Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine: 5 financial tips for the holidays


TORONTO – Younger Canadian shoppers say they plan to load up on gifts but not debt this holiday season. According to the annual RBC holiday spending intentions poll, while 94 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 said they are expecting to spend an average of $509.80 on gifts this year—up from $457.40 last year—over half say they plan to use cash or debit cards for their purchases while 18 per cent intend to use credit cards and pay off their balances.

“It’s great to see these younger shoppers focused on managing their holiday expenses so they don’t have seasonal debts when the New Year begins – this is a wonderful gift to give to yourself,” said Maria Contreras, senior manager of savings accounts at RBC.

Want to have a debt-free new year? Here are five financial tips for the holidays.

Set a budget and stick to it

Have a financial plan in mind (or on paper) before you start checking off your holiday gift list. This will help ensure you’re only spending what you know you can afford.

Try to leave your credit or credit cards at home. By sticking to cash or debit cards, you can keep better track of where your money went.  If you use a reward credit card in order to earn “points,” just make sure you budget accordingly and pay off your debt in full and on time each month.

Curb your ‘got to have it’ shopping impulse

Count to 30 before impulse buying in a store; delay an online shopping decision by a few hours.

Keep a separate savings account for holiday/gift expenses

According to the survey, 67 per cent of Canadian shoppers don’t have a budget that includes saving for holidays/gift expenses. By setting up an account dedicated to saving for special expenses, your savings won’t get mixed in with your day-to-day cash.

Put aside a regular amount into your holiday expenses savings account

By saving $10 a week, for example, you’ll have over $500 by year-end. Invest that money in a high interest savings account and you can save even more for your next holiday season.

Look for coupons and discounts

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are likely to have some great sale discounts, coupons can also save you some money when it comes to shopping. If you’re shopping online, before you finalize your purchase, search the web for existing coupon or promo codes that can be used toward your item. You will be surprised how many external sites have promo codes that aren’t featured on the site you are shopping on.

The survey found that Quebec shoppers intend to spend the least on gifts this holiday season ($360.30) while those in Atlantic Canada and Alberta intend to spend the most ($700.90 and $699.70 respectively).

You want more economical related topic? Just visit Corliss Online Financial Mag. Our site is a stock-market education website designed to teach beginners how to trade shares. Corliss Group Online Financial Mag does this in a manner easy to understand and uses only relevant and essential information required to trade shares on the stock market. For more update, follow us on Twitter.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Corliss Online Financial Mag: 5 investment tips for beginners

We're all taught that it's good to save some for a rainy day but simply setting a side a portion of our income is not going to cut it nowadays, what with the inflation always rising.

According to a senior investment expert of Corliss Online Financial Mag, most people feel intimidated at first of the idea of investing but it's not really as daunting as they imagined. Though that's naturally biased coming from a pro, we're fortunate enough that he shared a few choiced investment tips meant for first-time investors:

It's not just for the rich. You don't need to have thousands of cash first before you can start dabbling in the stock market. All you need is the courage to endure the rise and fall of your savings. Keep in mind that investing is not something that quickly pays off. It requires time and patience so you have to be really committed in the idea that the money you set aside must be left to grow.

Find an adviser. Seeking the advice of someone who's well-versed in his area of expertise is always a smart move. An investment advisor or a stock broker navigates the ins and outs of investment on a regular basis so partnering with one can help you greatly.

Getting this choice right will make a big difference on what kinds of investments you can access, how much commission fees you need to pay and a ballpark figure of the eventual payout you'll get. Be wary of brokers who are not willing to go down to your level and teach you the basics as they might take advantage of your ignorance.

Stick with the basics first. Before you engage in volatile stocks that tend to move drastically, it'd be better to start with the staple ones to get a feel of things. It's not wise to enter the stock market with a get-rich-quick mindset so test your patience with stocks that you can hold on a long-term basis and with minimal risk.

Consumer stocks like those in the medical, apparel or food industry are considered relatively safe because no matter the circumstance, people will always need those commodities. Just don't expect very high returns soon.

Place your eggs in multiple baskets. Diversification is a common tactic in investing as mentioned by Corliss Online Financial Mag, mainly as a means of insurance against unexpected events. So in case that one of your investments drastically fell, you won't lose everything.

Start investing now. The world of investing might be a little daunting for a first-timer but you have to start somewhere, right?  Armed with a basic knowledge of the whole thing and a reliable broker, you might realize it is worth your time after all and prevent the common pitfalls beginners often make.

