Sunday, December 14, 2008
Savings and Retirement Plans for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners
If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are the one who’s in control regarding your financial future. There is no one else to rely on when it comes to saving and planning for the future, so you must take on this matter yourself. The thing is many traditional savings and retirement plans are unavailable to you due to income limitations. Here are a few savings options for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
A solo 401(k) plan is a great alternative to the traditional 401(k), and was created for self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners with no full time employees. The only exception to this is if the small business owner’s spouse is an employee. Solo 401(k) plans have simplified administrative rules, unlike their traditional counterparts.
The advantage of a solo 401(k) is that it is simple to use and maintain. You may contribute up to $13,000 of tax-deferred income, in addition to up to 25% of profit from your business. As long as you contribute no more than $41,000 annually, you fall within the limits of the solo 401(k). The amount you contribute to a solo 401(k) is completely discretionary and can be decreased or suspended at any time. Additionally, loans against your plan, as well as hardship withdrawals may be allowed. Rollovers from previous 401(k) plans are allowed as well.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the solo 401(k). Naturally, there is a cost to establish and administer a solo 401(k), which may or may not be desirable for the individual investor. Solo 401(k) plans may not ultimately end up meeting your needs for you and your business. If your business grows, you may end up needing to hire on additional full-time employees. When this happens, you are no longer eligible for a solo 401(k), and must revert to a traditional 401(k), which is far less simple to administer.
An SEP IRA, or Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account, is a savings and retirement tool that can be used by both small business owners and self-employed people as well. SEPs are considered part of a profit sharing program, and the employer may contribute up to 25% of a qualifying employee’s income to the fund.
SEPs are affordable and simple to administer, and is an excellent benefit to provide to employees. If an individual is self employed, they are still able to put aside a little over 18% of their net profit, which is a powerful savings tool indeed. Contributions to the plan are tax deductible, and standard income tax applies to the money once it is withdrawn for retirement use after the investor reaches age 59½. Additionally, its high contribution limits make it very attractive ($46,000 in 2008).
One of the drawbacks of this type of retirement plan is that it is seen strictly as a profit-sharing plan, so employees must have another savings vehicle if they wish to put more money away on their own. There is no catch-up payment clause for those who started saving later in life, as there is with the solo 401(k).
Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs are fairly simple to administer, no-hassle IRA plans that offer a great benefit for employees in your small business. Recommended for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, it s a great savings tool to offer for employees, and benefits both parties in the process.
SIMPLE IRAs allow employees to contribute up to $10,500 of their annual income to the plan. Employers match this amount as part of the process. Employees are then vested and are eligible to receive this money upon reaching retirement age. Contributions are tax deductible.
For business owners, the drawback of this type of account is that the employees doesn’t have to earn his or her vesting, but is vested once the account is opened. That means matching someone dollar for dollar who may not be around to help you grow your company may not be a sound investment. SIMPLE IRAs are also very strictly administered and cannot be rolled over, nor can a traditional IRA or 401(k) be rolled into a SIMPLE IRA.
SOLO DB Plan
This plan is a slimmed-down version of a standard defined benefit plan. If you are looking to save a whole lot of money over a short period of time and have the resources to do so, this is the plan for you.
Like other retirement plans, contributions are tax-deferred and the money is available to you once you reach retirement age. These plans are very popular with people in business for themselves who are over 50 years of age, due to the ability to save vast amounts of money in a short period of time in order to meet future income requirements for retirement.
The drawback for this type of retirement account is that investors must be willing and able to contribute ongoing mandatory contributions of at least $45,000 for five consecutive years to keep this plan going. For many, this amount of money is simply not possible. For the well-compensated small business owner or entrepreneur, however, this account could be just perfect.
50 Best Social Networks for SeniorsBy Kelly Kilpatrick
One of the fastest growing demographics for social networks, seniors have discovered the joy of connecting with others online. Unlike the groups on some of the younger social sites, the sites for older users tend to be less superficial and have a more grounded community. If you are looking for a place to connect with other seniors, then take a look at this list that provides social networks with a focus on sharing life experience, looking for romance, or connecting with others who share a specific interest like travel or Scrabble.
Social Networks for Mature Users
If MySpace and Facebook seem too young for you, then no worries. These social networking sites are all designed for communities with more life experience to share.
- eons. A popular social network for Baby Boomers, eons offers plenty of ways to connect with others as well as brain games, blogs, videos, and photos.
- Rezoom. With lots of articles on music, activities, going green, money, and more, you will find plenty to keep your mind busy. Also, find a friend, read blogs, or visit one of the city-specific sites here.
