PCI Compliance: What Your Business Needs To Know

PCI Compliance: What Your Business Needs To Know

Accepting credit and debit cards for a business is a great way to open up revenue streams for a company. However, this doesn't come without risks. From hackers, to malware, to dishonest employees, merchants face a number of threats when it comes to the credit and debit card information they use from their customers. However, merchants need not fear when it comes to identifying safety precautions to keeping their customers financial information safe.

Known as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), these standards were developed to help merchants, as well as those who help in processing payments like banks and merchant service providers, set up a first line of defense against unwanted data breaches. These standards were formed to provide basic security precautions by establishing policies, procedures, network and software architecture, as well as additional measures to minimize the risks of your customers financial information from being compromised. So what does a merchant actually have to do to become PCI compliant?

Depending on the amount of transactions a merchant conducts, the requirements to become PCI compliant can vary placing you on a specific level of compliance. They are:

  • Level 4 - If your business does less than 20,000 eCommerce or less than 1 million physical transactions, you simply need to complete an annual risk assessment usaing an SAQ or conduct quarterly PCI scans.

  • Level 3 - If your business does 20,000 - 1,000,000 transactions per year, you will need to complete an annual risk assessment using an SAQ and conduct quarterly PCI scans.

  • Level 2 - If your business does 1 - 6 million transactions per year, you will need to complete an annual risk assessment using an SAQ and conduct quarterly PCI scans.

  • Level 1 - If your business does in excess of 6 million transactions per year, you will need to conduct an annual internal audit and conduct quarterly PCI scans.

Even when your business becomes PCI compliant, it is still an ongoing process. However, think of it like a 3 step process in the following manner:

  1. Analyze for any vulnerabilities your business may have that could make it vulnerable to a data breach.

  2. Fix any vulnerabilities your business may identify. If needed, do not store any cardholder data unless necessary until these issues have been fixed.

  3. Report any vulnerabilities to your merchant services provider and card brands by submitting compliance reports and any required validation records.

Even though at times it may be overwhelming for a merchant to combat the theft of cardholder data, security standards like PCI are available to help businesses like yours. But remember that PCI compliance is not just smart but also required.

Top 10 Tips to Choose a Reliable Moneylender

Top 10 Tips to Choose a Reliable Moneylender

In case you feel that you are running short of money in your quest to invest in a huge deal like a home, you might need the services of a seasoned expert. In this context, you may need some short-term loans too. But irrespective of the kind of loan you are seeking, you should exercise care and caution while setting out to search a moneylender.

As you are about to invest a huge amount of money, you need to be proactive in following certain guidelines while choosing a moneylender or company.

a) Firstly, you need to inquire about their reputation

You can do this by interacting with the present customers (or the past ones) that have engaged them for some sort of loan deals. These feedback and opinions you get are trustworthy enough and also indicate the reliability of these companies.

b) Check if they offer reliable, high-quality and round-the-clock customer services

You should be able to contact them anytime you need an urgent solution.

c) Stay away from fraudulent companies or individuals

At the same time, make sure you are not carried away by any type of false promises put forth by dubious moneylenders; there may be several evil motives hidden in some cases.

To avoid falling into their trap, it is better to approach a professional financial advisor that can guide you clearly, using their diverse and dependable experience in handling various negotiations and investment deals.

There are a few other selection criteria to choose a reliable money lending company or individual, such as:

a) Analyzing their credibility in the related industry

b) Determining their success rate

c) Assess their track record by analyzing their client testimonials

d) Carefully assessing their professional qualities like sincerity, dedication, hard work and reliability

e) Determining their level of commitment in terms of customer satisfaction, level of operation, availability, accessibility and proficiency

f) Assessing their interest rates and comparing them to those offered by the other local moneylenders. In addition, try to gather more information about the current market conditions to get a rough idea of how your deal will proceed.

g) Checking the areas of their operation and knowledge about the market conditions

Once you have analyzed the lender based on the above criteria, you can discuss the other elements of the deal elaborately. During this meeting, be clear while putting forth your requirements, such as the amount you require, your repayment capacity, etc.

Based on your budget and other specifications, you can rest assured to get a suitable solution from the lender, which is in your favor.

How Do I Tell Employees About Fees?

How Do I Tell Employees About Fees?

Don't wait for employees to come to you with questions about the 404(a)(5) regulation fees that will be appearing on their retirement savings plans. It's time to start preparing to distribute fee disclosures explaining these fees before 401(k) statements are received. Initial fee disclosures were to be given to participants by August 30, 2012 and the first quarterly disclosure was by November 15, 2012.

When employees open up their statements they will see the fees that the plan is paying and what is being charged to their specific account. According to a 2011 study, 71 percent of Americans with a 401(k) don't think they pay any fees.

Stay ahead of employee questions and deadlines by following these suggestions:

Get the message out now. Communicate the fee disclosures to employees. Let your employees know as early as possible that their statements will clearly show the fees paid by the plan. Employees should know what the fees mean and should know that the fees are not new, they are simply more transparent due to the 404(a)(5) regulation. This regulation allows both plan advisors and employers to be open about fees with affected employees.

Customize your form. Use the Department of Labor's (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) template to provide multiple types of disclosures that will help employees understand the fees being paid for services rendered and to compare investment alternatives on their own.

Urge employees to visit the new website provided by the Department of Labor to better understand their Retirement Plan Fees.

Discuss the types of fees in your plan. The economies of scale might mean that employees are getting a good deal on fund fees, possibly at lower institutional rates than an individual employee would pay to invest in the same fund through a retail mutual fund account.

Remind employees that 401(k)'s are a good deal. Focus on the keys to financial success - active participation, strong deferral rates, company match, tax deferral, investment education and retirement support - along with fees.

Make certain that your employees understand that these fees are not new. In the past, fees were included in the net investment results but were not as visible as now required by the new 404(a)(5) regulation.

