Finance

Holiday Shopping Tips

Attract Top Talent Managing Your Money

Fuel Saving and Money Saving

Long-Term Care Time-Saving Tips Launching Your Business Smart Spending

Red-Hot Black Friday Tips

(NAPSI)—Savvy shoppers know the holiday shopping season begins in earnest on the day after Thanksgiving. According to a recent consumer survey, more than 85 percent of shoppers typically plan to hit the stores on Black Friday.

To get the most bang for your buck this holiday season, consider these salient tips from seasoned holiday shoppers polled by the mobile couponing app Shopular:

• Deal hunt. Lots of sales will be available—if you know where to look. Check out the ads in this publication and also via mobile.

• Browse early. Do research early using your PC or smartphone to map out desired purchases ahead of time so you don’t go in cold.

• Hit stores when they open. The best deals are often gone within the first 30 to 90 minutes on big sale days.

• Consider alternate venues. Outlet stores can be great holiday shopping sites.

• Be prepared. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, bring some water and take plenty of breaks.

For more deal-finder tips and bargains, visit the Shopular site at www.Shopular.com and download the free mobile app from iTunes or Google Play.

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How To Attract Top Talent—And Keep Them

by Dave Hilbe

(NAPSI)—While many businesses are decrying the mainframe skills shortage, there are steps you can take to keep your company out of their company.

The Problem

With many mainframe specialists retired or nearing retirement, the race is on to figure out how to fill their shoes. While some universities are adding limited mainframe topics to their curriculum, mainframe skills are no longer widely taught at the university level. At my company, we’ve taken the approach of developing mainframe talent in-house. Attracting the right talent isn’t enough: It’s also important to plant it in good soil, water it adequately and let it grow.

A Solution

Ultimately, you need your mainframe college hire to become a productive and talented mainframe technician. Here’s what we’ve learned.

Define a career development plan: Identify the job functions you want your new hires performing in the first two years. For example, the first year may focus on general mainframe, software development or database skills. In the second year, focus more on deep technical knowledge covering a narrower scope as you prepare them to take full responsibility for a project.

Next, break it all down further to one-year and six-month milestones. It’s essential to define these milestones for two reasons. First, you have skills clearly defined by which you can measure how well the college hire is progressing. Second, you can use the expected job functions to define your training plans. A development plan lets you evaluate various education, training and assignment opportunities in light of where the college hire is in his or her overall career development. This also brings some level of structure to their development.

Have the professional development talk: Meet with each new hire, review the two-year development plan and stress:

• Challenge/push yourself.

• Make sure you are always learning.

• Focus on always making a worthwhile contribution.

• Understand your career growth opportunities.

• Feel you’re fairly compensated.

Managers should regularly review this list with the college hire and confirm that everything is being addressed appropriately.

Assign mentors: A mentor should have strong skills in the area in which you want the college hire to grow. The mentor is there for questions, to help with assignments and company-specific processes and procedures, and to make and evaluate assignments.

Recognize success: Receiving acknowledgment for a job well done can be a huge boost to employee confidence and morale. At BMC, we have a quarterly awards program and several of our college hires have won the award. We push our college hires and, when successful, promote them fairly quickly.

Create a comfortable work environment: One way is by having several employees who are at the same stage in their career development. Even workers who are happy inside the office building may want to cut short their tenure with the company if they’re miserable once they leave the building, missing friends and family.

Offer top-notch training: Several computer-based training self-study programs are available that cover many mainframe topics: operating systems, programming, JCL, network, databases and so on. Give college hires opportunities to attend an industry conference periodically; say, every 18 months.

Many vendor software packages incorporate mainframe expertise. Automation, exception-based analysis, and business policy-based software packages are examples of tools that can help your mainframe talent become productive more quickly.

Expose your college hires to many different aspects of your business. You might discover fresh, new ways of looking at problems and recognizing opportunities.

Reap the business benefits: My firm’s training program for college hires has proven to be overwhelmingly positive both from a business perspective and from the perspective of the college hires.

• Mr. Hilbe is senior director, Product Development, BMC Software, www.bmc.com.

