Accept payments like the big guys

Getting paid is becoming increasingly easier for small business merchants thanks to an array of internet-enabled options for consumers.

Apple Pay
Anything related to Apple seems to be a hit, and its payment system is no different. Apple boasts that its payment system’s app allows for ease of use by consumers because they don’t need to have a credit card handy. Merchants only need a contactless payment-capable point-of-sale terminal for Apple Pay, which they can get by contacting Apple’s merchant support.

Square vs. PayPal
Both of these payment methods are especially helpful for owners whose businesses are mobile. Their payment readers can be plugged into any mobile device. Consumers simply swipe their cards, and Square or PayPal processes the transaction. Square wins for its effective POS (point of sale) system. PayPal is hailed for being a good choice for merchants who have low-volume processing needs.
Square charges a flat rate of 2.75 percent per transaction. PayPal charges 2.2 percent to 2.9 percent, plus 30 cents per transaction.

Payline Data
Payline Data is also a formidable choice for processing credit cards. Business News Daily notes that it allows merchants to choose pricing options that jive with their sales volumes. Another benefit it offers is aimed at high-risk businesses. Payline Data offers them merchant accounts, which can be difficult for these businesses to obtain. Payline charges 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent plus 15 cents per transaction.

Bitcoin
The volatile digital currency is becoming increasingly accepted as a reputable form of payment. Reasons to accept the form of cryptocurrency include the fact that there is no fee to the merchant. When it comes to fraud, bitcoin can be more cost-efficient. That’s because bitcoin payments
are irreversible and secure, so the cost of fraud is not shouldered by the merchant that accepts it, explains Bitcoin.org.

IBM leads as big companies rethink remote work

After decades of touting its anytime, anywhere remote workforce, IBM is starting to bring workers back into the office.

About 40 percent of IBM’s 380,000 employees work in non-traditional settings, although the company has offered no information as to how many will be affected by the May announcement.

The tech giant gave affected remote workers 30 days to move back into the office setting or leave the company.

Although the 105-year-old company has experienced 20 quarters of falling revenue, a company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the move was not a cost-cutting measure.

IBM is not the only company abandoning the popular remote work models. Yahoo, in 2013, called telecommuters back to the office as have Bank of America and Aetna. Corporate leaders have argued that putting workers in the same space increases work speed and sparks innovation.

One University of Texas professor who studies telecommuting says companies thought they would reap large savings in office and real estate costs. Jennifer Glass, who also advises companies on remote-work strategies, says these savings have not largely materialized.

IBM spokespeople say the vast majority of remote workers have elected to join a regional office. When Yahoo made the same move, however, it set off a furor.

Small business confidence continues at all-time high

Small business confidence continues at all-time high
Small business owners continue to be very optimistic about future economic growth, according to a recent industry survey.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its February Small Business Optimism Index in March. The reading was at its highest in 43 years.

The NFIB noted that evidence on the economy is mixed.

The New York Federal Reserve puts first quarter growth at 3.1 percent while the Atlanta Federal Reserve is looking for 1.8 percent. Both have access to the same data.
However, the gulf between liberals and conservatives is large. The University of Michigan/Reuters poll in February illustrated this, with the Expectations Index at 55 among Democrats, 120 for Republicans and 89 for Independents. The Democrats expect the worst, the Republicans the best. Spontaneous positive references to economic policy were made by a record 28 percent of consumers, 26 percent made negative references. Reality will resolve the gap.

Small businesses are optimistic that there will be a new health care law, tax reform, and relief from regulations.
It is clear from our data that optimism skyrocketed after the election because small business owners anticipated a change in policy, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “The sustainability of this surge and whether it will lead to actual economic growth depends on Washington’s ability to deliver on the agenda that small business voted for in November. If the health care and tax policy discussions continue without action, optimism will fade,” Duggan said.

The index fell in February, but still is considered very high. The NFIB noted that the slight decline follows the largest month-over-month increase in the survey’s history in December and another uptick in January.
Despite a small decrease, nearly half of owners expect better business conditions in the coming months.

The elephant in the room remains to be whether the Trump administration will be able to deliver on the many policies small business owners are counting on. The health care legislation stalled in March. Tax reform may not be dealt with until the end of the year. It remains to be seen what major regulations will be dismantled.

Balloon Mortgages Q&A

Balloon Mortgages Q&A

Question:
Home sales are brisk in my area and I have decided to buy a home even though I will only be in this location for a few years. My lender recommends a balloon mortgage. I have heard bad things about these loans, but the deal seems good. What do you think?

Answer:
A typical 7-year balloon mortgage can seem very good and, if you will absolutely be selling before the 7-year term is up, it might be good for you. But, it is a risk.
First, let’s talk about the benefits of a balloon mortgage.

