MONEY Tech

3 Smart Ways to Protect Your Smartphone Data

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Yasu + Junko

Yikes. One in 10 Americans has had a smartphone stolen, according to a new study by mobile security firm Lookout.

This is a double bummer: Replacing a phone can be expensive, and the personal information we keep on these gadgets is often priceless. Here, tips for keeping your device (and data) safe—and what to do when a thief strikes.

Lock it down. Protect your info by setting a security pin. Only 36% of people do, found a Consumer Reports survey. Avoid serial or repeated numbers (e.g., 1234 or 1111) and pins based on a recent year, says Gary Davis, of security firm McAfee.

Back it up. Use a free cloud service such as Dropbox or iCloud to make copies of your most important data. Get (and remember to turn on!) an app that can locate, lock, and wipe your phone remotely, says CNET.com’s Bridget Carey. Find My iPhone and Android Device Manager are two good options.

Wipe it clean. If your phone is stolen, fire up your anti-theft app right away. Next, call the police, then your carrier. If you don’t recover the device within 30 minutes, erase your data remotely, says Robert Siciliano, personal security consultant. “If you get the phone back, simply restore it.”

MONEY Insurance

5 Things to Know About Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella insurance covers you for liability risks you may not even have been aware of.

Even if you already have insurance for your home and car, you may not be adequately covered. This policy can help.

1. Without it, you could lose everything

If you cause a car accident and the other driver sues, your auto insurance covers you up to your personal-liability limit, which is likely between $100,000 and $300,000. Same goes for your homeowners insurance if the mailman slips on your steps.

An umbrella liability policy pays for settlements and legal fees above your limit. Without this insurance, your wages and assets are at stake (though in some states, retirement funds, pensions, and your home are excluded).

2. Liability risks are everywhere

“More than 80% of umbrella losses are auto-related,” says Ed Charlebois of Travelers Insurance. Even if you’re the safest driver, your teen probably isn’t.

Redoing your kitchen? Your general contractor may not adequately vet subcontractors for workers’ comp or liability.

Host a lot of parties? If a guest gets into a drunken-driving accident, the victim can come after you. Got a pool, hot tub, or boat? Employ a nanny or a housecleaner? Then you have risk factors.

3. You’re insuring against the worst-case scenario

The median jury award for vehicular accident liability cases is $21,000, found Jury Verdict Research. But the average is $306,000 — so some settlements are much, much higher. That’s why many financial planners say an umbrella policy is a must for those with significant net worth.

“Insurance is there to stop an accident from being a life-changing event financially,” says Redondo Beach, Calif., CFP Scott Leonard.

4. A lot of coverage costs very little

A typical homeowner with two cars can get a $1 million policy for $250 to $400 a year, reports the Insurance Information Institute.

“My rule of thumb is for clients to have coverage equal to one to two times their exposed net worth,” says Franklin, Mich., financial planner Bert Whitehead. (By “exposed,” he means assets vulnerable in your state.) That way you are not just shielding your money, but ensuring that the insurer will mount an aggressive defense.

5. You may need to juggle coverage first

Umbrella insurance usually requires specific liability limits on the policies it’s piggybacking — such as $300,000 per person on auto and $300,000 on home. So you may have to boost your coverage. Plus, some carriers extend an umbrella only over policies they have issued, says Jim Kuryak of Niagara National Insurance.

On the upside, bundling with one insurer can offset the added cost; it can shave as much as 20% off home and auto premiums.

MONEY deals

Sell Your Stuff for the Best Price

The key to making real money is choosing the right venue. Photo: Jason HIndley

The key to turning your trash into treasure? Choosing the right sales venue.

As you finish up your spring cleaning, you’ll probably find a few things you’d like to unload, like your old Peaches and Herb LPs or your underused water skis.

Most American homes are stuffed with stuff — so much so, in fact, that about one in 10 households pays for extra storage space, up 65% since 1998, reports the Self Storage Association.

Still, while it’s fun to watch Cash in the Attic from the comfort of the couch, selling your own secondhand stuff can be a first-rate hassle.

How do you make it worth your while?

“You’ll save time and make more money if you choose the appropriate marketplace,” says Suzanne Wells, eBay power seller and author of What to Buy at Thrift Stores to Sell on eBay.

The following venue guide can help.

