Author Archives: Ginny Grimsley

facebook1

How to Market Effectively Using Facebook

It seems nothing changes faster than the big social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Google+. No sooner do marketers figure out how to best promote a product or business than they change the rules!

That’s been especially true for Facebook, which had to find new ways to make money after going public two years ago. Twitter has also been making changes since its IPO in November, but most of them – including a visual redesign, tagging people and uploading multiple photos – are geared toward user friendliness. Even Google+, owned by Google, which went public way back in 2004, is constantly tweaking.

But the tweaks bringing the most squeals of protest are those being made by Facebook. Basically, it has taken away users’ ability to reach – for free – all or even most of the people they’ve worked so hard to attract to their pages.

So, do brands and businesses just abandon the platform and the audience there?

“No – they just have to change how you use Facebook,” says Jonathan Sellers, a social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations.

“In the past, the goal was to get as many people to ‘like’ your page – or to ‘friend’ you if you were using a personal page for marketing purposes,” he says. “Forget likes. Now, Facebook makes you pay to get people to like your page by charging you to promote your posts, and then it makes you pay again to get your posts in front of them. That seriously devalues the like!”

Only 5 to 10 percent of people following your business or brand pages – sometimes even less! – will see what you have to share if you don’t pay for extra visibility via a “boosted post,” he says.

“So the focus should shift from working to get people following your page to getting your content to your market.”

Facebook’s inexpensive ads and “boosted posts” actually offer some great benefits, he notes. Here are three he says we should be taking advantage of:

• Flexibility. Facebook allows you to create ads and boost posts for any number of reasons. For example, you can create content designed to drive people to your website; get them to engage with you; to sign up for an event; or even track visitors.

• Targeting. Did you know that when you create an ad on Facebook, you can choose the specific types of people you want to see the ad? Targeting on Facebook goes far beyond the traditional demographics of age, sex and location. You can target people based on their interests. Are you a sports bar owner in Miami who wants to attract Chicago Bears fans to watch the games at your place every week? Facebook makes it super easy for you to reach people who live in your ZIP code, who are over 21 and who love the Bears.

• Reporting. Facebook offers very detailed reporting so you can rest assured that you will see exactly where your ad dollars are going. There is a slight learning curve to figure out the best ways to utilize the data, but it’s there for you.

“This experience should be a lesson to all of us that we cannot become too dependent on any single platform,” Sellers says.

“They’re all going to continuously evolve to find the best mix of optimal user experience and profit.”

home.business

Tips for Starting Home-Based Business

Dreaming of launching a business from your home? You’ll join an ever-growing number of entrepreneurs, according to a broad new report based on 6,000 surveys.

Sixty-nine percent of all U.S. businesses start in the home and half of them are still home-based long after they launch, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report.

“The median start-up cost was $15,000 but remember, that’s the median – it means plenty of people spend much less than that,” says Renae Christine, a serial entrepreneur who has created dozens of successful home-based businesses for herself and others. She shares practical how-to advice in her new book, “Home Business Startup Bible.”

“I started out helping other stay-at-home moms who wanted to create businesses, but there are men and women of all ages who want the freedom and independence you get from owning your own business and keeping it in the home.”

Christine says she learned a lot from early colossal failures and from her successes, too.

“A lot of people just starting out don’t think in terms of, ‘Will this choice still work in five years if the business is very successful?’ You need to consider that because it’s difficult and sometimes bad for business to go back and change things once you’ve become established,” she says.

If you’re thinking about starting a home-based business, she shares some tips for laying the groundwork.

• It all starts with an idea – is yours a good one?
You need to be able to easily explain your idea (product or service) in one or two sentences because that’s all you’ll get to “sell” it to customers, investors and the media, including bloggers who you seek out for reviews. If you can’t explain it well in two sentences, either work on a simpler way to describe it or come up with a new idea.

• Determine whether your idea has been done before or if it’s brand new.
There are generally three possibilities: It has been done but there’s still demand; it has been done and the market is saturated; or it has never been done. You can be successful in any of these scenarios, if you know where your idea falls and strategize appropriately. Search keyword phrases to see if what you have in mind already exists. If you come up empty, there’s either no demand or it’s never been done before. If it’s been done, search for competitors and see how many they are, what they’re doing, and how you might innovate to provide something even better, whether it’s product quality or service.

• Create a list of all the things you need to plan for in your business.
The list might be a series of questions whose answers will be the basis for your business plan. They might include – but by no means are limited to: What are you going to sell and for how much? Will you make or buy the product? How will you package and ship it? Will you ship internationally? How will you communicate with customers? What will be your business colors? Will you hire a bookkeeper or explore software to do that yourself? The list may seem daunting, but take time to make each decision one at a time and soon, you’ll see your business taking shape.

• Name your company after yourself or give it a made-up, easy-to-remember one-word name.
Naming the company after your product or service seriously limits future expansion (remember – it’s important to think ahead!) Naming it after yourself or giving it a one-word, made-up name allows you to expand into other products, services, and even industries. It also provides a common denominator that ties everything together. If you think you may eventually sell the company, go with a made-up name (think Zappos, Etsy, Google.) Doublecheck the U.S. Patent and Trademark website to ensure the name – even if it’s your own! — is not already trademarked.

headache

Got a Headache? You’re Not Alone

Headaches are the number 3 reason women ages 18 to 44 go to emergency rooms, and the fifth-leading cause of emergency room visits among all Americans, according to a 2013 National Institutes of Health report, which calls headaches a major public health problem.

“The key to preventing headaches is, of course, to figure out what’s triggering them,” says Dr. Romie Mushtaq, a neurologist, mind-body physician and an expert in Mindful Living. “While migraine and stress headaches can both be triggered by stress, migraines have many other possible triggers and they vary from one individual to the next.”

Dr. Romie has counseled thousands of headache sufferers and recently launched a six-week online seminar, Heal Your Headaches. She guides participants through ruling out various triggers, and shares traditional and holistic treatment options, among other information.

“It’s so important to educate people who suffer from headaches, especially migraines. There are many misconceptions about them,” she says. “I’ve had patients tell me they don’t have migraines because their headache isn’t accompanied by vomiting. Or they’ve been told they just have a low threshold for pain, even that they have no willpower!”

Dr. Romie advises patients to begin ruling out possible triggers.

“Start eliminating common food triggers from your diet, such as wine, chocolate and gluten, and if the headaches become less frequent or go away altogether, slowly add each item back,” she says. “It may quickly become apparent what’s triggering your headaches.”

If not, she shares other possible triggers people are not aware of:

• Are you getting enough sleep?
Migraines can be triggered by sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep can actually lead to structural changes in the proteins of the brain that make the trigeminal nerve more sensitive to pain. The trigeminal nerve supplies sensation to the face, head and meninges – the membranes surrounding the brain — and it is the nerve pathway that is the foundation of the where migraine headaches start.

When we are stressed, our sleep gets disturbed, and headaches are often one of the first signs. Creating a routine at night to reduce stress prior to bedtime is a key. If you can’t sleep because of headache pain, talk to your doctor about the temporary use of sleep-aid medications.

Also, avoid caffeine after 12 p.m.

• Are you drinking enough water?
If you start feeling pressure or a dull headache at work, especially in the afternoon, it may be that you’re not drinking enough water during the day. Dehydration can cause fatigue, loss of focus and mid-day stress, which can trigger headaches, including migraines. Be sure to drink water throughout the day.

If you’re having trouble identifying your headache trigger, consider this natural therapy:

• Feverfew for prevention:
Feverfew is one of many effective herbs studied for preventing migraine headaches — it has been studied in adults, but not children or pregnant women. The typical dose is 85 to 100mg daily. If you’re experiencing more than two migraine headaches a month, you should try this natural supplement. I don’t recommend one brand over another; since brands are not regulated by the FDA, there is no scientific way to prove one is superior to another.

While these tips may help you gain control over your headaches, remember – anyone who has recurring headaches should see a physician, Dr. Romie says.

Employer Retirement Plans in Phoenix, Ariz.

6 Signs Your Retirement Plan is in Trouble

After the 2008 economic meltdown, when the stock market fell 37 percent, veteran financial advisor Curt Whipple says he met with clients from outside financial institutions who’d lost 50 to 60 percent of their portfolio in a single year.

