Expert Reveals How To Protect Your Finances From Volatile Market

Calamos Investments CEO John Koudounis argued on Sunday that market volatility will continue for “a long time,” but noted that the current situation presents buying opportunities.

“I don’t see it [market turbulence] going away,” Koudounis told “Fox News Live” on Sunday. “It depends how the Fed tries to land this. It’s going to be very difficult to have a soft landing. It’s never been done.”

“There will be some good times, there will be some bad times,” the CEO of the global investment firm specializing in investment management added. “Our advice to our customers, you have to be in it because the upside comes around, and you have to be invested.”

Koudounis provided the insight two days after the S&P 500, the broadest measure of the U.S. stock market, slipped into bear market territory before clawing back above that level.

The benchmark fell over 20% from its January high of 4,796.56 before erasing losses to close at 3,901.36. An official bear market would require the benchmark to close at or below 3,837.25.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which entered a bear market earlier this year and has fallen 29% year to date.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 31261.9 +8.77 +0.03%
SP500 S&P 500 3901.36 +0.57 +0.01%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 11354.617127 -33.88 -0.30%

Koudounis stressed that the current situation “absolutely” presents “some value.”

“There’s been a rotation between the growth and value stocks,” he noted. “Now the growth stocks have been beaten up so much that active managers, the professionals, are starting to pick some and add to those positions. And the companies that are fundamental, have issues, they’ve lowered those positions.”

“So if you are an active manager, you’re actually looking at this as an opportunity to get rid of some companies that haven’t been doing well and add to the ones you think are going to do well,” Koudounis continued. “So there is opportunity out there and over the course of time if you have a balanced portfolio you’ll do fine.”

Markets have been experiencing volatility in recent weeks as concerns over Federal Reserve rate hikes and high inflation continued to worry investors.

On Wednesday U.S. stocks saw steep selling as more retailers revealed the negative impact of inflation amounting to the worst day for stocks since 2020. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 1,100 points, or 3.6% on Wednesday.

Earlier this month it was revealed that inflation cooled on an annual basis for the first time in months in April, but rose more than expected as supply chain constraints, the Russian war in Ukraine and strong consumer demand continued to keep consumer prices elevated.

The Labor Department announced earlier this month that the consumer price index, a broad measure of the price for everyday goods including gasoline, groceries and rents, rose 8.3% in April from a year ago, below the 8.5% year-over-year surge recorded in March. Prices jumped 0.3% in the one-month period from March. Those figures were both higher than the 8.1% headline figure and 0.2% monthly gain forecast by Refinitiv economists.

The Federal Reserve faces the tricky task of cooling demand and prices without inadvertently dragging the economy into a recession. “Inflation is here, and it is very difficult for the Fed to control this,” Koudounis argued, stressing that everybody getting “hurt” by the price hikes.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated his commitment to curbing the highest inflation in decades, indicating the central bank will raise interest rates as high as necessary in order to tame consumer prices.

Fed policymakers hiked the benchmark federal funds rate by a half point earlier this month, and Powell has all but promised that two, similarly sized increases are on the table at the forthcoming meetings in June and July. He echoed that sentiment on Tuesday as the Fed races to catch-up with runaway inflation and bring it back down to the 2% target.

Koudounis warned that “it is going to be difficult to avoid” a recession.  “We’re hoping that the Fed can avoid it,” he continued, noting the central bank is expected to raise rates at each upcoming meeting. “My guess is 50 basis points each time,” Koudounis said.

“If they keep course and stop buying and of course keep raising [rates] right through the end of the year, it is going to be tough to avoid it.”Koudounis added that he believes inflation will stick around and will not hit the Fed’s 2% target by the end of the year.

