Retirement planning crucial for small business owners


Planning for retirement is crucial for everyone, and it is especially critical for small business owners, the business leaders many cite as the life blood of the American economy.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business owners employ half of all private sector employees, pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll, and have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.

The challenge before American small business owners is keeping their companies financially healthy long-term. This is so that small business owners do not over-rely on the sale of their business alone to take care of them in retirement, and so the business will continue to remain a viable employer in the communities it serves.

 

Because small business owners and entrepreneurs are busy every day working to keep their businesses running strong, their schedule can often interfere with planning for the future. But in this economy, planning is a must in any business strategy. Without it, business owners may be surprised to find that the ultimate sale of their business may not leave enough for them to live on. This is because the sale timing might be off, or their finances are not strong enough to cover a full retirement.

 
“Setting a target number – or dollar figure of what is needed to live on for the rest of your life – is important, and it should be determined at least 10 years before you’re ready to retire,” says Tara Reynolds, corporate vice president with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). “And as you approach retirement, it’s also a good idea to re-calculate what the business is worth with a proper business valuation to determine how you will need to fund your non-working years, if the value has changed. Having this plan and expectation in place can help you determine the best way and time to retire from your business.”

 

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The average business owner expects to retire at age 68, according to a survey conducted by GfK Custom Research North American for MassMutual this year. Yet only one-third of the respondents had a sound retirement strategy to ensure income for life, having access to income when needed, managing potential health care expenses and leaving a legacy to the next generation.

 
MassMutual financial professional Katheigh Degen of  Kansas City offers the following tips to help small business owners stay financially secure during the run up to retirement.

 
* Anticipate needs – Traditionally, most people need about 70 percent of their current annual income to live comfortably in retirement. Know what your business is worth – both as one entity, and also broken down into smaller parts. Only about 10 percent of business sales involve the entire business as one lump sum.

 
* Save on the side – You’ve probably heard about diversifying your portfolio, and the same is true with diversifying your retirement plan. Put aside 20 to 25 percent of your gross income in savings outside of the business. This provides you with flexibility as you plan your exit from the business. For example, if you have an heir or employee interested in purchasing the company, they might not be able to afford it all at once, but could take over the helm with smaller payments over a period of time. Having additional savings can help you tide over in retirement while you also receive payments for the business.

 
* Explore options – As you near retirement, selling off your business in one setting would make everything easy. But as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t always work that way. Knowing your business’ value can help you evaluate offers that come your way, so you can make an educated decision on whether to sell and live comfortably in retirement, or keep working and pursue a better offer.

 
* Don’t wait too long to find a buyer – Within three to five years of retirement, business owners should start to find a buyer for the business. Of course, this plan demands that the owner set an expected retirement date and stick to it. By waiting too long, owners may begin to experience poor health and low energy, which could affect productivity and potentially the profitability of the company.

 
Planning for retirement is so crucial, and owning a business can often add complications in timing the retirement perfectly.

 
“Business owners put so much hard work into building the business and making it strong and viable in the market,” says Degen. “With additional planning in retirement strategy, a good business owner can retire and see the business continue to succeed even after it has been transitioned over to new owners.”
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Increasing security with the use of car cameras


When it comes to car security, people generally think of car alarms and GPS tracking devices. What many people do not know is that car cameras are equally effective at tackling all surveillance issues. These products can be directly installed anywhere in the interior of your car, SUV or truck. Some of them can also be attached to the license plates to defend against car part thefts, which generally take place without actually breaking into the car. These lightweight and highly efficient cameras can be placed anywhere inside the car, where they are virtually impossible to detect. The images produced by these cameras are often of very high quality and can be used to solve tangled insurance cases.

Here are some of the most common benefits of car cameras:

• The camera feeds can work as concrete proof in all driving related cases.

• They also work as evidence for solving complex insurance cases involving car thefts or road accidents.

• The camera feed can also double up as evidence for law enforcement.

Car cameras can be installed within minutes by practically anyone. Their frame rates are generally around 25-30 frames per second and they typically come with a built-in recorder to store images for a long period of time.

Features of High-end Car Cameras

The following are some of the distinguishing features of high end car cameras:

• They come packed with a file over writing feature. This means older records are automatically replaced by newer ones.

• The video or images can be played back on any computer.

• Power cord can be directly attached to the lighter of the car.

• They boast of automatic battery backup in case the car is turned on.

• They provide continuous audio and video streaming.

Tips for Buying any CCTV DVR Recorder for Your Car

The recording device is responsible for storing and maintaining surveillance tapes. The traditional method of recording on tapes has been replaced with the newer digital recording methods. These devices store data on small SD cards which can have a storing capacity in the range of 8 to 32 GB. This means storing large amounts of data without the fear of running out of disc space. Another thing to keep in mind is what quality of recordings you wish. Better quality often implies a higher price.

