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Points To Consider When Organizing A Team Building Day

Business team building a puzzleTeam building days have become a tool that large and small companies use to build trust, cooperation and respect between employees and departments. New managers also use the events as a way to get to know the skills of different workers. Planning an entire team-building day takes a large amount of effort. Every detail from scheduling and reservations to catering and games must be meticulously planned. There are several points to keep in mind when attempting to organize a day of team-building activities.

Be Aware Of Employee Limitations

Every person is different. It is essential to take into account the physical, medical and practical limitations of each employee taking part in the event. This means planning activities that everyone can perform and excluding activities that might be difficult for workers with limited mobility. It also means choosing a location that is accessible to everyone with or without a vehicle. Catering needs to be considerate of any dietary restrictions or allergies. Designing the event with the limitations of the employees in mind will allow the day to flow smoothly and without incident.

Catering

Every team-building day includes one or more breaks that allow participants to think or talk about what has just occurred. Everyone taking part in the event will need to eat at least once. The best way to feed all participants is to plan for a professional catering service. The food could be simple sandwiches or a large buffet. Eating will help to reset each person and will provide the energy needed to get through the second half of the retreat. Including a catered lunch or breakfast also makes employees feel appreciated.

Maintain Focus

It is important to maintain focus at all times during the planning stages and when hosting the event. It can become easy for a group of co-workers or even strangers from different offices to become distracted by personal conversations, the decor of the location or minor unimportant details. Event organizers and hosts should develop ways to keep groups focused around the core topic or activity. This will make the entire day much more effective and will encourage participation from everyone at the event.

Time

Time is always a concern when organizing a corporate team-building day. The day should be divided into large blocks of time that are strictly enforced. These blocks should be general such as introductions, morning activities or lunch. The large general blocks can then be subdivided into smaller segments of activity that are more fluid as long as they do not extend beyond the total time allocated for the general period. This will allow flexibility while also ensuring that every important part of the team-building plan is covered.

Consider Professional Planning Services

Large corporations might want to consider using a professional event planning service for a large portion of the retreat. These services will have access to and knowledge of locations and suppliers that will make the day much easier. They also have the time to plan the event properly. Professional planners are an economical solution for large corporations because they often have access to discounts and larger venues that are not available to the general public.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

This post was written by Jen McAllister, an event planner in Toronto. She has worked with ibowl.ca Family Fun Center for a few years. For other types of events, visit http://ibowl.ca/.

 

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Yelp’s In Trouble Again: The Scandal Behind The Review Site

MW-AY957_yelp_2_20130205133121_MEYelp is a popular online review site that allows customers to leave their own personal reviews on restaurants. Many customers have turned to Yelp to not only write their own reviews but to read the reviews of other users in order to decide where to eat.

But while Yelp seems like it could be a big help to your next dining decision, the popular review site is currently under fire.

Back in January 2013, over 700 complaints filed with the FTC about Yelp were made public, and here’s what some of those complaints discuss.

Yelp blocks positive reviews.

Many business owners have claimed that Yelp removes positive reviews on their business and only allows the negative ones to come through. These negative reviews have a negative effect on the company’s overall rating, and business owners are upset. Some owners don’t know why Yelp could benefit from keeping these positive reviews from showing, and others feel as if Yelp uses it as a way to blackmail their users.

Yelp blackmails businesses.

Many businesses have come forward and said that they received emails or phone calls from Yelp claiming that they would remove negative reviews on the company’s page in exchange for the company buying advertising on the site. On Yelp’s website, they claim that they do not remove reviews for any reason other than if it can be proven they were fake, but many companies are saying otherwise.

Yelp harasses businesses.

Yelp has sales people that contact businesses to see if they want to purchase advertising on the site. Many businesses have claimed that these sales people harass them on a regular basis, even after the company has told them they were not interested in buying ad space or asking the sales rep to stop calling. Some of these sales reps have also been accused of promising to remove negative reviews in exchange for their ad space purchase.

Yelp leaves libelous material on their site.

There are companies and individuals out there that write fake reviews on businesses, and sometimes this information is completely wrong and libelous. Unfortunately, the only thing that a business owner can do is to contact Yelp and ask for the review to be removed, but Yelp has a strict policy, and unless it can be proven that the review was fake, they will keep it up there. Many restaurant owners are upset because severe damage has been done to their business, and Yelp will not do anything to remove them.

