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Smart Money Moves to Set Yourself Up for Success

Friday, October 13, 2017

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Being in charge of the household finances is a tough job, one not to be handled alone.  If you have a significant other it’s a good idea to bring in, since it has to do with both of your income and spending.  If you are on your own, then bringing in a family member or close friend that you trust might not be a bad idea either to bounce ideas off to ensure you have set yourself up for success for the future, in addition to making a few smart money moves.

Create an Emergency Fund

You never know what life will throw at you, so it’s a good idea to be prepared as you can in case something does happen and there is a huge unexpected charge to come up such as an auto or home repair, or even worse, a job-loss.  If you can keep a few months’ worth of expenses in an account for easy access, you will get rid of the need to put on a credit card and put yourself into debt, at which if you can’t afford now, you won’t be able to afford later.

Curb Spending

Really the best way to free up extra money so that you can use to pay off debt and save for the future is by reducing expenses, specifically removing the unnecessary expenses.  After you pay all of the needed bills and allow for food and gas, how much are you spending after that, and for what?  A good place to start would be to reduce going out to eat, as those charges can add up quick, and opt for going grocery shopping and preparing meals, snacks, drinks at home instead of going out and watch the savings add up pretty quickly.

Save for the Future

Every free dollar, even if it means you have to cut back on “fun”, should go towards saving for the future, whether that is a 401(k) account or an IRA.  If your work offers company matching contributions you should at least contribute that much, otherwise it would just be leaving free money on the table, not being able to grow over time, leaving you short when you are ready to walk away from work and have something to live off during retirement, as we know we cannot solely rely on social security income being there decades from now, although we are paying into it now.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

While I’m not encouraging going on a charging spree, but if you only charge the items that were already expenses anyways and you used your debit card, you could be earning free points, dollars, or miles just by making those purchases you would be making anyways.  With so much competition in credit cards out there, find the card with the best APR and rewards that you can get approved for, as you’ll be surprised how quickly your rewards will add up and you can cash in for gift cards, air miles, or a cashback check every year.

Turning Your Product Idea into Reality

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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Brilliant ideas pop into our heads all the time. Whether it’s inspiration from nature or life, or a quick way to solve a common problem, you are bound to have a “eureka” moment every once in a while. Chances are that during a couple of these epiphanies you even briefly considered your product as a business idea. But why so brief? Such problem-solving products or improvements on existing items on the market can be the start of a very profitable business!

Turning your idea into a product that you can sell is definitely a journey, but it’s one that many have travelled before with success. If you’re looking for what such an endeavour would entail, here’s a rough roadmap.

Develop the Idea

You might feel tempted to keep your idea all to yourself, however talking and explaining your idea is how you get valuable feedback and prove to yourself that it is a worthwhile product. Incorporate comments and missing pieces into your idea for design and go through as many iterations as needed to get something that a lot of people find valuable.

Create a Prototype

Before you can, or even want to, start producing your idea at a large scale, it’s time to make a proper prototype. Try using different materials, colours, sizes, and more until you get something that you can be proud to show someone like a potential investor. At this stage you will probably have to hire an engineer, if you aren’t one yourself, to interpret your ideas into a design that can be manufactured. Afterwards, depending on the product, you’ll need to find a company with the right equipment to make it for you. 5-axis CNC machines give you the flexibility to manufacture high precision parts but are too expensive for you to buy at this point, just like programmable sewing machine might not be viable at the moment.

Patent Your Idea

Once you are happy with your prototype, if there is anything proprietary, you should apply for a patent that will protect your idea from copycats. There are different types of patents, from design to utility, so you might want to ask for the advice of a legal professional who specializes in this kind of work

Find a Manufacturer

Before you can even really look for investors, you need a proof of concept, meaning that you can prove that your product sells. To sell, you have to have inventory. Using your prototype and the designs that you had your engineer make for you, approach a selection of manufacturers asking for quotes for their services. Remember to factor in the price of shipping, handling, and taxes when you compare their offers. Once you have settled, it’s time to start making stuff!

