Author Archive: Empower Financial Group

Succeeding as an Entrepreneur

There’s an age-old insight that’s often cited when referencing entrepreneurship: “90 percent of startups fail.” In fact, that may not be the case. According to new research by Cambridge Associates — assessing more than 27,000 venture-backed startups — the average failure rate was 60 percent.1

It could be that new technologies and the ability to reach a target niche of online customers have allowed businesses more options and opportunities for success. However, it still takes a certain spark to become a successful business owner.

We often recommend that clients work longer before considering retirement, if possible. This not only helps accrue a larger nest egg but also helps avoid boredom that could set in with a longer retirement. For this reason, many people consider working in an entirely different area than their regular career — including starting their own business.

Winning Traits

According to Eva Chan and Jane Lee, who founded Launch Pop and are focused on helping jumpstart other entrepreneurs, there are a few basic categories of new business owners, each offering certain personality traits beneficial to startup success. Examples include:2

  • The Detail Master: The consummate detail-oriented person — good at addressing each small detail but at risk of getting bogged down and moving too slowly.
  • The Hulk: A real go-getter — he or she may have the passion and drive to get a business up and running but could find managing people and details a bit challenging.
  • The Pivot Master: Adept at recognizing and acting on timely opportunities but may not spend enough time planning and testing the business idea.

Ultimately, the people who seem to have the greatest long-term entrepreneurial success tend to have a mix of these characteristics.

Winning Skills

In addition to the right combination of personality traits, successful entrepreneurs wear many hats and use many skillsets to get a business off the ground. The most important skills include:3

Sales: The ability to find target customers and keep them coming back. According to serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban: “Sales cures all. There’s never been a company that succeeded without sales.”4

Planning: Entrepreneurs need to be realistic about what they can take on and accomplish with a new business; this requires establishing a budget and timeline for reaching specific goals.

Communication: Business owners must speak the required language to a variety of audiences, from vendors and customers to bankers and investors.

Customer Focus: Whether their experiences are positive or unpleasant, a business owner must be focused on customer wants, needs and what will keep them coming back.

Curiosity: They must be curious about what their competitors are doing, what technology and processes could help streamline their entity, and they must use their imagination to help differentiate their business.

Entrepreneurs who are concerned that personality and skills aren’t enough to get their business up and running can consider taking an online class on startups from the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Dropbox co-founder and CEO Drew Houston. These two are among the instructors of Y Combinator’s Startup School in Silicon Valley, which offers a 10-week online course for high-growth startup founders.5

Winning Tactics

Entrepreneurs ready to unveil that new venture can keep in mind the following marketing tactics:6

  • Color improves brand recognition by up to 80 percent.
  • Email marketing has a 122 percent median return on investment — four times higher than social media, direct mail or paid search.
  • Content marketing yields three times more leads than paid searches.
  • By 2021, mobile e-commerce will account for 54 percent of all online sales.

Interested in starting your own business but don’t have a novel idea to start one? Take a critical look at the businesses around you. From a customer perspective, what are they doing wrong? How could you do it better? One young entrepreneur started her own fitness center after hating a yoga class. She combined the types of exercise she did like into a new fitness boutique — and found an audience who agreed.7

Combining these talents, skills and tactics could lead to a winning formula for those entrepreneurs willing to put in the work to succeed — and may spark some ideas if you’re looking for a new venture in retirement.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Ashley Crouch. Forbes. July 12, 2018. “How To Leverage Your Personality For Success, According To The Creators Of Launch Pop.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleycrouch/2018/07/12/how-to-leverage-your-personality-for-success-according-to-launch-pop/#49c7608a708f. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Murray Newlands. Regions Bank. “5 Most Important Business Skills Every Entrepreneur Must Have.” https://www.regions.com/Insights/Small-Business/Operations/5-Most-Important-Skills-Every-Entreprenuer-Must-Have. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

4 Minda Zetlin. Inc. Aug. 23, 2017. “Mark Cuban Says This Is the 1 Mistake New Entrepreneurs Always Make.” https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/mark-cuban-sanyin-siang-entrepreneurship-mistakes-funding-vcs-sales.html?cid=sf01001. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

5 Sean Wise. Inc. Aug. 23, 2018. “5 Online Courses Every Entrepreneur Should Take (and How to Get the Most Out of Them).” https://www.inc.com/sean-wise/5-online-courses-every-entrepreneur-should-take-and-how-to-get-most-out-of-them.html?cid=sf01001. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

6 Gabriel Shaoolian. Forbes. Aug. 10, 2018. “10 Marketing, Web Design & Branding Statistics To Help You Prioritize Business Growth Initiatives.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/gabrielshaoolian/2018/08/10/10-marketing-web-design-branding-statistics-to-help-you-prioritize-business-growth-initiatives/amp/. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

7 Jeff Bercovici. Inc. September 2018. “This Entrepreneur Built One of America’s Fastest-Growing Fitness Companies for People Who Hate Yoga.” https://www.inc.com/magazine/201809/jeff-bercovici/2018-inc-5000-y7-studio-yoga-fitness-trends.html?cid=sf01001. Accessed Aug. 23, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Travel Ideas: Travelers Benefit from Industry Trends

Many areas of the U.S. experienced sweltering heat throughout this past summer. As the seasons change, now is a great time to take a vacation and enjoy the cooler air.