Overall, the new fee disclosures will create a more clear depiction of retirement plans and associated fees, allowing employees to see the benefits of a 401(k) plan.

What To Do When You Want To File A Pension Complaint?

What To Do When You Want To File A Pension Complaint?

According to the Retirement Benefits Acts, if an employee or a member of a company scheme is discontented with the decision of the custodian, manager, or the trustee of the scheme, that person can submit a letter of request addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, stating that he or she wants the decision to be reviewed, to make sure that it is in harmony with the provisions provided in the scheme. This letter should also be copy furnished to the custodian, manager and the trustee of the scheme. Aside from the members, other parties such as service providers, sponsors, and trustees are likewise entitled to ask authorized personnel to make decisions on disputes and complaints filed involving retirement benefits.

Once your retirement or your pension complaint is received by the authority, it will be their duty to investigate and decide on what the resolution would be. An authority's decision is necessary and concluding, and can be imposed in a court of law. If you believe that your case needs more investigation, you can challenge the decision of the authority by appealing to a tribunal - which is set up under the Retirement Benefits Act.

If you believe that there are acts or behaviours that negatively affect your pension plan, and if you feel that your investment is unsafe or you feel injustice on your part, it is only safe to talk to professionals who could give you advice on how to file a pension complaint, or get a clearer explanation of what is actually happening within your company scheme.

If your complaint involves government pension, outside funds management, retirement benefits, pension complaints, find out the grounds before filing for one, and find the most appropriate organization that can help you file your complaint.

Authorized personnel or organizations that specialize in complaints usually ask the same requirements before processing your complaint. Some requirements included are your formal written complaint, an initial dialogue between you and the other party, filled up complaint form, and others. Once you have filed your complaint, you are given 2 weeks to wait for an acknowledgement from the firm. Your complaint will then be processed for further review, set for a court trial, and other procedures that will lead to the resolution of the problem.

Disputes or miscommunications often happen, and you don't have to blame others, or you don't have to feel bad that you filed a complaint against your company. There are reasons why things happen, and to make things right, the first step to do is let the authorities to know. This way, you will achieve justice and get what's right for you.

But There Is Not Enough Gold, Is There?

But There Is Not Enough Gold, Is There?

One of the 'Big Lies' about Gold is that there is not enough Gold around; after all, Gold is valuable because it is scarce, so Gold cannot be used as 'money'... right? Well, no, not right at all. In reality, this particular 'Big Lie' is three 'Big Lies' rolled into one.

The first lie is that the quantity of money in circulation is crucial to the state of the economy, and determines recessions, booms, etc. After all, we hear about 'money supply' and 'fine tuning' the economy practically every day. Rest assured Mr. Bankster and Mr. G'man want our attention on this... not on the truth.

The bland truth is that the quantity of money in circulation has NO effect whatsoever on the economy... ! Read the last statement again, carefully, because it probably goes against everything you have ever heard... from Mr. Bankster, from Mr. G'man, and their bought and paid for 'economists'. Once again; the quantity of money in circulation has no effect whatsoever on the economy... zero, nada.

OK, may you find this hard to believe... trust me, it took me a long time and a lot of study to understand how and why this is true. It is vital to understand that the quantity of money is irrelevant if we expect to understand what really goes on. History is full of examples that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the quantity of 'money' in circulation is absolutely irrelevant... if we have eyes to see.

Surely you have heard of the cases of 'New Pesos' replacing 'Old Pesos'... or 'New Lira' replacing 'Old Lira'? This happens every time a currency is so debased that million, billion, and even trillion unit bills must be printed. A cup of coffee may cost three billion Lira... and it becomes impossible to add more zeros to the bills... lest the bills become the size of bed sheets.

At this time the G'man decides to issue a new currency... and in the process lops six zeros from the 'old' currency. That is, a billion Old Lira note is replaced directly by a new one Lira note. Think about this; every billion Old Lira is replaced by ONE Lira... and there were millions of the old Billion Lira notes in circulation... they are all gone, all replaced by One Lira notes.

The money supply just shrank, overnight, by a factor of one billion. Not by a percent or two as usually claimed by the 'fine tuning' money supply 'experts'... but by a factor of one hundred billion percent. Yet, the next day, life goes on as usual... incredible, yes? Of course, it is easy to see why.

The price of a cup of coffee was three billion Old Lira; the price of a cup of coffee is now three New Lira. Meanwhile, the average wage was thirty billion Old Lira per hour... and is now thirty New Lira. One hour's pay in Old Lira bought ten cups of coffee. Surprise, surprise... one hour's pay in New Lira will also buy ten cups of coffee.

Nothing has changed... in relative prices that is. Clearly the quantity of money is irrelevant... only relative prices count. Or, to be more precise, only the purchasing power of money vs wages counts.

The second big lie is based on the first big lie... if money supply is crucial (lie # one) then the G'man must carefully manage it... (lie # two). Let's take an economy with 300,000,000 people... like the USA. If we add $1,000,000,000.00 (one billion Dollars) to the money supply that sounds like a big number... but it only comes to $3.33, that is three Dollars and thirty three cents, per US citizen... now honestly, would it make any significant difference to your 'economy' if someone gave you three Dollars and thirty three cents? Methinks not...

On the other hand, suppose that the $1,000,000,000.00 (one billion Dollars) were given to ONE person... now that would surely make some difference to that person. But this is exactly what happens when a billion of new 'money' is printed... one person gets the whole billion; Mr. G'man gets the billion, and gets to spend it any way he chooses. This is called seignorage... profit made by the money issuing agent. It is more accurately called 'legalized counterfeiting'.

Contrast this to that 'barbarous relic', the Gold Standard. Gold cannot be counterfeited, but has to be earned (or stolen openly). Gold is earned by either trading value for value, or by digging it out of the earth at full cost and with much sweat. Just like you and I earn our living... not like Mr. G'man, who makes us take his freely printed paper, at gunpoint, calls it 'Legal Tender', taxes us, and makes us sweat to pay him back.

