Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Year’s Resolutions for College Students

The new year is merely days away, and resolutions abound. Fox Business has compiled a list of recommendations for college students as they struggle with finances, studies and career goals.

  • Consider Student Loans

Student loan debt can be paralyzing. It’s important to know the specific policies of the loans and repayment terms.

Shelley Solheim of CapitalOne explained: “One thing most loans have in common is that you must be in school at least half-time to be eligible. If your class load falls under half of a full time load, you will have to start repaying the money immediately.”

Vincent Turner of PlanWise added: “Go over federal and private loan clauses with a parent- do all the research you can before making a big purchase, and understand to the best of your ability how it will impact your future.”

  • Saving is a top priority

Solheim states that although saving in college is hard, it is important to set realistic saving goals every year.

“If you find yourself reaching this goal in January and February, bump the amount up by 10%,” she suggests. “If you tend to spend money just because it’s in your pocket, don’t allow yourself to carry around more than is necessary- put saving at the top of your to-do list every month.”

Setting up an auto-deposit is a great way to boost your savings account without really ‘missing’ the money at the end of each month.

  • Build good credit

Strong credit scores will enable graduates to make big purchases, such as a house or a car. A great way to get started is by paying the bills on time.

“Setting up online billing payment for your monthly bills might help you keep track of paying your bills. If you don’t pay your bills on time, you’ll end up paying more than you owe because of the late fees and finance charges.”

Kimberly Foss of Empyrion Wealth Management adds, “Piggyback on your parents’ card to establish credit with them, convert your cell phone bill from your parents to your name to help build credit history, apply for a credit card on your own and use it to build credit, but always pay it off entirely- on time every time.”

  • Increase Your Financial Knowledge

Learn the basics of investment, budgeting and personal financing now, to avoid big mistakes later.

“The earlier you start contributing to an account, the more you’ll end up with when you retire, thanks to compounding interest,” explains Scott Gamm of HelpSaveMyDollars. “Even if you can only contribute $30 per month, that will still make a huge impact.”

Solheim adds, “The best way to build wealth is to make your money work for you. Stocks, bonds and mutual funds are all common investments that can build wealth over the long-term.”

 

 

Small Businesses in 2013

Small business are expecting to grapple with the same challenges as last year in 2013, as well as new ones resulting from uncertain negotiations regarding tax and budget issues. Small companies throughout the U.S. are likely to proceed with caution, while reducing their hiring rates.

Scott Shane, a professor of entrepreneurship at Case Western Reserve University, explained:

“Uncertainty is the bane of every small business. Their only rational response is to pull their horns and slow down.”

Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, agreed with Shane’s outlook. He explained that lawmakers are still discussing the fiscal cliff, tax increases and budget cuts. Even if a decision is reached, small businesses won’t have the security they need to grow.

“It almost surely won’t be comprehensive enough that we won’t be revisiting it next year,” McCracken explained.

Another major concern is personal tax rates. S corporation proprietors, partners and owners all report their business’s income on their individual Form 1040 returns. Their companies, therefore, are basically taxed at personal rates.

The Section 179 deduction is also going to shrink next year to $25,000, significantly lower than last year’s $125,000. In 2011, the deduction was $500,000.

McCracken said: “It’s a huge change for companies planning on making investments.”

U.S. House Market Expands as Economists Predict Bright Future

The U.S. housing market is on the rise, with house purchases reaching their peak of more than two years. Existing property value has also increased, pushing the real estate market higher and encouraging economists and investors to brighten their outlook on U.S. expansion.

According to a median forecast of economists, new-home sales have risen to a 380,000 annual rate this November; the most since April of 2010. Housing prices have risen in 20 cities, marking the best year-over-year performance since 2010.

Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC, explained:

“We’re going to see large gains in virtually all of the housing measures next year. Job growth and the steady decline in the unemployment rate means that more and more workers feel confident about their own economic prospects and they’re willing to move forward with major commitments like buying a home and buying and automobile.”

He added that “consumers are beginning to focus a little bit on the fiscal cliff and likelihood that there’s not a good outcome there.”

7 Guidelines for Business After a Tragedy

Entrepreneurs are known for their quick, flexible thinking and creative solutions. However, even the strongest businesses struggle during times of crisis, like global economic woes, devastating hurricanes and national tragedies. These events often mean slow business and time to recover.

