Archive for July 2013

What Everyone Should Know about Tax-Free Weekends

Credit: Hip2Save

Credit: Hip2Save

Do you have $634.78 for school supplies? The average family will spend that during this year’s back-to-school shopping season, according to a recent study by the National Retail Federation. Many experts advise consumers to shop during the tax-free weekends to take advantage of the “excellent” savings that are offered; consequently, spending is expected to exceed $25 billion.

Consumers can save during this shopping season, but here is what everyone should know about Tax-Free Weekends:

When are the Tax-Free Weekends?
The holiday begins in late July, and it ends in late August.

Where are the holidays observed?
The following 17 states are participating in a Tax-Free Weekend at various times: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

What items are exempt?
The tax-free items will vary from state to state; so, be sure to check with retailers in your state. In general, clothing, electronics, footwear, and supplies are exempt.

Who supports the holidays?
Most politicians promote the holiday as stimulating to the economy, and many businesses welcome the increase in customer traffic. Consumers often get excited about the holiday because they are typically shopping for several children, and they want to purchase items at “excellent” savings.

How can the holiday be determined as a success or failure?
Parents often have to deal with crowds and long lines, which may not be worth the effort. Some retailers place maximum amounts on purchases that can be tax exempt (ex. items up to $2500). A few states have indicated that they have lost millions of dollars in revenue due to their inability to collect sales taxes. Yet, the success or failure of this holiday is based on how people feel. Consumers’ often perceive the holiday as a success; so, that becomes their reality. Despite those perceptions, the benefits of tax-free weekends are marginal.

Why are the benefits of Tax-Free Weekends considered marginal?
If you splurge on items that were not on your shopping lists, true savings are not realized. Most retailers give less than 7 percent off, and many retailers only give 4-5 percent off. You don’t pay those state taxes, but you must pay local sales taxes. That’s not quite tax free!

You also need to consider this: August is the best time to buy electronic items (computers, cell phones, etc.), but September is the best time to purchase school supplies. By September, retailers will discount the school supplies that have not sold. Savvy shoppers often purchase school supplies for the next year during the month of September.

Now that you know more about Tax-Free Weekends, will it help you to make better decisions?

Video: Excellent Explanation of Cash Flow

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Cash flows in several different ways, and knowing how it flows can make a difference. Watch now to learn more! The video is basic and extremely easy to understand. If you are easily distracted, the music might be a problem. Please comment to let me know if you gained a better understanding of cash flow. Thank you.

Understanding Cash Flow

Entrepreneur of the Month-July (Series 4 of 4)

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Studies show that less than four percent of people actually fulfill their dreams. With such a daunting statistic, that makes the honoree for the “Entrepreneur of the Month” more special! Ms. Roanita Jenkins is among the few people who have set goals and worked diligently to accomplish her dream! She saw herself achieving her dream; so, she believed it! Then, she prepared to make it happen. After working for someone else for 13 years, she took a leap of faith and became an entrepreneur! I salute Roanita Jenkins, and I hope she has been an inspiration to you during this series!

Here are Ms. Roanita Jenkins’s answers to some interview questions:

What role did your son play in your desire to become an entrepreneur?
My son played a big role in my decision to become an entrepreneur! I am teaching him to think outside the box and not to be limited by others. Having control of my own destiny provided me with the security of knowing I was more in control of his livelihood and mine.

What is the best financial advice that you can share?
Always pay yourself (by saving money). No matter how much or how little a person makes, saving is so very important! By doing this, I was able to start my business debt free; I didn’t have to worry about credit card debt or loans. God is good!

What has been your worst financial decision?
When I was younger, I applied for everything that was offered to me! I did not fully understand how it affected my credit and my debt to credit ratio. That was a tough lesson, but it was a lesson that has made me wiser.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur?
Every aspect of the business is my responsibility. It is also easy to get overwhelmed! Another challenge is finding a balance between work and rest. I am learning the importance of taking time to enjoy life outside the office. Because I love what God has blessed me to do, it just doesn’t seem like hard work to me! I do it with a smile every day!

How do you cope with the challenges of being an entrepreneur?
I have learned that organization is a must. I had to stop and take about a month to get things in order as well as organize my process and procedures. My life has been much easier!

What is one specific thing that you really enjoy doing?
I love working with all markets in the industry, but I have a passion for working with the senior market with their Medicare choices. Seniors are often taken advantage of; so, I take great pride in helping them. My joy comes from being a blessing to them and protecting them for being taken advantage of. I spend a lot of time with them to ensure that they are knowledgeable and comfortable. They can always call me, day or night, weekends included.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an Insurance Consultant?
First, you must have a spirit of service. It’s important to have a love of wanting to help and serve people. IF you don’t service your client, you better believe someone else will! Make it a priority to be the expert in the field.

