Opening a Brokerage Account: Part 2

If you rely on a broker or professional advisor to help you make investment decisions, you'll want to make sure your broker or advisor is someone you trust -- and someone who understands you and your goals. After all, it's your money.In a recent study on U.S. investors by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, 56% of respondents said they use a broker or professional advisor for at least some investment decisions. If you are thinking about opening an account with a broker, read on to find out what to expect during the account opening process so you can feel confident in your selection.In the first installment of our two-part series on opening a brokerage account, we laid out the types of personal information you will need to provide when you open an account with a brokerage firm. In this second installment, we prepare you for some of the decisions you will need to make during the account opening process and provide a list of questions to ask your broker.Image source: Getty Images.Decisions you'll need to makeThe forms provided to you by your brokerage form will ask you to make some important decisions about your account. Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer.Do you want a cash account or margin account? Most brokerage firms offer at least two types of accounts: cash accounts and margin accounts. In a cash account, you must pay for your securities in full at the time of purchase. In a margin account, although you must eventually pay for your securities in full, your broker can lend you funds at the time of purchase, with the securities in your portfolio serving as collateral for the loan. This is called buying securities "on margin." The shortfall between the purchase price and the amount of money you put in is a loan from the brokerage firm, and you will incur interest costs, just as with any other loan. Purchasing securities on margin is not for everyone. If the value of your securities declines significantly, you may be subject to a "margin Continue Reading

15M are hiding a credit card or bank account from their partner

Most people have secrets from their significant other. Maybe you didn't really have the salad for dinner or perhaps one drink at the bar was actually four (or more).For whatever reason, a lot of folks in committed relationships aren't fully honest with their partner. In many cases, that's innocuous enough, an extra cookie or the fact that the jeans you bought weren't actually on sale fall into white lie territory.Some lies, however, are worse than others. Concealing bank accounts or credit cards, falls into that category for about a third of Americans in a committed relationship, according to a new report from Those folks, 31% of the total, believe that hiding accounts is worse than cheating physically.Hiding bank and credit card accounts from a partner or spouse is more common than you might expect. Of the U.S. adults involved in a live-in romantic relationship, 15 million people currently have a credit card, checking account, or savings account that their partner or spouse doesn't know about. In addition, another nine million admit they used to have such an account, but say they have gotten rid of it.About one-in-five U.S. adults in a live-in relationship (21%) either are guilty or have been guilty in the past of this behavior. This behavior does skew with (31%) of Millennials (18-37) having at some point kept an account secret from their current spouse or partner. The numbers decrease as ages go up with 24% of Generation X (38-53), 17% of Baby Boomers (54-72), and 8% of the Silent Generation (73+) admitting to this financial trickery. More: Survey: More people would take investing advice from Oprah Winfrey than Donald Trump More: 3 ways debt settlement may not be the fix you expect More: Trump and your finances: Taxes, student and payday loans, tips targeted in 1st year As noted above, 31% of those in a relationship consider that having a secret credit card, checking account or savings account is worse than cheating Continue Reading

Get Paid To Open A Bank Account

MoneyTips Isn't it nice when your bank pays you instead of you paying them? Competition in the banking market has opened up opportunities for you to get paid simply for opening a checking account. Banks are often willing to part with cash, gift cards, interest-bearing checking accounts, or other rewards in order to gain your long-term business. These promotional deals usually last for short periods of time and can come with various qualifying criteria and limitations, but given the wide variety available, you should be able to find one that fits your needs. What do the banks ask in return for these rewards? For starters, most deals are targeted at new customers; therefore, to qualify, you must not have had an account with that bank within some period of time (usually anywhere from the past several months to a year). There may also be a minimum amount of time that you are required to keep the account open. However, as you would expect for a bank, most of the bank's requirements are related to cash. A minimum cash deposit will be necessary to open the account, and often there will be an accompanying minimum balance to receive the rewards. Some accounts may require the use of direct deposit. Others may require that you use automatic bill pay or have a minimum number of transactions per month. As with any financial transaction, it always pays to shop around. When considering your banking options, be sure to look beyond promotional offers to the fee structures and the terms and conditions associated with the account. Compare offers from several banks to verify that you are not receiving a better promotional deal only to eventually pay it all back and then some through fees. At the same time, evaluate any perks that fit your needs, such as free overdraft protection. Pay close attention to which fees you are most likely to incur. Incentives are often offered to change the fee structure, such as waiving monthly service fees if a specified minimum balance level is Continue Reading

