Thursday, August 5, 2021

How to Decide if a Financial Advisor is Right for You

 Most people don’t feel in control of their finances. Half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck while debt rages rampant, with the average household owing over $100,000 in debt.


Screenshot from NerdWallet


If you feel drowned in debt and can’t seem to set aside money in a savings account, consider meeting with a financial advisor.

Who is a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor is a professional who helps you make healthy financial choices. 


They aren’t just available to help those in financial crisis. Financial advisors teach anyone about financial literacy and recommend the best financial choices depending on each person’s needs.


If you are struggling financially, an advisor may tell you how to budget your money and chip away at your debt. On the other hand, if you are financially stable, an advisor may discuss investment options to build on your financial security so you can make the most out of your income.

Image by 462634 from Pixabay 

How a Financial Advisor Can Help You

Financial advisors help with several areas, including:


  • Investing

  • Budgeting

  • Insurance

  • Taxes

  • Wealth management

  • Financial goals


Investing – Investment can be overwhelming because there are so many options to choose from, like stocks and bonds. Financial advisors familiar with investments can lay out your options and help you decide which investment options match your needs.


Budgeting – Budgeting is the cornerstone to a healthy financial life. A budget helps you keep track of where you spend money. Financial advisors help people create budgets that pay for their needs and allow them to set money aside for savings and retirement.


Insurance – Insurance is part of a solid financial plan. Financial advisors can suggest the most important types of insurance for financial security, like life insurance and health savings plans.


Taxes – Once a year, you need to pay taxes. If you’re self-employed, you will need to set aside taxes more often than that. A good financial advisor knows how to fill out taxes, so you receive the maximum return.


Wealth Management – If you have a large amount of money or a small amount, a financial advisor knows the best ways to manage that wealth between savings and spending.


Financial Goals – Whether you are looking to get out of debt or save for retirement, financial advisors create plans to achieve those goals and help motivate you to stay on track with accomplishing those goals.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

How to Choose the Right Financial Advisor

Your top priority when choosing a financial advisor is trust. This person will be responsible for your future financial security. You can meet with several financial advisors before deciding on the one who makes you feel most comfortable. You can also ask friends for referrals.


Know your budget before seeking out a financial advisor. The cost of financial advisors varies greatly depending on if they charge a fixed rate or commission. However, they are worth the investment because of the money they can save.


The last consideration when choosing a financial advisor is finding someone familiar with your specific needs. For example, do you need help dealing with debt? Do you have a large sum of money you aren’t sure how to invest? A debt advisor is different than a wealth advisor.


You may also want to consider other details when choosing a financial advisor, such as how often they are willing to meet, their communication options, and where they are located.

Preparing for Your First Meeting

That first meeting can be intimidating. You can ease your fears by writing down a list of questions to ask a financial advisor beforehand. Then, you are in charge of the situation and can choose what you hope to gain from the meeting.


Are you just looking to build trust?


Have you already decided to hire that advisor?


Are you still looking at your options?


After the meeting finishes, you can go home and think about what steps to take next. Don’t feel pressured into making any decisions at the moment. Deciding on your financial future is an important decision.

Taking the Next Step

If you’re ready to take ahold of your financial future, then maybe it’s time you talk to a financial advisor.


You can find financial advisors through social media, online searches, ads, and recommendations. One popular option for finding a reliable expert in any field is to ask for a recommendation through social media.


You don’t need to commit to a financial advisor right away. Instead, just meet with someone to talk about your savings, investing, and budgeting options and see how your financial future can change.


Surgical Strategies To Avoid Medical Debt

 When talking about dealing with debt, especially when it comes to prevention, it’s important to be specific. Debt doesn’t simply fall out of the sky, it has causes that can be identified and fought. Medical debt is a growing problem, one that’s causing a lot of anger. The notion that someone can fall sick or injured and their choice is to either accept it or take on a lot of debt is an issue that we can all understand the injustice of. However, it can happen to anyone, including you, so here are some tips to help you avoid, reduce, and manage medical debt.


