Category Archives: Business Plan

Money Management Tips for Your Child’s College Degree Education

Proper financial planning and money management for the purpose of college education of your children is absolutely essential, in view of the fact that the cost of college education has almost doubled in the last ten years and it is likely to become more expensive in the future. As we have entered an era of knowledge economy the advantages of a college degree have increased manifold.

It is an undeniable fact that young people who earn a college degree are more likely to have a higher income, enter an occupation that is more satisfying and get more opportunities for growth, than someone who doesn’t have a college degree. College education equips young people with critical and analytical thinking skills that are important in almost all fields today, especially the highly technical fields.

The cost of college education includes tuition fees, room and board fees, cost of books and transportation costs. If you wish to provide college education for your children you must plan ahead from now and this is where personal money management comes in. The earlier you start the more flexibility and choices you will have. Later on you will have other expenses and financial goals like buying a house and planning for retirement. In fact it is best to start saving and investing for your child’s college degree from birth to ease the pressure later on.

Saving and investing for college education will require a special program to be pursued specifically for this purpose. Your financial planning and money management strategies for college degree will depend on how early or how late you start. If the goal is far into the future, say ten years or more you can use aggressive investment strategies that involve some risks. When you are planning for long term you can use a variety of investment options so that your money can grow significantly. In case it is near you can use only low risk investments

The advantage of long term planning is that through compounding your money can grow to a significant amount over time putting less pressure on your earnings. Just setting aside a small amount every month will be sufficient to cover future college degree expenses of your children and you will not be under pressure when you will need to buy a family home and plan for retirement expenses. Of course these can also be included in your early financial planning. This will allow your children to complete college with less or no debt and they will have more choice of colleges and courses to join.

For the purpose of proper planning and execution of your college degree financing plan you need to assess the number of years until your child goes to college, projected cost of college education at that time in view of the past rates of escalation, amount that can be easily set aside from the household income, rate of inflation, possibility of student employment during college, availability of student loan, etc. A clear picture will no doubt help you to clearly chalk out your money management strategies for savings and investment. You can then look for and evaluate investment alternatives that will help you achieve your goals by balancing safety and yield.

You should diversify your investments so that the growth of your funds can outpace the rate of inflation to a great degree. According to financial experts you should aim at a return of around 3 percent over the rate of inflation because promises of more returns can be risky. You must keep in mind that investments with much higher yields will put your capital at risk. Liquidity may be also an important consideration for you but you should remember the fact that more liquidity might mean slower growth of your investments.

Various investment options are available for you depending on the age of your child. If you start before your child is 12 you can consider investing in stocks and/or growth-stock mutual funds. For children up to 16 years a series of bonds that mature each college degree year can be considered as they carry lower risk. If the child is above 16 then you should move into low risk investments so that the capital is protected. Short term government securities, money market funds, savings bonds and certificates of deposit are a good choice at this time.

In addition to the money management strategies described above other options for funding college education of your children are also available. Some states allow you to prepay college tuition fees. You can purchase one, two, three or four years of college in advance for your child’s college degree but you have to be sure that your child will not need to study out of state as each state has its own procedures and policies. If the refund policy and other terms suit you then this avenue should be definitely explored.

Another possibility is to borrow from a 40(K) retirement account but the limitation is that the amount has to be repaid within five years. A home equity loan which may also be tax deductible, can also be considered for funding your child’s college education. Thus if you wish to save for a college degree for your child, the essential money management and investment strategies are to begin as early as possible, save regularly, evaluate the risk and return of various types of investment and diversify your investments. It is important to regularly keep reviewing and adjusting your investment portfolio for maximum return on investment.

How to Market a Business: Ten Ways to Set Your Organization Apart

1) Develop a written marketing plan that defines objectives for today, the immediate future, and projected future. Your marketing plan should encompass budget, headcount, new technology, and trends.

2) Once you establish marketing goals, communicate them to the entire organization. Every employee in your firm, regardless of title or position, helps market your company. When everyone is on the same page the marketing effort becomes that much stronger.

3) Hire marketing people that know how to write and design to avoid unnecessary outsourcing costs, and use marketing dollars wisely to create quality brochures, proposal materials, and online newsletters. Printed material has a limited shelf life so create items that can be easily updated.

4) Develop a strong public relations strategy, as it will help customers get to know your firm in ways advertising cannot. Public relations may involve the development of news items that appears in objective sources, expanding an element of community service, or just managing the press your firm already receives.

5) Engage in advertising that will produce the biggest impact. If your budget is tight, don’t dole out small amounts of advertising dollars for things like marketing “trinkets” or a series of small ads. Instead, determine your target client base and develop regular ad placement in a publication your prime customers peruse often.

6) Make sure all collateral material is consistent with other areas of your brand. Be consistent with the look and content of proposals, brochures, letterhead, business cards, and job signs. Consistency is what helps customers develop recognition for your firm.

7) Determine what your firm does better than any of your rival businesses, then market that skill to differentiate from your competition. Once you define your firm’s unique area of expertise, reiterate this in proposals, advertising, and public relations.