The soonest time is now so never mind that you're still young -- in fact, you're in the best position to invest. Just set aside a fixed amount that you can realistically do without and it can give you returns in the years to come. The earlier you start the more money you can end up with.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine: The Golden Rule of Startup Capital




Golden rule of business: Increase shareholder value.
                                                          
Golden rule of investing: Buy low, sell high.

Most entrepreneurs know these golden rules. To a great extent, they are (or should be) obvious and self evident. They are "rules" because they set the foundation for business mission statements, goals and decisions.

There is another important golden rule that many entrepreneurs overlook, specifically startup entrepreneurs. It was recently driven home to me in an email from Mike Schroll, the founder of Startup.SC, a South Carolina business incubator with which I am currently working to develop my own startup idea. Working late one evening last week, my computer inbox "pinged" with his single-sentence message:

"I challenge you to achieve what you are doing with less capital."

Granted, my first reaction was that this was obvious. Of course, all businesses should try to do more with less. But as I started to consider my proposal in its current iteration, I did notice that I had built a "perfect-world" scenario for my capital-raise ask, which was significantly high. I have an ambitious goal, or BHAG, but I was treading dangerously close to a trap that many entrepreneurs fall into.


The problem with this is that the "perfect" amount of money is a fallacy. Indeed, if you have a unique, revolutionary and proprietary idea, combined with the right amount of money it stands a significantly better chance of becoming a success. But most of us do not have this type of idea -- we just have an idea -- and investors have many investment choices and typically want to spread their risk around to many startups.

Ultimately, what investors want to see and what you need to consider is the amount of money needed to achieve two goals:

1. Getting your idea to market.

2. Growing your customer base as quickly as possible.

Because capital is scarce, startup capital that goes to anything else will be considered wasteful. For instance:

Personnel

About the only thing that is critical for success is personnel needed to get the startup launched. Engineers and programmers are expensive, and they are well worth the money in terms of developing the right minimum viable product or prototype. What should not be considered is a founders’ lucrative salary.

Unless you are a well known and sought-after founder (most of you are not), investors do not want valuable startup capital going to line your pocket. Be prepared to put in time and sweat to show your commitment, for which you will be rewarded with an investment.

Marketing and advertising

Customer acquisition cost is a key consideration for investors. If your strategy is just to spend money on advertising for the sake of spending money, then revisit your strategy. Approximating your return on marketing budget is critical, and though there is no way to be exact, demonstrating your critical thinking and understanding of its importance will make you appear much more credible.

Overhead

Precious startup capital should not be wasted on things such as offices, furniture, foosball tables and coffee bars, unless these things are critical for retaining key talent. Unless you are a sought-after founder with existing partnership with established venture capitalists, however, be prepared to bootstrap your way through development and launch.

Everything else

Everything else needed to get started, from legal to accounting to utilities to janitorial, needs to be kept at an absolute minimum. No founder is beyond sitting in a hot office or taking Clorox to the toilet bowl. If your dollars are not going to build your product and gain customers, then they are being wasted.

While this concept may be obvious, I personally have spoken to countless entrepreneurs who visualize the launch of their idea with a complete misunderstanding. Many mistakenly believe that they need a Google-esque office, unlimited vacation days and full benefits, when in reality a cinder block desk, Internet access and the unwavering commitment of an ambitious entrepreneur is really all you need.


For more Financial Reviews from Corliss Group Online Magazine, visit our facebook page and follow us on twitter @CorlissGroupMag

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine - Q&A: Foreign correspondence in China and Asia


Tracy Dahlby, former Tokyo bureau chief, National Geographic contributor and author of the new memoir Into the Field: A Foreign Correspondent’s Notebook, looks back on a life of reporting on Asia

You got your start as a reporter for a financial newswire in Japan during the 70s, back when it was still big on heavy industry, but had begun shifting toward a consumer economy. China stories often echo that narrative these days, but was Tokyo ever so polluted?

I’d say “not as” but it could be pretty grim. I remember being profoundly disappointed when, in 1976, I climbed Mount Fuji for the first time only to stumble upon slopes strewn with trash. I wondered how the Japanese, who had a reputation, in poetry and prose, as world-champion lovers of nature could let their iconic mountain go to hell like that. So Fuji was my reigning metaphor. And it’s true that Tokyo often choked under a blanket of industrial smog. I don’t think it ever reached what China is coping with today. But it pays to remember that Japan got its pollution problems under control and, with the right policies, China has a shot at doing so too. How China does that while maintaining economic growth and meeting rising popular expectations is, of course, the compelling mystery.

