Providing Special Risk Insurance to Agents and Brokers

London American Risk Specialists, Inc. is an independently owned and operated Surplus Lines/Wholesale Brokerage Operation serving the special insurance needs of agents and brokers.

Get on board with London American and let us battle the market for your client's insurance needs.

Expertise

General Liability

Excellent markets for a wide variety of businesses, including, but not limited to:

PROPERTY OWNERS:

  • Building/Premises - LRO
  • Single Family Tenant Dwellings
  • Duplexes
  • Triplexes
  • Fourplexes

ARTISAN CONTRACTORS:

  • Painting
  • Plumbing
  • Carpentry
  • Tile Installation
  • Floor Covering Installation
  • Drywall
  • Pressure Washing
  • Grading of Land
  • Heating and/or A/C Contractors

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Janitorial
  • Handyman
  • Churches
  • Landscaping
  • Bars/Taverns
  • Beauty Salons
  • Restaurants (with and without Liquor)
  • Truckers
  • Convenience Stores
  • Self Service Gasoline Stations

Small Business Packages

Excellent In-House Markets for a Wide Variety of Small Businesses, including but not limited to:

  • Artisan Contractors
  • Lessors Risk Only
  • Special Events
  • Property Owners
  • Churches
  • Restaurants / Bars
  • Pest Control
  • Landscapers
  • Paint & Body Shops
  • Garage Operations
  • Day Care Centers
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Trade Schools
  • Janitorial
  • Home Builders
  • Truckers

Commercial Property

Excellent markets for a wide variety of businesses, including but not limited to:

  • Large property accounts including layering limits to complete coverage
  • Small Businesses
  • Retail Strip Centers
  • Restaurants/Bars
  • Hotels/Motels
  • Churches
  • Habitational
  • All classes & sizes of Manufacturing risks
  • All classes of Excess Property
  • Woodworking Operations (pkg. ability for most classes)
  • DIC including flood & wind
  • Hard to place coverages-deductible buy backs, single peril excess, one off properties
  • Municipal & other Governmental risks
  • Independent School districts
  • Drilling rigs (onshore)
  • High Value Homeowners
  • Tenant Dwellings

Kick-Start on Saving Money

Saving money can become a regular habit over time if one is disciplined and can live without the big creature comforts. Millions across North America are hurting from the recent recession, and it only makes sense that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, should sock away extra cash whenever they can. When there’s money in the bank, there’s the peace of mind. Here are some tips that I have discovered to be most helpful when trimming unnecessary and vital expenses.

Saving money as a habitThe first logical step is to sit down and make a list of everything you spend money on during the week. Like everyone else, you’re probably going to be looking at food, cable/internet/phone, energy, and entertainment bills. There are ways to cut down on all of these things. Start with food and add up all of the costs associated with eating out. Those can add up fast, with the taxes, service charges and tips. Make it a mission to eat at home. Eating out should only be a special treat once in a while. Also, do you really need to visit the corner coffee bar every day? You can get your caffeine fix at home. You might be surprised how quickly those cappuccino and latte bills can add up.

Next up are the communications expenses. I don’t have a television and live quite comfortably without one. People would disagree with me, but I don’t think there is anything worth watching. I get the latest news from the internet and online versions of major newspapers. Cable television costs a fortune, and there are more channels than you can watch. Anyone can adapt if they get rid of the TV altogether and without it, there will be one less expense to worry about. If you can’t get through the week without catching an episode of your favorite show download them for free at Hulu (available only in the United States). Ask your phone company about special deals where you can get your phone and internet costs bundled into one monthly bill.

I didn’t find out until recently that electricity can be reached by all kinds of things in the home that is plugged in but turned off. For example, a fifty-watt stereo will burn almost twenty watts of electricity an hour even when the music is not on. Buy a power strip at a hardware store and when you’re not using any of your appliances hit the off switch. Look to your refrigerator and trim the fat by placing the food in Tupperware containers. Uncovered food gives off humidity, which makes the fridge work harder – and costs you more money.

Declining Issues Swapped in Heavy Trading

One day after a spectacular rally despite a hike in interest rates, investors reconsidered their enthusiasm and dipped into the market for some profits and a little reflection.

Busy stock exchange in New YorkThe Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 49.24 to 10883.09, or 0.45%. The NASDAQ Composite Index, dipped 26.13, or 0.79%, to 3269.39. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 9.32 to 1410.71, loss of 0.66%. The Russell 2000 Index of small companies added 0.19 to close at 457.07.

