More black investors should look to stock market to grow their wealth

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If you can’t see it, will you believe in it?

The “it” takes different forms, depending on the context. If the focus is black wealth, the “it” represents the stock market. And in this context, investing time, energy and even money into something unseen can translate into a very risky proposition.

If wealth is a household objective in black communities, the stock market should absolutely be considered.

Low African-American participation in the stock market contributes to the widening wealth gap between black and white households, according to a 2014 study by Credit Suisse and Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy.

There are signs, however, that change is coming. To that point, according to a 2017 market research report, about 67 percent of African-Americans with incomes of at least $50,000 have money invested in stocks or stock mutual funds. That compares with 60 percent in 2010 and 57 percent in 1998.

Proven, tangible options — such as real estate, certificate of deposits and insurance policy contracts — have made the case for expanding one’s portfolio to include the stock market a tough sell for African-Americans.


(via CNBC)

Let’s be honest, when the stock market’s highs and lows show up in real numbers on investment statements, handling the ping-pong effect between euphoria and misery challenges even the best of us. The stock market as a long-term play requires trust, engagement and belief that “it” was created with us in mind.

The stock market features a concept that resonates with many African Americans: business ownership. In fact, entrepreneurship holds great importance for historically disenfranchised communities seeking greater access to goods, services and sustainable income. Business investment as a stockholder expands opportunities to join other stakeholders in the quest for profitability and returns, as well as to share the risks.

For the complete article, continue on to CNBC.

Jade Colin is the Youngest Black Woman to own a McDonald’s Franchise

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Colin and her employees pose in the lobby of McDonald's

Meet Jade Colin, the youngest black woman to own a McDonald’s franchise.

The New Orleans native, has always been independent  and a hard worker. The 28-year-old started her career in college while working the night shift at a local McDonald’s.

There, she earned promotions and awards, inspiring her to purchase her own franchise.

After graduating from the University of Louisiana with a business degree in 2012, Colin applied for the Next Generation program for children of McDonald’s owners. During the program, Colin earned several awards for her business management skills.

She received a Ray Kroc Award and was recognized as one of the top McDonald’s restaurant managers in the country.

After she finished the two-year program, Colin became a manager at her parents’ franchise. From there, she planned to open her own – and she succeeded.

Colin opened her first franchise in 2016, and she is still the youngest black franchise owner.”

As an African-American community, we need more men and women to know that it’s not just about right now, but it’s about the generations to come,” she told The Black Professional.

How This 24-Year-Old Former NYSE Equity Trader Made History

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At 22 years old, Lauren Simmons shattered the glass ceiling by being the youngest and only full-time female equity trader on Wall Street for Rosenblatt Securities.
Affectionately dubbed as the “Lone Woman On Wall Street”, Simmons was also the second African-American woman in history to sport the prestigious badge.

Graduating Kennesaw State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in genetics and a minor in statistics, Simmons originally aspired to go into genetic counseling. She made a decision to put that on hold. What had not changed, however, was her passion to move to New York City, where networking led her to meet Richard Rosenblatt, the CEO of Rosenblatt Securities. Beyond her many qualifications, it was ultimately Simmons’ confidence that led Rosenblatt to take her under his wing as an Equity Trader.

“Being a trader, you make decisions within microseconds,” Simmons said on meeting Rosenblatt, “So I think for him, even for me, the choice of coming onto the trading floor made sense immediately.”

The job wasn’t completely hers; she still had to pass the Series 19 exam, which is a requirement for all floor brokers to earn their badge. This test has a pass rate of 20% in a class of 10. After studying the book cover to cover for a month straight. Lauren Simmons made history. Since her story broke Lauren Simmons has been featured in various media outlets and currently, she has a movie on her journey to Wall Street starring Kiersey Clemons.

I spoke to Simmons about her journey to Wall Street, favorite moments on the trading floor and what the financial service industries can do to increase diversity and inclusion.

For the complete article, continue on to Forbes.

IBM just appointed the first African-American woman to command a US Navy ship to its board

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IBM appointed Admiral Michelle J. Howard, the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, to its board, the company announced Tuesday.

A former U.S. Navy officer, Howard was the first woman to become a 4-star admiral in addition to becoming the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, according to IBM’s announcement. In July 2014, she became the first woman and African-American to be named Vice Chief of Naval Operations, IBM said, and she retired from her 35-year career in December 2017.

Howard now teaches cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University, according to the release.

Howard’s board appointment will be effective March 1.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said in a statement in the release, “Admiral Howard is a groundbreaking leader with a distinguished career in military service. Her leadership skills, international perspective and extensive experience with cybersecurity and information technology will make her a great addition to the IBM Board.”

