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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The affect of healthcare law on U.S. businesses

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been legitimated on the basis of taxation by the U.S. Supreme Court. This means small businesses that were hoping to not be affected by the healthcare law will still have to comply with its provisions. Small businesses will be faced with weighing the costs of more affordable health insurance for employees with tax penalties and and being required to provide insurance that they previously did not.


Healthcare and business costsCosts of providing healthcare benefits also vary by business size. Beginning in 2014, businesses with under 50 employees do not have to provide health care insurance to employees, per The Street. However, businesses with 50-199 employees have the option to pay a fine per each employee not insured by the business; employers with over 200 employees will be federally required to provide employee health coverage. Moreover, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare benefit costs vary by business type with unionized labor being more expensive than service labor.


The hiring process also stands a chance of being affected by Obamacare. Some employers will either be less willing to hire on the grounds of additional costs, or will evade the law by under-hiring employees per an employer interview with CNBC. Wages and salary raises are other ways employers will offset the costs of mandatory healthcare per National Public Radio. Furthermore, with unemployment already high, the added headwind of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act will further strain employer hiring.


The tax code changes brought about by Obamacare will include a $2,000 fine for businesses with between 50-199 employees that do not offer healthcare insurance to their employees per the Street. However, to help lower the expense of being required to provide healthcare insurance, businesses will also qualify for a tax credit. This healthcare tax credit will cover up to 35 percent of the premium cost of insurance per the Whitehouse. Added to the lower cost of healthcare insurance overall, small businesses will be alleviated of higher costs, but not from a new form of taxation.


An indirect affect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act is its influence on national economics. Furthermore, if the tax drag of the healthcare law proves to be too much of a burden on the economy, businesses could pay another price in the form of lower revenues and profit margins. This is because the individual mandate to carry health insurance influences consumer spending. Since consumer spending is a large factor in economic growth, a cycle of lower revenue, and unemployment is possible if the economy is unduly strained by the law.


Political gridlock in Congress over healthcare law is also contributing to economic instability per U.S. News. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act and Speaker of the House, John Boehner has pledged to do the same per New England Cable News. Wide dissent among members of organizations such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses also serve as a bellwether of business sentiment.

Image license: Pixabay/Nemo; US-PD

Options trading: Limiting the risk

By Brad Reinhard

If you are managing your own investment portfolio and are interested in developing it further, options trading, though often perceived as risky, actually provides the trader more control. It can limit risk with predetermined levels of reward.

Most starting investors are often taught to stay away from options and margin accounts because of the potential high risk. However, there are specific options trading systems that are optimized to provide consistent income while minimizing downside risk. One such option trade is called a Bear Call Credit Spread. This article will provide an introduction to what this option trade is and how you can benefit from it.

Understanding the terminology

Without having to learn myriad option buying and selling strategies you can often be proficient at just one or two popular strategies, one being the bear call credit spread. To become proficient in a targeted strategy you first need to understand the industry jargon and terminology associated with the strategy. Here are a number of definitions that will help you better understand the bear call credit spread option trade:
  • Decay of time value - options are considered wasting assets whereby their value declines over time as long as they are not in the money. If an option is approaching its expiration the chances that it will be in the money are reduced, thereby reducing its time value.
  • At/Out of/In the money - these three terms refer to whether options are gaining, losing or neutral in terms of money positions. At the money (ATM) means the underlying asset price (stocks, commodities or futures) is identical to the strike price of the option (either puts or calls); this position is in neutral position. In the money refers (ITM) to the fact that the option currently has some intrinsic value because the put or call price has been met; a positive cash position. Out of the money (OTM) refers to an option that has no intrinsic value; generally a money losing position.
  • Strike price: Refers to the price at which a call option can be exercised in which the underlying asset is purchased or refers to a put option where the underlying asset can be sold. Strike prices are determinant of an options premium which represents the market value of the contract.
  • Spread: The strategy of buying and selling options with different strike prices establishing a price range difference providing the possibility of a net credit.
  • Vertical spread: Refers to a spread position that has the same expiration dates but differing strike prices. Profits on this type of spread are determined by the difference between the premiums on the two positions.
  • Legs: Represents a single call or put; for example, a bear call spread comprises 2 legs – one short call option at one strike price, and one long call option at a higher strike price.

Bear call credit spread explained

Stock options control risk and increase potential financial returns
Bear call spreads reduce investment risk
This strategy is best used when you think the underlying asset (stock, commodity or future) is going to hold steady or decline in price. This strategy is implemented when you buy out-of-the-money (OTM) call options at a certain strike price and at the same time sell the same number of OTM call options at a lower strike price within the same month.

This trade is called a credit spread because upon entering the trade a credit is received. The credit minus any commissions paid will be the total profit available for this type of trade. The maximum profit is achieved when the price of the underlying asset is at or below the strike price of the short call when the options expire.

