Keys To Being Unsuccessful: 5 Skills You Don’t Have

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice. 2127 views.

The only thing standing in between you and success is yourself.  Chances are you’re comfortable in your current role at work.  You’re not happy, but you’re comfortable.   You get to do the same thing each day and work with the same people.  But you’re in a rut. 

The key to being successful to growing a little each day.  This requires you to add and enhance the skills you have.

Here are 5 skills you’ll need to develop if you want to be successful in life:

  1. Develop a Solid Network.  The need to network never stops.  Some of the best advice I could give a college student is to always be networking.  Networking will help you land that first internship.  It’ll help get your first job offer or help you branch out out from one industry into another.  It can never hurt to have more connections than the next guy.
  2. Take Calculated Risks.  The unknown is scary.  Thoughts of switching industries, starting a small business or giving up company provided healthcare can be down right paralyzing.  It’s taken a of couple years, but I’ve learned that the only thing that scares me more than taking risks is…. not taking them.  While meeting new people and starting new ventures can be intimidating, imagine a career of doing the same thing over and over with the same people!  Never learning, never advancing, never leaving your comfort zone.  Don’t let the fear of the unknown prevent you from branching out and taking risks.
  3. Able to Articulate.  Your greatest idea or suggestion may be wasted if you cannot effectively communicate with others.   The ability to deliver thoughts in a clear and concise manner conveys an appearance of efficiency and professionalism.  In the modern era we live in, this skill does not just pertain to your spoken word.   Articulation also includes maintaining a level of professionalism in your written delivery (email included), associations and even physical appearance.  All of these factors will affect how a recipient interprets and receives your message. 
  4. Identify Problem. Solve Problem.  Innovation is one of the buzz words that surround our industry.  The basis for innovation is the ability to identify a need or problem.  Those of us who can look around and envision better, more efficient, ways to do business will be the ones leading the future.  Stop accepting processes just because they’re the norm.  Instead, consider what could be done differently.
  5. Continuing Expertise.  The reality is that average people do not get promoted or hired away from their company.  Experts do.  Those of us who are experts at developing relationships, analyzing data or identifying opportunities are the ones who advance.  Current and potential employers want employees who excel, not blend in.  What could someone consider you an expert in?  7 Ways To Be Seen As An Expert In Your Industry.

What was missed?  Is there anything that you’ve changed or would like to change about yourself?  Leave us a comment.

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Your ROTH IRA for 2013

Written by Sam on . Posted in Education, Inspiration, Retirement. 3855 views.

A Roth IRA is an IRS approved retirement account which allows participants to deposit after-tax money into an account that will grow tax-free.  Once the participate reaches the age of 59 1/2, they may withdraw all funds (contributions and earnings) tax-free.  The potential downside of this account is the early withdrawal penalty of 10% if the funds are taken out before the age of 59 1/2.  Despite this downside, there are several tricks & tips that make participating in a Roth IRA a lot more appealing.

Here are 3 things that most potential participants don’t realize about a Roth IRA:

  1. Withdraw Contributions Anytime.  That’s right, one of the advantages of a Roth over a Traditional IRA is that no matter how old you are, you can always withdraw your contributions, penalty and tax free!  Keep in mind that this does not apply to your earnings (returns made off of your contributions).  Because of this, several investment advisers suggest funding a Roth as your “emergency account” – as you’ll get the long term tax benefits while being able to withdraw the contributions at any time.
  2. Short-term Loan.  Also known as a “Tax-free Rollover”, you can withdraw funds (contributions and earnings) from your Roth IRA as long as you put it back within 60 days.  You’re allowed to do this once every 12 months.
  3. Qualified Withdrawals.  The IRS allows several instances where qualified withdrawls may be made before age 59 1/2.  These include:
  • First-time home purchases, subject to a lifetime limit of $10,000 in pre-tax dollars.
  • Higher educational expenses for you and your immediate family.
  • If you’re disabled.
  • If you use the funds to pay unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • To pay health insurance premiums for yourself, your spouse, or your dependents if you’re unemployed for at least 12 weeks.
  • If you elect to receive your funds on a regular distribution schedule, which the IRS calls “substantially equal periodic payments.”

Interested in contributing to a Roth IRA for 2013 (or 2012 before 04/15/2013)? Here are the latest eligibility requirements for 2013:

If your filing status is… And your modified AGI is… Then you can contribute…
married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)

 < $178,000

 up to the limit

 > $178,000 but < $188,000

 a reduced amount

 >  $188,000

 zero

married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year

 < $10,000

 a reduced amount

 > $10,000

 zero

single, head of household, or married filing separately and you did not live with your spouse at any time during the year

 < $112,000

 up to the limit

 > $112,000 but < $127,000

 a reduced amount

 > $127,000

 zero

There are several other advantages to participating in a Roth IRA.  What are some holdbacks that you’re facing?  Are there any other advantages you’d like to share?  Please feel free to express yourself in the comments section below.

