New investment rule: Take your money later

As of Jan. 1, those with a 401(k) or IRA can start withdrawing the required minimum at age 72.
Previously, account holders were required to take the minimum distribution at age 70.5.
The new rules, arising from President Trump’s Secure Act, update the old rules, which were based on life expectancies in the early 1960s.
There may be some tax implications for some account holders, depending on their tax brackets in the year they withdraw. Check with a financial advisor to be sure.
The Secure Act also eliminates the maximum age for traditional IRA contributions, which was previously capped at 70.5 years old. The bill summary by the House Ways and Means Committee explains, “As Americans live longer, an increasing number continue employment beyond traditional retirement age.”
Americans who turned 70.5 years old during 2019 will still need to withdraw their required minimum distributions. Failure to do so results in a 50 percent penalty.
People who are expected to turn 70.5 years old in 2020 will not be required to withdraw RMDs until they are 72.

The impact of target marketing in small business

Target marketing, according to Inc., is collecting information to determine your ideal customers among those who also need and will pay for your product or service.
For these purposes, you need their age, gender, family size, education level, and occupation. To find out where they are, you need their zip codes, size of the area, its population, and climate.
How does your ideal customer decide to make a purchase? The answer helps you determine why they buy what you’re selling, how much of it they need, and how often they must buy it.
Most social media profiles for your business provide a free demographic breakdown of customers like yours. Zip Codes can furnish vast amounts of info from the U.S. Census Bureau.
If you’re currently in business, your sales data clearly show what your customers are buying, when, and their purchase prices, among other data. For the essential feedback, talk to them in person or on the phone, conduct a few customer surveys. You don’t need a ton of responses to acquire a pretty good sense of your customer base.
In addition to the basic demographics, these should be among the takeaways from your target customers:
Is the distance to your location a problem? Parking? Public Transportation? Do, or can you, deliver?
How do they make a living? Knowing what your primary customers do can help you adjust your hours to fit their needs or devise special offers. Having an idea of the money they can or are willing to spend can help with your pricing. With this kind of information, you can confirm some of your assumptions regarding your customers and dismiss others.
Practical target marketing is almost always beneficial. And genuine interaction with your patrons — plus giving them what they want — is almost always a pathway to loyalty and future growth.

Why Facebook ads are often not profitable for small business

The revenue of Facebook ads is ever-increasing, and small businesses are the reasons why.
But not all small businesses profit.
With 2.2 billion users every day, Facebook will easily surpass $4 billion in advertising this year. It has a global reach that promises highly targeted audiences.
All this can be managed with a small dollar amount to begin if the audience is local.
Why, then, do 62 percent of small businesses not make any money with their Facebook ads?
The reason has four parts:

  1. Nature of Facebook
    Facebook has become a friends-and-family favorite, and enabling conversation is Facebook’s first mission, according to Facebook itself. It is an after-work pleasure for most. The key idea is that people are taking a break from work or are at home when they are on Facebook. Something to remember.
  2. The service or product
    Consumer items like clothes, decorations, games, and toys do sell on Facebook. Maybe this is because Facebook ads come to people when they are relaxed.
  3. Facebook targeting
    Facebook’s targeting abilities are widely acclaimed. Yet, it is sometimes impossible to see whether your targeted ad hit the target. You might get likes, comments, or shares, but many times you won’t get them from your actual audience. Why is this? Facebook claims that ads are shared. Yet, the person who shares is often not the target market. If your results are bad, change targeting, but you will probably never be able to confirm whether any portion of your ad hit your target.
    Consumer products that appeal to nearly everyone work best. Service niches, product niches, just won’t work as well. Business products won’t work as well either, though some do.
  4. User skill
    Still, if you want to buy Facebook, you must put in the time to become an expert in its targeting and ad styles.
    An eye-catching meme-like ad with an offer usually will attract likes and shares, which expand your audience organically.

Book Review: The dark shadows of “The Four”

According to serial entrepreneur and NYU business professor Scott Galloway, they’re The Four Horsemen of technology and digital media.
In his best-selling “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google,” Galloway casts a harsh light on the dark features of their business models and impact on society.
He calls out Apple for its eagerness to become a luxury brand that maintains high prices for its devices.
Google, he writes, seeks the image of a public utility.
Amazon continues to devour the retail marketplace while leaving local shopping mails deserted if not already closed.
Facebook? According to Galloway’s book, it’s now “the world’s biggest seller of display advertising – an extraordinary achievement, given Google’s brilliant takeover of advertising revenues from traditional media just a few years ago.”
Indeed, Galloway foresees Google and Facebook ultimately in command of more advertising media spending than any two firms in history.

