On Becoming a Trusted Financial Advisor

“You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar, “Secrets of Closing the Sale”, 1984

What type of trusted financial advisor should you be? There is a lot of discussion in our industry around this topic. Russ Allan Prince an expert on the private wealth industry, president of the market research and consulting firm, Prince & Associates, has conducted a considerable amount of research on this topic. Among other things he found that most people want their broker to be a “wealth advisor”.

One of his studies found that investors will give more of their assets and will refer four times more people to the advisor who takes a more holistic approach to his/her practice versus the “product peddler” who takes a more narrow view of a client’s financial picture. The advisor who asks about the client’s hopes and dreams for the future and develops a strong working relationship with that client will reap the rewards on a number of fronts. The Prince survey showed that once you make this holistic connection with your member/clients and prospective member/clients you will discover member assets that you did not know existed. As a result, your member becomes more successful in their financial life, you reap the financial and psychic rewards and the credit union retains a happy member who brings in additional assets, takes advantage of other credit union products and services and refers friends and acquaintances to you and the credit union. Sound far fetched? Read the quote above again.

Let’s look more closely at the Prince survey. 4,106 brokers participated in the survey. The brokers fell into three distinct styles of managing their practice:

Wealth Manager – comprehensive holistic approach to managing their clients’ financial lives including the assets as well as the liabilities of their clients; a planning orientation to solving financial problems.

Product Specialist – in this model the broker focuses on a product niche i.e. managed accounts, fixed income, etc.

Investment Generalist – brokers provide a wide range of products to solve client financial problems. They do not use a comprehensive financial planning approach.

65.5% of the brokers surveyed fell into the investment generalist category. The next largest segment is the product specialist, 22%. The smallest group was the wealth manager (12.3%). The survey found that the brokers who took a more holistic approach to their business enjoyed the greatest increase in year over year revenue for their financial planning practice. Why? The “wealth manager” takes a comprehensive planning approach to their financial proactive and creates integrated, customized solutions for their clients. They leverage client relationships, cross-selling and providing products and services not tied to the markets. The more products and services you can offer, the less affected you will be when there is a market downturn because you will have an array of products to offer such as insurance or estate planning. In addition, the deeper your relationship with your clients, the more opportunities will develop to help those clients.

By comparison, the investment generalist and the product specialist typically do not fare as well as the wealth manager year in and year out. Typically a product they specialize in will fall out of favor due to market or regulatory conditions and their production revenue falls accordingly. In addition, they have not deepened their client relationships so consequently they do not uncover the opportunities to help their clients in other ways as does the wealth manager.

How do we become a wealth manager? Certainly having the resources necessary to help your clients is critical whether it is financial planning software, estate planning resources, or a CFP designation (or other education opportunities), it takes a commitment to expand your comfort zone and your practice. It also takes a commitment to get to know your clients. Are you asking the right questions? When was the last time you asked your clients or prospective clients the following questions?

  1. If you could relive one vacation, which one would it be? Why?
  2. Who influenced you most about your views on money?
  3. What are three checks you would like to write in retirement?
  4. On a scale of 0 to 10 how much confidence do you have in your investment plan?
  5. What’s going on in your life right now that could impact your financial future?

Our members typically will not volunteer the answers to these questions unless we become a trusted financial advisor and deepen our relationships by asking the right questions and getting the answers that will allow us to solve our members’ financial problems. Only then will we become true “wealth managers” to our member clients.

Source by Mark Hoaglin

How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

Source by John Highman

Thessaloniki Student Housing

A brief Thessaloniki student housing guide

Based on the Greek Ministry of Education, there are approximately 330.000 students at Greek public universities at any one time. Thessaloniki accounts for nearly 1/3 of the total number of students in Greece with an estimated 100.000 students (including those attending private colleges and other higher education establishments).

For a city of 800.000 people (city population 2011) this means a particularly high proportion of students, which is evident from the lively atmosphere and nightlife. The majority of the students are coming from other Greek cities, from Europe via exchange programs and from the Balkan countries in order to study at high quality private colleges. Estimating that on average a full-time student spends about 4 years in Thessaloniki (excluding exchange students), this means that there are approximately 25.000 new students in the city every year. And they all need a place to stay…

This article will provide a brief guide to the types of available student housing, the areas, prices, and things to be aware of regarding student accommodation in Thessaloniki.

1. Types of student accommodation

1a. University public dorms.

The University of Thessaloniki offers dorms to students, based on need and mainly on financial criteria. They are provided free of charge. In practice this means that it is pretty difficult to get a dorm room even if you are eligible to get one. The dorms are mostly located close to the university campus, but their quality is very low and maintenance is a big issue, along with issues about safety etc.

1b. University Student Hostels.

These are private properties (entire buildings) which are subleased by the University and are provided mainly to exchange students requiring accommodation for a few weeks or months. These are usually ERASMUS students. As of 2011 there are two student hostels, “Matsi Street 7” and “Kassandrou Street 134”, both very close to the university. They offer fully furnished “dorm-style” rooms with ensuite private bathroom and kitchenette (Kassandrou 134) single and double rooms, a laundry area and wireless internet access.

1c. Private hostels.

For students wishing to stay only a few days/weeks, these hostels are more appropriate and a better solution than a hotel. However, these are hard to find as private hostels that rent rooms/beds by the day/week are not legal in Greece unless they are Non-Profit Organizations.

1d. Private rental flats.

These are standalone flats (studio, 1 or 2 bedrooms) located all over the city that students can rent from private owners. You can usually find them through real estate agents (beware) or online ads. You will need to find the appropriate one to suit your needs. Most of them are unfurnished or partly furnished and are more suited to students who plan to stay in Thessaloniki for a few years (as you’d have to buy electrical appliances, fridge, cooker, etc).

When you move in you will need to enter into a contract with the electricity company DEI, the water and sewage company EYATH and the gas company for heating (or oil if there is petroleum central heating). Be aware that apart from the rent you will need to pay for the monthly “communal” expenses (i.e. elevator maintenance, cleaning, communal lighting, repairs, etc.), so check for the rough monthly amount beforehand as this can vary wildly. This is obviously not the best solution for a student coming to Thessaloniki for a few months or a year as the hassle is too much.

1e. Rental student studios.

This is a new breed of student housing that is very popular with both full time students as well as exchange students. This trend began in the late 90s with just a few companies offering this type of accommodation. The main concept is that of a building with rental studios, where each student has his own private fully furnished room with en-suite bathroom and fully equipped kitchenette. This creates in effect a private high quality dormitory with single bed studios. The student atmosphere is maintained along with the feeling of privacy and safety.

Some companies offer additional amenities such as a laundry area, gym, storage for bulky items, bicycle parking, etc. This solves the main problems a student would have if he rented a studio from a private owner. In addition to this, some companies offer an ALL IN rent which includes the cost of heating, electricity, water, communal expenses, etc. even a fixed line ADSL internet connection. This way students won’t have to deal with the Greek public authorities in order to get a contract for everything. This is especially suitable for exchange students who don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with this.

