To Get The Best Life Insurance Rate, Be Careful About Seeing A Doctor

I wrote this post before the coronavirus pandemic. Now that it is here, many of us are now worried about our health and our wealth like never before. Before continuing, I want to clarify several things: * If you are gravely ill, please contact a doctor. Your health is far more important than your wealth.

The post To Get The Best Life Insurance Rate, Be Careful About Seeing A Doctor appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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5 Ways to Mitigate Cash Flow Woes

Cash crunches are a fact of business life. Clients drag their feet in paying you. Vendors want their money. And now COVID-19 means that even businesses who may have weathered those ups and downs relatively unscathed in the past are having trouble mitigating cash flow woes.

While there are no simple answers for every business, here are a few strategies to consider.

1. Give Customers Incentive to Pay Early

More than half of B2B payments in the US are late. That might be less of an issue for a large corporation, but for a small business, getting each payment on time is a necessity to pay its own expenses. So how can you get clients to pay you sooner?

Give them a reason to do so. You could discount payments made within five or 10 business days, for example. Going forward, you could charge a late fee for payments made after an invoice is due. It may well be worth losing a little profit to be assured of being paid on time.

2. Consider Financing

If COVID-19 has ground your business to a halt, it’s time to consider what you’re going to do to stay solvent in the coming weeks and months. As part of the $367 billion in small business assistance from the SBA. these include:

● Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million and
● Paycheck Protection Loans of up to $10 million with partial or full forgiveness for those who keep employees on the payroll.

Even if you’re doing okay right now, run the numbers to see how things will look in the short-term. It may be wise to apply for financing now (or even open a business credit card) before you really need it. Crowdfunding is also rising in popularity for businesses with loyal customers.

3. Talk to Your Vendors

If you don’t already have payment term agreements with your vendors, now is the time to open that discussion. Vendors are in the same boat you are, and they’d rather get paid later than not at all. Consider opening tradeline accounts if they’re available; these give you some breathing room on paying invoices, and they help you build your business credit.

4. Look at Your Expenses

This is a good practice any time, but especially when things are as uncertain as they currently are. Look at where you’re spending money in your business and see where you can save. Maybe you can spend less on your business phone plan if you switch providers. Or perhaps you’re not really using that software you’re paying for and could downgrade to the free plan.

If money is really tight, it may be time for some sacrifices. But think it through and try to cut expenses that won’t leave you in the lurch when business starts to pick up again.

5. Keep Marketing

Even if you feel you should stop marketing right now, don’t. Certainly, pull back on marketing expenses that aren’t helping you attract new business. There are plenty of free marketing tools you can use to continue to build your brand and get customers coming to you…even if they can’t physically visit your location for the time being. Companies like Yelp and Facebook are offering free or reduced-cost advertising and services.

Write content on your blog that appeals to your audience. Stay in touch with social media and email, and find ways to create community and offer support during these unusual times.

Find creative ways to market and sell products. Many restaurants, who can no longer offer dine-in services, are focused on delivery and takeout, or selling gift cards to be used later. If you usually hold in-person events, you may be able to move them to digital. The key is to continue to create value to your customers.

Creative problem solving is the skill that sets successful small businesses apart from their struggling peers. In times like these, be creative as you evaluate ways to go over, under, around, or through the cash flow challenges facing your business in these difficult times.

Don’t take anything off the table.

Remember, it’s your unique ability to find creative solutions to challenges that will help you survive and even thrive in the long run.


About the Author:

Gerri Detweiler
Gerri’s been guiding individuals through the confusing world of finance and credit for 20+ years. She is the author or coauthor of five books, including her most recent, Finance Your Own Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track. Today, Gerri serves as the Education Director for Nav, an online platform that matches small business owners to their best financing options and gives free access to personal and business credit scores.

The post 5 Ways to Mitigate Cash Flow Woes appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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What Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) + How Can It Benefit Your Career?

Corporate social responsibility, also known as CSR, is a specific business practice that keeps businesses socially accountable for their impact on the economy and the world around them. Companies like Starbucks, LinkedIn, and Deloitte have been holding themselves accountable by implementing excellent labor policies, donating to charity, increasing fair trade, and much more — and it shows in their employee satisfaction rates.

Working for a socially responsible company has become one of the top factors for millennials when choosing what companies to work for. As 76 percent of millennials look for employers based on their corporate social responsibility before signing an offer, giving back to the economy and employees has never been more important.

When you and your employer share similar values, you’ll likely experience personal and financial benefits. Working for a company you believe in can increase your productivity and pride for the time you put into each project. When you align with your company’s mission, you’re more likely to succeed and grow with your company. Plus, when you believe in your team and put your all into your work, you gain the opportunity to earn additional income. Since one third of your life is spent at work, it can be beneficial to your health and well being to be proud of what you contribute to on a daily basis. Keep reading for a more detailed description on how working at a CSR company can benefit you, or jump our infographic below.

6 Reasons to Work for a Socially Responsible Company

When you believe and get to participate in your company’s way of giving back to the community, you also boost your mood. While giving back to your community can show a positive impact on your happiness, it also gives you the opportunity to get to know your coworkers on a deeper level. In 2019, 47 percent of companies encouraged volunteer opportunities, while 24 percent are during working hours. As many companies see the positive impact that corporate social responsibility has on other teams, many want to create their own CSR program. Here’s what we found to be the most rewarding.

6 Reasons to Participate in CSR

1. Gain a Greater Sense of Identity In the Workplace

Undoubtedly, when you connect with your coworkers outside of normal business conversations, you feel like you “fit in.” When you feel like you fit in, you’ll likely feel accomplished and all the hard work you put in will show a positive impact on your organization. Being comfortable with your coworkers opens the door for questions when you feel uncertain about tasks or projects in the works.

Having a sense of identity at your company can help you feel comfortable pitching ideas and asking the right questions, which will help boost your career and keep your mind in learning mode.

Career boost: Building your identity in the workplace encourages your confidence and value in the projects and tasks you work on day after day. You can track and leverage your internal and external business growth and participation to confidently negotiate your next salary boost.

2. Get to Know Your Coworkers

Most businesses allow employees to participate in specific volunteer opportunities or projects during working hours, sometimes even paid, to encourage high turnouts. You get to contribute your time and energy to give back to your community and get to know your team members outside of the office. For example, Salesforce has donated over 3.5 million hours of community service since they originated. During that time, employees have been able to connect with each other outside the workplace without sacrificing more time out of their day.

Building your relationship with your team can increase your cooperative dynamic and allow everyone to bond over a shared passion — your work industry. Instead of meeting up for happy hour and spending extra money on drinks over friendly conversation, socially responsible companies may offer you the opportunity to give back to your community and get paid for it.

Career boost: Getting to know your team outside of the office with a positive attitude is a key trait in leadership. When participating in these events, you’re able to come together and bond with your team over what you’re most passionate about. Creating these strong connections can position you as a leader and help build a positive company culture.

3. Show Up for Your Team, Even When You Don’t “Have” To

Once your company’s volunteer events are put on the calendar, most of the time you feel as if you’re part of a social commitment. When you start to participate in these events, it can boost your attitude and loyalty to your company. You may gain a sense of pride and see your success highly tied to your company and organizational success.

Most of the time, when you feel like they align with your company’s values and missions, you inevitably want to go the extra mile without being asked to. Participating in community activities with your team can potentially help grow your engagement and decrease boredom. You may feel ready to take on any upcoming projects because you know the positive impact it can have on your company and career.

Career boost: With your increased productivity and engagement on most projects, you’re most likely overachieving without realizing it. You’re more likely to show up to meetings and events whether you were asked to or not. Focus on this when negotiating your next leadership career opportunity.

4. Identify Networking Opportunities

Seventy-two percent of millennials say participating in companywide CSR events increases the happiness in their job and life. When participating in these events with your team, you may start to uncover how likeminded everyone on your team is. This is a great way to put yourself out there and grow mentorship opportunities across teams without even having to pay for a coffee.

Utilize your time outside of the office to pick the brain of high level experts in your industry. Establish connections with leaders across departments to build your reference list. If you’re ever struggling with certain tasks, or want some insight on switching departments, you’ll have these connections ready to pull out of your back pocket when needed.

Career boost: Make connections with your company across departments while you have the opportunity to. Foster these relationships whenever you need advice, a department shift, or credit for your hard work when needing a reference.

5. Feel Inspired to Go Above and Beyond

Inevitably, when you believe in your company’s values, missions, decisions, and contribution to your community, you’re more likely to put in the time and hard work to give back to and show your gratitude. You may be more inclined to do what it takes to succeed, even during the hard times.

Even if you run into a couple roadblocks along the way, you may feel more prepared and ready to get back up and turn a failure into a success. When your values align with the company you work for, you may feel more inclined to take on new projects and opportunities to move your career to the next level without even recognizing it.

Career boost: Having a go-getter attitude is key to success within your company. Not to mention, when you’re considering taking up a side hustle, you’ll have the skills to do what it takes to grow your monthly income.

6. Ignite Your Creative Thinking Process

When you feel like you belong at your company, you have the confidence to say what you’re thinking and voice creative ideas that pop into your head. Not only does this help your team grow their expertise, you get creative with problem-solving.

In a fast-paced environment, you have to establish innovative problem-solving skills to keep your company one step ahead. A recent study showed that 82 percent of business owners believe creative thinking leads to better business benefits, revenue growth, and market share. When you’re able to brainstorm innovative ideas, you become more valuable to your company.

Career boost: When you take time to relax and contribute back to the community, you’re fostering an environment of creativity. When you increase your creativity, you prove to your team you’re a valuable asset.

How Working at a Socially Responsible Company Can Grow Your Career

Being able to offer your skill set to help out your community is one thing. To be able to contribute your time and effort with your coworkers is another. Not only do you get to give back with your expertise, select companies encourage their teams to do it on the company’s time. From saving on networking happy hours to increasing your worth in the workplace, there are a few ways to grow your career, and your savings, while taking the time to give back on your company’s time.

Check out our infographic to see nine companies that are giving back to their community and investing in their employees with their corporate socially responsible plans.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Sources: Starbucks Social Impact | Smart Recruiters | BrainyQuote | Digital Marketing Institute | Food Business News | Gulf News | Ni Business Info | Fronetics | AMEX | Conscious Company Media | Trailing Away | Monster | Smarp | Landing Adobe | Apple | LinkedIn | Salesforce | LinkedIn Social Impact | Zappos | Ben & Jerry’s Corporate Social Responsibility | Deloitte |

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Developer Tools for Business: 5 Tips to Guide Your Choices

Photo by Tudor Baciu on Unsplash

There is no one developer tool that will make magic for your DevOps team. However, those tools that bridge the development and operations gap are the ones that are most useful in the DevOps environment.

RELATED ARTICLE: LAUNCHING A BUSINESS? TIPS TO BOOST PRODUCTIVITY

This is because these types of development tools are innovative, supporting collaboration between teams and departments. Further more, they are automated. For instance, you can learn about the different must-haves when it comes to DevOps tools via JFrog.

Additionally, to help you in your search for the best developer tools for your team and business, we offer a set of guidelines here. Use them to help you choose the right developer tools for you and your team throughout each phase of the development cycle.

1. Developer Tools for Building Within Development

Building within development has a few areas worth looking into further. For example, developer tools like Docker are good for development staging environments. This is an open source tool that helps you build individual development environments via separate containers.

This type of DevOps tool can help you
and your team streamline processes because you are simply coding against
replicas, rather than recreating over and over in production stages.

There are also aspects like infrastructure as code when it comes to building within development. Some pretty decent development tools for this include Docker, Puppet, Bamboo, and Bitbucket. With these types of tools for building, developers can create modular applications. How? It is a more maintainable and reliable method.

Collaborative coding is also a must-have when it comes to developer tools in the building phase. This is because collaborative coding allows you and your DevOps team to change approval boards prior to deploying to production. This is a pretty great feature for sure.

2. Leveling up Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is all about checking code to a shared repository. These checks are done many times throughout the day, as testing helps detect issues early on. Then your team can use their developer tools to get them fixed quickly and mitigate damage. Further, testing helps you avoid the expensive fixes you’ll need if an issue remains undiscovered for a long period of time.

Continuous integration development tools that are worth looking deeper into are Bamboo and Hipchat. These types of tools can help you take the trouble out of running continuous integration in a wide variety of branch environments. This makes testing easy without losing speed or experiencing downtime.

RELATED ARTICLE: TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT UNSCHEDULED DOWNTIME

3. Streamlining Planning with Proactive Development Tools

Planning is essential when it comes to development for your business. This is why having development tools that make planning easy and proactive is a must. For instance, DevOps tools like Confluence and Jira make planning agile and allow teams to plan in iterations.

Additionally, planning iteratively helps you and your team optimize products via feedback. This is also known as sprint planning. This, too, is important for businesses, especially businesses in the tech space.

As your projects progress, gathering feedback rolls back into further planning. This helps you organize actionable inputs. Moreover, you’ll be better able to prioritize actions for all your development teams. This is why DevOps tools for planning are essential.

4. Deciding on Deployment Development Tools

When it comes to deployment, some essential guidelines for your business include getting everything in one place. For instance, Jira software is a development tool that can help compile change, then test. Finally, it will give you all the deployment information for a new release in one convenient package.

These types of tools are also known as release dashboards, and they are essential for your business. You should be seeking out single dashboards that you can integrate with code repositories and other development tools. Having visibility is key here, so look for that when choosing a deployment development tool.

5. Choosing Essential Operation Tools

When it comes to operations, you need to have application and server performance monitoring at the forefront. Two types are very important to automate as well—server monitoring and application performance monitoring.

The good news is that there are plenty of apps for this. You will want to find tools that are ready to integrate into your chat, allowing alerts to get to the teams as they come in.

Wrapping Up

The above five essential guidelines for choosing developer tools are only the tip of the iceberg. They are, however, among the top guidelines many large companies follow. However, it is important to know the implementation skill set of your development teams, because you don’t want to slow workflow while team members are trying to learn new tools.

The above tool types outlined are all well-known, so most seasoned DevOps professionals will have already worked with them in the past. What do you need for your development team to be successful? By following these guidelines you will soon find your team’s favorite developer tools.

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Managing Personal Finances After a Business Failure

Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

Dealing with a business failure is mentally tough, but it’s even tougher if you aren’t secure in your financial life. With your primary source of income no longer available, and the looming debts you incurred while building the business from scratch, you may seriously consider filing for bankruptcy. Depending on judgment collection laws in your state, even your personal assets may be at stake.

Fortunately, there are a few steps and strategies that can help you recover financially—if not mentally—in the wake of a business failure.

Take Personal Inventory After a Business Failure

Your first step after the collapse of your business will be taking a moment to assess your personal inventory. What have you lost, personally, from the failure of the business? What does your future currently look like? Consider:

Sources of Income

Chances are, your business was your primary form of income, whether you relied on a salary or regular withdrawals of profit. If you have other backup sources of income (such as side gigs, rental properties, or other sources of passive income), tally them up. Then determine whether these can meet your current needs. Is there a shortfall? If so, by how much?

RELATED ARTICLE: AN INCOME CONVEYOR BELT: HOW TO BUILD PASSIVE INCOME

Loans and Debts

Did you take on any personal loans or personal debt for the business? Did you have any other existing loans? These can put a disproportionate financial burden on you if you aren’t careful.

Work with a Lawyer

Depending on your circumstances, it may be a good idea to work with a lawyer as you account for the failure of your business. They’ll be able to guide you on the tasks and responsibilities you’ll need to accomplish in the process of tying up loose ends.

They may also have recommendations for how to arrange the finances in a way that personally benefits you. Additionally, they can advise you on how to minimize the immediate consequences of your business closure.

Negotiate with Creditors

If you took on loans, or if you’re stuck dealing with your standing debt, you may need to negotiate with your creditors. Alternatively, you might need to arrange your debt in a way that minimizes its effects on your life.

The biggest issue with most debt is interest. Moreover, if you’re paying exorbitant interest rates and you’re unable to pay down your principal, the amount you owe after a business failure can grow exponentially.

One solution is to transfer your debt to a single low-interest source, if possible. Depending on your current levels of debt, your credit score, and other factors, this may or may not be a realistic possibility. Either way, you may be able to negotiate for a lower interest rate after a business failure. This is especially true if you’re having trouble making consistent payments.

Make
Personal Budget Cuts

Your next step after a business failure could be to make personal budget cuts to get through this rough patch. If you’re dealing with limited income but your expenses remain the same, you’ll eventually find yourself coming up short. However, you can mitigate this and afford yourself more flexibility, by making budget cuts.

If your shortfalls are small, these can
come in the form of a few minor sacrifices. You can cancel some of your
entertainment subscriptions, cook instead of eating out, and get by that way.
However, you may be forced to make bigger sacrifices, like moving into a
smaller house or a different area of town, to increase your savings.

Pick up Extra Work to Recover from a Business Failure

Whether you love it or hate it, the gig economy can be a benefit if you’re dealing with the aftereffects of business failure. Rather than taking on an entirely new job or a full commitment, you can pick up side gigs and extra work as necessary to make ends meet.

Of course, this is only a short-term
measure. In most cases, part-time work won’t be able to sustain you forever.
It’s meant as a kind of buffer, keeping your financial health intact while you
consider what to do next.

Consider
Your Next Move

Once your finances are stable enough that
you have some breathing room, you’ll need to think about your next move. For
many failed entrepreneurs, the only real option is to start a new business,
applying the lessons you learned in the first.

This may not be a wise move if your finances are stretched thin after a business failure. However, you can make up for this by starting a lower-cost business or finding more favorable methods of funding. Alternatively, you can start looking for full-time work, either along a previous career trajectory or a new one that interests you.

Think of Your Business Failure as a Fresh Start

For many entrepreneurs, a business failure is simply the mark of a new beginning. This is your chance to learn from your mistakes, capitalize on the connections you’ve made, and forge a new path forward. So take this time to seriously reflect on what you want from your career. Then head into your next professional journey with confidence.

For more thoughts about managing your business, whether the going is rough or it’s smooth sailing ahead, be sure to browse our blog often.

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Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – April 2020 (Updated)

Updated April 2020. I’m still collecting points and miles now, in order to save money in the future. That space in your wallet or purse is valuable, and you should be the one to get that value. Selected banks are offering strong perks and $500+ value for a single card during the first year to encourage you to apply and try it out. These are the top 10 credit card offers that I would personally apply for right now, if I didn’t already have most of them. Notable changes:

  • IHG Hotels 140k/75k – 140k still highest ever, new 75k traveler offer.
  • United 60k – extended.
  • NavyFed 50k – offer is back.
  • Delta limited-time offers ended.

If you pay off your balances every month, then you can join me and many others in funding a huge chunk of your annual travel budget with cash credits, points, and miles. You don’t need to be a “I only fly business class” world traveler. I mostly use my rewards points on domestic economy flights, mid-class hotels, and cheap car rentals. If you have credit card debt, you should focus on paying that off first as the interest charges could offset most of the perks.

This is a companion post to my Top 10 Best Business Card Offers. Small business bonuses are on average even higher than those on consumer cards.

Note: Certain Chase cards have a “5/24 rule” which is an unofficial rule that they will automatically deny approval on new credit cards if you have 5 or more new credit cards from any issuer on your credit report within the past 2 years. This rule applies on a per-person basis, so if you are new, you might want to start with those Chase cards.

IHG Rewards Club Premier Card

  • 140,000 IHG Rewards club points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • Free Night after each account anniversary year (valued up to 40,000 IHG points).
  • $89 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Want something lower risk? The no-annual fee Traveler version is now offering 75,000 IHG points.

Chase United Explorer Card

  • 60,000 bonus United miles. after $3,000 in purchases within 3 months. Limited-time offer. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for both you and a companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your United ticket.
  • Expanded award availability. Having this card makes it easier to find that saver award economy ticket.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

JetBlue Plus Card

  • 60,000 TrueBlue points after $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Limited-time offer. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for you and up to 3 companions when you use your JetBlue Plus Card.
  • $99 annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $750 towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2X points on Travel and Dining at restaurants worldwide.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.
  • Alternative: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. 3X on Travel and Dining, Priority Pass airport lounge access, $550 annual fee, $300 annual travel credit, 1-year Lyft Pink membership.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Mastercard

  • 60,000 American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

  • 60,000 American Airlines miles after any purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. See link for details.
  • $99 Companion certificate offer. Earn a certificate good for 1 guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in the first 90 days.
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights ($60 value per roundtrip, per person).
  • $99 annual fee.

Citi Premier Card

  • 60,000 points (worth $750 towards travel booked at ThankYou.com) after $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 3X points for every $1 spent on travel including gas stations.
  • Must not have gotten bonus from or closed a Citi Rewards+, ThankYou Preferred, Premier, or Prestige card in the past 24 months.
  • $95 annual fee.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Card

  • 50,000 points (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. See link for details.
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $95 annual fee.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

  • 50,000 miles (worth $500 towards travel) after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. See link for details.
  • 2% cash back on ALL purchases. Plus earn 10X miles at Hotels.com through January 2020.
  • Up to $100 credit towards TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard

  • 50,000 Hawaiian miles after $2,000 in purchases within 90 days. See link for details.
  • Free first checked bag for primary cardmember when using your card to purchase eligible tickets directly from Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Receive a one-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip coach travel between Hawaii and The Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.
  • $99 annual fee.

Navy Federal CU Flagship Rewards Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus points ($500 value towards travel) after $4,000 in purchases within 90 days. See link for details.
  • Up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Must be Navy Federal credit union member; Eligibility is restricted primarily to those with a military affiliation or a relative who is a military veteran.
  • $49 annual fee.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

  • Up to 50,000 Hyatt points. 25,000 Bonus Points after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. See link for details and rough valuation of points.
  • $95 annual fee, free night award upon card anniversary.
  • Subject to 5/24 rule.

“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.”

Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers – April 2020 (Updated) from My Money Blog.


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Chase IHG Rewards Club Traveler Card Review: 75,000 Bonus Points, No Annual Fee

The Chase IHG Rewards Club Traveler card is the IHG hotel card that includes a sign-up bonus and special IHG perks but with no annual fee. They just improved the sign-up bonus from 60k to 75k points. Here are the highlights:

  • 75,000 bonus IHG points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 15X points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel.
  • Earn 2X points at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Fourth Reward Night Free when you redeem points for any 4+ night stay.
  • No annual fee.

This is a new card, but please note the following:

This product is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months.

This offer is for the new “IHG Club Traveler” card, so this language means that if you have the older and different “Premier” or “Select” card, you can still apply for this card and get the sign-up bonus.

What can you get with IHG points? The best redemption value for IHG points is for free hotel nights. The other options offer significantly less value. While the points don’t translate directly to a dollar value, but overall you should expect around 0.60 cents of value per point, which would make 60,000 IHG points worth an estimated $360 value. Not bad for a no annual fee card. You can perform the calculations for hotels that fit your needs. I tried a bunch of other various combinations and got between 0.5 cents and 0.8 cents per point equivalent value.

IHG stands for Intercontinental Hotel Group which has over 5,000 hotels including the following brands:

  • Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Kimpton
  • Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Candlewood Suites
  • Hotel Indigo
  • EVEN Hotels

IHG points expire after 24 months of inactivity, which is relatively long so with occasional activity you can easily save up these free nights for later. Chase Ultimate Rewards points also convert to IHG points.

Total of 15x points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG. Here’s how this breaks down: Earn 5X points per $1 spent as an IHG® Rewards Club Traveler credit cardmember + 10X points per $1 spent from IHG® for being an IHG® Rewards Club Member, for a total of 15X points total at any of their 5,400+ IHG® hotels & resorts.

