Protect yourself from Ransomware


 Ransomware by Nate Tullis -Systems Administrator at Oak Creek

Ransomware, it’s out there and more dangerous than ever. For those who may be wondering what ransomware is, it’s a type of malware that will try to encrypt just about any file it can touch, rendering the files unreadable without a specific decryption key. The developers of the malware will then demand a ransom, usually in the range of $200-$400, before they give you the decryption key.

Why has it been so successful for hackers and criminals? For one, it generally doesn’t require special privileges to install, it can run and begin encrypting files almost immediately upon execution. Second, ransomware can easily disguise itself in fraudulent emails and compromised websites, making it very easy to distribute across the Internet to millions of unsuspecting people. Lastly, we’re only human and we hate to lose files such as pictures, music and videos that are precious to us, so many ransomware victims end up paying the ransom, and in most cases they receive a decryption key, but not always. When ransomware developers receive ransom payments they naturally are encouraged to continue using it and further develop it so that it becomes harder for us to guard against it, so it’s very important that we do not pay these ransoms.

So how do we protect ourselves? First and foremost, the surefire way to beat ransomware is by backing up your files, every day. If your files fall victim to ransomware and you can simply restore them from backup then no serious harm has been done, although you will definitely need to clean your PC at that point before using it again. The easiest way to back up your files every day is by using one of the many cloud based services that do it for you automatically; some are even free up to a certain data amount (e.g. 5 GB). These backup services work by installing a small program on your PC that will first backup everything and then backup any new or changed files on a nightly basis. When you need to restore a file you can simply log onto an online service and download the back-up copies from there or through the program installed on the PC (make sure you restore files that are dated before the ransomware attack). Again, it’s also important to make sure you run malware removal programs after that to ensure your PC is clean. If you really want to be thorough you can even completely wipe your hard drive and start over with a new installation of Windows.

Aside from that, the best course of action is to scrutinize the validity of any e-mail you receive and any website URL you’re thinking of clicking because avoidance is key with any type of malware. Anti-malware programs are also important, and many will help to stop ransomware before it can execute, but they will never be 100% effective, so file backups and malware avoidance are still your best bets. It’s also important to make sure you’re installing security updates on your PC on a regular basis. If you do all of these things, you should be well-guarded against not only ransomware, but malware in general.

With October being Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let’s all be diligent in sharing tips with our friends and family on how to keep our data safe!


10 Bits of Financial Advice for Millennials


Managing money is generally not taught in elementary school. About 17 states require students to take a personal finance course in high school, but only a handful require testing on the topic, according to the Council for Economic Education.

When it comes to money, it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than to make your own. Follow these tips when you’re young to avoid financial hardship in life.

1. Go to college

You may want to do something that doesn’t require a college degree, such as playing professional golf. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it’s a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, make it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. Just don’t get in over your head; try to borrow no more than the amount you expect to earn the 1st year after graduation. That way you can pay off the loans within 10 years. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a 4-year university after 2 years.

It’s easier to get a degree when you’re young than when you have a home, family and all the attendant adult responsibilities. Your earnings potential increases significantly with a college degree — which will come in handy if your other dreams don’t materialize. Plus, you will likely experience a love of learning that you will never outgrow.

2. Find your purpose

If you’re having trouble figuring out what you want to do with your life, look within. You were born with certain talents and natural abilities. You know which subjects you excel in and which ones you struggle with. Choose a career that enables you to maximize your gifts in a way that fulfills you or helps others. As you grow, your career may change along with your desires. But for now, gravitate toward a field that feels like home.

3. Begin retirement planning with your 1st job

This tip is so important. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan, sign up at your 1st opportunity. If there’s no such plan, divert some of your paycheck into an IRA. Believe it or not, if you’re lucky, one day you’ll find you are older, so it’s best to be prepared. Setting up automatic contributions to either one of these retirement vehicles at a young age will help you build wealth painlessly.

Naturally, the more you earn, the more you can stash. Sock away at least 7% of your earnings in the beginning, and increase it each year until you’re diverting 15% a year.

4. Place a value on money

It doesn’t buy happiness, but it can certainly make you comfortable. Just understand what it’s worth. Money is what you earn in exchange for your time in some productive pursuit. Let’s say you earn $20 an hour at your job, and you’re considering purchasing a TV for $500. You may calculate that you spend 25 hours, or about 3 days, earning that money. It’s worth it, you may think. But that’s not an accurate value estimate. If you’re single, you’re in the 25% tax bracket, so you actually spend about 33 hours earning the net income required to make the purchase. It still may be worth it, but there may be competing demands for that money, such as rent and car payments, not to mention your retirement fund. Each purchase represents a trade-off. Make these decisions wisely.

