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Monday, September 1, 2014

Bond buying tips

What to look for when purchasing bonds
U.S. bonds are considered low risk, but often yield less than alternate investments

Bond yields vary considerably, and changes in the bond market can affect the performance of bonds making it a good idea to be aware of smart ways to buy bonds. For example, according to CNN Money, no single bond fund can provide big returns on investment like they used to. For this reason a diversification of bond investing is recommended. Before purchasing any bonds, it is a good idea to learn about them, and for that the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association or SIFMA provides a helpful guide.

Strategy


A smart bond buying method should ideally account for inflation, diversification, duration, risk and yield. A good bond buying strategy also helps reach individual investing and financial planning goals. For example, a younger investor seeking an investment less volatile than stocks, but with higher yield than federal bonds may choose to purchase a BRIC bond fund that invests in debt instruments issued by Brazil, Russia, India and China. Moreover, these countries have credit ratings ranging from BBB to AA, and have 10-year bond yields as high as 12 percent per Trading Economics

Variables


Key variables that affect bond buying are interest, bond rating, price and the maturity date of the bond. Morningstar highlights the influence of these variables including how changes in bond interest rates can negatively affect the price of previously issued bonds on the secondary bond market. Furthermore, the affect of bond default risk puts upward pressure on bond yields yet a positive economic outlook can downwardly influence credit risk. As bond prices rise and fall with changes in economic and market conditions, smart bond buyers can determine whether or not those new prices are good based on yield and in comparison to competing bond investments. 

Products


The type of bond product purchased can have a significant impact on return on investment. For instance, according to the Financial Regulatory Authority or FINRA, although international bonds can offer higher yields, they are subject to sovereign risk. FINRA describes sovereign risk as the complete risk that includes currency and interest rate risk. To avoid these risks, international bonds that appreciate against the dollar and have stable or rising yields with reasonably low default risk are more ideal. Other smart ways to buy bonds are through tax free municipal bond index funds because they can optimize retirement income and be useful in financial planning. 

Mechanisms


Bonds can be purchased using a number of mechanisms. Treasury Direct can be used to buy bonds directly from the U.S. Government instead of through a broker. If a broker is used, Investopedia warns that even if a broker does not charge commission, they may increase the bond price instead. In light of this, investors can also use self-guided discount brokerage accounts to lower the cost of purchasing bonds. In some cases a brokerage account is necessary to buy bonds. For example, FINRA states international bonds can be purchased, but usually with the help of a broker. In any case, smart ways to buy bonds factor in the effectiveness of the bond buying mechanism relative to cost, ease of use, and availability of product in terms of overall return.

Image license: US-PDGov

Financial news: Labor Day 2014

Labor Day  2014
United States stamp: Labor Day


Business Insider: Year-over-year CD sales are down 19.2%
ZH: Central Bank Incentive program points to index buying
AP: Obamacare tax forms may be late per tax professionals
CNBC: Monetary policy divergence concerns analysts
CNN: Gamblers & investors believe they can predict future
BBC: U.K. businesses seek more power within EU structure
Bloomberg: EU seeks broader sanctions against Russia
Reuters: EU leaders to hold emergency job growth summit
NYT: EU economic growth stalling,  tensions high
MW: China's economy pressured per August PMI of 51.1







Image license: Karen Horton, CC BY 2.0

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wine before nine: America's forward-thinking wine trends

U.S. wine industry trends
Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted;
some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.
- Paulo Coelho

By Erin Tran

Even though wine has been around since 7000 BCE, its connection to everyday life, technology, and business is incredible to look over. Today, wine is a dessert to some, a means of livelihood to others, and an inspiration towards innovation. In the end, wine has one main purpose and that is to be enjoyed.

Americans work longer hours, have less vacations, and a stronger need to relax compared to any other country in the developed world. In Japan where over-working is also a problem, the term for “death by work” (literally) is “karoshi.” Businesses understand this need to relax and enjoy life and many are responding through their offerings. Let’s take a look at some of America’s innovative wine trends that businesses and customers are moving forward with.

Wine on tap

The idea of wine coming from a tap is brilliant, simple, and more eco-friendly. With less bottles to toss and an easier way for restaurants to manage the serving temperatures and quality of wine, many places across the country are seeing wine on tap popping up. Winemakers and wine drinkers were hesitant at first but many realized the benefits of a longer-lasting, higher-quality product that is also cheaper to keep on hand.

Many communities in the US are favoring buying local and Texas is definitely one of the states that really boasts buying local. Thus, it was only natural to offer the ability to purchase local wines in kegs. At Whole Foods’ home base, Austin, TX, shoppers gained the eco-friendly option of purchasing wine on tap in 2012 and it claims to be the first grocery store to offer wine on tap to its customers. The trend spread across Texas to many restaurants, primarily by word-of-mouth.

Whole Foods wine time

Pushing the envelope on wine through the inspiration of craft beers, Whole Foods promotes their Sip, Shop & Enjoy philosophy by allowing guests to visit their Wine and Beer Bar in select stores around the country and do just that—grab an adult beverage and sip on it as you wander around the store checking off items on your grocery list. The wine is available through taps.

Comparable to beer growlers, Texas’ 16 Whole Foods offer “Old Schoolers” glass jugs that customers can wash out and bring back for more wine on tap, but they are more commonly referred to as “boars.” Another plus is that Whole Foods recycles wine corks, so now you don’t have to stockpile them in your junk drawer in hopes of using them as fishing floaters in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Starbucks evenings

Speaking of zombie apocalypses, Starbucks not only caters to their groggy coffee zombies in the morning, they also picked up on what other small coffee houses around the country had a niche in—serving alcohol in addition to coffee. Extending the coffee house atmosphere into a relaxing place to have a drink after 4pm, Starbucks offers a selection of wine that varies from city to city and a more random supply of beers. 

