Latest Video Interview (3/27/12) of Heru Ur Nekhet of Insiders Group

2 Apr

Author and financial strategist Heru Nekhet responds to the latest viewer questions about how to choose the best strategies for real estate in the current economic climate.

CLICK BELOW FOR LATEST VIDEO INTERVIEW:

http://youtu.be/M1wbz0_1iW0

See more about Mr. Nekhet at http://www.RecessionDrivenRiches.com and InsidersGroup.com

Advertisements

Boost Your Career with Social Media: Tips for the Uninitiated

11 Mar

11:55 AM Tuesday December 20, 2011
by Amy Gallo

You’ve heard the horror stories: a job applicant gets turned down because his potential employer discovered his objectionable tweets, or saw pictures of his keg party on Facebook. There is a lot of advice out there about keeping your online activity from hurting your career. But there’s a flip side. When handled correctly, social media can help you professionally. You can use it to enhance your personal brand, establish yourself as an expert in a field, or demonstrate fluency with all things digital. The key is to be proactive about managing your activity and image.

What the Experts Say
It used to be that people were deemed to be experts based on their titles, years of experience, or length of their CVs. While those things are still important, especially in some circles, they’re no longer the only ways to show credibility. “Status is much more democratic now. Expertise can be noticed more easily,” says Soumitra Dutta, a professor in business and technology at INSEAD, author of “What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?” and coauthor of Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Social media allows anyone to put their ideas out there and to gain respect, notoriety, and a following. “The opportunity to reach people directly is powerful, and still underexploited,” says Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and author of the forthcoming book What’s Next?: The Art of Reinventing Your Personal Brand (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). To make the most of social media to further your career, you need to make a conscious choice to use it for professional purposes, understand what your goals are, and then actively manage your digital footprint.

Put your professional self online
Most people have dipped their toes into some form of social media. If you’re already out there, it makes sense to think about how professional contacts, especially potential employers and current colleagues, will see you. “More and more we have to realize that there is no such thing as private space online,” says Clark. Dutta concurs: “Privacy today is something you have to work hard at. You have to assume your actions are public by default.”

Commit to using social media for more than personal reasons. This doesn’t mean you have to start a whole new online persona. Some people are comfortable with the blurring of the professional and personal boundaries. Others find it difficult. Decide which social media channels you’ll use for what purposes. For example, Clark makes this distinction: She uses Twitter and LinkedIn for professional reasons and does her personal interacting on Facebook. Dutta says it’s a personal choice that each person needs to make. The key is to think about what people will see when they look you up in each space.

How it works
When it comes to advancing your career, there are three things social media is particularly suited for:

  1. Building your personal brand. “It gives you a great opportunity to brand yourself, especially to internal colleagues and external peers,” says Dutta. When people peruse your social media activity, they get a sense of what you’re about. The more you comment on or write about a certain area, the more likely you’ll be affiliated with it. Clark points out that social media has an “echo chamber effect” in which even a small amount of content can go a long way toward establishing you as an expert. It is a medium that doesn’t require credentials to prove your credibility. Dutta says that if you are passionate about a topic and argue your perspective in a compelling manner, you can begin to generate a following. Even if you aren’t trying to be labeled as an expert, contribute to discussions you find interesting, are related to your industry, or you simply want to be part of. “Social media can be a way to demonstrate your familiarity with a field,” says Clark. “If you blog or tweet about a topic it shows that you’re in the game.”
  2. Demonstrating your proficiency with all things digital. “It shows you’re up on digital trends, which are affecting every company,” says Clark. Employers are increasingly looking for this competency in potential employees. She also points out that this may be especially important for baby boomers: “If you’re over 50, companies are worried that you won’t be able to use social media and other digital tools.”
  3. Learning from your digital network. By design, social media is a conversation. When you post information, people like, comment on, or forward your thoughts. This means that not only can you put ideas out there but you can learn a lot as well. “You have to be open to a two-way dialogue and hearing other people’s points of view,” says Dutta. Becoming part of an online community is a great way to identify and follow trends in your areas of interest. You can also turn to your network with specific questions about your field or even a job search.