For the complete article, continue on to CNBC.

Increasing African-American homeownership is important to economic progress

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Cerrita-Battles-Wells-Fargo

By:  Cerita Battles, SVP, head of Retail Diverse Segments, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

Black History Month celebrates the achievements of African Americans and the progress that has been made to achieve racial equality in this country. This also is an important time to recognize work that still needs to be done to achieve that equality.

One area is homeownership, where African Americans lag behind all other ethnic groups when it comes to owning a home.

People from rapidly growing diverse communities represent the majority of growth among potential first-time homebuyers. According to the 2010 Census Bureau, of the 14 million new households expected by 2024, 75 percent of those will be diverse. For many Americans and particularly African Americans, homeownership is an integral component of the American dream, and a way to build security and wealth for families.

However, the African-American homeownership rate does not align with the significant desire to own a home. The current homeownership rate for African Americans, about 42 percent, is the lowest among all ethnic minorities.  As one of the nation’s leading lenders with a team of mortgage professionals dedicated to helping customers achieve the dream of homeownership, Wells Fargo stepped up its efforts to positively impact African-American homeownership. During Black History Month in 2017, the company announced a 10-year commitment to help increase African-American homeownership that includes: $60 billion in purchase lending to create at least 250,000 homeowners; a focus on increasing the diversity of its sales team including African-American Home Mortgage Consultants; and dedicating $15 million toward homebuyer education and counseling initiatives. To achieve this important work, Wells Fargo is proud to have the support of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the NAACP and the National Urban League.

It has been two years since we made that announcement. We continue to make progress on that commitment, helping more customers become educated about and prepared for the homebuying process and guiding and supporting them as they travel the journey to become homeowners.

Our commitment to increase African-American homeownership is part of Wells Fargo’s overall Advancing Homeownershipsm effort, which brings together people, partners and resources to create new opportunities for long-term, successful homeownership.  In addition to the African-American lending commitment, this effort includes programs like Neighborhood LIFT®, which helps low- to moderate-income families achieve homeownership with homebuyer education and down payment assistance. Since, LIFT programs have helped to create nearly 20,000 homeowners.

Even though we are making progress with our African-American lending commitment, we realize there is still much work to be done to raise the homeownership rate of this segment of the population. Like many Americans, African Americans desire to own homes, but are often challenged by industry barriers like affordability and lack of inventory. And even though we have seen improvements in the economy, underemployment and unemployment are factors in the inability to own a home.

In addition, there are misconceptions about homeownership and lack of knowledge about the process that create perceived barriers to owning a home. One of the most-believed myths is that is takes a 20 percent down payment in order to qualify for a loan. That’s not true. Many lenders, including Wells Fargo, offer financing options with a low down payment.  Another myth is that borrowers need perfect credit.  It’s important for aspiring homeowners to speak with a lender to separate the myths from the facts when it comes to purchasing a home. Homebuyer education and counseling are key in helping aspiring homeowners avoid myths, and create more confidence and knowledge when it comes to pursuing homeownership. That’s why investing in education is such a critical part of the African-American homeownership commitment.

Wells Fargo views homeownership as a pathway to financial success for our customers, a source of stability in communities and a key driver of our economy.  We want to help people find the place they will call home – the place where their lives will happen, where they will create memories, spend time with friends or raise their families.  We are dedicated to helping those who want to achieve homeownership, and our African-American commitment is one way we are working to do it.

For more information on home mortgage, visit WellsFargo.com.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, on building a legacy and investing in your future

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The CEO of Chase Consumer Banking weighs in on the importance of saving.

“What are you saving for?”

That’s the question Thasunda Brown Duckett is most passionate about.

As the CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, Duckett’s mission is to inspire people to take their savings seriously. Not only does she want individuals to invest in themselves with intention; she also wants them to realize that the word “savings” doesn’t just apply to the future—it applies to everyday life.

“I’m passionate about the question, ‘What are you saving for?’ because savings is not just about investing or planning for your retirement,” Duckett explains. “While those are soimportant, so is short term savings!”

By prompting individuals to answer the question—whether they’re funding their next trip to the grocery store, buying a plane ticket for a getaway weekend, or storing money away for retirement—this simple query inspires people to connect their savings goals to their day-to-day lives. And when people connect why they are saving to a specific goal they really care about—like being able to travel now, buying a house soon, or having financial independence later—they are more likely to stockpile their money, alleviating financial anxiety, and as a result, make the most out of their lives.

