Everyone on a computer should know, in theory at least, that large technology corporations track what they do and keep a record. There are few things quite so sobering on the privacy front as to come up against examples of how much one company can learn and store.
The company Cloud Fender made the concept far more tangible. The cloud computing vendor gathered together six links that will shed light on how extensive the consumer data collection can get. Not all the information may be correct, but brought together, the total result can be impressive -- and depressing for the privacy minded. Just click the links, sign into your Google account, and see the results for yourself.
Your Google profile
Google (GOOG) develops a profile of every consumer based on the person's activities through the company's search engine as well as Gmail (including the content of everything you send and receive), YouTube, and Maps services. You'll see estimates of your gender and age, at least. Depending on your settings in your Google account, there may be other information as well, like a list of your interests. You can opt in or out of Google using this information to better target you with ads. If you opt out, you'll still see ads, but they won't be based on your personal information to the same degree.
Knowing where you are is valuable information. If you've got an Android-based smartphone or tablet and use location services, Google tracks your whereabouts as frequently as possible. Go to the page and you can see where you were on any given particular day. This falls into the category of the type of metadata, or descriptive information about what you do, that the NSA was so interested in collecting. Realize that location doesn't mean what city you're in, for example, but probably where you are within a few feet at most times. Think of it as someone following you and taking note of what you're near and what that might mean.
Your browsing history
Devices that access your Google account
Information about what type of device you're using on the Web is freely available, as websites often need to understand this information to properly display pages. Google keeps a record of devices that used your Google account. While that can be an easy way to see if someone has tried to get into the account, it also means that Google can associate various devices with a particular person, using them as a substitute for your identity, in case you don't necessarily want to identify yourself in each case.
All the apps and extensions that use Google data
If you've allowed a non-Google service to have access to your data on Google, it will show up on this page. That type of information can tell Google what other uses you make of the Internet and, potentially, something about what you do.
Many people don't seem to mind about a loss of personal privacy. But then, sometimes things gain greater importance when you find out just how many doors into your life you've left open.
10 Financial Land Mines That Can Decimate Your Net Worth
See Just How Much Google Knows About You
Managed to get that raise or promotion? Fantastic -- now don't go out there and spend it all immediately. In classic "keeping up with the Joneses" fashion, too many of us see an increase in salary or a sudden windfall (like an inheritance) as an excuse to take our lifestyle up a notch. We buy bigger houses than we need, get the latest gadgets even though ours work just fine,and spring for fancy steak dinners just because we can.
Instead, whenever your financial situation gets a boost, consider the best ways to put that money to work for you. The truly wealthy are those whose money continues to grow and earn them more, even when they're not actively doing anything with it.
The average American household that carries credit card debt holds a balance of around $15,000. If you're among those who have a credit card balance, you've probably seen the little chart on your monthly statement telling you how much you'll pay in interest over the next several years if you make only the minimum payment. (If you haven't, look at it.) The same chart will also compare that to a "suggested" payment that's slightly higher.
Our recommendation? Throw everything you can at paying your balances off as fast as possible. And make sure not to take on any additional debt in the future; if you can't pay for a consumer good out of pocket, don't finance it.
We don't demonize student loan debt the way we do credit card debt because we see an education as an investment -- and higher education often is the difference between one income bracket and another. Similarly, many people justify taking out a car loan by stating that they need a car to get to work.
That said, debt is still debt, and the longer you take to pay it off, the more interest you'll pay. Once you've freed yourself of credit card debt, paying down your car and student loan balances should be next on your list.
Whether it's to handle an unexpected car repair, a sudden illness or a major plumbing problem, you should always have some money set aside to cover unforeseen expenses. Set up a regular monthly transfer from your checking to your savings account to earmark this money before you're tempted to touch it. If necessary, cut back in another budget category (like eating out or entertainment) to free up the funds to save more.
Putting aside a little each month could prevent you from getting socked with a hefty bill you can't afford and then need to finance.
No matter your age, you should be adding to your retirement funds -- such as your 401(k) or individual retirement account -- each month. Just setting aside money sporadically won't cut it; you need to identify how much you'll need to live on once you stop working and monitor whether you're on track to reach that amount.
Here's a quick-and-dirty rule of thumb: multiply your annual spending by 25. This is the amount you'll need in your retirement portfolio, if you assume that you'll withdraw 4 percent per year to live on during your retirement. In other words, you'd need $1 million in your portfolio to live on $40,000 annually. Creating a plan will help you make sure you're able to retire the way you envision.
A home is a big investment, and sometimes that investment doesn't wind up netting you the return you thought it would.
The biggest culprit is having too large a balance on your mortgage, which detracts from your own personal stake in the current market value for your home. The sooner you pay this amount down, the better your home equity will be.
You also want to be careful when purchasing a new home. Buying in a neighborhood that's on the downward spiral or buying the most expensive home on the block, likely won't net you a good return when it's time to sell. Also take care to stay away from custom renovations (like turning the garage into a recreation room), which could negatively affect your resale value.
Paying high investment fees eats away at your gains. And since your gains compound over time, this creates a domino effect that can really chip away at your wealth. Take a close look at your investment companies' fees and shop around to make sure they're not taking more of your money than they need to be.
If you don't have a long-term investment vision and are simply playing the market, you could seriously undermine your wealth-building potential. Stop paying attention to market fluctuations, media pundits and the stories of your friends and family. Instead, create your own long-term investment strategy that will maximize your overall returns. Resist the urge it play it ultra-conservative (or fall for get-rich-quick schemes) and educate yourself on the best way to make your dollars work for you.
If you're having trouble making sense of your options or want a second opinion, seek the help of a trusted financial adviser.
Based on your experience and seniority level, education and industry, you should have a fairly good idea how much you ought to be making at your job. If you don't, check out a site like PayScale to get a ballpark figure.
If you're not making what you're worth, you're doing more than leaving money on the table; you're also losing all the compound growth and investment returns that money could be generating for you. Invest in yourself with professional development and continuing education, make the case for that raise or promotion, or seek out a company who will value you higher.
If you don't have proper insurance coverage, you're taking a very big risk that could come back to bite you. Too many people think the worst can't happen to them, but the hard truth is you can't predict the future, and scrimping on sufficient insurance is never a good idea.
Of all the things we're hesitate to part with our money for, adequate insurance coverage should not be one of them. No matter your age, everyone should be properly covered with:
Homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Flood insurance (if you live in a flood-prone area).
Umbrella liability insurance (especially if you own a small business).
If a spouse or children relies on you for support, make sure you have a decent term life insurance policy, as well.