How to start
Once you’ve committed to using social media for professional purposes, it is easy to get started. Here are three things to do:

  1. Figure out what space you want to play in. Before you join the conversation, think about what topics you want to be associated with. “You need to ask yourself, what you want to be known for? What are you passionate about? What are your distinctive views?” says Dutta. Find the forums where other thought leaders are talking about that topic. While it is more manageable to focus on a particular subject or two, you can also dabble. “You can work hard to showcase you’re an expert in a certain area but participate in other conversations too,” says Clark. For example, if you’re in sales, you are likely to have a depth of knowledge in that area, but you can also show that you know something about marketing or finance.
  2. Establish a presence. Give people something to see when they look for you online. One of the easiest ways to do that is to set up a LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is robust: fill out the experience and specialties fields. Provide links to your other social media activity. Then, consider setting up a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Clark suggests that you commit to posting to it once a day, even if it’s just a retweet.
  3. Generate content. To truly establish yourself as an expert, you need to create a following. Create content that people want to share. “If you want to drive home that you have expertise, post articles that show, don’t tell, you have expertise,” says Clark. If people find your opinions and perspective interesting, they will do a lot of the work for you. Clark says the goal is to build an army of ambassadors who pass on your content to others. “You lose credibility with people if you show you’re blowing your own horn. You need other people to blow the horn for you.”

Play by the rules
While social media has very few rules, most companies do. Before you begin tweeting about your work or start a blog showcasing your expertise, be sure to know your company’s policy on social media. “You may not be able to talk about certain industries or what you do for the company,” says Clark. Adds Dutta: “When you’re part of an organization, you are already ascribing to rules and values. In the online space, it’s important you don’t violate that,”. If you are banned from mentioning your job or company, you can still accomplish the goal of demonstrating proficiency in social media by blogging about other things you care about, such as baseball or cooking. While not strictly professional, it might just cause a boss or recruiter to take notice?

Principles to remember

Do:

  • Consider what potential employers or colleagues will see when they find you on social media — you don’t want them to see nothing
  • Decide which social media channels you’ll use for professional purposes — it’s ok to mix personal and professional
  • Create content that others can forward, retweet, or repost

Don’t:

  • Say you’re an expert — show it by posting compelling content
  • Limit your social media activity to one topic — participate in many conversations so you don’t get pigeonholed
  • Inadvertently violate company policy — check what rules your employer has set around social media

Case study #1: What boundaries?
Dany Bourjolly Smith, the director of human capital management at Ross Technologies, an IT solutions firm based in Baltimore, first started using social media back in 2006. She had a basic LinkedIn profile but rarely posted any content related to her work. In 2007, while she was a recruiter at another firm, she needed to hit an ambitious hiring goal within six weeks. To succeed, she thought, “I have to fire every engine I can think of.” So she turned to social media to find candidates and was able to fill the positions within the deadline. Many recruiters use social media to find job seekers and build a pipeline of candidates but for Dany it’s more than a tool to do her job. “It is an opportunity to brand myself as an effective talent acquisition professional,” she says.

She is an avid user of Facebook, where she has over 1,700 friends, and her status updates are often a mix of personal and professional. Originally she used the updates to share many of the humorous things she saw and experienced reading thousands of resumes and interviewing hundreds of candidates. Her network responded well, asking questions and requesting more. She realized that inherent in those entertaining posts was valuable advice. She now prefaces some of her posts with “Recruiting Tip:” and offers tactics, strategies and guidance for people in her network who might be looking for a job. Dany sees her activity on Facebook as a way to further her personal brand, which she summarizes as “I connect people”. “Without social media, I might not have established myself as a thought leader,” she says. She may also not have gotten as far in her career. Her current employer, the founder of Ross Technologies, saw what she was doing on Facebook and recruited her. He gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse and the opportunity to run her own division.

Case study #2: Social media as a reference check
As the owner and managing partner of Avakian Consulting, Joel Gagne helps school districts and municipalities communicate with the public. It is important that potential clients see Joel as adept with various forms of social media. Therefore, he regularly publishes content that shows his familiarity with the medium as well as his expertise in communications and marketing in the public sector. “It’s about putting myself and the company in a position of being an expert,” says Joel. While he rarely attracts new clients through social media (most of his work comes through referrals), it elevates his profile with potential clients who seek him out. “It becomes an extension of our credentials,” he says. Joel sees his social media strategy as a three-legged stool, with the blog being the center and Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as each of the legs. In each of these spaces, he posts content about communicating effectively with public constituents. Joel says that his social media presence often serves as a reference check. Prospective customers learn more about what Joel does and they get a taste of what it’s like to work with him. “Potential clients get a better understanding about my business and whether there’s a fit,” he says. Clients are checking that he has a distinct perspective on or experience with the issues they care about.