- Multiply. While not just for older users, this site does have a large number of senior members. The features here include blogs, a social calendar, movie and restaurant reviews, and photo sharing.
- Seniorocity. Only for adults over 40, this network offers plenty of ways to connect with others including blogs, chat rooms, groups, and photo galleries.
- Maya’s Mom. Specifically for parents, this site is known to have lots of older members. Connect with other parents in groups, by sharing photos, and more.
- BOOMj. This social networking site offers the opportunity to connect with friends and colleagues, shopping, photo and video sharing, and much more.
- Boomertowne. Create a profile, then jump into the fun with discussion groups, movie reviews, recipes, and more. Boomertowne also features a singles dating service.
- EldersVoice. This site is a "social networking site for senior citizens who are young at heart." Post photos, video chat, play games, or post on your blog here.
- TeeBeeDee. For anyone over 40, this site emphasizes sharing experiences and knowledge. Topics range from travel to food to sex to spirituality.
- BoomerGirl. Targeting Baby Boomer women this site is part social network and part eZine. Sign up for one of the blogs and let your voice be heard.
- Eldr. Participate in the forums or start blogging to connect with others here. Don’t forget to take advantage of the great articles ranging from travel to the environment to exercise.
- Secondprime. For the 50+ set, this community includes the usual forums and such as well as volunteer activities, a social calendar, and more.
- Growingbolder. The concept here is to create an intergenerational community around news that is inspiring, amusing, and uplifting rather than the typical fare on at 5:00. While most content is specifically directed at those over 50, they do welcome members of any age.
- RedwoodAge. This site has a definite social-change aspect to it with topics such as the environment, poverty, and the state of health care right along side articles about health, exercise, and travel. Visit the Village to connect with others.
- eGenerations. Their tagline explains that they are "a worldwide community of experienced adults" and the home page shows there are members from 62 countries and ranging in age from 30 to 101.
- Boomer-Living.com. Join the Coffeehouse at this site to find their social network where you can meet others, play trivia, and more.
- LifeTwo. "Midlife improved" is how this site is described. Follow your online buddies with a free membership here or just read the blogs and articles available.
- My Boomer Place. Create a profile here and get started connecting with friends or making new ones, sharing photos, writing and sharing articles, playing games, and much more.
- Maple and Leek. For those 50+, this community is one of adventure and entrepreneurial spirit. Connect with like-minded seniors at this fun site.
- GrownUps. From New Zealand, this social network for those over 50 provides information on health, money, games, and more as well as an extensive listing of their various online groups and organizations you can join.
Give online dating a try with these dating sites specifically for more mature singles.
- SeniorFriendFinder. Exclusively for singles over 40, this site offers free member profiles and almost 500,000 members. You can use email, instant messaging, and video messaging to contact members with a paid subscription.
- Your Senior Dating Site. This dating site promises it’s about the people so you won’t get advertisements, but you will get personal service and ease of use. Signing up is free, but you will need a membership to contact a potential date.
- SeniorMatch.com. This site is only for singles over 50 and imposes a minimum age as well. This is one of the largest senior dating sites.
- Primesingles.net. This site for those 40 and over has a fast sign-up and is easy to navigate.
- 50YearsPlus.com. "A singles site for seniors with integrity" is how they describe themselves at this site. Enjoy a seven-day free trial to see if you like this one before buying a membership.
- Executive Senior Dating. This matchmaking service conducts a 30-90 minute phone call with you and a matchmaking counselor to start their matching process.
- Real Mature Singles. For those 40 and over, this matching service verifies that every applicant is legitimate before providing services.
- Senior Singles Only. This matching service meets and screens all applicants in person. The applicants must be at least 40 and looking for a long-term relationship.
- Dating For Seniors. For dating, friends, or a life partner, this online dating site offers opportunities for older singles. Your free basic membership must be upgraded to a paid subscription in order to have full access to all services.
- Senior Passions. This free dating and social networking site offers the opportunity for "the next big love of your life, companionship, or just to make new friends."
Most of these sites cover a wide range of ages, but you can usually specify the age range in which you are interested.
- Yahoo! Personals. Completely free, this online dating service offers a wide range of categories from which you can search. Due to not having a cost associated with it and the popularity of Yahoo!, you are sure to find lots of potential here.
- Match.com. One of the top online dating services, Match.com provides a huge member database. You can browse for free, but you will need a membership to contact any potential matches.
- Chemistry.com. A part of Match.com, and working like eHarmony, this site relies on matching techniques to connect people and is one of the up-and-coming dating sites. For those who have been rejected by eHarmony, Chemistry.com offers a great chance to try this method of online dating again.