Finally, some companies also offer a number of additional safety measures (fire alarms, access control cards, etc). There is usually a porter at these buildings for anything that the students may need. However, be careful which company you choose as few offer all of the above.

2. Student accommodation areas

Since the university campus is in the city center of Thessaloniki, the most popular student accommodation areas are also there. However, since the city center is expensive, most students look for properties to rent near the university above Egnatia street and mostly around the streets of Agiou Dimitriou and Kassandrou. This is also where many student shops and cafes are located.

Other areas popular with students are towards the east side of the city such as Depo, Toumpa, Harilaou, etc. These however are far from the center on foot and lack the distinct “student feel” of the areas near the university. In addition, traffic can be very bad at certain times of the day towards the university.

Overall, both the city center and the areas to the east are very safe all day long.

Lastly, there are the areas to the west of the city center such as Stavroupoli, Evosmos, etc. where rent prices are lower but these areas are not favored by students. They are very densely populated and traffic is also a problem, plus many students (and especially their parents) do not choose these areas as they have a reputation for higher crime rates.

3. Accommodation prices

Rent prices range from 200 euros per month for a standalone studio in Evosmos to 650 euros per month for a 2 bedroom apartment in the city center. The communal expenses can also range from 15 euros for a studio without central heating to 80 euros per month for an apartment with central heating. Of course rent prices can fluctuate depending on the condition of the flat/studio.

On average a student will pay about 350euros for an unfurnished studio near the university plus 30euros/month for communal expenses. Don’t forget to add the monthly cost of electricity, water, heating, telephone/internet, etc to this.

ALL IN prices for the organized student studios which offer all kinds of amenities and include electricity bills, water bills, heating, hot water, internet, laundry, gym, etc. can range from 390 to 460 euros per month for a furnished studio near the university. For the average student who wants to have the privacy of his own place, but also live the student life, this is the most economical option which also saves him the hassle and stress of dealing with the Greek public sector. One last advantage is that you can plan your budget ahead, as you know how much your living costs will be, so there will be no surprises at the end of the month…

4. Legal issues

In order to rent a private property you need to know the following:

If you are a EU citizen, you will need to get a Tax Registration Number (ΑΦΜ) from the local tax office. This is an easy procedure that takes 5 minutes and that only requires your passport. If you are a non-EU citizen you first need to get a residence permit and then get the above Tax Registration Number. This is absolutely necessary in order to legally rent a property in Greece.

If you stay at a hotel you need to know that you cannot stay for more than 3 months.

If you rent a property, you have to sign a lease.

Do not accept to stay at rental rooms without signing a lease as this could get you in trouble. You need to know that it’s illegal to stay anywhere without a lease, unless it is a hotel.

Always insist that the landlord hands you back a copy of the lease “stamped” by the tax office. It is not uncommon for landlords to rent properties without a lease or without an official “stamped” lease – this is illegal. Do not put yourself in a position where you could get in trouble. Always demand to sign a formal lease.

Source by Christos Trampoukis

The 5 Essential Financial Reports You Should Be Asking For in Your Business

A question I often get asked from my business owner clients is “what reports should I be asking for so that I can keep my finger on the pulse on my business”.

Now this does differ slightly from business to business. For example, if you are a retail shop, then you’re going to automatically have daily figures available to you as part of your normal process. However most businesses should be asking for weekly, monthly and quarterly reports.

WHY I NEED TO READ REPORTS!

Before I go through the reports in detail, I know that a lot of people don’t like looking at the figures in their business. And usually this is because they don’t know what it is that they’re looking for. So usually then their accountant or bookkeeper (or receptionist!) gives them a monthly report, they glance at while holding their breath, and then either breathe a sigh of relief if it shows a profit, or they grimace and swear when it shows a loss. But usually by the time they’ve got this report, it’s already too late. The financial status of your business should be at the forefront of your mind every day- not something that you look at once or twice a year when you run out of cash.

REPORT FREQUENCY

The first thing to decide is how frequently you need to see reports. I suggest a minimum of monthly, if not weekly. This can sometimes depend on whether you have a full time accounts person, or whether they only come in once a month.

TOP TIP: DO A YEAR END EACH MONTH

To help you know what’s going on in your business, one of the first things to implement into your business is a culture of having a year end every month. By that I mean… you want to ensure that every revenue figure and expense if recorded according to the month that it’s incurred. If you insist on this type of culture, you will start to receive accurate figures. So think end of year each month and close off all financial data for each month. That way you know that your reports fully reflect the state of your business and you get accurate profit and loss reporting and it can help you to identify trends in your cash flow.

With regards to reporting, if you have a full time person looking after your reports, you should be having a weekly meeting with them to review reports. To make this process easy for you, refer to the ‘Essential Financial Management Templates’ workbook which you can purchase from our website. This workbook has a standard financial meeting agenda that will help you to guide your meeting so that it’s both effective and efficient.

When you are meeting with your accounts person, you want to ensure that you have all the reports up front -before your meeting – so that you have time to go through them and highlight any discrepancies that you can then address during the meeting.

YOUR WEEKLY REPORT PACK

So what information do you need to know if your business is doing well or not? Well your weekly report pack should consist of the following five reports (by the way, a sample copy of each of these reports is also included in the workbook that I mentioned before):

1) A Profit and Loss – this should be provided weekly (if you’re meeting weekly) as well as a Month to Date and a Year to Date report. So that’s actually three reports in total!

2) From there, you would request a copy of your Aged Payables. This report shows a list of all the people that you owe money to, and when it’s due – or if its overdue. If there are any amounts that exceed your suppliers trading terms, you want to know why. If it’s because of cash flow, you then look at your cash flow analysis report to see when they will be paid. To maintain a great relationship with your supplier, you then need to communicate this with them.

3) Another essential report is your Aged Receivables. This is where you can clearly see who owes you money and if they have any amounts outstanding to you. This allows you to follow up on collections way before it becomes overdue. As part of your financial management systems, you should have a standard follow up system. For example – if a client has exceeded their trading terms by 7 days, what happens – do you follow up with a quick phone call to check that they’ve received the invoice. If its 14 days – what happens – and so on.

If you refer to the ‘Essential Financial Management Templates’ workbook that I mentioned before, there’s also a list of demand letters designed to help you when you need to be a little more serious about collecting. But once again, Aged Receivables is essential because you need to see when your money is coming in – so that you can pay your suppliers and employees their wages without having to dip into your own personal cash reserves.

4) This brings me to the next report – a Cash flow analysis. This report should be put together by your bookkeeper and outlines when money is coming in and when it is going out. You can then see if there are any shortfalls so that you can make plans in advance to get this covered. It may be that you need to transfer monies from another account – or it may be that you chase outstanding payments. What you don’t want is to find out when you go to transfer the money is that there’s nothing in the account!

