Planning for an IRA

October 11, 2014

Obama’s ‘myRA’ Accounts This Fall 
May Alter Your Retirement Plans

Financial Expert Shares 3 Factors to Consider When Planning for an IRA

Important changes are coming this fall for what’s become one of the biggest concerns of the era: affording retirement.

Those who are saving for retirement and meticulously troubleshooting tax obstacles may want to restructure their plans. While members of Congress continue to battle over the budget, the Obama administration is preparing to roll out “myRA” savings accounts – IRA accounts – for those who do not currently have access to one.

When the “myRA” account reaches a certain amount, fledgling savers can roll it into a regular IRA account; different states will have their own guidelines. However, some of the benefits of existing savings options could be in peril, says financial advisor Jake Lowrey, president of Lowrey Financial Group, (www.lowreyfinancial.com).

Those include some of the tax advantages of retirement accounts currently enjoyed by higher-income workers. Some Roth IRA owners may also lose their exemption from required minimum distributions, or RMDs, while IRAs totaling less than six figures could see RMDs disappear.  

“There will be many people who’ll be unhappy about the changes and that’s understandable, but some may help our country avoid an avalanche of retirees facing poverty,” Lowrey says.

In just 15 years – 2030 – the last of the baby boomers will have reached 65. That means one of every five Americans will be of retirement age, according to the Pew Research Center’s population projections.

“Most people simply don’t know how to plan for retirement, and that’s made even more challenging with the changing government policies,” says Lowrey.

He offers guidance on choosing between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA as a retirement savings vehicle.

•  Traditional IRAs and Deductibility: For either traditional or Roth IRAs, it’s all a matter of how one prefers to be taxed. Generally speaking, the money you deposit in a traditional IRA isn’t taxed that year, and whatever earnings you have on your contributions won’t be taxed until you withdraw that money as a retiree.  So, if you earn $40,000 in one year and put $3,000 of it in an IRA, your taxable income drops to $37,000. The deposit will grow tax-free through the years. If you withdraw any before age 59½, you’ll face a penalty. After that, you can withdraw and the money will be taxed as earned income.

•  Roth IRAs, Exemptions and No RMDs: Roth IRA contributions are never deductible. You pay taxes on the money when you earn it, just like any other income. The benefit of a Roth is that when the owners decide to withdraw from it after age 59½, they will not be faced with anytaxes. In other words, the Roth offers tax-exempt rather than tax-deferred savings. Also, traditional IRA rules include required minimum distributions (RMDs). With a traditional IRA, you must begin to take RMDs by April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70.5, but that isn’t the case with a Roth IRA.

•  The Best of Both Worlds? Naturally, IRA owners want to chart a path in which they’re penalized with taxes the least. It may be possible to cushion one’s retirement savings against future tax increases by converting some of an IRA to a Roth and earn tax-free gains going forward.

“Converting to a Roth will make sense for many people, and if you’re eligible to contribute to both types of IRAs, you may divide contributions between a Roth and traditional IRA,” Lowrey says. “But the total contributions to both must not surpass the limit for that tax year.”

About Jake Lowrey

Jake Lowrey is a financial consultant and president of Lowery Financial Group, (www.lowreyfinancial.com), an ethical and professional firm that guides clients to retirement success, including planning for long-term care needs. As a relationship-driven organization, Lowrey and his team educate clients about the newest, most progressive retirement and long-term care planning strategies to assure a brighter financial future.

4 Tricks for Creating a Winning Corporate Culture
CEO & Sales Guru Says the Right Culture Fosters
Engagement, Loyalty & Productivity

If you’re the CEO of a company, the realization that much of what you do can be copied by your competitors may be distressing, but veteran sales manager, consultant and business speaker Jack Daly says not so fast.

“Sure your competition copy what they can, but there are two things they can’t: your people and your culture,” says Daly, author of “Hyper Sales Growth,” (www.jackdaly.net).

“I specialize in corporate coaching and sales, the latter of which really counts on the talent and sustained motivation of the sales force. Even your best salesperson needs that extra shot from time to time, and the best way to ensure a driven team is to create a culture that fosters the results you want.”

