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Blog Archive November 2019



Understanding How the Better Business Bureau Supports the Marketplace

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The Better Business Bureau, or BBB as it is often referred to, is a non-profit corporation that was established to assign rankings to businesses, charities and non-profit organizations for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike. Originally founded in 1912 as a single bureau, today there are 128 regional Better Business Bureaus throughout the United States and Canada. The Better Business Bureau collects data about these entities and dispute resolution procedures. The vision of the Better Business Bureau was to create an ethical marketplace, based on trust. Consumers can utilize the Better Business Bureau as a regulated arena to file a complaint, report scams, state an opinion or review a business they’ve used. Having all of this information as a basis, the Better Business Bureau is an ideal resource to locate reliable businesses and avoid troublesome ones.

The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois

As stated by the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois:

“We are committed to helping businesses and consumers foster a marketplace of trust. From our home base in Chicago, we work to serve you in an area that spans from Northwest Illinois across the State to Kankakee and all the areas in between. We are on the road visiting communities, collaborating with local businesses, educating consumers and promoting relationships built on trust. We are supporting our military, assisting our seniors, empowering our youth and holding businesses to a higher standard so that you don’t have to. Your continued support means more public outreach, more investigations into substandard business behaviors, more education on scam awareness, and more support for businesses that remain devoted to honesty and integrity. Together, we can make a powerful impact on the places we call home.” 

Integrity and Ethics

The Better Business Bureau offers businesses that qualify, the Accreditation Seal, which declares a business’ commitment to integrity, ethical business practices and customer service. Businesses that meet the eight principles that are the Better Business Bureau’s standards for trust will be given an accreditation seal. Businesses with this achievement are expected to make a good faith effort to resolve consumer complaints. Accredited businesses pay a fee to be reviewed, monitored and for continued compliance and support of Better Business Bureau services to the public. Over 400,000 businesses are accredited with the Better Business Bureau today.

Increasing Awareness and Education

The Better Business Bureau assists on behalf of Chicago and Northern Illinois through its Educational Foundation. This 501(c)(3) organization focuses its efforts on educating businesses and consumers regarding trust in the marketplace. Programs are offered throughout the year and are tailored to benefit all demographics, businesses niches and current issues. Thousands of businesses and consumers benefit from these educational initiatives every year. Topics that may be covered in a Better Business Bureau Educational Foundation seminar may discuss identity theft, trust or cyber security. More information regarding Speaker’s Bureau workshops, the scholarship program and events to support business and consumers can be found in the Chicago and Northern Illinois region website.

The Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics

Every year the Better Business Bureau nominates and awards select businesses for ethical businesses practices. The Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics is the most prestigious award the Better Business Bureau can present to a business. The recipient of this award believes in high standards promoted by the Better Business Bureau and consistently demonstrates and integrates them into daily business practices. Pan American Bank & Trust is proud to be the recipient of the 2019 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics!


The Refurbished Technology Market

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We’ve reached an era where technology is the basis of how our lives operate on a daily basis. It is used not only to facilitate various tasks throughout our day, but technology has become the only means by which we conduct several main functions. Due to the fact that it is so widely used in almost every industry, it is imperative that the current generation of children are well versed in how to utilize the power of the resources technology can offer.

Children today cannot fathom how to accomplish most common undertakings without the uses of technology. This is especially true in the realm of academia where the initial method by which they are taught how to learn a new task is through the use of technology. There are few professions that will not benefit, if not require, the use and knowledge of various software and technological devices to perform skillfully and at level in future markets. Fields such as medicine, science, engineering and information systems have obvious needs for technology. However, technology has become so specific to need that even careers such as carpentry, arts, cuisine and landscaping are utilizing these advances to improve efficiency and quality.

Technological devices are so commonplace for the use of learning that they have become part of the curriculum for most schools at every grade level. Long gone are the days of simply using a calculator and notebook. Children as young as Kindergarten level can be found playing math games and learning new concepts on tablets. The older the student, the more types of devices are needed to sustain the types of learning methods currently being applied. This results in higher expenses for parents given the fact that these devices are fairly expensive. High school and college students are of course those that require the most, adding to that already hefty tuition bill.