Source: Volatility in markets will stick around for ‘a long time’: Investment expert | Fox Business

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How To Build Back Your Emergency Fund In a Tight Budget

Emergency funds are  important should you be faced with an unforeseen setback like a sudden job loss, an unexpected car repair or a serious medical situation. If you tapped into or depleted your emergency savings during the pandemic, it’s vital to set a financial goal to rebuild an emergency fund. Experts suggest having enough money for six months of living expenses in an emergency fund.

Even if your budget is tight, there are ways to stash some cash each month toward emergency savings. “It may seem difficult to set aside savings when you are on a tight budget, but you have to think about it as having no other choice,” said Dawit Kebede, a senior economist for the Credit Union National Association, which advocates on behalf of America’s credit unions.

Why is an emergency fund so important to have?

Your emergency fund allows you to pay for unexpected expenses, like providing a cushion if you lose your job or face sudden financial obligations. If you don’t have savings, you may have to rely on credit cards.

“Most people rely on high-interest rate credit cards to pay for unforeseen expenses, which leaves them in debt,” said Kebede. “Creating an emergency fund avoids relying on debt to absorb a financial shock.”

Pay yourself first

Kebede noted that people tend to put saving at the bottom of their priorities when they have fewer resources. So make building an emergency fund a priority.

“Understand that savings cannot be the lowest priority on your budget,” Kebede said. “You have to pay yourself first, even if it’s $15 a month. Setting goals and setting aside something, however small it may be, will go a long way. It will accumulate over time.”

Set a reasonable monthly goal, even when there’s little wiggle room.

Commit to putting bonus cash in your savings

If you get any extra money during the month, even if it’s a small amount, earmark it for your emergency fund.

“When building out your emergency fund for the first time or rebuilding following a major emergency expense, it’s okay to start with small contributions, and any tax refunds, gifts or extra cash are all great ways to contribute,” said Ryan Ball, vice president of market experience at Capital One. “Having a small amount in your account is more helpful than nothing at all in the preparedness for an emergency.”

Set up a save schedule

If you get paid twice a month, for example, create a plan to take a set amount and transfer it directly to your emergency savings account. Even if your budget is tight, pick a small amount and devote it to savings. “When contributing to your emergency fund, the best practice is to contribute to your account regularly and setting a schedule can help,” advised Ball.

To force savings, Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, advised automating your savings with a direct deposit from your paycheck into a dedicated savings account. “The savings happens first without having to think about it,” McBride said.

Another option, McBride explained, especially for the self-employed, is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to a savings account at a regular interval, such as once per month or every two weeks.

How can you force yourself to save without it seeming like a punishment?

First, accept the mindset that savings should be viewed as deferred spending for important or unexpected items rather than a punishment, said Kebede. Next, take an inventory of your spending habits. Can you cancel monthly subscriptions you’re not using?

Can you reduce takeout meals or the amount you’re spending on extras like dining out or paying for coffee every morning? Can you carpool to save on gas or stick to your grocery list by meal planning in advance?

“Setting aside a small amount regularly helps you feel that you haven’t sacrificed a lot, and watching your savings slowly accumulate will also provide motivation for you to continue,” Kebede said.

Use your banking institution’s resources

Your bank may have resources available to assist you to promote financial wellness and education.

For example, Ball noted that Capital One has resources, including its complimentary Money & Life Program, that helps participants build a plan to achieve their goals in life and think through how their financial behaviors connect to those goals.

“In addition to Money & Life mentoring sessions with a professional mentor, we offer a self-guided Money & Life exercise, ‘Map Your Spend,’ that can help participants visualize their spending and figure out where they can make changes to put a little extra money per month away for an emergency fund,” he said.

Contact your bank or visit a retail location to inquire about what mentoring services may be available.

Source: How to build back your emergency fund in a tight budget | Fox Business

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Life Settlements: A Hidden Source Of Cash For Seniors

From a financial perspective, this is an interesting time for seniors, many of whom are retired. Equity markets have delivered historically strong returns for the past several years, which has boosted savings. However, between low fixed-income yields and rising inflation, many are wondering whether their assets will provide all the cash flow they need to maintain their lifestyles.

