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Creating value by changing the purpose of your property or business

How Re-Purposing Vacant Commercial Property Can Lead to Economic Growth
Cities across the country are filled with vacant commercial properties, especially those left when big box stores close. These properties can bring blight to neighborhoods. In some cases, they may stand empty for years, causing the economy in the surrounding area to decline. Some innovative companies, such as Starwood Ceruzzi, have started purchasing, renovating and re-purposing such properties. Doing this can lead to economic revitalization for the entire community in several ways.

Re-Purposing Leads to Higher Property Values
A major issue when a retail space is abandoned and left vacant is a drop in the property values of property in the surrounding area. As property values fall, more businesses may also lose money, leading to additional closures and an escalation of the problem. When a commercial property is renovated and opened again, surrounding property values normally rebound, increasing with the presence of the new businesses. This can also draw new residents as the neighborhood becomes more desirable.

Re-Purposing Brings in New Business
Large renovated and reopened retail spaces can be used to attract new big-box businesses or to be divided up for use by numerous smaller ones. They can also be transformed into distribution or manufacturing centers. All of these new uses can help revitalize the local economy of the city in which the property is located. New business means new tax revenues for cities as well as additional money being poured into the local economy, benefiting all residents in turn.

Re-Purposing Helps to Reduce Crime
A link between vacant commercial properties and increases in crime rates has been repeatedly demonstrated. As property values fall and more businesses close, the crime rate for the entire city may increase. When these vacant properties are instead purchased, renovated and leased for new business uses, research has demonstrated a corresponding drop in crime.

Re-Purposing Leads to Additional Jobs
One of the best results of rehabbing and re-purposing vacant commercial properties is bringing new jobs for people living nearby. With the size of some of these buildings, potentially hundreds of new jobs can open up to the community. This can result in lower unemployment rates and more money being spent in the local economy. The availability of new jobs can improve the welfare of everyone living in a city. This has the potential to bring struggling communities back together and on their feet. Previously unemployed people who find new jobs have also been shown to have improved senses of self-worth and higher self-esteem, which lead to fewer issues with substance abuse, domestic violence and other problems.

People like louis ceruzzi, the owner of Starwood Ceruzzi, have taken the innovative approach of purchasing these types of vacant properties. They then renovate them and help to attract new businesses, leading to a better economy and environment for all. This is an example of how such activity within the commercial real estate marketplace can actively benefit entire neighborhoods, communities and cities. It brings new life to a community along with new jobs, a better economy and less crime.

How to put your long term investments on autopilot

In the US, pensions are rare for most workers, and those who do want to save for retirement are encouraged to use employee funded plans such as 401Ks. The problem that most investors have is that most of them are not professional investors. In fact, most are not even casual investors, and often do one of either two things, make no decisions at all, or leave the decisions to some kine of financial expert.

Doing nothing is not a good option, and leaving decisions completely to others is a better idea if the financial advisor is charging a minimal amount for their services. One company that takes the latter approach is Wealthfront (www.weathfront.com), which is an automated investment service that manages a diversified, low-cost portfolio of index funds.

Wealthfront makes it easy for investors who are willing to do a minimum of work to track their investments by creating personalized online investment account that is accessible anytime and anywhere from your desktop, tablet, phone, or other mobile device. The company supports the following types of accounts:

– Individual, joint, trust, & LLC taxable accounts
– Traditional, Roth, & SEP retirement accounts (IRAs)
– 401(k) rollover accounts
– 501(c) accounts for non-profit institutions

What are the Wealthfront investment options?
Wealthfront uses exchange traded funds (ETFs) that track indexes for the 11 major asset classes. These kinds of broad, market based investments historically have been more consistent than individual stocks. Their analytical process can also provide investors with reasons why a particular ETF was chosen.

How much does Wealthfront cost?
Wealthfront requires a minimum of $5,000, and charges no fees for the first $10,000. After that, the charge is 0.25% per year. There are no additional fees for their service, and no trading commissions. For A $100,000 investment, the annual costs would be $225 (0.25% of $90,000).

While investing with Wealtfront is not like putting your investments completely on autopilot, it can take most of the work out of your investing decisions. Interested investors should visit Wealthfront.com and evaluate their service for themselves.

