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Financial Check List for the End of the Year

Financial Check List for the End of the Year

There is a small, but distinct, satisfaction that comes from crossing items off of a list. The immediate sense of accomplishment gives us a boost that propels us to the next thing on the list. Whether it is a chore list on the weekend or items off a grocery list, we, as a whole, increase our productivity when we have a set of priorities. 

Our financial lives would benefit from a task list just the same. As we move through 2021 with Covid still in the news and the stock market enjoying another great year, we should keep in mind that there are still things to accomplish pertaining to our finances. Think of this as a mid-year financial checklist: 

1: Fund your IRA, HSA accounts

If you have personal retirement accounts, such as Roth or Traditional IRAs, be aware of how much you have contributed to this point and how much you plan to fund before April 15, 2022. The maximum contribution amount for Roth or Traditional IRAs for 2021 is $6,000, or $7,000 if you are over the age of 50. Monthly systematic contributions plans are a great way to fund these accounts; however, many of these plans were set up years ago when the contribution limits were lower. You may not be max funding your account if you haven’t increased your monthly amount within the last few years. Health Savings Accounts are another great way to save money in a tax-preferred way. Not everyone is eligible for an HSA, so check to make sure you qualify. The 2021 contribution limit for individual HSA accounts is $3,600 and $7,200 for family accounts. 

2: Complete your RMDs from IRA, Beneficiary RMD

Required minimum distributions, or RMDs, are annual distributions from IRA accounts. In 2020, required minimum distributions were suspended and have been reinstated for 2021. Recent legislation has increased the age for RMDs to 72 for tax-deferred IRA; however, inherited IRA accounts have different distribution restrictions, so be aware if you are the owner of an inherited IRA as you may need to take distributions prior to age 72. RMD’s must be taken by December 31 of each year, except in the year that you turn 72, in which you have until April 1 of the following year. It is the responsibility of the IRA owner to ensure that the total RMD amount due is withdrawn each year and that the calculation takes into consideration all of their tax-deferred IRA assets.  

3: Verify your 401k, 403b Contributions

The maximum amount that employees can contribute to their 401k or 403b accounts for 2021 is $19,500, with an additional $6,500 allowed if the employee is over the age of 50. This maximum contribution amount has been increasing over the last few years so it is important to verify the amount coming out of each paycheck if your desire is to max fund your account. These limits do not take into consideration any match provided by your employer. Most employers offer flexibility in making and changing contribution amounts, so you could increase your amount mid-year if you are not on track. Also, be aware that many of the 401k or 403b plans now offer a Roth option within their plan. This doesn’t affect any Roth IRA contributions. 

4: Check Your Mortgage Rate For Possible Refinance Opportunities

I fully realize that the mortgage refinance discussion is becoming quite repetitive at this point, but it does bear repeating. The current mortgage rates are under 3% for a 30-year fixed mortgage, and the 15-year mortgage rate is in the low 2% range at many lending institutions. We generally advise looking into a mortgage refinance if you are planning on staying in the home for at least 3-5 more years and a rate reduction of at least .5%-.75%. That said, everyone has a different financial situation and should consult with a financial advisor or mortgage specialist prior to making a final decision. For many people who have refinanced within the last few years, another refinance may not be appealing; however, it would behoove you to look into this option again if the variables are in your favor. 

5: Review Your Cash Position, Travel Expenditures

Take time to review your current cash position and the amount of cash you prefer to have at any given time. A person or family’s cash position is an interesting subject within the world of financial advising. We have clients who need six-figure cash positions to feel comfortable, while other clients desire to hold small cash positions as they don’t like “money on the sidelines.” We like to frame this conversation by taking into consideration any other investment and retirement accounts. For example, a client with a large taxable account can afford to get away with a smaller cash position in contrast to a client with all of their non-cash assets in IRA or 401k accounts, where liquidity provisions are more onerous. We strongly believe that every well-built financial plan has a healthy cash position to cover job losses, emergency expenses or unexpected travel. The current low-rate environment is creating a challenge to find a decent return for cash; however, safety is the main job for this portion of your financial plan. 

This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but I hope this makes you think about a few things to review between now and the end of the year. We are more than happy to discuss any of these items with you and how they pertain to your overall financial plan.

Nate Condon

Three Tips For Improving and Organizing Your Email Experience

Three Tips For Improving and Organizing Your Email Experience

As I was sitting down to write, my intention was to go through growth versus value investing. While still an important topic – one I touched on in this video – I instead chose to write about something non-financial that has impacted my life recently, something that warrants sharing. 

