid leave. In previous shutdowns, government workers who went on furlough were paid retroactively once an agreement was reached and the shutdown ended.

There are many government programs that are considered essential, and keep operating as usual. However, most of these workers are not paid for their work.

Which government agencies are affected by shutdowns?

As mentioned, all essential government agencies are typically running as usual. Several of them will be understaffed until the shutdown ends, and many employees are not getting paid for work done during the shutdown. In addition, here’s how a shutdown will affect various federal agencies and divisions:

1.) Military

The military is considered an essential agency, and all overseas operations will be executed as usual. Military personnel are expected to report to work as usual, and according to The Washington Post, they are paid in full unless the shutdown stretches on.

It’s important to note, though, that many civilian Department of Defense employees are not working during shutdowns, including military academy instructors and private maintenance contractors.

2.) Veterans’ Affairs

More than 335,000 of the VA’s 377,000 employees are expected to continue working throughout a shutdown.

3.) Social Security

Social Security checks will be distributed on schedule, and most of the SSA’s staff will continue to work despite the shutdown.

4.) Postal Service

Neither rain, nor snow, nor government shutdown can keep your mail carrier home. Though the Postal Service is a government-owned agency, it operates on its own stream of revenue and is not affected by the shutdown.

5.) The Justice Department

Criminal litigation will proceed as planned and all courts will continue to operate as usual throughout the shutdown.

6.) Housing and Urban Development

Only 300 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 7,800 employees are exempt from furloughs. Since it’s operating with only a fraction of workers, the department continues to provide essential services – like housing for the homeless – but private applications for government housing aid will likely be delayed.

7.) Education

The DOE’s contingency plan calls for upward of 90% of its staff to be furloughed during the first week of a shutdown. Only 6% of its staff is expected to return to work if the shutdown lasts more than a week.

8.) Passports and visas

Passport and visa applications will be processed as usual, but many applicants will experience delays due to some shuttered processing facilities.

9.) White House

During the January 2018 shutdown, 1,056 members of the Executive Office of the President were placed on furlough, while 659 workers are considered essential and continue to report to work. All furloughed staff was expected to report to work on Monday, Jan. 22. However, they were only allowed to remain in the building for four hours and to engage in “shutdown activities” such as setting out-of-office messages and issuing instructions for non-furloughed colleagues.

10.) TSA and air traffic control

The TSA and air traffic control are deemed essential and therefore operate as normal.

11.)Homeland Security

Close to 90% of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are considered essential and work as usual.

12.) National parks and landmarks

In 2013, national parks were closed to the public during the government shutdown. However, during the 2018 shutdown, national parks, recreation areas and monuments remained in full operating mode. Most landmarks, such as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, were closed. The Statue of Liberty, in New York, reopened with the city picking up the tab for operating costs.

Economic effect

Government shutdowns have always had a devastating effect on the economy. With loan processing delayed and halted, attractions shuttered and thousands of businesses that rely on the patronization of furloughed workers suffering a loss, the economy can take a hard hit. In the past, an estimated $20 billion in revenue was lost during a shutdown. Had the 2018 shutdown extended further, with many parks and recreational centers operating as usual, the losses may not have been as severe.

Congress works hard when trying to reach budget plans to satisfy all parties. Hopefully, if shutdowns do occur, an agreement is quickly achieved and the shutdown comes to an end.

Your Turn: Did the most recent government shutdown effect you or someone you know?



What The Data Breaches At Uber And PayPal Tell Us

Q: I’ve been hearing about security or data breaches at some large companies I do Uber and PayPal logosbusiness with. I’m worried that something like this might result in harm to my credit. What exactly is a data breach and what can I do to protect myself?

A: As our digital world expands, so does cyber crime. Two companies that recently experienced major data breaches are Uber and PayPal. Chances are, you’ve done business with one or both of these companies. To protect yourself against these and future breaches, arm yourself with knowledge and good habits.

Just what is a data breach?