BMO Harris opens new branch in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park

BMO Harris Bank has opened a new branch in Milwaukee across the street from a bank office that was torched during rioting in Sherman Park more than a year ago.The bank pledged early on to stay in the neighborhood, and the opening of a newly built branch at 3637 W. Fond du Lac Ave. fulfills that commitment. BMO Harris officially announced the opening of the branch Tuesday.“We have a long and proud history in Sherman Park, and today’s announcement builds on 58 years of community partnership,” Jud Snyder, senior executive for BMO Harris in Milwaukee, said in a statement. “In a year in which we mark our 200th year as a company, we are thrilled to plan for our future in Sherman Park with the opening of this state-of-the-art branch – located just steps away from our previous location.”The new 2,200-square-foot branch, built by Milwaukee-based property developer Compass Properties, features BMO’s “Smart Branch” concept — the first such branch in Wisconsin. Some of its features: A team of branch bankers who can help customers with all of their financial needs. Smart ATMs that offer customers new options, including mobile cash withdrawals without the use of a debit card. Video conferencing, which provides customers with instant on-demand access to a wide variety of specialized bank professionals. Free wi-fi to provide customers with access to their mobile devices. A drive-up ATM.Sang Kim, BMO Harris regional president for retailing banking in Wisconsin, said the company is "placing our best and newest technologies into this branch, delivering a cutting-edge digital experience while at the same time offering personalized service by our team of bankers."Danielle Jackson, manager of the Sherman Park branch, said the new facility already is generating new customer accounts."It's brighter, it's bigger, it's open concept so we have the ability to move around more," Jackson Continue Reading

10,000 Syrian refugees find new homes in the United States — with California and Michigan leading the way

EL CAJON, Calif. — On Sunday, Nadim Fawzi Jouriyeh participated in a ceremony in Amman, Jordan, to mark the United States hitting its target of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees in a year-old resettlement program. On Wednesday, the 47-year-old former construction worker and his family were walking grocery aisles, stocking up on roasted chicken, milk and lemons for their new home outside San Diego. It didn’t take long for Jouriyeh, his 42-year-old wife and four children, ages 8 to 14, to feel welcome. “America is a beautiful country,” he said through an Arabic translator at the office of the International Rescue Committee in El Cajon, a San Diego suburb that has been a magnet for Iraqis and, more recently, Syrians who are fleeing war. “The way they treat people and the people of America are very nice ... When you go down the streets, everyone smiles at you. Even if they don’t know you, they just smile at you.” San Diego, the nation’s eighth-largest city, has received 626 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1, more than any other in the United States. Many smaller cities have accepted outsized number of Syrians, including Erie, Pennsylvania (205), Toledo, Ohio (109), and Boise, Idaho (108). California and Michigan are neck-and-neck among states for receiving the most Syrian refugees, followed by Arizona, Texas and Illinois. Cities with large numbers include Chicago (469), Glendale, Arizona (384), Troy, Michigan (325) and Dallas (293). Refugees are typically assigned to cities where they have family and friends or, failing that, where there is an established community of immigrants who share their culture, said David Murphy, executive director in San Diego for the International Rescue Committee, one of nine organizations that helps refugee settle in the United States. In El Cajon, population 100,000, some store signs on Main Street are in Arabic. Merchants, bank tellers and school teachers speak the language. Continue Reading

There is a wide field of candidates, but some Caribbean-American media see the New York City mayor’s race as a battle of the Bills