AUCTION HOUSE

Best for: Items with a particularly high resale value, such as art, jewelry, and antiques. Auction houses focus on buyers willing to pay big bucks for big-ticket items.

Seller’s cut: Up to 25% of final sale price, plus administrative fees, as well as possible charges for item transport, insurance, and photos.

Hassle factor: Medium. The process isn’t a headache — simply send photos of the item to auction houses or have them send someone to you — but it can be lengthy. “They have to wait for the right auction to put your item in,” says Rudy Franchi, a former Antiques Roadshow appraiser and the owner of PosterAppraisal.com.

COLLECTIBLES DEALER

Best for: Objects with a devoted fan base — think stamps or coins — that you want to sell in a hurry.

Seller’s cut: 40% to 60% of value.

Hassle factor: Low. Take your item to a dealer, who will offer you a price, usually around half of what he plans to sell it for. On the upside, you’ll get cash right away. As Franchi says, “It’s like having a tooth extracted: painful but quick.”

CONSIGNMENT SHOPS AND SITES

Best for: Like-new, brand-name clothing and jewelry (though some shops specialize in other things, like instruments or sporting goods).

Seller’s cut: 25% to 75% of final sale price.

Hassle factor: Medium. The shop agrees to display your goods for a period and then return those that don’t sell. You probably won’t get paid for a while — if you do at all.

eBAY

Best for: Collectibles, name-brand clothing, electronics, sports equipment, and household goods; not ideal for awkward-to-ship or one-of-a-kind pieces.

Seller’s cut: 10% of sale price. Plus, upgrade — like fancier listing design — range from 10¢ to $1.50.

Hassle factor: High. Listing takes time, since you’ll want to post multiple photos and a detailed description. To appeal to buyers, you’ll need to accept PayPal. Also, you may face scammers who threaten you with negative seller feedback, Franchi says.

CRAIGSLIST

Best for: Furniture, household goods, and anything that would be challenging to ship and doesn’t have a high secondary-market value.

Seller’s cut: None.

Hassle factor: High. The listing process is a lot like that of eBay’s, but success depends on local demand. You’ll have to navigate around flakes and scammers; plus, you often have to invite buyers to your home to pick up the items.

AMAZON MARKETPLACE

Best for: Electronics, books, and DVDs — categories that people shop for on Amazon.com. It’s not ideal for items too heavy to ship.

Seller’s cut: Referral fee of 8% to 25%, a closing fee of $1.35 for media, plus a per-item fee of 99¢.

Hassle factor: Low. Listing is easy if the item is on Amazon. Just click the “Have one to sell?” link: Amazon provides a description and photos; you provide condition notes.

First, though, you’ll want to look at how others price the item to see what you’ll reap after fees. You may do better donating the item to charity. After all, you’ll get a tax deduction for the full resale value — and more time to watch Antiques Roadshow.

MONEY

Money Makeover: Fix Our Mix

Robert And Sharon Nelson have no trouble saving. They’re setting aside nearly 14% of their income for retirement and have amassed more than $250,000 overall. And since Robert is an instructor at Penn State, the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, Olivia, is nearly set for college — the school will pay 75% of her tuition if she attends.

But Robert, 40, and Sharon, 37, a sales commission manager, want to retire once Olivia is out of school, and they’re not sure if they’re on track.

For one thing, the Nelsons don’t know whether their money is in the right mix of investments.

“It seems like we’re doing stuff, but I don’t know if it’s the right stuff,” Robert says.

Adding to their challenge: The Nelsons have four 401(k)s and one 403(b) plan at various employers, making it hard to keep track of their overall allocations. Robert has a great state pension that will make it easier to retire early, but he knows they’ll need to change their investing plan to make up the rest.

The solution

1. Cut back on cash.

The Nelsons have $80,000 in emergency cash. That’s 20% too much, says adviser Lee Pelko of Lancaster, Pa. Plus, only $15,000 of their rainy-day fund needs to sit in savings and money-market accounts. The rest can go into higher-yielding options like laddered CDs and short-term bond funds.

2. Boost equities.

A 50% stake in stocks won’t let them retire early. Pelko suggests raising it to at least 60% and investing in small-cap and foreign stock funds. Though Robert has the security of a pension, that’s as aggressive as he wants to be.

3. Consolidate old 401(k)s.

By rolling over old accounts into one IRA, they can simplify while increasing their investment options.

 

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