These factors are forcing many seniors, who are often solely dependent on cash flow from their investments and social security payments, to seek out additional sources of cash. Most do not know that something called “life settlements” may be the solution they need.

What Is A Life Settlement?

A life settlement is the sale of a life insurance policy to a third party. In a life settlement transaction, policyholders will sell their life insurance for more than the cash value, if any, and less than the death benefit.

Policyholders (also referred to in this post as owners) who sell their life insurance achieve two sought-after goals: (1) they stop the cash outflow needed for future insurance premiums that keep the policy in force; and (2) they provide cash from the sale of the policy. In almost every instance, selling the policy will result in more cash than simply letting it lapse.

Of course, when selling a policy, the beneficiaries will no longer receive the death benefit. Rather, the buyer of the life insurance policy, who will also pay the policy’s premiums, will receive the death benefit.

Many seniors own life insurance policies they no longer need or can no longer afford. For example, they may be in a situation where the need for the policy has changed, such as when a mortgage is paid off or when beneficiaries no longer need financial support.

Unfortunately, most people are not even aware that there may be an option to sell a policy. With a few exceptions, insurance carriers, which benefit from lapses in life insurance policies, don’t inform policy holders of the life settlement option.Best Practices For Selling A Policy

Before selling a policy, policyholders need to consider whether it makes sense to do so. In doing so, a policyholder should answer these questions:

1. To what extent do my beneficiaries need the death benefit from the policy?

2. Are the policy’s premium payments affordable?

3. Is there cash value in the policy that I could use to make the premium payments?

4. If the premium payments are not affordable, do my beneficiaries want to pay the premiums so that they can keep the death benefit?

How Much Is The Policy Worth?

There are many factors that determine what a buyer will pay for a policy. These factors include:

·  The death benefit

·  The age and health of the insured (in general, life settlements buyers are interested in buying policies where the insured’s life expectancy is less than 15 years)

·  The premium payments

·  The amount of loans taken out under the policy, if any

Selling an insurance policy may give rise to taxable income, which would reduce the net proceeds to the policyholder.

How To Sell A Policy

There are different types of buyers of life settlements ranging from individual investors to institutions. In general, a policyholder can sell a policy to these investors directly or via a life settlement broker.

Life settlement brokers have a fiduciary responsibility to get the best price for the policy owner. However, life settlement brokers take a percentage of the selling price (up to 30%) or a percentage of the death benefit (between 6% and 8%).

Some life settlement investors will buy policies directly from policyholders. While this may eliminate the broker’s fee, these investors do not have a responsibility to ensure that the policy is sold at the best price.

It’s a good idea for policyholders to speak with more than one broker or investor to ensure they’re getting a top dollar for their policy. Keep in mind that “online calculators”and estimates provided by brokers or investors are, at best, a rough guess as to what the policy is worth and are not to be relied upon.

A life insurance salesperson can be of assistance in selling a policy as well. Note that some life insurance salespeople are more familiar with life settlements than others.

Note that some states regulate life settlements and those states’ department of insurance may provide important additional information that sellers should know.

The life settlement process can take two to five months during which period the policy must be kept in-force. Also, the life settlement process requires the policyholder to provide information about the policy and access to the insured’s medical records.

When Is A Life Settlement The Right Option?

On the one hand, a life settlement improves cash flow by providing a lump sum payment and eliminating future premium payments. On the other hand, selling an insurance policy means that the beneficiaries will not receive the death benefit.

As the baby boomer population has been going into retirement and the awareness of life settlements has increased over the past few years, tens of thousands of policy holders have sold their policies. The decision to sell a life insurance policy is typically a difficult one. However, with the knowledge of life settlements, policyholders have an additional option to consider to help meet cash needs.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Rob Levin is the Managing Member of the Oasis Strategy Group, a company specializing in life settlements. Read Rob Levin’s full executive profile here.