Peer-to-Peer Job Sites Inspire Micro-Entrepreneurs

12 Feb

By Darren Dahl

Thu Feb 9, 2012 2:32pm EST

(Reuters) – Chris Mok, like many Americans over the past few years, lost his job in the wake of the Great Recession.

While Wok, 46, diligently sent out resumes trying to replace his Macy’s marketing job he lost in 2009, he also kicked in to help his wife, Isha, run Hi’iaka, her Hawaiian-themed florist shop in San Francisco.

It was early last summer, when many florist businesses see a bump in business from graduations, that Wok first heard about a site called Task Rabbit, where people can post jobs of any just about any kind – such as helping with a move, painting a room or even running an errand – or bid to work on a job posted by someone else via computer or on the go with a GPS-enabled smartphone. Mok suggested that his wife try the site out as a way to hire on a few extra hands for the busy season.

His wife’s experience with Task Rabbit went so well that Wok, who hadn’t worked outside of his wife’s business in about nine months, came to a realization: why couldn’t he earn some extra money bidding on jobs himself?

“I hit the ground running and have been working almost seven days a week since July,” says Mok, who now makes about $3,500 a month tackling everything from handyman repairs to hanging whiteboards and assembling Ikea furniture for the burgeoning number of startup companies in his area.

“It feels great to be your own boss and to pick and choose the jobs you take on.”

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the hot button political issue these days is the nation’s unemployment rate. In January, the U.S. jobless rate was 8.3 percent, on its way down from last summer’s rate of 9.1 percent.

That’s why the rise of online marketplaces, so-called peer-to-peer job sites like Task Rabbit are so exciting. They promise to generate new employment opportunities, or let just about anyone earn some extra income.

“We’re enabling people to invest in and engage with folks in their community in a way that I think we’ve forgotten,” says Leah Brusque, a former programmer with IBM who founded Task Rabbit in 2008, just as the recession was unfolding. “And we’ve done that by turning them into micro-entrepreneurs.”

Online job sites have been around a while, of course, and even sites like e-lance and oDesk have become viable markets to outsource highly-skilled jobs such as programming, design and writing tasks.

But what makes Task Rabbit and the growing number of others like it such as Coffee & Power and Zaarly different is that their jobs vary widely and often involve face-to-face interactions in the real world. Skillshare, for instance, is a site based in New York City that enables people to teach or attend a class on just about anything. A recent search revealed classes ranging from how to eat healthy or how to crochet an Alpaca rug – not online, but in person.

“We are changing the way people think about doing business with the people around them,” says Bo Fishback, formerly the vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, who founded Zaarly in March 2011. “We’re making it possible to ask for and get anything, in real time, from the people around you.

Mechanically, most of these sites work in similar fashion. People can post jobs, or bid on them, while the site handles the payment process – usually taking a small percentage fee of the transaction for itself. Both parties involved in a transaction can then rate each other after the job has been completed. At Task Rabbit, which has some 3,000 registered bidders, some $4 million of activity is reported every month, which, while impressive, is still a sliver of the estimated $473 billion earned by freelancers in 2010.

Those kinds of numbers have given high-profile investors reasons to take notice. Zaarly, for instance, reeled in $1 million from a group of investors that included Ashton Kutcher (while also adding Meg Whitman as a board member). Similarly, Coffee & Power, which was founded by Philip Rosedale, the creator of the virtual online world game SecondLife, recently raised about $1 million from investors like Jeff Bezos.

“Our mission has been to find out how you get people who are interested in working for each other to cluster and find each other in the real world,” says Rosedale, whose business plan combines an online market with currently three physical locations – upscale coffee shops in San Francisco, Santa Monica and, soon, Portland, Oregon – where people can meet and make a deal.

