bookmark_borderHiring Your First Assistant

Let me let you in on a little secret—you don’t have to do it all. Business owners are often burdened with the (unrealistic) expectation of accomplishing everything. Your job is to run the business. You will inevitably come to a point in the growth of your business where you’ll need to hand off any tasks that don’t directly contribute to steering the ship. 

One of the ways to ease your burden and free up time is to hire an assistant. The great thing about hiring an assistant is you can go all in, or hire someone to just take care of select tasks. Whatever your business needs, here are a few options to help lighten your load:

Going Big with the Executive Assistant

If you are running a successful and established business that’s rapidly growing, you might consider bringing an executive assistant onboard. This person is someone you bring in to not only help you with tasks but to help you run your business. They understand your vision and are able, and empowered, to make decisions on your behalf. Their priorities are your priorities. 

“They know where your business is going, they know where you want to be, and they can help you get there.” – Ramon Ray

Executive assistants can be used in many ways, but here are a few examples of what one can do for your business:

  • Prepare executive correspondence.
  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Plan and execute complex events.
  • Project management.
  • Team and personnel management.

Balancing Your Workload and Budget with the Administrative Assistant 

Businesses that are still growing and may not have the need or the budget for an executive assistant should consider the administrative assistant. Administrative assistants help more with daily tasks more than overall business operations. As the name implies, they are best leveraged for administrative functions such as:

  • Data entry.
  • Research.
  • Scheduling.
  • Phone and inbox management.

Starting Small Can Have a Big Impact with the Virtual Receptionist

If you’re not quite ready to commit to a full-fledged assistant, you can still get many of the benefits that an assistant can offer by hiring a virtual receptionist. Our friends over at Ruby have mastered the art of giving business owners their time back by allowing them to delegate time-consuming tasks. 

What can a virtual receptionist do for your business:

  • Answer and transfer calls.
  • Take messages.
  • Relay and collect information on your behalf.
  • Make outbound calls.
  • Answer FAQs.
  • Schedule appointments.

For a fraction of the cost of an in-person or virtual assistant, a virtual receptionist can make a real impact in your day by taking on a lot of the “front office” functions of a traditional receptionist. But, what sets Ruby apart is that your business can have access to a receptionist 24/7, 365 days a year and because they operate as a fluid team, you’ll never have to worry about covering down on sick days or vacation time. The best part—it’s totally personalized. Nothing about Ruby is cookie-cutter. They will work with your business to make sure your customers don’t even realize that your virtual receptionist isn’t actually sitting at a physical reception desk in your office. 

The post Hiring Your First Assistant appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderDon’t Do This! Ruinous Startup Blunders

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Every multi-billion-dollar business you have ever heard of was once just an idea. As that idea grew into a startup, an entrepreneur began working toward the enormous profits many of us admire and aspire to today. Along the way, that hardy soul naturally made multiple blunders.

In fact, many entrepreneurs face catastrophic failure. Only the sturdiest among them rises from the ashes and rebuilds.

RELATED ARTICLE: DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS WHILE YOU’RE IN COLLEGE

In this post, we take a look at some common startup blunders we can all learn from, so you can avoid making the mistakes others before you have made.

Succumbing to a Fear of Failure

Some people give up before they ever get started, due either to a fear of failure or, surprisingly, a fear of success.

Fear will keep you circling around the same blunders over and over because you won’t want to try new things. As a result, your great ideas will remain just that. They will be “great ideas” for all time.

So don’t let fear rule your world. Give yourself permission to fail and step outside of your comfort zone. You’re going to make mistakes. Just accept that and try to learn the lessons your mistakes teach you. It’s the only way to win.

Failing to Study the Lay of the Land

One of the biggest blunders you can make as an entrepreneur is failing to conduct thorough research on the ground.

Your type of business should match the needs of your target customers. Bring to them a product or service they need. Make sure the quality of that product or service is impeccable.

Then create awareness about your offering with skillful marketing. In fact, be sure to invest in marketing. Great marketing will pay off in the long run.

Building on a Poor Foundation

Don’t make the blunder of failing to lay a strong foundation. And pay attention to detail. Small errors when you’re first starting out can grow into ginormous failures over time. However, with careful planning and attention to detail, you can win the game.

Failure to Follow
the Law

Unfortunately, many up-and-coming entrepreneurs don’t pay as much attention as they should to laws and regulations governing businesses in their country. Unfortunately, these blunders can catch up with you eventually.

For example, some entrepreneurs try to evade paying their taxes. This is not a good strategy, and it is sure to lead to tax audits, sleepless nights, and worse.

If you have already made this blunder, don’t hesitate to contact experienced tax professionals for the IRS audit help you need to protect your business and its assets.

Doing Things
Your Own Way

It could be that you enjoy being self-reliant. While this may be good stand in some situations, refusing to ask for help when you need it could lead to ruin for your business. Even in the very beginning, you’re going to need to rely on others. Trying to handle everything in your startup all by yourself will drain you.

This doesn’t mean you need to employ a bunch of workers you won’t be able to pay. That would be a huge blunder!

But do hire specialists when you need them on a short-term basis. And seek out a mentor, perhaps another entrepreneur with a little more experience than you have. At the very least, build a relationship with a colleague you can bounce ideas off of from time to time.

Hiring a Weak Workforce

When your business has grown to a point that it’s time to hire employees, be sure to do your hiring thoughtfully and carefully.

Finding the right people to work with you can lead your business to success. Moreover, make sure your employees understand your goals and your vision. Only in this way can they can help you fulfill your goals.

Additionally, invest in your employees. For instance, provide them with training to enable them to better perform the work you pay them to do. This will keep on-the-job blunders to a minimum. Build relationships with them, and interact with them on a personal level. Let them get to know you so they can learn how you want things done.

Also, acknowledge their efforts. Remember that their successes on the job lead toward the growth of your business. Don’t make the mistake of bossing your employees around. Instead, welcome them as your partners in achieving success for your business.

Avoid These Blunders and Make Your Own Unique Mistakes Instead

While it’s not possible to build a business from scratch and avoid making any blunders, it is possible to beat the odds and reach the top. All you’ll need are confidence, strategic thinking, and plenty of hard work.

For more inspiring articles written with you, the entrepreneur, in mind, be sure to visit our blog often.

The post Don’t Do This! Ruinous Startup Blunders appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderShopify Email: Email Marketing Designed for E-commerce

Shopify users rejoice! Email marketing just got a whole lot easier on the widely used, and increasingly popular, e-commerce platform. The e-commerce powerhouse just released Shopify Email, an email marketing tool designed to help you build meaningful relationships with your customers in an increasingly crowded commerce landscape.

Last year, in an effort to make digital marketing easier, Shopify consolidated the tools you need in one place with Shopify Marketing, so that you no longer have to be a marketing expert to run campaigns and build your business. Now, Shopify Email is available to select merchants and will be rolling out to a wider audience early next year.

With Shopify Email, you can create, run and track email marketing campaigns natively inside Shopify Marketing. Using highly customizable email templates and existing brand assets and product content from your store, it’s so easy to create your next marketing campaign. 

Nice & Easy

Additionally, you can send emails using your domain name with virtually no setup required. Shopify Email includes the campaign analytics you need to measure success including email open and click-through rates, plus the number of products added to carts and purchased.

Built using the marketing app extensions launched in 2018, Shopify Email is one of many marketing apps available within Shopify. They’ve partnered with the largest advertising platforms so that you can now run ads on Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Snapchat. By opening up our APIs, third-party marketing apps including Seguno, Omnisend and SMSBump have also integrated into Shopify so that you can easily run a variety of marketing campaigns. 

Giving Small Business Owners a Leg Up

As Shopify continues to support entrepreneurs on their entrepreneurial journey, they want to provide you with a powerful back-office so that you can focus on building lasting relationships with your customers and growing your business, without any technical or marketing expertise. 

For third-party app developers, they’re excited to extend marketing capabilities with more workflows and deeper customization features for our one million merchants around the world.

The post Shopify Email: Email Marketing Designed for E-commerce appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderHere’s How Freelancers Can Protect Your Identity

A few years ago, I was in sitting busy airport terminal, waiting to board my next flight. Making the most of the free public wifi, I had my laptop perched on my knees, and was trying to squeeze in some work between layovers. I took a break to do a round of apartment hunting online, and found a listing on Craigslist for a cute place in Los Angeles. The deal seemed too good to be true.  

The listing led me to an online application that asked for standard info, including my Social Security number. It was only after I filled it out and was about to input my credit card information for the application fee that realized I might’ve been a victim of a phishing scam. Upon closer inspection, the website looked bogus. What’s more, I never received a follow-up email or phone call.

Sadly, such identity theft attempts are quite common. According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study, in 2018 14.4 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft. And freelancers such as myself, who work remotely and whose livelihoods depends largely on having an online presence, might be more vulnerable to certain types of scams.

Here are a handful of identity security issues freelancers face in particular, and what measures we can take to safeguard highly sensitive information:  

Be Wary of Public Wi-fi Hotspots 

If you’re working out of a coffee shop, airport terminal or library and are tapping into the free public wi-fi, know that you’re at a higher risk to malware and snooping. What’s more, your passwords are more vulnerable to being intercepted by hackers.

Try to avoid public wi-fi in general, says Kelvin Coleman, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). If you are using a wifi hotspot, don’t transmit personal information or log on to financial accounts. If possible, use a private network, or to a personal hotspot that’s tethered to your phone.

If you’re into saving money like me, you get excited when you can access free hotspots. But it might be worthwhile to pay for a personal hotspot from your home internet provider or cable company.  

Don’t Transmit Sensitive Info Over Email 

When onboarding with a new client, you might be asked to provide forms that include valuable personal or financial info — think W-9 forms with your Social Security Number, voided check stubs, and banking info.  

Ideally, you shouldn’t be emailing sensitive info like that, but it can be tough to get around it. If you’re relaying such info, be sure to password-protect your files. Sure, it’s another step, but it could lower your odds of being a victim of identity theft. 

Get an EIN  

When I was working at an entertainment labor union and hired freelance photographers to cover our events, one freelancer refused to email over her W-9. She was concerned with having a document with her Social Security number floating around in the digisphere. To be honest, the time, I didn’t fully understand her concern. I now see that she had a point.

When it comes to W-9 forms in particular, you could apply for what’s called an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. While sole proprietors aren’t required to get an EIN, getting an EIN means you don’t have to use your Social Security number on those W-9 forms.  

Opt for Two-Step Verification 

Opt for two-step verification with your email and bank accounts. What this means is that for a user to access an email account, you’ll need to provide two pieces of information for you to log in to an account. This adds an extra layer of security. And if you might toggle between accounts or check email from different computers, it certainly can help protect your accounts from getting hacked.  

Protect your Identity on Freelancer Platforms 

As a freelancer, it’s vital that you have an online presence. Whether it’s a professional website, maintaining a LinkedIn or social media accounts, or setting up profiles on freelance marketplaces, you’ll want to be careful about what info you’re putting out there.

While emails and phone numbers might not be enough for a scammer to steal your identity, it could potentially clue thieves into finding valuable personal info. You could schedule appointments using a scheduler. And you know how you need to insert a physical address at the footer of emails and newsletters you send out? In lieu of using your home address, consider paying for a P.O. box and using that instead.

Besides not including personal information online — this includes your phone number and home address, you’ll want to also be on the lookout for fake profiles. We’re talking about con artists using your phone and personal details, and pretending to be you. To avoid create accounts on platforms even if you don’t plan on using them, recommends Chris Parker, founder of What Is My IP Address.

“Having a presence can prevent someone else from using your handle and likeliness to create a fake profile.” What’s more, make sure your profiles are linked to your website, and the other way around says Parker. “This way people who are looking at your profiles can see that it’s really you.”

If you spot a fake profile of someone pretending to be you, you’ll want to report it. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  

Consider Cyber Insurance  

If you’re a solopreneur who maintains email lists for marketing purposes — think email blasts, newsletters, and online campaigns — you’ll want to encrypt those files. If maintaining and growing these lists are an integral part of your business, you might want to consider cyber insurance. In case there’s a data breach, cyber insurance could help cover losses and recoup damages.  

I know — you’re already probably paying for a slew of insurance: health, business liability, and disability. But if acquiring and maintaining other people’s personal info is an integral part of your business, you could suffer some serious losses in the case of a data breach. 

Other reasons why you might want to consider getting cyber insurance? You might want to consider cyber insurance if you process online payments, and store information, files, and data on the cloud.

A general rule of thumb with insurance: make sure it covers what you need it to and that you purchase adequate coverage. Not being honest with your situation or what you need could put at risk for being denied coverage when you need it.  

Identity theft can affect pretty much anyone who uses a computer, send an email, or has a smartphone. And as solopreneurs, freelancers might be particularly vulnerable to certain forms. 

Bottom line: The fewer the personal details you put out there, the safer you’ll be. “Your information is valuable data, and is currency on the dark web,” points out Coleman. “You’ll want to be a minimalist, and share as little as possible.”  

The post Here’s How Freelancers Can Protect Your Identity appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderMarketing Automation: 5 Methods You Need to Be Using

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

When marketing strategies lose their effect on target audiences, companies must find new ways to keep them interested in their brand. That’s where marketing automation comes in. Marketing automation is the process of using web-based services and software to manage and automate marketing tasks.

Find out how marketing automation can help your business grow. Read now about five effective strategies.

1. Use Marketing Automation to Offer Content That Keeps Leads Interested

Marketing automation is all about providing digital content to your target audience. Unlike traditional content such as billboards and newspaper articles, marketing automation content can easily be found online when prospects search for specific keywords.

It’s important to create content that’s both engaging and relevant to what your business sells. This is because the incorrect information could result in the loss of leads to customer conversion.

Because it changes according to the past interests or behaviors of your leads, this type of marketing automation is called adaptive content. Typically, this type of content is personalized. For example, emails will have leads’ names on them. This creates an immediate connection.

Marketing automation
content allows the lead to view and engage with what’s being presented without
talking face-to-face with a sales representative. Most people prefer to deal
with B2B (business to business) this way because it allows them to be flexible
with their buying choices.

Content by way of marketing automation can be in the form of:

  • Email newsletters
  • Direct social media messages
  • VIP promotions sent via SMS

RELATED ARTICLE: CONTENT: BUILD YOUR BUSINESS ON A SOLID FOUNDATION

2. Set up a Drip Campaign to Reel in Prospects

A drip campaign is an automated communications strategy that sends short messages to prospects based on their past online behaviors.

For example, if a prospect is browsing through your web page and they click on a particular product, you can use marketing automation to send them newsletters, sales, or promotions on similar products via email or SMS.

A drip campaign is another way to personalize your engagement with prospects. This could convert them into regular paying customers. This is because drip campaigns have a higher click-through rate when you present prospects with personalized promotions and sales.

3. Turn to Professionals for Expert Marketing Automation Services

If you realize you don’t have the training or background in marketing automation strategies, why not reach out to a professional? There are marketing automation companies that specialize in creating and distributing quality content that will keep your target audience interested in your brand.

The advantage of using a marketing automation service is they will structure and plan your campaigns for you. In fact, professional marketing automation services will provide you with the quality advice you need to run successful campaigns.

Marketing automation companies have the digital tools to optimize your marketing campaigns. Therefore, you can rest assured that a professional automated marketing campaign will bring in new business. Additionally, it will keep existing customers interested in your brand.

4. Learn to Use a Nurture Campaign

Having high traffic on your website doesn’t mean all your visitors are ready to buy from you. However, because they’re browsing through your website they ARE potential customers. In other words, they might buy your products in the future.

Leads that aren’t ready to buy what you’re selling require nurturing via marketing automation. This is done by presenting them with personalized content that’s tailored to their needs. When you nurture your leads you’ll often have a 50% increase in customer conversions simply by sending them adaptive content.

You can nurture your leads by sending them VIP access to parts of your website only they can access. Here you can offer coupons or sales on selected products and services. Another way you can nurture a lead is by offering them free eBooks, tutorials, or getaways if they buy something from your online store.

5. Personalize Emails You Send to Your Prospects

According to TechJury, lead-nurturing emails have an 8% click-through rate. On the other hand, generic emails only have a 3% click-through rate. In short, people are more likely to click on your content when they’re referred to by their name.

Another study found that 7% of people would engage with a service provider if they were sent birthday emails.

Using emails as a platform to engage with leads in a personalized way is a professional approach. Yes, you can also send private messages to prospects via social media. However, most people consider these messages to be click bait. So always opt for marketing automation emails to gain more trust from leads.

The way to get leads to give you their email addresses if you don’t already have them is by implementing the drip campaign technique. Offer them something valuable in exchange for their contact details. Then you can send them personalized content they will benefit from.

Final Thoughts About
Marketing Automation

Are you ready to implement your own marketing automation strategies? There are various automation tools you can use to optimize your marketing campaigns. However, if you’re looking for a more professional approach, opt for a service provider to do your marketing automation for you.

Learn more about the latest in marketing strategies by visiting our blog.

The post Marketing Automation: 5 Methods You Need to Be Using appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderThe 10 Best Invoicing Software Options for Helping Freelancers Get Paid Quick

If you’re a part of the near 56 million Americans doing freelance work, then you know that making the decision to venture out on your own to freelance full- or part-time isn’t an easy one. It requires meticulous planning and the ability to both be your own boss as well as your one and only employee. Not to mention, you need the motivation to get yourself out there and make a profit.

One of the many decisions you’ll need to make is choosing the best invoicing software for your freelancing business. Though it may be tempting to choose the cheapest or most user-friendly one available, consider putting a little more thought into which is the best one for your business, your clients, and your market. The benefits of having this software as a freelancer are obvious: you’re able to send multiple invoices to different clients simultaneously, you’re able to see who has paid and who you should follow up with, and you automatically look more professional; just to name a few.

In addition to the benefits of using invoicing software, there are a number of benefits of using software specifically created with the individualized needs of a freelancing business in mind. Not only will these help set your business up for success, but they’ll ensure you’re claiming your stake in your market. After all, as a freelancer you want to be sure you’re still making money— and ensuring your clients pay on time is the best way to make that happen. Americans spent over a billion hours a week freelancing in 2018, so sure you’re making those hours count and are using a software that ensures you get paid.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about the best invoicing software available for your market and business. With all the options out there, you should feel confident that you’re choosing from the absolute best options available. From freelance creatives to accountants, you’ll be sure to find the best option for you and your business from the following list.

No matter what software you use, make sure you’re making the best decisions for your business and yourself as an employee. Just like you would resent a boss making poor decisions for your team, you’ll resent yourself for making bad choices for your freelancing business. Streamline both budgeting and getting paid now, and you’ll be thankful you did once you see how easy it makes that side of running your business.

Sources: G2 | Medium | MilloHoneyBook | Intuit QuickBooks | Bonsai | AND CO | Invoicera | Harpoon | 17Hats | Kiwili | Wave | FreshBooks |

The post The 10 Best Invoicing Software Options for Helping Freelancers Get Paid Quick appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderOnline Marketing Will Attract New Clients to Your Business

Image by Tammy Duggan-Herd from Pixabay

Online marketing has revolutionized the way businesses approach client acquisition. Before online methods, businesses had to rely on strategies such as word-of-mouth marketing and street advertising to attract client attention.

While similar methods are still effectively used today, they simply don’t compare to the effectiveness and efficiency of online marketing strategies.

For example, if you were to use a local street advertisement for a business, it would require physical effort as well as dedicated time to implement. On the other hand, a strategy such as paid online advertising can be left on autopilot. This leaves you time to work on other areas of your business. Financially, traditional marketing can’t compare to online methods, either.

Online Marketing Is Inexpensive and Effective

To give some perspective as to how cost-effective online marketing methods are, most businesses are leaving money on the table by using other methods instead.

For example, what other strategies allow a business to start a marketing campaign with a budget of only $5 a day, as online methods can do?

Furthermore, online marketing contributes to enhanced client retention rates. In a nutshell, client retention is the long-term acquisition of clients that allows a business to sustain a steady flow of revenue.

However, if all you’re interested in right now is gaining new clients, rest assured that Vujà Dé Digital can help your business.

For instance, they will employ such strategies as pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization. With these things in mind, let’s go over seven more ways online marketing can expose your business to new clients.

#1: Online Marketing Highlights Your USP

A unique selling proposition (USP) is the main source of revenue for a business. Your USP can come through a product, service, or anything else your business does that helps you stand out from the crowd. In short, your USP is radically important in attracting and keeping clients.

With online marketing, businesses have the advantage of highlighting their unique selling point through their ad copy or blog posts.

The more naturally you can point out your USP to new prospects, the greater your chances of converting them into customers.

#2: Online Referrals Circulate Quickly

Online referrals are the digital marketing version of the traditional marketing method of word-of-mouth marketing. That is, they work the same way. They bring awareness about your business from past and current clients.

The chief difference is that online referrals have the potential to spread like wildfire through multiple sources. For example, a well-made video about your business’s USP could go viral on social media platforms.

#3: Conversational Blogging Will Bring More Clients Your Way

Blogging is one of the main components of the online marketing method called search engine optimization (SEO). Blogging can be used to inform or entertain potential clients for any cause.

Additionally, you can also use it to demonstrate transparency with prospective clients. Do this by blogging about the behind-the-scenes aspects of your business in a conversational tone.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT ON YOUR WEBSITE

#4: Remarketing Campaigns Reclaim Long-Lost Clients

Remarketing campaigns target leads that have visited your sales or marketing funnels but then left without purchasing. These clients are then classified as new prospects since they haven’t been converted.

With remarketing, you target them once more through tracking ads and other similar methods. However, this method of online marketing can get quite technical. Therefore, it’s best to leave it to a professional agency such as Vujà Dé Digital.

#5: Online Marketing Boosts Brand Recognition

Your business’s brand is everything when it comes to client acquisition. More than anything, your brand allows your business to provide ways for prospective clients to connect with your business.

Branding activities can include creating a compelling brand image, revealing your company’s lofty principles online, or prominently featuring your company slogan on your site.

#6: Positive Reviews Showcase Your Business

One of the most overlooked benefits of online marketing is that it allows your business to highlight positive reviews. What’s more, you have multiple avenues for doing so, including your business website, your blog, or local search engine reviews.

Positive business reviews constitute a powerful tool for attracting potential clients, leading them to choose your business over your competitor’s.

#7: Qualified Ad Copy Targets Key Audience Segments

Ad copy is perhaps the most effective way to bring in new clients. The reason this is so is that ad copy can be structured to qualify clients.

For example, if you want to bring in new clients to your business, your online ad copy can include promotions specifically for new clients.

Conclusion

If you want your marketing budget to cost less and bring in more new business, online marketing is the way for you to go.

The post Online Marketing Will Attract New Clients to Your Business appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderThe Average Single-Family Home Size Is Declining: Positive Sign For Investors

The Average Single-Family Home Size Is Declining: A Positive Sign For Investors

Some tantalizing news for real estate investors and potential homeowners! I found another reason why 2020-2021 might be a great time to buy real estate.

I used to think the average square footage size of an American single-family home would keep getting bigger, just like my waistline. After all, once something starts in motion, it’s often hard to stop.

However, as of the third quarter of 2019, the average (mean) square footage for new single-family homes in America has declined to 2,464 square feet from a peak of around 2,700 in 2015.

This data is from the Census Quarterly Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design report and the National Association of Home Builders.

The Median And Average Size Of New Single-Family Homes

The chart below shows the average and median sizes for new single-family homes on a one-year moving average. As you can see from the chart, homes sizes peaked at the end of 2015 and have been steadily trending downward. The average and median home size is now back down to 2012 levels on a one-year moving average basis.

2012 is an important year because 2012 is when real estate prices took off across many parts of the country.

Size of new single-family homes

The cycle home size low was during the financial crisis in 2009 as homebuilders cut back and homebuyers realized they didn’t need as much space. When the world is falling apart, you don’t mind sharing a bathroom and not having a family office. Instead, you would probably prefer to rent the smallest shack possible in order to survive.

Since cycle lows, the average size of new single-family homes on a 1-year moving average is now just 6% higher at 2,521 square feet, while the median size on a 1-year moving average is 9% higher at 2,296 square feet.

A Bullish Sign For Prospective Homebuyers

Since 2015, there’s been an underlying weakening demand for new single-family homes. From a real estate investor’s perspective, four consecutive years of home size declines should be seen as a bullish sign. You want froth to have escaped the system before you buy.

If the decline in average and median size homes continues at their respective paces until 2021, we would be right back to the average and median sizes being built during the bottom of the size cycle in 2009. In my opinion, this is unlikely to happen because America is much richer today.

The previous home size peak was in 2007. Home sizes then declined for 2.5 years before rebounding in 2010. Thus, after four years of home size declines, homes have been declining for 1.5 years longer than during the previous cycle. It is my belief that the end is near for home size declines.

But here’s the thing. Home prices didn’t immediately start taking off in 2009 when home sizes bottomed. Instead, home prices stopped going down in price around 2009, flatlined for a couple of years, and then started to rise towards the end of 2011. What ensued was a 55% increase in median sales prices until 2017.

In other words, home prices started rising about one year after home sizes bottomed. If we believe that the cycle bottom for home sizes is here after four years, then we should anticipate national home prices to start rising by 2021.

Median Sales Price of Houses Sold In the United States

Real Estate Looks Attractive

There’s always a lag in real estate prices based on fundamentals because the real estate market isn’t as efficient as the stock market. It takes time to go through inventory. It takes time for homebuilders to recognize opportunity and build until completion as well.

The correlation between home size and home price isn’t an exact science. But we can make a logical conclusion that there is a correlation based on history and microeconomic and macroeconomic fundamentals.

Home sizes could absolutely continue to go down for a 5th or 6th year as Americans embrace frugality and minimalism. But I doubt it due to the incredible wealth that has been generated in the stock market since 2009, the rise in national wages, the decline in mortgage rates, and the human condition of always wanting more.

As a prospective homebuyer, you want prices and home sizes to be declining for at least as long as the previous cycle declined before you buy. You might be able to time the bottom of the next cycle, but even if you don’t, if you have a 10+ year ownership horizon you’re probably going to do pretty well.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to investing. Every real estate market is different. Do your due diligence before spending a fortune on physical real estate.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the average home size in America trend? Do you think the average home size will go back to its 2009 low? Do you believe the average American will go back to his or her weight from 2009? Any other insights you can gather from home sizes and home prices?

Related articles:

Focus On Trends: Why I’m Investing In The Heartland Of America

Buy Utility, Rent Luxury: The Real Estate Investing Strategy To Follow

The post The Average Single-Family Home Size Is Declining: Positive Sign For Investors appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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bookmark_borderA Productive Morning May Make You Richer, But Not Necessarily Happier

The Miracle Morning Is True, But It's Not Entirely On Purpose

Let’s say the average person wakes up at 7 am to start their day and goes to bed at 11 pm. You decide to wake up at 5:30 am and work for 1 hour every day for a year because that’s what some productivity guru told you to do. You go to bed at the same time. How much richer would you be?

If your time is worth $100 an hour, then you’d be $36,500 richer than the average person over a year. Assuming your hourly rate and bedtime stays the same, over a 10-year period, you will be worth $365,000 more than the average person. If you slap on a 7% compound annual return during the time period, you’ll be worth $540,000 more than the average person.

After three decades of working longer than the average person, you will most likely be millions of dollars richer without needing to be any smarter! Getting richer than average is that simple. Just work more. Working 40 hours a week or less and then complaining why you can’t get ahead makes no sense.

Unfortunately, working more and being richer won’t necessarily make you happier. Instead, I argue that those who work less and can afford the luxury of regularly sleeping in have a much better life. Let me explain.

Waking Up Early Out Of Necessity, Not Out Of Desire

From 1999 – 2012, the average time I got up was 5 am. I got up at 5 am, not because I wanted to, but because I had to for work. The stock market opened at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST and I had to get a bunch of research prepared and read before it opened. If I didn’t get in by 5:30 am, I would have been fired early in my career or would have fallen seriously behind later in my career.

Once I left my market-driven banking job in 2012, I thought I’d start sleeping in more often.

Nope.

After thirteen years, my body was already conditioned like Pavlov’s Dog and I continued to wake up at 5 am until mid-2017.

Waking up three hours before my wife did every morning, even after she retired in 2015, was one of the reasons why I started getting a little antsy in early retirement.

By the time she woke up, I had already written a post and worked out. I was ready to rock and roll! But I had to wait for her to go through her morning routine.

I got bored of waiting, so for a couple years, I decided to do some part-time consulting with a couple fintech companies in the Bay Area to help pass the time.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Waking Up Earlier And Earlier

Then in mid-2017, our son was born. Both my wife and I had our sleep disrupted every two hours for three months. After that, my wife took over night duty and hasn’t stopped since.

I am extremely thankful she has enabled me to sleep. It is impossible to write a post or record a podcast well with a foggy mind.

Unfortunately, starting in early 2018, after regularly going to bed about 11:30 pm, I’ve found myself waking up by 4 am on average.

When I wake up in the pitch black every morning, I always guess the time, hoping there’s at least a 5-handle in front of it. But there never is. Often, I look out into the ocean to find comfort that a lone fisherman has started his day even earlier.

Let me share why I’m now waking up an hour earlier than my already early morning. I’m not doing so on purpose because I don’t set my alarm. I’m doing so naturally out of circumstance and necessity.

1) Anxiety and excitement have increased. For a while, I was scheduling posts for publication at 2:30 am PST. I did this because I liked to wake up at 5 am after the post had marinated in the public for several hours. It was fun to wake up and read what people had to say in the comments section or in the forum.

But if I wrote more opinionated posts or if I spent a particularly long time crafting a post, I started to naturally wake up earlier during “post day.” The stakes were higher. For example, it would be common for me to wake up at 2 am on post day because I wanted to review the post one last time for any typos before 2:30 am publication.

The more posts, newsletters, and podcasts I published, the more often I would wake up in the middle of the night, both excited for feedback and worried about making mistakes.

The only way I can describe my state of mind on post day is the feeling you get Christmas morning as a kid. You either can’t sleep because you’re trying to catch Santa Claus or you’re waking up super earlier to rip open the presents you hinted at over the past six months.

But then some days I have a feeling of dread, like waiting in the lobby of the principal’s office. I think to myself, maybe I shouldn’t tell it like it is, to avoid offending some people. There are plenty of successful sites with no opinion or personality.

To lessen my excitement and anxiety, nowadays I sometimes post on Sunday mornings after I wake up because the weekends are quieter. Posting on Sundays also lets me get ahead of the inevitable Monday crush of requests. Although posting after I wake up results in a 1-2 hour feedback void, I’ve trained myself to not check my site for a couple hours and go do something else.

My post RSS e-mail distribution list is now also a summary, instead of an entire post. This has helped reduce anxiety because I can always correct the words in my post, but not the words in an e-mail after it’s been blasted out.

2) Getting older. They say you don’t need as much sleep as you get older. I say they are absolutely right. Older people wake up more often because they spend less time in a deep sleep.

Other causes include needing to get up and urinate (nocturia), anxiety, and discomfort or pain from long-term (chronic) illnesses. I find I need to go to the bathroom more often if I don’t cut out liquids two hours before I go to bed.

Sleep duration recommendations by age

3) Regular afternoon siesta. Napping can ruin evening sleep, but I just can’t help taking a siesta after lunch 95% of the time. The nap ranges from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours. I’ve always experienced food coma after lunch, which is why I tried to eat light lunches when I had a day job. When I could, I would sneak down to the parking lot and nap in my car for 15-30 minutes.

Because I know I can nap any time before 5 pm, it’s much easier for me to wake up early. If I knew I had to be awake 12-14 hours the next day, I’m sure I’d go to bed earlier and sleep more soundly.