Yelp encourages fake reviews.

As a reviewer, you have the ability to join Yelp’s VIP club. As long as you write a certain number of reviews every month, you can become a member of their VIP, and this will provide you with special private parties and other perks. Since most people don’t eat out all day every day, many individuals are writing fake reviews on businesses just to become a Yelp VIP member and enjoy these perks.

All of these complaints against Yelp are currently being investigated. Maybe they’re true, maybe they’re not, but the public will certainly know soon once the investigation is over.

Joshua Reynolds is a reviews tracker and reputation manager.  He enjoys sharing information pertaining to business reviews and blogging.

 

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How To Find A Reliable Air Freight Company?

images (3)If you are exporting freight from the UK to it may be necessary to employ an air freight company to move your goods. You will want to choose an air freight company that handle all aspects of the export process and will ensure that the goods get to their destination, quickly, safely and securely.

Search Air Freight Companies

Finding a good air freight company is not a straight forward process. It would be worth considering several different companies and perhaps taking a look at their websites as a first step. Look for companies that have a depth of experience and that really understand international markets.

A follow up phone call or email will allow you to get a feel for how responsive the company is and whether you feel you could work with them. The air freight business is a people business, and you will need to understand whether the person you are speaking with will be directly responsible for handling your shipments, or is just another sales person.

Packaging

Prior to preparing your goods for export you should contact your air freight company to understand any size or weight restrictions that may apply for the destination you are shipping to. There is little point packing your goods and then finding out they are too big for security measures or too big or heavy for the available aircraft size.

It is essential that you package your goods properly for air export. If you don’t you may find that your cargo may not fly or may arrive damaged. Also bear in mind that insufficient or incorrect packaging can invalidate the insurance that you purchase for your goods to have the right to travel.

If you are unsure how to package your products then your freight company should be able to guide you or suggest a suitable export packing company. The packing company will design the packaging to ensure a safe transit and make sure that packing standards such as ISPM15 are complied with.

Air Freight Options

A good global freight company will be able to offer both economy and express services and will also offer a courier option for smaller shipments. It is also important that your freight company can offer freight insurance (if needed) and a full documentation service. It is essential your goods have the correct documents to travel with or could find that you can have a considerable loss to your company.

James works on behalf of Allenco, The Freight People who are a global freight company. They specialise in a variety of different export services, you can find a list of services at http://www.thefreightpeople.com/

 

 

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Workplace Monitoring With The Use Of Technology

r-NYPD-COMPUTER-GLITCH-large570Employers can monitor your activities at work and in many situations they have the right to do it

Monitoring In The Workplace

There are many ways in which you can be monitored at work and the following are all covered by the Data Protection Law:

  • checking phone logs or recording of phone calls. This is for business calls on a business phone that is connected to a particular computer which runs checks on calls and records them. This is a great tool to help with productivity and customer service
  • computer monitoring software which will record all actives on the computer including incoming and outgoing email content, websites visited and any social network sites visited
  • videoing outside the workplace to check if anyone is taking too many smoking breaks or they are meeting with anyone suspicious. This is also a good tool in case of any accidents on company land
  • recording on CCTV cameras to check if anyone is stealing from the company or if they are doing anything untoward in the office and again this is good for recording any accidents that might become an issue

What Are The Rules?

The Data Protection Law doesn’t prevent monitoring at work, however, there are rules set down about the circumstances and the way in which it should be carried out by the employer.

Before deciding whether to introduce monitoring, your employer should:

  • have a clear idea of the reasons for monitoring staff and what will benefit the company
  • think of anything that might affect the staff in a negative way (impact assessment)
  • is there a less intrusive method or alternatives to monitoring
  • is it justified

Except in extreme situations, employers need to let staff know that monitoring is happening and the reason for it and what they are looking at. Once an employer has carried out an impact assessment

Employers who can justify monitoring once they have carried out a proper impact assessment will not need the consent of staff members.