Given my 0.6 cent per IHG point valuation, I would book my IHG nights on this card, but not my everyday purchases on an ongoing basis.

  • 2 IHG points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants.
  • 1 IHG point per $1 spent on all other card purchases

Upgrade to Premier? Downgrade to Traveler? If you can reliably use a anniversary night certificate (40,000 point maximum value) and get $89 value out of it, you should consider going with the IHG Rewards Premier credit card mentioned on the same application page. The Premier card also adds some other small perks like Platinum Elite status and a TSA Precheck fee credit.

If you already have the Premier card and don’t want to pay for those added perks, you may consider asking if you can downgrade to this Traveler now without any annual fee.

Bottom line. The Chase IHG Rewards Club Traveler credit card now comes with no annual fee and an improved sign-up bonus boost of 75,000 IHG points. As with most of these co-branded cards, the best value is obtained if you can redeem for IHG hotel nights.

Also see: Top 10 Best Credit Card Bonus Offers.

“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.”

Chase IHG Rewards Club Traveler Card Review: 75,000 Bonus Points, No Annual Fee from My Money Blog.


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Stop Losses: Do You Actually Need Them?

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If you’re considering taking up Forex trading, either as a hobby or as a full-time occupation, you have probably read more than one article about the value of stop losses. But do you really need to use them in your trading? We discuss that question in this post.

RELATED ARTICLE: TRADING TRENDS AND USING TECHNICAL ANALYSIS

What Is a Stop Loss?

A stop loss order is a dollar amount you set in your trading tools. This order triggers the sale of a particular stock when the price of that stock reaches the point you have set. Its purpose is to minimize your trading losses. Nearly every successful Forex trader will tell you to use this tool. This is because your trading will be more profitable over time if you do.

But it’s important to remember that stop losses are only a tool. Like every tool, they work only so well as the strategies you use to implement them. In other words, you can develop a level of skill with using them, then most of the time you can use them to your advantage.

A Stop Loss Can Work Against You

However, there are times when—at least to all outward appearances—your stop loss orders will not be in your best interest.

For example, let’s say you decide to make a move on a particular stock when it’s heading upward in price. Once it’s yours, it continues moving up, and you allow yourself to feel the thrill of victory.

But then, unexpectedly, possibly because of some world event, it begins moving downward again, perhaps even plummeting.

When it reaches your stop loss point, the automated tools in your Forex trading apps trigger a sale. Just as you are about to congratulate yourself because your order prevented too much hemorrhaging, the stock price bounces back up again.

You end up bemoaning the fact that if you had not set your order at that particular point, you might have chosen to hold on for a while. You might even have eventually earned a profit.

They Usually Work the Other Way Around, Though

Most of the time, however, a stop loss order will work to your benefit. This is because stock prices don’t usually bounce back up immediately once they have begun a downward trend.

Therefore, over time, well-set stop loss orders can save Forex traders anxiety as well as lost profit.

Develop an Effective Strategy for Setting Stop Losses

If in your Forex trading you’re losing more than you think you should because of your stop loss orders, perhaps it’s time to study up on how to set a more effective strategy with them.

When a particular stop loss strategy isn’t working, it’s usually because the trader doesn’t stop to think things through before they set their orders.

So every time you set one of these points, consider the state of the market. Study the many technical tools you have at your fingertips. Also consider world events that could at some point affect the price of the stock you have in mind.

RELATED ARTICLE: METATRADER 5: IS IT REALLY BETTER THAN METATRADER 4?

Set your stop loss orders carefully and with much forethought, and they will work better for you in the long run.

The post Stop Losses: Do You Actually Need Them? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Staying Unemployed: Why I’m Giving Up On Going Back To Work

At the beginning of 2020, I was excited to start applying for jobs after my six-month paternity leave was over in June. After eight years of unemployment, I had done everything I wanted to do. With now two kids, rising living expenses, and the possibility of a downturn, finding work would be the responsible thing

The post Staying Unemployed: Why I’m Giving Up On Going Back To Work appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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An American Client Base Is Pivotal to UK Business Success

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Once your business begins to grow in the UK, you’ll begin to think further afield. If you think your opportunities are limited here, then you need to start focusing on international markets. The US is one of the best countries in the world to do with business with. If you can build a solid American client base, your business will reap the benefits.

RELATED ARTICLE: GO GLOBAL: 6 KEY BENEFITS OF EXPANDING YOUR COMPANY INTERNATIONALLY

Why is it so important for your UK company to expand its horizons and build an American client base?

Networking Opportunities with American Clients

In order to start building your business relationship in the States, you’re going to have to visit with American prospects. Video conferences, phone calls, and emails can only stretch so far. Meeting people face-to-face and getting your name out there is vital to start building a name for yourself with Americans.

Moreover, don’t take the power of networking lightly. New York City is a hub for international business, so it’s a good place for you to start. Serviced apartments in New York can be a great base for you.

A Strong American Economy

The US has one of the world’s most thriving economies. Plus, it is the UK’s number-one export market. There is so much to be gained by expanding your business there.

However, it is worth noting that despite the fact British goods are popular in the UK, it does not necessarily mean your company will become an immediate success among Americans. You need to do your research of the clientele there, and see where your business can fill the gap in the American market most successfully.

Help with Expanding

If you are unsure where to start researching among your possible American clients, this is where your networking can come into play. This is because your international links can help your business thrive in unfamiliar territory.

These are the people who know American customers better than you do. Therefore, they can offer guidance with what products will work and which won’t.

What’s more, all 50 states in the US operate differently. Therefore, by having a business in the US helping you, your product range and client reach will expand exponentially among Americans.

Finding a Reliable American Partner

With Brexit underway, it’s a smart idea for you to think about trading options outside of Europe. The future of the trading relationship between the UK and Europe is uncertain. However, as we mentioned above, the US has a strong economy. Therefore, it’s best to focus your efforts on a more reliable trading partner such as another business owner who happens to be American.

Plus, trading agreements between the UK and the US are well-established. Therefore, you have less to worry about for the future. This allows you to make a long-term business plan with any American partner you might have.

Boosting Your Reputation Internationally

When your business manages to break into the US market this will do wonders for your company’s international reputation. This is because a wider audience adds more credibility to your business.

Moreover, this could even invite future investment and further opportunities. The more people your brand reaches, the more profit you can potentially make.

Conclusion

Establishing a
business relationship with the US market is vital for your company to expand
and grow to its best potential. The country makes a reliable partner and can
introduce your products to so many more customers.

The post An American Client Base Is Pivotal to UK Business Success appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Coronavirus & Small Businesses

Coronavirus: Tips and Resources for Small Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is presenting a serious crisis for small businesses around the world. Small businesses must monitor their cash flow, customer retention, and employee satisfaction carefully even when business is good, and the coronavirus pandemic puts stress on every aspect of owning and running a business.

In the United States, government mandates for social distancing, closures of non-essential businesses and a struggling economy are pushing businesses to the breaking point. This is a stressful time for small business owners, but there are a few ways to reduce economic injury and emerge from the crisis with a stronger business.

Manage Cash Flow

In some areas of the United States, local and state governments require all non-essential businesses to close, particularly in large cities experiencing outbreaks. Even where non-essential businesses can remain open, the general public is encouraged to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. This can put a major strain on businesses with tight margins, such as restaurants and beauty salons. However, there are ways to manage your cash flow through the coronavirus outbreak.

1. Get Creative to Increase Your Sales

Dealing with new legal obligations to protect public health and customers who are staying at home can force you to come up with new ways to do business. Here are some ways to provide your product or service without close interaction and increase your cash flow.

  • Restaurants: Provide takeout and delivery, even if you have never provided takeout or delivery before. Some states have also loosened liquor laws, allowing restaurants and bars to sell alcohol to-go with a food purchase. 
  • Beauty Salons: While you may not be able to see customers in your salon, mix up hair color to deliver to your regular customers, host a virtual nail party online or deliver a weekly e-newsletter with tips for at-home beauty.
  • Clothing or Retail Shops: List items on your website for people to order by phone or online and make daily or weekly deliveries. Try to advertise “work from home” attire, home office supplies or crafts for bored kids.

2. Reduce Overhead Costs

Overhead costs are expenses that keep your business running every day, such as rent and employee salaries. If you cannot increase sales, reducing your overhead is another way to get more cash in your bank account during an unexpected downturn in revenue. For example, if no one is using your workspace, you can reduce temperature control settings and suspend your internet or cable service. While it may be necessary to reduce your staff to save your business, it is important to consider the risk of losing important employees against the cost savings. 

3. Take Advantage of SBA Disaster Relief Loans

The federal government knows that small businesses are experiencing hardship right now. As part of the CARES Act, the Congressional Small Business Task Force unveiled a $367B Emergency Coronavirus Relief Package including Paycheck Protection Program loans which have low rates and limited requirements so businesses in all 50 states and territories can apply for COVID-19 relief funding. Businesses can use the money from these relief loans to pay debts, payroll, employee benefits, accounts payable and more. Businesses can also apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). These disaster loans have very low-interest rates and are designed to help businesses to get back on their feet, but have more qualifying criteria and longer approval periods. 

To help all businesses and individuals, the federal government has extended the deadline for paying individual taxes, including estimated self-employment taxes, from April 15 to July 15. 

Finally, the Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows businesses with an existing SBA relationship to access more funding with less paperwork. These programs can provide significant help with cash flow during the pandemic.

4. Apply for a Business Loan or Financing

There are also other business financing and small business loan options to increase access to cash in the immediate future. There are a few financing options with flexible repayment terms that can provide capital upfront.

  • Line of Credit: Securing a line of credit can be a great option to stabilize cash flow and maintain business continuity if you expect that business will slow down or that you will need a serious capital injection to weather the storm (i.e. pivoting from dine-in to takeout). A line of credit is ideal because you only have to pay back the money you actually use, plus interest. When it is hard to predict when a business will resume as usual, this can be the best financing option.
  • Merchant Cash Advance (MCA): Merchant cash advances can also be a great solution as remittances grow and shrink with revenue, rather than needing to keep up with the fixed payments of a term loan. A merchant cash advance can allow you to make investments right away to help you provide your products and services during or after the pandemic.

Care For Employees

Employees are vital to small business operations. You know it is important to protect your employees, but exactly how to do that differs based on your location, legal obligations, and industry. Here are a few things to consider to keep employees safe and happy.

1. Work From Home

If it is possible for your business to go remote, that is the easiest way to protect your employees. It is likely worth the investment in extra time or technology services to help your employees stay healthy and keep your business functioning. Instituting work from home policies can also help employees to care for children who are home from school or sick family members. 

2. Keep Employees Informed

If you are an essential business or are remaining open for business, keep your employees in the loop with staff meetings, emails or messaging platforms. It is especially important to communicate changes that directly impact employees, such as changes in hours of operation or job responsibilities.

3. Consider Paid Sick Leave

The last thing you want employees to do is to come to work sick or feel obligated to work while a family member has coronavirus. To ensure your employees stay home when they are sick, offer paid sick time. Even if you do not have paid sick leave, it may be a wise investment to keep your workforce safe and healthy.

4. Prepare for a Crisis

Though the vast majority of people recover from coronavirus, severe cases of COVID-19 can result in death. Your business should have a plan to respond to an employee’s death or the death of an employee’s family member. Similar to other potential business crises, it is best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

5. Compassionately Decide and Communicate Employment Changes

Unfortunately, you may need to lay off or furlough some or all of your employees to keep your business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it may seem easier or kinder to reduce hours and keep everyone employed, this can make it hard for employees to apply for unemployment. Be sure to consider what will be best for both your employees and your business.

Reassure Existing Customers

One of the most important things to do during the pandemic is reassuring your current customer base that you are operating in a safe manner. The last thing that you would want to do is alienate your customer base by failing to communicate with them. There are some best practices to keep your customers engaged during the health crisis.

1. Be Clear About Operations

If your customers show up to your business to find it unexpectedly closed or can’t find any information on your website, this could be enough to lose customers. Email customers to let them know what your business is doing, post on social media regularly, and update your Google My Business account.

2. Advertise Any New Services

If you are offering takeout or online ordering, let your customers (or potential customers) know through every possible medium (website, social media, email, local media, etc.). Both regulars and potential new customers can learn about your new services and take advantage while they are home. 

3. Communicate Safety Measures

If your business is essential, or you are located in an area where non-essential businesses can remain open, it is important to inform your customers what you are doing to protect them from coronavirus. In particular, increase measures to improve sanitation and increase space between people. It is important to improve health and safety measures and to acknowledge the danger of the coronavirus.

Author Bio:

Jeffrey Bumbales
Director, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships at Credibly

The post Coronavirus & Small Businesses appeared first on Credibly.

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From Art Studio to Live Video. She’s Crushing It.

Hannah Perry woke up one evening to the site and sounds of her business on fire, literally. Several months later, she and millions of other businesses were hit with the challenging effects of Covid19. Fortunately, Hannah, the owner of Giggling Pig has turned these unfortunate happenings into a thriving new line of business with live video.

[Check out the HelloAlice Covid19 Business Resource Center]

 

Subscription Business

Where before she relied largely on children and adults coming into her Connecticut studio for art classes and fun, she’s now relying 100% on live video to power her business. She’s also selling art kits in a box to moms, dads, grand parents and more who buy them for their children.

Lemons into Lemonade

Ironically with so many children being schooled from home, during this Covid19 crisis, the demand for her art boxes is skyrocketing. But what’s even more popular is Hannah and her team’s live video classes, two times a day, 6 days a week, done from her custom built video studio.

Hannah was preparing to do video, on one way or another prior to the Corona virus global epidemic. Her subscription art box business was also already started. However, in the recent weeks both of these have grown faster than she could imagine.

The Giggling Pig has not put a dime into paid advertising, but has grown the video views all through people sharing her videos with others – around the world.

Hannah told me that she regularly gets fan mail from kids and parents about the art projects they’re making and how her live video is making an impact in their lives.

What’s her advice to you and me?

  • Make your own luck. Don’t wait for opportunities to be created for you.
  • Keep trying. Don’t give up so soon. You will fail at first.

In regard to live video, it’s being consistent that is essential. This way your community can expect it!


Keep trying. Don’t give up so soon. You will fail at first.
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Next up for Hannah. Turning the live video into a paid subscription channel – watch out Hulu, Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video!

Often times as business owners we focus so much on the problems and challenges we have that we forget to look for the glimmers of positivity.

The post From Art Studio to Live Video. She’s Crushing It. appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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Visa Purchase Return Authorization: What Merchants Should Know

Previously, cardholders were in the dark about whether their purchase return requests had been accepted or denied. Visa is introducing this mandate to drive transparency in the return process for cardholders.

Purchase returns are part of every business. However, the return process is often unclear for customers and can expose merchants to fraud. Visa® created the Visa Purchase Return Authorization Mandate to bring transparency to the returns process. This post will explain the new mandate and outline how merchants can comply.

What is a Visa Purchase Return Authorization?

The Visa Purchase Return Authorization is a new directive that requires merchants to request authorization for every return transaction (cardholder refund) that they make. This mandate is similar to the process of seeking authorization from the card issuer when processing a purchase only that it occurs in reverse.

Why is Visa Introducing This?

Visa is introducing this mandate to drive transparency in the return process for cardholders. Previously, cardholders were in the dark about whether their purchase return requests had been accepted or denied. It often took between two to five days for information about purchase returns to be reflected in the transaction history of the cardholder. Conversely, information about purchases is updated instantly, which creates an imbalance. Visa purchase return authorizations will correct this imbalance by updating cardholders about return transactions in real-time. On the merchant side, purchase return authorizations are expected to provide the following benefits:

Improved customer satisfaction and experience because cardholders will have real-time access to information about the status of their returns, which eliminates uncertainty.

Reduced purchase return related customer service inquiries as a result of access to real-time information about the status of their refunds. This will improve the overall experience of all customers due to increased access to customer service representatives.

Enables real-time validation of cardholder accounts, making it possible to flag and decline fraudulent purchase return requests and cards.

Reduced chargebacks related to the return request because the return authorization will be displayed in the cardholder’s transaction history. This reduces friendly fraud and duplicate refunds.

Are Merchants Required to Support This?

Yes, all merchants are required to request authorization for every return transaction. If you don’t comply, you will be in breach of Visa’s rules, and non-compliance might lead to an increase in the fees that you pay, such as Zero Floor Limit Fees and Visa Misuse Fees. Additionally, you are more likely to receive chargebacks for carrying out transactions without authorization.

What are the Requirements for Merchants?

No special equipment is required. Merchants are only required to comply with the mandate. The following steps will ease the transition process:

  • Ensure that your Point of Sale (POS) system is capable of requesting purchase return authorizations and receiving responses. Update it if necessary.
  • Analyze your customer refund workflow and update it to include the process of getting purchase return authorizations. This ensures that your employees do not forget to seek authorization.
  • Train your employees on how to request authorizations so that their skills are up to date.

What is the Procedure for Submitting a Purchase Return Authorization Request?

Here are the steps that you should follow when a cardholder makes a purchase return request:

  • Confirm that the purchase was made using a Visa card
  • Key-in the purchase return details into your POS system
  • Initiate an authorization request to the cardholder’s bank
  • Wait for a response to the authorization request
  • If an approval response is received, complete the refund process as usual

What is the Meaning of the Responses Received After Requesting a Purchase Authorization?

There are three possible responses: ‘approved,’ ‘no reason to decline,’ or ‘declined’ with a reason. These responses fall into two broad categories: approved or declined.

Approved

  • If an approved (code 00) response is received, process the refund and credit the cardholder.
  • Similarly, if a no reason to decline (code 85) response is received, proceed with the refund process and credit the cardholder’s account.

Declined

There are several reasons why a purchase authorization might be declined. They are as follows:

  • The account number or type provided is invalid (code 14). Inform the cardholder that the account number is not recognized by the bank and request for an alternative Visa card or refund them using other methods (cash, gift card).
  • The account type is invalid (codes 39, 52, or 53). Request the cardholder to enter the correct account type (credit or debit) into the POS.
  • The card has expired (code 54). Let the cardholder know that the card has expired and request for a replacement card. If there is no replacement card or alternative Visa card, refund them using other methods (cash, gift card).
  • The PIN is invalid (code 55). Request the cardholder to re-enter their PIN.
  • Declined without reason (all other decline codes). Request for an alternative Visa card or refund them using other methods (cash, gift card).

How Can Merchants Lower the Amount of Declined Responses?

Declined responses happen when there are user errors such as an invalid PIN or an invalid account type. Merchants can reduce these errors by encouraging cardholders to input their details correctly before they send purchase return authorization requests.

A declined response can also be received because a card is invalid. Invalid cards are those that are expired, have been reported lost or stolen or discarded prepaid cards. The number of these cases can be lowered when merchants first ensure that cards are valid before requesting authorization.

Are Merchants Required to Swipe, Tap, or Dip the Card Used in the Original Transaction Before Requesting Authorization?

No, the original card does not have to be represented. Merchants can send authorization requests by scanning the original purchase receipt, which will automatically bring up the card details.

What is the Process of Submitting an Authorization Request When the Card is Not Present, and the Receipt Barcode is Scanned?

Merchants should input the PAN and expiration date of the card in their return authorization request using POS entry mode 01.

Should Merchants Change Their Return/Refund Policies Because of These New Regulations?

No, merchants do not need to change their refund/return policies as long as they are legal and are shared with customers upfront. The only thing that merchants need to change is how they process refunds by requesting a purchase return authorization.

What Are the Changes Happening to Visa Purchase Return Authorization in 2020?

When the Visa Purchase Return Authorization mandate was initiated, there was a schedule for merchants in different regions and return volumes to adopt it. Here are important dates that you should keep in mind.

April 2020 – All merchants are required to have adopted the mandate regardless of their region or return volume.

14 April 2020 – Issuing banks will have a right to initiate chargebacks on purchase return transactions where merchants failed to obtain authorization.

1 July 2020 – Visa will include return transactions in the assessments for Zero- Floor Limit and Authorization Misuse Process Integrity fees.

The post Visa Purchase Return Authorization: What Merchants Should Know appeared first on Chargeback.

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Money can buy a house, but not a home.

Money can buy a house, but not a home.

cabin in the woods

Just a friendly reminder 🙂

*****

Money can buy a house, but not a home.

Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.

Money can buy a clock, but not time.

Money can buy a book, but not knowledge.

Money can buy food, but not an appetite.

Money can buy position, but not respect.

Money can buy friends, but not love.

*****

Keep hanging in there!

j. money signature

 

********
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Is Starting a Vape Shop a Good Business Decision in 2020?

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

One common trait among vape shop owners is that many of them are former smokers who have switched to vaping themselves. People often become quite passionate about vaping after quitting smoking with it. That naturally leads them to wonder if they might be able to forge careers for themselves in the vaping industry.

There are great potential profits in the vaping industry, despite its recent regulatory difficulties in the US. Moreover, there’s still plenty of room for new companies to jump in and participate.

Making your name as a manufacturer of vaping products isn’t easy from a legal compliance standpoint—not in the United States, at least. However, starting a vape shop is something almost any entrepreneur can do.

RELATED ARTICLE: STARTUP IDEAS TO GET YOUR IMAGINATION FLOWING

So, is it a good business decision to start a vape shop in 2020 and play in the same field as big brands like V2 Cigs? If you’re in the United States, the answer is unfortunately “probably not.” That is, unless you’re willing to have some flexibility in the types of products you sell.

This is because of recent FDA regulations regarding vaping products in the US. In fact, there is a chance you will suddenly find yourself without any products to sell in a few months. We’ll explain.

Why Is the Future Uncertain for U.S. Vape Shops?

Vape shops in the US face an uncertain future. This is because an important compliance deadline is quickly approaching for manufacturers in the vaping industry. By May 2020, every manufacturer of e-liquid and other vaping products in the US must submit applications to the FDA for permission to continue selling those products.

A pre-market tobacco product application (PMTA) must prove to the FDA that the product in question is beneficial to public health. Every vaping device and every e-liquid—in all flavors and nicotine strengths—requires a submitted application by May 2020. Otherwise, it will no longer be legal to sell in the United States.

A single PMTA can potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. This makes the PMTA process financially impossible for most smaller vaping product makers. Therefore, unless the legal requirements for vape manufacturers change in some way, most vaping manufacturers will likely go out business in May.

That could mean vape shops will have few vaping products left that they can still legally sell. That’s a very bad possibility for any vape shop that depends exclusively on vaping products for its revenue.

What If I Want to Start a Vape Shop Anyway?

Do you want to start a vape shop despite the potential risk? Then you should start thinking right away about what you can do to ensure a stable and diverse revenue stream. In other words, you should think of your venture as less of a vape shop and more of a smoke shop. Perhaps you could even think of your business as a shop for alternative supplements and other products.

For example, these are just a few of the types of products you can sell for additional revenue streams:

  • Alternative supplements and herbs such as CBD, kratom, and legal smoking herbs
  • Cigarette products such as roll-your-own tobacco, papers, filters, rolling machines, and hard-to-find imported cigarettes
  • Premium tobacco products such as cigars, pipes, and pipe tobacco
  • Dry herb vaping products such as vaporizers, grinders, and stash boxes
  • Alternative smoking products such as glass pipes

In the United
States, many vape shops began as smoke shops and head shops and expanded their
inventories to include vaping products. For that reason, many people expect to
find much more than vaping products when they enter a vape shop.

If you’re passionate about vaping, the idea of selling products like imported cigarettes might strike you as something you don’t want to do. However, if you want your vape shop to survive the upcoming legal compliance deadline for vape product manufacturers, diversifying your product selection is the only way to ensure your survival.