Believe it or not, this is often the most under-utilized financial report – and yet it’s the most important. You wouldn’t believe how many bookkeepers or accounts people don’t do them either. It’s not so much that it’s difficult to produce, but it’s a working document which means that it needs to be regularly updated. But persist with this one, even if your accounts people try a mini revolt over it, because it’s a life saver for your business.

The ‘Essential Financial Management Templates’ workbook that I referred to previously that’s found on our website contains a fantastic cash flow analysis report that will save you and your team a lot of time.

5) The other essential report to have is the Bank Reconciliation. If your bookkeeper is full time, then they can do this weekly by using the online reports from your bank. If its monthly, then they will need to wait for the bank statement to arrive from the bank before they can finalise. However, keep on top of them for this – this report shows that the necessary process has been done to ensure that the month end has been closed off and that the cash in bank and any other payments or receipts are accounted for. Basically a bank reconciliation is done so that its guaranteed that your amounts coming into and out of your bank account are accurately reflected in your accounting software package.

WORKING WITH YOUR ACCOUNTANT

I would also recommend requesting that your financial controller automatically sends a copy of your monthly reports to your accountant. This way your accountant can see where you’re headed from month to month. Depending on the size of your business, you could then establish regular meetings with your accountant – whether it’s monthly or quarterly – to discuss those reports and your financial plans for the coming month.

Once you are receiving these reports regularly, you will find that you become much more empowered in your business and your finger is never far from the pulse!

Source by Tabitha Wellman

Is a Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP) Right For Me?

Traditionally, health insurance has been a benefit most Americans got through their jobs. And until recently, most employers paid for 100% of the coverage. But as healthcare costs have increased, employees have been asked to shoulder more and more of the healthcare burden. They are being asked to make tough choices about what kind of coverage they want, and how much they’re willing to pay for that coverage.

Buying health insurance isn’t so different from buying a car. Sure, the sticker price matters, but for most people, individual features and options are what make them choose one car over another.

It’s the same when you’re choosing the right health plan. Knowing which plan features matter most to you can make the difference between a plan you love and a plan you can barely live with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a CDH plan:

1. Do you want to take more control of your health care spending?

CDH plans pair a higher deductible with a lower premium. This means you’ll be responsible for all of your medical expenses until you’ve reached your deductible. In 2010, the minimum deductible amount, set by the federal government is $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families. In exchange for this higher than average deductible, you’ll save an average of 20% on your premiums and your co-pay’s will be at the lower end of the spectrum.

2. Are you a bargain hunter?

If your doctor orders routine blood work, would you feel comfortable about asking her how much the tests will cost and possibly price-shopping to find a lower price? CDH plans reward people who like the challenge of finding the lowest prices and don’t mind doing some research to find them. And as health care reform brings about greater transparency in the cost of medical services and procedures, you’ll have even more information at your fingertips.

3. Are you confident about managing your personal finances? Do you enjoy it?

What could this possibly have to do with choosing a health plan? A lot, if you’re thinking about CDH. And here’s why. All CDH plans are made up of two components. The first is a high deductible health plan (HDHP). The second is a Health Savings Account (HSA).

An HSA is a special healthcare savings account, similar to a Flexible Savings Account, (FSA). Like an FSA, you put pre-tax dollars into an HSA. In 2010, individual contributions will be capped at $3,050 and family contributions at $6,150. If you’re lucky, your employer will match some or all of this amount. You can use your HSA funds to pay for any IRS-approved medical expenses, including some costs traditional plans don’t usually cover, like dental care and long-term care insurance.

Now, here’s how HSA’s differ from FSA’s:

* They’re portable: If you change jobs, your HSA funds go with you.

* The funds roll over: If you haven’t spent the money in your account by the end of the calendar year, you won’t lose them.

* They grow tax-free: You won’t have to pay taxes on the interest your HSA funds earn.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys thinking about the stock market and managing your finances online, the extra work of managing your HSA funds won’t faze you. But, if you have a low tolerance for financial risk or don’t feel comfortable making investment decisions, a CDH plan won’t be a good fit.

4. Are you disciplined when it comes to your personal finances?

If your budgeting philosophy is “spend first, ask questions later,” think twice about going with a CDH plan. In order to maximize the financial benefits of your HSA, you should be able to accurately predict your likely medical costs for the year and develop a household budget that allows you to make appropriate contributions throughout the year. Being disciplined enough to create a “rainy day fund” for unexpected medical expenses is also key.

Having an HSA account also requires a certain level of record-keeping and organization. Unlike traditional FSA accounts, you won’t have to submit invoices and receipts to get reimbursement – some HSA’s even come with an ATM card for easy payment. However, for tax purposes, you should collect all of your medical/health care receipts in one place. It can be a file folder, a shoe box, whatever works for you. But it is important that you’re able to account for any funds you withdraw from your HSA. If that sounds like an onerous task, stick to another kind of health plan.

5. Does network size matter to you?

There was a time when health insurance offerings differed radically from one another. HMO’s had tiny networks, highly restricted access to specialists, and no coverage for out-of-network care. PPO and POS plans offered larger networks, access to specialists without referrals, and the option to go out of network if you were willing to foot part of the bill. These days, the lines between plan types have blurred. You’ll need to look closely at the network descriptions and coverage of any plan you’re considering.

In general, CDH plans offer larger networks of doctors and hospitals than HMO’s. This is good if you’re concerned that choosing a new health plan will mean losing your current primary care doctor. However, make sure any CDH plan you choose counts out-of-network physician charges toward your out-of-pocket maximum. If the plan doesn’t, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen physicians and facilities are part of the plan’s network.

6. How’s your health?

When it comes to saving money on healthcare, one of the best ways to spend less is to stay healthy. Many serious medical conditions can be prevented simply by staying fit, eating healthfully, and avoiding bad habits like smoking or drinking to excess.

Of course, nobody can predict the future. In the face of a catastrophic health event like a cancer diagnosis or a car accident, paying your medical bills shouldn’t mean risking bankruptcy. CDH plans come with an annual out-of-pocket maximum. For 2010, that maximum is $5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for families. Once you’ve paid those amounts, your insurance will cover 100% of your medical expenses.

7. Do you worry about rising healthcare costs?

If fears about maintaining your current level of care keep you awake at night, a CDH plan may offer some reassurance. An HSA can help you build wealth for the future. And taking more control of what you spend – in the form of price-shopping and actively managing your health – can help you feel more empowered and less anxious.

Choosing a health plan can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Look closely at all of your plan options and compare their features. When you understand what features matter most to you and choose accordingly, you’ll end up with the right plan.

Source by Dana Ortegon

A Credit Tenant Lease (CTL) or Conventional (Bank) Loan – Which Is Best for My NNN Deal?