Source: Life Settlements: A Hidden Source Of Cash For Seniors

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How To Find a Buyer For Your Annuity

Remember to give a discount on the cash value of your payments. According to the industry group, the National Association of Settlement Purchasers, the maximum discount rate in the industry is 18%.

If you are looking for a buyer for an annuity, find out how to resell the value of your annuity. The number of payments you wish to sell, the amount of money you will receive, your payment plan (including the way payments are received), the current market situation, the RATING OF THE INSURANCE COMPANY THAT ISSUED the annuity, and any fees or other charges incurred on transferred annuities.

It is important to find a reputable bond buyer to guide you and explain the process. Sellers need to understand that they are not getting the full value of your pension until the company you are contracting out reviews the pension and makes an offer that is mutually beneficial. Once you have taken out your pension and agreed to the terms, you can mimic the transaction. 

In order to ensure careful consideration of pension scheme clauses, companies should ensure full transparency. They should offer personalized presentations outlining the non-guaranteed elements of the pension contract. It is recommended that you learn a few basic aspects before buying an annuity. =

If you sell an annuity in its entirety, YOU GIVE UP YOUR REMAINING INTEREST IN THE CONTRACT. You will receive the money left over from the payment of the contract, but no one else will receive future payments. If you buy an inherited annuity through a sales contract, you are the buyer, not the insurer. 

Another option is to sell the entire annuity, which can result in a much higher payout. Annuity holders may feel safer selling part of their pension than they do if they know they will get the payments on which they depend in the future. The time you sell the annuity passes and you get the remaining regular payments back.

Similar to partial sales, bondholders can sell part of their pension payments for a lump sum in lump sum sales. This means that they will receive a certain dollar amount that will be deducted from future pension structures for settlement payments. For example, you could sell years one to four of your pension in lump sums. 

Once you have decided how much money you need you can decide to sell the whole value of the annuity or part of it, either as a lump sum or as part of a certain NUMBER OF PAYMENTS. IF YOU DECIDE TO sell some or all of your payments, you continue to receive regular income and retain tax benefits. 

If you need cash immediately, you can sell the payments for a lump sum. You will receive a cheque for three payments at the time of sale and once the payments have passed through your annual pension, the cheque will be reinstated. If you sell part of your pension (or more) and need a cash lump sum in the future, you will need to repeat the process. 

For example, if you need $25,000 for a new car, you can sell the $25,000 of the value of your annual inventory. A company like DRB Capital buys part of your pension contract and gives you the money you need. You receive periodic payments for a certain number of years, but you can also receive and sell a lump sum if your annual payment amount is too low.

One of the biggest misconceptions about cashing in a pension is that future payments have to be sold. You have the right to cash in your pension if a third judge agrees. 

In other words, the sale and use of all annuities reduce the number of annuities you have. While selling an annuity can be a good option for reducing debt or settling financial hardship, this decision should not be taken lightly. There are ways to sell all annuities and it is important to check all of them to CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS. In the same way, you will receive payments from a pension scheme on future dates.

An annuity can be bought as a lump sum in exchange for several future lump sums. If YOU CAN MEET YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL NEEDS with money from your pension, you are ready to retire. Many pensioners keep the money they need and sell the rest of the value of their pension. They sell some of the value of the property and pay each other dividends on certain parts of the pension. Selling an annuity can be ONE OF THE BIGGEST FINANCIAL DECISIONS A PERSON CAN MAKE.

IN some cases, sellers opt for specialized financial firms such as the CBC Settlement Fund to handle their pension transactions, which can range from retirement accounts to trust funds. Some annuity buyers offer large lump sums to recipients of pensions who need to make regular payments on a lump sum basis. Large lump sums are usually less than the sum received by the beneficiary at the end of the term but the amount received at the end of the term is reduced by a so-called discount rate that gives the beneficiary MORE FLEXIBILITY TO MEET IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS.

