October is Cyber Security Awareness Month
Every year in October, countries around the world band together to promote Cyber Security Awareness Month, in recognition of the global nature of online threats. Security is a top priority for us at Oaken, so we’re glad to support this campaign, which features a different theme every week.
Week 1 kicks off with “Our Internet, Our Cyber Security”, which acknowledges that the internet has become a shared responsibility (we all benefit from safer surfing), and also features the launch of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. That’s followed in Week 2 by “Buy Secure”, a reminder of how important it is to buy devices and apps from reputable sources. The theme for Week 3 is “Our Data is Valuable”, and recognizes that criminals can use every bit of personal data you provide on the internet to your disadvantage—from banking information to all your social media activity. In Week 4, the focus is on “Digital Literacy”, which aims to sharpen your awareness of what you’re doing while online. Then finally, from October 29-31, the theme is “Our Future in Cyber Security”, which is mainly aimed at employers and businesses.
There’s plenty that you can do, too
But what about the average person? When it comes to protecting themselves, the vast majority of people are passive in relying on pre-installed software to stay secure. While these services do provide some safeguards, there’s actually much more you can do to maximize security—just go online! There are dozens of web-based tutorials and courses that can help you bump up your security in just a matter of hours, and many of them are dead simple. By making a little extra effort, you can go a long way to defending yourself against the growing threat of cybercrime.
One of our favourite offerings is a video course from Acutio called “Computer Security for the Rest of Us”. It consists of 22 short videos that cover all the security issues average users face, from antivirus and malware to configuring your operating system. Best of all, it takes less than an afternoon, no matter what your technical level.
Then there’s Udemy, which is one of the biggest online academies out there. It provides a free course in cybersecurity for beginners that’s one hour long. This is probably used as a hook to get you to buy its more in-depth courses, given how short it is, but still good if you want to just get your feet wet.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers courses in cybersecurity as well, all of which are free. Their design is a bit clunky, but courses are short and let you build up to an advanced level if you wish.
For truly comprehensive offerings, there’s nothing better than Cybrary. This is an online library of 500 cybersecurity courses that can be filtered for your level of expertise.
And finally, there are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These are courses offered by universities that you can follow at your own pace. Many are, obviously, at a very advanced level. But there are offerings for beginners, and they’re all free. One of the most popular is given by Excelsior College, and as a self-study course it lets you learn as little or as much as you want to know from a first-year undergraduate course.
Covering the complexities of life insurance
An important part of personal financial planning is deciding whether or not you need life insurance. This is a complicated topic since it involves a lot of different things, like evaluating risk, assessing costs, and estimating how much insurance you want to purchase. But if you have loved ones who depend on you, you’ll want to think about it carefully, and possibly discuss it with your financial advisor.
Life insurance is complex because it is all about evaluating risk. Insurance companies base the premiums they charge on a variety of personal risk factors that vary across the population. These include your age, sex, smoker status and overall health. For example, if you don’t smoke you’re viewed as less of a risk than someone who does, and your premiums will be correspondingly lower.
How much is enough?
The biggest factor in determining premiums is the amount of insurance you want to buy. Here it’s important to sit down and evaluate all the financial impacts on your family that might arise if the unexpected should happen. These can often add up to more than you imagined. In addition to the big items—such as the remaining balance on your mortgage, income replacement and the repayment of debts—there are smaller items as well, such as funeral expenses and probate fees.
Then there are the variables in life that you may want to plan for. The biggest of these is education costs. If your children are likely to go on to postsecondary education, or if you just want them to have the financial option of doing so, you may want to include their future tuition and expenses in the calculation of your target death benefit.
Another after-death expense to consider is taxes. Your estate may have a big tax bill when you pass away, especially if you have a lot of capital gains in your portfolio. This can include gains not only on your investments, but also on things like a family cottage, and that can be a sizable amount. A life insurance policy can be a good way to reduce or eliminate that additional tax burden for your family.