Not like Mr. Bankster, who prints paper freely, and then has the audacity to not only demand that we pay his 'money' back in full, but demands that we pay him interest for the privilege of using his 'money'. This is my definition of usury; create paper chits, pretend they are money, then charge real interest for the use of it... and if you or I try to print the chits, guess what happens? Only Mr. Bankster has the privilege of counterfeiting legally. His bedfellow Mr. G'man sees to that.

Under the Barbarous Relic, money supply took care of itself. If it cost 11 Gold coins to mine and refine 10 Gold coins, no one would do it... On the other hand, if Gold was really scarce and valuable, and it cost only 9 Gold coins to mine and refine 10 new Gold coins, miners would get to work, and balance would be restored... in the long term. Short terms fluctuations are impossible.

The third big lie is a bit of a paradox, and we need to see both sides of this paradox in order to understand Gold. First, Gold is indeed a precious metal; to mine Gold today, tons of rubble must be dug up and sifted to find grams of Gold... indeed, this is why rubble cannot be money; it is far too easy to get new supplies... new gravel 'money' would be almost as easy to create as new paper 'money'.

The paradox kicks in when we look at the supply of Gold on hand... remember, Gold has been money for thousands of years, and Gold was recognized as being precious and valuable far longer than its use as money in circulation... so Gold has been mined and hoarded since time immemorial... long before written history.

Thus, even though new Gold is very difficult and expensive to extract, there is an enormous supply of mined and refined Gold around. It would take about 80 years of mining at current rates to dig up as much new Gold as already is known to exist. This is called the 'stock to flow' ratio... and it means that the supply of Gold is steady, not subject to disruption on a new mine discovery.

As supply is steady, so value is also steady... and by steady I mean steady over centuries, not just over a few weeks or months. By comparison, all non-monetary commodities like copper, crude oil, grains etc. have stock to flows measured in weeks, not decades.

This is logical if you think about it; if there was a glut of zinc, like a year's supply, the price would collapse. The value of all commodities except Gold and Silver... the monetary metals... declines rapidly with excess supply. Guess what the value of freely printed paper does.

The demand for the monetary metals Gold and Silver is endless. There is never a 'glut' of Gold or Silver. Indeed, only real interest paid in real Gold or Silver can lure hoarded monetary metals out of their hoards.

Today, we get no real interest... and so most Gold and Silver is in hiding, awaiting the day of freedom... the day it will once again be safe and legal to earn, to hoard, and to spend Gold and Silver instead of counterfeit paper; real money instead of Bankster's debt notes masquerading as money.

Having a Financial Aid Consultant Is the New Best Way to Pay for
College.

Having a Financial Aid Consultant Is the New Best Way to Pay for College.

Having your very own personal financial aid expert continually looking out for your interest is as valuable as having a very good defense attorney. Throughout our society we have become increasingly depended upon the services of experts to advices us on the most complex and challenging parts of our lives. Just like a tax professional helps prepare our taxes, a personal trainer help us get in shape, a nutritionist picks our meals, a financial planner help us with our finances or even a realtor help us find our dream home. A personal financial aid consultant works on their client's behalf helping them and their families navigate through the constantly changing and often complex financial aid process.

To understand the value of a Consultant and why so many families are turning to them for help, you must first understand the cost to obtain a college education. According to a recent College Board report, college tuition has risen all across the country. According to the report the average in-state public college tuition grew to $22,261 per academic year while private college tuition rose to $43,289 per academic year. While only two-thirds of full-time students receive grants or federal tax breaks, many are left to foot the bill themselves. According to another report by the Institute for College Access & Success Project on Student Debt, two-third of the class of 2011 held student loans upon graduation, and the average owed was $26,600. According to the U.S. Department of Education 13.4% of those borrowers will default on their student loans within three years after graduating.

Traditional Help Resources

Historically, 1 in 7 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms has errors or inconsistencies which are one of the major reasons students lose some or all of their financial aid. With regard to additional grants and scholarships outside of the FAFSA, many families simply don't know where and when to look, how to look or have no time and energy to look and they just end up getting frustrated trying of compete for the free aid. Most of these issues could be avoided by using a consultant but unfortunately most students and families rely on traditional resources which offer limited support in trying to get financial aid.

Traditionally, families get their financial aid information and help from four main sources:

High school guidance counselors - for many families of college bound students their guidance counselors are their first source of information and help. Unfortunately, most counselors are so over worked and are usually not adequately trained and up to date with the constantly changing policies and regulations in the college funding process. These inadequacies can cause family thousands of dollars in aid.

Your financial aid office - maybe the best place to information, with adequately trained staff with up to date knowledge of policies and regulations, however they have their challenges too. Most Colleges don't provide information on additional grants and scholarships outside of what their school provides. Their biggest challenge however is the huge workload of thousands of students who apply or reapply for aid every year. This huge volume of students weakens the ability of advisors to spend adequate time with each student which leaves the student and their family to fend for themselves in the application process.

The internet -The internet can be a good source of help but without an expert to decipher all the information and protect you there is a risk of errors and even fraud.

Parents and Friends - yes parents provide the support and insights which are helpful but may don't have up to date information. While family can spend hours in front of a computer screen and hours more around the dining room table filling out forms they may never really know if the information they are providing is helping or hurting their eligibility.

Why a Financial Aid Consultant?

There are several benefits to having a consultant none more significant than the fact that the consultant is your employee whom you have hired and can fire. His or her sole job is to be constantly looking out for your interest and making sure that you are in the best financial situation during and after you have graduated from college. Many families are finding it economically smart to invest a few bucks now in a consultant who can help them save thousands in student debt in the future.