“It’s not only my passion to get people to save,” Duckett says. “It really is my responsibility. I take that responsibility seriously; not just as a CEO, but as the daughter of Otis and Rosie Brown.”

“What you’re really saving for is the ability to be the best version of yourself,” she explains.

Continue onto JP Morgan Chase to read the complete article.

 

Shelly Bell, Founder Of Black Girl Ventures, Helps Women Of Color Gain Access To Capital

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Shelly Bell has lived many lives. She’s a computer scientist, a former high school teacher, a performance poet, a community organizer, a founder, and a CEO. She has two successful apparel printing businesses: MsPrint USA—through which she creates swag for clients like Amazon and Google with a team of women designers and printers—and Made By A Black Woman, which celebrates products made by Black women.

Every project Bell undertakes is designed to empower women, especially women of color, which is why two years ago, she began her latest enterprise, Black Girl Ventures, which helps women identifying entrepreneurs of color gain access to capital.

According to a Medium post Bell wrote in May, Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States, yet they receive less than 1% of venture capital. In 2017, women on the whole, she wrote, only received 2% of venture capital.

Black Girl Ventures (BGV), based in Washington DC, holds pitch competitions, social events, boot camps, and other forms of entrepreneurial training for women of color. Since its inception in 2016, BGV has funded 13 founders and has engaged hundreds of women.

The unique BGV Pitch Competition, of which there are 10 per year, is described on the website as “a crowdfunding meets pitch competition.” Attendees pay admission at the door, selected founders pitch for three minutes, and the audience votes. Winners receive the money raised from admission fees, in addition to other perks like a free consultation with both a lawyer and an accountant and a meeting with an investor.

While anyone can attend the pitch competitions, only women of color can do the pitching. Bell is proud, she says, of “the women we serve and their reaction to the space created for them.” She is also proud of the success many of the entrepreneurs have found after working with BGV. Founders who have participated in pitch competitions have gone on to be accepted into accelerators, receive fellowships, and raise more capital from other resources.

As BGV continues to grow, Bell hopes to do a better job serving Latinx women. “Because Black is in the name, it is definitely easy for Black women to gravitate,” she says, “but we want to make sure we are serving Black and Brown women.”

She is also currently focusing on finding more access to capital, creating more revenue streams, getting more sponsorship, and creating more partnerships. Some of her most recent successes are corporate partnerships with both Bumble and Google Cloud for Startups, who are currently sponsoring the BGV Big 4 Tour through Atlanta, Chicago, DC, and NYC.

When first starting BGV, Bell struggled with trying to do too many things at once. “I’m a creative,” she says. “I have literally at least 10 ideas per day.” Initially, Bell focused on doing both trainings and pitch competitions, but her advisors suggested she focus on getting really good at just one of those things.

So, she invested all her energy in the competitions, which she says has now positioned her well to expand BGV’s training opportunities. Through analytics and data gathered from those involved in the competitions, Bell now feels confident she knows what the women she serves are looking for.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Why Women Should Invest and How to Get Started

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Professional Woman

by Madison Blancaflor

Lately, women hear a lot about gaps: how to combat the gender pay gap, how to avoid a resumé gap when you take time off to raise children, whether or not a thigh gap matters (it doesn’t). One “gap” that isn’t discussed enough is the gender investing gap.

Women Are Less Likely to Invest Than Men, and That’s a Problem. According to Ellevest, an investment platform created by women for women, “of all the assets controlled by women, 71% is in cash – aka not invested.” Statistically, women are less likely to invest, and even those who do invest tend to wait until they are older to start.

Most women don’t think they know enough about investing to properly grow their savings; therefore, they wait to start investing until they feel they’re more financially stable and believe they can risk the possibility of losing money. A common misconception around investing is that you have to be an expert in the industry to succeed when the reality is that there are so many tools and resources that make easy to start investing with as little as your pocket change.

Why Should Every Woman Invest?

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, 41% of women wish they invested more of their money. But why is it such a necessary part of personal finance?

Financial Equality

First and foremost, it’s important for women to be able to achieve a sense of financial equality and independence. In the face of issues like the gender pay gap and the pink tax, investing is one of the best ways for women to ensure that they have the potential to accumulate the same amount of wealth as men.

“It’s important for women to be able to walk away from situations that are hurting or not serving them – whether that’s a bad job or a bad relationship,” comments Ellevest’s Susan Thompson. “You should be able to have your own financial power to make decisions that enable you to care for yourself.”

Reaching Financial Goals

Whether you are looking to go back to school, save up an emergency fund, send your kids to college, save up for a large spend like a house or wedding, or just grow your overall wealth, investing is arguably the best way to reach those goals.