ClientAttraction.com, a small Connecticut-based business, recently discussed the best business approach to tragedy in an article on Forbes. They explain that in order to improve on their work, customer and client service and policies, they always put people first.

The company offered 7 guidelines for business during times of tragedy:

1.       Be adaptable

“We take a no excuses approach to all that we do and in all honesty when Hurricane Sandy hit, even though each member of my team was without power, internet capability and couldn’t even physically get to work, we didn’t skip a beat! We’re a resourceful bunch. But being resourceful has its place and time. As the news of the devastation unfolded we regrouped and with the same flexibility that would have allowed us to pull off a major launch despite challenging conditions, we instead tweaked the whole plan to allow for a postponement. By being flexible and rolling with the punches a bit, we were able to demonstrate respect for those affected by the storm and we were also able to give our team the time they needed to be with their own families as well.”

2.       Turn off pre-scheduled online activity

“During times of tragedy, it’s important to be aware of any online activity- automated email promotions, tweets, facebook posts, blog updates, etc. that you’ve pre-scheduled. Allowing business-as-usual posts for your latest product of service to be sent out during a time when serious news is unfolding, can certainly appear disrespectful and insensitive. My advice is to cease all scheduled updates for the time being. It’s just not relevant.”

3.       Use your platform instead to provide support and much-needed resources

“For any entrepreneurs with a list of followers- large or small- and a social media presence, realize that you do have a platform. When you speak, people listen so it’s ok to learn with your heart and intuition. Communicate your condolences, support- whatever is appropriate. Your voice of empathy may help others to feel better. Then offer resources. Perhaps it’s a link to make a donation to the Red Cross but let people know in a humble way what you’re doing to help the situation so you can inspire and lead others to do the same.”

4.       Be mindful of customers and clients in the affected areas

“Determine if you have any customers or clients who are personally affected by the crisis. Then reach out. Is there a way you can help them? Help those who support you as a business. Loyalty goes a long way- and it works both ways.”

5.       Avoid newsjacking

“Newsjacking is the practice of capitalizing on breaking news to promote your company’s products or services. Unless your company offers real-time relevant products or services that directly benefit those affected by the crisis, this is just not a good practice, and frankly it’s out of integrity.”

6.       Always err on the side of love, authenticity and compassion

“In business, we’re often focused on marketing strategy, competition and increased revenues. After all, we’re in business to earn a profit, right? But when faced with a decision on what the “right” thing to do is, allow your hearts and souls into our business. To put people first, profits second. When you come from a place of love, authenticity and compassion, you can’t do the wrong thing- it’s just not possible.”

7.       Create a crisis plan with your team

“Use these guidelines to create your own company crisis plan and incorporate it into your operations manual. Let’s face it, when disaster strikes we’re not always thinking clearly. Having a plan with a full checklist of the many things to consider ensures that business is carried out appropriately- and with humanity. It makes good sense for our companies, our employees and our customers and clients. And in the long term, your prospects and customers will choose you over others, because you have heart and you cared.”

New Partners Announced at Goldman Sachs

Continuing a 130 year-old tradition, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc named 70 of its most dedicated employees to the status of partner in mid-November. Among those so named are Michael Swell, Anne Marie Darling, and Scott Lebovitz. Goldman Sachs promotes to partner a select few of its total number of employees every two years, with numbers ranging from 110 who were picked in 2010, 94 in 2008, and 70 this year.

The percentage of new partners who are women is the largest it’s been since 2006, at 14 percent, with ten new women named. Almost 60 percent are based in the Americas, while about 29 percent are stationed in Europe and MENA. About 13 percent of the new partners are working in Asia.

Among the new women partners is Anne Marie Darling. Darling, based in New York, is the chief operating officer of securities division sales. In 2006 she was named as the inventor of a financial technology patent which was made up of, “apparatus, methods and articles of manufacture for providing, accessing and editing content intended for publication or dissemination.”

Working within the global fixed-income group in Goldman Sachs Asset Management division, Michael Swell has 18 years of investment experience. He has also worked inside the global fixed income and liquidity management team at GSAM.

After joining Goldman Sachs in 1997, Scott Lebovitz attained the position of Vice President of the Merchant Banking Division at Goldman.  Since 2011, Lebovitz served as Director of Cobalt International Energy, Inc.