These are some of the services that a financial aid consultant provides:

  • Assists you in the filling out financial application forms.
  • Ensures you meet all deadlines.
  • Helps you in your search for more grants, scholarships and loans.
  • Ensures you receive the maximum aid you qualify for.
  • Guides you step-by-step through the entire process.
  • Saves you time and money by helping you receive financial aid.
  • Helps determine your eligibility.
  • Determines if you are receiving a fair financial aid offer.
  • Offers you relevant information on all different types of aid.
  • Provides an estimate of your expected family contribution.
  • Recommends schools that offer you the best package.
  • Assists in appeals.
  • An independent advisor provides you that peace of mind of knowing that you've received the best financial aid you're entitled to.

Caution!

If you decide that a financial aid consultant is right for you, you should take some precautions. Like everything, using a consultant has its own sets of challenges so here are 5 tips that you should use:

  1. Even though there are tremendous benefits in using a consultant, remember the FAFSA application is free so you should never pay excessive fees for a consultant service.
  2. Choose a consultant that is well versed in the laws and availability of each type of government and private education programs - preferably an insider with tremendous experience.
  3. Choose a consultant that been recommended by a friend or family member who can vouch that the consultant offered great value to them.
  4. Avoid any consultant that is not honest, ethical or completely open with you.
  5. Make sure your consultant is willing to sign the FAFSA, as any professional will sign the document that they prepare for clients - this ensures that they will stand behind and back the application if further issues or question should arise and remember to get a detailed receipt.

Dealing with the financial aid process for college is overwhelming for many students and parents. More and more students and their families are finding comfort in knowing that they have an expert on their side. As the cost of college continues to rise they know that they have a trained professional who they have employed to help them navigate the financial aid process. A personal consultant is the resource that ensures families and students get all they can when it comes to loans, grants and scholarships.

What Is A Trend Following Investment Strategy? What It Does And 3
Things It Won't Be

What Is A Trend Following Investment Strategy? What It Does And 3 Things It Won't Be

What is a trend following investment strategy? Well, a trend following investment strategy is essentially the systemic practice of investing in the market on the basis of trends. It uses developments in the market to the best interests of the investor regardless of what is going on. It does not matter if the market belongs to sellers or buyers, successful trend followers are able to take advantage of each of these circumstances and while placing limits on the amount of money investors lose. Before heading off to rush into the world of investing however, think about the things that trend following is not in order to get an idea of how it works.

Trend Following is Not Able to Give Fortunes

Trend following investors use elements of technical analysis to spot trends, no real trader will be able to provide you with a share's forecast. Trend following actually helps traders profit by aiding them as they find and identify trends. This enables a trader to make money by looking at what the market is doing. Once signals make it clear that the trend is going to change, the trend following investor is the able to leave the transaction and profit elsewhere. It is a system designed to take advantage of market conditions not give precise judgments on any stock you want.

Trend Following Will Not Result in Getting Rich Quick

Trend following has used the market to bring people very impressive amounts of money. However the daily reality is that most traders have to acquire the money through solid moves and discipline over time. The appeal of a get rich fast plan revolves around the idea of making lots of money in small amounts of time with very little work involved. Effort is needed in order to make the most out of trend following. It takes a lot to ignore feelings of greed and stubbornness in order to preserve the larger concept. While there is lots of money to be had on the market, it takes time and hard work to get there.

Trend Following is Not Purely Theoretical

Many hear from more conservative friends that stock investing is an excellent idea in theory but not something to be used as a serious form of income. It is not practical to expect steady money from stock trading. It is a hobby that should be taken up people with money. The reality is that plenty of money can and has been lost on the market. This is the result of trading without rules or ignoring your rules in search of more profits. Anything can happen and that is why systems exist for trading. With the speed and unpredictability of the market today, trend following is there in order for traders to remain calm and relatively protected even in the worst of situations.

As for trend investing, it is really just making trades from a very specific point of view. This system will not give the 'fortune' of a stock. It will not bring in millions without any effort. What it can do for you however is give an applicable method for making money on the stock market. What is a trend following investment strategy? It is basically a set of rules that will play a role in your success as an investor.

Banking and Financial Bodies Marching Towards Economic Restructuring

Banking and Financial Bodies Marching Towards Economic Restructuring

Banking and financial bodies are evolving with rapid industrial advancement and business benchmarks. The newer technological facets and banking trends are increasingly empowering its service features and all around availability. Banking bodies are also experiencing the huge opportunities waiting for them to harness. This is the reason they are continuously evolving to emerge as the competitive back support to foster economic anchors. They have observed that collective initiatives are necessary for Industrial, economic and community growth in every stratum. Today, banks and financial institutions are vulnerable to new opportunities as well as challenges, but they have successfully enabled their infrastructure to put their products and services for the societal well-being.

Due to the extensive and overly exposed competitive market, financial bodies are looking forward to overcome traditional banking methods and practicing better approaches to innovate their products and strategies. They are making good use of emerging technologies such as banking technology trends, online security, virtualization, web productivity, financial services technologies, collaborations, insurance technology solutions, and disaster recovery. In fact, they are looking to expose their services and core abilities so that more and more number of people can access their services. They are introducing formal banking system to a variety of community to support economic fundamentals.

Banks are also utilizing existing outlets to include more regions into their financial network. This will enable them to fetch new customers and satisfy their growing demands. This will also help them in innovating IT-Telecom platform and generating more ideas to serve more people. Today, banks are looking to broaden their network, for this they need to use social networking sites. These websites are better enough to target audiences in a particular region. These websites are helpful in teaching and making their customers' aware, and motivate them to use their services. It helps them to interact with their customers and know their expectations. In essence, it certainly helps to enhance their profit margins and make sure reducing the cost per transaction also.

Today, banks are also thinking to improve their relations with micro-financing companies to target small groups of people, agriculture businesses or people having small-scale enterprises. This action helps business owners in kick starting their businesses with strong banking support. It helps them in fast growing and managing cash flow at the same time. It will eventually generate employment, support economic growth and allow community.