5. Use the credit card sparingly

This tip is also really vital. It’s easy to spend now with plastic and much harder to pay later. Use credit responsibly. Comparison-shop for your card. Remember that you’ll be relying on your future earnings to pay for today’s credit card purchases. And if you keep a running balance, you’ll also be paying interest, sometimes at usurious rates. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, save money to meet financial goals.

6. Follow the golden rule

Contrary to popular belief, the duplicity and craftiness of Machiavellian tactics won’t really help you survive. Instead, they’ll engender mistrust in your relationships. Treat others fairly, the way you wish to be treated. No one looks good when trying to make others look bad. When you’re on the job, avoid gossip. Beware that when someone takes you into his or her confidence to point out someone else’s foibles, it’s only a matter of time before your foibles come to light.

7. Select your partner wisely

Choose someone whose values match your own — not just where money is concerned, but more importantly, ethical and moral values. Get to know your soul mate over the course of at least a year. Passion is important, but trust even more so. Make sure you are free to be yourself. If you hook up with an angry or overly critical partner, you will be subjected to hostility and may lose your sense of self. Conversely, if you’re the one with anger issues, resolve them before they poison a perfectly good relationship. Learn to make decisions with your heart, along with your head.

8. Be prepared for the unexpected

Someday you may lose a job through no fault of your own. Prepare today by stashing money into an accessible emergency fund. The easiest way to do this is to automatically divert a portion of your earnings into a savings account in addition to the amount you’re contributing to a 401(k) plan or IRA.

Try not to use that 401(k) money for emergencies. It will cost you plenty, between income and penalty taxes. For instance, if you have $10,000 in your account and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you’ll lose $2,500 to taxes, plus pay another $1,000 penalty for breaking into the money before you reach age 55. (For IRAs, the early withdrawal penalty applies up to age 59 1/2, with certain exceptions.) Bottom line: Your $10,000 dwindles to $6,500. Worse, you will have lost the opportunity for that money to compound and build wealth for your retirement.

9. Learn about investing or hire help

It’s not rocket science; in the beginning you just need to overcome fear and select 1 or 2 good, cheap mutual funds. After you’ve amassed some wealth, it may be time to hire someone. If you do, you will obviously have to pay for the service. Get referrals and then check out the qualifications and credentials of a prospective financial adviser or broker.

Make sure you understand the fee structure of the services. Is it commission-based or do you pay an hourly fee or a percentage of assets or some combination of these fees? Ask for a complete breakdown. Also, check with the appropriate authority to see if any disciplinary actions have been taken against a certified financial planner or broker before you initiate contact. If you’re confident enough to choose your own investments, you might find that going with a robo-adviser is the best bet.

10. Be thankful for your good fortune

It’s not all about money. If you work at it, you will have abundance — through strong family ties and solid relationships, as well as monetary assets. Take some time out each day to reflect on the good in your life. Spend at least 1 day a week in a recreational activity or hobby that you enjoy, and take a minimum 1-week vacation annually if you possibly can so you can totally unplug and unwind. Again, save for the trip.

If you have children, spend as much time as you can with them when they’re still young and dependent on you. Before you know it, they’ll be old enough to get a driver’s license, and you’ll see less and less of them from that point on.


Money Talks.


Garden of Savings by Misty DeGraveBranch Supervisor at South Milwaukee

In this installment of Money Talks we will talk about all the benefits of having a garden. You have little space for a garden, no problem. You can kill a cactus, no problem. There are some great gardening experts that can help you have a bountiful garden and we will introduce them to you.  What to do with all the food from your garden? I have some great recipe sites for you to try.

I used to think you needed a big yard to have a garden. Once I found the Smiling Gardener & Wisconsin Garden, I knew this was the year I was having a garden!  Phil Nauta is an organic gardener who runs the Smiling Gardener. You can find Phil at  to learn more about him and the help he can give you for your garden.  Phil is really good for the beginner gardener and can give you options for a small container garden.  For the gardener who is looking to go to the next level Wisconsin Garden is for you!  Richard & Lynn Voigt run the Wisconsin Garden and live in Milwaukee. They have over 600 videos on gardening. They understand Wisconsin weather and how it effects your garden. You can find Richard & Lynn at for all your garden questions.