8 Things To Buy With Your Tax Refund That Will Make You Wealthier

Written by Sam on . Posted in Inspiration, Personal Finance. 3089 views.

Things to Buy That Will Make You WealthierAmericans love spending their money.  The high we get from buying a flat-screen tv, iPad or new pair of shoes is shocking.  This phenomenon creates a spend vs save competition not only for our paychecks, but also for the biggest single payment most Americans receive:  their tax refund.  The result is most Americans squandering their tax refund on material possessions and missing a great opportunity to create long-term wealth.

There is a trick that can prevent you from consuming your newly received funds (but still giving you that purchase high you require).  The trick is to buy something that will make you wealthier.

Here are 10 things you can “buy” that will increase your wealth.

  1. Buy your debt.  I know, I know, I tricked you…You knew this was going to be the first thing you have to do with your tax refund, sorry.  Think about this tho, by decreasing your interest expense you’re actually increasing your net earnings for the year.  “Earn” an extra 10 or 15 % this year by paying off your debt.
  2. Buy a ROTH IRA.  Opening an IRA account is more than just saving.  Under a ROTH IRA your “after-tax” tax refund grows tax free.  Once you reach age 65, you’re eligible to withdraw all funds without paying tax on the gains.  The tax benefits make this a great account for new investors to learn about investing, potentially free from tax consequences.
  3. Buy home efficiency.  Within the last five to ten years some fields have made giant leaps in efficiency.  Energy Star appliances, tank-less water heaters, insulation and solar panels are just a few household purchases that could decrease your energy costs and whose savings could actually pay for themselves.
  4. Buy a healthier you.  Wanting to join the gym or the country club, but just can’t justify it with your current budget?  Rather than blowing your refund on electronics or a vacation, prepay 6 months in advance for a membership .  Keep in mind that a healthier your is a less expensive you – investing in your health now will financially benefit you down the road.
  5. Buy more schooling.  How satisfied would you feel by using your refund to sign up for online classes or that certification class you’ve been putting off?  Investing in yourself pays great dividends (financially and mentally) and is one of the 7 Ways to Be Seen as an Expert in Your Industry.  What is a form of education you could buy this year?

The 8 Things That Must Be On Your Daily Work To Do List

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice. 7086 views.

Things that must be on your to do listRegardless of the industry you’re in or the tasks you’re facing, there are several universal goals that must be on your daily to-do list.

Interestingly enough, some of these things will increase your productivity but have nothing to do with work.  Complete each one of these things on your daily work to do list and you’ll have one hell of a productive day.

  1. Start with a focused task list.  Begin each day by physically writing down what you hope to accomplish.  A visual depiction of your tasks will serve to keep you both on track and productive.  I find that literally checking things off my list allows me to put completed matters to rest and more easily start focusing on the next one.
  2. Adhere to Google’s 70/20/10 Model.  Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Google, pioneered a 70/20/10 model of managing innovation.  This model details that 70% of your time should be dedicated to core business tasks,  20% of your time should be dedicated to projects related to the core business and the remaining  10% of your time should be dedicated to projects unrelated to the core business.  Therefore, focus on your key tasks (so you don’t get fired) but also think outside your cubical toward higher aspirations and innovations.
  3. Expand your network.  Every day should consist of you starting a new relationship or deepening an existing relationship.   In “Corporate America” your network is your lifeline.  It’s your source of business, job leads and growth.   Nurture your external relationships like you nurture your internal ones.
  4. Become an Expert.  It’s critical that you make a point to learn something new each day.  Not only will experts in their industries make more money, they’re more intellectually stimulated and happier to go to work each day.  Here are some tips on How To Be Seen As An Expert In Your Industry.
  5. Make sure to laugh.  Work shouldn’t be a prison sentence.  Maintaining your sense of humor will decrease your stress levels and increase the chances that your customers/coworkers enjoy doing business with you.
  6. Keep things organized.  It’s easy for your desk to turn into a landfill of documents, fed-ex’s and clutter.  Implement an organizational structure that will minimize distractions and keep you on task.  Look around you now.  Are you organized for success?  A clean desk is a productive desk.
  7. Stay Nourished.  Avoid the 2:30 crash by staying properly nourished.  Did you have a salad or a cheeseburger for lunch today?  How do you feel now?  A healthy lunch with plenty of healthy snacks and water throughout the day will keep your brain from losing focus.  Avoid sodas, coffee and sugar!!!
  8. End your day.  I hate taking work home with me (figuratively – I guess literally as well actually).  Make it a point to end your workday by examining what you didn’t accomplish today and will therefore need to pickup tomorrow.  Once again, I prefer a physical list of matters to do the next day, thus allowing me to mentally leave work at the office.

