Challenges Facing International Business

2017 looks to be a year of big challenges for business wherever they are in the world. Let’s pin down some of the major incoming challenges for businesses in the next year.

International Law

If you’re operating a business on an international scale – even a retail business that ships internationally – it’s important to have a proper understanding of the laws that govern your business model in different territories. This is particularly important if you’re operating a business model that doesn’t have a direct existing analogue. AirBnB has made a lot of money and adopted huge publicity by breaking new ground and crowdsourcing rental property for holidays, but by moving into Spain without conducting proper checks into its legal standing it found itself on the receiving end of a large fine.

Shipping to, from or within Scandinavia, is another example of international business law that takes time to understand: the customs situation is complicated, and can result in parcels being delayed, lost or the intended recipient having to pay unexpected customs charges in order to pick up their parcel. Unless this is accounted for and handled correctly, this could sink an attempt to move into the Scandinavian market under red tape and customer resentment.

It’s important to conduct proper research and consult experts before you make a move into a new market. You may find it helpful to talk to contacts at other businesses who have made a successful expansion into the territory you are considering. They can identify some of the challenging areas you may find yourself facing, and possibly give you a head start on solving those problems.

Brexit

As Chris Williams puts it, “Uncertainty is never good for business…now we have uncertainty caused by the Brexit result, combined with parliamentary disruption and still no clear plan”.

This is a challenging time: without clear knowledge of what the effects will be of Britain leaving the UK. The knock-on effects, as it disrupts the relationships of businesses around the world doing business in the UK and Europe are hard to predict. You’ll definitely expertise in your business, but it’s hard to know what expertise will be best to help you in this uncertain time.

You would be well served making preliminary enquiries with an interim recruitment company, like Savannah Interim, who are experts at getting temporary expertise into organizations that need it, when they need it.

Financial Spring Cleaning

Spring is finally here, regardless of whether it feels like it outside or not.  Around this time of year, many see it as their obligation to go through their homes and rid themselves of unnecessary items that clutter the place up.  The idea that a clean and happy dwelling is a rebirth and a new start.  Why not take this same approach to your finances?

At the start of every calendar year, I always suggest creating a new budget for the upcoming year.  Mapping out your income and expenses presents saving opportunities and fiscal responsibility.  We are now almost three months into the new year and expenses sometimes change.  That is why I always do a financial spring cleaning.  Below are my favorite three ways to do a financial spring cleaning:

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 1:  This first tip is directly related to a normal spring cleaning of the house people already do.  Go through your closet and determine which clothes you don’t need anymore.  Maybe you have shoes you don’t wear, pants you’ve outgrown, DVD’s you no longer watch because of a Netflix subscription.  Or a lot of cravats and bow ties that are now out of style, or men’s bracelets that you aren’t using any more.

Gather up these items and donate them to a local shelter like The Salvation Army.  Not only will you eliminate these useless items from your place, but you will be giving to those who could benefit from such items.  The best part about all of this is most of the times you can receive a tax deduction for your donations.  This can lead to a higher income tax return for the 2017 year.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 2:  Clean out unnecessary clutter in your budget.  For example, maybe at the beginning of the year you signed up for a gym membership you no longer use.  Cancel it.  Go through the various categories in your budget and see if they are relevant to the remainder of the year going forward.  Perhaps you dedicated a portion of your budget to pay off debt, but now you no longer have that debt.  Eliminate that category.  Eliminating categories in your budget makes it simpler and much easier to read and track.

Financial Spring Cleaning Tip 3:  Review the dollar allocations in your budget.  Say at the beginning of the year you were eating out lunch every day, but now you realize the many health benefits and cost savings of bringing your lunch to work.  See if you can slash $30-$50 a month off your food budget.  Shop around for car insurance.  Perhaps you find the same coverage with a different company for $15 less a month.  Eliminating a little bit of money from a few categories adds up and helps boost your savings potential.

Financial spring cleaning allows you to revamp your finances for the remainder of the year.  Even if you haven’t done a good job of sticking to your budget, it is never too late.  A financial spring cleaning can allow you to set up your financial priorities for the remainder of the year and gives you a clear financial conscious heading into the spring and summer months.

Diworsification: How Much Diversification is too Much or Little?