When a criminal gains access to data sources and sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords and license numbers, this constitutes a data breach. Such access can be physical, like when someone has access to your phone or computer. The information in your device can be copied (or ported) to another device. More often, and more nefarious, is virtual thievery accomplished by a number of means, such as bypassing the security measures put in place by you or a company that stores your info in some way. Cyber criminals at Uber and PayPal used this method to steal data.

What happened?

As more people are connected to the Internet and use online services, data breaches are increasingly more common. Uber’s breach exposed the personal information of 57 million customers and Uber workers in 2016. It included names, phone numbers, email addresses, and license numbers. While sensitive information like birth dates and credit card numbers were not exposed, many of these can be attained and paired to the exposed information. PayPal also had a large data breach that potentially impacted 1.6 million customers.

This stolen information can be then used in many ways, including setting up accounts to establish a new identity. It can also be used to use to steal a person’s identity.

How can you protect yourself?

No one who uses the Internet to transact business is completely secure from threats of breaches like these. However, experts in cyber security have some suggestions to lessen your vulnerability.

  • Do not log into accounts using Facebook. When you log in this way, you are allowing Facebook to access more information about you and you don’t have control over how this data is used.
  • Don’t give out too much information. The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Software Practices suggests not giving your age and birth date when filling out profiles. You can make up a birth date and even choose your opposite gender. When using social networks, limit the information you make available. Identity thieves can make quick use of your birth date and hometown. Don’t post these in your profile.
  • Use more than one email account. For social media, using more than one email account can help to keep your data from being accumulated in one place. If you have a large amount of data in one place, losing it all at one time can potentially do greater damage.
  • Be password smart. A surprising number of people use the same password for many sites. This is a problem because if one of your sites is compromised, hackers can try that password on other sites. While it may not be convenient, it is smart to use a different password for each site you use. Every password should be strong with a unique combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

    Another option is to use a password manager to generate passwords and store them in an encrypted database locally or remotely. An uncrackable password goes a long way to protect your data.

  • Limit your use of credit cards online. Ironically, given the subject of this article, using PayPal is safer than using credit cards when online. PayPal limits the information you are providing. In fact, no customers were harmed in the PayPal data breach.
  • Change identifying information. Pick a new birth year or change your gender on social media profiles. This helps to keep information about you from being linked with information from other sites.
  • Practice good data management. Ceck all of your account statements regularly. Look for suspicious items and set alerts to notify you when a large purchase is made.
  • Check to see if the apps you use are storing information. Some apps actually collect and sell information. Install updates for your apps because the updates typically include more advanced security, or close existing gaps that were recently discovered and exploited.

Your Turn: Unfortunately, almost everyone has a nightmare story about a personal data breach situation. What is yours? How did you handle it?



Phone Cloning And Digital Self Defense

Most of us realize a clone is a genetic copy of something else. ButMan holding cell phone, did you know it is possible to clone a phone? Cloning a phone means that the identity of one phone is copied to another phone, making a nearly exact replica of the original. This frightening practice happens more than you might imagine.

Cyber forensic expert Ali Dehghantanha says, “On average, we check our mobile phones about 110 times a day. We use them for just about everything from summoning an Uber car, paying for our latest Amazon purchases, receiving prescriptions and even tracking shares and trading on the stock market.”

Mobile phones, though, are also a major source of security breaches, and your phone number is the only thing a hacker needs to launch a major attack.

Why Clone a Phone?

Hackers clone phones so they can use them or sell them to people who use them to make calls and to get access to data on the phone. When a phone is cloned, the calls made by the hackers are seamlessly billed to your account. But that’s just the beginning.

Think of all of the information on your phone: financial accounts, credit cards, apps of all kinds. Once the hacker has access to the phone, there is no end to the financial damage that can be done.

The hacker or criminal can listen to you from their own phone and even use the camera on your phone to watch you. He can look at your pictures, read your messages, access your passwords and view your contacts.

