The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Critics:

Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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4 Ways to Revolutionize Risk Management

In an uncertain climate where risk is rife, the call for a more holistic approach to risk management has never been greater.

Despite new risks having emerged amid the volatile global environment, existing risks such as cybercrime and climate change haven’t gone away. Compounding this are new regulations on the horizon, such as those recommended in the Brydon Review in the U.K., where it’s likely we’ll see increased scrutiny over risk management, compliance and internal controls in the coming months.

The rapid pace of change in the past year has undoubtedly created significant short-term challenges for organizations worldwide, but only now are the long-term consequences beginning to manifest themselves.

Arguably, Covid-19 has highlighted deficiencies in risk management that otherwise might never have been brought to light. What’s clear is that those who have taken a more dynamic and frequent approach to their risk practices have been better able to future-proof their business and tackle the ongoing turbulence initiated by the pandemic.

Here are some ways organizations can enhance their performance in four of today’s key risk areas, while maintaining rigorous compliance and agility:

Innovation risk,..

As innovation rises, so too do risks. Yet conversely, the risk of not innovating can be just as high. This places a considerable onus on risk managers to help their organizations strike the right balance between risk and reward.

Due to the nature of innovation, propositions are often in a constant state of development, rendering point-in-time engagement from risk executives impractical. For risk management to be effective, it must be embedded throughout the development process, with continuous interaction between risk and innovation teams. Furthermore, risk controls should be an integral part of product design, especially in the face of regulations such as GDPR, which maintains “privacy by design” as one of its leading principles.

Innovation risks undoubtedly alter the risk profile of an organization and potentially fuel other technology-related risks such as cybercrime and fraud—creating another strong case for implementing new risk controls and a wider discipline of digital conduct.

One prime example of innovation risk managed well is offered by e-commerce giant JD.com, whose radical advances in mitigation technology and robotics have increased the retailer’s stock price by 97% in the past year.

Cybersecurity risk

At the same time that organizations are expanding their digital footprints, cyber threats are growing exponentially in their sophistication. Although this has largely made traditional risk management frameworks unworkable, a data-driven approach can help businesses to better quantify cyber risk and sense check their cyber-response capabilities.

Data can be derived from multiple sources including audit findings, threat intelligence tools, asset life cycles and defect management to help build a real-time picture of risk, while providing key insights to the security team and senior leaders for more informed decision-making.

That said, a cyber-risk framework is only as good as an organization’s first line of defense: its valued employees. An all-hands-on-deck style is the surest way to instill a culture of cybersecurity accountability at all levels of the business, supported through training courses and robust policies to raise awareness of today’s ever-evolving cyber risks.

By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities before they become an issue, risk professionals can reduce the likelihood of their organization being a sitting target and thus protect their end clients as they continue their digitalization journey.

ESG risk

Rising expectations from stakeholders in recent years have indicated that high environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance can lead to improved profitability and business opportunities.

Microsoft is one such case in point, becoming the first company in its sector to target a “carbon negative” status by 2030. Since creating a $1 billion fund to reduce emissions and carbon usage, Microsoft received the highest ESG rating (AAA) from MSCI ESG Research in 2019.

A failure to incorporate ESG—covering a wide set of issues—into enterprise risk management practices could see businesses lagging behind their peers, particularly if they do not make the connection between ESG and materiality.

While laws and regulations mandating disclosure are a key driver for putting forth a robust ESG strategy, businesses should adopt an approach that transcends simply meeting compliance requirements. A critical starting point is to develop a purposeful culture around ESG that is exemplified at the top and instilled throughout the organization.

Board oversight is also crucial to the effective integration of ESG risk management and subsequent long-term sustainability. Senior leaders should work closely with risk teams to monitor ESG performance against the company’s goals, making activities such as megatrend analysis, media monitoring and regular ESG materiality assessments a core part of the wider ERM framework.

Continue Reading About risk management

Regulatory risk

With the regulatory landscape changing rapidly, businesses that rely on antiquated, reactive ways of managing compliance risks could open themselves up to a host of negative repercussions, from both a financial and reputational standpoint.

However, an integrated compliance framework facilitated by technology can not only enable companies to be more risk-intelligent, but can also help keep compliance standards in check, ensuring that policies are adhered to at all levels of the organization.

Coupled with a best-practice strategy for managing regulatory compliance risk, today’s advances in automation and regtech can provide a 360-degree view of compliance while delivering meaningful insights and highlighting gaps in processes or deviation from policy.

Moreover, as authorities place increased focus on the quality and completeness of regulatory data, businesses will need to show that they have systematic controls and tools in place to provide accurate regulatory and compliance reporting. By putting transparency at the heart of regulatory risk management through digital means, organizations can have the confidence that their regulatory obligations are being met, mitigating the chance of them falling afoul of noncompliance.

With a focus on high-level risks as well as the more granular impact of risk across the board, businesses will not only benefit from a competitive advantage in future, but also greater resilience and compliance in times of extreme disruption. Are you ready for a risk management revolution?

Discover Ideagen’s market-leading Pentana Compliance solution and how it can help to protect your financial services organization from regulatory risk.

Gordon McKeown

Gordon McKeown, Head of ARC Product, Ideagen

This article originally appeared on Business Reporter. Image credits: Header image: iStock 1181145608. Headshot: Courtesy of Ideagen.

Source: 4 Ways to Revolutionize Risk Management

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New SEC Boss Wants More Crypto Oversight to Protect Investors

It’s become a parlor game in Washington, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley to figure out where U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler stands on cryptocurrencies. Industry lobbyists tune in when he testifies before Congress. Lawyers parse his speeches. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth advisers recently boasted in a research report about looking for clues in 29 hours of the Blockchain and Money course he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That’s an arduous but perhaps not novel undertaking, since videos of the classes have garnered millions of views online, something that amazes even Gensler. In his first extensive interview about the digital money craze, Gensler signaled that his deep interest in the subject doesn’t mean he’s simpatico with the hands-off oversight approach that many enthusiasts would like to see.

Policymakers have struggled with how to respond to the mostly unregulated $1.6 trillion market, which has seen explosive growth and wild price swings. Gensler is contemplating a robust oversight regime, centered on establishing safeguards for the millions of investors who’ve been stocking their portfolios with tokens. “While I’m neutral on the technology, even intrigued—I spent three years teaching it, leaning into it—I’m not neutral about investor protection,” says Gensler, who on Tuesday will give a speech about crypto at the Aspen Security Forum.

“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.” Gensler has asked Congress to pass a law that could give the agency the legal authority to monitor crypto exchanges, but he says the SEC’s powers are already broad. There’s been much discussion over the years about which kinds of digital assets fall under the SEC’s purview.

Some such as Bitcoin that act like currencies are considered commodities, not securities. But there are thousands of other coins, and Gensler believes most are unregistered securities that must comply with SEC rules. Broadly he noted that technology has sparked economic progress throughout human history, and he sees a similar boost from digital assets. That may only come, however, with strong and thoughtful regulation.

As an analogy, he says the automobile industry didn’t fully take off until governments laid out driving rules. Speed limits and traffic lights provided public safety but also helped cars become mainstream. “It’s only with bringing things inside—and sort of clearly within our public policy goals—that a technology has a chance of broader adoption,” he says.

Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner on the SEC known for her advocacy of light-touch regulation of digital assets, says she’s eager to work with Gensler. “A lot people just want more clarity,” she says. “I come from a perspective that people should have the maximum freedom to engage in transactions they want to engage in voluntarily. Society needs to have that discussion about what is the right regulatory framework.”

Gensler didn’t give a timeline for any SEC action. He has a to-do list that includes 49 non-crypto policy reviews that could slow progress on cryptocurrencies. Many are high-profile and time-consuming efforts, like responding to the GameStop Corp. trading frenzy and the blow-up of the Archegos family office. The SEC is also working to impose new rules that would require companies to disclose carbon emissions and other environmental risks, a Biden administration priority.

Nor would Gensler comment on the potential for approving a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, a decision that many in the crypto world are eagerly awaiting, because it would provide an easy on-ramp for investors. A Bitcoin ETF would invest in the cryptocurrency and then trade its shares on the stock market. So far the SEC has balked at permitting such funds, citing concerns about the risk of fraud and manipulation in the Bitcoin market.

Gensler has spoken positively about the ETFs during his days at MIT, giving advocates hope that he’s a supporter. Peirce says it’s “high time” the SEC approved a crypto ETF. Behind the scenes, Gensler has pushed the agency’s staff members to take a look at an array of potential policy changes. He says there are at least seven SEC initiatives looking at different crypto issues: initial coin offerings, trading venues, lending platforms, decentralized finance, stable value coins, custody, and ETFs and other coin funds. “I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” he says.

Gensler says he thinks regulating crypto exchanges is perhaps the easiest way for the government to get a quick handle on digital token trading. But he’s also concerned about new ways people are getting into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending on so-called decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms. If firms are advertising a specific interest-rate return on a crypto asset, Gensler says, that could bring the loans under SEC oversight. Platforms that pool digital assets could be seen as akin to mutual funds, potentially allowing the SEC to regulate them.

Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the Obama administration, where he was responsible for bringing federal oversight to the huge market for derivatives known as swaps after the financial crisis. Patrick McCarty, who teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Georgetown University’s law school, says Gensler’s understanding of digital assets means he will give the industry a “fair hearing,” though he will likely disappoint many proponents.

“When the crypto people say they want legal certainty, they don’t mean that—they want to be unregulated,” McCarty says. “That’s never been Gary’s point of view.” Christine Trent Parker, who focuses on crypto assets as a law partner at Reed Smith in New York, says that although new SEC rules would bring more certainty to the industry, they also could divide the policing of the market more starkly—with the CFTC focused on markets linked to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and the SEC handling much of the rest.

“Right now the lines are fuzzy because we have speeches and enforcement and court orders,” instead of bright-line regulation, she says. “If the SEC has sort of a broad framework that pulls in all of the other digital assets, then you have this bifurcated marketplace.” Others have argued that new token developers need some regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

Gensler also sits on the Treasury-led Financial Stability Oversight Council and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which recently held a meeting on the impact of stablecoins. These are crypto tokens that are supposed to be backed by traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, and they’ve become a huge part of the crypto trading system. Regulators worry about what could happen if some stablecoin didn’t turn out to be worth what it was supposed to be—prompting an exodus akin to a run on a bank or a money-market fund.

Gensler’s views on the panels carry weight, people who follow the issue note, because unlike, say, the Treasury secretary or Federal Reserve chairman, he has real crypto cred. His understanding of blockchain and digital assets comes largely from the several years he spent at MIT. Along with creating the cryptocurrency course, he’s been a frequent guest at industry conferences—sometimes speaking 30 to 50 times a year—mixing with deep thinkers and entrepreneurs.

He quotes writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, from memory and knew some of the core developers of the digital currency. The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner traveled an unlikely path to becoming one of the government’s foremost cryptocurrency experts. It started in 2017, when as chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign he had the lonely job of closing up shop, paying off the final bills, and deciding what to do with the abandoned computers and office supplies.

Like many of his shell-shocked former colleagues, Gensler was looking for something to do—and somewhere to sit out Donald Trump’s presidency. The answer came from economist Simon Johnson, an MIT professor who encouraged Gensler to come to Cambridge, Mass., and teach. Looking to nurture a long-held interest in the intersection of technology and finance, Gensler jumped at the opportunity.

Although he didn’t know much about digital tokens, he connected with people who were part of the university’s burgeoning Digital Currency Initiative and even audited a course in crypto programming. When he suggested MIT teach more about finance and digital money, he was given the job. Little did he know that in a few years he’d have a chance to put his academic studies to real-world use. “Life sometimes is a bit of serendipity,’’ he says.

By: Robert Schmidt

Source: Will Government Regulate Crypto? SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Bitcoin and Oversight – Bloomberg

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How To Follow The 50-30-20 Budgeting Strategy

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s One-Minute Money Hacks series, which provides easy, straightforward tips and tricks to help you understand your finances and take control of your money.

Managing your finances and setting a monthly budget can be challenging. But if you’re overwhelmed with where to start, the 50-30-20 strategy can simplify the process. The plan divides your income into three broad categories: necessities, wants, and savings and investments. Here’s a closer look at each.

50% of your paycheck should go toward things you need

This category includes all of your essential costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, food, utilities, health insurance, debt payments and car payments. If your necessary expenses take up more than half of your income, you may need to cut costs or dip into your wants fund.

20% of your paycheck should go toward savings and investments

This category includes liquid savings, like an emergency fund; retirement savings, such as a 401(k) or Roth IRA; and any other investments, such as a brokerage account. Experts typically recommend aiming to have enough cash in your emergency fund to cover between three and six months worth of living expenses.

Some also suggest building up your emergency savings first, then concentrating on long-term investments. And if you have access to a 401(k) account through your employer, it can be a great way to save a portion of your income pre-tax.

30% of your paycheck should go toward things you want

This final category includes anything that isn’t considered an essential cost, such as travel, subscriptions, dining out, shopping and fun. This category can also include luxury upgrades: If you purchase a nicer car instead of a less expensive one, for example, that dips into your wants category.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to money management, but the 50-30-20 plan can be a good place to start if you’re new to budgeting and are wondering how to divide up your income.

Nadine El-Bawab

By: Nadine El-Bawab / @nadineelbawab

Source: How to follow the 50-30-20 budgeting strategy

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Critics:

While that may not be realistic, there are some simple things you can do right now to improve your money situation. Try these five steps for successfully managing your personal finances. Another bonus? If you stick to these five tips, your financial problems may start to diminish, and you can start reaping the rewards of lower debt, saving for the future, and a solid credit score.

Take some time to write specific, long-term financial goals. You may want to take a month-long trip to Europe, buy an investment property, or retire early. All of these goals will affect how you plan your finances. For example, your goal to retire early is dependent on how well you save your money now. Other goals, including home ownership, starting a family, moving, or changing careers, will all be affected by how you manage your finances.

Once you have written down your financial goals, prioritize them. This organizational process ensures that you are paying the most attention to the ones that are of the highest importance to you. You can also list them in the order you want to achieve them, but a long-term goal like saving for retirement requires you to work towards it while also working on your other goals.

Below are some tips on how to get clear on your financial goals:

  • Set long-term goals like getting out of debt, buying a home, or retiring early. These goals are separate from your short-term goals such as saving for a nice date night.
  • Set short-term goals, like following a budget, decreasing your spending, paying down, or not using your credit cards.
  • Prioritize your goals to help you create a financial plan.

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How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

A client (who I’ll call “Alex”) asked me to help him prepare to interview for a CEO role with a start-up. It was the first time he had interviewed for the C-level, and when we met, he was visibly agitated. I asked what was wrong, and he explained that he felt “paralyzed” by his fear of failing at the high-stakes meeting.

Digging deeper, I discovered that Alex’s concern about the quality of his performance stemmed from a “setback” he had experienced and internalized while working at his previous company. As I listened to him describe the situation, it became clear that the failure was related to his company and outside industry factors, rather than to any misstep on his part. Despite that fact, Alex could not shake the perception that he himself had not succeeded, even though there was nothing he could have logically done to anticipate or change this outcome.

People are quick to blame themselves for failure, and companies hedge against it even if they pay lip service to the noble concept of trial and error. What can you do if you, like Alex, want to face your fear of screwing up and push beyond it to success? Here are four steps you can take:

Redefine failure. Behind many fears is worry about doing something wrong, looking foolish, or not meeting expectations — in other words, fear of failure. By framing a situation you’re dreading differently before you attempt it, you may be able to avoid some stress and anxiety.

Let’s go back to Alex as an example of how to execute this. As he thought about his interview, he realized that his initial bar for failing the task — “not being hired for the position” — was perhaps too high given that he’d never been a CEO and had never previously tried for that top job. Even if his interview went flawlessly, other factors might influence the hiring committee’s decision — such as predetermined preferences on the part of board members.

In coaching Alex through this approach, I encouraged him to redefine how he would view his performance in the interview. Was there a way he might interpret it differently from the get-go and be more open to signs of success, even if they were small? Could he, for example, redefine failure as not being able to answer any of the questions posed or receiving specific negative feedback? Could he redefine success as being able to answer each question to the best of his ability and receiving no criticisms about how he interviewed?

As it turned out, Alex did advance to the second round and was complimented on his preparedness. Ultimately, he did not get the job. But because he had shifted his mindset and redefined what constituted failure and success, he was able to absorb the results of the experience more gracefully and with less angst than he had expected.

Set approach goals (not avoidance goals). Goals can be classified as approach goals or avoidance goals based on whether you are motivated by wanting to achieve a positive outcome or avoid an adverse one. Psychologists have found that creating approach goals, or positively reframing avoidance goals, is beneficial for well-being. When you’re dreading a tough task and expect it to be difficult and unpleasant, you may unconsciously set goals around what you don’t want to happen rather than what you do want.

Though nervous about the process, Alex’s desire to become a CEO was an approach goal because it focused on what he wanted to achieve in his career rather than what he hoped to avoid. Although he didn’t land the first CEO job he tried to get, he did not let that fact deter him from keeping that as his objective and getting back out there.

If Alex had instead become discouraged about the outcome of his first C-level interview and decided to actively avoid the pain of rejection by never vying for the top spot again, he would have shifted from approach to avoidance mode. While developing an avoidance goal is a common response to a perceived failure, it’s important to keep in mind the costs of doing so. Research has shown that employees who take on an avoidance focus become twice as mentally fatigued as their approach-focused colleagues.

Create a “fear list.” Author and investor Tim Ferriss recommends “fear-setting,” creating a checklist of what you are afraid to do and what you fear will happen if you do it. In his Ted Talk on the subject, he shares how doing this enabled him to tackle some of his hardest challenges, resulting in some of his biggest successes.

I asked Alex to make three lists: first, the worst-case scenarios if he bombed the interview; second, things he could do to prevent the failure; and third, in the event the flop occurred, what could he do to repair it. Next, I asked him to write down the benefits of the attempted effort and the cost of inaction. This exercise helped him realize that although he was anxious, walking away from the opportunity would be more harmful to his career in the long run.