“Almost no one foresaw what happened that year, and I doubt very much that many will foresee a collapse if it happens again,” says Whipple, a Certified Wealth Strategist, Certified Estate Planner and CEO of C. Curtis Financial Group.

“Regardless, there are eight indicators that you can focus on that will help you identify whether or not you’re taking too much risk in your portfolio and if your retirement plan is in danger.”

Whipple, who recently published “Retiree Lifeline! How to Get Government Out of Your Pocket,” a retirement planning guide, reviews the six danger signs from 2008 to watch out for in 2014.

• You either looked at your accounts every day OR you wouldn’t look at them at all. In 2008, people couldn’t believe what was happening to their portfolios. They looked at their account every day – an exercise in masochism – as their advisors told them either, “just hang in there,” or reminded them that the market is a long-term investment that cyclically rises and falls. That advice led them to stop looking at their accounts, which was as bad as looking at them every day, as their advisor told them to just hold on.

• You lost more than 15 to 20 percent of your investments’ value in 2008. That indicates you had too many risky investments. It’s important to know what level of risk you’re comfortable with – generally speaking, the younger you are, the riskier you can be. However, risk is also a personal decision. Make sure you and your advisor are on the same page regarding risk tolerance. That will require your advisor taking the time to explain your investments and how they’re diversified.

• Your broker or financial advisor fails to call you regularly. You should get a call every quarter from your advisor to review and discuss your account. The only time this should not be the case is if you specifically request to be contacted less frequently.

• Your portfolio is tied mostly to Wall Street or stocks, bonds and mutual funds. If each investment you have is one or all of the above, then your investments are not truly diversified. In addition to those investments, you should consider alternative investments like Real Estate Trusts (REITS), and your accounts should feature some kind of guarantee.

• You depend on your bond portfolio to protect you in hard times. We are living in a new financial era; bonds now have an inverse relationship to interest rates, which are so low now that they will invariably increase in the future. As interest rates rise, bonds will decline in value. That’s why using bonds as your only alternative to a falling market is a dangerous idea.

• You excessively worry about money. Your fear may be based in reality if you have a number of risky investments; if you really don’t understand what you are invested in; or if you don’t have a clear plan to achieve your financial objectives.

nutrition

Why Newly Proposed Nutrition Labels are Good

It’s nothing new to the American consumer that food packaging emphasizes only part of a product’s health story, and the fact that the nutritional labeling hasn’t been overhauled in 20 years hasn’t helped, says cardiologist and professional chef Michael S. Fenster, MD.

A proposed update, which could take a year or more to appear on store shelves, is being driven by first lady Michelle Obama, as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign.

“Our current nutrition labeling is the same as that implemented in the 1990s, except with the 2006 addition of trans fats information. It’s based on nutrition data and eating habits from the 1970s and 1980s,” says “Dr. Mike,” author of “Eating Well, Living Better: The Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food.”

From the perspective of physician and foodie, he analyzes what’s good about the first lady’s proposed new label, and what could be improved.

• Good: Calorie counts would be displayed in a bigger, bolder font. Emphasizing calories allows consumers to think with a helpful “energy in / energy out” baseline. Do I really need the calories in this product when I could stand to lose a few pounds? That’s a reasonably good question to promote.

***Basing the value of food primarily on calories over-simplifies the evaluation process. An energy drink may have zero calories, but it’s not better for you than an apple, which may have 100 calories. We cannot overlook nutrition!

• Good: Serving sizes would be determined from real data reflecting the portions real people typically eat. A serving of ice cream is expected to increase from a half cup to a full cup, and a one-serving muffin would be 4 ounces instead of 2 ounces, reflecting the obvious fact that people generally consume the whole scoop of ice cream and the whole muffin.

***Food producers may simply change the size of pre-packaged portions to skirt the rules. Industry experts suggest some food manufacturers may just reduce the package size to make their labeling more seductive. When food is parceled into smaller packages, the price per unit usually increases – it becomes more expensive for consumers.

• Good: New labeling would have listed separately, “added sugar.” The grams of sugar added, irrespective of whether it’s pure cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, sucrose or any other source, would be shown as one listed value. This is good because it starts to get into the quality and composition of the food product, at least indirectly. Many public health experts say “sweet creep” has been a major contributor to obesity, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

***This will likely be wildly controversial, prompting aggressive lobbying efforts that may have already begun. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups note that the current label already includes the total amount of sugar in the product. The food industry argues that natural sugar and added sugar are chemically identical and that the body doesn’t differentiate between the two. However, a significant amount of research shows this is not completely true.

Content Marketing

4 Ways to Come Up with Brilliant Ideas

March is National Ideas Month. Hey, whose bright idea was that?

Here’s an intriguing idea from New York Times best-selling author and writing coach Michael Levin,: “Creativity is a muscle; use it or lose it.”

Levin, whose new Books Are My Babies YouTube channel offers 160-plus free tutorials for writers, says anyone can grow their creativity, just like any other muscle.

“I define creativity as ‘the ability to develop great ideas while under pressure,’ ” he says. “Pressure creates diamonds, so why shouldn’t it also create great ideas?”

But sometimes, pressure paralyzes creativity.

“I’ve experienced it when writing under deadline pressure and writing under the pressure of my own high expectations,” Levin says. “Over time, I’ve developed several tricks to stimulate my creative muscle and help me come up with great ideas for whatever challenge I face – whether it’s writing or figuring out how to arrange a busy family weekend schedule so that everyone’s needs are met.”

Here are four of Levin’s no-fail tips for generating creative ideas under pressure:

1. Ask yourself, “What’s the most dangerous, expensive and illegal way to solve this problem?” We usually take the same approach to solving problems every time with the resources we have at hand. “This doesn’t exactly translate into breathtaking creativity,” Levin says. So imagine that you have no limits — legal, moral, financial, whatever. You can do literally anything to solve the problem. The way-out ideas you develop may not be practical, but they’ll lead you to new ways of thinking about your problem. And then you can find a non-life-threatening, legal way to solve it!

2. Hide. We live in a world of constant, thin-sliced demands. Unanswered texts and emails. People waiting for you to say something, do something, read something, decide something. Run and hide. Lock yourself in your car or hunker down in a bathroom stall. Slow down and get your brain back.

It’s all but impossible for your creative brain to operate when you’re responding to endless external stimuli. The best ideas often come when you run from your responsibilities.

3. Count to 20. Go somewhere where you can be undisturbed, bring a yellow pad and a pen, turn off your phone, and sit there until you come up with 20 ideas for solving your problem. This requires discipline, because most of us are so happy when we have one answer to a problem that we want to move to the next agenda item. Not every idea you invent will be a great one, but that’s okay. It may be idea number 17 that’s truly brilliant, but you’d never get there if you ran back to your desk after you came up with one, two or even five ideas. If you do this daily, you’ll develop 100 new ideas a week. Imagine how strong your idea muscle will be!

4. Give up. Cardiologists recommend to heart patients that they visit nature, go to a museum, or attend a classical concert. Why? It slows them down and allows them to appreciate beauty instead of seeing life as a constant battle. Surrender your own siege mentality. Life isn’t war, thank goodness. Take a major step away, even for a couple of hours, from whatever battles you’re facing, contemplate the greatness of the human spirit or the wonder of nature, and reawaken the creative energy that our fight-minded world suppresses.

So there you have it, four ways to generate great ideas under pressure. Where’s your next big idea coming from? From your mind at peace, that’s where!

Employer Retirement Plans in Phoenix, Ariz.

Is Your Financial Advisor Planning with 4% Rule?

“Who has my back in retirement?” – That’s the question pre-retirees and retirees want answered when it’s all said and done, says veteran financial planner David Zolt.

Baby boomers have been retiring in droves in recent years, and will continue to do so throughout the next decade – 10,000 of them a day, the Pew Research Center estimates. Unfortunately, the average boomer is about a $500,000 short on their savings, according to a recent survey by TD Ameritrade.

We have already entered upon an unprecedented moment in retirement history; never has so many people, with such variability in financial wealth, retired at once, Zolt says.

“Clients want to know when they can retire, how much they can withdraw from their savings and how confident they can be that they won’t outlive their money,” says Zolt, a senior consultant who created retirement income planning software for financial advisors.

“If the facts of their wealth do not support their goals for retirement, then they’ll need to do one of three things: adjust their expectations, change their financial behavior or know how to improve their wealth, because the last thing any retiree wants is to run out of money while in their 80s or 90s.”

