Friday, August 1, 2014

Auto manufacturers are back in the driver's seat

In 2014, U.S. auto sales are forecast to exceed 16 million vehicles.  Crossovers, large vehicles and large trucks have led the way per the Wall Street Journal. In the wake of the  General Motors Company and Chrysler Group bankruptcies, bailouts and restructurings, both these vehicle manufacturers, in addition to Ford Motor Company, have seen their revenue streams increase substantially. Yet even with positive industry data, the U.S. auto industry has had to bounce back from significant commercial obstacles. One such example is the vast amount of auto recalls GM has made in the recent past.


In the first five months of 2014, monthly domestic retail auto sales have consistently been above 400 thousand units per month per the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. Year-over-year sales were 4.3% higher than the first half of 2013 according to Forbes. By comparison, in 2009, there were months were the number of units sold were under 300 thousand units. Toyota and General Motors are still the largest auto manufacturers in terms of global market share and sales of  electric vehicles have also been increasing indicating a trend toward fuel efficiency and a lower carbon footprint.

Electric vehicle sales
Electric vehicles produce lower carbon emissions and are more fuel efficient


In the U.S. pickup trucks are a money maker for auto producers per Forbes. Despite strong competition from international companies, global auto industry sales from GM, Ford and Chrysler has averaged 44.45 percent of total global auto manufacturing market share since 2008 per Motor Trend. In 2014, GM and Ford hold approximately 34.5% of global market share. Moreover, of the five largest auto manufacturers, both Toyota and Honda have lost .6 percent more market share than U.S. manufacturers since 2008. However, combined U.S. Japanese and U.S. market share shrank from 74.6 percent in 2008 to 64.8 percent in 2011.


In terms of the transportation trends among Americans, people are driving their cars for longer and drivers are seeking alternatives methods of transportation. For example,  in 2011, scooter sales rose 11.8 percent according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, and Q1, 2012 motorcycle and scooter sales rose 8.8 percent per the L.A. Times. Additionally, the average length of time passenger cars are driven rose to 11.1 years in 2011, from 8.4 years in 1995 per R.L. Polk and Co.


Employment in the vehicle manufacturing industry has shrunk even though hiring has increased since 2009. For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in February 2000, 1.33 million workers were employed in the motor vehicle and parts industry, whereas by May 2012 the number was 770 thousand. Automotive industry statistics also indicate the non-automotive components of the economy are growing at a slower rate. This is because the declining U.S. automotive industry in terms of market share has only declined 1.43 percent as a portion of total retail sales between January 2008 and May 2012 per the Commerce Department.

Image license: Mariordo; CC BY-SA 3.0

Financial news: 08/01/2014

NYT: NLRB places liability accountability on umbrella corporations
MW: Job market strength doesn't emphasize part-time work & wage stagnation
ZH: Utilities and chemicals industry debt defaults have risen
Bloomberg: Consumer confidence is near highs along with stock prices
Forbes: Yr-over-yr auto sales forecast to be up 10% in July
CNBC: Brokerage survey finds investors are worried about monetary policy
CNN: In 1886, Martha Washington was imprinted on $1 silver certificates
Reuters: Employment costs have risen .7% per Employment Cost Index
Fox: The ISM Midwest manufacturing index fell 10 pts to 52.6 in July
BBC: Eurozone prices rose .4% in July, a continued deflationary risk
BI: Argentinian stocks fell sharply on Thursday, after government pursues default

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five work from home jobs to supplement your income

By Audrey Clark

What would you do with an extra $100, $500 or $1000 a month? Maybe you'd pay off a debt, or treat your family to a nice vacation, or buy a new vehicle. No matter what your financial goals are, they can become a reality if you start a side gig working at home in your spare time. Here are the top five work from home jobs that you can use to supplement your current income:

Self employment in the U.S.
Sustaining home business requires ongoing revenue
Become a freelancer- Though this term is often associated primarily with writers, other creative types can find freelance gigs in various fields including photography, graphic design, web design, and even consulting. Freelancing allows you to pick and choose the clients you work with, as well as set your own hours so that you can work as much or as little as you want. 

In order to get started, you might want to create a website that outlines what you do, shows off a portfolio of your work, and even testimonials from clients. And be sure to tell everyone you know about your new business in order to get referrals.

Sell gigs on Fiverr- At first glance, making five dollars for each completed gig may not seem like much, especially when Fiverr takes out its share. However, many people report to earning five-figures a month by offering "gig extras." 

Say you create logos, and you charge five dollars for a logo. You can then also extras such as: five options to choose from (ten dollars extra), ten options (twenty dollars), an editable file (ten dollars), or a guarantee to complete the job in just 24 hours (ten dollars). So what started as a five-dollar gig could end up clocking in at closer to $45. If you are able to complete five orders an hour, as US News reports that some sellers do, you could earn up to $450 for two hours of work each night.