Monitoring Electronic Equipment At Work

It is legal for your boss to monitor your use of the phone, internet, e-mail or fax at work if the monitoring is related to the business, the equipment is provided by the company for work and the employer has made all reasonable efforts to inform you that you are being monitored. However the employee cannot monitor any personal electronic equipment

If your employer sticks to the following rules, they do not need to get your consent before they monitor you, but only if it is for one of the following:

  • to find out and establish facts relevant to the business, to check processes and procedures are being followed, or to check quality and standards by listening in to phone-calls
  • to prevent or detect crime
  • to check for unauthorised use of the internet or email for personal use
  • to make ensure the electronic systems are operating effectively with no viruses
  • to check communications, such as email or phone-calls are relevant to the business. But the employer cannot record calls

Charlie Hodgson has worked with private detective Cardiff as a private detective for many years. With hours of surveillance and other investigations under his belt he has the knowledge and understanding required to gain success in his field. Spy equipment, software and spy gadgets are of particular interest to him as he has used and relied on it more times than he would like to admit to. For more blogs like this please contact http://www.privateinvestigators-cardiff.co.uk/

 

 

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Smarter Ways Of Working

cold-calling-skills1Rising fuel prices, leaves on the line, crowded carriages and traffic jams – just a few of the things which can make the commute into work every day a complete nightmare. That’s even forgetting the added complications of flooding and the way the road network grinds to a halt when it snows. Most of us see a lengthy journey into work as a necessary evil and it’s hard to see any way of making the commute easier or cheaper. But there are some things which can be considered to make life better.

Working at Home

Not all employers are happy with the idea of staff working at home instead of in the office, so whether or not this will be appropriate will depend very much on what market sector your employer operates in. If you are primarily dealing with customers on the phone or by email and can just as easily work from the spare room or dining table as you can from the office, then there is no harm in asking your employer whether you can work at home for part of the week. Being at home will save you in terms of both time and money.

Flexible Working

If working at home isn’t an option, perhaps your employer would consider flexible working. Many employers are happy to allow employees to work their 37.5 hours a week over 4 days rather than 5, or to arrive early and leave early to beat the traffic. If you are thinking about approaching your employer about working flexibly, make sure you gather all the evidence to support your claim that you will be able to work as efficiently and get the work done in exactly the same way.

Season Tickets

If you have a regular commute by train into work, it is far cheaper to buy a season ticket than it is to pay the standard fare each day. Finding the money for a six month or year-long ticket is the main obstacle to doing this and many employers offer unsecured loans to help their staff meet the cost. Even if your employer does not offer this scheme, it can be worth approaching another lender for an unsecured loan as even with interest payments taken into account, you are still quid’s in.

Car sharing

One great way of cutting the cost of getting to work as well as lessening your carbon footprint is to share a lift with someone else travelling the same route. Many companies help put employees in touch with each other, and there are also several independent websites which will help arrange lifts too. The arrangements are generally left up to the individuals concerned, but a common arrangement is to pay the driver a set amount per mile, or to take it in turns to drive. Some forward thinking companies will even give drivers who car share a preferential parking space or other perks.

Cycling

Again it’s not for everyone, but if your commute into work is relatively short, going by bike could save you a fortune, be just as quick and could also help keep you fit too. Many employers are encouraging their employees to get on their bikes by offering cheap finance or unsecured loans to buy a bike, and by providing facilities such as lockers and showers on site. Buying a new bike doesn’t have to mean a huge investment, but when taking out an unsecured loan ensure that you factor in other expenses such as lights, a helmet and reflective clothing too. Given the levels of traffic on many city roads, cyclists often find that their commute is far quicker than colleagues who drive too.

Katie Latchford is a freelance writer who is constantly researching the latest financial advances in areas such as unsecured loans, credit cards, family finance and consumer rights. For more information, follow her on Google plus.

 

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Growing An Online Business With Zero Marketing Budget

ideas-marketing-budget-planning-e1354030160590People often complain that they have no marketing budget to attract new customers, yet they have staff in charge of their PR or they handle PR themselves. You assign a budget as soon as you allocate someone to handle PR or marketing. Their wages constitute a marketing budget whether they have other responsibilities or not. You do not need to have someone working full-time on marketing to have a working and productive marketing plan and even when marketing efforts are stepped-up you can distribute tasks among employees to make sure everything required is completed on-time.