Plan to get away

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider locations not necessarily off the beaten path but adjacent to popular hotspots. For example, if you’re hankering for a colorful autumn trip to New England to catch the leaf show, consider places like Washington, Connecticut, or Bernardsville in Northern New Jersey.1

Book the details

When booking flights and accommodations, online travel agencies, such as Travelocity or Kayak, can be a good way to compare rates. However, once you decide on a venue it may be a better idea to book directly with the airline or hotel. This makes you an official customer of the company (instead of the online agency), which can help garner a bit more responsiveness and personal attention, especially if something goes wrong. Also, industry-rate parity rules require online agencies publish a rate also available at the airline or hotel.2

Budget for travel

Whether you’re still working or already retired, getting away for brief or extended trip is an effective way to break up daily living and get a fresh perspective on life, so it’s important to include a travel line item in your annual budget. You can put a little aside each month, earmark annual windfalls such as tax refunds or use retirement plan required minimum distributions (RMDs) to indulge in the occasional break away from home. If we can help you create a budget that includes regular travel ventures, please give us a call.

Find home away from home

The upscale hotel industry has experienced a fair amount of disruption in recent years, to the benefit of travelers. For example, Airbnb, which started out as a cheap alternative to your average motel, has evolved from air mattress accommodations to competition at the luxury level. The upscale market comprises well-known hoteliers such as Hyatt and the Four Seasons, small boutique hotels and, now, Airbnb Plus — a new high-end service that vets homes and hosts to ensure a high-quality experience.3

Perhaps due to the influence of the shared economy, even upscale travelers appear to be seeking the comforts and local experiences traditionally associated with renting a home. High-end hotels are making similar accommodations by integrating their restaurants into the lobby space to create a more social atmosphere and stocking rooms with regional amenities, such as locally sourced soap.4

Go green on the road

In keeping with the trends toward green innovation and environmental sustainability, some high-end hotels have begun to pare down standard luxury amenities. While rooms may still be big and the service exquisite, sustainable details may include organic, minimalist aesthetics, and low-waste and energy-efficient utilities such as filtered tap water.5

Savor the relaxation

The satisfying glow of staying at a high-end yet environmentally conscious hotel may continue if you incorporate outdoor activities as part of your vacation itinerary. Research shows that spending time in nature has been linked to a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression.6 After all, if your travel plans are designed to provide rest and relaxation, a bit of nature alongside your luxury accommodations could be a prime combination ticket.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Forbes. Aug. 17, 2018. “19 Perfect Destinations To Welcome Fall.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestravelguide/2018/08/17/19-perfect-destinations-to-welcome-fall/#2b62697158eb. Accessed Aug. 17, 2018.

2 David Lund. Hospitality.net. Aug. 15, 2018. “Hospitality Financial leadership – Why Your average Joe Should never Use an OTA – and…Why He Will Never Stop Using Them!” https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4089603.html. Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.

3 Aislyn Greene. AFAR. Feb. 22, 2018. “Everything You Need to Know About Airbnb’s New High-End Services.” https://www.afar.com/magazine/everything-you-need-to-know-about-airbnbs-new-high-end-services. Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.

4 Joe Pinsker. The Atlantic. Sept. 21, 2017. “How the Hotel Industry Views Its Future (and Airbnb).” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/09/hotels-magazine-industry-airbnb/540525/. Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.

5 Nicole Martinez. Urban Land Magazine. July 2, 2018. “How Two New Florida Hotel Concepts Are Competing with Airbnb, Marriott.” https://urbanland.uli.org/development-business/two-new-florida-hotel-concepts-competing-airbnb-marriott/. Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.

6 Harvard Medical School. July 1, 2018. “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature. Accessed Aug. 16, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Where Americans Stand on Personal Debt

On one hand, low interest rates are good for those borrowing money. On the other hand, easy cash can lead to excess debt — a place far too many Americans find themselves. 

Today, the median credit card debt is $2,000 per person, the median student loan debt is around $9,000 and the median mortgage debt is just less than $60,000.1 Concerningly, today’s pre-retirees appear to be carrying more debt and are less financially secure than pre-retirees 25 years ago.2

One of debt’s biggest disadvantages is that it can hamper savings efforts. It’s difficult to spread discretionary income between savings and debt, and difficult to get ahead if you’re constantly making high payments on loans. Insurance can potentially help in a couple of ways. First, through the use of an annuity, it’s possible to use a portion of your current retirement assets to help create future retirement income, allowing you to use your current income to help pay off debt.