Sell

Now you have done a lot of the grunt work but the greatest challenge is ahead of you- it’s time to sell. Decisions have to be made about how you would like to sell: to small retailers, big box chains, or directly though tradeshows and e-commerce. Your product can dictate much of your decision making, as does your audience, however remember that it should be something that makes sense to you!

Inventing something, be it a completely new product or just a better mousetrap, can be the adventure of a lifetime. If it succeeds, it can also become your livelihood and that of those who work in making this idea reality.

All is left is to gather the willpower and commitment to take your little “hack” or “improvement” to a successful business that puts you on the map!

Steps for Dealing with a Delayed Flight

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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Terrible yet very probable- a flight delay is in most people’s future at one point or another. It’s a frustrating way to start or end a trip, however, there’s only so much that you can personally do to control it (please don’t be that person shopping in Duty Free instead of boarding!). You can make the most of the situation though. From letting your contacts on the ground know, to getting compensated for your inconvenience, there’s no need for this setback to continue to affect your life even after you have finally landed.

  1. Subscribe to Announcements

If you buy your ticket online, the airline will most likely already contact you this way, however, if you are buying through a travel agent, make sure that they give your email as your contact information. That way, if there is a known delay much in advance, you’ll be notified via email. If your flight is late, leave for the airport later to minimize your loitering time at the gate and enjoy those extra few moments at home or your hotel.

  1. Check Online

Airports now post real time arrival times on their websites so that you can check the status of your flight before you leave for the airport, even if you don’t get an email. If someone is picking you up at the airport, suggest that they do the same so that they don’t spend a small fortune on airport parking.

  1. Document the Timeline

Every time there is a change to the departure status, document the time and circumstances. This can be useful information for when you try to seek compensation down the road. Even document things like meals that you paid for yourself, along with receipts, as there is a possibility that you could get them refunded.

  1. Hound the Desk

Those who ask get answers- and the food vouchers. It might seem over the top, but the more pressure airlines get from disgruntled passengers, the better they react. Ask for food vouchers, ask about estimated timelines, and more. You might also be entitled to a hotel room if the delay is substantial.

  1. Contact Your Destination

Whether you have a shuttle reserved at your destination or someone waiting for you, let them know that you are going to be late. Most airports have free Wi-Fi so you should be able to get the message to them.  This might mean that you need extra child care, to contact your boss at work, or even reschedule a business meeting. By doing this you save yourself a lot of work down the road and the way we are looking at it, you probably have time to kill at the moment anyway.

  1. Try to Stay Patient

We know that it’s a stressful situation and that it can lead to lots of frustration and anger, however don’t let it bother you too much. There’s little you can do at the moment other than wait. Instead of exhausting yourself by getting emotional, try to find a way to relax. Have a coffee, read a book, or just people watch.

  1. Get in Touch with the Pros

Once you have finally landed at your destination get in touch with a team that has extensive expertise in flight compensation rules and regulations. They are your best bet at getting all that you are entitled to from the airlines, whether those are credits, cash, or an official apology.

Being on a delayed or cancelled flight is never a good time, however, if you follow these 7 steps you are likely to be less affected and annoyed once you arrive at your destination and to get the full compensation for your inconvenience.

Starting Off Your Rental Property Journey the Right Way

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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You bought a house or maybe two, and now you think you are ready to jump into the property rental game. Slow down, not so fast! There’s a lot of risk associated with renting your properties to strangers and it will require a calculated and methodological approach to make the end result as profitable and hassle-free as can be.

Figure Out What You Want

What are your goals when it comes to this investment? Are you looking for tenants to just pay off the mortgage? Do you want frequent turnover that will allow you to raise the prices between tenants? Are you looking for long-term residents that will save the hassle of finding new ones and treat your house like it was their own home? Are students a possibility?