Free Marketing ideas

There are ways to create marketing campaigns that generate revenue before you spend a penny. The only thing you need is a little inventiveness.  Internet companies love the free competition model, but they can be just as effective to off-line businesses. Offer a free iPad to do people who like your Facebook page, invite ten friends or to your page or write comment number 1,000 on your blog posts and you have instant engagement from an otherwise un-incentivised audience. The iPad may sound like you need a marketing budget, but when you consider the cost of an iPad 2 is less than £250, you quickly realise that you should be able to generate more than enough business by converting website visitors into customers.

The Time and Effort Budget

It doesn’t matter how many times you read about a turnkey business that manages itself and creates a passive income from online sales, you quickly realise the writer has been making most of it up. All businesses require input from the business owner, staff or enthusiasts who are interested in your products or services.

If you are a rock band, Star Wars memorabilia stockist or sell addictive sweets, you may be lucky enough to have the fans and enthusiasts. If not, you could always try pulling your finger out and networking with players in your industry or your customer base on social networks, by writing blogs for industry relevant blogs or voicing your opinion and offering advice freely on forums. All of these will eventually generate traffic and custom for your website.

Brand and Online Reputation Management

An online business lives or dies with its reputation, but that stems from more than simply creating a few good revues for your products, it is about monitoring social media and utilising it in the correct way. People who openly criticise products and services on Twitter and if this includes a service you provided, a product you sold and creates another negative link to your company, you could be in trouble. You can use Twitter to engage your customers, but what about finding new customers.

Twitter has some amazing tools designed for people who want to use the platform as a professional communication setup. Even the simplest of tweets to about your latest blog post, product or service, will generate website traffic and potentially orders, but the best way to use Twitter is to find and engage with people who are in your target market. Using Twitter’s TweetDeck, you can have multiple-twitter feeds, each monitoring a different keyword that relates to your business. You will see complaints, enquiries and even straightforward requests for products or services from people who are in your target market. All of this is available completely free from charge, but these efforts require time and involvement.

From little Acorns, Do Mighty Oaks Grow?

The thing to remember if never run before you can crawl because it is easy to over-promise and under deliver. This is especially true in the service industry where clients and customers can see your company as a great provider, only to find out you have a staff of one when you fail to meet the level of service you promised.

Bill Jobs is a writer who has been involved with Internet star-ups for many years and has relied on the advice and mentorship of some of the UK’s greatest entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Gregory Cox who both inspire him daily.

 

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Increasing Your Business Revenues

86540047Most small business owners will have an obvious interest in increasing revenue levels. By doing so, it may be possible to expand the business and to look forward to a more successful future. You may feel that you are already doing absolutely everything that can be done, but there may yet be scope for improvement.

Although it’s fair to say that businesses come in all shapes and sizes, there are often similarities between one operation and the next. What this means is that analysts will often point to a general set of improvements that should be applicable to most situations. By concentrating on each of these areas, it should be possible for you to build the stronger business that you really desire.

Building your customer base

Attracting new customers is an obvious means of increasing revenues for any business, but it is sometimes easier said than done. By focusing on your marketing and advertising strategies, it’s almost certain that you may be able to make improvements.

These are areas that are often associated with an element of risk and it’s important that you should be confident and realistic. Most importantly, any money spent here needs to be considered as an investment, rather than as a simple expense. That only becomes possible once you have the right strategy in place.

If you’re spending money employing dedicated sales staff, for example, then it’s important that you should be able to monitor their overall impact, in terms of attracting new clients.

Increase income from existing customers

It’s also important that you should remember that your existing customers may also represent a source of income that can increase over time. This doesn’t mean that you should be looking to increase prices, but it may be the case that strong business relationships will enable you to become the first choice for a wider provision of services, over a period of time.

Improve employee productivity levels

You may feel that you are spending a lot of money on employee wages and it’s critical that this should represent value for money. If some members of staff aren’t busy throughout the week, then could you consider assigning them an increased range of tasks?

There may be other changes that you could make, in order to encourage better productivity levels. This is an area where you need to hold open discussions with individual members of the team. There may be opportunities, for example, to enhance productivity levels by providing additional training.

You may also be able to consider offering incentives, which would become applicable once improvements are witnessed.

Reducing costs

When looking at overall revenue levels, it can be tempting to imagine that your main aim should be to increase income levels. You may, however, be neglecting to consider the issue of expenditure.