Second, life insurance policies with a death benefit provide an extra layer of financial confidence for loved ones, helping to pay off any debts should you pass away before they are paid. If you would like to discuss insurance options related to your current debt load and long-term retirement income goals, please give us a call.

Studies show that more than a third (38 percent) of Americans use their tax refunds to help pay off debt.3 This may be a good plan, since it often can be difficult to make extra payments toward debt when you’re on a tight budget. However, it’s also a good idea to try to balance your tax withholdings to match your tax liability by the end of the year. In doing so, you may be able to squeeze out some extra income each month to apply toward debt.

One way people may fall into debt is through medical expenses. As high-deductible health plans and co-insurance policies rise in popularity, even those with coverage can find themselves with insurmountable health care bills. Interestingly, while we might associate medical debt with older people who tend to have more serious health conditions, it turns out that the millennial generation tends to rack up more medical debt than other demographics.4

One in six Americans say they’ve had past-due medical bills show up on their credit report, even though 53 percent of those bills are less than $600 each.5 Physicians and hospitals, unlike traditional lenders, typically do not directly report unpaid bills to credit reporting agencies. These bills only affect your credit score when reported by a collection agency, so it’s important to negotiate a payment plan with the medical provider so that the debt doesn’t move into collection procedures.6

Another credit report misperception: Carrying a balance will improve your credit score.7 Instead, you can improve your score by using a credit card and paying the balance off on time each month.

One strategy to help budget your money and pay off bills is the 50-20-30 rule, which allots 50 percent of your income for needs, 30 percent for wants and 20 percent for savings. Here is a further breakdown of how to allocate available after-tax income:8

  • 50% — rent/mortgage, food, bills, minimum debt payments and other essentials
  • 30% — dining, entertainment, etc.
  • 20% — savings, investment, etc.

 

 


Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Andrew DePietro. CBS News. Feb. 21, 2017. “The No. 1 thing Americans plan to do with their tax refund.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-no-1-thing-americans-plan-to-do-with-their-tax-refund/. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

2 Annamaria Lusardi, Olivia S. Mitchell and Noemi Oggero. Pension Research Council. September 2017. “Debt and Financial Vulnerability on the Verge of Retirement.” https://pensionresearchcouncil.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/WP-2017-15-Lusardi-et-al.pdf. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

3 Andrew DePietro. CBS News. Feb. 21, 2017. “The No. 1 thing Americans plan to do with their tax refund.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-no-1-thing-americans-plan-to-do-with-their-tax-refund/. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

4 Laura Santhanam. PBS. July 26, 2018. “Millennials rack up the most medical debt, and more frequently.” https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/millennials-rack-up-the-most-medical-debt-and-more-frequently. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

5 Ibid.

6 Donna Rosato. Consumer Reports. July 26, 2018. “What Medical Debt Does to Your Credit Score.” https://www.consumerreports.org/credit-scores-reports/what-medical-debt-does-to-your-credit-score/. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

7 Riley Griffin. Financial Advisor Magazine. July 2, 2018. “Millions of Americans Make a Costly Mistake When Paying Credit Card Bills.” https://www.fa-mag.com/news/millions-of-americans-make-a-costly-mistake-when-paying-credit-card-bills-39544.html. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

8 Julie Compton. NBC News. July 6, 2018. “How the 50-20-30 rule can help you get out of debt and save money.” https://www.nbcnews.com/better/business/how-50-20-30-rule-can-help-you-get-out-ncna889476?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma. Accessed Aug. 10, 2018.

Annuities are insurance contracts designed for retirement or other long-term needs. They provide guarantees of principal and credited interest, subject to surrender charges. Annuity and life insurance guarantees and protections are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance carrier.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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How Life Varies in Different States

Different strokes for different folks. One of the many advantages of living in the United States is there are so many different places to live. You can opt for the mountains or live by the sea. You can live in open country and rural farmlands, bustling cities or remote forested areas. Hot, cold or temperate climates — whatever suits your style of living. The U.S. has it all. Here’s a sampling of how different life can be depending on where you choose to live.

Take home prices and incomes, for example. In Washington, D.C., the median home price is about $620,000, and the median income is $71,000. However, in Kentucky those numbers are $190,000 and $45,000, respectively. In California, the median home price is $549,000, and the median income is $66,637, while in Massachusetts, the median home price is $470,000 and the median salary is $111,453.1

However, one’s style of living may not be so much about how much you earn as how much you bring home. To that end, it’s worth considering state taxes. Currently, Alaska has the lowest effective state and local tax at 5.67 percent. The highest is Illinois at 14.89 percent. Fifteen states have rates above 12 percent, largely in the central and northeast areas of the country, including Mississippi, Michigan, Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.2

Beyond the income you earn and the amount available after taxes, a key factor is how far your money goes in your local area. Apparently, the three U.S. cities with highest cost of living are Waterbury, Connecticut; Babylon, New York; and Mountain View, California.3

When planning for retirement, you may want to think about relocating if you’re concerned that your lifestyle will drop considerably after you stop earning a paycheck. Some people sell their costly homes in large cities or other expensive areas of the country to relocate somewhere much cheaper, where they can use those home equity proceeds to enhance their retirement lifestyle. If you’d like some assistance in assessing your retirement income strategy and how insurance products may fit into that strategy, we’re here to help.

