5 Easy Ways to Relieve Work Stress

Reduce the stress of your workday with these five simple tips

Whether you workstress_featured in an office, at a restaurant or on a construction site, work is always one of the major causes of stress. Small amounts of stress can sometimes be beneficial because it motivates workers to push themselves harder to reach goals, but too much stress can lead to depression and ultimately burnout if it is not properly dealt with. To avoid these feelings of overwhelming pressure and anxiety, consider trying these simple methods of reducing stress.

Listen to music
Listening to music during stressful times has many positive effects on a person’s health. For starters, it can lower your blood pressure and also reduce certain hormones that are linked to stress. In addition, USA Today reports that listening to music can help improve overall sleep quality, help you eat less and reduce anxiety as much as a massage. In particular, listening to classical music can significantly help relieve stress, but if that genre isn’t your cup of tea, try listening to recorded sounds of nature.

Exercise when you can
Exercising during the workday is an excellent method of relieving stress, according to WebMD. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to visit the gym or jog 10 miles before work. A simple walk around the office is enough to get the blood flowing, which allows mood-boosting endorphins to be released throughout the bloodstream. This can relieve stress and allow you to return to work in a better state of mind. In addition, Health.com reports that by taking a walk outside the office during lunch hours, the vitamin D from the sunlight can actually raise your body’s serotonin levels, which relieves stress. The smells, sounds and visuals also provide welcome distractions that allow people to get out of their own heads.

Talk about your feelings
If the stress of the workday is becoming unbearable, it could be time to pick up the phone to call a trusted friend or family member. According to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes the simple act of talking about stressful feelings can be helpful. In addition, the trusted person on the other end of the line could propose ideas on how to better deal with the situation. Also, once the conversation nears its conclusion, it could be a good idea to express your gratitude to the person on the other end of the phone call. Feelings of gratefulness can activate parts of the brain associated with dopamine, which also helps alleviate stress.

Find an outlet
Whether it’s taking your dog for a walk, writing in your journal or taking a bath each night before going to sleep, it’s important to create a relaxing routine away from the stress associated with work. Some people may argue that they don’t have time for these leisure activities, but setting time aside for fun events can help reduce tension, alleviate stress and avoid burnout. This allows people to be more productive when they do return to work. If you need help coming up with a hobby, WebMD suggests activities such as volunteer work, gardening or caring for pets.

Drink tea instead of coffee
While it’s true that caffeine provides a short-term rush of energy, after the effects of coffee finally wear off, coffee can make work-related stress even worse, according to Health.com. Instead of drinking coffee, try drinking green tea. This tea only has half the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee and contains theanine, which is an amino that reduces agitation because it helps calm the nervous system.

Two of the best ways to reduce work-related stress are to eat right and get a good night’s sleep, but if that still isn’t enough to keep you calm and steady at work, then consider using one or more of the tips from the list above in order to alleviate that unnecessary pressure and anxiety.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Autonomous Driving Will Change the Auto Industry

Autonomous vehicles will bring major changes across the mainstream auto industry

With autonomous drivingautonomouscars technology already in use, experts predict it won’t be long until autonomous vehicles (AVs) are available to the mainstream, bringing with them significant changes to the auto industry.

How Automakers Will Respond
Although AVs are not available for consumer purchase, automakers should get ready for strategic response in the near future. In fact, according to a June 2015 article from worldwide business management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, AVs are already being used for mining and farming and could soon be seen in construction.

McKinsey interviewed 30 experts worldwide about the implications of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and AVs for the auto industry. Using this research, McKinsey established four main responses likely to come from automakers:

  • Gradual incorporation of technology – “Established premium players with extensive customer bases and strong technical and commercial legacies will probably take an incremental approach to AVs.”
  • Adoption specific to the needs of the accessible mobility market – “New industry players developing ‘radically new’ vehicle architectures [will tap into the handicapped accessibility market and] capture volumes quickly and sustain ancillary business models.”
  • Early adoption overall – Automakers with “significant technical and commercial legacies … will most likely invest in AV research and then wait for the vehicle-level costs of the core technologies to drop while penetration in the premium segments grows.”
  • Opposition to the technology – These will be the automakers that will most likely avoid entering the AV market until the later years of development.

Changing the Market for Automakers and Financing Needs
Regardless of how manufacturers respond, there will be a definite change in the market for automakers.

In its report, McKinsey posits that once the AVs begin to enter the market in the early adoption phase, automakers and manufacturers could take advantage of the need for original service equipment and car parts. Instead of producing new car models, these companies would change their business focus to serving, repairing and maintaining AVs.

“Our research shows that nearly 60 percent of customers would follow their smart cars’ recommendations for service locations. Beyond the benefits of a bigger after-sales revenue stream, OEMs will have a strong incentive to service these vehicles, since regulators could ultimately force them to take on the greatest portion of the responsibility and risk associated with crashes caused by AV technical failures,” reports McKinsey.

This could lead to a change in the supply chain and in manufacturing employment as AVs enter the manufacturing industry, with both positive and negative effects.