Focus on learning. The chips aren’t always going to fall where you want them to — but if you understand that reality going in, you can be prepared to wring the most value out of the experience, no matter the outcome.

To return to Alex, he was able to recognize through the coaching process that being hyper-focused on his previous company’s flop — and overestimating his role in it — caused him to panic about the CEO interview. When he shifted gears to focus not on his potential for failure but on what he would learn from competing at a higher level than he had before, he stopped sweating that first attempt and was able to see it as a steppingstone on a longer journey to the CEO seat.

With that mindset, he quickly pivoted away from his disappointment at not getting the offer to quickly planning for the next opportunity to interview for a similar role at another company.

Remember: it’s when you feel comfortable that you should be fearful, because it’s a sign that you’re not stepping far enough out of your comfort zone to take steps that will help you rise and thrive. By rethinking your fears using the four steps above, you can come to see apprehension as a teacher and guide to help you achieve your most important goals.

By: Susan Peppercorn / Harvard Business Review

Susan Peppercorn is an executive career transition coach and speaker. She is the author of Ditch Your Inner Critic at Work: Evidence-Based Strategies to Thrive in Your Career. Numerous publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, the Boston Globe, and SELF Magazine have tapped her for career advice. You can download her free Career Fit Self-Assessment and 25 Steps to a Successful Career Transition.

Source: Pocket

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References:

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd  What Is Creativity?

We All Have It, and Need It 

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How Investing in Strategic Partnerships Can Help Grow Your Business

How Investing in Strategic Partnerships Can Help Grow Your Business

The best entrepreneurs understand the power of people. Whether thinking about accessible healthcare or, more broadly, startup success, collaboration and partnerships have always been vital, even before the pandemic strengthened the need for a collective approach.

Of course, for entrepreneurs looking to scale their business, cash is a critical piece of the puzzle. For obvious reasons, access to capital enables a business to grow, whether that’s investing in research and development (R&D), expanding overseas, or hiring top talent.

But capital shouldn’t be treated as a silver bullet. Instead, founders should turn their attention toward creating strong, strategic partnerships to drive business growth. Working with other established organisations builds credibility, allowing businesses to make further connections and expand their operations.

Entrepreneurs, though, should learn exactly how to unlock beneficial relationships that will ultimately set them up for long-term victory. Partnerships must be win-win and goals aligned so that everyone comes out as beneficiaries.

Why connections matter.

When executed wisely, strategic partnerships can foster business growth. With the potential to form a critical part of any growing business, these partnerships benefit startups and corporates alike. For large corporations, startups and scaleups can fuel innovation; for early-stage founders, big companies can enable fresh revenue, scaling possibilities and credibility.

With established partners come established networks. Existing knowledge, suppliers and customers can make selling products on a larger scale much easier to achieve. This empowers startups to scale quickly, with that revenue used to reinvest in operations and innovation, fuelling further growth and making it easier to establish new business relationships with a wider pool of organisations.

What’s also important, particularly if operating in a crowded space such as healthcare, is the potential for impact. Healthcare solutions – rightly or wrongly – are often judged by the number of patients using them. So, establishing key strategic partnerships – as we’ve done with Microsoft, Allianz and Portuguese healthcare provider Médis – provides an avenue to millions of patients.

Infermedica experimented with different business models, but eventually settled on a B2B strategy over B2C as we had the potential to reach more patients through a partnership network. This accelerated on our goal to bring more accessible healthcare to all. Strategic partnerships enable startups to quickly build credibility and cut through loud crowded markets.

Investor partnerships can play a role as well. Relationships don’t need to simply need to be between providers, but investors can bring knowledge, connections and consultancy which can help startups to overcome growing challenges and open doors that may otherwise remain closed until certain milestones around size, revenue and customers have been reached. What’s key is ensuring both sides remain committed to moving forward together.

How to unlock the opportunity.

But what’s the best way to go about creating these relationships? For founders, the first step to achieving this is to remember that although partnerships are sealed between companies, they’re created by people and that human connection has to be built first. Talk to the potential partner to understand what they are truly trying to achieve and how a partnership could help them solve it.

Similarly, founders must understand their own goals and what they need from any relationship to ensure they keep progressing towards it. When discussions are open and the people are looked after, great relationships are forged.

Developing a partner program at an early stage: creating a network of trusted resellers and innovative partners also allows entrepreneurs to explore opportunities in their immediate area and beyond. Indeed, European founders shouldn’t simply look within their own country or continent for partnerships, by looking further afield they open themselves up to new ways of thinking and opportunities.

Partner programs and ecosystems establish a feedback community, each organization provides feedback which improves each other’s offerings, leading to greater growth and credibility for all. This also drives thoughts around integration, how compatible one offering is with another to ensure it truly adds value in a real-world environment. Collaboration with partners enables entrepreneurs to see how their product fits into the bigger picture which fuels wider innovation.

For example, Infermedica’s partner program enables organizations from all aspects of healthcare to collaborate with us and access our AI technology, enhancing and diversifying services which offer better end-user outcomes. Of course, there is still some way to go and things will never stop evolving. The top SaaS companies have on average around 350 integrations as they understand all of the potential engagement points and are establishing ecosystems that reflect them. The key takeaway: when creating partner ecosystems, always keep in mind how an end-user could potentially interact with your offering.

Take your time.

As in life, building a long-last relationship takes a lot of time and effort. So, while it can be tempting to rush into an exciting partnership or program, it’s vital to take your time to build trust and establish clear boundaries. Drawing on our own experience, it took more than a year to establish partnerships with Microsoft and Allianz, and it’s an ongoing process of building mutual trust and finding new ways to collaborate.

Remember that there should be no A and B side in partnerships. Each party brings their own benefits to the table. Combining knowledge and resources makes the relationship greater than the sum of its parts, delivering greater value to customers, industry and economy.

At all times, specificity is key to success. Be sure that the partnership is truly feeding into your overall strategy and that you have all the necessary resources to support you on your journey. Plan it well and take your time. It’s a long-term strategy that requires patience, commitment and perseverance. Rome was not built in a day, but the foundations of a long lasting relationship could start tomorrow.

Keep your goals in mind and ensure you’re going into every conversation with completely open eyes because when you find those strategic connections that just work, the opportunity for growth is truly great.

By: Tomasz Domino / Chief Operating Officer, Infermedica

Source: How Investing in Strategic Partnerships Can Help Grow Your Business

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Critics:

A strategic partnership (also see strategic alliance) is a relationship between two commercial enterprises, usually formalized by one or more business contracts. A strategic partnership will usually fall short of a legal partnership entity, agency, or corporate affiliate relationship. Strategic partnerships can take on various forms from shake hand agreements, contractual cooperation’s all the way to equity alliances, either the formation of a joint venture or cross-holdings in each other.

Typically, two companies form a strategic partnership when each possesses one or more business assets or have expertise that will help the other by enhancing their businesses. This can also mean, that one firm is helping the other firm to expand their market to other marketplaces, by helping with some expertise.

According to Cohen and Levinthal a considerable in-house expertise which complements the technology activities of its partner is a necessary condition for a successful exploitation of knowledge and technological capabilities outside their boundaries. Strategic partnerships can develop in outsourcing relationships where the parties desire to achieve long-term “win-win” benefits and innovation based on mutually desired outcomes.

No matter if a business contract was signed, between the two parties, or not, a trust-based relationship between the partners is indispensable. One common strategic partnership involves one company providing engineering, manufacturing or product development services, partnering with a smaller, entrepreneurial firm or inventor to create a specialized new product. Typically, the larger firm supplies capital, and the necessary product development, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities, while the smaller firm supplies specialized technical or creative expertise.

References

Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says These 5 Habits Matter Most

I’ve been on a mission, collecting science-based parenting advice both here in my column on Inc.com and in my continuously updated free e-book How to Raise Successful Kids, which you can download here.

Here’s a short but detailed look at five of the most useful studies that I’ve found, and the habits they suggest for successful parents.

1. Be a role model (but not their only role model).

Let’s give the plot twist up front: Kids need great role models, but one of the most important roles you can model is how you deal with failure.

Deal with it honestly, openly, and transparently. Let them see that you do sometimes try and come up short. Because, of course, they will fail at things themselves, and you want to teach them two things:

  • Don’t be afraid or ashamed of failure, especially if they’ve given it their all.
  • Rebound from it the right way.

A few years ago, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ran experiments with children as young as 15 months old. The more their parents let them see that they struggled and failed at times, the more resilient the kids became.

“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy,” one of the study’s leads said. “[T]his does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.”

Beyond that? Make sure they have great role models, both in their lives and in literature.

2. Teach them to love the outdoors.

This advice seems especially timely as we emerge from the pandemic. But kids need to be outside.

Studies show that kids who spent a lot less time outdoors during the early days of the coronavirus crisis experienced a strikingly negative effect on their emotional well-being.

This almost seems like common sense, but we see it come up again and again in both children and adults.

These kinds of habits — and a lifelong appreciation for nature (or not) — can start young, and cost almost nothing.

Against this — and I’m no Luddite, and I know we live in a digital world, but — researchers have found that happiness and well-being among U.S. middle schoolers has declined steadily since 2012.

Hmmm, what happened in 2012? That’s when American kids largely started to get their own smartphones, combined with unlimited data plans.