Zolt breaks down some fundamental aspects of retirement that may help boomers and others make better financial decisions after their working years.

The “4 percent” rule – a good target for withdrawals: When can you start pulling from your retirement portfolio, and how much should you withdraw? Twenty years ago, Bill Bengen came up with the answer: A well-allocated portfolio subjected to an initial 4 percent withdrawal, and adjusted for annual inflation thereafter, would survive at least 30 years in almost all scenarios. Given today’s market, however, once-stable rules have been significantly challenged. Just one factor in recent years throwing off Bengen’s rule are low bond yields, which historically averaged 5 to 6 percent, but today are much lower. “Four percent is still a good target, but it’s not absolute!” Zolt says.

The seven variables to consider in retirement planning: Seven variables should be included in an individual retiree’s plan: portfolio size, portfolio return, savings, living expenses (including taxes), years to retirement and withdrawal rate. Each of these variables is multifaceted, and it’s important to understand how each affects the others. To troubleshoot this complexity, Zolt created affordable, easy-to-use retirement-planning software called The Retirement Planner by RetireSoft for financial advisors. “Retirement planning is an equation; rather than assuming the 4 percent rule, I’ve fixed other variables by making the number of years to retirement the variable and solving for the withdrawal rate, which is a key component to retirement planning,” Zolt says.

A simple formula calculating withdrawal rates: Whether you’re working with a professional or you’re a DIYer, retirees and pre-retirees want to know how much they should have in savings; how much they’ll receive from fixed income sources, and what they’ll be spending for living expenses. Here’s a simple formula…Subtract your annual fixed retirement income (Social Security, pensions) from your expected annual living expenses in retirement, including income taxes. That’s how much you’ll need to withdraw from savings each year. If the figure is 4 percent, and you have a well-balanced portfolio, you can reasonably expect to have a reliable income during retirement for 30 years. If the total is 5 percent, you probably have enough to last 30 years, but you may have to cut back on your spending later in retirement. If the percentage is 8 percent, you don’t have enough money to pay for many years of retirement.

social.security

Will Your Social Security Check Be in the Mail Come 2015?

For many baby boomers, it’s comforting to believe that part of the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax they (or they and their employer) have been paying is going into a $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund designed specifically to ensure the tidal wave of boomers now retiring will be assured their benefits.

For those already on Social Security, the taxes they pay on a portion of their benefits has also been earmarked for the fund since 1983.

Economist and former professor Allen W. Smith, however, says there is no trust fund – and a number of elected officials, including former President George W. Bush, have acknowledged that.

“To make a long story very short, we are supposed to have $2.7 trillion in Social Security surplus, all earmarked for the baby boomers’ retirement, due to money generated by amendments approved in 1983,” says Smith, who has researched the topic for 15 years and is author of several books, including “The Looting of Social Security” and “Ronald Reagan and the Great Social Security Heist.”

“But there’s no money in the fund.”

Where did it go? Four administrations, from Reagan to George W. Bush, spent it on myriad non-Social Security efforts.

“Obama didn’t have a chance to use it – it was gone,” Smith says.

The 1983 amendments approved under Reagan generated revenue by accelerating Social Security payroll tax increases, allowing a portion of benefits to be taxed, and delaying cost-of-living adjustments from June to December.

According to the Social Security Administration website: “The surpluses are invested in (and the trust fund holds) special-issue Treasury bonds.”

But what’s actually sitting in the Trust Fund is non-marketable government IOUs – worthless, Smith says.

The fact has been publicly acknowledged by a 2009 Social Security trustees report; Sen. Tom Coburn; and President George W. Bush, who in 2005 said, “There is no trust fund, just IOUs that I saw firsthand … future generations will pay – pay for either in higher taxes or reduced benefits or cuts to other critical government programs.”

Recently, Speaker of the House John Boehner offered a sobering statement on ABC’s “This Week,” on Oct. 6, 2013: “…Ten thousand baby boomers like me (are) retiring every single day – 70,000 this week; 3.5 million this year. And, it’s not like there’s money in Social Security or Medicare. The government, over the last 30 years, have spent it all.”

Smith examines what needs to happen starting today.

· Get the secret out. The total cost of paying full benefits in 2010 exceeded Social Security tax revenue by $49 billion, and the gap between revenue and costs will become larger in the coming years. “On Sept. 27, 2000, I appeared on CNN Today to discuss my book, ‘The Alleged Budget Surplus, Social Security, and Voodoo Economics;’ the host did not take me seriously and asked me if I was ‘a voice crying in the wilderness,’ ” Smith says. “I’d quickly realized that he was right, with the exception of multiple statements by politicians and officials.”

· Get the AARP, NCPSSM and the media involved. The only way the government was able to pay full benefits in 2010 was to borrow billions from China, among other creditors. The public is repeatedly being told by government officials and leaders from the AARP and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare that the trust fund has enough money pay full benefits until 2033. “I have tried engaging the leaders of these organizations with my research, but my attempts have been unsuccessful,” Smith says.

· Get the baby boomers engaged in protesting once again. Boomers are no strangers to taking to the streets to express their outrage. However, “I’m beginning to think that it’s going to take missed checks before the public gets raises their voices. Unfortunately, you just don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

trauma

3 Things Every Patient Should Know

With 11,000 people becoming eligible for Medicare every day and an estimated 25 million Americans expected to gain health insurance through Obamacare on Jan. 1, access to doctors and hospitals will skyrocket.

And while that’s a positive, patient advocate Ruth Fenner Barash warns that the U.S. health care system is not the benevolent safety net many people believe it to be. It can be abusive, incompetent, callous toward patients – and worse.

“Patients and their loved ones cannot blindly turn themselves over to this massive, technology-based system and trust that it will care – or take care of them,” says Barash, who shares her health-care experiences in a new book, “For Better or Worse: Lurching from Crisis to Crisis in America’s Medical Morass.”  The cautionary tale traces the long death of her husband, Philip, through a medical journey fraught with mismanagement and excess, useless interventions and a sometimes complete disregard for pain – even when there was no hope of healing.

“We did experience some wonderful health-care professionals – brilliant, compassionate and helpful people – but they were not the rule,” says Barash. “I learned a great deal from our experience, and with so many people now gaining access to health care, I want others to benefit from what I’ve learned. You can navigate the system; you just have to know how.”

Barash offers these suggestions for patients and their loved ones, whether it’s a trip to the doctor for a checkup or a diagnosis of a catastrophic illness.

• Avoid the emergency room.  Emergency rooms were developed with the idea that few people would use them – most people would see their physician. But as health care costs rose, they became a primary care facility for those without insurance or the money to pay for services out of pocket. “Patients and their families were not expected to spend a long  time in the E.R. – presumably, they would be seen quickly and either admitted to the hospital or treated and released – so they’re not designed for comfort,” Barash says. “They’ve become very crowded, especially in cities, and patients might wait for hours sitting in hard plastic chairs in the waiting room. For someone who’s sick or injured, this can be torture.”

Sick people usually are not isolated, so waiting rooms also teem with germs, she notes.

• Be skeptical – question everything.  Too often, we take the first thing we’re told as gospel, Barash says. “If you have the luxury of time, take some of that time to think things through, to research and get second opinions,” she says. Research your physician’s connections. When you’re referred to a specialist,  ask why that particular person. If you live in an area with a large academic community, ask around about the physicians and health-care providers with the best reputations. Who has the most experience in a particular niche? Who’s doing the most promising research? How many times have you performed this procedure and what is your success rate?

• Ask what it costs – no matter who’s paying. Our health-care system is absurd in the number of useless consultations, diagnostic procedures and interventions it foists on patients, Barash says. Whether our  hospital bills are fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance, or we’re paying a portion ourselves, we must all include cost in our discussions with health-care providers. “Part of the blame for having the most expensive health-care system in the world goes to us, the individuals, who don’t question purchases or shop for prices as we would for groceries, clothing, or furniture,” Barash says.  “If a test or consultation is ordered, understand why. Is it really necessary? You can say no!”

Finally, Barash says, we all must come to terms with the fact that death is a given. “My husband’s problem, and the problem many of us may be doomed to face, is the seemingly endless getting there – a dying we don’t want.”

family

Tips for Improving Work-Life Balance

Larry Katzen forged an ambitious career as a leader at one of the world’s most prestigious accounting firms.