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Don’t Misplace Your Trust—Or Your Money

(NAPSI)—Do you research a charity before you donate? Chances are you don’t, and you’re not alone. According to Hope Consulting, 65 percent of Americans fail to research before donating their time and money—but they’re donating a lot. In 2013, Americans gave a staggering $335 billion to charities, notes Giving USA Foundation.

So what about Americans who do research in advance? Unfortunately, they often use ineffective indicators for verifying trust in a charity.

New research from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance shows that 46 percent of people think that looking at how funds are spent would be the most important way to verify whether a charity is trust worthy. Donors often have unrealistic expectations regarding the percentage of a charity’s expenses that should go to overhead (administrative and fund raising costs). In fact, charities need overhead to improve their work and further their fundraising and operating capacity. While financial information can help identify questionable charities, financial ratios alone fail to tell the entire story. For example, a charity with good financial ratios may have poor governing board oversight or may not provide donors with easy access to basic information, such as a mission statement or program accomplishments.

Details of a charity’s impact can certainly be helpful to donors, but even this measure has limitations. Given the huge diversity and number of charities, there is no universal agreement on how to objectively measure results. Additionally, when there are so many charities addressing similar causes, it is difficult to prove that any single charity has made the biggest difference. Just as solely focusing on financials or overhead doesn’t provide a full picture, neither does solely focusing on impact.

Other donors verify trust in charities based on the name alone. Donors can become confused by charities with similar names, especially when associated with similar causes. Questionable fundraisers count on individuals falling victim to mistaken identity due to their reliance on charity name recognition.

Personal experiences or familiarity with a cause can give donors a false sense of confidence. Emotions can also be clouded by recommendations from family or friends. However, one cannot assume that these well-meaning contacts have verified the charity in advance. Donors should always vet charities for themselves, so they can give with trust.

So what can donors do to make sure that their donations are going to responsible and trustworthy charitable organizations? Donors need to look at the whole picture. Donors should seek out charity assessments that use a rigorous evaluation method against holistic standards rather than ranking charities based on single indicators. This provides donors with the necessary information to truly understand which charities are trustworthy—and deserving of their time and money.

At Give.org, BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates charities using a comprehensive approach. Charities that meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability receive accreditation. This accreditation considers finances, governing board oversight, whether or not the organization measures its effectiveness, donor privacy and so on. These measures are integral to understanding the whole picture of a charity’s accountability. If an organization meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards, a donor can be sure that the organization is trustworthy.

Researching before donating is necessary to ensure that you are giving to charities worthy of your dollars and trust. When researching, make sure you are considering the whole picture—not just focusing on a single aspect. Just as you deserve to know that a charity is trustworthy and ethical, a charity deserves to be judged on more than just its finances.

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Fuel-Saving All-Wheel Drive

(NAPSI)—When purchasing a car, there are a lot of optional features to consider. While some offer convenience and comfort, others, such as an all-wheel-drive system, offer safety, making it one of the most important and helpful options to consider for your next car.

All-wheel-drive systems power all four wheels on the vehicle at the same time rather than just the front or rear wheels, allowing for safer driving because of improved traction and handling performance. These features can improve driving in difficult conditions, including rain, snow and ice-especially beneficial during challenging winter weather.

But all-wheel-drive systems generally come with a cost: in creased fuel consumption.

Now, however, the all-wheel-drive system available on the new 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 7-passenger crossover—in addition to providing outstanding agility and tractability and improved safety—has been cleverly engineered to reduce fuel consumption.

The electronically controlled Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system features the convenience of push-button activation as well as four distinct driving modes—the standard “NORMAL” mode, enhanced traction in slippery conditions with the “SNOW” setting, maximum traction in “LOCK” and an “AWC ECO.”

In the first three settings, the vehicle operates in full all-wheel drive (4WD) with the engine routing power to all four wheels at all times while the vehicle is moving.

When the driver selects the “AWC ECO” mode, it operates as a more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive (2WD) vehicle that can switch to full all-wheel drive (4WD) in a split second for increased traction and stability the moment sensors detect any wheel slip or loss of traction from any of the vehicle’s wheels. Meaningful fuel savings can be achieved by automatically switching to all-wheel drive only when absolutely necessary.

