By Lina Martinez
The holiday season is a time for friends, family and good food but for some, it also means a big Christmas bonus. Some of that money is inevitably going to go on gifts but what do you do with the rest? That lump sum of money gives you a lot of opportunities and if you just spend it all on stuff for yourself, you’ll regret it in the long run. But when it’s burning a hole in your pocket, it’s difficult to know what to spend it on. Don’t waste it, try some of these ideas instead.
Public Domain Pictures
Buy Precious Metals
Investing the money is always a sensible choice but if you don’t know that much about the stock market, it’s risky. You can always get a broker but then you’re paying them fees and the whole thing can be a bit too stressful. But if you buy silver or gold with that money and sit on it, you could sell it for a big return in the future. If not, it’s a good financial investment to pass on to your children. The benefit of buying silver or gold is that the market is nowhere near as volatile as stocks. There will be some ups and downs in price but those precious metals are always going to be valuable.
Most people are sitting on a big pile of debt these days, it’s become the norm for a lot of us but it shouldn’t be. When you’ve got high interest debts from credit cards or loans, you’re just burning money every single month. Clearing them as quickly as possible is the best way to avoid that but most people just can’t afford to pay more than the minimum amount. If you’re in this position, you can use your bonus to pay it all off, or at least clear a big chunk of it. People are wary of doing this because it seems as though the money’s all gone just like that but the thing is, you’ll have more money left over at the end of every month if you aren’t making hefty interest payments.
Save For Retirement
Building a healthy retirement fund should be at the top of your financial checklist. Even if it seems far away, it’ll soon come around and if you haven’t put enough aside you’ll regret it. It’s difficult to save when all of your other expenses are stretching your salary to the limit, but if you put your entire bonus into a high interest savings account, you’ll get a good head start. Having a big chunk in there already encourages you to add to it and you’ll start building interest on it from an early age. Compound interest is one of the best ways to secure your financial future so getting as much in your savings account as early as possible is vital.
These are three great options for spending that Christmas bonus but it’s worth remembering that the holiday season is a time for fun, so don’t be afraid to spend a little bit on yourself. Just don’t go overboard.
By Brian McKay
So you’ve been working hard and now have a decent sized pot of savings, and you’ve decided that you want to invest it to gain some extra income or give yourself a nice nest egg for retirement. Excellent news. But as a beginner, you’re flooded choice and are not sure where to start or how much to invest. You’ve read so many blogs and articles, but they all seem to be talking about investing sums that seem a bit out of your price bracket. Here are three things to consider before you make your first investment that should simplify the process a little bit for you. (Source)
Do You Know What You’re Doing?
This isn’t a question designed to put you off, but it is a question you should answer honestly to yourself. Some people just aren’t financially savvy, and that’s fine. Knowing where your weaknesses are and seeking help is an important skill to have. Hiring the skills of a financial planner may seem like a good idea then. However, most companies will not take on any clients with small investment portfolios, and they may charge a lot for their services. We trust technology with a lot in our lives, why not trust it to advise us? Some of the best robo-advisors are completely free, and most are considerably cheaper than the human alternative. There are also books and websites dedicated to helping you understand the market and how to increase the chances of your investment growing.
Where Are You Going To Invest?
There are a staggeringly large amount of options when it comes to this decision. Should you invest all your money in one place? Or should you invest in several places? How many is enough, and how much should I invest into each company? You’ll have heard people talking about having a ‘diverse portfolio’, and all this means is that they don’t have all their eggs in one basket. In order to do this effectively, you will need to do a lot of research. It also helps to have a sizeable investment in each individual company. So what happens if you only have a few thousand to invest, not tens or even hundreds of thousands? If that’s the case, it might be worth investing somewhere that has done the ‘diversifying’ for you. You can buy shares in holdings companies that have ownership, or a controlling share, in many businesses across multiple markets. This way, if any of the businesses it owns fail for any reason, the holding company is safe due to its diverse business model, and so is your investment.
What Will You Do With Your Profits?