What is one thing that you would like to improve?
I would like to rebuild the trust that the public has in insurance agents that people have lost over the years due to being taken advantage of. This is the reason it’s important to me to operate with transparency and integrity.

What is your ultimate goal for your company?
My ultimate goal for the RJI agency is to expand into other cities and states as well as to hire and train people with the same value system in which this company was started. I would like to be the one stop shop for all insurance needs and to be recognized as the insurance agency that truly takes care of its clients.

How do you feel about being featured on this blog?
I am so honored! This blog is one of sharing and educating to make us better people. Thank you! I hope that I have motivated someone who wants more control of their destiny but has let fear stop them from pursuing their dreams. I also hope that someone has truly realized that with God all things are possible! In addition, I hope that people now know that there is someone they can come to and have their insurance needs taken care of. They can trust that I have the best products for them. They can just call me for advice, free of charge to them, if they have insurance-related questions. Anything that I can do to help someone better position him/herself, I am ready to help. I am truly living my dream, and I am so thankful for the experience!

Incredible Way to Build Wealth

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Your health is your wealth! When you read or hear this metaphor, you might think of physical well-being. The comparison is made to reflect the importance of taking care of our bodies. Our physical fitness is as important as our financial fitness! Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is the title of an album, a film, and a soundtrack by Curtis Jackson. Some people took 50 Cent, as he is known, literally! So much attention is placed on achieving that other areas are neglected!

Perhaps, some of us need to change our focus from getting rich. I can’t tell you how to get rich, but I can tell you how to obtain wealth! An incredible way to build wealth is to share your time, talents, money, and love with others! Health equals wealth, but this month I am not referring to physical well-being. I am concentrating on our social well-being because our society is full of people who are struggling. What is social well-being?

Our social well-being is determined by our relationships with others and based upon how we talk to, act with, and relate to people. The month of July is observed as Social Wellness Month, and emphasis is placed on improving our social well-being. This is an excellent time to increase positivity and reduce negativity. It doesn’t cost much to help improve someone’s mood or environment. Encouragement is not expensive, and the feedback is often priceless!

When you extend a helping hand, help is often extended to you in ways that you would have never imagined. Doors can open that were previously closed! Do not be discouraged or distracted! Only a few people get rich quickly, while the rest of us have to work diligently to live comfortably. As the gap widens between the rich and the poor, there is still hope! Wealth is not measured in dollars and cents. Some of the richest people remain poor (in mind, body, heart, and soul). Don’t learn all of your lessons from them!

Take note from the following, who are building wealth:

Can you improve your health/social well-being by changing focus (from getting rich to building wealth)? Please comment.

Revealed: Why Mondays Seem Blue

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Research shows that consumers spend more on the weekends-Fridays and Saturdays-while they spend the least on Mondays and Tuesdays. Look around you and observe others. Some of you might not be as alert or responsive as you are during the week. If people feel a little blue today, it might have as much to do with spending as feeling tired!

Have you heard of the “weekend effect?” It is term used in finance to explain stock performance, and it is a term used in psychology to explain employees’ moods. Ironically, it also has a place in many consumers’ psychology of money! Consider your spending habits during the weekend and compare them to weekdays. The spending habits (of many people) are drastically different during the weekends.

Perhaps, changes in spending are also due to more time off work. Boredom often lends to wasting money or other irresponsible activities. There is a high price to pay for wasting money as well being irresponsible. Money-related stress is often the result, and it affects millions of Americans! Last year, Duke University researchers found a link between money-related stress and heart attacks. If you want to your improve your health and reduce the stress on your family, you must first identify the problem.

Take an inventory to identify your weekend purchases. What are you, your spouse, and/or your children buying on the weekends? After identifying your weekend purchases, find alternatives. Some alternatives that you might want to consider are as follows: renting DVDs, listening to Internet radio, using coupons, shopping on sales days, etc. If you do not identify the problem, many of you will continue to splurge! Here are the typical weekend purchases that people splurge on, which can make Mondays seem blue:

  1. food at restaurants
  2. gasoline for vehicles
  3. movie tickets
  4. retail store items
  5. concert tickets
  6. groceries
  7. music
  8. amusement park tickets
  9. airline tickets
  10. online purchases of books, etc.

Challenge: Monitor your weekend spending and notice if there is any change in how you feel on Mondays. Please share your experiences.

Entrepreneur of the Month-July (Series 3 of 4)

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LL Cool J said, “Dreams don’t have deadlines.” Roanita Jenkins realized that she didn’t have a deadline, but it was time to fulfill her dream! She left Vantage after 13 years and opened her own insurance agency, Roanita Jenkins Insurance Agency, LLC, in 2011. She said, “When I opened the doors of my agency, I wanted to be a different kind of insurance agent. I never want to be the kind of agent to focus on commissions for myself. I wanted to share with others my knowledge of insurance, and I wanted to be the type of agent that always put the needs of my client first and foremost.” She decided the best way to do that was to operate as an Insurance Consultant as well as an independent Agent.

