Join us in shopping local on #SmallBusinessSaturday

We’re fortunate to work on a street with several thriving small businesses, including a family owned pizza parlor chain, one of the Midwest’s best family-owned fast food restaurants, a delicious family-owned bakery, and a charming and renowned family-owned candy store. All of this tempting, homespun deliciousness just walking distance from our office doors makes us triply committed to our cardiovascular routines. It also reinforces our daily appreciation for America’s small businesses. Tomorrow, many of us will be hitting the shops to celebrate Small Business Saturday. As employees of a family-owned business ourselves, we like to support our fellow local business owners. We also enjoy purchasing the one-of-a-kind items these stores produce. At Wilmar Chocolate, we can build our own candy bar, or purchase all manner of hand-dipped chocolates, including turtles made with award-winning caramel. At Simple Simon Bakery, we like iced cookies, doughnuts, and the season’s finest homemade Tom and Jerry mix. We enjoy Tom’s Drive-In’s cheese curds, and Pizza King’s paninis, subs and pizza, all perfect game-day fare. We appreciate the opportunity to stroll College Avenue, with its many pretty boutiques and shops, includings Lillians, Blue Moon Emporium, hey daisy! and nearly 70 more. Join us in toasting the creative, hard-working people whose success depends on a solid business plan, active marketing, and the loyalty of shoppers like you and me.

Avoiding disability insurance can be a critical mistake

While people commonly purchase life insurance either through the group benefit sector or the individual marketplace, they are less likely to buy disability insurance. This can be a critical mistake. The risks of an extended disability are much higher than that of an unexpected death for the average worker.  According to a report by Cornell University, 15,533,000 American workers aged 21-64 reported a work limitation in 2013. Many never regained their ability to work full-time and must deal with the economic repercussions for the rest of their lives. Group disability is an excellent benefit, but, like all insurance products, should be carefully researched before purchase. For instance, many people don’t realize that their disability benefits are taxable if their group disability is paid by their employer. This can drastically reduce an income check that already has been cut by 40% or more by the COBRA payments necessary to continue basic health coverage. Combining group disability with a private disability plan will increase the amount of after tax benefits available to you should you become incapacitated in a way that would prevent you from earning a wage. Just like with many forms of insurance you may think. “Why should I pay for something I may never use?”  Well, the moment you become disabled you will look like the smartest person alive because you had the foresight to put some protection in place for you and your family. If you don’t have disability insurance available to you in the group setting, you need to at least look into a private plan.  Disability insurance will cost you less than you may think and, if you have paid your own premiums, the income you receive from a payout of benefits is not taxable. Please, for your family’s sake, take a moment and think about how all you obligations would be met if you were unable to work, and consider private disability insurance. If you… | Read More »

Do you know where your important papers are?

Like most Americans, I like TV.  But I can’t seem to get in sync with the shows I love, so I DVR.  I get very excited about finding new shows on my DVR; especially the show named Castle.  I am a huge fan. Recently I watched an episode where my buddy Castle and his TV daughter had to check a safety deposit box for important information.  It made me think about the fact that, although I have been in quite a few banks, I have never even seen a safety deposit box except for on TV or in the movies.  Then I began to wonder if my parents have one, which then led me to wonder where I might find all of their important paperwork.  Is there a file floating around somewhere? I am aware that my parents created a very good estate plan, which is extremely important, but not the focus of this blog.  Instead, this blog hopefully will prompt you to get a handle on where your parent’s important documents are held.  Maybe you’ll even put yours together and share them. If, or when, your parents have an unforeseen accident, illness or become unable to care for themselves any longer, you will most definitely need to be aware of who they have listed as their Power of Attorney. If you find that they have not created a POA document, then let them know they are doing EVERYONE in your family (especially themselves) a huge disservice!  Very important decisions may/will potentially be made by someone that may not even know your parent.  It could be a legal disaster and is completely avoidable by making certain that your parents have a POA.  Get them to get on it!!!  Shoot, you might even want to get on it for yourself! Once you’ve had the discussion about who is Power of Attorney, it would be a really good idea to find out… | Read More »

Simple social media strategies you can apply to maximize your biggest asset – You

Social media has become a part of our everyday lives.  It is the quickest, most effective way to stay in touch with family, friends and business contacts.  Whether you have embraced it or not, it is here to stay so I would like to share a few simple strategies that can help you maximize your time and efforts while properly representing yourself and your business.  If you already are using social media to your advantage, you can use these tips to enhance your results. Start with LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is your professional presence online and the gold standard business social media site with over 332,000,000 members and growing. Develop a first class profile.  Maximize your skills, education and experience. You have a great story to tell and you have to tell it.  You wouldn’t show up to a job interview with a blank resume’ or without researching the company and employees who are interviewing you so why would you do the same online where millions have access to you with a few clicks? Always include a professional looking picture of yourself.  Profiles without pictures are looked at less than half of those that do and are considered incomplete. Sell yourself and company/product.  Describe what you do, where you do it and how it helps others.  Look at your goals. Is your LinkedIn profile helping you reach them? (Tip: If you are working on your updating your profile, you can temporarily turn off publishing your profile changes.  LinkedIn Settings, Privacy, Notify your Network) Grow your contacts. Connect with people you know and trust.  You may be surprised to find that almost everybody you know is already on LinkedIn. People you know and trust want to help you succeed, just as you want to help them. LinkedIn provides tools under the “Connections” tab that can help you quickly search your contacts that may already be on LinkedIn. Include a personal message vs. standard… | Read More »

Oil Prices and Energy Stocks Hit the Skids. Now What?

In June of this year, front month oil prices were trading for approximately $107 and energy stocks were significantly outperforming the stock market for 2014.  Now oil prices are under $80 and most energy stocks have entered into a bear market (at least 20% correction).  What happened?  A combination of two events emerged to lay the foundation for the oil price plunge.  First, economic demand (and oil demand) coming out of Europe, South America and China has been quite disappointing.  Secondly, oil shale production in the United States has emerged as a significant contributor to oil supply growth.  Thus, with oil demand disappointing and oil supply growth strong it has led to an increase in oil inventories and a significant amount of excess oil looking for a home.  This has led to a substantial fall in oil prices and a corresponding decline in energy stocks. What happens next?  While this is a difficult question to answer, our reading of the tea leaves sees a showdown between OPEC and the United States.  Historically, when oil supply and demand would get out of balance OPEC would adjust supply to match demand and avoid sudden oil price declines.  It appears OPEC is now playing a market share game.  OPEC sees the abundance of oil production growth in the United States and it does not like to see one of its top customers now become a competitor.  If OPEC had just adjusted supply downward to make room for the shale oil production in the U.S. they would have had to concede market share.  Furthermore, the elevated prices also would have motivated the United States to further grow their shale oil reserves.  Thus, OPEC elected to allow oil prices to fall with the hope that it will slow down U.S. shale oil production.  Most oil experts estimate that U.S. shale oil production comes at a higher marginal cost than the typical OPEC barrel of oil. … | Read More »