Many good quality, single tenant, net leased properties qualify for both credit tenant lease (CTL) financing and conventional commercial mortgage lending. Net lease property investors should consider the pros and cons of each before deciding which type of loan to commit to.

CTL lending is generally best for the long term income investor who wants permanent, high leverage, fixed rate, fully amortized financing and desires speed and certainty of execution. Bank lending has a lower initial (but not overall) cost and can offer a larger variety of terms and conditions. Banks are best for investors who need options, don’t need maximum leverage (have large down-payment available), and who are not sure if they will hold a property for the long run.

The Difference

CTL lending combines aspects of commercial mortgage lending with specialized investment banking in-order-to close deals. A CTL banker issues and sells private placement corporate bonds that are secured by the lease on the real estate. The proceeds of the bond sales are used to fund a commercial mortgage loan for the borrower. The loan is administered by a third party Trustee throughout the life of the deal.

Traditional commercial mortgages are standard loans secured by mortgage liens against the real estate, the income the property produces and the credit of the borrower. Banking institutions originate a loan and fund the deal either by selling the loan to an investor (private or Government) or by lending its own funds and holding the loan in its portfolio.

Leverage

The ongoing credit crunch has forced banks to tighten up their lending criteria. It is highly unlikely that a commercial bank will offer any more than 75% loan-to-value (LTV) on any deal today. Banks have no incentive to take unnecessary risk; they can borrow money from the Fed (Federal Reserve Bank) at 0% percent and buy 10 year Treasury Bonds at 2% earning 2 points risk free. They will pass on high leverage loans and only lend where they have large amounts of protective equity.

CTL lenders will lend up to 100% LTV (lease fee valuation) on a non-recourse basis. They are in the business of loaning the full, current cash value of a lease (against the guaranteed future income). CTL bankers, without question, make the highest loan offers in the commercial real estate finance industry.

Speed and Certainty of Execution

CTL loans can close in about 1/3rd of the time it takes to close a conventional commercial mortgage. CTL deals have been known to be completed, from-start-to-finish, in as-little-as 45 days (unheard of in the world of commercial banking) but generally take 60.

Bank loans take at least 60 days, sometimes 180 or more. Also, because CTL deals either qualify or doesn’t, a banker can give a borrower a solid yes or no very quickly. There are a thousand ways a bank loan can fall through but, once a CTL banker commits to a deal and a borrower signs off, there is a near 100% certainty of execution.

Recourse

CTL loans are all non-recourse loans secured by the income that the lease produces.

Bank loans are usually, though not always, standard, credit driven, full recourse loans with liens against the borrower as well as the real estate.

Cost

A CTL loan will have higher initial costs because of the investment banking aspect to the deal and the fact that a third party Trustee must be involved. However, over the life cycle of a property, CTL tends to be less expensive because you never have to refinance. At the end of a CTL loan the borrower owns the property free and clear.

Bank loans must be recapitalized or paid off at the end of each term, usually 3, 5, 7 or 10 years. Having to refinance so often results in higher overall cost of capital.

Flexibility

CTL lending is somewhat less flexible than standard bank lending. The bonds sold by CTL bankers are regulated by the securities industries and the insurance industries. CTL lenders must adhere to very strict criteria and are not allowed to deviate from the standards. A deal qualifies for CTL or it does not; there is no leeway.

Banks generally have many lending platforms available to them; they are able to tailor a loan to a particular situation or a particular property.

Terms

Banks can offer self amortizing loans but generally issue mortgages with 3,5,7 or 10 year maturities amortized over 10-25 years with balloon payments due at the end of each term. Banks can also offer either fixed or adjustable rates.

CTL loans are all fully amortized, fixed rate, long term loans with terms coterminous with the lease.

In Summary

Banks offer a larger variety of loan products and can loan against more types of properties and tenants. Bank lending also tends to be less expensive in the short-run.

On the downside, banks are not inclined to offer high LTV loans and will generally require the borrower to guarantee a loan. Further, bank loans are notorious for falling through and failing to close for any number or reasons (or no reason at-all).

CTL loans are rigid in their qualification standards but close with near 100% certainty. They close faster and are less expensive over the life of a deal. CTL bankers place no restrictions on LTV or LTC (loan-to-cost) and are non-recourse loans. Also, it must be noted that CTL loans are administered by a third party Trustee throughout the entire life of a loan. The trustee will collect the rent, pay the mortgage and distribute the income to the borrower every month.

CTL loans are best for buy and hold investors who want to lock in today’s low rate for the long term. They are also appropriate for investors who need high leverage financing or who are looking to close as-soon-as-possible.

Bank loans are best for investors with deals that need some flexibility in the underwriting process. Bank loans will cost less up-front and more deals will qualify. Banks offer more loan choices to qualified borrowers.

Single tenant, net lease real estate investors who understand their options will be well equipped to make the best financing decisions for themselves and their businesses.

Source by Glenn Fydenkevez

Warehouse Artist Studios

An artist/bohemian type working for themselves is perceived in a variety of ways by the general public. A lot of the perception has to do with a combination of the artist’s cashflow and apparel strategy, as opposed to the stirrings of their soul. Strangely, as a young man, people often saw me as a responsible, solid guy. Ha!

In the early eighties I ran my screen printing operation out of a funky old warehouse by the railroad tracks in Eugene, Oregon. Enormous pastry and coffee in hand, I’d get to my shop a bit past nine and dig in for the day. Usually I’d run out of work between 1:00 and 3:00 pm, leaving the rest of the day to run, draw comics and hang out.

Being that the economy had had the shit kicked out of it just then, I was moderately proud that I’d been able to scape up enough business to keep a roof over my head… ultimately I turned enough of a profit to embark on my checkered career publishing my own wacky comic books, but that’s not the subject of this rant.

Warehouse Artists Studios was the literal name of the co-op warehouse wherein I rented space. The studio took up the second floor of a truly dilapidated old funkster warehouse that had most recently been used to store spices. Add to that the gay girls who lived illegally in the space next to mine, burning patchouli oil night and day. This place had a certain bouquet!

I’d been printing T-Shirt jobs out of my flat, and it was getting a bit ridiculous. At an opening in a local gallery, I saw a flyer for “Warehouse Artist Studios”, a 5000 square foot space that magically divided up the floor into 170 square foot units that rented for forty bucks a month. I went down the next day and rented two adjacent spaces, which apparently I’d be paying $75 or $80 a month for. A slight, nervous man named Lynn rented my space to me. He was the manager, he had a chair upholstering business in the studio. Straight away, I could see ‘ol Lynn was a duck seriously out of water.

This impression was dramatically confirmed like three days later when Lynn informed me that the Warehouse was failing economically, and that he was resigning as manager. He handed me the studio ledger and checkbook saying “you seem like an astute fellow, why don’t you manage this dump?”.