Even motion detectors can now be integrated into the CCTV DVR Recorder of your car. This means that the car camera will remain inactive if there are no apparent movements and will spring into action as soon as its motion detectors are triggered. This allows saving a lot of precious car battery power and also helps cut back on recording useless feed on the car tape.

The format used for making these recordings is also of prime importance. For example, if you intend to stream the video through the internet, you will need a different format of recording than when you intend to view it on your computer.

Another innovative way of car recording can be obtained by integrating it with an existing car alarm system. Here, the recording starts only after the alarm has been triggered.

In Car Cameras Used in Police Cars

This is what the International Association of Chiefs of Police has to say about in car cameras used in police cabs – “It has become another valued tool in an officer’s arsenal that confirms and assures the high degree of professionalism they demonstrate daily in the performance of their duties.” The feed obtained from these cameras have played a prominent role in solving hundreds of cases each year, besides serving as training tutorials for various police academies. These car cameras also instill confidence in the general public and work as a shield against any abuse at the hands of the police.

by: Kathryn Dawson

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_5679.shtml

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Washing your car at home can do more harm than good



A study by the city of Federal Way, Wash., found that residential car washing led to numerous pollutants being released each year into the city’s storm sewer system, including 190 gallons of gasoline, diesel and motor oil; 400 pounds of phosphorus and nitrogen; and 60 pounds of ammonia.

These numbers are startling for a community of just 62,000 passenger cars. With more than 300 million registered passenger vehicles in North America, the pollution is sizable. So is it possible to keep your vehicle clean and protect the environment at the same time?

You may be surprised to learn that professional car washes are typically a much greener option for washing vehicles than washing your car in the driveway at home. Washing at home with a garden hose can use more than 60 gallons in as little as five minutes, but most professional car washes treat and recycle water, virtually eliminating waste. The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash a car, according to the Mid-America Regional Council, and most commercial car washes use 60 percent less water for the entire process than a homeowner uses just to rinse the car.

WaterSavers professional car washes use only 40 gallons or less of fresh water per car wash – that’s less than the typical home washing machine uses per load. The process cleans and re-uses the water for future car washes, or it undergoes treatment prior to returning it clean to the environment. For more information and to find a certified location near you, visit WashWithWaterSavers.com.

Another question eco-conscious car owners ask is how often they should wash their vehicles. While this is a simple question, there is no easy answer. How frequently you drive, the type of environment you drive in, and what the manufacturer recommends, are all factors to consider.

As a general rule, vehicles should be washed when the paint starts looking dirty from two car lengths away, according to J.D. Power & Associates, or immediately if contaminants like bird droppings, winter salt or tar are present.

Keep in mind many professional car washes offer discount days during the week, special pricing if you’re purchasing gasoline also, or bulk packages that allow you to buy multiple washes for a highly reduced rate.

This summer, instead of grabbing a bucket and hose, take your car to a local professional car wash to help save water, protect aquatic life and preserve the environment.

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How to refresh home decor and be a budget-savvy trendsetter

Many people use just one word to describe lavish, luxurious homes filled with the latest interior design trends: unattainable.

These dream homes that appear on television programs and grace the pages of magazines are seen as projects that can only be executed by affluent homeowners who chase trends and change decor with every season. But, according to television design star Lisa LaPorta, with a practical approach, it’s easy to stay at the forefront of hot home design trends on any budget.

“Designer homes should be sources of inspiration and motivation,” LaPorta says. “When you’re researching home renovation and style, you should absolutely look to the most stylish and opulent examples. Then, once you know what you want, execute those ideas on a budget that works for you.” According to LaPorta, the best way to keep your home up to date with current trends is to change elements that have high impact, and are cost-effective.  

“It might seem obvious, but painting can truly transform a home from being 20 years outdated, to one on the cusp of modern decor,” she says. “Keep abreast of the design trends, but don’t forget to include your own personality.”

LaPorta advises homeowners to be introspective and look to their own personal sense of style to identify paint colors. Your wardrobe says a lot about you and can help guide color selection for your home, she states. Be confident in your choices and run with them. But, she cautions people to never choose a final color while at the paint or hardware store.

“Too often I see people choose colors on the spot at a paint store, only to go home and realize it looks completely different on the wall,” LaPorta says. “There’s a reason you’re allowed to take color chips home with you. You need to test them!”

She goes on to say that many people think color selection is the most important part of painting. Once they know what colors they want to use, it’s as simple as grabbing a paint brush and covering the wall, right? Wrong. In reality, choosing an inferior brush can have an enormous negative impact on the final result. LaPorta recommends using high-quality painting tools such as Purdy brushes and rollers for a flawless finish.  

The appearance of a finished painting project is very much dependent on the quality of the applicators used. “When you’re painting, the brush really does matter. A Purdy brush holds more paint, provides smooth, even coverage and vastly reduces brush marks on the wall.”