Benefits of the bear call spread

There are number of benefits to this type of strategy such as:
  • Losses are limited to the difference in strike prices which is usually about a maximum of five points less the net credit.
  • Risk in the strategy can be controlled by how far out of the money the sold option is positioned. Longer OTM spreads will yield less profit but are safer and have higher break even points.
  • If the underlying asset price climbs, the investor can buy back the short call and have unlimited profit from the long call.
  • This strategy also provides a highly leveraged position because of the low margin requirement of the spread.
The bear call credit spread strategy provides limited risk along with predetermined, but limited reward, and it’s a strategy to consider for those investors seeking alternative methods to generate consistent returns for their portfolio.

About the author: Brad Reinhard is interested in stock trading and informing others on how to invest properly.

Image license: US-PD

6 pointers for communicating with your partner when setting the household budget

By Brian Flax

Setting up a household budget on your own can be a process. It can become even more complicated when you bring your significant other into the picture. Whether you're married or in a long-term relationship, setting up a household budget is a necessity whenever finances and living expenses are shared.

To keep everyone on the same page, follow these tips for communicating with your partner when setting up your household budget.

Financial communication benefits from a mature approach
Pick a time you and your significant other can commit to discussing your finances and household budget.

Communication is key

The first step in setting up a household budget with your partner is to communicate. If only one person is responsible for setting up and tracking income and expenses, it can cause frustration and anger when things don't go as planned. To ensure everyone is on the same page, pick a time to sit down together when you can focus all your attention on the task at hand. Don't talk about finances when there are distractions, like making dinner or doing household chores.

Pick a time you can both commit to on a regular basis. Creating a household budget isn't a one-time process; you may need to revise or reevaluate your budget at some point, so set a time each week when you can have a distraction-free discussion.

Be prepared

After you have agreed to a time when you can both sit down and discuss the household budget, start preparing for it. If you have any individual expenses, have the account information, due dates, and minimum payment due with you during the discussion. Ensure you're prepared with all of the information you'll need that's relevant to the budget. Don't leave anything out that could cause problems in the future; be as transparent as possible.

Discuss your goals

You should discuss both long- and short-term goals together as a couple. Doing so will keep you on the same page and make it easier to decide how much you'll be putting into savings with each paycheck. If you have any major purchases or expenses in mind, now is the time to discuss them. Be prepared to compromise if you have different ideas in mind on how your savings should be spent.

Even if you only have one income, it's still important to include both people when setting up the household budget.
Improve budgeting with financial tools
Pick budgeting software that offers a mobile app to keep track of spending on the go.

Determine what you need

When you start to create the household budget, determine how much you need to get by every month. Consider your rent or mortgage payment, utility bills, groceries, car payments, and any recurring debt payments first. Figure out how much you need for these expenses every month before determining how much you can spend on entertainment, and what you can afford to put away into your savings.

When you and your partner know exactly how much you can spend every month, it'll help keep everyone accountable for their spending habits.

Take advantage of technology

There are several free tools available online that will keep track of your account balances, payments, and due dates. If you decide to use one of these programs, ensure you both have access with a username and password. Online financial planners can take some of the frustration out of the process by automatically keeping track of your income and expenses. This means you can focus less of your time on finances by knowing exactly where you stand at any point in time.

Track your spending

To keep everyone accountable for their spending, ensure you keep receipts whenever you spend money on unnecessary expenses. If you use a program to track your spending, keeping receipts makes it easier to enter the data during your weekly or monthly meetings. It may help to set up an individual allowance for you and your partner so you know exactly what you're able to spend. Pick financial software with mobile apps so you can track your spending and stay on budget while you're on the go or not together for a period of time.

When you and your significant other are on the same page about your finances, you'll spend less time worrying about money and more time working toward both your short- and long-term goals. Use online budgeting software to help get you started, and make sure you both have access to the same data.

About the author: Brian Flax is a freelance writer based out of the Washington, D.C., area. He is experienced in a variety of topics, including education, technology, and finance. Brian holds a master's in education technology and a bachelor's in entertainment business.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Blackstone Group is poised to re-create recession-causing housing crisis

The Blackstone Group
Blackstone spent $7 billion to buy 40,000 homes
By John Monts

When the housing crisis hit the United States it was the first wave that led to what's being called the Great Recession. It happened because Wall Street investment companies started buying up mortgages. They started with mortgages held by people with good credit but greed led to people buying up any kind of mortgage, including risky ones. 

This led to banks giving out home loans to anyone, including some toxic loans and then selling the mortgages off for a tidy profit. When people started defaulting though, the whole system collapsed and led to the recession. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, property values plummeted, and everyone was dazed wondering how that had happened. Well, it's happening again.

