Jul 30 2014

Finding the Right Financial Adviser

By |July 30th, 2014|General Personal Finance|0 Comments|

When it comes to investing money, most people focus on how their investments perform in the market. However, what is equally important is the investor’s satisfaction with his financial advisor. In fact, a 2013 survey by J.D. Power indicates client satisfaction, and the relationship they have with their advisor, is as important as the investment dividends.

If you are looking to hire a financial advisor remember, you may not have control over the market, but you do have control over who you choose to manage your investments. This is why it’s important to make sure you select the right person for the job.

Building Your Candidate Pool

You can find financial advisers almost anywhere. Most banks offer them, they are listed in the phone book and – if the phone book seems too archaic – they also advertise online. However, if you use any of these approaches you could end up with more candidates than you will ever have time to screen.

Consider getting referrals from friends or family members, especially if they have similar financial needs and goals as yours.

Another option is to search for a planner through a professional organization like the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

After you have built your candidate pool, the next step is to interview each candidate using the following questions:

1. What certifications and licenses do you have?

There are four major types of financial advisors:

·  The Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

·  The Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

·  The Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), and

·  The Certified Public Accountant.

Each type of advisor performs a different function, and not all types are appropriate for every investor. For example, a CPA is best for high-income individuals or small business owners who also need help with advanced tax planning; a CFP or ChFC is best for individuals who want someone to manage their total finances in addition to their investments; and, an RIA is best for individuals who only want investment advice.

Professional advisors can also get additional certifications specific to their area of expertise. For example, a CFP who specializes in wealth management could get an IMCA.org Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA) certification.

The advisor you choose should have at least one of the four major certifications or licenses. Additional licenses are not necessary, but can enhance their abilities.

2. What is your specialty?

Some advisors specialize in areas that might not fit your needs. Also, if the advisor specializes in clients like you, he will be more likely to understand your goals. For example, an advisor that specializes in family financial planning might not be a good fit for a confirmed bachelor. Conversely, an advisor that specializes in high-net-worth individuals might not be the best fit for new parents trying to plan for college and retirement.

3. What is your investment approach?

Even if you’re new to investing you probably have a basic idea of your investment approach. For example, you might prefer aggressive, high-risk trading with the potential for an immediate and high return; or you might feel more comfortable with conservative, low-risk investing with the potential for long-term growth. To avoid conflicts, and increase your satisfaction, you should choose an advisor with an approach similar to yours.

4. How hands-on are you with your clients? 

Just as your advisor’s specialty and investment approach should complement yours, so should his philosophy on client contact. If you need a lot of hands-on, having an advisor who only sees clients once a year won’t work for you. Conversely, if you prefer minimal contact, an advisor that sends monthly reports and does weekly phone calls will be way too much. If you’re not sure what you prefer, then an advisor who is willing to be flexible could be your best bet.

5. Will I be working with you exclusively?

Some financial firms work more on a team concept. One advisor might conduct the initial interview, but the actual day-to-day management of the account is handled by multiple team members. Other companies use the one advisor/one client approach. Both approaches are valid, and each has its benefits, but neither works for every client. If you prefer a one-on-one approach, you should make sure that’s how your advisor works before you sign on.

Jul 23 2014

Making Research and Development a Priority for Your Business

By |July 23rd, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

Business owners can be so focused on execution and day-to-day activities that sometimes there isn’t a lot of time or money left over for research and development. Ignoring R&D can eventually mean a business loses a competitive edge in the marketplace.

If a business is going to commit to doing the research and development necessary there are a few strategies that can help make it happen without diverting too much time and money away from the normal operations of the company.

Bring on Full Time R&D Staff

The best way to avoid impacting normal business operations is to hire new employees who are dedicated to research and development. New employees can either begin work immediately on R&D or existing employees can be moved into R&D roles while the new employees backfill their positions.

Unfortunately this costs money so it is important to see if you can offset the costs somehow. One way to do that is with tax credits.

Look Into Financing Tax Credits

The nice thing about R&D is that there can be tax credits available to help fund this type of work. The problem with tax credits is that it can be complicated to figure out if your business is eligible.