Much is still made of the apparent economic similarities between China now and Japan during the boom years. You write in your book about covering both during your career -- what comparisons hold up, and which strike you as misguided?

During my brief time at the financial news wire in Tokyo, I took the stock market closings in my shaky Japanese and wasn’t always sure I’d got the decimal point in the right place. Frankly, I’m still a little amazed that the global economy survived. In writing about those times today, however, I very much feel China looking over my shoulder because there are the obvious similarities between Japan then and China now—the active, pointed pioneering of overseas markets and the gobbling up of vast sources of raw materials, the frenetic building of roads, dams, bridges and airports and, above all, the psychological transformation that comes to a country with rapidly rising consumer expectations. The big difference, of course, is a matter of scale and scope. What China has undertaken dwarfs other models and that’s what makes it such a wonderful, wrenching, gripping story to behold.

When and why did you first come to China as a journalist?

I made my first trip to China in January of 1978, about 14 months after the death of Mao Zedong. Beijing was a city of bicycles, Mao suits and, for foreigners, a Friendship Store that was not exactly consumer-friendly. It wasn’t easy for an American to get a visa back then. But a friend of a friend in Hong Kong, a wonderful local businesswoman, insisted that I apply and that I turn over my passport to her. It turns out she had been at school with a man who worked the other side of the fence for China travel and presided over the tourist visa stamp. So I found myself headed over the border by train to Guangzhou and then Beijing with a group of Japanese, American and Australian tourists. I somehow managed to report a story for The New York Times travel section on that jaunt at a time when China had become an alluring ticket for American travelers. So I guess you could say I started my China watching as half tourist, half hustling hack, and that’s pretty much the way I proceeded in my career, as a friend recently put it, letting myself “wander and wonder.”

There were earlier motivations, too. I was a typically restless undergrad in Seattle, Washington, living at home and eager to trade a ho-hum life for the excitement and adventure of the wider world. I’d heard reports of the Cultural Revolution on a radio in my bedroom that was ridiculously large—the size of a shoebox. Today, we can dial up tons of information about China on our smart phones or e-tablets. In those days, China was a black box, information was scarce, and what there was required strenuous decoding. That of course meant that China was a tremendous mystery that fired your imagination. You really wanted to get out to Asia and take a crack at trying to figure it out.

It's rare to go a week lately without a dust-up between China and any of the countries that ring the South China Sea. Did the region always seem destined for conflict, or did most seem to buy into China's "peaceful rise" sales pitch?

It’s remarkable to me how little has changed in the fundamental terms of that dispute over the last two decades, despite today’s frenetic foreign press coverage of China’s new harder line. I open “Into the Field” by recounting a nearly three-month reporting swing I took through the South China Sea immediately after Handover in Hong Kong in 1997. With the help of friends in Manila, I managed to talk my way out to the Spratlys with a transport plane full of rifle-toting Filipino military men. It was starkly beautiful out there but blessedly little was going on, at least on the surface. Then as now, the billion- or maybe trillion-dollar question was the extent of resources that might rest on the sea floor. Such visions, part analysis, part ambitious national dreaming, will, I’d wager, continue to ratchet up tensions as China continues to rise, peacefully or not.

China is the clear center of attention for the financial press in Asia, but reporting long-term can create something like tunnel vision. Where in the region, if anywhere, do you see untapped economic potential on the level of a China or Japan?

That’s a good, tough question and journalists have a lousy track record when it comes to accurate prognostication, at least this one. I’d venture to say, however, that once investment and infrastructure gain even more traction in a place like India, China’s neighborhood becomes an even more competitive place. Add to that improvements in intra-regional trade and marketing ties between and among the countries of Southeast Asia and, barring the unfortunate and unforeseen, you have a recipe for sustained growth that will include China, perhaps be dominated by China, but will by no means rely on China alone.

In the mid-80's you were brought in from Tokyo to eventually serve as managing editor for Newsweek International. How did the view of Asia from NYC differ from your own when you returned?

It reminds you just how much times have changed. Back then America was focused on what was generally perceived as a Japanese economic juggernaut and the challenges posed by Japan’s ballooning trade advantages vis-à-vis the United States. Japan’s economic advance had energized a group of formidable “Japan-bashers” in business, government and the media that made the Japanese seem ten feet tall. The economic challenge was real enough but there was something else at work, too. By the end of the decade, the Soviet Union was into its final fizzle, and imploding, and America needed a new focus for its ambitions and anxieties, and Japan was “it.”