At the time of writing this, masks are getting put back on as the Delta variant takes hold, and potentially, lockdowns could be back on the table. All of this can certainly cause stress, especially as COVID-19 lingers on longer and stronger than many anticipated.

Doing something that allows you control – and also the ability to declutter – can be helpful to reduce stress and put you in a better mindset. In fact, there’s quite a bit of internet literature that discusses the benefits tidying up can have on mental well-being. And decluttering doesn’t just apply to our homes or apartments; it’s just as, if not more, important for our digital environments. So, I chose to focus on organizing my digital life, namely my email. If you’re like me and are (somewhat?) neurotic about keeping a clean inbox, here are a few things I did to better organize my email:

Create Filters to Organize your Email More Efficiently 

Do you have some emails that come to you every day that you don’t want to remove but you want to mark them as read or archive them? Most mail programs can do this, but I use Gmail myself and will show examples from that email provider. If you go to your “settings” and then “filters”, you can create a filter that takes emails and does something with them. 

For example: 

Matches: from:([email protected]); Do this: Mark as read

I have an automated email that sends me five separate emails a day for each of my portfolios, so this is helpful to keep unread emails from piling up. If we take this one step further, I have also created labels that will automatically categorize and group certain emails. 

For example: Matches: from:([email protected]) Do this: Mark as read, Apply label “IBKR Notices”, Categorize as Updates.

Opt Out of (Almost) Everything!

After organizing my current email, I turned to a problem with both my personal and professional email – I am subscribed to WAY too many newsletters. For the last few weeks, I have been vigilant in unsubscribing from almost every newsletter service that has come across my inbox. I figured that if I really needed it, I could go back and resubscribe at a later date. This literally is over 100 that I have taken the time to remove, but after a few weeks of doing this, there is a massive difference in how many emails I receive daily. There’s also the added benefit of having less of my personal information out in the internet ether.

Protect Your Email Privacy

Maybe I’m a little late to the party, but I read this article about the Gmail app and some of the privacy concerns it has. It’s important to remember that if you have a free Gmail account that a massive amount of data gathering and tracking will occur. I haven’t yet moved exclusively over to my iCloud account (which everyone that has an Apple ID should have), but I am strongly considering it. As a half step, I have removed the Gmail app from my phone and pull my Gmail through the Apple Mail app.

I hope that these few small suggestions can help you uncover some ways to organize your digital life and reduce the amount of stress it can give you. Additionally, I have found that you will likely save money by removing many of the “sales” that are offered to you on a daily basis!

Clint Walkner

Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

New to the Walkner Condon team, I come from 10 years of fundraising for non-profit organizations. Whether it was promoting wildlife conservation or helping to eradicate preventable diseases (which feels especially poignant these days), my career in charitable giving has cemented my understanding of the importance of philanthropy.

I have had the privilege of working for some highly reputable organizations, but I have also had the privilege of working with a highly diverse swath of donors and volunteers – ages, nationalities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Taking some time now to reflect on my tenure in charitable giving, I have noticed a common thread among those generous donors and volunteers. No matter the size or shape of their gifts, they subscribe to a culture of philanthropy. Somewhere along the way, the importance of giving back was impressed upon them. Perhaps their families have supported the same causes for years, or perhaps they themselves were beneficiaries of gifts that changed their lives. Regardless, experiencing a culture of philanthropy instilled the importance of exploring the many ways in which we can all make the world a better place.

But where to start? Depending on the charity, gifts can be made in several different ways – for example, outright cash, monthly sustaining gifts, gifts of appreciated assets such as stocks, IRA qualified charitable distributions (QCDs), as well as giving posthumously from your estate. But beyond that, giving can also take the form of volunteering and advocacy for your favorite organization(s). Is there a cause that you find important or an organization that intrigues you? Research it! Visit that charity’s website, send an inquiry to their volunteer office, or do the really fun task of reading their annual reports. 

Some families have established family foundations that allow and ensure their culture of philanthropy transcends generations. But for the majority, it can be as simple as taking the small step of making room in our monthly or annual budget for this purpose. Perhaps it’s a monthly contribution to your favorite cause. Or perhaps you choose 2-3 charities to give to each December. And even beyond financial support, consider the other resources you have to offer (time, talent, etc.).

Deciding where and what to give can be a solo decision – or one that you make together as a family. We know our kids are watching and learning from us as we talk about money, so why not include them in the discussion? Instilling this culture of giving back at an early age can be critical and lead to a legacy of giving.