Balloon mortgages usually have a much lower interest rate than a conventional mortgage. The overall cost of the loan will be lower and the payments will be lower. That makes it attractive. The assumption is that a buyer makes payments for a set period of time, five to seven years, for example. Then at the end of the period, the entire balance is due. The buyer then refinances at the end of the term or sells. In your case, you want to sell so this is probably why the lender recommended this type of loan.

The reason balloons are risky is that people never know what is going to happen in the future.

Buyers may think they can easily refinance at the end of the term. But this might not be possible. The buyer may lose a job or become an unqualified buyer because of bad credit. Then it might be impossible to refinance.

In the current market, property values are going up. But, if property values go down, you could be stuck with a home that is not worth the balloon payment. No lender will finance under those conditions. In your case, you might not be able to sell at the necessary price.

Finally, interest rates could be much higher in seven years. For someone who wants to refinance, this could make payments dramatically higher.

Some balloon mortgages have a reset option that will automatically recalculate the mortgage at the current interest rates. This might be good protection for most people.
If you know you will sell, a balloon mortgage might be acceptable.

Presentation tips to land a new client

Presentation tips to land a new client
Landing that new account or client can bring feelings of elation.

It’s likely that to land a client you’ll have to make a great presentation. Here are some tips:

First, steady your nerves. This seems like common sense, but ahead of the presentation, you’ll have a few butterflies.

As you start the presentation, make it clear that you are the owner of the business; not an employee.

Understand the client’s needs and what their goals are ahead of time. That way you can address them during your presentation.

Include graphics, images, and facts to make your presentation more memorable, according to Inc.

Consulting Success says you should offer an introductory rate for your fees. However, make it clear that it’s just that. Feel free to let them know your normal rates.

Inc. also says to give your presentation as a story. Let stories illustrate points to help people make an emotional connection to the message.

Work up a sell sheet, states Entrepreneur magazine. This sheet should clearly state how you plan to address the potential client’s problems and challenges. If you are presenting a product, explain its features and benefits and your product’s market. Also, explain the legal status of your invention, such any patents pending, copyright or trademark information.

Watch your time. You don’t want to start droning on and on. That bores people, and at some point they tune out.

How will going into business affect family?

At some point in everyone’s career, this thought comes up: “Am I ready to follow my dreams and start my own business?”

You may have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s in terms of being financially and mentally ready to start your own business. However, have you thought about the effects on your family? Too often this oversight can lead to a crisis at home, as well as in your business.

“It’s easy to forget that changing careers will affect your family, too. Be 100 percent certain that you and your loved ones understand the implications of running a startup,” notes Inc.com.

The good and the bad
Fully prepare them for the good and the bad of starting your own business. Do not hold back on the bad things that could happen.

Explain the hours you’re going to have to commit to your endeavor. This includes you being not able to be at as many family events.

If the family’s budget will need to be reduced, tell them. Go over your business plans with your family, giving them as many details as possible. You want their support, and you don’t want them to be surprised by any of the things that could go wrong.

“When one person goes into business, everyone in the family unit is affected,” author Pamela Slim told Entrepreneur. “If your partner and other members of your support network are reluctant to back your idea, you may want to rethink quitting your current job.”

However, this is a personal choice. From a startup owner quoted in Inc.com:

“Ultimately, I realized if I didn’t start my own company, I would always regret it, both for myself and as a role model for my children.”

Regulatory authority actions could impact small business loans

One of the chief ways small business owners raise money is through loans.

One of the chief complaints of small business owners is regulations.

The two issues have hit in a head-on collision.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was set up to protect people from falling for scams in the financial industry, and to keep a watch on companies that operate in the space. It has been so mired in controversy over its authority that it now faces dismantling by the new administration.

As the wheels turn in that effort, the controversial government agency has set its sights on small business loans, collecting information and statistics about the loans.

Banks and lenders smell trouble, according to Bloomberg BNA. Is the bureau ramping up for a new round of fair lending lawsuits? Or a whole new range of lending regulations? If it wanted to, the unelected CFPB could enact regulations with the force of law, just as if it were Congress.

The CFPB came from the Dodd-Frank Act that has been in the news lately, as calls for its repeal have run rampant.

The problem with the CFPB’s targeting how small businesses get loans is twofold.

First, there are concerns about the scope of the information the CFPB wants to collect.

The CFPB wants to use a section of an existing law that requires it to collect information about access to credit for small businesses, women-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses. The CFPB also wants to collect new data on the state of small business lending. It applies to online lenders, as well as bank lenders.

Proponents say this is an effort to save small business owners from unfair lending practices. However, a Pandora’s box is opened whenever a government bureaucracy attempts to expand its so-called collection data efforts.

Lenders, including non-banks and online lenders, could simply curtail making loans to small business owners. They might fear unequal lending lawsuits if their numbers of loans to women-owned and minority-owned businesses are not high enough. Some might make bad loans just to get their numbers up, something that contributed to the housing crisis of 2008.

Some companies may find that dealing with government disclosure is timely and costly. They may find it’s not worth the hassle.

