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Building on New Year’s resolutions

CarleeMcCullough-160No matter what happened in the previous year, most of us step into the New Year with optimism that it will be bigger, better and more prosperous than the last one. And whether you adopted a resolution on January 1 or not, it is never too late to do something positive.

In the quest to adopt a resolution, reflection on the previous year is advised. Evaluate what was positive about the year and what was negative. Think about what you had too much of and what you had too little of last year.

If the resolution is about self-improvement, analyze what could be done to improve you. If it is community oriented, find what you can do for others.


What can we expect in 2014?

CharlesSimsJr-160Although economic forecasts can change due to unforeseen circumstances, the outlook for 2014 is generally positive, with a return to solid growth and the possibility of even stronger economic performance, depending on several key factors that should become clearer over the next few months.

GDP, unemployment, and inflation

As of late December 2013, year-over-year growth of real gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to range from 1.7 percent to 2.3 percent, higher than was expected earlier in the year but lower than the 2.8 percent rate in 2012. The economy is projected to bounce back in 2014, with growth of around 2.7 percent to 3.2 percent, near the 50-year average of 3.06 percent.


2013 – International, national & local

CarleeMcCullough-160The year 2013 has come and gone. Are we better or worse than we were in 2012?

Regardless of where we are now, we can aim to be better in 2014. Most of us strive to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Others strive to be advocates for change and the betterment of the community at large.

So, before we move forward, let's review a few of the significant moments of 2013 and how they may impact the world as we know it.


Moving on up!

moving 600Professional Coaching and Leadership Development is a movement going on in corporate America and with highly motivated individuals. While the practice is not new, it is new to many.

RIX International has been dedicated to providing this service for many years. With many successes under its belt, RIX International delivers coaching and development to entrepreneurs and corporations. Gwendolyn Tucker has joined her husband in maintaining the firm's tradition of excellence.

Carlee McCullough: First, tell us a little bit about your background.
Gwendolyn Tucker: I was born and grew up in Northwest Florida near Pensacola. I am an accountant by education. Prior to joining my husband in the company he founded, I held successive roles in Fortune 500 companies in the paper industry for more than 20 years in accounting, internal audit, service excellence, information technology, change management and human resources. I received my designation as a certified public accountant (CPA) in the state of Ohio in 1992.


Retirement crisis looms!

money 600"People of color face particularly severe challenges in preparing for retirement," according to a new report titled, "Race and Retirement Insecurity in the United States," by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS).

Although every demographic group faces significant risks, says the analysis, "Americans of color are significantly less likely than whites to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an individual retirement account (IRA), which substantially drives down the level of retirement savings."

In a live webinar last week, NIRS Research Manager Nari Rhee said that unless the United States addresses the paucity of retirement resources, "I think we're in real trouble."


We are earning more money, but where is it?

CharlesSimsJr-160Since the 1960s, household-income growth for African Americans has outpaced that of whites. Median adjusted household income for African Americans is now 59.2 percent that of whites, up slightly from 55.3 percent in 1967 (though in dollar terms the gap has widened).

But those gains haven't led to any narrowing of the wealth gap between the races. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, the median net worth for African-American households in 2011 ($6,446) was lower than it was in 1984 ($7,150), while white households' net worth was almost 11 percent higher. High-earning married African-American households have, on average, less wealth than low-earning married white households.

Exactly why income gains haven't translated into wealth gains for African Americans is something of a puzzle. Researchers have identified several possible factors – less intergenerational inheritance, higher unemployment and lower incomes, differing rates and patterns of homeownership, marriage and college education – without reaching any consensus on their relative importance. There is little understanding of why the black-white wealth gap exists, despite an almost embarrassing number of potential explanations."


Financial planning for launching a small business

CharlesSimsJr-160Are you considering making the transition from the role of employee to small business owner in this evolving economy? Start by strategizing and prioritizing your financial planning responsibilities.

With the collective guidance of a qualified tax adviser and Certified Financial PlannerTM professional from the Financial Planning Association, you can assemble a well-organized system of tracking what you spend to produce income. In addition, you can sensibly save money by learning more about eligible tax deductions you should take for your self-employed business.