If politics drive your state of choice, it might be worth checking out which way people in certain areas lean. According to an assessment by The Economist, Mesa, Arizona is the most conservative city in America. The most liberal? San Francisco.4

This year’s rankings from U.S. News & World Report revealed that North Dakota comes in at No. 1 for the best quality of life, largely due to the state’s natural beauty and small, villagelike communities. The top five is rounded out with Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota. If you’ve noticed they all have strikingly colder climates, the theory goes that cold weather creates tighter-knit communities — and the quality of our relationships is what makes for a high quality of life. Interestingly, the five worst states for quality of life all have dense populations: Texas, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and California.5

Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published a study in JAMA with findings on the states with the best and worst statistics for disease and mortality. It turns out that people born in Hawaii are most likely to have a long life expectancy, compared to all other states. West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama rank highest in people dying between the ages of 20 and 55, while New York, California and Minnesota ranked the lowest in this category.6

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Ian Salisbury. Money Magazine. Aug. 3, 2018. “This Map Shows the Salary You’d Need to Buy an Average Home in Every State.” http://time.com/money/5355518/home-price-salary-every-state/. Accessed Aug. 3, 2018.

2 John S Kiernan. WalletHub.com. March 3, 2018. “2018 Tax Rates by State.” https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-to-be-a-taxpayer/2416/. Aug. 3, 2018.

3 Expatistan. “Cost of living in United States.” https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/united-states. Accessed Aug. 3, 2018.

4 Forbes. “The most and least conservative cities in America.” https://www.forbes.com/pictures/gfii45img/most-conservative-no-1/#3bc06b62792a. Accessed Aug. 3, 2018.

5 Grace Donnelley. Fortune. Feb. 28, 2018. “These States Offer the Best and Worst Quality of Life.” http://fortune.com/2018/02/28/states-best-worst-quality-of-life/. Accessed Aug. 3, 2018.

6 Jacqueline Howard. CNN. April 11, 2018. “The states where disease and death are highest: A visual guide.” https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/10/health/states-life-expectancy-study/index.html. Accessed Aug. 3, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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New Medical Research

Chemotherapy may be highly effective in treating cancer, but its side effects also can be a nightmare for patients. Medical researchers have long tried to determine how to successfully cure cancer without chemotherapy, and a recent study yielded some very positive results.1

In the largest-ever study on breast cancer treatment, funded by the National Cancer Institute and other groups, researchers discovered that the majority of women with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer can safely skip chemotherapy without hurting their chances of beating the disease. In most cases, surgery and hormone therapy have proven to be successful alternatives. This revelation could spare up to 70,000 U.S. patients a year from the ordeal of chemotherapy.2

Even if a patient survives the disease, medical expenses may still lead to serious financial problems. Advances in genetic screening help bring awareness to those predisposed for certain medical conditions.3 This can be frightening, but also empowering, allowing greater control of related components such as planning financially for the future. If you’re concerned about the long-term costs associated with a serious medical condition, we’re always happy to help you explore various insurance options.

For example, supplemental insurance plans may help offset the burden of high out-of-pocket expenses including:4

  • Hospital indemnity insurance
  • Critical illness insurance
  • Disease-specific insurance (e.g., cancer, heart attack, stroke)

Researchers recently discovered that pancreatic cancer patients whose disease had not spread had a longer life expectancy when taking a four-drug combination instead of a traditional single cancer drug. While there is no effective screening for pancreatic cancer, about 15 percent of patients diagnosed early are good candidates for surgery and this promising new form of treatment.5

Of course, the best way to save money on serious medical conditions is to not develop one in the first place. On that front, many studies suggest diet and exercise meant to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, including the World Cancer Research Fund’s suggestion to avoid processed meats and alcohol. Meats such as bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages are correlated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, while alcohol is linked to a variety of different cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, stomach and colon.6

If you really want to be vigilant about avoiding developing a serious disease, consider joining the 7.3 million vegetarians in the U.S. — more than 3 percent of the population. Another 22.8 million people — approximately 10 percent of U.S. adults — eat a mostly vegetarian diet. Not only can this strategy help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes, but vegetarians (no meat, poultry or fish) and vegans (no meat, poultry, fish or dairy) also tend to enjoy high energy levels, shiny hair, strong nails and less fitful sleep.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 CBS News. June 4, 2018. “Many breast cancer patients can safely skip chemotherapy, major study finds.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/many-breast-cancer-patients-can-safely-skip-chemotherapy-major-study-finds/. Accessed July 13, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Dr. Lisa Albaid. Los Angeles Times. July 5, 2018. “Genetic screening can inform women of their breast and ovarian cancer risks.” http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-commentary-genes-20180705-story.html. Accessed July 13, 2018.