Some companies are outpacing their competition because of their culture, including Southwest Airlines, Zappos and the Virgin Group, says Daly, who offers these tips for growing a business culture that inspires loyalty, engagement and the high performance those qualities produce.

•  Start new hires on a Friday – and with a big welcome. Many managers think new employees should start on Monday – the day when their new co-workers are facing a long to-do list for the week. Consider starting them on Friday, when the office is a bit looser. Also – how about throwing the new hire a welcoming party? Many offices hold going away parties for departing employees, but it makes more sense to put this enthusiasm toward the person with whom you’re making a commitment, rather than the person who’s no longer working for you.

•  Recognize accomplishments by putting it in writing – handwriting. Typing emails and instant messaging is clearly much more convenient, which is why an employee who deserves special attention will recognize the extra effort behind a hand-written note. A letter has that personal touch; the receiver knows that the manager or CEO has taken some time and effort to create a special communication just for him or her. 

•  Provide lunch – for free. “One of my clients started with just 10 employees, and each day one would bring in lunch for everyone,” Daly says. “As the company grew to several hundred employees, the CEO found that free lunches were so beneficial, the company now hires a caterer to maintain the boost in culture it provides.” While many may cringe at the expense, employee appreciation outweighs the cost, Daly’s client says, and it keeps people engaged within the office, rather than having employees leave for lunch.

•  Flatten the privilege structure. It’s not a good idea to create anything resembling a class system, including special parking for upper management. “I was the No.1 salesmen at one company, but I always preferred to park with the others,” Daly says. “I’d come in at 5 a.m. and noticed that those with reserved parking arrived significantly later than those who parked in unreserved spots.” Parking should be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Upper management shouldn’t feel too entitled or privileged above other employees.  

About Jack Daly

Jack Daly, (www.jackdaly.net), author of “Hyper Sales Growth,” is an expert in sales and sales management, inspiring audiences to take action in customer loyalty and personal motivation through explosive keynote and general session presentations. He draws upon more than 20 years of business experience, with several successful stints as the CEO of fast-growing companies. Daly has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA. He was a captain in U.S. Army and is an accomplished author, with audio and DVD programs.

Football & Retirement

June 11, 2014

How to Avoid Fumbling the Football
 in the Red Zone of Retirement

The 6 Documents You Need for Your Estate Plan Playbook

The start of football season may be months away, but the game’s on the minds of many after the NFL draft. Minicamps are gearing up and team personnel are organizing in preparation for the 2014-15 season.

Football is a big deal in the United States – and so is the surge of retirees – 10,000 baby boomers every day for the next 18 years, says multi-certified planner Larry Roby. The last thing pre-retirees want to do at this stage of their lives is to fumble while in the red zone of their retirement date, he says.

“Only 23 percent of pre-retirees have calculated how much they’ll need to save for retirement, according to New Retirement Landscape; while three-quarters say they’re confident in the red zone of retirement, an equal amount of people haven’t even done the math yet!” says Roby, founder and president of Senior Financial Advisors, (www.sfabridge.com), a wealth-management firm that holds ethics and education as top priorities.

“Confidence in your retirement portfolio is good – if it’s justified. Otherwise, it can lull people into a false sense of security and lack of preparedness.”

Having a diverse portfolio and understanding your options for life insurance, Social Security and 401(k) or other retirement accounts are staples for retirement planning. But there are also six crucial documents that are often either not in an individual’s playbook or are overlooked.

Here are the six documents you need for a solid red zone estate plan:

•  Joint Ownership — Enables you to own property jointly with another person and upon the death of the joint tenant, the surviving joint tenant automatically becomes the owner of the property.

•  Last Will and Testament – A legal document which expresses the wishes of a person concerning the disposition of their property after death and names the person who will manage the estate.

•  Durable Power of Attorney – Grants authority to another individual to act on behalf of the person who executes the instrument and are commonly used for legal and financial purposes.

•  Durable Health Care Power of Attorney- Grants authority to another individual to make health care decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make such decisions.

•  Advance Care Directive – A set of written instructions in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health, if they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity.

•  Living Trust – Created during your lifetime.  Assets are transferred to the trust while you are alive.  Provides written instructions for the disbursement of the trust assets upon your death.

“These documents can play a vital role in the major plays during the fourth quarter of your life,” Roby says. “Understanding how they work now can make the difference between a last-minute victory or loss.”