Saving for Retirement

Women earn approximately 83 cents to every dollar a man earns, on average. That means that even if we’re saving the same percentage of our income as men, we’re not going to save the same amount. In addition, women also tend to live longer. Basically, less money has to last longer when women simply save their money without an investing strategy.

Many employers do a match on a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan. If you’re unsure about whether or not investing is really a good option for you, enroll in your employer’s program and watch as your savings grow.

Why Is a Savings Account Alone Not Enough?

Cash that sits in a checking account, safety deposit box, or under the mattress is actually depreciating in value year-over-year because of inflation. That means you’re essentially losing money when you aren’t actively growing your savings.

Check out the chart below, and you can see that a solid investments strategy can help you grow your savings exponentially over the course of 10, 20, and 30 years.

Men are five times more likely to name investing as their number one financial goal, meaning that more men are achieving those exponential returns throughout their lifetime than women. Investing allows women to earn more money than a savings account alone, even with small monthly deposits.

How to “Invest Like A Woman”

Despite the stereotypical belief that we aren’t good investors, women actually tend to possess quite a few qualities that give us an edge in the market.

Kiplinger’s article on the secrets of women investors puts it perfectly: “Studies show that men are more inclined to behave like baseball sluggers, who swing for the fences, even if it means running the risk of striking out far more often. Women, by contrast, are more like contact hitters, who are satisfied with a string of singles.”

Because women approach risk differently, we’re less likely to see large swings in our portfolio values, meaning a steadier growth over time.

Studies have also found that women are:

  • Less likely to trade investments, which translates into almost a 1% higher increase in investment earnings per year than men (who trade 45% more frequently than women).
  • Long-term planners, meaning we focus on our specific growth goals rather than chasing risky returns that may end up costing us.
  • More likely to ask for financial help. Just because 60% of men think they are experts at investing does not mean they know everything there is to know about the market. Women being more willing to seek out trusted financial advice from experts in the industry give us more opportunities to grow our wealth.

So, how do you leverage these qualities in your investments strategy?

Choose a Strategy That Works for You

Not all investing strategies are created equal, and unfortunately, most of the “gender-neutral” investing tools available to the public ultimately hinder the potential earnings for women.

Ellevest released a side-by-side comparison of a retirement scenario where a man and a woman both started saving at 30 years old, earning $85,000, and investing 10% of their salaries over the course of 37 years.

The study found that because of the gender pay gap and the natural progression of women’s careers (our salaries tend to peak at 40 while men’s salaries tend to peak at 55, and women are much more likely to take long career breaks), the woman would have about $320,000 less by the time she retires based on average market returns. That means she’ll have less money to live off of even though she’s likely to live years longer than the man.

Take these differences into consideration when you’re defining your goals, retirement plan, and investment strategies.

Figure Out Budget Allocation

Experts suggest a 50/30/20 philosophy when allocating your budget. You should strive to keep your “needs” at 50 percent of your income – food, rent/mortgage, clothes, utilities, etc. Then, 30% should be dedicated to self-care. Have some fun, get a manicure, go out to eat with friends. Lastly, 20% should be saved or invested.

Figuring out how much you should invest vs. set aside in a short-term savings account comes down to how much risk you’re willing to undertake. Year over year, the market has been steadily rising, but that doesn’t mean that a return is guaranteed. The golden rule is to never invest more than you’re willing to lose, especially if you’re going after aggressive or volatile markets.

Once you decide, Susan Thompson suggests setting up automatic withdrawals each month, even if it’s only $20 a month.

“In our mind, investing should be a ritual like any other that we undertake,” said Thompson. “Make a habit of putting money back towards your future, even if it’s a small amount.”

Know the Basics

Even though you don’t have to be a stock market expert, knowing the basics can help you communicate your goals and understand what’s happening with your money.

Some of the different types of assets you can invest in:

Stocks. They represent a part ownership in a company or corporation, also known as business equity. Basically, when a company performs well, the stock tends to increase in value. Stocks tend to be more volatile investments, meaning they can give you a high return on your investment long-term but tend to have larger swings in value in the short-term.

Bonds. Also known as fixed-income investments, bonds are one of the most popular assets for conservative portfolios. While they tend to be more stable than stocks or other volatile investments, they also have a lower return potential.

Money Market Accounts. When investing in these types of accounts, you’re allowing the bank to make low-risk investments into certificates of deposit (CDs) or government securities. The best money market accounts are low-return, yet stable investment assets.

Real Estate. Property has a tendency to rise in value over time, and there is a subset of investors who specialize in transforming real estate investments into high returns.
Cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are continuing to grow in popularity.

