Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Isn’t As Spooky As Financial Insecurity

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Boo!  Happy Halloween!  It may be a scary Halloween for you but probably not because of ghouls, ghosts or demons.  If you are in debt, have money problems, are laid off, dealing with special needs you already have plenty to make you want to scream.  Even though things may look dismal and you aren’t making any money, take the time to learn to relax.

If you look at your fear and break it down (and yes, it is easy to intellectualize and tough to implement without getting scared), you will see that at worse case, you may end up on the streets.  If that is the case, start looking for social service organizations, charities or any group that can help you make it through the bad times.

Feeling suicidal?  There isn’t anything that will guarantee that the fear you are going through now will be resolved in the afterlife and they may not give you a decent line of credit in Heaven or Hell if you check out now.  In all seriousness, please talk to a counselor, a spiritual advisor or anybody to make it through the tough times.

Winter, coupled with the holidays plus no money equals depression.  I am not talking about the Recession Depression we are financially going though here, folks, I am talking about coping and making it through the lousy feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and any fears that make you feel lousy.  Get together with friends and if you don’t have friends – hang out in some safe crowds. 

Volunteer if you are able to.  There are always people less fortunate who could use a hand.  If you need the hand yourself, please swallow your pride and seek out any groups that can help you provide food, clothing or shelter if you need it.

Treat your family and yourself to something inexpensive and fun.  If you can, I hope you are celebrating Halloween despite the economic uncertainty that is looming ahead of us.  If you are stashing cash away, you are in good shape.  If you are able to barter for goods and services, that is good too since a lot of other people don’t have cash either but maybe you can trade skillsets to help one another.

Make sure that your kids are safe, don’t eat any unwrapped candy and remember that strangers are danger. And speaking of a very strange stranger……

 

Please note that if you see this guy driving up on your porch, make sure you give him only small “fun size” pieces of candy since he is trying to watch his diet.  Have a safe and fun time and keep saving money. While you are at, try and relax (and I know it is hard) so you can save your sanity as well. You and your family will appreciate it (even if the effects aren’t immediately visitble) It can add years to your life!

Buy some of Kim In The Hat’s books here and know that part of all the book sales proceeds go to research a cure for Rett Syndrome.

Kim Isaac Greenblatt

Ready, Set, Boo!

Making Money and Dancing

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

WIth the return to television of dancing as a form of entertainment in the last few years, I am happy to hear that it is also returning to a form of recreation for people.  People are signing up for dance classes, kids are performing in dance crews, and the results are spectacular for everybody.  As a dancer as well a businessman, I have to admit that dancing offers that great combination of physically working out and relaxation at the same time. 

Watching all the dance shows both on regular network and on cable, the artform is constantly testing and raising the bar for what people want to see and expect.  The same holds true in business, especially if you are trying to make money.  If you are trying to get people to part with their money, you will need to raise the bar to match their expectations.  Think of it as trying to get somebody from the dance floor to dance with you.  Are you confident?  Are you able to dance?  Are you not too pushy?

Whether it is killer customer service, a great product or being able to boogey on down and entertain them, people want results if they are going to be spending their hard earned cash.  Money will be tight for some time to come so you need to dance fast to try and figure out if the product or service you are offering is selling through or not.  If not, you better spin around and change direction to get in synch with what your competitors are doing to get business.

Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew show us that it takes hard work and practice to be a good dancer.  The same holds true in business.  The days of easy money from just throwing open a business may still be there but for the most part it is still 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration – just like the dancers.  We only get to see a fraction of the amount of time they spend dancing.

For something like square dancing, everybody needs to work in unison.  Sure, there are moments where you can show your flair but the reason the squares work is everybody is moving in unison.  Remember that when you are at work that sometimes everybody needs to pay attention to what is going on around them to make a success of themselves and the team.

And what do you do if somebody trips?  That is right!  You don’t dance all over him and cause a dozen people to fall to the ground like dominos.  You stop and help the person up.  In business, you stop and try and help your co-workers to make it through whatever it is they are tripping on.

To be fair, if a partner is squeezing too hard and doesn’t let go, sometimes you need to give the person a subtle or not-so-subtle hint.  I will leave you to your imagination how this might apply in the workplace.

I need to go now and do some stretching – I want to make sure I am limber for both dancing and business!

