Your business

March 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

balloons let loose in a blue sky

Many of my clients and friends are business owners and I have a cozy place in my heart for those willing to take the risk and go forward with their vision to change the world, and their own futures, by stepping out in business. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, 99.7 percent of US firms are small ones and they are responsible for 64 percent of new jobs in our country. In times of changing employment markets, many folks begin their own business and make their dreams a reality.

So what do you need to know to start YOUR business? Here are some tips.

Your plan – A business plan may seem like a big hurdle to begin your start-up, but it is an essential tool for you to evaluate your competition, clearly understand YOUR value proposition and what sets you part from the others in the competitive market, and makes you face the prospect of the real success or failure of the firm. In a business plan is a SWOT analysis, which stands for: Strengths, what are the strengths of your firm? Weaknesses? What are firm’s weaknesses? Opportunities? What markets are you hoping to capture that have not yet been absorbed by competitors? And what are the threats that you will need to overcome?

A business plan also includes your marketing plan. Who is your target market? Not everybody. Everyone is really not your target market. You don’t want folks who can’t [pay for your services, or folks who think they can do a better job. You want folks who appreciate you and think you are professional and capable and who have the funds to support you in business. So you really have to be critical in your marketing plan. What are the tactics to put your plan in place? Are you going to advertise, do social media? It will become easier when you hone in on your target market.

Choose a location– This is a more critical decision than you may have realized: where are you going to operate your business? Can you operate at home? Do you have the space? What will clients think with a home occupation? Do you have parking? Is working from your residential location a permitted use for the zoning in your town?

Is your location near the customers? Is it visible? Can you put adequate signage on the exterior space?

If you can meet clients elsewhere or you are conducting business online, the location may not be as critical. But for most businesses, where you do locate your business may have significant ramifications.

Funding – Where’s the money coming from to start this enterprise? Do you need to buy equipment or inventory? What money will you use to pay the bills? Is it a credit card? Savings? A business loan?

Business type – What will be the legal type of business for your start-up? LLC? DBA? An S-corporation? A C-corporation? Talk to a tax advisor or an attorney to figure out the best way to help protect yourself from liability and for taxes.

Business name – Your business name is really important. It speaks to your credibility. It addresses what you do so new folks don’t need to guess. Make sure as you are choosing a name, that a web site domain name is also available. You will want to check to make sure that you are not infringing on any registered trademarks when you pick a name.  You do the best you can. There are experts in marketing who excel at helping you come up with a great business name. You may want to consult an expert.

Licenses and permits – I mentioned above that you may not be able to run an enterprise like yours in your town or even in the residential neighborhood in which you live. In addition to town ordinances and zoning  you need to consider any permits required because of the type of business you’re starting. For those of you in Maine, the State of Maine has helpful information on their web site:

http://www.maine.gov/portal/business/starting.html

Tax ID – Paying taxes is part of owning a business. Your business will need a tax ID. The IRS has information on their web site to help you understand what a tax ID is and how to file for your company’s number:

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Starting-a-Business

Rules for employers – As your business grows and you need to hire, there are other considerations. You’ve worked hard to set your firm apart from the competition and you will want to keep the vision and the culture of your business. You will want to have folks dress a certain way, greet customers a certain way, answer the phone and take orders in a particular way. You will want to excel in great service, in personal care, in doing the best job so folks come back time after time. How are you going to pass that information on to new hires?

This is just some of the information needed to run a great business. Lots of things to think through even before you open your doors to have the best shot at success. Having a excellent skill or talent isn’t all you’ll need. But getting some of these things done well will save you a lot of on-the-job education in your business start-up. (CR9882)

 

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A Man is Not a Financial Plan

February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

You are a sweetheart

February and the celebration of Valentine’s Day always seems to me to be a good time to talk the importance of loving yourself enough to take care of your money.  Studies find that if you have confidence in yourself, if you think you are worth the effort, you WILL take care of your money. And I want you to do that, to believe you can do this and then to DO IT.