How much could be saved having a garden is a question the National Gardening Association wanted to answer so they conducted a study.  The study was sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro Co, a company trusted by all gardeners.  The study found that the average family with a vegetable garden will spend about $70 a year in maintenance & seed coast. They will harvest an estimated $600 worth of fresh vegetables!  CEO and Chairman of Burpee seed company, George Ball, says that $1 in green bean seeds could yield you $75 in crops.  How much you save will be based off your space available and the type of food you grow.  The first year of your garden will be the most expensive starting from scratch, then it should be a smaller maintenance cost and bigger savings each season after that!

When gardening involves critical functions including strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving, and sensory awareness. Its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects. Some studies have shown gardening can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack by 30%.  Some rehabilitee programs offer gardening to stoke patients, because it helps them with dexterity and they are getting vitamin D from being outside.  Researchers have found a bacteria in gardening soil that can help alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies and asthma.  The bacteria has also been shown to help with depression.

There’s no more tangible measure of one’s power to cause positive change in the world than to nurture a plant from seed to fruit-bearing.  A great way to boost your self-esteem is having a great colorful flower garden.  Flower garden benefits are truly for the sole, but you can eat some flowers and they add great flavor to your salad.  When you follow this link you will find an eatable flower chart . Your next garden salad will taste incredible and smell great as well!

Once the garden is in full bloom, it is time to get your recipes out and start planning.  I have 2 sites that are my go to for great never fail recipes. Taste of Home and Cooking Light.  Both sites are very easy to use and offer many variations to most recipes.  On Cooking Light they have a great recipe for a Cobb Salad Pizza. This pizza is very close to the kind of pizza you would get in Italy, all fresh ingredients!  On Taste of Home, I love the Mexican Garden Salad and the Garden Casserole, both easy to make and crowed pleasing.  The Vegetable Gardener has a great recipe for candied flowers and some great desserts to make from your garden. You can find them at and they have some recipes I will be trying this year with my harvest.

Thank you for joining us this month and hope you have learned a little something and, maybe, inspired you to find the gardener in you.  Who is ready for a “vacation”?  In July we will be giving the Do’s and Don’ts when on vacation to make it fun and safe for all.


Money Talks.



Money Folklore by Misty DeGrave

Welcome to GCU’s Money Talk, a bi-monthly blog giving fun information and tips on money.  At GCU we are here for our members and like to have fun helping our communities.  In this month’s article you will learn a little about the origin of money and some weird superstitions of the world.  In our next GCU Money Talk we will give you tips on how to save on having your own garden, it’s easier than you think!

Can you believe the first type of currency was shells?  The shells were primarily used in China and India, and by American Indians. The American Indians used the shells as ceremonial gifts, embroidered onto decorated belts and other garments. By the end of the 6th century metal currency started being adopted throughout the region.  Once you have coins, you need a mint and the first recorded mint was in the 7th century, in Turkey.  The coins were bean shaped and marked on one side with a lion head.  China was the first to experiment with paper money, during the Five Dynasties period.  By the end of the 15th century, in China, inflation had become such a problem that paper currency was abolished in the Ming Empire.

Now that we have some info on the beginning of currency, let’s learn some of the superstitions about money. According to the Greeks, money attracts more money, so it’s bad luck to completely empty your pockets, wallet, or account.  In Turkey if you hold gold in your hand during a dream, you will earn money in real life.  On the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago, some believe that spotting a brown spider or grasshopper in your home means you will get money.  The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary even has an entry called “money spider”.  In China, the ancient art of Feng Shui has several beliefs about how to achieve financial prosperity.  For instance: adding plants with round leaves (especially with red or purple flowers) is believed to enhance your wealth areas, while opening the doors is believed to invite wealth in.

Who would like to know how to grow a money tree?  Yes, there really is a money tree, but it will not bloom real money. Legend has it that a poor Taiwanese farmer found a small Pachira plant growing in his fields one day.  The farmer found it so beautiful, that he started to sell them at market.  The poor farmer became very wealthy from the plant, so he dubbed it the money tree.