- eHarmony. This dating service offers a unique approach to online dating. Instead of browsing for dates or waiting for someone to come to you, they rely on a complex personality matching formula and provide you with potential matches.
- Perfectmatch.com. Using a compatibility system, this dating site emails you when a good match for you becomes available. Perfectmatch.com has been receiving lots of rave reviews recently.
- SinglesNet. This free service offers most of the same services available in the for-pay dating services. Gaining in popularity, the database is over 5 million large.
- Lavalife. Choose to look for dates, relationships, or intimate encounters on this site. You can create three different profiles for each of the three different categories offered or select only one or two of them. This service is totally free and has a huge member base.
- Great Expectations. Combining online dating services and in-person matchmaking, this service meets every member in person and creates a match for potential dates. They also offer invitations to Great Expectations events where you can meet members face-to-face. This service is available in about 50 cities in the U.S.
- Matchmaker. Answer questions about major issues to create your matchability with this site. The service is free, but you will need to pay if you want to contact a member.
- Plentyoffish.com. This totally free site matches singles from around the world. Touting itself as a dating site for everyone, you can choose a specific type of dating environment such as older couples or Christian dating.
From finding golf romance to dog lovers to gardening fans, these social networks all offer a very specific interest for its members.
- Mango Tree. If you love to travel but don’t like to go alone, this site is specifically for finding travel partners. While it is available for any age group, you can specify an age range of interest.
- DateAGolfer.com. Golf players looking for romance need look no further. This dating site offers free matching with other golf fanatics, most of whom appear to be from the senior set.
- Animal Attraction. Pets and their parents can post photos, participate in forums, and more at this site specifically for pet lovers. The services are not only completely free, but Animal Attraction also donates $.01 to the charity you’ve chosen every day that you log in.
- Dogster. Dog lovers can exchange ideas, gain knowledge, and even date on this site. If you would like to connect to other doggie parents, this is a great place to look.
- Folia. Gardeners from all around the world can find each other on this social networking site. If gardening is your thing, you should check out this community.
- PatientsLikeMe. This site brings together people with similar health issues for support and knowledge. Learn about symptoms, treatments, and research while you find others going through the same experiences you are.
- Classmates.com. If you haven’t been active in your class reunions or are just interested in looking up old friends, this site is a great way to connect with classmates from both high school and college.
- reunion.com. Similar to Classmates.com, this site allows you to look up old school friends. Reunion.com has a reputation of a great place to find anyone with whom you’ve lost touch over the years whether they are from school, family, work, or wherever.
- Famiva. This social network for families allows you to work collaboratively on a family tree, share photos, family stories, make family maps and more–and it’s all free.
- Scrabulous. If you like playing Scrabble, then this community is for you. Sign up for free, then find others in the Scrabulous community to join you in one of several variations of online Scrabble.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Assess Your Skills Shortage
Do you want to assess the effect of the skills shortage in your company? To start off, here are some questions to ask your managers.
AchieveGlobal asked trainers and managers in a variety of industries why many of their workers do not have a knowledge of basic workplace skills and behaviors.
Among basic skills and behaviors that are lacking are the ability to manage interpersonal relationships and differences; communicate to co-workers, supervisors and customers; and maintain self-esteem and a work ethic. Overall, workers do not know how the workplace operates or what their employers' basic expectations are.
The company then developed the following questions to ask supervisors, managers and HR professionals in order to assess your employees’ skill levels and the impact of that deficiency on the workplace.
- What competencies and skills do you look for in hiring line and staff employees?
- What role do fundamental workplace skills play in your hiring profile?
- Do you have to make compromises in selecting job candidates or in expectations of job performance?
- Do these compromises affect the length of time for the employee to become productive?
- What impact does employee "ramp-up time" have on the performance of your organization or service?
- How many line or staff employees do you hire in a year?
- How is your retention of such employees? Are you hiring repeatedly for the same position?
- What are the main causes of turnover in your organization?
- What are the effects of turnover on productivity and on team morale?
- What are the effects of turnover on your customers?
- How much and what kind of training do new line and staff support employees go through?
- How are your line and staff support employees' listening skills? Ability to ask questions and clarify?
- How do your line and staff support employees accept and learn new tasks?
- How do your support employees handle problems with peers? With supervisors and managers?
- How are your organization's absenteeism rates?
- Can your employees articulate problems and work with others in a constructive manner to solve them?
- What role will your line and staff employees play in your organization's growth?
