Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
February 12, 2013 6:56 pm
A record number of women are Fortune 500 CEOs. Women are launching businesses at 1.5 times the national average. There are now 8.2 million American women running their own companies.
“The numbers are notable,” says executive and business coach Debora McLaughlin, author of “The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits.”
“From 1997 to 2011, the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increased by 50 percent,” McLaughlin says. “And in 2011, the median compensation for female CEOs was 13 percent more than for male CEOs,” according to NerdWallet Financial Markets.
According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization, as of Jan. 1, there were 21 women running Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and PepsiCo, That’s up from seven in 2002-2003. Among the Fortune 1000 companies, there are twice as many, including the CEOs of Neiman Marcus Group, Cracker Barrel and Dun & Bradstreet.
“Nonetheless, business women still face hurdles,” McLaughlin notes. “Keep in mind, while 21 are Fortune 500 CEOs -- a record high – that’s only 4.25 percent of the total and the figures hold for Fortune 1000 companies, less than 5 percent have a female at the helm.”
A recipient of the 2012-13 Women of the Year award presented by the National Association of Professional Women, McLaughlin watches the financial trends. While women are launching more businesses, they have an upward climb; studies show that women-owned companies are less likely to hit the $1 million mark and are more likely to fail.
“To claim, own and keep the keys to the corner office, women executives need to be seen, heard and to lead with greater influence and impact,” McLaughlin says. She offers three key tips:
• Develop your personal brand: Let people get to know you, your core story of experiences and how they relate to your drive and vision. As Steve Jobs said, "connect the dots," then use transparent communication to share your story. People make better connections with people who tell a great story, and they’re most interested in the story behind the person at the top. Transparency encourages greater communication, team building and leadership.
• Develop and use your personal network. Find a mentor and be a mentor; seek out other women at your level; and accept the strength, ideas and energy your connections have to offer. It is no longer necessary to blaze trails alone, and women have more power than they may realize. According to a Dow Jones report, startups with five or more female executives have a 61 percent success rate. It goes further and says that odds of success "increase with more female executives at the VP and Director levels."
• Stand for something; position yourself as a strong thought leader. It’s not easy being at the top. Women tend to distrust powerful women, and men may view women as weak or too collaborative and sensitive. Take a firm stand on something you care about deeply and rally the organization around that objective. You will gain the respect of your peers, customers and stakeholders.
As the numbers clearly demonstrate, business is changing. Women account for 73 percent to 85 percent of consumer decisions in the United States, which gives female CEOs yet another advantage -- insight into their customers’ values, McLaughlin says.
Debora McLaughlin, best-selling author of “The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits;” the forthcoming book, “A League of Her Own,” and CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group combines her experience as certified executive coach and as a top sales performer in New York City and Boston to help CEOs, business leaders and organizations achieve accelerated results.
February 11, 2013 2:52 pm
Gentrification. Process whereby private or government-sponsored development of certain aging neighborhoods results in the displacement of low- or moderate-income families by the more affluent and leads to an increase in property values.
February 11, 2013 2:52 pm
A: The general rule of thumb is that you can buy a home that costs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. A good real estate agent or lender can determine how much you can afford and estimate the maximum monthly payment based on the loan amount, taxes, insurance and other expenses. To find out now how your income, debts, and expenses can affect what you can afford, use online calculators to figure out how much you may be able to borrow to purchase a home.
February 11, 2013 2:52 pm
(BPT) - Bundling insurance products with one company-- and scoring cheaper premiums as a reward-- isn't a new concept. But, according to a recent study by J.D. Power and Associates, not only is bundling still popular among consumers, it also results in higher customer satisfaction.
The study found that nearly 60 percent of customers bundle auto and homeowners policies with the same insurer. When customers need additional products - such as motorcycle, boat and life insurance - 77 percent of them choose to bundle. The study notes that insurance bundlers also tend to be more satisfied with their insurers overall, not just with the premium discounts they're getting.
Charles Valinotti, Head of Underwriting & Product with insurer QBE, says bundling insurance policies offers other benefits besides lower premiums.