These are the 8 must haves for my daily to-do list, what do you make a point to adhere to each day?  Feel free to share your comments and suggestions below.

5 Reasons Why You Won’t Reach Senior-Level Management

Written by Sam on . Posted in Career Advice, Inspiration. 6079 views.

Businessmen Jumping Over Hurdles

Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a middle-manager or an aspiring executive, the odds are not in your favor to be a successful senior-level executive.  Why is that?  The reality is that the jump between middle-management and senior-level leadership requires an uncommon skill set not possessed by most. The good news is that after you’ve identified the obstacles you’re facing you’ll be in a better position to overcome them.

The following article was written from the standpoint of things that I should be doing better if I hope to succeed.  Maybe some of you will also agree that there’s always room for improvement.

Here are five reasons why you may not have what it takes to elevate from middle-management to your dream senior-level position:

  1. You’re not interacting like a leader.  How often do you leave your office and interact with those around you?  I’m not talking about your teammates or people who report directly do you.  I’m talking about the people who you have nothing to gain from.  Malcolm Forbes has a great quote:  “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him”.  Senior-level leaders are elevated by their peers (and their peer’s peers) – without their respect, you won’t go far.

    How you can fix this today:  Show your colleagues that you’re accessible by getting out there.  Make the rounds this morning and ask how they’re doing or how their project is going.

  2. You’re afraid of getting into the “trenches”.  All successful managers have at least one thing in common; they know the details of how their company runs.  When’s the last time you shadowed one of your employees?  What’s the last process you implemented to improve efficiency? Get yourself dirty and get down in the trenches – you’ll be a better manager for it.  Failing to learn the intricacies of your company is also one of the 25 Things to Stop Doing Today at Work.

    How you can fix this today:  Don’t be afraid to identify an aspect of your company that you’re not as informed about as you’d like to be.  Next, take a day to sit down with an employee in that department to listen and observe.  I guarantee this experience will be enlightening and filled with several “ah ha, that’s why we do this” moments for you.

  3. You’re not a “numbers person”.  Reaching senior-level leadership is equal parts business skills and finance skills.  You need to be able to read an income statement and a balance sheet.  Your excuse of “I’m just not good with numbers” is not going to cut it when you’re asked how to increase the bottom line.

    How you can fix this:  Step one is to get some form of training.  Even a basic “Financial Accounting For Dummies” book is a great start.  After you’ve grasped the key terms and concepts, take things further by taking a class at your local community college.

  4. You’re not identifying and cultivating talent.  The sooner you realize that the talent surrounding you is an asset, not a threat, the more likely you’ll achieve success.  Few individuals or companies fully embrace and maximize their talent within.  As a result, talent tends to flow outward to the companies that recognize talent.

    How you can fix this:  Involve those with talent and potential in your decision making process.  This applies if you’re asking those above you for help or teaching those below you.

Consumer Education: What is Title Insurance?

Written by Sam on . Posted in Real Estate. 8013 views.

The following was provided by TitleEndorsements.com:

what is title insuranceTitle insurance is a form of indemnity insurance for real property (land and improvements) offering both buyers and lenders insurance against loss arising from defects or unmarketability of title. Examples of defects or unmarketability include matters such as outstanding liens, errors in property’s legal description, or gaps in ownership – all being things a buyer or lender should be concerned with.

Title insurance differs from other forms of insurance in two major ways. First, title insurance is not casualty based. An underwriter or agent will perform a search of the underlying lands to identify the owner, outstanding liens and any other matters that affect the real property. A title commitment will be created based upon the results of this title search. A title commitment details the property’s owner and legal description, requirements which must be satisfied in order to provide coverage (including releases of mortgage, judgments or other matters that cloud the title) and matters that will be excepted from coverage (such as easements, restrictions and other matters that run with the land). This differs from casualty insurance which is typically provided without any due diligence (i.e. given without a title search or requirements to satisfy liens and defects in title).

The second major difference with title insurance is that it insures backwards in time. Where other forms of coverage such as auto insurance and health insurance are purchased for events that may occur in the future, title insurance insures against loss arising from defects that already happened in the past. An example of this could include a newly married couple who recently purchased a home, only to receive a call several months later from an elderly woman saying that her grandchildren sold her home without her approval. If the grandmother was legally in title to the property, the newly married couple may not fully own the home. An Owner’s Policy would typically cover against such a loss.

Title insurance is typically sold through a network of title agents who write the policies of a title insurance underwriter. Similar to your neighborhood Allstate office (being an independent agent for Allstate, typically not owned by Allstate company), it is common for consumers, realtors and mortgage brokers to work with the title agent of a title underwriter, not the underwriter directly. The title agent will typically preform the closing and remit a portion of the title premium to the underwriter.