There are, of course, critics who point to the fact that it can be difficult if not impossible for someone to earn a living bidding on $100 jobs. But, if the number of people flocking to these sites to not just bid on jobs but also post them continues, we might just see a change in the concept of what a job is.

“We’re still early in the game, but we think we’re reinventing the concept of how we all go about working,” says Rosedale.

The Greatest Running Shoe Never Sold

23 Jan

BusinessWeek
Features January 12, 2012, 4:30 PM EST
The Greatest Running Shoe Never Sold
How hard is it for an independent inventor to sell an idea to a multinational? Try running a mile in Lenn Hann’s shoes

By Bob Parks

(Corrects the year the sneaker was patented.)

Late one night in August 1997, 54-year-old inventor Lenn Rockford Hann placed two bottles of Gatorade near Concourse F of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, unlaced his sneakers, removed his socks, then dodged curious maintenance workers for two hours while running 13.1 miles on the walkways. His pace surprised him. He was convinced the springy, resilient surface was almost perfect. “My legs felt amazing,” says Hann, a marathoner. “I’ve been chasing a shoe that feels that good ever since.”

For years, Hann had been designing a running shoe that he hoped would give him an edge. After his airport run (in the days of lighter security, naturally), he knew he was on to something, and he became obsessed with O’Hare’s movable sidewalks. Finding a walkway in the midst of repair on a subsequent jog, he jumped into the pit to look at its clockworks. There he found rollers on each side, with nothing holding people up in the middle but the belt’s tension. The next day, Hann called the belt company, Dunlop Conveyor Belting, and learned they were adjusted to 2,500 foot-pounds of force to create the right balance.

Athletic brands spend millions every year trying to build a better sneaker that will propel them to the front of the $6.3 billion running shoe business, one of the biggest and most visible areas of sporting goods, with 11 percent growth in 2011, according to industry analyst SportsOneSource. Nearly all sneakers have a sole that looks like lasagna, composed of layers of rubber, foam, and plastic. The fluffy foam is made from ethylene-vinyl acetate, or EVA, which has its critics: EVA adds weight to shoes, and lab tests show it requires more energy per stride. Running shoe companies have long sought an EVA substitute that absorbs shock but also returns more energy. “Consumers like the cushioned feeling associated with a conventional running shoe,” says Darren Stefanyshyn, a University of Calgary researcher and former chairperson of the Footwear Biomechanics Group. “If you could provide that without using foam, you’d have a winner.”

It took him eleven years, but Hann finally converted his airport research into a breakthrough sneaker patented in 2008, a shoe with an entirely different system to cushion and propel the foot. It quickly attracted the attention of fast-growing athletic brand Under Armour (UA), which spent two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it as the prospective centerpiece of the company’s first line of footwear. Hann’s shoe was scheduled to launch early this year and was poised to rock the footwear industry, but it never quite made it to market.

Hann is a former software engineer with glasses, short brown hair, a high domed forehead, and ears that stick out like antennae. He is talkative, relentlessly upbeat, and consistently attired in marathon T-shirts. His Volkswagen (VOW:GR) bears the license plate TNASHS, for “tenacious.”

In the years following his midnight airport jog, Hann licensed several inventions—an electronic cat toy among them—that brought him modest income, but the shoe was always his favorite project. He tried many materials before landing on carbon fiber, an ultra-strong substance that holds its shape after years of pounding. He engineered carbon fiber shock absorbers into his shoe to give it cushioning and stability in one mechanism. A hinge in the forefoot provided flexibility.

Three days before the 2002 Chicago Marathon, Hann bought industrial carbon fiber fabric and baked it in his kitchen. Once the fumes dissipated, he cannibalized the uppers of a pair of New Balance 763 running shoes for his proto-types. As he hacked off layers of EVA foam from the sneakers with a table saw, his hand slipped and the blade cut deeply into his thumb, embedding bits of blue foam into the wound. Hann rushed to the emergency room, then assembled the shoes the next day.

Hann believes his prototype was responsible for shaving 17 minutes off his record in the marathon. He immediately made more. A member of his pace group wore them, reporting her legs felt “full of energy.” Kris Hartner, owner of Naperville Running in Naperville, Ill., delivered a tougher critique: “pretty good,” he said, but “a bit slappy.” The transitions between midstance and toe-off were “rough.” A shard of carbon fiber came loose, slicing Hartner’s calf.