In the race for mayor, the score is Bill Thompson, 2 and Bill de Blasio,1, according to three of New York's leading Caribbean American-owned news media outlets. Both the Caribbean American Weekly and the weekly New York Carib News are endorsing Thompson, while the daily News Americas website is backing de Blasio. "I'm choosing Bill de Blasio for his plan for middle- to low-income New Yorkers, his extensive immigration focus and, most importantly, for his attention to the Caribbean-American community, unlike most of the other candidates including Bill Thompson, said Felicia Persaud, founder and CEO of News Americas Now. "For us, the choice came down to the person with a real succinct plan for immigrants in this city," added Persaud, citing de Blasio's promise to fight for causes such as a city-backed ID card that will allow all residents - including undocumented immigrants - to access basic services like opening a bank account or signing an apartment lease; the end city cooperation on federal immigration "detainer requests" for all residents, except those who have been convicted of violent or serious felonies; and support for legislation to allow undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses. The Caribbean American Weekly statement on the mayoral race begins, "The Editorial Board of Caribbean American Weekly (CAW) strongly endorses Bill Thompson to be the next Mayor of New York City." The article/endorsement discussed his Thompson's stance against stop-and-frisk, his call for more police officers, a promise to appoint a schools chancellor who is an educator, his goal to back Comprehensive Immigration Reform on the federal level and his desire to deliver affordable and effective health care and services for the elderly. Under the Carib News headline, "Our choice for Mayor: William (Bill) Thompson, an earnest public servant, the weekly paper praised several other Democratic candidates, but called Thompson "a visionary" when it comes to Continue Reading

Watching out for you: Prosecutor’s office creates new program to protect elderly

An 87-year-old Linden woman was scammed out of $14,000 by a caller who claimed her son was in jail.An 77-year-old South Brunswick man paid $5,000 to a man who called claiming to be an IRS agent and allegedly threatened arrest for failure to pay back taxes.Last week a Brooklyn woman was arrested and charged in connection with allegedly stealing $200,000 from an 86-year-old Monroe relative.And on April 2 the FBI posted a story about the latest version of the "grandparent scam" in which scam artists are now using personal information from grandchildren's social networking site to scam grandparents into wiring money to rescue a grandchild.These disturbing stories reflect an uncomfortable trend: The elderly are easy targets for criminal activity.Now Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey hopes a brand-new initiative will fight back against those who commit crimes against senior citizens.Carey has formed a new Elder Abuse and Exploitation Team, an in-house unit of detectives, assistant prosecutors, support staff and Agent Andrea Boulton, who formerly served as planner for the Middlesex County Department of Aging and Disabled Services, and has many contacts with senior organizations, senior center directors and grantees in the county.And Middlesex County isn't alone in looking to ward off those who prey on the elderly.New acting Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson has plans to create an Elder Abuse Task Force in the Special Investigations Unit.As part of the task force, a detective and assistant prosecutor would work with the Somerset County Office on Aging and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families would work on elder abuse cases. The task force also would be involved with outreach by educating seniors about the signs of abuse, including internet and telephone scams, distraction burglaries. The task force also will be training officers throughout the county about the signs of elder abuse. READ: Meet Somerset Continue Reading

Scam alert: Is someone using your bank account to pay their bills?