Conservative vs. Aggressive Investment Strategies

Investing and portfolio strategies are typically broken down into two main categories: aggressive and conservative. Aggressive strategies will put more money into stocks or other volatile markets such as cryptocurrencies. Conservative strategies will put more into bonds and money market accounts.

Aggressive investments typically get you a much higher return over time, but they’re also riskier. By contrast, conservative investments are more stable, but without the opportunity for the maximum return.

Your personal strategy can be a mix of both, and your strategy should ultimately be based on your financial goals, timeline, and risk tolerance.

If you’re looking at short-term financial goals such as saving up for a wedding or looking to pull together an emergency fund, a more conservative route will work best. This limits the risk of you losing money while still promising a good return.

However, if you’re looking to save for retirement over the course of 20 or 30 years, an aggressive strategy is going to get you the best return possible. While aggressive markets tend to fluctuate widely in the short term, the overall market trends upward an average of 10% each year. When you can afford to be patient in the market (something women are proven to be better at than men), an aggressive strategy can definitely pay off in your favor.

Also, remember that your investment strategy is not set in stone. As your financial goals change and as you get closer to when you plan on pulling money out of your investment accounts, it’s important to readjust your priorities and risk tolerance.

Choose the Right Investment Platform

If you don’t consider yourself an investment expert (and frankly, even if you do), getting professional help is a good idea. There are a lot of options out there for both the DIY-er and someone looking for one-on-one help. However, be careful about who you choose to trust with your money.

  1. Choose a fiduciary.

A fiduciary is a company or organization that is legally bound to do the right thing by their clients. Not all brokers or investment firms classify as a fiduciary, so make sure to ask before officially signing with anyone. If you find a great firm that isn’t a fiduciary, just make sure that they put client security and well-being above personal gain.

  1. Know their strategy.

Talk to any potential firms about their strategy for investments. Some firms craft personalized portfolios that you have a heavy hand in selecting. Others use a formula and automated system for choosing your investments. Every firm and platform is different, so make sure that the firm you choose uses a strategy that will work best for you.

For example, most robo-investment platforms use an investment algorithm that is based on a man’s salary projections and career lifetime, so they aren’t always the best choices for a personalized approach to fit a woman’s financial goals for the long-term.

  1. Consider your budget.

Take a serious look at the minimum balance requirements and fees for each platform or firm you’re considering. If you have a tighter budget, it will be worth it to find a platform or firm structured like Ellevest, where you can choose an account

  1. Trust your gut.

If you get an “off” feeling about a firm or platform that you’re considering, trust it. You are trusting a company with your financial future, and in order to do that, you have to trust that they are acting in your best interest. Take the time to find a platform or firm that serves you and your financial goals.

  1. Look for firms that support women.

While women investors are on the rise, there is still a gap between the number of men and women are in the investments market. Make sure you’re choosing a firm that will support your financial goals and understand the unique challenges that women face in the industry. Also take a look at the companies that these firms and platforms invest in. Are any of them led by women? Do they support women? While it may not immediately affect the return you get, choosing a firm or platform with a pro-women mindset will help us gain financial equality in the long-run.

Continue on to The Simple Dollar for the complete article

The iGen iEverything Train is Coming, but Are You Ready?

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Technology is being consumed at an ever increasing rate causing executives, managers, and process improvement experts on the factory floor to re-define the methods of training and dissemination that have become obsolete.

Critical skills and tribal knowledge are being lost as boomers retire and training plans for new employees fall short of preparing workers for the sophistication of the new manufacturing environment.

Move over millennials, here comes the IGen! Born between 1995 and 2005 this group of tech savvy natives is the next cohort and are just now entering the workforce. IGen, or Gen Z as they are often referred, have grown up in a world of social media where Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter reign supreme. These kids are a force to be reckoned with and require access to information in ways that are familiar, immediate, and actionable. Our success depends on them because as the IGen goes, so goes the manufacturing industry, the nation, and the world.

Alliance Resource Group, in partnership with Sify Technologies has pulled together experts from manufacturing, academia and automated methodologies to develop a solution that addresses the manufacturing challenge of this next generation and identifies the key components of a successful framework including content management, dissemination methodology, scalability, and integration with current learning management systems. These components constitute a micro-learning strategy that facilitates current and future state requirements.

Alliance Resource Group (ARG), is a service disabled veteran owned business located in Newport Beach California. With a foundation in resource management, recruiting, and consulting,  ARG provides services to small and medium size companies throughout the United States.

View the ARG White Paper here! Better be prepared for total process transformation if you want to remain competitive.