If you receive structured payments such as divorce settlements, child support payments, 401 (k) payouts, veterans benefits, or Social Security, you don’t have to sell your pension to raise money. Pension payments are subject to normal income tax when you receive them, but with guaranteed annuities for retirement, you only owe as much income tax on the money as on regular distributions. As we have already explained, there are many different types of pensions: annuities, lottery or jackpot pensions, deferred annuities, and more.

The first phase, known as the rewards payout phase, consists of a single series in which you receive a lump sum from the company. The lump-sum is the money with which you take care of financial obligations or changes in your life, such as STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS, BUYING A HOME, OR GOING to school.  It depends on the pension plan you are contracting out of, but generally speaking, paying a lump sum into one will set up the right accumulation period. 

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Source: www.bufeez.com

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13 Ways to Invest in Yourself

When you hear the word “investing,” you probably think about stocks, bonds, maybe commodities. It’s far less likely that your reflex will be inward – but indeed, you can, and should, invest in yourself, too.

Investing is an enormous industry solely dedicated to the idea of using capital to create more capital. We highly suggest you do it. But in many instances, investing time and energy – which, just like money, are in finite supply – in yourself can lead to a meaningful payoff, too. And sometimes that payoff includes the accumulation of wealth.

It’s just a matter of application, and making a plan.

To that end, here’s a rundown of 13 different ways to invest in your career, your mind and your happiness that have nothing to do with buying low and selling high. Becoming a more marketable worker, earning a chance to be your own boss and simply broadening your horizons can yield rewards, too.

Find a Mentor

Spending time with a mentor is one of the best investments you can make. Mentors are plentiful. It doesn’t cost much to talk with them – just the price of a cup of coffee, or maybe an Uber trip if your mentor works elsewhere. And they can provide you with a wealth of benefits: They can improve your current job skills, help you network within your field and potentially become an employer in the future.

What workplace mentorship looks like will vary from one employer to the next. But in almost all cases, it could and should involve a senior employee acting as a guide for a newer worker with less company-specific experience. In some cases where management is willing to provide time off and funding, leadership “camps” and team-building experiences can also make employees more effective.

But what if your employer doesn’t facilitate such programs? Be the organizer of a formal, company-wide effort that pairs newer workers with veterans. It’s not a difficult sell. Your boss will benefit from a staff that at the very least better knows one another, and they’ll probably appreciate the subsequent synergies too. Meanwhile, you’ll make new intra-office contacts.

You can find mentors outside of your workplace, too. A simple way to start is by simply reaching out to leaders and other knowledgeable members of your field for “informational interviews” – nothing more than a cup of coffee or lunch to talk about the profession.

Depending on the topic, you might be able to find more plentiful outside resources. For instance, small-business entrepreneurs have a host of options at their fingers, such as Score.org, which pairs individuals up with local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) chapters to pair them with one of more than 10,000 volunteer business experts.

More Education for a Career Change

Many young college graduates might be happy working in the field they just finished studying, but some individuals further into their careers might be mulling a change – perhaps a pivot toward one of these top jobs of the future.

In many cases, however, these individuals don’t feel they can because they lack a degree related to their new dream job. Or if they do “change things up,” they make a move within the industry rather than taking on a whole new category – even when that new job could prove more lucrative.

Knight Kiplinger points out the benefit of such an investment in his “Keys to Financial Security”: “A $30,000 pay hike can be viewed as an annual return on a capital investment, like earning a continuous yield of 6% on $500,000 of savings. You know how hard it is to save up $500,000. Maybe that $30,000 boost in salary is easier to achieve.”

There’s good news for the hesitant, however. More than 80% of people who changed careers after they turned 45 years old found success in their new field, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

For some occupations, such as teachers and nurses – two of the most popular second careers for older rookies – might require a brand-new degree. But the advent of the internet has changed the way we learn. Traditional college classrooms are still an option, though career-changers with families who might need to work at the same time they’re going back to school have plenty of internet options. Roughly one-third of college-level studies are now done online, and many employers see this classwork as credible.

