Finding the Best Investment For 2014 and Beyond

It’s only natural to want to have the best investment in your pocket so you can make money investing, and lots of it. So, how might you go about finding the best investment for 2014 and beyond?

In hindsight it’s always easy to make money investing, but we’ll play it straight here and look at the past only for clues to the best investment ideas for 2014… and then single it down to the single best investment. Keep an open mind, because most investors overlook opportunities because they are unaware of many of their options.

We’re looking for extremes here, like something that appears to be selling real cheap. And to be realistic, we’ll need to take risk into consideration. Not really cheap: stocks and bonds in general, gold, silver, real estate, other commodities, and most foreign securities. There’s always the chance that some small stock somewhere will turn out to be a gem, and the best investment for 2014. But let’s get real, that’s a very risky long shot, not worth betting more than a few hundred bucks on. We want to make money investing, with decent odds to make money.

In our search for the best investment ideas, I mentioned looking for extremes, WITH AN OPEN MIND. Nothing appears to be real cheap, so let’s go the other way. What looks too expensive? This is a way to make money investing most folks are not aware of. Bonds are expensive, and you could make money in them with the right bet. But bond prices don’t move fast enough, so let’s eliminate bonds from our list of very best investment ideas. Gold, silver, and most of the other options mentioned above are just not expensive enough.

What about looking at stocks in general and different categories of stocks, since we’ve already eliminated trying to find one best stock because it’s just too risky? Stocks look expensive, and in general have gone up in price more than 150% over the past five years. If earnings announcements and expectations disappoint investors, stocks will look even more expensive as 2014 unfolds. Let’s keep them on our list of best investment ideas.

Some categories of stocks like certain high tech sectors and small-company stocks in general have become even more expensive. Let’s move them to the top of our list of best investment ideas for 2014 and beyond. Now, how do we make money investing in stocks that we consider too expensive to buy?

We don’t buy them… we take a short position… which means we bet that they will fall. Now we get more specific as we look for the best investment to jump on, and then the best and simplest way to do this. The high tech sector is a little too specific for me, so I will focus on small-company stocks in general, as tracked by the Russell 2000 Index. As goes the index, so goes the price of small-company stocks in general. To get more specific, we are going to try to make money investing by betting that the above index will fall.

Stock options (called “puts”) could give us maximum financial leverage, but there are two inherent negatives working against us here: higher commissions, and a premium you pay over the intrinsic value, which erodes up until the time the options expire. Options have an expiration date and can expire worthless… making them too risky for average investors. There is a simpler way to make money investing on a bet that a stock index like the Russell 2000 will fall.

“Inverse equity” exchange traded funds (ETFs) are the average investor’s best investment vehicle for taking a “short position” in a stock index. They trade as stocks, do not expire, and commission is about $10 per trade with most discount brokers. You make money investing when the stock index falls. Financial leverage can be 3 to 1. Hence, if an index falls 50% in 2014, you could make 150%, as an example.

Hindsight tells us that there’s always a best investment somewhere. Finding it in real time is a different matter. But if you want to make money investing on a consistent basis, you should recognize that going short in stocks to hedge against major losses is a valid tool. There’s uncertainty out there in 2014. Open your mind when you look for the best investment ideas.

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Long Tail Keywords and Insurance SEO

Long tail keywords, whether they happen to be related to insurance or any other business, are typically a three to five word search phrase, though they can be a longer and highly specific search term. These phrases can be relatively broad or extremely narrow, as internet users seek relevant content when searching for information, products and services. Google and Bing search bots index website information including Meta and on page content, and when users enter search phrases, the engines subsequently display their search results allowing users to navigate to the relevant pages (SERP).

Engines offer both organic and paid results, allowing users to select those responses they deem most germane to their query. What does this mean to the average insurance agency, broker or carrier? Insurance agents and brokers need to determine the long tail keyword phrases applicable to their organization and optimize their website for those phrases. Some insurance SEO long tail keyword examples include:

  • New Mexico Truck Insurance
  • Arizona Machine Shop Insurance
  • New York Restaurant Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Florida Property and Commercial Insurance
  • New York Coastal Condominium Insurance

The more keywords included in a phrase and the more specific the term, the narrower the results, and the less frequently that term is searched. Conversely, the shorter the phrase (auto insurance for example), the broader the results, and the greater the competition for the phrase. It’s important to note that the on page insurance SEO optimization is only part of the job. For effective insurance SEO, off page optimization is extremely important including news releases, social media marketing and ePublishing. Effective long tail research and optimization can and will result in improved insurance website traffic, and when combined with an up to date website and advanced insurance website tools, should translate into an increased book of business.

How does the Google Penguin and other algorithm shifts impact your insurance SEO and long tail keyword initiatives? These types of algorithm shifts were directed at websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The algorithm shifts account for greater emphasis on original content and social media than back link popularity. Further, insurance organizations which were focused heavily on backlink building, link swapping and directory submissions, often in pursuit of broader keyword phrases were adversely impacted by this shift. These algorithm shifts actually favor long tails keywords, as the content surrounding those keywords should be very specific, and thus very relevant to both users and search bots (search engine indexing engines). As Google, Bing and other search engines continue efforts to deliver more relevant content, quality content and focus on long tail keywords should be the mantra for an effective insurance SEO initiative.