3. Teach them to prioritize kindness.

A couple of years ago, psychologist and business school professor Adam Grant and his wife, Allison Sweet Grant, wrote a book about kids and kindness. In an article they wrote for The Atlantic around the same time, they made an interesting point:

  • More than 90 percent of U.S. parents say that “one of their top priorities is that their children be caring.”
  • But if you ask children what their parents’ top priorities are for them,  “81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.”

There’s a disconnect. And it might stem from people not realizing one of the most fascinating paradoxes, which is that people who demonstrate kindness and caring for others are often more likely to achieve what they want as a result.

As the Grants put it:

Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later. Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers also excel–compared with unhelpful classmates, they get better grades and standardized-test scores.

The eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement, moreover, are not the ones who got the best marks five years earlier; they’re the ones who were rated most helpful by their third-grade classmates and teachers.

And middle schoolers who believe their parents value being helpful, respectful, and kind over excelling academically, attending a good college, and having a successful career perform better in school and are less likely to break rules.

We see this in negotiations, too: Develop empathy with the people you’re dealing with, care legitimately about what they want as well as what you want, and you’re more likely to reach a desirable resolution.

4. Praise them the right way.

There are at least three facets of praising kids well that I’ve found in my surveys of the research.

The first is to praise kids for their effort, not their gifts. I’ve gotten a bit of pushback on this idea recently, which I’ll address in a future column. But in short:

  • Good: I’m very proud of you. I saw how hard you studied for that test.
  • Not-so-good: I knew you’d do well on that test. You’re so smart and naturally good at math.

The second is to praise them authentically. Kids aren’t stupid (mostly). They know if you’re blowing smoke when you praise them for things that don’t really merit praise. But they also need reinforcement to know that you’re proud and think they’re doing the right things.

In one study of 300 kids, researchers found that:

When parents perceived that they over- or underpraised their children for schoolwork, children performed worse in school and experienced depression to a greater extent, as compared with children whose parents thought their praise accurately reflected reality.

Finally, however: Be generous with your praise in terms of quantity.

A three-year study out of Brigham Young University found that there’s no magic amount of praise, but it’s helpful to do so as often as possible. One trick might be to break down tasks and praise for each one specifically, as opposed to holding your positive reinforcement until the end of a task.

5. Be there for them, and then some.

This last bit of advice is perhaps the hardest because it flies in the face of one of the parenting clichés we all want to avoid: namely, becoming a helicopter parent.

That said, I’m going to combine studies here, and at least give you food for thought — if not a complete guide.

The bottom line up front is to be there, be vocal, and be involved, while still letting your kids do for themselves as much as they can.

  • Study No. 1: Researchers found that girls whose mothers “nagged the heck out of them” were less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, more likely to go to college, and less likely to have long periods of unemployment or get stuck in dead-end jobs.
  • Study No. 2: A series of studies, actually, found that parents who were quick to run to their children’s side when they faced big challenges or had setbacks — at almost any age — wound up raising kids who were more successful and had better relationships with their parents as they got older.

In short, you’re your child’s parent, and they need you to act like that: guiding them, pushing them, and showing that you’ll always be there for them. Do that much, and you’re doing quite a lot.

By: Bill Murphy Jr., http://www.billmurphyjr.com@BillMurphyJr

Source: Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says These 5 Habits Matter Most | Inc.com

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Critics:

Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child and not exclusively for a biological relationship. The most common caretaker in parenting is the father or mother, or both, the biological parents of the child in question. However, a surrogate may be an older sibling, a step-parent, a grandparent, a legal guardian, aunt, uncle, other family members, or a family friend.

Governments and society may also have a role in child-rearing. In many cases, orphaned or abandoned children receive parental care from non-parent or non-blood relations. Others may be adopted, raised in foster care, or placed in an orphanage. Parenting skills vary, and a parent or surrogate with good parenting skills may be referred to as a good parent. Parenting styles vary by historical period, race/ethnicity, social class, preference, and a few other social features.

Additionally, research supports that parental history, both in terms of attachments of varying quality and parental psychopathology, particularly in the wake of adverse experiences, can strongly influence parental sensitivity and child outcomes.

Parenting does not usually end when a child turns 18. Support may be needed in a child’s life well beyond the adolescent years and continues into middle and later adulthood. Parenting can be a lifelong process.

Parents may provide financial support to their adult children, which can also include providing an inheritance after death. The life perspective and wisdom given by a parent can benefit their adult children in their own lives. Becoming a grandparent is another milestone and has many similarities with parenting.

See also

Micro Investing’s Magic Lies in Helping Your Favorite College Grad (or You) Gain Confidence

Micro Investing's Magic Lies in Helping Your Favorite College Grad (or You) Gain Confidence

When you first graduate from college, you might not feel comfortable dumping lots of money into unknown stocks or ETFs. Even if you’re not a new college graduate, you may want to consider a different approach when you don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around. Why not try micro investing?

Micro investing takes the daunting feeling away from investing, and therein lies its true magic. Let’s take a look at what it can do for you and how it can find a place in your portfolio.

What is Micro Investing?

Put simply, when you micro invest, you invest using small amounts of money. In other words, you pony up money to buy fractional shares of stocks or ETFs instead of full shares.

As of today, a single share of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) costs $3,383.87. You may know you can’t even afford one share of Amazon, much less two shares!

Enter micro investing apps. You can buy Amazon for a much smaller amount — even really small amounts, like $10. You can also buy multiple securities to aim for diversification (always a great thing!) and lower your risk in the long run.

Why Micro Invest?

Small amounts, compounded over time, can make an impact. Compound interest makes your money grow faster. You can calculate interest on accumulated interest as well as on your original principal. Compounding can create a snowball effect: The original investments plus the income earned from those investments both grow.

Let’s say you save $1 per day. Your $1 per day adds up to $365 a year. Instead of spending that $365, you could stick it into a micro investing app at 5% interest per year. Your small amount would grow to almost $466 by the end of five years. At the end of 30 years, the amount you originally invested would grow to $1,578.

If you micro invested even more, your investment could grow even faster.

How Does Micro Investing Work?

Have you ever heard of the app, Acorns, which invests small change for you? That’s micro investing. A micro investing app rounds up your purchases to the dollar or makes automatic transfers for you. Think of micro investing as “spare change investing” — many apps round up your transactions from a linked bank account and invest the difference.

In other words, let’s say you go to Chipotle and order a mega burrito with those delicious limey chips. You spend $10.34. The app would take your remaining $0.66 and invest it.

You don’t have to invest a lot to get started, either. Stash allows you to get started with just a penny. Interested in micro investing for your favorite college grad or yourself? Take a look at the following steps to get started with micro investing.

Step 1: Choose a micro investing app.

What’s often the hardest part? Choosing the right investment app. Often the most important question comes down to this: Do you want to get your hands directly on your investments or do you want an app to pilot and direct your money for you?

Quick overview: Acorns and Betterment put a portfolio together for you based on your preferences. Stash and Robinhood allow you to choose the direction you want your money to take by allowing you to choose your own investments.

You may want to choose an app that lets you steer the ship yourself, particularly if you want to take a DIY approach to your investments at some point.

Step 2: Input your information.

Once you’ve chosen a micro investing app, it’s time to let the robo-advisor do its job. You input information to your micro investing app that helps it “understand” how to put together the best portfolio for you. You input your age, income, goals and risk tolerance and it’ll allocate your investment dollars accordingly.

Your money will go into a portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) based on the level of risk you choose. Based on the information you supply, you could end up thoroughly diversified with shares in many (sometimes hundreds) of different companies.

Step 3: Set up recurring investments.

You can set up investments to go into your investment account on a recurring basis for just a few dollars per month. You can also choose to make one-time deposits. Your robo-advisor will automatically rebalance your account if you have too much invested in a particular asset class. Setting up recurring investing means that you’ll invest without thinking about it. (You’ll never miss pennies!)

Step 4: Don’t quit there.

You can easily track your earnings when you micro invest because those apps are seriously slick. You can even project your earnings through the app’s earnings calculator so you don’t have to wonder how much you’ll have later on.

However, this is important: Remember that micro investing may not make you rich (if, in fact that is your goal). You probably can’t save enough for retirement through micro-investing, either. You probably also won’t net enough to save for larger goals, such as a down payment on a home. You may generate a few hundred dollars a year, which might allow you to save enough to fund an emergency fund, but that’s about it.

The real win involves building the confidence needed to invest. Consider other ways you can invest, such as investing money in a 401(k) or a Roth IRA after you get comfortable with micro investing.

Micro Investing Could Work Wonders

Micro investing can work wonders by breaking down barriers to investing. One of the biggest complaints from young students just starting out is that it’s too expensive to invest.

Micro investing can give you or a new grad the confidence to try bigger things, starting with baby steps. If micro investing is what it takes for a new grad to get more comfortable with smaller investments (then grow investments later), then it’s a great option for young investors just getting started.