Being able to nap every day is a good example of how an easy life can ruin your work ethic. Being able to nap whenever I want is kind of like having your parents buy you a house and a fancy car after graduation. With housing and transportation out of the way, why bother trying hard at being independent? I’ve been very careful not to take my freedom for granted.

4) The pressure to provide has increased. As a stay at home father with a stay at home wife, the pressure on me to provide for my family has grown. We can only count on ourselves, which is sadly the way things are for most families nowadays.

Retiring without little ones is one thing, but retiring and staying retired with kids is nearly impossible if you desire to remain in an expensive city like San Francisco. Expenses keep on increasing faster than inflation. After building a life here since 2001, it’s hard to leave.

With the increased pressure to provide for my family, I’ve also become more sensitive about investment swings. As a result, I have a more conservative asset allocation to help manage the stress of volatility. But as the absolute dollar amounts keep rising along with the bull market, it gets incrementally harder to stomach paper losses. Now I wonder how poorly I’ll sleep when a bear market arrives.

Finally, I also have self-imposed pressure to consistently publish on Financial Samurai 3X a week while also doing my best to be a good husband a father. The only way to write a post or record a podcast is in absolute silence. As a result, I started naturally getting up during the witching hour when the house is totally quiet. Emotionally, it’s very hard to reject a toddler who’s banging on your door wanting to play, especially when you have the option to always play.

5) My friend died young. Because one of my friends died in a car accident at age 15, I feel guilty for not being as productive as possible. My friend never got the chance. If he had, he would have done amazing things for the world.

Every time I feel like slacking off, I think of my friend or the time I was swarmed by beggars in Agra or my neighbor who has severe cerebral palsy. My mind is constantly being reminded of the billions of people who do not have my same opportunities. To not give 100% would be like insulting them all because I know they would give 110% if they were me.

Which states where Americans sleep the most and least

Enjoy Your Sleep You Lucky Duck

If you conquer the morning, you will conquer the day. Getting one important thing done before the day starts is like paying yourself first. No matter what happens during the day, at least you did something productive.

Being able to function regularly on just 5 – 6 hours of sleep a day is both a blessing and a curse. I’m definitely able to get a lot more done without having to be smarter than average. However, sometimes I sure would love to be able to sleep in for 7 – 9 hours straight.

If you are able to sleep in every day, feel blessed! It may mean that you are not suffering the same amount of guilt, anxiety, or pressure as many other early risers do.

There’s also a good chance you may also feel more financially secure because of your own doing or because someone is providing for you. If you have no financial worries, your mind will surely allow you to relax more often.

What a blessing to be so carefree.

Tips To Get Better Sleep

If you’re trying to sleep better, here are some things sleep experts recommend:

  • A light bedtime snack may be helpful. Many people find that warm milk increases sleepiness because it contains a natural, sedative-like amino acid. Just make sure you’re not lactose intolerant like I am.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate) for at least 3 or 4 hours before bed.
  • Do not take naps during the day like I do.
  • Exercise (moderately) in the afternoon.
  • Avoid too much stimulation, such as violent TV shows or computer games before sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques at bedtime, such as meditation.
  • Do not drink lots of water within two hours of going to bed.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning.
  • Use the bed only for sleep and sex, not for work.
  • Avoid tobacco products, especially before bedtime.
  • Get a blue light screen for your phone and laptop.
  • Don’t use your phone or laptop within an hour of going to bed.
  • Use a sound machine. Check out the Relax Melodies app.
  • Get blackout curtains or shades.
  • Look into doctor-recommended medication.

If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet activity, such as reading or listening to music. Getting on your phone or laptop is probably a bad idea.

There’s a lot of hype about getting eight hours of quality sleep or more nowadays. Ironically, this hype probably creates anxiety for those who get nowhere near eight hours of sleep. If you’re one of them, know that not everybody needs eight hours of sleep because our natural chronotype is different. See the chart below.

Average sleep duration by hour
Source: “Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired” by German chronobiologist Till Roenneberg

Just be honest with your own nighttime routine. If you are struggling throughout the day due to a lack of sleep, changes are in order.

If you are a great sleeper, what are some other tips you have for sleeping soundly for eight hours a night? Do you think people who sleep well have less worries and are more financially secure than those who do not?

The post A Productive Morning May Make You Richer, But Not Necessarily Happier appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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bookmark_borderYou may be a money nerd, if…

You may be a money nerd, if…

fanguard mug

You may be a money nerd, if…

  • You track 2 different versions of your net worth
  • You fund a college savings account – even though you don’t have any kids yet
  • You own 3x more credit cards than you do shirts, because #TravelHacking
  • You have a calendar item set up to check your credit report annually
  • You go to FinCon every year – even though you don’t have a blog
  • Your mug collection boasts of spreadsheets, budgeting, or Vanguard
  • You get more heated debating whether the RE belongs in FIRE than you do with politics!
  • You love talking about backdoor roths, even though you don’t fully understand it 😉
  • You’d rather stay in budgeting on a Friday night than go out partying because OMG WHY WOULD YOU SPEND $7.00 ON A BEER WHEN YOU COULD GET 6 FOR THAT PRICE AT COSTCO?!
  • You have over 100,000 miles on your vehicle and you’re proud of it
  • You get more turned on being debt-free than pants-free (hubba hubba)
  • You have a very strong opinion on whether Dave Ramsey is good or not (He’s good!!)
  • (You know who Dave Ramsey actually is)
  • You know just when to call up Comcast and get your bill back lowered again
  • You have a monthly competition with your spouse on who can beat each other’s credit score
  • You’ve pre-selected, and paid for, your future burial spot already
  • You haggle at stores as if they were yard sales
  • You have stickers on your laptop that say things like “Frugal ≠ Cheap” and “Set your life on FIRE
  • And you know that carrying around umbrellas are more than just for the rain

Nerd on!

 

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bookmark_borderThe Double Tax Advantage of Donating Appreciated Stocks Directly

If you own stocks in a taxable brokerage account and make charitable donations, consider donating your stocks this year instead of just writing a check. Why? Given the all-time market highs, your stocks, mutual funds, and/or ETFs probably have unrealized capital gains. When you donate an appreciated security that you’ve held for at least a year, you’ll both avoid paying long-term capital gains tax AND get a tax deduction for the full current market value.

This HCR Wealth Advisors graphic shows the benefit using the example of donating $50,000 of stock to charity with an original cost basis of $30,000. It assumes the highest long-term capital gains tax rate of 23.8% (20% plus the 3.8% Medicare surtax for high-income earners).

Here is a similar graphic from Harvard using the example of donating $10,000 of stock to charity with an original cost basis of $2,000.

The size of your benefit is your unrealized gain times your tax rate. This basic idea still applies if you’re only donating a smaller amount of stock at the lower long-term capital gains rate of 15%. If you bought a stock for $1,000 and it’s now worth $2,000, donating it directly will save you $150 to $238 in taxes ($1,000 x 15% or 20% or 23.8%). If someone didn’t know and simply changed the order (sell stock, then immediately donate the cash proceeds), that tax savings would disappear.

The problem is that not all individual charities are equipped to accept such stock donations. That’s where donor-advised funds (DAFs) come in handy. Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab all have donor-advised funds that can accept such donations, get you that tax deduction upfront, and allow you to make a cash grant to your individual charities. DAFs do charge for their services – an administration fee of about 0.60% of assets annually on top of investment expense ratios. There is also a minimum initial donation of between $5,000 and $25,000. You can then weigh the options of investing your donations for growth, or distributing it immediately to charities for immediate impact.

I am fortunate to have some appreciated stocks, so this year I plan to open an account with Fidelity Charitable. I chose them because they seem to have been in the game the longest and are also the most flexible with a $5,000 minimum initial donation, no minimum requirement for future donations, and a low $50 minimum grant size. Their administrative fees are also comparable with Schwab and Vanguard. I hope that I can finish the process by year-end.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

The Double Tax Advantage of Donating Appreciated Stocks Directly from My Money Blog.


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bookmark_borderWeiss Rates Top Ten Cryptocurrencies

Image by WorldSpectrum from Pixabay 

With so many different coins in the overall market, it can be difficult for traders looking to buy cryptocurrency to know which ones are worth spending their attention and capital on. Luckily for them, institutions such as Weiss Crypto Ratings, a part of the greater Weiss Investment Ratings organization, can help traders cut through the noise.

Praised for its objectivity and accuracy by various elements of the United States government, including multiple members of Congress and the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), Weiss bases its grading on complex algorithms dealing with enormous volumes of data.

According to Weiss Crypto Ratings (WCR),
this helps keep their ratings as fair as possible. There are few organizations
which can compete with WCR in its niche, and any trader would do well to take
the information they compile into serious consideration.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW GOES THE MARKET? IT’S RUNNING IN CIRCLES!

Weiss Rating System

Weiss Crypto Ratings makes use of four
proprietary models, which focus on the various elements that come into play
when rating a cryptocurrency. These models consist of the:

  1. Risk Model
  2. Reward Model
  3. Technology Model
  4. Adoption Model

Weiss then condenses these factors into the currency’s overall grade. The grades range from A+ to F, with A+ being excellent, C being fair, and F being terrible.

10: Stellar

Stellar is much more focused on its ability to move and convert other currencies, rather than cultivating the market viability of its native coin. Still, Stellar still manages to retain a C rating overall, clinging to the number 10 slot on Weiss’s ratings board. Its risk-reward grade isn’t anything to write home about either, only getting an E+ rating. It does, however, boast fees of less than a cent and three-second transaction times.

However, it has a poor outlook overall because, unlike other more successful blockchain currencies, Stellar doesn’t have a finite supply of its coin. This is often one of the points in favor of cryptocurrencies. Despite all of this, Stellar still retains a market cap of $1.29 billion, higher than four of the other coins on this list.

9: Ethereum Classic

Not unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin SV, Ethereum Classic seeks to preserve what they view as the original vision of the blockchain they derive their name from. Ethereum Classic broke off from the main Ethereum Foundation following the latter’s reaction to the DAO attack.

The blockchain currency extols its ability to provide a secure, censor-proof, decentralized platform for running applications. However, it carries a D- rating in the risk-reward category, only marginally higher than Stellar. The currency receives an overall C rating from Weiss, with a market cap of only $524.49 million.

8: NEO

Unusual among its peers, NEO is a cryptocurrency that was designed to be regulator-friendly. This has allowed the currency to thrive in markets where most other blockchain currencies have been banned. This includes a strong presence in the People’s Republic of China.

Its stated goal is the creation of a smart economy system, to be created through the use of smart contracts, though smart contracts are not exclusive to NEO. Weiss gives the Chinese-originating cryptocurrency a C rating overall, with very weak grading in the risk-reward category. This cryptocurrency has a relatively low market cap of $526.23 million at the time of this writing.

7: Monero

Unlike many cryptocurrencies, Monero focuses on privacy. In fact, transactions through the service are completely untraceable. This has of course made Monero the ideal platform for less-than-savory individuals and organizations, such as The Pirate Bay, which can then generate Monero’s native coins through unconsenting machines.

Despite this, Monero is a great option for traders who value their privacy, and who want to ensure that their investments aren’t going to be blacklisted because of their coin’s involvement in certain businesses. According to the Weiss Crypto Ratings, Monero maintains an overall grade of C and a market cap of $1.01 billion.

6: Binance

Often thought of as more prominent as a cryptocurrency exchange than as a native coin, Binance nonetheless retains a spot as the sixth highest rated native coin listed by Weiss.

Through Binance, traders can exchange hundreds of different cryptocurrencies quickly, and trading can be done via a number of platforms, including on mobile devices. Binance received an overall C rating and maintains a $310.87 million market cap, currently the lowest market cap in the top ten rated coins.

5: Iota

Based on a new blockchain project known as the Tangle, Iota is set apart from other cryptocurrencies by its complete lack of transaction fees as well as the fact that it allows nano-payments without the need for trusted third parties.

Weiss gives Iota a C+ rating overall, with a D in the risk-reward category and a whopping A- in the technology-adoption category, owing to its innovative take on blockchain technology. Its actual market cap is relatively modest, clocking in at $749.65 million. This is a platform and coin with a lot of potential, but most of it hasn’t yet been realized.

4: LiteCoin

With instantaneous and nearly feeless transactions, LiteCoin certainly has a few things going for it from the get go. It’s also still open source. Besides these minor differences, LiteCoin is a fairly run-of-the-mill blockchain-based currency. It is set apart by its performance, however, with a market cap of $3.47 billion and an overall rating of C+.

3: EOS

Having recently launched into its EOSIO 2 project, EOS is a promising coin. It focuses on a user-friendly outlook and on being turing complete.

Weiss rates it at the fairly low D- in the risk-reward category, though the coin’s overall rating remains at a respectable C+. Currently, EOS has the fourth highest market cap of the list, coming up to $2.74 billion.

2: Ethereum

The second most recognizable cryptocurrency, sporting an eye-catching name and tying with Bitcoin itself in overall rating, achieves a B- from Weiss. Ethereum is a good choice for investors who have a lower risk tolerance.

Ethereum sets itself apart from the behemoth Bitcoin in its reduced fees and transaction times, as well as its focus on its role as an open-source development platform for decentralized apps.

In fact, Ethereum was the first blockchain-based development platform, significantly contributing to the surging popularity of blockchain technology. Moreover, it is still very successful in the field. This cryptocurrency also boasts the second highest current market cap, at $18.86 billion.

1: Bitcoin

Traders and others often consider the cryptocurrency that created the market itself to be a store of value. What’s more, it is so widely trusted and adopted that Weiss gives it an A rating in technology-adoption. It was inevitable that Bitcoin would top this list.

Though only achieving a D ranking in Weiss’s risk-reward category, it carries an overall rating of B-. Currencies such as Ethereum are certainly increasing their market caps. However, Bitcoin still dwarfs all others in the field with a market cap of $147.82 billion.

Weiss Crypto Ratings Can Facilitate Your Decision-Making

No cryptocurrency is ever a truly safe investment. The market is much too new and volatile for that to be the case. However, as is reflected in these ratings from Weiss, Bitcoin is as close as you can get to a safe coin.

Any of the cryptocurrencies, however, could make for a good investment. Moreover, a trader’s choice of coin is largely going to relate to which focus they prefer their investments to go toward.

The post Weiss Rates Top Ten Cryptocurrencies appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderWorkers’ Compensation: What Every Employer Must Know

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay 

No one, whether employer or worker, wants injuries to happen in the workplace. However, when they do, there are laws in place to protect both worker and employer. In this post we review the workers compensation laws everyone should know about.

What Most of Us Know About These Laws Is Minimal

What most of us know about workers’ compensation laws for a workplace injury is that the employee can claim redress for these three matters:

  • Work missed due to the injury
  • A period of rest, depending on the doctor’s written advice and the severity of the injury
  • Medical bills, including admitting charges, medications, and doctors’ consultation fees

RELATED ARTICLE: SAFETY WORKWEAR: YES, YOU CAN GIVE EMPLOYEES STYLISH OPTIONS

But Wait—There’s More

However, there is more to workers’ compensation laws than just these three things. Moreover, every worker as well as every employer must be aware of the following five items as well.

Workers Can Be Compensated for Various on-the-Job Injuries

Falls and slips can result in wounds to limbs and elsewhere on the body. Additionally, a worker might receive a cut from working with various kinds of machinery. There might also be sprains or strains from lifting, as well as injuries caused by excessive traveling for the job. All of these injuries are eligible for workers’ compensation.

Businesses must report any on-the-job injuries to the state, which then examines each case.

Employees Must Be Compensated for Lost Wages and Medical Expenses

When an injury happens on the job, employees are eligible for either complete or partial pay, based on the extent of their injury. 

These benefits help the employee through tough times and ensure he or she comes back to the organization at the same or a similar position.

Employees Cannot Sue Their Employers When They Are Already Receiving Workers’ Compensation

An employee who is receiving benefits such as wages and compensation for medical expenses cannot sue the employer or their managers in a court of law. However, if the employer refuses to provide compensation, an employee can take appropriate legal action with the help of a workers’ compensation attorney.

Some Organizations Are Not Subject to Workers’ Compensation Laws

Workers’ compensation laws differ from state to state. Moreover, they are subject to various factors such as the number of employees, the kind of business, and the nature of the work.

Additionally, many organizations do not provide these compensations to part-time or contract employees, external vendors’ employees, and volunteers. However, every employer should be cognizant of the workers’ compensation laws in their state and develop employee guidelines accordingly.

Most Workers Compensation Claims Are for Strains and Sprains

Most of the workers’ compensation claims for injuries in the workplace are due to strains and sprains. Cuts and bruises follow close behind. Eye injuries are common in construction and manufacturing, while cuts and punctures happen more frequently in small businesses.

Conclusion

Whether you’re an employee who has been injured on the job or you’re a business owner whose employee has been injured, seek the aid of a workers compensation attorney and find answers for the specific problem you’re facing.

The post Workers’ Compensation: What Every Employer Must Know appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderHow to Have Fun Holidays as a Broke College Student

The holidays are an expensive time for everyone, but college students feel that more than most. When you’re living off student debt and don’t have any income to speak of, the thought of buying gifts and paying for leisure activities is downright depressing – not to mention the cost of holiday travel. 

If this sounds like you, it’s time to get creative. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy your Christmas vacation without draining your bank account. 

Fun and Frugal Gift Ideas 

Even if you’re a college student on a budget, you can still come up with quality Christmas gifts that everyone will enjoy. Here are a few easy ideas. 

Frame Photos 

With the advent of digital photography and the ability to post photos to social media, it’s rare for people to print out real photographs any more. But there’s probably nothing more your mom would love than a framed picture of you to hang up in the house. 

You can print out photos for less than 50 cents each through services like Shutterfly or at a local pharmacy, and you can find affordable and interesting picture frames at thrift stores. If you want to make more of an effort, buy a photo collage frame at an arts and crafts store for about $20-$30. These stores often have 40-50% off coupons available online or in the newspaper. 

You can also frame childhood artwork. Even if you had no talent, your parents would probably love to get a set of framed drawings you made as a five year-old. 

Make a Scrapbook 

One year for my mom’s 40th birthday, I made her a scrapbook timeline of her life. I included pictures of her at every age and decorated it with fun stickers from the craft store. To this day, she says it’s the best gift I’ve ever given her. 

If someone in your life is celebrating a milestone this year, create a mini scrapbook for that achievement. For example, if your parents just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, make a scrapbook with pictures from their marriage.  

If no one in your family is celebrating anything notable, you can also make a fun Christmas-themed scrapbook with pictures from past holiday celebrations. It’s easy to find inexpensive craft supplies at thrift stores or in the sale bin at arts and crafts stores. 

Make Homemade Truffles  

Edible gifts are the best gift choice for broke college students. Truffles are simple enough for just about anyone to make, but they still look and taste gourmet. You can find an easy recipe here 

Make sure to buy a couple flavors of quality chocolate and a few Christmas-themed tins at the dollar store. You can roll the truffles in ground nuts or cocoa for a decadent touch.  

Use Your Talent 

Most people have some sort of talent or skill they can translate into a gift. One year for Valentine’s Day, my musician boyfriend recorded a cover of “our” song. It was such a sweet and personal gift and remains the best gift I’ve ever gotten.  

When you use this approach, you’re tapping into the equity you’ve built up through years of practice. It won’t cost you much, but it will have very real value for the person you’re gifting to. 

Think about the personal talents you have and how you could incorporate them into a Christmas gift. If you’re great at video projects, make a custom video compilation to play on Christmas morning. If you’re a musician, write a fun and sweet parody of a song about your family.  

Cheap Winter Activities 

Spending Christmas break in your hometown is a great chance to unwind, see old friends and get prepared for the next semester. For some people that means expensive dinners and hefty bar tabs, but broke college students need to consider more frugal options. 

Have a Cookie-Decorating Party 

Making and eating sugar cookies is a popular Christmas activity that doesn’t cost a lot of money. If you’re hosting, make a big batch of sugar or gingerbread cookies beforehand and have them ready before people come over. Even a few dozen cookies shouldn’t cost more than five bucks. 

Encourage guests to bring sprinkles, frosting and whatever else they want to use to decorate their cookies. Make a pot of hot cocoa to enjoy the cookies with later. 

Participate in Winter Activities 

Winter activities like sledding, ice skating and snowman-building are a great way to spend time with your friends without spending a lot of money. A state park near me has a Toboggan run, where you can ride a sled down a steep metal track for a few bucks a person. 

Ice skating is almost just as affordable. My local ice skating rinks charge $8-$9 for admission and between $3-$4 for skate rental, which is pretty standard across the country. 

Many parks will have special Christmas light events, where you can walk or drive through and see huge light installations.  

Go Bowling 

Bowling is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated activities for people on a budget. Look up bowling alleys near you to find which one offers the best deals. Many have discounts on beer and pizza, especially if you come with a large group. 

Gather up as many people as possible to make lane rental more affordable. You’ll end up spending twice as much quality time with your friends and family for half the price of a sit-down restaurant or bar.  

Find a Christmas Movie Showing 

Many movie theaters and local establishments screen Christmas classics like “Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” These showings are usually cheaper than a regular movie and provide a few hours of festive nostalgia.  

For example, a local community center near me is showing four different Christmas movies each weekend in December. The cost is only $5 for college students. 

If your parents have a big basement or living room, you can host your own movie showing. Invite your friends, make a big batch of eggnog and throw on your favorite holiday classic.  

The post How to Have Fun Holidays as a Broke College Student appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderIKEA Coupon December 2019: $25 off $125 (12/13-12/15)

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IKEA has a new $20 off $125 coupon that is valid for three days only: December 13-15, 2019. Valid on in-store purchases only. You must have an IKEA FAMILY number, which is their loyalty program and free to join. You can view the coupon when you scroll down on this page. Here is a screenshot of the coupon + fine print. Selected fine print:

U.S. stores only. IKEA FAMILY number required. Further restrictions apply.*
*Valid December 13-15, 2019. Not valid online. Coupon applied before tax, shipping & handling. This coupon and IKEA FAMILY member number must be presented to receive discount. Cannot be combined with other coupons or offers. Not valid for IKEA Kitchen Event offer, Click and Collect, Delivery, Assembly, Kitchen Planning or other services. Not valid on IKEA Gift Cards or payment of IKEA credit card. Not valid in IKEA Restaurant or Bistro. LIMIT: One coupon per IKEA FAMILY member number. Coupon valid for one use only toward a single transaction.

IKEA coupons are pretty rare, other than their ongoing $25 off $250 moving coupon.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

IKEA Coupon December 2019: $25 off $125 (12/13-12/15) from My Money Blog.


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bookmark_borderAmazon Prime Photos: Free $15 Amazon Credit for First-Time Users

One of the perks of Amazon Prime membership is that you get unlimited cloud storage of your photos in full resolution.

Amazon Photos is currently offering targeted users a free $15 Amazon promo credit if you download the Amazon Photos app (iOS, Android, or desktop) and upload at least one photo for the first time. Offer expires at 11:59pm Pacific on December 31, 2019.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Amazon Prime Photos: Free $15 Amazon Credit for First-Time Users from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.

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bookmark_borderHow a Small Business Loan Can Save, Sustain, or Grow Your Business –

Taking a loan for your small business might be the biggest decision you have ever made. It’s important to get your facts together and make the best possible decision. Whether you are borrowing to save, sustain, or grow your business, you need to know these rules.

This article will take you through the following  proven 4-step approach to get the most value out of borrowing money:

  1. Confirm your reason for taking a loan from the list below
  2. Understand the general rules for taking any business loan
  3. Learn the specific secrets for the reason you are borrowing money
  4. Make an intelligent decision and never look back!

 

The 3 Primary Reasons Business Owners Borrow Money

First, you need to decide which of the three reasons business owners borrow money applies to you.

1. To Grow a Successful Business

Your business is successful and you want to keep the momentum going. Below are some scenarios where you would take out a loan to become even more successful:

  • Purchasing real estate for a new location
  • Getting working capital
  • Expanding Your Product or Service Offering

2. To Maintain a Stable Business

Maintaining a stable business is one of the hardest things for small business owners. Sometimes, an injection of cash is needed to ensure your business stays ahead of the curve. Some examples of when you would borrow money to maintain your business include:

  • Remodeling or making improvements to basic infrastructure
  • Upgrading IT equipment to current technological standards
  • Expanding or improving aspects of the business to remain competitive

3. To Save a Struggling Business

Your livelihood is on the line and you need cash quick to keep your business from crumbling. Borrowing money to save a struggling business includes some of the following scenarios:

  • Covering payroll
  • Paying vendors who have stopped or threatened to stop servicing you.
  • Paying for inventory or production costs.

5 General Rules to Follow Regardless of Why You Take a Loan

Now that you are sure of why you want to borrow, you need to follow these five rules before your business takes on debt.

1. Create a 6-month written financial outlook before getting the funds

Borrowing with no business plan for the next six months is a recipe for failure. Getting help to create and execute a realistic, data-backed business plan is one of the top reasons entrepreneurs seek small business coaching.  

Make sure you have a documented plan for each of the following areas of your business:

  • Financials
  • Sales
  • Investments & Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Current Debt
  • Projects
  • Vendor Contracts & Pricing

Your financial projections are especially important. Document how much you expect to spend in each area and exactly how that investment will turn profits.

2. Ensure you have a written plan for how you will pay it back

Some business owners have a vague plan to pay off their debt. “When the profits start rolling in” is not a good enough answer.

In addition to the business plan above, you need a clear plan to pay your loan back

Map out exactly what date you plan to make your last payment. Having a clear repayment plan will keep you on the right track, no matter how long it takes.

3. Never use business loans to pay a non-business debt

It is tempting to take out a business loan when profits aren’t where they need to be and you have a personal debt to service.

The reason this never works is bad financial habits cannot be fixed by more money. Taking out more debt to pay down debt creates an endless spiral that you will never recover from

4. Don’t get tempted to make personal purchases with a company loan

One of the first things some small business owners do when they get a line of credit goes out and buy things they want, but not what their business needsIt’s often things like remodeling their house, getting a new car, or buying the boat they always wanted that eats up their funding.

5. Do not reduce your workload after securing business funding

The worst thing you can do is take your foot off the gas because your immediate money needs are solved. You’ve been working hard and you need a break, but keep it going for just a bit longer and this might be the last time you have to borrow!

You want to do the exact opposite. Right after securing a loan is when you want to work harder than you have ever worked. Paying yourself is the expense you can control the most. 

Don’t take more profit because you are working more hours. Think long-term and turn the effort you are putting in now into more profit you could ever dream of six months down the line.

4 Questions to Answer Before Borrowing Money to Survive

Your profits are low and you have no idea how you can pay your expenses without a loan. Answer the following four questions to make sure borrowing money is the right decision.

1. What is the root cause of your financial struggles?

If you don’t identify the root cause of the problems that got you here in the first place, borrowing money will only be a short-term fix. 

Then, you will eventually end up in an even bigger mess. If this weakness still exists in your business, it is only a matter of time before this new injection of cash vanishes.

2. Have you resolved this root cause or created a written plan to resolve it with the loan?

Getting your head above water is urgent, but stop and solve whatever you can without money.

In some cases there is no way to solve an issue without a loan, so create a strict written plan for exactly how you will solve it as soon as you have the money.

3. Are you committed to working even harder than you have been?

You probably feel exhausted by all of the stresses of having a struggling business. You want to just be able to enjoy some time off, but now is the time to dig in and work harder than you ever have!

Don’t lose hope. Think of how great time off will feel once you pulled your business out of the gutter.

4. Are you absolutely certain you need this money to survive?

Taking out a small business loan has to be your absolute last resort if you are struggling. Triple check your financials to make sure it is the only way to save your business.

Are you sure you have cut every single expense possible? Did you try every possible thing you could do to increase sales?

3 Questions to Answer for Before Borrowing Money to Maintain

Maintaining a stable business can get costly. Make sure to answer these three questions before taking out a loan. 

1. Is this money absolutely essential to sustain the business?

Making improvements to your business feels great, but they have to factor into your profitability if you need a loan to make them happen.

If you are upgrading your IT equipment, for example, it has to be because you have to do it to make more money – not simply because you wanted new equipment.

2. Is there any way to get this money from an increase in revenue or sales?

Can you try running a promotion for the next 90 days? Make a big marketing push and incentivize your team to produce more.

Think outside of the box and see if you can come up with a way to boost sales and get the cash you need.

3 -Is it possible to fund this project by cutting expenses in the short term?

Think about the last time your business was in trouble. Remember how easy it was to make major cuts?

Maybe you can cut some of the same expenses temporarily. Consider eliminating non-essential roles and pausing monthly services that you don’t really need to succeed.

3 Questions to Answer Before Borrowing Money to Grow

We have all heard the saying “Grow, Grow, Gone”, so be careful that you don’t take on unnecessary risk by answering these three questions.

1. Is your business model built for long-term profitability?

You are profitable now, but do you have the systems in place to be profitable for years to come?

Building for long-term profitability requires you to have a systems-dependent business rather than a people-dependent business.

2. Is there any risk in your industry or the economy in general to consider?

Even if a business is great now, you still need to think about future threats to your business.

Is the economy unstable and heading towards another recession? Is there some risk threatening your industry that could cause a business to slow down? 

Make sure these changes aren’t around the corner to keep yourself from getting blindsided.

3. Do you have enough profit to service the debt and interest?

When you do opt for a business loan, you have to know for a fact that you have enough profit to service your debt and interest. This requires you to have a strong understanding of your financials. Ideally, you have been doing a full financial analysis every month. 

Create a growth plan and document how much funding each part of it will take to execute. 

Taking a loan is a big decision and this article is designed to help you make that decision, but consider talking with an expert small business coach before you sign that dotted line. Someone with real-world business experience who has been right where you are now can give you insights that you may not be able to get on your own.

The post How a Small Business Loan Can Save, Sustain, or Grow Your Business – appeared first on Credibly.

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bookmark_borderDavid Neagle: The Keys to Success are Mindset and a Mentor

David Neagle shares with Ramon Ray that as a young adult without even complete high school education, who was married with a few children, he realized that he had “created a situation where [he] had way more responsibility than the ability to fulfill that responsibility.” He wasn’t being the husband, father, or provider he wanted to be for his family. David shares that there were 2 things that motivated him to change his situation, a mentor and mindset. 

First, he experienced a near-death experience that gave him a sense of urgency in life. “But what surprised me was that nothing changed after that.” Logically, David thought he needed to go back to school to get out of the situation he was in, but he didn’t have the time or money to do that. David prayed for God to give him some direction. 

Change Your Attitude 

David said he heard a little voice in his head that said, “change your attitude.” Next, he had to figure out how to do just that. So, he says that he compared his own attitude to a successful business owner, the man who owned the business he worked for. He says here’s what he recognized:

  • He loved what he did.
  • He did every job to the best of his ability.
  • He treated everybody with total respect.

David said, “ok, that’s what I’m going to do.” David wanted a change more than anything else in his life and he was willing to do whatever it took to do it. So, he made the change in his attitude and said in 30 days his income tripled. David said that this fired up his curiosity and he started to wonder what he could accomplish if he actually knew what he was doing. David started seeking knowledge from books, conferences, and seminars.

From Driver’s Seat to… Driver’s Seat!

Within a few years, David went from driving a truck at a company to being in charge of expanding the company across the country. And, he did it with no additional education besides the basic management course he took at the company. 

Fast forward and with the help of his mentor, David started his own business helping others how to get their own company over 7-8 figures in a very short period of time with a solid structure that they could actually scale. David does this by making people aware of their potential so they can use it and then by giving them the solid business structure and techniques to be able to go out there and build the business that they want. 