Most businesses will have an element of waste and this is not always easy to detect. It can pay to spend time carrying out a full review of spending levels. Even reducing costs by a small percentage may be enough to transform the outlook for your enterprise.

Keith Barrett knows that it’s possible to use Decisive Mediation online to deal with workplace issues and to ensure that productivity levels remain high.

 

 

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Are Serviced Offices The Best Solution For Your Small Business?

Serviced-Offices

When you’ve just started out with an idea for a new business you need a quiet space where you can get away from it all and concentrate on establishing your business. For many start-ups, the perfect solution to this quandary is a serviced office. In this post we’re going to have a look at why serviced offices might well be the perfect solution for your small business.

Flexibility

One of the key requirements small or start-up businesses should look for from their office space is flexibility. Small businesses are plagued by uncertainty. As a new entrant in any market you will be entering the unknown: Will customers flock to your products or services? Are there barriers to entry you had not anticipated? Is there room for another player in the market? Whilst you are finding your place in the market it is important not to tie yourself into a long term lease for a business premises. You might expand more quickly than you had anticipated, or need to work from home if your costs grow quickly out of hand. Serviced offices provide short term leases with little or no start up costs, allowing you to hit the ground running or leave at a moment’s notice.

Location

When choosing the location for your commercial premises there are plenty of considerations for business owners. If you plan on meeting clients at your offices then good transport links are a must. On the other hand, you may conduct client meetings offsite, in which case offices in close proximity to your home may be worth a look. What about status? Are you operating in an industry where the right address will carry clout with your clients? If so, you might need to pay a bit more for offices in the heart of the city. Regardless of your specific needs at the time, the beauty of a serviced office is your ability to meet the changing demands of your business, quickly and without additional expense.

Easy to expand

With a start-up you never know quite how quickly business will take off, if at all! Many companies will turn from a one man band to a business with 10 or so employees in the first year, and will grow exponential thereafter. Obviously serviced offices are not the most cost effective solution for your business once your company gets much bigger than 10 employees, but in the early days whilst you are growing serviced offices are perfect, as they allow you to move from a small office to a larger office without having to take all the furniture with you or worry about other business infrastructure. A move can be completed in an hour, simply move your computers across and can carry on working with extra space and increased capacity.

Infrastructure is included

Growing a small business demands the owner’s full attention. The last thing you want is to be spending your valuable time organising office furniture or fielding calls you really haven’t got the time for. The majority of serviced offices will provide you with a receptionist service, so any clients you are due to see will be greeted by the in-house receptionist, helping to build a professional first impression and create the illusion that your business is bigger than it really is. The receptionist will also be able to field your calls for you if this is a service you require, which can help to reduce the time wasted on calls when it could be better spent elsewhere.

Charlie Maine is an employee of D&G Office Interiors. They specialise in high quality, ergonomically designed furniture, creating fresh and attractive spaces.      

 

 

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Big Ideas, No Business Plan

FeatureImage_BigIdea

The most successful businesses started with great ideas, but great ideas alone are not enough to attain a successful business. Even the most original, exciting concept can fall flat if not properly researched. Too many innovators think creating a business plan is merely putting their ideas into writing, but it takes far more homework to put together the data to support a big business plan.

Research

The idea is the easy part. It may not occur to everyone; it may even be just what the market needs. Sure, you have the knowledge and experience in the industry, but are you taking all the factors and obstacles into account? Knowing that for sure and getting the financial backing behind you will require putting together demographic information on your market. For starters, you can get information from the U.S. Small Business Association.  Your business plan should include figures on similar businesses, your potential market, a 5 year budget, a short and long term plan, etc. None of this stuff can be found off the top of your head. You can use a sample business plan to help you organize your ideas and plan out what type of information you need to put together. Investors, whether a bank or people you approach, will need to understand what’s in it for them to put their money on the table. A great idea is not enough to drop a wad of cash down.

Feedback

The most successful people were put down for their ideas by someone at one time. Their steadfast belief and perseverance led them to their success. But, you can’t just tune out all negative responses. Early responses give you a glimpse of what the larger, public response could be. Early on you have the opportunity to come up with the answers and overcome those obstacles so when you do launch your business, you are ready for whatever gets thrown at you. Cheerleaders are great and they will keep you motivated, but your business will open to people with all different perceptions to your concept and you need to be ready to face them.