The Blackstone Group starts the ball rolling

The Blackstone Group sounds like the name of a villainous organization in a video game. If reports are to be believed, this company has been buying up record amounts of foreclosed homes all over the country, often out-bidding families (particularly ethnic minorities) for these houses. Banks and real estate agents are only too glad to turn them over, often for cash, to this corporation. With that much real estate in the hands of a very concentrated force, there are some pretty bad predictions about what might happen.

Is all of this legal?

Apparently so. Despite talk about more government oversight being put in place to rein in corporations, particularly after the bail out of so many big banks and investment houses, nothing seems to have been done to stop phase two of the evil plan to hoard more wealth and crash the economy again.

The way this play seems to be going is 1% by the numbers. The company has spent more than seven billion dollars to acquire over 40,000 homes. It's been using its financial muscle to push smaller buyers aside, and to acquire huge amounts of real estate at unprecedented rates. It's doing a lot of this buying in cash, and it seems to be intending to turn the properties around and rent them to the people who were victimized by the housing crisis in the first place. It is, thus far, all completely legal.

Market manipulation and legal consequences

Blackstone and other big corporations are buying at rock bottom prices, almost single-handedly increasing property values. Sales are going up, but those sales are to a very small, very select group. That group is then going to use the artificially increased value to rent at higher prices to people who have no other choice but to pay it in order to live somewhere.

No one is saying that Wall Street set up a one-two punch by deliberately crashing the economy and then buying up the nearly-worthless property in order to corner the real estate market. Even if it didn't deliberately set it up though, that's what's happening in cities all across the United States. There is, thus far, no legal action being taken against these companies, and there are no laws being drafted to stop these abusive practices. People are noticing though, especially because of how shady buying homes with briefcases of cash looks.

About the author: This post was provided by John Monts, professional writer for Rue & Ziffra, PA. John is currently a student at UC Davis, studying Political Science and Economics.

Image license: US-PD  

5 Accounting tips for small businesses

Running a business successfully is not an easy thing to do. One of the key things you need to look after as a business owner is the finances of your business.

This isn’t a small task and business accounting takes a big part of your daily activities. To help you out here are five tips to ensure you are making the most out of your accounting.

1. Keep it separated

Account tips
Keep personal and business financial records separate
If you are a small business owner or even a freelancer then the key thing to keep in mind is that you need to keep these two separate.

The biggest mistake you can make is to mix your finances and forget to treat them separately. This can even end up costing you money in the long run.
So as soon as you start working on your own or set up a small business then you need to separate the accounts.

Having two simple bank accounts for your personal and business needs is really essential thing to do.

2. Use technology

Technology can really help small business owners manage their finances better. The different budgeting and accounting programmes can really enhance your finances. You can find out more about some of the best financial programmes you could consider in this Techradar article, for example.

3. Get organised early on

It is really important that you get your finances in order as soon as you set up your business. Even if you don’t have many financial transactions at the start it will help you deal with them better once you do get more work.

Organising your files and keeping impeccable records from an early on will really help you deal with the situation better once you do get more business.

Make sure you also prepare in time for filing your taxes. Try to get into the habit of sending them on time and without having to spend sleepless nights before the big day. It is much easier to learn this all when your business is still relatively small rather than wait for the point when it grows.

4. Hire a professional

You should also really consider hiring a professional to help you with your accounting. This is really going to allow you to focus on the most essential part of your business. It will also help you make the right decisions with your finances and can help you ensure you make as much profit as possible.

Getting a professional accounting company to help you out isn’t even as expensive as you might think. There are plenty of organised cheap accountants that can help you get a good value for money.

5. Consider going digital

It is also a really good idea to consider taking your bookkeeping into the digital world. There are so many benefits of going paperless and it can really help you manage your accounts better as well.

Having your accounting digital allows you to access the information from wherever. It can even help make the checking of errors a lot easier. Digital versions of bookkeeping are now widely accepted by the authorities and therefore this is something you should keep in mind. 

About the author: John is into finances and he is always reading new articles in order to find out more about accounting. When he isn't thinking about numbers he likes to spend time visiting art galleries across the country.

Image license: Ken Teegardin, Creative Commons

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to negotiate for a used car

Negotiate with knowledge about the vehicle's price and model
Know the vehcicle you negotiate about
By Lindsey Patterson

When looking to buy a car, many realize that they cannot afford a new model unless they want to waste their entire paycheck on payments. Fortunately, a consumer can buy a pre-owned car and find an amazing deal. Of course, some unscrupulous sellers will try to take advantage of an unprepared used vehicle buyer. This will not happen if a consumer studies the car model and knows how to negotiate properly. With this in mind, here are the top 3 ways to negotiate when buying a used car.