 

Kim Isaac Greenblatt

 

The profitable blog talking about making money and dancing.

More Stimulus Checks On the Way

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

It looks like whoever gets elected in the upcoming election will issue some sort of stimulus package early next year.  I am not a big fan of stimulus packages for long term results in getting an economy going.  For the short term, it provides a shot of cash into the economy and consumers can get a little spending money.

Unfortunately, in today’s economy, it isn’t enough cash to make a great change.  The numbers show that a lot of people use the money to pay off bills.  That in of itself is a good thing but that doesn’t generate anything new into the economy.  It does keep some firms afloat for a little bit longer and hopefully it also keeps some people in their homes or apartments a little longer too.

We need to introduce long term infrastructure repairs to get the economy going.  It will take about 4-8 years to get back on our feet collectively as a country.  During that time we need to get cash in the hands of people, true, but we need to do it in a long term and more meaningful way.

Like getting people employed.

For the short run, the stimulus checks are also a very small amount of money compared to the amount of cash being poured into the corporate bailouts.  Hopefully, with some ownership and accountability in the firms that the US is helping (or proposing to help), we can get a revenue stream from that.

I am unclear how political pundits can say that everything will be okay by Spring 2009 with the mechanisms that are already in motion.  My take on this is that they are wishful thinkers and are just trying to get people in a positive state of mind.

I am more of a realist.  If somebody is telling me that there will be a flood and they built in ark and I am already standing in two feet of water I would get the hint that there might be something to what he is saying.  People like to hear things that reinforce their own opinions and right now, a lot of people are thinking and praying that things will get better quickly.  It will happen, just not quickly so we all need to make do and try to survive as best as we can until things recover.

Saving money would be a great start for everybody.

It would be nice if everybody who gets a stimulus check could save 10% of what they get but the reality is that people who are getting the money need every dime and penny of it to pay for bills and stay afloat. 

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if like last year there is mad scrambling to redo tax forms or patch them with special letters like in some previous years.  I have a feeling that more stimulus checks will be on their way.

Oh, I almost forgot – if you are curious as to how much we might be getting, take a look at both candidates platforms and do a search on Google for stimulus checks.  You will see all sorts of interesting numbers and percentages. 

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading Kim Greenblatt’s blog about stimulus checks.

Difference Between Schedule C and Form 2106

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Question about taxes from a reader:”Can I use either a Schedule C or a Form 2106 for my business expenses?”

My answer is:  Generally speaking, no.  The two forms are used for different purposes.  Schedule C is for reporting profit or loss from a Sole Proprietorship.  That means that you are working for yourself.  Are you contracting for somebody?  Are you getting a 1099 at the end of the year instead of a W-2?  If you are getting a W-2, you are considered an employee and you cannot use the Schedule C.

Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses, can only be used if you have business expenses relating to your job that you weren’t reimbursed for. You might be able to use this form if you are receiving a W-2 and working as an employee for somebody.

In both cases, please check with your tax professional or at the very least visit the irs web site for more information on Schedule C and Form 2106.

Here as an example though on a tax return when both forms could be used:

If you are working as a Sole Proprietorship and you are married and your wife is working as an employee for somebody else,  there might be a chance that you could file a Schedule C for your income and expenses and your wife could file a Form 2106 to cover her expenses that she wasn’t reimbursed for. 

There are specific explanations for what expenses are allowed and what might be disallowed so please make sure that you go through all the instructions on the forms. There are also certain types of employees call statutory employees who receive W-2s but are treated a little differently at tax time.

A statutory employee is either a full-time traveling or city salesperson who solicits orders from wholesalers, restaurants, or similar establishments on behalf of a principal, a full-time life insurance agent whose principal business activity is selling life insurance and/or annuity contracts for one life insurance company, an agent-driver or commission-driver engaged in distributing meat, vegetables, bakery goods, beverages (other than milk), or laundry or dry cleaning services; or possibly a home worker performing work on material or goods furnished by the employer.

An employer should indicate on the worker’s Form W-2 whether the worker is classified as a statutory employee. Statutory employees report their wages, income, and allowable expenses on Schedule C (or Schedule C-EZ), Form 1040. Statutory employees are not liable for self-employment tax because their employers must treat them as employees for social security tax purposes.