Professional Certifications

In some cases, a college degree might not be the right kind of continuing education for you. Some employers are more interested in specialized skills and credentials. Company hierarchies in the modern workplace are optimized by a diversity of detailed, focused knowledge that sometimes comes in the form of a professional-level certificate.

And at the least, there aren’t many industries that don’t encourage the attainment of specialized credentials.

Take the finance industry as an example. Most career-minded jobs in the sector require a minimum of a college degree. But some of the most successful financial planners are Certified Financial Planners, with a CFP designation. Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs) also enjoy a high-level of credibility within the investment management arena. There’s even a professional designation for investment professionals that specialize in analyzing stock charts: Chartered Market Technicians.

The technology arena arguably offers the most, and most diverse, options for readily attainable certifications. Certificates aimed at demonstrating expertise in Cisco networking, Microsoft systems and coding languages such as Java and C++ can all be earned in just a few months.

In most cases, these certificates can be secured while you work a full-time job. Some employers will even pay the costs associated with them.

Join Toastmasters

Even when Toastmasters International was in its infancy nearly a century ago, the organization invoked the occasional eye roll. Some outsiders snickered as the seemingly silly gathering of like-minded people that just wanted to practice public speaking in front of other members wishing to do the same.

However, the clubs – all 16,800 of them that meet regularly in 143 different countries – are no joke. Aside from a judgment-free, supportive environment where individuals can get comfortable confronting the one thing they fear more than death itself, Toastmasters is a chance to network with other aspiring business-minded individuals in the area.

And the organization certainly has its share of high-profile success stories. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, comedian and actor Tim Allen, the late iconic Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, and the late James Brady, former presidential press secretary, are all former Toastmasters members, along with a whole slew of other recognizable names that leveraged their Toastmasters experiences into successful careers.

Toastmasters charges $45 in semi-annual dues as well as a $20 new member fee. Meeting frequency varies by club but typically are held weekly or every other week, for one to two hours per meeting.

Move

It doesn’t sound like a way to invest in yourself. It sounds more like a chore, or even just a flat-out expense. But you might find that simply moving from one place to another can open all sorts of doors … and not just career-oriented ones. New locales bring new people into your life, new kinds of entertainment, lower expenses and new scenery that can make your life better in a myriad of ways.

The latest relocating-minded trend is an exodus from the nation’s biggest cities and the establishment of new roots in less urban areas. Bustling New York City lost 76,790 residents in 2019, and 143,000 in the year before that, mirroring a bigger trend evident across the entire northeaster portion of the country. Lousy weather is cited as one reason for the growing disinterest in the region, though the bigger concern is the sheer cost of living in places such as New York City and Washington, D.C.

Conversely, there are still good reasons to head toward the pricier parts of the country, particularly for people looking for jobs in the financial and tech arenas. Most Wall Street-type jobs require you to actually live somewhere near Wall Street, and Silicon Valley in northern California is the nation’s technological development hub. If you want to work there, you typically have to be there.

If you’re broadly looking for a place to start, consider these states with the fastest rates of job growth. And if you’re looking to figure out how much to budget, Moving.com says the average cost of a long-distance move (1,000 miles) is $4,890, based on a two- to three-bedroom move of about 7,500 pounds.

Start a Side Gig

The idea of a “job” has changed dramatically in just the past few years. Gone are the days when individuals clocked in at 9 a.m., worked for an employer that was trusted to remain in business, and then clocked out at 5 p.m.

The new normal is … well, there is no new normal, given the statistics.

Roughly one-third of U.S. workers claim they utilize “alternative work” arrangements as their primary source of income. That is, they don’t necessarily run their own businesses per se, but rather are contracted, self-employed people that rely on middlemen to connect with a stream of customers. Think driving for Uber, completing projects through Amazon Mechanical Turk, or picking up regular work at a website like Freelancer.com. In some cases, these workers might see more income by being self-employed. But certainly, some see less.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or matter for the entrepreneurial-minded, though. Side gigs can be managed without “giving up your day job” by doing work outside of regular work hours.