Declining issues outnumber decliners by a 3:2 margin on the New York Stock Exchange where more than 938 million shares were swapped in heavy trading.

U.S. stocks suffered amid renewed concern that inflation has not been vanquished and that the Federal Reserve may have more interest rate hikes on its agenda. On Tuesday, the Fed’s Open Market Committee raised the interest rate on over-night loans between banks by a quarter point to 5.5%.

An inflation report released today showed October matched September’s pace, which had reached a 30-month high. This coupled with an increase in housing starts and a spike in the price of crude oil put investors on alert that the Fed may not be through with its interest rate increases.

Financial companies to the biggest hit during Wednesday’s decline. American Express (NYSE: AXP) dropped 4 7/8 to 154 7/8, more than a 3% loss. J.P. Morgan & Co. (NYSE: JPM) was off 2.5, or 1.76%, to 139. Citigroup (NYSE: C) was down 1 5/8 to 56 3/8, or 2.8 percent.

Tech stocks on the Dow also slipped. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) was down 2 5/16, or 2.65%, to 85. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) slipped 1 13/16 to 74, or 2.37%. IBM (NYSE: IBM) dipped 1 to 93 1/8, down 1.59%. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) was a rare tech gainer in the blue chips, up more than 5% to 80.

Crude oil prices for December delivery rose 3.5 percent, or 90 cents, to $26.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. This was crude’s highest closing price in almost three years, and reflect a 7 percent rise this week. Crude oil prices have more than doubled since January 1.

Leading Lean to Higher Profitability

Why do so many UK companies find it so hard to sustain lean ways of working? Annie Gregory asks if they need to change their mindset as well as their mode of working?

The tenets of the lean business modelUK manufacturers aren’t doing themselves any favors. Despite clear links between lean principles and higher productivity and profitability, the majority is still adopting lean only in a half-hearted or spasmodic fashion. In fact, according to EEF in its report Catching up with Uncle Sam, US-owned companies win because they tend to pursue lean across the whole organization with higher intensity.

The reasons are obvious. They can draw upon the experience and knowledge of their parent corporation before changing their operations. The problem for UK companies, particularly SMEs, is they start from cold. The first step is usually a visit to a showcase site. Even when the fact-finder returns as a convert, replicating what he’s seen can be extremely difficult. Many initiatives begin with the highest expectations but peter out within months as work patterns revert to type under daily pressures.

Why is this? According to John Drew, lean expert, and operations specialist at McKinsey’s Production System Design Center, benchmark visits show you what is happening ‘on stage’ but not what lies behind the scenes. They give a proper appreciation of the technical side, i.e. the tools, processes, and techniques and also some aspects of the infrastructure like the training programmes and appraisal systems. But they don’t show the thinking and behavior that made it happen. “There is a frame of mind that goes with lean and managers are generally more uncomfortable in dealing with it than they are with the process, systems, and structures.”

So what is different about the lean mindset? Drew draws a few distinctions between traditional operational thinking.

Economies of Scale vs. Flexibility

“Visitors are always shown the new, bigger machine. But in lean, flexibility is more important than scale and often the two are in conflict.”

Managers justify their investment in bigger and better equipment by using it as much as possible, thereby often creating a bottleneck. “The lean way is to dedicate equipment to a product stream. It’s a mind shift. It may mean that three smaller pieces of equipment are worth more to you than one big one in terms of flow and lead time reduction, even if it costs you more.” Similarly, companies that cost a product by amortizing over a batch are asking for trouble. Restricting changeovers inhibits lean operation. Drew also points out that traditional accounting systems are counterproductive since inventory and WIP count as assets. He recalls an aftermarket automotive company burdened with decades of unsaleable finished goods. “It would have taken a brave person to write off this level of an asset.”

The Role of the Frontline

“The traditional way to regard people is as a cost to be minimized,” says Drew. Lean adherents, however, believe the front line is where you can add value. One of Toyota’s greatest achievements is its alignment of shop floor and management interests. By hunting for waste and trying to improve the productivity of the process, workers know they are not going to do themselves out of a job. “If initiatives start costing jobs, you can kiss goodbye to genuine participation. People are pretty skillful at doing just enough to make it look as if they are on board without really being so. You can’t make the promise unless you can keep it but you can make it your declared aim to grow the business, not cut the workforce.”