Double check to see if there are state taxes what applies to your specific state as well.  You may want to remember that if the expenses are out of line with whatever particular business you are applying them to that a red flag may be triggered and you either may be audited or at least have some questions that may need to be answered.

That being said, if you have legitimate expenses, please take them, but do so correctly!

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading the profitable blog and learning the difference between a Schedule C and Form 2106.

Changing Drought to Big Dry

Monday, October 27th, 2008

As a follow-up to my last blog on exhaustion of resources, we get news from Australia.

My thoughts and prayers go to the people of Australia.  Australia has banned using the word “drought” to explain why there hasn’t been a lot of rain lately.  Weather conditions all over the world are in a state of flux – which is a thirty dollar word for “change”.  Because so many farmers are in trouble because of the bad weather (families are having to split up to find other work, some are possibly suicidal, etc)  the government figures that it would make things easier for them in dealing with the global climatic changes by letting their people what is going on and trying to remove situations which would result in people going out of control.  It is never pleasant when segments of your society are starting to meltdown due to environmental or economic conditions.  Governments have been established to help their people.  The international news media and bloggers have picked up the information and are letting the world know what was said.  How does this relate to business?

Changing words has often been used to introduce concepts or situations that aren’t going to well accepted.  In the 1980s, the word “firing”, was changed to “downsized” and then to the equally goofy word “rightsized”.  When I read words like that I think of McDonald’s shrinking the size of hamburgers or candy bar companies shrinking the size of Hershey bars down to “fun size” – those are the sizes of candy that you would normally throw out after you ate a “super-sized” candy bar.  Sometimes changing words works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Changing the words may help get some of the tension away from the situation but what is more important is the second step that they are doing. The Australian government  is trying to get the farmers use to the idea that they are going to be in for tough times and act accordingly.  What does that mean for them as business people?  For some families that have been multi-generational farmers, they may have to learn other vocations and it is tough for older people.

For some cities that have agricultural revenue, times will be tough for awhile.  This is similar to what happened here in the United States when we went through our Dust Bowl in the early 1900s and families had to move to where they could get food and employment because the farmlands were drying up.

Here in America we are going through some tough times as well with the financial meltdowns, problems we have had with hurricanes, tornadoes and tension over our elections.  The government has stepped in to help their people.  I am sure Australia is doing the same.  Loss of one’s population isn’t an option.

The take away is that people and their government have to work together to try to get through this and in the business world you have to change sometimes whether you want to or not. 

Best of luck to us all!

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading Kim Greenblatt’s blog, profitable.

Rett Syndrome Picnic Los Angeles October 25 2008

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Today we had our Southern California Rett Syndrome picnic.  Special thanks again to Sherri Brady for doing a fantastic job organizing the event.  Special thanks to all the participants and sponsors.  If anybody has any pictures or links to share, please post them in comments so I can get them out there.

Don’t forget the other Rett Syndrome events that we have and we will see you next year as well!

Here are some videos from the event:

Kim Isaac Greenblatt

You are reading the profitable blog and here are some videos for the So Cal Rett Syndrome Picnic 2008.

Exhaustion of Resources

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Question from a reader:”I’ve heard about exhaustion of resources, what is that about?”

My answer is:

What do you do when you run out of oil, money, gold, wood or any resources in a business?  You look for other sources of resources or substitutes.   You hope that you can get the resources at a reasonable price or else you have to raise your prices or seriously think if you want to stay in business.  If you take a look at any types of small businesses, they mirror governments and big businesses.

Let us say for example that you make wooden tables.  You set up in a lush forest a house and you start making wooden tables.  They get to be pretty popular and everybody from the village starts to buy your tables.  Other craftsmen see that you are making money with your tables and set up houses near you.  Pretty soon, business is great and there are more craftsmen near you and you end up using all the wood from the forest.  No problem, you start getting wood carted in from a nearby forest.  The problem is that it starts to cost a little more so you start to raise your prices just a bit.

A craftsman in another town sells tables cheaper than you because he hasn’t exhausted his forest yet.  People start to go there.  What can you do to compete?  You need to find a cheaper source of wood to make your tables with.  So you start working deals with other places to get cheap wood in exchange for some free tables.  You can lower your prices a bit.