A Mindset Shift Can Cause a Breakthrough

“The mindset is the hardest piece,” David says he’s worked with companies that are making tens of millions of dollars and they get stuck and they don’t know why they get stuck. He says after working with them for just a day or so and figuring out what’s going on their heads that he can turn them around and then, just like that, their business takes off. 

“Just because we think a certain way and we believe something does not necessarily mean that it’s true.” In order for someone to experience something different in their life, David says he has to slowly change their belief system. David said that often it’s not a hard skill issue, it’s a mindset issue. 

Make a Choice 

“Our greatest power is our ability to choose. It’s what makes us God-like…we are created in the image of.”

The 2 powers that give us that image are:

  • The ability to use our imagination—we can download information from the universe and we can bring it into order.
  • We choose to focus on that image and nothing else. When we do that we take something from “nothing” to the physical. This is called the Perpetual Law of Transmutation of Energy. 

David says that success is nothing more than awareness. “We have the ability to take in information that’s not true, make it our reality…and then pass it on from one generation to another. We call that ignorance.” David would ask a person, “what do you want?” and then tell them to make a decision that you won’t back away from and go after it. 

Find a Mentor

The second thing he would tell someone is to get a mentor and listen to them. To pick a mentor, pick someone who is successful— «miles ahead of you and has proven by results that they’ve done it.” Approach your potential mentor from the angle of how you can also be a benefit to them. “You give in order to receive,” David says. The key is to develop yourself to the point where you really have something of value to give to everyone. 

David adds that “spending money on the right mentor is better than any money you’ll spend for a college education.” David says they’re living in the real world and have applied the ideas that have made them successful.

For more success tips visit Davidneagle.com or check out The Successful Mind Podcast.

The post David Neagle: The Keys to Success are Mindset and a Mentor appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderGender Discrimination Causes Women To Start their Own Business

This is a new angle for sure. Who would have thought that one of the results of increases in gender discrimination over the years and more so increase in its awareness, causes more and more women to start their own businesses.

FreshBooks today announced results from its second annual Women in the Independent Workforce Report, the only study focused exclusively on the experiences of aspiring and currently self-employed women in America. Findings from this year’s study suggest the U.S. may witness a historical closing of the gender entrepreneurship gap within the next 5 years, driven in part by women’s experiences with gender discrimination in the traditional workplace.

At a time when millions of women are choosing to work for themselves, FreshBooks’ report also examines a stubborn problem: even when self-employed women set their own rates, they charge less than men. And this is the case even among knowledge workers. The full report is available here.

To produce this year’s study, FreshBooks partnered with leading market research provider Dynata to survey 1,500 women who work full-time, either as traditional employees, independent professionals, or small business owners.

Major findings from the report:

The Gender Entrepreneurship Gap could close within the next 5 years

While self-employment and small business ownership have long been dominated by men who outnumber women by a 2:1 margin, change is on the horizon. The data suggest that 2 in 5 aspiring entrepreneurs today in America are women, and that within the next 5 years, we may see somewhere between 10 to 12 million women join the independent workforce.

Gender discrimination is driving women to entrepreneurship

Currently, more than 1 in 3 self-employed women began working for themselves in part because of experiences with gender discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, more than half of currently self-employed women (55 percent) left their traditional jobs because they believed they could advance their careers faster on their own.

Self-employed women aren’t looking back — the risks are worth the rewards

The majority of women who work for themselves say they have less stress, better health, and enjoy better work-life balance. Two-thirds make as much if not more money than they did before. Although 55 percent of self-employed women say they must now work harder to succeed, 96 percent say they would not consider returning to a ‘regular’ job.

Self-employment is not a cure for gender discrimination

Gender discrimination does not disappear once women become business owners. One in three self-employed women feel they need to work harder than men in order to succeed. Interestingly, even 1 in 3 men agree this is the case for women. The majority of self-employed women also say they’re not taken as seriously by their clients.

Even among knowledge-based entrepreneurs, a 17 percent gender earnings gap persists across America 

The data show self-employed women in knowledge-based industries earn 17 percent less than men who do the same work. An analysis of the earnings gap in the 10 most populous states shows regional variation, with the highest earnings gap in Georgia (23 percent), followed closely by Texas, Florida, New York, and California (22 percent). Michigan came in under the national average (17 percent) at 16 percent.

Read FreshBooks’ 2nd Annual Women in the Independent Workforce Report here.

The post Gender Discrimination Causes Women To Start their Own Business appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderInvalid Disputes: Why They Happen

Invalid disputes are when a merchant receives a dispute from a legitimate transaction. These disputes are invalid because the merchant did not do anything to cause it, such as accepting a stolen credit card or not processing a refund credit.

But if invalid disputes are actually a valid transaction, how does the merchant end up with a dispute?

How Invalid Disputes Happen

Cardholder’s Motives

The first step in understanding why invalid disputes happen is by learning why cardholders are turning to the issuing bank to dispute a charge. Invalid dispute motives can be broken down into two categories: friendly fraud (not malicious) and chargeback fraud (malicious).

Friendly fraud is when a cardholder disputes a charge with no malicious intent. This type of fraud can stem from simple forgetfulness, an unclear merchant descriptor, or a family member making unknown purchases. Friendly fraudsters go to their issuing bank, thinking they did not make the purchase, and it must be fraudulent.

Chargeback fraud is when the cardholder is maliciously disputing a charge. They know that the transaction is legitimate and they are disputing the charge as a way to get their money back from the transaction. Chargeback fraudsters may feel buyer’s remorse, want to sell the product for the money, have forgotten to cancel their subscription, did not pay attention to return policies, etc.

Issuers Trusting the Customer

A recent Javelin study on the short- and long-term effects of disputes found that issuers are more trusting of the cardholder’s story. The study says, «With more information from the customers — who typically contact them first — issuers might be inclined to place more faith in customers who are disputing a transaction. In part because of regulatory requirements that direct issuers to ensure that cardholders are fully reimbursed for fraud that occurs on their account. … Conversely, merchants who are likely to have difficulty obtaining documentation and even engaging with these customers are understandably less able to discern the intention of the customer when confronted with a chargeback.»

Operational Oversights

Some cardholders with malicious intent will try to dispute the charge no matter what merchants do, but there are preventive steps merchants put in place to stop invalid disputes. For example, a merchant can prevent friendly fraud disputes by making sure their merchant descriptor is easy to recognize and is the name that the public recognizes and not the legal name. Or making sure that your customer service is easy to access and is responsive. Every merchant is different, but by performing a dispute analysis, merchants can pinpoint issues in operations and take action to prevent disputes.

How Merchant Can Prevent Invalid Disputes

Because invalid disputes are legitimate transactions, the merchant can regain the transaction amount by submitting a dispute response document that disproves the cardholder’s claims. Even though merchants can respond to these disputes, they still receive a dispute fee, have to spend time and labor on the response process, and see an increase in their dispute ratio. Which is why merchants should prevent a dispute from ever happening.

Part of the problem with invalid disputes being filed is that issuers only hear the customer’s story. Now, with Real-time Resolution (RTR), merchants can communicate customer, order, and product details to issuing banks before the dispute is filed. RTR enrolls merchants in Visa Merchant Purchase Inquiry (VMPI) and combines supplemental transaction information gathered by the Chargeback app with the related Visa transaction data.

With Real-time Resolution, the issuing bank’s dispute analyst can use transaction details to decide if the dispute is invalid and prevent it from being filed. In cases of friendly fraud, the additional data helps jog the cardholder’s memory about the purchase. And in cases where the cardholder is trying to intentionally misuse their chargeback rights, the extra layer of confirmation acts as a critical deterrent from proceeding with the dispute.

The post Invalid Disputes: Why They Happen appeared first on Chargeback.

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bookmark_borderI Don’t Like How I Look. How Can I Use Video in my Business?

A question I’m often asked is, «how can I use video in my business if I don’t like how I look».

At today’s Small Business Administration (SBA) New York City Social Media Workshop, which Ramon Ray keynoted, he was asked this question by an attendee.

He was sharing on the importance of video and how it humanizes and personalizes one’s brand.

Three kinds of video every business owner should have

  • Sizzle. A professional video which showcases you and your business.
  • Education. Which you use to educate your customers, prospective customers and fan base.
  • Personal. Which gives people a bit of personal insight into you «out of business».

Three Ways To Not Be Seen on Video

  1. Interview others. You don’t have to be on camera, but the person you’re interviewing can be on camera.
  2. Consider audio only. Use your smartphone or a podcast service to do audio only interviews.
  3. Don’t do audio or video, but just a regular blog post.

There’s many ways to build your fan base and educate your audience without video.

Indeed I think video is best, but it might not be for you and that’s ok.

The post I Don’t Like How I Look. How Can I Use Video in my Business? appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderThe Business Phone Call is [Still] Important

Connecting to customers now happens primarily on social media and online, through email and chats. Many times a customer issue can be solved in one of these formats, but sometimes, a good old fashioned phone call is needed. Do your employees know how to talk to customers on the phone? It wouldn’t be shocking if their phone skills need work if their primary focus is online customer service

Below are some reasons to keep the phone lines connected and make sure your employees know how to handle customer calls. And, if you feel the phones need a dedicated team, Ruby might be your saving grace. 

Your Brand Image

Whether you have an eCommerce site or provide services to customers, website visitors are more likely to trust brands that have a contact number and are available to take phone calls. Businesses don’t include a phone number can face a decrease in sales. While email is convenient, many customers want to work with a company that they can speak to over the phone. People expect (and appreciated) instant, personalized service, and a contact form just doesn’t cut it, which makes the phone call really necessary. It can be daunting to put a credit card number into a site without speaking to a real person. View your phone as an additional sales tool and credibility indicator.

Define Lead Quality

As competition increases, collecting leads is not as easy as it once was. And not all leads are the quality your business wants or needs. But, that doesn’t change the fact the phone call is statistically proven to help sales. Did you know that nearly two-thirds (65%) of potential customers want to reach brands by phone? And that phone calls are on track to influence more than $1 trillion in consumer spending in 2019? These stats are reason enough to focus on business phone calls over other forms of communications. 

Being able to have a conversation over the phone offers better insight into information about a prospect besides their name, email, and company. Lead phone calls can tell you what products or services a potential customer is interested in, what their budget is (if applicable), what they expect from your business, and the types of results they’re anticipating. All this information will help you or your sales team better understand the quality of the customers coming to your business. 

Solve Problems Faster

Customer problems are easier to solve over the phone. It’s much easier for a client to vocalize an issue in detail and it helps to avoid long email threads and miscommunications that can happen in writing. Speaking over the phone is often the best option for issues like scheduling appointments, airing customer service issues, and answering questions. This can save hours of frustration for both the customer and your business. 

Ruby is Your Business Phone Problem Solver

Ruby is passionate about helping small businesses grow. They provide personalized, innovative services that help turn callers and online visitors into clients by delivering exceptional experiences.

Ruby’s business model is built around a culture of caring — for employees and customers —and creating meaningful connections and impactful experiences that win trust and build loyalty. Ten thousand small businesses in different markets across the country, from attorneys, roofers, marketing firms to non-profits and everything in between trust Ruby to be the frontline of their business. 

“»Our mission is to keep that human connection alive. Today, people work from home and in different geographic locations, and people lose real human touch. We understand that’s the value we provide.» — Ruby CEO, Jill Nelson

Ruby offers a suite of services, including Virtual Receptionists, integrated Live Chat, OnSite Receptionists, Live Call Answering, and more.   Ruby’s receptionists give you peace of mind by delivering their award-winning customer service, allowing you to focus on your business.

SmartHustle readers get $50 off their first three months with Ruby. Visit Ruby to get started with code: SMARTHUSTLE.

 

The post The Business Phone Call is [Still] Important appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderPop Quiz: Are you financially better off *today* than you were at the start of the year?

Pop Quiz: Are you financially better off *today* than you were at the start of the year?

money pop quiz

Came across this test by WorkableWealth.com and thought it was a great exercise to do today 🙂

Are you better off right now than you were when the year started?

Answer these 6 questions:

  1. Did you increase your net worth?
  2. Did you reduce your debt?
  3. Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget?
  4. Did you reach a savings goal?
  5. Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket?
  6. Do you have the right insurance policies in place?

I scored positively in two of these, mildly on another two of them, and then negatively in the remaining two areas, haha… Mainly due to “owning” another house again, as well as the fact I prefer now to mainly only track our net worth over a budget 🙂 But since our net worth went up pretty substantially this year, it’s safe to say we came out a head overall so I’ll give ourselves an A+ here on this test.

How about you? Feeling good about how the year has gone so far? Anything surprising come up when answering these questions?

A good one to assess each and every year actually, as we close them out and get ready for fresh new starts 🙂

Here are my answers more fully if they help anyone:

  1. Did you increase your net worth? Yup! Started the year at $848,665.47 and at last report it was now $1,131,601.03… Almost went and divulged the most CURRENT numbers there, and then realized at the last second I wasn’t allowed to anymore! Haha… Almost got me there! 😉
  2. Did you reduce your debt? Nope. In fact, we increased it!! Went from being completely debt free for the first time in my life EVER, all the way up to $260,000+ indebted now due to our recent home buying decision (!!!). Which I know isn’t the worse type of debt to have, but it’s still very much *debt* and not that fun to carry around.
  3. Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Nope. We used to when we first started our  journey and it helped out immensely!!, but now we mainly focus on our net worth tracking as I find it holds us much more accountable (AND takes up only 1/10th of the time ;)). Of course, we pay a nice convenience fee for that since it also means we’re probably spending more than we’d like as we’re not fully paying attention to it all, but for now it’s a fee we’re comfortable with paying while we wrangle other important things – like all our kids, haha… (and a dog this past weekend too!! Which my wife is now salivating over after watching my mom’s for a bit!!)
  4. Did you reach a savings goal? Kinda? My goal is to always max out our retirement accounts every year, but we don’t do it until after the year ends to make sure we’re *allowed* to, so it hasn’t happened yet. Even though we have the money earmarked for it. And honestly that one move alone every year has transformed our savings! Because even if you spend every other dollar that comes in, the amount you’ve amassed over time just keeps compounding like crazy and there’s no way NOT to hit FI eventually doing that year over year!
  5. Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? Yup! Ironically enough, I actually get paid more than I did when I owned this blog, due to a stable “salary” as well as the extra consulting work I’m now freed up to do. So not too bad in that department! (Though no benefits like health insurance or 401k matching/etc since I’m a contractor and not an employee of anyone’s)
  6. Do you have the right insurance policies in place? I think so? I haven’t changed anything this year, but our $350k term life insurance policies for both my wife and I would still do the trick in the event either of us pass sooner than expected (which is to have the house fully paid off, giving the remaining spouse complete peace of mind). We also rock a sizeable umbrella policy to help fill out the other gaps in coverage which also help us sleep better at night, though admittedly I haven’t paid much attention to it since the day we signed up for it 5 years ago, haha…

Back tomorrow with more financial nuggets!

Thx for the great questions, Mary Beth!

 

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bookmark_borderHow to change careers in 12 months (or less)

After spending a decade as a pastor, I realized in May of 2018 that I was ready to make a drastic career change…into personal finance education.

I’ve always loved to write, so I wanted to first see if I could actually make money writing about personal finance. But I made a commitment to myself. In one year’s time, I was going to have a day job where I helped people learn how to handle their money wisely. The question was just in what capacity.

So I set a deadline for myself. If I hadn’t figured out a way by May 2019 to make enough money as a freelance writer to pay the bills, I would get certified as a teacher and apply to be an economics teacher at local high schools.

Fast forward twelve months. This past May I did quit my day job. In one year’s time, I was able to create a full-time income in a career that I previously had no experience in.

How did I do it? More importantly, how can you turn your dream job into a reality as quickly as possible?

Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes

When I first decided that I wanted my day job to be in the personal finance space, I honestly had no idea what job I should pursue. Here are just a few of the options that I pondered:

  • Getting my CFP certification so I could become a financial planner
  • Becoming a financial coach
  • Getting certified as an ACF accredited counselor
  • Becoming a high school or college teacher
  • Becoming a financial aid counselor
  • Starting a personal finance blog
  • Starting a podcast
  • Starting a YouTube channel

Does it sound like I was just throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick? Yeah, it felt that way too.

I was so frustrated that I couldn’t just “know” what my path was. There were many days that my head hurt just trying to consider all the options.

So how did I move forward? I just started experimenting with things and I told myself if it was perfectly fine if they didn’t pan out. Remember the financial coaching idea? Yeah, I paid way too much for a “financial coach training” course that ended up being a complete waste of money and time.

The blog idea? I tried that one out for size in May when I launched my website. And I naively thought that it could become my full-time income in no time at all.

I was wrong.

But before I wander too far down the trail of the “greatest hits” of my mistakes, let me get to the point. Believe it or not, I didn’t let those mistakes or miscalculations discourage me.

My general passion kept me grounded enough to push through difficulties deciding upon my specific job. I knew that I would eventually find my “niche” and I gave myself permission to choose some wrong doors before finding the right one.

And in the case of my blog, yes it didn’t end up being a money-maker for me as quickly as I assumed it could be. But the writing that I did for my own site was instrumental in helping me land writing clients later on.

Meet People

I know the saying is overused, but there’s a lot of truth to the saying: “It’s not what you know you, but it’s who you know.”

In my case, I wanted to break into the personal finance media field. I wanted to meet people who were already in that space.

I wasn’t sure how to do that. But I simply googled “personal finance blogger’s conference” and boom, a conference called Fincon popped up first on my search results. I had never heard of FinCon before, but the conference looked legit. So I paid for a ticket and showed up not knowing what to expect.

Little did I know that I’d have a chance to sit down and pitch myself to over 20 different editors of publications large and small. So I sat down and tried my best to sound confident and knowledgeable for a guy who had ZERO paid writing experience.

I smiled, tried to show my passion, and asked them to take a chance on me. I even remember telling some of them that they were lucky because I was a new writer and they could get me at a discount right now.

Yes, I did that.

It would have taken me YEARS of cold email pitches to have made the kind of traction that I was able to make in 15 minutes at Fincon. I followed up on everyone that I met at FinCon and I was able to land my first writing client in November.

And in the next seven months, I was able to build up a full-time writing income, mostly all from referrals. Literally, every client but one that I’ve landed so far has come as a result of relationships that I built there.

If you are wanting to break into any new field, reading blog posts are great (please read them, because it helps people like me pay the bills), but there’s nothing that can quite replace the effect of meeting people who are already doing what you want to do.

  • If you want to start a restaurant, offer to take a local restaurant owner out to dinner.
  • If you want to become a personal trainer, find local meetups or conferences and get to know people who are successful.

Pick their brains. Become part of the “community.” I really believe that is the key to success in nearly every career field.

Prepare for Your “Worst-Case” Scenario

I think one of the biggest reasons that we, as human beings, don’t take more risks is that we’re simply so afraid of what might go wrong.

“Unknown” problems tend to scare us more than the problems that we’re already aware of in our current situation…whether that’s logical or not. But one way to get past that fear is to just be honest with yourself about what your worst-case scenario would be.

When I first started writing, my worst-case scenario was that I might not make any money at it and may have to become a teacher instead. And, to be honest, once it sunk in that was the worst thing that could happen, I realized that the “worst-case” wasn’t really all that bad.

And that helped me get past my analysis paralysis.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, my “worst-case” scenario would be that a ton of my clients all decided to dump me at the same time and I have a few months where my bills are higher than my income.

But to help alleviate that concern, I saved up every penny of my freelance income until I launched out full-time. By doing this, I was able to save up an emergency fund of almost a year’s worth of income.

So again, the “worst-case” really isn’t something worth fretting about.

Carefully think through the worst thing that could happen during your own career change and prepare for it. And I promise that it will help you confidently step out and make the bold moves that you need to make to be successful.

First Steps

If you’ve been dying to explore a new career, you can do it! But to be fair, not every career can be transitioned to as fast as I was able to transition into freelance writing.

Want to become a doctor? Sorry, no advice that I, or anyone else, will give can make that possible in 12 months or less. Some careers come with built-in education and certification requirements that will simply take time to earn.

But what you can do in the next 12 months is to take your first step in the right direction. And, for careers that have lower barriers to entry, here are a few action steps that could get you moving in the right direction:

  • Educate yourself: Are there courses that you could take or certifications you could earn to give you an advantage over others vying for the same job opportunities?
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers: When I was in college, I took a course that required every student to interview the CEO of a company that would be our “dream job” someday. We we all thought our professor was crazy. But it turned out that everyone of us were able to accomplish the assignment and had the chance to pick the brains of smart and talented people. And some of my classmates even landed management poisitions at great companies like Southwest Airlines and FedEx as a result of the relationships that started with these simple phone calls. Here’s how Tim Ferris teaches his Princeton students to get email responses from powerful people.
  • Work for free: My first writing assignment was an unpaid guest post. No, I didn’t make any money, but it gave me my first byline and valuable experience. You may have similar opportunities. Could you volunteer one day a week for a business that’s in the niche you want to break into? At the very least, it could help you learn more about what the career entails. And, who knows — it could turn into a job opportunity too!
  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile: Reframe your skills and experiences to highlight the things about you that would be attractive to clients in your targeted career field. And, as you can gain volunteer or paid experience, make sure to update your resumes and profiles to reflect this.
  • Leverage your existing network: Yes, it’s important to meet new people. But you may have existing relationships that could help you along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help!

Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from pursuing a new career. By being proactive and taking action, you may be able to change careers faster than you think.

The post How to change careers in 12 months (or less) appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

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bookmark_borderThis Vanguard Chart Is Why Schwab Bought TD Ameritrade

The big news while I was on vacation was that Schwab bought TD Ameritrade for $26 billion in an all-stock transaction (press release). Well, first Schwab shaved off 17% of TD Ameritrade’s value by cutting their trade commissions to zero, and then they bought AMTD at a multi-billion dollar discount to what it would have cost just a month earlier. Nice move.

Now that trade costs have gone to zero, and index fund expense ratios are also pretty much zero, what’s left? Vanguard funds now have a greater market share of all funds and ETFs than that of its next three biggest competitors combined, per this Marketwatch article:

That doesn’t include Schwab funds, which aren’t even on the chart.

Vanguard dominates because it has a long record of passing on virtually all of the benefits of scale to their clients. As they gathered more assets, they lowered their expense ratios, which helped them to better returns, which helped them gather more assets, and so on. Index funds may be a commodity now, but more people buy them from Vanguard than any else by far.

Vanguard is now moving into the portfolio advising turf formerly dominated by Schwab, Fidelity, and TD Ameritrade. The only way Schwab and TD Ameritrade can compete is through scale and creating a better total package for both advisors and retail customers. Can customer service and technology make enough difference that people will hold their funds and ETFs at Schwab?

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

This Vanguard Chart Is Why Schwab Bought TD Ameritrade from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.

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bookmark_borderMake Your Next Exhibition a Grand Success

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

Participating in an exhibition is a great way to expand any newly launched venture or give an established business a well-deserved boost.

Over the years exhibitions have become an important marketing tool. A well-designed exhibition booth will give your products the exposure they need. It will give them a push and help your business to succeed.

Here are some tips for making your next exhibition wildly successful.

Give Some Thought to Your Booth’s Appearance

Exhibitions are platforms where the target audience can see your products displayed up close and personal. Your buyer comes directly in contact with you and your products.

Therefore showcase products in appealing ways. Make them look attractive so they grab buyers’ attention. Get the aesthetics right and you will be well on your way to a successful exhibition.

Choose the Right Exhibition

There are various types of exhibitions for different types of products. Therefore, select the ideal trade show to participate in based on the nature of your products.

Find Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd

In an exhibition, the competition is likely to be stiff. In fact, there might be products that are almost identical with yours. So highlight the unique features of your products and spread the word about your brand. Impress your clients with exclusive features.

Build Rapport with Potential Buyers

Creating good rapport with potential buyers is key to a successful exhibition. Additionally, be sure to network with other business owners at the exhibition as well. This could prove beneficial for everyone.

Make a Plan for a Successful Exhibition

Foolproof planning is key to a successful exhibition. First, adopt unique strategies to promote your products. Then, keep a written draft of your plan at the ready during the exhibition. Also, make a to-do list to avoid overlooking important tasks.

Additionally, base your plan around your goals for attending the exhibition. What is it, exactly, that you want to accomplish? Keep your goals quantitative and practical so you can measure your results when you get back home.

Properly Execute Your Plan

A plan is successful only when its execution goes smoothly. So keep your goals in mind during the exhibition. In other words, remember what you want to achieve while you’re there.

Stick to Your Budget

A mandatory part of the planning for any event is budgeting. So set your budget during the planning stage. Remember to include not only the cost of the products you’ll have with you, but also promotion, your own and your staff’s expenses, and the costs associated with your booth and the exhibition itself.

Listen to Feedback from Exhibition Visitors

Organizing your participation at an exhibition is always a two-way process. You showcase your products. In turn, you learn new things in the form of feedback from viewers.

Remain open to various perspectives, both positive and negative. This will benefit you, your products, and your business in the long run far more than you might imagine.

Train Staff in Courtesy

The people you hire to promote your products and spread brand awareness for your company have a crucial role to play. During the time of the exhibition, they are your representatives. Impress upon them that they are the ones who portray the goodwill of your organization through their polite and courteous behavior. Staff should be friendly, patient, and helpful.

Promote Your Brand and the Exhibition

What is the secret of a successful exhibition? The answer is simple. It largely depends on building brand awareness. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, promoting your brand is easier than ever. Well before the trade show begins, identify ways in which you can promote your brand beforehand.

RELATED ARTICLE: MARKETING FOR NON-MARKETERS: GET GOOD AT IT BY LEARNING TO LOVE IT

Attract Visitors with Token Gifts and Activities

One way to attract visitors to your booth is to have token gifts on hand. This shows visitors that you appreciate them, just for stopping by. For example, a colorful booklet made with saddle stitch booklet printing could make a memorable gift for visitors to your booth.

Conclusion

Make your next trade show booth a huge success by following the tips in this article.

The post Make Your Next Exhibition a Grand Success appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderThere Is More Than One Way to Succeed in Online Retail

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Just as there is no perfect formula for living the good life, there is no perfect formula for building a successful business. Nowhere is this more true than in online retail.

Setting up a New Business Can Be Frustrating

One of the most frustrating aspects of setting up a new business is sorting through all of the advice. Search for business advice online and you will find millions of articles—including this one. They all seem to have something to contribute to your vision. Ask your friends for advice, and they will give you, even more to think about. How do you make sense of it all?

Just Try Looking for a Perfect Formula for Business Success

The first thing you do is come to terms with the fact that there is no perfect formula for building a successful business. Take online retail, for example.

You may find people who offer a formula they guarantee will lead to success. What they really offer is an opinion. When you step back and analyze the most successful businesses in the world, you discover they all have one thing in common: Those who built them did not follow a formula.

Online retail is
as good an example as anything else to illustrate this principle. Let it be
known from the outset that there is more than one way to succeed in online
retail. You are limited only by your imagination and creativity.

Online Retail Is More Complicated Than It Appears at First Glance

Online retail is
pretty basic at its core. You choose an area to participate in, secure products
you can sell, and then set up an online store front through which you can sell
them. Simple enough. Yet what seems simple in principle can be very complicated
in practice.

For example, how do you proceed? Where do you secure your inventory from? How do you handle shipping? These are all things you have to deal with in online retail.

RELATED ARTICLE: GET A KILLER ECOMMERCE PRESENCE BY USING BIGCOMMERCE AND WORDPRESS

Should You Follow the Traditional Retail Model?

You can set up a retail operation in any number of ways. The traditional model starts with establishing some sort of sales venue, whether that be a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce website. Then you obtain your inventory by ordering from wholesalers who sell to you in bulk and at reduced prices. You sell the product yourself with a mark-up added to cover your costs. This allows you to generate revenue.

This model has worked well for generations. It is the model on which Western retail was built. Its primary benefit is that you do not have to make products yourself. You rely on others for that. For example, you might sell products similar to the UK’s Seton workplace safety suppliers. Workplace safety is big business, so there are lots of suppliers to choose from.

Or Is the Dropship Model Better for Online Retail?

A more recent model for online retail is the dropship model. This model works a lot like the traditional model with one significant difference: You do not actually hold inventory on-site. Instead, rather than buying in bulk, you place individual orders with your suppliers as your customers place orders with you. Then your suppliers ship products directly to your customers in packaging bearing your name.

The big advantage of the dropship model is that you don’t have to invest large sums of money in inventory. You also do not have to maintain warehouse storage. You sell on your website the same way you would in the traditional model. However, you let your suppliers handle inventory and shipping.

Maybe You Want to Make Your Own Products for Online Retail

You may not like either the traditional or dropship models for online retail. That’s fine. You can choose to make your own products from scratch. Doing so completely eliminates wholesale suppliers except where raw materials are concerned. You get to maintain complete control over your inventory, its quality, and so on.

This sort of business can work well for some types of retail products. It doesn’t work well for others. Going back to the workplace safety example for a minute, many of the items sold in this category must meet strict government safety controls in most countries. You probably wouldn’t have the resources to keep up with changing regulations. As such, you would want to pick another area to get involved in.

Or You Can Mix Things Up

One last idea you might want to explore is that of mixed commerce. Far too many online retailers get caught in the trap of thinking that selling online is the only way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if e-commerce is the major thrust, that doesn’t stop you from selling in person.

For example, some e-commerce sellers also take their businesses to local festivals, trade shows, flea markets, and pop-up shops. This allows them to expand their reach locally without having to commit to a full-time brick-and-mortar establishment. At the same time, it brings in a little more income.

There Is No Such Thing as a “Guaranteed Formula”

This post only scratches the surface of the many ways to succeed in online retail. The main thing to understand here is that there is no single formula for success. If anyone tries to sell you on a so called “guaranteed formula,” run away. There is no such thing.

Also, bear in mind that the principles described here apply to more than just retail. Virtually any business venture you could think of relies on more than a single black-and-white formula for success. The way to succeed in business is to work hard and be willing to take risks. So keep trying great ideas until you find one that works for you.

The post There Is More Than One Way to Succeed in Online Retail appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_border3 Ways to Use your Smartphone as a Marketing Tool

As an entrepreneur, you have a million things on your mind at all times, and marketing doesn’t always top your list of priorities. That’s okay. The good news is that keeping your marketing efforts afloat can happen while you’re on the go, on your mobile device.  Here are three ways to leverage your smartphone as a mobile marketing assistant:

1. News flash: Instagram is open for business — your business

These days, many businesses run exclusively online, using social media as the main way to discover and connect with customers. Due to its focus on imagery, fantastic targeting abilities and the recent launch of its marketplace tool, Instagram is rapidly becoming the most important platform for e-commerce.

If you advertise on Instagram, that’s great, but you also need a well-developed organic presence, so that customers who click on your ad and go to your page can get a good sense of who you are and what you offer. Great news – Instagram is created and optimized for mobile use, so you can establish and maintain your presence entirely from your phone.

Some tips:

Post consistently. Posting every week, on the same day, is a good start. Stick to your cadence (people like routines!) until you feel you can post more frequently — and consistently. Twice a week is plenty.

Get verified. This will help you appear more legitimate to your prospective customers. You can apply right from your phone:

  • Go to your account settings, scroll down and tap Request Verification
  • Attach a photo of your personal ID or a business document like a tax filing or articles of incorporation with your request

 The blue check mark is a great way to validate your business profile, but don’t worry if your application isn’t accepted immediately. You can reapply in 30 days. And there are other ways that you can (and should) build credibility, such as linking your Instagram bio to your company website, ross-promoting your Instagram page on your other social media accounts, and adding your Instagram handle to your email signature. This will connect your Instagram presence to all of your other online activities.