4 Mila Araujo. The Balance. March 16, 2018. “The Basics of a Supplemental Health Insurance Plan.” https://www.thebalance.com/the-basics-of-a-supplemental-health-insurance-plan-2645664. Accessed July 13, 2018.

5 CBS News. June 4, 2018. “Study finds rare advance in treatment of pancreatic cancer.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-finds-rare-advance-in-treatment-of-pancreatic-cancer/. Accessed July 13, 2018.

6 Jamie Ducharme. Time. May 26, 2018. “Cancer Group Recommends Ditching Bacon and Booze to Stay Cancer-Free.” http://time.com/5292566/world-cancer-research-fund-report/. Accessed July 13, 2018.

7 Newsweek. “Vegetarian diet: This is what happens to your body when you go vegetarian.” http://www.newsweek.com/vegetarian-happen-body-go-vegan-health-fitness-list-slideshow-1023675. Accessed July 12, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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A ‘Rising Tide’ Lifts Women

There’s an old saying: A rising tide lifts all boats. Applied to the economy, this means that general improvements could benefit all participants within the economy. The same appears to be true for women.1

As the U.S. economy continues to grow, there is an influx of money available for small business startups. This is great news for female entrepreneurs struggling to find startup capital.2

The rollback of certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act has given many community banks and credit unions the latitude to lend more to local business owners, and the Small Business Administration is noting more loans.3 While men appear to still have greater access to funds from traditional lenders than women, the gap is finally narrowing (34 percent versus 31 percent).4

We hope that each of our clients has been able to take advantage of the strong economy, job market and real estate opportunities driven by today’s rising tide. Higher income and assets can help us raise our standard of living as well as provide a more secure financial future. If you need assistance determining ways to help protect your retirement income from being at risk during changing tides, call us to discuss strategies for securing your retirement income for the future.

Interestingly, women also are taking advantage of some of the political changes taking place today. Many see our current president as more of a businessman than a politician, allowing the field to open for a wide variety of people to run for office. A past survey revealed women who felt unqualified to run for office were less likely to “go for it” than men who believed the same. However, today’s political arena has presented a rising tide: 529 women are running for national congressional offices in the midterm elections; 78 are running for governor.5

Recent issues — such as gender income equality, increased demand for diversity and workplace harassment — have raised not just the tide, but also raised the bar for appropriate treatment of women. According to one legal consulting firm, the current landscape has created a positive environment for female lawyers to negotiate pay raises on par with their male peers.6

In many ways, the past year’s trials and tribulations have generated a new movement, leading some media outlets to label 2018 as the “Year of the Woman.” As more women are engaged in the workforce, not only have productivity and profits increased, but we’ve seen increased overall skill levels and an entirely new platform of complementary skills. Perhaps most significantly though, the rising tide of women in the workforce has raised overall wages — even for men.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Kimberly Weisul. Inc. May 30, 2018. “7 Signs That the Investment Landscape for Women Is Finally Changing.” https://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/seven-signs-that-women-entrepreneurs-are-about-to-rake-in-the-dough.html?cid=sf01001. Accessed July 10, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Rieva Lesonsky. Small Business Trends. July 2, 2018. “Exclusive Interview: SBA Administrator Linda McMahon Says Small Business Options Improving.” https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/07/linda-mcmahon-is-optimistic-small-business.html. Accessed July 10, 2018.

4 Annie Pilon. Small Business Trends. June 18, 2018. “20 Amazing Stats on Women Entrepreneurs from SCORE.” https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/06/women-entrepreneurs-statistics.html. Accessed July 10, 2018.

5 Margaret Talbot. The New Yorker. April 18, 2018. “The women running in the midterms during the Trump era.” https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/2018-midterm-elections-women-candidates-trump. Accessed July 10, 2018.

6 Miriam Rozen. The American Lawyer. June 12, 2018. “Seasoned Women Lawyers Gaining Leverage in Salary Talks.” https://www.law.com/americanlawyer/2018/06/12/you-go-girl-seasoned-women-lawyers-gain-leverage-in-salary-talks/?slreturn=20180610192104. Accessed July 10, 2018.

7 Amanda Weinstein. Harvard Business Review. Jan. 31, 2018. “When More Women Join the Workforce, Wages Rise — Including for Men.” https://hbr.org/2018/01/when-more-women-join-the-workforce-wages-rise-including-for-men. Accessed July 10, 2018.