Responding to Problems

In a traditional mindset, managers work out what to do, and the shop floor does it. So, when things go wrong, managers jump on the person raising the problem. “Do that, and they won’t tell you when the next one comes up,” says Drew. In the lean mindset, you welcome the information and start eliminating the cause of the problem instead of just reacting to it. “We tend to underestimate the capabilities of people in the front line.”

Drew says lean programs heading for sustained success can be distinguished from potential failures at an early stage. Firstly, look at the behavior of managers. “They don’t just need to be committed but visibly committed. You can tell from the amount of time they spend on the shop floor.”

Secondly, you need to see people working on HR as well as the technical aspects of lean. The effort has to be directed as much at managing behaviors as at physical change. “You can encourage people to work how you want while you stand over them but the moment you walk away, it’s down to them whether they believe it or not.”

The enthusiasm – or otherwise – of the front line is a good indicator. “People are not going to put their weight behind it unless they can see what’s in it for them,” maintains Drew. Rewards are not always financial. He recalls a metal rolling firm whose systems were so inefficient that product made to order was still lying around weeks later. “By addressing the causes, the floor was clear within weeks. It transformed the working environment where, after all, people spend most of their waking hours. If your surroundings are making you fed-up, tackling that has to have a big impact.”

Focusing on simplifying business operationsHow does this all work in practice?

GAI-Tronics, which designs and manufactures specialized rugged communications products and systems, brought in the help of TBM Consulting. Within six months, lean had transformed its Burton-on-Trent facility. Productivity per head had increased by over 30, and the value of inventory had dropped below 20 percent. Even more importantly, the space used to house the original processes had reduced by half. Manufacturing director Mark Bradford started the process when the company faced a possible transfer of production as the parent company, Hubbell Corporation, looked at consolidating its UK manufacturing. Instead, the changes convinced Hubbell to move new processes to the site, securing employment prospects and leaving another 25 percent of the factory ready for future expansion.

Bradford was initially unconvinced lean would apply to his low-volume environment. A trip to a similar US operation was the turning point; he now describes himself as ‘on a change mission.’ Echoing Drew, Bradford offers one overriding piece of advice to other manufacturers: “You need a reason to go lean. Make sure you know why you are doing it.” Clearly, in this case, it safeguarded GAI-Tronic’s future. Bradford, however, insists that no-one should underestimate the effort involved. And he is equally adamant that different mindsets and behaviors are as crucial to success as changed production layouts. “It’s difficult for people to lose the habits and thought processes of a lifetime. So it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and find that two trolleys of WIP have accumulated.” One of the hardest things is to make people, brought up on maximum utilization of equipment, leave a job alone if it can’t be completed.

Framework to Lean Initiatives

Bradford recognized that lean initiatives fail without a framework to underpin the new way of thinking. The communications program was therefore aimed not just at the shop floor, who would see the majority of the physical changes, but also at all the support functions. “Once people are involved, it’s much easier to sustain the programme,” Bradford maintains. He openly admits he made ‘people’ mistakes. For example, he held a team workshop while the supervisor was on holiday. As a result, it took longer to establish full ownership of the changes made, but “you have to make mistakes to go forward.” He also believes he ran a risk in not getting more people involved in leading the process at an earlier stage. “If I had dropped dead while it was happening, the change programme would have died with me.”

He is equally convinced that he got some things entirely right. Working throughout with lean specialists TBM Consulting Group, GAI-Tronics made good use of intensive ‘kaizen blitz’ workshops and techniques. “It wouldn’t have worked without consultants or a big bang approach. They create an impetus. People feel it is important and different from previous programmes.” But this approach has to be matched by continuous effort afterward. The company is now getting a lot of success from one-day sessions. In a single half-day value stream mapping session, for instance, they traced the process from order entry through to completion, reducing the steps from 46 to 20.

“You can never stand still with it; you must keep on making small, important changes,” says Bradford. “It is great that those changes are now beginning to come from problem-solving sessions at shop floor level. But the whole process still needs constant involvement from above.”

CPA Education Provisions for License Renewal in California

California CPA continuing education (CE) is a requirement for license renewal every two years. The renewal process consists of submitting proof that the California CPA education requirements have been met, along with a renewal application as fee. California CPA CE is also referred to as California CPA continuing professional education (CPE). It is important to know that CE credits and standard college credits are not the same. Each semester-long course taken at a college counts for 15 hours of CE credit. After all CE requirements are met, and the renewal fee and application are submitted, a new license is issued. All continuing education certificates of completion must be kept for four years after the license renewal they were used towards.