Do medical coding and billing- While this job may require a specific education, medical coding and billing is a lucrative field. Because you can complete a certification from a vocational school in as little as 36 weeks, you can get started sooner rather than later on earning more money in a lucrative and growing field where you play a vital role and getting people the medical care that they need, all without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Tutor online- Thanks to the Internet, everyone can be a teacher. Some well-known tutoring services even hire non-licensed teachers, as long as they meet their other requirements. Sites like Web Wise Tutors offer licensed teachers the opportunity to work up to 20 hours a week, perfect for current or former teachers to do on nights, weekends and holidays. 

There's also a huge market for native English speakers to help non-native speakers improve their speaking and this can easily be done online via Skype. There's no shortage of websites offering to connect you with clients, but do your homework beforehand to make sure that they're legitimate.

Teach a course online- For a more passive approach to online teaching, create a course in an area where you're an expert on online learning portals like Udemy and Creative Live. You get to create content about a topic that you love such as Sweater Knitting Basics, Learn to Cook Italian Cuisine, Car Mechanics 101, and can get paid each time someone registers for your class. You decide the content, its structure and the price. Depending on the platform, and how the participants are acquired (through your referral link or from the site's advertising efforts) you'll receive a portion of the class free.

These are just five work from home jobs that thousands of men and women do to earn supplementary income. Whether your strengths lie in a creative, educational, or analytical field, there’s a job out there for you.

About the author: Audrey Clark is a skilled freelance blogger covering a range of topics from careers and finance to travel and leisure, along with everything in-between. When not writing, she’s always on the lookout for her next adventure. Connect with Audrey on Twitter and Google+.

Images: Idea Incubator LP; CC BY-SA 3.0; "Entrepreneurial activity in the U.S."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Outdoor lighting tips for added curb appeal and safety

Exterior home lighting
Well selected and positioned exterior lights can yield as much as 50% ROI
By Joan Silver

When executed well, outdoor lighting can greatly enhance the architectural detail of your home exterior and highlight landscape features, presenting your home in the best possible light. And, if your home is on the market, landscape lighting also adds value to it. For instance, an investment in outdoor lighting for upper-bracket homes can yield a 50% return. The reason why buyers, or your guests, appreciate homes with good outdoor lighting is not only because of aesthetics but, more importantly, because of the security it gives – against intruders and accidents, such as tripping or falling. Here are some useful tips in helping you plan and install your home’s landscape lights.

Mimick the moonlight

The key to effectively and beautifully lighting your home at night is to achieve a “moonlight effect”. Instead of aiming to illuminate the entire exterior of your home with bright light, plant lights strategically to emit that natural looking shine on particular features that you wish to highlight, as well as areas that will need illumination so that it is safe for you, your family, and your guests to walk around and towards your home safely while at the same time keeping it safe from prowlers.

Landscape Lights at Capitol Lighting

Use uplights

Create a dramatic effect with uplighting but remember to use it in moderation. It’s a great way to highlight trees and other architectural and landscaping features. Add uplights to plantings along a pathway to break up the “runway” look of having too many lights lined up alongside a walk.

Create a focal point

The main door is usually set as the center stage. Wall sconces or pendant lights on both sides of your home’s main entry add a welcoming appeal for your guests. You many also choose to have a flush or semi flush mount lighting fixture just above the door.

Incorporate a variety of fixtures

Although the primary lighting would come from spot and flood lights, installing a few other light fixtures such as area lights, step lights, bollards, or post lights create a beautiful scene aside from adding security to your home.

Stick to warm light

While there is a wide array of hues available for lighting, using a single shade of warm white light all throughout your home exterior makes for a sophisticated and appealing facade. Remember, you are showcasing your home and its outdoor features, not hosting a lights show.

Use a timer

Orchestrate with a timer and set your outdoor lights to start as the sun begins to set and turn off at midnight, leaving only the security lighting on. Automating this task keeps you from forgetting to turn your exterior lighting on or off at night and also ensures that there is outdoor lighting even when you are out or on a vacation.

Apply motion detectors

Motion-detecting security lighting installed near the garage, stairs, and pathway can help ensure safety and prevent falls and other accidents. In terms of security, this also helps keep intruders out. Another advantage would be its energy efficiency, as these are only activated when there is someone within the area and instantly turns off when you leave.

Outdoor lighting goes beyond showcasing your home and your landscape features. More importantly, it serves to ensure your safety and security. It pays to plan carefully and invest in the right lighting fixtures so that you are guaranteed to have a beautifully lit home at night that keeps you safe and secure.

About the author: Joan Silver is a known lighting expert from Capitol Lighting ( and a fan of all things “lighting”. She currently provides customers and designers with robust information on their lighting needs.

Images: 1. Edu Nunes; CC BY 2.0; "3D Exterior House Sunset"; 2. SuperStrikerTwo; CC BY-SA 2.0