This system is one of the most sophisticated available on any vehicle today and includes a high-tech Active Front Differential (AFD) for precise delivery of power to the front wheels and Brake Control technology to improve the driver’s control over the vehicle as well as steering response.

Because of its innovative engineering, the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander-an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick+”−rated vehicle—offers best-in-class EPA fuel mileage ratings among 7-passenger crossover/SUVs and is one of the highest-fuel-economy SUV/crossovers in its segment in America today.

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Prepare For Long-Term Care

(NAPSI)—As Americans live longer, the prospect of becoming a caregiver or needing one is an undeniable reality. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70 percent of adults 65 or older will require some form of long-term care (“LTC”). Despite the clear need, the majority of Americans have not taken proactive steps to address care for themselves or their loved ones—but you don’t have to be among them.

Findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2014 Long-Term Care Study revealed that even though three-quarters of individuals agreed that planning is important as longevity increases, just a fraction have spoken to family members about their wishes or discussed their own preferences. Of those who have considered LTC planning, the majority expect to rely on personal savings, which may be unrealistic, as a private room in a U.S. assisted living facility or nursing home can average $38,000 and $90,000 per year, respectively, according to data from Northwestern Mutual’s Cost of Long-Term Care Study. Moreover, since AARP research indicates that 87 percent of Americans rely on unpaid or informal caregivers, it is not surprising that more than half of future caregivers in Northwestern Mutual’s Long-Term Care Study believe that caregiving will affect their budgets and retirement savings.

According to Steve Sperka, vice president of long-term care at Northwestern Mutual, the significant financial and lifestyle implications of caregiving should elevate planning for LTC to a key priority. “Our new study confirms what we have heard firsthand from clients—that fulfilling caregiving obligations can take a serious economic and emotional toll on families,” said Sperka. “Caregivers, particularly members of the Sandwich Generation simultaneously providing for young children and elderly relatives, are sacrificing family time and career opportunities while in their professional prime.”

The good news is that it is possible to take control of your potential long-term care needs and help ensure clarity for the future in the event of an unexpected illness or condition. To protect income and assets and mitigate the stress and uncertainty that accompany difficult long-term care events, Sperka suggests the following:

• Recognize that you have options. While it is optimal to get a jump start on long-term care planning, there are a range of considerations at various life stages that can be integrated into your financial security planning.

• Have a candid conversation. Long-term care is a challenging topic but understanding your family member’s wishes and expectations for care as well as communicating your own is the key to building a sound retirement plan.

• Talk to a financial professional. Do not underestimate the value of expert guidance in navigating complex scenarios and tailoring a strategy that will align with your individual goals, needs and resources.

To learn more about long-term care costs and options, including a Long-Term Care Cost Calculator, visit www.nm.com.

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Faster At The Pharmacy

(NAPSI)—There are five steps you can take to get in and out of the pharmacy faster:

1. Time your visit right. Pharmacies are generally less busy and lines may be shorter mid-mornings and late afternoons.

2. Scan to refill. Many pharmacies now have secure apps that let you scan the bar code on a current prescription when it needs refilling.

3. Keep all your information together. CVS/pharmacy customers have 24-hour access to their prescription records, can view and order refills, and stay up-to-date with health needs via the mobile app and at CVS.com.

4. Don’t waste time going to pick up a prescription that’s not ready. Many pharmacies offer text, e-mail or telephone alerts.

5. Avoid unnecessary issues. The CVS mobile app has a Drug Interaction Checker that checks medications and their reactions with other medications, foods and so on. A Pill Identifier takes the guesswork out of which pills are which, so you take the right one.

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Three Important Steps To Consider When Launching Your Business

by Raja Sengupta

(NAPSI)—If you are starting a business, it's important to remember that actions you take now can have significant consequences in the future.

While this can apply to many aspects of the startup process, the three main steps you need to address include deciding the best structure for your company, choosing and reserving your company name and selecting a registered agent in the state(s) where you're planning to conduct business.

Protect Your Assets By Choosing The Business Organization That's Right For You

Choosing a statutory business organization instead of operating your business in your own name presents several benefits. There are many business organization options available. However, the two most commonly used are the Limited Liability Company (LLC) and the corporation.

