5 tips for starting your small business

Starting a small business may seem like a daunting task, but it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for any entrepreneur. There are a myriad of informational books, websites and workshops available for those seeking to start a new organization, many of which offer in-depth advice pertaining to one specific sector of your business, such as creating a marketing department or recruiting the right employees.

Before you start delving into the more extensive aspects of small business development, however, it’s important to have the basics nailed down. If you’re thinking about creating your own organization, keep the following five tips in mind as you start planning your next great entrepreneurial venture.

1. Develop your business plan
Think of your business plan as an index of information about your company – it should feature detailed steps that layout exactly what your business hopes to achieve, a brief timeline for the tasks you hope to accomplish over a set frame, an overview of a budget and research pertaining to your desired industry. This is arguably the most important thing for a new small business owner, as it should be a comprehensive resource that features all you need to know about your new company and how to launch it from the ground up.

2. Identify your target market
Once you have your developed plan, it’s time to establish a target market. When you know what kind of service or product you’ll be providing, identify the people who you hope to reach. This is key for ensuring your small business is successful, as it will not only drive your marketing and sales tactics, but also decide how you speak to your customers via social media and which promotional products will be best suited to influence purchasing habits.

3. Find avenues for funding
There’s no sugar coating it – starting a small business is not cheap. There is an expansive range of fees and costs that you must take into account, including purchasing licenses for operations, paying startup fees to recognized organizations, shelling over cash for rent and obtaining necessary equipment to begin business. Some owners pay for these costs out of pocket, but for the majority of small business hopefuls, this is not an option. Begin by developing a comprehensive budget that details all fees you’ll have to pay up front, then examine how much you will require before your company breaks even. After this is done, explore your funding options – it may be wise to research small business loans, community grants or fundraising tactics that have proven successful in the past.

4. Ask for advice from the pros
It may seem like your struggles are uniquely yours, but you are not the first to create a small business. Many of the world’s most successful corporations – including Starbucks and Subway – started as tiny operations. Don’t hesitate to ask for help during this journey, as other owners in your community may be more than willing to dish out advice. Seek local universities or well-established companies that are replete with business professionals, as they may be happy and eager to help.

5. Craft creative ways to reach consumers
After you’ve developed your plan, budget and target market, it’s time to start figuring out how you’ll reach your consumer base. Once your target demographic has been identified, start researching how they are most likely to interact with your brand and which tactics are most effective in reaching them. A great way to win new customers and spread brand awareness is by distributing promotional products that feature your company name and logo. Consider a small option when your business is just starting up, as these can be easily purchased and spread to vast range of people. Bulk logo pens are ideal, as they are not only useful for everyday life, but they can be left in locations around the city, thus potentially boosting your exposure.

Do I Really need to Spend Money on Life Insurance?

If your household budget is tight it can be very tempting to put life insurance premiums at the bottom of your list of expenditure.  According to a LIMRA study in 2013 although 85% of Americans agree that life insurance is required by most people, only 62% actually have it; just one of several shocking statistics. 

It is perhaps easy to understand how this can happen but that doesn’t make it any less concerning.  So what causes people not to have life insurance, and why do they really need to have a re-think?

I’ll do it Tomorrow

The utility bills have arrived, the children need new shoes, the car needs gas, and it’s food shopping day.  There is perhaps little chance that you are going to sit down and think that you need to buy life insurance; it just doesn’t compute most of the time.

Try putting this situation into the right perspective.  Imagine that you are not there; that you don’t exist.  Now realise that all those expenses would still exist; how much more difficult would it be for the family to pay for these things without your contribution?  And that is why life insurance is not a put off until tomorrow thing.

No-one knows what tomorrow will bring; we may think we do but we don’t, not definitively.  How do you know that you will not not be walking along the sidewalk and be hit by a reckless driver, or that you will not suffer a sudden heart attack?  No-one thinks it will happen to them but it does every minute of every day the world over.

If you die tomorrow, and you haven’t got life insurance, see Suncorp for more on this, you are probably leaving your family without the means to pay for those shoes, that gas, or even that food.