But he has been equally ambitious with his family life; he’s the father of quadruplets—three sons and a daughter. And he felt it was important to serve his community, sitting on more than 10 boards of directors.

“It was an incredible challenge and I don’t regret one minute of it!” says Katzen, author of “And You Thought Accountants Were Boring – My Life Inside Arthur Andersen,” a look at working in one of the world’s most historically important accounting firms while nurturing bonds with his wife and children.

“The quadruplets were born April 22, 1974, before multiple births became fairly common, so we were front-page news and featured on all the national TV news shows,” Katzen says. “But that also tells you there weren’t many other parents who could give us advice, and certainly no internet forums to turn to!”

At the time, Katzen was also working his way up the ladder and taking on new challenges at Arthur Andersen, one of the “Big 8” accounting firms. How did he and his wife, Susan, manage?

“It comes down to sticking to some basic principles: doing the right thing, for one, and listening to your heart,” Katzen says.

He draws on his 35-year career and family life to offer these tips for working parents with multiple children:

• Cultivate support systems! One of the wonderful things about Arthur Andersen was the people who worked there, including his bosses, Katzen says. “They knew the physical and financial struggles Susan and I faced caring for four babies and, because I never gave less than my all at work, they did what they could to work around my situation,” he says. That included a heftier-than-usual annual pay raise that Katzen learned only years later was approved because the firm’s partners knew he would need the extra money.

Susan reached out to moms of multiples to develop her own support system, and the couple hired a recent high school graduate to help care for their rambunctious brood a couple days a week.

“There’s no glory in not asking for support and help,” Katzen says.

• Combine business and family. Katzen traveled frequently for his job and, when his children were 9 years old, a business friend suggested he bring them along, one at a time, on his trips.

“The first was my daughter, Laurie. We flew to New York on a Friday and spent the weekend shopping, dining, taking in a show. For the first time ever, we were alone together without any disruptions,” Katzen says. “Neither of us ever forgot that weekend.”

• Consider buying a small vacation home. Traveling with four young children was extremely difficult, especially nights in motels, where the family would split up into two rooms – one parent and two children in each.

“When we discovered Sun Valley, Idaho, the children were 6. On our first trip there, they quickly learned to ski, and they clearly loved the snow – we could hardly get them to come inside,” Katzen says.

The family so enjoyed the vacation, they looked into the prices of condos.

“We found a furnished condo at a very affordable price and for the next 13 years, we enjoyed summers and winters in Sun Valley,” Katzen says. “It may sound like a big investment, but when you consider the costs of motels and dining out for a family of six, it works out well – and it’s a lot more comfortable.”

Key Elements to Retirement Planning

How to Financially Survive Your Golden Years

Americans are living longer these days from an average 47 years in 1900 to more than 78 years as of 2010. We are also experiencing a deluge of adults reaching retirement age now that includes 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day.

By 2030, when the last of the baby boomers have turned 65, nearly one in five Americans will be retirement age, according to the Pew Research Center’s population projections. Money will be a big problem for many of them, especially if boomers develop health problems that affect their ability to live independently, says insurance expert and CEO of Life Care Funding Chris Orestis.

“Life Care Funding created a financial solution for seniors that own a life insurance policy that converts the policy into a Long-Term Care Benefit Plan; this gives the policy owner the option to use their policy while still alive to help pay for their choice of any form of senior care services,” says Orestis, a former insurance industry lobbyist who recently contributed to the federal Commission on Long-Term Care’s fact-finding mission.

“With 30 percent of the Medicaid population consuming 87 percent of Medicaid dollars on long-term care services, we can see that’s not going to be sustainable,” Orestis says. “More individuals will be forced to find their own resources to pay for those needs. That’s why states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas are embracing legislation requiring seniors to be notified that they can convert their life insurance policy for 30 to 60 percent of its death benefit value. The money can be put into an irrevocable fund designated specifically for any form of care they choose.”

Orestis details more ways in which seniors might handle long-term care and other budgetary issues:

• Senior discounts really add up! Here’s a list of establishments to check out: www.lifecarefunding.com/blog/senior-discounts/. Restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, travel deals and other merchants give various senior discounts with minimum age requirements ranging from 55 to 62. Some of these places are worth making habits, with 15 percent off the bill at Applebee’s, 30 percent off at Banana Republic and 60 percent off at Food Lion on Mondays! Don’t forget your free cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts if you’re 55 or older, and don’t be shy – at many of these places you’ll have to ask for the discount.

• Long-term care is a matter of survival, so use your best options. The practice of converting a life insurance policy into a Life Care Benefit has been an accepted method of payment for private duty in-home care, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care and hospice care for years. Instead of abandoning a policy when they can no longer afford the premiums, policy owners have the option to take the present-day value of the policy while they are still alive and convert it into a Long Term Care Benefit Plan. By converting the policy, a senior will remain in private pay longer and be able to choose the form of care that they want but will be Medicaid-eligible when the benefit is spent down.

• Your “last act” may be decades away, so plan accordingly. It makes sense to finally enjoy your money after a lifetime of savings, but be smart about it. Take time to organize your paperwork and create a master file that holds things such as insurance policies, investments, property, wills and trusts, etc. so you have your financial picture in one place. Also, live smart today and hold off on that new car if you don’t need a new one. If your current car is paid off and you sit tight for an additional two years, you’ll save $7,200 on a new car with $300 monthly payments. Refinancing your home may also be a very good idea, since rates are still hovering around their all-time lows. Get at least three quotes, compare rates, terms and potential penalties to make sure you’re getting the best deal.  Also, live healthy and buy more fruits and vegetables and less junk food to lessen the chance you’ll need long-term care in the future.

Weaknesses And Strengths Of Wealth Management Advisers, Service Models - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Popular IRAs Have Dark Downsides, Experts Warn

IRAs and annuities are growing in popularity as retirement investment options, according to recent surveys, but three financial experts warn they can have serious disadvantages.

“Last year, four out of 10 U.S. households had IRA accounts – that’s up from 17 percent two decades ago,” says CPA Jim Kohles, chairman of RINA accountancy corporation, citing an ICI Research survey. “But they can be bad for beneficiaries if you have a very large account.”

Investment in annuities, touted as offering a potential guaranteed income stream, alsocontinue to grow with sales up 10 percent in the second quarter of this year.

“Annuities have several dark sides, both during your lifetime and for your beneficiaries,” says wealth management advisor Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management. “My business partner, Chris Snyder, and I wouldn’t recommend investing in them.”

Putting large amounts of money in either annuities or IRAs can have serious tax consequences for your heirs, say Kohles, Ashoo and attorney John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law.

“If you want to ensure your beneficiaries get what you’ve saved, you need to take some precautions,” Hartog says.

The three offer these suggestions:

• Take stock of your assets – you could be worth more than you think: If your estate is worth more than $5.25 million (for couples, $10.5 million), your beneficiaries face a 40 percent estate tax and federal and state income taxes, says Kohles, the CPA. “It can substantially deplete the IRA,” he says.

To avoid that, take stock of your assets now – you may have more than you realize when you take into account such variables as inflation and rising property values. Be aware of how close to that $5/$10 million benchmark you are now, and how close you’ll be a few years from now.

“Consider vacation and rental properties, vehicles, potential inheritances,” Kohles says.

Also, take advantage of the lower tax rates you enjoy today, particularly if they’re going to skyrocket after your death. “A lot of people want to pay zero taxes now and that’s not necessarily a good idea,” he says. For instance, if you’re at that upper level, consider converting your traditional IRA to a ROTH IRA and paying the taxes on the money now so your beneficiaries won’t have to later.

• No matter what your estate’s value, avoid investing in annuities. Wealth management adviser Ashoo warns annuities, offered by insurance companies, can cost investors an inordinate amount of money during their lifetime and afterward.

“Insurance companies try to sell customers on the potential for guaranteed income, a death benefit paid to beneficiaries, or a ‘can’t lose’ minimum return, but none of thosecompensates for what you have to give up,” he says.

That includes being locked in to the annuity for five to seven years with hefty penalties for pulling out early; returns that fall far short of market investments on indexed annuities; high management fees for variable annuities; declining returns on fixed-rated annuities in their latter years; and giving up your principle in return for guaranteed income.

“If you own annuities and have a substantial estate, there are smart ways to unwind them to minimize damage,” Ashoo says.