No doubt, banking and financial institutions are penetrating the societal roots to play a vital role in economic restructuring and re-surfacing their identities in the growing economic eon. They also discuss their future endeavors in renowned banking conferences.

Cyprus Bank Bailout Steals Money From Innocent Savers

Cyprus Bank Bailout Steals Money From Innocent Savers

Here's what they want to do:

• Savers with under 100,000 euros deposited must pay 6.75%
• Those with more than 100,000 in their accounts must pay 9.9%
• Savers will be compensated with the equivalent amount in shares in their banks
• The levy is a one-off measure - so they say...

No one could have prepared for this... so I am advising you ALL wherever you live to beware of the banks. All banks are interconnected and your money is not necessarily safe in a bank. Make sure you have enough cash out of the bank. And invest the rest in gold and silver. Right now, the prices are quite low and in the future, because of the uncertainty in the world economy, the value of your bullion will increase greatly. But don't buy it for that reason. Buy it because it gives you insurance: something that is outside of the control of governments. Don't buy shares in gold and silver, but buy the actual coins and bars that you can hold in your hand. Don't let anyone else take care of your bullion, keep it yourself.

Innocent people are being condemned for the greed and mistakes of their banks. They trusted their banks to take care of their savings and without warning, the bank steals from 6.75% to 10% of people's wealth overnight. The Cypriot government is having a rethink about the situation and meets tomorrow, but even if this particular robbery doesn't go ahead, the writing is on the wall: governments can steal our money overnight and we have no power to stop them if we continue to keep our money in the banks.

Cyprus is a tiny country and may not have as much power as one of the bigger EU countries, but what if this happens in Spain or Italy as it could?? Can you imagine the uproar and the civil unrest?

And they say that the levy is a one-off measure - but of course the government could change their minds about that next month.

The positive outcome that could come from this is that we can start to work together outside of the system. By using barter and exchange we can swap products and services within our communities without having to be penalised by our tax systems. The taxation regimes of failing states and governments are going to get more and more invasive and controlling as time goes on. Let's not allow the banks rip us off and let's try to prepare for the coming changes.

Will There Ever Be An Affordable Canadian Housing Market?

Will There Ever Be An Affordable Canadian Housing Market?

Certain pockets of the country boast some of the highest housing prices in the world. For years, Toronto and Vancouver have been the most expensive Canadian cities to live in. For example, the average price of a home in Toronto hit a record-high in May 2013 at $542,174.

For months, analysts have sounded the alarm over real estate prices in Canada and have said a correction in the housing market is yet to come. With a supposedly artificial inflation in housing prices, the question begs: Will there ever be an affordable housing market in this country?

Many Canadians, particularly in the larger cities, are holding off on owning property. Rental rates have skyrocketed over the past two years, as wary consumers wait for the economy to stabilize. But the truth is rental prices in Canada have also risen dramatically and affordable housing is hard to find. For example: In Toronto, the monthly rent on a standard 1-bedroom apartment can cost you anywhere from $900 to $1400 per month. However, a 1-bedroom flat isn't suitable for, say, a family of 4 - which may require 3 bedrooms. The price of a standard 3-bedroom apartment ranges between $1700 - $2500 per month.

Sometimes, these prices are barely affordable for young, single professionals with a 50K/year income. So imagine the lack of affordability for low-income families or senior citizens. And with monthly rental rates so high, it becomes nearly impossible to save any money for future home ownership. It is these scenarios that have market analysts, city planners and many Canadians worried about the affordability of housing in this country.

The obvious solution to a housing crisis would be to build more affordable residences. But that's a tough battle that big, powerful developers always seem to win. Experts say inclusionary planning is key, whereby city planners require private developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in their residential developments. Although the idea is great in theory, it is often tough to enforce inclusionary planning in practice.

In Ontario, for example, matters and applications regarding planning are dealt with by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). This agency is an arms-length provincial body. But there are reports that the board is often biased toward rich development companies looking to build housing in Ontario's major cities. Ultimately, these developers are able to avoid the inclusionary zoning requirement - leaving the issue of affordable housing unresolved.

With brand new housing developments built every year across the country, city planners say inclusionary zoning is the most effective way to achieve affordability. Zoning requirements are initiatives that can be controlled, whereas a correction in the markets or a stabilization of the economy are unpredictable factors.

Until governing bodies are willing to take a tougher stance on private developers, the creation of an affordable housing market will continue to be an uphill battle.

Why Using Invoice Factoring Is a Smart Business Move

Why Using Invoice Factoring Is a Smart Business Move

Many businesses struggle with having enough money on hand to meet financial obligations. This is the definition of a "Cash Flow" problem. To address this problem, companies generally take one of two approaches:

  1. Use other people's money (OPM), i.e., borrow; or
  2. "Bootstrap" the business by using its own assets and financial resources.

Most business owners instinctively look to borrowing as the solution. This article discusses Bootstrapping as a viable alternative.

Other People's Money

Using OPM involves either equity financing (selling away a piece of the business - and thus part of your autonomy) or debt financing (borrowing). This article focuses on debt financing.

"Debt" is the money owed to another person or institution. If used to address a Cash Flow problem it can be an albatross around the neck of a company. When a business "borrows" money (i.e., takes out a loan), it incurs a debt that must be repaid. The repayment includes both principle (the amount borrowed) and interest (the fee to be paid to the party that lent the money).

Debt puts a constant demand on cash flow. That's because you are obligated to pay back the loan through monthly installments. Whether your business is having a good month or a not so good month you must direct funds to the lender or face the possibility of default. If you default, the lender has the right to foreclose and take whatever assets are necessary to pay the debt in full.

OPM's Impact on the Balance Sheet

The act of borrowing forces a double entry on a company's Balance Sheet. The cash acquired by virtue of the loan becomes a "Cash" Asset on the books. However, an offsetting Liability must also appear because that money is not yours and must be paid back.