Now, let us add another layer.  Let us add a marketplace that actually places values on your wood and causes the value to go up and down.  You may go this marketplace and buy promises or futures that the price for wood will be fixed at a certain point to guarantee that you will have wood to make your tables with.

Now, suppose that there are other buyers and sellers who sell imaginary shares of bundled futures of wood and they ultimately have to make due at one point or another and buy the wood they are claiming they own or sell wood that they own.

Let us now assume that everybody has enough wooden tables.  People don’t need as many anymore.  Your inventory of wood starts to grow and you have to drop prices to start moving tables.  Your competitors do the same and some of them go out of business because they can’t pay their bills. 

The preceding example was an oversimplified one but that pretty much sums up the marketplace for resources.  Prices, unless managed by market makers, tend to adjust based on supply and demand for goods and services.  Once a resource is exhausted, some sort of cost has to be expended to start getting fresh resources, or to research new ways of making tables (maybe stone or plastic instead of wood).

Kim Isaac Greenblatt

The profitable blog talks about exhaustion of resources.

International Sales

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Judging from the emails that I get, a lot of people in other countries read my blog.  Today’s blog is for my readers in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and within that the UK, Turkey, Russia, Japan, Norway and anywhere else I have missed.

I get emails with questions about how to get more international sales whether it is actually selling something, offering services or even getting somebody from another country to click through to their website.  The bottom line is are you selling a good product at a good price.

If people can order your product or service, get it in a timely manner, find that you did what you said you would or that the product works, that is it.  As I am fond of saying, there isn’t anything magical or supernatural about it.

When people order my books on tax preparation or money management (which deals with how to get jobs and what to do if you are laid off),  they can see samples of my writing style and they generally know what they are getting into.  The problem with dealing with people in international sales is sometimes you don’t know what is on the other side of the ocean, or shipping costs are prohibitive, or there is sometimes problem in the delivery method.

It is up to you as the seller to insure that the supply and distribution chain that you are using is a sound one so that you can get your product to your customer or client.  Anything else than that will result in a bad deal for both you and your customer.  Sure, you might make a sale but if you lose repeat business or word-of-mouth is that you aren’t a good place to get things from could kill your business.

Another problem is that if you have failed to do adequate localization, you might not be understood.  Localization is a fancy word for tailoring your sales, your business to what the people in your target audience in their part of the world expect to see in their advertising and you need to insure that you don’t use any slang that might be considered offensive, cultural references from another country that don’t make sense, etc.  Have you ever watched a television show from another country and even if you understand the language, get some slang that doesn’t make sense?  Even watching some tv from the BBC here in the US I have to think about what was said, jot down some notes and research what some of the slang is to get some jokes.   A lot of video games go through localization because some nations don’t like the level of violence in a game so the game producers have to tone down or remove or redo certain aspects of games.  Same holds true with movies that are R rated and need to be edited with PG scenes.

Well, either that or stop watching BBC.

Test marketing is a good idea as well and if you know any people that speak the language or know the country you are selling to, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for help.  People all over the world will forgive you if you don’t get their language straight in speech or print if you are trying to communicate with them.

In the meantime, hello to all my readers and friends from around the world and thanks for reading!

Kim Greenblatt

You are reading the profitable blog about international sales.

Please and Thank You

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Question from a reader:”So you gonna tell me how to make money”.

My answer: Well, for starters, you might want to back off of the command form of communication.  One of the ways to make money if you aren’t manufacturing anything is to give great service.  The cornerstone of good service is respect.  Respect in any language or culture is something that at least is thanked and in some cultures you could lose a contract for being rude or worse, your head.

It isn’t cliche or stupid in these economic times to try verbally and in text to be a little polite.  Back in the day, if you didn’t say “please” or “thank you” you wouldn’t get the time of day, a parent might hit you (yes, back then, they could get away with that) or if you were in the Old West in America (or even any city today), you might get a bullet in your head.

The coolness of being rude, ignoring people, one upmanship and all that jazz has no place in running a profitable business and frankly in conducting one’s life.  Sure, there are times to be hip and cop an attitude however most of the time people have enough attitude handed to them and the last thing they need is more people yelling at them or being rude. 

Parents must not have learned manners themselves or spend too much time thinking about themselves.  That must be the only way to explain it.  People today and their kids just don’t want to take the time for a little bit of courtesy.  Be honest with yourself, do you like it when people cop an attitude with you? Sometimes your rudeness might be interpreted as unforgivable.