Neither our firm nor its agents or representatives may give tax advice. Individuals should consult with a qualified professional for guidance before making any purchasing decisions. 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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All About Bots

Even if you aren’t familiar with bots, you’ve likely come into contact with many of these forms of artificial intelligence, or AI. Bots are applications that perform automated tasks such as setting alarms, relaying weather forecasts or conducting online search for travel deals. Many smart phones come equipped with personal-service bots, such as the iPhone’s Siri.1

AI is ramping up in a number of ways that affect consumers’ lives — even when we don’t realize it. For example, Amazon uses AI for automated shopping suggestions and Bank of America utilizes online customer service chatbots.2

There are many areas in which a bot can either deploy specific instructions or assess historical data and make recommendations. However, there are still areas in our lives that can benefit from being handled by human interaction, such as financial decisions. We believe it’s important to work with a trusted and experienced financial professional who can offer guidance tailored to your circumstances.

For example, there’s more to buying an insurance contract than just knowing your age and expected lifespan. Many factors — such as leaving money to your loved ones, retirement income needs and goals for the future — come into play. If you are looking for some human interaction to help you assess your retirement income needs, give us a call.

As for bots, there’s a lot of chatter online and in the news about their misuse in how they spread misinformation and influence the way people think and consequently act. For example, the social media website Twitter is reported to have a preponderance of bots used as fake accounts to generate acrimony among users. According to one report, bot accounts make up 9 to 15 percent of all Twitter users. The company deletes these accounts once they are identified and has increased measures to prevent bots from signing up to the tune of around 50,000 new bot accounts a day.3

Over at Facebook, they are combating the bot-manipulated spread of fake news by using their own automated systems. Unfortunately, there are a few flaws with using AI to combat AI. For example, in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, the newspaper in a small Texas town posted a series of passages from the U.S. Declaration of Independence on its Facebook page.4

One post that cited potentially offensive-sounding language (“He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation”) was identified as hate speech and thereby removed by Facebook bots. Eventually the mistake was rectified with an apology from Facebook.5

An interesting twist in the bot phenomenon is some companies want their users to believe they’ve developed the latest bot technology, but in reality, they’ve determined it’s cheaper to hire humans to do the work rather than invest in AI capabilities. In effect, they’ve hired humans to imitate bot technology instead of the other way around. For example, a couple of startup firms that feature calendar-scheduling services actually employ humans to pretend to be chatbots for this mind-numbing task. Some of the workers were so bored by the task they reported looking forward to being replaced by actual bots.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Sarah Mitroff. CNET. May 5, 2016. “What is a bot? Here’s everything you need to know.” https://www.cnet.com/how-to/what-is-a-bot/. Accessed July 8, 2018.

2 Ben Dickson. TheNextWeb.com. July 5, 2018. “7 surprising companies where you can work on cutting-edge AI technology.” https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2018/07/05/companies-work-ai-technology/. Accessed July 8, 2018.

3 Maya Kosoff. Vanity Fair. June 27, 2018. “Can Twitter Purge Its Bots Without Killing Its Bottom Line?” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/06/can-jack-dorsey-twitter-purge-bots-without-killing-bottom-line. Accessed July 8, 2018.

4 Simon Sharwood. The Register. July 5, 2018. “US Declaration of Independence labeled hate speech by Facebook bots.” https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/07/05/us_declaration_of_independence_labeled_hate_speech_by_facebook_bots/. Accessed July 8, 2018.

5 Ibid.

6 Olivia Solon. The Guardian. July 6, 2018. “The rise of ‘pseudo-AI’: how tech firms quietly use humans to do bots’ work.” https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jul/06/artificial-intelligence-ai-humans-bots-tech-companies. Accessed July 8, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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The Future of Transportation

China appears to be leading the charge in the future of transportation infrastructure — but it’s happening today. The government has constructed a test section of solar-panel comprised road, mapping sensors and electric-battery rechargers to create an “intelligent highway.” The design enables on-the-go recharging of electric-vehicle batteries as well for traffic updates and accurate mapping. Additionally, the embedded solar panels will be able to generate enough electricity to power highway lights and 800 homes.1

We tend to become embroiled in our day-to-day existence and forget there’s a whole world focused on innovating ways to make our lives easier. Thirty years ago, we never would have considered the convenience of carrying a mobile phone everywhere we go; too often we stayed at home so we wouldn’t miss an important phone call.

When considering innovation — whether cars, phones or computing technology — it’s worth asking how we can incorporate these advances into our lifestyles. For example, taking advantage of rear-camera systems in cars when backing out of the driveway or checking an online account to see whether we paid a bill are both particularly useful features as we get older. These innovations in technology have helped people feel more confident in their day-to-day tasks. As financial professionals, we are here to help you create a retirement income strategy through the use of insurance products that you can feel confident about.