How Can I Tell If My Vape Shop Would Be Successful?

The best way to tell if your vape shop would be successful is by examining your competition. It’s rare in the United States these days to find a neighborhood without a nearby vape shop, so your shop will almost certainly have at least one competitor.

Do you live in a city that’s already served by a vape mega-chain with several stores and great brand recognition? If you do, you’ll be competing against a company with a big marketing budget. You will only stand a chance if you have a definite plan for differentiating your vape shop.

It’s common, however, for small-town vape shops to not be particularly professional or well-organized. That’s especially likely to be the case for vape shops that started out as head shops. If that’s what the vaping scene in your city is like, you have a much better chance to jump out ahead of the competition quickly. This is especially true if you know how to run a professional operation.

Your online marketing skills will also greatly influence your chance of success. Perhaps you only want to run a brick-and-mortar store and have no intention of selling online. All the same, you’ll want to make sure your business comes up on Google when people search for vape shops in your area.

To give your vape shop the best chance of appearing prominently in search results, you’ll need to have a website. If you don’t know how to create a website and populate it with content, you’ll need to pay someone to do that for you. Your online marketing skills—or the skills of the person you hire—will greatly influence your chance of success.

Some Final Thoughts

Besides marketing your vape shop through your website, you’ll also need to ensure your shop has a presence on business directories such as Yelp. Moreover, Yelp optimization is a task that will consume much of your time. Many consumers who search online for local businesses skip Google entirely and go straight to Yelp.

Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your vape shop appears high on Yelp’s search results. You’ll also need to ensure that you always attend promptly to any negative reviews you receive.

The post Is Starting a Vape Shop a Good Business Decision in 2020? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Debt Busting: 5 Steps to Financial Health in Business

Feature Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Owners of businesses of all sizes struggle with debt. Start-up costs, staffing, maintenance, and the minutiae of providing for a successful business can lead to overwhelming debt burdens. This can significantly affect the quality of life for business owners. So if you’ve got debt hanging over you, these are five steps of debt busting to get back on track financially.

Debt Busting Step 1: Figure Out What You Owe

When you’re in debt, it can be tempting to ignore bills. However, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you actually need to pay. Sticking your head in the sand will only make your problems worse.

RELATED CONTENT: SMALL BUSINESS ACCOUNTING TIPS FOR STARTUPS

To get started with debt busting, write down a list of your debts, the interest rates, and when you’re meant to repay. Include all debt sources, including credit cards, loans, phone plans, and loans. This will give you a realistic idea of your finances. You may find out that you owe more or less than expected.

Step 2: Make A Budget

Business 101 for managing your business accounts is budgeting. Therefore, make a budget so you know how much money you have coming in and going out each month. Detail your income as well as how you’re spending. Many business owners get caught up in purchasing that isn’t necessary. However, debt busting requires discipline in the area of spending.

There are lots of online tools that can help you with this process. Having a budget will let you find areas where you can cut and save money. Some bills, like a mortgage or rent, can’t be ignored. However, other expenses may be an area to cut. Review your budget and determine where you can cut your expenses to start paying your debt off faster.

Debt Busting Step 3: Switch Providers

If you’re paying high interest on current business loans, you may not be getting the best interest rate. Use a loan comparison site like NowLoan.co.uk  to see what deals are available to you. The cheapest deals are usually found online and it’s easy to compare terms. You can see if there’s a better option for you and your business. If you don’t find something right away, keep checking. This is something that may change over time.

Debt Busting
Image by yogesh more from Pixabay

Step 4: Slash Business Debt Bills

Your budget is a great way to reveal luxuries that you can cut back on. It will also reveal if you’re paying too much for certain goods and services. Shop around for services like broadband, insurance, and phone providers. It will benefit your business to find out if you’re getting a good deal. Switching suppliers is fairly easy and won’t take up too much time. It’s also a good idea to use discount shopping to save on your business supplies and stock.

Step 5: Check Tax Benefit Entitlements

As a business owner, it’s worth taking the time to determine if you’re eligible for any benefits or tax credits. The benefits system in most countries is complex, but there are organizations that will help you discern what is available to you. There are some useful calculators to work out your qualifications. It helps you navigate what you should get, how to claim, and even if your benefits change with changes in income.

When you feel like you’re drowning in business debt, asking for help seems impossible. The good news is that thousands of business owners have been there before you. These five steps will tighten up your financial health and get you on the right track to busting debt. Use these five steps to get started improving your finances in business and at home.

The post Debt Busting: 5 Steps to Financial Health in Business appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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What to Do If You Can’t Cover Bills During Coronavirus

If the ever-evolving coronavirus situation has put a halt on your income or lowered it dramatically, don’t panic. Instead, it’s best to stay calm, rally your resources and come up with a strategy for your finances. If COVID-19 has affected your ability to pay your rent or mortgage, cover your other bills and put food on the table, here’s what you can do to get through this time:

Re-Evaluate Your Finances

First, get a big-picture look at your financial situation. What are your basic living expenses, how much debt do you have, and will you be getting any financial assistance in the form of unemployment or disability checks?

Then, go through all your expenses and see what you can cut back on or get rid of entirely. “Now is a great time to go through your most recent billing statement and cancel any subscriptions or costs in order to lower your future spending,” says Logan Allec, founder of Money Done Right. “Also, think about canceling any spending that you can’t use now.” Some services might have been halted because of the coronavirus situation. For instance, your gym membership or yoga classes. 

You’ll then want to see how you might go about lowering your existing expenses. Can you get a cheaper plan for your home internet, or reach out to your provider to see if they’re willing to offer a promo rate? If you’re new to this world of negotiating, come up with a basic script before giving them a call. Remember: It’s far better for them to keep you as a customer than to lose you entirely.

Last, go down the list of all your expenses and see how you can scale back. How can you save on groceries and entertainment at home? Instead of doling out cash on streaming entertainment services, can you download movies for free from your library?

Check for Eviction Moratoriums

There might be an eviction moratorium where you live. In other words, if you’re unable to cover your rent because of the coronavirus, then you won’t be kicked out of your place. This is being rolled out at the city, county, or state level. There are different rules and terms depending on where you live, so you’ll have to check.

For instance, the governor of California has issued a statewide executive order that will protect tenants until May 31, 2020. That doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook, though. In the Golden State, you’ll still need to pay your landlord for what’s owed. And in the state of New York, eviction moratoriums are in place until at least June 20th.

Reach Out to Your Loan Servicer

If you’re a homeowner and have mortgage payments, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has suspended foreclosures on single-family homes that are FHA-insured for 60 days, effective March 18, 2020. More good news: If your home was in the process of a foreclosure, this would be halted.

Along the same lines, you can reach out to your gas and power companies to see if they’re waiving late fees or being more forgiving before shutting off your utilities. 

Contact Your Landlord as Soon as Possible

If you’re renting from somebody, reach out to them as soon as you can if you are concerned about your ability to pay next month’s rent, and be sure you understand any eviction freezes being considered by your state or local government, recommends Allec.

“As a landlord myself, I appreciate it when tenants are upfront with me about their situation and don’t try to hide it with bogus excuses.” Just like you’d like a heads-up before stuff hits the fan, letting your landlord know as soon as you can gives them time to prepare, and to come up with some sort of contingency plan.

If you’re able to cover some of your rent, you could try reaching out to your landlord, explaining your situation and why you’re not able to cover the next month’s rent. You’ll want to then ask if a temporary reduction in rent would be possible. Given the circumstances, your landlord might be amenable to this arrangement.

And if you’ve exhausted all the obvious avenues, see if your landlord would be open to bartering, suggests money coach and educator Sarah Von Bargen. “What skills do you have that might be useful to them?,” says Von Bargen, who is the founder of Yes and Yes. “Could you repaint an empty unit in the building or do some landscaping in exchange for cheap or free rent? If you rent from a large company, maybe they could use help with their website or social media.” 

Look for Relief

If you’ve lost a job or aren’t able to work due to circumstances prompted by the coronavirus, look toward forms of relief. Help is out there.

For instance, under the newly passed Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA), certain employers are required to provide their workers one of two things: 80 hours of paid sick leave if they’re unable to work because of a quarantine or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Or up to 80 hours of paid sick leave that’s equal to two-thirds of their pay because they were tending to someone under quarantine or someone with symptoms. An employee might also qualify for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of his or her regular pay.

You might also qualify for disaster unemployment benefits. This extends to freelancers and self-employed folks, too. For instance, if you’ve lost your job, aren’t able to reach your place of work, or cannot work due to a disaster-related injury, you can apply for this form of unemployment. You’ll need to apply through your state’s unemployment office.

You’ll want to learn about other relief efforts based on the type of work you do and your industry. For instance, there are relief efforts for small businesses, freelancers, and artists. There are also relief efforts for different professions and industries. To name a few, those who work as bartenders and in the beauty industry.

While the reality of not being able to keep up with your bills because of the coronavirus can feel scary, remaining calm and looking at different solutions will help you swiftly navigate through rocky times.

Do you know of more helpful resources? Share them in the comments! 

The post What to Do If You Can’t Cover Bills During Coronavirus appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2020

The Federal Reserve further cut their target Fed Funds Rate to zero in March, so we continue to see a steady stream of rate drops. I hope that some of you got a nice rate locked-in if you tried to refinance your mortgage.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash for April 2020, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. I track these rates because I keep 12 months of expenses as a cash cushion and also invest in longer-term CDs (often at lesser-known credit unions) when they yield more than bonds. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 4/2/2020.

High-yield savings accounts
While the huge megabanks make huge profits while paying you 0.01% APY, it’s easy to open a new “piggy-back” savings account and simply move some funds over from your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. Marcus has a 7-month No Penalty CD at 1.70% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.55% APY with a $25,000 minimum deposit. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 1.70% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • CIT Bank has a few competitive term CDs at similar rates: 12-month CD at 1.86% APY ($1,000 min), 13-month at 1.82% APY, and 18-month at 1.85% APY.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs
If you like to keep cash in a brokerage account, beware that many brokers pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). The following money market and ultra-short bond funds are not FDIC-insured, but may be a good option if you have idle cash and cheap/free commissions.

  • Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund currently pays an 1.07% SEC yield. The default sweep option is the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund which has an SEC yield of 0.68%. You can manually move the money over to Prime if you meet the $3,000 minimum investment.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 2.08% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 2.18% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so there is more interest rate risk.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 2.57% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 3.16% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months. Note that the higher yield came from a drop in net asset value during the recent market stress.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes. Right now, this section probably isn’t very interesting as T-Bills are yielding close to zero!

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 4/2/2020, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.09% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 0.14% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 1.42% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 0.88% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL. Expect these yields to drop significantly as they are updated.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. There are annual purchase limits. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest.

  • “I Bonds” bought between November 2019 and April 2020 will earn a 2.22% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More info here.
  • In mid-April 2020, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore.

  • The only notable card left in this category is Mango Money at 6% APY on up to $2,500, but there are many hoops to jump through. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops, and if you make a mistake you won’t earn any interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others do. Rates can also drop to near-zero quickly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling. I don’t use any of these anymore.

  • Consumers Credit Union Free Rewards Checking (my review) still offers up to 5.09% APY on balances up to $10,000 if you make $500+ in ACH deposits, 12 debit card “signature” purchases, and spend $1,000 on their credit card each month. Elements Financial has dropped to 2% APY on balances up to $20,000 if you make 15 debit card “signature” purchases or other qualifying transactions per statement cycle. Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • Pen Air Federal Credit Union has a 5-year certificate at 2.20% APY ($500 minimum). Early withdrawal penalty is 180 days of interest. Their other terms are competitive as well, if you want build a CD ladder. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($3 one-time fee).
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Vanguard and Fidelity both have a 5-year at 1.60% APY right now. Be wary of higher rates from callable CDs listed by Fidelity.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10 years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Vanguard has a 10-year at 1.50% APY right now. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs from Fidelity.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently a sad 0.10% rate). I view this as a huge early withdrawal penalty. You could also view it as a hedge against prolonged deflation, but only if you can hold on for 20 years. As of 4/2/2020, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 1.04%.

All rates were checked as of 4/2/2020.

“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.”

Best Interest Rates on Cash – April 2020 from My Money Blog.


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No, You Didn’t Just Lose Half Of Your Retirement Savings

So here we are just a month later,  in a full-blown economic panic, and at the start of the most sudden recession ever.

The pandemic has spread much further and faster than most uninformed people (including me) would have ever guessed, and the whole world is on some form of lockdown. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before in the modern world.

What should we do?

On the financial side,  I’ve seen media stories about “The End of FIRE movement”, and a close friend even said to me, “Well, I’ve got to go back to work now because with all my investments down 35%, I’m not financially independent any more.”

And I’ve seen plenty of similar statements out there on the Internet:

Is it time to be worried like this commenter on my last article?

Even worse, some people are trying to time the stock market, selling off their investments at a discount in the hopes of “protecting” them, hoping to subsequently outsmart everyone else and re-buy them at an even lower price just before some future rebound.

On the human side, we have seen a death toll of thousands of people per day in the US alone with best-case forecasts of 200,000 by the time things calm down, which implies several million worldwide.

And so far, we have not been performing like a best-case country so these numbers will probably be higher.

This all sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

It makes sense that many people are fearful and pessimistic. So why is it that I remain as optimistic as ever, with the full expectation that you and I will come through this humbled but also wiser and better than ever?

It’s because I already know how this all ends.

The world will keep rallying and doing its best to slow down contagion. Caring people will keep helping each other. People will stay home and heal, hospitals will expand, nurses and doctors will do their best to save as many lives as possible, and the 80% of us in jobs that allow us to keep working, will keep doing our jobs.

Meanwhile, innovators are still innovating all over the world. People are staying up late working in labs, vaccines are being tested, genes are being sequenced and the current virus will end up beaten and then written up as a very significant chapter in the history books.

But apart from all of this, there is still way more going on out there, which just isn’t making it to the headlines. Engineers and scientists are still inventing things that will drastically improve the future. Solar panels are still streaming out by the trainload and being installed worldwide. Better and better batteries which will eventually displace all fossil fuel use are evolving. The most efficient factories in history are being built. Gene therapies are advancing which will eventually make a mockery of all of our current health conditions. Internet connectivity and education is becoming more widely available and cheaper which is allowing the next generation of brilliant kids to to grow up and learn faster and do more than you or I could have even dreamed. And all this will happen regardless of the course of the current pandemic.

If all that is true, then why is the world so Scary right now?

I get it – never before has something from the daily news come home to affect our daily lives so much. Grocery stores are cleaned out, people are wearing masks, and you probably have friends who are currently unemployed, or sick, or both.

But in this situation, it really helps to understand the big picture of what is actually going on. The world is not ending. The air outside your windows is not a swirling cloud of certain death.

All that has changed is that we are in a self-imposed economic slowdown that has been created purely to save the lives of our most vulnerable people.

Which is one of the most compassionate things our society has ever done. To me, this is a remarkable and wonderful moment and I would not have guessed that such a capitalist country would ever have the balls to do it.

To put it into a visual, we have decided to prevent the following worst-case scenario:

In the worst case, we might lose 1-2% of our people, biased towards the most vulnerable. There is some overlap because this accelerates some other deaths that would have happened this year, and pulls some future deaths into the present, which is why the death rate dips for a while afterwards.

And turn it into this:

With enough prevention, we cut the death rate by twentyfold, to about 0.04-0.06%.
200,000 is still an enormous number, but the existing death rate at least puts it into perspective.

In the worst case, our public officials would all downplay the risk of COVID-19, and we’d keep working and traveling and spreading it freely. We’d maximize our economic activity and let the disease run its course.

From the disease models I have seen so far, about 70% of us would eventually contract it. Half of those would have no symptoms or very mild ones, a smaller (but still huge) number would get sick or very sick, 10% might end up in a very overloaded hospital system, and in total about 1-2% of our population would die from complications – partly depending on how quickly we could put up temporary treatment centers to cycle through 30 million people in only a few years.

It would feel cruel and chaotic, but in reality we would still not be even approaching the conditions that people in the developing world deal with every day. Our world has always been cruel and chaotic in so many ways which affect a much larger number of people – we just happen to be used to them. And one thing that humans are exceptionally good at, is getting used to things.

List of causes of death by rate - Wikipedia

In the more compassionate case which we are currently following, we drastically reduce the amount of contact we have with each other for a few months, which cuts the number of deaths in the US down from 3-6 million, down to perhaps 200,000. In exchange, our economy shrinks by several trillion dollars (it was about 21 trillion in 2019) for a year or more.

Assuming we are preventing 3 million early deaths, this means our society is foregoing about one million dollars of economic activity for each person’s life that we extend and frankly, it makes me happy to know we are capable of that.

So that’s the big picture: we are cautiously and temporarily buckling down and making some sacrifices, in order to help other people.

To me, that is not a cause for panic or fear – it’s a chance to try even harder and be thankful for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Meanwhile, some good stuff is happening as a byproduct:

  • We are driving around and polluting far less. The air is drastically cleaner everywhere.
  • People are out walking with their kids far more. The streets of my town are nearly free from cars, and are being enjoyed by (appropriately spaced) bikes and people for the first time.
  • Our expectations are being reset. Someday soon, it will feel like an absolute joy and privilege to walk into a store and see things fully stocked and prosperous again. And imagine the feeling of taking a vacation or attending a big event or a restaurant or a party!
  • People in rich countries may realize that we can afford to be helpful and compassionate after all – while actually increasing our long term wealth and happiness rather than compromising it.
  • And the world is getting a valuable “practice run” at handling a pandemic, with a relatively mild disease rather than something even more serious.

So How Does This Affect my Retirement?

Once you really get the big picture above, you can see that we are going to come through this better in every way.

Just as with any recession, weaker companies will go bankrupt, stronger ones will streamline their operations and get smarter, and the chaos and broken pieces will become the raw materials from which an enormous batch of brand-new companies will form.

Better ways to track and treat disease, more scalable and less bureaucratic hospitals, more options for remote medicine and more support for remote work and virtual offices and virtual learning in general. More home delivery services and fewer big box stores and wasted parking lots, more support for biking and walking, and a million other things that a billion other people will think of.

The end result will be a better, more resilient and richer world than ever. Yes, that will also eventually mean more money in your retirement account, but more importantly it means better and happier living conditions for every living thing on Earth.

While this all sounds like optimistic magic, it’s actually just a byproduct of human nature. We are a lazy and change-averse creature and we become complacent when our fearful and primitive brains think things are “good enough” for survival and reproduction.

So, oddly enough, we often need a good slap upside the head to get off of our collective asses and actually make some improvements. Observe the wisdom of our elders:

  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • Necessity is the Mother of Invention.
  • What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

As old and repeated as these slogans might be, they stick around because they keep proving to be remarkably true. They are the real-world manifestation of a badassity that is built right into our Human DNA, which is why they are some of my favorite phrases in life.

Are things a bit hard right now?

GOOD.

See you in the inevitable and incredible boom-time that will result.

—-

Other Interesting Things That Might Help You Feel Better:

The Simple Path to Wealth, by my longtime author/blogger friend JL Collins, explains long-term investing in the most simple and calm way imaginable.

Towards Rational Exuberance is a more technical and detailed (but still very fun to read) history of the stock market and how the Federal Reserve bank serves to stabilize our system. Although I read this book over fifteen years ago, it has underpinned my understanding and confidence in long-term investing ever since. I would love it if author Mark Smith would add a few chapters to cover the two most recent market crashes as well!

A Guided Meditation for when the Stock Market is Dropping, is Jim’s witty YouTube reminder of the same thing, which he somehow created long before any of this panic started – how could he possibly have known in advance??

Good News, there’s Another Recession Coming is my own magical forecast of the present moment, made over two years ago.

Why We are Not Really All Doomed, my 2014 take on why the world was (and still is) well positioned for many decades of future prosperity.

How To Retire Forever on a Fixed Chunk of Money gets into the reason why stock market drops like the present one don’t really hurt an early retiree (it’s because the vast majority of your shares will be sold several decades from now, when the present panic is barely a blip on the graph.

And finally, just for fun here’s an example of something that is not written to make you feel better. In recent weeks, I spent several hours writing out some interview answers for an article in the New York Times.

I was truly excited to share the details of why the Principles of Mustachianism are more useful than ever in times like these, and it’s quite the opposite of “The End of FIRE” that the silly and financially naive media have been peddling in recent stories.

I was disappointed in the end result. Most of my answers were cut out, and instead the article is focused on “hardships” that other early retirees are currently working through. And the clickbaity title sets the expectations wrong to begin with:

They All Retired Before They Hit 40. And Then This Happened.

(that link will take you to my Twitter post about it, where an interesting discussion has formed in the comments – what do you think?)

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National Emergency Library: Free Digitized Book Access During Pandemic

It is estimated that 1 in 5 students across the world are currently unable to attend school. In response, the Internet Archive opened the National Emergency Library, which suspends the normal lending waitlists on its 1.4 million digitized books. Your local library also has an eBook section, but only has a finite number of copies that it can lend out at one time. (I’m still waiting patiently to read Ali Wong’s Dear Girls…) The National Emergency Library is essentially lending out unlimited copies through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.

Announcing the National Emergency Library, a collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed.

Here are their Frequently Asked Questions.

This may be is another helpful resource for those that can’t utilize their normal libraries.You won’t necessarily find the current bestsellers, but there are a number of classic books and good options for children. I randomly checked a few investing geek books that are relatively rare and expensive to buy, and they even have scans of Poor Charlie’s almanack : the wit and wisdom of Charles T. Munger and Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman.

“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.”

National Emergency Library: Free Digitized Book Access During Pandemic from My Money Blog.


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CARES Act: Stimulus Checks, Unemployment, Student Loan, IRA/401k, HSA/FSA Changes

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the federal government approved a third round of economic relief. There is plenty of media coverage, but after reading multiple articles I noticed that nearly all of them miss at least one thing that another covered. Here’s my own mixtape of highlights so that you can research further if it applies to your situation.

$1,200 for each adult + $500 per child under 16. You may want to wait to file. Individuals under $75,000 adjusted gross income get the full amount, and married filing joint under $150,000 get the full amount. Fully phased out at $99,000/$198,000. You can find AGI on Line 8b on 2019 Form 1040 2019, Line 7 on 2018 Form 1040. Based on 2018 tax filing if you haven’t filed for 2019, and 2019 tax filing if you did file. So if got a big raise in 2019, you should delay filing. If your income went down in 2019 or you didn’t file before, you should file now. Finally, if you made a lot in 2019 and expect to make less in 2020, you may still be able to get the money eventually when filing your 2020 taxes.

There is no clawback provision on overpayments, so it doesn’t matter if you end up making more than the income limits in 2020. If you listed a bank account for direct deposit of tax refund, they will try to send your money that way (and then send you a snail mail confirmation). The target date is April 17th. Otherwise, you will likely have to wait longer for a physical check. The money is not taxable.

Unemployment benefits expanded again. The bill has expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to self-employed and part-time workers. Eligibility also expanded to cover those unable to work due to the coronavirus outbreak. The eligible period is also extended by 13 weeks. There will also be an increased benefit amount (up to $600 per week) on top of your state benefits for up to 4 months.

401(k) and IRA early withdrawal penalties waived up to $100,000. You can now take up to $100,000 out of your IRAs and you have 3 years to put it back into your IRA again without penalty or tax. It’s kind of like a really long rollover window. However, you will owe income tax on whatever partial amount is not put back within 3 years. This is called a coronavirus-related distribution (CRD) and is limited to those affected by the coronavirus.