Determining what your level of desired involvement is, along with how much you are willing to invest into the maintenance and upkeep of this property is an excellent starting point. You can then make changes to your property that will attract the tenants that you have in mind, whether young professionals, families, students, or older citizens.

Do Your Research

Before you put your property up for rent, it’s important to know what the market is for similar accommodations. Check the internet, local classifieds, or even pretend to be a potential tenant and check these places out in person. That will help you gauge the going price for a property like yours and the kind of tenants that it attracts.

Put Together a Good Application for Rent

Once you list your property, the floodgates are open and you will have a hard time deciding on which tenant you will want living in your investment property. A comprehensive application form will help you glean the right information from the interested parties and allows you to get to know them at a different level than what you would get at a showing. Don’t make it too long as it may scare them off, but make sure that you feel comfortable with the facts you get from it.

Draft a Rental Agreement

If you don’t want to have issues in the future with late payments, no payments, extensive damages, or more, build a strong rental agreement/contract. Enlist the help of a civil lawyer who will advise you strategically, in your best interest and in order to optimise the results on file. This is your weapon for issues down the road, so make your bed properly because you will have to sleep in it later.

Take Pictures

Hindsight seems to be 20/20, but let us give you a glimpse of foresight: take pictures! Before your tenants move in, make sure that you have detailed pictures of the entire space. That includes slight damages that are existing, walls, railings, bathroom fixtures, and more. These are your proof of what your property looks like before the new tenants move in. Get your new residents to sign a copy of these pictures, agreeing that this is what the current state is, therefore eliminating disputes and potential “that was already like that!”s down the road.

Choose Wisely

Choosing the right tenants is key to running a successful rental property. You want people who are fair, respectful, attentive, and will love their home as if it was their own property. These stewards of your investment will dictate the state in which your property is and what it will look like when it’s back on the market again, whether for sale or for rent.

Running a rental business can bring great returns if done properly. If not, you risk being involved financially and legally in a mess that no one wants to deal with. By taking the time and essential steps from the get go, you can avoid headaches and start collecting those rent cheques!

Smart Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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One of the best ways to get control of the household finances and look to saving some real extra money in order to use on paying down debt and saving for the future is to reduce expenses.  Sure, we can budget for the food bill, but if you are budgeting for going out to eat, you will likely not be working with a successful one.  If you can reduce going out to eat and prepare your meals at home, you can save a significant amount by going grocery shopping instead.

Shop During the Week

Going shopping after work is busy in itself, but you know if you try to go during the day on Saturday or Sunday, you will be lucky if you can get out of there without knocking a few carts out of the way.  Not only to avoid crowds if you can go mid-week, after dinner, you can also save money off your grocery bill as well.  Why put big sales on the weekend when the grocery store will be packed anyways, so during the week is when you can not only find items on sale, but more of the “10 for $10” type promo sales.

Load the Digital Coupons

The days of clipping coupons is not entirely over yet, but as newspaper subscriptions continue to decline, you find less and less that spend their Sunday’s building up their coupon collection.  These days, you can load digital coupons to your shopper’s reward card by going to the grocery store’s website, and then when in punch in your phone number at the register you will see the savings start to come off.  It may be tough remembering which items you loaded a coupon for, so might be a good idea to print off a list.

Stick to a List

Speaking of lists, there have been plenty of times that I have either gone to the grocery store for a specific item and got distracted with others that I didn’t even get the item I intended to.  On the other hand, I’ve also gone in for an item or two and came out with a cart full of groceries that I didn’t intend on buying.  If you can make a shopping list when you go of the necessary items that you need, if you can keep your head down and stick to the list, you can avoid impulse purchases, especially if you lump the items on the list according to spot in the store, you won’t have to go searching and risk breaking your concentration on buying what looks good.

Never Go on an Empty Stomach

When you are hungry at the grocery store everything looks good.  Without a shopping list and an empty stomach, it can be a recipe for financial disaster as you go up and down each aisle.  If you are able to fill up at home before you go shopping, you can have a clear head and focus on the task at hand, without being distracted by impulse purchases that are probably not good for you anyways.

