Tornado Quake Flood Hurricane Getting Wise Before They Strike

They don’t warn before they strike, but some common sense precautions help before, during, and after natural disasters.

Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Floods. Snow storms. Fires. Quakes. Tsunamis. Now how about climate change? Natural disasters affect people at many levels physical, financial, psychological, and many more. They devastate homes and hopes, wreck buildings, destroy crops, and kill people in their wake. According to the Associated Press, the latest toll in tornado mayhem in the South is at least 342 across seven states, including 250 in Alabama alone. “The 21st Century has already been marked by escalating economic losses and human devastation caused by natural disasters,” the UN Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery noted.

Disaster-proofing Your Finances As climate change may cause spooky weather patterns and increasing possibility of natural disasters, people would do well to financially prepare for natural disasters. Disaster preparedness consists of the efforts to plan, mitigate, and manage the damage and sift through the wreckage.

Cash During natural disasters, ATMs are down and access to cash gets very difficult, Larry Palmer, financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Private Health Management, tells while sharing financial advice in the event of a natural disaster. “Keep cash in different locations, such as your home and place of business in case one structure doesn’t survive a natural disaster,” he says and adds, “everyone should have a one month supply of cash in a safe or alternate place.”

Assets Since your local financial institution may not be running in the event of a natural disaster, Palmer cautions to “make sure your assets are spread out among a few financial institutions and one should be a national institution.”

It is also better if you lean on one “trustworthy person to be the executor of your estate.”

Financial Account Information It is better to share your financial account information with a trusted friend or relative. Nobody knows what is in store for anybody in the event of a natural disaster. So, Palmer continues, the trusted person, “should have a hardcopy of your financial account information and assets (including passwords) so he/she can access your account in case you need it.”

Insurance In most cases, businesses, homes, and cars are underinsured. You have to make sure “you have comprehensive insurance for your assets so that any liability you have based on a natural disaster can be transferred to the insurance company.” Owning an insurance policy is not the same thing as having a disaster recovery plan. People assume that insurance companies will take care of everything. But it doesn’t work like that.

To avoid the prospect of arguing with insurance adjuster in the wreckage of your home about what your insurance does and doesn’t cover, points to Steve Slepcevic, founder of Paramount Disaster Recovery, Inc., as saying, “having help in documenting the damage, complete with the proper terminology, significantly increases insurance company settlements and will often speed up its processing.”

More on Flood Insurance Flooding is the number one natural disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. So, the more information you have about insurance coverage, the better. Bill Loughborough, founder and CEO of Credit Answers, a Texas-based debt settlement company, says, “FEMA indicates that only 25 percent of the 10 million homes that lie within high flood risk zones carry flood insurance.

“In order to obtain flood insurance, you must live in one of the 20,000 communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP), a component of FEMA that handles flood insurance, floodplain management and flood hazard mapping.”