False Economy

It’s very easy to say that you simply don’t have enough money to pay for life insurance whilst at the same time you have cable, order take out, or have that one last beer.  Arguably all of these could be considered luxury items; life insurance is not.  It is just as essential as paying your bills or your mortgage.

Not paying life insurance premiums means that you are setting your loved ones up for a whole financial nightmare at what will be one of the worst times in their life; do you really want to do that?

False Bravado

Probably the worst reason for not purchasing life insurance is believing that you are invincible.  This is a selfish attitude although it can be well meaning.  You are young and healthy and you don’t want to think about dying.  This is totally understandable, but when you are young and healthy is probably the best time to buy life insurance, it will be a lot easier to get an affordable plan.

The easiest thing in the world is to just not think about life insurance whether for financial reasons, or because you just don’t want to confront your own mortality.  If you want to look after your family after you have gone, as well as while you are around, you cannot afford to not think about it any longer.

How the financial sector benefits from test management software

Test management software is a more vital tool than ever as application portfolios expand. This is especially true for companies in the financial sector, which is leading the charge in application adoption to increase business intelligence. Banking and planning apps have the potential to enhance efficiency and lower costs across enterprise financial organizations, but companies can’t expect to realize these gains simply by deploying software. Without adequate quality assurance, firms can’t be certain that they can avoid poorly functioning apps and a lack of management ability – leaving the door open to software vulnerabilities.

The twin trends of globalization and mobilization have expanded financial services supply chains over the last few years. In attempt to satisfy rising consumer expectations while simultaneously engineering more profit potential, firms have turned to more data and application-heavy environments. While supply chain silos can often hamper productivity in traditional organizational models, separation in a software-based model can have downright disastrous implications. If every stakeholder can’t use the same tools to the same ends, slowness and confusion can result.

Firms have to test quality and compatibility extensively before embarking on their application-centric future. Without test management software, they’re putting themselves at risk of a long and painful rollout.

The top software tools in the financial sector
Let’s take a look at test management software in action. To best illustrate its importance, let’s see how it can streamline implementation of customer relationship management software and document management applications. CRM is one of the most popular tools in the financial supply chain, according to Investor’s Business Daily, with 86.5 percent of financial services consultants using it to enhance client interactions. Document management is used by 67.2 percent of financial advisors to better store and share files.

CRM is widely used by insurance, banking and wealth management, among other finance firms. It enables them to centralize key customer-facing processes, as well as make internal operations more efficient. Without test management software, however, the CRM may not be effectively connected to operations systems. Users may be forced to access multiple systems in order to compile and examine data, which can skew insights and degrade data quality.

A lack of testing for document management applications can lead to issues beyond operational inefficiency. Compliance concerns put more pressure on financial services organizations to safeguard information, with potential penalties and fines hitting noncomplying organizations harder. Revisions to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard 3.0, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, focus on vendor relationships and supply chain system components. It’s more important than ever to ensure that software bugs or database flaws don’t fly under the radar, potentially exposing the organization to data leaks or compliance woes. Test management software can help organizations target and repair any coding problems or other issues.

How test management software leads to better mobile banking
Financial services firms focused on consumers can ride their test management software to better customer applications. By developing a robust internal mobile application platform, argued Bank Systems & Technology contributor Robb Gaynor, finance firms are better situated to build a better suite of consumer-facing applications. They can apply the same test management software and strategies that boost company operations to a singular platform for holistic interoperability.

A Study of Retirement Options for Baby Boomer Generation

Known for their hard-charging work ethic, the baby boomer generation is beginning to let the world know how they feel about the idea of retirement. A combination of choice, obligation and the need for financial security is keeping older adults in the workforce past the standard retirement age of 65.
When they finally decide to leave their jobs, many boomers have no plans to follow the now common practice of living out their days in retirement communities. Whatever they decide, this generation will continue to influence the current workforce for years to come.Virtual-Mentor-Pro-Standard-Graphic-72dpi

A complete guide to emergency funds – Part 1

Emergency Fund

Update: This post continues to be a very successful post and I have updated it for 2014.

