Archives for April 2012

10 Smart Uses for Your Tax Refund

If you have a refund check coming your way, consider using it to bolster your personal balance sheet.  The average refund has been around $3,000 for the past two years (most people receive their refund within three weeks of filing their returns).  That’s a nice chunk of change.  Here are ten good things you could do with the money.

If your refund was substantial, consider giving yourself an immediate raise by adjusting your tax withholding to increase your take-home pay.

Pay Off Credit-Card Debt

Using your refund to pay off a balance with an 18% interest rate is like earning 18% on your investments — an incredibly valuable use of the money.  And if you pay off your balances, you can afford to close some cards that are now charging high fees.

Rebuild Your Emergency Fund

Many people had to raid their emergency fund over the past year and had little extra money to restore it.  You could use your refund to start rebuilding that fund, which can help you avoid landing in credit-card debt if you have an emergency.  Keep the money easily accessible in a money-market account or savings account that earns interest.

Boost Retirement Savings

You can contribute up to $5,000 to an IRA for 2012 (or $6,000 if age 50 or older).  If your modified adjusted gross income is $125,000 or less if you’re single, or $183,000 or less if you’re married filing jointly, then you can contribute to a Roth IRA, which lets you withdraw the money tax-free in retirement.  If you earn too much for a Roth, you can contribute to a nondeductible traditional IRA, then convert it to a Roth.

Fund a Taxable Account

Use the extra cash to buy shares in a mutual fund or stock you’ve been considering — but may feel is too risky for your IRA or not available in your 401(k) plan.

Fill Gaps in Your Insurance

For less than $1,000, you can get coverage for flooding and liability.

Flood Insurance Policy.  If you live in a low- to medium-risk area, it costs about $350 to $600 per year from the National Flood Insurance Program with the maximum $250,000 in dwelling coverage and $100,000 for possessions.  Get a price quote at

Liability Insurance.  Cover your legal expenses if someone is hurt in your home or by your car.  It generally costs just $200 to $400 to buy a personal umbrella policy that provides $1 million in coverage over the limits of your auto- and homeowners-insurance policies.

Build Your College Savings

It’s always hard to juggle saving for college and retirement.  Here’s an opportunity to use your extra money to contribute to a 529 account.  You’ll be able to use the money tax-free for college bills, and you could get a state income-tax deduction for your contribution.

Help Your Kid Save

You can use the extra money to contribute to a Roth IRA for your child.  Your kid is eligible as long as he or she has earned income — from mowing yards or babysitting, for example.  Your child can contribute up to $5,000 or the amount of his or her earned income for the year, whichever is lower, and you can give him the cash to do it.

Prepay Your Vacation

Set aside some money for vacation rather than using your credit card and paying interest long after you have returned.  Stash your refund in a separate account, then add money automatically every week.  You could also set up the account for other expenses — such as a new car or holiday gifts.

Invest in Your Home

Your refund won’t be enough to redo your kitchen or bathroom, but it can pay for some smaller home improvements.  Use the extra cash to add a backsplash, paint a room or cabinets, replace your bathroom sink, swap out your faucets, organize a closet, install a programmable thermostat or spruce up your yard.

Give to Others

If you have your financial bases covered, consider using your refund to make a charitable contribution to help others in need.  You’ll feel good — and you’ll be rewarded for your good deed when you file your tax return in 2013 (charitable contributions are deductible if you itemize).




“One friend in a lifetime is much; two are many; three are hardly possible.” – Henry Adams

• Preface: This is not a mamby-pamby discussion of how to make your employees feel better. Truth be told, as a small business, owner, sales professional, or entrepreneur your duty is to create a business that can sustain fat and lean times. Maybe you want to sell your business or maybe you want to pass it along to your children. Either way, the tactics you need to use to succeed necessarily must be hard-nosed and viciously trackable… Welcome to the world of managing people and profits!

• What Are Your True Responsibilities To Your Employees? = It might sound harsh… and ultimately your business should be designed for you to extract wealth. The primary function of your business is not to create jobs… it’s about delivering a valuable service at a mutually agreed price. Your job is to create profits so that (should you choose; I don’t) you can employ other people to do those less valuable tasks.

• To The Point: Truth be told, no matter how much some of us may wish it to be otherwise, the nature of the employee employer relationship tends to be adversarial. Your employees have a separate life from you and your business that (no matter how much we may try) cannot be obliged. Profits have to take front seat. If not, how are you going to pay your employees? Keep in mind that when I say that, I’m not attaching any meaning to that. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply the nature of business.