This is an important distinction because one of the ratios used in assessing the financial health of a company is the Debt to Equity Ratio. This ratio is calculated by first taking the value of a company's Assets and subtracting its Liabilities. The remainder is the company's Equity. The Liability value is then divided by the Equity value to determine the ratio. The higher the ratio number the greater the risk that the company will not be able to meet its loan payment obligations.

This ratio can impact the ability to borrow more money. It can also impact the willingness of vendors to extend payment terms to your business. A highly leveraged company can be a poor credit risk which can cause vendors to demand cash payment for merchandise.

Bootstrapping the Company

Bootstrapping does not have the downside potential of borrowing. When bootstrapping you use the existing resources of the company to leverage growth. This leverage involves understanding all the assets your company has and how to capitalize on them.

For companies with business-to-business (B2B) and/or business-to-government (B2Gvt) transactions one of the best assets to leverage is its Accounts Receivable. Accounts Receivable (A/R) is the volume of money owed to you for product delivered and/or service rendered. It is a debt that another company or government agency owes to you.

Unfortunately, you can't spend A/R. That money is not in your bank and can't be used to meet payroll, buy material or pay taxes. You can, however, convert that A/R to cash without pressuring your customers to alter their payment terms. The solution is to factor the invoices. "Invoice Factoring" is the process of selling individual outstanding invoices for cash. It is a transaction that stays exclusively on the Asset side of the ledger in that it converts A/R to Cash. In an invoice factoring transaction you are not borrowing money; you are selling an Asset. Therefore there is no Liability entry on your books.

Under What Circumstances Can Factoring Be Used?

The utilization of Invoice Factoring is a right granted to a business by virtue of Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code. A business may "assign" the right to payment to a third party - a factoring company. There are very, very few situations where your right to assignment may not apply. This means that any B2B or B2Gvt enterprise can use Invoice Factoring as a means of resolving a Cash Flow challenge.

Which Financial Institutions Offer Invoice Factoring?

While a few larger banks have departments that do true Invoice Factoring, most do not. One reason is that, in general, the underwriting criteria for Invoice Factoring differ from that of a traditional business loan. But because banks are regulated by the Federal Reserve, those that do have Invoice Factoring Departments will typically apply the same underwriting criteria to both lending and factoring. This means they will look very closely at the personal credit and business credit of those applying for a factoring facility. If those scores are not good, the application will be declined.

Independent financing companies have greater leeway. Their primary consideration is the creditworthiness of your customer - the entity obligated to honor your invoice. If their commercial credit rating is good, the probability of winning a factoring facility is very high. Your company's credit and/or your personal credit score will have little impact on the decision to fund.

Summary

When confronted with a cash flow problem, the majority of business owners impulsively look to borrow money. This is a viable route, but it important to understand the potential challenges:

  • It adds a Liability to your Balance Sheet
  • It affects your credit rating
  • It raises your Debt to Equity Ratio
  • It imposes an additional monthly demand on cash flow
  • It automatically creates the possibility of default and foreclosure

Bootstrapping and the use of Invoice Factoring is a reasonable alternative. It offers a quick and effective way for a company to use its existing resources to solve a problem. It is inexpensive, and, by law, universally applicable. Used correctly, it can help a company survive in difficult times and thrive when times are good.

Understanding Zero Percent Financing

Understanding Zero Percent Financing

Technically, zero percent financing is really in existent. The low rates offered by lenders are in fact incentives they offer in lieu of rebates or money saved from the difference between a car's actual selling price and its manufacturer's suggested retail price. The lender receives the cash discount and buys down the rate instead.

Factors such as the overall cost of the loan and the credit score of a lender determines the amount that the bank might make in profit. Often if not all the time, zero percent financing on cars is only offered on limited models and price ranges and available only to borrowers with good to excellent credit scores. The manufacturer of the new car pays in advance all the interest charges that the lending bank imposes in order to be able to offer zero percent financing. Banks are preferably a new car lender or are the manufacturer's bank, so that the manufacturer can get some sort of discount. This is buying down the discount.

In lieu of rebates and/or cash backs, the zero percent financing is then offered. In most cases, the savings on the rebates and the cost to buy down the interest rate from the lending back are of the same amount. A very handy tool, the car loan calculator, is used for the manufacturer to be able to accurately compute the overall cost of the loan and how much is the cost to buy down the loan. The information needed for the computation are the car's selling price and the standard rate that will be used to decide the amount paid back over the term of the loan. For the zero percent financing to be offered, the optional rebate should offer the same discount and this is most likely in all cases.

When car manufacturers provide rebates or zero percent financing the one that benefits with the most profits is the car dealership because they are reimbursed by the manufacturer for any rate incentives or rebates that they provide their clients. What many buyers do is to go for the rebate or zero percent financing instead of trying to negotiate the price of the vehicle. The car dealer is able to maximize his profits if the buyer doesn't try to negotiate any discounts or deductions on the car's selling price. Rebate discounts are also the same. This is why dealerships love zero percent offers because it increases their business.

Car dealerships with smaller operations do not usually offer zero percent financing. Smaller dealerships that do offer zero financing should first be able to earn enough profit on the price of the car so they can cover their expenses in buying the rate down first. Before purchasing a car, check first for as much information as you can about its price because when you go to the dealership it is most likely that the prices are marked up by the dealership. The ones that make the most profit of all are the pay-here and buy-here lots. Sometimes just a little more cash is needed at times like this you might count yourself out due to your bad credit instead you should consider a bad credit loan from a company like BHM Financial.

Features of the Australian Securities Exchange

Features of the Australian Securities Exchange

The ASX (Australian Securities Exchange) acts as an important catalyst in Australia's development. It helps raise capital that flows into listed companies and fuels their growth. In the first half of 2013 alone, the ASX has raised capital of $46.39 billion, while 82 new companies listed on the exchange.