Know the model in and out: Before heading to the dealer or private party transaction, one should understand the make and model fully. With the make, model number and year, a buyer can research and access plenty of information online. For starters, one should look for any manufacturer recalls. While in itself not bad, it is something to look out for as it may be a tale of things to come with the model.

Secondly, a potential buyer should know about any long-term costs associated with the car. For example, if the vehicle is nearing 100,000 miles, a potential buyer should look at any maintenance costs. Finally, while not the biggest expense, one should understand how much it will cost to insure the automobile. Remember, whether looking for CTP insurance or another solution, one must understand the costs beforehand.

Walk around the car and check it out thoroughly: Sadly, in excitement, some people do not take time to look over the vehicle and look for any issues. To get started, a potential buyer should look at the interior and look for any rips, stains or other obvious problems. Now, if it is an old model, one should not expect perfection, but it is still something to inspect. Then, after looking at the inside, one should look under the hood and look for any leaks or other problems. After all this, a person should take it on a quick test drive and listen for any odd noises. At the same time, a motorist should go with his or her gut and make sure the vehicle feels right.
Be aware of sales tactics and techniques
Bring cash or be ready to go to the bank: Now, many car sellers bore of dealing with unreliable customers who seemingly have an interest in the car but walk away at the last-minute. Of course, it is now wise to flash a bunch of cash right away as some people may exploit the buyer. However, when willing to pay, one can offer a lower price. Simply put, when talking to a seller who wants $4,5000 for a pre-owned car, a buyer with $4,200 who has the cash in hand will excite the seller and will often have a great chance to close the deal and get an incredible price on a used automobile.

With these three simple tips, a consumer can prepare for the process and get a great deal on a used car. Remember, with persistence and a lot of research, one can get a fair price on a pre-owned vehicle.

About the authorLindsey Patterson is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and the latest social trends, specifically involving the auto industry.

Image license: 1. Thomas R. Machnitzki, GFDL, 2.  Laitr Keiows; CC BY-SA 3.0

What to do before selling your home

By Phil Brown

When you’re house hunting, there’s nothing worse than enduring tours of houses that haven’t been well-cared for. Burnt-out light bulbs, missing tiles, sagging screen doors, and other similar findings all suggest that the previous home owners didn’t properly care for their house.

If it’s that easy to spot visible maintenance problems, there are probably many invisible issues as well. And when you’re paying a hefty mortgage, the last thing you want to deal with are costly maintenance problems. If you’re selling your home, it’s important to make it stand out in a good way. Here are several things you should do to your house to make it an easier sell:

Leverage home sale negotiations with home staging
Home staging improves the appearance of a home for sale

 1.  Create a great first impression

It only takes a few seconds for potential buyers to size up a house, so make sure that their first impression of your home is a favorable one. Trim your bushes, prune shrubs, and mow the lawn. Give your house a fresh coat of paint if needed, and replace any missing shingles on your roof. Clean the gutters. Replace any sagging screen doors (or give old ones new life with a new paint job). Try to see your home through the lens of someone who has never visited before, and ask yourself if there’s anything in the yard or entrance area that shows signs of neglect. If so, fix the problems so that viewers’ first impressions of your home will be a positive one.

2.  Replace light bulbs and other items

Make sure every room has a working light bulb. Put new batteries in the smoke alarm. Replace the air filters. Little touches such as this signal that you're intentional about taking good care of your home.

3.  Make sure your house sparkles

Deep clean the kitchen and bathrooms. Rid your shower of any mildew or mold. Wax wood floors. Get rid of any unwanted lingering smells from cigarette smoke or pets. Remove unnecessary junk from each room so that your house is clutter-free. Make sure that your house is a welcoming and inviting space.

4.  Notice the little details

Go through your house, one room at a time, to see what needs to be done in each space. Do you need to replace the shower curtain? Fix nail holes in the walls and add a fresh coat of paint to cover them up? Fix that annoying leaky faucet? Simple fixes such as these show buyers that you take a keen interest in caring for your house, which will make them feel more confident about buying it. Have a real estate agent walk through the house to see if there’s anything else to take care of that you may have missed.

In the midst of a stagnant economy, selling your home can sometimes be a time-consuming process. But if you make sure that your house is polished and well-taken care of, it should sell in a timelier manner. Through utilizing these tips, you will guarantee that your house is in its best shape, thereby making it much more likely to sell quickly.

About the author: Phil Brown is a handyman who enjoys renovating old homes.

Image license: Lamar70, GFDL

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A few benefits and drawbacks of mobile point of sale

By David Turner

Many business owners may be considering the move to a less traditional point of sale system. The introduction of mobile point of sale solutions that operate through our smart phones and tablets has begun to change the face of the retail game all over the world. There are some definite potential benefits to utilizing a system of this nature, but there may be some drawbacks too.