I was rather taken aback at this, but sure enough at the next meeting of the co-op, the members all but begged me to save their studio. I had my serious doubts, but figured there wasn’t much to lose, so why not? It wasn’t lost on me either that as manager my rent for my 340 square foot space dipped to $35.00 per month!

The co-op had about 12 members. We were several hundred dollars in the hole. We could pay rent, but couldn’t pay the heating bill. We were required to carry basic liability insurance, which had gone unpaid and lapsed, for starters. I sat down and did a bit of math. I figured if we raised the rent on the basic space about $10.00 a month for five months, and attracted a couple new members, we’d squeak by and could continue renting the dump.

The measure passed at the next meeting. At least with the eight or nine people who decided to stick it out, as a couple members dropped out with the news of the temporary rent increase; we did indeed need to attract new members straight away. We papered the town with flyers for the warehouse, and got free listings in any newspaper we could. Miraculously, the plan worked. We lowered the basic rent back to $40.00 per month ahead of schedule and got an infusion of fresh blood. I can’t take too much credit for it, as the place snapped to with an esprit de corps I’ve rarely encountered… I’d say it was goddamn grassroots socialism is action, almost.

Now here comes the fun part, the personalities that made the place click, the swashbucklers, crackpots, con men, assholes, and outright brilliant geniuses I encountered in my stint at Warehouse Artist Studios. First comes a woman named Kathy Caprario. She was a dramatic beauty from New York of Italian descent, the best known painter in Eugene, an “older woman” to me of maybe 33-35 years (I was all of 24 at the time). Kathy is the person who was singlehandedly most responsible for the survival of Warehouse Artist Studios at the time of the financial crises. To say she was resourceful and a bit of an aggressive shark is an understatement. For starters, she marched me down to see the owner of the owner of the building when the lease came up. The guy was a real estate money grubbing slum lord type, who claimed an artistic background. Right. Our rent was $650.00 per month. Kathy figured that Jeff, the slum lord, was lucky that anyone at all was renting this dump in a crappy ecomomy. She advises me to offer the guy $450.00 per month. No problem! It was an invaluable early lesson in having brass balls.

So we’re in this real estate lizard’s office, and I make the rent offer. Jeff, the lizard in question, completely ignores me and starts this serious, near lecherous flirt with Kathy. She plays this guy like a fiddle, and we walk out of there with a lease for the next year of $550.00 per month, a hundred bucks per month rent reduction. Yes folks, in 1982 in Eugene, you could rent a 5000 square foot studio for that low price. I should mention too, the year after that, Kathy had moved on to a private studio space, but I’d learned well and got that damn rent down to $475.00 per month!

Kathy also had us apply for City of Eugene room tax grants. Turns out there was actual civic support for the arts afoot! We hastily threw together grant applications to run a gallery in our common space, such as it was, and to offer figure drawing sessions to the public. Given the level of initial interest in these projects, we all saw it as a way to get the city to help pay our rent with minimal execution of said projects.

But who knew! The figure drawing sessions maintained a core of attendance for a couple years. The gallery stared off as nothing–an unrented space was hung with art. But before long, a 22 year old painter of promise named Mike Perkin rented a space and started doing some pretty cool work in his cubicle. He tried his best to ape Francis Bacon, but the works looked a bit like Francis was a werewolf Mexican wrestler or something.

When it came Mike’s turn to show his work, he turned a critical eye at the tiny room where I asked him to hang his paintings. He asked me if I had the studio checkbook. What do you have in mind, Mike? He directed me to the Eugene Planing Mill, a massive lumber yard across the street from us. “Let’s stud up couple walls so I can hang my big paintings”. Outragous! Here’s this wild kid, plays the same tapes over and over (Scarey Monsters by Bowie, anything by Lou Reed) and yells at his paintings. At the drop of a hat, we get some lumber and flail away for a couple hours with hammers. Before you know it, instant gallery! We build some pretty decent walls in a jiffy (other studio members drifted in a pitched in) and whitewashed them.

Mike’s paintings for that show were terrific. They were done in ruddy reds, earthtones and orangey yellows, with wood and burlap assemblage fastened to the canvases. The average size was maybe 3′ across by almost 5′ tall. My favorite was called “The Inside of Lou Reed’s Stomach”. If I wasn’t blowing every cent on publishing comic books, I woulda bought it. The opening was a revelation. Mike’s family showed up, and they were the most amazing bunch of open minded art, theatre, film and literature lovers you could imagine. A lotta beer went down. I remember late at night, Mike’s mom was wrestling on the studio floor with one of her four sons. From there on in, our little gallery stood a few decent shows, and even better parties. And through it all, the city kept the checks coming!

Keith the retired Air Force colonel is next in our cast of characters. Bald, prim, post heart attack, gentle former Texan Keith. A late life painter, an ultra practical man. Ruled by logic on the outside, soft as a grape inside, he had a good heart even if it was failing him, he did his share to keep the warehouse afloat. He painted small landscapes that revealed a luminous take on Oregon’s rainy colors. Nothin’ amazing, but nice. Fluid, painterly, sea foam light permeating the canvas with a bit of warm ochre and alizarin crimson, tacking it to the surface of the earth.

Keith enjoyed regaling the Warehouse crew over beers with stories of flying B-52’s through mushroom clouds after bomb tests in the Pacific, back in the day. Knowing that I was involved in the anti-nuke movement of the day, he teased me “I did H-Bomb tests all day long, and I’m not glowing yet”.

Although he had a son who was around forty, Keith took a fatherly interest in me, and used to take me to lunch in his enormous four door GM pickup truck (with one of those worthless diesel engines they tried to manufacture for a couple years). He’d take us to the local Lions clubhouse. The food sucked. He’d insist we have a beer with lunch, which I didn’t like as I usually would go for a run later in the day. Hell Steve, have a beer, indulge the old boy! Unbidden, he told me his life story. Before retirement, had risen as an assistant to one of the joint chiefs of staff. After retiring from the military, he’d been a ROTC instructor on the University of Oregon campus in the sixties. He’d have run ins with various rag-tag groups of pseudo Maoist college kids. Then one summer, Keith and his wife were vacationing in the Cascade mountains east of Eugene. Hiking in the foothills, they came upon an encampment where some of these same youths were enacting a military training drill with assault rifles! They were indeed serious about the revolution bit. After a tense momentary face off with no word exchanged, Keith and his wife turned on their heel and hiked out. “I felt like I had a target on my back”, he said, adding that he never saw those kids again.

There was another older painter at the studio, one Nick Nickolds. He was maybe 60-65 at the time. He was the real deal, a life long bohemian, painter and philosopher dedicated to the pursuit of his art. He’d been an orphan from Denver who lived the middle decades of his life in Mexico. Nick scored the studio to the right at the top of the stairs. It was the best studio there, as it had a separate private entrance.