About Larry Roby

Larry Roby is the founder and president of Senior Financial Advisors, (www.sfabridge.com). He is a four-year member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has achieved “Court of the Table” status for the past three years. Roby attained his Series 65 license, which allows him to serve as an Investment Advisor Representative. He is also a Registered Financial Consultant, IARFC.org; RICP, Retirement Income Certified Professional; Licensed Insurance Agent and MCEP, Master Certified Estate Planner – NICEP.com.

6 Takeaways for Stay-at-Home CEOs
Veteran Entrepreneur Shares Tips for Balancing Business and Family

Being young and inexperienced can be intimidating for stay-at-home entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t mean you’re making mistakes, says veteran businesswoman Renae Christine.

Fresh out of college at 23, she thought she’d done something wrong when the wholesaler for her stationery company assigned her a personal representative.

“In reality I was doing so much business with them that they wanted to ensure my satisfaction,” says Christine, a serial entrepreneur who has created dozens of successful home-based businesses for herself and others. She shares practical how-to advice in her new book, “Home Business Startup Bible,” (http://richmombusiness.com/).

She was the busy mother of a 2-year-old and she’d just returned home – to the mess left in the wake of last-minute packing — when the rep showed up, she says.

“I was mortified when he walked into my home/business and he was shocked, but the experience marked my first success as an official business,” she says. “It was actually the beginning of a great relationship.”

Though it turned out well, Christine says her first years in business would have been much happier if she hadn’t had to deal with her own painful feelings of self-doubt, embarrassment, guilt, etc.

“The good news is – no stay-at-home entrepreneur needs to feel that way,” she says.

She offers these tips for maintaining professionalism in business without sacrificing – or feeling guilty about — family.

•  Don’t apologize for your kids. We need to stop apologizing for our kids’ squawks and energy while we’re on the phone or in meetings. Kids are kids and to them, Mommy is Mommy and their home is their home 24/7. If anything, we can all learn from our children and lighten up during business chats.

•  Don’t pick up the phone when you’re not ready. I used to think I had to say yes to everyone, including the telephone whenever it rang. Don’t answer the phone if you’re not ready to speak; if it’s important, the caller will leave a message. Consider an online chat system for your website; I use a free one via craftysyntax.com.

•  Add a disclosure message to your call-answering service. My disclosure indicates the quickest way to reach me, which is chat or email. Email is quickly becoming everyone’s preferred method of communication anyway, and this way, we all have a digital trail that will help us stay organized.

•  Say no and don’t apologize for it. You can say no to lots of things, like PTA meetings and extra bake sales for your kids’ school. When you say yes to those things, you are saying no to your business. You have to think of your new business as if you are your own boss. Would you ask your boss for a day off so you can sell cupcakes? Probably not.

•  Pick a neutral location. If you need to have business meetings in person, I suggest choosing a neutral place like a coffee shop. Don’t allow them to come to your home and, if you can avoid it, don’t go to their office. If you’re negotiating, this can give them a home-field advantage.

•  Just say it. I continue to attend trade shows. When I tell companies that I work from home, they might give me an indifferent attitude and hastily move on to chat up a brick-and-mortar owner. I simply take my business elsewhere; I know the value of my business, and so will another vendor.

About Renae Christine

Renae Christine is the owner of by Renae Christine, a company that has launched several successful businesses and has helped launch dozens more for others. A journalist, she’s known for her popular YouTube videos (search Rich Mom Business channel), which use humor and pragmatism to advise others who want to launch home-based businesses. She recently published “Home Business Startup Bible,” (www.richmombusiness.com), a comprehensive how-to guide. Christine is also the founder of the Rich Mom Business University and has come into popular demand as a speaker.

The Art of Advertising

April 17, 2014

4 New & Novel Approaches to Guerilla Marketing
Entrepreneur Emphasizes the Art of Advertising

With the continuing evolution of media consumption, it has become increasingly challenging for an advertiser to both capture and hold an audience’s attention, says advertising entrepreneur Patrick Walsh.

“A decade or two ago, media was relatively consolidated; advertisers knew they could reach a significant segment of their targeted audience via newspapers and television commercials, which almost seems quaint today,” he says. “We live in what academics call the Age of Choice, where reaching a broad audience and funneling their attention to a business has become trickier than ever.”