Credit - CC0 License


Look over your insurance package again

The health insurance industry is rife with problems and not all of your debt is going to be cleared by choosing the right insurance or insurance provider. However, it’s still an important decision if you’re going to try and protect yourself from medical debt. You want to make sure that you’re getting adequate coverage against the kinds of health issues most likely to affect you and pay particular attention to what is omitted from your coverage. Similarly, you want to make sure that you’re choosing providers that are in-network with the health care services you are likely to use. Often, making sure that you don’t have huge deductibles will require you to pay more in premiums instead.


Know and discuss the costs before getting a treatment

The fact that declining a treatment might be a necessary step to reduce your medical bills is one that causes a lot of concern and rightfully placed anger. However, often, you don’t need to go as far as refusing treatment entirely. Make sure that you know about the prices of treatments as best as possible before you agree to it and research some of the average costs to know when you have a provider that is overcharging you. You might be able to negotiate some wiggle room with your doctor but if they frequently start from a place of higher prices than you might get elsewhere, then it could be time to switch your providers.


Get your savings together

It might not be any new idea that you can help offset your costs by saving for them in advance. You may already have some savings to help you deal with medical costs. However, are they in the right place? You might want to look at health care savings accounts, which are special accounts that allow you to contribute to your savings without having to pay any tax on them. The only caveat is that when you pull out of your savings, it has to be explicitly for the purposes of paying for health care. See if you can find any wiggle room to save aside a little extra cash and make sure it’s being put somewhere that can help you.


Take a close look at your bills

Administrative and paperwork problems, both on the side of your health care provider and your insurance provider, can lead to higher costs. This is not an uncommon experience, either. Incorrect billing is pretty widespread in the industry. For that reason, take a look at all of your bills as well as the explanation of benefits forms from your insurance. Take a closer look at whether there are duplicate charges, charges for services that you did not seek, and that your personal and insurance details are correct. You shouldn’t pay your bill until you make sure that it is correct and, if it isn’t, take it up with both your health care provider and insurance provider.


Don’t let misbehaving doctors get away with it

Sometimes, it might be your doctor or health care service provider who is, at least partially, responsible for the costs that you have accrued. If your provider has made a treatment decision that was wrongfully considered, involved some kind of mistake, or did not get your consent fully for it, they could be legally liable. Doctors are not likely to tell you when they are guilty of medical malpractice, so you need to keep your eyes peeled and be your own advocate. If you do identify malpractice, then you might be able to get them to pay the costs of any additional treatments that their misjudgment or mistakes caused.


Get help in paying

There may be options to help you pay what you owe. Many health care providers will arrange for payment plans so that you can pay what you owe bit by bit, rather than having the entirety of the loan floating over your head. Though it is not as reliable, you might also want to consider the help that some of the nonprofits out there can offer. There’s a lot of medical debt in the country so, naturally, not everyone can get direct financial assistance with thiers. However, it may be worth looking into it while you consider and plan for the other tips featured here, as well.


Pay your other bills first

Medical debt is treated differently from other debt in a number of ways. First of all, credit bureaus do not weigh it as heavily as other kinds of debt, such as credit card debt or mortgages. In fact, medical debt doesn’t go onto your credit report until six months after it has been accrued, which can offer you time to renegotiate or find a better solution. As such, if you have other outstanding debris that is contributing to financial stress, then medical debt can usually wait. Pay those off first. If you are getting called by a collector, then you can send them a no-contact letter or let them know that they cannot call you at your current number.


It might be easy to get angry or feel hopeless if medical debt rears its ugly head in your life. However, it’s important to get your head into thinking about solutions as soon as you can. There are steps you can take, you just need to layout your options.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Ancient Games Still Played Today

 Many of us love playing games. Board games is a fantastic way to spend quality time with friends and family. But did you know that some games are thousands of years old? The oldest game known in the world is Senet, an ancient Egyptian board game played by royalty about 4,000 years ago.


Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels


Board games has been around since the beginning of time, and as such, there are many board games that people still enjoy playing today. 


The oldest games in the world can be found in different variations or under different names all over the world. The board game bingo is an excellent example of this. It was played by Native Americans long before it became popular in England, where its name came from.


Bingo is a board game played with cards and numbers, which sports the same name as its caller. The objective of the game? To have a matching card number called out by the caller on one's board - or to be first when all the board numbers are matched! Bingo can still be found in many places worldwide and is also a popular game in some school lessons.


Other board games like chess, checkers, and backgammon originate from ancient India or China, respectively, but you will find them on every continent these days!