By:

Source: Micro Investing’s Magic Lies in Helping Your Favorite College Grad (or You) Gain Confidence

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Critics:

Microfinance is a category of financial services targeting individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. Microfinance includes microcredit, the provision of small loans to poor clients; savings and checking accounts; microinsurance; and payment systems, among other services. Microfinance services are designed to reach excluded customers, usually poorer population segments, possibly socially marginalized, or geographically more isolated, and to help them become self-sufficient.[2][3]

Microfinance initially had a limited definition: the provision of microloans to poor entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to credit.[4] The two main mechanisms for the delivery of financial services to such clients were: (1) relationship-based banking for individual entrepreneurs and small businesses; and (2) group-based models, where several entrepreneurs come together to apply for loans and other services as a group.

Over time, microfinance has emerged as a larger movement whose object is: “a world in which as everyone, especially the poor and socially marginalized people and households have access to a wide range of affordable, high quality financial products and services, including not just credit but also savings, insurance, payment services, and fund transfers.

Proponents of microfinance often claim that such access will help poor people out of poverty, including participants in the Microcredit Summit Campaign. For many, microfinance is a way to promote economic development, employment and growth through the support of micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses; for others it is a way for the poor to manage their finances more effectively and take advantage of economic opportunities while managing the risks. Critics often point to some of the ills of micro-credit that can create indebtedness. Many studies have tried to assess its impacts.

New research in the area of microfinance call for better understanding of the microfinance ecosystem so that the microfinance institutions and other facilitators can formulate sustainable strategies that will help create social benefits through better service delivery to the low-income population.

Due to the unbalanced emphasis on credit at the expense of microsavings, as well as a desire to link Western investors to the sector, peer-to-peer platforms have developed to expand the availability of microcredit through individual lenders in the developed world. New platforms that connect lenders to micro-entrepreneurs are emerging on the Web (peer-to-peer sponsors), for example MYC4, Kiva, Zidisha, myELEN, Opportunity International and the Microloan Foundation.

Another Web-based microlender United Prosperity uses a variation on the usual microlending model; with United Prosperity the micro-lender provides a guarantee to a local bank which then lends back double that amount to the micro-entrepreneur. In 2009, the US-based nonprofit Zidisha became the first peer-to-peer microlending platform to link lenders and borrowers directly across international borders without local intermediaries.

See also

4 Trends In Fundraising That Will Impact the Future of Philanthropy

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While the needs of fundraising organizations have grown and diversified, the techniques of fundraisers have grown stale instead of evolving. Many organizations continue to use the same strategies to secure gifts as they have for years, despite growing evidence of the need for change.

Unfortunately, because of rare but highly public unethical practices in political and -adjacent industries, nonprofit fundraisers today deal with a lot of issues with stigma, skepticism and mistrust. Recently, the Department of Justice began cracking down on certain matching contributions claims, as an example of the way certain ‘gimmicks’ leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Because of ongoing challenges, with donor trust, organizations looking to fundraise in 2021 and beyond will not be able to meet new challenges with old habits. Leaders and fundraisers need to be aware of the latest trends in the space to maximize their funding and, by extension, their impact.

Related: How Digital is Bridging the Gap For Nonprofits

Here are a few of the most important trends happening in fundraising right now and what you should do about them.

1. Retain your donors

So many fundraising initiatives focus on acquiring new donors, while not enough attention goes toward the people who have already proven their interest. Retaining your donors is one of the most effective ways to increase funding without overspending on acquisition costs of new donors.

Leaders in fundraising including Dan Pallotta, Mallory Erickson and Kivi Leroux Miller agree on the importance of retaining existing donors. Erickson makes the point that donors stick around when organizations focus on finding “Power Partners” and identifying win-win opportunities for them.

If aligned correctly from the beginning, your existing pool of donors indicate that there is something they like about your organization: your mission, your , your messaging, etc. Find out what makes your donors tick by asking directly. Call, send surveys or post on community messaging boards. Find out why your best donors connect to your organization, then lean into that alignment to keep them engaged.

2. Demonstrate transparency and grace

Fundraising is rarely straightforward. Not only will you struggle to complete many of your goals, but you will likely make mistakes along the way. Be transparent about issues when they arise, but don’t fall flat over every small misstep. Instead, be graceful, accept the lesson and communicate what you will do differently next time.

The pandemic provided plenty of examples of what to do and what not to do on this subject. Take the CDC, for example. At the end of last year, the organization printed, then retracted, then removed a statement about how Covid-19 spreads through airborne transmission. The organization did not change its stance, but it was a bad look in an already tense conversation.

Stay focused on the mission throughout any communication on a faux pas. Clearly illustrate what went wrong and why, reiterate your commitment to the cause and explain what will happen next. The best part of transparency is accountability, and for fundraising purposes, remaining accountable is a must.

Related: Why Radical Transparency (With Staff and Customers) Is Good for Business

3. Step back to see what works

You cannot build a smart fundraising strategy if you never step back to evaluate the effectiveness of your actions. Schedule time each quarter, and preferably each month, to review specific messaging campaigns, events and other initiatives to see what landed and what did not.

Donor Search recommends tracking all the basics, like donation volume, size and retention rates, but also focuses smartly on digital engagement. In a world where fundraising can happen any time online, leaders of fundraising organizations must be digitally savvy.

Lead-tracking can be a great way to identify the best sources of new donors. Ask simple questions of event attendees in follow-up email campaigns and surveys. Invite them to download content about your organization or register for your next event. Try different ways to funnel different donor leads toward single large gifts, smaller recurring gifts or whichever arrangement you find has the highest conversion rate.

Related: 3 Nonprofit Funding Avenues All Founders Should Know About

4. Ditch the perfectionism

No one gets everything right the first time. This isn’t about transparency, though. While it is important to own your mistakes, it’s also important to act decisively when you have enough information instead of waiting until it’s too late.

Have a potential lead on a big donor but your contact fell through? Do your own research and reach out directly. Want to try a new messaging strategy but not sure if the budget is worth it? Try a small test audience and see how it goes. Some of your moves will fail, but you can’t let that stop you from trying. Perfectionism will only slow you down.

Fundraising in 2021 happens in bursts of opportunity. The right moment is only a moment away, and fortune favors those who take action before stopping to work out all the details.

These trends in fundraising have arisen because new tools, new strategies and new social pressures demanded change. The older, more passive ways of fundraising will not be as effective in the months and years to come. Embrace these changes and use these tips to secure the funding your mission needs to move forward.

Peter Daisyme

By: Peter Daisyme / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Source: 4 Trends In Fundraising That Will Impact the Future of Philanthropy

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Critics:

Philanthropy consists of “private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life“. Philanthropy contrasts with business initiatives, which are private initiatives for private good, focusing on material gain, and with government endeavors, which are public initiatives for public good, e.g., focusing on provision of public services. A person who practices philanthropy is a philanthropist.

Philanthropy is different from charity, though there is some overlap. Charity aims to relieve the pain of a particular social problem, whereas philanthropy attempts to address the root cause of the problem.

Traditional philanthropy and impact investment can be distinguished by how they serve society. Traditional philanthropy is usually short-term, where organizations obtain resources for causes through fund-raising and one-off donations. The Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation are examples of such; they focus more on the financial contributions to social causes and less on the actual actions and processes of benevolence.

Impact investment, on the other hand, focuses on the interaction between individual wellbeing and broader society through the promotion of sustainability. Stressing the importance of impact and change, they invest in different sectors of society, including housing, infrastructure, healthcare and energy.

A suggested explanation for the preference for impact investment philanthropy to traditional philanthropy is the gaining prominence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since 2015. Almost every SDG is linked to environmental protection and sustainability because of raising concerns about how globalisation, liberal consumerism and population growth may affect the environment. As a result, development agencies have seen increased accountability on their part, as they face greater pressure to fit with current developmental agendas.

Philanthrocapitalism differs from traditional philanthropy in how it operates. Traditional philanthropy is about charity, mercy, and selfless devotion improving recipients’ wellbeing. Philanthrocapitalism, is philanthropy transformed by business and the market, where profit-oriented business models are designed that work for the good of humanity. Share value companies are an example. They help develop and deliver curricula in education, strengthen their own businesses and improve the job prospects of people. Firms improve social outcomes, but while they do so, they also benefit themselves.

The rise of philanthrocapitalism can be attributed to global capitalism. There is an understanding that philanthropy is not worthwhile if no economic benefit can be derived by philanthropy organisations, both from a social and private perspective. Therefore, philanthropy has been seen as a tool to sustain economic growth and the firm’s own growth, based on human capital theory. Through education, specific skills are taught which enhance people’s capacity to learn and their productivity at work.

See also

How To Have a Better Longlasting Relationship

Can you spot a good relationship? Of course nobody knows what really goes on between any couple, but decades of scientific research into love, sex and relationships have taught us that a number of behaviors can predict when a couple is on solid ground or headed for troubled waters. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take commitment, compromise, forgiveness and most of all — effort. Keep reading for the latest in relationship science, fun quizzes and helpful tips to help you build a stronger bond with your partner.

Love and Romance

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge for couples is how to rekindle the fires of romance from time to time and cultivate the mature, trusting love that is the hallmark of a lasting relationship.

What’s Your Love Style?

When you say “I love you,” what do you mean?

Terry Hatkoff, a California State University sociologist, has created a love scale that identifies six distinct types of love found in our closest relationships.