If you ever think a gift is too small to make a difference, I would challenge you to reconsider. Think about that “small” gift combined with hundreds of other families doing the same thing. That “small” gift now becomes something substantial. And not to mention, that act of giving can turn into a habit or inspire others to join you, especially those in your own circles of influence.

We all know how it feels when asked to contribute to a friend or family member’s fundraiser for this or that. All are important and worthy to support, but might be difficult to prioritize. So maybe create some space in your budget for those individual fundraisers that pop up. It may even give you a sense of security knowing you can be there for those who need you when they need you. Plus, you are demonstrating to your children (or other impressionable connections) that you can care passionately about something and actually do something about it.

In the world we live today, there is no shortage of worthy causes. Just remember to do your research and ensure you understand where your money is going. Charity Watch and Charity Navigator are two great places to start.

This is one of the things I’m most excited about in joining the Walkner Condon team: learning the money management side of this equation. After all, thanks to smart financial planning, your family can create space for giving back and making your own brand of difference in the world.

While I leave behind a career of soliciting, processing, and stewarding donations, I look forward to helping our clients achieve their goals, whether that includes charitable giving or not.

But if you think about it, the simple act of giving once and talking about it with your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews, could be the inspiration and catalyst for creating your family’s culture of philanthropy.

Polly Price

Intersection of Sports and Investing: What is Invesco QQQ?

Intersection of Sports and Investing: What is Invesco QQQ?

As someone who has always loved college basketball, watching the Baylor Bears easily defeat the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball National Championship game and stop Gonzaga from going undefeated, a feat that has not been accomplished since Indiana did it in 1976, brought back a lot of memories. I’m a University of Virginia fan, and my childhood was filled with plenty of ACC and local high school games. I will never forget when I was in eighth grade and went to see a local prodigy from our rival high school, South Lakes, play against my Chantilly Chargers. Their star player was none other than Grant Hill, who proceeded to absolutely dominate our talented team with a barrage of dunks, 3-pointers, and superb defense. It was awesome to watch. The following year in 1992, he helped lead Duke to a national championship. Due to injuries, Hill had a long, but uneven, pro career and never was able to completely dominate as he did before. 

I couldn’t help but reminisce as I enjoyed this year’s coverage with Hill serving as an analyst for the tournament. It was hard to miss Hill because he was also a spokesperson for an ETF called Invesco QQQ, which was marketed heavily during the tournament. We have fielded a lot of questions about ETFs, and QQQ specifically, so I thought I would blog a little about it to help make sense of the hoopla, a unique intersection of my everyday life and passion for sports. 

What is an ETF?

Before we dive into Invesco QQQ, let’s first cover the basics of ETFs. An ETF is an Exchange Traded Fund that consists of a basket of stocks (or other investments) to diversify the risk. They are similar to mutual funds; however, they are traded on an exchange (Like the New York Stock Exchange) throughout the day and have some important differences that can have their advantages and disadvantages. Most ETFs are index funds as they attempt to mirror the performance of an index like the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Average. Because they are not usually actively managed, they generally have very low fees and can be traded on many platforms with no commission. They also have some tax advantages over mutual funds because they do not kick out capital gains to the shareholders regardless of a sale of the shares owned. Some mutual funds can even show capital gains when the value of the shares is down significantly at the end of the year! But on the downside, ETFs that are not actively managed can not move to cash or sell investments when they are up to buy others when they are down like an actively managed mutual fund attempts to do. This can hamper the ability to “beat the market” or as we call it “create Alpha.”

Big Man on Campus – QQQ

QQQ is the ticker symbol for a specific ETF that is offered by Invesco that invests in 100 Nasdaq companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google. Many other companies comprise this specific ETF, but over the previous 21 years, it has amassed an enormous amount of investment and has become the fifth-largest Exchange Traded Fund in the world. It also is the No. 1 performing ETF in the Large-Cap Growth space during that time (out of 327 funds) through December 31, 2020. Large-Cap Growth funds are companies that have a capitalization of over $10 billion, and growth delineates that they have a 70% greater likelihood to grow than other large-cap companies. Many investors that like to have riskier portfolios are interested in things like QQQ because they offer the potential for greater returns if the companies grow and investors continue to buy shares and increase the value of the underlying company. We believe that investments like QQQ make sense as a part of an overall diversified portfolio and should be monitored and rebalanced regularly to keep that portfolio in alignment with your goals and objectives. If you have questions about QQQ and can’t get a hold of Grant Hill, we would be happy to have a conversation with you to see what would make sense in your portfolio. Like Hill’s career, QQQ is a standout, but if you watched his professional career vs. his high school and college career, you would understand why we remind clients that past performance is not always indicative of future success, and your results can never be guaranteed!