In the past, guerilla marketing – the unconventional and creative use of traditional marketing tools like stickers, print ads and billboards – has been an effective means of jolting public awareness. Today, however, innovation in guerilla techniques is essential. From flash mobs to viral marketing campaigns, successful advertising requires new twists and surprising uses of old tools and strategies.

Walsh shares some of the latest cutting-edge ideas, which – just like the “Mad Men” campaigns of old – are as much art as advertising.

•  Reverse graffiti: Also called clean tagging, this is built on the old joke of etching “Wash Me!” with a forefinger on a dirty car. The technique started with artists in urban areas who didn’t want to deface public buildings, sidewalks and subways with spray paint. Instead, they etched designs and messages in encrusted dirt and soot by actually cleaning off some of the grime. Miller beer, Greenpeace and Vans are among the companies that have used reverse graffiti.

•  Aerial messages: Creativity has revived a very old form of advertising: skywriting and sky banners. The trick today, Walsh says, is to surprise and delight the audience, so everyone who sees the display feels like they’re getting a private show. Walsh’s company, AirSign Inc., (www.airsign.com), recently executed a showstopper at this year’s South by Southwest – a venue that has become a hub for the next big thing. AirSign worked with artist ISHKY to pull off a media stunt on the eve of Pi Day, March 14, with five synchronized aircraft spelling out the first few hundred digits in pi’s infinite sequence. The air signage worked, earning widespread media attention, and under the Twitter handle #PiInTheSky, became the top trending topic.

•  Light projection advertising: Light projection campaigns, driven by 3D-Mapping, CGI and the wealth of online resources available today, enable the delivery of creative visual content and information to multiple locations in high-traffic urban areas, inviting consumers to start a dialog with the advertised brand or cause. Real-time interactive projections not only capture the eye, but also engage a potential consumer’s attention.

•  Moss art: In case you haven’t noticed, green – both the idea and the color – has become a prevalent theme in today’s advertising culture. Taking green to the next level, DIY-ers and small-business owners have put to use a way of creating signage with moss. It’s the perfect match for farmers and retailers of organic products. After meticulously combining the necessary recipe, including clumps of moss, buttermilk, water, sugar and corn syrup, small business owners simply paint the blended material onto a wall. After waiting several days to a few weeks and spraying the painted area with water, moss lettering appears.

 

About Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh is the CEO of AirSign Inc., (www.airsign.com), which, through the use of giant full-color airplane and helicopter banners, skywriting, digital night signs and blimps, produces show-stopping campaigns. The company recently received global recognition for its artistic skywriting display of several hundred pi characters over the 2014 South by Southwest festival. Walsh is a veteran entrepreneur.

Is Corporate Culture Part of Your Business Plan?
Former Executive Lists 4 Cultural Values & Behaviors
of Successful Companies

Whether you’re launching a new business or wondering why your existing company isn’t performing as well as predicted, longtime corporate executive Larry Katzen suggests taking a careful look at your business plan.

Did you include a section describing the workplace culture and the steps you’ll take to foster that culture?

“When you look at why businesses fail, it almost always has something to do with the culture,” says Katzen, author of, “And You Thought Accountants Were Boring – My Life Inside Arthur Andersen,” www.larrykatzen.com. “For nearly half of the startups that fail, incompetence is cited as the major cause, according to Statistic Brain. Tolerating – or not tolerating — incompetence is part of corporate culture.”

Katzen, a former managing partner at one of the world’s top five accounting firms, said his experience taught him a great deal about what kind of culture results in successful businesses. It was sadly ironic, he says, that Arthur Andersen, which held integrity chief among its values, was wrongly convicted of fabricated accusations related to the Enron scandal. The Supreme Court eventually exonerated Arthur Andersen, but the damage was already done. 

“Today’s business leaders cannot leave culture to chance,” Katzen says. “They must decide what values and beliefs will form the foundation of their company, and they must ensure those values are integrated every day through example, communication, policy and incentives.”