Less taxes
According to the book, from 2007 to 2015–when the average tax rate for the S&P 500 was 27 percent, The Four Horsemen paid much less.
Apple paid 17 percent of its profits in taxes, Google 16 percent, Amazon 13 percent, and Facebook 4 percent.
Meanwhile, the overall impact of The Big Four continues to alter the economy, impede the growth of innovation, and stifle competition. They don’t have many employees, but they do have millions to spend on D.C. lobbyists.
Nevertheless, Galloway believes the breakup of Big Tech will occur because “We’re capitalists.”
This book is a worthy read, especially for those in or starting a new business competing with even a segment of The Four.

Hot trend: Build to rent

An interesting real estate trend has cropped up in recent years: while demand for rents has stayed strong, consumers have also turned their attention to single-family homes.
Renting is like having a home without the commitment. Or living in a home but retaining the agility to up and move quickly.
As prices of single-family homes have risen and lending remains strict, down payments and loans have become harder to come by. Add in Millennials, a generation of buyers with sometimes staggering student loan debt but growing families, or Baby Boomers, who don’t want the headaches involved with homeownership.
Flexibility and mobility have become the driving force.
Now, builders and investors are building single-family homes with the intent to rent instead of sell. In one of the bigger moves nationwide, Toll Brothers announced earlier this year that it had committed to invest $60 million in a $400 million venture that would build homes for rent in seven major U.S. cities.
An article in CNBC this summer called the built-to-rent (or B2R), the fastest-growing trend in real estate. Last year, about 43,000 single-family homes were built for rent, it said. And the built-for-rent share of housing starts is also rising, to nearly double its recent historical average from 1992-2012.
In Pradera, a gated community of three- and four-bedroom homes in San Antonio, Texas, the rents are $1,800 to $2,300 a month and the community includes a pool, fitness center, community kitchen and party space, plus dog park and dog-washing station. Interestingly, the average annual household income in Pradera is more than $100,000 — meaning many of the tenants can afford to buy but have chosen not to.

Wage and hourly lawsuits: Easy to file, devastating to lose

As a small business owner, are you 100 percent sure you’re paying employees correctly? Are you tracking their hours accurately? Are those you’ve classified as exempt really doing the work that qualifies them for it?
If not, take a sharp eye to your payment system very soon.
In the last few years, numerous small businesses have been hit by lawsuits citing them for underpaying or misclassifying employees, failure to pay required wages, and sufficient overtime.
And the smaller the company, the higher the risk.
Also, the threat to unprepared employers will increase early next year when a rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor takes effect. In its current form, the law would make an estimated one million more workers eligible for overtime pay.
Any vulnerabilities in a business’ payment system are red meat for plaintiff lawyers who appear to be getting more successful in their pursuits. They won 79 percent of 273 wage-and-hour certification decisions in 2018, an increase of six percent over the previous year.
Companies also absorbed a decrease of 11 percent in their odds of defeating cases with successful decertification motions.
Even more foreboding is the lone discontented employee who could hire a plaintiff attorney who then could parlay the case into a class-action lawsuit that would be very expensive for any company to fight.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, wage and hour disputes are cash cows for plaintiff attorneys: Their fees are easier to obtain than in other forms of commercial litigation.
To protect your business–and ultimately you and your family–make sure that all your workers (contractors, staff, overtime-exempt, and non-exempt) are classified correctly, and that they are being paid according to federal and state laws.
Also, seriously consider proposing an arbitration agreement with your employees that includes a class-action waiver.