2. Take and edit perfect professional photos (without hiring a professional photographer)

Although Instagram and other social media are growing in importance to your business, you don’t need to hire professionals to manage your social media. To get started, all you need are some smart picture-taking tips and a good visual design app, such as PicMonkey.

Avoid using your smart phone’s flash at all costs! It will decrease the quality of your photo exponentially. Instead, try to take advantage of what your environment offers. For example, place your subject next to a wall that has light reflecting off of it, and you’ll get that “professional lighting” on your people or objects.

If you don’t have good environmental lighting, you can also try manually adjusting it the same way you would adjust your focus. If you’re using an iPhone, here’s what to do:

  •     Frame your photo then tap on the part of the image that you want to adjust for lighting
  •     Tap an object within the photo frame, and a yellow box will appear with a sun icon on the edge; the phone’s camera will automatically brighten that object
  •     If you’re not satisfied with the results, you can tap the yellow square, then the sun icon, then swipe your finger up or down to adjust the light as you prefer.
  •     The manual adjustment doesn’t last long, so take your picture quickly once you adjust the light setting.

Last but not least, if you cannot manage adequate environmental lighting in the moment, you can edit the light exposure after you take the picture, by using a photo editing app. 

Most photo editing tools have a “sharpen” feature. Use this feature at the end of your editing process (after you have adjusted your photo settings and/or applied filters). Apply the sharpen feature only when your image is at 100% zoom, so that you get an accurate sense of what your design tool is doing.

Select (or create) a signature filter or range of filters that are true to your brand. Having a consistent look and feel across your images and collateral is one of the easiest ways to appear polished. With a photo editing tool such as PicMonkey, it’s really easy to create your own unique look, and then apply it to all of your visuals.

3. Use your smartphone as an omnipresent idea-tracker

Have you ever had a brilliant idea or seen something fabulous, then it leaves your mind almost as quickly as it appeared? What if you could capture all of those fleeting ideas the moment they occurred?

Fortunately, your phone is likely constantly nearby. Marketing inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, so start a dedicated note in your phone with quotes, ideas – anything that sparks in your mind. You can easily add to it by typing, using a voice assistant or the dictation tool. If you think in sketches, be sure to take a picture of your napkin drawing or idea, so you can work on it when you’re back in the office.

The smartphone helps you run your business, even when you’re on the go. But with these simple steps, it can also help you market your business on the go. 


Authored by:

Frits Habermann is the CEO of PicMonkey, and previously held the titles of CPO and CTO, as well. Frits cemented his tech and design legacy when he co-created Adobe InDesign, and served as an executive leader for well-known startup ventures like PopCap Games and Lynda.com. He holds degrees in both applied mathematics and computer science from Carnegie Mellon University and University of Washington. Frits speaks Dutch, French and German, is an avid traveler and landscape photographer, and manages a photography business in his off time. Find Frits at Frits Habermann Photography and on LinkedIn.

The post 3 Ways to Use your Smartphone as a Marketing Tool appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderIf The Economy Tanked, Would You Be Ready?

If The Economy Tanked, Would You Be Ready?

The following is a sponsored post by Credible, a multi-lender marketplace that enables borrowers to receive competitive loan offers from its vetted lenders. Credible is headquartered in my hometown of San Francisco, California.

The U.S. is in the midst of its longest economic expansion in history. 

But when the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates, that’s usually a sign that the economy is slowing down — or worse. After raising rates nine times from 2015-18, this year the Fed has reversed course, cutting the short-term federal funds rate three times.

Another worrisome trend: New York Fed data shows the unemployment rate for recent college graduates (red line) has been inching upwards this year, suggesting employers are skittish about growth.

Unemployment rates for recent graduates, college graduates, and all workers

It’s impossible to predict when the next economic downturn will come. But the booms and busts of the business cycle are pretty much accepted as a necessary tradeoff of our free-market, capitalist system — which has weathered seven recessions since the 1970s. At the very least, it is clear that growth is slowing in both developed markets and emerging markets around the world.

World Growth Index
Source: ValueWalk

In a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans said they think it’s likely we’re headed for a recession next year. Close to half of those who see storm clouds on the horizon are preparing for it by cutting back on household spending and paying down debt.

“This refreshing prudence on the part of the U.S. households is, of course, exactly opposite of what macroeconomists at the Fed — as well as incumbent politicians who view lower rates as enhancing their re-election prospects — want to happen,” says former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair.  

Rate cuts are designed to encourage people to borrow and spend. But this time, Bair says, “it looks like American households have learned their lesson, even if Washington has not.”

Whether or not a recession is coming next year or not, it’s always a good idea to constantly be managing any outstanding debt you’re carrying, whether its credit card balances, student loans, or a mortgage.

Make sure:

  • You’re not paying a higher interest rate than you can qualify for
  • Most of your monthly payment is going toward paying down principal, rather than interest charges
  • You’re prioritizing your loans with the highest interest rates
  • You have a good cash balance equal to at least six months of living expenses

Let’s look at some techniques you can use to whip your credit card, student loan, and mortgage debt into shape and get better prepared for the next recession.

Refinancing Student Loans

According to the Federal Reserve, in 2019 the average college debt among student loan borrowers in America is $32,731, according to the Federal Reserve. This is an increase of approximately 20% from 2015-2016.

Most borrowers have outstanding student loan debt of between $25,000 and $50,000. But more than 600,000 borrowers in the country have over $200,000 in student debt, and that number may increase.

Student loans are good candidates for refinancing in a falling interest rate environment, or at any time your creditworthiness has improved. 

Rates on federal student loans are fixed once you take them out. But at the start of each academic year, rates for new borrowers are adjusted to take into account the government’s cost of borrowing.

Not only that, but grad students and parents pay higher rates. So it’s not unusual for many borrowers to be paying 6%, 7% or 8% interest on federal student loans. 

Average Federal student loan rates 2006-2020
Source: U.S. Depart of Education

In a falling interest rate environment, many graduates who have put together a history of earnings and credit can qualify for better rates from private lenders like SoFi, Citizens Bank, College Ave, and PenFed. Rates on student loan refinancing have also been falling. 

But check rates with multiple lenders, and keep in mind you’ll lose access to federal programs like income-driven repayment if you refinance government student loans with a private lender. 

If you’re refinancing a mortgage, fees can cut into the savings you can achieve by refinancing. But there are no prepayment penalties on student loans, and none of Credible’s partner lenders charge origination fees for refinancing them.

To refinance your student loans, click here to get real student loan rates from multiple private lenders.

Refinancing Mortgages

There’s been a rush to refinance mortgages in 2019 thanks to a dip in long-term rates. But keep in mind that the Federal Reserve played a role in keeping mortgage rates down after the 2008 financial crisis.

Now the Fed wants to back out of its role in funding mortgages, so mortgage rates could head up if private investors don’t pick up the slack.

When refinancing a mortgage, you’ll have to measure the savings you can achieve if you’re able to get a lower interest rate against fees charged by the lender. You can use a “break-even” calculator to see how long it will take for your savings to cancel out any fees.

Financial Samurai recommends refinancing if you can break-even within 24 months or less and own the house for five years or more. Alternatively, look into a “no-cost refinance” where all the fees are baked into the refinance.

Average mortgage rates per Freddie Mac

When shopping for mortgage refinancing, Credible provides actual rates and transparency into fees, without sharing your information with lenders. Credible has streamlined and digitized much of the mortgage application process, using smart logic that removes duplicative questions from the process and automatically gathering many of the required documents.

To refinance your mortgage, click here to get real mortgage rates from multiple private lenders. Mortgage rates have drastically declined since 2018.

Consolidating Credit Card Debt

The good news about credit card debt is your interest rate is typically indexed to the prime rate, and the prime rate follows the Fed’s short-term interest rate adjustments closely. So when the Fed is in the mood to cut rates, your credit card rates will often come down, too.

But a funny thing happened when the Fed was raising short-term rates from 2015 through 2018. Long-term rates — on government bonds, mortgages, and even personal loans — failed to keep pace. For a while, we had an inverted yield curve, when long-term rates defied logic, and were lower than short-term rates. 

An inverted yield curve can be a warning signal that a recession is looming. But freakishly low long-term rates also create an opportunity to consolidate credit card debt. 

At the end of the third quarter of 2019, the “spread” between interest rates on credit cards and personal loans hit an all-time high. People carrying a balance on a credit card were being charged 16.97% interest, on average. But the average rate on personal loans was only 10.07%

Source: Consumer Credit, Federal Reserve

This huge spread has borrowers scrambling to refinance credit card debt by taking out personal loans at lower interest rates, potentially saving thousands of dollars. 

As Financial Samurai has written, paying the average credit card interest rate will likely keep your poor forever. With the spread between the average credit card interest rate and the personal loan rate so large, it behooves those with credit card debt to consolidate their loans.

If you’re interested in pursuing this strategy, it’s important to get actual rates from multiple lenders. Competition for borrowers is fierce, so shopping for the best rate can pay off.  

To refinance your higher credit card debt, click here to get some real personal loan quotes from multiple private lenders. Take advantage of the biggest spread in a long time.

Always Be Prepared For A Slowdown

By taking advantage of lower rates and prudently paying down debt, you will be in much better shape if the economy goes into a recession. Surviving a recession is all about having enough cash flow to make it until the inevitable recovery.

If the economy continues to roar higher, you’ll also feel great knowing that you’ve optimized your debt while concurrently making greater returns and optimizing your earnings power.

At the end of the day, you always want to create a heads you win, tails you also win scenario, no matter the economic environment.

Readers, what are you doing to prepare for a potential recession? Have you refinanced all your debt to the lowest rate possible and saved up enough cash to last you at least six months?

About Credible: Credible borrowers can compare real offers for various loan products (mortgage, student loan refi, personal loans, etc) from multiple lenders through a single form without sharing their information with lenders nor impacting their credit (and it’s free). Remember how much of a pain it was to search for flights/hotels before Kayak and Expedia? We’ve righted a similar wrong at Credible.

Credible houses its lender partners underwriting models and runs a soft credit inquiry on users, which enables us to instantaneously pre-qualify users without communicating their information to lenders. Credible is only paid if a borrower actually closes a loan with the lender, so there is no monetary risk to lenders, which makes us an attractive partner.

The post If The Economy Tanked, Would You Be Ready? appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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bookmark_borderLet’s use up those forgotten gift cards!

Let’s use up those forgotten gift cards!

cash in money

Morning!

So today is not National Use Your Gift Card Day, but I just learned that it’s a thing (celebrated January 18th this year), and rather than wait for that glorious day to come I thought we’d kick off the party early since EVERY DAY is a great day to cash in those forgotten gifts 😉

And forgotten is an understatement as apparently we give up close to $1 BILLION of unused gift cards every single year!! One billion!! Of FREE money!

Now maybe that’s due to us losing them, or even more probable – not *liking* the ones we’ve gotten and forgetting about them on purpose – but in any case that’s a lot of cash to throw down the drain and I say today we make a dent in that $1,000,000,000. Let’s see if we can get it down to at least $999,999,000, shall we? 😉 I think we can collectively use up $1,000, right?

It’s as easy as 1) collecting them all up and then making it your mission to finally USE THEM!, or 2) picking out any of these other options below if it’s indeed a card you couldn’t care less about:

  • Using it to buy something for someone *else*
  • Re-gifting the card, so long as you don’t give it back to the original gifter! (very important)
  • Donating it to a local charity who will find a good us for it
  • Swapping them at any of those gift card swapper sites (Cardpool, Raise, GiftCardGranny)
  • Selling them at any of those gift card swapper sites
  • Giving them away on your blog/social/anywhere else your friends gather together
  • Or lastly, being adventurous for once and just TRYING THEM OUT! 😉

Or if you’re one who prefers to plan ahead with such things and not take on random challenges from money bloggers online, haha, here are some ways to at least help you REMEMBER to use them later so you don’t forget all over again:

  • Clip them to your fridge!
  • Store them in your cell phone case/work lanyard/wallet you always carry with you
  • Stash them in your car console! (Yes, perhaps they could get stolen one day, but if you’ve already “lost” them what does it matter? Haha… That’s where I keep all mine anyways – that way whenever I show up to a place and then kick myself for not remembering the card, Past Me does me a solid by having it right there with me in the car! Which also works well for any *returns* I need to do too which I also used to be notorious for forgetting…)
  • And then finally, adding up calendar items to alert you to use them – along with the expiration date – also make for excellent reminders

Lots of ways to complete the mission, but just make sure you indeed complete it!! One billion dollars is a ton of money to waste, not to mention the kind gesture from your loved ones who thought of you in the first place… So if you don’t do it for you, do it at least for them dammit! 😉

I’ll pass out another reminder come NUYGCD (National Use Your Gift Card Day), but in the meantime let’s see if we can hit our goal of using up $1,000 this week!! Let me know when you’ve completed it and I’ll tally it all up!

******
PS: I’m going to finally use our 5 year old movie theater gift card I keep forgetting about 🙂 Frozen 2 here we come!!! Lol…

 

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[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

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bookmark_borderGraphene Nanotechnology: The Most Effective Solution?

Image by seagul from Pixabay 

Graphene nanotechnology can be used as an incredibly intelligent and effective coolant across a range of industries. However, is it the most effective solution on the market? In this post, find out how it stacks up against the current market-leading solutions.

The Impossible Has Become Commonplace

Modern technology is making the seemingly impossible an everyday reality. For example, our smartphones now unlock with face recognition. Quite likely, you run your business from a tablet. What’s more, your headphones can sense when they’re on your head, thereby playing and pausing the music.

These small things may seem insignificant now because we use them every day. However, 20 years ago none of these things would have seemed plausible.

One of the most exciting of these recent technological advancements is the progression of graphene nanotechnology. Once simply one of the latest headlines in the field of scientific discovery, it is now transitioning into commercial use. In fact, several real-world applications have already been realized.

Today, graphene nanotechnology is an incredibly intelligent and effective coolant across a range of industries. However, is it the most effective solution on the market? Find out how it stacks up against the current market-leading solutions we discuss here.

RELATED ARTICLE: BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY IDEAS FOR CITIES OF THE FUTURE

What Is Graphene Nanofluid?

To begin with, graphene is a form of carbon. Its interlocking atoms create an incredibly thin yet durable material. First isolated at the University of Manchester in 2004, graphene is one of the most innovative and exciting discoveries of this century due to its potential applications.

For example, its multiple capabilities include heat conduction. Graphene is 10,000 times more effective at conducting heat than water. This opens the door to thousands of possibilities for large- and small-scale cooling.

Graphene nanofluids are a family of fluids that scientists have enhanced using nanotechnology. These enhancements allow various industries to use them in processes that require high-heat transfer.

For example, industries such as automotive, high-performance computing, and industrial systems have all put graphene nanofluids to use.

What Are the Advantages of Graphene Nanotechnology?

When compared to other cooling solutions, graphene nanotechnology is a highly advantageous feature to embed into your blueprints. This is because it is a more effective coolant in almost any design with high-heat areas.

Additionally, the patented technology by Flexegraph offers around 30-80% improved heat exchange in comparison with other market-leading technologies. This creates the environment for unrivaled performance when applied to high thermal loads.

In terms of the eco-friendly philosophies behind the application of graphene, Flexegraph’s solution manages to cover all the bases. In fact, it’s a non-toxic technology that can be utilized for sensitive applications. Moreover, graphene’s heat conduction properties lead to fewer restrictions due to the thermal limits in the automotive industry. This enhances performance in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

How Else Are Nanofluids Used?

While it is mostly the automotive and high-powered computing industries that use graphene nanofluids, there are far more ways in which nanofluids can be used. In fact, nanofluids have the potential to revolutionize standards across multiple industries in the future.

To this end, Flexegraph has designed a flexibly formulated solution that’s entirely scalable. Plus, it provides compatibility with existing additives and components. This makes the coolant incredibly versatile. It’s poised to become the “Intel Inside” of the liquid cooling market.

Better Heat Management Means Lower Costs

This more efficient solution can help reduce costs in
both the production and maintenance of products that require extensive cooling.
Better heat management equals a more efficient system, lower costs, and a
smaller carbon footprint.

The post Graphene Nanotechnology: The Most Effective Solution? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderBeyond Marketing. Create Experiences Customers Remember

Photo courtesy of : Jakub Mosur Photography

Every business must have a marketing strategy in order to get customers and build a brand. However, creating experiences customers remember goes beyond marketing.

At Dreamforce, Salesforce’s big, annual event for customers, partners, and media, Ramon Ray, founder of Smart Hustle, attended an information-packed session about experiential marketing.

Panelists included Tony Hawk (famed skateboarder); Lauren Gores Ireland (co-founder, Summer Fridays); Megan Runser, Dell; and Clayton Rubensaal, American Express.

Here’s a play by play rundown of how to create experiences customers remember.

Experiential marketing is not just for big brands.

Every business can put thought into what they can do to go beyond traditional marketing. It’s not enough to put a logo on an exhibit table.

Small is ok.

Lauren shared how, instead of doing “big” marketing campaigns, they’ve seen success in hosting intimate events, with 50 or so fans of their brand and having one-to-one conversations. Of course, Summer Fridays loves the power of social media. However, in an age when “everyone is online”, it’s refreshing and memorable to connect in real life.

Community feedback is key.

A panelist suggested the importance of simply asking the question “what do you want from us?”, and watch how your community responds and gives you their advice. Instagram polls are also a great way to get feedback from your community.

Authenticity is everything.

Tony shared that authenticity is absolutely imperative to great experiential marketing. He said you can’t fake being a great skateboarder. You are or you aren’t. Tony and his team ride with the community and the kids. They’re a part of the experience. Tony’s a huge fan of social media and loves how it enables him to get immediate results from his community.

Innovation from a blank slate.

Meagan said that she encourages her team to innovate, not by doing what everyone else is doing but by doing some fresh and different and new. She shared several examples of Dell’s success in experiential marketing in particular at SXSW. For example, Dell created a line of motherboards, in partnership with Nikki Reed. The computer motherboards were created from e-waste and showcased at SXSW.

Information Overload.

Lauren said that we are all overloaded with so much information. Businesses must work hard to gain trust and keep trust in their community. Clayton explained that as people trust your business, purchase intent goes up. As as they lose trust in your business, purchase intent goes down.

Risk-taking is essential.

You will not get all of your marketing right. In fact, if you’re not failing and making mistakes you’re playing it too safe. Meagan said that it’s important to make gambles and take strategic risks.

Failure Happens.

I asked the panelists about failure. How do you know when to stop something? Tony said that skateboarding is all about failure. He said you give up when you’ve tried every angle but things are still not working. Lauren’s advice was to remain flexible and adapt to change. She said that things they did a year ago, just don’t work today. And things that might not have worked earlier, might work just great today.

Measuring success.

Experiential marketing is super challenging and it’s an evolution. Meagan said that marketers should become more quantitative and not just qualitative and make sure your marketing is part of a broader.

The post Beyond Marketing. Create Experiences Customers Remember appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_border8 Powerful Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business

Image by raphaelsilva from Pixabay 

Whether yours is a new business or an older one, you’re wise to try broadening your social media portfolio. And either way, you’ve likely been told Instagram is where it’s at.

Today’s businesses swear by Instagram’s effectiveness in marketing to and connecting with their target audience. In short, Instagram will help you grow your brand, increase revenue, and become a top player in your industry.

Once you’ve set up your profile for Instagram, there are many simple yet powerful ways to use Instagram for your business.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 MARKETING TACTICS TO BOOST TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE

1. Beef up Your Instagram Bio

It’s great to set a high-reaching goal for your Instagram use. However, you still must start at the beginning. So start with your Instagram bio.

Your Instagram bio is where consumers will land when they’re ready to follow you or visit your website. It contains your profile photo and your past Instagram posts. This is where visitors will find your Instagram Stories highlights, a brief description of your business, and a single link to your website.

A solid bio is essential for both increasing your following and drawing more customers to your website. Fill it out completely using a striking profile photo that embodies your brand in some way. Then write a compelling description that gets people to click your link.

2. Grow Your Following

If you want any measure of success on your Instagram account, it all starts with a decent following. Consumers use your follower count as a form of social proof. This tells them whether or not your business is worth their time. In fact, low numbers might send potential customers into a competitor’s arms.

Growing your following can be challenging at first. Therefore, you can use a “buy Instagram followers app” to kickstart your growth. This will instantly increase your following and give you the social proof you need to attract customers. After that, it’s up to you to keep the engagement growing and maintain customer relationships. 

3. Become Searchable with Hashtags

Instagram has a unique search bar that uses hashtags instead of keywords to help consumers find what they’re looking for. Your use of hashtags will put your business on the map if you know how to use them correctly.

Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags per post. However, don’t use just any combination of words preceded by the pound sign. Every hashtag should be performing work for your account based on your industry research.

Start by searching trending hashtags in your industry. Then use these hashtags on related posts to increase traffic from searchers.

Next, add branded hashtags to help consumers recognize and associate your brand with your content. They can also use these branded hashtags when posting content related to your brand.

For example, a follower using your product might use a branded hashtag to show their satisfaction of the product. That’s excellent marketing for you!

4. Relate with Consumers Through Stories on Instagram

Instagram Stories is a relatively new feature that’s similar to Snapchat Stories. Account owners can upload videos and photos to their Stories reel, and they’re available for 24 hours. After that, they’re gone forever unless the owner decides to save them to their Highlight reel.

Instagram Stories is one of the most engaging features on the platform, and you’re not using Instagram right if you’re skipping out on Stories. For one thing, more than 500 million monthly users engage with Stories from their favorite brands and accounts.

So post to Stories daily, showcasing products, giving behind-the-scenes glimpses, asking questions, holding polls, counting down to a product reveal, and otherwise promoting your services. Also, provide tips and other valuable content to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

5. Stream Live Videos

Instagram Stories
can feature live recordings as well. These also disappear after 24 hours, so
it’s like a combination of Snapchat’s Stories feature and Facebook Live.

Live videos are powerful on any platform, as it gives consumers a raw, unfiltered view of your business. So many things on social media show only the very best of things, making viewers feel inferior. These unedited videos show a more vulnerable side that makes consumers feel more at ease when visiting your business profile.

6. Network with Other Business Profiles

Instagram is all about connection, so naturally, you should be making connections with other business profiles. There are multiple benefits in doing this. However, the two most important benefits are learning from others’ Instagram strategies and connecting with influencers.

Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to share your brand and products with the world. With influencer marketing, you hire someone with a decent number of followers, usually 10,000 or more. They’ll try your product and give an endorsement for it. Since their followers are hugely loyal, this will mean amazing return on your investment.

7. Showcase Your Originality

Although you’ve
spent a fair amount of time Googling the best strategies for marketing your
brand on Instagram, you don’t want to appear that way to your followers. Using
the same tired hacks and types of posts as your competitors will not hold the
interest of your target consumers.

So determine what sets your value proposition apart from that of your competitors and play up that strength. Your own personality can also make the difference. For example, you might be an amateur comedian, and your clever, non-demeaning jokes can liven up your feed significantly. Or you might be super creative, giving new life to the products or services you’re always posting about.

8. Capture Attention with Contests

Contests are effective at any stage in the game, but they’re especially powerful when you’re first starting out. At the beginning of your business, the chances of a single consumer winning are high, and people love good odds. They’re likely to share their experience with others as a result.

Your Instagram contest can take many forms, but typically it will involve asking consumers to post an image, to like a page, or tag friends in order to enter. You’ll then pick a winner from the lot, either based on their merits or at random.

This is highly effective because every time a person enters, you can ask them to tag other people or post about your business on their profiles. This exposes you to a wide audience of potential followers and builds up social proof.

Turn to Instagram to Vault Your Business Toward Success

Give these suggestions a try. They are only a few of many powerful ways that Instagram can vault your business toward success.

The post 8 Powerful Ways to Use Instagram for Your Business appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderBusiness Ideas for Stay-at-Home Parents

Featured image from phovoir on Yay Images

Are you a stay-at-home parent who wants or needs to work while you continue to look after your children? It’s a dream for many parents, especially since the cost of childcare continues to rise exponentially.

Perhaps you’ve looked at several ideas for working at home. But you have to be careful. Mixed in among the legitimate work-from-home jobs, there are lots of scammers out there, too.

In the meantime, the bills are stacking up and your partner’s paychecks don’t cover everything your household requires.

Well, don’t give up just yet. There are some legitimate ways for stay-at-home parents to make a living.

You’ll still have to work hard. You most likely won’t find a quick and easy way to make money from home. But if you’re a stay-at-home parent who just wants to keep a roof over your family’s head and help put food on the table, here are some ideas for you to check out.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN STARTING A BUSINESS

Small Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Parents

1. Blogging

Blogging is a business a stay-at-home parent could start with little to no investment. It’s not a way to make quick or easy money, however. Nor is it a way to generate passive income, at least at first.

But if you have some ideas you would like to put out into the world, and you’re pretty good with stringing words together on a page, blogging could be for you.

For the most part, bloggers make money by selling ads on their blog sites. To be successful as a blogger, you’ll need to post regularly and make your blog interesting and compelling enough so that you build a following.

So here’s an idea within an idea: How about writing a blog for stay-at-home parents?

2. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing goes hand-in-glove with blogging, so be sure to add this idea to your list of work-from-home ideas for stay-at-home parents.

How affiliate marketing works is that you promote someone else’s service or product on your blog with a unique link. Then, when people click on that link and purchase that other person’s product or service, you earn a commission.

Affiliate marketing works best when the products and services you promote are compatible with your blog. For instance, continuing with our example above of creating a blog for stay-at-home parents, it might make sense to promote a product such as  www.locksmithservice4all.com.

3. Freelance Writing

Freelance writers don’t necessarily make huge bucks. However, if you enjoy writing and also have a good head for business, this can be a good work-from-home idea for a parent of young children.

You’ll have to work hard to develop your online reputation and build your clientele. You will also need to learn how to do your writing around your children’s school and nap schedules. (Let’s not forget that parenting itself is a full-time job!)

However, provide excellent customer service as well as top-notch writing, and you could be well on your way to a career that could help put the kids through college.

4. Virtual Assistant

If writing is not exactly your cup of tea, there is still another avenue for earning money while you parent your children at home. That is, you could work as a virtual assistant, which means that you would remotely perform administrative tasks for busy executives.

Can You Think of More Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Parents?

The business ideas for stay-at-home parents we’ve listed here are only the beginning. You could also teach online, take calls for a call center, transcribe records for various industries, do data entry, develop an online course, and more.

Whatever you do, take your business seriously, meet clients’ deadlines, and serve up excellent work product. Then, as your children grow, so will your home-based business.

The post Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Parents appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderThen and Now: Lisa Price on What’s Changed Throughout Her 20+ Years in Business

To celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, Mastercard continued its commitment to spotlighting women entrepreneurs by bringing together their Women’s Business Advisory Council for a retreat and kicking off the first ever Small Business Summit in partnership with Create & Cultivate in New York City. 

“Small Businesses are the heart of the nation. During a month where our attention turns to them, we are continuing to drive a dialogue with women entrepreneurs from across the country to better understand their needs and challenges and ensure that we are advocating for them through action.” — Cheryl Guerin, EVP, Integrated Marketing and Communications, Mastercard

The event hosted 500 small business owners + influential founders, and attendees experienced live discussion panels that addressed their biggest challenges, received advice on how to ensure their small business thrives, participated in a mentor power hour, and shopped a female founded marketplace. Attendees at the summit got to access the all women-owned Small Business Marketplace featuring ten small business owners.

About Lisa Price, Founder of Carol’s Daughter

Lisa began selling her homemade recipes at local flea markets and festivals after seeing the reaction of her friends and family. Her first boutique opened in 1999, and by 2000, Carol’s Daughter changed the natural haircare world by being one of the first to sell beauty recipes directly to their customers. Carol’s Daughter joined the L’Oreal Family, and is now in over 30k retail stores across the country. 

Business: Then & Now

Ramon asked Lisa what she’s learned during her 20+ years in business. While that’s a pretty big question, Lisa answered it in a simple and authentic way. She said the thing that stays the same no matter is the relationship and conversation with the customer

With social media being a constant story business owners need to tell, it’s even more important to tell that story authentically. She reminded us how “back in the day” you could just create your products and focus on the business without having to be in front of people every day. You did what you loved without as much noise from the outside. But your social media followers feel like they have a relationship with you, and you need to let the passion you feel for your products and business show through in social media. 

About Mastercard

Mastercard is a technology company in the global payments industry. Their global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments, and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities — such as shopping, traveling, running a business, and managing finances – easier, more secure, and more efficient for everyone. Mastercard continues its commitment to women small business owners and entrepreneurs, spotlighting them and their ideas that are delivering an impact in our communities and in society through the ‘Her Ideas Start Something Priceless’ platform.

The post Then and Now: Lisa Price on What’s Changed Throughout Her 20+ Years in Business appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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bookmark_borderHoliday Fraud: How to Protect Your Business During and After the Holidays

A holiday fraud strategy should include preventing fraud from happening before the holidays and responding to fraud after the holidays.

Any merchant that has a seasonal sales boost during the holidays knows that preparation is vital for having a successful holiday season. To keep the revenue gained during the holiday rush, merchants should also be prepared to handle holiday fraud. Here is how merchants should prepare for fraud before and after the holidays.

Holiday Fraud Preparation

Front-end Fraud Checks

Front-end fraud filters are a tool used by merchants to help assess if a purchase is fraudulent. During the holiday rush, merchants may be tempted to lower their filter requirements to allow as many willing customers to purchase as possible. But merchants should stay still stay alert and try to prevent true fraud. True fraud disputes are not winnable for merchants. This means that when a fraudster successfully uses stolen credit card credentials, a merchant will receive an unwinnable dispute, a dispute fee, and possible loss of merchandise or services.

Instead of lessening the restrictions of the fraud filters, the merchant should analyze the previous holiday season’s transactions. By tracking what purchases turned into true fraud disputes and which were valid can help merchants have the most accurate fraud filters.

Communication Between Departments

Another significant factor that will make fraud filters as accurate as possible is making sure departments are communicating with one another. For example, if the marketing team is targeting a new location with holiday marketing or they run a massive campaign where a high number of transactions will come in a short time frame, the fraud team will need to know. While these transactions will seem entirely reasonable for the marketing team if the fraud prevention team is unaware of the marketing efforts, the fraud filters may flag the incoming transactions as fraudulent.

Proper Staffing

An increase in transactions means merchants will need to increase transaction support. Merchants will need to grow the number of fraud analysts to handle manual reviews. This ensures that you’ll accept as many valid transactions as possible. The other type of transaction support that merchants may need to increase is customer service. By having fast and efficient customer service, merchants can improve customer experience and prevent both chargeback fraud and friendly fraud. If customer service is understaffed, it can cause customers to become frustrated with wait times or result in burnt-out staff members.

Operational Checks

Merchants can also take preventive measures to stop fraud by modifying and improving their operations. Merchants can make improvements to how they are communicating with the customers, make their return policy more flexible during the holiday season, make sure their merchant descriptor is easy to recognize, or any other improvements that can prevent confused or frustrated customers from disputing a charge instead of turning to the merchant for help.

After the Holidays Fraud Response

After the holiday rush is over, merchants still need to handle fraud proactively. While the pre-holiday preparation was aimed at preventing fraud and disputes from happening, the goal of post-holiday work is to regain your hard-earned revenue. Here is what merchants can do:

Responding to Disputes

The holiday rush brings an increase of transactions that naturally translates into more disputes to handle. Merchant must respond to a dispute within the allotted time frame, or else they will not have a chance to regain their revenue. To create a winning dispute response, merchants must provide the specific, compelling evidence based on the disputes reason code.

Why Respond?

While true fraud disputes (the ones that slip past your fraud filters) are not winnable, merchants can still win friendly fraud and chargeback fraud disputes.