Now that you’ve decided how to invest, you should consider what you’re going to do when that investment starts to grow. You could take your profit and initial outlay to reinvest it elsewhere, you could keep it invested in that business and treat yourself with any dividends it pays you, or you could reinvest those dividends right back into the company using a DRIP.
These three questions should have given you plenty to think about, and hopefully, you’re a little more sure about how you’re going to break into the world of investing. Whatever you do, remember to do plenty of research and invest wisely.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
By Jason M
Selling homes is one of the best ways of generating full-time income throughout the year. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a real estate license to sell homes. As a real estate investor, you can buy and sell homes for profit at will.
How can I buy and sell homes without a real estate license? This is the first question that’s typically asked by people who would like leave their full-time job and secure financial independence. In this article, we will take a look at two real estate investing strategies that can help you do real estate deals without a Realtor’s license.
There’s a strong possibility that you have seen signs stating, “We buy houses for cash.” These signs are posted by wholesalers. Wholesalers are real estate investors that specialize in searching for distressed properties.
Distressed properties fall into the following categories:
-The home owner is behind on property taxes
-The home owner is facing foreclosure
-The home owner lost their job
As a wholesaler, you get the property owner to sign an agreement that gives you the legal right to buy their home below its market value. In this instance, you will not buy the property. You will sell or assign your contract to another investor for a fee. With wholesaling, you can get into a deal, and out of a deal without any long-term commitment to the property.
Wholesaling is an easy way for you to make $2,000 to $5,000 per deal. Please keep in mind that you must leave the lion’s share of the profit to the investor taking over the deal. If you work hard, you can do several wholesale deals per month.
Here’s a simple wholesaling formula that can help you excel with this real estate investment strategy:
-Market Value of the Home x 70% – Rehab Costs = Your Offer to the Property Owner
Rehabbing (Fix and Flip)
Rehabbing is one step above wholesaling. This is where you buy a home below its market value, fix it up, and sell it at its market value. You can make $10,000 to $25,000 per deal. It’s more lucrative than wholesaling, but it requires more work.
You need a team to be successful with the fix and flip strategy. You need a mortgage broker, a good title company, and a reliable contractor. Let’s look at the role of each team member.
Mortgage Broker – You cannot rehab homes without capital. Your mortgage broker will give you direct access to hard-money loans and private money.
Title Company – The title company will take care of the paper work and transaction when you find a buyer for the home.
Contractor – The contractor’s crew will rehab or fix up the home.
You must be patient and prudent while doing a rehab project. It could take three to six months to find a buyer for your home. You can hire a Realtor if you would like to speed up the process. The Realtor will market your home and list it in the MLS.
Real estate investing is a sure-fire way of becoming financially independent. Fortunately, you don’t need a license to become a real estate investor. Real estate investing is not a get rich quick scheme. You must work hard if you want to be successful.
By Brian McKay
Software, electronics, and the internet have changed the entire world, and continue to keep doing so. How we work, how we socialize, and how we live changes faster than ever. Not always for the better. Other industries shrink as tech makes it easier for machines to do our jobs than us. So, what’s the solution? If you want job security, then you need to work with that tech. Here are a few different ways you could do that.
More and more of the products created today use electronics in them. It’s not just computers, phones, TVs, and the like. Toys, household appliances, lighting systems, they are everywhere. So, learning to design and create electronics could get you a place in an industry that only seems to keep booming. Start with a PCB design tutorial if you want to know how to get started. You’re going to need some real qualifications in order to find employment in this field, but you also have to be able to direct your own learning as it continues to evolve.
Manufacturing has changed a lot. Much of manual operating needed on the line no longer exists. But, the rise of automation has actually led to more career opportunities than you might believe. The skills needed to operate automated machines tend to be of a higher skill level than in the past, and there are still plenty of people needed to help repair, maintain, and optimize machines on the factory floor. Working with automated machinery can be much more lucrative than the factory jobs of the past.