Additionally, these cloned phones are convenient devices for criminals to use because they are harder to trace. Cloning is particularly prevalent in drug-related crime, since drug dealers must maintain constant contact with their sources and clients. To avoid their calls being traced, the dealer may use a cloned phone for a few days and then throw it away and use another one.

It may even appear to authorities that you are engaged in criminal activity if the phone number is used this way. The police may target you because of a cyberattack where your phone number was used.

There are a number of ways a hacker can clone a phone. Generally, every phone has a unique serial number and phone number. When a cellphone is cloned, it is reprogrammed to transfer these settings from a legitimate phone. The easiest way to clone a phone is to use readily available software. There are hundreds of sites that offer phone hacking software, so this is not a rare occurrence and requires little technical expertise.

How do you know your phone has been cloned?

Often, you will be unaware that your phone has been cloned until you notice some unusual occurrence, such as credit card bills that include charges you didn’t make, financial account withdrawals and unusual items on accounts, such as Uber or Airbnb. You may be contacted by your financial institution about a loan you did not actually apply for.

However, you can sometimes detect hints that the phone has been cloned. You may receive a lot of wrong number calls or hang-ups when you answer the phone. You might have difficulty making outgoing calls or retrieving messages. Your phone bill may contain unknown numbers.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

While cellular companies have many methods in place to identify cloned phones, there are some things you can do.

First, always review your phone bill. If there are numbers you don’t recognize and charges that are much greater than usual, you may suspect trouble. Have your provider run a diagnostic test to check for viruses that may have resulted from cloning.

Another way to possibly detect cloning is to put your phone number into a search engine, such as Google, to see if any links include your number. You can also use someone else’s phone to call your number and see if someone picks up. Contact your financial institution to see if anyone has tried to open credit cards or loans in your name. Make sure your phone is password protected. Create new passwords and PINs for all the accounts that may be available on your phone. Finally, you may have to resort to restoring your phone to its factory settings.

If you determine your phone was cloned, contact your phone provider and the FBI. You can use the FBI website and select “Tips and Public Leads in the Reporting Crime” section. It is important that you do this, so the authorities can follow up on the information you provide.

Your turn: Has your phone been cloned? How did you find out about it? Did you suffer financial loss? Share your experience and any tips on how to prevent security breaches with us.

The Conversation. How to Stop Your Phone from Being Hacked. Ali Dehghantanha.https://theconversation.com/how-to-stop-your-phone-from-being-hacked-58898 

Techwalla. How to Check If a Cell Has Been Hacked or Cloned. Lissa J.https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-check-if-a-cell-has-been-hacked-or-cloned 
Seminar Presentation on Mobile Phone Cloning. Shishupal Nagar.https://www.slideshare.net/sisnagar/mobile-phonecloning 
Federal Communications Commision. Cell Phone Fraud.https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/cell-phone-fraud

Mistakes First-Time Homeowners Make

Q: My husband and I have been renting an apartment since we got married. We recently

piggy bank next to money tree

Piggy bank and money plant. 3D modeling and rendering

decided to buy our first home. Some friends of ours had lots of trouble with the process, and wound up buying a house they can’t really afford. We don’t want to go through what they did. What can we do to buy our dream home without all that grief?

A: Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. It’s great that you and your husband are planning ahead for this important milestone. These are common mistakes that first-time homeowners make–and how to avoid them.

1.) Not Knowing Your Housing Budget

The term “house poor” is an apt one for the many people who buy a house that is costing them more than their income allows. It’s uncomfortable to be in this situation, so you’ll want to avoid buying out of your financial comfort zone.

You sound like planners, so you probably already have a budget and some idea of your expenses for running your current household. Now is the time to review that budget. Some of your expenses are going to increase in a new home – utilities, for instance. If you’re moving from an apartment to a larger home, that can cost much more.