10 CRM Mistakes Financial Advisors Should Avoid

As a financial advisor, your relationship with clients comes first, but how should you manage these relationships successfully? One of the many customer relationship management (CRM) solutions on the market can help you to improve those relationships. For on-the-go professionals, Contactually works everywhere you do – in the office and on the road. Another cloud-based option, Salesforce, offers similar portability. Whichever CRM you choose, avoid these 10 common mistakes to get off to a good start.

1. Not Identifying a Purpose
For a CRM to be an effective tool, you first need to identify why you are wielding it. Do you want to increase referrals or branch out into new regions? Knowing what you hope to accomplish can define how you use the software.

2. Failing to Realize Its Full Potential
You’ve just invested in a powerful tool. Be sure to use it to its full potential. In addition to managing customer relationships, a CRM can also streamline workflow and track performance.

3. Bypassing Training
New software can be intimidating without training. Although you may be anxious to jump in, make time for training. From learning short cuts to understanding features, time spent now can save you countless hours later.

4. Doing Too Much at Once
Rolling out a new system that promises to improve business is exciting. Don’t let that enthusiasm tempt you to do everything at once. Instead, pick out the most important features and implement those first.

5. Neglecting Standard Operating Procedures
Establishing standard operating procedures is important. By creating standard protocols, you can ensure that everyone uses the system the same way, maximizing efficiency.

6. Underestimating the Power of Leading by Example
It’s difficult to convince others to use a new system when you’re not using it yourself. Lead by example. Your enthusiasm about the product will be catching.

7. Planning for In-Office Use Only
Today’s business world isn’t tied to a cubicle. Consider how you can use the product on the go. By planning for mobile use, you won’t miss capturing important customer data on the road.

8. Assigning It to a New Hire
It may be tempting to hand off the software to a new hire. However, new hires don’t yet understand the company well enough to implement a CRM. Instead, get experienced employees in the system first.

9. Overlooking New Features
To improve their products, software companies roll out new features all the time. Check the website periodically to see what’s new.

10. Forgetting Maintenance
In the excitement of using a new CRM, it can be easy to overlook maintenance. Performing routine checkups can help you avoid compounding mistakes.

Even the best financial advisors can make common mistakes. By knowing what you want out of a CRM and tailoring the implementation to accomplish those goals, you can reap the full benefits. Improved customer relationships are sure to follow.

Are you a saver or a spender?

Figuring out if you are a saver or a spender seems to be a simple proposition. Simply put, if you spend more than your make, then there is no chance that you can be a real saver, since your liabilities will be greater than your assets.

If you have a BBT checking account with a balance that makes you feel good when you look at it, but at the same time you have a credit card bill that is higher than the bank balance, then your are fooling no one but yourself.

Rather than staring at a bank balance, one should think about saving in a more general way. Think of savings as an attitude or a habit that makes it more likely that you have positive financial things happening in your life. Having a savings habit doesn’t guarantee that positive financial outcomes will happen, but it makes it more likely that they are happening in your life.

In the following simple example, imaging that the following money habits or money situations are true:

  • Having a savings account with a high interest rate is better than having one with a low interest rate (note that banks typically give higher rates for accounts with higher balances).
  • Paying off a car loan is not as attractive as owning a car free and clear.
  • Paying off a card in full at the end of a month is better than carrying a balance.
  • Spending less than you make every month is better than having some months where you run out of money or have to dip into your savings.
  • Believing that savings is easy is better than thinking that savings is hard.
  • Saving for a special project or for your health or education is better than not doing so.

Reading about good examples stimulates your mind in one way, and looking at pictures stimulates a different part of you mind. You can check out at the infographic below and the words above and between the two you should be about to figure out what good money habits would work for you.

Savers Vs Spenders Infographic by Newcastle Permanent Building Society

The risks of starting an adult services business

Deciding to start an adult services business comes with many risks. Those who do so have usually tested the waters and calculated the risks before taking the leap. It is important to understand the types of challenges you may face as you venture into this industry. It can be quite lucrative, but there are some real hurdles you may have to jump.

Adult merchant processing
If you decide to take credit or debit cards for services, which makes your offerings more accessible to more people, there are a limited number of card processing companies willing to take the risk on approving you for a card reader. There are many ways the business could slide into the realm of operating illegally, so many reputable card processing companies simply choose to avoid dealing with high risk business ventures. There are companies that specialize in making card readers available to these companies, however. Some offer point of service terminals at slightly higher fees, but they make it possible to present a professional way for you to provide your customers with payment options.