What about in the world of software? Of course, design and implementing software is a booming market, but so is being a consultant to the data that software provides. Data analyst courses teach you how to capture and read the data that most companies produce without even realizing it. But it’s more than just a technical job. It’s about deduction and problem solving within that data. Not only does it provide a challenge, it provides real workable solutions for companies to help them better understand their processes, their customers, where they’re experiencing loss. For that reason, it’s a very highly compensated position you can do full time for one employer or as a freelance consultant.
If you’re not the most technically minded and more of people person, there’s still a place for you in the modern world. It still takes some training to learn in fields like social media, SEO, and online advertising. But at the end of the day, it’s all about understanding the market and using the tools available to help businesses and brands better connect with their potential customers.
The rise of the robots (and the software that powers them) is a real concern for a lot of jobs. Automation has already made huge swathes of employees in manufacturing redundant. It’s thought that this trend is only going to have a bigger impact in other industries as time goes on.
By Lina Martinez
The skills you need to develop if you want to become an entrepreneur
At some point in their life, every entrepreneur will have asked him or herself the question “do I really have what it takes?” It’s true that to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to have a certain set of skills, some of which can be learnt and some that are already a part of your personality.
As a business owner, you need to know how important it is to improve your strengths and develop these skills to make it in your chosen industry. By following our list, you shouldn’t have any trouble becoming successful.
If you’ve got as far as wanting to be an entrepreneur it’s likely that you’re already someone who is, in general, quite a motivated person. For some, self-motivation can be a challenge, especially when you no longer have anyone working above you, setting your goals and deadlines. To become a good business leader, you need dedication, time and practice. Start by making a detailed professional plan, establish routine, set reminders and, when you’ve achieved a goal, set a reward.
Resilience is a key ingredient for success. Why? As an entrepreneur, you’re bound to come across many challenges and make a lot of mistake along the way. Failure can be a devastating thing to experience, affecting not only your motivation but your mentality but the secret to success is to have the humility to confront your errors and the resilience to get yourself back on track.
How to develop a personal brand
The term ‘personal brand’ might seem daunting to some, but in an economy that’s booming, you want to be the one that stands out from the crowd. You need to create a strong message about you and your brand and make this clear throughout your online presence, your professional contacts and your customers. You want to avoid a negative reputation at all costs.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses
Just because you’re an entrepreneur, this doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect at everything you do. On the contrary, it’s important that you’re able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can build a strong team. Knowing where you need to improve will inform you which skills and characteristics you need to look for in a potential business partner. Be selective and smart when choosing new members for your team. You don’t want members of staff that drain your budget without gaining enough revenue in return.
How to communicate and network
In today’s business world social currency is becoming increasingly important. It’s no secret that you need people to make progress, and professional networking allows you to give the referrals, endorsements and recommendations that you need to expand your relationships and thus your opportunities for the future. When communication lacks purpose, it’s not unusual for a business to go bad which is why a lot of psychologists believe that this is the most valuable skill for all entrepreneurs. Take Apple’s Steve Jobs as inspiration.
The ability to manage
Entrepreneurial management isn’t just about managing people. As well as the management of the overall business you’ll also need to know how to manage money, time, clients and sales. To do this, you’ll need to know how to effectively multi-task and plan for the business both in the short and the long term. Formulate your strategy by breaking bigger goals into smaller, more manageable wins, and you should be able to achieve everything that you had in mind.
Alongside a good level of management come impeccable organisational skills. It’s incredibly difficult to start your own business but the more organised you are, the less pressure you should feel. In the beginning, you’re going to need to consider the big questions such as budget, how many employees you need, where your business premises will be and what insurance you need. All of these are incredibly important factors that need to be dealt with before you even think about opening your doors to clients. Luckily, Be Wiser Business Insurance can help you get ahead.
How to close a sale
After everything, it’s sales that keep a business going so as a business owner you’ll need to know exactly how to sell. Whether you’re selling your ideas to investors or selling your product or service to clients, knowing how to close a deal is paramount. The trick here is to be confident in what you have to offer without fearing that you’re being assumptive or rude. Persuasive writing is also a good skill to learn for the generation of leads in email marketing, blog posts, web copy and business proposals.