Some of the other budget items may change, too. Renter’s insurance and laundromat costs may drop off the list. Add up all your expenses, but leave out rent or mortgage payments. When you subtract the total of this list from your take-home pay, you will have a pretty good idea of how much you have left for mortgage payments. Find a mortgage calculator online and use it to calculate mortgage payments based on various interest rates. Generally, housing costs should be 30 percent or less of your before-tax income.

2.) Looking Outside Your Housing Budget

There is nothing worse than finding your dream home only to realize that it’s way out of your reach. It’s a common mistake to look at properties that are too expensive for your budget. This tends to set you up for disappointment. Even if you manage to purchase the home, you may find yourself in the same situation as the friends you mentioned in your question: too much house and too little money.

After doing your research, you’ll know how much you can afford to spend on a new home. You can then pinpoint properties in your price range.

Most home purchases require compromise. Maybe you’ll decide on a smaller house in a neighborhood with the best schools in the city. If space is your highest priority, you might decide on a large house in a less-exclusive neighborhood. Every house has some advantages and disadvantages, but keep your search within your financial comfort zone.

3.) Purchasing Based on Future Changes

If you are having trouble finding a house in your price range, consider ways to reduce your current expenses. This will mean having more money available to make a larger monthly mortgage payment. The mistake some people make is assuming they can make these changes once they own a house. However, these budget changes should be in place before you buy a house, even if it means delaying the purchase. Give yourself at least six months to see if you can stick to your new budget.

4.) Treating Your Home as an Investment

First-time buyers often expect that they will be able to sell their house in five or 10 years for a large profit. The last decade has brought major changes to every housing market. While a house in certain areas was almost guaranteed to appreciate in value, this is no longer a sure thing.

Economics professor Art Carden, from the Brock School of Business, has this advice, “Buy a house to live in and be prepared for lots of unseen upkeep costs that range from mowing the lawn to emergency repairs.”

Your turn: Do you have tips for avoiding house buying mistakes? Share them in the comments.

Money.Kathryn Vasel. 4 things first-time homebuyers need to  know.http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/11/real_estate/first-time-home-buyer/index.html
Investopedia. Amy Fontinelle.https://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/ten-worst-mistakes.asp 

CNBC. Maggie Overfelt. 8 biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers make.https://www.cnbc.com/2014/07/17/8-biggest-mistakes-first-time-homebuyers-make.html

Getting Through the Winter Blues

Winter brings cozy fires, happy holidays and fun sports like ice skating and skiing. It can Little girl huddled under a coatalso bring some things that are less welcome. With sunshine being scarce, many people get the winter blues. This depressed state is often made worse by the financial realities of winter, which include higher energy costs and money spent on holiday festivities.

Here are some ways to get proactive and beat the blues before they start.

Budget for Holiday Spending

It might be too late this year, but it is not too early to think about strategies for next year. Consider what you actually have in hand to spend without using credit. Then, make a list of all your holiday expenses. These expenses might include gifts, travel, special foods and entertaining.  Consider a holiday club account to meet those expenses next year.

If you have family or friends you usually exchange gifts with, speak to them about putting a dollar limit on spending. Think of some other ways to celebrate in addition to gift giving. Maybe a holiday potluck would work. Have a family game night. Plan an at-home New Year’s party.

Doing rather than buying can lift your spirits. Psychology professor Tom Gilovich of Cornell University says you’ll be happier and have longer-lasting happiness if you spend your money on experiences instead of things.

Also, consider making your own gifts, because a handmade gift can be more meaningful than something store-bought. Have the whole family participate in making fruitcake or jam. Even the youngest members of the family can help with decorating and wrapping the gifts.

This is a great time to talk with your children about financial realities and budgeting. Instead of making a long list of presents they want, have the kids pinpoint one or two items that are really important to them. Talk to them about the expenses you have and reassure them that there will be plenty of joy even without being overwhelmed with presents.

Keep Warm

Energy costs can be a source of worry. However, there are some things you can do to cut your energy costs.