It’s also hard to pay for business expenses while waiting for the tax credit to come through. Luckily, there are companies that offer services such as financing refundable tax credits for R&D that make this possible.

Be a Fast Follower

If you don’t have the time and money to be on the cutting edge of research and development, it’s important to keep yourself informed on industry trends. As soon as someone else in the industry takes the next innovative leap you can look at what they did and model your strategy after theirs.

Being a fast follower can keep you in business, but to get to the head of the pack it is important to do your own research and development and be the first company to market with a new fresh idea.

If your business needs funding for research and development you should find out if you are eligible for loans to finance refundable tax credits and look into bringing on new employees to stay on the cutting edge of new new technology.

Jul 22 2014

Could a Passion for Motoring Drive Some Investment Wins?

By |July 22nd, 2014|General Personal Finance|0 Comments|

By Patrick Foot, financial markets writer at IG. Find out how CFD trading works with IG.

Despite the rise of new technologies and green awareness, the motor industry is still a massive player in worldwide markets. It’s a sector fuelled by passion, with motoring brands and models receiving adoration rarely seen for companies like Google or Microsoft.

If you’re a petrolhead, though, life can be hard: cars are expensive to run and tend to drop in value fast. But can you offset your losses by turning you knowledge of motoring into some wise investment choices? The majority of major manufacturers list on stock markets both home and abroad, so there’s plenty of options out there…

Big players

All the manufacturers of America’s top selling cars last year have a listing on the stock market, though some are less direct than others. Both Chevrolet and GMC are owned by General Motors and Chrysler (maker of the Dodge pickup) is owned by Fiat.

In 2013, Ford produced the most popular model, the F-Series pickup (topping the charts for a 32nd consecutive year). The venerable motoring brand’s success in both the US and abroad has seen their share price perform handsomely over the past couple of years, almost doubling in worth.

Another American titan, General Motors, has had a similarly strong two years, growing slightly less than Ford at 91%. It is worth noting, though, that General Motors has so far had a rocky 2014, dropping in value considerably in the spring before picking up in the summer so far. It’s earnings season in the US at the moment, so General Motors will hope to push up the markets off of the back of some strong results. It will hope that the strong sales of the Chevrolet Silverado will help it achieve just that.

The next two best sellers are from Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Honda. Both companies have been busy proving that the recent turnaround in the motor industry isn’t just limited to American companies. Like General Motors, both Toyota and Honda have slowed a little this year, but are still trading significantly higher than two years ago. For Honda, that’s a respectable 33% uplift; for Toyota it’s an impressive 88%.

Specialist brands

So the story for the big names in motor manufacturing is an impressive return to an industry many thought was in for tough times.  But for true car aficionados an affordable, useful vehicle is never really enough – so what options are there for sports and luxury vehicle investment?

Those who enjoy the precision of German engineering can show their support with an investment in BMW, Daimler (owner of Mercedes Benz, amongst other makers) or Porsche. BMW, who trade under German moniker Bayerische Motoren Worke announced record sales for the first half of this year. They have had no dip to recover from on the markets, and except for a stall in 2011, have been steadily on the rise since the crash in 2008.

Daimler and Porsche are closer to their American and Japanese counterparts, with a rise beginning midway through 2012. Both have increased almost 90% in the past two years.

Those who prefer Italian cars have less to choose from, as Fiat own most of the major brands including Ferrari, Masserati and Alfa Romeo. The other notable car company, Lamborghini, are privately owned and as such not listed on the stock market. Fiat’s performance in the past two years, though, has outstripped many other companies on bigger exchanges. The company has grown 110% and shown promise ahead of their new listing as Fiat Chrysler on the New York Stock Exchange in a few months.

A green opportunity?

For those who prefer to enjoy their car without worrying about any negative environmental impact, plenty of electric options are available on the market now. And it’s a technology that is anticipated to take off in a big way in the future. Most of the companies mentioned above have some kind of electric model either on or hitting the market, but the two biggest players are probably Renault-Nissan and Tesla.

