(BPT) - Financial and business education is a critical pathway for the future of America’s small business community.
To start with, business owners should ask themselves: “What is the true value of my business?” It’s an important question because the value of your business will have a big impact on both the professional and personal aspects of your life, including the well-being of your family, employees and possibly even the community in which your business in located.
The 2015 Business Owner Perspectives study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) revealed about half of business owners say they’ve had their businesses valued in the past three years, yet one out of three says they’ve done the valuations themselves. When business owners value the business themselves, they can significantly over or under value their business.
Knowing your business’ true value gives you a more realistic perspective and allows you to put effective strategies into place for future growth, business continuation, succession planning, and retirement planning.
Here are three tips for evaluating what your business is worth.
1. Times to know the value of your business. Because of constant change in the economic, competitive and regulatory landscape in which so many businesses exist today, it’s a good idea to review the value of your business on a regular basis. Doing this will allow you to have a firm grasp on the business’s current value and track its growth over an extended period of time. With this knowledge, you could consider adjusting your business plans to focus more on the drivers of value, or simply be in a better position to take advantage of opportunities. In addition to measuring business health and preparing it for sale at some immediate or future date, there are other considerations in knowing what your business is worth, including funding a buy-sell agreement, retirement income planning and estate tax planning.
2. Turn to a credentialed valuation expert. A proper business valuation is not a “rule of thumb” or a figure agreed to with a handshake; it’s thoughtfully crafted by a credentialed appraiser after thorough research and is documented in writing. Credentials to look for include: Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), Accredited Senior Appraiser (ASA) or Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV).
3. Fund any potential "value gaps." Once you know the value of your business, it’s common for there to be a discrepancy between what you thought the business was worth and what you need the business to be worth. The good news is proper planning can help reduce potential “value gaps” created by an owner’s over- or under-estimation of the business’s value. For example, having assets outside the business, such as qualified plans and other investments, can help reduce the value gap in your retirement plan. In addition, insurance products, such as life insurance and disability income insurance, can help address the value gap created if a business goes into forced liquidation following the death or disability of an owner.
Take the next step. Talk to a qualified financial professional about where your business is now and where you'd like it to be in the future, and to find financial solutions that can help you reach your goals.
5 Ways to Make the Most of Tech Gifts
(Family Features) No matter the occasion – holidays, birthdays or promotions – technology gifts are always on the top of wish lists. With today’s devices spanning a wide range of price points and features, selecting the right item is just the beginning. When buying a tech gift, there are several things to keep in mind.
Ensure your intended gets maximum enjoyment from your tech gift with these tips.
Asurion partners with the leading wireless carriers so shoppers can easily add premier support and protection when shopping for technology gifts for friends and family. Learn more at asurion.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(BPT) - A picture has always been worth more than a thousand words; images capture feelings and retell cherished memories. Modern technology has increased the value of an image, by making it easier than ever to preserve and share special moments.
While your grandparents may have relied solely on tangible prints to save and share images, today you have access to even more ways to capture, store, share and print memories. These technologies help families and friends feel more connected, regardless of distance. Devices like the Canon Connect Station CS100, a photo and video storage device that can connect to multiple compatible imaging devices, are revolutionizing the 21st century photo album.
Today’s “photo album” is:
* Flexible –Today, you can snap photos and shoot video on a variety of digital cameras, from a digital SLR camera like the Canon EOS Rebel T6i or a Canon VIXIA camcorder. The variety of imaging devices make it easier than ever to ensure you never miss the chance to preserve a special moment.
* Convenient – In the early days of digital photography, images were transferred from the device to a computer through use of a cable or memory card. Today, it’s easy to transfer images from device to device through a variety of means, using products with Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities.
* Shareable – You can send images digitally through a variety of devices. It’s now possible to snap a picture at your child’s sporting event and text or email it immediately to Grandma in another state. Or, you can share entire photo albums wirelessly between users. For example, the Canon Connect Station CS100 allows you to store images on the device wirelessly with the use of a compatible camera or mobile device.
* Vast – A variety of products and services today give you access to an abundance of storage. For a long-term storage solution in the convenience of your own home, this specific Canon device can store about 150,000 photos or 70 hours of Full HD video.