The Financial Stages of Life

Presented by: Hugh J. McGuire. President of McGuire Investment Group, a South Jersey Financial Advisor FirmAbraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six days to chop down a tree, I’d spend five of them sharpening my ax.” What Lincoln meant by that remark is that sometimes, planning for an event can take longer than the event itself. This is specially true when it comes to planning for a secure financial future. Many people put off financial planning, especially during uncertain economic times, because they either don’t know where to begin, or they don’t think they have enough funding to make it worthwhile. The truth is: there is never an ideal time or place to begin and there is no specific level of income or assets one needs to have to make planning for the future “worthwhile.” You can (and should) begin planning for the future regardless of which life stage you are in and regardless of how much money you have. To begin the planning process, you first need to identify your immediate and future financial goals. If you’re like most people, your goals will include protecting your family in the event you die prematurely or become disabled; managing your expenses while paying down debt; buying your first home or helping your children pay for college; saving for retirement; and distributing your assets to your heirs – privately, equitably, and tax-efficiently – proceding your death. Fortunately, there are measures you can take during each of your life stages that will help you build, and then maintain, your personal financial security. Let’s take a look at them:The Foundation Years: If you’re in your foundation years, you are perhaps facing the most difficult times you will ever have financially. You may be recently married or just out of school; you may be taking on debt in order to acquire – and maintain – your family’s lifestyle; and you are probably starting a new job or career. While you may be earning adequate money to live on, it could easily be taking all you have just to meet your monthly expenses (e.g. student loans, rent or mortgage payments, car loans, utilities and regular household costs). Steps you can begin taking now to plan for the future include managing your cash flow without going further into debt; establishing an emergency fund of 3 to six months income; and protecting your loved ones. To help achieve these goals, you should consider buying a combination of term and permanent life insurance. Term insurance is an inexpensive way to obtain the amount of protection your family needs, while permanent allows you to begin building cash values that accumulate income tax-deferred. If your finances permit, this is also a good time to invest in disability insurance, as you will be in a better position to lock in a lower rate based on your age and health. The Accumulation Years: Once you’ve covered the basics – protecting your family and income, establishing yourself in a job or career and perhaps buying your first home – it won’t be long before you’ll want to start setting aside a percentage of your income in tax favored accumulation vehicles such as IRAs and employer-sponsored 401(k) plans – especially if your company offers employer “match” dollars. Contributions to these plans can be made on a tax-deductible basis and plan assets grow income tax-deferred. During these years, money you were formerly contributing in rent may now be going towards your mortgage, the interest on which may be income tax-deductible to you. At the same time, you may also be building equity in your house. If you have children, you may want to think about setting money aside in a college savings program, and you may wish to begin expanding your investment horizon to include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. While investments such as these carry a considerable volume of risk, they also come with the potential for better reward. Your accumulation years are also a good time to review your life insurance protection to ensure it is still sufficient to meet your family’s growing needs. You may also want to consider adding special riders, which might be available at extra cost, to your policy that extend protection to family members. The Preservation Years: Once you’ve reached the preservation years, you will probably have accomplished many of your early financial goals. What’s more, you may finally have the financial freedom to attain a few of the special things you may always have wanted to do such as purchase a vacation home, help your children or grandchildren get established financially, or perhaps even retire early. But your planning isn’t over yet. There are still steps you will want to take to help ensure that your future financial security won’t be compromised by a long-term illness or unnecessary taxes and penalties. Looking into your long term care and retirement distribution options, including how, when, and how much you should begin drawing from your savings, could save you a significant amount of money and make the difference between a comfortable or merely “safe” retirement. The Golden Years: When you do finally retire, you will enter what many people refer to as their “golden years”. During your golden years you can finally begin enjoying the fruits of all your hard work and planning. In this stage your debts are likely paid off; your finances are probably in order; and you likely have some discretionary funds that permit you to travel or enjoy a few favorite activities. If you’ve planned carefully, your golden years can be a time for doing what you want, when you want. During this stage, you may not only want to plan how you will pass your assets on to your heirs, but also how you might benefit a favorite charity. To achieve these goals, you will want to consult with a financial advisor about trusts, powers of attorney, and charitable giving strategies. If your income exceeds your expenses, you may also want to consider using distributions from your retirement plans to pay premiums on a life insurance policy. By doing so, you can amplify the value of what you leave to your heirs plus help make sure there are sufficient funds available to pay taxes, final expenses, and other estate settlement costs. Building personal financial security is not something you accomplish just once, nor is it something you begin once you’ve accumulated a specific amount of assets. It is something you start doing as soon as you can and keep doing throughout the various stages of your life. To that end, if you’re among the millions of working men and women who dream of one day being financially secure, I encourage you to take a few minutes – right now, right where you are – to consider your financial goals and the various life stages through which you’ll pass. Knowing which stage you are in- and the challenges and opportunities you will face during those stages – can help you make the right decisions.