California CPA requirements for license renewalCalifornia CPA CPE Renewal Options

California CPA licensees have a number of options when it comes to renewal of their license:

  • Renew as “active” by completing the required CE courses before the license expiration date.
  • Renew as “inactive” by simply submitting the renewal fee without CE. Inactive California CPA licensees cannot legally practice until they complete the required CE and become active.
  • Either request an extension for completion of CE courses, or request an exemption from CE if qualifying criteria are met (see the CPA candidate handbook link in the “Resources” section for details on CE exemptions).
  • Do nothing, and the license will expire. However, it can be renewed within five years of expiration by completing the CE courses.

California CPA New Licensee CE

The amount of continuing education requirements required for renewal is calculated at 20 hours for every six months from the date the CPA license was issued. This means that a total 80 hours of continuing education is required for active renewal of a CPA license every two years.

This calculation may be necessary for first-time licensees because the license expires on the candidate’s second birthdates from the license issuance date. As such, a candidate’s first license will probably need to be renewed before two years has passed.

Self-study (Online) California CPA CPE Courses

It is possible to get credit from a self-study course. For a self-study course to qualify, it must be an interactive course. Interactive courses must provide questions that test for understanding of material and provide feedback on incorrectly answered questions. Feedback must be specific for each incorrect answer for the course to be considered interactive.

A number of online CPA CPE courses are offered to meet the license renewal requirements. For a complete list of state-approved schools and courses, visit the California Board of Accountancy website.

Qualifying CE and 50/50 Requirement for California CPA License Renewal

For a course to qualify for CE credit toward renewal of a California CPA license, the course material must be an accounting or business related subject. Courses for self-improvement, foreign languages, and personal health are not accepted.

In order to renew the California CPA license in active status, the continuing education requirement has a 50/50 rule. This means that 50 percent of the total required continuing education courses must come from the following subjects:

  • Accounting and auditing
  • Computer and information technology (do not include word processing)
  • Consulting
  • Detecting and reporting of fraud financial statements
  • Financial planning
  • Professional conduct and ethics
  • Taxation

Live Presentations for California CPA Continuing Education

Live presentations are count as 50-minute class hours. If the live presentation is less than 50 minutes, then the individual segments can be added together count as a full hour. Segments must be at least 25 minutes long to count towards continuing education credit.

In order to ensure that all California CPA continuing education requirements are met before the license expires, it is advisable to spread the courses out over the 2-year license period, rather than wait until the last minute. Under certain circumstances, the California Board of Accountancy will grant a time extension for completion of the California CPA educational requirements. Finally, ensure that guidelines and deadlines discussed above are followed exactly. Failure to do so can result in delay or denial of the license.

Meeting Customer Needs While Growing Your Business

To be successful in business, one must understand the marketplace and the things that are proven successful and what can cause failure. Producing a good product or service and connecting with customers and convincing them to purchase your product is what will elevate your business. Analyzing the competition, what creates their success as well as examining their areas of weakness can make you a dangerous competitor if handled properly. Here are a few tips to generate success.

Identifying the sweet spot where business goals and customer needs meetSatisfy Customer Needs

When commencing a business, look at the big picture and discover who the customers are. Understanding this is key in creating the position desired in the market. If a clear understanding of the customers and their necessities isn’t defined, one cannot expect to have a successful business within this confusion.

Make the Business Important

When introducing the business to potential clientele, understand why the business is important to a particular target audience. What is it the product offers? Why would the customer want it? Is it a product needed repeatedly? Finding the answers to these questions will assist you in establishing a respectful place in the business world.

Know the Specifics of Your Customer Group

The best way to develop an understanding of potential customers is to establish a face to face relationship. While electronic surveys can be utilized, paper surveys mailed individually or faxed, face to face can establish numerous benefits. With other means of processing surveys, there is the risk of slow response or no response at all. With direct conversation, the customers obtain an opportunity to view the business directly. Impromptu conversations can develop, samples can be distributed, and a direct response can be made available as well. Suggestions can be received immediately. There is also the advantage of attracting additional customers at the time that may view what is occurring and become curious or want to get involved.

Develop Fair Pricing

Attempt to develop a feel for the price range customers are willing to pay. With the economy in a difficult state, customers are hesitant to loosen the strings on their wallets as easily. Examine what the business can afford to provide while remaining in the black. Review what competitors are offering and attempt to match it and offer a little more. Remember to follow-up with customers, so the business value is not strictly associated with solely the moment of spending money. Customers should know and feel they are cared for at all times.