* Creative – Most modern image-capturing devices also come with built-in software to allow you to manipulate images, create video, add effects and more. Once you’ve created the images you desire, it’s easy to transfer them to your preferred storage device, print them out and create physical albums or crafts.
To learn more about the Canon Connect Station CS100 visit www.usa.canon.com.
(BPT) - From calls to texting to browsing the Web, today’s smartphones and tablets have the potential to keep us in constant communication while on the go. But for mobile users who suffer through dropped calls, slow downloads or delayed voicemails, that potential isn’t always realized.
In fact, 20 percent of respondents experience dropped calls “very often” (15 times or more per week), while another 15 percent experience dropped calls “often” (10 to 15 times per week), according to a recent consumer survey conducted by weBoost. When poor cell reception occurs on a daily basis, even the most amazing piece of mobile technology can lose a lot of its value to the user.
While those who report these common mobile challenges may be quick to blame their device or carrier, the real culprit may be neither. The surprising truth is anything interrupting the line of sight from a cell tower to a device — such as uneven terrain, dust in the air and tall foliage — can reduce signal strength.
Perhaps the biggest misconception of all is that there’s nothing we can do. On the contrary, it’s much easier than many mobile users realize to improve signal strength. Here are some simple tips for better reception:
Track your tower. Knowing which tower your device is using can go a long way toward improving your signal. A downloadable app called “Open Signal,” available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, will show you all the cell towers in your area, as well as which tower you’re connected to. By knowing where the tower is, you’ll know which direction to face when using your mobile device, which reduces the chance of any obstructions blocking your signal. If you find you’re not connected to the closest tower, simply reboot your signal by turning your phone off and on again.
Keep your device charged. If you’ve ever picked up your phone and suddenly noticed several delayed texts or voicemails appear at once, try checking your battery. When you’re actively using your phone, it pings the towers more frequently, which uses more power. However, it conserves power when it’s on standby mode — which means if your battery is low, your phone could be receiving updates less frequently. The solution is simple: just charge your battery.
Roll down the windows. Energy-efficient building products, such as insulation and tinted windows, can block a cell signal in a home or office building. Similarly, most vehicles are built with large amounts of metal, often with a metallic tint covering the windows. If you notice you’re struggling for a good signal indoors, or while on the road, the solution could be as easy as rolling down the window. Your cell signal could double in strength.
Compare carriers. If none of the above solutions seem to improve your cell reception, your carrier could be the problem. Not all carriers serve the same locations, and it’s quite possible your carrier just doesn’t provide a strong signal in your area. To know for sure, simply look up coverage maps for each of the major carriers and compare their service areas. Switching to a different carrier could be the best option where you live.
Boost your signal. While there are many effective ways around the problem of poor cell reception, it’s also surprisingly easy to fix it permanently. A weBoost cell phone signal booster installed in a home or car can greatly amplify a weak signal — essentially creating your own personal cell tower. The result is faster download speeds, clearer conversations and better battery life (since your phone will no longer need to transmit over long distances). Just like a cell tower, a weBoost cell signal booster works with every network, and there’s no limit to how many people can use it at once.
(BPT) - It’s everywhere — inside as well as outside your home. As digital device usage increases, you’re exposed to more and more of it without realizing how it may affect your vision in the future. We’re talking about blue light.
In its natural form, your body uses blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles. This natural light also helps boost alertness, heighten reaction times and elevate moods.
However, we use our eyes much differently than prior generations because we now use a number of artificial sources of blue light including digital screens, electronic devices and LED lighting. The evolution in digital screen technology has advanced dramatically over the years, and many of today's electronic devices use LED back-light technology to help enhance screen brightness and clarity.
These LEDs emit very strong blue light waves. Because of the widespread use and increasing popularity of these devices, we are now exposed to more sources of blue light for longer periods of time. Studies suggest 60 percent of people spend more than six hours a day in front of a digital device.
The flickering of this artificial blue light creates a glare that can reduce visual contrast, affecting sharpness and clarity. That in turn could contribute to eyestrain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue due to increasing amounts of time sitting in front of a computer screen or other electronic device.
Studies show this high-energy, blue-violet light has been found to cause significant damage to retinal cells, and is a risk factor for the onset of age-related macular degeneration, a deterioration of the part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision.
