Why Starting a Business NOW Makes Good Sense

I've been a business owner for over 30 years now. Back in the late 70's I had a Word Processing business. For those of you too young to understand that concept, stand-alone word processing machines were the "big thing" before personal computers put word processing on everyone's desk. Now this was before spell checking and grammar checks and I had to have every document proof-read by a live person. And it was the world of dot matrix printers...it seems like an eternity ago!

It was hard work and long hours, but it allowed me to be my own boss and chart my own course. I've owned several other businesses over the years and have more than a couple right now including one that does about $5 million in sales. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is I don't have to worry about losing my job(s).

I was just reading an article that was saying right now is probably a good time to start a business, and I'd agree. Maybe not a full-time one if you're employed, but a small business that you can start with little money that will provide you with some additional income; ultimately I'm a big fan of multiple streams of income. It all adds up and it also gives you a sense of security in times of cutbacks; you'll already have something that can generate income if you were to lose your job.

The article can be found in the October 15, 2008 issue of Bottom Line Personal http://www.bottomlinesecrets.com/article.html?article_id=46533

And if you're interested in exploring one of the businesses I'm involved with that I highly recommend, visit my website page at www.SendOutCards.com/cardgallery - a business with a product that everyone uses is a "no brainer!"


Launch of My New Website - Will You Give Me Some Feedback?

Well, after a day and a half of working on it (yes, a very short time!) I have launched a new website that I would love to get feedback on! This is a website that will constantly grow and change with great new promotions, deals, rebate offers, prizes, etc., that I find while I'm browsing the internet. I'm not only an "information-aholic" but a "shop-aholic" (reformed!) that loves to find a great deal! So I'm indulging both by writing this blog and creating my new website that allows me to pass on great offers.

I always pay way less than the retail price on most anything I buy, because I know how to search out the coupons, deals, etc. And I'm on a lot of e-mail lists that notify me of specials, sales and so on that now I can pass on to others. I also love to travel (look at my Europe photos in an earlier post if you haven't already!) and friends are always asking me to help them find the best airfare and hotel deals. I love doing it, and now I can do it on a much broader scale!

If you have a minute, please visit www.thisnthatgreatwebsites.com and give me your comments, good or bad. I'm looking to provide a great source for people like you, so your feedback is very appreciated!


Customer Service - Does it Exist in Most Companies Anymore?

OK, this is a bit of a rant, but it has a valid point.

As you may know I've been traveling a lot and haven't had a lot of internet access. That's one reason why several years ago I set myself up with a bill paying service. All of my bills that can't be set-up for online retrieval have a mailing address in South Dakota. They scan them and forward to me any items that are non-bill related. So when I travel I never have to worry about a credit card changing my due date, etc. Everything gets paid on the terms I set for each bill, i.e., "in-full," "minimum payment," etc.

But when I got home Monday night I got a huge surprise...a LOC got paid in-full instead of the minimum payment. And worse yet was the timing, because there was enough money in my account to cover it because it was there for mortgage payments. This is a long story that I won't go into detail about, but I was upset and a bit frantic worrying about my mortgage payments bouncing, but even worse a couple of credit cards that I carry large balances on with "3.99% until paid off" would likely bounce and readjust to something more like 25% interest.

It actually wasn't even a bill they paid, but a letter telling me I hadn't paid the full amount (a fluke also due to this bill paying service - they sent them a check last month that the printer obviously ran out of ink while printing and it wasn't fully readable and got returned). I worked with the financial institution that received the overpayment (thank goodness it was a revolving line of credit, not a loan - which would have been paid off and not able to be re-instated) to figure out how to fix it. But I also called the bill paying service because although I didn't think they'd be legally liable (I'm sure the agreement I signed took care of that!) I wanted them to know about a major flaw in their system and be reassured that they'd make sure it couldn't happen again.

I was restrained, but firm. And then they lost me as a customer...their "customer service" person started telling me that they hadn't made a mistake, that the letter that was received (yes, they paid based on a letter, not a bill!) said "balance" and it was computerized and that's what they paid. I lost it at that point when he began arguing with me that they did nothing wrong. I demanded his supervisor, who continued to tell me they did nothing wrong. When I asked for his supervisor they were in a meeting and wouldn't be able to call me until today. Which they did not.

So, what had I wanted or expected from them in my call? Not much. Reassurance that a problem in their system needed to be researched and resolved so it wouldn't happen again, an apology, a credit equal to the fees I was going to be charged, etc. Something. But what I got was nothing close to Customer Service. And so now they've lost my business and I'm going to be going out of my way to tell everyone I know not to do business with PAYTRUST.com - which interestingly is an Intuit company. I would have expected better, much better. You've been warned, spread the word. It's the only way Customer Service in big companies will ever get back to serving the customer.


What Are the Banks Doing With the Bailout Money?

I'm at the Phoenix airport waiting for my flight home after my seminar and thought I'd comment on some things I've seen about what the banks are doing with the money they got from the $700 Billion Bailout.

I had CNN on in my room the other night and a banner went by indicating how much in bonuses was going to be paid by several of the banks. Huh? Bonuses for messing up? And these were BIG numbers. I searched the internet and couldn't find any more information, even at CNN.