The ASX was formed after the Australian Stock Exchange and the Sydney Futures Exchange merged in July 2006. The Exchange was itself formed in April 1987 through legislation that merged six regional stock exchanges. The exchange is a listed company, ASX Limited, and 'ASX Group' is its umbrella brand. Today, it is reckoned within the top ten of the world's listed exchange groups.

The ASX ensures the availability of high quality, transparent and timely market information, cash and derivatives trading, listing and clearing services, depository and settlement management facilities and an infrastructure that supports monitoring and compliance with statutory rules and regulations. The ASX also acts as a watchdog overseeing corporate governance in listed companies. It prides itself as a 'multi-asset class, vertically-integrated exchange group.'

The ASX is known for its technological sophistication. Its trading technology encompasses two trading platforms. The 'ASX Trade' is meant for domestic trades, and in the words of the Exchange, "is one of the fastest and most functionally complete multi-asset trading platforms in the world, delivering latency down to ~250 microseconds."

On the other hand, the 'ASX Trade24' facilitates global trades round-the-clock, simultaneously maintaining two active trading days for seamless trading across multiple time zones. The platform boasts of network access points located at key financial centers across the globe, namely, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Hong Kong, Chicago, New York and London.

The ASX also employs robust clearing and settlement technologies. These are backed by sizable capital and collateral, and together with regulatory supervision, offer security of trades and funds to market participants.

The ASX allows for trading of shares, futures and options (F&O), infrastructure funds, warrants, managed funds, exchange traded products, interest rate securities, Australian Government bonds and products for the New Zealand markets. It also provides index-based trading products.

An excellent product from the ASX is the Exchange Traded Option (ETO). Options provide an edge to an investor or trader compared to just buying and holding shares. These versatile products enable one to control risk by protecting the value of the investment portfolio, earn an income stream from dormant investments, or lock in attractive prices to buy a share. ETOs allow the achievement of these objectives by employing a wide range of strategies.

Could a Housing Shortage in the UK Lead to Increased Prices?

Could a Housing Shortage in the UK Lead to Increased Prices?

The UK's National Housing Federation (NHF) has suggested that the insufficient supply of new houses in the UK will mean home ownership will start to approach the low levels seen the 1980's towards the end of this decade. The NHF also predicts that house prices will increase significantly as a result of this shortage of new homes being built.

Another knock-on effect will be that private rental prices will become even higher than they already are, and exacerbate the problem where those renting are paying considerably more than they would for a mortgage on a similar property but cannot raise the high deposits now demanded by high street banks and other lenders in order to obtain a good mortgage deal. This could have the effect of increasing the already long waiting lists for social housing and potentially create another property boom.

The NHF statistics forecast that the national average property price in the UK could be pushed up to £260,404 by 2016 with London and the South-East typically predicted to see an equivalent but, obviously, larger increase in the average house price.

This is good news if you already own a home but just more bad news for those who don't as it makes the chance of property ownership even more difficult for first-time buyers and, of course, first time buyers should be the life-blood of the property market. To add to this bad news for renters it is expected that rents will rise by nearly 20 per cent over the next few years; way above the level of inflation and expected salary rises in that time.

This situation is likely to create investment opportunities for those who have owned a home for some years and have built up a significant amount of equity in their property. In certain areas such as London and the Home Counties and other major UK cities it may be seen as sensible to try to retain an existing home when moving on to buy a new, whether that is through changing jobs so moving to a more convenient location or simply trading up to a larger or better property to accommodate a growing family.

This has the added bonus of relieving the pressure to tie up a sale and purchase in one transaction in a property market that, with the exception of prime London property, is rather stagnant. Where a move has to happen relatively quickly, for instance because of a job change or relocation to a different area, or because children are changing schools retaining the old property offers a simple and stress-free solution: retain and rent out the old property and move to a short-term rental property in the new area. This makes you a more attractive buyer as you will be chain free and being in a chain can often be a deal breaker for sellers in the current market.

Of course, being able to do this all relies on being able to secure a buy-to-let mortgage, which will depend on whether you are seeking a large mortgage for your new property. If the National Housing Federation's forecasts are realised then investments in property could be a better bet than any other investments over the next 5 year period.

How To Improve Your Credit Score Today Without Problems

How To Improve Your Credit Score Today Without Problems

In the future, everyone will have a moment of financial problem. It is a matter of life that we need to prepare for. In these days, you could actually solve your problem with money using credit cards. These are good instruments to keep a balance of your budget. Of course, the only way for this work is that you know how to handle the usage of credit. People are not aware that credit cards are good for emergencies. They just tend to use the card for petty reasons. This is not a good thing because it will lead to a lower credit score. If you are not able to pay for the items, your standing will fall. In the future, you will have a hard time applying for more credit. Moreover, it is not possible for you to apply for high caliber loans. So today, we will give you a few tips on how to improve your credit rating.

The first thing that you should consider is to pay for the amount that you have borrowed. If you have used the credit card for a purchase, you need to pay the total amount per month. This way, the company will know that you have enough money to cover expenses. Actually, it is not a good business for them without interest rates. But they will value more your sincerity to pay if you could render the money in full. In this case, your account will be flagged as a good standing one. It will also give you more chances to apply for loan in other banks. As you know, a good credit rating is spread out to the industry. If you are good payer, then you can apply for more account easier.

It is also better if you could minimize your nonsense expenditure. There are so many people who will use loans and credits without thinking twice. A petty purchase of a new phone does not qualify for a wise spending. You should not use the credit card for this purpose. It will just be a waste of money to purchase high end phones that you do not actually need. Make sure to spend only your money on things that are important. They include food, housing or education. If anything else is possible to ignore, then you should not buy it. This way, you can save your money for more important things. Also, having a good credit standing makes life easier. For example, you could get a salary loan during emergencies.

