Digital Legacy

With all of the various accounts, passwords and files that make up our digital identity today, it is easy to see why organization of this information is essential. While this is a subject that many do not like to discuss, it brings up the interesting concept of digital legacy and how important it is to maintain and preserve your digital identity in the event of incapacity or death.  

It is becoming a more and more common practice for financial advisors, including DWM, as well as estate planning attorneys, to advise their clients on a plan to preserve their digital legacy. According to a survey conducted by NAPFA, two-thirds of NAPFA members said that they do in fact advise their clients on digital legacy.

As part of our DWM “Total Wealth Management” process, we provide our clients with an “Estate Flow.”  This has three parts. First, a concise and easy to read recap of all of their estate documents to make it easier to review so that they can assess whether their documents outline their current wishes or if changes need to be made.  Second, a review of titling and beneficiary designations, to make sure the disposition of the estate is as desired and its administration is as hassle-free as possible.  And, third, our recommendations. We have recently added a review of our clients’ digital legacy as part of this process.

It is vital that all information is stored in one designated place to ensure that your entire estate is transitioned smoothly and easily.    There are many applications and services that can help you store passwords to preserve digital legacy. Having a password manager for your passwords so that someone can log in to your accounts in the event of your incapacity or passing and take care of your digital assets is essential. Many cloud-based digital services will actually wipe your data after an account is closed, so it is imperative that your loved ones have a way to access this information before that occurs. Some of the more useful password tools that enable the user to assign heirs include PasswordBox and Zoho Vault.

Aside from password protection, there are other steps individuals can take to ensure their digital legacy is properly handled, such as the introduction of “digital heirs.” As digital legacies begin to become a common hindrance in postmortem estate processes, more companies, such as Google’s Gmail, are instituting ways to improve the flow of digital legacies. Through Gmail’s Inactive Account Manager, found in your account settings page, you can now specify what you would like to have done upon account inactivity. After three, six, nine, or twelve weeks, the user can choose to have his or her data automatically deleted or have a notification email sent to trusted contacts. By enabling a contact email to be sent, the user is allowing this contact to access his or her account, which may contain sensitive information, so it is important to choose this contact selectively. 

The bottom line is this: It is necessary to develop and implement a plan to preserve your digital legacy and ease the transition for your loved ones, making it as simple as possible for them to take care of your digital assets, including financial accounts.  Specifically, at DWM, we would recommend three key components:

  1. Take and record an inventory of all of your digital assets including your user names and passwords and store that information in a secure place.
  2. Work with your estate planning attorney to make sure that digital asset provisions are included in your estate documents. These provisions should allow your successor Trustees or executor/executrix the power to access, view, modify and make use of any electronic accounts including online financial accounts.
  3. Consider providing your successor trustee or executor/executrix now with information about your digital assets.

At DWM we believe your digital assets are a very important part of your legacy.  Getting things in order now can significantly help your loved ones in the future.

Safe and Sound

Security, or a lack thereof, has been a hot topic in the news lately, ranging from high-tech hacking scandals to sensitive information leaks. During a time of such concern, we can all agree that security is a top priority in our lives and cannot be overlooked or taken for granted. Whether it is national security, personal security or investment security, one thing is for sure – security is essential in our lives.

The trusted preferred custodian of DWM, Charles Schwab, has always found new ways to implement innovative security functions to protect both the advisor and the client. In addition to a focus on low-cost trading, Schwab has also always focused on investment security and client interests.

Charles Schwab takes multiple steps to ensure the security of client and advisor accounts, and to guard against any potential unauthorized access. Let’s examine some of these key security measures in depth.

Login Authentication and Encryption

SchwabSafe is collection of security measures that ensures the security of your information and accounts. Schwab.com uses advanced encryption technology, such as 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer encryption, to guarantee private communication and secure authentication on all accounts. The website also uses the highest level of Extended Validation certificate. This means that when you’re logging into the website, you will see a green web address bar that indicates all of your information is being protected by SchwabSafe.

Security Tokens

Charles Schwab also offers a free token, available in the form of a key fob or as a phone application, that makes each login as secure as possible. A token creates a six-digit number that serves as an additional numeric password each time you log in to your account. This token provides peace of mind and as a great security measure for clients and advisors. You can order a free or set up your phone application token from Schwab by calling 800-435-4000.

Monitoring Unauthorized or Suspicious Activity

Another great security feature is that Schwab monitors suspicious account activity 24/7. Schwab utilizes pattern analysis and advanced monitoring systems to constantly scan for suspicious or potentially unauthorized activity on your account. SchwabSafe fraud teams are specifically dedicated to ensuring that your account activity is authorized and they will call us and/or you if they detect any unusual behavior, or want to confirm third party checks and other distributions.

Security Tips

If you’re still worried about the security of your financial accounts, there are a few helpful tips you can utilize to put your mind at ease. Make sure that your contact information on your account is current and accurate, so you can be immediately updated in case of suspicious activity. Be wary of using public computers when logging into sensitive accounts. Always make sure to log out of your account when you are finished and do not use computers you don’t trust. As mentioned earlier, using a token when logging in each time is also a very effective way to ensure the security of your personal information.

Make sure your password is unique and has not been used for any of your other accounts. You should always try to change your password every six months. Admittedly, it can be difficult to keep track of multiple different passwords so it may be a good idea to have a system for keeping track of these. However, a sheet of paper does not qualify as a safe and effective system! If you are tech savvy, there are a multitude of phone applications that can maintain your passwords.