Tesla has shocked the market with its staggering rise in the past two years, shooting up a meteoric 550% in value. Those who got on board with Tesla in 2012 will now be seeing some amazing returns on their investment.

Across the board, motor enthusiasts have seen their industry pull of a successful period on the markets recently. If you think that may be set to continue, then take a look at your favourite car makers as they might be worth an investment. If you can predict the next Tesla, though, there’s some real money to be made.

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Jul 9 2014

How to Afford a One of a Kinda Engagement Ring

By |July 9th, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

There are few things in life that take as much thought and planning as picking out an engagement ring. Tradition and media would have most believe it has got to be a diamond and big. But, for many people, it is far less about society’s tradition, than the more important one–which is what the ring represents.

One thing that the engagement ring should never do is put you into debt. There are many ways to save up for that special piece of jewelry. Even if you aren’t in a relationship but feel you want to one day be married, nothing can impress a woman more than showing the ability to think ahead and achieve goals.

·  Save up. Whether it is in a jar under your bed, or a special savings account just for that purpose, even if you only put aside the loose change in your pocket each day, it will add up.

·  Don’t set a goal to save. One flaw in savings is trying to set unrealistic goals only to fall short, become discouraged and give up all together. If you start saving before you are anywhere even near ready to buy an engagement ring, you may find you have more than enough for the ring and other related expenses when the time does arrive.

For those who are already with that special some with whom and the idea of marriage is becoming a likelihood, and there is not a lot in the budget for shopping, it means time to be creative. A large part of the expense is the band the gem sets on.

·  Consider your band color. There is little getting around golden tones, but silvery shades are diverse and far more economical. Metals such as sterling silver and surgical steel can make it more affordable when ring shopping.

·  Make it unique. Most women get a diamond on a gold band, but why not give her something as unique and special as she is? Find a ring with color enhanced diamonds in her favorite shades, such as amethyst and silver or aquamarine and gold.

·  Get it handmade. You can even find sites where people will hand make for a lot less than large jewelers. Artisan wares come not only as a bonus to supporting independent business people, it can guarantee a one-of-a-kind ring. Many couples who are short on savings opt for smaller, more economical choices.

·  Be spontaneous. Some people get engaged with bubblegum machine rings and later on down the line replace them with a more permanent piece. If the engagement happens to come in a heat of the moment, passion and surprise can make even a clover seem like the most beautiful thing she has ever worn.

Aside from the wedding band, the engagement ring is something she will want to wear the rest of her life. It should be something that she will enjoy wearing. It should make her smile and be an expression of how much you know and love her. In the end, it is not what you wear, but why you wear it.

Jul 2 2014

3 Insurance Products You May Need But Didn’t Know Existed

By |July 2nd, 2014|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|Comments Off|

Most people are familiar with and/or pay for things such as medical insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, and car insurance. If you’re really savvy about your personal finances, you might even know about things like gap insurance on a new vehicle purchase or long term disability insurance to ensure you protect your income from a bad accident or disease.

However, the insurance industry doesn’t end there. Here are some insurance product that you may have never heard of, but may want to consider if it makes sense for you and your family’s situation.

Wedding Insurance

Who knew that you could insure your wedding? I certainly didn’t, and never even thought about taking out an insurance policy as I was spending $20,000+ on my wedding earlier this year. Looking back, it is a product I wish I knew about.

What happens if your reception venue goes out of business? Or what if the photographer just doesn’t show up? What if you’re all set to get married and all of a sudden you need your appendix removed the night before the wedding?

Wedding insurance can cover all of these issues. For someone like me who spent well over $20,000 on my wedding, it might have been worth it to insure myself against some of these disasters. Luckily everything went great on my wedding day, but for just a few hundred dollars it could be worth it.

Multiple Birth Insurance

twins

photo credit: Nicholas Valentin

No, my wife isn’t pregnant yet, but if we start trying to have a kid we may want to look into multiple-birth insurance. I’ve never had one but kids sound very expensive. The idea of having 2 at the same time a little scary.

If you are really worried about it, you can buy multiple birth or twin insurance, and the policy will pay you a lump sum if your wife blesses your household with twins (or more!).