Apply the following pointers and perspectives to efficiently develop and manage your new business:


How to close the business

CarleeMcCullough-160There is a right way and a wrong way to close, dissolve or wind down the business. Simply walking away will leave a lot of open doors that need to be closed permanently.

Although it is never pleasant to shut down, sometimes you close a door so that another may open. If the business is not working and it cannot be saved, dissolve it and regroup. Bob Johnson of BET started and closed several businesses before hitting it big and becoming a billionaire. Not bad for regrouping, huh?

The goal of closing a business systematically is to close it quickly in a cost effective manner. So, the big question is: How do we properly close a business?


The 1 percent factor: A way to help boost retirement savings

CharlesSimsJr-160In a survey of workers who participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, 71 percent said they wanted their employers to increase their savings rate automatically by 1 percent each year. Some plans have auto-escalation features that increase workers' contributions by a percentage point on an annual basis.

Regardless of whether you save by default or by choice, increasing your retirement contributions could make a big difference in the amount you accumulate during your working years.

Although there's nothing magical about a 1 percent annual increase, it may be a manageable way to get closer to an appropriate contribution level for your age and personal situation. Industry estimates suggest that workers need to save 13 percent to 15 percent of salary throughout their careers to fund a retirement lifestyle equivalent to their pre-retirement standards of living. People who don't start saving until later in life may have to save a higher percentage.


Is my business in trouble?

CarleeMcCullough-160The fact that businesses come and go is no surprise to anyone. Taking the current economy into consideration, many businesses are suffering. As business owners, we are trained to hang in there and ride out the storm. We are taught to sacrifice and put everything into the business.

To an owner, the business is like a child that was birthed. A failing business is a painful thing to endure because it is no longer fun. Both the owner and employees dread coming to work.

Win by any means necessary is the motto for many owners. Unfortunately, the conversation involving when to shut the business down is all too rare. Few want to admit failure or defeat. They do not even want to think about closing down.


ON OUR WAY TO WEALTHY: Business tax pitfalls

CarleeMcCullough-160Too many times pride stands in the way of folks asking for help. But if you are a small business, asking for help is the only way to stay above the fray. One area that business owners tend to run from is tax preparation.

Whether the business is fledgling or experienced, tax preparation is always dreaded. It is a necessary evil that cannot be avoided under any circumstance.

Here's a snapshot of the tax issues that can arise and detrimentally affect a business:


Did you know that you can lose money that is invested in bonds?

CharlesSimsJr-160This is a question you could soon begin asking as a recent rise in interest rates contributed to price declines in many bond funds. News the Federal Reserve feels comfortable enough with the strength and state of our economy to consider a change in current monetary policy is, without doubt, a positive development. Unfortunately, for some bond investors, good news may be bad news!

Bond prices and yields have an inverse relationship, meaning they move in opposite directions. This means as yields (interest rates) rise, bond prices (values) can fall. Many investors – driven by fear, the need for income, increasing underweight allocations, or other factors – have invested heavily in bonds. Over the past five years, this demand has helped drive bond prices higher, lowering yields and subjecting many investors to the often ignored or forgotten risks associated with these investments, one of which is "interest rate risk".

"Interest rate risk" is a term used to describe how an investment's value will change due to an increase or decrease in interest rates. As a simple example: a bond yielding 4 percent is more valuable to investors if interest rates fall to 2 percent and is less valuable to investors if interest rates rise to 6 percent. This is because their fixed interest income would either be greater than or less than what a new investor would receive purchasing a bond at current rates. Interest rate risk affects all bondholders, but typically bonds with longer maturities and/or lower yields are most impacted.


Booming entrepreneurship among black women

blackwoman 600WASHINGTON – Cheryl Lofton had never intended to be a small business owner. Her grandfather, J.C. Lofton, was the first African American to own a tailoring school and related business in Washington, D.C. She spent her summers working with him, learning the craft. She was able to earn money while enrolled at Howard University by ironing, mending, and tailoring her classmates' clothes.

When her grandfather became ill, she found herself spending more time on the business – including purchasing a new building – and less time sewing and attending to financial matters.

"The day I opened the doors to the new building was the day he died," she recalls. "I was the first college-educated person in my family, and I went so I wouldn't have to join the family business. But my conscience wouldn't let me let the business go under. At the time, no one else in the family was interested or able."