Jonathon Jordon, CFP®

Five Technology Tips for Seniors And Older Adults Learned from a Year of Pandemic Life

Five Technology Tips for Seniors And Older Adults Learned from a Year of Pandemic Life

As with many things in our lives, our finances have become increasingly reliant on technology. Instead of receiving paper bank statements or paper bills, we now have e-bills and e-statements. Instead of mailing our tax paperwork, we upload it to a secure online portal. Rather than writing checks, we can easily send money to someone through an app. 

And while technology has increased efficiency and saved us time, it also has the potential to create a lot of headaches and frustration. We’re in a never-ending cycle of adopting a new device or software and learning how to use it, only to have the next version render our knowledge seemingly obsolete.

Because of the tech boom and its subsequent acceleration through COVID-19, we’ve become teachers of tech for our clients on many occasions, and we’ve had to do plenty of learning ourselves. We wrote about tech and working from home at the start of the pandemic (how has it already been a year?). Now, with a year of pandemic life under our belts – a year of virtually meeting with clients and finding solutions to all kinds of tech issues – we put together this list of tech tips for seniors and older adults (or people of any age who want to be more in the loop on technology) that we’ve learned these last 12 months. 

USE A USB, BLUETOOTH, OR WIRELESS MOUSE WITH YOUR LAPTOP

This first tech tip for older adults might not seem like a big deal – until you try to go back to your laptop’s trackpad after having used a mouse for a while. And if you’ve only exclusively used your laptop’s trackpad, you’re in for a real ‘Eureka’ moment when you use a mouse for the first time. Trackpads can be awkward, finicky, and subject to spills and sticky fingers. Now, using a mouse with sticky fingers isn’t necessarily advisable, but it won’t be rendered completely useless by a small smudge like your trackpad can be. And you can get a solid one for less than $30. 

When it comes to selecting a mouse for your laptop, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you’re electing to go with a USB mouse, or any type of wired connection, make sure your computer is compatible with it. Newer Apple laptops like the MacBook Pro have what are called Thunderbolt 3 ports (pictured below), so you will need an adapter like this one to be able to use a USB mouse with it. If you have a PC (Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.), you shouldn’t have to be too concerned about compatibility because most PCs come with a good mix of ports for connecting various devices. The good news about a wired USB mouse is that it doesn’t need batteries because it’s supplied power through the USB port. The downside is that the cord can be cumbersome. 

Many computer mice these days are either wireless or Bluetooth. The difference is that a wireless mouse typically uses a USB adapter that communicates with the mouse (sans wire), while a Bluetooth mouse – such as Apple’s Magic Mouse – has no physical connection with your device and communicates directly with your laptop. The draw of Bluetooth is that you don’t have to worry about having a compatible port, and Bluetooth capability is quite standard on most devices manufactured in the last five years (Bluetooth 5.0, the most recent version, was introduced in 2016).

Although we could do an exhaustive piece on mice alone, PC Mag already has this great resource on the subject if you’re in the market for a mouse. 

MASTER ZOOM AUDIO & USE BLUETOOTH HEADPHONES WITH IT

On the subject of Bluetooth, let’s (briefly) open Pandora’s box and talk about audio on Zoom and other web-conferencing applications for our next tech tip. There are three common Zoom problems we’ve likely all encountered over the last year: 

    1. You can’t hear the other people on the call.
    2. The other people on the call can’t hear you.
    3. You can’t hear the other people and they can’t hear you.

If you’re in a situation where you can’t hear other people on the call, the issue is likely with the speaker that’s selected, also known as the sound output. For people using wired headphones, unplugging them and plugging them back into your computer, while quite simple, might just solve your problem. You can also leave the call and rejoin it.

This can be a little more complicated if you’re using Bluetooth headphones – headphones without a cord – but it involves two steps. First, check to see if your headphones are connected to your computer. In the event they aren’t, your best bet is to deploy a search on your favorite search engine – Google, Duck Duck Go, etc. Entering the brand of your headphones (ex: Apple AirPods) and ‘how to connect [insert your brand here] to my computer’ should return a quick explanation for how to make this happen. Here are links for some of the top headphones to help get you started: AirPods, Beats by Dre, Bose, JBL

Once you’ve connected your headphones to your computer, the second step is to select your headphones as the “speaker,” or sound output device, in Zoom, a process shown in the video below. Here’s a written description of the process of connecting your Bluetooth headset:

    1. Locate the mute button. This is almost always at the bottom left-hand corner of your Zoom window
    2. Click the “^” arrow in the mute button box to open up your audio options. 
    3. Under the “Select a Speaker” text, choose what the Zoom audio will play through, in this case, “Beats Solo.”