Nick Nickolds painted in a style that at once reminded me of William Blake and Titian. His color was rich, saturated and full of light, yet he built up layers of delicate glazes that gave body and air to his figures. He was painting the figure, faces, and the natural world, yet it was semi abstract. It was as if Blake had decided to lapse into abstraction and gotten about 73% there before deciding he still had to have a face here, an eye or a breast there.

This work was technically masterful and evoked images and emotion like a skeleton key. It alluded to everything while putting it’s finger on nothing, like a Robert Hunter lyric. Nick was so consistently true, dignified and full of heart that you had to love him. He was a slightly rotund, dapper little man with ample sparkle in his eye.

Once, Nick showed me a vial full of crystalline dust, claiming that it was a sort of emulsified, crystal LSD. He stuck a pin in it, putting a minuscule amount on the head of the pin. “That’s enough”, he said. He claimed he’d had the vial for years, had been in San Francisco in the sixties with it (it was full back then). He asserted he’d provided hundreds and hundreds of trips from his little vial. Today, I almost wonder if I made that part of the story up! It just sounds too good to be true.

Nick was a guy who was always fascinating, who revealed himself to me a little bit at a time as we became friends. He approved of my comic books, and my attempts to explain the nature of reality, time, the singularity of the eternal now in cartoon form, and all that jazz. Nick told me I was on the right track as an artist. “All you have to do is be careful about the beer”, he advised me, and boy was he right, as I developed enough of a drinking habit that I ultimately had to stop altogether for my own good. Nick eventually moved back into what he considered the morass of Marin County, as he had money connections down in California. I never saw him again, don’t know if he’s still around or not. I often reflect on what Nick taught me about maintaining integrity as an artist, and about having respect for every human being regardless of anything. I consider it immense good fortune to have known Nick and been his friend, albeit for only a couple of years.

P.S. Nick is indeed still around, at http://www.nicknickolds.com

Freak Magnet!

If you manage to set yourself up as a successful Boho freelancer/self employed artist, you will attract an amazing array of people from all walks of life to bask in your glory. Say what? Take my word for it, people will be attracted to your good thang, offering everything from sublime lessons in human dignity, to blatantly vampiric attempts to hi-jack your time and energy.

With a bit of practice, it becomes easy to recognize the latter–within minutes of meeting the vampiric leach, they attempt to wrangle the discourse to a place where you are somehow in the position of owing them something; most often a deep discount on your product or service. You’ll see a red flag, and you will get rid of them asap. Try adding a 50% “asshole fee” to your usual rate. When they get ugly, be sweet as pie but stick to your guns. And remember, you don’t owe them a thing.

The other sort, offering the sublime lesson, a peek into the bottomless well of the beauty of the human spirit, can be a real pleasure. They will probably try your patience a bit too, but it’s worth it. My rule of thumb is to attempt to offer the same basic respect to any person I come across in the course of my business. Easier said than done, but something to aim for.

As a self employed freak magnet, it’s been my great pleasure to encounter quite an array of swashbucklers. How about the charismatic actor who financed his theater company (and his t-shirts) with a successful drug dealing operation? He did quite well with it, but I guess his success was tempered by the little fact that he was a junkie…

One of my favorite encounters with an unusual person came early in my “career”, when I maintained a screen printing operation at Warehouse Artist Studios in Eugene, Oregon in the early ’80s. One fine rainy morning, when nothing much was going on, a slightly bellicose balding guy named Abner Burnett stepped through the door and asked how much I would charge to print one t-shirt. Sorry, minimum order is two dozen. OK, how much for two dozen?

Abner ends up ordering something like 2 shirts. He understands that the economies of scale are not working for him, that with set up charges, these will be very expensive shirts, but he doesn’t seem to mind. I wish I could remember what the design was–it may have had something to do with his beloved Chevy Vega (those were great cars, right up there with the Ford Pinto!). As Abner cuts me a downpayment check, he notes that he lives off a trust fund, and is bored, and is really glad he met me. Great.

When will the shirts be done? I can print them on Tuesday, I’ll call you when they are done.

Arriving at the warehouse on Tuesday morning, I am less than thrilled to find Abner at the door waiting for me with a curious half smile on his face. This is the first time I think, “axe murderer”. Turns out Abner wants to watch me print his shirts. He wants to learn about screen printing. Usually, it unnerves me to have a customer watch a production run, but hey, it’s only two shirts. And, Abner said he wants to learn about screen printing. He said the magic words. I love teaching people how to screen print. I figure it’s like teaching a poor man to fish. Or, it’s like giving someone a lesson in a tool that can be used to exercise your first amendment rights. So I am into it.

As I set up and print his job, Abner opines, “Mr. Lafler, I can tell that you are independently wealthy”. I bark out such a hearty laugh that I almost botch a print. “What makes you say that, Abner?”

“Well, you just leisurely hang out at your studio every day, doing just what you want.”

The fact is, Mr. Burnett, I am here in the studio to try to scrape together a couple bucks, with which to buy some burritos, beer and a can of food for Ed, my cat. If I make some extra cash, maybe I’ll publish a comic book or two, but independently wealthy? Ha!

Abner pays for his shirts, and he’s gone. I enjoyed the encounter, but I also was happy that it’s over. Or so I thought. Abner started showing up at my studio almost daily, to “learn screen printing”. He would stand there, half glassy eyed, issuing a series of loosely related comments that weren’t quite non sequiturs. One day I tried to leave, just to shake him. “Where you going?”, Abner wants to know. “I’m going to get some screen printing supplies”, I say. Abner wants to drive. Oh hell, why not? I don’t have a car.

Although I didn’t exactly like Abner, I was just a bit fascinated by him. What the hell was he up to? What was his story? He kinda gave me the creeps, but he exuded a thickly benign sense of serenity.

The jig was up one day when he came in, affable yet strangely agitated at the same time. What’s up, Abner? “Mr. Lafler, I’m a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, and I didn’t take my medication today”.

Okay. That explained a lot. Abner came around a few more times, then I guess he lost interest. As mentioned, he made me rather nervous, yet I was curious enough about him to indulge his presence. I like to think he was just another manifestation of Buddha nature, come to teach me a lesson, or something like that.

Source by Steve Lafler

10 Insightful Questions to Ask a Dating Prospect

Let’s be real and get down to business, time is money and money is time. In a day and age where technology brings business, communication, information, and connections to people in an instant, we move fast and don’t have time to sort through a complicated mess. Nevertheless, we want to date, that hasn’t changed, but how we do we cut to the chase to find out what someone’s about. This article discusses 10 questions to ask a person you’re interested in potentially dating. And before you ask these questions of a dating prospect, you should answer for yourself first, to know where you stand and relate when you ask.

1. You only see your family once a year, what would you choose for the holidays–going home or a trip to the Caribbean? And why?