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Diworsification

When I was picking stocks, I saw my portfolio lose 15% of its value in one day.  Simply put, I had too many of my eggs in one basket or too many of my investment dollars in one stock.  I wasn’t diversified.  Sure, I could hit it big with a stock, but I could also lose.  I saw the amount of time I was spending on picking stocks and knew it could be put to better use if I let the professionals handle my money.

My portfolio was under diversified, but many people also suffer from too much diversification of their portfolio or diworsification.  Diworsification occurs when you continually invest in the same asset class and keep your risk low but hurt your overall return potential.  It would be the equivalent of investing in many different mutual funds that only contained U.S. stocks.  If you want exposure to the U.S. domestic stock market that is great, I highly recommend it, but pick a fund that gives you just that and move on.

My investment strategy has come a long way from my earlier days when I was picking and choosing stocks.  I thought just like many that I could pick homerun stocks that nobody else could.  I did well on some and poorly on others.  I would come home every day from work and watch Jim Cramer’s show Mad Money.  I soon realized that the effort I was putting in wasn’t yielding the rewards I desired.  I quickly shifted all my investments to a mutual fund.  Being young, I knew I wanted a large exposure to stocks.  What better stocks to invest in than the U.S. Stock Market?  Warren Buffett has been noted to say that when he passes he wants the remainder of his fortune put into a low-cost index fund that mirrors the S&P 500.  That’s right, just one fund.  If he wanted his fortune to be spread across many funds that mirrored the S&P 500 he would be subject to diworsification.  I decided to follow Warren’s advice.

While my investment dollars are placed into a single low-cost Index fund that mirrors the U.S. Stock Market, not everyone will agree with this position, and that is fine.  Investment advice can be given to you from a hired professional or you can decide on your own.  My knowledge came about through the reading of numerous books.  If you want to invest in South America, there are funds for that.  If you want exposure to corporate bonds, there are funds for that.  If you think that the pharmaceutical sector is the next big thing, then by all means find a fund that suits you for that investment.  There are many ways you can invest your hard-earned money, but try and keep to the One and Done Philosophy when investing in mutual funds to prevent diworsification: Pick one mutual fund that covers the class or sector you are wanting exposure to and leave it at that.  Not only does it simplify your portfolio, but it keeps you diversified and away from diworsification.

How Rookies Can Invest in Real Estate

If you are interested in investing in real estate property, you may have started doing research about it. However, there is so much information out there about the topic that it can sometimes be confusing and leave you wondering how you should get started.  Fortunately there are a few not so complicated ways how rookies can invest in real estate.

1 Rentals

If purchasing a single family rental appeals to you but a lack of time to research and find an investment property is holding you back, there is a way to get it done fairly easily; Let someone else do the research for you. But saving time may not be the only thing making you hesitate. You also have to find renters, collect rent, do upkeep, and the many other tasks involved with owning a rental. It all takes time and it can be somewhat intimidating to a rookie real estate investor. So why not allow someone else to do some of the work for you? In addition, it is possible to purchase turnkey rentals even if you don’t have the expertise or time to manage the property yourself. Also, if you think you are locked into buying rentals only in the area where you live, think again. You can invest in properties in a different part of the country altogether even if you haven’t personally seen the property. Does this sound like a dream? There are companies in existence that can help you overcome these hurdles so you can purchase a rental and get started investing in real estate even as a rookie.

2 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another way to help you get started as a rookie real estate investor, especially if you don’t have much money to get you started. By choosing this method you can put your money together with money from others and invest in real estate so everyone benefits. This is done through an REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust.

REIT’s are a lot like mutual funds in that they give investors the power to diversify their investments and have steady money coming in. They are made up of knowledgeable team members who devise ways of investing pooled money in real estate investment options not usually available to the lone investor. They do this by putting the investment capital into more than one property, which makes the risks low and raises the growth potential of your investment. There are several companies that offer this type of investing, so it shouldn’t take too much time to research and find one to your liking.

3 Partnership Investing

Of course, you could also pool your money with someone else without the help of an outside company. Choose someone you trust to get started with and you could still invest in real estate even if you don’t have a lot of money or experience. When you work with someone else who has real estate properties already, you can learn a lot from them about choosing, financing, and managing rental properties or flip properties. It may also allow you to start investing a lot sooner than if you were to try to purchase a property on your own.