Friendly Fraudsters

Friendly fraud is when cardholder mistakenly disputes a charge. This type of fraud can stem from simple forgetfulness, an unclear merchant descriptor, or a family member making unknown purchases. During the holidays, cardholders are making many purchases in a short time frame and shopping at places they usually wouldn’t. Holiday shopping can create a perfect scenario for friendly fraud happen.

Chargeback Fraudsters

Chargeback fraud is when a cardholder maliciously disputes a charge in an attempt to get their money back while still retaining the goods or services. Holiday shopping can also spur chargeback fraudsters. For example, the cardholder didn’t pay attention to the return policy and now can only get store credit, so they dispute the charge. Or they didn’t stick to a budget with their holiday spending and have buyer’s remorse, so they are trying to get their money back.

Both friendly fraud and chargeback fraud disputes are winnable for merchants with a well-crafted dispute response. By making sure you have a large enough team that is equipped with the necessary tools to quickly and effectively to respond to disputes after the holidays will put you in the best position to regain the holiday revenue.

The post Holiday Fraud: How to Protect Your Business During and After the Holidays appeared first on Chargeback.

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bookmark_border12 More #Money Ideas to Try

12 More #Money Ideas to Try

gold money

Morning, beautiful people!!

Got a handful of new tips to share with y’all from our community this morning 🙂

I keep a running document over the year that I copy/paste the gems into as I come across them, and then every few months I dump them all out for others to (hopefully) be motivated by too.

So here’s the latest dumping! Courtesy of your fellow readers here, and perhaps even from you! 😉

The “one hanger rule” is my personal favorite…

*****

The Money Binder

“Years ago I got into some deep trouble with credit card debt and owing the IRS back taxes. I declared bankruptcy back in 2008 and since then have kept a binder with monthly tabs and 4 sheets of loose leaf paper in each section.

I’m the type of person who needs to see physical things in front of me to remember to do things, so online spreadsheets just don’t work for me.The 4 pages are headed “Household Expenses”, “Food and Groceries”, “Income” and “Business Expenses”. As I pay bills and receive income, I record everything by hand in my binder. This also makes doing my taxesa breeze. I pay estimated taxes quarterly, and when it’s time to do my annual return everything is in one place… no scrambling around to find receipts, etc.

This system works for me and for the first time in a long time I am debt free and am building a nice brokerage and retirement fund with Vanguard. I keeps tabs on my checking account and brokerage account online so I know exactly where I stand on any given day… no surprises and less stress.”

– Magdela

*****

The Two-Person Finance Group

“I don’t track my net worth because it’s not worth anything… BUT, on the plus side, my new neighbor and I just started our own two-person finance group! 😛 We’re planning to meet every other weekend to talk over our situations and share what we are doing to improve them and swap any ideas that we have.

She’s a single mom just a few years younger than me, so we’re at least around the same age and both single. I don’t have any kids to take care of like she has, but it’s ‘nice’ to meet someone else who has to watch their pennies too, rather than a lot of these stories where two people both work at lucrative jobs and make good money. I mean, that’s great for them, but it’s not realistic to our situations.

So we’re forming our own club. 🙂 I think it should be called ‘The Brokes and Otherwise-Not-Yet-Financially-Successfuls’, what do you think?”

– Leah

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I think it’s brilliant, haha… And will one day have to change the name to “The Riches Because-We-Held-Each-Other-Accountable’ group!]

*****

The Car Payment Pretender

“One day I called a tow truck to have my car towed for a starter problem, and my neighbor asked if I was ready to buy a new car. I said no, and that I love not having payments, since my car has been paid off for several years. My neighbor told me, “a car is never truly paid off.”

Those words hit me, and I began to save up every month. I am pretending that I have a car payment, and setting aside $300 a month. If and when my car needs a repair, I’ll tap into that fund. So far I have saved over $3k in one year. Eventually I hope that will pay for my down-payment on the next car, or cash out a used car.”

– John

*****

The “One Hanger” Rule!

“Rule in my house is that we each only get so many hangers. When you go out to buy something new you have to know what you will get rid of because no new hangers are allowed :)”

– Roxanna

*****

The Book Diet

“I’ve been on a book diet ever since giving up Amazon for Lent. Giving up Amazon revealed a HUGE leak in my budget and I’ve since cancelled my renewal for Prime. It was just too easy to buy things. A little friction for making a purchase is a good thing!”

– SJF

*****

The Petty Cash Saver

“Here’s a money saving idea that I have implemented into my daily life:

I withdraw a predetermined amount each week (petty cash: lunch, coffee, snacks, etc). At the end of each week I deposit the leftover cash into my “my want ” account (in my safe). The reason behind this was to stop eating “junk” for lunch because of my cholesterol level. The second reason is to fund my “want account” (firearms and precious metals collection). Every time I want that $5 cup of coffee or that $15 lunch I think about an ounce of silver or a box of ammo. Needless to say, I’ve been packing a lunch or coming home for lunch. It doesn’t happen everyday because I’m all over town and occasionally take clients out to lunch.

Its been a “win-win” situation thus far. I don’t feel guilty pulling money out of the account for “want” stuff and my hobby gets funded on a regular basis. Its a great reward and discipline system. And its still contributing to my investment portfolio, right?”

– Max

*****

The “One Bag a Week” Rule

“For the past few years, I’ve been donating one bag per week to Goodwill – 52 bags per year adds up! House is much easier to manage now. No more junk drawers, no more stuffed closets, and the garage is on the path to becoming manageable.”

– Holly R.

*****

The Santa Boxer-Upper

“So my daughter just had her 6th birthday and we’re buried in new stuff. But when my daughter turned 2, we started a tradition that she actually looks forward to:

The weekend after her birthday we pack boxes for Santa. She goes through all her toys and the ones she no longer plays with (but are still in good condition) go into a box. The next day I mail this box to Santa so he can clean up the toys and give them out to other kids at Christmas.

She gets so excited about her Santa box! And this has an added bonus in that at Christmas unboxed toys are acceptable as some other kids sent them to Santa because they don’t play with them anymore.”

– K.

*****

The Modern Day Window Shopper

“I like to put like ten items that I want in my cart at a time from Amazon, so then the price is several hundred dollars and I know I can’t afford that right now. So then I have to wait, or cull my cart to find out what it is I really want. Because on Amazon, I could spend every cent I have, and I’d still never have ‘enough’; there’s always something else super cool! 🙂

(And if I can’t decide, I’ll move everything to the saved portion of my cart and refill it with new things to consider. I think I have 400+ plus items in my saved cart, and three 2,500+ wishlists full, so I have lots of things to look at!)

I guess I’m what you’d call a window shopper in the ‘old days’; I LOVE to look, but I know that’s where most of the allure lies anyway–after I buy most things, the rush is gone, and I really don’t care half as much about the purchase anymore. Or I frankly just never use it. So I stick to my dreams, and enjoy looking, but I try not to buy much. I’d rather save my money for experiences.”

– Leah

*****

The Unexpected Money Saver

“For 15+ years I have taken nearly every form of “surprise” money (a refund, a rebate, money back from reselling my textbooks, deposits returned, etc) and deposited it into savings or an investment account. If I wasn’t expecting it, then I wasn’t counting on it, and therefore I won’t miss spending it.

Looking back I realize our family has received hundreds of such checks. I estimate the total to be in the $25-$30K range. Just last week my 16 and 13 year old kids each received a check for $9.45 for drawings they had entered at our local interstate fair two months ago. I have no idea what role their submissions played in the checks, and it really didn’t matter because I promptly added them to the children’s savings accounts.

I estimate that my “never spend unexpected money” practice will be worth $150-$200K in retirement. Not bad for money I didn’t lift a finger to earn.”

– D.G.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Just had a flash back of our old Spavings challenge!! Not a bad idea to pick back up again and perhaps try and beat our record ($4,040.50 in 10 months)]

*****

The Debt Rounder-Upper

“Back when I was 1,000’s in credit card debt, I would first figure out what 10% of the balance was and then round it up to the nearest $10 and use that figure as the payment due that month. It helped me pay down the debt much faster.

Conversely, now that I am debt free and saving money, I look at my monthly savings account balances and round them up to the nearest $100 and immediately schedule those transfers to take place.”

– Kim

*****

The “Accomplishments” List

“I have something called My Accomplishments List. I put down international travel I’ve done, certifications or degrees I’ve gotten, or just anything big that I’m proud of. It reminds me I really have done things in life whenever I feel completely incompetent or like I’ll never get anywhere. It’s a nice boost to self-confidence. :)”

– Rachael

*****

Anyone try some of these before?? Anyone have their own tricks up their sleeves? 😉

Money stays the same over the centuries, but we’re always needing new ideas to keep us excited! Even if they’re repackaged and labeled something different! Haha…

 

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bookmark_borderHow to Make the Most of Thanksgiving Leftovers

While Thanksgiving is a feast of plenty that sparks gaiety, warm fuzzy vibes, and togetherness, it also adds to America’s massive problem with food waste. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), about 200 million pounds of turkey alone is tossed away during Thanksgiving.  

Per the NRDC, that’s a carbon footprint equal to 800,000 cars driving from Florida to Los Angeles. What’s more, you’re bound to have an overage of mashed potatoes, green beans, and other holiday side dishes the morning after.  

To cut down on Thanksgiving food waste, I reached out to my fellow frugalistas and money nerds for simple, creative ways on how to make the most of leftovers:  

Turkey Ramen  

Jim Wang and his family will spatchcock their turkey, meaning they’ll take out the spine from the tail to the neck. The removed spine, along with the ribs and baggie of sweetbreads, will be made into a stock. The Wangs will then use the stock as their soup base to concoct some turkey ramen.  

Next, they’ll shred some turkey meat, throw in some scallions and whatever other ingredients make sense along with some noodles. “It makes for a rich bowl of noodles that is completely different from the classic Thanksgiving dinner,” says Wang, the founder of Wallet Hacks 

Dried Shredded Turkey  

For as long as I can remember, I would wake up the morning after Thanksgiving to my mom in her kitchen, squatting on the floor and hunched over a portable fryer. Called ruoc ga, which translates to “dried shredded chicken,” you can swap out the chicken for turkey. A traditional Vietnamese dish, ruoc ga can be put on top of salads, mixed with rice porridge for breakfast, or added to white rice and veggies for a simple meal.  

You’ll need to shred the turkey, then add fish sauce (soy sauce works too), a bit of pepper, sugar, and a smidge of water. While it typically takes a few hours of tossing the turkey over a fryer (you can also pan-fry or oven-roast it), you can store the ruoc ga in a jar and stick it in the fridge, where it’ll be good for months.  

Funky Shepherd’s Pie  

While the traditional shepherd’s pie calls for small cubes of carrots and peas, you can make your own variation using the veggie leftovers, says Andrew Daniels, creator of Family Money Plan. For a strictly veggie shepherd’s pie, think green beans, and autumnal veggies such as sweet potatoes and squash. If you’d like to create a standard meat version, toss in pieces of leftover turkey.  

Veggie Omelets  

For vegetarians such as Daniella Flores and her wife, who will be dining with their carnivorous relatives, post-Thanksgiving eats might be more savory than the actual feast day itself. The couple enjoys cooking veggie omelets from leftover side dishes.  

“Since there are only two of us veggie gals, we cannot wait for a delicious breakfast the day after from the leftovers,” says Flores, who is a senior software engineer and creator of the side hustle site I Like to Dabble. 

Potato Pancakes  

Take those leftover mashed potatoes and make some potato pancakes, a favorite of freelance writer and designer Bethany McCamish. First, flatten the mashed potatoes, coat them lightly in bread crumbs, and fry them in a pan. You can top with whatever you like — maybe some steamed spinach and mushrooms, for a little green after so much comfort food.  

Turkey Noodle Soup  

A tradition for R.J. Weiss’s family is making turkey noodle soup with the leftovers. “The bones make a rich broth, and once strained, it’s just a matter of simmering carrots in the broth, adding cooked noodles, leftover turkey, and topping it off with some leftover stuffing,” says Weiss, who is the founder of The Ways to Wealth.   

Soup is a great way to use frozen cooked meat since it’ll rehydrate and hide any freezer burn, adds freelance writer Lindsay VanSomeren. Plus. it’s a great dish for the upcoming chilly months! She says: “For the ultra-frugal win, take the entire turkey home with you and use the rest of the bird to make turkey stock.”  

Frozen Breakfast Burritos  

Use that leftover turkey to make frozen breakfast burritos. “They’re great for grab-and-go breakfast or lunches, and will help your wallet recover from the holidays by not eating out when you need something quick,” says Kimberly Hamilton, founder of BeWorth Finance 

Just fill a tortilla or wrap with all your favorite toppings, wrap them in a paper towel, and place as many as you can fit into a plastic freezer bag. “When you’re hungry, you simply take out what you need, pop it in the microwave and you’re ready to go,” says Hamilton.  

Substitute Turkey in Meat Dishes  

There’s no shortage of ways you can use those turkey leftovers — meat lasagne, or traditional beef chili. It can be as simple as topping your favorite salad with some roasted veggies or bits of turkey. Or play around with traditional meat dishes and see if the meat could be easily swapped with turkey.  

For instance, Sarah Li Cain shreds the turkey to turn it into any meat-centric dish — turkey chili, turkey pot pie or any kind of soup. “If I want an easy meal, I stir fry it with a bunch of greens with udon noodles, a splash of soy sauce, slices of garlic and ginger,” says Li Cain, who is a finance writer and host of the Beyond the Dollar podcast.  

For further inspiration, scour the accounts of your favorite Instagram foodie influencers or on Pinterest. “Some creativity and searching on Pinterest will take your leftovers from blah to wow,” says Daniels.  

Get Creative With Your Sandwiches  

Sandwich lovers can go gourmand by using high-quality condiments, fancy cheese, and rolls instead of sliced bread for their turkey sandwiches.  

If you have a hankering for a hot sandwich, consider making an open-faced, hot turkey sandwich with your leftovers, says Mike Collins of Wealthy Turtle. Heat up some leftover gravy in a skillet. Then add slices of turkey so they heat up in the gravy. Toast a few slices of your preferred bread, spread a little fresh cranberry sauce on the toast, then pile on loads of warm stuffing. Top it all off with the sliced turkey and plenty of gravy, and you’ve got one delicious sandwich! 

Want in on a little secret? Cranberry jelly tastes great on toast. While some people might find it a tad strange, Li Cain makes cranberry jelly and peanut butter sandwiches after Thanksgiving for her husband and son.  

Organize Your Leftovers  

After Thanksgiving dinner is over, strategically storing your leftovers will make it easier to cook your meals, points out Logan Allec, founder of Money Done Right. “Put your leftovers in clear containers and label them with what they are and when they should be eaten by.”  

So what’s the magic time frame for storing leftovers? The USDA recommends that leftovers be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. And if you prefer to keep your leftovers in the freezer, they’ll maintain their quality for two to six months.  

Try the $5 a Meal Challenge 

As you’re already saving money by making the most of your Thanksgiving leftovers, why not turn it into a frugal challenge? See if you can only spend $5 tops on a meal, suggests Erin Chase, founder of $5 Dinners. Whipping up a simple side dish or extra ingredients to your turkey leftovers should make it a cinch. What’s more, shop for on-sale items. 

Besides cutting down on food waste, getting inventive with your Thanksgiving leftovers can also help you cut down on your regular food budget. And as the end of the year can be quite expensive, money saved on your grocery bill could go toward your holiday budget 

The post How to Make the Most of Thanksgiving Leftovers appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderGiving Tuesday 2019: Double Your Impact With Matching Donations

givingtuesdayTuesday, December 3rd is Giving Tuesday 2019, an international day all about giving support through charities and nonprofits by donating money and goods or volunteering your time. In case you aren’t inundated with mailings already, this time of year is a big deal for charities, with 40% of donations occurring in the last six weeks of the year. Here are some ways you can “double your impact” with a matching donation.

Facebook Match (good toward any charity that accepts donations via Facebook). Starting at 8am Eastern on 12/3, Facebook and PayPal will match $7 million in donations to U.S. nonprofits – up to $100,000 per nonprofit and $20,000 per donor. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar on a first-come, first-served basis. All processing fees will be paid so 100% of your donation goes to charity.

For example, give directly with the donate button on the The Humane Society Facebook Page. You can also start your own fundraiser here or simply post up a donate button to support your favorite charity.

Check for an employer match. Try this lookup tool from DoubleTheDonation. Most of these programs don’t require you to actually give on a specific day, but you may want to start the process today so you don’t forget in the holiday rush.

Individual charities. Many charities are organizing their own matching program for #GivingTuesday. Here are some large charities have organized their own matches in the past, but I would check to make sure.

Also check with your favorite local community nonprofit. GivingTuesday.org has a local database.

Having trouble deciding where to give? Here are some charity comparison sites that will help you pick where to send your help.

  • CharityNavigator – Largest and well-publicized charity rating site, provides a 4-star rating based primarily on financial criteria.
  • GiveWell – Tries to identify the best charities, not rate them all. Focused primarily on charities working internationally
  • GreatNonProfits – Allows clients, volunteers, and funders to post personal reviews based on their experiences.
  • GuideStar – Tries to be a one-stop shop for both financial data and personal reviews of charities. Must register to see a lot of things, and pay a subscription fee for premium in-depth data.
  • Philanthropedia – Ranks non-profits based on opinions of experts, and groups them to mutual fund-like portfolios.

Looking to volunteer your time? Check out FeedingAmerica.org and find a volunteer opportunity at a food bank near you.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Giving Tuesday 2019: Double Your Impact With Matching Donations from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.

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bookmark_borderOffice 365 vs. G Suite: A Comparison

Featured image by kentoh on Yay Images

Both Microsoft and Google have managed to claim a significant share of the cloud-based collaboration platform market via their Office 365 and G Suite offerings. But which one is right for your business?

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Office 365 and G Suite

The ability to collaborate using online
technology is becoming an increasingly important element of modern-day working,
especially when employees are geographically dispersed and more are opting to
work from home.

The major tech companies have understandably been eager to establish themselves and their products in this rapidly growing sphere.

Both Microsoft and Google have managed to claim a significant share of the cloud-based collaboration platform market via their Office 365 and G Suite offerings. In Europe, Microsoft’s Office 365 is being used by almost two-thirds of organizations, with 19% using G Suite.

Both platforms have numerous advantages and relatively few drawbacks. Some of the main features of each are outlined below.

G Suite

Gmail

Google’s long-established email service is the most popular email service worldwide, with more than 1.5 billion active users as of October 2018. With Gmail, you can give everyone in your organization a professional-looking email address, as well as create mailing lists. Additionally, Gmail enterprise is also increasingly popular among businesses, as it offers a number of additional features.

Google Sites

It is a relatively unknown fact that Google has its own incredibly simple website builder. For example, small businesses can use Google Sites to create a customer-facing website. Alternatively, businesses can use one of these sites as an internal platform for sharing information.

Google Drive

With Google Drive you can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos, and more. What’s more, you can reach your files from any device, wherever you go. You can also invite others to view, download, and collaborate without attaching documents to emails. The apps within Drive include Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Google Hangouts

Google’s Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts Chat make up the new version of Google Hangouts. They allow users to schedule meetings in their Google calendar, upload files from Google Drive, and even export chats to Google Vault. Users can share documents on-screen as well as hold voice and video conversations.

Google Vault

Google’s own archiving tool allows users to set retention rules around data storage. Then they can search data by user account, date, or keyword. Finally, users can export data for more detailed processing as well as review and audit data.

RELATED ARTICLE: THREE HIGH TECH TOOLS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Office 365

Microsoft Office Suite

This a collection of interrelated services,
available for both Windows and Mac Operating Systems. Its five applications are
Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook (email), and OneNote. All allow you to create,
edit, and share documents.

Microsoft SharePoint Online

This is a cloud-based service that allows users to share digital documents securely both within and outside of the organization, across multiple devices.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow allows the automation of numerous processes across multiple applications. For example, it can automate emails, send alerts, copy files, and synchronize files. Additionally, it can collect, analyze, and store data.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is a digital hub for collaboration. It brings content, conversations, users, and apps together. It is integrated with numerous other Office 365 services, including Flo and PowerApps. You can also add third-party services such as Facebook, GitHub, Yammer, and RSS feeds.

Microsoft OneDrive

This is Microsoft’s cloud-based storage solution. It allows you to securely store all your data and files. Additionally, you can synchronize files to your devices so that they are always up-to-date and backed up.

Making the Right Choice for Your Business

When deciding whether to opt for G Suite or
Office 365, consider the following factors:

Cost and Value for the Money

Cost and value are key considerations for most organizations. G Suite and Office 365 both offer fairly flexible pricing plans on a per-user basis.

G Suite offers three plans: Basic, Business, and Enterprise. On the other hand, Office 365 plans are rather more complicated and there are dozens of variants. G Suite plans are available on a monthly basis. However, Office 365 plans require an annual commitment.

When comparing like for like, Microsoft’s “Business Essentials” is fractionally cheaper than the G Suite “Basic”’ plan. However, at the enterprise level, Office 365’s “E1” plan is significantly more expensive than the G Suite “Business” plan.

Storage

Storage is an important consideration. Google’s Basic edition offers 30GB of data per user. Also, both the Business and Enterprise packages offer unlimited storage. Alternatively, Office 365’s Business Premium package gives each user 1TB of cloud storage.

Security

Security is a priority for many organizations, especially those dealing with sensitive information and data. Both Google and Microsoft have been proactive about providing solutions that counter security concerns. For example, Office 365 has its Enterprise Mobility and Security package, and G Suite has its Identity and Access Management service.

How to Choose Between Office 365 and G Suite

Choosing between Office 365 and G Suite can be “a confusing maze of pros and cons and feature lists,” according to Gildas Jones of Bristol-based IT company Dial a Geek. Ultimately, he goes on to say, “G Suite’s simple and straightforward design makes it the obvious choice for entrepreneurs, with Office 365 better suited for businesses who have multiple teams or need more flexible and powerful tools for data processing.”

Therefore, if your firm deals with significant volumes of data and needs powerful analytics, you should probably opt for Office 365. However, if your needs are more about collaboration and are less complex, G Suite could be a better choice for your business.

Of course, if your suppliers, partners, and clients all favor one system, then the decision can often be to go with the solution that will fit with how they work.

Ultimately, the platform that is best suited to your organization depends on your company’s unique needs. Also, to a large degree, it all comes down to personal preference.

Just remember that once you commit to one system, it can be quite a task to flip to the other.

Stay on top of trending tools to use in your business by browsing our blog.

The post Office 365 vs. G Suite: A Comparison appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderIs It Time to Expand Your Small Business?

Image by Mike Sweeney from Pixabay 

Is your small business experiencing growing pains? Does this mean you need to expand your small business? Read on to gain some clarity about that.

As an entrepreneur, you want your enterprise to grow and become successful. However, this doesn’t happen by itself.

Business growth requires a meticulous plan. However, even thinking about the growth process can be exciting. Expanding your business will mean more products, more sales, more customers, and more revenue. It might also lead to a more significant or even a new enterprise.

However, don’t be in a hurry to expand your business. Make sure the enterprise is ready for growth.

Next, the question will be, where will you get the money to finance this growth?

Having enough financing is vital to your success. So be able to identify issues that call for additional funding. Then take appropriate action.

For example, if you notice any of the signs we list below, consider a reputable lender such as Thinking Capital for a business loan.

1. You’ve Outgrown the Space

You and your employees need enough space to conduct your business. So if your workers are scrunched desk to desk, it might be time to expand.

If this is how your business looks today, considering buying and building a second location. On the other hand, also assess other options such as buying or leasing an existing property.

Moreover, once you decide to expand, it’s important to pace yourself. Try to plan carefully and anticipate your business’s growing demands in the future. Then act accordingly.

What’s more, moving your business will be disruptive to your employees as well as your customers. So don’t settle for a space that’s not just right. You don’t want to acquire a space that’s either too big or too small.

2. You Need to Expand Your Workforce

If your business is growing, you likely need more employees.

However, this is not an easy area to expand in. So don’t be in a rush to hire a new employee. Instead, calculate the total costs of hiring that employee, including salary, paid leave, healthcare, and time off. Do you have the money to expand your business in this way?

Further, you need to
ascertain the cost of training new employees. How many workers can you afford
to hire? Will they deliver new revenue streams to your firm?

Hiring additional employees is a vital recipe for growth. But it’s even better when you get competent employees who deliver value to your firm.

RELATED ARTICLE: BEST PRACTICES FOR HIRING NEW EMPLOYEES

3. You Need More Equipment and Older Equipment Is Wearing Out

Are you in need of new or extra equipment? Or is your older equipment wearing out? This is a clear sign you’re ready to expand with a capital injection.

For instance, if you’re in the restaurant industry, a mixer and an oven keep your operations running. If the equipment starts failing, you won’t be able to meet customer demands. At this point, it makes sense to upgrade your machines.

However, it’s quite expensive for a small firm to upgrade their equipment. In many cases, you might not have the finances to support such an upgrade. The only alternative is credit financing. This will help you cover the costs without affecting your cash flow.

4. There Are Ebbs and Flows in Demand Patterns

As an enterprise, it’s smart to keep a cushion of cash on hand for an emergency. If possible, it should be enough to cater to two months of operating expenses.

However, most small businesses don’t have this amount of cash at their disposal. It’s even worse when it comes to seasonal activities. Here, the highs and lows of your cash flow might harm your business performance.

For instance, you might notice that demand for your service or product expands during the summer holidays. The only way to respond to this situation is by buying more inventory, which will increase your sales graph.

5. Your Business Needs More Inventory

Do you want your business to grow? Then invest a substantial amount of capital toward inventory management.

Remember, expanding your
business entails more than opening new locations or hiring new talent. It may
also include offering new products to your customers. This will keep their
interest, build brand loyalty, and attract new clients.

For a business to grow and expand, you must buy additional inventory. For instance, if you’re running a salon business, observe the trends in the industry. If you notice any new trends, buy the latest tools to serve customers who are coming in for that trend.

Avoid Cash-Flow Pressures as You Expand Your Small Business

It’s every entrepreneur’s
dream to expand their small business. However, this isn’t possible without a
substantial investment. At times, you need to grow your startup faster than you
can afford. That’s where credit lines come to play. They will help you expand
and grow your business.

As an entrepreneur, you need to know when your business needs capital to finance its growth and expansion. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to avoid short-term cash pressures.

To find more articles about running and expanding your business, visit our blog frequently.

The post Is It Time to Expand Your Small Business? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderWin at Forex Trading with an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Image source: 200 degrees on Pixabay

If you can train yourself to approach your Forex trading with an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll have a much better chance at success.

Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset for Greater Success with Forex Trading

Forex trading is a business on the cutting edge. Basically, you lead yourself to success. In short, every Forex trader is an entrepreneur.

However, many Forex traders don’t realize they must learn and follow business axioms. They get carried away with their trading approach and neglect their mindset and mental conditioning. However, an entrepreneurial mindset is essential to success for Forex traders.

If you want to succeed with your Forex trades, develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Expertise alone is not enough. The most successful currency traders are savvy entrepreneurs.

Moreover, an entrepreneurial mindset can benefit you in other areas of your life as well as in your business life. This is because trading in the foreign exchange market is a psychological game. If you have a winning mindset, you’ll be more successful in every area of your life.

What Is an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

View Forex trading as a business in order to attain success and fulfillment. So, what is an entrepreneurial mindset? It is a set of attitudes, a way of thinking that revolves around opportunity, improvement, and innovation.

Entrepreneurs Share Certain Character Traits

Entrepreneurs have certain personality traits that are exemplified by:

  • Self-determination
  • Nonconformity
  • High tolerance for risk
  • Optimism
  • Perseverance
  • Persistence

If you want to develop a more entrepreneurial mindset, become more willing to discover, evaluate, and exploit opportunities.  

RELATED ARTICLE: THINK ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS WILL NEVER FIND YOU? CHECK OUT MY STORY

Fear and Greed Are Emotions to Master

In order to succeed with Forex trading, you must be able to master your emotions. In other words, you need to learn to be logical in your thinking. You must not allow anything to cloud your good judgment.

Intelligent people can lose in the foreign exchange market because of their emotions. Fear and greed are some of the most common emotions that block traders’ success.

For example, when a trader believes that he or she is going to lose in the market, fear can quickly take over.

Imagine the following situation: Suppose you are interested in making money by trading binary options. In this case, you may consider trying binary options. When you do, make sure to control your fears. In other words, don’t let fear make your trading decisions for you, but follow a logical thought process instead.

On the other hand, some traders are motivated by greed. They become so desperate for the profits that come from good trades that they make mistakes. Their greed causes them to act irrationally. For example, perhaps they chase the markets or indulge in over-trading.

Entrepreneurs may have a passion for profit, but the best of them aren’t greedy. To keep their greed in check, professionals make a plan. Luck may play a role when it comes to buying and selling currencies, but preparation and discipline are much more important.

Follow These Tips to Cultivate an Entrepreneurial Mindset for Forex Trading

If you want to develop a positive trading mindset, follow these guidelines:

Never Stop Learning

The Forex market changes all the time, so continuous education is important. Always seek to acquire new skills and knowledge.

For instance, if you would like to trade binary options on Forex, there are numerous instruments you can trade. For example, learn all you can about monetary contracts.

Successful entrepreneurs are lifelong learners. You don’t have to go back to school. However, you do need to strive toward your maximum potential.

Minimize Your Risks

In the context of trading, risk isn’t out of the ordinary. In fact, failure can come in the form of small losses or big ones. However, the best entrepreneurs don’t let failure define them.

Those with an entrepreneurial mindset navigate difficult situations and develop effective plans for the future. Therefore, develop strategies that ensure more possibilities for profit. Most importantly, take the necessary steps to minimize risk.

For example, here are some things you can do:

  • Set maximum trading losses
  • Trade with a plan
  • Take a step back from the
    foreign exchange market

Given that Forex trading is just like any entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s imperative to apply business discipline. Therefore, make a habit of securing your trading and improving your personal performance.

Focus on What You Do, Not on What Others Are Doing

Copy trading enjoys a great deal of popularity. This is trading that involves following the trades of other Forex traders.

It’s true that you can replicate another trader’s successful strategies when trading binary options. And you can even get identical returns. But you also risk making the same mistakes.

It’s better to focus on what you do and to pay less attention to others. Successful entrepreneurs don’t spend their time analyzing the competition even though they do their best to stand out. So focus on your own ideas and don’t worry too much about what others are doing.

Succeed in the Forex Market with an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Successful Forex traders think of themselves as entrepreneurs. With an entrepreneurial mindset, you can find creative solutions, even if this means you’ll need to do a little more work.

So take the rules of business and apply them to Forex trading. View yourself as an entrepreneur who’s leading a company. You’re carrying out activities that generate cash flow. You manage your venture with all the tools at your disposal. A proper mindset is an integral part of your success.

Thinking like an entrepreneur will help you from the very get-go. You can tackle all the challenges associated with trading binary options in Forex and better manage your actions.

If you love buying and selling currencies because it satisfies your urge for financial and business independence, retrain your mind. Learn to win at trading with an entrepreneurial mindset.

The post Win at Forex Trading with an Entrepreneurial Mindset appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderHow to Invest in Stocks: Investing in Stocks for Beginners

So, you’re considering investing in stocks, but not sure where to start? Our guide to investing in stocks for beginners will help you start off on the right foot.

Investing in stocks might sound like a big undertaking, but we’re here to break down how it works and what to watch out for. By understanding investing basics—like how to start investing, the basic terms, and the risks involved, you’ll be prepared to make the best decisions for your circumstances.

If you’ve held off on investing in stocks because of the perceived barriers to entry like a small budget, intimidating processes, and lack of know-how, this guide—an easy-to-understand “investing in stocks 101″— is just what you need.