That extra cash in your pocket will definitely help when you need to buy 2 cribs, twice the amount of clothes, diapers, food, and everything else that comes along with it. Plus you might need to drop the kids off with grandma and grandpa and use some of that money for a well deserved vacation!

Payment Protection Insurance

This is an insurance policy that you may have and not even know about it. If you have a loan out for a mortgage, vehicle, or some other large purchase, sometimes a bank will offer or include payment protection insurance, or PPI.

The purpose of PPI is to help you make payments against your loan if you lose your job, become ill, or even pass away (in which case it helps your spouse). It’s a popular product in the UK but is available in the US as well.

If you aren’t sure if you have this insurance, or if you have it but aren’t sure how to make a claim you can use a service like http://www.ppiclaimsadviceline.com to help you figure it out.

Readers: Have you heard of some other crazy insurance policies? Share them in the comments.

Jul 1 2014

Small Investments Any Business Should Make to Encourage Sales

By |July 1st, 2014|General Personal Finance|1 Comment|

Everyone knows the adage that you have to spend money to make money, but when your retail store is losing money, the last thing you want to do is spend more money. The issue is that without spending a little money right away, you could be missing out on some huge revenue. There are a few small investments you can make to encourage sales and recoup your money in a short period of time. Here are just a few of the great ideas you can start using right now to engage more and sell to your enthusiastic customers.

Get Out from Behind the Counter

Customers love it when you’re on the floor offering to help or trying to speed up their shopping experience. The problem many retail store owners encounter is someone needs to be behind the counter ringing people up. In fact, there are new portable, wireless scanners that tie in with an iPad POS system which allow your sales team to be on the floor rather than stuck behind the counter. You can set up the sales floor as a large display rather than one where your customers pick out the items they want. According to Small Business Chronicle, as soon as you scan the barcode with the portable scanner, it will be entered into the system. Once this happens, the item can be pulled and bagged in the back. Everything is handled as the customer is picking out items. This not only makes it more convenient for the customer to walk around without being hindered by their selections. It also makes it possible for your customers to buy more. They will not concentrate on how many items they’re holding in their hands. Rather, they’re going to concentrate on the next item they want.

Manage Your Inventory Better

The POS system that’s tied to your barcode scanner that can be purchased by ecommerce solution provider like Shopify is a necessary tool whether you want to use the barcode scanner or not. You receive so many benefits from the POS system that Business Know How likens it to flying blind in an airplane with no controls if you’re absent of one. Since the iPad you have is a perfect outlet for you to install POS software, you can simply install the software and you’re on your way. Consider how you’re going to use the software. It’s perfect for managing your inventory, because all you have to do is input it all into the system and set it so every time you make a sale, it will draw from the inventory. As you start to develop a sales history, you can plan for slow or busy periods. You’ll never again have to turn customers away from buying what they want because you weren’t prepared for the rush you get every year.

Utilize Displays to Spark Conversations

Displays are a very important part of any successful business. If you take the time to purchase and set up displays which highlight your products, your customers will pay more attention to them. Make sure the display includes information about the product as well as some examples in which the customer can utilize the product in their life to solve a problem. Additionally, sales associates can show customers the product displays to foster sales, according to Transworld Business. Your display should include everything from color photos to graphics and even content centered on the product and its many uses. Remember to think about your customers and what they enjoy. If you know your customers, this should be an easy exercise. Don’t go overboard with your displays though. Setting up too many displays tends to detract from their power, because it is an assault on the senses.

Utilize iPads as Advertising Platforms

Everyone loves to interact with an iPad, or any other tablet for that matter. There’s something thoroughly engaging about being able to touch a screen and look up information. Best of all, the iPad provides the perfect environment to create an interactive environment. With technology being focused on as one of the biggest trends in retail, according to Marketing Week, it’s important to utilize it wherever you can. Rather than investing in major technological displays, you can purchase a few iPads and set them in holders which prevent users from hitting the home button. Set up software on the iPad to show all of your products or just to highlight the ones in front of the user. They can learn all about the products in a fun and entertaining way. Your customers are sure to tell all their friends about how cool it is to shop at your store as a result.