As you can see, even if you are new to real estate investing, there are different ways how rookies can invest in real estate. Don’t let whatever is holding you back prevent you from securing your future.

What other options do you know of how rookies can invest in real estate?

Kayla is a personal finance blogger in her mid-20s who loves to write about money topics of all kinds.

Blue Apron Free Trial: Review

Let’s be honest, many of us lack the time or the money to cook unique, cost-efficient meals today.  Whether you are a couple or a family, it is sometimes easiest to just eat out.  Eating out on a regular basis can get very expensive.  I recently received a Blue Apron free trial.  I was eager to try and cook my way through a new and adventurous meal, something I wouldn’t normally eat.

As this was a Blue Apron free trial, I had nothing to lose.  I had three meals delivered right to my door.  All of the packaging was recyclable, and it came with a couple of nice reusable freezer packs.  Here is my experience:

Meal: Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf

Blue Apron Free Trial: Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf

What I expected: Blue Apron said the prep time for this meal was just 10 minutes with the cooking time of the meal being between 35-45 minutes.  The card (included in the picture) came with a quick description of the meal along with all of the ingredients for the meal.  Each ingredient listed even came with a picture in case you weren’t sure.  The flip side of the card came with step by step instructions on how to prepare the meal and also some pictures to assist you along the way.  I laid out all of the ingredients on top of my counter along with the card and began.

The Good:  You have all of the ingredients you need to create a unique dish.  If you tried to go to the grocery store and buy all of the necessary items to create something similar, you would spend way more than $10/meal.  All of the items looked fresh and appeared top notch.  Everything from the beef, to the potatoes, to the garlic looked like it had been prepared just mere days before.  Finally, Blue Apron also pairs each of the dishes with a wine.

The Bad:  While the meal card said the prep time was just 10 minutes, this was not the case.  It took me about double that time to prepare the meal.  The only way someone could have done the prep in 10 minutes is if they were highly experienced in the kitchen or if they had prepared this meal before.  The meal also lacked a side of vegetables.  While this might seem quite minor in the details, some healthy vegetables to go along with this meal would have made it complete.  I ended up cooking some green beans to go along with the meat and potatoes.  You also needed some cooking experience to help guide you through.  I don’t believe these meals are for the complete rookie.  For instance, you had to mince garlic, slice potatoes, and needed a few kitchen accessories to complete the meal.

Chipotle-Glazed Meatloaf Dish

Conclusion

Ultimately my Blue Apron free trial was a success.  I was able to create a delicious, unique meal all by myself.  At just around $10/meal, it is also a great value because the same ingredients would cost much more if you purchased them at the store.  Downsides would be that it requires some basic kitchen knowledge and elementary kitchen items.  This meal service is great for a couple who enjoys cooking together and wants to spend some time create different dishes and bonding over the experience.

Are you interested in Blue Apron? Get $30 off your first week using this link.

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How Do Millennials Finding Affordable Dental Health Care?

How important is a great smile? According to ABC News research, the first impression is the most important. Whether it’s a lack of affordable dental insurance, anxiety of going to the dentist, or burden of financial responsibility, many Millennials have put a trip to the dentist on the back burner. Underestimating the important link between oral health care and overall wellbeing can not only jeopardize that vital first impression, but cause health issues for Millennials as they get older.

Staying Away Means More Decay

A study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows 62 percent of adults ages 35-64 went to the dentist in the past year, compared to Millennials, those ages 20-34, which was just slightly over 50 percent. Millennials also had the highest percent of untreated cavities, according to the study.

Millennials now represent over a quarter of the nation’s population, 83 million, exceeding Baby Boomers for the first time. It is reported most of them have avoided the dentist for 2 to 3 years. In the end this game plan ends up being painful and expensive. Unfortunately, many employers don’t offer dental insurance and Millennials are unsure how to find affordable dental care.

In a case study by Quirk’s Media, How Millennials Are Reshaping Health and Wellness, found two thirds of Millennials “believe that insurers have too much power and are often perceived as putting profits ahead of patients.”

