November is National Scholarship Month NOW is the time to start applying for scholarships

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SALT LAKE CITY–TFS Scholarships is the most comprehensive free online resource for higher education funding connecting students to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid.

It was founded in 1987 after Richard Sorensen’s father, an inner-city high school principal, bemoaned the lack of good scholarship resources for his students.

High school seniors now applying for college should also be applying for scholarships, according to Richard Sorensen, an expert with more than 30 years experience helping students find scholarships.

“College bound students should spend four to five hours a week looking for scholarships, starting in the fall of their senior year,” says Sorensen, President of TFS Scholarships. “They should think about finding scholarships like it’s a part time job.”

A scholarship, unlike a student loan, is free money and should always be the first place students look for help in funding their college education. The majority of the scholarship opportunities featured on the TFS Scholarships website come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools, thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships.

“There are new scholarships posted on the site every month, each with different deadlines and time frames,” says Sorensen. “There is plenty of aid out there and a lot of it goes untouched. If a student is diligent, they’ll find it.”

TFS Scholarships also posts a new scholarship opportunity every day on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@TFSscholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities. “We call it ‘The Scholarship of the Day,’” says Sorensen. “Most of the scholarships are available for all students so if a student or their parents follow us, they will have the opportunity to apply for more than 300 scholarships every year from this source alone.”

TFS takes it a step further, digging deeper into localized scholarships. “If you wanted to go to Arizona State, for example, we have scholarships specific to that school,” says Sorensen.

Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database in an effort to stay current with national scholarship growth rates – maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.

Once students have their scholarships in hand, how they manage them can have important implications. It is up to the student to inform the school of the scholarship.

“The truth is, the money is going to be sent to the school in most cases,” says Sorensen. “If the money is going to tuition and books, it’s tax free. But it is taxable if they use it for living expenses. And if students get more money in scholarships than their direct expenses, they get the difference back from the school,” says Sorensen.

The TFS website also provides financial aid information, resources about federal and private student loan programs, and a Career Aptitude Quiz that helps students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

Thanks to the financial support of Wells Fargo, TFS has remained a free, online service that effectively connects students with college funding resources to fuel their academic future. “Students trust us with a lot of their personal information and we respect that,” says Sorensen. “With TFS, they never have to be worried about being bombarded by spam.”

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.

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IBM Latin America Executive Shares How She Developed Skills That Led Her To Success

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The Inspirational Executive Series consists of interviews with our executive IBMers to demonstrate how you can successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market. Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives to succeed in every aspect of their careers.

Ana Paula has a 20-year international experience in the IT industry, and has devoted her career to strategic business development, operational excellence, change management of large and multicultural organizations and innovative leadership. Since joining IBM in 1996, Ana has held a series of leadership positions such as Services Director for Financial Services Industry for IBM Latin America, Vice President Software Group for IBM Brazil, and Vice President Software for IBM Greater China Group.

In 2017, she returned to Latin America as General Manager for the regional technology services organization. In July of the same year, Ana was appointed General Manager for IBM Latin America responsible for all the operations of the company in the major countries across South America and Mexico.

What skills and experience have you developed over your career to lead you to this position?

I started my career as a Sales Rep in IBM and have since done a number of roles which have enabled me to build on my skills and experience. Then I moved on to bigger accounts in the Financial Services Industry in our large office in São Paulo. I went from sales rep to business unit manager and after 10 years, I had an international assignment in the US as the Chief of Staff for our General Manager for the Americas. It was a great opportunity to see the company from a strategic perspective, develop relationships and a network that would help in in future roles and see how a senior executive of the company operates in their day-to-day.

15 months later, as the assignment finished, I returned to Latin America to our Services organization (Global Technology Services) running Strategic Outsourcing. This was my first job managing a full P&L with the mission to identify and develop new businesses, grow existing clients, approve investments, optimize cost structures. Certainly a very fascinating role given the breadth and complexity as well as the opportunity to manage a business end-to-end.