  • Romantic: Based on passion and sexual attraction
  • Best Friends: Fondness and deep affection
  • Logical: Practical feelings based on shared values, financial goals, religion etc.
  • Playful: Feelings evoked by flirtation or feeling challenged
  • Possessive: Jealousy and obsession
  • Unselfish: Nurturing, kindness, and sacrifice

Researchers have found that the love we feel in our most committed relationships is typically a combination of two or three different forms of love. But often, two people in the same relationship can have very different versions of how they define love. Dr. Hatkoff gives the example of a man and woman having dinner. The waiter flirts with the woman, but the husband doesn’t seem to notice, and talks about changing the oil in her car. The wife is upset her husband isn’t jealous. The husband feels his extra work isn’t appreciated.

What does this have to do with love? The man and woman each define love differently. For him, love is practical, and is best shown by supportive gestures like car maintenance. For her, love is possessive, and a jealous response by her husband makes her feel valued.

Understanding what makes your partner feel loved can help you navigate conflict and put romance back into your relationship. You and your partner can take the Love Style quiz from Dr. Hatkoff and find out how each of you defines love. If you learn your partner tends toward jealousy, make sure you notice when someone is flirting with him or her. If your partner is practical in love, notice the many small ways he or she shows love by taking care of everyday needs.

Reignite Romance

Romantic love has been called a “natural addiction” because it activates the brain’s reward center — notably the dopamine pathways associated with drug addiction, alcohol and gambling. But those same pathways are also associated with novelty, energy, focus, learning, motivation, ecstasy and craving. No wonder we feel so energized and motivated when we fall in love!

But we all know that romantic, passionate love fades a bit over time, and (we hope) matures into a more contented form of committed love. Even so, many couples long to rekindle the sparks of early courtship. But is it possible?

The relationship researcher Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has found a way. The secret? Do something new and different — and make sure you do it together. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love. Whether you take a pottery class or go on a white-water rafting trip, activating your dopamine systems while you are together can help bring back the excitement you felt on your first date. In studies of couples, Dr. Aron has found that partners who regularly share new experiences report greater boosts in marital happiness than those who simply share pleasant but familiar experiences.

Diagnose Your Passion Level

The psychology professor Elaine Hatfield has suggested that the love we feel early in a relationship is different than what we feel later. Early on, love is “passionate,” meaning we have feelings of intense longing for our mate. Longer-term relationships develop “companionate love,” which can be described as a deep affection, and strong feelings of commitment and intimacy.

Where does your relationship land on the spectrum of love? The Passionate Love Scale, developed by Dr. Hatfield, of the University of Hawaii, and Susan Sprecher, a psychology and sociology professor at Illinois State University, can help you gauge the passion level of your relationship. Once you see where you stand, you can start working on injecting more passion into your partnership. Note that while the scale is widely used by relationship researchers who study love, the quiz is by no means the final word on the health of your relationship. Take it for fun and let the questions inspire you to talk to your partner about passion. After all, you never know where the conversation might lead.

How Much Sex Are You Having?

Let’s start with the good news. Committed couples really do have more sex than everyone else. Don’t believe it? While it’s true that single people can regale you with stories of crazy sexual episodes, remember that single people also go through long dry spells. A March 2017 report found that 15 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported they hadn’t had sex in the past year. And 9 percent of men and 18 percent of women say they haven’t had sex in five years. The main factors associated with a sexless life are older age and not being married. So whether you’re having committed or married sex once a week, once a month or just six times a year, the fact is that there’s still someone out there having less sex than you. And if you’re one of those people NOT having sex, this will cheer you up: Americans who are not having sex are just as happy as their sexually-active counterparts.

But Who’s Counting?

Even though most people keep their sex lives private, we do know quite a bit about people’s sex habits. The data come from a variety of sources, including the General Social Survey, which collects information on behavior in the United States, and the International Social Survey Programme, a similar study that collects international data, and additional studies from people who study sex like the famous Kinsey Institute. A recent trend is that sexual frequency is declining among millennials, likely because they are less likely than earlier generations to have steady partners.

Based on that research, here’s some of what we know about sex:

  • The average adult has sex 54 times a year.
  • The average sexual encounter lasts about 30 minutes.
  • About 5 percent of people have sex at least three times a week.
  • People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year.
  • People in their 40s have sex about 60 times a year.
  • Sex drops to 20 times per year by age 65.
  • After the age of 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent annually.
  • After controlling for age and time period, those born in the 1930s had sex the most often; people born in the 1990s (millennials) had sex the least often.
  • About 20 percent of people, most of them widows, have been celibate for at least a year.
  • The typical married person has sex an average of 51 times a year.
  • “Very Happy” couples have sex, on average, 74 times a year.
  • Married people under 30 have sex about 112 times a year; single people under 30 have sex about 69 times a year.
  • Married people in their 40s have sex 69 times a year; single people in their 40s have sex 50 times a year.
  • Active people have more sex.
  • People who drink alcohol have 20 percent more sex than teetotalers.
  • On average, extra education is associated with about a week’s worth of less sex each year.

Early and Often

One of the best ways to make sure your sex life stays robust in a long relationship is to have a lot of sex early in the relationship. A University of Georgia study of more than 90,000 women in 19 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas found that the longer a couple is married, the less often they have sex, but that the decline appears to be relative to how much sex they were having when they first coupled. Here’s a look at frequency of married sex comparing the first year of marriage with the 10th year of marriage.

Why does sex decline in marriage? It’s a combination of factors — sometimes it’s a health issue, the presence of children, boredom or unhappiness in the relationship. But a major factor is age. One study found sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent a year after the age of 25. The good news is that what married couples lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Data from the National Health and Social Life Survey found that married couples have more fulfilling sex than single people.

The No-Sex Marriage

Why do some couples sizzle while others fizzle? Social scientists are studying no-sex marriages for clues about what can go wrong in relationships.

It’s estimated that about 15 percent of married couples have not had sex with their spouse in the last six months to one year.  Some sexless marriages started out with very little sex. Others in sexless marriages say childbirth or an affair led to a slowing and eventually stopping of sex. People in sexless marriages are generally less happy and more likely to have considered divorce than those who have regular sex with their spouse or committed partner.

If you have a low-sex or no-sex marriage, the most important step is to see a doctor. A low sex drive can be the result of a medical issues (low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, menopause or depression) or it can be a side effect of a medication or treatment. Some scientists speculate that growing use of antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil, which can depress the sex drive, may be contributing to an increase in sexless marriages.

While some couples in sexless marriages are happy, the reality is that the more sex a couple has, the happier they are together. It’s not easy to rekindle a marriage that has gone without sex for years, but it can be done. If you can’t live in a sexless marriage but you want to stay married, see a doctor, see a therapist and start talking to your partner.

Here are some of the steps therapists recommend to get a sexless marriage back in the bedroom:

  1. Talk to each other about your desires.
  2. Have fun together and share new experiences to remind yourself how you fell in love.
  3. Hold hands. Touch. Hug.
  4. Have sex even if you don’t want to. Many couples discover that if they force themselves to have sex, soon it doesn’t become work and they remember that they like sex. The body responds with a flood of brain chemicals and other changes that can help.

Remember that there is no set point for the right amount of sex in a marriage. The right amount of sex is the amount that makes both partners happy. 

A Prescription for a Better Sex Life

If your sex life has waned, it can take time and effort to get it back on track. The best solution is relatively simple, but oh-so-difficult for many couples: Start talking about sex.

  • Just do it: Have sex, even if you’re not in the mood. Sex triggers hormonal and chemical responses in the body, and even if you’re not in the mood, chances are you will get there quickly once you start.
  • Make time for sex: Busy partners often say they are too busy for sex, but interestingly, really busy people seem to find time to have affairs. The fact is, sex is good for your relationship. Make it a priority.
  • Talk: Ask your partner what he or she wants. Surprisingly, this seems to be the biggest challenge couples face when it comes to rebooting their sex lives.

The first two suggestions are self-explanatory, but let’s take some time to explore the third step: talking to your partner about sex. Dr. Hatfield of the University of Hawaii is one of the pioneers of relationship science. She developed the Passionate Love scale we explored earlier in this guide. When Dr. Hatfield conducted a series of interviews with men and women about their sexual desires, she discovered that men and women have much more in common than they realize, they just tend not to talk about sex with each other. Here’s a simple exercise based on Dr. Hatfield’s research that could have a huge impact on your sex life:

  1. Find two pieces of paper and two pens.
  2. Now, sit down with your partner so that each of you can write down five things you want more of during sex with your partner. The answers shouldn’t be detailed sex acts (although that’s fine if it’s important to you). Ideally, your answers should focus on behaviors you desire — being talkative, romantic, tender, experimental or adventurous.

If you are like the couples in Dr. Hatfield’s research, you may discover that you have far more in common in terms of sexual desires than you realize. Here are the answers Dr. Hatfield’s couples gave.

Let’s look at what couples had in common. Both partners wanted seduction, instructions and experimentation.

The main difference for men and women is where sexual desire begins. Men wanted their wives to initiate sex more often and be less inhibited in the bedroom. But for women, behavior outside the bedroom also mattered. They wanted their partner to be warmer, helpful in their lives, and they wanted love and compliments both in and out of the bedroom.