Knowing how to find a good credit company is important. If you already have a credit account, maintain it if the company offers low interest. However, you could scout the places in your area to see the banks. Then you could inquire to each one of them if they can offer better accounts. You should also consider the amount of interest they apply. This will eventually make your life better. Moreover, take time to consult their manager for more loan options.

What's the Deal With The Fiscal Cliff - Is It Just Smoke and Mirrors?

What's the Deal With The Fiscal Cliff - Is It Just Smoke and Mirrors?

Anyone reading the news in the past several weeks has been bombarded with the "fiscal cliff" - a proposed increase to federal taxes resulting from the expiration of previous Bush era tax cuts; originally designed to as an imputes to stimulate the struggling economy. On December 31st, competing Democratic and Republican law makers claimed "victory" that a settlement has been reached averting many of the expiring tax cuts to protect your economic interests.

Has Congress once again once again overcomplicated the issues threw up smoke and mirrors in an attempt to distract you from seeing the picture of what's really going on here?

Perhaps the biggest issue of concern amongst taxpayers was exactly who would be impacted by the proposed tax increases. Proposed tax increases were to impact those families making over $450,000 annually - a politically correct maneuver as such increases only impact a very small percentage of the population. To further complicate the issue, dangling above was the consideration to increase the tax base to those families earning $250,000 or more - still somewhat politically correct, but certainly impacting a larger percentage of taxpayers, especially those more educated who can more clearly understand the issues and voice their concerns.

To further complicate matters (more smoke and mirrors) of consideration was the threat to many of popular tax deductions or benefits such as the popular marriage penalty relief provision, exemptions, child tax credits, child care credits, tuition and student loan deductions and the all so unpopular alternative minimum taxes.

Currently, there's been acceptance by both parties of this negotiated settlement that's simply awaiting final approval before implemented (something that's sure to happen at the time of this writing). But what's really going on here?

The Real Story

The real story is that the tax impact that may affect you is the increase to payroll taxes beginning January 1st. Payroll taxes are going to increase 2% on you wages meaning that if you earn $50,000 a year, you're going to see a decrease in your paycheck by $1,000 over the next year. If your spouse works and earns roughly the same, your family's disposable income will decrease around $2,000 in 2013 and perhaps each year hereafter. Specifically, its an increase on social security taxes on the first $100,000 or so of wages.

Now it's not like this was hidden from you. Clearly not! In fact, it was in plain sight from the beginning of all this hoopla. It was just presented to you with so much smoke and mirrors on exactly who is going to be hit with additional income taxes and whether or not your beloved tax deductions would be lost that you lost sight of what's happening.

And it was presented to you as "an expiration of pre-Bush era tax cuts" as if George Bush had something to do with it. Yes, it was a tax cut presented quite some time ago - but who cares? No matter how you look at it, its an increase to the taxes you're going to pay!

Now I can go on and on about the impacts affecting the increases to capital gains, increases in the top marginal tax rates, etc. - by why should I? Why get caught up in the details? That would just simply confuse you once again (exactly what Congress has done). The real point is that you're going to see less money in your paycheck to spend and less money coming into your place of business because there's going to be less going around.

Will you notice?

Probably not much -- after all, this 2% decrease is only $20 a week (on a $50,000 annual salary). And if its "good for the country" - well, you can feel all patriotic about it anyway. But multiply that $2,000 a year by the number of American families and it's a good start for Congress to start balancing the budget (or at least somewhat reduce the projected deficit for 2013). Unfortunately, its going to take a whole lot more than this tax increase to clean up that mess. Only time will tell.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2013!

Comparing the London Property Market With the Rest of the World

Comparing the London Property Market With the Rest of the World

There are often articles written about the UK property market: from the perspective of owner-occupiers, British property investors and overseas buyers. And these different angles all tell a different story so it is sometimes difficult to see the bigger picture of where the UK property market is at now and where it is likely to be heading in the years to come. Even if you are not an investor but have bought, or are considering buying, a home for yourself and your family to live in it is still useful to know how the market is faring, after all your home is also an investment or, at least, traditionally this has been so in the UK.

But not all countries have the same type of market; in some you would not expect to increase the value of your home for the next generation let alone in a few years as UK buyers had come to expect before the current economic crisis. So sometimes it is interesting to look at our own market in comparison with other property landscapes around the world; those of us with a positive outlook may find much to reinforce that view and those with a negative outlook for the future of property prices may find something to make that negative view a little less bleak.

It is hard to compare like with like across countries because even within a single country there are so many different types of property. The low cost one or two-bedroom apartments or small houses for first time buyers right through family homes, executive homes up to the prime London property market that has become exclusively for high net worth individuals. So let's focus on just one aspect: prime property in London and the Home Counties, and compare this high net-worth landscape to similar properties in other countries across the globe.

There are a range of professional reports that can help with this comparison (one is the Prime Global Cities Index from Knight Frank) which presentsan indication of values and trends across different countries and places London's property performance in a global context. London's prime property market, unlike other areas of the UK property market, has been booming over the past few years and looks set to continue with this trend as investors are showing a preference for the UK over the Eurozone, but how does it compare to other major cities outside Europe?

London has in recent years featured in the top five cities worldwide for percentage annual increase in prime property prices and is typically ahead of all other European cities although Zurich and Moscow are close rivals. New York (specifically Manhattan) has always been a close rival but other cities such as Miami, Kakarta and Nairobi are also strong contemders for high annual price increases of prime property.

Prime property is a not an assured investment everywhere in the world as many major cities such as Sydney and Kuala Lumpur have shown significant falls in property values recently. And in Europe, Paris, Madrid and Geneva have also seen decreases of between four and five per cent. These decreases give an indication of how well London's high-end market is performing.

There still appears to be a sufficient level of demand for high-end London property from both cash buyers and those choosing to finance a purchase with a large mortgage, typically million pound mortgages or more. Economic uncertainty in Spain, Greece and Italy continues to mean London is seen as a safe haven for European investors.

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