The effort is arguably worth it. A recent survey performed by The Hustle found that the average side-gig operator spent an average of 11 hours per week as their own boss, and earned $12,609 per year – an average of about $22 per hour. Real estate, management and money-related side gigs appeared to be the most lucrative, according to the survey.

The payoff can be more than in immediate income. You can use a side gig to hone new skills or test new ideas that can be used to fuel a career shift.

Set Up a (Real) Home Office

Whether you’re self-employed or just one of the lucky corporate employees who are allowed to work from home, there’s much to be said about a space that functions and feels more like an office and less like a bedroom or basement. Indeed, you might be more productive working at home, for yourself or for an employer.

Despite all the noise often made about the pros and cons of working from home, it’s not as widely available an option as you’d think. Only 7% of employers facilitate work-from-home options, according to Fundera, even though the option saves companies an estimated $44 billion per year. Fewer than 4% of employees (including freelance workers) are allowed to work from home for at least half the workweek, says Small Business Trends.

In other words, if you do have an employer that allows you to work from home, be sure to perform just as you would if in an office setting. Companies remain broadly suspicious of the practice.

The one area where it pays to spend more than you might like to on a home office is on a new computer. It is, for better or worse, the centerpiece of the modern work world. Not only are computers used to create and store documents, they’re also becoming the key means of communication with clients and customers. They’re even replacing phones with apps such as Skype. An unreliable or underpowered PC can quickly turn into a nuisance.

Get Healthy

The benefits of living a healthier lifestyle are clear: A longer life, feeling better and being able to physically do more are all good things.

However, there’s a financial upside to eating better and getting more exercise too. More than one, in fact. Chief among them is the sheer cost of being unhealthy, and as such, needing to see a doctor more often.

As part of efforts to make health insurance, and therefore health care, more affordable for everyone, deductibles have soared in recent years. In 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average deductible for a single-person health plan was $735. It has since soared to $1,655. Premium prices are up, too, at $7,188 annually as of 2019, and the maximum out-of-pocket expense in 2019 for an ACA-compliant plan was $7,900 for individuals, and $15,800 for family plans.

Although health insurance is effectively a must-have, using it can prove expensive.

The other financial upside to healthier living: Feeling better, or not being distracted by fatigue, lets your mind stay sharp during sales calls, when meeting new people and when simply being sized up (literally and figuratively) by someone interested in your work. Every interaction or connection is in some way an effort to sell something. Being at your best makes it likelier you’ll perform well.

Get Organized

Most individuals who live disorganized lives, personally and professionally, would argue they don’t have time to organize. In reality, it takes more time, energy and money to not be organized.

Did you know the average American spends 2.5 days per year trying to track down lost items? That’s the case, according to a study by Pixie, a smart-location solution for missing objects. Did you also know that the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (yes, it’s a thing) reports that between 15% and 20% of the average household’s budget is wasted by buying items to replace ones that simply can’t be found? Here’s the kicker: NAPO also estimates that 40% of housework currently being done in the U.S. wouldn’t be necessary if we were willing to de-clutter.

It’s not just time and money. Your mental well-being is at stake, too. People who have successfully mastered the art of self-organization find they’re less stressed, sleep better and ultimately end up being more productive. In the workplace, a more organized desk, office, briefcase or vehicle makes a good impression on prospective clients, co-workers, even your boss.

Keep Your Brain Sharp

By many measures, it’s a cruel trick. Never before have people been expected to stay as focused as they are now, yet never before has it been so difficult to prevent your mind from being overwhelmed by a constant barrage of digital data.

Your smartphone has much to do with that. We check our phones for no particular reason about once every 12 minutes; some of us, more frequently.