Staying Faithful

Men and women can train themselves to protect their relationships and raise their feelings of commitment.

Can You Predict Infidelity?

In any given year about 10 percent of married people —12 percent of men and 7 percent of women — say they have had sex outside their marriage. The relatively low rates of annual cheating mask the far higher rate of lifetime cheating. Among people over 60, about one in four men and one in seven women admit they have ever cheated.

A number of studies in both animals and humans suggest that there may be a genetic component to infidelity. While science makes a compelling case that there is some genetic component to cheating, we also know that genetics are not destiny. And until there is a rapid-gene test to determine the infidelity risk of your partner, the debate about the genetics of infidelity isn’t particularly useful to anyone.

There are some personality traits known to be associated with cheating. A report in The Archives of Sexual Behavior found that two traits predicted risk for infidelity in men. Men who are easily aroused (called “propensity for sexual excitation”) and men who are overly concerned about sexual performance failure are more likely to cheat. The finding comes from a study of nearly 1,000 men and women. In the sample, 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women reported ever cheating on a partner.

For women, the main predictors of infidelity were relationship happiness (women who aren’t happy in their partnership are twice as likely to cheat) and being sexually out-of-sync with their partner (a situation that makes women three times as likely to cheat as women who feel sexually compatible with their partners).

Protect Your Relationship

1. Avoid Opportunity. In one survey, psychologists at the University of Vermont asked 349 men and women in committed relationships about sexual fantasies. Fully 98 percent of the men and 80 percent of the women reported having imagined a sexual encounter with someone other than their partner at least once in the previous two months. The longer couples were together, the more likely both partners were to report such fantasies.

But there is a big difference between fantasizing about infidelity and actually following through. The strongest risk factor for infidelity, researchers have found, exists not inside the marriage but outside: opportunity.

For years, men have typically had the most opportunities to cheat thanks to long hours at the office, business travel and control over family finances. But today, both men and women spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home, cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships outside of their marriages. As a result, your best chance at fidelity is to limit opportunities that might allow you to stray. Committed men and women avoid situations that could lead to bad decisions — like hotel bars and late nights with colleagues.

2. Plan Ahead for Temptation. Men and women can develop coping strategies to stay faithful to a partner.

A series of unusual studies led by John Lydon, a psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, looked at how people in a committed relationship react in the face of temptation. In one study, highly committed married men and women were asked to rate the attractiveness of people of the opposite sex in a series of photos. Not surprisingly, they gave the highest ratings to people who would typically be viewed as attractive.

Later, they were shown similar pictures and told that the person was interested in meeting them. In that situation, participants consistently gave those pictures lower scores than they had the first time around.

When they were attracted to someone who might threaten the relationship, they seemed to instinctively tell themselves, “He’s not so great.” “The more committed you are,” Dr. Lydon said, “the less attractive you find other people who threaten your relationship.”

Other McGill studies confirmed differences in how men and women react to such threats. In one, attractive actors or actresses were brought in to flirt with study participants in a waiting room. Later, the participants were asked questions about their relationships, particularly how they

would respond to a partner’s bad behavior, like being late and forgetting to call.

Men who had just been flirting were less forgiving of the hypothetical bad behavior, suggesting that the attractive actress had momentarily chipped away at their commitment. But women who had been flirting were more likely to be forgiving and to make excuses for the man, suggesting that their earlier flirting had triggered a protective response when discussing their relationship.

“We think the men in these studies may have had commitment, but the women had the contingency plan — the attractive alternative sets off the alarm bell,” Dr. Lydon said. “Women implicitly code that as a threat. Men don’t.”

The study also looked at whether a person can be trained to resist temptation. The team prompted male students who were in committed dating relationships to imagine running into an attractive woman on a weekend when their girlfriends were away. Some of the men were then asked to develop a contingency plan by filling in the sentence “When she approaches me, I will __________ to protect my relationship.”

Because the researchers ethically could not bring in a real woman to act as a temptation, they created a virtual-reality game in which two out of four rooms included subliminal images of an attractive woman. Most of the men who had practiced resisting temptation stayed away from the rooms with attractive women; but among men who had not practiced resistance, two out of three gravitated toward the temptation room.

Of course, it’s a lab study, and doesn’t really tell us what might happen in the real world with a real woman or man tempting you to stray from your relationship. But if you worry you might be vulnerable to temptation on a business trip, practice resistance by reminding yourself the steps you will take to avoid temptation and protect your relationship.

3. Picture Your Beloved. We all know that sometimes the more you try to resist something — like ice cream or a cigarette — the more you crave it. Relationship researchers say the same principle can influence a person who sees a man or woman who is interested in them. The more you think about resisting the person, the more tempting he or she becomes. Rather than telling yourself “Be good. Resist,” the better strategy is to start thinking about the person you love, how much they mean to you and what they add to your life. Focus on loving thoughts and the joy of your family, not sexual desire for your spouse — the goal here is to damp down the sex drive, not wake it up.

4. Keep Your Relationship Interesting. Scientists speculate that your level of commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons — a concept that Dr. Aron, the Stony Brook psychology professor, calls “self-expansion.”

To measure this quality, couples are asked a series of questions: How much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?

The Stony Brook researchers conducted experiments using activities that stimulated self-expansion. Some couples were given mundane tasks, while others took part in a silly exercise in which they were tied together and asked to crawl on mats, pushing a foam cylinder with their heads. The study was rigged so the couples failed the time limit on the first two tries, but just barely made it on the third, resulting in much celebration.

Couples were given relationship tests before and after the experiment. Those who had taken part in the challenging activity posted greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who had not experienced victory together.The researchers theorize that couples who explore new places and try new things will tap into feelings of self-expansion, lifting their level of commitment.

Conflict

Every couple has disagreements, but science shows that how two people argue has a big effect on both their relationships and their health.

How to Fight

Many people try their best to avoid conflict, but relationship researchers say every conflict presents an opportunity to improve a relationship. The key is to learn to fight constructively in a way that leaves you feeling better about your partner.

Marriage researcher John Gottman has built an entire career out of studying how couples interact. He learned that even in a laboratory setting, couples are willing to air their disagreements even when scientists are watching and the cameras are rolling. From that research, he developed a system of coding words and gestures that has been shown to be highly predictive of a couple’s chance of success or risk for divorce or breakup.

In one important study, Dr. Gottman and his colleagues observed newly married couples in the midst of an argument. He learned that the topic didn’t matter, nor did the duration of the fight. What was most predictive of the couple’s marital health? The researchers found that analyzing just the first three minutes of the couple’s argument could predict their risk for divorce over the next six years.

In many ways, this is great news for couples because it gives you a place to focus. The most important moments between you and your partner during a conflict are those first few minutes when the fight is just getting started. Focus on your behavior during that time, and it likely will change the dynamics of your relationship for the better.

Here’s some general advice from the research about how to start a fight with the person you love:

Identify the complaint, not the criticism. If you’re upset about housework, don’t start the fight by criticizing your partner with, “You never help me.” Focus on the complaint and what will make it better. “It’s so tough when I work late on Thursdays to come home to dishes and unbathed kids. Do you think you could find a way to help more on those nights?”

Avoid “you” phrases. Phrases like “You always” and “You never” are almost always followed by criticism and blame.

Think about pronouns. Sentence that start with “I” or “We” help you identify problems and solutions, rather than putting blame on someone else.

Be aware of body language. No eye-rolling, which is a sign of contempt. Look at your partner when you speak. No folded arms or crossed legs to show you are open to their feelings and input. Sit or stand at the same level as your partner — one person should not be looking down or looking up during an argument.

Learn to De-escalate: When the argument starts getting heated, take it upon yourself to calm things down. Here are some phrases that are always useful in de-escalation:

  • “What if we…”
  • “I know this is hard…”
  • “I hear what you’re saying…”
  • “What do you think?”

Dr. Gottman reminds us that fighting with your partner is not a bad thing.After all his years of studying conflict, Dr. Gottman has said he’s a strong believe in the power of argument to help couples improve their relationship. In fact, airing our differences gives our relationship “real staying power,” he says. You just need to make sure you get the beginning right so the discussion can be constructive instead of damaging. 

Why Couples Fight

A famous study of cardiovascular health conducted in Framingham, Mass., happened to ask its 4,000 participants what topics were most likely to cause conflict in their relationship. Women said issues involving children, housework and money created the most problems in their relationships. Men said their arguments with their spouse usually focused on sex, money and leisure time. Even though the lists were slightly different, the reality is that men and women really care about the same issues: money, how they spend their time away from work (housework or leisure) and balancing the demands of family life (children and sex).

Money

Sometimes money problems become marriage problems.

Studies show that money is consistently the most common reason for conflict in a relationship. Couples with financial problems and debt create have higher levels of stress and are less happy in their relationship.

Why does money cause conflict? Fights about money ultimately are not really about finances. They are about a couple’s values and shared goals. A person who overspends on restaurants, travel and fun stuff often wants to live in the moment and seek new adventures and change; a saver hoping to buy a house some day may most value stability, family and community. Money conflict can be a barometer for the health of your relationship and an indicator that the two of you are out of sync on some of your most fundamental values.

David Olson, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, studied 21,000 couples and identified five questions you can ask to find out if you are financially compatible with your partner.