Smart Ways to Handle the Household Finances

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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Taking on the household finances is a huge task.  It not only involves making sure that all of the bills are paid on time, but also taking in account saving for the future, not to mention handling the spending money.  If you take in account that the more you spend in each month, the less you have available for other things such as paying off debt or saving for the future.  By making a few smart money moves, you can stay in control of the household finances.

Set Up an Emergency Fund

You may be plugging along now each month with making sure more money is coming in instead of going out, but what happens if your car needs a repair, or a household appliance needs to be replaced, or even worse, what if you lose your job?  If you can keep a few months’ worth of expenses sitting in an account to use as a cushion, you could set yourself up in case of emergency and not have to finance on a credit card if you do not have the available cash at the time to pay for.

Reduce Expenses

Take a look at last month’s credit card statement, add up all of the charges that are separate of necessary monthly expenses such as utility bills, grocery, or gas bills.  Start by even looking at the amount spent going out to eat.  If you even cut that in half and relied on eating and preparing meals at home, you could start to see the savings start to add up each month.  Once you see the money starting to stack up, you could eventually hope to eat just about all meals at home for a fraction of the cost of going out.

Stay Out of Debt

Credit cards used to get a bad reputation, giving the impression that you don’t have the money to make the purchase so using a cash, but these days, using a credit card makes sense for the rewards, earning money back from each purchase, so using a credit card for every purchase actually makes sense.  The problem is, if you can’t pay off the full balance and carries over to the next month you begin to get charged interest, which depending on the balance, could be quite considerable, especially if interest rates are pushing 16% APR, and therefore hurting other important areas where that money could be going.

Don’t Handle the Burden Alone

Since handling the household finances is a tough job, it’s good not to do alone.  Bring in your significant other since you both are making and spending the money in the house, or even a family member or friend whose opinion you trust that could bounce ideas off to make sure that you are moving in the right direction for your financial freedom and have enough saved up life off of when you get of retirement age and leave behind the daily grind of having to go to work every day.  The earlier you save, the better.

3 Reasons Robo-advisors Work for Investors of Any Age

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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If you’ve done any research about investing you’ve no doubt already learned that there are many different ways you can invest. You could invest in gold, stocks, bonds, or real estate to name just a few.

Clearly some of these investments will be riskier than others. But that’s what investment advisors are for. They can help you invest in ways that optimize returns while minimizing the risk of losses.

What you may not have thought about is that you could also choose to invest without the help and expense of an investment advisor. One way to do this is on your own, but another is through the assistance of a robo-advisor.

Robo-advisors have a lot going for them. In addition, there are a lot of reasons robo-advisors work for investors of any age.

1. Beginning Investors

Beginning investors of any age may not have the experience or confidence to get started. Fortunately, robo-advisors can help.

You don’t have to worry about a lack of knowledge because you can let the robo-advisor do the work for you. They show you options based on the amount of risk you are willing to take.

Start by choosing a few funds to invest in. Then, allow the robo-advisor to manage them for you. Getting started is that simple.

However, experience isn’t the only thing new investors of all ages are short on. Although they may have the desire to invest, they may not have the money.

Once again, robo-advisors can help. If you can find just a few dollars to save each month you can invest through a robo-advisor. Some don’t even have a minimum investment requirement to get started.

2. Investors with Some Experience

As an investor with experience you may find robo-advisors helpful even if you are an older millennial. For example, you may have money to invest but lack time due to family or work commitments.

Time can be a factor, of course, no matter what your age. Robo-advisors can save you time by automating rebalancing, bank transfers to your investment account, and more.

Different features are available depending on the robo-advisor you choose to invest in. Obviously, they are all designed to make investing easy and save you time.

3. Expert Investors

Expert Investors can be any age but even they like the many benefits robo-advisors have to offer. One such benefit is retirement information.