The Legalities
Because the laws vary from state to state, it is sometimes tricky to know whether you are operating lawfully or breaking a law. For this reason, adult service business owners must be vigilant about researching the laws in their own states. Even after informing themselves through research, it is still important to retain legal representation to fill in the gaps. Research may not help if you have to go through litigation or with knowing some subtle nuances of the law. The most successful businesses educate themselves, but rely to attorneys to make sure all bases are covered. They also educate their staff about what is legal to ensure an employee does not put the company at risk.

Reputation
It is likely that your true friends will not judge what you have chosen as a business venture once they know you work in adult services, or one that sells merchandise like sex toys. There is also a possibility that they will judge and distance themselves from you. For many who try to maintain traditional value systems, a business of this type is still taboo. People make assumptions that adult services is connected to either something illegal or morally questionable. If you are open about what you do, it may limit the number of people in your inner circle. For some business owners, this is a blessing rather than a curse. Others, however, should be prepared for potential backlash from their own communities and from others in conventional businesses.

Paying Bills with Short Term Money Options

People who live in the Rocky Mountain area can testify to the rising cost of living in these states. As the prices for housing, groceries, utilities, and more go up, more families in these states find it challenging to stretch their paychecks to cover all of their bills. When unexpected bills arise in between pay periods, it can be easy for people to panic and fear being unable to meet these obligations. Rather than have their bills turned over to a collection agency or have their utilities shut off, they can use financial remedies like a Nevada payday loan to get money fast and meet these obligations.

When they want to know more about this financial option, people might wonder where they can get all of the facts they need. They can learn about these options by going online and reading all of the information on the website at their leisure. The website contains a host of details that will give people all of the facts they need to understand and apply for one of these loans. They can discover the interest rate, payment methods, approval amounts, and more before they complete an application.

Completing the application also can be done entirely online at clients’ convenience. People can avoid rushing home to fill out an application for fear of missing the deadline or the website shutting down for the day. The site is available around the clock, which lets people who work odd hours get access to this financial option anytime they want. They can wait until they get off work or after they put the kids to bed to sit down and fill out the application at leisure.

When they submit their application, people may think that they have to wait days or weeks to find out if they have been approved. However, they can generally find out within hours if they can get the money they need to pay bills. If they are approved, people have the option of getting the money deposited into their bank accounts or onto a prepaid card. These direct deposit options let the transaction occur safely and in a timely manner. People can get access to their cash quickly rather than having to find a place that will cash a paper check. They can pay their bills, eliminate the worry that comes from being indebted or without important purchases, and move on with their lives.

Five fundamental tips for long term investors

If are the kind of person who wants to take an active part in your investing and not let some other person do it for you, then you have to be prepared to do a few basic things to make it more likely that you are happy with your investment choices and with their performance.

Investing is a very personal choice because it is not without financial risk, but as any honest financial expert will tell you, with investing, you’ll likely gain more than you’ll lose if you make the effort to learn about your investments and make sound decisions. But at the same time, there are no guarantees, and you need to be prepared for losses and gains. You also need to be patient. Don’t expect to see a return on investments for several months, and it could take a year or more for you to see a significant return from any investments. The following five investing tips should help you get started in the world of investing, but if you have questions or specific concerns or just want some reassurance, you should definitely get in touch with a local financial advisor or an investment firm.