As time went on, of course, Japan proved a disappointing bogeyman. Its economy had bottomed out by the early 90s and lapsed into a marathon, years-long recession. China began to emerge as a new focus of concern. The 9/11 attacks and the aftermath shifted America’s central preoccupation to the war on terror, which may have deflected an even more intense focus on China as America’s new rival for superpower status. Today, of course,  bilateral relations with China have today become an intensely observed gauge of how and to what extent America will be able to maintain its pride of place in world leadership.

What we tried to do at Newsweek, back in the day, was to help provide readers with the context they could use to develop a clearer understanding of complications of U.S.-Japan relations—the historical, political and, I dare say, some of the psychological factors that not infrequently contributed to one of the two sides not really hearing what the other side was trying to say. Fast-forward 30 years, and the U.S. media faces a similar challenge in preparing Americans for China’s rise and how it will affect the way we live our lives and do business in this country.     

Freelance, especially in China, is the name of the game for many aspiring foreign correspondents these days. How did you make the jump from part-time to full-time reporting, and to what extent is the path you took still open to would-be journalists here?

My advice on that score never varies. As I say in my book, “Pick a part of the world you can fall in love with and plant yourself there for at least two years. Try your hand at freelancing. Teach English, tend bar, or give body modification classes—whatever it takes to ward off starvation. Meanwhile suck the place into your bones. Absorb its language and politics, its loves, hates, and idiosyncrasies, the alarming as well as the charming…. The place doesn’t have to love you back, at least not right away. But if doing journalism is your goal, make sure it’s somewhere the rest of the world wants to know about too.”

I think China admirably fills that bill. It’s both a place of endless fascination, big and small, and somewhere people who aren’t in China want and need to know about. In my case, in Japan, I used my freelance assignments to try to hone basic skills (and I had precisely none to start with), while I worked at the art of becoming pleasantly annoying until sources would agree to talk to me and somebody finally gave me a regular job.

You want more economical related topic? Just visit Corliss Online Financial Mag. Our site is a stock-market education website designed to teach beginners how to trade shares. Follow us on Twitter for more update.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Financial Review Corliss Group Online Magazine: Japan's Amazing 25-Year Post-Bubble Drama

It's been quite a while since my last look at secular Japanese market and bond data. We're now just a few months from the 25th anniversary of the Nikkei 225's bubble top in 1989. The latest cyclical rally in the index hit an interim high at the end of December 2013, up 99.6% from its interim low in November of 2011, and a more recent interim high in late September was up 100.5% from that 2011 low. The steroid effect of massive monetary intervention has evolved into an ongoing drama of volatility.

What about Japanese government bonds? The closing yield of the 10-Year bond on the day the Nikkei hit its 2011 interim low was 1.53%. It was cut in half to 0.75% a year later when the Nikkei hit its November 2012 low shortly before the central-bank-driven rally. The yield fell to its 2013 low of 0.44% on April 4, the day that the Bank of Japan disclosed its radical redo of monetary policy. It rebounded to 0.94% on May 29, but it has since been nearly halved to 0.50%. Compare that with the US 10-Year note, which closed Friday at 2.31%.

The Nikkei in Historical Perspective

Here's a quick review of the Nikkei 225, the 10-year bond and inflation over the past three decades.


The table below documents the advances and declines and the elapsed time for the major cycles in the Nikkei.



The Nominal versus Real Nikkei 225

For most major indexes, we expect to see a significant difference between the nominal and real price over a multi-decade timeframe. But Japan's chronic bouts of deflation have kept the two metrics rather tight. Note that I've used a log vertical axis for the index price to better illustrate the relative price changes over time.



Friday, 17 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group online magazine: Put Yourself in Potential Investors' Shoes with These 4 Tips

When it comes to securing investment, the overwhelming challenge for most entrepreneurs comes from trying to determine how to make a convincing pitch. Fortunately, it does not have to be that difficult.

As an entrepreneur and MBA who was schooled in traditional investment raising, I have always been told that to find investment capital for your business, you needed a comprehensive business plan, detailing (among other things) S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), operations and marketing plans, and financial models showing projections, cash flow, return on investment, risk analysis, etc.