The two main forms of title insurance coverage are an Owner’s Policy and a Loan Policy. An Owner’s Policy insures the buyer against adverse matters which occurred before they purchased the property, but may pop up as problems during their ownership. As previously detailed, these could be in the form of previous mortgages not satisfied, lack of legal access to the property or owners not accounted for. The coverage under an Owner’s Policy runs for as long as the owner(s) own the lands. A Loan Policy is a little different in that it insures a lender that their lien of mortgage is both valid and superior in priority to all other matters not shown as an exception to title.

In addition to the coverages provided under an Owner’s and Loan Policy, the insured may also purchase additional coverage in the form of an endorsement. Title endorsements vary from state to state but serve to offer coverage for survey elements, mineral rights, violation of restrictions, unpaid assessments and a host of other matters. Here’s a list of Florida Permitted Title Endorsements, you can now also read up on the coverage provided, requirements to issue and pricing for each.

5 Realistic Steps to Increasing Your Wealth in 2013

Written by Sam on . Posted in Personal Finance, Retirement. 8515 views.

How to increase your wealth in 2013Wealth is not about making money, it’s about saving money.  Good habits are what separate a wealthy individual from a bankrupt one (and independence from dependence) .  In the consumer-based society we live in it’s easy to judge one’s wealth based upon the toys they have in their garage, the size of their house or the exclusivity of their country club membership. 

The reality is that those “rich people” who are leveraged out the wazoo are no more wealthy (nor happy) than those living paycheck to paycheck.  Here are some realistic first steps to increasing your wealth in 2013:

  1. Make your nuts smaller.  Pardon me?  Thanks right, you need to decrease your fixed costs for 2013.  Write down exactly how much you’re spending per month on fix payments such as mortgage, car, utilities, school debt, etc.  Chances are at least one of those items will be paid off this year.  Instead of getting a new car as soon as your old one is paid off, keep driving payment free for a year or two.  Instead of getting a bigger house when you payoff your school loan, direct those payments to savings.  Look back on 2013 as the year that your payments decreased and your savings increased.
  2. Let your material possessions go…  If you’re like most Americans you have way too much crap in your house.  By crap I mean material possessions which you’re not using, which are taking up space, and which you probably purchased as an impulse rather than a real need.  Start the new year differently this year by making a list of what you can get rid of – not what you want to accumulate.  Shrinking your basis of material possessions will free up both your mind and your wallet.  Living a substance based life is one of the 18 Financial Tips I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was 18.
  3. Reverse your buying cycle.  Most of us run up our credit card to then pay it off when we get the money.  Start the new year by reversing this cycle.  Try delaying your spending by one pay cycle so that instead of putting your purchases on credit, you put them on your debit card.  By spending the money you already have, you’ll force yourself to think twice about impulse buys.

The Only 5 Ways to Increase Your Credit Score

Written by Sam on . Posted in Personal Finance, Taxes. 17283 views.

the only 5 ways to increase your credit scoreThere are only five ways to increase your credit score.  It may surprise you, but factors like your income, length of employment, home ownership vs renting status, and education are all completely ignored when it comes to calculating your credit score.

Many people have been negatively affected by the downturn in the economy.  The side effects range from occationally missed debt payments to losing one’s house to foreclosure.  These examples encompass both sides of the spectrum of debt avoidance that will adversely affect your credit.  The good news is that so many people have been affected by these “credit blemishes” that creditors are now forced to be a little more lenient and understanding if they hope to have a profitable book of borrowers in the future.  So how do you get back on track and rebuild your credit score?

  1. Pay down your outstanding debt.  Most of us have seen that those who are in debt typically need their credit much more than those who are debt free, however, the more you need credit the harder it is to get.  Why is this?  Lenders are in search of borrowers who don’t need the credit, but when they use it they pay it back quickly.  The best way to become one of these attractive borrowers is to pay down the debt you owe.  Some outstanding debt looks worse than others.  I recommended paying down debt in the following order (pay off completely, then move on to the next):
    Credit Card  >  School Debt  >  Medical  >  Car Payment  >  Mortgage
  2. Establish a clean credit history.  The largest part of your credit score is your ability to pay the debt you’ve accumulated.  In the eye of a lender, a consistent payor is also an attractive potential borrower.  Setting calendar reminders or automatic bill pay are great tips to ensuring that your credit history is never in jeopardy.  Chances are, developing a habit for paying bills is one of the 15 Financial Life Lessons Your Parents Forgot to Teach You.
  3. Avoid frequent sources of new debt.  Looking to save 15% at the Gap or Home Depot by opening their in-store credit card?  While it might save you a few bucks, it’ll also drop your credit score several points.  Lenders view volatile borrowers who are constantly opening and closing sources of credit as less attractive than those who have well established sources.  This brings us to our next point of…