Now, to end with some facts you may not have known.  In Ben Franklin’s day, people repaired torn bills with a needle and thread, money was cloth, not paper.  The first U.S. cents were 100% copper, while todays pennies are 95% zinc and it costs $2.41 to make a penny.  Sailors used to pass the time by banging the edges of coins with the heel of a spoon, then cut the middle out of the thickened rims to make rings for their loved ones.  The $10,000 bill was the largest made, as of 2009 there are only 336 left in the world.  A stack of $1 bills, a mile high, would be $14.5 million dollars.  The earliest record of forgery was by Polycrates of Samos, he used fake gold coins to pay his debt to Sparta.

We hope you have been entertained, and maybe, even learned something new about money.  Please check out our blog often for new promotions, articles and tips on saving and more.  Please stop in at any of our 6 locations to learn more about us and the services we offer and how we can help you save and grow as a member.



10 Tips for First Time Homebuyers

Source: Ray Brousseau

1. Know what you can afford  

When looking for a new home, make your search more effective by knowing how much home you can afford. Carefully calculate the overall monthly payments. Be sure to include additional costs like property taxes, insurance premiums, homeowners insurance, homeowners’ association dues (if applicable), etc. Look at your monthly budget to understand how a mortgage payment will fit into it.

2. Identify your potential downpayment 

Do you have 20% of your target purchase price available for a downpayment? That’s often considered the industry norm, but there are other options available. If you don’t have the funds for a significant downpayment, it may not be a problem. There are a variety of loan programs offered at various credit levels. Some mortgage programs have loans that offer a 3.5% downpayment or even a no-downpayment option for veterans and active military. It is important to note, however, that most loans that offer less than 20% down have additional insurance premiums that will add to the monthly payment.

3. Work with a local agent  

Pinpoint the area where you’d most like to own a home, and then connect with a real estate agent who works in that area. Make sure that the agent has worked extensively in that neighborhood and has insights into local matters like taxes, schools, new developments and other issues that may be important in the contract process. Ask how many homes the agent has helped buyers purchase in your desired location to gauge their experience working in that particular area. Agents who list homes also should have a good understanding of fair market value for the homes you’re considering.

4. Evaluate your preferred neighborhood

You think you know where you want to buy a home, but how much do you actually know about the neighborhood? Visit the area at different times, including during heavy commute times, weekends and later in the evening. What’s the traffic like for kids in the neighborhood? How far is the nearest grocery store? Also, talk with the neighbors in your desired community. What do they like about the area? What do they dislike? Their perspectives may offer greater insight into your desired location.

5. Get credit ready

Buying a home may be one of the largest financial decisions you ever make. Be prepared. Get a copy of your current credit report, identify any discrepancies, and get them fixed — if possible — before you talk to a lender. 

6. Hold off on large credit purchases

Large purchases, such as a car loan or lease, may impact your debt-to-income ratio. Changes to this number may affect your ability to qualify for the loan amount you require. Avoid taking out any loans or adding significant debt to credit lines before you try to purchase a home.

7. Season your downpayment funds

Make sure your downpayment and closing-cost funds are in your account 60 to 90 days prior to closing on your home. Some loan programs may require “seasoning” on those funds, meaning they have been in your account for a certain amount of time. Be sure to know about any conditions on these funds from your lender so that you don’t hold up closing. If you will be using any gift funds from family or friends for your home, be sure to get them prior to when you will need them.

8. Understand rate vs. points

With the many financial considerations that go into buying a home, none may be as confusing to first-time homebuyers as the issue of “points.” To start, in the real estate arena, points are generally a fee that is paid to the lender to lower the interest rate on your mortgage. One point is equal to 1 percent of the loan amount. Is it better to get a lower interest rate by paying points upfront? Or are rates so low that the reduction offered by “buying down” the rate is minimal? Consider these options carefully, and make use of the many online tools and calculators to help you understand the cost implications of both.

9. Know where you stand with lenders

Borrowers with higher credit scores — like those with scores of 720 or above — can often shop around for the lowest available interest rate and get a conventional loan. Borrowers with lower credit scores, especially those with scores of 640 and lower, may experience higher rates because of the potentially higher assumed risk by the lender. For these borrowers, don’t be discouraged if you can’t get the lowest rate. There often are still many promising loan options available, and the difference in payment due to the higher rate may be less than you expect.

10. Go for it  

Trying to time the market perfectly is impossible. Find the home that is right for you. Waiting may cause you to miss out on lower rates, lower home prices or even that perfect home.