• Consider spending down your tax-deferred IRA early. If you’re in the group with $5 million/$10 million assets, it pays to go against everything you’ve been taught and spend the IRA before other assets, says attorney Hartog.

“It’s a good vehicle for charitable gifts if you’re so inclined. And if you’re 70½ or older, this year you can direct up to $100,000 of your IRA-required minimum distribution to charity and it won’t show up as taxable income,” Hartog says. (That provision is set to expire next year.)

You might also postpone taking Social Security benefits until you’re 70½ and withdraw from your IRA instead. “That willmaximize your Social Security benefit – you’ll get 8 percent more.”

Finally, anyone who has accumulated some wealth will do best coordinating their financial planning with a team of specialists, the three say.

As a CPA, Kohles is focused on minimizing taxes; wealth management adviser Ashoo’s concern is the client’s goals and lifestyle; and lawyer Hartog minimizes estate taxes.

“We get the best results managing tax consequences and maintaining our clients’ lifestyles by working together,” Hartog says.

woman

Emotional Women: Creating a Source of Power

Emotional. Sensual. Intuitive.

Society tends to treat these “feminine” qualities as liabilities; traits that should be suppressed and discouraged because they make us appear “weak.”

“Those characteristics are in fact the foundations of our feminine power,” says Leela Francis, author of “Woman’s Way Home,” which includes techniques and tools from her Vividly Woman Embodied Leader Tools and Training.

By resourcing the power within one’s own body, Francis teaches, “a woman can have the life of her dreams.”

One of the ways to do that is to master the world of your emotions.

“Emotional power is the freedom to feel the truth of your feelings and the ability to harness them so you’re the master of them,” Francis says. “When you can do that, your emotions will expand you rather than consume you.”

Denying, suppressing or expressing emotion to manipulate others all stifle this wellspring of potential for depth and intimacy, which is a source of mental, physical and spiritual joy, Francis says.

What can you do to begin reclaiming your own emotional power? Francis offers these suggestions.

• Indulge your emotions without dumping them on others. When you digest food, your body absorbs the nutritious elements and expels the potentially toxic wastes. Emotions must be digested the same way. It’s important to express your feelings in responsible ways so that you don’t build up emotional toxins and pollutants in your body. This may be why anxiety, depression and panic attacks have become so prevalent in our culture, Francis says. Some healthy, responsible ways to express emotion include creative endeavors, such as the visual arts – painting, drawing, sculpting; expressive arts such as singing and dancing; and healing arts such as massage.

• Don’t demand others witness your emotional expression; and don’t allow others to demand you witness theirs. Using emotional expression to evoke responses from others is manipulative and does not allow you to experience the truth of your feelings. Crying, yelling, even pretending to be happy when you’re not in order to influence someone else’s behavior are abuses of emotional expression. Not only are we denied the benefits of expression, we have to live with our own lack of integrity for using them irresponsibly.

• Make the time to engage in intimate, authentic verbal sharing. The honest, spoken expression of our true feelings allows us to tap the deep emotions that facilitate our tender connections to others. These connections trigger a physiological reaction that creates our own, natural brain elixir. When women engage in intimate conversation, it encourages the production of the hormone oxytocin, which creates feelings of euphoria. (It’s the same hormone secreted after childbirth to help our minds and bodies quickly recover from the pain of labor.) It also encourages production of the hormone serotonin, which gives us a feeling of well-being.

• Don’t impose your emotional process on others. We sometimes seek to avoid the discomfort of painful emotions by expressing them outwardly to others, for instance, angrily blaming someone else for our discomfort. Yelling at others because of the emotion we’re feeling only indicates that we have an inner turmoil, and an inner turmoil can only be resolved self to self. In addition, blaming someone else – or yourself! – for painful emotions causes us to become a victim, which creates suffering.

“These steps will help you begin to master your emotions, and once you do, you will find they will make you richer and more vibrant,” Francis says.

“Our emotions don’t make us weak; they give us the empathy and love that make us care for and nurture our loved ones. That’s pretty powerful.”

taxes

Lessons from Arthur Andersen

By the time he was 30, Larry Katzen made partner at Arthur Andersen, then one of the “Big 8” accounting firms with a reputation for innovation and integrity.

In the ensuing years, the firm continued to soar in stature. With an emphasis on continuing education for employees and meticulous attention to detail, it was one of the most trusted accounting firms in the industry. Katzen enjoyed a fast-paced rise through the ranks, all the while learning, traveling, and parenting quadruplets with his wife and college sweetheart, Susan.

It all came crashing down in 2002 when the company was indicted based on false accusations having to do with the scandals at Enron. With the firm’s survival in question, Katzen moved quickly to encourage employees to carefully complete all remaining assignments.

“Arthur Andersen became fodder for the government’s prosecution of Enron – although it had no role in Enron’s demise,” says Katzen, author of, “And You Thought Accountants Were Boring – My Life Inside Arthur Andersen,” a unique look inside one of the world’s most historically important accounting firms.

Arthur Andersen was eventually vindicated by a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling. By then, however, the damage had been done, creating chaos in the careers of thousands of employees. Arthur Andersen, which marked its 100th anniversary in September, still exists today, albeit in a different incarnation.
“I will never regret my time at the firm; it provided so much for me, including solid life lessons,” says Katzen, who shares some of those.

• Do the right thing. At the end of Katzen’s career, he had to help his employees find new jobs, which was an arduous process. “It was the right thing to do, which is its own reward, but the right actions also tend to have rewarding consequences,” he says. That lesson had taken root during Katzen’s college years at Drake University, when a trusted professor warned him against his plan to cancel a job interview with Arthur Andersen because he’d already received several promising offers. “If I hadn’t done what was right, if I hadn’t followed through on my commitment, my life would have gone down a very different path,” he says.

• Listen to your heart. Although Arthur Andersen gave him the lowest salary offer, Katzen nonetheless felt it was the right place for him. “My personality seemed to blend with their corporate culture,” he says. “So I turned down higher and more attractive offers and went with my heart.” Listening to his heart also helped during his wife’s fragile pregnancy with their quadruplets; if the couple hadn’t approved using an experimental drug, “we probably would not have any children today,” he says.

• Increases in responsibility come with personal sacrifice. Katzen had to uproot his life and family and move to a strange new town. But the short-term pain enabled the family to attain financial security and a better quality of life. “If you want to grow in an organization, success does not come without personal sacrifice,” he says. “In my case, it resulted in four moves – but it was well worth it.”

• Beware of the power of our government. In his first substantive experience in dealing with the IRS, Katzen quickly learned how coercive and powerful the agency can be. No matter how reasonable you may try to be with a government agency like the IRS, there is no guarantee it will respond in kind – and don’t assume that you will get a fair trial, he says. “They have the power and authority to do whatever they want to do. In less than three months, our government put one of the world’s most effective and profitable international accounting firms out of business.”

taxes

How to Reduce the Biggest Expense of Your Life: Taxes

Taxes account for the most expensive burden you’ll experience in your lifetime, says engineer-turned-independent financial planning coach Rao K. Garuda.

In addition to federal, state, city and death taxes, there are 59 other varieties. Relatively few taxes, however, account for the bulk of the burden on citizens, says Garuda, whose clients include retirees, people planning for retirement, physicians, business owners and other professionals.

He thinks his fellow Americans deserve a shot at keeping more of their money.

“When I came to the United States, I had less than $10 in my pocket, but I had an excellent education as an engineer. When I married a physician, I realized how expensive it is to make a good living here,” says Garuda, who quickly applied his analytical engineering mind to understanding the complicated tax system.

“Since this country has given me so much, I wanted to repay my fellow Americans with strategies for keeping more of their own money.”

Garuda identifies some of the most expensive and common tax hurdles affecting Americans and offers advice on troubleshooting our tax system.

• Problem: The IRA tax: great on the front end, terrible down the road.
Solution: An IRA is tax-deferred, which means it will accumulate value over time. But when you withdraw from it, you will be heavily penalized with high taxes. That’s why you should convert this asset to a Roth IRA, which allows your money to grow tax-free. Since the money put in was already taxed you don’t have to pay any taxes when you take it out, and, overall, you’ll save a significant amount of money.