But the challenge extends beyond just phones. On average, says productivity expert Chris Bailey, we’re distracted by something every 40 seconds. Bailey also says all the regular distractions we experience ultimately extend the time needed to complete a task by 50%. Plus, it can take several minutes just to resume the work being done before the distraction took place.

So, how do you keep your mind sharp in this kind of environment?

For one, try to put down the phone a little more often. Then, start following some of the other steps on this list.

Staying in shape isn’t just a good way to cut down on medical costs – it also helps brain health as you age. Art Kramer, professor of neuroscience and psychology at Northeastern University, tells Kiplinger that people who do more aerobic exercise tend to be better at solving problems, have better memory and show lower rates of dementia.

You want to “network,” too – but not just professionally. Being socially active has many positive effects on the brain, including areas that have to do with memory. So, as you can, try to interact with friends and family more often.

Build Your Own Website or Portfolio

The upside of building your own professional website or portfolio will vary from one person to the next, and with the intent. But if there’s any arguable reason not to invest in yourself in this way, cost isn’t it. The hosting price for a low-end (though still professional-looking) website can be less than $10 per month; for those willing to make a longer-term commitment, requesting and registering the domain name is often free.

What you can do with even the simplest of websites, however, is almost limitless.

Chief among those options for a job-seeker is the use of a website as a digital resume of sorts. But a website can provide a potential employer with work-related details that might otherwise be difficult to present with just one sheet of paper.

In that same vein, a website could serve as a repository of past work for individuals who offer services on a regular basis. Writers, artists and architects are just some of the people who benefit from being able to publicly showcase their work.

And naturally, any entrepreneur with e-commerce ambitions will want to develop a website, and spring for a few more of the bells and whistles required to do business online.

Hire a Career Coach

Sometimes it’s difficult to push yourself to the proverbial next level, whatever that might mean in your given field. Stagnation can sap creativity, and disappointment can quell drive. It’s all too easy to become complacent and resign yourself to doing the exact same thing until it’s time to retire.

A career coach might be just the kick in the pants you need.

But first, you need to understand what a career coach is, and what it isn’t. Career coaches aren’t headhunters. They also can’t tell you what sort of job you should be seeking. And they most certainly won’t be able to help if your impasses are personal rather than professional in nature.

A career coach can, however, help you identify your strengths and weakness as other people see them, assist you in formulating a career-advancement strategy and advise you on how to make a successful career change.

They’re not necessarily cheap. On a per-hour basis, they can charge anywhere between $75 and $250. Some ask for a longer-term, multimonth commitment that can cost a total of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.

But they can be worth the outlay. A promotion-related raise or a job offer with a new employer can easily fund such an investment within just a year.

Read Books

There’s a universe of great information floating around, ready to be gleaned. Much of it can’t be found at your workplace. Instead, it’s at a bookstore – or, for the more economically minded, a library.

The statistics on the matter are nothing short of amazing. Fast Company says the average CEO reads 60 books per year. Ben Eubanks, human resources analyst with Brandon Hall Group, believes “people who are successful are often crazy about reading. They make time for that because they understand how important it is, and it’s kind of like a secret weapon.” However, a person in the United States only reads between two and three books per year, most of those purely for pleasure.

A lot of that has to do with time available, but if you have recreational time you aren’t spending on reading, you might consider re-allocating it to hitting the books.

The upsides? Aside from the knowledge and perspective gained from teaching yourself about something new, reading also expands your vocabulary and opens up opportunities to discuss new ideas with your boss (current or prospective). There’s something powerful about being able to say, “That’s something I was just reading about the other day.”

One word of caution: Reading a work-related book just for the sake of being seen reading a work-related book can easily backfire. Most experienced managers can spot an effort get the wrong kind of attention. They might not like the tactic. Just read a book on faith that it will eventually matter, even if that means with a different employer.

By: James Brumley

Source: https://getpocket.com/

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