After that, I ran Software Group for Brazil with responsibility for all the software brands and services which opened the door for another assignment – Software in Greater China Group. Experiencing a whole different culture in a country so different from my own allowed me to significantly broaden my perspective, both professionally and personally. It expanded my horizons and made myself more resilient but also allowed me to develop something I have never experienced before…being vulnerable. Needing other people to accomplish the most basic things (like going to the bank), makes you humble and teaches you how to ask for help. I returned back to Latin America last year, first running GTS Latin America for a few months and then taking up the General Management role for the whole region.

What is your favorite thing about being an IBMer?

I love being part of a company that has had such an impact on the development and progress of humankind. IBM never stops doing amazing things, it is constantly evolving and defining the future.

Can you tell us about the work you do outside of your role as GM LA at IBM, for example the work with JA Americas?

I am a member of the board of JA Americas—a non-profit organization focused on the professional development of young students—which a very rewarding role I thoroughly enjoy. It is great to see the students develop as a result of our mentoring and advice which covers a range of topics such as the skills of the future and talent.

Continue onto IBM to read the complete article.

Latinos Feel the American Dream Could Be Disappearing

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Latino family

SPRINGFIELD, MA.–Financial security and homeownership are at the heart of the American Dream, but many Latinos feel the idea of the American Dream could be disappearing, according to the latest State of the American Family Study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

The new study examines American family attitudes towards finances and financial planning, and found that one-third (38 percent) of Latinos believe the American Dream is disappearing. When asked about the definition of the American Dream, not living paycheck to paycheck is more likely to be part of the American Dream for Latinos. Latino households are more likely to have a broader definition of family that includes extended family, and one in four (24 percent) worry about being able to care for their parents as well as their own nuclear family.

“With strong family and cultural values, Latino families are juggling multiple financial priorities, such as a future caregiver role for elderly parents,” says David Hufnagel, Latino market director at MassMutual. “We want to empower families with resources to help them achieve their long-term financial goals and prepare them to protect their loved ones from unexpected events.”

Juggling Financial Priorities

Latinos face some big challenges, including having the lowest household income of all segments surveyed and being among the least prepared for a financial emergency. With an average household income of $107,801 of those surveyed, it appears that Latinos have relatively lower accumulated wealth. Latinos have diverse financial priorities:

  • Having an emergency fund (81 percent)
  • Ensuring stable income for the family in case of an unexpected event (76 percent)
  • Not becoming a financial burden for family (74 percent)
  • Developing a comprehensive financial plan (65 percent)
  • Paying for college education (61 percent)

Interestingly, 75 percent of those who selected homeownership as part of their American Dream are confident that they will one day own a home if they do not already. However, although short-term needs such as building an emergency fund and ensuring stable family income if the unexpected happens are top priorities, they worry about meeting competing long-term goals as well as issues beyond their control.

Paying Down Debt

Paying for higher education and wanting to play an active role in preparing children for future success through financial education are especially important for Latinos. But as student debt levels continue to rise in the U.S., many families are worried about managing both day-to-day expenses and paying down debt. The majority of Latinos carry some type of debt in the form of mortgages, credit cards and student loans:

  • 63% have a mortgage. The average mortgage debt is $181,292.
  • 64% have credit card debt. The average credit card debt is $9,652.
  • 27% have student loan debt. The average student loan debt is $32,650.

Preparing for Financial Emergencies

Latinos are less prepared than other consumer populations surveyed for a financial emergency with 19 percent having less than a month of monthly expenses saved.

  • 28% of Latinos have 1-3 months of expenses saved if there was an emergency.
  • 23% of Latinos have 3-6 months of expenses saved if there was an emergency.
  • 21% of Latinos have more than 6 months of their monthly expenses if there was an emergency.

“We want to help mitigate worry and build confidence in attaining the American Dream,” says Hufnagel. Our financial advisors, many whom are bilingual, are committed to providing practical action steps to help families in their local communities meet both short-term financial goals and long-term financial security.”