6 Apps That Save Your Money While You Barely Lift A Finger

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Apps do a lot of things, including help us spend money. To kick off the year right, we’ve rounded up some apps that help us save ― or at least help us spend less. Here are a few that could tune up your budget in 2018, with hardly any effort on your part at all.

1. Earny

What it does: Obtains refunds automatically when prices drop on items you’ve already purchased
What it costs: Free

It’s so frustrating when you see that something you just bought is now on sale for less than you paid. About the only thing worse is not realizing it, especially if you bought the item from a retailer that will price match.

Meet Earny, which automatically monitors when retailers reduce the prices on items you purchased. When that happens, Earny goes one step further: It contacts the company to get the difference back, without your so much as lifting a finger.

2. Raise

What it does: Offers gift cards for less; sells unwanted cards for cash
What it costs: Free

Gift cards have wormed their way into our spending life, despite our tendency to lose them a lot. In 2015, there was about $130 billion in gift cards sold, almost $1 billion of which then went unspent. Yet we keep buying more: Consumers dropped about $150 billion on gift cards last year, according WalletHub.

Sometimes we intend to use them for ourselves, especially if we can find them discounted. The Raise app is one place to look.

Before you shop online or in stores, search the Raise marketplace to find discounted gift cards by brand, category or value. Shipping is always free on the physical cards, and shoppers save an average of 12 percent on purchases, according to a Raise spokesman.

On the other hand, if you have gift cards you don’t want, sell them on Raise for cash.

3. Cardpool

What it does: Operates an exchange for discounted gift cards
What it costs: Free

Similar to Raise, Cardpool works as a platform for users to buy and sell gift cards. Buyers can get up to 92 percent of a gift card’s value. Sellers may have to wait a bit longer for their money because, unlike Raise, Cardpool doesn’t post the funds directly to the seller’s bank account. Instead, the payment comes in the form of an Amazon eGift Card or a bank check sent via snail mail.

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018

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By Eric Titner

A new year is often looked at as an opportunity for making positive changes, and we’re all familiar with the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions—as we end each year and look forward to the next, we take stock of the things we want to improve upon or change in our lives.

Those among us who are diligent enough to take things one step further set a plan for achieving our resolutions, and some among us actually follow through by putting in the time and effort to achieve our stated goals. And for the most dedicated and focused among us, sometimes a positive change and lasting result is achieved.

Our New Year’s resolutions can vary across an endless array of categories—from finding love, making new friends, and moving to a new city to acquiring a new hobby or skill set. Among the most popular resolutions that people make involve job- and career-related goals. However, while making a New Year’s resolution for career change and success can be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our lives, it’s really just the first step.

Positive intent can be a powerful motivating force for change and growth in our lives, but the truth is that it’s often not enough—this is the reason why the majority of us fail to completely commit and follow through on the resolutions we make each year. The truth is, most resolutions flounder in the starting gate without any real forward progress ever being made, and many others are met with a feeble, half-hearted effort that eventually goes nowhere. We need more than a positive attitude and hope—we need a plan.

According to a recent article on The Muse, “Those who took meaningful steps to achieve their resolutions—setting step-by-step goals or telling their friends and family, for example—were far more likely to achieve their desires than those who made no specific commitments… So if you really want to see results this year, it’s critical that you set your goals with sincerity, and set yourself up for success.”

What are your New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018? More importantly, do you have a plan for achieving them? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular career-related resolutions, and some advice for taking them past the “good idea” stage and closer to the “goal achieved” category.

I want a promotion.

Who among us doesn’t want a loftier position with a more impressive sounding title and a higher salary, regardless of where we currently work? The truth is, this isn’t always an immediately attainable reality for everyone—maybe you’re just getting started at your current job and it’s too soon to start thinking about a promotion, or maybe the place you work at is small and there’s no clear upward trajectory. Whatever the reason, if you’re seeking a promotion and there’s no obvious path for growth for you in your current job, perhaps this means you should make a more drastic change as part of your New Year’s resolution planning.

However, if there are opportunities for growth on the horizon for you, then take a step back and a deep breath and think carefully before blindly charging into your boss’s office and demanding a promotion.

Take stock of your current situation—have you spent the last year working hard to convince your boss that you are ready, willing, and able to take the next step to a new job with greater responsibility? Has your boss been giving you positive feedback all year about how valuable you are to the company and how everyone is impressed with the job you’ve been doing? If so, then you’ve already been working hard to achieve your goal of getting a promotion—the next step is choosing the right time, place, and method for asking for one. This is highly subjective and based on your individual job situation. Do you have annual review meetings with your boss to discuss such issues? If so, then this would be the ideal time to broach this subject. Or perhaps your boss is open to feedback and discussions whenever they arise. If so, choose a day when your boss seems to be in a good mood and go for it!