Ms. Jenkins became appointed with every major carrier on the market! She also studied the market for all types of products; so, she could always offer options that best fit her clients’ needs. In addition, she made the commitment to always operate with transparency, integrity (which included refusing to do any exclusive contracts with any carriers), and loyalty. Roanita also provides flexibility by offering coverage for various types of insurance, including the following: health, life, dental, burial, and Medicare. Do you need individual coverage or coverage for your business? Roanita Jenkins Insurance Agency, LLC, can provide both services for you. Visit her Website at http://www.rjiagency.com/.

The freedom to be sure that I have the best things for them on the market gives me personal gratification!-Roanita Jenkins

Roanita Jenkins thoroughly enjoys what she does, which makes a difference! What does she enjoy the most about her business? She said, “Since I have an extensive background in working with an insurance company, I love that I am always able to effectively advise my clients! I enjoy helping them in ways that may not have otherwise been available to them.” Furthermore, she enjoys the freedom of looking at the entire market of products without having to worry about being a captive agent with one company. She said, “The freedom to be sure that I have the best things for them on the market gives me personal gratification!”

If you are experiencing “personal gratification” because you have fulfilled your dream, please comment.

Ridiculous Ways to Waste Your Money

Imagine buying something and still owing for it six months later. That’s not so bad, right?! While the media is making a big deal about President Obama’s reelection campaign owing more than $3 million, Hilary Clinton just paid off her debts from 2008 according to reports! What’s worse than spending more than $25 million in a losing effort to Obama? According to the Federal Election Commission records, Clinton borrowed nearly $13 million from her own accounts! As we read about politicians and others, we should reflect on our lifestyles.

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Most of us don’t lose millions from our personal accounts, but many of us are wasting a lot of money! We could do a better job of protecting the money that is available to us. First, I must distinguish between losing and wasting money. Losing money is when your good intentions (i.e. on an election, a business, etc.) do not work out. You realize those financial decisions are not working, cut your losses, and move on. Wasting money is when you know that you have lost money, continue to lose money, and refuse to make the necessary changes!

What are you wasting money on? There are several ways to determine waste. If you have not used the items within one year of purchase, they are often considered wastes. If most of the items you are buying depreciate (lose value), you need to look at that. According to a company that monitors black consumer spending, Target Market, a large amount of blacks’ income is spent on the following depreciable products: clothes, furniture for rental properties, and electronics. Here are some other ridiculous ways to waste your money:

  • Owning a second car: Some parents have two autos while children are in the home, but no longer need two vehicles as empty nesters. As a commuter, I owned a second car to save gas mileage. I wasted money on it after I was no longer commuting. I am grateful that I decided to sell it and “stop eating money!”
  • Paying unnecessary fees: From ATM fees to late fees on bills, poor planning is usually the culprit. I have become more responsible with maturity. I would always say that I knew better; however, knowing is doing! Sometimes, people are unaware of hidden fees. Pay close attention to bank cards, credit cards, mortgages, insurance, etc.
  • Dining out: Many people don’t like to (or have time to) cook any more, and you can tell by the length of the lines at restaurants. This is one of my habits that I am working on because I have read too many reports about how unhealthy the food (preparation, etc.) is for consumers.

Challenge: Determine three ways that you are wasting money and share your strategy to stop wasting it.

Inspiring Money Stories

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” After a weekend of disappointing news, it seemed like people looked for inspiration in several areas. Demonstrations, peaceful (for the most part) vigils, and dedications were held throughout the country. I sought comfort in the Word, and I encourage others to do the same. Sometimes, God is the only One who can lift our spirits in this troubled world.

On other occasions, I will admit that it helps to know that there are good human beings on this earth. So, I searched for some money stories which would show that some people still have a heart for others. These money stories confirmed that everyone is not consumed by hate, and it gives me hope for a better society! I chose to share these stories with you, and I expect for them to do the same. Here are 7 inspiring money stories from around the United States:

  1. I LOVE My HBCUs: Tom Joyner offered Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, a full scholarship. Click the link for more information.

  2. Just Heavenly: All it took was just one person to set off a chain reaction of kindness at Heav’nly Donuts in Amesbury, MA! Read here to find out more.

  3. Georgia Peach: This sweet lady, Anita Carson, received tokens of appreciation for giving so much of herself. Watch the video of the random acts of kindness.

  4. 85 More Reasons: Since Vernon Davis returned to his alma mater to encourage students, I have 85 more reasons to cheer for the San Francisco 49ers Tight End! Read more about #85 and other blacks who give back.