Then last night they were talking about how one of the banks used some of the money to buy another bank (probably one in trouble, right?). The question in my mind is why there were not more caveats attached to the use of the bailout money. I understand that we don't want the government running private banks, but come on, giving banks huge amounts of taxpayer's money and not putting restrictions on what they can use it for (I understand they did limit "golden parachutes," but I'm not sure to what extent) doesn't make sense to me. This was supposed to be for our benefit in some way, wasn't it? If they use the money in ways that don't directly benefit us who's to say the same people who mucked things up won't make poor decisions with this money?

Let me be the first to say I'm not well-read on the provisions in the Bailout Bill, and if someone is able to comment from a more well-read position, please do.


Do You Need a Website? Try This and Create One in 30 Minutes

When I first wanted to create a website for a new business I was starting I didn't have the money to get someone else to do it for me. So I went looking for software that I could use to do it myself. I looked at a lot of recommendations, but they just seemed more complicated than I needed and I'd have to spend a bunch of time learning the software.

Then I happened upon the software I'm currently using. Its advertising said I could create a site in just 30 minutes...and they were right! I was very surprised at how easy it was. A little learning curve, but it was pretty much "point and shoot." So if you're looking for a great website creation tool give it a try. It's easy and even better, it's very inexpensive as well! Can't get better than easy and inexpensive!

Click on the following and check it out.

Build a Website in 30 minutes. Try Free, Click Here.
I saw a banner go by on the bottom of the screen on CNN a little while ago that floored me. So I tried to find the full story. And, interestingly, I had a difficult time tracking it down. Considering the subject matter I was amazed that it wasn't being talked about on the news.

Saturday, October 25, 2008 7:32 AM EDT

By the Associated Press

NEW YORK — Despite the Wall Street meltdown, the nation's biggest banks are preparing to pay their workers as much as last year or more, including bonuses tied to personal and company performance.

So far this year, nine of the largest U.S. banks, including some that have cut thousands of jobs, have seen total costs for salaries, benefits and bonuses grow by an average of 3 percent from a year ago, according to an Associated Press review.

"Taxpayers have lost their life savings, and now they are being asked to bail out corporations," New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said of the AP findings. "It's adding insult to injury to continue to pay outsized bonuses and exorbitant compensation."

Banks will decide what to pay out in bonuses in the coming months. Just because they've been accruing money for incentive pay doesn't mean they will pay it out in full.

But some banks are setting aside large amounts. At Citigroup, which has cut 23,000 jobs this year amid the crisis, pay expenses for the first nine months of this year came to $25.9 billion, 4 percent more than the same period last year.

Even if what the bank has shelled out in severance pay and other costs related to the job cuts are subtracted, overall pay is only slightly lower this year.

Typically, about 60 percent of Wall Street pay goes to salary and benefits, while about 40 percent goes to end-of-the-year cash and stock bonuses that hinge on performance, both for the individual and the company, said Brad Hintz, a securities industry analyst at Sanford Bernstein and a former chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers.

This should be the year where that structure is tested. The financial crisis, brought about by mountains of bad mortgage-related assets, caused banks to falter or fail and lending to dry up and prompted Congress to pass a $700 billion bailout package. As part of that, government is pouring $125 billion through stock purchases into the nine large financial companies cited in AP's review of compensation.

Besides Citigroup, those include Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo & Co., and State Street. Another $125 billion will be made available to other banks.

Those taking cash from Uncle Sam must follow guidelines limiting executive pay, including a ban on golden parachutes for departing executives. No restrictions are placed on across-the-board pay.

IndyMac Bank and BofA are Modifying Mortgage Payments - Can It Help You?

I read an article on CNN Online that talks about the mortgage modifications that IndyMac and BofA are doing - if you have a mortgage with either you should read the article, you may be able to get help on your mortgage payment. Here is a portion of the article; read the full article at http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/24/real_estate/indymac_solution/index.htm?postversion=2008102416

One failed bank gets the housing fix right
When the FDIC seized mortgage giant IndyMac it was one of the biggest bank failures ever. Now the troubled lender just may lead us out of the housing mess.

By Amanda Gengler, Money Magazine writer

"Under IndyMac's program, the lender modifies a loan so that the borrower's new mortgage payment, including insurance and taxes, eats up no more than 38% of their pre-tax income. This percentage, known as a debt to income ratio, topped 50% for some loans during the boom.

To achieve this lower payment, IndyMac can lower the interest rate, extend the life of the loan to, say, 30 or 40 years, defer some principal to the final years of the loan, or a use a combination of these strategies.

IndyMac is also trying to simplify the process for borrowers. It is overnighting loan forms to eligible customers with a signature required upon receipt. "It doesn't show up with your regular mail, coupons and junk mail, because the key is getting the consumer to open it," said FDIC spokesman David Barr.

The papers clearly spell out a borrower's new loan terms, including the interest rate and monthly payments over the life of the loan. The borrower simply signs and returns the documents with the first lower monthly payment.
B of A follows suit

Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) launched a similarly systematic program earlier in October. That program, scheduled to start in December, came as part of a settlement with state attorney general offices that sued Countrywide, which B of A recently acquired, for predatory lending practices. It's expected to help 400,000 troubled borrowers and is actually slightly more aggressive than IndyMac's plan.

B of A will use a 34% debt-to-income ratio to calculate the affordable monthly payment for its customers, and may also write down the principal balance of some negative amortizing loans. IndyMac will not forgive debt, but instead will add principal to the final years of a loan if necessary.

Additionally, IndyMac's program is now being applied to many delinquent loans owned by Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500), Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and other investors, Bair said in her testimony Thursday."