MassMutual offers the following three financial tips to help address top financial concerns of Latinos:

  1. Pay down debt: The key is to find the proper balance between debt, income, savings, and retirement as part of an overall financial strategy. Start to find that balance by viewing the elimination of your debt as a long-term financial goal — one that is planned for, reviewed, and assessed regularly. Consider creating a debt management plan, or use MassMutual’s 5-10-15-20 calculator, which can help address your financial goals and concerns: income, savings, retirement and debt.
  1. Establish an emergency fund: An emergency fund is a reserve devoted to unplanned financial disasters such as sudden job loss, a house fire or a trip to the hospital. To play it safe, financial professionals recommend couples sock away between six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid, interest bearing account – more if your job security is in question or you are self-employed.
  1. Save for college: Start saving as early as you can, even at birth for a child’s education.  Remember that time is on your side to have your money work for you through interest earned and compounded over the years.  With a comprehensive savings strategy, you can help reduce – or possibly eliminate – your child’s need for student loans.  To help you figure out how much you need to save, visit the MassMutual college savings calculator.

Other helpful financial tips and an overview of research findings from the Hispanic and other groups can be found at massmutual.com/familystudy

To find a local financial advisor near you, visit MassMutual.com.

Methodology

The State of the American Family survey was conducted for MassMutual by Isobar between January 19 and February 7, 2018 via a 20-minute online questionnaire. The survey comprised 3,235 interviews with American households with children under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible and polled 562 Americans who identified themselves as Hispanic with an annual household income equal to or greater than $50,000. Interviews were conducted among men and women aged 25-64. Respondents had to contribute at least 40% to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify. Results were weighted to the 2017 CPS March Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the US Census for age, gender, income, ethnicity, region, and weighted to the 2016 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample for same sex married/partnered couples, to be representative of American families in this age and income bracket. This study includes trending data for the previous survey wave conducted in 2013. The sampling margin of error for this study is +/- 1.72 percentage points at the 95% confidence level when looking at the results for the total surveyed population.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit massmutual.com.

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Why Women Should Invest and How to Get Started

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Women looking at computer

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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iGen

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.

New research shows that Latino business owners are making significant strides compared to a national average

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MassMutual

The Latino business community has made significant strides over the past three years in their business and financial planning compared to a national sample according to the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) refreshed Business Owner Perspectives Study, which provides a look at the changes in the Latino small business owners’ mindset over the last three years (from 2015 to 2018).

As an example, findings indicate that Latino business owners are notably more likely than in the past, and more likely than the national sample, to have a succession plan in place. Sixty nine percent of Latino owners have a written succession plan and 59 percent have a buy-sell agreement in case of death (and 52 percent in case of disability).

Also, Latino owners are significantly (48 percent) more likely than the national sample to report funding their buy sell agreements with cash flow from their business. “Our research found that Latino entrepreneurs are generally taking significant steps in their business and financial planning and are more likely to be motivated by family and community,” said David Hufnagel, Latino Market Director, MassMutual. “The study shows significant progress for the next generation of Latino business owners. Many indicated that they have the necessary resources in place to help protect their company in case of unforeseen events, and that there is still room for improvement.”

Key Business Issues
The MassMutual research showed that employee loyalty and valuation remain the top issues for Latino business owners and are in line with the national sample. Interestingly, however, Latino business owners today are much more likely to be thinking about key business issues than they were in 2015 – and much more frequently than the national sample.

More good news: Nearly all survey respondents reported having gone through the financial planning process and the majority of respondents do it every year. Additionally, Latino business owners are also more likely to have had their business valued (73 percent) in the past three years than the national sample (63 percent). In terms of employee benefits, they are also more likely to offer financial planning benefits to their top employees.

Latina owners in particular are more likely than other women owners to have buy sell agreements in the event of death and disability, valuation, and a business succession plan.