If other people can’t hear you, you can follow the same three-step process. In this case, you’ll want to choose your Bluetooth headphones under “Select a Microphone.” If that doesn’t help – likely because your headphones don’t have a built-in microphone – you can pick “Same as System” or select your computer as the microphone. Looking for additional resources on this? Here’s a video tutorial from Zoom on audio setup. 

SAVE YOUR PASSWORDS WITH A SECURE PASSWORD MANAGER 

If we had a nickel for every time we said, “I’ll remember that password later,” we’d have quite a few nickels. But if you’re not using the same password for all your logins – something you should never do anyway – how should you keep track of your different logins and passwords? That’s where this next tech tip comes in.

For many of our older clients, writing passwords down on a piece of paper is the method they’re familiar with. This isn’t a bad option. It’s far more likely that confidential information would be stolen or compromised online versus being taken by someone breaking into your home. The problem here is accessibility. You should be storing this physical document in a safe or locked drawer, so you’ll have to take it out and put it back every time you need to log in.

The better option to combine security and ease of access is through a secure password manager. We have some examples listed below, but first, a couple of things to keep in mind. 

    1. You (usually) get what you pay for – cybersecurity is a necessity and not something you should try to cut corners on. If you’re using free software for virus protection or password management, chances are there’s a reason it’s free. Not that something you pay for is automatically better, but paid services from trusted companies in this sphere are your best, and safest, bet. 
    2. Do your homework – don’t just go with software because a friend told you about it or the company’s website sounds convincing. Use reviews and trusted internet resources from places like PC Magazine or Wired to do some independent investigating on your own. 

Now, here are some recommendations for password managers: 

    1. 1Password
    2. Keeper Security
    3. McAfee True Key
    4. Bitwarden
    5. Dashlane 
    6. LastPass

CHECK TO SEE WHERE YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE BEING SAVED

If you’ve ever gone on a wild goose chase for a document you believe is saved on your computer, you know first-hand how frustrating such a hunt can be. The main issue here is that you likely don’t know the exact name of the file. If you do, you can use your PC’s search bar or file explorer, or Mac’s Finder application, to turn up the file in relatively short order. When you don’t know the name of the file, it turns into a bit of a guess and check approach, plugging in possible names until you find it or give up. Here are a couple of options to find a file once you’ve lost it: 

    1. Open the application you originally saved the file in (Word, Excel, etc.) and locate the “Recent Files” or “Recently Opened” tab.
    2. Go to Mac Finder and click on the “Recents” on the left side of the pane. On a PC, you can click on the File Explorer icon and then click “Recent Files” once the window opens. 

Here are some bonus tech tips for ensuring you can find your files easily: 

    1. Create specific folders and subfolders inside your ‘Documents’ folder to keep yourself organized, ex.: Taxes > 2021 > Tax Forms for your W-2s, 1099s, etc. 
    2. If you’re someone who likes to have everything on your desktop, create your folder hierarchy there so you don’t have a mess of icons to choose from. 
    3. Click “Save As” when you save a document the first time or anytime you’re unsure of where the document is saved. 
    4. Move files out of your download folder to their respective folders and rename them to something that makes sense. A lot of times automatically downloaded files will have funky names that make it hard to know what the file is based on name alone. 
    5. To the last point, name files in a specific way familiar to you. Including things like dates “040821” or “210408” and being specific “Taxes_2021_1040-complete” will go a long way when trying to find things later on. 

Save and Send Your Documents Through Cloud-Based Platforms

An alternative to saving documents directly to your computer, or a great way to back up files so you don’t lose them, is using a cloud-based storage platform. Without getting too far into the weeds, the basic premise of cloud storage is that it allows you to save and send documents from multiple devices without taking up storage space on those devices. It’s like renting a storage container to keep all the stuff you don’t have room to store in your own house. Below are some of the key cloud storage providers to choose from. 