To properly learn how to invest in stocks, we highly recommend reading the entire post, but if you have a specific question you need answered, use these links to navigate easily through the article:

How to Invest in Stocks: Step-by-Step

1.   Choose how you’re going to invest in stocks.

  1. DIY: This is the hands-on approach where you will choose stocks and stocks for yourself. This is typically done through an online brokerage account.
  2. Hands-Off: While you specify your investment goals, you will not choose your own stocks. Instead, a robo-advisor will handle the actual investing process.

2.   Open a brokerage account.

  1. Online Brokerage: If you’ve chosen to invest in stocks on your own, you’ll want to open an online brokerage account through a service like E-Trade. With an online brokerage account, you can open an individual retirement account (IRA) or taxable brokerage account. Online brokerages are typically fairly inexpensive and easy to use. Note: We’ll dive further into how to open a brokerage account in just a bit. 
  2. Robo-Advisor Account: As we mentioned before, a robo-advisor such as Betterment will handle your investments for you. So, all you’ll have to do here is set up your account with your information and pay a small fee and the rest is handled.

3. Get familiar with the basics of investing in stocks.

Before you can start investing, you need to understand the basics of how stocks and the stock market work. This includes:

  • Basic terminology
  • Types of investment vehicles
  • Personal factors you need to consider before investing in stocks
  • What your investing goals are so you can strategize investments
  • When and how to sell your stocks
  • Common stock investment mistakes and how to avoid them

We’ll cover each of these topics in depth in just a bit so you can begin investing with confidence.

4. Determine how much you want to spend.

When setting your budget for investing in stocks, you need to figure out:

  1. How much you need to get started. The amount you’ll need to get started depends on the cost of your brokerage account or robo-advisor as well as the cost of the stock shares you’d like to purchase. The cost of a share can vary greatly from a few dollars to $1000’s. Depending on your budget, you’ll want to invest carefully.
  2. How much you’ll regularly invest in stocks. Your budget will determine how much you can afford to invest in stocks on a monthly basis. While you may be planning on only investing about $50 – $100 per month, you’ll need to be aware of whether there is a minimum required by your stock fund which can be about $1,000. But don’t let that discourage you, there are ways to invest with a small budget, you just have to research your options. In fact, some brokerages like Robinhood don’t have a minimum and offer commission-free trades.

5. Start investing and monitor your investments.

Once you’ve completed the first four steps, and read our guide from start to finish, you’ll be ready to start investing. While you don’t want to get caught up in obsessively monitoring each stock, it’s smart to check-in every once in a while. After all, stocks are meant to be a long-term investment, not a method of turning over large amounts of money on a monthly basis.

To effectively monitor your investments, keep an eye on the businesses you hold stocks in. If they’re doing well overall and seem to have a bright future, you’ll usually want to hold steady, even if they’ve taken a few recent dips in value.

So, now you technically know how to start investing in stocks, but you should still read the rest of our guide to investing in stocks 101 to cover all your bases.

Stock Market for Beginners: Basic Investing Terms

Before you start investing there are some basic terms and concepts you should familiarize yourself with:

  • Common vs. Preferred Stocks: Common stocks are the most popular type of stock. The value of common stock usually depends on the company’s performance. While common stocks give owners claim to company profits and sometimes one vote per share, those who hold preferred stock are given priority when it comes time to hand out dividends. However preferred stockholders don’t get any votes. Note: For beginners, common stock is typically a good starting point.
  • Market IndexA market index (or stock exchange) is used to provide a gauge on market performance. It is used by investment managers to make decisions about investments. The three most popular market indexes are the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Composite. However, there are 60 major stock exchanges in the world.

  • Robo-Advisor: Automated financial planning services that will management your investment.
  • Stockbroker: A professional who can buy and sell stock on your behalf.
  • Bid vs. Ask Price: The highest amount that someone is willing to pay for the stock. The ask price is the lowest amount the seller is willing to accept for the stock.
  • Beta: This metric measures how volatile a stock is, or how reactive it is to the stock market, which can help you determine how risky it is to invest in that stock.

Note: A beta above one means a stock is more volatile.

  • Investing vs. Speculating: Investing is when you put money toward a security or financial product where there is a fairly confident likelihood of turning a profit. Speculating, on the other hand, is when you put money toward a financial endeavor where there is an exceptionally high risk that you might not see any return. While speculating can be very rewarding, it is best reserved for advanced investors who can afford to assume such risks.

Understanding these terms will make it easier for you to navigate the process of investing in stocks.

Different Types of Investment Vehicles: How to Buy Stocks

When learning about stocks, you’ll come across a variety of options for investment vehicles. Investment vehicles are the different types of accounts you can invest through. These are the most popular ways to invest:

  • 401k: A 401k is an investment option that’s offered by many employers where you can have a portion of your paycheck automatically deducted and put into a retirement saving’s account.

Note: You can’t begin withdrawing from your 401k until you’re 59 ½ years old. If you make an early 401k withdrawal you’ll likely have to pay a penalty.

Note: If you change jobs frequently, you may consider consolidating your retirement savings with an IRA rollover.

  • Mutual Funds: Mutual funds are made up of a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other securities that are combined based on certain sectors and investment goals. Mutual funds allow investors who are new or have lower budgets to access a diversified portfolio, while earning off the investment based on their contribution.
  • Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): ETFs are similar to mutual funds in the way that they combine certain stocks into a collective portfolio, however, they are based on a specific index like the Dow Jones or S&P 500. ETFs are bought and sold like stocks on a daily basis.
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs): An investment portfolio made up of a variety of real estate properties (within a certain sector) that generate income. As an investor, you can buy shares in a REIT.

Choosing your investment vehicle is an important aspect of stock market investment so you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each before making your decision.

How to Buy Stocks: Create a Brokerage Account

One important part of learning how to invest in stocks is figuring out which brokerage you’ll use and starting up your account. Fortunately, creating a brokerage account is a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Choose a brokerage firm.
    Before you sign up, you’ll want to do your research. Look for a brokerage with accounts that are affordable for your budget (consider the fees and commission rates), has a good reputation (are other customers happy with their services?), and offers incentives.
  2. Apply online.
    Complete the brokerage’s online application. Typically, this will only take a few minutes. You’ll need to provide some information like your Social Security number, employment information, and other details about your finances so make sure you have the documentation you’ll need handy.
  3. Deposit funds.
    In order to actually start investing, you’ll need to have funds in your account. Usually, there are several ways you can do this including an electronic funds transfer from your checking or savings account or a wire transfer. Check with your brokerage firm to see how you can transfer the money into your account.

If you have questions about any part of this process, your brokerage firm should have customer support that you can reach out to. They might also have resources that will help you figure out how to buy stocks if you’ll be choosing your own investments.

Things to Consider Before Investing

While there was a downward trend in people investing in the stock market after The Great Recession hit in 2008, according to Gallup, there has been a slow but steady upward trend in the number of adults investing over the last few years. In fact, as of 2018, 55% of U.S. adults were investing in the stock market. But how do you know if it’s the right time for you to start investing?

You might feel like you’re ready to start investing in the stock market but it’s important to consider your financial circumstances. Before jumping in, think about these important factors first:

Personal Investment Factors

1.What’s your financial situation?

    1. Are you having a hard time meeting your financial obligations?
      If you’re having a hard time meeting your basic financial obligations like rent and your car payments, it’s likely not the best time to start investing. Similarly, if you’re barely skating by and living paycheck to paycheck, holding off on investing until you’re more financially stable is probably for the best.
    2. Have you paid off your debt?
      If you still have a lot of high-interest debt such as credit cards, it might not be the best time to start investing in stocks. Instead, you may want to focus on paying off your debt first because it will only continue to get larger over time. Paying your debt as soon as possible means you’ll be in a better position to invest in stocks.
    3. Do you have an emergency fund established?
      While investing in stocks can be a good way to set yourself up for a healthy financial future, it should only come into play once all your bases are covered, including a substantial emergency fund. Setting up a savings account can help you avoid building up more debt in times of crisis and can provide you with peace of mind.

2. What’s your risk tolerance?

Basically, risk tolerance boils down to how much risk you’re willing to assume, and potentially how much money you’re willing to lose. As a beginning investor, your risk tolerance is likely fairly low so you’ll want to consider this when choosing which stocks to invest in. Usually, you’ll want to invest in those with a lower beta coefficient (lower volatility).

3. What’s your time frame?

Consider whether you’re looking for a short-term or long-term investment. Typically, stocks are a better investment option for those who are looking to grow their wealth over long periods of time. If you’re looking for a bigger return in the near future, you may want to consider certificates of deposit (CDs), money market funds, or interest-bearing checking and savings accounts.

If you’re unsure of the answer to any of these questions, it might be a good idea to create a budget and review your financial obligations before you even consider stock market investment. Monitoring your financial health with Mint is a good starting point.

Setting Investment Goals

Usually, people start investing to meet certain goals. Before you invest in stocks, think about what you hope to achieve by doing so. Common investment goals include:

  • Growing wealth
  • Saving for retirement/helping fund retirement
  • Establishing a college fund
  • Increasing income (with dividend payouts)

Your goals will drive how you choose to buy and sell stocks.

Common Investing Mistakes

While there is always a risk when investing in the stock market, certain mistakes can make it more likely for you to lose money, such as:

Setting & Forgetting Your Investments

While it can be easy to set and forget your stock investments, you should monitor them on a regular basis to ensure that you are still on the right track. Evaluating quarterly financial statements can help you keep an eye out for warning signs that your stock may lose value.

For example, if a company you’ve invested in is going downhill and their stock’s value is plummeting, you’ll probably want to sell that stock.

Stagnant Portfolios

When you first get started, you’ll likely gravitate toward companies that are familiar but once you become a more seasoned investor, you’ll might want to diversify your investment portfolio and implement some basic strategies.

In addition to neglecting to diversify your portfolio, not increasing your investment as you make more money can also be a mistake. As you earn more, you might want to plan to dedicate more of your income to your investments in order to yield a greater return and bolster your savings for the future.

Emotional Buying & Selling

Getting overly excited or panicked about fluctuations in the stock market can lead to poor investment choices. It’s easy to get caught up in trends or stock market news that can leave an impression, but making snap decisions usually doesn’t pay off when it comes to stock investing.

Doing your research before buying and following the guidelines below for when to sell your stocks can help you avoid this common pitfall for beginner investors.

And, of course, one of the most common mistakes people make…

Waiting Too Long to Start Investing

Many individuals hold off on investing in stocks because they don’t think it’s worthwhile or don’t think they have enough money. However, neither of those things are true.

As we’ve mentioned, nearly anyone can start investing— even with a small budget. And, investing in stocks is a fairly reliable method to start saving for your retirement.

When to Sell Stocks

Typically, investors want to sell in two scenarios:

  1. To cash-in on big profits.
  2. To prevent further losses.

But how exactly do you know when to sell stocks? According to Investopedia, you’ll want to sell stocks when:

  • You’ve achieved profits of 20 – 25%
  • When your losses have reached 7% or greater
  • The stock has reached your target price (For example, you bought the stock at $20 with the intention of selling once it hit $30 — that would be a gain of $10 per share!)
  • When you realize buying the stock was a mistake (maybe you misunderstood their financial statements and come to the conclusion that it’s not a worthwhile investment for the risk)
  • The stock rises dramatically in a very short period of time

Of course, there are many factors that impact whether you’ll want to sell or not and none of these guidelines are set in stone. When it comes down to it, making the choice to sell will also depend on your risk tolerance and goals.

How to Invest FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that beginners have when learning about stocks:

How much money do you need to start investing in the stock market?

You can start investing in the stock market with nearly any budget. However, your options will vary depending on how much you have to spend. While many mutual funds have a minimum investment of $1,000, some individual stocks can be purchased for just a few dollars.

What are the cheapest stocks?

If you’re looking for affordable stocks, penny stocks are often a good place to start because they typically trade for less than $5 each. However, you can also find tips from leading financial publications and resources on the cheapest stocks to purchase at any given time.

Are stocks a good investment?

Like any other investment, stocks aren’t a guaranteed money-maker. While stocks are riskier than savings products such as CDs, there are a variety of factors that influence how risky a stock investment is.

Stocks are a popular investment method because of the potential to grow your investment substantially over long periods of time. However, according to Redfin, many people believe that investing in real estate is a safer bet.

In the end, whether stocks are a good investment comes down to your unique circumstances.

What are the best stocks to buy for beginners?

As a beginner, you might want to consider investing in stocks that:

  • Have low volatility
  • Are in companies who are market leaders, are likely to have a good long-term outlook, or are in industries you know a lot about
  • Are affordable
  • Pay a dividend

While these guidelines can be helpful, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to investing in stocks for beginners. When deciding how to invest in stocks, keep in mind the investing basics we’ve covered throughout this guide.

What are the benefits of investing in stocks?

Stocks might not be the lowest-risk investment you can choose but investing in stocks does have its distinct advantages, including:

  1. Good annual returns: The average annual return for stocks is about 10%.
  2. Easy exit: You can usually sell stocks very easily if you want or need to, so you’re not typically stuck with an investment you don’t want.
  3. Deferred taxation: You don’t pay taxes on your stocks until you sell them. And, if you hold onto them for longer, you’ll usually pay a lower capital gains tax rate.

What are the risks of investing in stocks?

Like any investment, there are certain risks to consider when investing in stocks:

  1. No guarantees: There is always a chance that the stock will not increase in value so you might lose the money you’ve invested.
  2. Stock market bubbles and crashes: The value of a fast-rising stock can plummet once investors start to sell, meaning that if you bought when they were rising sky-high, you could suffer a substantial loss. Or, the entire market could take a substantial drop, causing major losses. Usually, a stock market crash has a longer-lasting, widespread effect on the market.
  3. Liquidity risk: While buying and selling stocks is usually a fairly easy process, you may get stuck with a stock if there are no active buyers.

What is sustainable investing?

Sustainable investing, also known as impact investing, is an investment strategy where you choose to purchase stock in companies that you believe in or those that are working toward a worthy cause. One way to do that is by choosing a mutual fund that only includes companies that meet certain standards. Two such examples are Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) funds or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds.

Sustainable investing is a great compromise between benefitting from investing in stocks while also contributing to social good.

Still have questions about how to invest in the stock market? Investor.gov is a great resource overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Final Notes: Investing in the Stock Market

Now that you know how to invest in stocks, you’re ready to take charge of your financial future. Whether you’re planning to start investing right away, or need to focus on your finances first, sign up for Mint to help you manage your money and set yourself up for a successful financial future!

The post How to Invest in Stocks: Investing in Stocks for Beginners appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderYour Money Checklist for December

From the Mint team: As you know, Mint is a free product you can use to help stay on top of your finances. So, how do we make money? We get paid by the advertisers on our site. This compensation may affect how and where products appear on the site (and in what order). Mint.com does not include all products or all available offers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The holidays are fast approaching! Whether you’re getting together with family, enjoying some time off, or preparing for the New Year, the holidays are a great time to reflect on the past year. (This can include evaluating your finances as well.) Since thinking about your finances during the holidays might not be ideal, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and prepared a financial checklist you can use to help you stay on track.

Reset your finances for the New Year

When you get some downtime, start reflecting on your financial milestones for the year. Did you buy a house? Did you buy a car? Did you get married? If you find that you’re not saving as much as you’d like, think about refinancing your high-interest debt. One way you can do this is through a low-interest personal loan, which allows you to consolidate your debts into a single monthly payment.

Creating a savings plan is also something to take into consideration when thinking about your finances for the upcoming year. Even if you put a little bit of money aside every month (whether it’s contributing to your retirement plan or saving for an emergency) this will make a huge difference in the long run. Mint gives you a detailed overview of your monthly spending which you can compare month-over-month to see where you can cut back. You can even automate your savings with apps like Wealthfront, *Stash, and Acorns to make it even easier for you to set money aside.

Max out retirement plan contributions

401ks and Roth IRAs can be great sources of tax-free retirement income. If you have a 401k plan through your employer, this is a great time to evaluate what you’ve contributed this year, in addition to how much your employer has matched your contributions, if applicable. You might even want to consider increasing your 401k contributions an extra 1% starting January 1—keep in mind you’ll need to set this up in December in order for this to take effect.

Also, assess the money you are setting aside for retirement is going into the right accounts.

Check your FSA balance

If you contribute to a Flexible Spending Account (or FSA), double-check the policy about what happens with the money you don’t spend. Many FSA’s have a “use it or lose it” policy, so you’ll want to be smart about how much money you set aside to begin with. Keep in mind, some employer plans will give you a 90-day grace period to use up your remaining FSA balances after the calendar year.  If you still have money left over, consider using it for applicable medical expenses before the year-end, which can include:

  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Acupuncture
  • Mental health treatment
  • Prescription medications
  • Vitamins
  • Birth control
  • Deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance

Review your credit report 

Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans find errors in their credit report? Checking your credit report once per month (especially at the end of the year) could help you prevent hits to your score and fix costly mistakes. If you have a Mint account, you can access your credit score for free. In addition to your score, you’ll see your latest credit report, outlining the top factors that can impact your score, in addition to how you may improve it.

Don’t forget you are entitled to a free three-bureau credit report once a year from annualcreditreport.com

Review your charitable contributions for tax refund credits 

The end of the year is a great time to donate to charities, and it’s a way to reduce your taxable income. TurboTax has a tool called ItsDeductible that allows you to track your deductions on the go with the mobile app. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to charitable donations:

  • In order for a donation to be tax-deductible, make sure to donate to an IRS-approved nonprofit organization
  • Retain tax receipts to write off any cash contributions of any amount
  • You may be able to get a deduction for expenses related to volunteer work, including parking, public transportation, and supplies

By taking these steps, you’ll be on your way to conquering your finances for the New Year in no time!

 

*Mint is a paid marketing partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.

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bookmark_borderMattis’ Management Principles Apply to Small Businesses

So, I just read James Mattis’ new book, “Call Sign Chaos.” And the former Secretary of Defense’s story prompts a couple of thoughts, one short and one long.

The Short Thought on Call Sign Chaos

Here’s my short thought: Secretary Mattis’ book makes a great holiday gift. Especially for a small business owner.

Mattis and his co-author write well. The book’s stories improve one’s understanding of recent military history. Finally, Mattis’ retrospection shines a spotlight on leadership principles. Many of which apply not just to giant organizations and military conflict, but also to smaller-scale situations. Like starting or running a small business.

So, a great holiday gift.

And this related remark. Secretary Mattis candidly talks about retired commanders-in-chief. But not about the commander-in-chief he served as Secretary of Defense, Mr. Trump. The book therefore should work for readers across the political spectrum.

The Long Thought: Mattis’ Management Principles Apply to Small Businesses

Here’s my longer thought: Lots of Secretary Mattis’ practical discussion of leadership focuses on large organizations. But much of it also applies to the small-scale operations that entrepreneurs work in.

Consider the following three examples…

Clausewitz on War

Mattis discusses Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, and in particular Clausewitz’s observation that “chance, uncertainty and friction” create a “trinity” that makes even first order planning tricky.

Restated in less elegant language: bad luck, variability, and then all the “forgotten details” make planning for even the first step of any venture difficult…

And then by the time we’re talking about the second step?… Or the third?.. Yikes!

That idea seems to me really useful as a business planning principle. And then for simpler operations planning, too.

OODA Decision Loops

Another example of a really useful principle comes from the retired general’s service in the U.S. Marines: OODA decision loops.

The acronym OODA stands for observe, orient, decide and act.

And what Mattis talks about is how organizations, especially large bureaucratic organizations like the military, need to not just make good decisions. They need to cycle through good decisions faster than their adversary.

In a military conflict, obviously, the side that can systematically collect information, process the information, make a smart decision, and then act faster, secures a strategic advantage.

Mattis describes this advantage as “getting inside” the enemy’s “decision loop.”

At first blush, I saw this OODA decision loop stuff as mostly applying to conflicts between large organizations.

Two countries engaged in a cold war: The U.S. versus Russia.

Or giant corporations directly competing in some giant market: Microsoft versus Facebook.

But I wonder now if maybe that thinking gets it wrong. How fast a small business makes good decisions (relative to its small business competitors) surely matters. And lots.

To give you a couple of examples from the small business category I work in… How fast a small CPA firm adapts technology matters. The slow pokes get beat up when they don’t make good decisions as fast as their competitors.

Another example, which is scary even to talk about? How fast a small CPA firm adapts to cyber-security threats matters. Firms who slowly respond to cyber-attack risks are surely more likely to experience a breach.

And a final thought about OODA decision loops, which is really just a hunch on my part. In a few cases, a small business doesn’t need faster OODA decision loops. But rather slower decision loops that allow for smarter decisions. One shouldn’t move so fast one makes bad or dumb decisions.

Reading Lists Build Culture and Values

One other interesting management idea Mattis spends a fair amount of time talking about: reading lists.

You know this if you’ve served in the U.S. Marines, but the Marines (and maybe other branches of the military too) require officers to work through reading lists at each promotion. Long ones. Dozens of books.

And the reason? These reading lists provide a way to build a culture, inculcate values and foster common understandings.

That’s brilliant. More small businesses should do the same thing. Books of business principles and management tactics. Relevant industry coverage. Technical references. You start thinking about this idea and lots of knowledge categories make sense, right? I agree.

I was originally going to share with you an example reading list I’ve started for our small business. Quickly I constructed quite a nice sized list, my enthusiasm growing with each title added.

But then it dawned on me. My reading lists will of course look different from your’s. Even if we’re in the same industry. Even if we’re running similarly sized small businesses.

The reading list for a particular role depends on the people hired and then on the requirements of the job.

So I leave you with this idea: Maybe to start we first emulate Secretary Mattis, becoming voracious readers. And then maybe we simply put the best books we encounter onto an internal reading list for our colleagues.

 

The post Mattis’ Management Principles Apply to Small Businesses appeared first on Evergreen Small Business.

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bookmark_borderSmart Money-Saving Tax Moves To Make By Year-End

Smart Money-Saving Tax Moves To Make By Year-End

Graphic by: CKongSavage.com

Taxes are our largest ongoing liability. As a result, it behooves us to optimize our taxes as much as possible. 

The good thing about having multiple income streams is the financial security it provides. The bad thing about having multiple sources of income is that taxes are a little more cumbersome to file.

My main income sources come from stock dividends, bond income, real estate rental income, occasional 1099 income, venture debt income, private equity income, and real estate crowdfunding income.

Before I had a family, my old goal was to shield as much income from taxes as legally possible and keep my Adjusted Gross Income to no greater than $200,000 a year. After ~$200,000 per person, the Alternative Minimum Tax used to really start to kick in as deductions were also phased out.

Thanks to lifestyle inflation and the need to support a family, I’ve decided to shoot for and limit our household income up to $350,000. The marriage penalty tax has all but disappeared after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in 2017. Therefore, it’s OK to earn more money now. Besides, after $200,000 per person and $350,000 for a family of up to four, I’ve noticed there is no incremental increase in happiness.

The majority of actions to reduce your taxes must take place during the calendar year unless you’re filing as a business entity on a fiscal year. So if you want to pay less taxes, it’s worth setting aside some time during the holidays and wrestle this beast to the ground.

Charitable Donations

Being able to give your time and money away to worthy causes is one of the best benefits of being financially independent. No longer will you always feel conflicted about whether you should save and invest your next dollar versus helping someone in need. You just tend to give more because you can.

Just keep in mind there are guidelines you have to meet in order to claim deductions on charitable donations. Here are several things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to itemize deductions and file Form 1040.
  • The charity organization must be qualified with the IRS and be actively tax exempt. This excludes political candidates and organizations, as well as individuals.
  • Used items such as housewares and clothing must be in good condition or better for them to be deductible.
  • Donated vehicles can be deducted at fair market value if you meet certain requirements. For example, the charity must sell your car well below market price to a person in need, or the organization must make major repairs to increase the car’s value. Alternatively, you could qualify if the charity will use the car for purposes such as delivering meals to needy individuals.
  • If the total of your non-cash contributions is greater than $500, you’ll need to file Form 8283.
  • You’ll need a written record of all cash donations with the date, amount, and charity name. So keep your cell phone bills for text donations and any relevant bank statements.
  • If you donate $250 or more in property or cash, you’ll need a statement from the charitable organization detailing your gift and if any services or goods were given to you in exchange.
  • And if you receive goods or services for a donation, you can’t deduct your entire contribution. The value of what you received must be less than your donation, and you can only deduct the difference.
  • If you are volunteering and performing services for a charity using your car, you can deduct mileage.
  • Travel expenses can be deducted if you go on a trip with a qualified charitable organization and you’re “on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip” per the IRS.
  • Donations of property are generally deducted at fair market value based on what they would sell for on the open market.
  • You can avoid capital gains on appreciated stocks held over a year if you donate them to a charitable organization. The amount you can deduct is determined by the stock’s fair market value on the contribution date.

Giving Percentage Rates By Income

Here are some interesting statistics on average charitable contributions based on income for individuals claiming itemized deductions.

It is great to see the sub-$20,000 group give away such a high percentage of their income. I remember when I was working minimum wage service jobs, those who also worked in minimum wage service jobs tended to tip the best.

At lower income levels, it’s all about giving and helping each other survive.

Average Charitable Contributions by income

Here’s another giving by income chart from the National Center For Charitable Statistics. It’s interesting to see the income groups that give the least earns between $200,000 – $1,000,000.

Perhaps the main reason is due to the higher taxes paid through regular W-2 income. After all, paying taxes is a form of charity since your tax dollars get redistributed to help others.

I’ve written a lot in the past about how households making $300,000 and $500,000 a year in expensive cities are just living regular middle-class lifestyles. Part of the reason why is because a huge percentage of their income is going towards taxes.

Once you get over $1 million a year in income, a greater percentage of income tends to come from investments, which are taxed at a lower rate

Average Charitable Giving By Income

Capitalize Losses On Bad Investments

If you own securities or property that have been declining and you’re below your cost basis, consider liquidating before year end if you don’t anticipate a recovery.

Losses on property held for personal use can’t be deducted however, only investment property losses can be written off. And you’ll also need to look at the net of your capital losses and gains, because if your gains are higher than your losses, you’ll owe money on the difference.

Under the tax code, an individual may deduct up to $25,000 of real estate losses per year as long as your adjusted gross income is $100,000 or less and if you “actively participate” in managing the property. The deduction phases out as an individual’s income approaches $150,000. Individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000 are not eligible for this deduction. This income threshold hasn’t changed for a while. 

Note that you cannot deduct rental losses to your active income (e.g. day job income). Rental losses can only be deducted from passive income. You report your rental income and deductible expenses on IRS Schedule E. The IRS reports that roughly half of the filed Schedule E forms show losses.

Unfortunately for stock investment losses, you’re still only allowed to deduct $3,000 a year in capital loss deductions. I’ve had losses of $50,000 or more before that will take over a decade to deduct! At least you can carry over unused losses into the next year and so on. $3,000 isn’t a huge tax break for the year if you qualify, but every bit helps when you’re on a mission to pay fewer taxes.

Deferring Income And Itemized Deductions

It’s good practice to anticipate and prepare for changes to your income in the upcoming year. If your income is likely to go down next year, you’ll want to take as many deductions in the current year as possible and vice versa.

Individual Tax Moves

You can make additional contributions to your 401k before year-end if you haven’t already maxed it out. You can also accelerate your charitable contributions to the current year.

You could also strategically use your credit card when making a donation because deductions are based on the date your card is charged, not the date you actually pay off your credit card bill. In other words, you can make a donation via credit card on December 30, 2019, and not have to pay it off until January 2020.

If you’re not subject to AMT, you can also consider paying property tax installments and state taxes in the current year that aren’t due until next year. Accelerating these payments may help you benefit every other year and lower your tax burden for the current taxable year.

You can also try asking your employer if they can pay your year-end bonus in the following year if you want to defer income. Back when I was working in finance we had the option to defer our entire year-end bonus until some later date by 1 – 3 years.

Business Tax Moves

A business which is cash-based, not accrual-based, can defer taxable income to the following year by sending December invoices at the very end of the month. The reason this can work is the business won’t receive payment for those invoices until January or later, and the business’ taxable income isn’t captured until the date the cash comes in.

Companies and sole proprietors can also reduce taxable income in the current year by charging business related expenses in 4Q that they’d normally take in Q1 of the following year. If you expect your business to grow rapidly in the following year, then wait until the following year to load up on capital expenditure.

If you’re having a great business year, simply wait until the new year to cash your November and December checks in January. Although, there’s always a risk the vendor might disappear or go bust before you can cash your check. Make sure you know what the time limit is for cashing in a check as well.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Starting An Online Business Is A No-Brainer

Review Your Flex Spending Account (FSA)

Make sure you don’t lose any money in your flex spending account if you haven’t yet spent as much as you anticipated this year. Check with your employer if your plan is eligible for a rollover of unused funds until March 15 of the following year.

On the other hand, if you’ve already run out of funds in your flex spending account but have things like medical work or fillings to do at the dentist, try to postpone them until next year if they aren’t urgent. That way you can save on taxes by allocating enough funds in next year’s FSA to cover those expenses.

If you’re planning on leaving Corporate America next year, get your physical done this year (usually free under preventative care). Also consider going to specialists to treat specific injuries. Maybe you need an MRI for a bum knee. Maybe you should finally see a pulmonologist for your asthma or COPD.

Try and get your money’s worth when it comes to healthcare. Don’t neglect physical ailments that are bothering you, for they might get worse and more difficult to fix in the future. 

Consider Revising Your Withholding

Even though you probably submitted your W-4 form to your employer ages ago, you can still file a revised form to make adjustments to the remaining pay periods left in the year. If you anticipate you haven’t withheld enough taxes so far this year, you can increase your withholding to help reduce penalties and fees when you file your taxes.

Check if you’ve already paid 100% of your current tax liability this year. If so and your AGI is less than ~$150,000, you should be able to avoid being charged a penalty. But you’ll need to have paid 110% of your current tax liability in the year to avoid getting dinged if your AGI is above ~$150,000.

This safe harbor method is generally the easier option to avoid paying a penalty because the alternative is to have withheld 90% of your tax liability, which can be difficult for freelancers and independent contracts to calculate.

If you are earning both W-2 wages and 1099 income, bumping up your January 15th estimated tax payment to compensate for having underpaid in previous quarters doesn’t work. Each quarter is treated separately with estimated taxes. However, withheld taxes on paychecks are treated as if they were paid throughout the whole year.

Review Your Retirement Contributions To Date 

401(k) Contribution Limits For 2020 Compared To 2019

The maximum 401k contribution limit increases to $19,500 for 2020 from $19,000 in 2019. You should max out your 401(k) if you are in the 24% marginal federal income tax bracket or higher to save on taxes.

Even though this is the season of giving, don’t forget to pay yourself first. Take a look at how much you’ve contributed to your retirement accounts so far to date, and make additional contributions to the maximum.

If you only have one retirement account and it is already maxed out, check if you’re eligible to take additional deductions by opening additional accounts. You may not qualify if you have a high AGI, but it’s always good to know what your options are, especially if your income is likely to decrease in the future.

Know The Tax Rules

We all need to spend several hours each year reviewing and understanding the latest tax rules. Given the tax code is tens of thousands of pages long, spending several hours a year is the least we can do.

Below are the 2020 federal income tax rates for individual taxpayers and married individuals filing joint returns.

2020 Federal Income Tax Rates

Based on the latest federal income tax rates, the optimal gross adjusted income for an individual is about $163,300 and about $326,600 for married couples with up to three children. At these income levels, you’re paying at most a 24% marginal federal income tax rate. Every dollar above requires you to pay a 32% marginal income tax rate.