Sanet


Sanet is a board game for two players and one of the oldest board games in the world, which are still played today. Sanet has been around since at least 2000 BC; there's evidence that it was being played as early as 3000 to 4000 years ago! Furthermore, the game is an Egyptian invention—one can see similarities between Sanet boards from this time period with those found on modern-day tables.


How To Play Sanet


The board consists of four rows (piles) containing six fields each, so 24 squares total. Players alternately place stones along their own row (from right to left), trying to form continuous lines across the entire board without disturbing any other player's arrangement. 


Once a stone touches another stone horizontally or vertically, they are locked in place. Players continue to play pieces until all board spaces are filled, or the last stone is placed on their own row, and they have no more stones left, at which point a player wins by forming continuous lines across their opponents' board first!


This board game has been passed down through generations because it can be played for centuries without updating with new rules. So it's easy to understand how Sanet became one of the oldest board games still enjoyed today. The ancient Egyptians invented this winning board game thousands of years ago—and it's still around today!


Backgammon


Backgammon is known as one of the oldest board games played today. It's believed to date back to 3000 BC in Ancient Egypt, and it is still popular among many groups around the world.


Backgammon was brought from Europe to America by English settlers looking for a game that would be different from those they had at home. Settlers found Native American players playing a variation that used dice. At the same time, Europeans preferred board-based games like chess or checkers - so this easy-to-learn alluring pastime became an instant hit with colonial Americans! 


The use of these two teams allowed for more strategic play as well as options when rolling dice (such as doubling stakes). Backgammon has been enjoyed by presidents such as George Washington and James Madison and is still played today as a board game, card game, or online.


Chess


In ancient times, chess was played on a board of eight rows by eight columns. Some believe that the game originated in India during the Gupta Empire (320-550), and some historians believe it might have been invented in Persia or China. This is not clear because there are no written records from this time period documenting who created chess.


Photo by Lars Mai from Pexels


It may have also come about as an evolution of earlier games such as shatranj which had similar board layouts and pieces but different rules.


One thing for certain is that the knights were used to guard pawns at least 200 years before their introduction into European chess play around 1000 AD; this implies Persian origin.


The first documented mention of "chess" comes from Iran, where writings suggest Muslim traders picked up the game from the chessboard during their voyages to India or Persia.


How To Play Chess


The board consists of 64 squares arranged in eight lines (eight rows) by eight columns; this board can be represented as a matrix with two dimensions: horizontal rank ("files") and vertical column ("ranks"). 


Each square has four corner spaces on its perimeter, used for diagonally adjacent pieces; these positions cannot hold other pieces. Thus, both players start without any piece except the king's pawn at one end of the board. Players then alternate turns, moving either a single chessman or groups thereof horizontally across ranks onto unoccupied squares until they reach either one of the board's opposite corners or a row where they cannot make any further moves. 


A chessman can only move to an unoccupied square that is not attacked by an opponent's piece; in this way, it resembles international draughts that also had similar rules.


Checkers


Also known as "draughts," are early games dating back to ancient times. The earliest evidence of the game is found in Egyptian reliefs from around 1500 BC. From there, it spread throughout Europe and eventually became known as checkers (or draughts). 


Checkers has been played on a board with two rows of 12 squares each since at least 1400 AD, but games may have existed before this time that used other shapes for the playing field, such as triangles or hexagons instead of squares.


The rules vary slightly depending on where you live, which sometimes leads people to believe they are different games altogether! For example:

  • French Draughts uses all six pieces.

  • English Draughts use only King and Queen.

  • American Checkers uses only four pieces.


How To Play Checkers


The game is played on an eight-by-eight board with twelve pieces per player. Players use the checkers to capture their opponents' pieces or bear them off the board entirely.


The board is empty at the start of a game; each player owns eight checkers, which are initially placed on their two backmost rows.


 "To start," one player moves any number of his own pieces from their first row to an unoccupied space in front of them, slides them down until they stop, and then places another piece into the now-empty space behind it (if there was more than one move). Then, the game continues with players taking turns moving or sliding remaining pieces forward as many spaces as desired so long as no other rules interfere.


A draw can occur when neither side has enough checkers for all its points, called a kinged board. Although this term originally referred to stalemate positions where both kings could not move, it has come to mean any board where neither player can make a move.