Taken together, partners at Goldman Sachs own about 11.4 percent of the company’s shares, as of October 22, 2012.  The total number of employees at the firm, which is the fifth largest investment bank in the United States, numbers 32,600 people. When the promotion to partners goes through on January 1st, 2013, the percentage of partners out of all full-time employees at Goldman will be about 1.7 percent.

President Obama and John Boehner Open Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

President Obama and John Boehner are both heavily involved in negotiations regarding tax increases and the looming fiscal cliff.

Boehner has made his first concession on the topic, proposing that taxes on millionaires can rise as long as the increase is accompanied by spending cuts, entitlement cuts and tax reform.

Obama, on the other hand, firmly holds that taxes should increase for those making $250K and over.

Though the rift between the two sides is certainly wide, Fiscal Cliff negotiations seem to be gaining true momentum.  The subject is open to discussion and common ground can eventually be reached.

Still, Boehner’s spokesperson stated: “The lines of communication remain open, but there is no agreement, nor is one imminent.”

Investment in Technology Startups

A recent report has revealed that technology startups that market their services to other companies are more attractive to investors than those who provide services directly to consumers.

The CB Insights analysis covered more than 450 startups, and found that 389 of them offer services to other businesses.

Anand Sanwal, CB Insights co-founder, explained:

“They’re going to have an easier time financing, because they have very clear metrics, like revenue, sales, customers and profits. Business-to-consumer companies are often betting more on potential, saying ‘Hey, we have millions of users, and we think we can monetize and make X dollars per user.’”

In other words, private equity and venture capital and significantly more interested in companies selling services to other companies because they have defined goals and results.

E-commerce companies actually lead the most successful startups, followed by business-to-business telecom devices and equipment makers. Social media, on the other hand, is barely involved in the total count.

The NY Post adds:

“Sequoia Capital and Intel Capital are neck-and-neck for first place in such investments, with money in 35 startups. Goldman Sachs and other private equity firms also made it into the Top 10.”

2013’s Upcoming What’s Next Boomer Business Summit

The 10th annual What’s Next Boomer Business Summit will take place in Chicago on March 12th. Companies, brand managers and entrepreneurs will all participate in the event, where analysts, marketers and journalists will answer questions such as ‘How will Baby Boomers reimagine life after 50 in the decades ahead?’ and ‘What technologies are going to be increasingly important for capturing larger shares of the Boomer and senior markets?’

Dr. Mary Furlong, executive producer of the event and CEO of Mary Furlong & Associates, explained:

“As we look to the future and predict who will really thrive instead of merely survive in the longevity economy, a few things become clear: companies whose products and services make Boomers’ lives easier, deliver exceptional customer experiences, and offer meaning within the context of their lifestyle and life stage will win. This summit will equip business leaders with the tools and insight they need to achieve success in the highly lucrative and evolving longevity economy.”

The summit gathers strategists and marketers to discuss new research, products and services for the upcoming Boomer year. This year’s event will include sessions on:

  • Money, Retirement and Grandparenting
  • Tech Trends in the Boomer and Senior Market
  • Mobile Apps, Marketing and the Future of E-Commerce
  • Health and Wellness Trends
  • The Future of Social Security
  • The Future of Home
  • Entrepreneurship and Life Reimagined

 

Holiday Spending Reaches New High

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday all boosted consumer spending, thrilling business owners and retails throughout the United States. Now comes the real challenge: keeping up the trend. Many experts predict even better sales over the next few weeks.

Black Friday weekend saw 247 million shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation. Last year saw only 226 million. The group adds that the average shopper spent $423 for the holidays. Spending reached $59.1 billion in total.

The NRF total included the $5.5 billion spent on Small Business Saturday, as well as $1.98 billion on Cyber Monday. Last year, the end of the weekend generated only $1.25 billion in spending.

The Star Gazette analyzes the reasons behind the spending. They explain:

“Retailers will say the sales figures are proof positive that shoppers rallied behind the trend of opening stores on Thanksgiving Day. And, according to the NRF, some 35 million shoppers- 28 percent of all weekend shoppers- visited their favorite stores on Thanksgiving Day, up from last year’s total of 29 million.”

It goes on to say that economists will pin the spending increase on growing consumer confidence and economic recovery. In fact, Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index has revealed that the number of economically-optimistic households is at its highest since 2002.

“Meanwhile, shoppers are saying that, after making it through a tough year, they owe it to themselves to splurge over the holidays,” Star Gazette continues.