Instead of a hardship withdrawal, you may wish to take a 401k loan instead. The retirement plan loan limit is also raised to the smaller of $100,000 or up to the full amount vested. Anything that can permanently damage your retirement savings should all be avoided if possible, of course.

Required minimum distributions are waived for 2020. This applies to everyone, even if not affected by the coronavirus. If you don’t need to make the distribution, this can save you on taxes.

Extended student loan relief. Loan and interest payments will be deferred through September 30th without penalty for all federally owned student loans.

Expanded use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Tele-medicine services can now be used before meeting the plan deductible. You can again buy over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Certain menstrual care products, such as tampons and pads, are also now eligible medical expenses.

Sources: NYT, Tax Foundation, NPR, Accounting Today, SHRM, SGR Law

“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.”

CARES Act: Stimulus Checks, Unemployment, Student Loan, IRA/401k, HSA/FSA Changes from My Money Blog.


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Survive and Thrive Growth Summit LIVE Debuts – 20+ speakers 5+ hours

We are living in very challenging times. Our families and communities are all affected. In particular small business owners are impacted and hurting.

The Survive and Thrive Growth Summit, is an online experience meant to inspire entrepreneurs and small business owners during these tough times of uncertainty. The line up of speakers and experts will provide practical tools and insights for surviving these challenging times and thriving.

Produced and hosted by entrepreneur and author Ramon Ray,  the Survive and Thrive Growth Summit brings together leading brands, experts and entrepreneurs to acknowledge the challenges we face, pull together and push forward. To survive, yes, but also to thrive.

Expected to attract well over 1,000 attendees, the Summit acknowledges the challenging times faced by small businesses. Yet it also serves to inspire the entire SMB community to press forward and embrace our collective strengths.

Supported by Dell Technologies, Microsoft, AT&T, Salesforce and other leading brands the Summit brings together the small business community in a powerful way, so needed at this time.

Speakers include:

  • Meredith Schmidt, Salesforce
  • Chris Costello, AT&T
  • Erik Day Dell,
  • Karen Kerrigan Small Business Entrepreneurship Council
  • Brandon Andrews, Gauge / Shark Tank
  • Cate Luzio, Luminary
  • Elaine Pofeldt Journalist, Author, Speaker
  • Rodney Sampson, Opportunity Hub
  • Bridget Weston, SCORE
  • Rashedia Mayhane, Green Chips Financial Freedom
  • Kedma Ough Author, Target Funding
  • Mike McDerment, Freshbooks
  • Emily Washcovick, Yelp
  • Barry Moltz, Radio host, author, speaker
  • Ivana Taylor DIY Marketers
  • Brian Moran, Small Business Edge
  • John Lawson, ColderIce
  • Tee Rowe, SBDC
  • Jackson Cunningham, JJ Suspenders
  • Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends

Register for free – be inspired and learn – http://SurviveandThriveSummit.com

 

The post Survive and Thrive Growth Summit LIVE Debuts – 20+ speakers 5+ hours appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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Real Estate Outperformance Examples During A Coronavirus Pandemic

In a previous post, I estimated how real estate performs at various levels of a stock market decline. In my opinion, the sweet spot for real estate outperformance is somewhere between a 15% – 25% stock market decline. During such a level of decline, mortgage rates tend to fall as investors buy Treasury bonds. As

The post Real Estate Outperformance Examples During A Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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Ever wonder where your money’s been?

Ever wonder where your money’s been?

Stumbled across this poem by children’s author and writing coach, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and thought you might enjoy it 🙂

Maybe you’ve thought a lot about this too like me?

pass the money poem

If only dollars could talk!!

(And didn’t contain any viruses – eek)

Thanks for putting into words something I think about almost every day, Amy, haha… But next time tell us the answers, please! 😉

For more on Amy and all her books/poems, visit her at AmyLudwigVanderwater.com. And if anyone’s interested in learning how to get better at writing (or who have kids who enjoy it!) she’s currently teaching *free* weekday writing lessons for the foreseeable future –> Keeping a Notebook… Together.

See ya back soon!

XOXO

******
PS: The blog and newsletter will be offline tomorrow (Thursday) due to some scheduled maintenance, but we’ll be back at it early Friday morning to continue spreading the good word 👍

 

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#Paytoday Coalition Infuses $900 Billion For Struggling Small Business Owners

Small business owners are experiencing unparalleled losses as the U.S. implements a variety of measures to combat the Coronavirus.

  • 90% of small business owners report major challenges already and that figure is up from 60% just two weeks ago.
  • And 37% of small business owners have less than one month of cash on hand before they might be forced to abandon the American Dream of business ownership — and close for good.

All of these findings have emerged from surveys of 146,000 small business owners who took Alignable’s Small Business Pulse Polls, starting on March 12, 2020. And while these hurdles combine to show just how dire the problem is for millions of small business owners right now, many people and companies are also trying to help.

One group is a broad coalition of concerned tech companies including: Alignable, Fundbox, Gusto, Homebase, Womply, SmallBizDaily.com, Actual.Agency, Business.com and Small Business Edge. And we have banded together today to introduce a new initiative called, #paytoday.
The goal here is simple: urging all clients of small businesses — especially major corporations and government agencies — to pay their small business vendors right away, changing long-held accounting practices.

A 2019 PYMNT’s study shows that the average small business waits 28 days to get paid, but many vendors often wait much longer. In normal circumstances, that lack of cash flow can be challenging, but in today’s environment, it can mean the difference between keeping a business open and giving up.

$900 Billion Dollars Would Help…A Lot

At any given time, small businesses are owed a total of $900 billion. If the small businesses received what they were owed today or even this week, that would help to infuse enough cash into the small business economy to stave off millions of imminent small business closures.

“As a network fueled by more than 4.5 million small business owners, we wholeheartedly support the #paytoday effort,” said Eric Groves, Co-Founder and CEO of Alignable. “These small business owners have already done the work and deserve to be paid for it — as soon as possible, especially by the big companies and government agencies that have plenty of cash on hand.”

The movement also encourages bold leadership from those enterprises and government agencies, asking for a commitment by them to pay their small business vendors as quickly as possible.

Alignable, for its part, has made this pledge to pay its small business vendors as soon as possible.

Do The Right Thing

“At Alignable, we see thousands of members supporting each other daily with creative suggestions to generate extra income in these hard times,” said Alignable Co-Founder and President Venkat Krishnamurthy. “They’re simply doing the right thing for their fellow human beings — and the heads of major corporations and government agencies should follow suit. At this time in history, several corporations doing the right thing could go a long way.”

And, even with the positive news of a new $2 trillion dollar federal stimulus package, with $350 billion earmarked for small businesses, several industry experts are concerned that it will take weeks, if not a month or two until small business owners see any of that cash.

That’s a delay many cannot afford. But if corporations and government agencies step up and pay small businesses soon, life for many could get exponentially better — and fast.

The Time Is Now

The #paytoday movement was started by several tech companies concerned that, if nothing was done, many small businesses would perish under the pressure of Coronavirus quarantines.

So, the coalition started this movement to generate awareness of the payment problems, urging large companies and government agencies to “pay today.”

It’s the coalition’s hope that, when this movement catches on, many small businesses will have a runway to outlast the virus and eventually get back to business as usual.

Raising the visibility of the problem and mobilizing enterprises and government agencies to get on board before it is too late is the ultimate goal.

Amplify Your Voice Via Social Media

Small business people, and the general public, also can play a major role to make this goal a reality. They can write to many of the larger companies and/or post to their social media outlets, asking them to pay their small business vendors today adding the hashtag: #paytoday, as a sign of solidarity with other members of the movement.

Each company in the coalition will do the same to elevate the movement and hopefully affect positive change in an atmosphere of so much uncertainty, disappointment and fear. We’re hoping that members of the media who would like to get involved post far and wide about the cause, as well.

To learn more about #paytoday and to use any of the content the coalition has created, please visit: www.paytoday.club.

The post #Paytoday Coalition Infuses $900 Billion For Struggling Small Business Owners appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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What Are Fraud Filters and How Do They Protect Merchants?

How can you stop fraudsters from making fraudulent purchases in your store? Fraud filters provide a solution.

Imagine you could automatically stop fraudulent orders from processing in your store. Think about much money you would save. Think about the time saved. Fraud filters may sound like something from the distant future, but they are a real thing right now. You can add this tool to your ecommerce store and prevent fraudsters from making fraudulent purchases. It’s simple: Fraud filters will notify you of a potentially fraudulent purchase or cancel a fraudulent order automatically. Here’s everything you wanted to know about fraud filters:

How Do Fraud Filters Prevent Fraud?

Before you go any further, it’s important to understand the different types of fraud associated with customer disputes: True fraud, chargeback fraud, and friendly fraud.

  • True fraud happens when your business accepts a payment from a stolen card. The real customer will dispute the purchase, and the customer’s bank will close the account and issue a new account with a new card number. However, you might have already dispatched the purchased product and now will lose money from the chargeback. True fraud is also called “identity theft,” and it cripples many retailers. Click here to read more about true fraud.
  • Chargeback fraud happens when a customer misuses their chargeback rights, as governed by the law. The customer might purchase a product from a retailer, claim the product is defective (or it was never received), and receive a refund. In this case, the customer has received a refund and is keeping the original product. Click here to read more about chargeback fraud.
  • Friendly fraud is different from chargeback fraud and happens when a customer makes a simple mistake. The customer might request a chargeback and receive a refund because they mistakenly forgot about the purchase or a family member made an unknown purchase. Click here to read more about friendly fraud.

Because chargeback and friendly fraud disputes are caused by cardholders misusing the dispute process, merchants can respond to these disputes and regain the transaction amount. True fraud disputes, on the other hand, are not winnable for merchants. Which means merchants need to prevent true fraud disputes from ever happening. This is where fraud filters come in.

Why is True Fraud So Bad For Business?

The way cardholders shop has transformed in recent years. Now, online platforms have overtaken brick-and-mortar stores, with more consumers swapping the mall for the mouse. Research shows that 96 percent of Americans have made an online purchase at some point in their life, while 80 percent have shopped online in the previous month.

Unfortunately, the rise of ecommerce has given birth to fraudsters who try to cheat the system and trick hard-working merchants like you. There are many types of cyber fraud out there, but true fraud seems to be the bane of most retailers. True fraud makes up 29 percent of all fraud losses, and true fraud losses are almost never fully recoverable.

How Do Fraud Filters Prevent True Fraud?

Although fraud filters don’t prevent chargeback fraud and friendly fraud, how do they stop true fraud? The process is far more simple than you might think.

Fraud filters are tools that you add to your ecommerce store. You can set them up in different ways, but you can essentially block fraudulent orders from being processed. If you want to manage your ecommerce store manually, you can receive notifications when someone has placed a potentially fraudulent transaction on your online store.

Fraud filters use clever algorithms to determine whether an order place was genuine or potentially fraudulent, which provides you with peace of mind. This way, you can save money on the potential losses from this type of fraud, which could jeopardize your business.

How Can You Customize Fraud Filters?

The great thing is that fraud filters are completely customizable so that you can set them up based on your industry, product, current sales or promotions, work schedule, and ecommerce store abilities.

Filters can be layered on top of each other to create a robust yet precise assessment of all transactions that come through. The filters can either automatically accept or decline transactions. For the transactions that are in the middle, the filters can send the information to be manually reviewed by a representative.

How Do Fraud Filters Work?

Fraud filters work by checking all the information on the credit cards used to purchase items from your store. If you think these checks will slow down the order process, you’re wrong. The best fraud filters carry out checks in a few seconds, and customers will notice no disruption to the ordering process whatsoever.

Fraud filters can alert you if there is something unusual about the credit card used by a customer. This doesn’t mean that the customer is trying to carry out fraud, but you might want to do some additional checks just to make sure. Fraud filters can notify you in the following circumstances:

  • When a customer’s billing and shipping addresses don’t match
  • When a customer’s card verification number (CVV) doesn’t match the one declared during the checkout process.
  • When a customer makes a considerably large purchase.
  • When a customer places an order from a banned IP address.
  • And many more.

What to Look for in Fraud Filters

The problem with some filters is that they can prevent genuine customers from placing orders. When this situation happens, it is called a false positive. If customers are unable to place an order or make a purchase because of the filters, they might not shop with you again. This can have a significant impact on your profits.

It’s all about striking the right balance. Obviously, you want to prevent fraud, but you don’t want to annoy customers in the process. The best fraud filters won’t just flag a customer because they entered the wrong CVV. Instead, they take all the information provided into account and then decide whether there could be a potential threat. These filters help streamline the complicated process of dispute management.

This is why you must take the time to do an analysis of your transaction and dispute information to create the best front-end fraud system as possible.

Takeaway

In recent years, fraud has exploded online, and most entrepreneurs and merchants are unable to recoup true fraud losses. This poses a problem. How can you stop fraudsters from making fraudulent purchases in your store? Fraud filters provide a solution. You can use these to prevent fraud loss and increase your bottom line.

The post What Are Fraud Filters and How Do They Protect Merchants? appeared first on Chargeback.

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5 Powerful Tools for Digital Marketing Success

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Today, the role of digital in your overall marketing strategy is unquestionable. Moreover, the rapid growth of digital marketing has brought with it a range of methods and solutions for making the most of what the Internet has to offer. From SEO to PPC to social, video, email, and beyond, there are more options for digital marketing now than ever before. However, utilizing them for real digital marketing success is becoming increasingly complex.

RELATED ARTICLE: DON’T LOSE YOUR STARTUP TO CHAOS

Digital Marketing Success Will Keep You Ahead of the Pack

Staying ahead of the competition is no longer something you can do alone. There’s simply too much work to do. For example, your success with digital marketing will take planning, implementing, analyzing, and improving the elements that make up your digital strategy. Therefore, to maintain a steady pace, consider utilizing these five powerful tools for digital marketing success.

Proof

The aptly named Proof uses the power of social proof messaging to boost your website’s conversion rates.

For example, Proof will send notifications, reviews, and videos to targeted customers after they leave your site. Proof works to enhance the perception of your brand. Their experts will also optimize your website design for better conversion rates. So give them a chance to help you enjoy more digital marketing success.

HubSpot

HubSpot is designed to serve as the central platform for managing your digital marketing efforts. Its tools can lead to more success online.

It offers numerous free tools for new businesses to get started with. For example, you’ll find web forms and live chat software for capturing leads. You can also make use of their basic analytics and customer relations management features without spending any money. Just imagine! More digital marketing success, for free.

However, if you want even more digital marketing success, you can have it. For example, expect some impressive marketing automation features when moving into the paid tiers. This includes integration with other software in the category. It will also help you develop a powerful tool for growing traffic, converting leads, and increasing ROI on marketing campaigns.

Plus, you’ll get help with improving close rates for deals with their effective sales tools.

SendGrid

When it comes to digital success with email marketing, a dedicated tool for creating, executing, and managing campaigns is a must. SendGrid is one of them. Its multiple features include promotional emails, automation, and design tools.

That said, its popularization has spawned a number of SendGrid alternatives that are worth looking into. This is because some of these alternatives have lower pricing tiers or longer lists of features.

So be sure to check them out before settling on a specific solution. Any one of them could lead you into more digital marketing success.

Survey Anyplace

Are you looking to improve user experience? Do you want to design a better product or learn more about your market? Or are you simply interested in having more digital marketing success overall?

Customer surveys are a great way to achieve any of these objectives. This is because Survey Anyplace aims to reduce the chances of participants abandoning your survey. They do this by helping you build simple, well-designed forms that are mobile compatible.

Yoast

This popular WordPress plugin is a handy tool for optimizing your website content search engines. Regularly updated to reflect the latest algorithms, Yoast helps you identify the best content, focus keywords, and internal links.

These optimizations will improve your rankings and give you more digital marketing success. Yoast also evaluates the readability of your pages for an additional boost.

The Right Tools Will Bring Greater Digital Marketing Success

You can build a comprehensive and successful digital marketing strategy. However, you cannot do it without the right tools.

But whether you’re looking to reduce your team’s workload with automation, gain greater insights into the effectiveness of your endeavors, or explore new avenues for marketing your business online, there’s a digital tool that can help you make it happen.

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The Silver Lining In Covid19. 15 Reasons To “Thank” Corona.

Dear Corona,

  1. THANK YOU for giving me more time with my wife.
  2. THANK YOU for giving me more time with my daughter.
  3. THANK YOU for giving me massive experience in hosting online events.
  4. THANK YOU for helping me learn new things through other people’s events.
  5. THANK YOU for giving more more time with Adrian’s Network.
  6. THANK YOU for having me reach out to more people to say “what’s up”.
  7. THANK YOU for giving my company more opportunities to produce online events.
  8. THANK YOU for enabling me to serve friends who need help.
  9. THANK YOU for giving me more time to do stuff around the house.
  10. THANK YOU for giving me more time to improve my business.
  11. THANK YOU for being me more time to pray and read my Bible.
  12. THANK YOU for giving our family daily opportunities to each together.
  13. THANK YOU for giving me more time to sit and do nothing.
  14. THANK YOU for giving me more time to walk around my neighborhood.
  15. THANK YOU for having me eat only home cooked meals for dinner.

Dear Corona, I hate you and what you’ve done to my community but thank you for what you’ve done to me and my community.

Remember to check out our evolving list of Covid19 business resources.

The post The Silver Lining In Covid19. 15 Reasons To “Thank” Corona. appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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New Book + Giveaway: “Keys to a Successful Retirement” by Fritz Gilbert

New Book + Giveaway: “Keys to a Successful Retirement” by Fritz Gilbert

keys to successful retiement

Gooooood morning everyone!!

So excited to share this new book with y’all from my long-time blogging friend, and occasional guest poster here, Fritz Gilbert from The Retirement Manifesto!!! One of the nicest guys in the community!

Keys to a Successful Retirement:
Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years

This has been a project in his head for years now, and on May 5th it becomes a reality when it officially gets launched everywhere 🙂

The original 401(k) millionaire is now an original author! Way to go, man!!

And of course we here at Budgets Are Sexy get a sneak peak of this book, so if it’s something you’re interested in, keep on reading and look for how to win a free copy of this below…

We’ve got THREE copies to give away – so don’t be shy!! This needs to be in your library!

More on everything below:

*******

Keys to a Successful Retirement:

Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years

keys to successful retirement

Here’s a clip on the book from Fritz himself which I liked better than the Amazon write-up 😉 From his recent blog announcement: Big News: My Book Is Launching!

Writing the book has given me the opportunity to look back over the past 5 years of my life, from the point when I still had three years of work left through the first two years of my retirement. They’ve been some of the most interesting years of my life.

Some folks do well with the transition, and some folks don’t. I’ve studied the difference between those two camps, and I’ve been writing on the topic for five years on this blog.

Keys to a Successful Retirement highlights 24 keys that increase your chances of having a successful retirement. It’s been a pleasure to summarize all of my learnings over the past five years into a concise, easy to read book which summarizes the keys to a successful retirement. These are the keys that work, based on my personal experience and research I’ve conducted on the subject.

Like my blog, the book focuses on both the “Hard” (financial) and “Soft” (lifestyle) issues related to retirement. However, I found the process of writing a book significantly different than writing my blog posts. Writing the book allowed me to be more expansive, to more thoroughly examine relevant topics, and to organize my thoughts into a broader perspective than is possible in a 1,500-word post.

The book isn’t long, and that’s by design.

It’s meant to be read and applied, quickly and easily, by folks who are +/- 5 years of their retirement date.  It’s a lot of the stuff that matters, and not much of the stuff that doesn’t.  After going through four organized rounds of edits with various editors at the publishing house, you’ll find it’s a “tight” read.

I couldn’t be happier with the result.

More about Fritz:

Fritz and his wife Jackie achieved early retirement on June 2018 at the age of 55, after more than three decades in corporate America. His award-winning blog, The Retirement Manifesto, focuses on helping people achieve a great retirement, and he can also be found on Twitter sharing advice at @RetireManifesto. Fritz and Jackie recently sold their primary home and moved into a cabin in the North Georgia mountains as part of their downsizing strategy:

fritz cabin in mountains

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Want a copy of this book?!

To win one of 3 copies of Keys to a Successful Retirement, answer the below question in the comments or via email, and you’ll automatically be entered for it:

At what age do you expect to hit retirement?

If you don’t ever expect to be “retired” retired, but to hit *financial freedom* instead and continue working, you can shoot us that expected age as well 🙂

As you can see from Fritz, he certainly has not stopped grinding! Lol…

Good luck everyone!! And congrats again my man! Giveaway open to U.S. citizens only, but you can always pick it up on Amazon later or at your local bookstore whenever we’re allowed to visit them again, harumph….

Get your entries in by midnight this Sunday, the 5th, and we’ll announce the winners Monday morning!

*******
Amazon links to book above are affiliate links

 

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The Hype Cycle of DIY Investor Self-Confidence

In an article about the challenges of autonomous vehicles, I came across a chart of the Hype Cycle from the consulting firm Gartner that supposedly models the life cycle of new technology:

Maybe it’s just me, but I found this curve to also describe my self-confidence in investing over time.

  • Trigger. One day, something makes you want to learn about investing. For me, it was finally leaving broke academia and getting a “real job” that had triple the salary and this 401(k) match thing.
  • Peak of inflated expectations. Read some books! 8% annual returns… double my money every 9 years… yes! Asset allocation… backtesting… of course! 4% withdrawal rate… just accumulate 25x expenses… simple!
  • Trough of Disillusionment. I get laid off at the same time that my nest egg drops in half? No way. After an entire decade, which is 1/3rd of my lifetime so far, I could actually end up with less money than I put in? No way. Multiple countries will shut down completely for 3+ months at a time, one after another? No way.
  • Slope of Enlightenment. After some time, that advice about diversification, liquidity, understanding true risk, and knowing your temperament starts to feel a bit different. There is still more to learn.
  • Plateau of Productivity. Wow, that last crisis wasn’t as bad. I have a plan and have enough assets and liquidity to implement that plan. My overall vision has changed and it includes working for longer but at something that I enjoy and without short-sighted corporate metrics.

Of course, maybe I’m still be overconfident, and I haven’t truly hit that big trough yet. Good thing I stocked up on the antacid.

“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 Hype Cycle of DIY Investor Self-Confidence from My Money Blog.


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

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Waste: Negative Effects of Improper Trash Removal

Every household or business deals with waste on a daily basis. The generated trash sometimes proves a real challenge to get rid of.

People are used to throwing waste items into a bin and wait for it to be taken away. What if the bin isn’t big enough to hold the trash before the professional trash handler picks it up?

As a household or business, it’s important to take reasonable steps to check that the company you pay to handle trash and rubbish removal handle the waste responsibly. You should also make sure they’re legally and professionally allowed to do so.

Why should effective trash handling and disposal be everyone’s priority? Here are just a few points that elucidate how improper waste handling can affect health and the environment.

1. Environmental Contamination

Soil contamination – Improper waste removal and disposal is the number-one reason for soil contamination. Soil contamination not only affects vegetation but also affects humans and animals inhabiting such areas.

Some wastes that end up in landfills or undesignated disposal sites excrete hazardous chemicals that leak into the soil. This creates both short- and long-term adverse effects.

For example, plastics take centuries and centuries to break down. When they eventually do, they release a carcinogenic compound that negatively affects plant and animal life as well as human health.

Water Contamination – When hazardous trash leaches into the ground, it ultimately finds its way into the groundwater. Liquid chemical waste and untreated sewage can also flow into water bodies.