What this reveals: Well, obviously, this tells you a lot about what their priorities are. Granted, everyone wants to go on vacation, but had they been very into family, they would’ve found another time to go on vacation besides the holidays. More times than not, the end of the year holidays are about family, it’s the rare time when everyone is able to get together. Maybe they really like vacation over the family holiday traditions, which is fine too, IF that’s what you’re looking for. The thing that can be worrisome if you’re looking for a marriage partner, is the fact that there could possibly be some kind of rift in the family. Every family has issues, needless to say, but long drawn out harbored conflicts are not a good sign. There is also the possibility someone would just choose a Caribbean vacation for just a particular year just to get away from family, be alone, and get some good R & R (cause we know family gatherings can be less than inspiring for R & R). You should really listen to their why and understand what their motivation is, it tells you how they feel about the first F–family. When I talk about F’s, I’m referring to the 3 areas that one should look out for when dating (and no, none of the F’s are bad 4 letter words). These are: 1) faith, 2) family, and 3) finances. See if their motivation for family is the same as yours.

2. If you have $1000 dollars, how would you spend it?

What this reveals: Like I said, this is another F word, a good F word that is! Finances! Finances are one of the top problems that marriages can have. And as much as we want to be on cloud 9 when we’re dating or in love, the tire hits the pavement when it comes to finance talk. One less obvious thing to note is how calculated they are when it comes to their breakdown, it will give you a hint to their spending style. If they tend to be very approximate of their spending categories, chances are that they are well versed in budgeting. Some people will be so meticulous to be precise down to the cent. Someone who quickly throws out some numbers is a little carefree with their money. And of course, the person who keeps the $1000 without spending will tend to be your saver, possibly very much the penny pincher. How you line up with them in this issue will set the stage for your future financial issues. Of course, one can learn from the other, but it’s good to understand what value the other party places on money. All financial issues have emotional issues behind them. Maybe they save a lot because they’ve been laid off before and know what it’s like to live with no income. Maybe their parents took them shopping every weekend or bought them gifts constantly without regard for cost. Understanding their finances early on helps you understand their background, how they grew up, and your potential future. And, if at all possible, it would be good to exchange credit reports, It’s the best succinct piece of paper to tell you the financial story of a person.

3. Your child gets pregnant at the age of 17, what do you do?

What this reveals: Yeah, this is a pretty deep question, but in the dating game, we’re supposed to get to know each other. And these insightful questions do just that. A person’s faith will play importantly into this one, as it will give insight to their right-to-life/pro-choice views. Although faith may not be an active part in your life right now as a single person, that may possibly change when you have a family, which I have seen in so many of my friend’s families time and time again. A few more issues that come into play are: 1) trust, 2) forgiveness, 3) resolving problems, 4) regard for reputation and 5) level of being judgmental. These are important value stances and shows their ability to resolve life’s hardships in their lives. Regard for reputation is an aspect most people don’t think about, but it’s important to know how much this does or doesn’t matter to your mate. I once dated a guy who lived for his reputation, whereas I, on the other hand, lived my life according to my rules and what I thought was best, regardless of what people thought. Needless to say, this caused a lot of problems as he would constantly point out my ‘inappropriate’ behavior’, while I was carefree in that area. Life will often hand us some kind of crisis, it’s inevitable and how each person handles it tells you 1) what it’s going to be like in tough times with them and 2) whether they’ll fight or take flight. In the beginning of dating or any relationship, life is grand, the grass is greener than ever and there’s no clouds in the skies. It’s easy to think you’re compatible, but when you have a big crisis come up, you’ll see how compatible you are with their moral stance. It’s up to you to decide where you can compromise and where you just aren’t in agreement.

4. Should you be friends with your ex? Why or why not?

What this reveals: One can choose to look at this negatively or positively. Some people live in absolutes, where their mind is set on a certain way of doing and looking at things. That’s the way a lot of people live, it’s a much more safe place to be within certain boundaries. For some people, that works. And then there are those very few who choose to do away with boundaries and go down the off beaten path. Nothing in life is certain and these people know that, many answers to situations for these folks are ‘it depends’. And so, in this question, for these folks, it depends. I have walked away from most relationships and dating situations in a good light. I’ve always valued people in my life and tend to keep people in my life regardless of what may have happened. These exes are valuable friends to me as they know me better than most people. They’ll listen, care about me, and be there should I need them. The best example of this was the day that my father passed, the majority of my exes called that day offering their condolences to me and also in memory of my father whom they very much respected and cared for. Of course, in any future situation, this will require a man to have great trust in me with these relationships that are now a part of my life. However, should the ex in your case be one that’s meddling, deceitful, still in love with you, or have bad intentions, it’s not a good idea to keep them around. And if all your prospect’s exes tend to end badly, you may want to look at your prospect as the source as well. Not every relationship has to end badly if properly handled by the people dating.

5. What’s more important forgiveness or faithfulness? Why?

What this reveals: This is obviously a non win situation. There’s no easy answer to this question, both are very valid aspects to have in any relationship. But, this is nevertheless, a question that reveals much of your prospect’s character. Should they choose forgiveness, then obviously they will come with a personality more apt to accept that bad things happen and forgiveness is always needed. No one is perfect, and your new prospect is not, by any means. Learning this is important, as one of my married girlfriends told me, ‘I wake up and forgive, and then everyday, I do it all over again’. There is no shortage of reasons to forgive–big or small. Well, what about faithfulness? Of course that is an admirable characteristic. It’s one that makes a person feel secure and that they’re able to trust their partner. Of course, everybody wants that as the end goal of dating. For most it would be ideal to have that, whether in a marriage or a relationship. This is a tough question and paying attention to how they arrive at their answer will tell you volumes on these 2 very important issues. I know there are people out there who will say absolutely no and cut it off should cheating occur. Then I know others, such as myself, who have seen relationships (very few, mind you) become stronger from infidelity. Again, it always depends, but watch to see if this person follows in line with your ideals.

6. If you were stuck on an island what 5 items would you bring?

What this reveals: This is always a fun one to ask. It’s always interesting what people will bring with them. This one is a little less serious than the other questions, but it just gives you a chance to know what’s important to your prospect. It’s good to now always take things seriously, so this is one of those questions that are ‘just for fun’. Of course, part of you would like to hear the other person that ‘you’ would be one of the 5, but it really depends on how long you’ve been dating for this to be comforting or possibly psycho. Should it be a fairly new relationship, the idea of being brought an island with this new person may strike fear in you. I know it would for me. Flattery isn’t always a great thing, it can be scary at times. At least one of these items will reveal to you what is most important in their lives. For me, 3 things I would bring are 1) a journal, 2) a pen, and 3) music. Yes, obviously writing and music are musts in my life. Knowing this, my potential partner could know either what to get me as a present or even more importantly, know what soothes me in my life. Then he’d know if I’m upset with him, to send me away with paper and pen, and I may possibly come back more at peace and at ease. Likewise, some guys may bring their gaming systems, computers, weight benches, you name it, these five things can be all over the place! Listen up to what they have to say and take the chance to understand another side of your partner’s personality.