Timing

Once you have a name for your business, you can secure your domain name to make sure no one grabs it before you have the chance. But, you’ll want to wait until all your bases are covered before you publicize your business. Opening the gate too early, before you’ve figured out all the details, could backfire. Figuring things out as you go is a poor plan and will leave you grasping for answers if you haven’t planned them out beforehand. You want to come across as professional, not give any inkling that you haven’t considered all the possibilities.

Homework, homework, homework. We didn’t like it in school, but it served a purpose. Ideas can’t survive in thin air. They should be grounded with comprehensive research.

Theresa Happe works with NameFind.com where you can find online business tools for finding domain names, available social handles, trademark information and business planning tips.

 

 

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How the Recession Has Changed Retirement Planning

images (2)Expert Offers 3 Tips for Baby Boomers

The economy may be recovering, but some of the changes wrought by the Great Recession may be long-lasting. Anyone planning for retirement, no matter what their age, needs to take those changes into account, says financial advisor Philip Rousseaux, a member of the esteemed Million Dollar Round Table association’s exclusive Top of the Table forum for the world’s most successful financial services professionals.

“People in their 40s and younger have some time to retooltheir plan, but Baby Boomers need to think with more urgency,” says Rousseaux, founder and president of Everest Wealth Management, Inc., www.everestwm.com.

“A lot of boomers had all of their retirement investments in the stock market and, if they didn’t lose their principal, it will take some time for them to recoup their gains. Others moved their money to short-term savings, like CDs. But with interest rates so low, they’re actually losing money when you factor in inflation.”

Those are the two most common mistakes people make in retirement planning – having everything in either stocks or short-term savings is a bad idea, he says.

“Space your investments so they’ll come due as they’re needed,” Rousseaux says. “Plan some that can be available in the short term, for emergencies, and others that will be available as you age.”

Only 14 percent of Americans are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, according to a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Here are Rousseaux’s suggestions for ensuring you’re part of that 14 percent.

• Don’t take risks you can’t afford. This is another common mistake. “Don’t put the bulk of your assets into anything that makes your principal vulnerable. Gambling that you’re going to win big on the market, or any other investment, means you also risk losing big.” A portion of your investment should have a guaranteed return.

• Seek any guidance from independent financial advisors. This has two benefits: Advisors who aren’t marketing their own products have no conflicts of interest. “You wouldn’t go to a commissioned salesman for advice on buying a high-tech product. Instead, you’d probably turn to a trusted friend or an independent expert source, like Consumer Reports. Take the same care with something as important as your retirement.” The second benefit is that independent advisors can devise creative, innovative solutions to meet the needs of individual clients. Those working for companies like MetLife are not free to think outside the box. And that’s especially important In this new, post-recession economy.

• Consider alternatives to the stock market. One of the effects of the recession is that the public realizes Wall Street is not a safe retirement plan. Even if it can get you there, it’s not necessarily going to keep you there.“There are a number of great, safer alternatives,” Rousseaux says. One of those is fixed, indexed annuities. “You loan an insurance company money and it guarantees you payments over a specified length of time. It’s a contract between you and the company,” he explains. Fixed-rate indexed annuities have a minimum and maximum interest payment that’s linked to a common index, such as the Dow. When the Dow goes up or down, so does the interest rate, but it never go below the guaranteed minimum or above the guaranteed maximum. “Your principal is safe and you can ride an up market without the risk,” he says.

With pension plans a luxury of the past and Social Security not a guarantee for the future, Rousseaux says whatever your age, it’s important to start planning now for retirement by creating your own private pension.

“The good news is, our life expectancy grows every year,” he notes. “It’s up to you to ensure that you have a great quality of life when you decide you no longer want to work.”

About Philip Rousseaux

Philip Rousseaux is the founder and president of Everest Wealth Management and Everest Investment Advisors money management firm. A staunch advocate of objectivity in investment advice, he’s a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the international association of independent advisors whose members are held to a rigid code of ethics. He is the co-author of “Climbing the Mountain to Financial Success.” Philip received his bachelor’s in economics from Towson University and completed the Wharton School of Business’s Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management Executive Education Program.

 

 

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