No Pain Means No Problem? Don’t Be Misled

Many Millennials believe if they aren’t experiencing pain, there isn’t a problem. The fact is, by the time there is pain, there is likely a severe problem. With over 85 percent of Millennials with missing teeth, fillings, or tooth decay, delayed dental visits have become a serious issue.

The American Dental Association warns, “Too many people mistakenly believe that they need to see a dentist only if they are in pain or think something is wrong, but they’re missing the bigger picture. A dental visit means being examined by a doctor of oral health capable of diagnosing and treating conditions that can range from routine to extremely complex.” Dental health is about prevention, “During a comprehensive exam, dentists examine the teeth and gums, but they also look for lumps, swellings, discolorations, ulcerations — any abnormality.

Where to find dental health care that is affordable?

Good dental health is about brushing, flossing, eating a healthy diet, and regularly visiting the dentist. Quality oral health care should be affordable for everyone. A healthy smile and good first impression is important for every person.

Today’s Millennials are discovering the benefits of discount dental plans. True Dental Discounts is not dental insurance, but gives individuals and families access to a variety of highly qualified dental care providers at a discounted price. Since there aren’t any deductibles, waiting periods, or limit to the number of visits, it’s not only affordable it easy!

Paribus Review: A Good Way to Save Money?

paribus review

Have you ever purchased something online only to find out there was a price drop three days later? Frustrated, you don’t even bother contacting the retailer because it’s time-consuming.

What if there was an app that tracked all the possible price changes, missed coupons, and better-elsewhere deals online and contacted the retailer on your behalf to get your money back?

Now there is! Paribus.co, pronounced pair-uh-bus, is a one-of-a-kind money saving app that does the work of finding better deals, coupons, and price changes for you.

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Healthy Costco Foods

Last week Costco announced that they were going to be raising their membership fees.  The fee hike was relatively small, only 9%.  Executive members will now pay a $120 a year fee, while Gold Star members will now pay $60 a year.  Despite the minimal increase in a customer’s yearly fee, a shopper can still rake in many savings at the retail giant.  Costco shoppers go to the warehouse to buy items in bulk.  It is great for large families, but I even know of individuals with memberships that see the many benefits of shopping there.  While savings can abound at Costco, buying quality, healthy products can provide a big benefit.  There is a huge health benefit of buying healthy Costco foods that extends far beyond your budget and to one’s longevity.

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Healthy Costco Foods

Buying healthy Costco foods in bulk can help stretch your grocery budget for a given month.  For example, I try to set aside $350 per month to spend on food.  This includes eating out as well as purchases from Costco and other grocery stores.  A family of four might have a monthly food expenditure of around $1000.  The great part about buying food in bulk is that often times you can get a better price than buying the same item individually.  Many who purchase items in bulk at Costco tend to go ahead and plan for long shelf lives for these items.  For example, toilet paper and condiments are a few items where you can experience savings by buying in bulk.  Additionally, these items along with others can be stored in a pantry for many years down the road.  Shopping for lean healthy meats at Costco can provide a huge savings to a family of four as well.  Purchasing healthy Costco foods such as lean chicken breasts in bulk can provide healthy nutrition and savings.  By purchasing many pounds of lean chicken at once, you can slice and divide the breasts to your liking, put them in plastic Ziploc bags, and simply freeze them until a later date.  Even when shopping at grocery stores, one of the tricks I do is purchase items when they are on sale.  One week, chicken might be on sale for $1.99/lb while the next week it is $2.99/lb.  Organizing purchases so you take advantage of them during sales is the best way to optimize your monthly grocery budget.

Costco has a good reputation among shoppers. This is partly because of the quality of their products, but it is also due to their excellent customer service and robust returns policy.  So, if you’re shopping for organic food at Costco, there isn’t a lot of downside – the chances are good they’ll accept the product back if you want to return it.

While I’m raving about Costco they also have good prices on tires and are open on most major holidays, so you can get your car serviced while you’re picking up your groceries.

Buying healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, and buying healthy Costco foods doesn’t have to cost a lot either.  When shopping for groceries, the keys are to buy in bulk when available and to also buy during sale prices for an item.  Finally, by planning your purchases ahead of time by making a list, you can avoid unneeded items.  Eating healthy and sticking to your budget doesn’t have to be hard.