"Customer convenience is one advantage," says Valinotti. "It's easier to manage insurance policies when you don't have to work with multiple insurers. And if you have a claim, you just need to call one company."
Bundling might also give you an edge when you file a claim. Valinotti says insurance companies are interested in keeping your business and will be open to renewing policies when there's a loss - unless it's something extreme.
How can you get the biggest bang out of your insurance bundle? Valinotti suggests:
• Take a look at all your insurance policies. If they're not with the same insurance company, you could be losing as much as 25 percent in bundling discounts on each car, as well as on your homeowners policy. Think about including your life insurance, as well, which could result in another 2 to 5 percent in savings.
• Consider adding an umbrella policy. If you own your home, an umbrella policy gives you extra liability protection on your home and car, and might earn you even more discounts to your homeowners and auto insurance.
• Research options for renters. If you don't own your home, bundling may still be an option. Look into bundling a renters policy with your car insurance, which might result in as much as a 20 percent discount on your auto coverage. Because renters insurance is inexpensive, it may almost pay for itself by savings through bundling.
• Investigate bundling with business policies. If you have a business, find out whether bundling your business policies will qualify you for discounts on your personal insurance.
Valinotti cautions that some auto or home insurance bundling discounts might not be available to people with poor driving records. He also advises not to base decisions on price alone. "Customer service is just as important to consider," he says.
Valinotti adds, "Make sure you speak with your agent about all available bundling options and choose those you're most comfortable with."
February 11, 2013 2:52 pm
Every year, our politicians talk about the need to simplify the tax code and every year, they make it more complex.
The average taxpayer will spend an estimated 23 hours completing their return this year. Eighty percent of taxpayers will hire someone to do the work, or buy tax software, even though 64 percent of taxpayers don’t owe anything.
There are six definitions of a child; more than a dozen educational credits, and 16 different types of tax-favored savings plans. That may seem daunting, but with some basic knowledge and planning, you can avoid costly mistakes.
Here is a list of the seven common mistakes and missed deductions to help you prepare your 2012 tax return.
1. Charitable deductions - cash.
Did you make a contribution to charity last year? The IRS is cracking down on bogus deductions, so be sure to follow the donation tax rules. One of the most important rules is that you give to a charity with an IRS tax-exempt status. Don’t forget to take the mileage deduction when it applies. The IRS allows 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
2. Charitable deductions –
in kind. Your used clothing donated to charity may not be seem worth much, but consider using valuation software to determine how much to claim. You may be pleasantly surprised. The same applies for furniture and other household items donated. Clothing must be in good condition or better to take the deduction.
3. Social Security number.
Privacy concerns caused the IRS to stop putting taxpayer Social Security numbers on tax package labels. Most of your tax information is keyed to your tax ID number.Tax ID number errors raise red flags with the IRS, which attempts to match reported income to tax returns. This number is also important when claiming the Child Tax and Additional Child Tax credits and credits for educational expenses. Take time to verify that your tax ID number is correct on 1099s, W-2 forms and all tax documents to avoid delays processing your return.
4. Dividend reinvestments.
Each time a stock or mutual fund reinvests dividends, it’s the same as making a new purchase of shares. The amount of the reinvested dividend adds to your tax basis when you calculate your taxable gain from a sale. Make sure you don’t overpay the IRS. Mutual funds generally track the average basis of shares and automatically include reinvested dividends in the calculation. Ultimately it’s up to you to make sure you calculate the gain properly.
5. Unused deductions from 2011.
The tax code allows capital losses to offset capital gains. When losses exceed gains, the taxpayer can use only $3,000 of losses against other income. Any excess loss can be carried forward into future tax years. Don’t forget to carry the unused losses over to your 2012 tax return. Charitable deductions are capped based on the type of property donated and your adjusted gross income. Excess deductions can also be carried into future years. Don't let carryovers get lost in the shuffle.
6. Excess Roth contributions.
Single taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is between $110,000 - $125,000 ($173,000 - $183,000 for joint filers) cannot make a full Roth IRA contribution. Check this number when you complete your tax return. Excess contributions are subject to a 6 percent penalty on the amount you contributed.
