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1/24/2020

Estimating Salary Peaks and How to Maximize Potential Earnings 

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Most individuals would assume that their salaries would increase throughout the course of their careers. Many count on this assumption when calculating for significant expenses such as their children's college tuition or eventual retirement. The fact of the matter is that nothing is guaranteed. Recent market trends have indicated that the highest income levels are actually estimated to be ten to twenty years before retirement for many middle-income workers. 

Typically, the most substantial pay raises occur while workers are in their youngest years, just starting out in the workforce. By the time an individual is in the 45 to 55-year-old range, their salary has peaked in several types of industries. As has unfortunately become a more common occurrence, employees that are 50 and older, are often replaced with a younger substitute. This scenario leaves the older worker financially deficient in the later years of their career when retirement is looming. 

Retirement savings should be a consideration from the first job opportunity accepted. Every paycheck should have money allocated for retirement. Even a small amount over several years will add to your nest egg should an unexpected situation present itself. Counting on a period of time or situation that will bring a more considerable income or windfall is an uncertainty. In the meantime, an accumulated nest egg is a guarantee that can always be used as a bonus if your hopeful plans are realized. As a rule of thumb, those with higher education tend to earn more throughout their lifetime and tend to make more as their career progresses.

The following are a few tips to help you achieve your maximum earning potential throughout your career. Use social media to your advantage but always in a professional and mature context. LinkedIn is a great tool that allows you to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Be conscious of what you post, comment, and like on other social sites as well. Everything done on social media is a representation of your image to others.

Part of the reason social media is so important is that it can be used to easily maintain relationships with those in your industry through a quick click of a button or a shared article. However, do not forget the importance of person-to-person interactions. Keep valuable connections alive by calling rather than texting or setting up a quick breakfast instead of a phone call when possible. 

When negotiating your salary, especially early in your career, do your research. Know your worth, talk to your peers, search for salary information online at other companies, and request a reasonable but fair salary. Starting your income levels at a higher range can affect future income potential significantly. 

Staying motivated and engaged in your job is key to performing well, which translates to being a valued employee. If you are valued, not only will you be rewarded financially, but you will not have to worry about being replaced. There is so much that can be done to keep one in the most positive mindset for success. Exercise will reduce stress, increase endorphins, so you feel great and give you the energy you need to tackle the many responsibilities of the day. Searching for motivation is also a great idea. Some are lucky enough to have a mentor they can talk to whenever they need. Others find motivational speakers they follow to inspire them. Some use meditation to center them amid the chaos and burdens of everyday life. Whatever you may choose to do, finding a way to help yourself be the best version of yourself can only lead to a favorable scenario and success!

1/14/2020

Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid When Operating a Small Business

Businessmen of the pitfalls and miniature.

Whether you are just starting a new business or have been a proud small business owner for years, the importance of marketing can’t be stressed enough. While referrals, location, and repeat business can assist in growing your business, advertising to new clientele will give your sales the most substantial potential for a boost. Not dedicating any or enough time to marketing efforts will significantly decrease your sales in the long term, and could even lead to business failure. Most entrepreneurs are so busy dedicating themselves to every aspect of their business; often times, marketing is last on the priority list. However, marketing should be considered a mandatory aspect of operating a business, with a set amount of time devoted to a plan of action, just like every other part of daily business efforts. Once a strategy has been determined and a time frame for action has been established, additional steps can be set to ensure your efforts lead to results.

Follow up – Just because you took the time to form a plan and spent the money to implement it doesn’t mean it will work. You will continue to waste money if you do not realize it and continue to utilize an ineffective plan. For this reason, it is crucial to track the results of your efforts. One of the most important and significant ways you can determine if your plan is working is to monitor social media. Keep track of the number of users on your business’ website, the number of views on your page, and the number of subscribers, followers and engagements. All of these factors should be increasing, a very telling indication that your concept is reaching many more potential clients. Periodically, evaluate these factors to determine where improvements can be made if the overall process is effective and if other strategies can be implemented. 

Differentiate Yourself – No matter what type of business you run, whether it is mainstream or a new concept, there must be something that makes you stand out. For instance, if you own a dry cleaning business, there has to be a factor that makes your store better than the competition, or you will remain mediocre. Do you have the best location, best prices, best service, best quality, or all of the above? What will make people use your location rather than the other ten locations that are on their commute between work and home? Perhaps offering a free pick-up and delivery service that provides a higher level of convenience than your competitors would give you a huge advantage? Thinking outside the box, considering what a client would desire unlocks the key to gathering market share. 

Define a Marketing Plan and Budget – Strategizing a few marketing ideas; putting up a few social media sites and hoping for the best is not a marketing plan. A concrete and effective marketing plan will be created with specific goals in mind. The plan should provide marketing direction and brand standards, resulting in understanding market strategies and define your target audience.

Approximately up to 5% of your sales revenue should be allocated to marketing efforts. Consider your options before spending these essential funds. Their placement can be the difference between no return or a considerable growth for your business. Keep track of exactly where you spend your marketing dollars and the return you receive from them for future reference. As your business grows, you’ll be able to determine better where your marketing budget is best used to continue giving your business the greatest return.

1/12/2020

Guidelines to Gratuities

Close up of restaurant bill with tip money on table with plate, napkin and glass.

Knowing when and how much is customary to tip can be confusing, leaving one to seem rude or less than generous unintentionally. While there are not any laws set in stone about what must be given as a tip, there are favored societal expectations. Given the wages of service workers in many industries, gratuities are the basis of their wages. Therefore, those that do not tip or are shortcoming with their gratuity are looked upon most unfavorably. Tipping also demonstrates appreciation and recognition for a job well done. Let us walk through several everyday situations that most people encounter to explain proper etiquette.