Unfortunately, contaminated water could eventually end up watering local fields or being consumed by humans as well as wildlife. Waste in water bodies suffocates marine habitats. It is also dangerous to animals and humans that consume marine life.

waste trash

Air contamination – Burning of plastics and other hazardous wastes in landfills emits gas and chemicals that continually hurt the ozone layer. Chances of acidic rain due to poor handling and burning of wastes are quite high. There have even been instances when the landfill gas produced by decomposing wastes has proved explosive.

2. Missed Recycling Opportunities for Waste

Households, businesses, cities, or councils that do not implement proper removal and recycling miss a lot in relation to the generation of income. There is a huge revenue in recycling. It’s also hard not to mention the employment opportunities and innovative products that the recycling process yields.

RELATED CONTENT: HOW TO START A PRIVATE AND LUCRATIVE RECYCLING BUSINESS

3. Disease-Carrying Pests

Many pests carry life-threatening diseases. For instance, mosquitoes and rats are associated with diseases like malaria, dengue fever, salmonellosis, and hantavirus. These pests tend to breed in damp, dirty places.

Moist and dirty areas are great breeding grounds for molds, too. Alongside the pests, bacteria have a huge ability to multiply and spread on poorly handled wastes. All these pests and microbes pose a big health problem to the local population.

4. Extreme Climate Changes and Waste

Poor waste handling is slowly killing the planet. Burning of wastes, as well as decomposing wastes, emit gases that rise to the atmosphere, trapping heat. The greenhouse gases so emitted are the main contributors to the extreme weather changes we’re currently experiencing. Think of the extremely strong storms, typhoons, and smoldering heat and you’ll quickly agree that taking care of our environment is everyone’s responsibility.

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Go the Extra Mile and Show Your Team Some Appreciation

Photo by Proxyclick Visitor Management System on Unsplash

Your team is a big part of your company’s success. Without their skills and expertise, executing daily processes and reaching company goals would prove difficult. Therefore, go out of your way now and then to show them some appreciation.

Though you provide them with a competitive salary and benefits, they will value your showing them how much you appreciate their efforts. Essentially, when a person feels acknowledged, they are more inclined to continue putting their best foot forward for the organization they work for.

Benefits
of Employee Appreciation

When companies recognize their employees for what they bring to the table, it has a number of advantages. It boosts employee morale, improves productivity, fosters loyalty, increases engagement, and motivates employees to excel.

RELATED ARTICLE: BOOST EMPLOYEE MORALE IN 5 EASY STEPS

Employee
Appreciation Ideas

As a happy workforce is a more productive one,
it is necessary for businesses to go the extra mile to give thanks. Below are a
few employee appreciation ideas your team is sure to love:

Employee Appreciation Lunch

Make your team feel appreciated with a hosted employee lunch. You can order takeout, put together a small catered function, or take the entire team out for a special lunch. During the gathering, don’t hesitate to communicate your appreciation to your team. Moreover, you could even single out individuals or departments who have done an especially good job recently.

Social Media

Let your social media followers know just how awesome your employees are by announcing it on social media. Highlight your employees by creating a post that showcases their talents and thanks them for completing various tasks. Add a photograph and a special message of appreciation. Then post it on your timeline for everyone to see.

Family Day

Juggling work-life balance isn’t easy. Each of your employees sacrifices time with their families to work for your company. So show some appreciation for their sacrifices by planning a family day. Treat your staff and their family members to a catered lunch or dinner. Be sure to include some family-friendly activities for everyone to participate in.

Company Barbecue or Picnic

What better way to let your employees know that you know how hard they’ve been working than to give them a few hours off for some good food and fun? Lots of companies put together annual company barbecues or picnics for their employees. So choose a local park, decide on a caterer, and come up with fun team-building activities and entertainment.

Employee Appreciation Awards Ceremony

If you have the financial means to do so, an employee appreciation awards ceremony is a great idea. This is an event centered around your team’s noteworthy achievements. You can get free rush shipping on awards, trophies, and plaques. Then you can affordably create awards to hand out to the most accomplished members of your team.

They’ll be elated not only to receive such an award but also to be recognized in front of their managers and colleagues. You can even take it a step further and record the event, then share it on your digital platforms.

Office Equipment Upgrades

Take a look around your office space. Are there things you could update to help improve employee performance? This would also show appreciation. So buy a new coffee pot for the break room or update office furniture. Better yet, invest in upgraded software and technology.

Gift Cards

If your budget is limited but you still want to find ways to show employee appreciation, gift cards are an affordable solution. You can get $5, $10, or $15 gift cards to convenient retail shops. Then hand them out to employees who have been performing at their best.

Time Off

If your team has been working especially hard on a project, show your appreciation by giving them the rest of the day off. But make sure this time won’t count toward their paid sick leave or vacation days. This will allow them to do something they enjoy or simply take a break and recharge.

Show Some Appreciation for Your Team

Despite circumstances at work or whatever might be going on in their personal lives, your employees work day in and out to meet company objectives. As your company would not be where it is today without them, it is imperative that you find ways to regularly give thanks for all they do.

The above-mentioned ideas for showing appreciation will make your employees feel good about themselves, the company they work for, and the contributions they bring to the table.

For more great ideas to help you run your business successfully, be sure to browse our blog often.

The post Go the Extra Mile and Show Your Team Some Appreciation appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Best Bollinger Bands Indicators for Successful Forex Trading

Featured image from Shutterstock by William Potter

Bollinger Bands are one of the key indicators Forex traders use to guide their success in the market. Developed by John Bollinger in the 1980’s, Bollinger Bands consist of two moving bands. These bands show the two standard deviations above and below the market’s moving average.

Since John Bollinger’s time, several Bollinger Bands indicators have come along. Traders use these indicators to discover inversion patterns, trends, and price breakouts. In this article, we investigate three of those indicators.

How Traders Use Bollinger Bands Indicators

Bollinger Bands trading strategies help price action Forex traders study the market. Then traders can more clearly see when the breakout price for a particular stock is likely to occur. (The breakout price is the point at which the two bands in the Bollinger Band indicator cross each other.) This helps them more precisely characterize their best Forex trading range, as well as any possible instability in the market.

Best Bollinger Bands Indicators

Among the most widely used of the Bollinger Bands indicators are:

  1. Bollinger Band Trend Indicator, or BBTrend Indicator
  2. Bollinger Bandwidth Indicator
  3. %b Indicator

Scroll down for more information about how to use each one.

Using the BBTrend Indicator

BBTrend is a fairly new Forex price action indicator. Originally called the Bollinger Bands Trend Price Action Forex Trading Indicator when it came out in 2012, it is one of just a couple of Bollinger Bands indicators that can flag both direction and strength. This makes it a truly beneficial technical tool for price action Forex traders, as they can use this indicator to analyze the codes that appear in the graph.

For example, if a trader notices that the lower of Bollinger Bands rises above zero, they understand that to be a signal of a bullish market. On the other hand, if that band stays below zero, that is a sign of a bearish market trend.

The amount at which the band is below or above the zero can tell a trader much about the quality or energy of the trends. Therefore, this indicator has become a valuable asset for Forex trading technical analysts. Also, it offers an option to the directional development list, or ADX, an indicator that gives comparative readings.

Using the Bollinger Bandwidth Indicator

Many traders consider the Bollinger Bandwidth Indicator to be the best indicator to use with the Bollinger Bands. This is because this indicator clearly shows the precise width between the upper and lower bands in comparison with the moving average.

For this reason, many traders use this indicator in conjunction with the Bollinger Bands Squeeze. The “squeeze” shows the degree to which the lower band and upper band are pressing against the simple moving average.

To determine the squeeze, traders look at all three bands over a certain period of them. Then they use a formula to determine a number for the squeeze. This number can tell them a great deal about the movement of the stock they’re observing as well as the market in general.

Many Forex price action traders use this method to predict instability in the markets. Also, many traders turn to predictions about price movements from NSBroker. They also use leveraging techniques such as statistical analysis and behavioral economics to round out their understanding of the market.

Using the %b Indicator

Another indicator traders often use with the Bollinger Bands is %b. This indicator plots the end price of the stock as a level of the upper and lower Bollinger Bands. Here is the formula for that calculation:

  1. Assign the upper band a value of 1.0
  2. Then give the middle band a value of 0.5
  3. Assume a value for the lower band of 0

Using this formula, %b shows the distance between the bands, based on a particular stock’s current price. For instance, if the upper band sits at $30 and the present cost is $22.50, %b has a value of 0.75. This puts the stock three-fourths of the way toward the upper band limit.

Such calculations can help you to determine when a value is about to hop a band. This can help you to determine divergences and pattern changes.

RELATED ARTICLE: STOCK MARKET INVESTING: THE BEST WAYS TO EDUCATE YOURSELF

Conclusion

By using the technical indicators we discuss here, you can improve your trading skills and enjoy more success in the Forex market.

The post Best Bollinger Bands Indicators for Successful Forex Trading appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Social Currency: What Is It and How to Use it to Build Your Personal Brand

Social currency is the power and influence you yield in your social networking circle to influence the world around you. If you’re looking to build your personal brand, you can borrow social currency strategies from major brands and influencers to transform your online persona into genuine connections and influence.

When building your online personal brand, you likely share posts to increase your reputation in a viewer’s eyes. When publishing posts, you’re putting your reputation on the line, a.k.a. “spending” your social currency. Successful social brands are those that show authenticity, trustworthiness, and reliability on every post. They create a community of like-minded individuals from all around the world.

Keep reading to for a more detailed description of how social currency works and how to spend it, or jump to our infographic below.

How Does Social Currency Work?

Social currency increases the more loyal, authoritative, and reliable your brand becomes. When posting, you’re focusing on what makes you different and better than the rest. That’s why the most authentic influencers out there are known to have the most loyal audiences. Viewers truly feel like they are part of a community and take their advice seriously.

Businesses can leverage their social currency by showing the behind the scenes of projects in the works, product teasers, and some potential hardships that got in the way before completing projects. This provides individuals and brands the ability to relate to viewers through storytelling on a daily basis.

The 6 Attributes of Social Currency

6 Different Ways to Optimize your Social Currency

There are six key attributes that optimize your social currency: affiliation, conversation, utility, value, advocacy, information, and identity. Leveraging one or more of these attributes can help

you build a successful online presence. When working on your brand, there are some ways to use your social currency to grow your authority in your industry of interest.

Affiliation

When growing your personal brand, you want to foster a community of those that are interested in the same things as you. To gain the right audience, post industry-specific content that would only attract those that are interested in the same thing as you.

Conversation

Once you’ve created a community, get the conversation going! When posting a new image, article, or video, ask your audience a question to answer in the comments afterwards. It’s just as important to comment back. At the end of your day, schedule out a chunk of time to respond to your audience’s answers or questions.

Utility

Consistently post tips, tricks, and other valuable information for your audience to read. For instance, share interesting podcasts, free printables, or ebooks that your viewers would find appealing.

Advocacy

As most individuals trust social media influencers more than they do businesses, make sure you’re always staying true to your brand. Only share products and services that benefit you rather than your bank account. Sharing products or services that aren’t as good as you thought could damage your personal brand and viewer loyalty.

Information

Share industry specific information within your niche. Share relatable blog posts about your experience within the industry or helpful guides your audience would find useful. Whatever it may be, provide valuable and unique insight into your community’s niche.

Identity

While your audience grows, consistently communicate how similar you all are. You most likely have similar passions and interests. Let your audience know they are a community of like-minded individuals throughout your posts and videos to create more personal relationships.

Using Social Currency to Build Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand plays a leading role when setting your career and salary expectations. Recruiters look at the community of followers you attract and how you choose to interact with them. Since 92 percent of individuals trust recommendations from individuals, compared to businesses, what you choose to share leaves a mark on your personal brand.

As 79 percent of the U.S. population has a social media profile, it’s a great way to showcase your brand as a young professional. Using social media, you can show your audience the authenticity that goes into your work, services, products, and passion for whatever you’ve been working towards. The more your audience resonates with your personal brand, the more your engagement rates and trustworthiness grows.

Employees who have a strong personal brand shows their authority and trustworthiness in that specific industry. Recruiters will look at what audiences you attract and how you communicate with them. Adding an employee with a strong personal brand to your team adds value to the business’ overall brand. Your personal audience will most likely show loyalty in the brand you work for through the exposure and opinion you portray on social media.

Here are a few easy ways you can use social currency to build your brand and improve your career:

  • Check your audience monthly: Consistently check who follows you and who you communicate with, since recruiters look at the followers you attract and how you connect with them.
  • Add five or six hashtags to every post: Evey post you publish, add at least five to six relevant hashtags in your description, in your comments section, and bio.
  • Create a private and professional account: Create two separate accounts. Switch your account setting to private for all the accounts you’d like to keep personal, and leave your professional accounts open for other professionals to see!
  • Google yourself regularly: Control your Google image by creating your own online portfolio. That way, when other professionals search your name, all your achievements will come up first.
  • Have a consistent message across all platforms: Keep all of your profile bios, profile pictures, and content aligned. That way, when professionals cross-reference your profiles, they won’t find any differences.

To reap the benefits and grow your social currency, check out our infographic below for five ways to grow your social investment.

Social Currency

Sources: Referral Rock | Top Resume | Monster | Glassdoor | Sprout Social | Krinsta | Jobscan | Entrepreneur | Goalcast |

The post Social Currency: What Is It and How to Use it to Build Your Personal Brand appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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It Wasn’t My Idea. Mark Cuban In 4 Powerful Words.

There’s many kinds of leaders. Leaders who believe they have to be the smartest person in the room, leaders who are mean, leaders who are nice, and etc. I’ve learned quite a bit about leadership from Entre Leadership and Mark Cuban shows another lesson in it, in a recent Tweet. The Mavs have converted their stadium to a rest place for first responders it looks like. Someone complimented Mark on the idea and he was quick to say it was not his idea.

This is a simple example, however, it’s yet another example of great leadership in action.

During challenging times we need great leadership, but even when things are fine.

Does this mean you can’t build a great company, if you’re not a great leader? No.

But it does mean that if you’re a great leader you’ll be able to build a great company and ensure the team who you’re leading is also growing, feeling appreciated and so much more.

 

The post It Wasn’t My Idea. Mark Cuban In 4 Powerful Words. appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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The Federal Reserve Doesn’t Control Mortgage Rates, The Market Does

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Budgets are Sexy? Budgets are NECESSARY!

Budgets are Sexy? Budgets are NECESSARY!

gold piggy

[Morning! My man 5 AM Joel stops by the blog again today to share his recent thoughts on budgeting through these wild times we’re living in… Maybe it’s a good time for you to touch base with your long lost budget too?!]

*******

I’ll be the first to admit… I’ve been slacking off on my budgeting the past few years. J. Money would be very disappointed in me 🙁

It started in 2016 when I changed jobs and got a massive pay raise. Money was falling from the sky! So, I loosened my spending belt… just a weeny bit.

Then, my net worth began growing larger and larger. Not only was I socking away a lot of money, but I participated in the longest bull run of stock market history!

Next, I started skipping some of my monthly budgeting exercises. Instead of rigorously reviewing transactions and matching them to an exact budget, I started rounding my figures up to the nearest hundred or thousand dollars.

By mid 2018, things were going so great that I decided to leave my job to take a sabbatical. Even after 1 year off work, my net worth was still growing! The good times continued through 2019, so I loosened my budget even more.

And then…

Boom! Disaster.

  • My stock portfolio dropped 30+%. (and is still dropping lower as I type this)
  • The tenants in my rental properties lost their jobs and probably can’t pay rent next month.
  • My wife is uncertain of her job security (she’s a teacher’s assistant, not a salaried employee)
  • The companies I’ve applied to work at are no longer hiring.
  • My 6 month emergency bank account suddenly feels ‘thin’.
  • I hate admitting this… but I’m kinda scared 🙁

Sooo… What do I do now?

Back to Basics:

The reason I LOVE this blog is because:

Budgeting is the cornerstone of personal finance.

I think of my budget like a map. It’s a personal guide to my future wealth. If I follow the map and make good decisions based off of it, it will lead me to financial security.

Without a solid map, I’m wandering aimlessly. I’m treading water and always reacting to the circumstances around me. When times are good, I feel good. But when times are bad, well… this is what I’m experiencing currently. I feel lost.

Some good news though… My map isn’t completely gone, it’s just a little blurry. I need to spend some time dusting it off and getting it back to a clear picture.

Maybe you’re in the same boat?

My Next Steps:

Since I’m stuck at home anyway, what a great time to thoroughly review all my expenses and solidify my budget for 2020. This week I’m planning to:

#1. Do a spending deep dive: I actually already have most of my categories and totals written down in my budget template. But I’m planning to go back through and dig a little deeper into my spending trends the past 6-12 months.

#2. Match my budget to my goals and values: As much as I *think* I’m living according to my values, every time I do a budgeting exercise I find little things that surprise me. I want to make sure our budget this year is both realistic and includes the things my wife and I enjoy in life.

#3. Look for opportunities to reduce spending: Off the top of my head, I can think of 3 ways to cut back some of my regular expenses in this strange stay-at-home time:

  • Pay-per-mile car insurance. Since my wife and I both will be driving probably under 5k miles this year (maybe less?), it’s a great time to look into new quotes for car insurance. Currently we are with Geico for both our cars, but I’ll be calling 2 competitors today: Metromile and Esurance. These “pay per mile” policies charge a base monthly fee, and then charge a few cents for each mile you drive. The less you drive, the less you pay (I’m not sure if these companies are available in every US state, so check before you get too excited!)
  • Cheaper cooking and food. I’m not going back to the ramen days I lived in my early 20’s… but there are definitely some fancy foods I can live without. As for the next 2 months, it’s safe to say that we won’t be eating out at any restaurants, so that’s something I can cut completely from our budget.
  • Cheaper drinks. I have a weakness for craft beer. I’ve already dusted off my homebrew kit and started brewing again! Craft beer usually costs me $2-3 per beer at the store, but I can easily brew delicious beer for 75c – $1 per beer at home. My wife prefers wine, and we’ve found a few wine promotions online with free delivery service!

#4. Run everything by the boss: It’s important my wife and I are on the same page about everything financially. So everything I create around our budget and future plan needs to be OK’d by her. I might even create a $exy powerpoint presentation to keep things fun and interesting 🙂

I’m already feeling much better just by writing this stuff out! It’s amazing how much the simple act of budgeting makes you feel in control of your finances, instead of behind and helpless.

Bringing $EXY back:

The universe has thrown us an unbelievable amount of change this past few months. We’re in for a rough time, and nobody is certain where the end of the tunnel is.

What I am certain of though is this: If my map and plan is clear, I will exit from this hard time in a good financial state. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. It all starts with a basic budget, ruthlessly followed.

Budgeting:

“Easy to do? Ridiculously so. Easy *not* to do? Tragically so.”

– Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

What about you? Have you strayed from your budget the past couple years? Or are you rock-solid and ready to attack 2020?

******
Joel is a 34 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. Every morning he gets up at 5am and sends a short positive message to friends, family, co-workers and strangers from the interweb. He last shared a fun game with us on the site that you can find here: Stock Market Game.

 

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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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Good Time to Convert Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs?

It might be a little painful, but it may be worthwhile to check on your pre-tax IRAs during this dip. If you have been thinking of converting your “Traditional” IRAs over to Roth IRAs, your shrunken gains will lead to a smaller tax bill now, while your (hopefully) future gains from this point onward will be tax-free after 5 years and age 59.5.

Roth IRAs have a few unique benefits like a lack of minimum required distributions, but the primary consideration regarding conversions is still whether you think your tax rate will be lower today or when you withdraw. This is outlined in greater detail in the WSJ article A Strategy for Taking Advantage of the Market Meltdown (paywall?). One interesting suggestion is to convert just enough money from a traditional IRA to make full use of your current income-tax bracket. Here are the 2020 IRS marginal tax brackets (source) – remember the left column is adjusted gross income so it comes after subtracting the standard deduction of $12,400 (single) and $24,800 (joint).

Depending on your income situation for 2020, you might have a good amount of room to convert and pay a 10%, 12%, or 22% rate. For example, a married couple could make up to $105,050 in gross income (before the standard deduction) and still be in the 12% bracket. You get the most tax-deferred benefit if you can pay for your tax bill with external funds as opposed to the IRA balance itself.

Backdoor Roth IRAs. In case you aren’t already aware, you can make a “backdoor” Roth IRA contribution even if you exceed the standard income limits on Roth IRA contributions. This is primarily because there are no longer any income limitations on Roth IRA conversions. There are some finer points that experts debate, but the general idea is that you first contribute to a non-deductible traditional IRA and then quickly convert that to a Roth IRA (ideally with no gains and thus tax owed). One catch is that if you already have other deductible pre-tax IRA balances, then these would mix together and you’d have to pay tax on a pro-rated basis.

Given the recent stock market drop, if you made non-deductible IRA contributions in the past few years, but your “Backdoor Roth” was complicated by also having some other pre-tax IRA balances mixed in (say, from a 401k rollover), then this might be a chance to convert everything over to a Roth IRA with much smaller tax consequences.

“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.”

Good Time to Convert Traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs? from My Money Blog.


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

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Paycheck Protection Program Loan: Small Business Life-saver

Paycheck protection program loan a life saver for small businesses

Okay, let’s get straight to the point: You want to explore a paycheck protection program loan if your small business has been or will be beat up by the COVID-19 crisis.

In this blog post, therefore, I’m going to give you a really quick overview. I hope you can read this in two to three minutes. That’ll give you the nudge to explore further this option.

Then, at the end of the post, I provide some links to web resources you can use to start the loan application process. Which you want to begin immediately. Like after you finish reading this…

How a Paycheck Protection Program Loan Works

The paycheck protection program (or PPP) loan provides you with money to pay employee payroll and related costs, your rent, your utilities and a handful of other business expenses over two months, or eight weeks.

The loan amount? Basically 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs your small business incurs.

Example: You pay $10,000 a month on average for wages, health insurance, and state payroll taxes. You therefore qualify potentially for a $25,000 loan.

Example: You pay $1,000,000 a month on average for wages, health insurance, and state payroll taxes. You therefore potentially qualify for a $2,500,000 loan.

Payroll costs, by the way, include amounts a sole proprietorship earns. Quoting from the statute,  for a sole proprietor, payroll costs include “any compensation to or income of a sole proprietor or independent contractor that is a wage, commission, income, net earnings from self-employment, or similar compensation.”

Loan Limitations and Restrictions

The law limits the loan amount to firms with fewer than 500 employees (for all practical purposes).

The maximum loan amount equals $10,000,000.

Further, you can only count payroll costs up to $100,000 per employee per year.

Example: A firm with ten employees each making $100,000 annually qualifies for same size loan as a firm with ten employees each making $200,000 a year.

Eligibility for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan

Your small business is eligible for a loan if you can self-certify that you really need the loan.

The actual language from the statute says you must provide, “a good faith certification… that the uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the loan request to support the ongoing operations of the eligible recipient…”

You also need to indicate that you will use the funds, “to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage payments, lease payments, and utility payments.”

What this language means isn’t precisely clear… but I think you read it to say (a) you honestly believe your firm won’t be able to operate without the loan and (b) you absolutely must use the money for payroll, the rent, loan payments, and utilities.

How the Paycheck Protection Program Loan Becomes “Free Money”

If you use the loan proceeds for an “approved” expense (payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest or utility expenses) and then you can also document that, the lender forgives the loan after two months.

Example: You borrow $100,000. Over the next eight weeks, you then use the $100,000 for employee payroll (an approved expense.) You don’t have to pay back the $100,000 loan. Really.

But the one critically important wrinkle to this: If you reduce the average number of full-time employees in your firm after receiving the loan, that reduction in headcount also reduces the amount of loan forgiveness.