Mobile point of sales add flexibility to business operations
Mobile commerce expands business POS locations

If you are considering the switch, it may serve you well to consider the pro's and con's of utilizing a system of this nature before making your final decision. An iPad point of sale system may be a better fit for some businesses than others.


Staff members are not necessarily tied down to one check out spot any longer. Should you choose to operate in a more "traditional" retail setting with cash registers at the front, you have the freedom to do so. However, with an iPad point of sale system, you also have the freedom to allow your staff to move about the establishment. Staff can do more than just check customers out with an iPad POS. Now inventory and other business related reports can be accessed from one mobile application all while roaming the store and interacting with customers as needed.


Many customers are concerned with the security of their private and personal information these days. With cyber crimes and identity theft on the rise, these concerns may continue to grow in some people. For those that are aware of how an iPad point of sale system works, they may have concerns with their information being transmitted via Internet connection, despite the number of security measures that have been put in place in order to protect them. Business owners making the move to an iPad POS may find themselves having to overcome these concerns with some customers.


An iPad point of sale system is generally easy to install, set up, and use even if you are not a technically proficient individual. Traditional point of sale systems often require specialized hard line data connections as well as intricate and difficult installations. An iPad POS is so simple to set up, practically anybody can do it without assistance. And they operate on a wireless Internet connection requiring no specialized hard line data connection points to be installed.  This can not only save you time, but also avoid the hassle and money that may be involved with installing these older systems.


iPad POS systems do not require the installation of special data lines because they operate over a wireless Internet connection that can be set up by practically anybody. Anybody that has ever relied on an Internet connection however, can tell you that you will inevitably run into a connection issue of some kind. These connection failures can crop up at the worst possible times and can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, or even days. While this is not a failure on the part of the iPad point of sale system itself, its reliance on potentially unreliable Internet connections should certainly be taken into account. A backup plan may not be a bad idea, just to be on the safe side.

For more information on one particular iPad POS system that may work to fit your needs, visit http://www.ncrsilver.com

About the author: This article was contributed by David Turner, a small business owner in Wichita, Kansas.

Image license: Jonathan Waller, Creative Commons

Car sale and repair costs are rising

Auto labor costs rose 17% in 2012
Vehicle repair costs rose 10 percent in 2012
By David Leiter

You may be shocked to hear that in recent months, car sales in the U.S. have increased dramatically, reaching pre-recession levels again. If you’re one of the millions of Americans contemplating buying or selling a car right now, the statistics may be interesting to you.

As of September 2013, the annual sales rate for the industry was just over 16 million cars, and some U.S. companies like Ford and Chrysler reported double-digit percentage sales increases in August 2013. So what is causing the rise in car sales? Analysts point to a number of possible factors, such as more affordable car loans and gradually improving employment numbers (CNN Money).

Now, what’s also interesting is that car repair costs in general are also on the rise. According to CarMD, car repair costs went up 10 percent in 2012, putting them at pre-recession levels. Labor costs also rose by a whopping 17 percent, and almost all of the most common repair procedures increased in costs (CarMD).

So what is causing the rise in car repair costs? Well, again, there are a number of factors for us to consider. First of all, the year of 2012 was unusually hot—in fact, it was the hottest year on record for the United States—and extreme heat can cause car parts like the battery and transmission to wear out more quickly. Second, it’s important to note that during this time frame the average vehicle age reached an all-time high of 11 years, which would understandably contribute to an increase in the frequency of needed used car repairs.

So what is the good news? Well, there are a few good things to report. First of all, cars are being manufactured to last longer, and as a result, check engine-related repairs decreased by 1.3 percent in 2012. Secondly, gas cap-related repairs (due to damaged or loose gas caps) have also decreased significantly, which may indicate better understanding on the part of consumers, as well as superior designs. Lastly, hybrid repairs seem to be getting cheaper, although hybrids still generally require the most expensive repairs (CarMD).

So what can you do to lengthen the life of your vehicle? CarMD and other sources recommend keeping an eye on minor problems and getting your car repaired regularly. If you want to get a sense of how much you may have to spend on car repairs or tire replacements, there are some sites on the web that will give you their prices online without having to go to the trouble of contacting a sales person. There are also some minor repairs you can do yourself without too much trouble; oxygen sensors and spark plugs, for example, are relatively easy fixes.

Getting regular vehicle repairs may seem annoying and unnecessary, but timely maintenance can save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. If ignored, a $10 spark plug can turn into a $300 ignition coil repair; that’s something you do not want to deal with, especially in today’s relatively poor economic conditions. Keep your vehicle properly maintained and it will last you longer!

About the author: Written by David Leiter, who works on a marketing team as a freelance writer, writing about financial advice, money saving tips, fuel efficiency, the auto industry, and more.