All the same, Hartner, who has a master’s in biomechanics, took Hann’s concept seriously. When New Balance owner Jim Davis visited the shop, Hartner said he should check out Hann’s shoes. Hann met with New Balance and secured an investor, who contributed $300,000. Hann and the investor made prototypes in Korea, paid an attorney to patent the shoe, and hired an exercise laboratory to test it. The facility found that runners in Hann’s prototypes consumed an average of 2.2 percent less oxygen. That may not sound like a lot, but it pointed to a significant reduction in energy when running long distances.

When it came time to talk price with New Balance, Hann set his offer sky-high. He says he meant it as a starting point, but company executives closed discussions. Hartner remains a supporter of the shoe, but says Hann blew the negotiation. “He would be way better off with an agent to represent him,” says Hartner. “He’s the inventor-scientist guy, you know it from movies. But in real life they sometimes end up shooting themselves in the foot, and it’s hard to watch. They’re not as good at the people thing.”

Six years later, it appeared Hann might be back in business. Kip Fulks, chief operating officer of Under Armour, learned about Hann’s shoe after the inventor completed a small, exploratory project with the company. Fulks wanted to launch a major sneaker development, and in 2009 he invited Hann to the company’s Baltimore headquarters to negotiate. Since its inception in 1996, Under Armour has come out of nowhere with innovative products like its HeatGear compression shirt to stalk Nike (NKE) and Adidas (ADS:GR). The shirt is a nylon garment that hugs the body, and it has largely replaced heavy cotton tees for athletes. But Nike’s annual revenue is around $20 billion vs. Under Armour’s $1 billion, and to truly challenge its competitors, Under Armour needs footwear. (The company hastily designed trainers in 2009, but the attempt impressed neither consumers nor investors.)

The negotiations between Hann and Under Armour were never smooth, but they seemed headed in the right direction. On one side of the table sat Fulks and his designers. On the other was Hann, his investor, and his attorney. First they hammered out an option agreement, a sort of preamble to a longer-term licensing deal. Hann asked for a monthly option fee, basically an advance on future royalties. After some haggling, Fulks agreed to $8,000 per month, to be shared with Hann’s investor and attorney.

Next, Fulks and Hann locked horns over the range for future royalties. Hann asked for 3 percent to 6 percent, a rate more akin to a tech product than footwear. Fulks pulled the pair back to 1 percent to 4 percent. (Aerospace engineer M. Frank Rudy, who sold “Air” to Nike, was awarded a royalty of around a single percentage point when he originally made the deal, according to a source familiar with the contract. Nike would not comment on how much Rudy earned.)

Finally, on Mar. 24, the two signed the option, agreeing to the 1 percent to 4 percent range, with an exact percentage to be determined later. It was a huge step. To celebrate, an Under Armour design manager invited Hann to a nearby bar; they drank beers into the night while talking footwear tech. Hann proudly showed off the blue foam embedded in his thumb. They toasted the new shoe. “At that point, I suddenly realized that more people had gone to the moon than had ever licensed running footwear,” he recalls. “We were almost there. I was in heaven.”

That year, Hann was an electrical storm of activity, calling the company almost daily with ideas. Under Armour made six rounds of “prototype tooling,” the aluminum molds for model shoes, and performed extensive testing with favorable results. The project was getting close to “final tooling”—when expensive steel molds are struck in all sizes, men’s and women’s. Then, in summer 2010, Fulks announced that it was time to settle on a licensing agreement. To Hann, this seemed like a formality. He suggested leaving it to the attorneys. Then he waited.

After a four-week silence, Hann couldn’t take it and called a former Under Armour employee for insight. “It’s a delaying tactic,” guessed the acquaintance. “This is their way of introducing sharp elbows.”