In addition, they have gourmet Small Plates and Dessert available to nibble on too. The food is nothing short of fancy for a more upscale atmosphere:
  • Blue Brie Cheese, Toasted Wine Walnut Cranberry Bread and Fig Preserves
  • Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Honey-Dijon Sauce
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Balsamic Glaze
  • Truffle Mac & Cheese
  • Chicken and Roasted Tomato Flatbread
  • Artichoke and Goat Cheese Flatbread
  • Chocolate Fondue with Dried Fruit Medley and Madeleine Cookies
  • Salted Caramel Cheesecake Brownie
Shut-up and take my money. Oh wait, they’re not everywhere yet. The launch of Starbucks Evenings began in Chicago, Seattle, LA, Atlanta, Portland, and Washington, D.C. Cities like Dallas do not foresee Starbucks Evenings coming anytime soon since most counties are considered “dry” where restaurants are not allowed to sell alcohol but most are BYOB. At least they have wine on tap.

Single-serving wine bottles

In areas and events where BYOB is the norm, including certain restaurants, get-togethers, picnics, hikes, camping, etc., the invention of single-serving wine is the golden ticket wine drinkers are looking for. They are available in glass and plastic containers, both recyclable, and the latter much less breakable. Stadiums and festivals are also toting single-serving wine for a more convenient and safe way to sell to customers who are wandering around without a table to set their wine glass on.

For those who would like to create their own single-serving wine bottles, there are multiple benefits to doing this. First, you can choose whatever wine you like and pour it into a 187 ml reusable wine bottle with a screw top instead of carrying around a 750 ml bottle. Second, when you’ve had a glass or two and put away the bottle, moving the wine into smaller bottles reduces the oxidation and decanted sediments.

Third, this gives you the option of having multiple bottles of wine open and available to drink. Fourth, if you want an even more budget-friendly option, purchase liters of wine to distribute among your smaller bottles instead. Fifth, if you’re a little heavy-handed on the wine pouring, this is a great way to help you maintain serving sizes.


About the author: This is a guest blog by Erin Tran, a writer for LiquorMart.com. If you liked this piece, then follow me on Twitter @LiquorMart. When I’m not writing about wine or culture, I’m usually looking for the next wine festivals and checking out local restaurants.

Image license: NoahHererra/Pixabay; US-PD 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Email marketing mistakes can cause consumer panic

By Andrew Reilly

One of the best things about email marketing is that it can provide you with an opportunity to communicate directly with your clients. However, one of the worst things, on occasions, about email marketing is that it can provide you with an opportunity to communicate directly with your clients. While this is generally a positive thing, if your email marketing strategy is poor, or a mistake occurs, you may regret being able to reach the inbox of your clients in a swift and timely manner.

Email marketing errors to avoidThis has been the case recently for Carbonite, a company that provides a backup service. The firm sent an email out informing clients that they had a total of zero files stored in the cloud. The email, which has been put down to a glitch suffered by the email marketing team, caused a great deal of consternation for many customers, both current and former. If you were no longer a client of the firm, you would be annoyed at being informed of the fact that you had no files in storage, which you knew to be the case. If you did have files stored in the cloud, you would start to panic, worrying about whether vital documents had been lost by the firm.

The cloud is an important part of work and operational duties for most firms and people in the modern era but when cloud computing and storage doesn’t work, there can be huge consequences. This is why the thought of losing all of your data or documents can be a terrifying situation for many people. This means that the email sent out by Carbonite would have been a massive PR blow for the firm, even if their clients didn’t actually suffer any data losses.

It didn’t take long for affected users to make their way to social media in order to complain about the service they received. Bad customer service has always been passed on quickly but in the current climate where social media rules the roost, customers can complain and moan like never before. This means that news of the Carbonite spread far and wide in next to no time.

This incident would have been bad enough for a firm but worse was to follow after the company managed to send out a block email informing clients that their free trial of the services offered by the company was going to conclude on the next day.

A bad news day got worse for the firm

It turned out that the email was received by a number of users who had long stopped having a Carbonite subscription, and even more worryingly, the email was received by some users who had never signed up for a Carbonite account in any way, shape or form.

The firm was now in full fire-fighting PR mode, assuring clients with accounts that their subscription was not set to end and that if clients did have data stored in their cloud, that everything was safe. One of the vice presidents of the firm sent an email to the affected customers, apologising but stressing the fact that everything was safe and the incorrect emails were caused by glitches in their email marketing software.

Even though it can be helpful to have a handy scapegoat when it comes to getting out of a problem, blaming software or an external provider isn’t going to have any impact on the firm. When a consumer receives an email from a firm, they don’t stop to think whether this has been received from an external company working on behalf of the firm, or whether it has been provided by an email software firm, they only think of the actual firm that sent it out.

This is why it is important for businesses to ensure that they work with firms, including email software providers, that can be relied upon for an effective service. This is why working with a firm like Wizemail will make a difference because you can rest assured that you receive the best level of service possible. Trusting in a well-regarded and highly respected email marketing firm, provides you with one less thing to worry about, enabling you to fully focus on your core strengths and activities.

It is not as though Carbonite has suffered a fatal blow due to these emails sent out in error, but it is not as if they have helped to boost the firms identity or image either. When it comes to creating a strong and viable image, there is a need for firms to think about every aspect of their communication channel, including their email messages.

About the author: Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 8 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn't sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

Image license: PCL-BO; CC BY-SA 2.5