Travel

Be prepared to appreciate a long list of people on your next trip. While traveling, you will encounter a wide variety of people that will be accommodating your needs and should be compensated. Drivers, restaurant servers, hotel employees, etc. will all be performing various services that are customarily rewarded with a tip. The higher the caliber of a restaurant or hotel, the higher the expectation of a gratuity is expected. 

For example, at a hotel, you will most likely come across the following professionals assisting you during your stay, which typically would expect the following gratuities:

  • Hotel porter - $2 to $3 per bag
  • Room Service – 20% + $2 if server sets it up in your room
  • Housekeeping - $2 per day at a budget hotel, $5 per day at a luxury hotel
    • Toiletry or Towel Delivery - $2
    • Doorman - $2 to $4
    • Concierge - $5 to $25 depending on the task. Giving a  recommendation for dinner is much easier than getting tickets to a booked show.

Restaurants

Restaurant tipping should be based upon the service you receive, not the taste of the food. The server has no control over the quality of the food. However, your order should be correct; your server should check on you frequently, and no matter what, you should leave a tip, even if it is small. Always check your bill to see if gratuity was already added before deciding to add more. General guidelines are to tip 15% to 20% of the pretax bill for a full-service meal. No gratuity is expected if you are picking up food. 


Transportation

If you are traveling outside of the country, there are a few things to keep in mind. Do some research about the country you are going to beforehand. Every country is different, and you do not want to be offensive or spend much more than you need to simply because you are unaware of the cultural norms. For instance, in many European countries, unlike in the United States, restaurant servers are salaried with full benefits. Therefore tips of 20% are not customary. A few dollars as a tip are more than plenty and considered very generous for a meal. Here are some other tips to consider when traveling abroad.

Always use cash to tip in the currency of the country you are visiting.
  • Taxi fare gratuity is usually 15% to 20% 
  • Airport Shuttle bus driver tips average about $2 to $3
  • Limo Driver tips are about 20% of the fare
  • Cruise ship tipping policies – Call ahead so you know what to expect since every cruise line has different expectations
  • Uber and Lyft – Both apps now have an option to tip the driver. It is a service provided just like any other that receives a tip – 15% to 20%

Weddings and Funerals

Other types of events attended by all at some point or another are weddings and funerals. While it may seem strange to some, all of the people working behind the scenes to ensure these events go smoothly.

1/3/2020

Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Expenses and Cash in on Savings

Piggy bank with dollar bill coming out from top on illustrated background "Save Money".

With the new year, and in this instance, the new decade, comes new resolutions. Many habits of today’s lifestyle that have become commonplace are taken for granted as unavoidable but are actually very frivolous and chip away at our hard-earned budget. Objectively, there are many ways to accomplish the same tasks without the high price tags most pay because they are unaware of more economical options. Whether you are smart with your money out of necessity or because it is worth it to you to pay less for the sake of having more money in your pocket, here are some ideas to get you started.

Healthy but Happy

Having a healthy attitude and maintaining your health is paramount. However, wasting exorbitant amounts of money to do so is unnecessary. Expensive gyms with flashy trainers and daily events are appealing, but also draining when it comes to your wallet. Look for alternatives that offer the types of workouts and facilities you are looking for without the distracting sparkle. Local park districts and YMCAs are a great place to start. They are usually fairly inexpensive and well equipped. Some even offer access to tracks and facilities free of charge to residents. Go with a friend for extra motivation, and you’ll be all set to take on your health without breaking the bank.

Travel Tips

There are several ways to save on travel expenses. Being inconvenienced usually plays a part, but it is usually worth the savings. First and foremost, plan to travel light. The less baggage you bring, the less costs are tacked on to your ticket expense. While some airlines still include a bag in the ticket price, several do not. Pay attention to the baggage fees that can be applied. Sometimes a carry on is more expensive than a checked bag. Don’t be surprised and overpay for bags.

Not being picky about your seat can save you money as well. Several airlines charge extra to pick your seat. Once you are seated, if walking a little further to the bathroom, the once or twice you’ll need to use it isn’t an issue, pocket the seating fees, and avoid the charges.

Certain airlines offer a bit more upgrades as standard than others. Luxuries such as Wi-Fi, food service, and even the comfort level of the seats are reflected in the ticket price. A shorter flight can easily be tolerated on a less upgraded airline by bringing along a great read and a few snacks, saving a considerable difference in ticket fare. 

Wireless Wisdom

Most people today are dependent on their cell phones and therefore pay a hefty price to their cell phone service providers for service. As an alternative, several competitors offer lower price options for those dreading high cell phone bills. Choices include no contract, using Wi-Fi, adjusting GB limits, or changing phones to get a better deal. All in all, there are enough options available that there might be something that can work for you to slash that monthly rate. Some companies to check out are Republic wireless and Ting.

Discount Shopping

As a primary budget item, groceries factor as a significant expense for individuals and families alike. Taking the time to find less expensive alternatives to personal favorites or paying attention to sales and promotions adds up to huge savings since groceries are a repeated expense. Choosing to shop at stores such as Walmart and Aldi, which offer the same or similar products for much less, is a smart alternative to reduce the cost of groceries over time. Aldi, for instance, expects you to return your cart to the cart corral, or you will not be able to retrieve the quarter you deposited to use it, and you must bring your own bags to place your groceries in. Most products are simply placed on shelves in boxes and not displayed. However, items are significantly lower than at other grocery retailers and worth the minor inconveniences.

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