This is a two part post covering the following topics.
Part 1:

  • What is an emergency fund?
  • Why do I need an emergency fund?
  • How much do I need to save?

Part 2:

  • How to get started?
  • How to invest your emergency fund?
  • What are the common pitfalls of emergency fund and how to avoid them?


What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is the money you set aside to use when life presents you with unfortunate and unexpected events.

Simply put, emergency fund is the money you save in an easily accessible account so that it can be used to cover up for some expenses which you did not foresee or budget for; like a breakdown of your heating system, major home or car repairs or more unfortunate circumstances like job loss, major medical expenses, disability, accidents, etc.

Why do I need an emergency fund?

While I hope none of these events happens to you but none the less if you do make an emergency fund you will be in a better financial position to handle such an event. Many people seem to underestimate the chance of them having to face such a situation, especially young people, so if you are one of them, think again; Ask yourself, do I have enough saved up to cover for my expenses for some months in case of an emergency?

There are some psychological advantages to know that you have your back covered in unfortunate times, this will really help you live in a better way by relieving some of your stress.

It is very important, considering the critical nature of these funds I would recommended building an emergency fund over any kind of debt (even credit card debt, you heard me right…!).

How much do I need to save?

Unfortunately there is no magic number here but these guidelines should help you come up with your own number.

  1. Calculate your regular expenses. Your regular expenses should include things that you generally spend on, on a regular basis. You could take an elaborate way to fund this out (like the one described here) but a back of the napkin approach works well too. Just add up the following:
    • Your monthly mortgage payments/rent and car loan payments.
    • Your monthly cost of insurance.
    • Monthly cost of essentials (groceries and travel).
    • Monthly miscellaneous expenses, like entertainment, shopping, etc. Your credit card (or debit card) statement should come in handy here.
  2. On average you should save enough to cover up for about three to six months of regular expenses. This should help you in cases like job loss or a temporary disability.
  3. You regular expenses will be higher if you have dependents that you support.
  4. In general you will need more in emergency funds if you have more responsibilities and obligation to take care off. Just be sure to include all such expenses and then add a reasonable buffer on top of that.
  5. Also make a list of expenses that you could quickly get rid off in an event like a layoff, say if you are an iPhone user, you could drop the data plan, or get rid of the extra channels in your cable connection. This might just come in handy. You do not have to write it down; just keep it in your mind. In general the more expenses you can cut down in case of a financial emergency the lesser you will need in emergency funds.

Part 2 here.

 

Top 5 things to buy from a thrift shop

Musty, ill lit, full of old goods and manned by thickly spectacled ageless old men. Those are images of a thrift shop which pop up in our mind. However, a thrift shop offers unimaginable treasures at unheard prices. Whether you are strolling down a street in Manhattan or London, you will chance upon a thrift shop. For a thrift shop, you need patience, time on your hands and an eye to discover unusual attractive pieces. You should know what to buy at a thrift store. It offers you good bargains and if you are lucky, you can further lower the prices.  These quaint shops are covered with second hand knickknacks in eclectic colours. The smell may deter you a bit but gather your courage and ignore it.  Do up your home with an assortment of goods from these shops. You can stumble upon eighteenth century porcelain, classic old records to designer wears at these shops. Good stuff gets sold out fast; regular trips are recommended.

 What to Buy From  A Thrift Store

Outfits on sale: These second hand stores offer clothes to fit different sizes at reasonable prices. Specific thrift shops have celebrity hand me downs on display which are sold with the aim of helping charities. You can be lucky enough to find a classy dress, a suit or an old pair of jeans. Clothes may be outdated and a size big or small; and may require altering. Expect a button missing or a seam torn when you pick up a garment. A wash or dry cleaning will get these clothes ready to be worn. Thrift shops are great places to look for costumes for plays.