10 Reasons to be a GuardianCU Member


The 10 reasons to be a Guardian Credit Union member is not just a list but a way of life here at Guardian! We take all of our member in as family members and not just another number in the books. We value all of our members and want to make sure they are getting everything they deserve out of their financial! Let’s point out some of the reasons we feel that being a Guardian member is all about.

  1. Gratifying – Our member service has always been the most gratifying part of our job and is important to us because its important to you!
  2. Understanding – We understand that no one is perfect all the time and we are always looking to help our members improve themselves financially if we can. This is another reason our members come to us for their lending needs.
  3. Auto Loan Specials – Our Auto Loan specials are something we really flaunt, it’s one of the best deals around! We offer a 90 Day No Pay and 1% Cash Back on a non Guardian Auto Refinance loan. We offer this promotion from time to time and right now is the time! So  make sure to take advantage of it while it’s around!
  4. Relationships – We value our relationships with our members. When you trust your financial you tell everyone! We have great members and offer a great referral program to thank them for telling their family and friends!
  5. Discounts – We have some of the best discounts around for our members. We offer a 10% discount with Sprint, up to 10% discounts at 5 local universities, and even discounts on prescriptions through MetLife.
  6. Investment Services – We offer help in Investments with our financial adviser Darren Klump. He is able to help you on anything from 401ks, IRAs, and Insurance. Have a few questions still not answered give him a call at 414-546-7450 and just ask for Darren.
  7. Any Time – Whenever you have a question give us a call, we are always here to help with all your needs big and small.
  8. No Penalties – We don’t have any penalties on paying off your loans early. We actually want you to be financially free so you can spend your money how you like!
  9. Community – We pride ourselves in the amount of support we give back to the community that surrounds us. We want to see our community grow so we can grow. You can see us out at many local events and we are always there with a smile and welcoming invite to learn more about us.
  10. Ultimate Online Services – On reason our members like us is our amount of online services we have to offer. We offer everything from Online Bill Pay, person to person transfers and personalized online alert systems. Those are just few to mention to learn more make sure to check out our website.

If you aren’t a member yet I hope this list helps you want to become one! If you have more questions stop by any branch and pick our brains a bit we promise we don’t bite. We will show you how easy it is to switch! You will ask yourself why didn’t you do it sooner!


This article was written by a Teller and GCU Brander, Misty D. at our South Milwaukee Branch


Saving for the Holidays on a College Budget


Saving for the Holidays on a College budget by Misty DeGrave Teller at our South Milwaukee Branch

School has started, your tuition is paid and you’re only working part time with the holiday’s right around the corner. It might not be easy, but you can do it. Let me show you some ways to have a fun holiday season and not break the bank (or better yet, credit union).

Being a GCU member is already a great start to saving. GCU has teamed up with 5 area colleges to offer tuition discounts just for being a member.  If you are going for an Associate, Bachelor or Graduate degree you can receive a tuition discount.

At Wisconsin Lutheran College you can get a $1000.00 scholarship just for being a member of GCU. That can buy or rent a few books.  You can check out how to apply for theses discounts by going online to or stopping in at any of the 6 GCU locations.

Your student ID is a value tool.  With it you can get savings at local restaurants, movie theaters, department stores and so much more. Some discounts can range from 10% up to 25% off.  So when you are at your favorite store ask if they offer discounts to college students.  When traveling home for the holidays remember your student ID, you will find savings at home with your ID as well.  Your ID might help you just as much as your books during your college years.

Another way to save for the holidays that is easier said than done is making a budget and sticking to it. Make a list of who you want to get gifts for and an estimated amount you want to spend per person.

When making your budget don’t forget the little things like holiday parties and travel expenses, those add up. You can find budget help online at places like Etsy or Pinterest.  You can open a Christmas club account that you can add to all year, and when shopping time comes you are ready to go.  Most of these accounts offer interest on them so you will even have a little extra money for that gift you forgot about (or to spend on yourself, you deserve it).

Saving on the gifts and staying within your budget can be as easy as being creative. Your local craft store may offer student discounts (with your ID} and a handmade gift is always treasured.  Have a cookie swap with your fellow students; you get a variety of treats for the cost of one with a side of fun.  Have a secret Santa party with a set dollar limit to spend.  You can find more savings on gifts online at Etsy, Pinterest and Facebook.

Have a safe and happy Holiday season.