  1. Be prepared to spend money for stocks and other paper assets: Stocks, mutual funds, and other paper investments is one financial area where you really will have to spend money in order to make money. But it’s easy to see why this is the case: you need money to purchase these kinds of assets. Once purchased, so long as they perform well enough, your stocks will earn your money. And on that note, be prepared for even the best performing of stocks to lose on occasion. It happens to even the most conservative and frugal of investors, so don’t beat yourself up too badly if you end up investing in a stock (or even a couple of stocks) that winds up under-performing.
  2. Be patient
    Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a company. Even already-running companies will need some time to take the capital they receive and convert it into a successful company. On average, it can take a company who’s selling stock six or more months to begin showing even a moderate return on the capital they received.
  3. Build a portfolio of paper assets: It’s understandable that you’d like to play it safe by going for low-risk stocks or other low-risk paper assets, but if you want to have a great portfolio that won’t let you down, mix things up a bit. Try to have about 60 percent of your shares in low-risk companies, 25 percent in moderate-risk stocks, and the remaining 15 percent in high-risk stocks. Low-risk and moderate-risk stocks will keep you balanced, while the loss from a small percentage of high-risk stocks will not hit hard – but on the other hand, gains from those high-risk stocks could certainly have a nice impact.
  4. Look beyond paper assets: While stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other paper assets are by far the most common investment vehicles for the average person, the investing universe is a lot bigger than just paper. Starting your own business, however small, may be a great way for you to get an economic benefit from your personal skills and connections. Like paper assets, businesses both large and small have risks, so it may be best to start small so that your mistakes don’t hurt you that much.
  5. Keep learning: Once you are committed to investing, you should also be committed to learning about investing. Between the Internet and your local library, you have access to more information about investing and investments than you can possibly learn in ten lifetimes. However, you are not investing in every option under the sun, so you can easily focus your learning to those areas where you are either investing in now or plan to invest in the future. The day you think you don’t need to learn is the day that you should hire someone else to do your thinking for you.

The UK electricity market reform – which are the CFDs to look out for

A new Energy Act to attract private investment to the UK electricity market passed into law in December 2013, and an Electricity Market Reform delivery plan to transform the country to low-carbon energy generation was published. If you’re considering embarking on some CFD related trading in energy investments in the UK and elsewhere, you may be wondering what the new energy strike prices could mean for your portfolio.

The UK government will need huge extra investment to successfully meet its commitment to both 2020 carbon emissions targets and reliable energy provision. The new mechanism to support this is called the Feed-in Tariff: Contract for Difference (CFD), and works by stabilizing revenues to energy generators, allowing them to commit to long-term investment in new, lower-carbon energy infrastructure. Generators receive a an amount needed to restore revenues to their former level, also knows as a top-up, when the market rate is lower than the strike price, and pay out when it’s higher. The government hopes this will encourage both large and smaller investors in cleaner energy generation by making their returns more reliable. It also creates new opportunities which may appeal to investors with a ‘green’ investment agenda.

CFDs have been around since the early 1990s, and became more popular around the turn of the current century when traders realized the potential in their substantial leverage. A small investment can be used to access a large amount of assets, and trading is done on the margin. This can result in huge gains, but also huge losses, and it’s worth noting most professional traders underwrite their CFDs with more predictable futures trading. Their appeal for newer investors is the comparatively low requirements for both capital and commitment.

The new energy funding mechanism is due to commence in 2014-15 and is intended to replace the existing ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates) which currently exist to support cleaner energy technologies – a major difference being the inclusion of nuclear energy generation projects in the CFD scheme.

The UK is a world leader in wind power generation, and based on the strike prices issued in December 2013, research suggests investors can expect offshore wind projects commissioned in 2014-18 to yield up to 12% returns – slightly more favorable than those from ROCs, which will continue to be available until 2017. Prices for onshore wind projects have been fixed somewhat lower. Some commentators believe the strike prices will require further refinement before they create a significantly more attractive investment opportunity.

CFD trading can reap rewards but is notoriously risky. If you’re planning to invest through CFDs, always spread your risk to limit your exposure.

Financial literacy impacts decision making

Research by the US Federal Trade Commission shows that financial education affects financial decision-making. Failure to plan for retirement, lack of participation in the stock market, and poor borrowing behavior can all be linked to ignorance of basic financial concepts.

Some of these findings, from the 2008 paper Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice? by Annamaria Lusardi, may seem quite obvious at first glance. For example, the author points out that those who demonstrate even a basic understanding of relevant financial topics are much more likely to have planned for retirement. These are not sophisticated topics, but basic things such as knowledge of interest compounding and the ability to perform simple mathematical calculations . Skills like these were shown to be among the strongest predictors of successful retirement planning.

To appeal to the average person, who may not have had a lot of prior exposure to financial topics or investment experience, the study suggest a social or even a psychological approach to financial education, for example exploiting “teachable moments” like the beginning of a new job, in order to get a person to think about taking action when their minds are open to new ideas about how financial decisions may affect their lives.

While the points raised by this study are reasonable, the challenge faced by society, even wealthy countries, is vast. Since the late 1980s when there were significant changes in laws regarding retirement planning, companies were much more free to move from traditional defined benefit plans like pensions to defined contribution plans like 401K plans that shift the responsibility of planning from the corporation to the individual.