Interior designer’s delight: If you are doing up your home on a shoe string budget, visit thrift shops to get a range of stuff. You will find old curtains, upholstery, bed linen, odd pieces of furniture to place around your house. You may discover paintings hidden in junk. A Chinese laughing Buddha or a grandfather’s clock, who knows what you will discover here. If eclectic colours are not your thing you can buy furnishings in similar or neutral colours. A thrift shop will help bring down your cost of hiring or buying furniture.

Books galore: Thrift shops have a collection of books for the book lover; though there is a possibility of missing pages. You can browse and come across forgotten popular classics or recent best sellers. Books by award winning writers or two month old magazines can be bought at special throw away prices. Before you go looking for books in a book store, try a thrift shop instead.

Pick up accessories: Thrift shops offer you used items. You can pick up leather goods- bags, belts and shoes. You may need to polish them and spruce them up with laces. These things may need repair but will still cost you less than a new item.

Bargains at thrift shops: Sales at thrift shops mean a further slash in prices. Thrift shops rid of stuff that has been lying around for a long time. Keep a watch out for sales that will give you another reason to visit the musty old shop.

photo by: Lance McCord

Effects of American Economic Crisis on the Baby Booming Population

The Americans have always had a question is mind; “When is a good time to retire in the US?” With the recent economic situation as flimsy these days, the question fits apt among the American aged citizens today. To a greater extent people in the US are facing the evidence that their financial assets shall end much before their retirement years do. However there are a few who may even prefer to retire early. Here’s how we will try to analyze and answer this never getting old question.


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Effects of decreasing funds over the ever-increasing lifespan

Around three out of every five retired people of the nation who have retired from their employment discover that very little amount is left over with them at the end of their paycheck in their bank accounts after their employment period. One of the reasons behind this syndrome is the spending habits that were made at the time of earning; many people become unable to adjust to their spending habits once the inflow of the income reduces or stops. Decreasing the amount you spend may definitely help, but you cannot take this as a ‘silver bullet’ for your problems; this is due to the increasing facts of the economic crisis all over the nation. It is more like healing a broken leg with a band-aid.

Live Like a King or a Pauper – Make a Choice

Becoming realistic in how you would live up to your retired lifespan will also help you in living a contented lifestyle during your golden years. If you become prior-prepared about the methods of your spending, then it will also help you to plan your living for your future years. Health is another factor to consider; your current health situation shall decide on your health levels during your retirement lifespan. You should give importance to regular exercises to minimize health related medical expenses after retirement. Medical insurance is another favorable option to be considered for a better and healthier future living.

Delaying Retirement for a Better Living

With the baby booming population who enter their retirement period, many of them have started revising their decisions over retiring on their set age; this is due to the current financial situation of most people in the United States today. The shrinking personnel and dire predictions about less than stellar investments and savings along with the nearing age of retirement; more and more people prefer to extend their employment period; that is, work even post retirement age.

The average age of retirement has increased from 59 years to 62 years that is from the year 1991 to 2003 respectively. Click here, to know about the social security retirement ages in the United States of America. The age for becoming eligible for complete benefits of Social Security payments across the nation is 65 years and above; again depending upon the year in which you were born. The advantage of remaining in the workforce helps citizens to avail the company’s medical plans and reduce their overall pocket expenses.

A simple approach to pay down a credit card debt

Credit cards are easy to get, in fact they are so easy to get that there are more credit cards issues than the population of US. So that makes it more than one per person. However not everyone is wise when using a credit card and many of accumulate credit card debt, on multiple credit cards and then struggle to pay it off.


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If you are one of them, you may have tried some approaches like debt avalanche method or debt snowball method or debt roller-coaster method! Just kidding, why make things more complicated than they already are. In this post I will try to outline a simple way to pay down credit card debts that may be the best plan for you to get out of debt.

1. Stop accumulating more debt: It goes without saying that if you are paying down debt, you don’t want to accumulate more. Especially on credit cards you are carrying a balance. Make a switch to debit cards or cash. When you accumulate more debt on credit cards you are already carrying the balance on, you start incurring interest the day the charge gets on your card. When you pay down your balance in full every cycle, you do not have to pay any interest on the transaction that came on in that cycle.