Due to the large demand for technology and the unfavorable sticker shock that comes with it, smart consumers are realizing that high quality refurbished devices can be found if you do your research and know where to look. There is a large offering of mobile phones, accessories, laptops and tablets that have been refurbished and ready for resale. The misconception is that refurbished products are of lesser quality but that is not necessarily the case. Typically, refurbished products are from consumers that wanted to trade in perfectly working devices for newer models.

There are of course considerations to be aware of when purchasing refurbished products. Once you have done your research, only purchase from reputable sources. Choose companies that refurbish their devices with high standards of inspection. This is your your greatest insurance to guarantee it will operate to it’s fullest functionality. Companies that stand behind their products will even offer 90-day guarantees or allow you to trade in devices if you are unsatisfied. Being open to the refurbished market allows consumers access to higher quality devices that they may not have otherwise considered due to their exorbitant cost when brand new and full price. Regardless of what capacity devices are used for and the initial cost, maintaining them is always a priority. The cost of screen protectors and cases may seem like an unwanted additional expense at the time of purchasing devices, but in the long term, the savings to not have costly repairs to your devices will be worth it.


Fostering Innovation in Business

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All businesses, large and small, corporate or family run, must continuously re-invent themselves to maintain a positive position in the marketplace. Endless stories can be recounted of major brands that have crumbled due to their failure to remain up to speed with market demand and appeal. Once obtained, market control must be maintained by continuous effort and strategies to remain at the forefront of demand. Such strategies are developed not just in regard to products, but from companies as a whole. When innovation is encouraged as a culture in the workplace, creativity is more vibrant and ideas are more impactful.

Here are some insightful tips to foster an atmosphere of innovation, which can be applied no matter the size or type of business.

Ask Questions

The more information you have, the better your business will be positioned to find its niche in the market. Being inquisitive, curious, even nosy, will only build the information base from which creativity can be applied to generate new concepts. A great way to do this is through workshops, keeping tabs on market trends and observing competitors. Once a database of information is established, a system must be put into place of how to conceptualize it into innovative initiatives.

Have an open mind

Many times, the best ideas are right before our eyes. The same products that has served the market well for years, may simply need a tweak or upgrade to be the best selling product to fly off the shelves tomorrow. For example, Sara Blakely saw the need for a simple adjustment to undergarments and pantyhose that revolutionized the entire industry, developing a niche that has turned her company, SPANX, into a multi billion-dollar corporation. To remain relevant, they have continued with their innovative ideas by offering clothing such as leggings, skirts, shorts, etc. that offer support and a more flattering fit.  

Inspiration can come from anything

Do not limit ideas of improvement or innovation to the people and topics that are specific to your business type. Other businesses, although different, may have techniques or strategies that can be converted to benefit other business models. Hearing another business professionals’ experience is always beneficial. A situation or decision may be approached with the consideration of experienced advice, allowing for a better outcome.

Support an innovative atmosphere

Open mindedness must be emphasized from top management and stressed at every employee level. The best way to accomplish this is to not allow great ideas to perish after brainstorming sessions. Support must be provided to bring ideas to fruition to encourage the continuity of innovation and ideas from staff at every level. Creativity is most likely to emerge when employees are content and inspired. Simple fixes can accomplish this such as office coffee bars, themed days and fun team building activities. Creating open work spaces also helps to develop employee connections, eliminating the stigmas of hierarchy and encouraging more communication.

The customer is always right!

Pay close attention to what clients are satisfied with and disapproving of within the market. This is a key indictor of where effort, research and funds should be spent towards innovating new ideas. Ultimately, if a service or product is created on a whim and clients are not interested in it, failure will be the result.

Consider future trends

Innovation requires a clear understanding not only of the current market, but also of trends forecasted for the future. If you mistakenly decide not to provide a product that all of your competitors supply, and it is in high demand the following year, your sales will surely suffer. If you are a large corporation, it could set a negative tone for consumer perception of you in the marketplace. Many factors play into decisions regarding future market expectations, which are always a risk.