7. Overlooked medical deductions.
Health insurance premiums are an often overlooked deduction. The portion paid by the employee is a deductible expense when you itemize. This includes the portion you pay to Medicare which is usually deducted from Social Security. Transportation expenses for trips to medical facilities or doctors’ offices are also deductible. The IRS allows 23 cents per mile driven for medical purposes in 2012.
If you have made a mistake or missed a deduction you can file an amended tax return to correct the problem. Some taxpayers worry filing an amended return will increase their chances of being audited. Amending the return doesn’t focus the IRS’s attention on your return but it will extend your exposure to their challenges. The IRS looks back three years from the date you file a return. When you amend your tax return you reopen the three-year window.
No one likes to deal with the IRS and taxes, but you could be leaving money on the table by not filing an amendment. If the total amount of tax you owe is smaller than your original return, the IRS will refund the difference.
Also file an amended return if the correction results in additional tax owed. The IRS will add interest to the amount if you amend after your filing deadline, but it rarely adds penalties. Correcting the mistake early saves interest and can avoid penalties.
Certified Financial Planner® Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa., and author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach to Retirement Planning.”
For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com
February 11, 2013 2:52 pm
Sometimes, during the coldest, darkest days of winter, I like to see a flash of natural green to warm and brighten the surroundings. That brought me to a little lesson by Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont who writes about indoor topiaries.
Professor Perry explains that topiary, by definition, is the art of growing plants and training them over a frame to create a three-dimensional object. The word is also used to describe the finished product.
If you want to take a crack at creating one, he says start with a simple, open-frame style topiary.
Frames are available at garden centers, or shape your own out of a coat hanger, chicken wire, or similar material. Circle and heart-shapes are among the most popular shapes for these topiaries along with star or triangles.
You will need a clay or stoneware pot with a drainage hole (pot size would depend on size of desired topiary), potting soil, sterile sand, twist-ties or cotton twine, and creeping vine-type plants with tendrils.
English ivy is a good plant to use for your first topiary, and Professor Perry says as it's easy to grow, train, and is available in many varieties with different colored leaves..
To create a simple topiary, he says:
• Fill the bottom half of the pot with a mixture of half sand, half potting soil - the sand adds stability
• Stand the wire form upright inside and add potting soil all around it, making sure the form stays in place.
• Gently remove strands of ivy from the plant, being careful to include the roots and place in the pot, covering the roots with an inch or two of soil.
• Wind each strand of ivy separately around the topiary form, using twist-ties or soft cotton twine to loosely secure the ivy to the wire.
• Water thoroughly, fertilize every two to three weeks with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, and mist with water periodically.
Train the ivy to encircle the form. and once the two ends meet, pinch the tips to encourage side shoots that can be trained to fill in empty spots and give your topiary a full, lush appearance.
February 8, 2013 4:44 pm
A: It can take a long time to save for that perfect dream home. Meanwhile, the market has been flooded with some of the most favorable mortgage interest rates in years. Low rates make housing more affordable, which is why so many buyers have jumped on the home buying bandwagon.
Home-price appreciation has also been strong, making very solid gains in communities across the country. In fact, home prices are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent annually over the next five years.
If you purchase a starter home today, you can potentially begin to build value that can lead to the purchase of a larger, or more desirable, trade-up home in the future.
February 8, 2013 4:44 pm
Grace period. Specified period of time to meet a commitment after it becomes due, without penalty or default. For example, most lenders allow a two-week grace period after the due date of the mortgage payment before a late fee is imposed.
February 8, 2013 4:44 pm
No one likes to be in debt. But if you find yourself falling behind, don’t throw in your financial towel just yet. Through careful consolidation, you can get back on track. Read the following tips for help.
A smart first step is for you to define your goals. You need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how it will benefit you, in order to make the right debt consolidation choice.
Many different approaches exist to help you consolidate debt, so you need to do your homework. Only by weighing the pros and cons of each solution, can you know the best option for your situation. Think about which of the following goals is most important to you. Once you have chosen, you will know where to focus.