Image license: USAG Humphreys, US-PDGov

Friday, December 27, 2013

Benefits of outsourced accounting and bookkeeping

Outsourcing frees up resources for other business objectives
When a company is considering outsourcing, any aspects of the business that are traditionally done in house such as accounting and bookkeeping are often at the top of the list. This is largely because the accounting function of the organization is not core to the delivery of service to customers and can often represent a significant cost. 

A company will generally not outsource core elements of their service delivery to customers, as losing direct control of this can have a significant downside. Furthermore, the ability to reduce this significant cost to the organization, while still obtaining a comparable service, provides an efficient way to cut costs without losing much.

As a business owner is outsourcing worth it for me?

For many small companies where the  accounting and bookkeeping  is done by the owner, manager, or other individuals whose core responsibilities lie elsewhere, outsourcing frees up a significant amount of time better spent elsewhere. Additionally, by now having an experienced accountant or bookkeeper preparing the financial information you can actually end up generating better and timelier financial information. This added expertise is a major draw for many companies as they get the benefits of a skilled accountant without actually having to keep one on staff full time. 
In addition to getting the skills of an experience accountant, you also get access to bookkeeping programs and skilled training that you would have to pay for yourself if you hired an accountant.   Top end bookkeeping and tax preparation programs aren’t cheap, so getting access to those programs when you outsource your services is an added benefit.  On top of that, business accounting and tax rules are constantly changing and with an internal accountant you would have to occasionally pay for the training necessary to keep them up to speed on those changes.  With the outsourced option this cost is passed on to the company you are outsourcing too, keeping you from having to pay for this hidden cost of accounting.

So what kind of accounting and bookkeeping services can be outsourced?

The answer is just about anything as long as the correct controls are in place.  Commonly outsourced functions include payment of accounts payable, following up on accounts receivable, payroll, all basic journal entries, and the preparation of monthly statements and budget projections.  With the right controls, i.e. ensuring the accountant can’t set up new suppliers or employees without approval, all of these processes can be outsourced to a remote provider and often done for a fraction of the cost of hiring a full time accountant.

With a little bit of administrative work at the end of your company, i.e. scanning invoices or bank deposits, the outsourced accountant can take care of nearly every aspect of your companies bookkeeping remotely and without needing to actually be on site.  This means that your options are freed up to hire someone anywhere in the world where they have a good internet connection.

With the overall benefits of reduced costs with the upside of better services being provided most companies small and large should consider outsourcing some, if not all, of their accounting and finance functions.  The ability to add to the bottom line of your company without giving something up makes it an easy decision to make.

About the author:  CFO Business Growth Solutions, LLC provider of part time and interim CFO Services plus nationwide accounting & bookkeeping services. For more information go to  http://www.cfobgs.com/

Image license: Ken Teegardin, Creative Commons

Great examples of successful business branding

By Beth Stubbings

With the desire to create a streamlined business, some owners and entrepreneurs may be tempted to overlook certain areas in order focus on others. This is often common with established companies that are hoping to reduce their expenses and can often result in lack of attention being paid to marketing and branding efforts.

Rather than place focus on marketing their company, some hope to attract customers via word-of-mouth and recommendations, which unfortunately does not mean that a business is guaranteed success in this global age. With internet being a powerful form of interaction, communication and trade, businesses need to create a strong brand for themselves both on and offline in order to achieve the level of success that they desire. For those who are reluctant to invest, here are three examples of successful branding that proves how powerful a marketing tool it is.

Personal branding

Personal branding adds value to a product or service
Personal branding costs less
A great and current example of the positive effect of personal branding in regards to sales is the recent release of Beyoncé’s self-titled album. Quietly released with no publicity, Beyoncé dominated iTunes when she released her album exclusively to the MP3 platform on the 13th November. Sales of the digital album reached 80,000 copies in two days and is currently being hailed as one of the bravest marketing moves by a prominent pop artist and business person.

Although no marketing or PR was used to promote the release, Beyoncé as a personal brand was the reason sales rocketed so quickly and the album has been so instantly successful. Without the years of publicity, tours and reputation building, Beyoncé’s fifth studio album would not have had as big an impact or be as successful as it currently is. Entrepreneurs looking to create a personal brand can take inspiration from Beyoncé’s recent achievements and as proof of the importance of branding and reputation building in regards to increasing sales and profits.

Product branding

Apple Inc. have managed to make themselves the global leaders in innovative technology due to their creative marketing and branding techniques. Over the years, product launches and press releases from Apple have become internationally important events that create media fervour and intensive profits. With these events relying on the same minimalistic style of their product design, focus revolves near exclusively around the item of discussion. Their creation of excitement and use of simplistic product branding has pushed them to become the leaders of their industry, despite not necessarily offering the greatest or most revolutionary technology.