In the U.S., a Missouri-based technology venture, Integrated Roadways, is working on its own version of “smart pavement.” This pavement system embeds a sensor, data and connectivity network designed to improve roadway safety and provide Wi-Fi in vehicles.2

In 2013, Elon Musk first proposed the idea of high-speed travel through vacuum tubes — kind of like a turbo-charged super train made safer by being completely surrounded by guardrails. The idea is being tested by several different entities, including a 19-passenger prototype developed in Dubai with speeds up to 700 mph. While the prototype looks like a small, sleek and upscale airliner, it does leave a bit to be desired — like windows (not functional when traveling encased in a tube). The trade-off, however, for this particular model is the ability to travel an 87-mile route in about 12 minutes — a trip that normally takes about 90 minutes by car.3

In the U.S., 76 percent of commuters drive to work alone, but ride-hailing and ride-sharing resources (such as Uber) are on the rise. However, these services have led to declining use of light-rail mass transit resources. This poses a conundrum, since more cars on the road continues to strain our reliance on gas, road and highway infrastructure rehabilitation and traffic congestion.4

In the Netherlands, the government is piloting ways to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation. Already a bicycle-friendly country, employers are driving an initiative to offer tax-advantaged pay incentives for workers who cycle instead of drive to work. This not only helps reduce reliance on foreign oil, but further eliminates traffic congestion. Employers and workers also benefit by not having to pay for parking. The health benefits can be substantial as well.5

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Bloomberg. April 11, 2018. “China’s Built a Road So Smart It Will Be Able to Charge Your Car.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-11/the-solar-highway-that-can-recharge-electric-cars-on-the-move. Accessed June 30, 2018.

2 Robert A. Cronkleton. Kansas City Star. May 21, 2018. “Wi-Fi in the road? Kansas City tech start-up is wiring pavement for safety — and fun.” https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article210853514.html. Accessed June 30, 2018.

3 David Freeman. NBC News. May 20, 2018. “New hyperloop photos show capsule’s sleek, windowless interior.” https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/new-hyperloop-photos-show-capsule-s-sleek-windowless-interior-ncna875266. Accessed June 30, 2018.

4 Leonid Bershidsky. Bloomberg. July 1, 2018. “Innovation Can’t Fix Urban Transportation’s Woes.” https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-01/ride-sharing-and-other-services-can-worsen-urban-transportation. Accessed July 1, 2018.

5 Harry Cockburn. Independent. June 20, 2018. “Netherlands considering paying people to cycle to work in effort to cut road congestion.” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/netherlands-cycling-pay-use-bicycle-road-congestion-dutch-companies-a8408146.html. Accessed June 30, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Food for Health

We love our bacon. In recent years, this pork delicacy has seen a resurgence in popularity alongside new ways to enhance recipes ranging from bacon-infused macaroni and cheese1 to the not-quite traditional bacon-wrapped holiday turkey.2

But just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good for you. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, one way to help reduce your risk of developing cancer is to omit processed meats from your diet. This includes bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages, all of which have been linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer. While beef, pork and lamb also may contribute to cancer risk, the correlation isn’t quite as strong.3

It seems as if studies emerge every day recommending what we should and shouldn’t eat to improve our health. While researchers can draw reasonable guidelines, the reality is we’re all different; our various lifestyle choices, bodies and genetic makeup result in individual health outcomes, longevity and quality of life. Because of this, it’s a good idea to consider life insurance and to also plan for potential long-term care costs, for ourselves and to help protect our loved ones’ financial future. Please give us a call if you’d like to discuss your insurance options.

Now’s the time to focus on lifestyle choices to help promote a long and healthy life. For example, eggs had a bad reputation for many years. But recent studies show that eating eggs in moderation — approximately one a day — is believed to reduce the risk of diabetes without driving up serum cholesterol levels.Naturally, it’s best to omit any accompanying ham or bacon.4

Instead of potato chips or other crunchy, salty snacks, choose a handful of pecans, which may improve insulin levels to help reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly in people who are overweight or obese. Also, mushrooms are shown to reduce excess inflammation linked to health ailments such as thyroid and heart conditions.5

Good news for coffee drinkers: A recent study found strong correlations from caffeine and coffee to a lower risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast, colorectal, colon endometrial and prostate cancers.6

Those trying to lose weight may avoid carbohydrates. In doing so, many people increase their intake of protein-laden foods. However, be careful with this approach, as the types of foods you eat may be more of a key factor. For example, one study found that those eating a diet high in meat-based protein had a 60 percent increase in cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, those getting their protein largely from nuts and seeds actually reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease by 40 percent.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Tess Koman. Delish.com. June 6, 2018. “Move Your Cheese-Loving Butt: Panera Just Rolled Out A Bacon Mac And Cheese.” https://www.delish.com/food-news/a21087421/panera-bacon-mac-and-cheese/. Accessed June 25, 2018.