2. Get your APR reduced: Call you credit card companies and ask them to reduce your APR or say you will move to other cards. It should work in most cases, if you get e difficult customer service rep, call and try again. You may have to call three to four times.  This will really help you improve the pace at which you may be able to pay down your balance on the credit card. In simple terms the APR on your credit card is the interest cost you are paying on the card. Credit card companies are known to lower the APR on your card when they fear you may drop the card and take your business elsewhere. Having a good payment history with the credit card also helps in sealing the deal.

3. Get some temporary relief: Look in to balance transfer offers where you may be able to transfer your existing credit card balance from other cards and get 0% APR for some time. Note the APR will go up after the promotional period and there may be a transaction fee to make use of the offer. Evaluate to see if the offer makes sense.

4. Start paying down debt: It is important to lay down the groundwork to pay down the debt in the fastest way possible and that is what you have done till now. Once you have these done, start paying down as fast as you can. It is best to make minimum payments on all your debts first and then pay the remaining on cards you have the highest APR (this is where your most expensive interest costs are coming from).

This plan is simple and is effective. If you have any questions about how you can pay down debt, let us know in the comments.

Launching the eMoneyLog Carnival

Welcome to eMoneyLog Carnival.

I am launching the eMoneyLog carnival to share some of the best personal finance articles published around the web.

I personally spend a lot of time reading other personal finance site and learning through them. The eMoneyLog Carnival will be a way for me to present the best articles to you on a periodic basis. The carnival will try to get the best articles in front of you.

If you want to submit your article to the carnival or host the carnival on your site, please use the contact form.

 

 

How to Beat Procrastination and Start Working Towards Your Financial Goals

If you want to be successful with your personal finances, then it is imperative that you do not allow procrastination to inhabit your life.  Procrastination is putting off of what you can do now until a later date. It is the thought that you have plenty of time to accomplish your goals, so you put it off until the last minute.  The problem with this is that oftentimes when it comes down to the deadline, you simply don’t have enough time to accomplish your goal.

Many people procrastinate when it comes to personal finances.  They put off opening a savings account, never get around to creating a budget, put off paying down debts until next year, leave plenty of debts hanging, wait for opening that IRA retirement account, and so on. What they do not realize until it is too late that procrastination is the devil’s advocate when it comes to attaining financial goals.

Some good news is that it is not difficult to overcome procrastination.  Plenty of people have done so with motivation and a firm commitment towards it.  The first thing is for you to realize that you do procrastinate.  Admit it and then determine to change.  Be a person who says no to procrastination and be super responsible with your finances.  Just a quick change of perspective will help you to beat procrastination and you’ll begin to see your financial picture change.

A great way to beat procrastination is to set some financial goals for yourself and post them in a spot where you can see them on a daily basis. Keep your goals in the forefront of your mind because when you are focusing on growing your savings or cutting your debt, you are more likely to be responsible with your money.  That $4 Starbucks drink might not look as enticing when you are serious about paying off your credit card debt within 6 months.  Be determined.

Another great tool is to create a budget. Sit down and write out all of your expenses and income.  See where you are financially. Own up to laziness or irresponsibility.  Come up with a budget that works for you and stick to that budget.  Really make up your mind to stick to it.

It’s  so easy to just keep doing what you have been doing, but the reality of that is waking up after 30 years, still living paycheck to paycheck with enormous amounts of debt.  Being financially responsible and overcoming procrastination will take work, but you are worth it.  Your financial future is worth it.  Look at the big picture.  Do you want to still be in lack 10 or 20 years down the road?  If not, then do something different.

You can overcome procrastination and build yourself a secure and successful financial future with discipline and hard work.  Take pride in your financial status and get the ball rolling by evaluating where you are and where you’d like to go.  Then take the necessary actions to get you there. You can do it!

A personal finance blog