A final factor you’ll have to consider when calculating how much insurance to purchase is group benefits. Many employers offer life insurance as part of their benefits plan. If you’re fortunate enough to have such a package, you may need less additional insurance than you thought, or perhaps none at all. Most group plans also let you bump up the coverage at reasonable rates, so an employer-sponsored plan really gives you flexibility.
Walk, bike, hike: the new way to travel
Most of us travel by just hopping on a plane and seeing the sights. There’s nothing wrong with that, but another way of travelling is to make physical activity the major focus of your trip. Here’s our quick guide to get you walking, hiking or cycling around your next foreign destination. With the added bonus that, at the end of it, you may well be in better shape than when you set out.
First of all, choose the right season. You’ll probably want to opt for a time when the weather is warm, as well as match the season with the destination. Sunny Sicily might be great for walking in April, but not so good in the intense heat of August. Plan an itinerary before you go, and remember not to bite off more than you can chew. The amount you walk each day should be appropriate for your fitness level, especially in warm weather. And finally, invest in a good pair of sensible shoes! Nothing will stop a walking holiday more abruptly than uncomfortable footwear, so make sure that you’ve broken them in before you set off on your rambling adventure.
Cycling is one of the best ways to see a country, but it requires a fair bit of preparation. In addition to selecting the right destination, you have to choose the right equipment. Enquire beforehand about bike rentals wherever you’re going, and make sure to get the bike that’s right for you. For challenging countryside, you may want to get an e-bike (a conventional bike with a motor attached) for when the going gets really tough.
Next step: get out your own bike! To get in shape for a biking tour you’ll need to spend a few weeks beforehand in the saddle. Not only will this reactivate your bike-handling skills, it will also get you ready physically. One way to prepare is to start cycling to work, or wherever else you happen to be going regularly. Build up your distance gradually, and remember that you don’t need to reach the same distance you will cover in a typical day on tour. There will be stops along the way for coffee, lunch, and taking in the views.
If you think hiking is only for triathletes, think again. Hiking certainly is a rugged activity, but it often involves gentle landscapes and short itineraries that people of varying fitness levels can tackle. As is the case for biking, you should get in shape before you leave. If you live in a flat area, practice by walking more than you would on your typical hike. Choose a destination that’s suitable (maybe the gentle rolling hills of Ireland?), break in your equipment (sturdy boots are a must), and get accustomed to walking with a backpack loaded with whatever you’ll need on your hike.
Finally, Google is always your friend. There is endless information on all these types of holidays on the web, covering everything from organized groups to go-on-your-own. A good place to start is the tourism agency of whatever country or region you’re planning to visit. They’ll provide suggested itineraries, guides, links to resources, and even reputable suppliers for your tour. Happy trails!
We’re out and about again
Nothing says the end of summer like expos and conventions, and our calendar is already quite full.
Earlier this month, we were at the Toronto MoneyShow. As Canada’s largest investor education conference, covering everything from ETFs to bonds to GICs to real estate, it’s always a must on our agenda. We were pleased to welcome the many visitors who dropped by to say hello, and we’re happy to announce that the winner of our draw for an Amazon gift card was David Lazar—congratulations, David!
We were also at the Kerby Expo on September 22, a regular fall event in Calgary that offers live music, wine tasting, entertainment and more.
On the last weekend of October (27/28), we’ll be at the two-day Toronto ZoomerShow, which is being held at Exhibition Place. And from November 9 to 11 you’ll be able to find us at the National Women’s Show, taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. We’re pleased to be able to offer our customers free tickets for the ZoomerShow—just click here to get yours. We’ll also be holding a draw for visitors to either event, for a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card! We hope to see as many of you as possible at these events.
Warm up to fall with a hot drink, a sweet treat, and these little reading snacks…
- This fact-packed article from Forbes takes an imaginative approach to evaluating cybersecurity threats: the Scoville Scale, which measures by the heat of peppers (malware rates a “Jalapeno”, while data breaches score at “Ghost Pepper” level!).
- The CBC explains how Canadian insurer Manulife is using Fitbits to launch what may be the future of life insurance in the United States.
- If you’re up for cycling all the way from Canada to New York City on your next vacation, you’ll soon be able to do it.