Knowing how to be authentic is a soft skill that every business owner should know because being labelled as disingenuous is not something that’s taken lightly by clients. To achieve authenticity, take time to connect with your audience on social media and through other marketing efforts. This way you’ll demonstrate that you’re genuinely there to help.
A desire to improve
The best motivation is the desire to make a positive change in your business. Every year you should look back on your performance and detail areas that you can improve so that you can meet, and maybe even exceed, your goals.
By Kyle Pennell
At present, the dominant sources of electricity in the United States are largely fossil fuels. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal continue to make up nearly 85% of energy consumed in this country with nuclear power and renewables like biomass, hydroelectricity, solar, wind and geothermal accounting for the rest.
The times, however, are changing. Advances in technology, driven by demand for cleaner fuels, are producing huge drops in the price of renewable energy sources and batteries. Read on to find out why solar is poised to be the fuel of the future.
The end of coal and the heyday of natural gas
The era of coal is nearing its demise. In the past 10 years alone, coal-derived energy consumption in the US has dropped from 23% to 15% of the market share. The reasons for this are primarily economics-driven. Coal is simply becoming too expensive relative to alternative sources.
For one, the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has led to a natural gas boom. The US is now the top natural gas producer in the world. At the same time, advances in renewable technologies like wind and solar are beginning to make inroads into the coal market as the threat of global warming and environmental regulations ramp up.
At present, the rise of natural gas is the biggest contributor to coal’s loss of market share. Natural gas’s status as an on-demand resource makes the transition simple. Solar and wind, while offering cleaner energy, continue to face intermittency challenges as their production fluctuates with the sun and wind. But this too is soon to change.
Figure 1. The decline of coal and the rise of solar, wind and natural gas. Source.
Renewables will trump natural gas
Natural gas too, however, will sunset. Natural gas pricing has bottomed out, while that of solar and wind continues to drop. Since 2009, solar photovoltaic (PV) module prices have fallen by 80 percent and wind turbine prices have fallen by around 30-40 percent. Now, a new report suggests a continuation of this trend forecasting a 59% drop in the price of solar and a 35% decline in the price of wind energy by 2025.
The past few years have also seen dramatic advances in lithium ion battery technology with accompanying massive price drops. The price of a lithium ion battery has dropped 70% in the last 18 months as huge producers like LG Chem, Samsung, Panasonic and Tesla ramp up their production capabilities. This trend is predicted to continue over the next several years while battery energy density, or the amount of energy that can be stored, further improves. The availability of affordable large scale battery storage means solar and wind power supplies can be transformed to on-demand resources rendering them competitive with natural gas on all fronts. Research enterprise Bloomberg New Energy Finance declares that batteries capable of storing power at utility scale will be as widespread in 12 years as rooftop solar panels are now and predicts that over the next 25 years, small-scale battery storage will become a $250 billion market.
Figure 2. Battery technology will boost small-scale solar installations. Source.
The renewables revolution will be led by solar, not wind
Both wind and solar power provide viable alternatives to our planet-warming addiction to fossil fuels, but solar offers greater potential for the future. At present, large scale wind installations are slightly cheaper, but the places where windmills can be profitably installed is limited to a small number of high wind areas. Off-shore wind farms have more promise, but are also more expensive to build and maintain. In contrast, the opportunities for solar are boundless due to the possibilities of distribution. You can have large scale solar farms in remote locations, small-scale rooftop generation on buildings and homes, and off-the-grid installations on islands or in emerging economies. As Elon Musk famously stated, “you could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”
As our dependence upon fossil fuels becomes more and more difficult to sustain, both financially and environmentally, it is clear that a practical alternative energy source must be available. While there is a market for a diverse mix of generating sources, from nuclear to natural gas to geothermal, it is becoming increasingly apparent that solar energy coupled with battery storage is the best all-around solution to meet the world’s energy demands. As other sources fall victim to price increases, supply depletion and environmental regulations, the coming energy era promises to be dominated by the sun.