A successful business means offering a product or service that stands apart from the market competitors. By understanding the field, and clearly defining goals one can provide the quality services and meet the needs of customers to establish a long financially rewarding relationship for both sides.

Two Things to Remember to Help Your Startup Shine Online

Overcoming failure is painful and difficult for most people. Failed relationships are like failed businesses: you may invest everything into it, yet it can still not work out in the end. Afterward, you may find it hard to pull yourself together and to want to try again.

For many entrepreneurs, setting up an online business is one of the simplest ways to make your business thrive. Whether it is a small-scale or large-scale business, online entrepreneurs are provided with a broader audience through the worldwide web to sell their products. Before the booming of online enterprises, companies could only afford online exposure through website advertisements. It used to cost a fortune to market online. But today, a smart business idea can go a long way with just a click of a button, and online entrepreneurs don’t even have to worry about setting up an actual shop to sell their products.

Startups bring forth the next big things in the 21st centuryOn the other hand, online entrepreneurs may find it challenging to develop a sense of individuality and uniqueness since the internet is booming with various online businesses. So, the challenge for any online entrepreneur is to make sure that his or her startup is different and unique to attract more followers. It is the challenge for every online entrepreneur to encourage an audience to choose to avail this particular brand’s products or services. Online entrepreneurs, therefore, have to brainstorm fresh ideas now and then to maintain the hype of their businesses. So even if starting an online business costs less, securing it for the long run is, in fact, quite challenging.

If you’re starting an online business and you want it to stand out continuously, here’s what you have to do:

1. Enhance your marketing strategy through SEO

Selling the best products in your line of business is not the only thing you have to worry about. As an online entrepreneur, you also have to figure out a solid way on how to make these products and services sell out. You’re not an entrepreneur if you are not willing to try different strategies to market your products effectively.

That is why you need proper SEO marketing tools to advertise your business. SEO will allow any online business to reach customers and offer them value for their money. Make sure to have great articles and creative visuals. These will hype up your business and boost your customers’ interest. Well-published reviews and other articles about your products can make your business reach great lengths.

Marketing strategy that can drive leads in drovesSome marketing strategies may cost you a fortune. So for small businesses, it is vital that you use your capital wisely. Don’t spend your budget on unnecessary tools. Remember to prepare a strategic marketing plan appropriate for the scale of your business.

Having an SEO consultant from an agency like SEOServicesnewyork.org is a great help for any online entrepreneur to have the basics of SEO in order. As the ringleader, you need to be hands-on as well with advertising your business. This way, your staff will trust that you have got everything under control and ready to roll in the profit.

2. Post creatively to “wow” your customers

Don’t rely upon on words alone; be visual and creative, too. Nowadays, excellent photos and videos are bound to get more hits online even if you have an award-winning write-up. Having great visuals, like photos and videos, is crucial since they capture your viewer’s attention, so you better make sure that you invest a great deal of time, effort, and resources in them as well.

Thinking differently could mean better customer experienceOnce you’ve got your creative content hot and ready, make sure to stick with your marketing plan. Consistency is the key to building your image for your customers so that they won’t be confused when viewing your online business. Create a theme that is relatable to your products. Be organized, and as much as possible, avoid creating random posts. Messy content will least likely help you promote your products and maximize your resources.

Since producing creative content may be a lot of additional work for your business, it is understandable to second-guess the purpose of doing it, especially for startups. But do not fret, because these contents will give you better exposure online, especially if you’re planning on expanding the business in the future. And mind you, there is nothing wrong with being forward-looking and idealistic from time to time if you are an entrepreneur. Eventually, all the time and effort will be worth it.

When everything is all laid out and planned, always remember to reach out to your audience too. Ignoring inquiries and feedback is always a big turn-off for customers. If you disappoint them, they can tell people they know, and that will cause your business terrible publicity. Acknowledge all the reactions they give to your posts. Be appreciative of their comments and messages, and be sure to let them know that.

Small Lifestyle Changes to Save Money

Saving money doesn’t have to be difficult. Small lifestyle changes reap big benefits when practiced regularly. Here are 15 easy way to save money.

Save a lot on grocery expenses with coupons1. Clip coupons. To make your coupon clipping more worthwhile.