1. Improve Your Cash Flow: Reducing the size of your monthly payments frees up money you can use in a variety of ways.
2. Get Out of Debt as Fast as Possible: Becoming debt free allows you to focus on building wealth, establishing a rainy-day fund, or buying a home.
3. Protect Your Credit: You may need to weigh if it is worth harming your credit, in order to get out of debt faster.
4. Get Out of Debt at Lowest Total Cost: Reducing your overall costs to becoming debt free puts more money in your pocket to use for achieving other financial goals.
5. Reduce Your Debt Stress: Stress can come from fear of missing a monthly payment, repeated collection calls, or simply by the uncertainty of having no defined plan in place. Achieving greater peace of mind may be your primary goal.
Once you have a concrete goal in mind, get to work making it a reality. If need be, contact a professional for assistance.
February 8, 2013 4:44 pm
(BPT) - Let's face it - not everyone has a home office that inspires productivity. But if you work from home at all - and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home do at least some of their work at home - having a comfortable, organized and appealing home office can make your job easier.
Home Business Magazine says there are around 38 million home-based businesses in the U.S., and 34.3 million to 36.6 million households with active home offices. That's a lot of home offices - and a lot of ugly desks, dim lighting and clutter, too.
Many home offices are less the product of careful planning than something that evolves from a spare bedroom, bonus room or an extra corner in the basement. Even if your home office is more of an after-thought, it's possible to make some simple improvements that will enhance its appeal - and your productivity.
Here are four improvement and design choices that can help make your home office a hub of good business:
Begin with the basics
Renovating any room should start with the simplest investment that also provides a big payoff: paint. Repainting is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to completely change the look of a room. A fresh coat of paint, no matter what color, imparts a sense of freshness and energy to a room - just the kind of effect that can enhance your productivity.
When choosing a color for your home office, keep in mind that the hue should serve as a backdrop, not a distraction. Red may be your favorite color, and one you love in your bedroom, but home workers often spend eight hours a day or more in their home offices. Will the color you choose hold up to that kind of intense togetherness?
Invest in storage
Clutter in your home can range from simply annoying to downright depressing. In your home office, it can spell disaster - in the form of lost paperwork, missing projects and even lost business.
Plenty of storage and an organizational system that makes the most of it are essential for your home office. Whether you opt for open shelving, locking file cabinets, a desk with ample drawers or a combination of storage types, it's important to find solutions that work for you and fit your home office space.
Emphasize natural light
Of course you're aware of the importance of good lighting in an office setting, but did you know that ample natural lighting can boost your productivity? The mood-boosting effects of natural light are well documented, with many studies showing that office workers exposed to daylight throughout their work day are happier, healthier and more productive than those who function only under artificial light.
In your home office, ample natural light from sources such as a skylight can help reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), eyestrain and stress - all ailments that stand in the way of productivity.
"Adding a skylight to your home office can be a cost-effective way to ensure you get plenty of natural light during office hours," says Ross Vandermark of VELUX America, makers of Energy Star-qualified skylights. "What's more, a properly installed, energy-efficient skylight can help you control heating, cooling and lighting costs in your home office. If you opt for a fresh air skylight, it can also help enhance the air quality in your work space."
Even if your office is on the ground floor, you may be able to add a skylight. Products such as VELUX's Sun Tunnel tubular skylights allow you to bring natural light to virtually anywhere in your home.
Still not sure of the benefit in a home office setting? Add the latest solar powered fresh air skylight and an energy-efficient solar powered blind to your home office and the products, as well as the installation, will be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement. That's good business! Visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.
Sound it out
Noise can be a huge distraction, whether you're on deadline for a major project or on a conference call with a new client. Simple soundproofing steps can help you reduce noise in your home office - without costing you a mint.
Start with a good quality, thick carpet, which will help dampen sound. Next, add thick drapes and fabric surfaces such as an upholstered chair - fabrics help reduce the movement of sound waves.
With more Americans working from home, creating an inviting, inspiring office space is more important than ever.