To that end I want to remind you that ‘A man is not a financial plan.’ This is a trademark phrase of the Women’s Institute of Financial Education, WIFE. We say this to make a point, to urge you to care for yourself as you do for others, to take responsibility even if this is an area in which you have little knowledge or familiarity. It is not said to scold or nag you, or to make you feel guilty.

It is said because it is true. People are valuable as human beings and not for their money. You are important because of who you are and not for what you can do for someone else. It is true in another key way: your money is your responsibility.

What this does not mean is that you have to shoulder all the responsibilities of the finances by yourself if you are blessed to have a partner. But neither should you do nothing and ignore it all.

So what should you do? If you’re married, talk about money together. Because it’s your money, decide on a money plan that fits both of your lives.

Don’t wait until some special time in the future. Don’t avoid this as if it is painful. You can learn this. It may need to be explained differently than you are presently hearing it. But you can learn what you need to know to be in control of your money.

Make a budget. Or, check on the budget and make sure things are going as planned. If you DON’T have a budget, make one. They are a delight as they help you control the fun and future plans. Budgets are GOOD.

Talk about retirement together. Retirement planning is typically the biggest part of creating your money map or financial plan. What lifestyle were you anticipating once you retire? How much income will that lifestyle require? How much is saved presently and at what rate are you saving? How much more might you need to save to achieve your goal? At what age do you want to stop working? What about your spouse? They may want to keep working? Will you be moving? Lots of things to work through so that your plan is specific to YOU and realistic.

Take responsibility for a portion of the money tasks. Pay certain bills, make calls or do the internet investigation needed for your investment accounts. Talk together about the whole picture but personally take a role in your money life.

Men are amazing and wonderful. But they are not alive only to give you money and act as a wallets for your spending pleasure. They are people to love and respect and they deserve intelligent partners who handle adult responsibilities adorably.

Get your free ‘A Man is Not a Financial Plan’ bumper sticker at http://www.wife.org/ CR9798

 

Facing Your Finances Alone

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

2013-10-13 14.16.48

You may be facing this year on your own. The statistics for divorce show that about half of marriages each year-end. The average age of a widow in the US is about 60 years old. And you may have chosen a single life. Whatever your life is, here are some tips for managing your finances.

Understand your reality – Things may have recently changed. Your circumstances may be very different from they were even a few months ago. You need to wrap your wonderful brain around the truth of life. You need to look things squarely in the face, my friend. No games. Truth now.

Understand your fear – You also need to understand that some of what you are perceiving may be baloney because you have created monsters where none exist.  Your fears are real to you, but may have no bearing in real life. They may be fears about the future – and you can’t predict the future. They may be fears that you ‘can’t do this.’ We have to move past this into the new land that is in front of us, but we can’t do that if you don’t recognize the terrain, including your fears. But in the end, let’s give the future the opportunity to turn out well and not so negatively color it.

Take excellent care – Take excellent care of yourself. You are amazing, have been through a lot, and need someone who understands you and your needs. And that person is YOU. So live a balanced life with plenty of rest, exercise, social connections and all the rest of the needs a human has for optimal health.

Get advice– Just because you live alone doesn’t mean you need to DO everything alone. There are caring experts with integrity in your area who will provide great advice for you in your circumstance. People whom you will be able to enthusiastically refer once you find them. You can be delighted with your experts. Don’t have someone with whom you are enthusiastic? They are out there! Don’t give up until you are happy.

Trust your instincts– You may not be an expert on all things. That’s why having advice is a benefit. But you can trust your gut on the integrity and truth-telling of your advisor. You know when things are baloney and when they are not. And if you don’t know, bring a friend along who reads people well to give you some feedback in your decision-making. You are not inconveniencing a friend to get their input. You would do the same for your buds, and do it enthusiastically.