SOURCE: AchieveGlobal, Tampa, FL.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Learn More With Less: Corporate Education in the Current Economy| posted by Marcia Conner I've directed large education organizations with huge budgets and small departments without a dime. Training rooms I managed accounted for the largest portion of real estate on a spatial corporate campus and another time I ran the training function of a startup out of my attic office. The journey has been a productive one, sometimes flush with money, other times only rich in experience. Each has its merits and all were educational.
So when I began getting asked by education execs for tips on how to manage the corporate education function with less, I wasn't surprised. Working in extreme situations comes naturally to me and that reputation draws me into conversations with people who don't know where else to turn. With each call, I've reminded people approaches they've forgotten amid recent stresses and pointed to new approaches they may have missed.
I believe this is a great time to be learning while short on cash. Never before in modern history has it been so easy to run a training department (or be accountable for people's learning when you're in another department yet still focused on knowledge transfer) without large budgets, blocks of free time, or even an organization to help marshal your resources.
Deputize More Trainers
My first suggestion is to increase the number of teaching opportunities for people throughout your organization. Although the best way to learn is to teach, in recent years I've seen a trend to bulk up training organizations and reduce reliance on in-house subject matter experts as instructors, managers as mentors, and new employees as a source of fresh knowledge.
By relying mostly on the training department to teach, fewer people remember that educating is part of their job, there is less opportunity for employees at all levels to improve their facilitation skills, and the time-tested, "Gotta learn this now," which comes from the pressure of explaining it to someone else, dissipates into the regular old rhythm of work. Worse yet, this change of policy shuts down a vital source of innovation in our organizations: the practice of capturing as much new outsider insight from new recruits as we can before they've gone "native," leaving their old responsibilities and brain cells behind.
At Microsoft, at a time we were challenged to train throngs of people with very little funding, we met with all of the managers in our division to ask if they could each volunteer one person for a 3-month period to work part time -- sometimes just for a few hours a week, in other cases practically full time -- to get some trainer-training and help enlarge our small team's capacity. While we were very nervous about their receptiveness to our proposal, fourteen managers took the offer to their respective teams and found people not only willing but very enthusiastic to be part of the effort. As a result from this type of creativity, the employees grew their teaching skills, had an excuse to learn some new cool stuff, and their teams widened their bench-strength considerably.
The benefits of giving new hires, even those just out of school, an early job assignment to teach people in their new organization about what they learned before they arrived may be the best investment of time (not money) you make. Empowering new employees in every part of the organization to teach what they know gives them a chance to feel competent at a time when they may not be feeling all that sturdy and it gives your organization an almost unlimited low-cost source of diverse and fresh information. If lunch-time talks mean they don't get the time they want to bond with new co-workers, create a Friday afternoon panel where a seasoned employee with a Tonight Show-style personality interviews new employees about themselves and some of the lessons they learned in previous situations. Film the show and post it on your intranet. There are many creative ways to gather and share information at little or no cost; it just takes some imagination and motivation.
Thinking this is all too 20th Century? Consider adding a supercool bottom-up, grassroots component to your education efforts. Modeled after the Supercool School Facebook app, which allows participants to initiate (and join in on) learning programs for topics they want to learn about, you can do the same within your enterprise. When enough people have joined together with a request, open a teaching position and anyone willing and able to teach may. This says to people in your larger ecosystem, "Here are programs where your expertise is requested now. Who's interested?"
It's no shame for an education department to focus most of their resources on classes for the masses. The money you have should make the largest possible impact. That also may mean there's no other vehicle for taking advantage of the long tail. For example, if a small group of people are interested in learning how Twitter can be used on the job, but there isn’t a strategic need or numbers to justify a course, most training departments wouldn't step up. If the group has an easy way to find an instructor, though, why stop them? This self-organizing model offers a vehicle for people to enroll in and teach class on topics interesting to only a few people, and it gets more instructors, not fewer, excited about teaching what they know.
Erik Davis and several of his colleagues at Booz Allen Hamilton, are piloting a hybrid supercool approach by using their internal social media software to post Craig's List-style classified ads where people can request and respond to learning opportunities. Their social media space has become a hub for people offering and seeking goods: education, learning, and the teaching that leads to wider knowledge transfer and deeper responsibility throughout the organization. And it costs next to nothing.
While I encourage you to enlist the teaching skills of people throughout your organization, please realize this doesn't need to be only for courses. Consider job swaps or have novices shadow expert employees.
Every activity that helps people become mindful about their role as educators ups the conversation about learning in the workplace and leads to people learning more.
If you don't believe in the traditional separation of learners and teachers, either, or you have your own favorite low-cost solutions, write here or in fewer than 140 characters @marciamarcia.
Marcia Conner >> www.marciaconner.com