2. Utilize public transportation. Depending on where you live and work, this may or may not work for you, but many people find that public transportation not only saves money but reduces stress. Concerned about the extra time that you’ll spend commuting? Then use that time wisely by reading, balancing your checkbook, studying, etc.

3. Turn down your thermostat 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer. The slight change won’t really be felt by you, but you’ll notice the change in your electric bill.

4. Run clothes in your dryer for only 5 minutes, then remove the clothing, hang it up on plastic hangers (to avoid rust) and then allow to air dry. Not only will you save electricity, your clothing will be less wrinkled.

5. Split restaurant meals with a friend or family member. Not only will you pay half as much, but you’ll also reduce your calorie intake. If you don’t have anyone to share with, ask your server for a container, and before you even begin eating, cut the portions in half and immediately put half in the container to eat another day. Another way to save money at a restaurant is to opt for water, rather than another beverage. This especially makes a difference when feeding a family. Not only will the basic bill be reduced, but the tip amount will be reduced as well.

6. Drop your gym membership and replace it with exercise apps. This is not advisable for those who find that they thrive in a more social setting, but if you go to the gym for nothing more than exercise, you may find exercising at home to be as enjoyable and profitable. I’m personally exercising more since I started exercising at home because without travel time to and from the gym, I’m able to exercise six days a week rather than only three.

7. Pack your lunch and take it to work rather than eating out. If your place of employment has plenty of room to store food, bring all the food you’ll need to work on Monday, so you don’t have to deal with packing a lunch daily.

Eating out should not be a financial burden8. Meet friends for coffee rather than for a meal. Social times often include time in restaurants, but even if you go to an upscale coffee shop, you’ll spend less than you would on a lunch or dinner date.

9. Plant a garden. Fresh produce not only tastes better and is often more nutritious, a small garden will provide more than enough vegetables for the average family. Rather than running to the grocery store for salad ingredients, simply walk outside and harvest something fresh from the vine.

10. Use your public library. Libraries have a lot more than books. Nowadays, most libraries have even current DVDs, and items can be reserved online, from the comfort of your home.

11. Have a regular errand day. Grouping your weekly errands saves gas and time. Plus, if you include a library run in your weekly errand day, you’ll be less likely to incur late fees.

12. Switch to a “pay as you go” smartphone, if your phone usage is minimal. Per rate minutes on pay-as-you-go phones are higher than other options. However, if like me you use your cell phone for infrequent and short calls, you’ll find the pay-as-you-go option to be a big money saver. I spend only $9 per month on my cell phone using this plan. Another plus of the pay-as-you-go option is that you are not locked into a contract, so if money is tight, and you need to cancel your cell phone usage for a period, you can do so without penalty or hassle.

13. Learn the fine art of bartering. Do you have skills or other resources that might be helpful to others? Look for ways to exchange your resources with the resources of friends and relatives.

Early meal preps can save you bucks and time14. Cook in bulk and freeze meals in advance. Bulk cooking often costs less, and you’ll spend less on eating out if you have males you can prepare in a snap at home. Don’t have time to do a full-blown advance cooking? Try cooking up ground beef, chicken, etc. ahead of time and freezing it. Even having something simple like ground beef cooked ahead of time can make meal preparation easier, which may help you avoid eating out when you’re not in the mood to cook.

15. Develop a budget and stick with it. Budgets may feel restrictive, but in the long run, they’ll help you to have more financial freedom. They also help you to avoid mindlessly spending money on things that have little lasting value. Some people also find it helpful to switch to a cash-only system for areas they tend to overspend on such as groceries, eating out, and clothing. Separate cash for those items into envelopes, one envelope for each budget category. When the money is gone, the spending stops. Guys may find it helpful to separate their cash in their wallet using different colored paper clips, each color representing a different budget category.

Why Stocks Remain a Sound Investment

Fortunately for today’s investor, the choice between mutual funds and stocks is one that you don’t have to make. In the search for diversification in one’s overall investment strategy, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, and even savings accounts can help balance risks and returns for the individual investor.

If I were forced to choose between stocks and mutual funds, however, I would have to go with stocks. I will admit, at the outset, that buying and selling shares is much more time and energy intensive. With a little time and effort, you can choose one or two mutual funds and pretty much forget them.

Taking calculated risks in the stock marketHigher Risk, Better Rewards

Stocks, in general, require much more investigation and involve higher risks and promise higher rewards. They suggest more daily involvement because changes in individual stocks will affect your portfolio much more immediately than changes in shares in a mutual fund.