Small Business Bookkeeping Outsource Bookkeeping or Hire a Local Bookkeeper

Changes in the last few years make doing your own small business bookkeeping generally a waste of time and money. A variety of services allow you to keep top-notch bookkeeping either online or remotely at a fraction of the cost of a local bookkeeper. Although a local bookkeeper allows face-to-face time, new tools and a cost savings of 30-60% generally mean going with online bookkeeping services is often the best choice. It used to be that some of the online bookkeeping software, like QuickBooks, made it worthwhile if times were tough. That might still be true if your small business has so few transactions that you just do the work yourself. Otherwise choosing a reputable online bookkeeping service for your online accounting is the best choice. Many of them will even give you back your processed books in Quickbooks or other software if you so desire. For my money, I would go with for price, features, and quality of service. They are among the most inexpensive of the pack and one that is at once both reliable and loaded with features. They provide you coded, postage-paid envelopes. You simply put copies of all your paperwork in the envelope and they literally do all the rest: secure scanning, machine read documentation, human verification, and processing through QuickBooks. ( I believe they may also work with additional software programs as well). Their pricing starts at about $150 per month for smaller businesses. Their customer service is also quite responsive. The number is 888-994-8626. There are also other firms that do outsourced accounting bookkeeping online but not at that pricing and I have heard mixed reviews on some of them. It is also nice to be able to deal with a US firm (Boston in the case of ) as I’ve heard some real horror stories of folks trying to get their own bookkeeping outsourced to India. I know the trend is to use outsourced bookkeeping overseas (and many of the big accounting firms now push a lot of their backend work there anyway) but I like being able to deal with a person in the US. If you really need to see your bookkeeper (or certified public accountant) face-to-face, you may also try visiting . They offer a free referral service for US and Canadian small business seeking help with their accounting bookkeeping. You could also try your local CPA association but CPAs tend to be a lot more expensive than online bookkeeping services.

Pros And Cons of Starting a Limited Company

If you are thinking of starting a business then you will have considered forming a limited company. There are a number of benefits, but my experience is that the majority of business owners are not aware of the issues that need to be considered. Here are the main benefits:

1. Using a company makes it easier to bring other investors into the business by selling them shares. There can be various classes of shares conferring different benefits such as voting rights or rights to dividends, depending on how you want to structure the business.

2. It also provides you with a possible clearer exit from the business by being able to sell your shares in the company, and that is a tax-efficient means of exit too.

3. A company will also provide you with the benefits of limited liability, protecting your personal assets from any possible business failure.

4. There are financial benefits to you too as taking a basic salary up to the National Insurance threshold and then any remaining drawings as dividends. As long as there is enough profit in the company the this can be a very effective strategy with tax and NI savings of several thousand pounds possible if your profits are high enough,

5. You can organise your remuneration to suit your tax planning more easily too by leaving money in the company until you need it and only withdrawing funds when you are able to do so at a lower tax rate.

6. You may also be able to involve your spouse or other family members as shareholders and use their lower tax rate for income.

So the case for incorporation is obvious. But there are pitfalls for the unwary or unprepared. Running a limited company brings with it legal responsibilities and you need to be sure that you understand these and are happy to take them on. If you treat the company finances as your personal bank account you are almost certainly going to find yourself in difficulties which may turn out to be expensive. And if you miss out on deadlines set by Companies House or HMRC, there will be potentially serious consequences. So you need to carefully weigh up the pros and cons carefully before starting.

You also need to have a reasonable level of profit in order to realise the tax gains and you should be aware that tax rules change regularly. So it is always wise to form a company because there is a clear business case for doing so, rather than for what may prove to be a short-term tax gain. Make sure you do your research and obtain good professional advice to understand the implications for your situation.

If you have good advice and set up proper systems, you ought to be able to fulfil your legal obligations routinely and concentrate on making money from your business. Many people run successful companies with valued advisors working alongside them and without any difficulties. Others struggle, often because they do not listen to advice nor are careful in their record keeping. So you must do your research, choose your advisor carefully and make sure you act in a businesslike manner. If you do these things there is no reason why you should not succeed. Good luck!