He lists four cultural values and behaviors your company must have to be successful:

•  Integrity – from the top down. From the executive level to part-time support staff, each individual must adhere to a code of values and ethics that’s based on doing the right thing, Katzen says. “It’s absolutely essential that you and your managers make decisions based on honesty and fair play. When appropriate, take the time to explain to employees the reasoning behind big decisions, to reinforce that they’re made in accordance with ethical considerations.” Have a consistent, well-publicized policy for dealing with integrity breaches among employees, and a zero tolerance policy for breaches among management. Managers and executives who don’t adhere to company values will sabotage the culture.

•  A positive perspective at the executive level. The business leaders set the tone for the company, and if executives or managers have negative attitudes, especially in times of crisis, employees will, too. “You and your employees are not just doing jobs, you’re on a mission to improve people’s lives with the product or service you provide,” Katzen says. “The team that embarks on a mission with no hope of achieving that mission will not achieve it.”

•  Be a leader in the office and in the community. As a business leader, you should take an active role in working with organizations that benefit the community. Find ways to encourage employees to volunteer time as well, even if it’s a corporate project to which you allow each employee to dedicate a certain number of their payroll hours. “We’re all more gratified when we know we’re contributing something meaningful to the greater good,” Katzen says. “And remember – healthy communities grow healthy businesses.”

•  Make health and well-being a company priority.  Employees who exercise regularly, make healthy lifestyle changes and get regular checkups and vaccinations are doing you a big favor. They’ll be more productive and energetic and you’ll have less absenteeism. Make it easy for employees to schedule time for doctor visits, especially if you have a 9-to-5 office. Have health fair days, where employees can get free screenings and flu shots.  Reward trips to the gym, weight loss, smoking cessation and other healthy choices with drawings for prizes. And keep in mind, this is already a value among millennials – the teens to early 30-somethings who will soon make up half the work force. “They’ll enjoy being a part of that culture,” Katzen says.

Sometimes, Katzen says, CEOs with firmly held values conducive to an energetic, thriving workplace will naturally and unconsciously create a great corporate culture. But those who take time to think about the culture they want, spell out the details and exemplify and communicate them have a greater chance of success.

“Make it part of your business plan, because it’s as important as anything else in that plan.”

About Larry Katzen

After graduating from Drake University in 1967, Larry Katzen started working at Arthur Andersen and quickly rose through the ranks to become the Great Plains Regional Managing Partner. An honorable, hard-working man who devoted his life to Arthur Andersen, Larry was there from the company’s meteoric rise to its unjust demise. He stayed with the firm for 35 years, serving clients globally until 2002. He recounts his experiences in, “And You Thought Accountants Were Boring – My Life Inside Arthur Andersen,” (www.larrykatzen.com).

Aphorisms in Business

March 21, 2014

10 Things MBA Students
Can Learn from Infantry School

Military Principles Significantly Complement
Business Tactics, Says Straight-Talking
Texas Entrepreneur

In many ways, the knowledge gleaned from four years of college does not compare to what a person can learn at infantry school, says successful Texas businessman David M. Smith.

“The Army provided me with more fun and interesting experiences and principles than college. I spent a lot of time in the company of officers and immersing myself in reading military classics,” says Smith, author of “The Texas Spirit,” (www.TheTexasSpiritBook.com).

“Most students in MBA programs nationwide will never have that military experience, which is why I’ve condensed what I’ve learned into 10 essential principles.”

Smith says the following aphorisms apply to both military and business endeavors.

•  Take the offensive to win. Defense alone never wins. There have been numerous efforts in history to construct some form of “impregnable” defense that will withstand all invaders; ultimately, none were successful. Whether in war, sports or the business world, victory depends upon taking some kind of offensive initiative.

•  When defense is necessary, fall back carefully, with a plan and while firing. Cancer, for example, is a war millions face. If a patient is to survive, he or she must take proactive measures – to fire and fall back – with treatments such as chemotherapy. In other words, your best defense is often your best offense.

•  Be prepared to use your last option to decimate an invader, but only if you must. Infantry officers call it the FPL – final protective line, which acts like an overdrive on a vehicle. An FPL uses all weaponry to fire at once, continuously firing down a single pre-planned, narrow lane. Depending on the stakes, parties at a business negotiation, for example, should know their FPL option.

•  The counterattack … Remember, the easiest time to resume the offensive is immediately. If you’ve been forced off a hill or into an undesirable position, regroup and counterattack!