Monopoly


Monopoly is another old board game still played today; Monopoly's origins lie in America, dating back to 1903 where it was originally called 'The Landlord's Game.' 


Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels


This board game allows players to build property empires by buying, trading, and auction properties. Monopoly is played by players around the world in different variations, with some board games having up to 200 spaces!


Snakes and Ladders


Snakes and ladder is a traditional game that is played by two or more players, with the objective to be first to reach the end of the board.


Snakes and ladders games were originally used as an ancient Indian game in Hinduism where it was believed you could win your way out of reincarnation through spiritual discipline; later versions including this one may have been created for moral instruction.


Snakes and Ladders have been a board game for many years and many children still enjoy this board game today!




Tuesday, August 3, 2021

5 Business Struggles You Will Inevitably Face

 Nobody builds a business without setbacks. Eventually, something inevitably goes wrong and it can leave them scratching their heads, wondering what to do. 


In this post, we take a look at some of the business struggles that you are likely to face so that you can prepare for them effectively when they come. 


People Not Understanding Your Brand


Getting people to intrinsically understand your brand is more challenging that you might think. Even companies that are more than ten years old can struggle to explain to consumers what they actually do. 


If you are a small brand, there are several options you can use to improve your marketing. Blogging, for instance, is a good way to explain to interested prospects what it is that you actually do. You can also try co-marketing with another brand or even using PR stunts that place your brand in contexts that people understand. 


Failing To Build An Email List


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Email list building can feel like an endless uphill struggle. It doesn’t seem to matter how much effort you put into it, your list grows at a snail’s pace. 


So what can you do about it? Well, fortunately, you have some solutions:


  1. Don’t buy lists - build opt-in lists instead

  2. Leverage social media platforms to find out where your audience is already

  3. Create demand by generating content that people will be willing to sign up to read

  4. Re-engage older lists by asking for opt-ins for new content


Payment Processing Issues


Payment systems work remarkably well and help to grease the wheels of the economy. But sometimes, they can land your business in trouble. Owning high risk merchant accounts can put you at risk of limits on merchant banking services. 


The solution is to implement effective fraud prevention strategies. Never manually enter customers’ card details and always use additional layers of security, such as Verified by Visa. 


Failing To Delight Customers


The whole point of customer-facing businesses is to delight the people that they serve. But sometimes brands can fail to do this. Customers don’t always have positive experiences. That disincentivises them from spending more money in your store. 


Small businesses can find it hard to delight customers, but there are some things that you can do. 


First, you can innovate in ways that customers don’t expect. Yes - you might have to charge them extra money to cover the costs, but it can make your enterprise more appealing. You can also do things like set expectations for what customers can expect when they first start dealing with you. Anything on top of that is a bonus. You can also try measuring customer satisfaction through time, experimenting to see what people like the most. 


Struggling To Hire Top Talent


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Getting hold of talented professionals is challenging. The labor marketing is incredibly competitive. Here are some of the tactics that you could try to get ahead of your rivals: 


  1. Build your employer brand. Become well-known as a great place to work. 

  2. Get candidates interested in learning more about the work you do to find those who are genuinely interested in a career with you

  3. Create candidate personas, just like buyer personas, of the type of person best suited to your enterprise’s culture.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Perfect Marketing Strategies To Get Your Business Off The Ground

 In any business, you need to have a strong focus on your marketing, and that is especially true of new businesses. You always want to make sure that you can get your business up and running as quickly as possible and in the strongest way possible, so this is something that you are going to want to focus on in the early days very much. There are a few major marketing strategies which are likely going to help you in a big way, and in this post we are going to take a look at what those might be. All of these will help your business to start out right.


Image Credit - CCO Licence

Social Media


These days, social media marketing is all the rage, and with good reason. After all, it can be one of the most powerful tools in the world, and you will need to make sure that you are doing all you can to make good use of it from the very start of your business. If you can do that, you should be able to make much more of a success of your business’ start in life generally. Make sure to develop a strong social media voice, and to write from that voice, if you want to have the most success possible.



Trade Shows


There is a long and trusted tradition of businesses going to trade shows in their early days, and the fact remains that this is still one of the most beneficial and powerful ways in which you can get your business off the ground. To attend a trade show and do it right, you are going to find that the benefits are huge and many, so this is definitely something to think about and put some effort into. Get yourself some good quality 10x20 trade show booths, and put your best people at the front, and you should find it is hugely successful for you.