To determine whether you’ve reduced the number of full-time employees, the loan forgiveness formula compares the full-time employees during the eight week time period that starts when you get the loan to the average number of full time employees you paid from February 15 through June 30 of either 2019 or 2020.

You choose, by the way, whether the comparison looks at 2019 or 2020.

And Your Next Step Is…

A quick last point: The statutes that create this package provide $349,000,000,000 in funding. That amount sounds like a lot of money. But it isn’t. Spread the amount over ten or twenty million small businesses, and you’re talking $20,000 to $30,000 (roughly) per firm.

Accordingly, if you need this help, contact your bank immediately. Or some other bank. Right now, I’m only aware of one big bank that is providing a way for you to, sort of, start the process:

US Bank Paycheck Protection Program Loan program

If you know of another bank, let me know by posting a comment. I’ll add that bank to the above list.

 

 

The post Paycheck Protection Program Loan: Small Business Life-saver appeared first on Evergreen Small Business.

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Why Does Your Company Need HR Software?

Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

Nearly every business owner who hires people to work for them will benefit from having HR software for their organization. In this post, we tell you why.

Getting the Job Done

Today there are many software applications for various functions, all touting their benefits for your organization. This can make it difficult to understand why you should shell out your hard-earned cash for this one or that one. In fact, it often seems better to continue operating manually instead of automating, especially when it comes to HR, otherwise known as human resources.

Do you feel the same? Are you wondering why you need HR software for your business? Things are going pretty well, right? You have a small organization and plenty of employees to get the job done.

But keep an open mind. We’re here to tell you that if you buy HR software, that is, the right HR software, you’ll be glad you did.

General Benefits of HR Software

The functions of your HR department include hiring and onboarding, managing records, calculating payroll, keeping track of time sheets and other documentation. The bottom line is, your HR team deals with a lot of paperwork.

RELATED ARTICLE: THE BENEFITS OF AN EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM

Many of these operations, when done manually, are tedious and redundant. Additionally, manual processing can result in inaccuracies that can be almost impossible to track down.

But HR software automates most, if not all, of these tasks. This frees up your talented HR team for more important tasks to further your organization.

Below are few general
benefits of HR software.

  • With HR software you get an employee database that stores information electronically. This improves the overall efficiency for recording and finding information.
  • You’ll also get an automated payroll system. This allows you to save money, because you won’t need to outsource payroll. Further, you’ll avoid the risk of privacy breaches and you’ll know the calculations are accurate. This makes paydays easier than ever.
  • Another benefit of HR software is that it will minimize the communication gap between the HR department and your employees. This is because HR software offers self-service functions for employees, thus reducing the workload for HR professionals.
  • HR software can also lend a hand when it comes to scrutinizing and choosing the best possible candidates in an objective way. This is because the software is embedded with sophisticated screening algorithms. Recruiting and hiring may never be a cake walk, but it’s certainly simpler and smoother if you’re using the right HR software.
  • And what about performance evaluations? The right HR software will empower you with tools to analyze employee performance and make organizational decisions. In other words, it will help enormously when it’s time for those annual reviews and pay increases.

How HR Software Will Benefit Your Business

Today many companies operate successfully without HR professionals, just by using HR software. While its cost may seem like an unnecessary burden at first, the software will have you ahead of the curve once you have integrated it in your organization.

Below are few ways HR software can help you, even if you think everything is humming along fine without it.

  • Automated tracking and documentation minimizes most HR labor. Your team will then have more time for the human aspects of human resources.
  • HR software will help you create air-tight hiring practices. This includes resume screening, background checks, and reviews of skills.
  • Since much of the HR workload will be automated, you will no longer need to outsource many of its functions. Additionally, the software will improve security around sensitive information.
  • The software will provide actionable insights and smart ways to analyze and report data. It also reduces overall time and labor spent in updating and maintaining operational records.
  • Above all, it minimizes compliance risks by coordinating automatically with the latest regulations for your jurisdiction, prompting you to file required reports on time. Complying with the law preserves your company’s credibility and prevents costly penalties and possible legal action.

Conclusion

HR software can ease the flow of your operations. So don’t remain on the fence about HR software. Take advantage of the opportunity to obtain the right one for your business now, with the assurance that you’ll gain the multiple benefits it provides.

The post Why Does Your Company Need HR Software? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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What Is SMS Marketing and How Does It Work?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

SMS marketing is a way for business owners to advertise their goods and services directly to clients and prospective clients. It is inexpensive and extremely effective. If you are not yet using SMS marketing to promote your business, perhaps you should be. Read on to find out more.

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS is an abbreviation for “short message service.” SMS messages can be promotional messages, product launches, sales offers, and more. In the 21st century, most people think they can’t do without their mobile phones. Therefore, there are multiple channels through which you can promote your business. SMS marketing is one of them.

Simply put, SMS marketing is text messages that businesses send individuals on their mobile phones.

SMS messaging works because buyers today want easier, faster, and more convenient means of communicating with the merchants they feel loyalty toward.

If you’re looking for a way to get started, tools such as those from Jook SMS provide the most reliable means for sellers to gain direct access to buyers.

Integrating SMS with your other modes of marketing will allow you to:

  • promote your business
  • advertise your products
  • communicate with customers
  • receive feedback

Basically, SMS messaging can help businesses with multiple marketing tasks. What’s more, text messages have an exceptionally high open rate. For example, customers read more than 98% of messages within a few minutes of receiving them.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO MAKE SOCIAL INFLUENCER MARKETING WORK FOR YOU

How Does It Work?

To understand how SMS marketing works, there are two basic terms you need to master: short code and keywords.

Short Code

A short code is a specific, short, and easily memorized number that your SMS service provider associates with your business. It is the number from which you will send your marketing messages.

Short codes are usually five to six digits long. This makes them easy to enter and remember.

In addition to a short code, sellers usually find it helpful to have an automated response system. Also, it can be useful to have a standby customer agent ready to respond to customers’ calls or inquiries.

Keywords

Keywords are special words that are intended to trigger actions from buyers. Ideally, your buyers will have a sense of personal connection with the keywords you use in your SMS marketing campaign.

This because aim of every marketing campaign is to elicit some form of response. For example, you might want to promote more sales or to receive calls from prospective clients with your SMS marketing campaign. Therefore, deploying the right keywords is essential to a successful campaign.

Initially, in order for customers to continue receiving your marketing messages, they need to reply to your short code with your chosen keyword. To find out more, check out top bulk messaging companies you can use for your SMS marketing campaigns.

The Benefits of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing provides a higher open rate than emails. Plus, you will be sending your customers and prospective customers mobile-friendly messages with fast delivery and response times. In return, you’ll enjoy better customer engagement and more customer loyalty.

The post What Is SMS Marketing and How Does It Work? appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Amazon & Target Kids’ Book Sales, Targeted $5 eBook Credit

(Update: Well, that was a fail as both Buy 2 Get 1 Free sales on kids books ended early simultaneously, which I guess makes sense because Amazon was copying Target. I’ve put up some replacement sale links instead.)

“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 & Target Kids’ Book Sales, Targeted $5 eBook Credit from My Money Blog.


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

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Customer Experience Marketing. It’s Even More Important Today.

Many of us business owners are quite familiar with with sending emails to our customers, email marketing. We’re also very familiar with the need to post to social media. However, what about the customer experience. It’s time to go beyond marketing as usual, even in these challenging times. Recently I spoke with Adam Johnson of Active Campaign who shared with me on the importance of customer experience marketing.

We know we need to start with content and in fact a key part of that strategy is to start with video, however, there’s more than every business owner can do.

It’s about not just understand that a customer bought red pair of socks, it’s also about knowing what they were interested in after that purchase. Sure marketing automation can play a role in this, but a deeper marketing is mapping even more of the customer experience.

Listen to the podcast (subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher)

Adam suggested that business owners do a few things:

1. Understand who your customers are and gather data.
2. Using marketing tools understand BIG MOMENTS of engagement. Find out how they interact your website, how often they buy from you and etc.
3. If you can capture customer information then you can personalize your message.
4. The tools you use are important but the strategy is important as well.

On a recent webinar I hosted with the Small Business Expo many people asked what kind of messaging they should convey in these challenging times and turmoil the country’s going through. Adam said it’s important to, be empathetic and be human.

Adam, said one thing NOT to do is to STOP MARKETING.


Don’t stop marketing during challenging times
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You should keep marketing and ensuring your customers (and non customers) know you are there for them and that you have solutions they need.

Indeed maybe they’re not buying NOW but remember the Covid19 epidemic and the panic it’s causing won’t always be here. It will be over.

When people start buying again and their attention is more or less back to business, you’ll want them to remember you.

Check out our Covid19 Business Resources here.

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The post Customer Experience Marketing. It’s Even More Important Today. appeared first on SmartHustle.com.

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6 Tips for Excelling in an MBA Program

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Whether your aim is to head into management positions in the business sector or launch your own startup, completing an MBA program is a great way to enhance your business knowledge. What’s more, you will gain valuable skills and attributes that will set you up for a promising career.

Once you know you have met the entry requirements, completed your application, and received an acceptance notice, you will be officially enrolled in an MBA program.

But with assignments to complete and tests to take, it’s important that you’re fully prepared for what is ahead of you. To ensure you get the grades you envisaged from the start, here are six tips on how to excel in an MBA program.

Know What to Expect

To increase the chances of success in your MBA program, it’s crucial that you do as much research as possible into your course before getting started.

Knowledge is power. Therefore, once you become aware of the modules that you will be expected to undertake, you can create a road map for the duration of the course. This means you will know how much time it will take to obtain your MBA.

You will need to understand the importance of time management, which can help make sure you:

  • Deliver your assignments on time
  • Provide the best quality of work
  • Are more productive and efficient
  • Make the most of your opportunities for career growth

Create Clear Objectives and Goals for Your MBA Program

Understandably, the first question you should ask yourself is what you want to get out of your MBA degree.

Whether it’s to grow in confidence, launch your own company, or seek higher managerial roles within the organization you currently work for, setting objectives and goals from the start will help keep you motivated and on track with your workload.

Also, having an end goal in sight will help you choose the right concentration and course.

Learn to Prioritize

If your plan is to work part or full time while studying for an MBA, learning how to prioritize is crucial.

With many tasks to focus on simultaneously, you will need to figure out which are the most urgent so they can be addressed quickly. Further, learning how to effectively prioritize will benefit you not only throughout your MBA program but also in day-to-day life, such as managing a busy household.

There are various tips that can help you prioritize your workload better, such as:

  • Creating a list of all your tasks
  • Assessing value
  • Ordering tasks by estimating
    effort
  • Identifying what is urgent
  • Being flexible and adaptable

Build Relationships During Your MBA Program

One of the major benefits that students gain from an MBA program is the opportunity to network.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR NETWORKING APPROACH

So whether you pick a traditional college or study for your MBA degree online, engaging with fellow students, professors, and industry experts can be a great way to build relationships and expand your network.

Additionally, once you’ve obtained your MBA and are ready to go into the working world, having the right networking skills behind you can increase your chances of securing your dream job.

Knowing how to network helps to:

  • Strengthen business connections
  • Getting fresh perspectives and ideas
  • Having more access to job opportunities
  • Getting support and career advice
  • Building confidence and boosting self-esteem

Make Time to Rest

When studying for an MBA degree, studying and completing coursework will take up a huge amount of your time. If you factor in employment alongside your learning, having the time to relax and unwind can be difficult.

However, as you will be putting your full concentration, time, and money into your MBA program, it’s only natural that you will want to get the best grades possible. Therefore, be sure to allocate time for yourself so you can be in the best frame of mind possible.

There are lots of things you can do to reduce stress levels during your course, such as:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Trying relaxation techniques
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Keeping a stress diary

In addition to the tips listed above, students can benefit from incorporating regular exercise into their routine. Even taking 30 minutes away from your studies for exercise can help you retain a positive mindset.

Ask for Help

While the main purpose of an MBA degree is to help advance your own career, that’s not to say you have to solely rely on yourself throughout your studies.

RELATED ARTICLE: DO YOU REALLY NEED A MENTOR?

Therefore, whether you are studying in person or have chosen the online route, having the opportunity to engage with classmates and professors when you need help will ensure you stay on the straight and narrow.

Set Yourself up for a Great Career by Completing an MBA Program

Many employers
are looking for candidates who have qualifications like an MBA on their resume.
To stand out from the crowd and increase the chances of you finding your dream
role in business, be sure to use the tips above, and you will excel in your MBA
program.

The post 6 Tips for Excelling in an MBA Program appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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How to Manage Student Loan Debt During COVID-19

Breathe in. Breathe out. We know there is a lot of uncertainty as the world faces the challenges and realities of COVID-19. While many of us are working remotely or facing job uncertainty, transferring our schooling online, and putting many aspects of our life on hold, the reality is that not everything can come to a full stop. Student loan debt reached another all-time high back in 2019 and many graduates are looking into options to repay their debt.

On top of the various repayment options available to borrowers, the government has been announcing new, short term but open-ended policies for federal student loan holders. There is a lot to digest, but there are ways you can bring some certainty to paying off your student loan debt.

Private vs. Federal Loans: Understanding Your Options

The two major categories of student loans available today are private student loans and federal student loans. Federal student loans are taken out through the government and comprise more than 90% of education debt, while private student loans are obtained through private financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions.

The federal government announced a pause on student loan interest as a response to Coronavirus on March 13. In essence, student loan interest will freeze, meaning interest will not accrue on certain loans until the policy is changed. In addition to pausing student loan interest, it was announced on Friday, March 20, that all federal student loan borrowers now have the option to suspend their monthly payments for at least the next 60 days. These rate reductions and payment suspensions only apply to federal loans, and therefore won’t have an impact on private student loans or loans that have been previously refinanced.

Prior to the announcement of federal loan interest freezes, the Federal Reserve cut the federal funds rate to 0 – 0.25%. While federal rates were recently cut, refinancing rates from private lenders have been the lowest that we have seen in nearly 10 years[BS1]. Private lenders are doing their part to offer relief as well, like student loan refinancing platform, LendKey, by offering emergency benefits as its network of lenders have responded with rate drops alongside the Fed. As of March 26, 2020, fixed rates are as low as 3.39% APR and variable rates as low as 1.90% APR.

For borrowers of existing student loans, many lenders have begun making special options available to offer relief from the stress caused by COVID-19. As of today, most student loan refinancing companies have responded in some way to the crisis on their website. While these companies haven’t publicly posted their specific policies, they do have information available on their homepage along with contact information to speak with their specialists.

If you currently have private, federal, or both types of student loans, there are other relief options to consider, such as refinancing some, or all, of your student loans.

What exactly is Student Loan Refinancing?

When you refinance your student loans, you pay off your existing student loan(s) with a brand new one. This allows you to seek better interest rates, terms, or lower your monthly payment to better fit your budget. The new loan payment and interest rate will commonly be driven by your credit score, credit history, and income, as well as other factors that can vary by lender.

Refinancing is done through private lenders like banks and credit unions. If you have federal student loans and rely on their income-based repayment plans or are planning on qualifying for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, you may want to stick with your federal loans and consider a federal loan consolidation, which gives you one payment to manage but averages the rates of your existing loans so you don’t save any money in interest.

How Can Refinancing Help During This Crisis?

Many millennials, in particular, have discovered when they graduated that paying off their student loans wasn’t as simple as everyone made it sound. You may have to work a less lucrative job for a while before you’re able to get a high-paying career that corresponds with your major. You might even find that getting work in your field takes longer than you anticipated. Worse, you may have worked for a period of time in your industry but suffered a financial setback that left you struggling to meet your student loan payments each month.

Especially now, with many facing cutbacks in their hours, or losing employment completely, it could be a crucial time to reevaluate your financial situation. Explore your options, such as looking into federal benefits like income-based repayment, as well as seeking out options from private lenders. Savings matter, and having the opportunity to lower your interest rate or reduce your monthly payment now, could have a huge payoff down the line.

It’s important to remember that you still must be in good financial shape to refinance. Factors like credit score, debt-to-income ratio, or having a creditworthy cosigner will all play a role in your ability to qualify. Before refinancing, you may want to talk with your existing lender about whether or not they can work with you to lower your payments. Carefully consider whether you’ll stand to save money by refinancing. If so, refinancing may be a great move for you. On the contrary, if you have poor credit, already have great interest rates, can maintain a zero-interest federal loan or suspend federal loan payments for 60 days, refinancing might not be the best option at this time.[1] 

When to Consider Refinancing

  •   Your personal financial situation has changed. We stated earlier that refinancing is typically used by people who are in healthy financial shape. With that said, you may still find that current payments are challenging. If that’s the case and you have private loans, refinancing could be a good solution to lower your interest rate or lower your monthly payment. By selecting a longer repayment term, you’d be tolerating a potentially larger amount of total interest over the life of your loan to free up more cash flow now by lowering your monthly payments. If you only have federal loans, it likely doesn’t make sense to refinance right now until payments resume and interest begins accruing again.

 

  •   Existing loans can improve. Private student loans have nothing to lose by refinancing. If the rates you’re offered to refinance are lower than your existing private student loans, it probably makes sense to lock those in while rates are historically low. You may also have some variable rate loans and want to lock in a fixed rate instead for peace of mind that your payments won’t increase over time.

 

  •   You meet basic eligibility requirements. This means you have a good credit score, stable income, and debt-to-income ratio, already have or are about to graduate, and are a US citizen or permanent resident.

Reasons to Refi

So, should you refinance your student loans? While refinancing isn’t the only repayment option for borrowers, it certainly has its benefits. Let’s take a look at a few different reasons to refinance your student loans.

  • Lower interest rates. When refinancing a loan, you have an opportunity to get a better interest rate, especially if you currently have loans with high-interest rates (above 7%). Lowering your interest rate can help you save money depending on the term you choose. If you’ve been out of school for a while and have used credit responsibly (e.g., you’ve made timely payments), your annual income and credit history are likely to have improved since you were a student. With improved credit and financial history, you may see a lower rate.[2]  When it comes to federal loans, refinancing may not be the right option until interest and payments resume.  

Keep in mind that many factors go into determining what interest rate you may qualify for, including the current economic climate and prevailing interest rates. Right now, interest rates are the lowest they have been in nearly a decade, and graduates have access to great offers by lowering both their rate and payment. You may be able to refinance your student loans again through the same company if you find better rates in the future.

  • Reduce monthly payments. As mentioned above, you can reduce your monthly payment by lowering your interest rate. You can also extend the life of the loan by refinancing for a longer-term. For example, if you have 10 years left on your loan, refinancing it to a 15-year loan will likely lower your monthly payment. Keep in mind that the longer you take to pay off a loan, the more you may end up paying in interest over time.

 

  • Pay off your loan faster. Alternatively, you can also refinance your loan and shorten the term, for example from 10 years to 5 years. While this may mean higher monthly loan payments, you may save money on the interest you would have paid over a longer period of time. Plus, paying off your loan faster gives you the freedom and satisfaction of being student loan debt-free.

 

  • Release a cosigner. If you previously had a cosigner on your private student loan, refinancing gives you the option to release this cosigner.

 

  • Reduce hassle. Similar to consolidation, refinancing also involves combining multiple loans into one. One loan means the convenience of only one payment to keep track of and the same due date each month.

 Still Need Help?

Do you still have questions or concerns? If you’re still interested in learning more about your options with student loans, check out the LendKey blog which includes infographics, calculators, and more.

We know this is a stressful and confusing time for many, especially when it comes to our financial health. Remember that we are all in this together and will get through it with the support and resources available to us. If you feel unsure of what steps to take next, lean on the advice of trusted advisors and educational sites to help guide you through. You’ve got this.

LendKey rates did not adjust because of the Fed cut and we are now seeing others increase their rates. [BS1] [BS1]

The post How to Manage Student Loan Debt During COVID-19 appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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The 50 Percent Section 2301 Employee Retention Credit

Section 2301 employee retention credit mechanicsThe Section 2301 Employee Retention Credit gets a little bit complicated once you dig into the details.

But if you’re a small business owner, you want to learn how this credit works. The credit may be one of the key tools you use to work your way through the COVID-19 crisis.

Furthermore, the money available through the employee retention credit? Yeah, that money may be the fastest cash you receive. Maybe even available in a few days or so. (I’m thinking about the first quarter’s payroll returns due soon.)

But let’s dig in to the details.

The Section 2301 Formula in a Nutshell

At a high level, the Section 2301 formula works pretty simply. For eligible employers paying qualified wages, the formula works like this:

Employee Retention Credit = (Qualified wages + Qualified Health Plan Expenses) x 50%

Let me provide three quick examples to show you how this works…

Example 1: Suppose you pay an employee $1,000 of qualified wages. You get a credit equal to 50% or $500.

Another example because, in many situations, employers also provide health insurance which plugs into the formula…

Example 2: Suppose you pay an employee $1,000 of qualified wages and also provide $500 of qualified employee health insurance. In this case you get a credit equal to 50% of $1,500 or $750.

Another wrinkle: Section 2301 essentially limits the employee retention credit to $5,000 because the formula looks only at the first $10,000 of qualified wages and health plan expenses.

Example 3: Your firm employs two workers.  One worker you pay $10,000 in wages. And for him, you receive a $5,000 employee retention credit. A second worker you pay $20,000 in wages. And for her, you also receive a $5,000 employee retention credit.

Collecting the Cash

Okay, a key question: How do you get this cash? And how quickly can you get it?

The employee retention credit goes on your employment tax returns. Presumably on those quarterly 941 forms you file (or your payroll service files) at the end of the quarter.

Further, the credit works as a refundable credit. That means—and we need to wait for some of the details on this—that you don’t just get to reduce your employment taxes to zero. You can even use the credits to get a refund of taxes you haven’t even actually paid.

The bottom-line: Once the IRS figures out the mechanics, this should be easy and fast.

Eligibility Requirement #1: You Were in Business

Tax law sets out three eligibility requirements for employers who want to use the Section 2301 employee retention credit.

The first eligibility requirement that all employers must meet? Carrying on a trade or business during calendar year 2020. You don’t get an employee retention credit if you don’t “retain” employees and don’t continue operating during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.

This makes sense. Congress provides this generous credit to subsidize employers who continue to operate.

Eligibility Requirement #2: You Were Disrupted

The second eligibility requirement looks at whether or not a business has been disrupted. And one of two “disruption” tests need to be met:

The first “disruption” test? An appropriate governmental authority must issue orders “limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes) due to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).”

Example 4: In Washington state where I work, our governor issued orders that all non-essential businesses should close on March 23, 2020. (See here if you’re interested.) A bunch of businesses including restaurants, bars, athletic clubs, and any other business where large groups congregated got shut down. That decree from the governor counts as an “order.” Affected employers got disrupted.

The second “disruption” test? If gross receipts for the quarter equal less than 50% of the gross receipts for the same quarter in 2019.

Example 5: Suppose you run a trucking service that delivers food to grocery stores and restaurants in Washington state. Food distribution firms (like a trucking company delivering food to grocery stores) don’t need to suspend operations. But government orders closing restaurants and bars due to COVID-19 would surely damage your business. If your firm generated less than $50,000 of gross receipts in the first quarter of 2020, but generated $100,000 or more of gross receipts in the first quarter of 2019,  you qualify for the employee retention credit.

An important point about the second test: A firm eligible due to a 50 percent drop in quarterly revenue loses its eligibility the quarter after its quarterly revenues exceed 80% of the revenues for the same calendar quarter in the prior year.

Eligibility Requirement #3: No “Small Business Interruption” Loan

A third eligibility requirement exists, too. That rule? If an eligible employer receives a small business interruption loan, that employer loses eligibility for the employee retention credit.