•  A good general always has enough troops. Whether you’re a general, lieutenant, private or middle manager – make sure you’re marshalling your resources wisely. For the layperson, that might translate to never making a purchase you can’t afford.

•  Never take a weak front. In war, a weak front is often just a lure to tempt the opponent to attack; taking a weak front is like taking the bait in a trap. In business and in advertising, we are confronted with proposals that are too good to be true. Be skeptical of potential weak fronts.

•  Never sleep while on guard duty. At Texmark Chemicals, sleeping, dozing, napping or drifting off is an unforgivable sin for a shift operator, which is the equivalent of guard duty during wartime. Vigilance is the key to surviving and winning war, even during lulls in the action.

•  Do not heed the voices of caution too much. If the general listens mainly to the quartermaster, who is in charge of supplies, the army will never maneuver. While supplies are essential for survival, it is the risk takers who enjoy victory.

•  Have a primary and a secondary objective. In a military unit or in a business team, you should have one clearly defined primary objective, understood by all persons in the unit. If a secondary objective is absolutely essential, it is better to have one preplanned, and not created during the heat of combat.

•  “Clean the lint off the helix.” This quote refers to the screen on clothes dryers that catches lint and frequently needs to be cleared. Cutting corners, like overlooking the helix, can ruin an officer’s uniform – an important part of the military and business community. Little details are often very important; when overlooked they may have large consequences. 

About David M. Smith

David M. Smith is the author of “The Texas Spirit,” www.TheTexasSpiritBook.com (2014; Halcyon Press). He’s the founder and owner of Chemical Exchange, Inc. and Texmark Chemicals of Galena Park, Texas. An El Paso native, he attended the University of Texas in Austin. Early in his career, he moved east to Houston and established himself in the petrochemical industry. His new book, “The Texas Spirit,” features a series of essays about the ways in which the United States can benefit from Texas’ example, including economic models and moral fiber.

(article supplied by  www.newsandexperts.com)

Tax Saving Advice

March 5, 2014

Putting Off Working On Your Tax Return  May Cost You, Financial Planner Warns

3 Tips for Keeping More of Your Own Money

Nearly 150 million Americans will file federal income tax returns this year and, unfortunately, many will be shelling out much more of their hard-earned money than necessary, says veteran financial expert Jeff Gorton.

“With the ridiculous complexity of our tax code, I can understand how the average person might want to put off doing their homework, but that’ll cost you,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (http://www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

“When you think about all you do to earn your money, and the lengths we’ll go to save a few bucks, it doesn’t make sense to not do all we can to prepare for the inevitable – our compulsory contribution to Uncle Sam’s bank account.”

There is nothing unpatriotic about taking advantage of legal measures to reduce your tax bill, Gorton says. Most Americans, however, don’t understand the basics of how to minimize the tax burden, he says.

“If you wait until the last minute to do your taxes, you’re sure to miss out on savings,” says Gorton, who offers some basic and more advanced tax-saving options.

• Credits: Tax credits are usually subtracted dollar for dollar from the actual tax liability and may be utilized when filing for 2013. They include the Child Tax Credit, which allows up to $1,000 for children younger than 17; the American Opportunity Credit, featuring up to $2,500 in tax savings per eligible student for tuition costs for four years of post-high-school education; and the Energy-Efficient Home Improvement Tax Credit, which grants qualifying taxpayers 10 percent of the cost of certain energy-efficient building materials — up to a $500 lifetime credit. The Child and Dependent Care Credit, for those who have to pay someone to care for a child younger than 13, or another dependent, offers up to $3,000 for one qualifying individual, or up to $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals.

• Deductions: Like tax credits, deductions have phase-out limits, so you may want to consult with a professional. Deductions are subtracted from your income before your taxes are calculated, which may reduce the amount of money on which you are taxed and, by extension, your eventual tax liability. Some examples include contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. And, you may be able to write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing work for a charity. Others may include amounts set aside for retirement through a qualified retirement plan, such as an Individual Retirement Account; medical expenses exceeding 10 percent of your adjusted gross income are now deductible – expenses exceeding 7.5 percent are still deductible for those older than age 65; and, potentially, mortgage interest paid on a loan secured for your primary residence.