Fay Givens has a warning for small-business owners, nonprofits and others: Watch your checking accounts — someone could be using your money to pay their bills."Be very, very vigilant," said Givens, executive director for American Indian Services in Lincoln Park, a small nonprofit that provides a food bank and other assistance to Native Americans in the area.She was reviewing her bank statements and spotted that an electronic payment of $449 went out on May 22. Then, she saw that another $415.03 Automated Clearing House payment was made on May 23 and an additional  $1,407.13 went out on the same day.All those payments went directly to DTE Energy.But no bills are set to be automatically paid out of that account."When this shows up, you know it's fraud," Givens said.The utility bill scam is yet another reminder that we all need to protect our financial data, keep an eye on our statements and steer clear of phishing scams. As the banking industry moves toward a faster ACH payment system that includes same-day payments, some industry experts suggest that more scams could hit in the future."These types of scams — like paying utility bills — are just going to grow," said Frank McKenna, chief fraud strategist of PointPredictive, which offers consulting services to banks, lenders and finance companies.Technology that makes things easier, in general, can pave the way for con artists to craft a scam."The faster they can get their money, the faster they can get out and be anonymous," McKenna said.Givens suspects that someone obtained the routing number and account number for the bank account for the nonprofit. It could have been as simple, she said, as one of the nonprofit's checks that was used to pay other bills somehow ending up in the wrong hands.Then, she speculates that the bank account information was used on the phone to steal money out of the account to pay someone else's bills."If you're not vigilant on these Continue Reading

Deficit of bank accounts in the Bronx spawns NYC SafeStart program

The Bronx needs more bank for its buck. Nearly 270,000 Bronx residents - 29% of the borough's population - do not have bank accounts, according to a city study that also found many of them distrust banks. No borough has more "unbanked" residents, with three Bronx neighborhoods topping the Department of Consumer Affairs' new unbanked list: In Mott Haven and Melrose, 56% of households do not use banks. In Morris Heights and University Heights, 53% hold no bank accounts. In Highbridge and Concourse, 51% of households are unbanked.Those households lose dollars to check-cashing fees. And they don't earn interest. To combat the problem, the city and local banks last week launched NYC SafeStart, a straightforward bank account available to all New Yorkers. NYC SafeStart account holders pay no monthly charges for two years, as long as they meet minimum balances of only $25, or in some cases less. They get ATM cards, but no debit cards. Interested persons can obtain an account by calling 311 for directions to a city-approved finance counselor or one of the 10 partner banks, which include Amalgamated, Capital One and Checkspring. No taxpayer funds are involved; the banks benefit from access to an untapped customer base and public kudos, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz explained. "Having a bank account helps families save money, grow their assets and guard against unexpected financial emergencies," Mintz said. "But far too many New Yorkers don't have access to banking products that are safe or affordable." Melrose resident Calloce Bohi, 25, used to frequent check-cashing stores, but has since opened an account at Citibank. He loathed the check-cashing fees and he wanted to save. "When I have cash on me, I want to spend," Bohi said. "When I have money in the bank, I think about tomorrow." Mintz wasn't surprised that the study, released last Thursday, highlighted unbanked neighborhoods in the Bronx. But he was surprised to note that Continue Reading

The best way to protect your bank account after Equifax

The name “Equifax” now sends shivers down our spines. The company we once trusted to handle our credit scores has become a pariah of the financial world, ever since Equifax allowed hackers to steal vital information from 145 million American adults. I’m one of them. You probably are too. Check if your personal data was exposed in the Equifax data breach.How much information was stolen? Let’s start with the basics: Your name, Social Security number, and birthdate. That alone is a treasure trove for identity thieves. But they also may have your address and driver’s license number. These people know where you live. They can find out almost anything about you. The list of nefarious things they can do is beyond comprehension. An example?  Learn how the Equifax breach lets ID thieves pay for surgery on your dime.Here’s my best advice: Assume the worst. They hackers have your information, and Equifax can’t do anything to protect you. Law enforcement is too overwhelmed to find the culprits, and you are completely exposed.Here’s what to do next.If you work at a modern business or organization, you’re probably familiar with this process already. Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra verification step to the login process of your most critical accounts. When a website asks for your user name and password, you may also receive a text message with a special code or a special email. This is a standard practice and is considered safe.The idea is that even though hackers may have figured out your credentials, without the special code, they still won't be able to access your account. Cyber-criminals would have to nab your physical cell phone as well, which is probably protected by a passcode. Using this system makes the task much too complicated, especially when many of these hackers are located in other countries.Who allows 2FA?Several websites and email providers already offer 2FA to help protect accounts. Continue Reading