By creating your own portfolio of stocks, you are essentially building and running your mutual fund. You can create much more diversity than that found in most mutual funds. You are responsible for your choices, for your successes and failures. You will determine the level of risk and the level of potential gain.

I’m choosing stocks because it is necessary that we make a much higher percentage return these days because of inflation and the destruction of the dollar. The inflation numbers coming out of the current administration are false. Inflation is much higher than we are told, possibly as high as 10%. If you are making 10% of your mutual funds, you are just breaking even (not counting the incredible shrinking dollar).

Decent Returns Possible

Investors must aim for returns that are much higher than 10% to account for inflation, the falling dollar, and taxes. It is possible to get such returns in mutual funds but less likely than with individual stocks. Now that the Feds are dropping the interest rates again, getting decent returns in other vehicles will be impossible.

Do you have to be an expert to make money in the stock market? First of all, the experts don’t always make money in the stock market, and the current housing market fiasco demonstrates that very well. If not for foreign rescues, some of our biggest banks would be in danger of going belly up because of stupid investment strategies. Some may still go belly up in spite of foreign intervention or government intervention. In the end, we will probably pay for their mistakes.

It is said that investors swing back and forth between fear and greed. Being a successful investor may be less about expertise and more about psychological stability. Successful investors have a kind of Zen detachment and do not get caught up in fear or exuberant greed.

Getting Expert Help

I am a successful small investor. Which only means I have made more money than I have lost. My success was not due to my understanding of markets. It has nothing to do with any specific investment strategy. In my investigations, I learned a lot about economics than investment strategies. I learned about the deceptions of the mainstream media and their “experts.” I learned that the economy did not work the way we were told and things that we were told were not important were fundamental.

I studied economists and investing experts who did not go along with the investing crowd. These experts told me about the housing market bust years before it happened. These experts said to me that the country was in big financial trouble because of the trade deficit, the spending deficit, the fact that Americans were not saving, that they were spending more money than they were making.

The big shots in Washington were telling us that the Asians were saving too much. We were told that a healthy economy was based on more and more consumption, more spending. And so we complied. Our economy became based on spending and debt. My experts told me this was a recipe for disaster and we are experiencing that disaster right now. Just before the bursting of Greenspan’s housing bubble, the man was recommending that Americans take out subprime loans. What a guy!

Savvy Stock Investor

So to be a savvy stock investor, you need to know where the economy is going. Right now, the economy is going to hell in a hand-basket. Now, the talking heads are finally talking about recession, and some are even speaking the “D” word, depression. But I have known about this recession for years because I listened to those who looked at the real economy and not the fake economy of the big corporations. The corporations and big banks are weavers of fantasy, and they have a reason to inflate the economy. They can take more of our money that way.

So how does an amateur pick stocks that will make money in today’s failing market? When the economy tanks, the entire market may suffer. But certain sectors will remain stable, and some will go up. Some industries will go up because of the failing economy, not in spite of it. What sectors might these be?

I have most of my investments in one sector, commodities. What does that include? It includes lots of stuff. In fact, it is mostly about stuff, stuff like agricultural products, food on the hoof, lumber, and things that grow. It includes other things that come out of the ground like minerals, oil, gas, and other forms of energy.

Target Industries with Rising Demands

These are things that Americans and other parts of the world will need no matter what happens to the economy. As emerging economies like China and India continue to grow, the demand for energy will increase, the need for food and building materials will increase. Meanwhile, the availability of these same things will likely be decreasing. Demand will outstrip supply. This is already happening.

When demand outstrips supply, prices go up. To use oil as an example, demand for gasoline will decrease in America as people have less money to spend. They will travel less and spend more conservatively. But the market in China and India will go up considerably. Also, prices will continue to go up. The same is true of food and minerals, especially metals involved in construction and precious metals.

Why precious metals? Because of the collapse of the dollar and the loss of confidence in governments around the world. Gold and silver have not just increased in value relative to the US dollar. These precious metals have increased in value in relation to all currencies in the world.

Potential for Gains

So if you want to create your own portfolio, your mutual fund, look to the sectors that will thrive in the adverse financial climate we are in. There’s potential in energy, including alternative energy. Look at agriculture, both because of an increasing number of mouths to feed but also because of ethanol production. Metals and materials because of continued building around the world. In precious metals, gold and silver represent real money when paper money moves toward its actual value, which is nothing.