Entrepreneur Michael Rubin: Bankrupt at 16, Millionaire at 21, Billionaire at 38

At the age of 16, Michael Rubin said there are only two kinds of business people: Those who take risks, and those who are rational.
What was he?
At 16, is it risky to own a snow-ski business in Pennsylvania’s sweltering summers while owing creditors more than $200,000?
At 21, is it rational to own a business worth $1 million, and $50 million a couple of years later?
According to Rubin, being $200,000 in debt was “a near-to-death” encounter.
Somehow, someway, he managed to pacify his creditors with the $37,000 he borrowed from his father. Then, honoring his Dad’s terms of the deal, he enrolled in college.
Six weeks later, he dropped out of Villanova University. Too boring, he said, answering the calls of his businesses.
Working smart had inspired Rubin since he was a kid.
At the age of eight, according to, he was walking door-to-door selling vegetable seeds to his West Philadelphia neighbors. At 12, he’d opened Mike’s Ski Shop in the basement of his parents’ home.
At 14, he was operating a chain of ski shops, businesses, and a discount ski equipment retail shop (hence, the debt).
At 19, he had merged his burgeoning ski business, KPR Sports (named with his parents’ initials), with then publicly-traded athletic shoe company Ryka to form Global Sports Inc. (later GSI Commerce).
At 26, GSI was generating more than $130 million a year.
At 38, Rubin had sold GSI Commerce to eBay for $2.4 billion.
Rubin then bought and merged Fanatics (a licensed apparel retailer), Rue La La (a fashion flash site seller), and Shop Runner (a retail benefits program) and molded them into Kynetic, a billion-dollar e-commerce company.
Rubin is 47 now, and according to Forbes, his net worth is $3 billion.

Online college courses: Path to degrees, low debt

Today’s students have excellent options for their pathway to higher education. They include traditional and community colleges, online courses, or combinations of all three. In fact, even high-profile colleges and universities are offering online programs today.

According to, each online-course student usually engages in class material and activities on his or her schedule. This freedom allows students to complete work and family commitments with more flexibility. All online-course lectures, emails, explanations, and discussion boards, among others, are available around the clock.

Additionally, online programs can dramatically decrease or even eliminate the costs associated with college. With student loan debt now exceeding the entire nation’s credit card debt, any chance to cut the cost of college today is worth considering.

Also, contrary to current public opinion, online college programs can be every bit as rigorous as any form of higher education.

According to, the advantages of initiating one’s pursuits of higher education at a community college include the flexibility, increased quality of teaching, cost of courses, and the capacity to transfer degrees earned to time-honored institutions of higher learning.

Moreover, community colleges are dramatically changing the landscape of higher education by offering students more options in seeking their degree.

In the final analysis, it is up to each person to figure out how much time he or she will have to devote to earning a degree, what type of degree program is desired, and how much money can be spent. At the same time, it is possible to take some courses online and others in person. Some individual classes may include both elements of interaction.

Economy by the numbers: Signs point up

Wages are up, unemployment is low and retail sales are growing.
These are the headlines this year from the economy, which promises more good things to come.
What Americans are doing:

  • Selling and buying homes: 5.35 million sales of existing homes to April of 2019. More people are putting their homes on the market with total inventory up 1.9 percent in April.
  • Buying stuff: General merchandise sales have been strong and restaurant sales are rising. Total sales at department and clothing stores are expected to fall as online shopping takes over.
  • Getting new jobs: A shortage of workers and closings of retail stores have slowed hiring. Job growth is predicted to average 160,000 per month, down from 223,000 in 2018. But the labor market is tight with unemployment just 3.6 percent in May, the lowest since 1969. Pay growth is up with non-supervisor worker paychecks rising at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, according to Kiplinger.

Vested: It’s not what you wear; it’s what you own

It’s a term thrown around a lot, and it sounds important: vesting. As in, being fully vested — that sounds pretty good and it is.
According to the IRS, being vested in a retirement plan means ownership. All employee contributions to a retirement plan are 100% fully vested — the employee owns everything he or she puts in.
However, employers usually provide a match of a certain percentage of employee contributions.
Matching contributions
Employers match contributions made by employees in different percentages. An employer might say: If you put 6% of your paycheck into the 401(k), then we’ll match your contribution by 50%. So suppose your 6% equals $3,000. Then the employer will put in $1,500. That would be an unusually generous match. Typically, an employer may match 3% of the first 6% of the employee’s salary. That equals a 9% contribution — still pretty good, especially over the long term.
They key idea, though, is that the employer sets a certain match percentage. The employer may also have rules about when their contributions are fully owned (or vested) by the employee.
Vesting rules
The employer, along with the fund managers, decides how much of the match the employee owns and when.
Newer employees may start out at lower percentages, but they become fully vested in time.
For example, an employee may become 20% vested in the company match after two years, meaning the employee owns their personal contributions plus 20% of the company match. Many 401(k) plans work out vesting in tiers. The longer you stay with the company, the more of the company contribution you own. An employee might become fully vested in, for example, six years. Then the employee owns 100% of the matching contribution.
Sometimes 401(k)s are set up so that an employee becomes 100% vested at a specific time — say after 2 years. Then they own all the matching funds on one day.
Being fully vested
The good thing about being fully vested is that you own all the money you put in and all the money your boss matches. (Plus, you own all the money that grows over time.) That means you can take the money with you if leave the company or retire.