“AVs in combination with smart technologies could reduce labor costs while boosting equipment and facility productivity” but would decrease employment in this sector as AVs take over jobs once performed by humans, says McKinsey.

It could also change whether consumers will still need financing for vehicle purchases.

In a February 2016 article in Road & Track, automotive industry expert Bob Lutz poses some very tough predictions for the auto industry and the need for vehicle financing.

“When we really get to the point where we have individually programmable but standardized transportation modules moving on the freeway with a whole snake of vehicles at 150 mph, brands will no longer matter,” states Lutz.

It’s possible that some consumers will still opt to own AVs, which will not kill off the automotive industry altogether, but there are still large implications for ownership decline, automotive sales and financing needs. Lutz predicts this change will occur first in urban areas, where car ownership has been declining and people are already groomed for AV use.

“We see, basically, this model in the form of Uber. Uber is simply autonomous vehicles with a driver,” Lutz says.

Implications for Non-Automated Vehicles
Lutz compares the change over from non-automated vehicles to AVs to an earlier change in transportation history, from horses and carriages to the first car. Lutz poses that regular vehicles will become relics of entertainment and status, kept purely for personal enjoyment.

“Consider the horse. With the advent of the car, horses were essentially banned from streets,” he says. “But they made a very nice comeback on private property. Dude ranches, farms, riding stables, racing. I think the same thing can and will happen to the automobile.”

If this is the case, financing for a non-automated vehicle will certainly change and may even become a much more inclusive buying process across the credit score spectrum.

If you have any queries, ask us about financing and we’ll be happy to talk to you about possible changes and what to do today.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Is a Private Loan Right for Financing Your Education?

The private sector is one option to pay for schooling

In its most recent study,commercialstudentloans_featured the College Board found that the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year for in-state public, out-of-state public and private institutions was nearly $22,000.

Where do they expect you to get that kind of money? Private loans are one option.

According to Investopedia.com, private loans are funds you can obtain from financial institutions, without government subsidies, that help cover college expenses not met by scholarships, grants, federal loans or other financial assistance.

“You can apply for a private loan at any time and use the loan proceeds towards college expenses in addition to tuition (books, computer, transportation),” Katie Adams writes in her Investopedia article.

Benefits of Private Loans
Obtaining a private loan is an attractive option to pay for college for a number of reasons:

  • The application process is easy. Most loans do not require you to complete the FAFSA or a federal aid application. If you’ve ever filled one of those out, you know that this is a huge advantage for private loans, as the FAFSA can be painstakingly brutal. Above and beyond the quickness and ease, it is also convenient. “Typically you can apply for a loan online or by phone – no in-person meetings are necessary,” Adams says.
  • Loan funds are available immediately after you are approved.
  • You are usually allowed a co-signer. This is a plus because it can help lower interest rates and improve your chances of approval.
  • Interest on a private loan may be tax-deductible.
  • Fees are low or nonexistent. Most loans do not include a prepayment penalty, or a fee assessed if the loan is prepaid within a certain period of time.

There are potential downsides as well. You will typically have to pass a credit check to be approved, so having adequate credit history is important. You could possibly get around this point by having a co-signer, as mentioned above. Furthermore, private loans tend to have higher interest rates than federal loans, which could affect the amount you borrow and, in turn, have an impact on where you obtain your loan.

“Worse, student loans are not like credit card debt and mortgages, which can be canceled if you file for bankruptcy,” reads the College Loan Center page on the U.S. News & World Report website. “Most bankruptcy courts will not cancel them unless your situation is extremely dire. In addition, most private loans come with floating interest rates, so payments will rise if interest rates rise, which they generally do from time to time.”

What About a Federal Loan?
The official website for Federal Student Aid lists Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (for graduate and professional students or parents) and Federal Perkins Loans as your options for government-enabled student loans.

Benefits of federal loans include a low, fixed interest rate and flexible repayment options; plus, there’s no prepayment penalty. You also don’t need to pass a credit check for these loans. On the other hand, drawbacks of federal loans include low amount limits, the dreaded FAFSA, limitations on how funds are utilized, strict enrollment stipulations and a small loan fee.

In the end, a private loan may be the only option available for some, in which case it does carry merit to explore it as an education-funding alternative.

“College payments are going to be a substantial investment into the future of an individual. Schooling decisions go beyond just the financial numbers and move into the territory of bettering oneself,” Adams says. “Even so, finances cannot be ignored. Exploring your options can save headaches and money now and in the future.”
Stop by today to find out more about the options we have in store for you.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

FAFSA Changes

What to know about the new FAFSA schedule

The process for applyingfafsachanges_featured for financial aid has been changed, so if you are planning on filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) soon, here is some information you need to know.

On Sept. 14, 2015, President Obama announced a new set of regulations that would change the schedule for applying for student aid through the FAFSA process. These changes will impact millions of students who will submit an application when the 2017-18 cycle begins.

Now, students who are submitting a FAFSA will have the opportunity to do so three months earlier than students in previous years could. Instead of submitting the 2017-18 FAFSA on Jan. 1, they will be able to get the process over with in the fall and submit it as early as Oct 1. There is no change to the schedule for the 2016-17 FAFSA, which became available Jan. 1, 2016.