For small business owners, available lenders would be curtailed.

The second problem deals with the many complaints about the CFPB concerning its abuse of power.

The controversial bureau has been under fire for its overreach. Critics also say the CFPB’s data collection efforts may go further than what is allowed by the actual law.

The points that can make your home sell fast.

The points that can make your home sell fast.
Remember that when you bought your house, you went that extra mile to get the right house in the right school district and right neighborhood.
Now when you want to sell, all those considerations will help to make a quick sale.
In fact, the keys to your deal to sell your house today will still be the things that make your house attractive to buy:

Popular neighborhood
School district
Your home’s condition
The price you set
And flexibility

It’s a lucky homeowner who has all those elements on the plus side and, in fact, at least three of those key elements are in your control.

Your home’s condition is crucial, of course. You’ll want to fix up the outside for maximum curb appeal. Curb appeal is nothing more than the bringing out the pretty in your home: Making your landscape, entrance and outside condition look great from the street. But it is critical to get buyers in.

Once you get buyers in, you’ll want to make sure the bones of the house stand out and not the photo of Uncle Ed. So clear out the personal items and make your home a canvass for a new buyer’s imagination.

You can’t do much about the popularity of the school district and neighborhood. But, both hold their attraction over a period of many years. So it is likely that you are still situated in a popular environment.

What remains are price and flexibility, and the two go hand-in-hand.

Good pricing is crucial. Your real estate agent will help you come up with a price that is in line with comparable homes in the neighborhood. Online tools can give you an idea of what your home is worth, but no instant price can tell you the true value.

Some of the price will be determined by how brisk the local real estate market is. In an area with few houses on the market and many buyers, sellers have an advantage in price. In an area with many houses on the market but few buyers, then buyers will certainly have an advantage in price.

Your flexibility could also affect the price. If you must sell now, you might not be able to wait for the best offer. If you can afford to wait, you can review a number of offers before you make your decision.

Your house pays you back at tax time

When you do your taxes this year, it probably won’t be much of a comfort to know that in February 1913, the personal income tax was born.
Bravo.

But the good news is that if you will be writing out a check this year, you might want to ask yourself if a nice, fat mortgage interest deduction would come in handy next year.

For many people, it certainly will. Mortgage interest is tax deductible. This means it is one of the expenses that reduces the amount of income on which you pay taxes.

Many, if not most, people who do not own houses, also do not itemize their deductions. That makes sense because if they added up all their potential deductions, the deductions would not be greater than the standard deduction. For 2016 the standard deduction for heads of household will also rise to $9,300 (up from $9,250 in 2015) but the other standard deduction amounts will remain the same: $6,300 for singles and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. Personal exemptions will be $4,050 in 2016, up from $4,000 in 2015.

The beauty of the mortgage interest deduction is that it allows you to deduct all the interest you pay on your home loan. During the first years you pay on a home loan, nearly everything you pay is interest — up to 75 percent of your payment.

That nice deduction can reduce the taxes you owe, while allowing you to live in the house you want.

Owning a home also offers you some subtle protection from inflation. Inflation is an increase in the general level of prices for goods and services over time. So you notice that your grocery bill is going up and your dollars buy less, that is inflation, according to investopedia.com.

According to inflationdata.com, in 2016 inflation was about 1.7 percent. For 2017, Kiplinger’s predicts inflation to head to 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates are ranging from 4.2 percent to 5.2 percent on 30-year fixed rate. That is an increase of at least 2 point from 2015 and 2016 but still very low.

If you buy a home this year, and inflation continues to increase, you’ll soon be paying off your home with cheaper dollars. Your food will cost more; your luxuries will cost more; rent will cost more. But your mortgage is going to stay the same.

Meanwhile, inflation will also have some effect on home prices, forcing prices up. Right now, in most parts of the country, home prices are low because there are a lot of houses on the market and fewer buyers than five years ago. That means, right now you can get a lot of house for fewer dollars. In coming years, however, as the supply of houses for sale decreases, the pressure of inflation plus a reduced supply of houses, will force home prices up. In 10 years, your home purchase today will be a bargain and you will be living in a home you love while paying prices locked in the past! It’s like being a financial time travel!

Banks stop banking on mortgages, report says

Fearful of regulations and expensive penalties, banking is backing away from traditional mortgages.

According to Inside Mortgage Finance, banks loaned less than half of all mortgage dollars in the third quarter of 2016. This is the first time in 30 years that banks and credit unions have not taken the lead in mortgage lending.

Traditional banks have shied away from making mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration. This follows a series of costly lawsuits brought by the federal government surrounding these loans in the last few years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Non-bank lenders, such as Quicken Loans, have stepped into the market snapping up borrowers with less than pristine credit.

Meanwhile, banks have concentrated on jumbo loans (those more than $417,000 in most parts of the country) because they are considered less risky both financially and legally, according to The Wall Street Journal.