Debt After Death

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Inheritance can be bittersweet for those that have lost a loved one. They might be left valuable assets that will bring positivity to their lives at a time of sadness and grief. They may also be notified of debt or of the fact that they have to relinquish their inheritance to pay off outstanding balances left by the deceased. Unfortunately, the latter is more common than the former. In fact, 73% of adults pass away with unpaid debt. Following are tips regarding what you can do to avoid financial issues for your loved ones after your death.

The most common concern regarding inheritance is the possibility of having the responsibility of debt passed on. Children may inherit debt from their parents and a spouse may inherit debt from their husband or wife. In most cases, debt is not passed on from a relative who has passed on, but there are instances where it may occur.

The estate of the person that has died is responsible for any debts. Some debt will be secured by an asset and may be paid off by selling it. For instance, an unpaid car or home can be sold to pay off the lender. The lender may also opt to repossess or foreclose on the asset if the situation calls for those measures.

Unsecured debt, such as credit card debt or personal loans, must be paid from the estate before any money is paid to those inheriting the estate. If there are insufficient funds in the estate to pay all debts, the estate will be deemed insolvent and an executor will prioritize the debts to be paid. All remaining debt will be dismissed.

If any debt was co-signed, as is often the case for student loans, the
co-signer will be liable if the primary borrower has died. In fact, some contracts state that the co-signer must pay off the entire balance of the loan at the time of the primary borrower’s death as a default provision.

Here is a guideline of how various types of debt are typically addressed after death.

Credit Card Debt

If an estate is not established, and there is not a joint cardholder or co-signer, the debts are dismissed upon the individual’s demise. If there is an estate, the credit card company may file a claim against the estate for up to two years but not necessarily receive payment.

If it was a joint credit card, the other individual is responsible for the debt even if they were not responsible for the purchases that caused the debt. Please note that authorized users are not responsible for debt, no matter the situation. Be aware that using a deceased person’s credit card is considered fraud, even if you are an authorized user. The credit card company should be sent a death certificate immediately when a person dies for their records.

Mortgage Debt

Mortgage debt differs from credit card debt in that payments must continue regardless of any circumstance, including death, otherwise the lender will foreclose on the property. A co-borrower, typically a spouse, would usually be responsible for a loan and could refinance to prevent losing the home. In the situation where there is a co-signer, but not a co-borrower, the co-signer would become exclusively responsible for all payments.

In the absence of a co-borrower and co-signer, the beneficiary named in the will becomes the owner of the home. If a beneficiary is not declared, a relative willing to accept the financial responsibility of the mortgage can take ownership of the home. The executor of the estate can use funds from the assets to pay off the home if that scenario is possible. 

Student Loan Debt

Student loans can be federal or through private lenders. If a borrower dies with outstanding federal loans, even with a co-signer, the loan is dismissed. Private lenders will usually discharge the loan, but if there is a co-signer they may be held responsible for the balance. If the debt was incurred during a marriage and you reside in a community property state, your spouse will be responsible for a private student loan.

There are ways to facilitate your financial matters for your loved ones after your death. Being prepared in the event of your passing will ensure your family is not left to sort out difficult details and situations. Following this advice will help to simplify the transition:

  • Understand the terms of any debt before you take it on. Think ahead to how it will affect your loved ones if you passed away unexpectedly.

  • Keep your loved ones informed of your financial standings and give them access to your records. In the event of your passing they shouldn’t be searching for passwords and unaware of where your accounts are located.

  • Avoid significant debt whenever possible. Pay off debt whenever you have the means to do so. Don’t add co-signers or joint account holders unless you absolutely must.

  • Life insurance proceeds can be used to pay off debts after you die if you state that in your policy.

  • Expert advice is always valuable when making such monumental decisions. An estate attorney can help you establish your estate to ensure the best scenario possible for your loved ones.
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