7. You have a month to live, what would you do for the last month?

What this reveals: There are so many ways to answer this question, besides any kind of violent sort of answer, pretty much anything said goes. One of the most obvious things this reveals is how much they treasure life, whether it’s to travel to places they’ve never been or to be with family. Knowing where they go with this shows where their heart is and is a very important aspect to know. And, then there will be those who view it negatively and would just spend the last month soaking it in, feeling bad, or hiding from the world. Naturally, these people would either drain a partner’s energy or could possibly be uplifted by having a positive partner. You’ll have to be the judge of the dynamics between the two of you. For me, the closest I have been to this was to be around my dad his last month of living when I lived out of state and was jobless at the time. That month was one of the most intense months I’ve ever had when I decided to move to be near him. And I constantly tell people over and over that if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve done the same while being jobless. I would’ve taken being jobless any day to be able to have that time with my father. Jobs will come over and over again, but that time with my father only came once.

8. You can only have 2 electronic items with you for a week, what do you take (cell phone in this case would have to be a regular cell phone with text only, no smart capabilities)?

What this reveals: This is a funny, interesting one. Just like the ‘5 things on an island’ question, this one is similar, yet different because this one reveals how attached one is to their electronics. It goes without saying that if they bring their cell phone, they like talking and/or texting. They’re much the communicator and need people around. Perhaps you’re not a very social person, knowing this, you’ll know what you’re up against when it comes to social aspects of the relationship. I’ve met couples before where one person loves to go out and be social, while the other stays at home. Eventually, they fall to their differences and break up or divorce. And, many guys will most likely bring a gaming system with them, which signifies a gamer in your hands. Every guy has a kid in them, and this is one of those aspects where women would be wise to accept and not try to change (with the I’m gonna change the man attitude that so many of us women have). In everything there’s a time and place, such is the case with their gaming system. Just as some of us women need our girls nights out or our shopping time, guys need their escape. I always found a way to intertwine my time with his while he played, by being right beside him doing whatever it is that I do while he plays. It worked for us, which goes without saying, any couple can work through differences and come to meet in the middle. Of course, what would be ideal would be that your prospect asks you what’s important to you and brings those items, so you can share. In a perfect world, that would happen, but there’s many of us who are selfish and only see this in light of what we need. So, it would be very natural to have them answer as a singular person.

9. Would you rather be deaf or blind, and why?

What this reveals: This tells you very much whether the person you are with is a visual or audio person. Obviously if you’re with someone who chooses to be deaf, most likely they’re a people watcher and this is helpful for you to know to be on your best behavior because you know they’re watching you quite frequently. Likewise, should they choose to be blind, they’re definitely audio people and will pay attention closely to what you say exactly. Knowing your choice would give you an idea of where the two of you would stand. I’d be in a lot of trouble with a blind person, as my words would be deeply evaluated and considered. I tend to say whatever with care to the wind, for some my words would be depict an exact picture of who I am. Should they choose to be blind, if you wanted, you know you could get away with not being in your best dressed clothing all the time. Other considerations would be how much they want to be noticeably disabled. A deaf person most likely would go more unnoticed than a blind person. This goes back to where the person values their reputation and image.

10. Your best friend tells you, they cheated with your current girlfriend/boyfriend, if you had to choose only one, do you keep the best friend or the girlfriend/boyfriend?

What this reveals: Yes, this is another loaded question. No one wants to be put in a position to choose, but then again, nobody wants to be in a position of being cheated on where their best friend is involved. It comes down to friendship or relationship. But, at certain times, it may not even be a choice of either/or, some may choose the route to choose to not have either person in their lives. After all, they’re supposed to be 2 of the most trusted people in your life, and they both happen to betray you. After all, if they’ve done it once, the partner or the cheater may come back around, depending on which you keep. It’s not a very pretty scenario. Having the best friend come forth first shows an important aspect that they can be more honest than your partner. They become the lesser of two evils. Sometimes people will tend to stick with the best friend as another boyfriend/girlfriend will come around, is what they reason. Best friends really are hard to come by and their friendship has obviously outlasted the time and struggles that they have come across. Both are difficult options, but yet again, this gives an insight for you to whether forgiveness with friendship or a relationship is more important.

Getting to know someone new is never an easy thing. Besides the normal subjects of interests and hobbies, understanding someone’s moral stance and values will reveal much of their character and you can decide how it fits or doesn’t fit into your life. There are no right answers, they’re just about what’s important to you and to get to know the other person. These aren’t your everyday ho hum questions, but they’ll give you power insight into who they are as a person. Dating isn’t an easy, but asking the right questions can help you navigate through all the things going on.

Source by Ellen Damaso

Commercial Window Cleaning Benefits

Commercial window cleaning can cover windows in stores, high-rise buildings, offices, and more. It is very important to keep those windows clean because the windows being clean or dirty does make a first impression on customers. In addition, on high-rise buildings, professionals who know to work on scaffolds in order to clean the outside of the windows on the upper floors. The inside of the windows may be done by a professional office cleaning service but not the outside. In restaurants it could be the staff washing the windows on the inside before the restaurant opens but usually they hire a commercial window cleaning service to do the outside windows.

There are many benefits utilizing commercial window cleaning services, in addition to them being professionals who are trained to clean the outside windows of high-rise buildings. Some of these benefits include:

• Having a clean environment to work tends to make employees inclined to do more work. If they are near a window it can help them to clear their minds if they can see outside and just enjoy the peaceful view.

• If a business, office, or store, has dirty windows it could be a factor in whether an individual wants to have anything to do with that particular business, store, or office. If the windows are filthy it may make the consumer feel that the employees and the business practices are the same. When there are clean windows it makes the customers think the business, store, office is organized and has orderliness to the business. This is one way to attract new customers to your business or store.

• If you are leasing the building where your business is located, it may be in your lease as a condition that you maintain the property inside and out. Having commercial window cleaning services clean your windows is one way of keeping that condition. In addition, when the window cleaners are cleaning the windows they may notice a window repair that needs to be done that you did not know about. This will give you time to take care of the problem before any further damage is caused. By keeping that condition, it helps to promote a positive relationship between the property owner and you. Following the conditions of the lease can help to ensure that your lease will be renewed when it is time.

• Cleaning windows in a high-rise or multi-story building takes special skills, which commercial window cleaning services have trained their employees to have. They know how to use the proper equipment and how not to cause damage to your windows and prevent unwanted accidents. If they do not have the skills, they could get hurt and be a liability to the company, office, or store.

Source by Lora Davis

Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing they work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson’s database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; in this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson doesn’t keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the ‘agents of change’ when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on ‘open listings’ for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the bigger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best enquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimised for enquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competing properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to enquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimised. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some ‘brakes’ on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organised. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

Source by John Highman