Once you have the perfect, trendy colors on the walls, it’s time to accessorize. LaPorta notes that many people have a tendency to overpopulate their rooms with too much furniture. Not only does this clutter the space, but it’s quite costly, as well. Instead, she recommends putting larger furniture pieces in a rotation to cut down on clutter.

“Design is cyclical,” LaPorta points out. “Eventually, the couch you bought in the ’70s will be popular again. But, that doesn’t mean it should be on display until that happens. Focus on a few pieces of large furniture and then chase the trends by purchasing smaller, less costly items such as throw pillows, rugs or inexpensive art and paintings. Then, as trends change and evolve, rotate the larger pieces into your decor.  You’ll save money, but still feel like your home is on-trend.

A fresh coat of paint and some new accessories can create dramatic change, but LaPorta also points out that simply changing the layout of a room can also make a big difference.

“Homeowners sometimes forget that rearranging furniture can completely change the appeal and feel of a space,” she says. “Step outside of the boundaries of your normal decorating style and see how you feel. Instead of having the television as the focal point of a living room, make the coffee table or fireplace the center. The best part is, it’s free. And if you don’t like how it looks, you can always change it back.”

These few simple design tips can help transform your home into a chic, trendy space that’s the envy of the neighborhood, all at a price tag you can afford.

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New technology provides discreet hearing aid options



Despite the fact that many people have hearing loss, they often wait years to get help. Only one in five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually wear one. Many people still think of hearing aids as the big, bulky models of the past. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many of today’s top hearing aids reside inside the ear and are invisible to the naked eye.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hearing loss and could benefit from wearing a hearing aid, here’s an overview of some of the latest discreet technology that can greatly improve the quality of your life.

AMP. AMP from Starkey Hearing Technologies is designed specifically for first-time hearing aid users. About the size of a fingernail, AMP sits invisibly in a person’s ear canal and amplifies sound.

Invisible-in-the-canal (IIC). The IIC is the most advanced invisible technology on the market today. These aids – similar in size to a jelly bean – are custom fit to your ear canal and hearing loss. An IIC is placed deep in your ear, usually making it completely invisible to anyone else. The highest quality IICs are custom, digital and fully programmable.

Mini receiver-in-canal (RIC). People who want the benefits of an invisible hearing aid but can’t wear an aid that fits in their ear canal can choose a mini RIC. This aid resembles the shape of a more traditional hearing aid but it is nearly half the size. The mini RIC hides behind a person’s ear, making it nearly invisible. Despite its size, this hearing aid still offers the highest performance, power and features available.

The latest advancements in hearing aid technology mean you no longer have to be self-conscious about combating your hearing loss. To read more about each of these types of hearing aids and to learn how a hearing aid can improve your quality of life, visit www.invisiblehearingaid.com.

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Experts expect smartphones to overtake personal computers

Smartphones are steadily becoming commonplace devices for everyone from professionals to busy moms. Users of these devices now instinctively turn to their phones for tasks that previously they would only have accomplished on a computer, over the phone or in person.

These tasks include surfing the Web, obtaining driving directions, connecting via social media, and even shopping.

In the United States, 87.4 million people own smartphones. And, smartphone sales are expected to top sales of personal computers. As smartphones allow people to connect with businesses in new and exciting ways, businesses in turn need to become savvier about going mobile.

For example, a small home health care provider recently utilized smartphones to expand to 400 patients across four major counties  in Utah. Its employees previously struggled to keep up with all the paperwork and regulatory requirements, so the company decided to go completely mobile, equipping its entire staff with Microsoft Windows Phones. This allowed the staff to visit patients and instantly update their condition and treatments.

For small businesses, embracing the smartphone age is becoming crucial for success. Here are some easy ways small businesses can go mobile this year:

* Invest in smartphones – Transitioning from a flip phone to a smartphone makes it much easier to run a business on the go. Providing easy access to email, calendar information and the Internet, smartphones increase productivity and can provide peace of mind while out of the office. Today, smartphones are more affordable than in the past, so now is a perfect time to take advantage of their capabilities.

* Consider industry-specific devices – Numerous mobile technologies, from smartphone applications to tablets, have been created with specific industries in mind. For example, rugged tablets that can withstand the elements are available for those in the construction industry and tablets created for the health care industry can be sterilized between patient visits to avoid contamination.

* Make websites mobile-compatible – In an era in which most consumers first go to the Internet to find local service providers, it’s crucial that small businesses have a polished and informative online presence that’s friendly for mobile consumption. Even for business owners who aren’t tech-savvy, starting a website is feasible. A quick Internet search will reveal numerous free or low-cost website templates. You might also choose to work with a Web developer to ensure your business’s website is smartphone-friendly.

* Get social – Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it simple to connect with customers in a casual, but also personal, manner and also embrace the mobile population that frequents these sites on smartphones. Consider leveraging one or more of these platforms to further establish your business’s online presence and create positive buzz around new offerings and special deals and promotions.

For more ideas on how to easily boost your business with mobile technology, visit www.microsoftbusinesshub.com.
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