Be a great friend– Speaking of friendship, be a terrific friend to yourself. Say encouraging things about your behavior, your reflection in the mirror, about your life and future. Be a friend filled with hope and vision of wonderful days of blessing ahead of this beautiful person. And if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. Just as your mom told you.

Do not borrow trouble. Anticipate good things filled in the center with juicy surprises of hope and wonder. Say it with me: This is going to be a very good season of life. (CR9740)

 

 

We LOVE Resolutions

December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

In all the busyness of this time of year, there is also a recognition of the upcoming new year and it’s fresh start and rebalancing of priorities. I start thinking of changes, tweaks, that I want to make in personal and business life as the autumn approaches and try to take time between Christmas and New Year’s day to get my goals in order. But I’m, a planner, and I love a nice plan.

Let's toast

As part of your end-of-year consideration, I have gathered a few ideas that I hope will help you and I have an awesome 2014.

1.)    Common resolutions– In life, and for many folks, the most common resolutions are weight loss, to exercise more and to improve oneself, even on some lists to do some-or more-volunteering    For our money, the top resolutions are to save more, pay down debt and get a better job.

2.)    Should you bother making a resolution? – As a girl who loves a plan I happily found studies which suggest that people who MAKE resolutions are TEN TIMES more likely to succeed in achieving their goal than those who don’t bother with a resolution. As a numbers girl, I say, YEAH. An relatively minor bit of work that effects our future and hoped-for change by ten times is definitely worth the effort.

3.)    Effective strategies – There are several points to help effect this lovely change in our future. One way to make a dream a more likely reality is to write the resolution down and write down WHY you want to do this thing. Then think of ways to achieve this goal that includes some fun reward or side bonus so that you see the change as awesomeness. Speak to yourself in a positive way, phrasing it in your mind as a challenge you are up for, able to tackle, capable of winning.

The last in my list of strategies is to remove the obstacles that hinder you from keeping the goal. Anticipate the possibly several reasons that might slow you down, whatever they may be. Perhaps you beat yourself up with your words or thoughts when you don’t execute the plan perfectly. It may be the temptations that make your goal seem less desirable in a given situation.

I say that you and I need to give ourselves permission to – if at first we don’t succeed- to try, try again. Because bud, 2014 is going to be a great year! (CR9680)

 

 

I Choose Happiness

November 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Father and son

Thanksgiving, a time for gratitude. Is it hard to feel grateful? We often think that ‘if only’ we had this thing or that shiny object then we could really enjoy life. Studies indicate that though your natural happiness may have a predetermined, genetic ‘set point,’ happiness is also a daily choice. Here are seven happy tips.

Choose – Happiness is an intentional decision that you pursue with determination. It isn’t, according to studies, dropped out of the sky  for you. It is an intentional direction pursued. You know what makes you feel better, what lifts your spirits. As much as possible those are the people or activities to pursue. Choose who you hang with, people who lift your spirits and not those who are always sad, disappointed or grumbling.

Gratitude – Studies repeatedly show that those individuals who practice gratitude are among the happiest. What can you do to get in the gratitude habit? List things, either out loud or in a journal, for which you are thankful. Everyday think of all the good things, the loving people, that fill your life. You have so many gifts, talents and blessings. Think about those things and you will feel happier.

Forgiveness – You can’t live for any length of time and not have been hurt. Anger and resentment can be emotionally crippling. Just carrying the burden of injustice or betrayal leaves your heart heavy and sad. More and more research shows, according to experts, that forgiveness is tied to mental health and happiness. Face it, life’s not fair and it sometimes hurts. Remember that your words and actions have also been the source of pain to others. Remember your poor choices in the past to better let go of the pain and hurt long-past from others so you can let it go, friend. Your health and happiness depend in part on your willingness to forgive. Let it go, little bird, and be free.

Give negativity the boot – Negativity is no fun. And sometimes we carelessly ruminate about how life stinks or seems unfair. There is no benefit in such thoughts. When you become aware of negative thoughts or careless negative self-talk replace those thoughts by remembering your list of blessings. Sing upbeat songs, dance in the living room. Chase the bad away with purposeful joy.