Three weeks later, Hann traveled to Portland, Ore., for a hastily scheduled meeting with Adidas. Executives there were encouraging, but they didn’t want a bidding war with Under Armour. That very afternoon, Under Armour sent an apologetic e-mail with the much-anticipated licensing agreement. (Hann doesn’t know whether this was somehow triggered by the Adidas trip.) It included a royalty rate of 1.5 percent for the first stage of sales, and 1 percent thereafter. Through his attorney, Hann countered with 5.75 percent and 4.25 percent. Hann’s lawyer says Under Armour took the soaring rates like a jab in the eye; Under Armour would not comment on the specifics of the negotiations.

For the next three months, Under Armour refused a face-to-face meeting but did make concessions, raising its percentage and throwing in a monthly advance. Hann held out for higher numbers. He fielded interest from a new set of investors and became more wary of Under Armour. “I feel like the mouse dancing with the bear,” he said. “No matter how careful the bear is, the mouse better watch out.” In late October 2010, Kevin Haley, senior vice-president of innovation, took over the project from Fulks. Haley offered to put the licensing negotiation on hold and renew the option agreement at $15,000 per month. The implication was that this would allow them to work together like old times.

Hann rebuffed the offer, believing Under Armour was bluffing and it was a way of avoiding a licensing agreement. In early December 2010, Under Armour’s attorney delivered the news: The company decided to move in a different direction. Hann’s work with the company was over.

Last month, Under Armour introduced its Charge RC running shoe. It features a strip of carbon fiber along the bottom, not for cushioning but to enhance the ride and response. “It’s a different use of carbon fiber than what we were exploring,” says Haley. “But I think it shows that Under Armour takes an open approach to innovation—we test a lot of technologies and make a lot of different prototypes before arriving at what comes to market.”

Unlike Hann’s prototype, the Charge RC fits the current trend of minimal running shoes; it weighs under 10 ounces and has a sole close to the ground. Hann’s shoe weighs more and sits higher. Asked why Under Armour didn’t go with Hann’s shoe, Haley says: “We go down the path of evaluating new technologies with more people than other companies, so we’re going to encounter more situations where it doesn’t work out for us as a commercial product.”

For Under Armour, making a shoe with such an unprecedented technology would have been a challenge to source, manufacture, test, and market. Could Under Armour have managed those logistics given another few months of exploratory development? We’ll never know; Hann’s over-the-top royalty demands denied it that opportunity.

Hann accepts that he had a role in the falling-out. “I know I screwed up,” he says. “But despite my bumbling efforts, the technology deserves to be out there.” In the last few months, he has continued pitching his sneaker. He says he now has a promising new partner, and is also in talks with a medical device company about an electronic invention for hospitals. He has not hired an agent.

Curious about Hann’s supershoe, I took a few turns around his cul-de-sac in the upscale suburb of Wheaton, Ill., with a test pair. I was surprised to see lots of EVA. Hann argues that some foam is needed to hold the carbon fiber in place, but that it doesn’t cushion the shoe. The sneakers didn’t exactly feel like they were injected with gravity-defying Flubber, but there was something different about them. Even though they weren’t especially light, they felt light—like floating on little trampolines.

Parks is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

©2011 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved. Made in NYC

2012 Assessments for Recession Driven Riches

30 Dec

This article is an excerpt from the book, Recession Driven Riches by Heru Ur Nekhet, national Renowned Rags to Riches Guru.

Chapter 5
Make An Honest Assessment Without Judgment

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”
-Will Rogers

“Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming habits that will make your goal possible.”
-Vince Lombardi

Despite the appearance of wealth created by the mass accumulation of material goods during the last boom (homes, cars, electronics, clothes, etc.), most Americans got into the habit of living on borrowed money. Still in denial and oftentimes overwhelmed by the gravity of their financial situation, the majority of those people now find themselves deep in debt with no feasible plan to get their heads back above water. Proper realignment requires you to perform an honest assessment of your current skills, confidence, resources, mental and physical health, time management, asset values, and soundness of potential business ventures or investments. It is easy to minimize or exaggerate your financial situation if you are judgmental about how you got into the situation.

In order to effectively create a plan of action to fix your current situation, you have to know exactly how much income you have from all sources (job, investments, business, etc.) as well as exactly how much money is being spent in that same amount of time. It sounds simple, however most people never take an accurate accounting of how much money passes through their hands each month or year. Be careful not to overlook any income or expense no matter how small it might seem. Even the small expenses add up over time. If you don’t want to use the old fashion pencil and paper method to create a balance sheet, you can use an online expense tracking website such as Wesabe.com or Mint.com.