“The earlier submission date will be a permanent change, enabling students to complete and submit their FAFSAs as early as October 1 every year,” states the website maintained by Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Families that have gone through the process in previous years now need to get used to this new schedule. Furthermore, it means that earlier income and tax information must be used when filling out the applicable financial information.

“For example, on the 2017-18 FAFSA, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2015 income and tax information, rather than their 2016 income and tax information,” states the Federal Student Aid website.

This change doesn’t just mean you need to pay extra attention when reporting tax information; it has far-reaching implications for families looking to plan their taxes and educational finances most effectively.

“To secure the best aid offer, you may need to tweak the way you manage income and assets that have an impact on financial aid,” says Kaitlin Pitsker in an article from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “For example, if you plan to realize capital gains on your stocks or bonds, you’ll want to do so before January 1 of your student’s sophomore year of high school to avoid having the money count as income on the FAFSA – a year earlier than on the old timeline.”

Students frequently pay for school using a combination of sources. Money obtained through the FAFSA process is often supplemented by savings accounts from family members, such as 529 educational savings plans. Grandparents who hold 529 savings plans should be aware that the new FAFSA schedule also impacts them.

“Previously, withdrawals from such accounts counted as student income during the first three years of college,” states Pitsker. “Now, distributions made during the last two years aren’t reported on the FAFSA. So if you can, delay cashing in on the grands’ generosity until those final years.”

While adjusting to the new schedule, make sure to reach out to your financial institution for answers to any questions you have about paying for your child’s education. You can also refer to the table outlining these changes that is provided by the Federal Student Aid website at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources/2017-18-fafsa-process-changes-text.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How to Keep Track of Passwords Safely

Don’t leave your personal info vulnerable!

Passwords: You need thempasswordsafety_featured for nearly everything these days, and it seems like each website or account has its own unique specifications for their creation. And of course, it is strongly discouraged to use the same password for all sites. So how can you keep track of them all?

Expert technology writer Rick Broida of Computerworld wrote in an article for PCWorld that he discourages his friends from keeping lists in a text file, spreadsheet or other similarly insecure document.

“That’s a disaster waiting to happen. If a hacker ever finds his way onto one of their PCs, those passwords will be easier to steal than a whiff of chocolate at the Hershey factory,” Broida says. “What’s more, if one of my amigos ever needs access to those passwords while traveling, he’s out of luck. Same goes for a hard-drive crash: It’ll take down that password list along with everything else.”

The solution is simple. Utilize one of the multitude of password manager services out there, many of which are free and offer great, useful additional features. Here are some of the most recommended.

Clipperz
Access this free online password manager anywhere, and feel secure doing so.

“Storing passwords and other confidential information online can make [some people] nervous, but Clipperz uses an encryption method that means not even Clipperz knows what it’s storing,” writes productivity blogger Leo Babauta on Lifehack.com.

This is one of the solutions that stores more information than just passwords – Clipperz can save and remember credit card and account numbers and much more.

LastPass
For an app that utilizes fingerprint recognition and other biometric scanners, LastPass is surprisingly simple to use. Available on iOS and Android, and even alternative devices such as Windows Phones, the technology employs super-secure two-step authentication to access your information.

It too can store additional information, as well as capture Wi-Fi passwords, in a database-like interface – great for those trying to upgrade from an unprotected spreadsheet. It even offers a password generator feature to create a random password meeting all of a certain site’s specifications, and then it stores it safely and automatically.

However, Kit Eaton of the New York Times found that LastPass does have one drawback:

“While the app is free, to make the most of all its powers, like automatically filling in details on Web sites, you have to pay a subscription of $12 a year,” Eaton says in a 2013 article.

1Password
This may be one of the best-known password manager apps, and its popularity may be due in part to its amazing security. It doesn’t have two-step authentication, but it never sends data to servers, according to technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal Geoffrey A. Fowler.

“For the really paranoid, 1Password offers the most control over where your encrypted vault of passwords gets stored,” Fowler writes.

The tech allows you to sync passwords across devices using local Wi-Fi networks or Dropbox or other cloud-based service providers, which is a big plus due to its higher price and the fact that software for each platform (e.g., Mac, Windows, iOS) is sold separately.

Dashlane
Fowler recommends Dashlane for your secure password storage needs.

“Dashlane is like the memory you wish you had. It keeps track of not only passwords, but also credit card numbers and user IDs, filling them in when you need them across many different devices,” he explains.

It’s free to download on a single device, but there is a fee to use it – $30 a year allows the app to automatically sync your data across multiple devices. You can try it fee-free for 30 days.

The best part about Dashlane is its ease of use. Upon setup, the app and its web browser plug-ins find passwords that you’ve already been saving unencrypted on the internet and input them for you. It also has the unique ability to learn new passwords, usernames and much more automatically as you type them for the first time.

While each of these solutions comes with its own set of pros and cons, all are better than the alternative – an insecure, vulnerable set of passwords and account numbers.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.