It’s not the money– You may be wondering why a column on happiness and emotions on a financial blog. Well, my friends, money and happiness have some link. But it turns out that all the money in the world doesn’t bring peace and contentment. You’ve no doubt observed the sad shenanigans of Hollywood celebs and the idle rich. They have lots of money and yet they feel depressed. Studies reveal that making enough to pay modest bills is a threshold for normal happiness. Making more than is needed to cover basic expenses doesn’t significantly increase happiness. With more money comes only small amounts of joy. Once you don’t have to worry about the electric bill, money fails to be a happiness focus.

Make friends – Folks who have friends, people with whom they can laugh and joke, who bring out the best in us, who care when you are hurting and celebrate in good times, are happier than those without close relationships. Want more friends? Reach out. Don’t sit in your house, resentful and selfishly wondering why no one calls or invites you to lunch. Take control of your life. Take a risk. Invite folks to join you for potlucks or the movies or a picnic in the park. All the while you think folks are ignoring you when perhaps it’s that they don’t know how to make friends, either. They feel unsure how to become better buds. If you make the effort to keep and expand your real-life social connections you will be happier. Life’s better with buddies.

Meaningful life – Finally, folks who give their time to activities that change lives, that change the community, and in which they are also challenged to give their best show high levels of happiness. More common forms of spending time such as TV viewing and other leisure activities, don’t produce the same high level of joy as giving yourself to some meaningful work.

So as you practice gratitude this Thanksgiving, ruminate on this and pursue awesomeness. (CR9590)

 

 

 

 

You and Your 401(k)

October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

You're smart and cute

According to a recently published study, 61% of workers surveyed said that their 401(k) is their only savings for retirement and will be an important source of income along with Social Security. More than half have increased their contributions in the past couple of years and believe their investments have recovered since the crisis, and most realized the importance of a 401(k).

Here are the obstacles:

Too confusing – 52% said the their 401(k) was more complicated to understand than their health benefits.

Wish it were simpler – 57% said they wish there was an easier way for them to figure out the correct investments for them.

Don’t know best investment option – Almost half (46%) don’t know what is the best option for them to choose and a third (34%) are stressed out about not knowing which to pick.

Feel twice as confident with an advisor – Those with advisors felt twice as confident about making investment decisions than those making those investment choices on their own (61% to 32%).

You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed. But you don’t need to stress about it. Maybe it’s time to speak with a professional. (CR9442)

 

 

Rebuilding your nest egg

September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Every penny counts

The market was volatile. You had an emergency. Whatever the reason, your retirement savings aren’t what you’d hoped they’d be. Here are four steps you can take to get back on track.

Track your budget – where is your money going? How is what you’re spending now helping you or your family have a future? Where’s it all going? If hardship or a life change has changed your nest egg, we need to hunker down and take control of our pennies so our dollars will take care of us. Don’t have a budget? Get thee to the library or search online for  sample and get a handle on your spending.

Cut back – every little bit helps. If you cut out one expensive drink per day – and for convenience, many of us willingly forgo money – that could be cut for our future benefit. You need to think about what really are needs and wants so you can have a beautiful future.

 Work longer – When you’re in your twenties or thirties, you have a dream about your future. And maybe you did the savings required to make that dream a reality. More often than not, our dream had no real-life traction, no actual saving that accompanied our plan to live at the beach at age 50. Here you are and you need to have reality be a partner in the future. So, put in a few extra years. Adjust your mindset so that you see this decision as empowering, it’s YOUR call, so that you can keep your health and the future benefits of that great decision.

 Get help – perhaps there are vehicles that can help you in your savings or ideas that a professional can suggest that you may not think of on your own. See someone. It’;s usually not a cost to have a short discussion with an advisor. See if they can add a new view to your ideas. It may be worth your time.

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