Word Of Mouth


Simply because it is the oldest marketing method in the world, and still going strong, we have to provide something of an honourable mention to word of mouth marketing. This really is as simple as talking to as many people as possible about your business, and it’s the kind of thing which is really going to make a huge difference to how your business starts out. Be sure to talk to everyone who will listen about your business - the word will soon spread, and you’ll be amazed how far.


Image Credit - CCO Licence

Local SEO


All businesses are local, first and foremost, no matter how big they might get. So you need to make sure that you are focusing on your local SEO as best as you can, and especially at the very start of your business’ life. Local SEO has a way of really powerfully getting people in the area to find your business when they are in need of what you provide, so it’s something that you are going to want to consider at the very start of your business for sure.


Friday, July 30, 2021

Don’t Let Broken Tech Bring Down Your Business

 

Pexels. CCO Licensed.

Almost every modern business is reliant on some form of technology whether its industrial machinery, software or a functioning website. If this technology breaks, it could potentially bring your business to a standstill. Downtime can be very costly for businesses - any huge losses could be difficult to recover from. This is why it’s important to make sure that your tech is fully functional. 

There are several ways in which you can protect your business from technology failure. Below are just a few tips for preventing downtime from broken tech.

Do your research before investing in new tech

Before choosing a new machine or a new program, consider whether it’s likely to be reliable.

If you’re buying tech brand new, try to buy from reputable manufacturers. It could be worth looking into reviews left by fellow customers. When investing in custom tech, it could be important to check out the reputation of the developers. 

When buying used machinery, try to similarly buy from a trusted source. Avoid buying old heavily-used machinery - it may be cheaper, but there’s more risk that it will break.

Report small tech problems and schedule fixes

Don’t ignore minor bugs and hitches. In some cases, they could evolve into much bigger problems. 

Get you and your team into a habit of reporting problems and try to schedule fixes while software or machinery is still operational. If a computer keeps freezing or wi-fi keeps cutting out and the problem is getting worse, don’t allow it to progress into a fully-fledged breakdown.

Don’t rely on quick temporary fixes

When fixing broken tech, you should look for permanent solutions and not just quick temporary fixes. Such problems could return to haunt you if the fix is only temporary.

Temporary fixes are a common cause of technical debt - this is when bugs are allowed to build up. While it may take longer to find a permanent solution, you’ll save yourself time in the future by not having to continuously deal with the problem. If you’ve already made several temporary fixes, it could be worth returning to these problems in order to reduce your technical debt. This post offers information on how to measure technical debt. This can prevent future problems from building up and striking at once. 

Replace old tech before it crashes

The majority of technology doesn’t last forever. It’s important to consider the average life of technology you’re using and to consider a replacement once it gets to this stage.

Software lasts roughly 6 to 8 years, with larger programs lasting between 12 and 14 years. You should replace tech once it becomes unsupported - this is when the developer stops providing updates, at which point any future bugs will no longer be patches. Unsupported software is also dangerous as it could become vulnerable to new viruses and hacking methods.

The average life of hardware can vary. PCs generally last between 5 and 8 years, although it is recommended that computers are replaced every 3 to 4 years to ensure that machinery is performing at its best. Some industrial machinery can last much longer than this. In fact, tractors can last well over 20 years with the right amount of care.

Keep machinery clean and lubricated

You can extend the life of industrial machinery by keeping it clean and lubricated. This could include hosing dirt off of construction machinery and carrying out necessary oil changes to keep parts moving smoothly. 

When storing machinery, be careful of contaminants such as dirt and dust. Taking measures to purify the air can prevent dust levels building up and destroying machinery. Outdoor machinery should meanwhile be covered up or stored indoors so that it isn’t damaged by dirt and rain when not in use. 

Create backups where possible

You may be able to guard yourself against tech failure by putting in place backup measures. This could include keeping spares of certain vital machinery such as providing two printers in a busy office that does a lot of printing - if one printer breaks down, you can still use the other one in the meantime. 

A lot of companies also have backup power generators. If there is a power cut, this can allow you to continue generating your own power until you have mains electricity again. Such a generator could include a petrol generator or a solar generator. 




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