8) Understand what your brand really represents. It can be difficult to take a step back from your company and see it as a customer would, but this is an important step to marketing. Pay close attention to what customers say about you.

9) Banish the fire drill mentality in preparing proposals. A clearly communicated set of expectations with regard to proposals will help everyone on the team understand their role in the process. Project managers, sales, marketing, and management should all be involved.

10) Lack of communication, support, or clear-cut goals will only serve to cause frustration between you and your marketing staff, so clearly communicate expectations. For example, saying you want to get “some press” for your organization is not a clear goal, telling them you’d like coverage by the end of the year in a specific magazine is. If marketing people take direction from more than one person at your firm make sure everyone is on the same page with what the role of marketing should be.

The marketing effort of an organization includes all structured attempts to first acquire and then maintain a customer. When all elements of marketing are put together successfully under the umbrella of an overall marketing plan these efforts can increase sales, provide brand awareness, and solidify your reputation in the market.

How to Play to Your Strengths: Think Strategically about Yourself for Career Success

For career success, you are told to play to your strengths. Sounds simple except that you may not be fully aware of your strengths or of what is required in a particular job.

We aren’t very aware of our strengths because we discount them. Things we enjoy doing and find easy to do are indicative of strengths, but precisely because they come easy to us, we say that it is just our job or surely anyone can do that. When we get a compliment for doing something well, we are surprised because we thought there was nothing to it. Conversely, we are keenly aware of our weaknesses. As a result, we have an unbalanced self-perception. The reality is that we have many more strengths than weaknesses.

It also depends on who we compare ourselves with. If you compare yourself to Jack Welch, you may see more gaps in your portfolio of strengths than if you compare yourself to a junior colleague. Also, if you are in a specialist function, say finance, you may not know much about marketing, operations or human resources. So, you can always find people who know more than you do about something or who have strengths that you lack.

Strategic Strengths and Weaknesses

Skills are only career strengths if they relate to success at work. You might be a ping pong ace but this won’t help you get that management job you want. You might be hopeless at selling anything, but this is irrelevant if you don’t want a career in selling. So, we have strategic strengths and strategic weaknesses. The former are those that most closely fit whatever career direction you are pursuing while the latter are just those weaknesses that might block you from getting where you want to go. The good news is that you don’t need to fix all your weaknesses if they aren’t standing in the way of your preferred career path.

There is an excellent reason to play to your strengths, once you have identified them. It is well known that people have more confidence when they are doing things they are good at. Success is more likely, you will appear more decisive and you will inspire more confidence in the key people you need to impress. On the other hand, if you continually play to your weaker side, you will appear hesitant, clumsy and lacking in confidence. Worse, your discomfort could well undermine your confidence in your strengths.

When looking for a new job, start by assessing fit. Will your target job be a good match for your strategic strengths? There will always be some learning to do in a new role, but make sure that your major weaknesses won’t get too much exposure.

New Craft Business Ideas: What Types of Crafts Will You Make?

If you are a mom with preschool to elementary aged children, you probably have a degree of experience with crafting. Some older people have been knitting, crocheting, and weaving for years. Did you ever think you could turn that into a business?

Even Pace

One word of caution is not to try and make several things at first. On one hand, you will drive yourself crazy trying to put together multiple crafts without even knowing how well they will sell at first, and on the other hand, you cannot “specialize” with too many hands in the pot. What this means is, people will tend to take your craft business more seriously if they think you are specialized in certain things.

Let the Juices Flow

Try to be creative. A lot of crafters will make the same old thing year after year, month after month, and you will see duplicate crafts everywhere. Be unique. Sell something that is not on the market quite so abundantly.

Materials Needed

Once you decide what you will make you will want to decide on the materials needed. You can find wonderful sales if you look hard enough at department stores and local craft retailers. You might also consider some Internet sites that offer deep discounted craft supplies, such as Factory Direct Crafts or Sunshine Crafts. Another great place to buy craft supplies is eBay. Search on Hobbies & Crafts, and then choose the subcategory for the types of supplies you are looking for. There are some really good prices on eBay!

You want to buy quality materials. People can tell when you have skimped on materials. Crafts just don’t look as nice with cheaper materials. You will probably be happier knowing you sold a top of the line product. That is how you build a reputation in the crafting community. Familiarity with materials will come in time, but you should take the time to become knowledgeable about the materials you are using.

Making a Profit

Of course, you want and need to make a profit. After all, that is why you are considering starting a craft business. You will be, in essence, a craft retailer. Retail businesses cannot stay in business if they are not profitable. Once you decide on your product, you must price materials and add extra money into how long the project will take you to make and how much profit you are willing to settle for. This is not an easy task and deserves some deliberation on your part. You want to be fair to yourself.

Finding Time to Craft

You will want to find a time to put your crafts together when you are calm and relaxed. Trying to put crafts together in the mornings when kids are getting ready for school, etc., can be tricky and stressful. That makes for a nervous atmosphere for crafting. You may want to assemble crafts and think of new ideas while the children are watching a movie in the afternoon or when they go to bed. Find your most productive time.