Retirement
When it comes to their future and retirement, Latino business owners are more likely than the national sample to say they will retire but haven’t given it much thought (31 percent vs. 25 percent of the national sample). Only 24 percent say they plan to retire in the next five years, likely driven by the younger average age of Latino business owners.

Latino business owners are also less likely planning to fund retirement through personal savings, a retirement account or Social Security but are more confident of their estimates. Furthermore, 63 percent of Latinos are very or extremely confident regarding their estimates on sources of retirement income, significantly higher than the national sample (53 percent).

Latina business owners are less likely to have gone into business for a lifestyle of independence, and prioritize financial planning for personal over business. They are also more likely to offer benefits to key employees than other women owners.

Exit Strategy
Overall, Latino business owners’ exit strategy and plans to pass on the business are similar to the national sample. When it comes to their ideal exit strategy, 34 percent of Latinos plan to leave business to family member (vs. 30 percent of the national sample), 21 percent would like to sell business to key employee (vs. 21 percent of national sample), and 14 percent would like the business sold to an outside buyer (vs. 17 percent of the national sample).

To learn more about planning for your business or to locate a financial professional near you, visit massmutual.com/business.

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Methodology
The 2018 MassMutual Business Owners research was conducted by Hawk Partners for MassMutual via an online survey of 284 Latino and 801 general population business owners from December 13th – January 15, 2018. The sampling margin of error for this study is +/– 4.9% percentage points when looking at the results for the total small business population. These are at a 90% confidence level.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit massmutual.com.

10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Financial Future

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Smiling businesswoman

Know More About Who’s Helping and What You Want

1.   Without exception, thoroughly investigate any person, organization, or company offering to provide you with financial planning or investment advice, products, and services. Check licenses and registrations through your state securities agency or the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFB). Get a second or third objective opinion on every important decision you make regarding your retirement investments and savings.

2.   Know the cost of buying, selling and staying in any investment you are considering.

3.   Know your specific risk tolerance—what you can and cannot afford to lose. Get in writing that any planner or investment advisor you use will honor your wishes.

4.   Assume that any get-rich-quick scheme is fraud. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it is! Do not make investment decisions alone, in a hurry, or all at once. Become knowledgeable and stay on top of news about Medicare, credit cards, and investment products so that you don’t feel pressured by someone claiming to know what’s best for you.

5.   Don’t give someone money in exchange for a promise to get money, especially in an email offer. Never spend money to become eligible to win something.

6.   Take Charge of Your Personal Information. Take action to prevent identity theft, including paying close attention to your credit report, unexplained credit card charges, and other items.

7.   Be extremely zealous about your personal information. Never give out your Social Security number, bank account or other private data to a person or organization you don’t know or can’t verify—especially over the phone, on a website, or in response to email.

8.   Put your family’s name on the “Do Not Call” list (donotcall.gov), and have a policy of immediately hanging up on people who call to pressure you to buy anything.

9. Eliminate pre-screened credit and insurance offers. Instruct the Direct Marketing Association to stop all junk mail from being delivered to your home—or at least customize it to your tastes.

10. Use your own checks, not the blank checks that arrive unsolicited through the mail. Don’t just throw these away. Buy a shredder and destroy the checks and any credit card offers or other material (old credit cards, old bank statements, bills with account numbers, old tax returns, etc.) that could be used by others to pretend they are you.

Source: nextavenue.org

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

LinkedIn

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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Latinos at office meeting

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

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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.

Hispanic Women are the Key to Hispanic Buying Power

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As Hispanics continue to thrive—in education, career, resources, representation—their access to capital and buying power will increase accordingly, and their purchases will have a significant impact on the economy, not the least of which will be the purchase of a home. It is crucial to learn the best ways to serve Hispanic homebuyers, not only to help them make the best purchases, but to ensure their growth is encouraged and safeguarded rather than delayed or prevented altogether.