• Beware The Willy Loman Syndrome = Willy Loman is a character from that classic play “The Death Of A Salesman”. Willy has a real problem as a salesman. He has a desperate need to be liked. He takes things so far that it actually hinders his ability to make sales. Willy Loman syndrome can also infect you as a manager. Beware the need to be liked by your employees over the stated goals of extracting profit from your business. You simply cannot afford to be an approval seeker.

• Crisis Investing& “The Big One” = Just like California is overdue for an earthquake our economy is in the midst of a long overdue “Big One”. By positioning yourself with the right tools, talent, and people you can be poised to take advantage of crisis’s that are occurring around us. We see examples of this every day (i.e. Rahm Emmanuel and Napoleon Hill). Today we are living in the midst of a unique crisis that will transform the business landscape. This crisis is characterized by two converging components:
o The utter collapse of simple, basic, rudimentary, customer service.
o A worldwide cross-cultural cross-boundaries cross-economic-segment recession.

• How Can We Survive “The Big One” = Knowing that this crisis is coming there are things that we, as entrepreneurs, can do to survive and even thrive during “The Big One”:
o Customer Service = Provide an exceptional and phenomenal level of customer service delivered by competent, capable, and knowledgeable employees. As your completion cuts back and deliver increasingly incompetent customer service, your devotion to detail and focus on your customers needs will set you apart from the rest. Go in the opposite direction of the masses… Both you and your customers won’t regret it.
o Market To The Affluent = As the economy changes, we need to change with it. By targeting affluent customers and market we can sell to people for whom this cross-boundary cross-cultural recession is not an issue. This type of person will appreciate the high level of customer service that you deliver. You want to go to where the money is. Consider adding a high priced product or service that caters to these types of people. Raise your prices. You won’t regret it!

Five Myths about Social Media

So you’re a sales professional, and you haven’t yet taken the plunge into the fast-paced, confusing world of social media. Or maybe you have dipped your toes in the water and then wondered what all the fuss is about. Either way, you might be thinking social media marketing isn’t worth the time and effort.

Don’t give up so fast. With the dizzying amount of information and opinions about social media, it’s easy to get the wrong idea. Here are a few common myths about social media that should be put to rest.

1. Social media marketing is a waste of time.

Social media let users quickly connect and communicate with other people — lots of other people. Suddenly people are catching up online with their third-grade teachers, finding soul mates and connecting with others who share their interests.

So why does that matter? A fundamental shift has occurred in the way people communicate and make decisions. Simply put, they talk and they listen to what other people say — and those people are your potential customers. Don’t you think your business should be part of that conversation?

2. My business is too small to benefit from social media.

Social networks revolve around communities of people with a connection to one another. Most likely, numerous communities would be relevant to your business, no matter how small, niche-oriented or local it is. If you show an interest in and appreciation for some of the people in these social groups, chances are good that you’ll win some loyal customers. What’s more, these new customers won’t be quiet about it because social networks thrive on people passing the word along.

For example, if you just opened a coffee shop, you should connect online with as many of your customers as possible. Later, when one of them comes into your shop, leave a Facebook comment or a tweet, asking if you made the coffee the way he or she likes it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you build a reputation for caring about your customers as people talk about you in their online communities. The above applies no matter what particular business you happen to be in.

3. Social media activity isn’t going to affect my bottom line.

Nearly every purchasing decision people make is based on two things: what they’ve heard from other people and what their own research has revealed. And where do you think people do most of their research and talking today?

Whether it’s finding the name of the freshest sushi bar, the car dealership with the most polite salespeople, a lender with great rates and service, or the hotel with the hottest hot tub, everyone turns to social media these days to decide where to buy. If you aren’t engaging with the people who provide those answers, how likely is it that they’ll recommend your business?

4. Social media marketing is too complicated and time consuming.

Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of sites and services that make up social media can be daunting and complicated. Luckily, you don’t need to. Start simple: Set up a basic Facebook page or Twitter account and focus on creating quality interactions with your customers. You needn’t become a social media guru or hire a full-time employee to send out superfluous tweets and status updates every 10 minutes.

Once you create your social media presence, it won’t take an inordinate amount of time or effort to reach out to your customers regularly, listen to what they’re saying about you (and about themselves) and respond to their comments and concerns. If you keep it simple, social networking with customers shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes a day.

5. Nobody cares about what I’d have to say on social networks.

You’re right — if you just talk about yourself. Create a conversation and ask your customers questions. Announce changes to your business that they influenced. Share new products or specials they would like. Invite suggestions and even constructive criticism.

The point is to use social media to learn what your customers want, improve what you offer them and make it a joy to be your customer.

And who says technology can’t be old fashioned?

By: Chris Wallace,



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You can have up to 2,000 email addresses and send 12,000 emails a month, for the free account.

Great templates to use.

Sign up box for your website – names go directly into your database.

Import existing names into program.