These days, I am working on a new startup idea with Startup.SC, a South Carolina startup business incubator that focuses on scalable technology companies. What I have learned over the past few weeks is that although there is no exact formula for successfully developing a pitch, start by asking yourself this simple question:

If you were an investor, what would you want to see in a pitch?

Quite simply, put yourself in the shoes of the investors you are pitching and focus on these things:

1. Customer acquisition, not revenue.

More than revenue projections, investors want to know how you are going to capture and retain customers. In a roundabout way, it is essentially the same thing (both deal with revenue), but while revenue projections can be formulaic and are for the most part completely pulled from the air, what speaks to investors is a clear, effective and executable plan for capturing customers and keeping them.

2. The jockey, not the horse.
Investors bet on jockeys, not horses. What investors want to see is that you are committed and able to fulfill the task of implementing your plan through challenges as well as successes, and that you are the type of person who is going to see it through to the end. Ultimately, a great idea is worthless without great execution. Prove that you are the person to carry out the vision.

3. Flexibility, not recipes.
You may have an idea of how you want to structure your company and your investments, but understand that every investor has different expectations, as do their partners and stakeholders.


4. Remember: Nobody wants to see you fail.
When negotiating with investors, entrepreneurs often get stuck in the wicked mind game of trying to determine who is making out the best. In reality, success depends mutually on two things: your passion and capabilities and your investors' money.


In the end, everyone loses if you fail, so it is in nobody’s best interest to create a situation that erodes any chance of success.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Financial Tips Corliss Group Online Magazine on 4 Essential Money Mistakes Entrepreneurs Overlook

As I get rolling on a new startup with my partners at Startup.SC, a startup incubator in South Carolina, I am reminded of a few painful mistakes many entrepreneurs, myself included, make when starting a business.

Now, if you are starting a business, you probably have not put too much thought into how you are going to exit. There are, after all, countless considerations to make as you get started, from applying for business licenses, developing working prototypes to setting up your website. If you ever plan to sell your business or bring on investors to grow, how you run your business from the start is just as important.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to get started properly. Simply consider these four tips, often overlooked by most startup entrepreneurs.

1. Prepare your general ledger.

Setting up your accounting books may seem bland and tedious, especially for entrepreneurs without experience. Many rely on off-the-shelf accounting software, which provides general guidelines and templates to get you started. These are fine and completely acceptable for most startups, but to fully understand the financials of your company and, in the future, provide the evidence of the value you have built, you should give your set up careful consideration. Although a little pricey, it would benefit you to hire a professional when getting started.

2. Keep business business.

It is completely acceptable for entrepreneurs to pay for a variety of expenses with company funds, so long as those expenses meet the generally acceptable accounting standards (GAAP) for business expenses. Too many entrepreneurs, however, use company funds for personal use, trying to justify it with very liberal interpretations of GAAP or simply improperly reporting.

Not only could this get you in hot water with the IRS and open you up to a great deal of liability, it will be difficult in the future to separate these expenses when valuing your company. From the onset, it is best to just keep all personal expenses out of the business.

3. Report all revenues.

It is not difficult, and definitely enticing, to skim money from the business at the start, especially if you do most of your business in cash. Again, not only could this ultimately get you in trouble with the IRS, but it undervalues your business in the long run. It is going to be difficult to prove value and growth if you are not reporting real numbers from your business.

4. Keep careful records and receipts.

OK, excluding personal expenses and reporting all of your revenue just means giving more of your hard-earned money to Uncle Sam in terms of taxes. Not necessarily true. If you understand the extent of what you can expense and, more importantly, you keep copious records of your activity (both for audits and due diligence of potential buyers and investors), you can ultimately work down your taxable income without hurting the value of your company.

Grab yourself a good book or, better yet, find yourself a trusted professional advisor to learn how to best run your business this way.

I was part of a business team that looked at investing in businesses a number of years ago. It was not uncommon to meet an entrepreneur of a small business whose only proof of success and value was a shoebox full of cash. A few would emphasize that the company was paying for personal utilities, auto expenses and even groceries and that we should consider these expenses as part of the value.

The problem was that they often could not prove these claims satisfactorily because they had not accounted for them properly. In the end, it hurt the valuation of their company and gave us tremendous leverage during the negotiations.

Most entrepreneurs are not thinking about an exit when they are in the startup stages of a business. If you ever have a goal to divest or grow through investment, how you run your business before you start is just as important as after.

For more Financial Tips from Corliss Group Online Magazine, visit our facebook page and follow us on twitter @CorlissGroupMag.