It is important that you also check the current value of any assets that you currently own. These assets include your home value, investment property value, securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, etc.) and any other holdings you might have. Oftentimes we invest in assets and just forget about monitoring them to make sure they are still worth keeping. For real estate values you can check propertyshark.com or zillow.com. For securities you can check morningstar.com to see if they are profitable. For other assets such as gold or silver you can go to goldprice.org, but for collectables you should get a professional appraisal.

How do you know if an asset is worth keeping? The answer is simple, if it is currently performing at a rate of return that meets your current needs, then it is worth keeping. If it is no longer performing to your standard and the prospect of a turn around is not imminent, then cut your losses and get rid of it. Let’s start with your home. If your current home value is less than the purchase price, then you are paying on a mortgage for the next few decades far more than the price will ever be again. You are financing something that will probably never be worth what you are paying. This raises a couple of issues. First, it will never gain equity so you cannot borrow against it. Second, you will never be able to sell it and recoup the money you put into it. If you have no desire to ever borrow against it (refinance) or to sell it, and you have no desire to take advantage of the fact that you can now get more home for less than what you are currently paying, then you don’t have to do anything. Enjoy your overpriced home.

After taking an assessment of your current assets, you must seriously evaluate what resources you currently have to work with. These resources might include cash reserves, creditworthiness, insurance, professional advisors (accountant, broker, financial consultant, attorney, etc.), support from family or friends, knowledge, skills, etc. If you find that you are lacking necessary resources, then part of your realignment plan must include gathering needed resources.

Some Things to Assess

  • Debts – credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.

  • Investments – real estate, stocks, bonds, IRA, TDA, 401(K), bank account, Certificate of Deposit (CD), gold, collectibles, etc.

  • Asset Values – real estate equity, gold appreciation, stock prices, collectible value, etc.

  • Income Sources – job, business ownership, dividends, rental income, etc.

  • Relationships – partnerships, family, friends, dependants, etc. Are they supportive or detrimental?

  • Skills – relevance and market value of skills, obsolescence of skills, etc.

  • Resources – time, cash flow, credit, partnerships, professional team, etc.

  • Expenses (liabilities) – basic living expenses, appropriateness of expenses, where and how to minimize expenses, etc.

  • Insurance – appropriateness of coverage, lack of coverage, excessive coverage, cost of coverage, etc.

  • Taxes – appropriate shelters, deductions, structure, etc.

  • Information Sources –news sources, opportunities, networking events, clubs, organizations, advisors, mentors, etc.

Get You Copy of Recession Driven Riches Now at http://www.recessiondrivenriches.com/

Twitter Redesigns Its Site

12 Dec

DECEMBER 9, 2011

By AMIR EFRATI

Twitter Inc. on Thursday announced a redesign of the micro-blogging service and new features to help widen its appeal.

In the biggest announcement since Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s creator, returned to the company as an executive in March, the company said that when people first sign up to use the service, Twitter will help them discover information that might interest them, based on their location and other signals.

“It’s not just a visual redesign but a conceptual redesign to make Twitter more accessible to the next billion users,” said Satya Patel, a Twitter senior executive, at an event inside the San Francisco-based company’s future headquarters in an Art Deco building in a blighted neighborhood here.

The redesign, which will roll out globally over the next few weeks, will add a section to every Twitter user’s account called “Stories” that shows them content on Twitter they may find interesting. “It’s the first step to start to surface all the rich content that’s pouring into the platform for people who are experiencing it for the first time,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said.

Twitter announced a redesign of the micro-blogging service and new features to help widen its appeal, Amir Efrati reports on The News Hub. Photo: AFP / Getty Images.

Twitter, which lets people broadcast messages called “tweets” of up to 140 characters in length, is attempting to become an online-advertising powerhouse but still faces challenges including the perception that many people don’t understand how to use the service, which includes symbols such as “@” and “#,” and don’t know what kind of information they can view on it. People use Twitter to keep up with the latest news about everything from technology and politics to transportation delays and promotions by big retailers.

The company recently said more than 100 million people actively use Twitter. The majority of its accounts are based overseas, the company has said.