2 Indiana Nash. The Daily Gazette. Nov. 19, 2017. “8 alternative ways to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey.” https://dailygazette.com/article/2017/11/19/8-alternative-ways-to-prepare-your-thanksgiving-turkey. Accessed June 25, 2018.

3 Jamie Ducharme. Time. May 26, 2018. “Cancer Group Recommends Ditching Bacon and Booze to Stay Cancer-Free.” http://time.com/5292566/world-cancer-research-fund-report/. Accessed June 25, 2018.

4 Kathleen Doheny. EndocrineWeb.com. June 16, 2018. “Heart Healthy Diet to Improve Cardiovascular Health, Lower Diabetes Risk.” https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/diabetes/59709-heart-healthy-diet-improve-cardiovascular-health-lower-diabetes-risk. Accessed June 25, 2018.

5 Ibid.

6 Kashmira Gander. Newsweek. June 22, 2018. “Drinking this much coffee can help keep your heart healthy, study suggests.” http://www.newsweek.com/amount-coffee-which-could-protect-heart-revealed-study-990660. Accessed June 25, 2018.

7 Sarah Angle. Healthline. June 14, 2018. “Think Your High-Protein Diet Is Healthy? It May Be Hurting Your Heart.” https://www.healthline.com/health-news/high-protein-diet-hurting-your-heart#1. Accessed June 25, 2018.

 

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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Job Trends

For decades, young people were told college was the surest route to financial success as an adult. Get a degree, get a good job.

However, this formula seems to be broken. During the recession, jobs for recent college graduates were scarce, causing many to continue their higher education and sink deeper into student loan debt. With minimal wage hikes for some white-collar professions, not all college degrees are paying for themselves. In many cases, they can even be a liability.1

On the other hand, skilled trade industries continue to elevate their wages due to a shortage of available workers. Today’s high school graduates may find well-paying jobs with benefits right off the bat, particularly if they have motivation and well-rounded resumes. Perhaps most importantly, they must be willing to work hard and learn a new skill. These workers may not earn as much as a college graduate throughout their lifespan, but there’s also nothing stopping them from going to college later.2

The employment market continues to change, behooving job seekers to be more flexible with goals and expectations. For example, the construction and health/personal-care industries are expected to account for a third of all new jobs through 2022.3

Some cities in lesser-populated areas of the country are actively recruiting people to relocate and fill jobs in specialized labor industries. The city of Hamilton, Ohio, offers a $5,000 moving bonus to help pay student loans, while Grant County, Indiana, offers $5,000 toward buying a home.4

The trend is also positive for older workers. A new survey revealed 77 percent of employers believe workers age 50 and up as are more engaged in their job and offer greater experience and range of skills than their younger counterparts.5

The growing demand for older workers may be an important factor in your retirement planning. It may not be necessary to fully fund your nest egg and then retire “cold turkey.” Instead, many employers are starting to understand the value of flexible employment, both from an overhead cost to a productivity perspective. Therefore, older workers may be able to negotiate lower pay to supplement retirement income — delaying full retirement — via flexible work arrangements or contract employment.6

Some older people have also taken advantage of new community and online classes teaching coding and computer programming skills. Some are developing new skills to start second careers or use in volunteer opportunities. Learning a new hobby, such as making personalized electronic cards for family members, can help aging brains stay sharp.7

If you’d like help reviewing your retirement income strategy and discussing ways to incorporate earned income, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Kavya Vaghul. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “The student loan crisis is fueled by a weak labor market.” https://equitablegrowth.org/the-student-loan-crisis-is-fueled-by-a-weak-labor-market/. Accessed June 16, 2018.

2  Jon Marcus. The Hechinger Report. April 23, 2018. “High-paying jobs go begging while high school grads line up for bachelor’s degrees.” http://hechingerreport.org/high-paying-jobs-go-begging-while-high-school-grads-line-up-for-bachelors-degrees/. Accessed June 16, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 David Harrison and Shayndi Raice. The Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2018. ” How Bad Is the Labor Shortage? Cities Will Pay You to Move There.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-bad-is-the-labor-shortage-cities-will-pay-you-to-move-there-1525102030. Accessed June 16, 2018.

5 Joanna Hughes. The Job Network. “Hiring Trends Show Older Workers in Demand.” https://www.thejobnetwork.com/hiring-trends-show-older-workers-in-demand/. Accessed June 16, 2018.

6 Eric Titner. The Job Network. “Trends that older workers need to watch for in 2018.” https://www.thejobnetwork.com/trends-that-older-workers-need-to-watch-for-in-2018/. Accessed June 16, 2018.

7 Vivian Marino. The New York Times. Sep. 22, 2017. “Some People Learn to Code in Their 60s, 70s or 80s.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/your-money/some-people-learn-to-code-in-their-60s-70s-or-80s.html?utm_sq=fs1lzdnev7. Accessed June 16, 2018.

 

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

 

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