Specifically, the statute says this, “If an eligible employer receives a covered loan under paragraph 36 of section 7(a) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 636 (a)), as added by section 1102 of this act, such employer shall not be eligible for the credit under this section.”

Qualified Wages

The 50% employee retention credit applies to qualified wages and qualified health plan expenses. What counts, however, as “qualified wages” depends on the size of the employer organization.  Furthermore, not everything you might guess counts actually “counts.”

Employers with more than 100 Employees

If the average number of full-time employees employed by your firm during 2019 exceeds 100, qualified wages refer to amounts paid to employees not providing services due to COVID-19.

Note: Section 2301 uses the “Obamacare” definition of “full-time employee”… so someone “employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.”

Example 6: Again, suppose you operate a trucking company that historically delivers food both to grocery stores and restaurants. Assume that half of your drivers deliver food to grocery stores (essential businesses that continue to receive food deliveries) and half the drivers deliver to restaurants (deemed nonessential businesses which suspend food deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis.) If you continue to a pay wages to truck drivers who used deliver food to restaurants, those wages count as “qualified wages for” purposes of the employee retention credit formula.

Example 7: Assume the same facts as in example 6 but with one twist: You furlough or layoff all of the truck drivers who previously delivered food to restaurants. In this case, your firm pays no qualified wages. The wages paid to the truck drivers delivering food to grocery stores don’t count. You don’t get an employee retention credit.

Employers with 100 or Fewer Employees

The “qualified wages” accounting works differently for employers with 100 or fewer employees.

For these employers, all wages paid while the firm maintains eligibility count as qualified wages.

Example 8: Assume one last time you operate an “eligible” trucking company that delivers food both to grocery stores, (an essential business) and to restaurants (a nonessential business). Say that economic conditions require you to lay off all of your truck drivers who deliver food to restaurants. But say you continue to employ the shop employees and the truck drivers delivering food to grocery stores. In this case you get to take the employee retention credit on all of the wages your firm pays. You don’t lose the credit because you couldn’t continue to employ everyone.

The Limitation and “Look Back” Rules for Qualified Wages

Two rules to note: First, the employee retention credit doesn’t include as “qualified wages” sick leave or family leave provided by Section 7001 or Section 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Second, Section 2301 limits qualified wages based on the pay rate the employee earned in the preceding 30 days. Essentially, qualified wages may not exceed the amount an employee was paid for work during the 30 days immediately preceding eligibility.

Example 9: An employee earns $20 an hour of qualified wages during a month your firm is eligible for the employee retention credit. However, in the preceding month the employee earned $10 an hour for the same work. In this situation, only $10 an hour of the employee’s wages paid during the period of eligibility count as qualified wages. Not the entire $20 an hour.

Qualified Health Plan Expenses

One final thing to mention. Qualified wages, per section 2301, include “an eligible employer’s qualified health plan expenses.”

More specifically, qualified health plan expenses include amounts paid or incurred by an employer to provide and maintain a group health plan (as defined in section 5000(b)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code), but only to the extent such amounts are excluded from the gross income of employees by reason of section 106(a) of the tax code.

Note: Qualified health plan expenses therefore do not include self-employed health insurance such as an S corporation shareholder employee might receive.

The Section 2301 statute doesn’t specify how you’re supposed to allocate or calculate what “qualified health plan expenses” count as wages. And the law directs the Secretary of Treasury to provide rules for doing this. But presumably, you can (and will need to) use some sort of common-sense pro rata allocation works.

Other Resources You Might Find Useful

Interested in more practical information about COVID-19 and your small business?

We did a quick overview of the small business tax breaks included with the CARES act earlier this week here: COVID-19 Small Business Tax Breaks

And then last week, we did a post about redoing your business plan for this Corona Virus thing: Small Business Survival Guide to the Corona Virus Crisis.

The post The 50 Percent Section 2301 Employee Retention Credit appeared first on Evergreen Small Business.

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What You Should Know Before Moving to Washington DC

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

Are you considering relocating your business to the capitol of the United States? Here are some things you should take into consideration before moving to Washington DC.

Many Americans Call Washington DC Home

While many view Washington DC as a politics-driven city—and it is—it is also a place a lot of Americans call home. The city is seeing a steady growth in population every year. As a matter of fact, some experts believe the city’s population will grow 47% by the year 2045.

DC is a great place if you’re looking for career opportunities, want to start a business, or if you want to move up or down from a small town or a bigger city. But before you come, you have to be prepared for some changes. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should know before moving to Washington DC.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW CAN i SELL MY HOUSE AND MOVE MY HOME BUSINESS?

Washington DC Is More Than Government

Washington is where the federal
government is located, and naturally, there are lots of people here who work
for the government. But this isn’t all DC has to offer as far as opportunities
go.

One large portion of DC’s prospects is in what is referred to as the “knowledge economy.” This is what makes the city so attractive to young professionals with an education. So if you were thinking of moving to the city, but weren’t interested in a career in government or one of the sectors that surround it, then know that the private sector is very robust and looking for new people to fill high-demand positions.

The Housing Market Is Tougher Than It Used to Be

If you’re looking for something in
prime locations around the city, you might have to wait. With the growth in demand,
houses in top neighborhoods are becoming harder to come by.

One of the things you could do, however, is to look at serviced apartments in Washington DC like Blueground, for instance. They have premium furnished properties across the city that can be rented flexibly, starting from a month up to as long as you want before you find somewhere to call home. This will prevent a lot of the troubles of having to work with shady landlords and realtors. This would allow you to take your time, do your research, and find the best place for you.

The Traffic Is No Joke

Many people are surprised when they first experience DC traffic. Traffic in the city can be brutal. Therefore, a lot of people would rather rely on the bus and metro system. You should also factor this in if you were thinking of getting a less expensive pad outside of the city. The daily commute could end taking a toll on you, and that’s something you should be prepared for.

The Taxes Are Different in Washington DC

Another thing that you’ll have to be prepared for is more taxes. There are a lot of taxes in DC, and some might seem strange to you if you’re from a low-tax state or city.

For instance, parking spots are taxed 18%. Then there’s a 10% tax on any alcohol purchased off-premises. The same goes for takeout orders and restaurants. And all hotel rooms have a 14.5% tax on them. So make sure you understand the taxation in DC, and factor that into your budget.

There Are Ton of Free Things to Do

On the other hand, Washington DC
is a great place if you’re a lover of culture but don’t want to spend too much.
The city is full of free world-class museums you can visit. For example, there
are the National Gallery of Art, the Botanic Garden, and the National Air and
Space Museum.

RELATED ARTICLE: ENSENADA: YOUR RELAXING GETAWAY IN BAJA CALIFORNIA

Forget Casual Fridays

While Washington is about more than politics, the government is still a major influence. And one place where you can definitely sense this is when it comes to the dress code.

The dress code in DC is more on the conservative side. Even if they don’t work in government, most people shop at the same spots and end up having pretty much the same style. So, unless it’s for a job for a new startup, we strongly suggest you stay on the conservative end when dressing for interviews or meetings.

Learn to Love Brunch

While everyone likes a good brunch every now and then, brunch is a big deal in Washington. So don’t be surprised if you hear someone talking about this hot new brunch spot, or if you see lines outside a restaurant at 10 in the morning. If you were thinking of trying a new brunch place in the city, we strongly suggest you get a reservation and make sure you’re there early.

Conclusion

Now that you know a little more about Washington DC, you can start planning your move. Whatever you do, make sure that you take your time when choosing your lodging option, and be ready to trade in your car keys for a Metrocard.

The post What You Should Know Before Moving to Washington DC appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Promo: $300 Prepaid Mastercard + Unlimited Talk, Text, Data For $35/Month

Limited-time offer for $300 prepaid Mastercard. The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is supposed to close very soon, but it hasn’t quite yet. Maybe that’s why Sprint has added a $300 prepaid Mastercard for people who port over their own device and phone number to their Unlimited Kickstart plan that includes unlimited talk/text/data for $35 per month, per line. Porting is free and you can come from any specific provider. Limited-time offer ends 4/9.

It’s rare to see them pay you for not even buying a new phone. There is no contract with Kickstart, although the fine print says the $300 prepaid Mastercard ships after 90 days, so you would probably need to stay on the plan until then. Bring over your own phone, and you could actually generate a net profit with this promo for several months!

Pros of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data for $35 a month, per line.
  • You can bring over any compatible phone, or buy one from Sprint. Use their phone IMEI/MEID checker.
  • You can come over from ANY outside provider, Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobile or even another cheap MVNO.
  • No expiration date. Price will not go up after a year.
  • No annual contracts.
  • No family plan or minimum number of lines required.

Cons of Kickstart Unlimited:

  • New customers only.
  • Online orders only. You won’t see this offer in stores.
  • No mobile hotspot.
  • Unlimited video in standard definition. Video streams up to 480p, music up to 500 Kbps, gaming up to 2 Mbps.
  • Data deprioritization during congestion.
  • Autopay required.

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart is best for those that want to lock in unlimited data direct from a major provider at a low $35/month price. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile Unlimited may have slightly better networks but they are also significantly more expensive.

I am not a huge data user, but it was still nice when I was on Sprint Unlimited. I could stream videos without worry and switched all my settings to “use cellular data whenever the heck you want!” instead of having to wait to sync or download things like podcasts over WiFi. There is also (slightly) better customer service at a major provider as compared to an MVNO. However, I would also consider the these MVNO alternatives as they can offer some significant savings.

Mint Mobile is another low-cost competitor with data caps. This is what I use. They are an MVNO that runs on the T-Mobile GSM network. You can get:

(Disclosure: I am a Mint affiliate and if you purchase a Mint plan through one of the links above, I may earn a commission. I am also a paying Mint customer. Thanks for supporting this individually-owned site.)

The thing about Mint Mobile is that you have to “buy in bulk”. Initially you have to buy at least 3 months upfront, and then after that you have to buy 12 months at a time to get their lowest price. After your LTE data runs out, you still get data included at slower 2G data speeds until your month resets. They do offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making any commitment.

“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.”

Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Promo: $300 Prepaid Mastercard + Unlimited Talk, Text, Data For $35/Month from My Money Blog.


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What Is the Difference Between a Bank and a Credit Union?

The difference between banks and credit unions comes down to structure and product offerings. Banks are for-profit institutions that offer a wide variety of offerings and services that are convenient and easily accessible.

Credit unions, on the other hand, are member-owned nonprofit organizations that typically boast more personalized customer service and lower fees and loan interest rates. However, they may offer fewer services and physical locations.

Bank vs. Credit Card

Institution Structure

The biggest difference between banks and credit unions lies in the fundamentals of the way they’re structured.

Advantages of a bank

Banks are for-profit companies and usually part of a larger nationwide organization. This means they may have more locations and be standardized and consistent across all of them. They also offer a greater variety of financial products and services, and in some cases, a more polished online experience.

Advantages of a credit union

Credit unions are nonprofit cooperative financial institutions that are owned and controlled by their members. A credit union is democratically governed and volunteer-based. Each member has one vote, and members elect the board of directors.

Membership Requirements

The second thing to consider when comparing banks to credit unions is their membership requirements. Whether you’re making a minimum required deposit for a bank or purchasing membership shares for a credit union, it likely costs something to get started at both of these types of institutions.

Advantages of a bank

Anyone can become a bank customer — no membership required. Many online banks don’t even require a minimum initial deposit, but watch out for minimum balance requirements to avoid fees. While credit unions typically only serve people who live in certain geographic locations and require that you qualify to become a member, banks serve anyone and typically have multiple locations nationwide.

Advantages of a credit union

Credit unions require membership, but it’s relatively inexpensive to buy in. The average cost to purchase a credit union share is $5–$10 and typically just a few shares are required for you to open an account. Those shares are then deposited in your savings account. If a credit union requires you to purchase at least five shares at $5 each to become a member, that means you need to make an initial $25 deposit that will then remain in your account as long as you are a member.

Personalization

Your experience at a bank versus a credit union will likely be very different. While credit unions emphasize service and financial education, banks prioritize a streamlined and convenient experience.

Advantages of a bank

If having access to a branch in multiple locations is your priority, you may be better off at a large bank. While the service is often less personalized, it’s often due to a thorough, standardized training that you might not get from employees at a credit union. A bank’s wide variety of loans, cards, and services may fit your needs better than a credit union.

Advantages of a credit union

Credit unions offer financial education and counseling. They focus more on service and less on profitability. A 2017 report showed that credit union customers had a higher satisfaction than bank customers.

Studies show higher satisfaction

Rates and Fees

When researching banks and credit unions, it’s important to shop around for the best deal. No one wants to pay fees or unnecessarily high interest rates if they don’t have to.

Advantages of a bank

You’ll typically find higher fees and be paid lower interest rates on deposits at banks. However, many find this worth the cost, due to the variety of services and convenience offered at banks.

Advantages of a credit union

The profits credit unions make are passed onto members in the form of dividends or lower fees. That is why credit unions typically offer higher rates on savings, lower fees and lower rates on loans than banks.

Product Offerings

You’ll typically find more product offerings at a bank than you would at a credit union, partially due to the fact that credit unions are generally smaller with fewer employees.

Advantages of a bank

Banks typically have more locations nationwide than credit unions. They’re also quicker to adopt the latest apps and technology than credit unions are, making banking more convenient. They also offer products that you can’t find at credit unions — namely, commercial loans.

Advantages of a credit union

Credit unions tend to offer fewer products, but they make up for it in customer service. Credit unions work with you to decide what’s best for your financial needs.

Deposit Insurance

Both banks and credit unions insure deposits up to $250,000 per account. The difference lies in the insurer.

FDIC vs NCUA

Advantages of a bank

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts and certificates of deposit at banks. No one has ever lost money that was FDIC-insured.

Advantages of a credit union

Over 98% of credit unions in the United States are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) under the umbrella of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). The NCUSIF is backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States” and, similar to the FDIC, ensures credit union members don’t lose insured savings.

Similarities Between Banks and Credit Unions

Despite all the differences, banks and credit unions share some similarities in their core product offerings and features, including the following:

  • Auto, home and small business loans
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Money market accounts
  • Overdraft protection
  • Direct deposit
  • Mobile banking
  • ATMs

The Bottom Line: Compare Before You Sign Up

When comparing banks to credit unions, consider the features below to find the institution that best fits your financial needs:

  • Products: Find out what products and services each institution offers. Generally, banks offer a more varied selection of financial products and services than credit unions.
  • Fees: What fees and penalties, if any, can the credit union charge? How do these compare to the bank’s?
  • Interest rates: Find out how much interest you will gain on your savings account. Both banks and credit unions offer checking accounts and savings accounts, though you may find higher rates at credit unions.
  • Loan rates: Do you need to borrow? Loan rates tend to be lower at credit unions, though banks may offer a wider range of loans.

Comparing Financial Institutions

No matter which financial institution you partner with, make sure to consider your future and the long-term benefits of each. Remember to prioritize what’s important to you — from boosting your credit score to building your savings — and choose the institution you believe will ultimately help you achieve your financial goals.

Sources: Statista | FDIC | ACSI

The post What Is the Difference Between a Bank and a Credit Union? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

There’s no perfect answer to how many credit cards you should have. In general, if you’re looking to build good credit, it’s a good idea to have at least one or two credit cards.

According to a 2019 report from Experian, the average American has four credit cards with an average credit card balance of nearly $6,200. Another recent study from FICO found that consumers with a credit score above 800 had an average of three cards.

Four credit cards

Why Do I Need Multiple Credit Cards?

If you already have one credit card that you diligently pay every month, you may be wondering why you would want or need to apply for more.

While you should never apply for more credit cards than you can handle, there are some strategic benefits to having a few different credit cards.

  • Different networks ensure you’re covered with all merchants. If you have a credit card from each of the major networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa — you’ll have a backup in case a certain merchant only accepts one card type.
  • Multiple cards means a diverse array of rewards programs. Opt for credit cards that have different rewards programs. Look for a card with a cash back program and another with airline points to maximize your reward potential.
  • Greater total credit limit means more buying power. Say you have one credit card with a limit of $3,000. This means you have a total buying power of $3,000 — however, using more than 30 percent of your credit limit ($1,00 in this case) may hurt your credit score. Now say you have three credit cards all with a $3,000 limit. Your total buying power has now increased to $9,000, giving you the freedom to spread out your purchases evenly and spend that same $3,000 without hurting your credit score.

Maxing out a credit card

Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of multiple credit cards, you may be wondering — how many is too many?

Can Having Too Many Credit Cards Hurt My Credit Score?

Your credit score won’t take a hit simply because of the fact that you have multiple credit cards. However, there are a few factors associated with multiple credit cards that may decrease your score, so keep the following things in mind:

  • Don’t apply for too many new credit cards at once. Any time you apply for a new credit card, a hard inquiry is recorded on your credit history. Too many hard inquiries within a short amount of time will lower your score.
  • Don’t open a new credit card if you’re about to buy a house or car. Lenders like to see a stable credit history, so avoid opening any new lines of credit within four months of applying for a mortgage or auto loan.

No matter how many or how few credit cards you ultimately decide to have, responsible credit management is key. Good credit isn’t as much about how many credit cards you have as it is about how well you manage them.

The Importance of Good Credit Management

When you have multiple credit cards, organization and discipline are of the utmost importance. Make sure to keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Pay on time. Set a reminder. Write a sticky note. Set up autopay. Do whatever you need to do to make sure your payment history is solid, as it makes up 35% of your credit score.
  • Keep your credit accounts open. The age of your credit history plays into your credit score. Responsibly paying off credit cards for years may increase your score, while having only new accounts will likely hurt it.
  • Only use 30 percent of your credit limit. No matter how many credit cards you have, strive to use only 30 percent of each one at any given time. The average consumer with a credit score of 800 or higher uses just 4 percent of their limit, according to FICO.

Average consumer credit score

Remember that only you can decide how many credit cards you feel comfortable taking on. You certainly don’t want to have so many credit cards that you can’t keep track of payments. If you’re ever unsure of your bandwidth, consult a financial advisor.

By keeping your utilization low and your credit score high, you’ll have a greater likelihood of proving trustworthiness to lenders and opening up more financial possibilities for your future.

Sources: CNBC | Experian | FICO

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Bigger Better Benefits: It’s What Your Employees Want

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

Ensuring your business offers great benefits is important for your employees, both present and potential ones.

Your employees are vital for making your business the best it can be. You want to ensure your team is happy to be working for you, so they can give it their all. What’s more, good work deserves rewards, and you want to create a positive working environment for everyone.

But there are so many options you can choose from. Where do you start?

Give Employees Choices

One option of offering more benefits to your employees is introducing a payment plan. People can pay a small monthly sum and then enjoy the benefits that come with it. This can include health or dental care, a gym membership, or help with childcare.

You could talk to your employees and see what benefits they would be interested in and willing to pay for. Other examples of company benefits include subsided travel or a company car. Talk to your team and see what they need.

RELATED ARTICLE: WELLNESS PROGRAMS CAN MAKE HAPPIER STAFF

Research What Other Businesses Are Doing

Offering great benefits plays a crucial role in recruiting. Employee benefits can really set a company apart when people are looking for jobs. So make sure you research what similar businesses to you are offering.

Then consider what you could offer that’s different. Don’t be afraid to try a new approach for what you can offer an employee alongside their salary.

Personal touches could add that enticing element people are looking for in their future workplace. Some suggestions include happy hour at the office, bring a-pet day, and company outings.

You can have fun with deciding what will make life at work better. Again, it could be worth getting your team involved in this discussion.

Reward Longevity

Another benefit plan to consider is one that rewards length of service. In other words, the longer someone has been working for you, the more benefits they’re entitled to.

This option benefits everyone. You get a loyal team member who you know isn’t going anywhere and can help build the company. They gain more from their job, and their hard work gets rewarded. It is entirely up to you to choose when new benefits are to be introduced.

Fund Benefits in Creative Ways

If you’re not sure you currently have the budget to offer the benefits you want to offer your employees, look into various ways of funding them. For example, Nucleus Commercial Finance offers loans to companies wishing to expand. They can provide the finances needed to help your business grow in the direction you want it to.

It’s important to set yourself clear goals for what you want to gain from the loan. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the Nucleus team. They can help pick a plan that is right for you. But don’t forget to budget in paying the money back.

Keep Your Team Happy with Bigger Better Benefits

Keeping your team happy will be beneficial for you in the future. You reward their hard work and in return they’ll work harder, making for a happy and profitable business. So choose now some benefits you’ll offer to your team.

The post Bigger Better Benefits: It’s What Your Employees Want appeared first on Business Opportunities.

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FIRE Confessionals: How A Bear Market Has Impacted The Financial Independence Movement

When I started writing about achieving financial independence in 2009, there wasn’t a lot of hoopla. We had people mainly discussing how they were building large enough investment portfolios to sustain their early retirement lifestyles. There was a thorough discussion and analysis of these investment portfolios. Sure, there were some interesting folks who went to

The post FIRE Confessionals: How A Bear Market Has Impacted The Financial Independence Movement appeared first on Financial Samurai.

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Free “Mindful Budgeting” Templates!

Free “Mindful Budgeting” Templates!

mindful budgeting

Hey guys!

One of my favorite people in the world, Cait Flanders, just released her “mindful budgeting” templates for *free* for anyone who wants them.

It includes weekly spending sheets, a monthly budget, a monthly calendar to stay organized, and two exercises to help you do monthly check-ins to see how you’re feeling + quarterly check-ins to ensure your spending aligns with values.

More info in her latest newsletter, but here are the direct downloads if you want to get right to it:

Thanks for re-releasing them, Cait!! And for making them free! (Used to be $20)

Here’s what a few of the templates look like…

They’re SUPER simple, but also SUPER powerful if you actually follow through with them.

It doesn’t require anything fancy to be more thoughtful 🙂

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weekly spending template

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align your budget template

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monthly check-in template

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PS: She’s also brought back her physical Mindful Budgeting Planners too and selling them at cost. More info on those here for anyone interested –> caitflanders.com/the-mindful-budgeting-planner

 

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A Christian’s Perspective on Debt-Free Living

A Christian’s Perspective on Debt-Free Living

Christ mural

[Morning! Please welcome to the site today, Larry Thomas, who shares his financial recovery going through Dave Ramsey’s baby steps program. If you can believe it this was actually a *comment* left in response to our post on 6 things Dave Ramsey is Wrong About, but had to share it here in the form of a blog post as I thought it made for an excellent counter-perspective. Here’s his note below briefly edited for clarity. Thanks, Larry!]

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In January of 2005 I was organizing the financial information for the preparation of my 2004 tax return.

To my amazement, I found that during the 2004 year my wife and I’s income was just over $100,000 before taxes. I proceeded to add our joint income for the previous years from 1999 to 2004. It came to more than $540,000.

I was stunned.

Where did that over half a million dollars go? What did we have to show for it?

As much as I could tell, it was debt. How did we get into this mess? Why were we always broke? When we added our debts together they totaled over $68,000 not including the house mortgage.

When Barbara and I were married in 1992 we kept our finances separate. Since I was coming off of a divorce from my first wife, I had debt and alimony payments. Because of these issues, we decided to keep our finances separate. Since my income was more that Barbara’s income we divided the bills proportionately according to our incomes.

We both had car payments, so each of us paid our own car note. Since I made more money, I paid the house note and purchased the groceries. She paid the utilities and paid for household items and housewares. We each paid our own car insurance.

The disconnect in our separate finances caused us to build separate lines of credit and separate paths to going in debt. This disconnect had each of us thinking our debt was under control because we did not know what debts the other had accrued.