So, before you cop the attitude, take a second and really think about what you want to say.  If you are guilty of not saying please or thank you, you may want to think twice because the next time you deal with a particular clerk, gas station attendant, fast food worker, grocery store person, plumber or Department of Motor Vehicle’s worker, you may find that you are either sent to the back of the line,  your product may be “out of stock”, your order may be “misplaced” etc.

The same goes double for service workers and certain businesses.  Don’t expect a tip as a form of entitlement if you are in a service industry that takes tips-earn them.  Money is getting tight for everybody. Don’t take your attitude out on the customer.  They may be rude but you don’t have to feed the energy back to them.  Try and take the high road.  If you can focus on the customers who take a second and are courteous.  In fact, if you start acting courteous, magically they will start reacting the same way each time they see you.  You will become an island of nice in the sea of blah and indifference.

You will be the rock that rocks their world.

You will be the mash in their potatoes.

You will be one of the cool things that makes their day and maybe helps diffuse an anger that might make them lose control of their car and prevent a car accident.

Some people have accused me of being too polite.  My response to that is, “Would you like me to be too rude?  Would that make you happier?  How about insulting?”  Better to err on the side of coming across a little too formal than to say something to aggrevate somebody else.

So, please, try and be courteous and use the words in any language – “please” and “thank you”.

And for my reader who wanted to me to tell him how to make money-please read my posts on this site and for more in-depth information, consider buying one of my books.

Thank you for reading this!

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading the profitable blog by Kim Isaac Greenblatt as he talks about “please” and “thank you”.

Future of Credit Availability

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Question for Kim from a reader: “How come the banks are getting money and they aren’t kicking it down?”

My answer: I think the banks are kicking money down, though they are doing it slower and with tighter regulations than before.  The best analogy I can think of is that the pendulum has been swinging to the side of what I would call fiscal conservatism or tighter money.  Cash was free and easy for years and just by virtue of having a mailing address you could get offers for credit cards, home loans, etc. Bank reps were turning a blind eye to compliance with regulations, limits as to how much somebody could qualify for a loan, and something as plain as having 20% down as a home down payment. Times have changed-and it may not be for the worse over the long run. A lot depends on how the new administration gets projects going to put people to work so they can get paid, but I am getting off topic and on my soap box here.

Cash still can be come by but it isn’t free and easy as it was ten or twenty years ago.  I have talked to a lot of people who have had their HELOCS cancelled and after an appraisal, they have had them reinstated.

Did anything change in their credit situation?  Probably not.  The property values were finally looked at realistically and the bank/lender used a realistic more conservative valuation method – versus the blind computer method that they used for years and that gave a true example that not everybody in America is upside down on their mortgage.

The same can be said for credit card issuance.  People are still getting applications for credit cards and lines of credit so the money appears to be there – it is just that the bar has been raised back to the way it use to be decades ago where they actually expect to have reasonable valuations and down payments before lending money for homes and some sort of track record before issuing credit cards.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see credit tighten for personal non-secured lines (like credit cards) though that may be superseded by interest rates going up once the economy finds a direction.  That may not happen though for a few years since it will take some time for the economy to sort itself out and in the meantime credit may be a tighter than it was before.

So the solution?  Try and keep a positive cash flow, save money and pay bills on time.  Eventually, you will get credit card offers and when you do, watch the interest rates and use them sparingly and not as sources of income.

Whether you agree with the bank bailouts or not, the profitable way of approaching credit in any of its shape or forms (credit card, HELOC, line of credit, etc) is to remember that the purpose of it is to jumpstart or help out something, not to be used as an income stream.  The money is borrowed – that means that sooner or later that cash has to be paid back.  If interest rates go up, and they will over time, you don’t want to end up paying more money than you borrowed among other things.

On a separate note, I’ve started working on my next non-fiction book.  The book has to do with personal finance.  Now, more than ever, we have to not only make sure our own financial acts are together but we need to make sure that our children are learning to budget and watch their money.

 I will give you more information as it develops.  If you have any ideas or suggestions for titles, please drop me a line or a post on the blog.

Kim Greenblatt

 

You are reading the profitable blog and Kim Greenblatt answers a reader asking when banks will kick down money.