• Problem: Too many people don’t take advantage of creating tax-free income via insurance products.
Solution: From a financial perspective, retirees and professional planners run into a significant issue: seniors, blessed with good health, who outlive their money. But with certain insurance products, retirees can create tax-free income while covering the later years of retirement – and protect their wealth if they become severely ill. There are certain insurance products tied to the stock market that can help people accumulate assets in the long run. Many of these products offer a tremendous upside for potential without the downside of increased risk.

• Problem: Missed opportunities – people who don’t take advantage of free money in a 401k.
Solution: Perhaps the company you work for is, like many others, bureaucratic to the point of being impractical. Your employer may not have done the best job communicating details about benefits such as matching 401k contributions, or you may not have taken the time to learn them. Now’s the time; this is free money! If your employer is offering a 50 percent match on your first 6 percent of contributions to the 401k, you should be contributing at least 6 percent. Educate yourself on your company’s plan so you can take full advantage.

86798994

Does How You Feel about Money Affect Wealth?

Although we live in the richest and most advanced society the world has ever known, many of us say we need more money in order to be happy, notes best-selling business book author Doug Vermeeren.

“Even some of those in the top percentile of earners often feel like they don’t have enough money,” says Vermeeren, an international speaker who consults with celebrities, business executives and professional athletes.

“The math is simple: More money does not equal more happiness. It’s our attitude toward money, not the amount, that influences our happiness the most.”

Happiness researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, professors at the Harvard Business School, recently published research indicating that it’s not money that makes people happy, nor the things people buy with it. Rather, it’s the experiences one has that ultimately account for happiness.

“How you experience your money on a day-to-day basis is what matters,” Vermeeren says. “If the software running in your brain is constantly reinforcing the message, ‘it’s not enough,’ then that is likely how you will see yourself and experience your life – as ‘not enough.’ ”

Vermeeren reviews the three fallacies of abundance as it relates to happiness:

• We are all entitled to a certain amount of wealth: The feeling that we deserve or are owed a certain amount of wealth will always make us unhappy with whatever we have. While we are entitled to certain human rights, those do not include a winning lottery ticket. In reality, we are not owed any amount of abundance and, in fact, should count ourselves lucky if we’re able to meet our basic needs; many in the world are not. More of us, however, would be happier simply appreciating what we have.

• The result of our labors is money: Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. This can be a challenge to keep in mind since so much of our lives are spent in the pursuit of money. We work and go to school to support ourselves and our families. We see things we want, and we know we need more money for them. Study after study shows, however, that what really makes us happy is what we do and who we do it with, and not how much money we spend.

• We’ll be happiest when we finally reach our goal: We are happiest when we are progressing toward a goal. When we lose sight of our goal, veer off the path toward our goal, and even achieve our goal, we’re less happy. Rather than setting one goal and deciding you will be happy when you meet it, you’ll be most happy if you continually set goals and relish your journey toward them.

international leadership

Can You be the Next Business Thought Leader?

Plug “thought leader architect” into the title field of a LinkedIn search and only one name pops up: Mitchell Levy, CEO of THiNKaha and author of the new book, “#Creating Thought Leaders Tweet.”

“The truth is, a lot of people are trying to become viewed as ‘thought leaders’ because they recognize that being a well-publicized, well-respected expert in their field is good for business,” Levy says.

“But most people have a hard time figuring out how to do it on their own.”

Levy, who works with corporations to develop thought leaders among employees, says CEOs recognize that the wide availability of information on the internet has changed how customers do business.

“Customers are quite knowledgeable, and they get that way by using the resources available online,” Levy says. “It doesn’t take long before they know enough to spot a true expert – someone with vision; someone with a strong track record of success; someone who knows their field so well, they can tell you where it’s going, and where it should go.”

When we had only the traditional media and its well-guarded access, our thought leaders tended to be people who were already in vaulted positions, such as elected officials, CEOs of major corporations and entertainment personalities, Levy notes.

Today, thanks to the egalitarian nature of social media, anyone can become one. But many people don’t know where to begin.

Levy offers these suggestions for developing your reputation as a thought leader.

• Start by zeroing in on an area of your field in which you excel. Focus on one area of your business or profession that excites you. Rather than stepping out as the consummate expert on a broad range of topics, choose one slice of your expertise that you enjoy – that you love to talk about. The beautiful thing about social media is that it caters to niche interests, which is a great way to start building your following. The more focused you can make the space you want to be a thought leader in, the easier it will be for you to reach your audience.

• Develop your own message and share it in a distinctive style. Think about who your audience is and what they want and need – remembering that they don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Are there better ways to do something that everyone has been doing the same way for years? Can you solve problems or foresee trends that others seem to be blind to? Craft a message that will resonate with your audience. Share it in a distinctive, authoritative voice. Don’t be afraid to show some personality. Do you need to be bigger, tougher, louder, stronger, wiser? You don’t need it all, but you do need to set yourself apart.

• Create useful, valuable content that people can use. Online, you can write a blog; create video tutorials on YouTube; share nuggets of information on the various social media sites. Write a book on your topic! By constantly sharing information that solves problems for users and readers, you begin developing a reputation as knowledgeable, helpful and reliable. This should be an ongoing process – which is why you need to be passionate about it! Thought leaders make it look easy, but they work at it every day.

Key Elements to Retirement Planning

Do You Have a Written Income Plan for Retirement?

“Age 85 is a bad time to go broke,” says expert retirement planner Jeff Gorton.  Personal savings, various investments and, yes, Social Security may prove to be short of what you’d expected.

“Budgeting how you spend money before retirement can often be a misleading measurement of how you’ll actually spend it during retirement,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

“Spending 40 hours a week at work not only earns you a paycheck, it also keeps you from spending money on more vacations, matinee screenings at the movie theater, extra trips to the mall or shopping online. You need to be exceedingly realistic in your planning, and the five years before retirement are actually the most crucial in solidifying post-employment stability.”

To prevent a rude awakening during retirement, Gorton makes certain his clients start with a written income plan (WIP). He reviews the benefits and importance of this “living document”:

• A comprehensive list of life expenses paints a clearer picture. For a 65-year-old married couple today, there is a 72 percent chance that at least one spouse will live to age 85; a 45 percent chance that one will live to age 90, and an 18 percent chance that one will reach age 95, according a recent study from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. You may not think of listing things like pet care, yard maintenance, and regular visits to salons or spas. But if you enjoy those services now, you may want them during retirement, and you might find that you underestimated the real cost of maintaining your desired lifestyle. And, that’s not including gifts to children and grandchildren!

• The forecast of a two-legged stool. A WIP helps you appreciate the reliability of retirement income. What sources of income do you anticipate having? Traditionally, retirement funding has been viewed as a “three-legged stool,” implying a balance between Social Security, retirement plans and savings/investments. As the baby boom generation ages, Social Security benefits may decrease — and the age at which an individual can collect benefits may increase. Changes in employment may affect retirement plans. As a result, the third leg of the stool, savings/investments, may become even more important.

• Who is authoring your WIP? As with all written documents, you must always consider the source. What you may not realize is that a financial planner is liable to have a stake in selling you a financial product. Just like a retailer may have an incentive to move certain brands of products, many planners are incentivized to have you invest in specific financial vehicles from major institutions. What plan works best for you? Seek advice from an expert who isn’t trying to sell you something, such as an independent firm.

“If you don’t have a written income plan, then you’re just hoping things will work out,” Gorton says.

Stressed lady in office

How do you Address Rampant Employee Disengagement?

An alarming Gallup poll published earlier this year is still sending shockwaves throughout the business community: Most American workers either hate their jobs or don’t care one way or the other about them.

Less than a third of Americans are actively engaged in their work, meaning they’re passionate about it, enthusiastic and energetic. They’re consistently productive, and high performing.

Gallup estimates the 20 million who are “actively disengaged” – openly negative and unhappy have a staggering effect on the economy, costing the United States $450 to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

“To engage the 70 percent of non-committal or ‘actively disengage’ employees,  business managers need to change how they view human capital,” says Trevor Wilson, CEO of TWI Inc., a global corporate speaker, human equity strategist and author of “The Human Equity Advantage,” (humanequityadvantage.com).

“Engaging employees is an issue I’ve been working on for more than two decades, and there is a solution. I call it human equity — the unique assets each individual brings to the workplace that are often unrecognized. Recognizing and leveraging your own human equity, as well as that of your employees, addresses not only the incredible waste of human capital illustrated in the recent poll, but also related concerns business leaders share, including the constant need for innovation. These challenges are not unique to the United States.”