Go to the experts who have disagreed with the mainstream experts for the last six or seven years, the experts who have turned out to be correct about just about everything. The commodities bull is still young, and with a little bit of research, it can save your bacon (pork bellies) and your shrinking dollars.

Accounting Mistakes Startups Make

If you are a startup and a first-time business owner, you have to learn a lot of things to keep the company running smoothly. You often have to juggle different tasks that should be run by different teams, but with a small budget to work with; you need to make the most of what you have.

So, for marketing, human resources, administration, operations, and accounting, you often have to do everything on your own at the start. In time, with more of a working budget, you can now afford to hire people in your company. However, you may not have enough resources to hire people with a lot of experience, or a sufficient number of people to run every department.

If you are a startup, the key is for you to prioritize. Make a list of things that you want to achieve, and determine the steps on how you want to meet them. If you are good with marketing and operations, you may need to hire someone to do the accounting for you.

However, if you are a business owner, accounting is number one in determining your success. You may say that there are things that define your success, but if you are running a business, financials are number one. If you can’t keep up with your income and expenses, and you spend more than you earn, you cannot go on with your venture. You can only say that you can go on with your business if you stay over your operating fund.

Staying in control amidst the expenses and profitsIt is easier said than done, though, because most startups fail in their first year. The most prominent downfall is usually on the issue of underestimating the importance of staying ahead of expenses. A new company may get excited with branding, partnerships, and having a cool office, but if you spend more than what you are earning, then you are putting your business at the risk of failing. Therefore, you need to be strict with your numbers, and that means writing down every single expense that you give out for your company.

You may receive a lot of insight and advice as to how to thrive with your business’ accounting, but the don’ts may rarely be discussed. If you are struggling with your market right now, you may have to take a closer look at the status of your startup. Here are some of the most common accounting mistakes that startups make:

  1. You use the business income for personal use, and then think that you will just replace the money later. In reality, it rarely happens, and you may forget about putting back the money in your business account.
  2. You don’t know anything about bookkeeping and accounting. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to take charge of your accounts. If you only let someone do this task for you, then you are running your business with a blind eye. You don’t have to do the accounting on your own. In fact, it is best to hire tempCFO Financial Services to do this for you. However, it is essential that you know the principles of bookkeeping and accounting, so you fully understand how your business financials work.


It is crucial that you stay ahead of the accounting game, so you don’t get surprised with negatives at the end of your fiscal year. Starting and running a business takes passion and dedication, but you also need to check the technical specifics, so you don’t get blinded by seemingly good sales that don’t reflect on your books.

Risks vs. Insurance – Mitigating Unexpected Circumstances

The uncertainty of living presents itself as boon and bane in the realm of human existence. A favor in the sense that it adds a certain degree of excitement and a renewable source of fresh experiences, lessons, and undertakings. A seeming flaw in the higher level capacity for comprehension and understanding of the human mind simply because despite the possibility that we could learn everything there is to know at hand. There is nothing we could do to empirically draw 100% accurate conclusions in the present based on the future. In other words, the only thing we can be sure of is that the future is unsure, and ironically, the only predictions we could make are ones that have a chance of total failure.

Getting peace of mind for your assetsThe uncertainty of risk is the substance that insurance primarily deals with. The risk is mitigated amongst a wide variety of management tools designed to either reduce the chances of a loss in property or life from occurring or to lessen the financial strain on the assured following an uneventful loss. Insurance covers the latter by indemnifying the assured of a given amount after a loss once proven that the claim is indeed valid. It is also concerned with mitigating risk since the contemporary underwriter employs risk management techniques in crafting an insurance policy to diminish the chances of a loss from happening.

The interaction between risk and insurance plays a crucial role in both the private and public sectors’ efforts to minimize financial damages in the aftermath of cataclysmic events that are becoming more prevalent under the threat of climate change. Global initiatives such as the Geneva Association prioritize the study of the changing risk landscape given the technological, cultural and financial developments in the 21st century, which is vastly different from that of the 20th.

Insurance allows for the consumer a measure of comfort with which he can allot a portion of the financial value of his property in exchange for relative peace of mind. Although it is possible to directly replace a lost property with another one of the same amounts by yourself (termed self-insurance), it is more practical to transfer the risk of loss to an entity that specializes in mitigating it at a fraction of its cost. Insurance is a business, but its real essence lies in its fundamental of being a service that caters to the consumer’s best interests.

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