While individuals and organizations with high levels of financial sophistication, such as firms specializing in industry specific areas such as chemicals m&a experts can easily manage rather exotic financial decisions, the average person has a much more difficult situation. Financial instruments have become increasingly complex and individuals are constantly being bombarded by the investment industry with new and financial products. However, most individuals are not well equipped to make financial decisions.

The study showed that most individuals cannot perform simple calculations and lack knowledge of basic financial concepts. Knowledge of more complex concepts, such as the difference between bonds and stocks, how mutual funds, and how to estimate the value of an asset is even rarer. Financial illiteracy is widespread among the general population, and particularly evident in some demographic groups that happen to also be overrepresented among the poor and struggling working class, such as women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those with low levels of formal education.

Managing debt by expanding your assets

Previous articles have discussed various aspects of debt management, including changing one’s approach to debt. Those changes can included reducing the total amount of debt, reducing the number of debts, looking at different financing options, and understanding the difference between a positive debt that leads to long term positive financial results, and negative debt that only produces expensed and creates no benefits.

One of the golden rules of debt is related to the last distinction of a positive or a negative debt. A positive debt incudes debt that is finances an asset that produces income that exceeds the costs of debt service and the other costs associated with that asset. An investment in an apartment building that produces a positive cash flow each month is an example of a positive debt.

Another kind of positive debt would include an educational loan that allows someone to find employment that produces a higher income, even after taking the educational debt payment into account. These very same debts could become a negative debt if the investment has a negative cash flow or if the educational loan doesn’t lead to a job or a pay raise.

While managing or reducing debt can be a primary financial goal, sustainable financial stability is much more likely to happen when you have assets working for you. Your assets can range from cash in a savings account or other low-risk paper asset, or a business or real estate investment that provides a positive cash flow every month.

If you don’t have any assets at all, it is probably smartest to start with a low risk asset like a savings account or precious metals. If you are going to use some kind of paper asset, it may be best to put it into an account that is not easily accessed to keep you from being tempted to spend it quickly.

Precious metals may fit into this kind of strategy, since you can’t just take a silver bar or a gold coin 1 oz gold american eagle to the store and use it like a common currency. You have to first take it to a coin dealer and exchange it for regular money before you can spend it. Gold and silver have an additional advantage as it can be used as a hedge against currency fluctuations and inflation.

Even if your debts are far larger than your assets, having even a tiny amount of assets to your name could do wonders to make you feel better about your financial situation and your prospects for the future.

The gold rush over big data

Often in the online world, a new set of buzzwords like ‘big data’ goes from being something known only in the technology world to something that is mentioned frequently in mainstream media. Like many other technology buzzwords, the reality of big data was happening long before the media hype, and long before the technology world even gave it a name.

A short definition of big data is the analysis of sets of data that are so large or so complex that it is difficult for conventional data analysis tools and techniques to make sense of it all. Because tools and technologies change, what may have been a difficult big data challenge during the era of Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s becomes a middle school science fair project in 2012.

Modern big data problems included weather forecasting and designing search engines. Much of the media hype revolves around big data issues that could result in big profits for private companies. Some, like Michael Fertik of the company Reputation.com, are quite keen on the idea that individuals and companies can benefit from using big data related technology to manage their online reputations.

While the concept of using a third party to manage online reputations may be validated by the marketplace, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a person or a company must pay a third party in order to benefit from big data related technology.

Many of the basic tools of big data are widely available to the public at no charge. The key to making the technology useful and valuable is the skills that are applied when using those tools.

Perhaps the most common example is the search engine. The largest search engines such as Google and Bing cost billions to develop and many millions per month to operate, yet they can be used without charge by anyone 24 hours a day for whatever purposes they have in mind.

Over time, most people who use search engines regularly come up with ways to use search engines to improve their lives or their businesses, and in most cases without paying for an expert or a company to do so on their behalf.

The rush by companies to capitalize on big data related business opportunities has many of the elements that existed in previous booms and busts related to gold, oil, and in the 1990s version of the Internet. Like the gold rushes of the past, some companies will likely become fabulously rich from the gold, many more may become as rich or even richer from activities that support the gold rush, but the vast majority won’t find a fortune and will likely not survive until the next gold rush.

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