Cloud Storage Platforms

    1. Google Drive
    2. OneDrive (Microsoft)
    3. iCloud (Apple)
    4. DropBox
    5. pCloud
    6. IDrive

Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to electronic files. First, always back up your files in a location separate from the original location, i.e. an external storage device if the original location in the cloud service. Second, encrypt any files with confidential information using Microsoft, Adobe, or another service. You can upload encrypted files to a cloud server, which gives you another layer of protection if there’s a security breach.  

A key part of our philosophy at Walkner Condon is embracing change, including embracing new technology to streamline our clients’ experience and financial journeys. As part of that, we’re also here to help educate our clients on these new technologies, so they can maximize them to their fullest potential. Hopefully, these tips will help you or a friend or family member maximize the technology in your life. 

If you have anything you’d like us to cover in the future, feel free to let us know by sending an email to us here.

Disclosure: this blog post is written as informational only by Dan Corcoran and is not an offer to purchase or sell securities, nor should it be construed as investment related advice. Dan is not registered as an investment advisor, and any securities related inquiries should be directed to an investment advisor representative (IAR) of Walkner Condon Financial Advisors.

Your Work From Home Network Checklist

Your Work From Home Network Checklist

With many of us making our home offices a full-time endeavor and with a future that looks like working from home will be an increasing part of our lives, giving clients and associates a good experience is key. No one wants to go through the hiccups and dropouts of your Zoom meeting, especially when you are discussing important topics! Here we offer some suggestions on how to assure that your home internet is stable and able to handle the load for today’s work environment. 

Internet Speed

Do this little exercise – find a way to see how many devices are actually on your network. Here’s one way to do this, or if you have something like the Google Wifi points, you may use their app. You’ll probably be surprised at the number of devices that are using up bandwidth (check also that all the devices are approved by you!). It’s likely that you have underestimated your needed bandwidth rather than overestimated it. Keep in mind also that streaming and Zoom meetings require a significant amount of bandwidth. I would recommend a minimum of 100 Mbps service, with a preference of 300 Mbps+. This will help alleviate the dreaded buffering or pixelation that dooms business calls to failure. 

Use Ethernet Where Possible

You’ve probably heard that WiFi networks aren’t super secure. This is correct, though there are certainly things that you can do to protect yourself. No matter how good your WiFi is, you also may have dead spots or interference that could impact your signal. Using a wired ethernet connection is a good way to make yourself more secure and stable. Most modern homes now have cabling, though you will want to assure that you don’t have Cat5 wiring since that could potentially be slower than your WiFi in some cases.

Cable Modem and Router

When was the last time you checked on your cable modem to assure you have that equipment up to date? It’s worth a look and/or a phone call to your internet service provider (ISP). Cable modems can be a number of years old and don’t offer the same efficiency that newer models achieve. 

Good performing WiFi is key and provided in a couple of ways. Sometimes the cable modem also has a router in it, though if it is older technology you will probably want to use your own router. Aren’t sure the difference between a modem and router? Here’s a helpful post.

Eliminate WiFi Dead Spots

If you have a larger home or want to assure that your WiFi signal can reach certain areas of the house (workbench, screened in porch, your WiFi enabled birdbath), you will probably want to consider a mesh network. Basically a mesh network is one network created out of a number of devices sending WiFi signals. The one I use is from Google. The nice part about using this type of network is it’s fairly portable, allowing you to move the “pucks” around if you are seeing a decrease in the quality of the signal in any particular spot. Furthermore, you may plug in an ethernet cable in many cases to make the connection wired.

Protect Your Network

There are a number of things you can do to protect your network from cyber attacks. Using strong, unique passwords will help wall off your exposure when (not if!) you are compromised. A password keeper such as 1Password will help you keep track of your passwords instead of that yellow sheet of paper you keep next to your laptop. Running regular virus and malware checks using software is also a good idea to assure you haven’t picked up something while you browse around. Avast offers a free virus protection program that’s easy to use. Finally, using a VPN creates a “tunnel” that shields your web browsing from your internet service provider and other prying eyes. This is also important when you go out to places that may have unsecured wireless networks as well.

Putting It All Together

If all of this seems like a lot, consider the role of each of the items discussed above. The pipeline into the home is provided by a cable. If you’re lucky, it’s a fiber optic one since they offer incredible bandwidth capabilities. The modem receives the signal from the cable, and the router helps move around the signal to different places, including the wireless network in many cases. Some will choose to set up a mesh network as an alternative, sending wireless signals from different points stationed around the house. 

Regardless of how simple or complex your needs are, it is important from a business perspective to have a stable, secure network. Take the time to educate yourself and make the best use of your home office!

Clint Walkner