• Tax-favored investing: This involves both tax-exempt investments and tax-deferred investments. Tax-exempt investments, which include such vehicles as municipal bonds and certain money market funds, offer a way to grow your money that’s exempt from federal taxes. Municipal bonds are free of federal income tax and may be free of state and local income taxes for investors who live in the area where the bond was issued. Tax-deferred investments, on which taxes are postponed until you withdraw your money, include qualified retirement plans, such as traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored plans, as well as insurance products such as annuities and, sometimes, life insurance.

About Jeff Gorton, CPA, CFP®

Jeff Gorton is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Financial Planner™ specializing in individual tax and retirement planning. He is also an Investment Advisor Representative under Alphastar Capital Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, and has a life and health insurance license. Gorton works with individuals and their families to create and protect their financial legacies. He specializes in working with retirees in the areas of tax planning, benefits, retirement planning, estate planning and safe money techniques. He received his BBA in Accounting from the University of Oklahoma. Gorton previously worked for 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer for a large retail organization, overseeing their accounting, benefits and 401(k) retirement plans.

(this article supplied by Ginny Grimsley)

 

How the Little Guys Can Win In Today’s David-and-Goliath Business World Business Intelligence Expert Shares Tips for Using Actionable Data to Gain the Advantage

Before the internet, small companies didn’t stand a chance against the Goliaths, says Corrine Sandler, a globally recognized leader in business intelligence and market research.

That’s because no war can be won without intelligence and, before the digital era, collecting actionable data and information about one’s competitors, market and customers cost a lot more than most small businesses – the Davids – could afford.

“But today, the Davids are taking down the Goliaths,” says Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp., a global business intelligence company, and author of the new book, “Wake Up or Die” (www.wakeupordie.us), a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment.

“Thanks to the internet, the boutiques and startups have access to all kinds of free tools for gathering intelligence. They’re also much more agile than the big corporations; they can make a decision and act immediately. That’s essential in a marketplace where conditions change quickly.”

In “Wake Up or Die,” Sandler applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” – the 2,000-year-old military treatise penned by one of the greatest commanders in history – to the modern business economy. Sun Tzu held that the goal in any war is to win without ever entering into physical battle.

“By gathering actionable data and acting on it immediately, by using it to predict next moves and spot opportunities, small businesses can and are taking down the big ones without a drop of blood being shed,” Sandler says. 

She offers smaller business owners these tips for acquiring and using intelligence:

• If you lack resources, make use of free or inexpensive intelligence-gathering tools. Visit competitors’ websites and collect data about them. Many businesses put a great deal of revealing information on their sites, which can benefit you. Also, make note of any changes on their sites. Google Alerts can tell you when they’re releasing new products or expanding. Use Google analytics tools such as Google Hot Trends to tell you what’s in the collective consciousness – potential consumer demand – at any given time. Google’s key word tool will give you ideas for powerful key words in search terms, and use the traffic tool to measure global volume on those key words.

• Make intelligence-gathering part of your company’s culture. From the manager who overhears a conversation in the grocery checkout line to the clerk obsessed with Twitter, every employee in your business is a potential intelligence resource. Encourage employees to pay attention as they interact with others outside the company. They may discover a nagging issue that no other company is addressing, allowing you to create uncontested market space. Or, you may learn critical information about a competitor that allows you to seize an advantage. Make intelligence gathering a company lifestyle.  

• Appoint a Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) to coordinate and analyze information from a variety of sources. In smaller companies, leaders tend to rely on pipelines of internal information provided by employees who don’t understand how to use intelligence to make empowering decisions. That can render important data inactionable (unusable or simply not used). A CIO can oversee and coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence, and brief you – the business leader – daily so that all data is actionable.

“What enables you to make smart, timely decisions is access to precise intelligence,” Sandler says. “Your advantage, as a smaller business, is that you don’t have the corporate processes and protocols that inhibit fast action.

“As Sun Tzu wrote, ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win 100 battles without a single loss.’ ”

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” (www.wakeupordie.us) a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine’s company was ranked No. 2 on Profit Magazine’s list of top 50 fastest-growing companies, and Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.

 

( this article was sent to By-Lines from Ginny Grimsley )