Maybe you haven’t been getting great signals that your boss would be terribly receptive to the idea of you asking for a promotion. If this sounds more like your reality, then it may be wise to concoct a more long-term plan. Spend the next several months—maybe even the entire next year—anticipating your boss’s needs, doing your job to the absolute best of your ability, and sowing the seeds for popping the big “promotion question” next year. Like we said earlier, sometimes you need a plan, and there’s nothing quite as defeating or draining as asking for a promotion before you’re ready and meeting rejection.

I want a new job.

Okay so maybe you’ve reached as high and as far as you can possibly go in your current job, faced every challenge, conquered every obstacle, and mastered every skill that you could possible acquire. It’s time–you’re ready for a change. It happens, and it’s a perfectly natural and healthy part of any career path. In fact, job changes are often great opportunities to climb to the next rung on your career ladder. However you should consider some advance planning before you race out of your current job screaming, “I quit!”

Get a feel for the current job market in your field and area. Are there a wealth of opportunities available, or is it slim pickings? Take a subtle poll of the folks in your peer network who work at other companies. Does it sound like you may be able to go after an opportunity through your contacts?

If conditions out in the job market seem great, then plan for your next steps—polish up your resume and cover letter, make sure your interview clothes still fit, and get out there! However, if you’re seeing some warning signs that right now might not be the best time to jump ship, then bide your time and plan accordingly. Don’t forget, you can do some subtle and covert planning for your next job while you’re at your current one so when the iron is hot you’ll be prepared to strike!

I want to make a major job or career change.

Perhaps you’re just not feeling completely happy or fulfilled in your current industry, and something is telling you that perhaps now is the time to make a major change. This could be a good thing—the truth is, job unhappiness is often a major cause of mental and physical distress and could have a wide range of negative effects on our health and well-being.

According to a recent Huffington Post blog post by Alexander Kjerulf, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Woohoo inc, “Way too many people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of employees are miserable at work.” Kjerulf goes on to say that hating your job can weaken your immune system, make you gain weight, rob you of sleep, ruin your personal relationships, and even increase your risk of serious illness. Not a good way to ring in the New Year!

So, if you’re eager to make a major job or career change… you guessed it, make a plan. Consider making a list of pros and cons for taking the plunge. If everything in your life is pointing to making a major change, figure out what new goal makes the most sense for you. Take an inventory of your skills and experience, along with your interests and aspirations, and figure out which careers/industries you best align with. Do you have any friends or family who have jobs that sound potentially intriguing to you? If so, ask them more about it. Do your research—the Internet is a great source of information for researching new companies and careers.

Although making a big career change can be a wonderful moment in your life, acting impulsively could really backfire. There are countless stories of people who made quick decisions to leave their current working worlds for new ones, only to discover that they were ill-informed and really had no idea what they were getting into and wound up being just as unhappy—or even unhappier—as they were before. Don’t become just another unfortunate member of this group. Plan wisely and carefully, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a real shot at positive and lasting change.
I want to build new job skills.

This is a great goal for most of us and can really help put you in a better position to achieve the other resolutions on this list in the future—getting a promotion or a new job, or even changing industries. And even if none of these goals are in your immediate future, acquiring new skills can be a rewarding and fulfilling enterprise on its own and help us feel more empowered and effective in our current positions.

If you’re looking to acquire new job skills in the new year, consider the following. Do you want to acquire skills that will make you more effective at your current job or a new one? Your answer to this question will help you determine which skills you should look at. Also, are you looking to invest money towards acquiring new skills? If so, there are a wealth of career and adult education/skill-development programs available across the country; a great place to start is researching the offerings at colleges and universities in your area. You’ll likely come across a wealth of options, both in class and online—you just need to decide which are right for you.

If money is an issue and you’re looking for a more cost-effective approach, there are some great free and low-cost options online. One great resource is Skillshare, an online learning community created, maintained, and curated by veterans and experts in their respective fields who are dedicated to teaching others the skills they’ve acquired.

Here’s the bottom line—many folks who are unhappy with their work lives or who are just eager for a fresh start or new challenge take the new year as an opportunity to make a change, and it’s a great time to do so! Because so many people are focused on career changes at the beginning of a new year, many companies and industries ramp up their hiring during this time—and those among us who are serious and dedicated can take full advantage of this reality. If this sounds like you, perhaps now is a great time to move forward—but do so wisely and plan accordingly. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Continue on  to read more articles like this on The Muse

Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start

LinkedIn

College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.

Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.

Have the money talk

Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.

“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”

Here are some topics to start with:

  • Who is paying for college and how. Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide if your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, use funds from a 529 plan or combine these options.
  • What expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you’ll have to budget for other college costs, like transportation and school supplies. Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost and agree who pays for what. (See more on expenses below.)
  • FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. Discuss your financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
  • Credit cards and bank accounts. If you’re considering opening a credit cardaccount for the first time, are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll need a co-signer: a parent or other adult. You’ll want to talk about ground rules, like only using a credit card for emergencies and defining what constitutes an emergency. Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.

Anticipate your expenses

To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:

  • Textbooks and school supplies. Course materials could eat up a large chunk of your budget. The average estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions in 2016-2017 was $1,250, according to the College Board. Also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.
  • Room and board. When it comes to food and living arrangements, weigh your options. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment and shopping for groceries.

Continue onto NerdWallet to read the complete article.

3 Things to Know Before You Pick a Health Insurance Plan

LinkedIn

Choosing a health insurance plan can be complicated. Knowing just a few things before you compare plans can make it simpler.

  1. The 4 “metal” categories: There are 4 categories of health insurance plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories show how you and your plan share costs. Plan categories have nothing to do with quality of care.

Which metal category is right for you?

Bronze

  • Lowest monthly premium
  • Highest costs when you need care
  • Bronze plan deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your insurance plan starts to pay — can be thousands of dollars a year.
  • Good choice if: You want a low-cost way to protect yourself from worst-case medical scenarios, like serious sickness or injury. Your monthly premium will be low, but you’ll have to pay for most routine care yourself.

Silver

  • Moderate monthly premium
  • Moderate costs when you need care
  • Silver deductibles — the costs you pay yourself before your plan pays anything — are usually lower than those of Bronze plans.

Gold

  • High monthly premium
  • Low costs when you need care
  • Deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your plan pays — are usually low.
  • Good choice if: You’re willing to pay more each month to have more costs covered when you get medical treatment. If you use a lot of care, a Gold plan could be a good value.

Platinum

  • Highest monthly premium
  • Lowest costs when you get care
  • Deductibles are very low, meaning your plan starts paying its share earlier than for other categories of plans.
  1. Your total costs for health care: You pay a monthly bill to your insurance company (a “premium”), even if you don’t use medical services that month. You pay out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible, when you get care. It’s important to think about both kinds of costs when shopping for a plan.

When choosing a plan, it’s a good idea to think about your total health care costs, not just the bill (the “premium”) you pay to your insurance company every month.

Other amounts, sometimes called “out-of-pocket” costs, have a big impact on your total spending on health care – sometimes more than the premium itself.

Beyond your monthly premium: Deductible and out-of-pocket costs

  • Deductible: How much you have to spend for covered health services before your insurance company pays anything (except free preventive services)
  • Copayments and coinsurance: Payments you make each time you get a medical service after reaching your deductible
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The most you have to spend for covered services in a year. After you reach this amount, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services.

So how do you find a category that works for you?

  • If you don’t expect to use regular medical services and don’t take regular prescriptions: You may want a Bronze plan. These plans can have very low monthly premiums, but have high deductibles and pay less of your costs when you need care.
  • If you qualify for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs OR want more of your costs covered: Silver plans probably offer the best value. If you qualify for extra savings (“cost-sharing reductions”) your deductible will be lower and you’ll pay less each time you get care. But you get these extra savings ONLY if you enroll in Silver plan. This can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year if you use a lot of care. Even if you don’t qualify for extra savings, Silver plans offer good value — moderate premiums and deductibles, and better coverage of your out-of-pocket costs than a Bronze or Catastrophic plan provide.

If you expect a lot of doctor visits or need regular prescriptions: You may want a Gold plan or Platinum plan. These plans generally have higher monthly premiums but pay more of your costs when you need care.

  1. Plan and network types — HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO: Some plan types allow you to use almost any doctor or health care facility. Others limit your choices or charge you more if you use providers outside their network.

Types of Marketplace plans

Depending on how many plans are offered in your area, you may find plans of all or any of these types at each metal level – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Some examples of plan types you’ll find in the Marketplace:

  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): A managed care plan where services are covered only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network (except in an emergency).
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won’t cover out-of-network care except in an emergency. An HMO may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage. HMOs often provide integrated care and focus on prevention and wellness.
  • Point of Service (POS): A type of plan where you pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A type of health plan where you pay less if you use providers in the plan’s network. You can use doctors, hospitals, and providers outside of the network without a referral for an additional cost.

Source: Healthcare.gov

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