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, there were 57 million Hispanics in the United States, accounting for 18 percent of the entire U.S. population; this is a grand increase from 1980 when this group comprised 6.5 percent of the population. In their 2014 population predictions, the Census Bureau estimates that the Hispanic population will more than double by 2060 to 119 million.

NAHREP’s 2015 State of Hispanic Homeownership report shows that in 2015, Hispanic households grew by 245,000, 69 percent of total U.S. household growth. The study articulates, “For the first time in 10 years, the Hispanic homeownership rate spiked upward while overall homeownership rates in the country continued a downward trend.” The report goes on to reveal that between 2000 and 2015, Hispanics were responsible for 66 percent of American labor force growth; in February 2016, the rate of Hispanic unemployment was 5.4 percent, down 7.7 percentage points since August 2009; in 2014 the poverty rate for Hispanics fell to 23.7 percent; and in the same year, the median Hispanic household income rose 7.3 percent to $42,492.

When coupled with a purchasing power of $1.5 trillion, projected to increase and account for 10.6 percent of total U.S. buying power by 2019, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the potential impact of Hispanics on the housing sector is tremendous.

Education
Education has always been a critical tool to successfully navigate the American workforce and amass the means to become a homeowner; it has only grown in importance, as it is often no longer a question of getting an education, but of what level degree to achieve.

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that the rate of Hispanic high school graduation reached 76.3 percent in 2014, the highest in 31 years. NCES also confirms that the number of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 attending two- or four-year colleges has more than tripled since 1993. Additionally, according to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics who attained less than a ninth grade education decreased from 40.2 to 21 percent between 1980 and 2013.

The Pew Research Center also confirms that Asian-Americans are the population with the highest percentage of bachelor degree-educated or higher people with 51.5 percent, a figure that was 34.2 in 1980 and has improved steadily since. This upward trajectory is mirrored in the homeownership rates of Asian-Americans, which rose from 52.3 percent in 1980 to 59 in 2014, according to AREAA’S State of Asia America 2015 study. Receiving an education doesn’t guarantee homeownership, we cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but it is very valuable. As Hispanics achieve higher levels of education they will situate themselves in increasingly favorable positions to accumulate the necessary means and resources to become homeowners, and homeownership in the Hispanic community will increase.

Capitalizing
With the potential they possess, the Hispanic population is of great importance to the real estate industry; Hispanic buying activity means millions of dollars in business, millions of homes being sold and an abundant client base. In order to ensure their growth is reinforced through homeownership, and their business is capitalized on, it is important to learn how to best serve Hispanics.

A recent report, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate & NAHREP Hispanic Women Survey, sheds light on the secret to unlocking the Hispanics’ purchasing power: women.

The study found:

  • 91 percent of women surveyed believe that buying a home is the soundest investment they can make
  • 66 percent of women surveyed, and 84 percent of non-homeowner millennials surveyed, believe they will be capable of purchasing a home in their lifetime
  • 61 percent think they will make most of the decisions in their next home buying process
  • Half of survey participants expect to remain in their current homes for five years or less before buying their next home
  • On average, the women surveyed stated that they are responsible for 69 percent of household purchases over $100, and one-third of them reported being responsible for all of these purchases
  • 61 percent of respondents don’t think it’s important for their real estate agent to speak Spanish, but, of the participants currently searching for a home, 48 percent prefer a Spanish-speaking agent
  • 73 percent of women surveyed prefer working with a female real estate agent over a male

Providing utmost service to your client is the top priority, and agents must take into account what clients prefer from the start. Great service is crucial, sometimes receiving it from the right person makes a world of difference for consumers. As Hispanics progress in education and in the workforce, they will become equipped to purchase homes, and just as important as being able to buy a home is their desire to do so. The business, buying activity and opportunity is there, and as population estimates predict, it’s here to stay. For professionals hoping to do business with these potential homebuyers, learning the best ways of serving Hispanic women is the key.

Source: www.nawrb.com