Some robo-advisors will guide you through the process of tailoring your investments to your retirement goals. As an example, they can help you project how much Social Security income you will have access to at retirement.

Another benefit all ages of expert investors agree upon is live support from some robo-advisors. Having help available allows expert investors to ask questions and seek help. This way even highly technical questions can be answered which wouldn’t be possible if you invest on your own.

There will always be some risk associated with investing. Using a robo-advisor won’t change that. However, there are reasons robo-advisors work for investors of any age and they can benefit you too.

Have you ever invested through a robo-advisor?

Cheap Purchases that are Worth Shelling Out the Money

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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Sometimes it can be hard to shell out money for items you need, hence my closet could use some upgrading, let alone extra purchases, but there are so many that make sense than can actually save you money in the long run.  For putting a little money up front (larger in some cases), it is actually worth the investment, so if you have been on the fence for a while, now may be the time to actually open up the wallet a little bit and use the card that has been put a way for a while.

Updated Laptop

It’s crazy how fast technology goes, that there is no reason to hang onto a laptop that is approaching a decade like mine was.  For around $700 you can have a laptop that boots up in seconds and is fast handling many applications, not to mention energy efficient, that makes you wonder why you didn’t upgrade sooner.  Now I can’t guarantee this one won’t be outdated in a few years, but all the more reason to invest again as costs continue to drop for the quality the comes with.  It’s exciting to see what the future holds and now they can get any better, faster.

Avoid the Drive-Thru Coffee

Much like going out to dinner or picking up fast food, getting your morning coffee in the drive-thru on your way to work is as easy as it comes, but spending $20 a week in coffee can quickly add up, especially if you are adding breakfast to that order or stopping multiple times per day.  By investing $25 up front in a programmable coffee maker, you can setup at night to have your pot brewed in the morning with your favorite coffee, pour in your travel mug, and be on your way.

Water Filter

We may not spend the amount on bottled water as we do coffee, but I guess if you buy single bottles for a gas station you could be, but at least buying a case of water will set you back $5, but maybe only last you the week depending how much you drink, and how unlikely you are to just refill them from the sink.  By putting a little money up front on a filter, while keeping a water cup, you can have all the water you want, while just paying your water bill instead of shelling out extra money on bottles.

Programmable Thermostat

Now it seems pretty impossible that households would not these installed in homes, but on the off-chance that you don’t, or fully take advantage of its capabilities, it could make your life a little easier, and give a little less strain on your wallet.  There is no reason to cool (or heat, depending on the season) your home while you are at work for the day, not to mention you probably want it cooler to sleep through at night, so never have to worry about adjusting the temperature again, or forget to change a temperature back.

Things to Consider When Discussing Licensing Agreements

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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Your business may be in the fortunate position sometime in the near future to enter some sort of licensing agreement with another company. This can be an important moment for any business, and it can be a tricky one. The actual contract is really not something that can be done by just an ordinary individual. You definitely want to contact a law firm that has experience in this sort of matter. It is essential to find a lawyer with the knowledge and experience needed to protect your assets while entering into a license agreement.

For those that are not familiar with licensing agreements, it is a legal contract between two parties. The two parties are known as the licensor and the licensee. Basically what takes place is the licensor grants the licensee the permission to produce and sell different goods, apply a brand name or trademark on something, or use patented information or technology owned by the licensor. If you are a fan of the show Shark Tank, you will often hear Kevin O’Leary speak frequently about the possibility of licensing products to other companies.

A licensing agreement might be needed no matter what type of business you own. Trademarks and brand names are a first come, first serve basis. If a business or company owns the trademark or brand name first, then anyone else wanting it will have to enter a licensing agreement or maybe they could make an offer to buy it outright. In any case, it can be a profitable situation!

However, do not attempt to make these agreements on your own. Even if it is with a friend that you have known for a long time and trust completely. Let the attorneys that are qualified in this sort of transaction earn their money. The legal language used in these contracts can befuddle and confuse even the smartest business owners. Even if someone in your company has a bit of experience with standard licensing contracts, it is always best to bring in a professional.