If you’re making more, but your lifestyle is terrible, consider cutting back on your work hours or change jobs or professions. At the very least, stop stressing about having to be the best employee possible to get that raise and promotion. 

We don’t know exactly how much more or less we’ll make the next year, but we can all make an educated guess and plan accordingly.

If you want to save more on taxes, start a business or a side business. You can either incorporate as an LLC or S-Corp or simply be a Sole Proprietor (no incorporating necessary, just be a consultant and file a Schedule C and 1040.

Every business person can start a Self-Employed 401k where you can contribute up to $57,000 ($19,500 from you and ~20% of operating profits) for 2020. All your business-related expenses are tax deductible as well.

The first step is to launch your own website to legitimize your business. The next step is to obviously go try and make some income! Most expenses related to the pursuit of such income should be considered a business expense. Below is an income statement example from a sole proprietor.

Start a simple business to pay less taxes and contribute more to pre-tax retirement accounts

Start a simple business to pay less taxes and contribute more to pre-tax retirement accounts

Pay Your Taxes With Pride

For those of you who are paying more in taxes than the median household makes a year (~$63,000), feel proud that you are contributing a lot to society.

Taxes are used to pay for defense, healthcare, infrastructure, food and shelter assistance programs, public schools, and more. If these things are considered good, then paying taxes is absolutely a form of giving.

It’s understandable that some people want to raise taxes on others without having to pay more themselves. If you are one of them, I encourage you to start contributing more yourself before going after other people who already are.

Readers, what other tax moves do you recommend making before year-end? Disclaimer: I’m not a tax professional, so please consult one before making any tax moves.

The post Smart Money-Saving Tax Moves To Make By Year-End appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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bookmark_borderYou’re always one decision away from a totally different life

You’re always one decision away from a totally different life

decision

Heard that quote up there the other day and still nodding to myself at how true it is…

The simplest decisions have the power to change your life! For the better or worse!

Of course there are many other decisions that don’t result in squat and matter at all, haha, but those are the boring ones which we won’t be pondering about today 😉

Went down a mental list of all the choices I clearly remember making that ended up resulting in smart moves, and here’s what I came up with:

  • Deciding to go to University
  • Deciding to be cigarette and drug-free (hard to do at university!!)
  • When I packed up all my stuff and moved to New York City
  • When I finally decided to sign up to my company’s 401(k) plan
  • When I started tracking my net worth
  • When I started this blog instead of wasting even more time on MySpace (remember that? ;))
  • When my future wife asked me where the bathroom was at my favorite bar, and I asked her to dance instead (she said no, but an hour later she came to her senses!)
  • When I decided to go “all in” on myself and do this blog thing full-time
  • When I gave up complaining, cursing, soda, and shopping when bored every day of my life – all results of my yearly Lent challenges that later became habits!
  • When I decided I wanted to be a dad
  • When I quit successful projects that no longer made sense for me
  • And then finally, when I decided to put MY LIFE in front of my CAREER

All big moves whether I knew it at the time or not. And of course, there were plenty of failed decisions sprinkled along the way too, haha…

Such as:

  • That time I bought a house with no money down and no budget on a whim
  • That time I threw out my back trying to lift a safe impatiently
  • That time I drank too much and chipped a tooth during Beer Pong (still no idea how that happened?!)
  • That time I invested $6,000 into a friend’s company and lost it all
  • That time I invested $10,000 into another friend’s company and lost half of that too (I was on such a lucky streak back then that I let my guard down and was quickly put in my place, haha…)
  • That time I let a friend borrow my car and then he crashed it
  • That time I ordered a salad at a pancake restaurant (never again!!)
  • (ALL) those times I put my career in front of my kids and my family

You can’t always be perfect, but you hope at least the WINS more than make up for all the FAILS over your lifetime! Haha… And even better if you can win at the big things and suck at the small things 😉

Fun question to ask yourself though as we head closer to the new year here and start making those resolutions…

What are some big decisions you already know right now that would completely change your life if you implemented them? What’s holding you back?

Most of us know what we should be doing, but it’s a whole other thing to make ’em happen. Let this be a gentle push to take that first step, and if you need an accountability partner along the way just drop me a note! Happy to root on a fellow money friend 🙂

You’re always just one decision away from a totally different life.

 

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bookmark_borderWishing for a walkable neighborhood

“You sure slept in late,” I said to Kim this morning.

“I know,” she said. “I was up for two hours in the middle of the night. I was thinking about you. I was thinking about everything we talked about at our family meeting.”

“For two hours?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Kim said. “My wheels were spinning. I was trying to figure out why you’ve been so unhappy since we moved to this house. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s because we don’t live in a walkable neighborhood. That’s so important for you. I think it makes a real difference to your mental health.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said.

Walk Score: Seven

Actually, when we moved to this place two-and-a-half years ago, the lack of walkability was a very real consideration. I thought about it. I talked about it. I wrote about it. In the end, though, I decided that the pros of the move would outweigh the cons.

Our current home has a Walk Score of 7

Since we moved, I haven’t thought much about the lack of walkability here. I’m aware of it, sure, and I sometimes bemoan the fact that I can’t just walk for errands. But Kim could be right. This could be a critical factor in my (lack of) recent happiness.

  • The condo had a Walk Score of 68, a Bike Score of 81, and a Transit Score of 37. Our current country cottage has a Walk Score of 7, a Bike Score of 24, and a Transit Score of 0. (The only reason our Walk Score isn’t a zero? There are nearby schools and parks.)
  • At our old place, the 0.5-mile walk to the nearest grocery store took ten minutes. Now, the two nearest grocery stores are both 1.5 miles away — or half an hour by foot. (Plus there’s 625 feet of elevation change on one route, an average grade of about 7.5%.)
  • At the condo, walking to restaurants took a little longer than walking to the grocery store — by two minutes. And there were a dozen good eateries to choose from! Here, it’s the same 1.5-mile walk to reach lesser-quality restaurants (and, again, half of them are at the bottom of a huge hill).

When we lived in Portland, it was easy to walk for nearly every errand. If the place I needed wasn’t in the half-mile radius of our immediate neighborhood, it was almost certainly within the one-mile radius of our extended neighborhood. And some summer afternoons, I’d make the 2.7-mile walk to the next neighborhood over in order to access even more stores and services.

Here, outside of the two shopping centers that are 1.5 miles away, there are two additional commercial pockets that are each 2.9 miles away (at the bottom of the hill). Those walks are doable — but not often.

Gone are the days when at three in the afternoon, I’d decide what to make for dinner, then walk to the grocery store to pick up ingredients. Gone are the days of spontaneously deciding to walk to Thai food for lunch. Gone are the days of walking the four miles into downtown Portland from the condo to meet readers and colleagues.

A Cascade Effect

Before we moved, I averaged about 12,000 steps per day. Last month, I averaged 6287 steps per day. Most of those steps are from walking the dog. A few times per year, I’ll walk for errands. Mostly, though, I drive.

Other indicators are worrisome too. In the thirty months since we’ve lived here, I’ve gained thirty pounds. (I’m pleased to report that I seem to have arrested this weight gain, however, and am now losing weight.) My net worth has dropped $300,000 (!!!). I now get a few social interactions per week instead of a few per day.

I can’t say there’s a causal relationship between the move and these changes (although it sure seems likely). And I’m not saying that I want to leave this house. Because I don’t. I told Kim as much this morning.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to improve your mental health,” Kim said this morning. “Even if it means moving.”

I waved her off. “I think you’re probably right about this. I think the lack of walkability probably has had a huge impact on me. But I don’t want to move. That feels foolish. I love this place. I love my life here with you and our animals. I don’t want to leave.”

Instead, I think I need to force myself to get out and walk more. I need to accept where I live and walk regardless.

A decade ago, when Kris and I were still married and living on the other side of the river, I was in a similar situation. The nearest grocery store was exactly one mile away. There were a few restaurants within 1.5 miles of the house. If I was feeling ambitious, I could walk the 2.7 miles to the nearest downtown area to access even more stuff.

For most of the time I lived in that house, I did not walk for errands. But during my last couple of years with Kris, I learned to walk. It became something I looked forward to. By the time we split up, I was often walking the five-mile roundtrip to the nearest town for lunch. I think that’s something I could (and should) do here.

The nearest restaurant to our house

Time to Walk

“You know what?” Kim said as we prepared to walk the dog this morning. “I think you might want to consider renting an office somewhere nearby. Even if it’s just a small place. It’d be a way for you to get out of the house. And if the office was somewhere walkable, you could scratch that itch too.”

Maybe Kim’s right. I don’t know.

This morning, I sifted through Craigslist to see if there’s any local office space for rent. There is, but not much. Five miles from our house, in the center of the next city over, there are two spots available.

  • The first space is 129 square feet for $325 per month.
  • The second space is 161 square feet for $425 per month.

Both of these spaces are in the same building, and the building is in the heart of a walkable downtown where we already do many of our errands. Plus, there’s a Regus shared office space at the bottom our our hill, about 2.5 miles from the house. That’s certainly walkable in summer and bike-able most of the year. (There’s no much else in that particular neighborhood though.)

I’ve already sent email regarding the office space. Tomorrow, I’ll drop by the Regus building to check out my options there. I think Kim may be on to something here.

In the meantime, I’m absolutely going to make myself walk more often — despite the fact that meterological winter starts today. When the cats need food, I’ll walk to the pet store. For small shopping trips, I’ll walk to the grocery store. And once or twice each week, I’ll walk to a local restaurant for lunch (and to work).

Instead of being passive, instead of allowing myself to be unhappy due to my circumstances (circumstances that I chose), it’s time for me to be proactive, time for me to do the things that I know bring me increased well-being. And that means walking.

The post Wishing for a walkable neighborhood appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

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bookmark_borderXero and Osome Are Now Gold Business Partners

Featured image from Pixabay on Pexels

Xero, one of the largest accounting software platforms in the world, recently added Osome to its list of the best service providers in Singapore.

An Introduction to Osome

Osome provides accounting services in the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Their partnership with Xero is an important achievement for the company. This is because of the possibilities now available for improving the quality of service. In fact, both parties are striving to reach new levels of delivering impeccable accounting software.

As few as 30 companies have the status of being Xero’s Gold Partner. Osome’s leaders are pleased that the company has finally joined their ranks. This accomplishment means that the accounting software giant acknowledges Osome’s experience with bookkeeping, taxation, and other aspects of business administration.

The Companies’ Leaders

The companies’ leaders, Kevin Fitzgerald of Xero and Dr. Konstantin Lange of Osome, both look forward to a long and successful collaboration. Other companies around the world also have high expectations for a mutually beneficial partnership between the two companies.

Fitzgerald and Lange believe that together they will help to make accounting easier and less expensive for small business owners all around the world.

Osomes Offerings

Osome offers high-quality online services for businesspersons who want to establish new companies in the United Kingdom and Asia. They offer effective accounting plans that make bookkeeping and accounting tasks easier.

For example, thanks to Osome, entrepreneurs can quickly send documents to certified accountants who then sort everything out and generate the appropriate accounting reports. For the client, the entire process takes only a few minutes.

Rapid Response Times

Osome provides reports in a timely manner in full compliance with all regulations. The company reaches out to customers in advance. Users regularly get updates on filing deadlines and reminders to send in necessary documents. Additionally, Osome’s accountants respond within 15 minutes regardless of the time of day. In fact, any client can reach them even on weekends and late at night.

In addition to its accounting services, Osome offers the following:

  • Company formation
  • Tax services
  • Business administration
  • Corporate secretarial services

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO GET TAX BREAKS BEFORE YOU EVEN START YOUR BUSINESS

Any entrepreneur can start using Osome’s cloud platform from a desktop or even with a smartphone app. The platform offers a wide array of packages for companies of any size. In short, not even the smallest business will need to pay extra.

Xero and Osome: A Noteworthy Partnership

Xero, for its part, is a prominent online provider of business accounting services. With a team of more than 2,500 people, they deliver a cloud platform that offers accounting, financial, and administrative services. Further, they offer consultations for subscribers. In fact, Xero has more than 2 million subscribers globally. This makes them the most suitable partner for Osome.

The post Xero and Osome Are Now Gold Business Partners appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderIntranets: Are They More Secure Than Cloud Storage?

Featured image from dolgachov on Yay Images

There are a number of benefits of intranet networks for businesses of all sizes. Most experts that advocate for intranet services focus on the productivity benefits. However, there are other advantages of intranets that cannot be overlooked.

One of the most important benefits of corporate intranets is security. In fact, one report shows that there are 12 major security risks that come with moving to the cloud. This suggests that an intranet can be a better alternative.

This is a key selling point of intranet services that must not be overlooked, as security precautions are becoming more important than ever. This is because data breaches and malware threats are escalating. Moreover, around 60% of all companies that suffer a security breach find themselves out of business within half a year.

What Is an Intranet?

An intranet is a private network. These private networks are most often used by businesses that seek to keep their intellectual property and collaboration tools out of reach of outsiders. An intranet is generally used only within a single organization.

What Are the Security Benefits of an Intranet?

Intranet services offer some essential security benefits. Here are some reasons companies that prioritize their digital security should consider storing critical data on an internal network, instead of on the cloud.

Prevent Hackers from Severing Access to External Connections

Any organization that is connected to the Internet is vulnerable to hackers. This is because it is very difficult to completely bar malicious hackers from connecting to company resources.

This threat will
be significantly reduced by utilizing an intranet instead. This is because only
employees within the physical walls of your organization will have access to
digital resources on the company intranet.

Businesses Can Modify Access Permissions

Only employees within the organization have access to data stored on the intranet. What’s more, even employee access can be limited at management’s discretion.

Every intranet service allows companies to modify permissions as tightly as necessary. Management can choose to make some resources available to every employee with an intranet connection. However, they can decide to reserve other resources only for certain technical support specialists or administrators. Meanwhile, they can reserve the most sensitive data solely for employees with administrator access logins.

RELATED ARTICLE: SMART TIPS FOR BETTER SMALL BUSINESS CYBER SECURITY

Minimize Security Weak Points with an Intranet

Most companies have a fragmented security infrastructure. In other words, they depend on numerous security applications and add-ons.

This creates a number of challenges. For example, some of these applications might not be compatible with each other. This can cause them to stop working effectively.

This is the same kind of problem people encounter when they have multiple malware protection programs installed on their desktop at the same time. Another issue is that some of these applications will be less reliable than others. This can significantly weaken the overall security of the network.

Establish Document Security Without Digital Signatures

Digital signatures can establish the security of a document.

However, digital signatures are not necessary in intranet networks. This is because these internal networks are well-sanitized. Therefore, business owners will have greater peace of mind, since they will know that all company documents are secure.

What Measures Should Companies Take to Make Their Intranet Even More Secure?

There are countless security benefits of intranet networks. However, they still are not foolproof. Any organization that is setting up their own intranet will still need to take certain security precautions. Below are some of the precautions these businesses need to take.

Apply Email Filters

Companies need to ensure that all email communications are secure and free of malware. To this end, they should install an email filter. This will block emails with compromising data.

Set Employee Permissions Properly

Organizations need to be pragmatic when setting permissions for employees. For example, they need to consider that employees might compromise security without any malicious intent. The best rule of thumb is to restrict permissions to employees who absolutely must access certain data.

Keep Malware Protection Up-to-Date

Malware protection is essential to any network, and intranets are no exception. Moreover, a company’s IT team should update malware protection software regularly. This practice will significantly minimize the risk of external malware leaking into the network.

Intranets Are Secure Alternatives to Cloud Storage

Every organization needs to make digital security one of their top priorities. What’s more, a company’s digital security can easily be at risk when they store their data on the cloud.

The good news is a business can significantly improve security by using an intranet instead. With an intranet they can drastically minimize the risk of a security breach or malware infection.

The post Intranets: Are They More Secure Than Cloud Storage? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderOur first annual family meeting

Yesterday, to celebrate Thanksgiving, Kim and I instituted what we hope will become an annual tradition. Yesterday, we held our first annual family meeting.

Kim approached me with the idea last week. “I think it’d be nice to sit down and talk about our goals,” she said.

“I agree,” I said. I was thinking of the article Matthias shared here in August. Matt and his wife create five-year plans to co-ordinate their shared future. They spend a day drafting couple goals to build their dream life. I’ve been thinking that Kim and I should do something similar.

So, yesterday morning over coffee, we sat down for our a family meeting. We talked about the current state of our household — and we talked about where we’d like to steer things in years to come.

J.D.’s Rocky Year

“It’s been a rocky year for me,” I said, although Kim already knew this. “I’ve been fighting anxiety and depression since March. I’ve had a few patches of amazing productivity and good self-worth, but I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to keep from drowning. Metaphorically.”

“That’s true,” Kim said, “but you’re making good changes. You’re exercising. You’re drinking less. You’re seeing friends more often. You’ve stopped wasting time on videogames. And you have your big project coming up.”

“Right,” I said. I’ve been recruited by Audible and The Great Courses to create a ten-part (five-hour) series on financial independence and early retirement. “That work is going to take most of this winter. The first five lectures are due at the end of January. The rest of the course is due at the end of March. I’ll fly to D.C. in early May to record the audio.”

“Will the project pay enough to fund your lifestyle?” Kim asked.

“Sort of,” I said. “It’s four months of work, and it’ll probably end up funding about four months of expenses. That’s not bad, but it’s not great either. But I’m not really doing it for the money, you know.”

“How are your finances?” Kim asked. Believe it or not, in our nearly eight years together, we’ve only talked about money in-depth a couple of times. We trust each other, so we haven’t felt the need.

“Things aren’t as good as they were three years ago,” I said.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

Notes for family meeting

“Well, when we returned from the RV trip in June 2016, I felt completely at ease financially. I had enough saved that I never felt like I had to work again. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted.”

“That’s not true anymore?”

“Not really,” I said. “You know I’m not squandering my money, obviously, but let’s look at the numbers. Over the past three years, I’ve spent $400,000 on a bunch of big stuff: buying back Get Rich Slowly, remodeling this house, those investments in other businesses. I’m not blowing the money on gambling and hookers. These are all financial decisions that made sense in the moment, but which have left me feeling pinched.”

“Are you running out of money?” Kim asked.

“No, not really,” I said. “I just don’t have as much as I want. Look. I’ll show you the numbers.”

In 2016, I had about $800,000 in regular, taxable investment accounts. Today, I have $271,119. “This is the money I have to live on until I turn 59-1/2 in nine years,” I told Kim. “Three years ago, I had enough saved that I could spend $67,000 per year. Today, that’s down to $30,000 per year.”

“But the money you spent on Get Rich Slowly isn’t dead,” Kim said. “That gives you an income, right?”

“I haven’t taken any money out of the business yet,” I said. “It’s earning about $5000 per month in revenue. But then we have expenses. And after expenses, Tom and I share profit. But neither of us had taken any profit yet. We have about $12,500 in the business bank account.”

“What about your retirement savings?”

“That’s doing better,” I said. “I have almost exactly $500,000 in my retirement accounts. That should continue to grow over the next decade. Plus, the house is worth about half a million too, and I own that free and clear.”

“So, why are you worried?”

“I can’t explain it,” I said. “It’s just the next nine years I worry about. And I know that the worst-case scenario is that I find work at Starbucks for a few years. My net worth is still over $1.6 million, so that’s great. It’s just bridging the gap between now and retirement that concerns me.”

Kim’s Quiet Accumulation

“Now,” I said, “how are you doing with your money?”

“I don’t have as much as you do,” Kim said, “but I never have. I don’t know if I ever will.” She pulled up her account information on her laptop.

“I just added a fourth work day each week,” she said, “which means I’ll now be earning $5500 per month. I’m putting 22% of that into my Vanguard retirement accounts. I’ve been saving a similar amount for my new car and for other goals.”

“So, you’re saving nearly half of your income?”

“More or less,” she said. “And now I have nearly $200,000 saved for retirement. But I’ve been feeling really pinched lately. I know that’s because I’ve been saving so much, but I don’t like it. I know it’d help if I spent less. I just don’t know where all of my money goes.”

“You don’t like tracking it,” I said.

“I hate tracking it,” she said. “I hate tracking money. I hate tracking calories. I hate tracking anything.”

“Well, a lot of your money this year has gone to medical expenses,” I said. Kim had knee surgery at the end of March. She’s maxed her out-of-pocket expenses this year. (I have too!)

“That’s true,” Kim said. “But I still feel like I’m spending too much.”

“I was just looking at my yearly numbers in Quicken,” I said. “At the start of the year, I cut back hard on a lot of my extraneous expenses. And next year will be the last year that I buy Portland Timbers tickets, so that’ll cut even more. The biggest splurge I still carry is food. I spend a ton on food. I’ll bet you do too.”

“Maybe that’s something we should address in 2020,” Kim said. “We could find cheaper places to eat out. We could choose happy hour instead of dinner. We could drink less. Let’s work on it.”

Family Goals

“Okay,” I said. “That’s where we are at the moment. Where do we want to be? What are our goals?”

“In the immediate future, I need to buy a new car,” Kim said. She drives a 1997 Honda Accord that has been limping along on its last legs. “I plan to test-drive a RAV4 this weekend, if you want to come. I have nearly $20,000 saved for that, plus USAA has pre-approved me for a $10,000 auto loan.”

“Here’s an idea,” I said. “You’re paying me $500 each month for the house. You’ve paid a total of $13,750 since we moved in. What if you stopped paying me and I gave you back that money?”

“Why?” Kim said.

“It’d help you with your cash flow,” I said. “And it’d make it so you didn’t have to borrow to buy the car.”

“But it’d hurt your cash flow,” she said. “Plus, I like the idea of buying into the house. I like having ownership.”

“I get it,” I said. “Just consider the idea. What are your long-term goals?”

“I really want to save for a second house,” Kim said. “I want us to buy a beach house that can double as an investment property. I’ve been talking about this ever since you and I started dating eight years ago. It’s important to me, but we haven’t done anything about it.”

Kim changed gears. She asked me about my future. “What are your plans?” she asked.

“I don’t have any specific long-term goals,” I said. “I like our life. I like our family. I like where we live. The only two concerns I have are my mental health and my financial situation until I reach retirement age.”

“You’re working on the mental health thing,” Kim said. “What can you do about the money?”

“My top priority is to increase my income,” I said. “I’ll check my spending again at the start of the year, but I’m sure it’s down from where it was twelve months ago. It’s my income that’s the issue. I have enough saved that I can draw about $2500 per month, but I’d rather not touch that money at all. I’d rather keep it for retirement.”

“So, if you want more income, how are you going to do it? You could find a job, right? Or make more from Get Rich Slowly?”

“Those are the two options,” I said. “And I don’t really want to find a job. I truly believe I can make enough with the website to support myself.”

“How are you going to do that?” Kim asked.

“I think there are three things I can do. First — and most importantly — I can publish more regularly. I don’t want to wed myself to a schedule, and that’s fine. But I think I’d be happier (and so would the readers) if I published more often than three times per month!”

“What else?” Kim asked.

“Well, Tom and I both believe that if we’d finish the redesign, that could help increase income. We’ve been working on the new site for two years. Lately, I’ve been the hold up. It’s stupid. We need to get it out there as it is, then worry about fixing things after we launch.

“And the final thing I could do to make more money is to build out profitable sections of the site. I’ve been reluctant to write certain articles because I feel like it’s ‘selling out’. But it doesn’t have to be. If I do it my way, in a way that helps the readers, it can be a win-win.”

“Then do it,” Kim said.

We finished our family meeting by touching on some miscellaneous topics. We agreed not to take any major trips for a couple of years, for instance, so that we can both focus on saving money. (Instead, we’ll make excursions in and around Oregon.) And business travel killed me this year. I was miserable. I’ll do less of that over the next year or two.

Final Thoughts

In all, Kim and I spent two hours discussing our current situation and talking about the future. It was awesome. We both came away feeling energized about our plans. We didn’t find all of the answers, and that’s okay. We feel like the discussion has put us on a shared path.

After our money talk, we tackled the second part of our family meeting. We walked through the entire house — then across the entire property. As we went from room to room (and spot to spot), we drafted a list of projects for the coming year.

House goals from family meeting

Finally, we spent the afternoon putting dreams into action. While Kim cooked Thanksgiving dinner and tackled some of the house projects, I cleaned out our storage shed, then thinned my wardrobe. (For years, I’ve been wanting to move to a more minimalist wardrobe, but keep finding reasons not to. Yesterday, I finally gave in and boxed up a bunch of clothes.)

Today, as soon as I finish this article, I’ll transfer our list of “house goals” from paper to digital. Tomorrow, we’ll test-drive a new car for Kim. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll support each other as we work toward our individual and shared goals.

Our first annual family meeting was a success. I look forward to repeating this process again next year!

The post Our first annual family meeting appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

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bookmark_borderChoosing the Best Digital Marketing Company

Featured image by kentoh on Yay Images

If you’re ready to hire a digital marketing company, you may be wondering where to begin and how to choose. Don’t worry. You can make this process easy. Keep reading to find out how.

Does Your Business Really Need a Digital Marketing Company?

Digital marketing is vital to a company’s success. With more and more advances in technology, people are spending more time than ever before on the Internet. This makes the digital world of search engines and social media the best place to reach consumers.

Moreover, as a business owner, you have a lot of plates in the air. Wouldn’t it be wise to turn your digital marketing over to the experts?

Everyone Uses Digital Devices from Sunup to Sundown

Consider how many daily tasks you complete through some use of a digital device. Take waking up, for example. Not so long ago, your best option was to use an alarm clock. However, now that alarm is located on your phone.

Not only does it play a sound to wake you up, but there is also an array of sounds, including classical music or a rooster crowing. Moreover, you can also choose to wake up to flashing lights in colors of your choice or even a video. If you can imagine it, your phone will wake you up to it.

Now, if technology and the Internet are involved these days with the simple act of waking up, imagine the rest of the day. Whether you are looking for a New York City SEO firm or a digital marketing company in Austin, you will find tips and information on the Internet to help you choose the very best digital marketing company.

Make a List of What You Need from a Digital Marketing Company

The first thing you need to do is make a list of everything
that you feel will make a digital marketing company the best for you.

As you make your list, add anything and everything that pops into your head as being important to you in a digital marketing company. Then revise your list, making sure you eliminate any unrealistic expectations.

Next, sort the items on your list into categories.

The first category should be the things that are absolutely non-negotiable. The next category should be the things that are important but are a bit more flexible. The third will be those items that are preferences, but not necessities.

Many people find it helpful to sort these categories into columns for the final version of their list.

Decide on Your Digital Marketing Budget

After you have completed your list of requirements and preferences in a digital marketing company, you are almost ready to begin your search.

First, however, you need to make two important decisions. The first decision is how much money you can spend. Inevitably, you will have a budget that you need to stick to when hiring a digital marketing professional. If you have not already set up a basic budget outline, now is the time to do so.

Your second decision is to determine whether or not you want to include only local companies or if you want to expand your search nationally or even globally. This is a digital world, after all, and you’re looking for a digital marketing company. Weigh the pros and cons of each choice.

In the end, of course, only you can decide which option is best for you. Of course, if your business happens to be in an area where there are few or no local options, you will have to rely on the Internet. On the other hand, if you have several local options, the decision will be all about your preferences.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to include companies from other areas, you will have a wider range of choices.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 BUSINESS SKILLS TO MASTER IN 2019

Begin Your Search and Make Your Decision

Now it’s time to begin the actual search for the digital marketing company that’s right for you. If you are searching in your local area, look for ads, posters, billboards, flyers, and anything else that advertises local digital marketing companies. You can also search through local phone books.

Of course, the Internet is a fantastic resource even you are only looking locally.

On the other hand, if you have decided to expand your search, the world is your oyster. So take to the Internet and sort through the listings that appeal to you.

Next, make a short list of digital marketing companies that you think might work for your company.

Then, compare each one against your list of requirements and preferences. Sift through all the online customer reviews you can find.

Finally, make your decision.

Once you have made your choice, you can feel confident that you have done the best you could do to find the right digital marketing company for your business.

The post Choosing the Best Digital Marketing Company appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderGreat Things To Buy With Your Massive Investment Gains

After about 13 years of diligently saving 50% – 75% of my income, I started to lose steam. No longer was I obsessed with growing my wealth as large as possible. Instead, I wanted to find ways to start spending money for a better life. I was 35 years old in 2013 and tired of living so frugally.

It’s hard to spend money when you’re so used to saving and investing aggressively for so many years. In a big way, growing your money pot gets addicting, especially since the estate tax exclusion amount is now $11.58 million per person for 2020. But it’s important to consumption smooth, otherwise, you’ll likely die with way too much.

The main way I’ve forced myself to increase my spending is to review my investment gains for the year and take some profits on positions I think have limited upside potential. I then use these profits to pay for a better life.

One idea is to follow my 10X Investment Consumption Rule, which states that if you want the latest $1,000 iPhone, then you best make at least a $10,000 return on an investment to pay for that unnecessary item.

Another way to go about spending your money is to take 10% of your annual investment returns and blow it on whatever you want. This way, you’ve still got 90% of your investments hopefully working for you, you’re not paying a lot of taxes, and you’re rebalancing your portfolio.

If you tether consumption to investment returns you will never go broke. You will also likely eradicate any money guilt you have for spending money. Finally, if you want to spend more money, you will be motivated to invest more money for hopefully greater returns.

Your Massive Investment Gains

Great Things To Buy With Your Massive Investment Gains

With the S&P 500 up ~25% and the NASDAQ up ~35% in 2019, a lot of investors have made a ton of money in stocks. Just think about the absolute dollar amounts for a bit.

If you had a $250,000 S&P 500 portfolio at the beginning of the year, you’re up $62,500. Using 10% or $6,250 to pay for some goodies sounds great.

If you had a $500,000 S&P 500 portfolio at the beginning of the year, you’re up $125,000. 10% of $125,000 is $12,500 for holiday shopping.

If you had a $2,000,000 S&P portfolio at the beginning of the year, you’re up $500,000. Why not spend $50,000 on some great experiences and things you want for you and your family? Your portfolio is still worth $2,450,000!

Then, of course, there are the gains you’ve made from all your other investments. But if we start calculating those, things might get out of hand.

You can decide to take profits to pay for a better life or you can just use your cash savings or cash flow to spend an amount equal to 10% of your paper profits. I personally like to take profits to pay for things because it feels like I’m getting something for nothing. Further, just in case my investments depreciate, at least I’ll have bought something longer-lasting.

Given the massive returns in stocks, I’m confident the 2019/2020 holiday shopping season is going to be robust! Not only is the consumer going to spend handsomely this season on things they really don’t need, I also believe there will be renewed interest in buying real estate in 2020+ as well.

Things To Buy With Your Investment Gains

I know the most frugal of you will scream at the lavishness of some of these purchases. But don’t forget, they are all to be bought with just 10% or less of your annual investment gains. So relax and live a little!

Depending on your returns, here are some things to buy with your investment profits that will improve your life.

1) The perfect mattress. ($1,000 – $5,000) We sleep on our mattresses 6 – 8 hours a day on average. If you want to be productive while you’re awake, a good mattress should help facilitate a good night’s sleep. Mattresses should be changed about once every 10 years for optimal performance and hygiene. If you have allergies or don’t like bed bugs, changing your mattress every 10 years should help, along with an allergen cover. We bought Four Seasons Essentials mattress encasements for all of our mattresses to help extend their life and reduce allergens.

2) A humidifier ($50 – $500). The air gets dry during the winter. As a result, your throat and nasal passages can also dry out. Get a high-tech humidifier to help regulate the humidity in your room to allow you to breathe better. Dyson makes a fancy one that costs about $500 full price, that you can try to snag for under $300 on sale. James Dyson is worth over $10 billion because his products are next level. If you want a way more budget friendly option, the TaoTronics Cool Mist 4L Ultrasonic Humidifier is a popular choice.