  1. We agree on how to spend money.
  2. I don’t have any concerns about how my partner handles money.
  3. I am satisfied with our decisions about savings.
  4. Major debts are not a problem
  5. Making financial decisions is not difficult.

Dr. Olson found that the happiest couples were those who both agreed with at least four of the statements. He also found that couples who did not see eye to eye on three or more of the statements were more likely to score low on overall marital happiness. Debt tends to be the biggest culprit in marital conflict. It can be an overwhelming source of worry and stress. As a result, couples who can focus on money problems and reduce their debt may discover that they have also solved most of their marital problems.

Here’s some parting advice for managing your money and your relationship:

Be honest about your spending: It’s surprisingly common for two people in a relationship to lie about how they spend their money, usually because they know it’s a sore point for their partner. Researchers call it “financial infidelity,” and when it’s discovered, it represents a serious breach of trust in the relationship. Surveys suggest secret spending occurs in one out of three committed relationships. Shopping for clothes, spending money on a hobby and gambling are the three most-cited types of secret spending that causes conflict in a relationship.

Maintain some financial independence: While two people in a relationship need to be honest with each other about how they spend their money, it’s a good idea for both sides to agree that each person has his or her own discretionary pot of money to spend on whatever they want. Whether it’s a regular manicure, clothes shopping, a great bottle of wine or a fancy new bike — the point is that just because you have different priorities as a family doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally feed your personal indulgences. The key is to agree on the amount of discretionary money you each have and then stay quiet when your partner buys the newest iPhone just because.

Invest in the relationship. When you do have money to spend, spend it on the relationship. Take a trip, go to dinner, see a show. Spending money on new and shared experiences is a good investment in your partnership.

Children

One of the more uncomfortable findings of relationship science is the negative effect children can have on previously happy couples. Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that relationship satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.

One study from the University of Nebraska College of Nursing looked at marital happiness in 185 men and women. Scores declined starting in pregnancy, and remained lower as the children reached 5 months and 24 months. Other studies show that couples with two children score even lower than couples with one child.

While having a child clearly makes parents happy, the financial and time constraints can add stress to a relationship. After the birth of a child, couples have only about one-third the time alone together as they had when they were childless, according to researchers from Ohio State.

Here’s the good news: A minority of couples with children — about 20 percent — manage to stay happy in their relationships despite the kids.

What’s their secret? Top three predictors of a happy marriage among parents

  1. Sexual Intimacy
  2. Commitment
  3. Generosity

So there you have it. The secret to surviving parenthood is to have lots of sex, be faithful and be generous toward your partner. In this case, generosity isn’t financial — it’s about the sharing, caring and kind gestures you make toward your partner every day. When you are trying to survive the chaos of raising kids, it’s the little things — like bringing your partner coffee, offering to pick up the dry cleaning or do the dishes, that can make all the difference in the health of your relationship.

Make It Last

Here are some suggestions for how to strengthen your relationship based on the findings of various studies.

Stay Generous

Are you generous toward your partner? How often do you express affection? Or do small things for your partner like bring them coffee? Men and women who score the highest on the generosity scale are far more likely to report “very happy” marriages, according to research from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project.

Use Your Relationship for Personal Growth

Finding a partner who makes your life more interesting is an important factor in sustaining a long relationship.

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, developed a series of questions for couples: How much has being with your partner resulted in your learning new things? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person?

“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says. “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”

Be Decisive

How thoughtfully couples make decisions can have a lasting effect on the quality of their romantic relationships. Couples who are decisive before marriage — intentionally defining their relationships, living together and planning a wedding — appear to have better marriages than couples who simply let inertia carry them through major transitions.

“Making decisions and talking things through with partners is important,” said Galena K. Rhoades, a relationship researcher at the University of Denver and co-author of the report. “When you make an intentional decision, you are more likely to follow through on that.”

While the finding may seem obvious, the reality is that many couples avoid real decision-making. Many couples living together, for instance, did not sit down and talk about cohabitation. Often one partner had begun spending more time at the other’s home, or a lease expired, forcing the couple to formalize a living arrangement.

Showing intent in some form — from planning the first date, to living together, to the wedding and beyond — can help improve the quality of a marriage over all. To learn more, read about the science behind “The Decisive Marriage.”

“At the individual level, know who you are and what you are about, and make decisions when it counts rather than letting things slide,” Dr. Stanley said. “Once you are a couple, do the same thing in terms of how you approach major transitions in your relationship.”

Nurture Friends and Family

Sometimes couples become so focused on the relationship that they forget to invest in their relationships with friends and family. Researchers Naomi Gerstel of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College have found that married couples have fewer ties to relatives than the unmarried. They are less likely to visit, call or help out family members, and less likely to socialize with neighbors and friends.

The problem with this trend is that it places an unreasonable burden and strain on the marriage, says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. “We often overload marriage by asking our partner to satisfy more needs than any one individual can possibly meet,” writes Dr. Coontz. “And if our marriage falters, we have few emotional support systems to fall back on.

To strengthen a marriage, consider asking less of it, suggests Dr. Coontz. That means leaning on other family members and friends for emotional support from time to time. Support your partner’s outside friendships and enjoy the respite from the demands of marriage when you’re not together.

See a Rom-Com

It sounds silly, but research suggests that seeing a sappy relationship movie made in Hollywood can help couples work out problems in the real world. A University of Rochester study found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Love Story” were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the “Love Story” intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive forms of marriage therapy. 

Obviously, talking about a movie is not going to solve significant problems in a marriage, but the findings do signal the importance of communication in a marriage and finding opportunities to talk about your differences. “A movie is a nonthreatening way to get the conversation started,” said Ronald D. Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study.

The best movies to start constructive communication are those that show various highs and lows in a relationship. Additional movies used in the study include “Couples Retreat,” “Date Night,” “Love and Other Drugs” and “She’s Having a Baby.” Avoid movies that idealize relationships like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “When Harry Met Sally.”

Even though some of the recommended movies are funny and not necessarily realistic, the goal is to simply “get a dialogue going,” said Dr. Rogge.

“I believe it’s the depth of the discussions that follow each movie and how much effort and time and introspection couples put into those discussions that will predict how well they do going forward,” said Dr. Rogge.

By Tara Parker-Pope

Tara Parker-Pope is the founding editor of Well, an award-winning consumer health site with news and features to help readers live well every day. She is also the author of “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”

Twitter: @nytimeswell

Source: How to Have a Better Relationship – Well Guides – The New York Times

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Critics:

There is empirical evidence of the causal impact of social relationships on health. The social support theory suggests that relationships might promote health especially by promoting adaptive behavior or regulating the stress response. Troubled relationships as well as loneliness and social exclusion may have negative consequences on health. Neurosciences of health investigate the neuronal circuits implicated in the context of both social connection and disconnection.

Poor relationships have a negative impact on health outcomes. In 1985, Cohen and Wills presented two models that have been employed to describe this connection: the main effect model and the stress-buffering model.

The main effect model postulates that our social networks influence our psychology (our affect) and our physiology (biological responses). These three variables are thought to influence health, as described in Figure 1. This model predicts that increasing social networks enhance general health. A possible mechanism by which social networks improve our health is through our behaviors: if our social network influences us to behave in a certain way that enhances our health, then it can be argued that our social network influences our health.

For example, it has been demonstrated that higher social support improves our level of physical activity, which in turn has a positive effect on our health. It is unclear if this effect of social support is a threshold or a gradient. The difference between the two of them is that a threshold effect is a necessary amount of social support required to have a positive effect on health. On the opposite, a gradient effect can be described as a linear effect of the amount of social support on health, meaning that an increase of x amount of social support will result in an increase of y level of health.

There is evidence that social integration is negatively linked to suicide and marital status is negatively linked to mortality rates from all-causes.Hibbard (1985) explored the link between social ties and health status by conducting a series of household surveys. Indeed, she found that people who have more social ties, more perception of control, and are most trustful with others tend to have better physical health. Thoits investigated how social ties can improve both mental and physical health.

The results showed that social ties might influence emotional sustenance and promote active coping assistance. The other significant point of this research is that we can define two types of “supporters” able to provide different types of social support. Significant others (i.e., family, friends, spouse, etc.) tend to provide more instrumental support and emotional sustaining whereas experientially similar others (i.e., people who experienced the same life events than us) tend to provide more empathy, “role model” (a similar person looked like a model, a person to imitate) and active coping assistance.

Furthermore, social support can help us to regulate emotions above all when we are facing a stressful event. Probably one of the most famous studies on this field of investigation was conducted by Coan, Schaefer, and Davidson. In their study, they told married couples to go together in the laboratory. All couples reported a high level of marital satisfaction. The study aimed to evaluate the effect of handholding on the neural response to a threat. To create a stressful event, they informed the woman participant of each couple that she will receive moderate electric shocks.

There were three experimental conditions: no handholding, stranger handholding, or spouse handholding. The findings suggested that both spouse and stranger hand holding attenuated neural response to the threat, but spousal handholding was particularly efficient. Moreover, even within this sample of married couples with high satisfaction levels, the benefits of spousal handholding under threat were even more important in those couples who have reported the highest quality of marital relationship.

References

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