In August the company raised money at a valuation of more than $8 billion and now has more than 700 employees, who will move into the new headquarters in mid-2012. Its fledgling online-ad business is expected to generate around $145 million this year, according to research firm eMarketer, as brands such as Starbucks Corp., luxury-brand giant LVMH and others dip their toes into Twitter’s ad products, which aims to target ads based on people’s personal interests. That revenue figure is up from $45 million last year.

Mr. Dorsey, who was Twitter’s first chief executive and has long been chairman of its board, said that, on average, between 3% to 5% of people interact with, or “engage,” with ads they see on Twitter. That figure is higher than many other forms of online advertising.

Bloomberg NewsExecutive Jack Dorsey, in New York this year, oversees Twitter’s look.

The five-year-old Twitter is competing with other social media companies such as social network Facebook Inc. for the attention of marketers. Mr. Costolo said Thursday that the company is testing a long-awaited “self-serve” system that lets anyone buy ads on Twitter, similar to the kind of system that propelled Google Inc.’s growth, and that it would become available more broadly next year.

Twitter on Thursday also announced that brands such as American Express and organizations such as the American Red Cross will soon be able to customize their publicly-viewable Twitter pages to have more control of how they look.

The company has leased 220,000 square feet in its future headquarters, a space that “holds thousands of people,” Mr. Costolo said.

Alicia Keys Gets In A Global State of Mind

28 Nov

By Christopher John Farley
Alicia Keys proclaimed that she was in an “Empire State of Mind” in her hit anthem with rapper Jay-Z. But recently, her outlook has been more global.

Keys, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, is the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit that offers support to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa and India. The native New Yorker is featured in a new documentary called “Keep a Child Alive with Alicia Keys” for which she took five young Americans on a tour of places in South Africa that have been hit hard by HIV and AIDS. The documentary airs on Showtime on Dec. 1.

Keys also produced and wrote music for the new Broadway play “Stick Fly,” which tells the story of a wealthy African-American family on Martha’s Vineyard. The show opens Dec. 8. “It’s totally life,” she says about the production, which is not a musical but features her music between scenes. “And so the music will assist—I hope—in that energy and the emotion that you’ll get from seeing the show. I’m excited. I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Speakeasy talked to Keys about her most recent work.

In order to win a trip with you to South Africa as you filmed your documentary, people texted you words that they associate with the country. When you think of South Africa, what words come to your mind?

When I think of South Africa, I really think of…I guess I can only say one word, but the word that comes to mind is inspiration. The people that I meet, they are the most powerful people I’ve ever met. I’ve met kids who are 14, 15 years old who have lost everything but are still figuring out ways to care for a younger brother or a way to keep a roof over their heads or put food in their mouths, or figure out a way to still go to school which is so hard when you have to be the adult, the parent, the breadwinner, the caretaker. I feel like that’s so inspiring to see how strong the spirit of a human being can be, how much gratitude there can be for the simple things in life.

Have your experiences in Africa had an effect on your songwriting?

If affects me very deeply, and I have definitely always wanted to do a conceptual album, like my version of [Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album] “What’s Going On.” Those kinds of albums can be brilliant, but they’re not easy to do at all. Because there’s a particular way they need to be done so the audience feels the emotion of it as opposed to feeling like someone is telling you something you already know. I would really like to figure out my version of that.

There’s a striking moment in the documentary where children in South Africa who have been sexually assaulted write about the abuse on the body parts of a stuffed bear. When you first saw that, what were your emotions?

Operation Bobbi Bear is an incredible organization that was started by women that saw this large problem happening in their area and wanted to do something about it. Keep a Child Alive helps to fund NGOs like that who are on the ground, know exactly what is happening in their community, and refuse to let it go on any longer. And so Bobbi Bear saw that there were these young children who had lost parents to AIDS being raped, and would often times end up infected because there’s this terrible myth [in parts of Africa] that if you have sex with a virgin that you’ll be cured…The first time I saw the bear was when you saw it on the show. I was pregnant. You see that the bear represents the child’s emotions and what they went through during the assault. I felt so angry at anyone who had ever touched a child like that. The evidence is right there, and they’ve been able to put away a lot of offenders with it.