At some point in time, about 2002 or 2003, Barbara decided to work an extra job. I thought it was to earn extra money for Christmas spending. Little did I know that it was to mask over spending. I myself had run up credit card debt on household items for repairs and my hobbies of wood working, golf and liquid libations. But I thought I could handle the additional debt. What I did not expect was the continuous increase of interest rates on my multiple cards from single digits to double digits, with some of them reaching as high as 27%.

I thought I could borrow my way out of debt. So I took out lower interest credit union loans to pay off higher interest credit cards. But all that did was extend the amount of time that I remained in debt, and I still had the credit card and personal loan debt.

Looking back to ’05 I started listening to financial guru Dave Ramsey on the radio. I had seen him on a CBS feature on starting the New Year right by getting your finances in order. It intrigued me so much that I had to learn more about controlling my finances and not letting them control me.

Dave Ramsey prescribed what he calls the Baby Steps. The Baby Steps are no quick fix. They involve a lot of hard work over a period of time. But in order for them to work, both Barbara and I had to work together and combine our financial life sans debts.

To start the Baby Steps, we first had to commit to living on a budget and learn how to use budgeting tools. I also took on an extra job to help pay down debt by working part-time at Radio Shack. We have found that there is also a spiritual component to controlling ones finances.

Below are the Baby Steps in case you’re not familiar with them. I’ve added some bible passages to go along with them that help illustrate the point.

#1. $1,000 in an Emergency Fund

After you do your first budget, save up $1,000 as fast as you can. Just take care of the essentials (housing, utilities, transportation, food, and clothing) and make the minimum payments on your debt until you get the $1,000 saved up.

Why have an Emergency Fund?

An Emergency Fund will help you keep your head above water while you’re getting out of debt. As soon as you start this journey, life will happen. Murphy’s Law goes into effect. Murphy might even move in with you. For example, your refrigerator might break down but guess what? You have an emergency fund to take care of that so you don’t have to stop your debt snowball.

“We should make plans–counting on God to direct us.” – PROVERBS 16:9 TLB

#2. Pay off all debt (except the house) utilizing the “Debt Snowball”

The debt snowball is simple, yet effective. First, list all your debts smallest to largest. Next, make minimum payments on all the debts except the smallest one. Put as much money as you possibly can on that debt.

Once the smallest debt is knocked out, carry the money you were putting on your smallest debt up to the next smallest debt and attack that one. Over time, you’ll knock out debt after debt until they’re all gone!

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. The Lord will open for you His good storehouse… bless all the work of your hand… you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not Borrow” – PROVERBS 22:7, DEUTERONOMY 28:11 NAS.

#3. 3-6 months expenses in savings for emergencies

Once your debt is gone, build a larger emergency fund of 3-6 months. This emergency fund is important as it will serve you in case loss of employment occurs. This fund allows you to continue living the way you are without stress and fear. It gives you time to choose your next step and place of employment. It allows you to stay on the plan.

“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” – PROVERBS 22:3 TLB

#4. Fully fund 15% into pre-tax retirement plans and ROTH IRA, if eligible

Once you’ve reached this point, it’s time to put a little away for retirement! Take advantage of your company’s 401k if they have one; put money in mutual funds… whatever it is, just start putting away 15% of your income.

“There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” – PROVERBS 21:20 NAS

#5. College funding

You have kids? Guess what… high school graduation comes before you know it! What better gift to pass on to your children than a college education. They might not understand now, but they will someday!

“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” – PHILIPPIANS 2:4 NRSV

#6. Pay off home early

It’s time to own a home! On Baby Step #6, you pay off your home as fast as you can. Put as much extra money as possible toward your house payment.

Once that house is paid off, you just gave yourself a raise because you have NO PAYMENTS, BABY!

#7. Build wealth and give!

Keep socking away money and making it work for you so that you can retire with dignity. By the time you hit Baby Step #7, guess what has happened? You lived like no one else so that later you could live and give like no one else.

“Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” – HEBREWS 13:2 TLB.

The Baby Steps are no quick fix. They involve a lot of hard work over a period of time. But if you work the plan, it will work for you.

And trust us, being debt-free, being on the other side – is a wonderful feeling. It’s all worth it. I just got a layoff notice today amid the COVID-19 pandemic and don’t know when I will go back to work. If I did not have my debts paid off and have an emergency fund I would be in a bad situation.

(Though please note, I get a pension since retiring from the city in 2016, and I am also a part-time tax preparer now so I am not totally out of income. You can find my site here if you live in the Ohio area and need assistance – ThomasTax1040.com)

 

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How to Improve Your Networking Approach

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Millions of people use networking as a way to land sales, find a new job, or just improve their access to resources. It can be a great strategy, enabling you to meet new people and maintain connections with those people. Eventually, you will find exactly the right folks you need to get closer to achieving your goals. But without the right tactics to master that strategy, networking can become ineffective.

How Networking Can Suffer

There are three main ways your networking strategy could fail:

You’re Spending Too Much Time

First, you could be spending too much time networking. If it takes you 20 hours a week to network and you only meet a handful of people, you’ll likely be missing out on other opportunities or sacrificing more important responsibilities. This is usually due to inefficient practices.

You’re Not Meeting Enough People

This is a factor of networking quantity. If you aren’t meeting enough new people, your network isn’t going to grow. Depending on the circumstances, you could be running into the same people over and over again, or you could be choosing venues that are too small.

You’re Not Meeting the Right People

This is a factor of networking quality. You’ll want to find people within your realm of expertise, or people adjacent to your industry. You might meet lots of people, but if they add no value or potential to your career, they may not amount to much.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 PROBLEMS WITH SCHEDULING MEETINGS (AND HOW TO FIX THEM)

These are some of the ways to beat the odds.

Automate What You Can

Networking requires a lot of manual effort, some of which can’t be skipped. For example, you’ll never be able to automate a face-to-face meeting if you’re trying to make a good in-person impression.

However, there are tasks related to networking that you can automate to save time. For example, you can use a business card scanner to automatically collect information from your new contacts after each engagement. You could also use automatic reminders and notifications to stay organized along the way.

Set Goals for Meeting New People

At an event, it’s easy to get caught up in conversation with the people you already know, or a single person you just met. Before you know it, you’ve spent an hour without any real effect on your network.

To overcome this pattern, consider setting a goal for each evening. How many new people are you going to try and talk to? How many personal contacts are you going to try to add to your network? You don’t have to hit this goal every single time. However, it can be something to strive for.

Research and Optimize for Specific Targets

Which types of people are going to be most valuable for your networking strategy? If you don’t know, that’s part of the problem.

Therefore, you’ll want to do some market research, just like you would in a marketing strategy. Then, figure out exactly what types of people would be most beneficial to you.

For example, are you looking for people in a specific industry? People within a certain age group? People with a specific job title, like production manager? Once you figure this out, spend some time deciding which networking events and places these people attend most frequently.

Use Multiple Channels for Your Networking

Too many networkers, both amateurs and professionals, get hung up using a single channel, or only a collection of channels they’re familiar with. They might only spend time looking for new contacts on social media, while never venturing out in person. Or they might only go to the networking events they already know, never trying social media or new venues.

Even if you have a firm demographic in mind, it’s important for you to mix things up and try meeting new people in new places as often as possible.

Tap Your Existing Network

Finally, work on tapping your existing network as well as you can. If your first-degree contact can’t help you, they might have someone in their extended network who can.

But don’t just meet people for the sake of meeting them. Meet them for the sake of gaining access to all the people they’ve met. This is especially important if you’re meeting people at networking events, where most of the attendees will be similarly motivated networkers with hundreds or even thousands of contacts.

Don’t be afraid to ask people if they know anyone meeting your key criteria. This is one of the best ways to find who you’re looking for.

One Last Thing

Above all, you can improve your networking approach with practice. Think critically about your performance at each event, and analyze the factors that made it successful or unsuccessful. Learn from your mistakes, pay attention to the things you can change, and tweak your approach iteratively until you’re more satisfied with the results.

For more ideas and inspiration for getting your business up and running, be sure to check out our blog frequently.

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How a Direct Consolidation Loan Can Help You

Most people want to avoid the hassles of dealing with numerous credit card companies. If you maintain many credit cards from multiple companies, then it may be time to consider getting a direct consolidation loan. This is especially the case if you have used your credit card debt to establish and run your business.

RELATED ARTICLE: SMALL BUSINESS LOANS: GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR FUNDS

This type of loan works for you by consolidating all of your debts into one low-interest loan. You will be able to eliminate your credit card debt and get rid of credit card interest fees. Ultimately, a direct consolidation loan eases the burden of always carrying multiple loans.

After you have finalized the terms of the new loan, your debt consolidation company can begin negotiations with your creditors. You will be able to get a lower interest rate, lower monthly payments, and possibly a reduced total amount due. You can then pay off your debt with a single monthly payment to the consolidation company. Then, they distribute payments to your creditors.

How Consolidation Works

The debt consolidation company will then be responsible for managing the debt payments that are due to the creditors. In most cases, they will use a loan servicing company to do this for them. They will also consolidate your debts into one direct consolidation loan. You are then required to make just one monthly payment to the loan servicing company.

Direct Consolidation Loan

A direct consolidation loan works great for people who are carrying multiple loans and have difficulty paying off each one. In some cases, you may even be eligible for a reduced interest rate for every loan. However, not all of your loans will qualify for this benefit. It is a good idea to check your total debts to see what is eligible.

The benefits of a direct consolidation loan can be attractive to many consumers. You should carefully consider the terms and conditions of your chosen company before you agree to the terms. Many companies have hidden charges and fees that you will not be aware of.

Potential Drawbacks of Direct Consolidation Loans

Be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully and be sure to compare them to those of other companies. If you are unable to repay the amount you owe on the consolidation loan, then you could lose your home or worse. The terms of the loan should clearly spell out this possibility.

RELATED CONTENT: SMALL BUSINESS LOANS: GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR FUNDS

When considering the benefits of a direct consolidation loan, know how much debt you have. In the United States, approximately ninety percent of consumer debt is due to credit cards. In many cases, these cards have been handed out for free. Then, companies require consumers to pay an annual fee or high interest rates to get a replacement card.

Escape High Interest Rates

High interest rates and fees balloon over time. They can cost tens of thousands of dollars to each year. These card balances accumulate at a rapid pace and can eat up much of your available cash flow. If you are unable to pay off your debt, you can even lose your home.

To prevent this, you should consider getting a direct consolidation loan that can help you get out of debt quickly. The more you pay back on your debt, the more likely you are to be able to pay it off in full. By consolidating your debt, you can also ensure that you are able to obtain a reasonable interest rate.

However, in order to find a lender that will offer you a low interest rate, you should first contact a good search engine and run a search for “low interest debt consolidation loans.” You should then look through the results and compare the loan offers to find the lowest rates that meet your needs. You can also run a comparison of various lenders to find the lowest rates.

Direct Consolidation Loan Summary

By working with a debt consolidation loan, you can avoid the embarrassment of being defaulted on your debt and lose your home. Rather than allowing these events to become part of your life, you can use a debt consolidation loan to ensure that you can avoid bankruptcy. As long as you make your payments on time, you will avoid the loss of your home, as well as a possible court judgment against you.

You will also not have to deal with the hassle of dealing with multiple creditors and debt management companies. With a direct consolidation loan, you are only required to make one monthly payment to the loan servicer, which will distribute it to your creditors in a lump sum payment.

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Business VoIP Phone Service: 5 Things to Take Care Of

Expanding business operations, rising connectivity concerns, and spurting expenses are a few aspects that have made your traditional phone service incompatible for today’s time. That is the reason why you have decided to integrate the virtual phone system, or business VOIP. Using Internet protocol technology to channelize and route calls, both within and outside the organization, is definitely reliable and appropriate for digitally driven organizations.

However, there are certain organizations that have had bad experiences with the technology. Their notion toward the adoption of business VoIP phone service has only worsened. But that was years ago. The good news is that time has taken its course. The technology has evolved. Today, these services are more sophisticated. Moreover, they are rich in quality and effective in providing limitless communication.

If you still are not sure about how you can benefit from it, here are five key considerations for successful business VoIP phone service.

RELATED ARTICLE: STEPS TO STARTING A CALL CENTER

1. Business VOIP Lets You Have a Backup

We always plan to play safe. Traveling to different places, we keep a power bank handy. Or we install a generator to make sure we never run out of power.

Similarly, we advise you to install a second Internet connection. Then, if things go wrong or the network goes offline, your alternative network takes over. This ensures that your data or voice services run without obstruction.

Pro Tip: When buying a second line, make sure you opt for a different service provider. Then, since you'll have two different connections from different companies, you can be sure that even if one fails, the other would be running easily.

2. Find a Reliable Provider

As a general standard, VoIP services make use of SIP, or “session-initiated protocol,” to place calls. It is this SIP that routes calls between the communicating parties. Also, SIP is the reason business VoIP phone services are cheap and affordable.

However, you need to be cautious when selecting a SIP service provider. Often, companies label themselves as the best. However, when you dig deeper, you find that they follow a least-cost routing (LCR) policy.

Though this might be beneficial considering it doesn’t cost you much, you might unknowingly compromise the quality of the connection. Definitely, you would not want to integrate a service that fails to offer a quality connection. Therefore, a reliable service provider is a must.

3. Embed a QoS System

QoS, or quality of service, is something that assures you of on-time delivery of data packets. And what are these packets?

In case you have a faint idea of how data travels, you might have heard the term data packet. That is, when data travels from one end to another, each piece of information collects into different packets. Then, they transfer from the source to the destination.

Now, when these packets are in transit, they follow the first-come-first-serve path to reach the users. However, not all packets are of equal priority. What QoS does for a business VOIP is restrict the pass of low-priority packets. This ensures only the top ones reach users first. Imagine if your network doesn’t have a QoS. Each packet would have to fight for its delivery. This affects call quality.

business voip

A poor-quality connection is bad for your business. What’s more, you could even lose potential clients along the way. So consider installing a dedicated Internet connection for your virtual phone number.

4. Assess the Quality Score of Business VOIP

As mentioned above, the quality of calls by the VoIP phone service is of utmost importance. If the quality is poor or there are interruptions, this is a problem for you and your business.

However, the question here is how to measure call quality. You cannot always dial a number to test it. A better way is to use the MOS, or mean opinion score. This is a standard tool used by most of the companies. Running this over the network, you can determine the call quality for that particular network.

Quality is marked on a scale of one to five. A score of one is the least acceptable. On the other hand, an MOS score of five suggests the quality is as effective as face-to-face conversation.

5. Be Sure to Have a Secured Connection

An unsecured Internet connection is inviting hackers to steal your organization’s data. It is important that you business VoIP phone service is installed with IT security and is totally protected against cyber hacks.

The Final Word

Finding the best VoIP phone service might seem like a daunting task. However, knowing what you are looking for makes things easier. The above considerations will help you select an efficient and scalable business VoIP phone service. With the right tool, you can strive toward problem-free communication within and outside your organization.

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What Are False Declines and How to Avoid Them

Front-end fraud filters can protect merchants from true fraud disputes, but false declines can be a pain for both customers and retailers. Fraud filters help merchants automatically determine potential criminal activity before it occurs. But the downside of automation is some normal actions taken by a cardholder can cause false positives in fraud detection software.

Simple things like returning to school in professional years or taking an extended vacation can get a card falsely declined. Of course, running an ecommerce business heightens the red flags and risks because of the focus on card-not-present (CNP) fraud. While focusing on preventing true fraud is an important part of a fraud strategy, merchants also need to be aware of false declines and how they can affect their business. This post will discuss what false declines are, how they occur, and how to mitigate the associated risks.

What Are False Declines?

At its most basic, a false decline occurs when a payment card transaction is rejected for no reason. They’re also known as false positives. This happens because of connection issues, technical glitches, or inaccurate fraud filters. For example, a customer currently traveling for business can get declined because their IP address is in a different area as their billing/shipping address. They are a legitimate customer, but because one thing is off, they get declined.

CNP transactions already create an elevated risk, so e-retailers take the hardest hits when a transaction is incorrectly labeled as fraudulent. This is because it’s assumed that fraud is more likely to occur without a secure chipped card present. Unfortunately, what’s meant to be an industry safeguard is hurting merchants.

Why and How Do False Positives Happen?

Financial institutions and merchants use front-end fraud protection, such as fraud filters, to help automatically assess if a transaction is fraudulent or not. Fraud filters are customizable and should be based on your industry, customer behavior, and other factors. There are many layers or filters that companies can add on top of each other and in a specific order. These filters can include:

A Daily Velocity Filter: This filter limits the number of transactions that can be processed in a day from the same IP address.

Shipping and Billing Mismatch Filter: This filter identifies a transaction that is submitted with different shipping and billing addresses.

High Ticket Purchase Filter: This filter notifies when a purchase is above a set threshold.

IP Address and Shipping Address Mismatch Filter: Which compares where the order is coming from compared to the shipping address provided.

Those are just examples of a few of the possible filters that can be put in place. A filter can trigger a couple of actions to happen, depending on how the merchant sets it up. A filter can instantly reject the purchase from happening, it can send it in to a manual review, it can accept the purchase, or it may just send it to the next layer of filters.

When set up correctly, fraud filters can be extremely helpful in preventing true fraud disputes while still letting legitimate customers in. When fraud filters are set up incorrectly is when false declines happen. For example, a merchant may have their fraud filters set up to be too strict. Instead of sending transactions to manual review, the filters decline any transaction that has anything off about it. Something as simple as a cardholder shipping the product to their work instead of a home can reject the purchase. Without well-thought-out and analyzed fraud filters, merchants are losing revenue and customers to false declines.

Money is the bottom line of any business, so it’s essential to understand the direct costs inflicted on your business from false positives. Let’s talk about how these problems affect your bottom line.

How Do False Positives Affect Merchants?

Just one false decline can cost a merchant revenue from a transaction and a loyal customer. Your company put all the time and resources into attracting a customer. The customer loved your product enough to commit to the purchase, and you turned them away. This all happens because your front-end fraud review system is not fine-tuned.

When a customer gets declined, they go elsewhere to purchase the product. Or if the customer decides to try again, there’s a possibility the transaction will continue to be declined. These repeated false declines could place a hold on their card. They must then call the card issuer to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the card issuer is paying for the call center to verify the customer. Not only was the cardholder not able to make the purchase they wanted to, but they also had to go through the hassle of calling their bank and resolving a larger problem.

In the end, false declines cost merchants revenue, customer satisfaction, and a negative image from the standpoint of the customer. So how can merchants lower their false declines?

How Can Merchants Lower False Declines?

Removing automated fraud filters isn’t the answer. These are put into place to protect your business, and you would be exposing yourself to true fraud. What you need are smarter filters that are more capable of recognizing fraud and understanding the context.

To create better filters, merchants need to analyze data surrounding transactions and disputes. By finding similarities and correlations between transactions that end in true fraud disputes, merchants can create precise fraud filters. Merchants should be vigilant about updating and analyzing their filter’s performance. For example, a merchant runs a massive promotional deal to attract new customers. If the marketing team and fraud team are not aligned, the increase in brand new cardholders can be flagged by the fraud filters, and the new customers will be turned away.

The more data analysis and context you can put into your filters, the more accurate they will be.

The post What Are False Declines and How to Avoid Them appeared first on Chargeback.

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A Money Gratitude Journal: The Best Way To Feel Better In A Bear Market

To get through the latest bear market, I thought it would be fun to go through an exercise that will surely make you feel better. The exercise is a gratitude journal for money. Simply write down all the things you spent money on that could have been invested in the stock market instead. That is

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COVID-19 Small Business Tax Relief

COVID-19 small business tax relief is on the way
COVID-19,

The details in the CARES act, recently passed by the Senate and presumably soon to be passed by the House, continue to trickle out. But I thought I’d point out and then briefly discuss the parts that benefit small businesses.

I’ll try to keep this page up to date as things come into better focus and as the House makes any of its changes.

A note: My source for this information is the welcome summary of the legislation provided by Senator Grassley’s offices here: CARES Act Section by Section summary. (Special thank you to CPA Ed Zollars for pointing his Twitter followers to this resource.)

Section 2301 Employee retention credit for employers subject to closure due to COVID-19

The CARES act provides a tax credit based on wages. That credit equals 50 percent “of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis” and it applies to “the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee.”

Example: You have ten employees who each make $2000 a month. To keep the example simple, suppose that healthcare benefits run $500 a month per employee. In total, then, each employee costs $2500 a month and over the next four months, the employer would spend $10,000 on each employee.

The Section 2301 “employee retention credit” gives you, the employer, a $5,000 tax credit. That’s per employee. With ten employees, then, you enjoy $50,000 in tax credits.

Some details to know…

The tax credit is what’s called a “refundable tax credit.” That means you get the credit regardless of whether you’ve paid taxes.

Example: Your business generates no taxable income due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, you pay no income taxes. You still get a $50,000 “tax refund.”

Another thing to know? Not every employer qualifies but the rules are pretty loose. An employer may use the credit if “operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shutdown order” or if quarterly revenues shrink by more than 50 percent as compared to the previous year.

An obvious comment maybe: You’ll need a real accounting system to easily determine whether you qualify based on a decline in quarterly revenues.

One other thing to note: The formula works differently for employers with more than 100 full-time employees than it does for smaller employers. For “big” small businesses, the formula looks only at ”wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19-related circumstances.” Again, this means you’ll need a good accounting system operating to determine this.

For “small” small businesses, so those with 100 or employees or less, the formula just says “all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order.”

Section 2302 Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes

The CARES act provides another small-business-friendly tax break related to employee costs: a deferral, or delay, in when you remit payroll taxes.

As you probably know, employers pay a 6.2% Social Security on most wages. Usually during or by the end of each quarter. Note that this employer Social Security tax isn’t the only payroll-related tax an employer pays. But it’s a significant one.

Example: An employer pays $10,000 in wages for the current payroll period. As part of the payroll, the employer calculates and withholds federal and state income taxes that tally $1000, Medicare taxes paid by both the employer and employee that add up to $300 or so, Social Security taxes paid by both the employer and employee that add up to roughly $1200, and a few other state-specific taxes. The Section 2302 deferral applies to the 6.2% employer Social Security, or $620.

How long does an employer get to delay? Two years. Half in 2021 and half in 2022.

By the way? Talk with your accountant about whether or not this deferral really makes sense. I’m not sure you want to get behind on your payroll taxes…

Section 2303 Modifications for net operating losses

Perhaps the most interesting small business friendly tax break? The loosened rules for using net operating losses.

The CARES act allows a business owner to carryback a net operating loss from 2018, 2019 or 2020 to the previous five years.

Example: The COVID-19 crisis creates a net operating in your business for 2020. Say, for sake of illustration, that you lose $100,000. The new rules allow you to take this $100,000 “net operating loss” and treat it as a deduction on an amended 2016 tax return. If that year, so in 2016, you made $300,000, you’ll essentially “redo” your 2016 tax return only this time with an extra $100,000 tax deduction, which means your taxable income drops from $300,000 to $200,000. That tax deduction may create a $25,000-ish refund.

A caution: You will probably need your accountant’s help to handle the net operating loss carryback. His or her other clients will very possibly need the same help. Accordingly, if you think this tax break applies, you’ll want to get into the queue quickly.

Let me also say that historically the IRS takes a while to pay net operating loss refund claims. And the larger the claim, the longer the processing times. Probably we’re talking weeks at the minimum. I would not be surprised if these refunds take months.

The post COVID-19 Small Business Tax Relief appeared first on Evergreen Small Business.

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