For starters, check your house to make sure you have enough insulation. Look for places in the house where you may be losing heat, such as loose windows or cracks. You can fill these cracks yourself or hire someone to come in and do it. The money you spend will be recouped quickly in the form of lower heating bills.

Try to keep your thermostat at a lower temperature. Get your family in the habit of wearing sweaters and socks in the house. Small afghans on the couch are attractive and useful for cuddling and keeping warm. Buy some extra blankets for the beds and lower the temperature even more at night.

If it is in your budget, a new programmable thermostat can save you money. You will be able to adjust room temperature according to your schedules, keeping it low when no one is home. You can set the thermostat to kick in more heat before you get home from work, so the house will be warm when you arrive.

Do It Yourself

When the kids are home from school, it’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping them busy by going out for treats — pizza, hot chocolate or a warm meal. Start doing more of this at home. Make a large pot of chili or some cocoa for the family. It’s easy and more fun than bundling everyone up to go out. It will save you both money and time.

In general, you can save quite a bit of money if you have been buying expensive coffee on the way to work or throughout the day. Hone your skills as a barista, brew your own and save a bunch.

Consider Credit Counseling

If you are still feeling blue and think it may be related to your finances, start the new year off with free counseling for members offered by Destinations Credit Union’s partner, Greenpath Financial Wellness. A sure way to beat the winter blues is to get a confident feeling about being on top of your financial wellness. “The more you plan, the less you spend,” says Ellie Kay, a California financial planning expert.

And that can make a world of difference in many areas of your life.

Your turn: Are you feeling down about your financial situation? Does the cold weather have you feeling depressed? What are some strategies you’ve used to combat the winter blues?



De-stressing After the Holidays

The holidays are over, so the celebrations, gala festivities, and merriment are coming tothree women walking an end. No more sleeping well into the morning hours, eating a late breakfast or partying away into the night. No matter how hard we try to stretch those vacation days, an untimely end hits us in the face. Winding down is never easy.

Coming off your high and returning to the mundane affairs of real life is often difficult. For some, the return to the workplace is slow and painful, but routine eventually catches up and they find themselves back on track. For others, a deep feeling of “blues” sets in, which can sometimes be accompanied by loss of appetite, feelings of wistfulness and homesickness. It may be a mild depression or sense of anxiety, making work productivity suffer as social activities start to dissolve.

In general, most people don’t need to resort to any special moves for bouncing back to their normal daily agenda. But there are many who cannot come off their holiday euphoria without disorientation. For those who find themselves stuck and unable to move on, psychologists have devised various methods for coping. Assuming you have had a positive holiday, here are some ideas for an easier return to life after vacation:

Slow Down and Relax:

The last day of the holiday vacation is usually the most difficult. We try to squeeze in as much as we can as the hours quickly tick by. Therapists believe we should do just the opposite. Pull back on the schedule with calming activities to help our bodies adjust and return to the normal habits we left behind.

Get Someone on the Inside:

Reduce the stress of returning to an office filled with piles of paperwork by contacting a coworker who might not have taken off for the holiday. She/he can fill you in on the important happenings during your absence and can identify the most urgent assignments prior to your return so you can get started right away.

Know Your Nostalgia:

If you’ve been traveling during the holidays, you may be one of those people who feel that focusing on memories of pleasant times can help you move back into daily life. Seeing photos and videos of the fun and excitement experienced during the holidays can lift spirits and provide a pleasant backdrop to feelings of nostalgia. For some people, though, reliving past events with their sensation of relaxation and enjoyment can trigger increased feelings of discomfort and anxiety, thus thwarting any efforts to deal with the here and now.

Just Breathe:

One of the best ways to decompress after an extended holiday is to engage in yoga and breathing techniques to help calm yourself and reach deep into your inner self. Proper breathing is something you should practice year-round, as physicians have found that most of us do not breathe properly.