There is a reason why executive royalty, such as Warren Buffet and former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh, sought talent beyond traditional criteria like knowledge and skills, which are also important, says Wilson. He offers a method for uncovering valuable intangibles in employees; he calls it the SHAPE V Talent model:

• Strengths: Consider strength as defined by the 1999 Gallup StrengthsFinder study, which includes “consistent near-perfect performance in an activity.” The study identifies 34 qualities, which can be innate and, unlike skills, are not learned. Individual employees and managers should not force a square peg into a round hole; if an employee’s near-perfect, near-effortless strength is in research and analysis, but not so much in data management, managers should allocate this resource accordingly.

• Heart: Have you ever wondered what comes first, whether you’re good at something because you like it, or you like it because you’re good at it? The chicken-or-egg question aside, what matters is the passion one has for a talent. This includes activities a worker would do even if he or she didn’t have to do it on the job. If a talented manager won the lottery and decided to quit his job, for example, he might be inclined to manage people in a local political campaign or take the helm of his son’s little league team.

• Attitude: There are three general attitudes an employee might have, according to a branch of study in positive psychology. First, there are those who approach their work as a job, who seek only a paycheck and benefits. The second group includes those with a career perspective who seek advancement. The third group views their work as a calling and deeply connects with what they do every day.

• Personality: In 2009, nearly $500 million was spent on personality testing in North America alone. A reliable test isn’t valuable in so much as it reveals differences among workers, which are most likely already apparent. The value of these tests is in showing how and where differences lie. Understanding differences can lead to an appreciation for how and why coworkers perform and improve the synergy of teams.

• Experience: Who is the person you’re sitting next to at work; who is she when she’s not making business-to-business calls, scheduling meetings or troubleshooting technical problems? How does her race, religion, economic background, family situation and overall lifestyle influence – or not influence – her work life? More importantly, how might her life beyond work offer diversity of thought in the workplace? Life experience should not be overlooked when assessing talent.

• Virtue: “Value in action, that’s virtue,” Wilson says. Candor, temperance, courage – these traits preempt problems like public scandals, harassment and discrimination and foster a positive moral pragmatism among coworkers and practical wisdom among leaders. With social media continuing to expose bad behavior and employee morale revealed to be at a stunning low, this is a significant quality in the on-going search for the best talent.

Medical Technology - AZ Business Magazine January/February 2012

Why Everyone Needs an ‘Incapacity Plan’

Dementia has become the No. 1 cause of disability globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Stroke, which can also profoundly impair judgment and decision-making, stands at No. 2.

“This year, 7.7 million new cases of dementia will be diagnosed, and 15 million people will suffer a stroke,” says CPA Jim Kohles, chairman of RINA accountancy corporation. “By the time dementia symptoms become apparent, their competence may already be affected. Strokes, as we know, can be tragically sudden.”

While many people carefully plan for retirement and what will become of their estate after death, too few provide for that middle ground – incapacity, adds attorney John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law.

“We should plan for incapacity, and if it never comes into play that’s wonderful,” says wealth management advisor Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management, (www.pillarwm.com).

Incapacity planning ensures you’re able to speak for yourself in all decisions, from your medical care to financial affairs.

Here are three steps everyone should take, from the accounting, legal and financial perspectives.

• Get disability insurance. “The likelihood of something happening that affects your ability to work is high, so you really should carry disability insurance,” says accountant Jim Kohles.

How you pay for it can have different tax impacts. If you purchase it through your business, whether as owner or employee, you can take a tax deduction on the premiums. But that means any claims paid will be taxable. If you pay with post-tax dollars, any benefits are not taxable.

“The difference in saving taxes on $200 a month in premiums versus $5,000 a month in benefits is significant,” Kohles says.

Kohles also cautions that more new policies now are capped at 10 years of payments – not lifetime. So be sure you understand the terms.

• Have legal documents that clearly state your wishes.  These include a durable power of attorney for financial affairs and an advanced health care directive for medical decisions, says attorney Hartog.

Name the people – the “agents” — who will be responsible for implementing those decisions, and draw up a document that delineates their responsibilities and powers. Choose people in whom you have a great deal of faith and trust. “People need to remember they’re going to be vulnerable – you don’t want to pick someone if you have a quiver of doubt about them,” he says. One safeguard is to name an agent, and a second person to whom the agent must report. “Just the idea that you have to report keeps people honest,” Hartog says.

In some states, the government provides forms so people can prepare these documents themselves, although Hartog suggests at least consulting with an attorney.

• If you’re the “non-financial” spouse, become familiar with the financial plan. “Typically, one spouse is in charge of the finances, and the other takes a back seat, or even a no seat,” says wealth management advisor Ashoo. “The non-involved person needs to understand how the finances are arranged and planned, and he or she needs to be very comfortable with the family’s advisors.” This will prevent a nightmare during an already stressful time should the involved spouse suddenly become incapacitated.

Both spouses should attend meetings with the family’s advisors, even if one spouse doesn’t fully understand or isn’t interested in all the details. “If something happens, they will know who to call and what to do,” Ashoo says. “They’ll avoid a nightmare. That’s the peace of mind I want for my clients.”

All three experts stress the importance of having these provisions in place long before you think you’ll need them.

“Younger people have a higher chance of becoming disabled before they die, and they’re usually the people who haven’t planned for that at all,” says Kohles.

Chandler Innovation Center

How is Innovation Like Baseball?

“In baseball, you can fail 70 percent of the time and still be considered a strong player,”  says Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com and founding CEO of its competitor, Kayak.com.

“Why is it that businesses give an employee with a new idea just one chance?” asks the author of “On Innovation,” (www.jonesoninnovation.com), a new book filled with 72 deceptively simple ideas for stimulating innovation.

Pitchers lose games, batters strike out, fielders make errors. Instead of firing them or sending them back to the minor leagues, managers study what went wrong. CEOs need to do the same thing, Jones says.

“Kill the project, not the person,” he says. “Instead of telling Bob, ‘You’re done,’ they should tell Bob, ‘The project’s dead. What do you want to do next?”

To succeed today, businesses absolutely must be innovative, and they can’t be if they’re unwilling to have some failures, Jones says.

“Too many companies punish failure and fail to adequately reward success. How does that motivate the employees with great new ideas?”

Jones suggests these other baseball analogies that will help any business score on innovation:

• Most games are won with singles and doubles. Home runs are great. They are that 10 percent of innovation that is transformational, exciting, and extremely rewarding. But the 70 percent of innovation that involves improving core products, and the 20 percent that represents adjacent changes — pulling together existing innovations in a new way, like the iPhone – are the singles and doubles that can win games.

• Know that your home-run hitters will strike out a few times. The people coming up with the radical new ideas that account for big, transformative innovation aren’t going to hit a home run every time – and neither did Babe Ruth. In fact, Babe Ruth had more strike-outs than home runs. While radical successes, like Dyson using its vacuum technology to create restroom hand-dryers, account for only 10 percent of innovation, they produce about 70 percent of a company’s future revenue. So allow your home-run hitters their swings and misses.

• Watch the game tapes. Sports teams fanatically analyze every aspect of losing games with the same process and vigor they use for winning ones. The Federal Aviation Authority has a painstaking process for analyzing every airline incident and crash. As a result, its safety record gets better every year. Look for solutions when something goes wrong — not where to lay the blame. Inspect the process, find the defect, and strategize how to make it better. (Note: If the same people keep making the same mistakes, arrange for training, counseling or, if that fails, a bus ticket out of town.)

Innovation is about responding to needs instead of trying to dictate them, Jones says. Companies need to listen to their customer service complaints: What are customers saying that can help improve your product or process? And they need to talk about the crazy ideas — including those that seem too simple to succeed.

“Proctor & Gamble made diapers and cleaning products,” Jones notes. “Someone suggested putting a diaper on a mop handle and voila! The Swifter!”

Used Bookstores

Author Shares 4 Tips for Marketing Your Book

If you want people to read your book, you have to be more than a talented storyteller or researcher – you will need plenty of persistence, says Darlene Quinn, a 75-year-old award-winning novelist whose passion for the written word trumped her lucrative position as a top executive at the legendary Bullocks Wilshire department stores.

“Sometimes an author has it easy; either they’re already a celebrity, or their name has been widely reported in a major public scandal – or both – but not even those criteria guarantee readership,” says Quinn, author of “Unpredictable Webs”, (www.darlenequinn.net), the newest in her stand-alone series of suspense-filled dramatic novels.