How Can It Be Profitable?

We already looked into the matter where a brand name or trademark could be used for the good of a company. There are other ways that there could be serious money made with a licensing agreement. Just be sure that your idea or product is patented completely by you before trying to enter agreements with other people or companies. If the patent is even a little off, it could allow for someone else to swoop in and create a patent of their own on something very similar.

There are two main ways to make a good profit from your idea or product other than creating it and selling it yourself. Once a patent is in place, you may choose to assign your rights in the patent to another party. This would give over all the rights to the product for a lump sum payment. Some inventors like to do this exact thing. They would rather invent products and then sell the rights off to a company rather than be tied down to running a business.

Entering a licensing agreement can also give the inventor of the product a royalty fee in exchange for allowing another company to make, use, or sell the invention. The contract will state a specified percentage for net revenues or a percentage for each unit sold. Royalty payments can add up quickly, especially if you have licensing agreements with many companies. However, remember that you must have a trusted lawyer involved in these decisions and contracts that will guide you throughout the process. Unfortunately, handshake deals are not honored in today’s business world. Having a legal contract will save you many headaches later on down the line.

Ramping Up Business | From Your Garage to a Facility

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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Congratulations! You have grown your little business from an idea, to home operations, and now you are ready to dive into the deep end and move to a real facility. This jump is a scary one for many producers as it takes a significant investment to outfit an industrial space to accommodate for the needs of your business.

Before you get started, it would be wise to create a cost estimate of what you will spend in your expansion. You can use this to approach potential investors, or even lenders, who could help you finance your growth. It can also reaffirm to you whether or not this step is a good one for your company or whether you should wait a while for the right opportunity to come up.

If you are a maker, in addition to specialized equipment, you will most likely be looking at these light industry staples:

  1. An Office

Unless you are looking to maintain a separate office space for you and your office employees, and use the new location to strictly “make”, you are going to be sectioning a part of your space for the office. It will likely need to be soundproofed for important conversations (meaning walls will have to be erected), and outfitted for a comfortable working environment. That means that you’ll have to purchase filing cabinets, computers, desks, chairs, cubicle dividers and more. Though this might seem like peanuts at this point in the game, it really does add up.

  1. A Lunch Room/ Kitchen

Due to the industrial nature of the main work floor, it’s unlikely that it would be safe for you or your employees to eat their meals there. Part of your office space might have to go for an official lunch room or employee kitchen in which everyone can safely eat their meals during their designated breaks. This include the purchase of a microwave, installation of cabinets, at least one table, some chairs, etc.

  1. A Conveyor System

If you want to show your potential investors that you really mean business, you need to prove that you are going to be using their money to sponsor an efficient operation. Nothing says time-saving and ease of use like a conveyor belt. Use this as the central flow of materials and products throughout your workspace and organize your workflow and stations around it. Get a quote for several configurations and options from a leading provider and manufacturer of conveyor handling systems.

  1. Health & Safety

Now that you will be using industrial scale tools and equipment, you will need to invest in measures that will keep you and your employees safe. They are also a way to maintain a high standard of quality of your product. The best way to go around this is to hire a health and safety consulting company that will be able to tell you exactly what you will need in order to comply with existing regulations and best practices.

Obviously, every line of business has specialized tools and processes that differ from others. These can be very expensive, however, often can be purchased second hand to keep the initial investment costs low. Don’t forget that the installation costs, insurance, and utilities on a place like this can be much higher than what you encountered when setting up your home-based operations. The more specific and thorough you are in your cost estimate, the better of an idea you will have about the steps you will need to take to make your business dream come true.

These growth spurts are a sign of a successful business, however, done improperly can lead to serious growing pains, even potentially resulting in imploding the company altogether. Creating a cost estimate is your first step to ramping up your production, and could be the tool you needed to convince others, and yourself, that it takes money to make money.

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