Dyson humidifier

3) A Nest thermostat ($200 – $300). A Nest thermostat is great for controlling the temperature of a room, floor, or entire house from an app. The thermostat will learn about your temperature preferences throughout the day and automatically adjust itself accordingly. You can also easily program temperatures throughout the day and week with your phone. The 3rd Gen Nest Thermostat comes in a bunch of colors now and works with 95% of 24-Volt heating and cooling systems. We own three of them across two properties.

Nest Thermostat

4) A Dyson vacuum cleaner ($200 – $800). After we got the Dyson Animal V7, I began to love vacuuming the house every week. Not only is the Animal powerful, it’s cordless, saves your back, and it’s very gratifying to see all the dust and debris collect in the see-through canister. Those old, loud, and heavy vacuum cleaners are so passé! I loved mine so much that I bought my parents one too.

Dyson Animal V6 Vacuum Cleaner

5) A Coway air purifier ($200 – $1,500). The air quality in your home can often be worse than the air quality outside. Why not purify your air of excessive bacteria, dust, and other impurities, especially if you work from home, have allergies, have asthma, and/or have little ones? I like the Coway Airmega line of Smart Air Purifiers which automatically adjusts fan speed based on the amount of pollutants in the air in real time. They come in a range of sizes with or without wifi/app functionality too.

Coway air purifier

6) A full body massage ($60 – $200/hour). One of the best investments I’ve made over the past five years is getting a monthly massage at home. The masseuse will come to you with a massage table and knowledge of what type of massage you like. You can always get a chair massage at the mall as well for $1/minute. The more relaxed and stress-free you are, the happier you will be. When you approach a relationship or a task as a happy person, everything gets better.

7) A hot tub ($5,000 – $25,000). Several years ago, I bought a Sundance Altamar hot tub for about $13,000 after tax. It has been the best $13,000 I ever spent! I spend about three hours a week in the hot tub to relax, read, and think of new post ideas. Just know that if you want a hot tub, you’ll also need to pay an electrician to run the wires into your electrical main. You will likely also have to pay for shipping and maybe even a crane to get it over your roof. I gotta say though, some of my best work was written in the hot tub.

Best hot tub in the world

8) A rare stainless steel watch ($7,000 – $20,000). There’s no limit to how much you can spend on watches, which is why I focus on stainless steel watches to keep costs reasonable. You don’t want to buy a watch that is available at the store. Instead, you want to buy a watch that is a limited production or that can only be bought after you spend X amount. This way, your watch will more readily appreciate in value and also be more unique. A classic example of a rare stainless steel watch the continues to appreciate in value is the Rolex Daytona. You can’t buy one for list price unless you’re on the dealer’s special list. For more info on buying and selling watches, you can read about my side hustle as a watch dealer.

Rolex Stainless Steel Daytona

9) A safer car ($30,000 – $100,000). According to the National Safety Council, there were over 40,000 car accident deaths in America in 2018. The main causes of death are drunk driving, speeding, and cell phone use. If you drive often and/or or often have multiple passengers, it’s worth ponying up for the safest car you can afford, even if it violates my 1/10th rule for car buying. Here are some of the safest cars to choose from.

Land Rover Defender 2020

10) A Toto bidet ($400 – $1,500). My other favorite household item is a Toto Washlet electronic bidet with heated seats, automatic opener, automatic cleaner, and warm air blow dryer. Having lived in Asia for 13 years, I still don’t understand why Americans just use toilet paper to clean themselves like humans did 200 years ago. If you don’t have an electrical outlet close to your toilet, then get a non-electric bidet like the Luxe Bidet. It’s only about $35 bucks and can be easily installed yourself. Spraying yourself with cool water is better than no water!

Enjoy Your Shopping Spree

As for what I plan to spend money on this holiday season, here’s my list:

  • $300 for two full-body massages
  • $250 for house cleaning
  • $200 for gardening
  • $220 for a new Wilson Clash tennis racket (first upgrade in 3 years)
  • $120 for a new sports jacket with zipper pockets (unless my high school gives me one for free this Feb)
  • $6,000 for new blinds
  • $11,000 for new windows (undecided)
  • $500 for extra childcare help over two months
  • $200 for a year-end celebratory dinner for two
  • $400 for a year-end celebratory dinner for four as my parents are coming to town
  • $500 to test out a new customized meal delivery service
  • $300 for a secret gift

The total comes to $19,990 if I include new windows or $8,990 excluding windows. Whatever I do spend, it feels great knowing that everything will be had for free with investment gains.

I no longer get much joy buying material things. My spending is now mostly focused on services, experiences, and replacement items. Once you own a car you enjoy, a home you love, and a reliable phone and computer, everything else is either unnecessary or affordable.

Let’s hope the bull market continues. And if it doesn’t, at least we took some profits to pay for a better life!

Readers, what’s on your list of holiday shopping? If you suffer from frugality disease, what are some tips and tricks you use to force yourself to spend more money?

Related: The Best Credit Cards For Online Shopping

The post Great Things To Buy With Your Massive Investment Gains appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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bookmark_borderFavorite reads around the community this month 📚

Favorite reads around the community this month 📚

Post image for Favorite reads around the community this month 📚

Morning!!

Still all nice and full and relaxing over there??! Or are you out braving the chaos that is Black Friday right now? 😉

If it’s the latter, hopefully these articles will slow down your wallet a bit and give you a nice break from it all… Always love seeing what our community is up to over here – constantly getting me to stop and re-asses my habits!

Happy weekend, everyone 🙏🙏

*******

hiding money jacket

Where Husbands Hide Money During Divorce @ The Financial Lifeguard — “Today’s divorcing husbands have moved way beyond stashing a roll of cash in their sock and underwear drawers. In this digital age where everything is trackable, they’ve had to get creative. Here are some of the interesting ways he might be hiding cash or assets from you.”

Life Hacks I’ve Picked Up From The Death Notices @ The Globe and Mail — “I spend Saturday mornings with a coffee in one hand and my newspaper’s death notices in the other… What is it that makes me want to know these people? I have been asking myself the same question for a decade. Here are 10 lessons from the dead.”

How to Get a Better Deal From a Real Estate Agent @ NY Times — “When I bought a home a few months ago, my real estate agent handed me a check worth tens of thousands of dollars — a rebate on his commission. Windfalls like that could become more common if home buyers demand better deals.”

freedom days calculator

The Financial Freedom Calculator @ Engaging Data — “Freedom days refers to the number of days that your retirement savings could sustain you (without working) each year (indefinitely) at your current spending level. Once you reach 365 freedom days per year, you’ve got enough money saved up to never have to work again.”

I’m Dreaming Of An Eco-Friendly Christmas @ Sustainable Living — “Did you know that Christmas didn’t become the commercialised mass production of consumer items we know today until the mid-1920s. It was the beverage company Coca-Cola who created the image of the jolly chubby Santa we all know and love. Yep, that’s right. Coca-Cola was the first big business to commercialise Christmas.”

Own One Car For Show and Another Car For Dough @ Financial Samurai — “For those of you who love cars and want to own two or more cars, I suggest owning at least a Dough Car. If you do, you might build your net worth quicker than the rest. You might even better keep yourself out of trouble.”

giving brush

The Eco-Friendly Giving Brush @ GivingBrush.com — “There are over 7 billion people in the world. 99% of those people brush their teeth with a standard plastic toothbrush that will eventually end up in landfills and our oceans… The Giving Brush is made from organically grown bamboo.”

How I Got Rich On The Other Hand @ Derek Sivers — “I don’t usually talk about money, but a friend asked me what it was like to get rich, and he wanted to know specifics, so I told him my story.”

The Financial Flight – A Craft Beer Menu Of Personal Finance @ Financial Mechanic — “While in Vermont, Mr. Mechanic and I visited a few different breweries. One of my favorite things to do is read each beer description– they are so artfully written! So I thought it would be fun to make up a “financial flight” of craft beer. I hope it’s everything I’ve hopped it up to be.”

cutting through chaos

10 Things That Have Changed In Our Lives Since Attending The Chautauqua @ Cutting Through Chaos — “Quick Disclaimer: Please DO NOT, based on my advice, go to a Chautauqua and THEN quit your job, sell your house, move to a different continent and try and make your kids learn a second language… A lot happened this year, and the Chautauqua was certainly instrumental in triggering some changes, but not ALL…”

Put Harriet Tubman on a New $25 Bill @ National Review — “The exciting and powerful film Harriet, on screens now, should earn its heroine a well-deserved platform on which everyone can see her: a new $25 bill. Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland, fled north 100 miles to Philadelphia, and began life as a free woman in 1849. But she didn’t sit still…”

Castle on FIRE @ Cheesy Finance — “I’ve found a nice “little” castle in northern France and just made initial reservations for next year… The plan is to have fun. Chat with like-minded people, scout the surrounding areas, have a beer or wine (since it’s in France) and just enjoy life!”

America’s Largest Health Insurer Is Giving Apartments to Homeless People @ Bloomberg Businessweek — “One patient cost $12,945/month while he was living on the streets. After he got into housing, monthly expenses dropped to $2,073.”

playing with fire documentary

Playing With FIRE: The Documentary — Now out on Amazon! –> “A Documentary that captures the truths and dispels the myths of the growing culture known as FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early.”

*******

You all read anything good lately?

——

[Killer image up top by Tumisu]

Link to movie above is an Amazon affiliate link

 

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[Prefer to get these blog posts *weekly* instead of daily? Sign up to my new weekly digest here, and get other thoughts on life/business/money as well: jmoney.biz/newsletter]

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bookmark_borderContent to Create Before Your Next Trade Show

Featured image from 72soul on Yay Images

One of the key drivers of trade show marketing is content. Moreover, the ways in which your business leverages content before a trade show have a significant effect on the traction your business generates during the event. Additionally, they greatly influence your returns on investment. But what kind of content should your business create before your next trade show?

Develop Your Pre-Trade Show Content Strategy

Your content marketing strategy before a trade show should consist of three different types of content. These are types of content that:

  • Inform
  • Convince
  • Remind

What Kind of Content Best Informs Stakeholders?

If you are participating in a trade show, the first objective of your content creation should be to inform stakeholders about the event itself and the presence of your business at the trade show. The following content prototypes can enable you to inform your audience:

Landing Page on the Website

Trade shows are integral to onsite marketing. Moreover, with the influx of technology, there are opportunities to galvanize onsite and online marketing like never before. The synergies from doing so enable businesses participating in trade shows to convert the traffic into the website to traffic at the trade show and vice versa.

Therefore, create a landing page on your business’s website. On it, create informative content that catches visitors’ attention.

LinkedIn Posts

As trade show marketers, your main concern is to inform people who have a direct or indirect interest in your business. These are the people who might be interested in attending the trade show if informed on time.

So make sure that your marketing team knocks on all doors on LinkedIn. A great professional networking platform, LinkedIn can enable your business to reach out to a relevant target audience ahead of the trade show.

Another benefit of publishing content pertaining to the trade show on the LinkedIn platform is that its API allows it to integrate email and contact details of stakeholders from your Microsoft 360 cloud suite. This will enable you to maximize content usage and followup.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is probably one of the most important drivers of content marketing strategy for a trade show. It is personal, it gets delivered straight to the person concerned, and it can be accessed across a plethora of physical devices.

Therefore, leverage the expertise and experience of your email marketing team. Charge them with drafting email content for the trade show that is catchy, informative, and shares important details. For example, emails should state the location, date, and timings of the trade show.

Additionally, emails should note the number of attendees and exhibitors and the kind of audience that is expected at the event. Take special care to ensure that the email gets delivered into readers’ inboxes and not their spam folders.

A Visitor Form

Another easy way to create content to inform people about a trade show and to know if they are interested in attending the event is to create a visitor form for your website. Include a plug-in that directly captures their information from their LinkedIn profiles if they show interest.

Allowing people to auto-populate the visitor form will allow your marketing team to capture leads for the event and create a more predictable participation experience.

What Kind of Content Best Convinces Stakeholders?

The second step in the conversation with stakeholders ahead of your next trade show is to convince them to visit the trade show. As such, the content has to sound convincing to stakeholders you are engaging with.

RELATED ARTICLE: 8 WAYS TO CREATE POWERFUL WEBSITE INFOGRAPHICS THAT YOUR VISITORS WILL LOVE

Some of the most effective forms of content that convinces are:

PowerPoint Presentations

Create effective videos using PowerPoint presentations to share your story. Keep content insightful and load it with data points.

For example, how does your offering reduce the turnaround time of an end-to-end cycle? Does your offering reduce costs? If yes, then to what extent is it more economically efficient?

Product Videos

Create product videos ahead of the trade show. For example, if your business offers SaaS products, IoT, AI, or automobiles, it makes good sense to share product videos before the trade show and even at the trade show booth.

Remember that your visitors will feel more confident about purchasing your offering once they can visualize how it works. Therefore, a graphical simulation or a product video enables your target audience to understand how your offering works and how it is different from what your competitors offer.

Trade Show Display Rental

During the trade show, first impressions matter.

On the trade show floor, when you are surrounded by a sea of relevant players from your industry, how will you convince visitors to pay attention to your business offerings?

This is where a professionally designed and customized trade show display rental assumes immense importance. So make sure to choose a unique design that reflects the positioning of your business.

To this end, engage with your trade show booth builders so you will end up with colors that match those in your brand logo and any signage you plan to use in your trade show display rental.

Case Studies

Yet another content form that can be useful in convincing stakeholders to visit your booth are case studies.

Therefore, reflect on the industry verticals have you worked with. Also consider the size and scale of customers you have partnered with.

Create case studies based on these past experiences to share how your business meets customer challenges and offers relevant solutions.

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS PROFESSIONAL VIDEO CONTENT

Video case studies can be especially compelling, convincing visitors to your booth of the effectiveness of your offerings. They can dramatize the experience and expertise your business has in offering solutions to your customers’ business pain points. Additionally, they can humanize the team that engages with customers to create those solutions.

Therefore, compile and share case studies with trade show visitors to gain a competitive edge.

What Kind of Content Best Reminds Stakeholders?

The last cog in the wheel of your conversation with stakeholders ahead of your next trade show is to remind them of the date, venue, and precise location of your trade show rental booth.

Some of the effective content forms that go a long way in reminding stakeholders of the upcoming event are:

Social Media Content

Don’t forget to create catchy social media content to remind your target audience of the details of the trade show. Create both organic and sponsored content with relevant hash tags on the social media platform that best suits your business and your target audience.

Calendar Invitations

Make sure your trade show marketing team sends out calendar invitations on office application suites like Google or Microsoft 360. This can be easily done for B2B marketing. For B2C trade show marketing, an SMS campaign or a Whatsapp campaign can provide good returns on investment.

Whichever method you choose, keep the content concise and crisp. A simple poster image of your business participating in the trade show will probably do the job.

Image Search

Yet another way to boost your target audience’s memory is by doing an image search.

Share images from past editions of the trade show. Images of your brand ambassador or those of opinion leaders can enable your visitors to remember the event based on its importance.

Further, your trade show marketing team can try uploading images of your past association with the trade show using the Google search console. Upload images of your past attendance at the trade show on Google or Bing maps so that it is easier for them to search for the precise location well ahead of the trade show.

Newsletters

Be it in hard copy format or an e-mail based newsletter, create content to remind people of your participation at the trade show days ahead of it. Reserve this tactic for the last stage of the campaign so recipients take note of the reminder.

Content Is the Driver of Your Trade Show Success

Finally, remember that a trade show is about communication with your target audience. Creating great content ahead of the event will allow you to better connect with trade show visitors, creating opportunities for better engagement and more sales.

The post Content to Create Before Your Next Trade Show appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderPersonal vs. Business Finances: Separation Is Best

Featured image from Sergejs Rahunoks on Yay Images

As an individual and a business owner, you have two distinct financial responsibilities in your life. As an individual, you must manage your personal finances and affairs, including the welfare of your family.

In contrast, as a business owner, you have responsibilities to your company and any employees. You need to give your business finances your attention so you can meet your obligations.

From a business finance point of view, it might seem easier to lump all of your financial responsibilities together under one umbrella. This may seem especially true if your business is a sole proprietorship. However, for reasons discussed below, it is more efficient to separate your personal and business affairs.

Let the information below serve as a guide to help you understand the importance of separating your affairs and the best ways to do so.

RELATED ARTICLE: LEVERAGE DEBT AND TAXES TO BECOME RICH: TIPS FOR SMART ENTREPRENEURS

Financial Recordkeeping

As a sole proprietor, you don’t have to maintain separate records of your personal and business finances. However, keeping separate records can benefit you in the long run.

Business Performance

First, the co-mingling of all your finances could cause you to lose sight of how your business is performing. That does not help you make good and efficient business decisions. Also, it serves you best as a business owner to know which of your assets belong to the business and which belong to you as an individual. 

In the case that you may one day wish to incorporate or bring in a partner, knowing what assets belong to your business will help inform the decisions you make. Changing business formats will be much easier if you have clear and separate records.

Business Finances and the IRS

Second, you will encounter reporting obligations to the IRS. It is important to remember that many of your business expenses could qualify as tax deductions. Very few of your personal expenses will qualify. It’s incumbent on you to make sure you have accurate business records to support what you report on your tax return. 

Co-mingling your financial records makes it infinitely more difficult for you to accurately report and prove deductions. Were you to be audited, separate financial recordkeeping can ease the process. 

Financial Separation

As you contemplate how to manage your personal and business finances separately, there are two things you need to address. First, identify which of your past financial records are personal and which are business. Hopefully, you have retained receipts and records to make this task as easy as possible. 

Second, establish processes for managing your financial records moving forward. In that regard, consider the following:

Use a Different Business Name

First and foremost, give your business a name that distinguishes it from your personal life. This allows you to direct bills and payments to your business instead of to you personally. For example, a business name allows you to request utility bills for your business facility to be remitted to the business name. When paid, such bills become tax deductions. Even if you want the business to bear your name, differentiating your business name in some way will help you keep things separated.

Business Banking

While you may operate your business as an individual, a separate bank account for your business can work to your advantage. Make sure to pay your business expenses from a dedicated account. This helps you accumulate separate records and provide separate reporting for the IRS or other outside parties. 

Challenges in Your Finances

In the case of an emergency in your personal life, you may be tempted to utilize your business funds to alleviate the crisis. However, resist borrowing from your business for personal expenses.

Use your own money for unexpected personal emergencies. If you don’t have enough personal wealth to meet the demand, consider something like a personal loan with no credit minimums or low minimums required.

It’s always better to keep personal and business finances set apart, even when personal emergencies arise. This prevents misunderstandings and potential misuse of business funds.

It’s Best to Separate Your Business and Personal Finances

There are clear advantages to handling your personal and business finances separately. It may take a little time for you to get things set up properly. However, once you have completed the process, your financial life will be much easier to manage.

The post Personal vs. Business Finances: Separation Is Best appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderMake Your Website ADA Compliant with accessiBe

Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay 

Are you familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, usually referred to as the ADA?

If you answered that question with a “no,” then the chances are good your website doesn’t comply with its standards.

And that’s bad.
Really bad.

Enter accessiBe

Image Source: accessiBe

People are getting sued left and right—and are losing—because their sites aren’t ADA compliant. Considering the fact that settling these types of lawsuits can cost between $50,000 and $75,000, you probably don’t want to experience an ADA-related lawsuit.

That’s why we need to talk about accessiBe, an AI-powered web accessibility platform that will make your website easily accessible for persons with disabilities.

The platform can help you comply fully with the ADA and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.

This is because accessiBe’s AI technology helps you maintain around-the-clock compliance even if your site goes through daily updates. What’s more, when you’re installing it, you won’t need to do manual coding.

1. Comply with ADA Requirements with accessiBe’s Background Application

accessiBe involves two components, the foreground and background applications. They work hand-in-hand to make your website compliant and accessible.

The platform’s background application is essential to making your website compliant because it handles around 70% of the requirements plus the more complex guidelines stated in the ADA and WCAG.

Here’s how some
of the background application features work.

Keyboard Navigation

Once keyboard users land on your website and hit the Tab button, a popup will show options for navigation. For example, you will see options such as Adjust Website to Keyboard Navigation and Screen Reader, Open the Accessibility Adjustment Interface, and the Quick Navigation pane.

Be ADA compliant with accessiBe

With the quick navigation menu, keyboard users can skip through sections and pages to navigate without going through your entire website. For example, they can search for any page directly.

After users
select a navigation option, accessiBe then sets off an accessible mode and
immediately applies all the necessary code changes that make your website fully
accessible using the keyboard.

With these features, your website users who have disabilities can access your site fully and effectively using only the keyboard, while making your website compliant at the same time. 

Screen Reader

Once you have accessiBe installed, it will then use its AI technology to scan and analyze your website elements, forms, structure, and so on. This makes your site compatible with screen readers. 

First, accessiBe’s AI will give accurate image alt tags for the screen readers of your blind and visually impaired users using IRIS and Optical Character Recognition technologies.

If you’re already using alt tags for SEO (which you should), don’t worry; accessiBe won’t delete your existing tags.

RELATED ARTICLE: A GOOD SEO CAMPAIGN NEEDS GREAT ON-PAGE OPTIMIZATION

Second, when users enable the screen reader adjustment, they’ll be able to read the content properly due to accessiBe’s AI technology that gives ARIA attributes to the site’s content.

For example, the code will automatically modify the HTML link tag to, let’s say, your Facebook icon by adding an ARIA label to it.

This will then allow the screen reader to read out “Link Facebook,” instead of just “Link.” This provides meaningful context for your blind users.

With accessiBe’s AI-powered background apps, you won’t need to manually code in these features to make your website ADA compliant.

Users can simply enable these features. Then, accessiBe’s AI will analyze your website and make the necessary adjustments for your users who have disabilities. This makes their experience on your site more seamless and effective.

2. Answer the WCAG 2.1 Requirements with the Accessibility Adjustments

Aside from complying with the ADA, accessiBe will also make your website compliant with WCAG 2.1. It is important to note that this can help you avoid potential lawsuits.

Plus, you won’t need to change your website’s design to make it compliant. This is because accessiBe will do the work for you.  

Here are some of
the accessibility interface features that will make your website compliant and
accessible to people with different disabilities. 

Built-in Dictionary

People who have suffered brain strokes, those with cognitive impairments, and the elderly might have difficulty understanding slang or specific expressions and phrases. These impediments can hinder them from using your website effectively.  

However, accessiBe enhances their experience on your website with the built-in dictionary. This feature instantly gives full descriptions of slang or abbreviations. Thus, your users won’t need to go to external sites.

Be ADA compliant with accessiBe

For instance, if users want to search for the meaning of the word “gobble” displayed on your website, they can just search for the definition using the built-in dictionary.

This makes it
easy for your users to understand your content and go through your website
effortlessly.

Color and Display Adjustments

Users who have visual impairments such as cataracts, glaucoma, and color blindness might not fully enjoy your website. For example, they might not be able to detect buttons because of the color, or they may experience headaches because of contrasting elements.

However, accessiBe provides a solution to these issues by allowing people with visual impairments to make adjustments to your website based on their needs.

With these accessibility adjustments, users can choose options like Monochrome, Invert Colors, High Contrast, and more. Additionally, they can even adjust text and title colors to shades that are visible to them.

Content Accessibility

Aside from adjusting colors, accessiBe also lets your users modify the content elements of your website. For example, they can remove or add spacing between letters, rows, and words. Plus, they can even change the font according to their preferences and disability.

Additionally, users who have epilepsy can personalize their accessibility on your website by enabling the Stop Animations button to disable elements. For example, they can disable flashing images, animations, or GIFs that might trigger seizures.

All of these accessibility adjustment features will improve the experience and functionality of your website for your users who have disabilities. Moreover, they also help make your site compliant with the requirements stated in the ADA and WCAG.

As a result, your website will be compliant. Therefore, there would be no reason for you to get sued for web accessibility-related lawsuits.

3. Install the Platform on Your Website

With all of the
features and benefits that accessiBe has to offer, you would think that the
installation process must be complex and time-consuming.

However, installing accessiBe is pretty straightforward. Just follow these simple steps.

  • Create your account. Once you sign up, accessiBe will offer a seven-day free trial for each of your new websites. You can use that time to explore the platform to see if it fits your needs.
  • Add your websites. After signing up, you can then add your sites to accessiBe.
  • Choose an installation method. accessiBe
    offers two primary installation methods. The quick and basic installation works
    by copying the installation script and pasting it to your website system.

Alternatively, the advanced and customized installation lets you set functions and elements of your accessibility interface. This will allow you to get a custom script.

Be ADA compliant with accessiBE

Also, you can refer to the installation guides for different platforms such as WordPress and other systems, even custom ones.

After
installation, it will take 48 hours for your website to be fully accessible and
ADA and WCAG compliant.

Thereafter, accessiBe will help you maintain website compliance and avoid lawsuits by scanning and analyzing your site every 24 hours.

This means that if you update your website, the platform’s AI technology will automatically adjust the accessibility of your site’s elements, forms, structure, and more. This will keep your site ADA and WCAG compliant.

Protect Your Website from ADA-Related Lawsuits

It can take thousands of dollars to settle ADA-related lawsuits.

However, subscribing to accessiBe, using the platform, and making your website fully compliant only costs $490 yearly.

As you become fully compliant, you will avoid lawsuits. Plus, you’ll enhance the experience of your web visitors who have disabilities, establishing your brand as a company that cares.

The post Make Your Website ADA Compliant with accessiBe appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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bookmark_borderHow to Deal When You Have a Money Discrepancy With Your Friends

For a significant chunk of my time in college, I thought of myself as the poor one in my friend’s group. I was paying my way through school and studying journalism, a field with shrinking job prospects, while my boyfriend was preparing to graduate debt-free thanks to a college fund created by his grandfather. I always felt like the one saying “no” to everything. 

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered another close friend had more debt, a longer degree path, and even worse job prospects after graduating. I was so focused on my own financial obstacles, it never occurred to me that someone else might be worse off. 

It made me realize that money discrepancies are inevitable, but they don’t have to interfere with your friendships. If you know the potential issues that money discrepancies can create, it’s just a matter of avoiding them. 

Make Plans First 

When you’re the person with the least amount of money, it can be depressing to constantly turn down invitations to concerts, movies or road trips. Even if your friends say they understand, they may still take it personally when you’re always saying no. 

Instead of waiting for them to come up with ideas, make your own plans for affordable events. Look at what your school offers. My university had free movies every weekend at the student union. It was easy to convince people to go to a free movie within walking distance of the dorms.  

Lots of clubs have free or cheap activities, even if you’re not a member. If your friends like to play soccer or basketball, find an intramural league to join. Invite people over for a game or movie night. Make it a potluck dinner or ask people to bring snacks.  

Learn to find good deals and free events by scouring your school newspaper, reading blogs about the city and looking at any flyers you see posted outside classrooms. If you become known as the friend who always has fun ideas, your pals won’t be tempted to suggest their own pricey activities. 

Be as Honest as You Can 

It’s an awkward subject to discuss, but being honest about your financial situation is usually the best solution. Your friends may not realize there’s a money discrepancy between you, or they may have forgotten. If new friends have joined the group, they may not be aware. 

You can make this a casual group conversation or talk to people one-on-one. Tell them, “Hey, I don’t have as much money to spend on going out or going to restaurants. Do you mind if we do things that are a little cheaper?” 

Your friends may be grateful for this reminder or even embarrassed that they’ve never considered your needs before. Some might be glad for the opportunity to cut back because they’ve been financing everything with a credit card or mooching off their parents. 

Practice Gratitude for What You Have 

When you have less money than your friends, it’s easy to be bitter about the discrepancy. You might feel annoyed that your roommate doesn’t have to get a part-time job during the school year or can take an unpaid internship without worrying about money. 

Focusing on your misfortune won’t make you feel better – but learning to be grateful for what you have will. 

According to Harvard researchers, being grateful makes you happier, and can even encourage you to foster other positive habits like exercise. Make gratitude part of your daily routine, like something you do after brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You can keep a notebook where you write down what you’re grateful for or just say it aloud. 

It’s easy to be grateful for the big things, like having parents who love you or a close-friends group, but I’ve found being appreciative of the small things works even better. Try being grateful for a picturesque walk to class, your professor granting an extension on a term paper or for having a cozy apartment. The more you can appreciate the little details of your day-to-day, the more feelings of gratitude will permeate your life. 

Treat Your Friends Well 

When you have friends with more money than you, it can be tempting to avoid paying them back or splitting things evenly – but doing that can cause irreparable harm to your friendship. Losing friends definitely won’t make you feel any better. 

Don’t expect your trust-fund friend to pick up the tab, even if she does have more money. The last thing you want is someone thinking you’re just using them to get a nice dinner, and you’ll feel better about yourself if you pull your own weight. If that friend does decide to pick up a check now and then, consider it icing on the cake. 

It’s also important to consider that not everyone’s financial situation is as it seems. Your friend with wealthy parents could be paying their own way through school, while your friend from a low-income background might have their tuition covered by financial aid and scholarships.  

Understand the Discrepancy Will Still Be There 

Even if you follow all the strategies listed above, there still may be times when your friends want to do something you can’t afford. When that happens, you have two basic options: You can say no and explain why you’re declining, or you can try to find a way to mitigate the cost. 

If they want to go to a concert, see if there are cheaper tickets available. Pick up extra hours at work or find a side hustle you can do for a couple weeks. Still can’t afford it? Find something else to do that night so you’re not wallowing while your friends are seeing Lizzo. 

Saying no to a social event might seem like the end of the world, but we all have to do it eventually. Part of growing up is realizing that you won’t always be able to afford everything you want to do. But the more you learn to make responsible financial choices now, the less you’ll have to sacrifice in the future.  

The post How to Deal When You Have a Money Discrepancy With Your Friends appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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bookmark_borderAmazon Black Friday 2019: Apple iPad, Watch, Airpod Deals + Stackable Discounts

Updated with new deals. Most recently added:

Full post:

Here are the highlights of all the Amazon Black Friday/Cyber Week deals in one post, updated daily. You can view all of the Amazon Black Friday Countdown Deals here. Here are the Amazon Device deals. Here are deals that require using Alexa.

Pay With Points promotions. First, if you have credit cards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, AmEx Membership Rewards, Discover CashBack, or Capital One points, see if you are eligible for one of these stackable discounts. I was mostly ineligible after doing them in the past. You may also try removing any old linked cards from your profile and then adding them back if you are ineligible.

If you have a Discover card, Amazon is one of their 5% cashback categories this quarter.

Apple. If these are shipped and sold by Amazon, you can stack with above.

Electronics

Other Stuff

Amazon Services

Amazon Devices

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Amazon Black Friday 2019: Apple iPad, Watch, Airpod Deals + Stackable Discounts from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.

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bookmark_borderChewy.com Black Friday: 50% Off First Autoship Order ($25 Max)

Online pet superstore Chewy.com has started their Black Friday / CyberWeek deals. A bunch of pet stuff is on sale at “best prices of the year” yadayada, but an easy win is the 50% off your first Autoship order, which is similar to Amazon Subscribe & Save. You’ll then save an ongoing 5%-10% if you continue. However, you can cancel at any time, even after the first order, so the minimum it’s just 50% off something you buy anyway, up to $25 in savings. Flea medicine, big bag of dog/cat food, bulk pack of chews, etc. Discount applied at checkout. No coupon necessary.

“The editorial content here is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This email may contain links through which we are compensated when you click on or are approved for offers.”

Chewy.com Black Friday: 50% Off First Autoship Order ($25 Max) from My Money Blog.


Copyright © 2019 MyMoneyBlog.com. All Rights Reserved. Do not re-syndicate without permission.

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