“Many authors will tell you just don’t get into the book-writing business, because writing something that people will want to read is challenge enough. Then you face the daunting process of getting people to buy it!”

She offers these tips for getting your book in front of the masses – and enticing them to buy it.

• Draw on the strengths that helped you meet previous challenges: Quinn found professional footing decades ago, in a time when it was rare for women to rise to executive positions. After earning a bachelor’s at San Jose State University, she became a schoolteacher. She later climbed her way up to working as a department store executive during a time of tremendous upheaval in the retail fashion industry. The tenacity and perseverance required to achieve that dream served her well when she fixed on another dream – writing – late in life. She sharpened her writing chops by penning articles for trade journals, magazines and newspapers.

• Book awards: Simply entering your book in a contest gives it some exposure. Should it be selected for an award, you’ve got a great marketing tool that can open doors otherwise closed to you. Awards sticker or seals, which can be added to the book cover, can help persuade book stores to carry it. The press release announcing winners of local, national or international book awards also trigger Google Alerts, positively increasing exposure. Announcements of winners prior to publication alert avid readers to upcoming releases.

• Book awards II: Do your research; make sure that the contest is well-established and legit. Read the rules, and if at all possible, research the judges who will be reviewing the books. Try to avoid contests that have high entry fees and those that appear to be non-discriminating. National and international contests such as the Indie Book Awards, Writers Digest Book Awards, USA Best Book Awards Reader’s Favorites, and International Best Book Award (sponsored by USA Book News) are just a few respectable contests that meet these criteria. There are also many legitimate regional and local book contests to consider.

• Quality in every respect: With power comes responsibility. In the past, the only real hope an author had of being read by anyone beyond his or her immediate family was going through a major publisher. Today, authors can take production matters into their own hands with self- or independent publishing, which may lead to a contract with a major book company. Either way, a writer should ensure quality in every aspect — from the plot and characters, to the cover art, design and paper. Make sure the book is edited by an objective professional.

online

Plan Ahead for Your Online Hereafter

Now, you really can live forever, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Many of your online accounts – from automatic bill payments to eBay – may remain active after you pass away, unless you take steps to ensure they don’t, says attorney Hillel Presser, author of “Financial Self-Defense (Revised Edition).”

Automatic bill pay, for example, can theoretically keep tapping your bank account long after you’re gone or, at least, until your money is.

“It’s important to make sure your online bank and shopping accounts, even your social media, can be closed out, or that your loved ones are authorized to access them,” Presser says. “You may ask, ‘Why would I care if I’m gone?’ I can tell you from experience: because it can create real headaches, and more heartache, for your family.”

Bank and shopping accounts will be vulnerable to identity theft, which would affect your estate if someone opens credit cards in your name. You might have valuable intellectual property, like domain names. They may need access to your health records, particularly if you died under questionable circumstances, he says.

There’s the sentimental stuff – photos and emails — that your family may want as a remembrance of you, and the libraries of music and ebooks, which may represent a considerable investment on your part.

“The problem is, even if you provide a family member with all of your accounts, log-ins and passwords, they may not be legally allowed to access them,” Presser says. “In many cases, they may be violating the accounts’ terms of service or violatingfederal privacy and computer fraud laws. Some states have laws governing online materials, but they’re different and which of your accounts are covered depends on where the provider is located.”

What can you do to ensure your family isn’t left with a virtual nightmare after your passing? Presser offers these tips:

• Create a list of all of your accounts, including log-innames, passwords, and answers to any security questions. Obviously, your list will need to be securely stored. Since you’ll need to update it regularly as you add accounts or change passwords,  it will be easiest if you keep the list on your computer in a password-protected folder. Some versions of Windows allow you to create protected folders, but you may need to get third-party software to do this, such as freeAxCrypt. Remember to create a backup of your list, whether it’s on a jump drive or printed out on paper. Store the backup in a secure place such as a safe deposit box. Do not put password information in your will, which is a public document.

• If you have a Google account, set up the new inactive account manager. In May 2013, Google became the first site to give users an option for choosing what becomes of their content if they should become debilitated or die. Under the profile button, click “Account,” scroll down to “Account Management,” and you’ll find instructions for “Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google.” You can select how long the account should be inactive before your plans are set into motion; choose to whom you want to offer content, such as YouTube videos, Gmail, Google+ posts, Blogger and Picasa web albums, or whether it should simply be deleted.

• Appoint a digital executor. Perhaps the simplest way to ensure your online life is taken care of is to appoint a digital executor – a tech-savvy person who will be willing and able to carry out your wishes. Authorize the person to access your inventory of log-in information and spell out what you want done with each account, whether it’s providing access to loved ones or business partners, or deleting it.

The digital world has grown and transformed so rapidly, the law hasn’t kept up, which makes managing your digital afterlife challenging, Presser says.

“Until there are more consistent laws and procedures governing this area, it’s best to plan ahead, leave clear instructions and be sure you have a list of accounts where your estate lawyer or a loved one can find it and access it,” he says. “It will make a world of difference to your survivors.”

value of money

Will Your Beneficiaries Beat the Odds?

Two-thirds of baby boomers will inherit a total $7.6 trillion in their lifetimes, according to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research — that’s $1.7 trillion more than China’s 2012 GDP.

But they’ll lose 70 percent of that legacy, and not because of taxes. By the end of their children’s lives — the third generation — nine of 10 family fortunes will be gone.

“The third-generation rule is so true, it’s enshrined in Chinese proverb: ‘Wealth never survives three generations,’ ” says John Hartog of Hartog & Baer Trust and Estate Law, (www.hartogbaer.com). “The American version of that is ‘shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

There are a number of reasons that happens, and most of them are preventable say Hartog; CPA Jim Kohles, chairman of RINA accountancy corporation, (www.rina.com); and wealth management expert Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management, (www.pillarwm.com).

How can the current generation of matriarchs, patriarchs and their beneficiaries beat the odds? All three financial experts say the solutions involve honest conversations – the ones families often avoid because they can be painful – along with passing along family values and teaching children from a young age how to manage money.

• “Give them some money now and see how they handle it.” Many of the “wealth builders,” the first generation who worked so hard to build the family fortune, teach their children social responsibility; to take care of their health; to drive safely. “But they don’t teach them financial responsibility; they think they’ll get it by osmosis,” says estate lawyer Hartog.

If those children are now middle-aged, it’s probably too late for that. But the first generation can see what their offspring will do with a sudden windfall of millions by giving them a substantial sum now – without telling them why.

“I had a client who gave both children $500,000. After 18 months, one child had blown through the money and the other had turned it into $750, 000,” Hartog says.

Child A will get his inheritance in a restricted-access trust.

• “Be willing to relinquish some control.” Whether it’s preparing one or more of their children to take over the family business, or diverting some pre-inheritance wealth to them, the first generation often errs by retaining too much control, says CPA Kohles.

“We don’t give our successor the freedom to fail,” Kohles says. “If they don’t fail, they don’t learn, so they’re not prepared to step up when the time comes.”

In the family business, future successors need to be able to make some decisions that don’t require the approval of the first generation, Kohles says. With money, especially for 1st-generation couples with more than $10 million (the first $5 million of inheritance from each parent is not subject to the estate tax), parents need to plan for giving away some of their wealth before they die. That not only allows the beneficiaries to avoid a 40 percent estate tax, it helps them learn to manage the money.

• “Give your beneficiaries the opportunity to build wealth, and hold family wealth meetings.” The first generation works and sacrifices to make the family fortune, so often the second generation doesn’t have to and the third generation is even further removed from that experience, says wealth manager Ashoo.

“The best way they’re going to be able to help preserve the wealth is if they understand what goes into creating it and managing it – not only the work, but the values and the risks,” Ashoo says.

The first generation should allocate seed money to the second generation for business, real estate or some other potentially profitable venture, he says.

Holding ongoing family wealth meetings with your advisors is critical to educating beneficiaries, as well as passing along family and wealth values, Ashoo says. It also builds trust between the family and the primary advisors.

Ashoo tells of a recent experience chatting with two deca-millionaires aboard a yacht in the Bahamas.

“They both built major businesses and sold them,” Ashoo says. “At this point, it’s no longer about what their money will do for them — it’s about what the next generations will do with their money.”