Taking deep inhalations and long exhalations has been proven to encourage brain activity as well as stimulate effective blood circulation throughout our bodies. Focusing on deep breathing will help transition you from a state of exhilaration to a normal level of existence. Meditation is often used as an adjunct to deep breathing and has been proven to help reduce the stress of returning from a holiday.

A Moment in the Sun:

Anyone who flies often knows about the impacts of jet lag. Jet lag is caused by an interruption in your sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by the body’s internal clock. To cut down on this effect, doctors advise travelers to get out into the sun as soon as they can upon disembarking. When the UV radiation from the sun hits your eyes, it helps restore the sleep-wake cycle balance. Since similar symptoms can occur when coming down from a heightened experience to a normal state, even a short 15-minute walk in the sun can help you decompress from your extended holiday.

Start Moving:

Exercising or just moving around in a focused manner sends lots of endorphins rushing to your brain while using up the stress hormones that enable us to cope with mental and physical difficulties.

Planning Your Next Vacation:

Some therapists suggest that, to get over post-holiday blues, you should immediately start working on your next vacation. Others recommend avoiding this approach and instead encourage focusing on the present, not the future.

Talk it Out:

If you’re still finding difficulty re-entering your pre-holiday existence, try having a heart-to-heart with a close friend or relative. They may be able to help you sort out your thoughts by acting as a sounding board or offering solutions you may not have considered.

Your Turn: How do you de-stress after the holidays? Share your best tips with us in the comments!


The Daily Telegraph, “Beat the Post Holiday Blues

Ready, Set, Go…to College

It may seem like yesterday when you were getting your son or daughter off to preschool.Mother and daughter loading a car And now you’re preparing him or her for college!

The process of a child leaving home is a major milestone and is complex because of the emotions it generates. The reality, though, is that there are some very concrete things that need to be done to make this a smooth transition.

Medical Preparation

Schedule any necessary doctors’ appointments. A doctor may need to fill out college medical forms and can also write prescriptions for regular medications. This is an opportune time to make sure immunizations are current.

If your child has been seeing a mental health professional, make an appointment there, too. You may want to ask for a letter describing your child’s issues in case you need it for support services. Also, decide if your child needs ongoing support from this professional or if you want to arrange for a new therapist at school.

Your child needs easy access to medical insurance information. Will he or she use your private insurance? What about college health services? Make it easy for your child to get help if he or she gets sick.

High School Issues

Have your child check with the high school to make sure they’ve sent the latest high school transcript to the college. For your records, and for future college needs, request all high school records, including testing results.

Pave the Way for Success

If it’s appropriate for your child’s needs, make an appointment with the college’s disability services office. Learn about the services they offer and determine the documentation your child needs to apply for services. Most colleges require students to register or apply; the services are not automatically available. It is best to put this process in place before classes start.

Ease the Transition

It’s a good idea to help your child to think ahead about the coming year. Spend some time looking at the course catalog with her and discuss classes of interest. Help her select the courses that are best for her.

Pack It Up

Work with your child to make a list of things to pack. It will help you if you check off each item as you buy and pack it. Labeling each item may help prevent loss. Keep in mind, though, as Dr. Ruth Peters says, “Keep in mind that stuff gets stolen at school. I don’t care if it is an Ivy League school or a tiny institution – if the item isn’t tied down or locked up consider it at risk.”

Techie Stuff

Make sure your child’s technology is up-to-date. Does he or she need a new computer? An upgrade? It will be easier for you to take care of this at home.

Be at One with the Portal

Pick a quiet time and sit with your child at the computer to look at the college’s online portal. You should both be familiar with it and with the information that is available. Make sure you have the login information for your child’s account.

Where in the World Is the Library?

Look at the campus map to help your child identify important locations: dorm, tutoring center, administration offices and the library.


If your child does not have one yet, you may want to open an account that includes a debit card. Clarify how much money will be available. If you give your child a credit card, clarify when it is appropriate to use it. Define what constitutes an emergency. Destinations Credit Union can help with all of these items.