Our eyes' natural filters do not provide sufficient protection against blue light rays from the sun, let alone the blue light emanating from these devices, or from blue light emitted from fluorescent-light tubes.
Mother Nature arms us with “internal sunglasses” made up of macular pigment. This pigment, which is comprised of zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and lutein at a ratio of 2:1, is found in the center of the macula (fovea). This pigment absorbs harmful blue light that can affect eye health. These “sunglasses” protect the rods and cones needed for central as well as peripheral vision.
However, if this macular pigment isn’t at optimal density, it will allow more blue light to damage these rods and cones, negatively affecting not just what you see, but how you see.
Zeaxanthin and lutein aren’t produced by the body, they must be ingested in order to ensure optimal macular pigment density. Zeaxanthin can be found in foods like corn, wolf berries and peppers. Lutein is found in foods like spinach and kale.
Since the average American diet is scarce in zeaxanthin, supplementing this antioxidant is key. Vitamins for macular health, like those made by EyePromise, can be of big benefit.
Vision becomes even more precious as we age, since the loss of independence a very real threat to aging Americans. Reduce your risk of harmful effects of blue light to your vision by increasing the density of your “internal sunglasses.”
(BPT) - New technologies are responsible for many of the advances, comforts and conveniences of modern life, from the smartphone to wearable items such as “smart” wristwatches and eyeglasses. That’s no different in the car, where new technology is helping people drive more safely.
While cars today may not look much different from previous model years, the latest technology is helping save lives. One in five injury crashes could be prevented or reduced if all passenger vehicles were equipped with specific types of technology, according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Enhancing vehicle safety
In the past, safety features were geared toward protecting drivers and passengers during a crash. Now, newer vehicle technologies have the potential to prevent a collision altogether. Many are already on the market, including:
* Blind-spot warning systems warn drivers of objects in blind spots, especially while changing lanes and parking.
* Back-up cameras warn of objects behind the vehicle to help drivers judge distances and reverse more safely.
* Smart headlights adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic and to reduce glare and improve night vision.
* Collision avoidance systems alert the driver when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision.
* Lane departure warnings monitor the vehicle's position and warn the driver if the vehicle deviates outside the lane.
* Parking assistance indicates distance to objects, making parking easier, or may enable vehicles to park on their own.
* Adaptive cruise control allows the car to adjust its speed depending on traffic conditions.
“As these technologies become more widely available in new cars today, it’s important all drivers learn how they work and how to use them effectively,” says Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. “This is especially true for mature drivers, as many technologies can enhance the driving experience as we age.”
Top technologies among mature drivers
Drivers ages 50 to 69, according to a new study from The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, are most willing to adopt the following vehicle technologies: 1) blind-spot warning systems, 2) back-up cameras, 3) smart headlights, 4) collision avoidance systems, and 5) lane departure warnings.
A majority of participants indicated they are willing to purchase these five technologies, are likely to use them, and think they are worth having.
These technologies can help keep drivers safe and feeling confident behind the wheel. For example, back-up cameras can help drivers with reduced flexibility to see behind the vehicle, and blind-spot warning systems may help drivers with limited range of motion be more comfortable while driving.
The importance of learning about vehicle technology
Learning more about how vehicle technologies work is a smart step to keeping drivers safer on the road. Many new cars already include some safety technologies, and all new cars will be required to have back-up cameras by May 2018.
Staying current on the latest features available — and using them appropriately — may help all drivers, including mature drivers, stay safe behind the wheel. To learn more, drivers can download a free vehicle technology guidebook and take an interactive video quiz at thehartford.com/cartech.
(BPT) - The scene is all too familiar: you’re in the middle of dinner and suddenly a telemarketer’s call or dead air on the end of the line rudely interrupts your meal. Thanks to the FCC, this approach is gradually becoming a thing of the past. On June 18, 2015, the FCC adopted a proposal that will eventually lead to the demise of those unwanted calls. But due to increased regulation, privacy concerns and people just not answering their phones, the market research industry is now taking a new approach to gathering data.
Each month callers make approximately 5 billion misdialed, incomplete, disconnected or inbound calls (known as MIDI calls) to phone numbers that are not currently in use by any other business. As discussed in a recent CNBC article, these MIDI calls provide market research firms with a new way to conduct market research with consumers.