Officially the most successful company in the world, Apple’s products regularly top wish lists of both consumers and businesses thanks to their branding. In fact, their iPads have become such a successful product that other businesses now look to exclusively use Apple products in a bid to improve their own branding. Growing businesses can learn from Apple that stock can become widely popular and sales vastly boosted with help from product branding.

Marketing strategy makes use of brand building
Successful branding integrates multiple business functions

Service branding

A bold move by the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam has seen it market itself as ‘The Worst Hotel in The World’ in a bid to increase customer interest and bookings. The cheapest hotel in Amsterdam, the Hans Brinker is not as terrible as its campaign shows, but is simply hostel style accommodation that reduces costs for its guests by offering minimal amenities. Their branding efforts have been incredibly successful, as the range of cleverly designed adverts went viral in 2013 leading them to publish a book compiling them.

The brave adverts were a calculated risk for the hotel and could have caused a serious fall in trade and guests if audiences did not respond to the comedy behind them but are a brilliant example of intelligent branding. Business looking for ways to market and brand their services may not want to make such a risky move as Hans Brinker, but should be aware of the powerful effects concise and consistent branding has when wanting to increase custom.

About the author: Beth Stubbings is fully aware of how powerful branding is in any industry. For more business news and advice, she would recommend New Business to those looking for ways to improve their companies and become sucessful.
Image licenses: 1. VFS Digital Design, Creative Commons; 2.  David Armano, Creative Commons

Why millennials are using payday loans

Payday loans can be replaced with revolving credit
Secured credit is safer than payday loans
With high paying jobs few and far between, but expenses showing no signs of slowing down, there is a debt problem among millennials across the country. Studies have shown that they are not good with financial planning, struggle to cut their spending down to what they earn, and often end up finding creative ways of getting further loans. One of the results is the trend of millennials turning to payday loans for instant relief.

Obsession with discretionary spending

Many point to the fact that children who were born in the late 1980s and early 1990s are still living with their parents as being a primary reason for their financial problems. Since they are not on their own, with real expenses to take care of, they have very little idea of how the real world works. For them, money is spent on whatever they want to buy, the foods they want to eat, and the entertainment they want to enjoy. With incomes that do not match up with their fantastic expectations from their life, it can often lead to a lot of debt.

Options for loans are dwindling

Banks are very careful when handing out loans these days. Unless a person has a solid credit history, a high paying job, and/or someone who is going to be a cosigner on their loan, they are not going to give out a loan. This means that generation Y is running out of places where they can go to get more money. Credit cards are an option, but it does not take long for people to max out the cards they manage to get.

With rent prices going up, but most jobs not paying as well as they should, it is clear that there is a debt problem among people aged 18 to 34. These are people who should be setting themselves up for the rest of their lives. They should be saving money, thinking about starting families, and wondering when they will buy their first home. Instead, they have credit card debt, college loans, and other financial issues to deal with. On top of all of this, many are turning to payday loans.

Payday loans

If payday loans are used correctly, they can be a valuable financial instrument. These are short-term loans, ideal for people who need a few extra hundred dollars to pull them through until their next payday. However, far too many people do not use payday loans correctly. Too many are putting themselves in greater financial risk and trouble. They will get a loan without thinking about how they are going to pay it back a mere few weeks later.

As long as millennials are careful, and use these loans only when they have a clear method of paying them back two or three weeks later, there is no harm done. However, individuals who borrow from payday lenders knowing they will be unable to pay the loan back are only digging deeper holes for themselves.

About the author: Chris writes for his blog at The Financial Park about credit, finances, debt and budget tips and opinions. He also loves sports and being in the outdoors. You can find him on Twitter @ChrisLindsey23.

Image license: Stallio, Creative Commons

How to turn your insurance settlement into a nest egg

By Valerie Cyrus Stout 

When you come into a large amount of money from an insurance settlement, there's always the temptation to start spending like crazy or blow the entire thing on something fun. However, with the correct investment, you can actually plan for your future and even make arrangements to have it supplement future earnings, meaning you'll have to work less or even save less for your retirement. The trick is investing correctly to ensure you get maximum return for your new nest egg.

Investing your settlement wisely

If you were injured in a car accident and suffered injuries that left you disabled for a period of time you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries. Performing a local Internet search like 'New York personal injury lawyer' will put you in touch with lawyers who are knowledgeable about the accident laws in your state. They may even be able to successfully represent you and win a large settlement to compensate for your loss.

While you will have expenses and bills to pay off from when you were waiting for your check, one of the smartest things you can do is invest your money to provide income and a future for both you and your family for years to come. Luckily there are some great options out there to ensure you get a great return on your initial investment.

1. Invest in tangible assets

In this time of financial uncertainty, putting your money into things you can actually "touch" like precious metal or property can give you a very real financial gain. Over the past several years, both metal and property prices and values have been on the upswing, making them an excellent option for the first-time investor. These assets in your portfolio can take a fall though, so it's important to keep an eye on them year by year.