Using a corporation or LLC establishes immediate legitimacy and credibility for your new venture. Vendors, partners and customers often prefer conducting business with a statutory business organization. In addition, it allows for asset protection. As an owner, you're able to distinguish, separate and protect your personal assets from business debts and liabilities.

Once you decide on your preferred company structure, you should look for a trusted service provider with the proper expertise to help you navigate each step of the organization process, and ensure your company stays compliant with state and federal requirements as you attain specific milestones for your business.

Reserve Your Business Name

While choosing a business name can be exciting, you also need to make sure that your company's legal name complies with state laws. One of those laws requires the legal name to be available in the state. That means the name is not already on the Secretary of State's records as belonging to another company. If your desired business name is available, you should reserve it with the state before filing any paperwork to form your corporation or LLC.

Even if your legal name is not on record with the state, that doesn't mean it isn't currently being used by another entity in commerce as a trademark. Therefore, you should consider performing a trademark search on any name you choose, to ensure that it does not infringe upon someone's trademark rights.

If you have aspirations to expand your business into other states, you should consider whether the name is used in those states. You should also identify if your desired name is available for online purposes. Be mindful of pre-existing domain names and what types of services similarly named companies offer.

If you plan on using your business name as a trademark (meaning you are using it in commerce to identify your goods or services), then to protect your business name nationwide and legally, be sure to register a trademark. This will prevent others from subsequently using an identical or similar name that could confuse or deceive consumers. To qualify for a trademark, the name you choose must be "distinctive"—meaning completely unique and not a name that would be confused with any other product in the market.

Designate A Registered Agent

A registered agent is a business or individual that receives legal papers, such as a summons and complaint, and certain official state documents, including tax forms and annual corporate and LLC reports on behalf of a business.

As a business owner, you must designate a registered agent in every state where you conduct business. The business owner can act as the registered agent, but this is often difficult or not possible due to the business' physical location.

Selecting a professional registered agent provides several benefits. The first is peace of mind. You can rest assured knowing that your registered agent has knowledge of all legal or government documents served on or sent to your business. The registered agent acts on your business' behalf and has the expertise to handle documents correctly. Registered agents will complete work processes promptly, efficiently and discreetly—ensuring your business remains compliant and is positioned for continual growth.

Raja Sengupta is the Executive Vice President and General Manager for CT Small Business, which provides compliance solutions to small- and mid-sized corporations and entrepreneurs, as well as the advisers who serve them. CT is a Wolters Kluwer Company.

To learn more, visit ct.wolterskluwer.com.

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Smart Spending And Saving

(NAPSI)—According to financial experts, it’s not how much money you make that counts, it’s how much you keep. To help you hang on to more of your hard-earned dollars, there’s now a new, free and convenient way to pay your bills from any mobile device—mobile phones, tablets, Macs and PCs—wherever you may be. So you don’t have to worry about missing a payment—and having to pay a penalty; you can even schedule the payment days in advance.

Called Evolve Money, it puts you in control of paying your bills by letting you pay bills whenever, wherever and however you like. You can pay over 11,000 service providers, including utilities, insurance, wireless, cable, Internet and loans, with a debit card, Discover credit card and cash via load packs purchased at retail. These Evolve Pay Bucks are available at thousands of retailers nationwide. Payments post in two days or less at no charge. A Quick Start Guide walks you through the steps for paying your bills.

This payment method is smart because it reduces the risk of having your personal information stolen since the service makes the payment on your behalf. Your payment information is not shared with the payee, so there’s no need to create accounts with your personal information at numerous online biller sites. Everything is under one account with one user name and password.

Once you’ve set up your payment system, there are three other ideas you may care to consider:

1. Time can turn even small investments into large ones. That’s because money you save in a savings account or mutual fund earns interest, and interest on that interest and so on. According to the Department of Labor, if you put $1,000 a year into an IRA every year from age 20 through age 30 at 7 percent annual interest, your savings will equal $168,514 when you’re 65.

2. Check your credit report and score. You need to do both. The Federal Trade Commission says credit-reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment or renting a home.

3. Avoid fees for overdue bills. Try to pay more than the minimum on your credit card bills. If you can, overpay your mortgage to get the equity up faster.

Learn More

For further facts, stats and tips, go to www.evolvemoney.com.

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