“At any given time we have hundreds of thousands of numbers not in use but receiving MIDI calls,” says Scott Richards, CEO of Reconnect Research, a subsidiary of Dial800 — a company that has connected consumers with companies for the last 25 years. Richards says that Reconnect Research is gathering information via MIDI calls that could provide valuable information to the general public. “For example, if an infectious disease breaks out, within hours we can find out if people are sick and pass that information along to the appropriate authorities.”
MIDI calls also put an end to the dreaded “robocall” that interrupts your dinner. If you dial a number and reach a survey instead, you always have the option of hanging up. You’re the one in control and it doesn’t become a disturbance in your day. Initial case studies of MIDI call surveys show that the quality of the data collected is on par with traditional research firms and they also show large participation rates. People seem to be open to being part of market research surveys when they’re given the option of participating.
Market research firms, consumers and telecom carriers alike all benefit from MIDI calls. Market research firms can quickly, accurately and cost effectively conduct phone surveys, consumers can have their voices heard and get incentives, such as gift cards to restaurants and retailers, and telecom carriers can make — rather than lose — billions of MIDI calls. MIDI calls actually cost carriers millions of dollars, so being able to utilize them for market research is a win-win situation.
So the next time you find yourself accidentally making a MIDI call, pay attention to what happens on the other end of the line. You could be playing a crucial role in the end of invasive and inconvenient robo-calls and have the opportunity to contribute valuable information to the public conversation. For more information, visit reconnectresearch.com.
(BPT) - Are you longing for a new smartphone this holiday season? Tech gifts top everyone’s holiday wish lists. In fact, a whopping 65 percent of all Americans, roughly 160 million people, are planning to buy tech gifts this holiday season, according to the Consumer Technology Association's 22nd Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study.
Emerging technologies such as smartphones are holiday must-haves, but once your shiny new device is in hand, learning about all its features can be overwhelming. No need to worry -- these five tips will help guide you so you can get the most out of your new smartphone:
Tip #1: Set up security
Whether it’s your own phone, your partner’s or you kid’s, security settings should be top of mind. Take time to set up the home screen’s lock features. In addition to a number pad, some phones like the new LG V10 use a fingerprint sensor for added security. If desired, you’re able to set up parental controls on your children’s phones. These features are often found within “settings.” Finally, complete your connection to the cloud so all your contacts, photos, videos and texts are protected.
Tip #2: Go to camera settings
Explore your phone’s camera features and capture life’s in-between moments. Your phone may have editing tools built in, but if not it’s easy to download an app and you’ll be taking professional-level photos in no time. With the LG V10, you’re able to take videos and photos in Manual Mode making the experience more interactive than ever before. The LG V10 smartphone also features 5MP Dual Front Cameras with two separate lenses to capture standard 80-degree selfies or perfect wide-angle selfies of 120-degrees. Learn more at LG.com/V10.
Tip #3: Maximize battery life
Even with powerful lithium-ion batteries, you may use your new phone so much, that you’ll run out of juice faster than you think. Be proactive and take a few steps to maximize your battery life. Start by adjusting the brightness on your screen to the lowest level you’re comfortable viewing. When using your phone, close apps when you’re done utilizing rather than leaving them running in the background. Finally, if you need a quick charge, set your phone to airplane mode and plug in. You’ll be back to enjoying your smartphone with a full battery in no time. Not ready to give up brightness or change settings for extended battery life? Grab LG’s V10 with a removable battery to go from zero percent to 100 in 15 seconds, just by changing the battery.
Tip #4: Explore video capabilities
Think you can’t go on vacation without a separate camcorder? Modern smartphones are taking video to the next level so you may not need additional devices after all. Learn about your phone’s features, resolutions and aspect ratios so you can get the best video possible. The LG V10 is the first smartphone to offer Manual Mode for video, making it easy to create professional-quality videos by adjusting options such as shutter speed, frame rate, ISO, white balance and focus while recording. Videos can be recorded in three resolutions — HD, Full HD or Ultra HD — and two aspect ratios — 16:9 standard or 21:9 cinematic.
Tip #5: Synch calendars and set up email
Your new smart phone is a central hub for all aspects of your life. Make sure to synch your work and home calendars to stay on task. It’s also a smart idea to set up email access from your most-used domains. That way you can email Grandma that adorable picture and prep for that upcoming presentation without worry.
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