Thinking Ahead

You may be feeling a little traumatized by the prospect of your child leaving home, but don’t underestimate your child’s concern-even if he doesn’t express it. Talk about how you will keep in touch. Are you comfortable with email only? Do you want a phone call or video call once a week? It helps to clarify this before the big day.

Discuss your expectations. Even though you won’t be there physically, your child needs to hear what you expect. Talk about ways to combat stress at school and who to contact if he needs help.

Your turn: Do you have a child leaving for college soon? When did you start preparing? What would you advise parents? What would you advise students?


Combatting The Financial Mistakes Of Our 20s And 30s

People starting out in their careers often focus on the here and now while ignoring the

couple looking at computer

A couple, man and woman seated sharing a digital tablet.

future when it comes to finances. As you climb the ladder of success, you tend to think that the raises and promotions will endlessly continue. It can seem like you have forever to plan for the future.

As millions of Baby Boomers will tell you, the future comes faster than you can imagine.

While there are lots of financial mistakes we can make, here are six that are common and avoidable. If you’re starting out, know the pitfalls, and maximize your chances of avoiding them.

Mistake #1: Not Planning for Retirement

Retirement seems like a lifetime away, but the only way to make sure that you have what you need to retire is to start planning early. This is probably the most common mistake we make in our 20s and 30s. It is also the easiest one to avoid. If you start saving for retirement when you get your first job, even if it’s a very small amount, you will establish the habit as well as start to build savings.

Short-term goals, like a new car, can overshadow what seems like the very long-term goal of retirement. However, it’s wise to get your priorities straight early on so you’ll reap huge benefits. As Suba Iyer, a financial writer, said, “When I started my first job. I thought retirement was too far away and I should be saving for some immediate needs like getting a car. The end result-I didn’t save for retirement or a car or anything else. I just spent my entire salary.”

Mistake #2: Spending Too Much on a Car

Speaking of cars … that’s something that trips us up when we’re young. While it may make financial sense to buy a new car, be careful not to buy more car than you need. A flashy and expensive car may be tempting, but keep your long-term goals in mind and choose a car that serves your current needs without sabotaging your savings.

Mistake #3: Not Using a Budget

Unless you are fortunate enough to have parents who explained what a budget is and how to use one, you may have no idea where to start.

You may look at a budget as something you don’t need because you are not making enough money, Or you may see it as something that will restrict your spending or is just too much trouble. However, a budget can help you at any level of income and can even give you financial freedom because you can see where you are spending. And they’re less trouble than you think. It can be as simple as tracking money in and money out. As you make more money and your expenses get more complex, you can customize your budget from there.

Mistake #4: Overusing Credit

While most people know that credit cards can get us into trouble, it is very easy to fall into the debt trap. You start carrying a little balance on your credit cards and it builds up. You may then have to dip into savings to pay your credit card bills.

Avoid this situation by using credit sparingly and only for identified and planned purchases. Implement a plan to save for major purchases and pay for most, if not all, of them in advance. “Start shifting your mindset so that debt no longer seems normal and stop creating new debts,” says Andrew Josuweit in a recent Forbes article.

Mistake #5: Having No Emergency Fund

For the same reasons we tend to skip proper retirement planning, we also skip saving for emergency situations. In our 20s and 30s, we tend to think we’re invincible, but illness or job loss can happen at any time. An emergency fund should cover your expenses for at least three months.

Mistake #6: Not Having Adequate Health Insurance

While health insurance is expensive, it is short-sighted to skip this vital component of your financial portfolio. Just one hospitalization can get you off course and cause real financial hardship. Health insurance is not optional, and young people are the first to ignore this rule. The cost may seem prohibitive, but it comes back to priorities and future planning.

Your turn: In your 20s and 30s, did you make mistakes you regret? Or, are you in this age bracket now and have questions about setting your priorities? Share your questions or words of wisdom here!