In addition to many added security features, accounts held at Charles Schwab are insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) in the event of a broker-dealer failure. The SIPC provides up to $500,000 and up to $250,000 for uninvested cash equivalents of protection for each separate account held at Charles Schwab. Furthermore, excess SIPC in an aggregate amount of $600 million in protection is provided for Schwab customers through underwriters at Lloyd’s of London and London insurers.

Here at DWM, we take our clients’ security very seriously. For compliance reasons we are not allowed to hold anyone’s login password for any reason. We operate through cloud based technology to streamline our process and provide increased security. For any questions or concerns regarding security, please feel free to contact us at DWM anytime.

Father of the American Christmas Card

It’s that time of year again. Time to get together with family, reconnect with old friends and drink eggnog by the fire. Spending time with those important people in your life is nice any time of the year, but it’s always great around the holidays. However, what is one to do about all those wonderful people if you do not get to see them in person? Enter the Christmas card. Christmas cards have become a staple in most households during the holidays and there is a long history behind their success and popularity.
Have you ever wondered how the Christmas card came to be what it is today? Initially produced in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole of Britain as a way to keep in touch with all of his friends and acquaintances, it wasn’t until 20 years later that they became mass produced in the United States by Louis Prang of Boston, MA. Sir Henry Cole’s original card included images of him feeding and clothing the poor with the words “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” on both sides. He had the same heading of “TO ____,” with the blank spot allowing him to print a different name on each card. Back in the States, the popularity of Louis Prang’s take on the Christmas card grew. Soon people began to collect these and measure how many they received each year. It is for this reason that Louis Prang is considered by many as the “Father of the American Christmas card.”

Christmas cards have indeed grown since their creation in the 1800’s. With 1.6 billion Christmas cards purchased every year, according to the Greeting Card Association, the industry for Christmas cards seems like it may last the test of time. That is, if we don’t all switch over to electronic, emailed cards. However, the ease of electronic greeting cards does not appear to be having a large effect either, as this year Americans will spend on average $30 on Christmas cards, according to a study done by Statista.com. The amount that Americans spend on Christmas cards each year does not even take into account the time and effort that goes into developing the card, and, in some cases, getting the family to stand still long enough to have a picture for your card. However, all the time, effort and money that you put into giving Christmas cards to friends and family is a small price to pay for letting your loved ones know you’re thinking of them during the holiday season.

At DWM we value the importance of family and friends, and we agree that maintaining close relationships is priceless. Connecting with those important people in your life is nice around the holidays, and it’s especially important to us at DWM now and throughout the year. We appreciate keeping in touch with all of you and we wish you a Merry Christmas, a wonderful holiday season, and a happy new year!

Happy Halloween!

halloween-moneyHappy Halloween! Halloween can be one of the best times of the year, especially if you’re creating memories with your family and friends. We all love to watch scary movies and get a little spooky on Halloween, but do you know what’s even scarier than a creepy clown on Halloween? Having poor financial habits. My name is Grant Maddox and I am a new Service Associate with DWM.  As a recent College of Charleston Business graduate with a concentration in Finance, I have learned a thing or two about spending while on a “college budget”. I have also learned through my course work how important it is to stay on your budget and not over spend.

Americans love to spend!  The 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that average spending in the U.S. across all types of expenses increased in 2015. Expenditures for food, housing, apparel and services all rose between 3.4% and 3.9%. We know the Consumer Price Index remained largely unchanged at 0.73% last year. In other words, the increase in spending was principally not the result of inflation. Instead it shows American households simply spent more in 2015.

There are many reasons why Americans may spend more – for one thing, technology has made it so much easier. As accessibility to online retail and credit options increases, so do our spending habits. You can pay with a swipe of a card or by hovering your phone over a machine!  It is eerie how easy you can spend your hard-earned dollars!  In fact, kicking off the end of year spending season is Halloween. Just how much do Americans spend on trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come to $7.4 billion this year. We are inundated with eye-catching campaigns to encourage excessive spending, especially during the holidays.

Establishing a budget that includes life’s essentials such as rent, utilities, food, and transportation is important for setting up yourself or your child for success. It is crucial to encourage saving early and often to gain the benefits of compounding. While many young professionals may see saving for future goals, such as a down payment on a house, as a non-priority, saving, in fact, can certainly make a huge difference. As a parent, you can even encourage your child’s saving by offering to match a percentage of their contributions to a designated savings account. These lessons can be invaluable to them as they grow older. Having direct deposits of paychecks, direct deposits to savings vehicles and automated payment schedules help us manage our bill payments and savings potential more easily.  Technology can be a wonderful attribute to our society and for our spending, when we use it wisely.

At DWM, we encourage you to plan for your major purchases and be sure that your goals are all part of a larger successful financial plan.  Looking for ways to right size your spending isn’t just about planning ahead for luxury items.  Reviewing all household expenditures to determine if they are needs, wants, or wishes is also a great practice. I look forward to learning all I can about total wealth management and helping our clients and others to achieve their financial goals.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaafdaaaajgvhztrjmmuxlwniytatnguwmy1hnjg5lwfjzdq0mjexmji0nqEditor’s Note:  Please join us in welcoming Grant Maddox to our DWM team.  Grant joined our firm in October as a service associate and is training/learning/working toward becoming a junior advisor. Welcome aboard, Grant!