2. Increase your 401(K) contribution

Though it may sound like an incredibly easy thing to do, upping your contribution to your 401K retirement program by as little as $100 a month can have huge advantages for your future. Find out if your employer will also match outside contributions, as this can be a huge benefit. This also reduces your pre-tax income, making your check to the government a little less painful.

3. Update your property

Even if you'll get to enjoy the benefits right away, keeping your property up-to-date can have positive repercussions down the line when you want to sell it. Fix any items that you've been putting off and ensure that your kitchen and bathrooms are modern and ready to use. Just a little cash here and there can result in thousands down the line.

4. Invest in... you!

If you've been in a job you hate for years and you've just come into a substantial amount of money, why not invest in your future by getting an education to do what you'd really like to do? Additionally, you can also look into starting your own business, or buy into an existing business you enjoy. By doing what you like, you'll often earn more money turning it into an investment in your future.

5. Get rid of your debt

It may not seem like this will help contribute to your future nest egg, but chances are you're blowing thousands of dollars on interest rates, late charges and other things associated with carrying a lot of debt. Get rid of these as quickly as possible and you can look forward to a debt-free life, including more spending money, in the future.

Setting up your nest egg means investing your money wisely, but it also means making smart choices with what you're doing at the present. By getting your debt down and ensuring your current assets are up-to-date and sell-able, you'll be preparing for your future while enjoying your present. If you're ever in doubt about your plan, a great investment is also in a visit to a financial planner, who can give you the latest ideas and advice to ensure you get maximum return for your money.

About the author: Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches insurance settlements and financial investments. She has found that hiring a local legal professional like a New York personal injury lawyer is the best way to ensure that you receive the compensation that you are entitled to. Investing this money wisely will make up for any future earnings that were lost due to your injury.

Image license: 401(K) 2012, CC BY-SA 2.0

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Are modular homes really less expensive?

Modular home benefits
Reliable modular homes save up to 20%
By Debra Wright

In recent years, modular homes have grown steadily in popularity because of the many benefits they offer, and also because they’ve begun to take on more designs and features that homeowners love. But along with this popularity, a major concern has also started to rise.

Many are starting to believe that modular homes may not be as affordable as they first set out to be, with some stating that they may even be more expensive than site-built homes.

Clearing out misconceptions

A common source of this misconception is that many people who first hear about the affordability of modular homes instantly think that this equates up to 60% in savings, or are led to believe so by shady manufacturers. While this figure may be possible, it is only possible for very few modular home builders and whatever is built with these kinds of savings will most likely include less than desirable materials and building methods. For most reliable builders, you can expect between 10 to 20 per cent savings when you choose to go modular.

Another factor that adds to this confusion is the builder that you choose. Not all builders are created equal, and just like in many other industries, some in the modular home building business will be better than others. Some will offer incredible deals but produce very shoddy, disappointing work; while others will cost you slightly more but deliver on their promises.

If you want to gain the most value out of your modular home, you need to keep your expectations realistic and choose a reliable modular manufacturer.

Source of savings

So exactly what makes modular homes more affordable than their site-built counterparts?
Kit Home designs
Material costs are lower for modular homes
  1. Bulk orders. Unlike site-built homes which are built individually, several modular or kit homes are built at the same time, reducing the cost per kit home.
  2. Bulk purchasing of materials. With site-built homes you often need to buy more than enough raw material in case something gets damaged. This can result in a lot of excess and wasted material and more money spent. Modular homes don’t have this disadvantage. Because of their bulk production, modular home manufacturers can purchase materials and appliances in bulk at more affordable prices, and excess materials will never be wasted because they can always be used in building another modular home.
  3. Lower labour costs. Kit homes are built more systematically in factories by workers that specialise in specific areas of the home. Unlike onsite workers who have to juggle different responsibilities, those who work on modular homes often have to do just one thing and become experts at finishing this one area of the building process. This results in shorter training times, lower costs per worker per hour and lesser total working hours needed to finish a kit home.
  4. Controlled building environment. Outdoor construction sites are often a slave to many uncontrollable elements. Harsh weather, pests, thieves and vandals are just some of the things that can lengthen construction periods, damage building materials and overall, increase construction costs. With modular homes you don’t have to worry about any of these as most of the construction happens in a controlled, secure and private facility.

Modular homes may not always be as affordable as you expect especially if you wish to add more complicated structures and features to it. But with the right builders and a sensible design and plan for your home, overall choosing a modular home will still deliver greater value.

About the author: Debra Wright is a creative online writer who supplies cyberspace with interesting and informative write-ups about her favourite topics including home decors and designs. A wide reader and ardent web surfer, she believes she can do anything as long as she has an Internet connection. Follow Debra on twitter @debrawrites.

Images: Author owned and licensed