  5. That’s Clutch: Ebony Oshunrinde, a Toronto native, has made it to the big time! One of her beats is on Jay-Z’s new album! How is that for a girl who started at 9-years-old?

  6. Sweet Dreams: When these two sisters couldn’t find what they wanted, they created it! Discover how Halle and Brea Holmes introduced their own line of beauty products.

  7. Their Own: A local Hispanic-owned company in Atlanta pledged thousands of dollars to help Latino students continue their education. Find out more here.

Do you have an inspiring money story to share? Please comment.

Entrepreneur of the Month-July (Series 2 of 4)

In 1998, Roanita Jenkins began working for Vantage Health Plan as a receptionist. Although that was not her preference, she viewed it as a way to get into the company and learn more about the business. She also stated that her dad pushed her from the very beginning to get into the Marketing & Sales Department in order to grow and learn more about the business. She said, “I became very intrigued with insurance, how it works, and the constant problems that we all have with the insurance products we purchase.”

She was inspired by the company’s vision for creating jobs and offering better, more affordable insurance to residents and businesses in the State of Louisiana. The president of the company had a vision, and she has always been excited to be associated with visionaries. As a young girl, her dad would talk to her about his visions of entrepreneurship. She always wondered how visions are first dreamed of, planned for, and then implemented. She said, “The entire process fascinated me!”

Ms. Jenkins went from fascination to application! Over a 13 year period, she was promoted to the following positions: Member Service Representative, Account Executive, Senior Account Executive, and Assistant Director of Marketing & Sales. Roanita said, “With the positions that I held, I was able to learn about the insurance industry from the ground up. I have interacted with all positions and levels of insurance, including the following: CFO’s, CEO’s, Actuaries, Accountants, Customer Service Reps, and Medicaid/Medicare Professionals.”

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During her ninth year at Vantage, her dad recognized her growth and passion for wanting to help others with insurance. He talked with her about her goals and dreams. Roanita said, “I shared with him at that time that I would love to have my own business. As an entrepreneur, I could help to educate others about insurance, remind them of the importance of it, and work on their behalf to ensure they have good coverage’s at affordable prices.” She had also witnessed people becoming frustrated for several reasons.

As a result, service became of the upmost importance to her. She developed a burning desire to educate and to help others. She wanted to be an agent that others could really trust and feel comfortable enough to go to for answers. Her dad continued to encourage her to pursue her dream of becoming an entrepreneur, but fear kept her from doing so. In December of 2011, she finally stepped out on faith to pursue her dream. She left Vantage and opened her own insurance agency, Roanita Jenkins Insurance Agency.

We salute Roanita Jenkins for overcoming her fear! What is stopping you from achieving your dream? Please comment.

Weird Money Stories

What would you do for a _____ Bar? If you are of a certain age, this question will not stump you! I don’t know what you would do for this chocolate covered (vanilla ice cream) dessert, but I doubt that you would commit a crime. Many people throughout the world have done some bizarre things to get their hands on money! It might actually stump you that so many people continue to do outrageous things in an effort to improve their financial situations. It seems that little regard is given for ethics, life, or love.

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Mr. Thomas Tusser wrote, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” When people forsake good judgement to gain money at any cost, they are seldom able to hold onto those ill-gotten gains. Here are people from around the globe who were involved in weird money stories:

  1. On the Take: Joon Park, a loan broker in Virginia, was recently sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. According to prosecutors, he was able to garner $100 million in bank loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration based on forged documents. Discover how the 43-year-old arranged more than 100 deceptive loans.

  2. Brother, Brother: They’re names are not Cain and Abel, but these brothers were involved in a murder! A Chicago man conspired with his younger brother to kill his wife in 2009. After nearly four years, Darron Brewer and Dujuan Powe finally faced a jury to attempt to answer why they were “in for the kill!” Darron stated that he realized that he was gay, and he planned to kill his wife for insurance money. Read more to find out what was really going on, including the following: confessions of consensual sex, a fake carjacking, and the shooting of a mother of two.

  3. Return Policy: When I see adults with 2-4 children, I frequently make a “simple” request. I’ll say, “Let me have them.” I don’t know their relationships to the children, but their responses are overwhelmingly the same. The adults often reply, “You’ll bring them back!” I still have not had more than five people to give me the desired response: To let the children hear them say something reassuring. Too many of our children hear negativity; so, I try to promote positivity.

  4. A recent case in Norway reminded me of my “Press Positive” activity. In an attempt to blackmail their parents, three young adults from Kristiansand faked their own kidnapping. All under 23-years-old, the two females and one male, were arrested this week. I’m sure their parents are troubled about their attempt to get a “refund” for their return! Learn more about the police investigator’s view on this type of exploitation.

Have you read about other weird money stories? Please comment.