Though organic insurance SEO and social media marketing is an important aspect of insurance marketing, insurance organizations seeking to rapidly build their pipeline will find the fastest path to B2B insurance lead generation remains insurance eMarketing and appointment setting calls. B2B insurance marketing often requires targeting a very specific niche, carrying a specific value proposition to a predetermined title or titles. For example, an insurance agency might want to discuss restaurant insurance or business interruption policies with dining and entertainment establishments. Though effective use of insurance SEO for this target market is important, agents and brokers should remember that insurance SEO initiatives are only one tool for insurance agency lead generation. Insurance SEO initiatives should be complemented with insurance eMarketing and appointment setting campaigns to ensure optimum lead generation attainment.

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A Look at Finance Controller Jobs

In our series of finance recruitment articles, we will be looking at various finance job roles. The first in the series is the role of a Finance Controller.

Finance Controllers work directly with Finance Directors to manage the day to day finance matters of a company. This senior role is seen as the stepping stone to becoming a Finance Director and involves tasks such as creating finance strategies, working with cash flow, creating accounts, creating and checking financial targets, working with management, monitoring departments and many others.

Finance Controllers use their knowledge to help make decisions when their company is looking at potential acquisitions and will be part of most major finance and business decisions.

Candidates for Finance Controller jobs will be expected to have a background in accountancy and once in the role will be in charge of managing teams of Ledger Clerks who will deal with the more administrative and accountancy aspects of the department.

The day to day aspects will see you working traditional hours, although you will be expected to put in extra hours where necessary. Like many high responsibility management roles, much of your time will be spent within meetings and travelling between offices to provide your services.

When businesses or finance recruiters are looking for candidates for Finance Controller positions, they will be looking for someone who is good at presenting finance data as they will be spending a lot of time doing this to various people in meetings. Other skills that will be looked for are motivation, ability to multitask, attention to detail, good decision making skills and obviously a good understanding of the financial world.

Previous experience in finance and management accounting will be expected for the role of a Finance Controller. You will also be expected to have a qualification from one of the accountancy bodies in the UK (ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW, ICAI, ICAS).

Finance Controllers often move on to become Finance Directors, and some even become Managing Directors or Chief Executive Officers, so there are some great career prospects that come with this role.

As with most jobs in the finance sector, salaries are at the higher end, trainees can earn up to £25,000 and qualified finance controllers can earn up to £45,000 a year. As your experience and time grows in the role, your salary can increase to between £50,000 and £100,000.

For more information on finance controller jobs you should talk to a professional finance recruitment company.

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Business Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs

Having a great idea and the motivation to strike-out on your own is a good first step in pursing the feasibility of a business. However, it takes more than motivation and a great idea to get things started. This article will reveal some of the simplest considerations that most would-be business-owners overlook.

The very first thing that should not fall under consideration is venturing out on your own without the proper tools beyond the scope of a great idea. According to statistics provided by the Small Business Administration, over 90% of small businesses fail due to a lack of planning. How many times have you heard or witnessed individuals that sat up over a weekend and wrote a stellar business plan then headed out on Monday morning to seek funding or investors? Impatience is the second thing that needs management. So often “I am tired of working for someone else” is the premise for people to start a business. This frame of mind will almost ensure failure because this approach to business involves looking backwards at getting out of a bad situation.

There is a prevailing philosophy that has to evolve, “Not all people are cut-out to become business-owners”. This is a harsh reality to face in a country such as the United States that prides itself on autonomy and ownership. Starting a business requires a commitment that may or may not pay dividends quickly. The key threat to small businesses is the initial funding or start-up cost and therefore many under-capitalized ventures hit the markets and get that rude awakening.

Before spending your first dollar a best practice is to do your “free research” on the Internet and in public libraries. Read recently published academic studies on the industry in which you plan to pursue. It takes more than just knowing a certain aspect of the business being that your competition may be more well-versed about the industry as a whole. You may want to ask questions such as “What are the regulatory requirements to do business within that particular industry?” You may want to research about “systemic exposure” or how the rest of the economy could or would impact that industry during troubled financial times. It is also a good practice to review some of the strategies of other potential competitors during The Great Recession of 2008. How did the industry leaders survive jn respect to operational changes and sacrifices. It is understandable that this may take several days or even weeks to accomplish, but by applying the best practices initially you will have a clear understanding of what to expect during certain economic times.

It is essential to understand who are the industry leaders within your business channel and what makes them unique. There should be an emphasis on this because your branding and marketing could benefit from such a consideration. A distinguishing characteristic may be customer service, quality assurance, product branding, or even presentation. These may sound trivial, but think about if you were a retailer for mens apparel and you specifically wanted to appeal to young urban males under the age of thirty. Labels equals status in many of these communities so a nice logo on the item that is visible may assist in the popularity and purchase of your garments. Even though this may have more to do with marketing and brand positioning, this is a must have against the competition.

However, before we get to marketing and branding there are other things needing consideration such as your mind-set, ego, time-line, available start-up capital, and feasibility. After you have trolled through the data and information from your research, the next step is the feasibility study. It is suggested that you do this prior to writing a business plan. In this way you can quickly determine whether or not you can enter the particular market or not and if so, at what level. A common mistake for new business people is to envision competing with the industry leaders. This is an ideal way to go broke quickly. In stead, set more realistic goals for yourself and get the notion out of your head that the Internet is going to make your business global. Facebook and the other social networks became popular because they were free to the end-user first and while trying to figure out a way to capitalize or convert those users into revenue. This would be a bad business-model to follow. Think about your region and the local competition first to see how much it would cost for you company to operate for the first 3 to 5 years without constant revenue.

Again this will require more local research this time on your specific region and take not of the deviations between your first broader macro research and the more localized micro research. The deviation between those two areas may actually become the niche that needs filling. In this way you can actually have a specialized niche within the region and a hybrid on a larger scale. Now, you may ask yourself “Why?” Simply put, the goal is to avoid what others are already doing in the sense that giving a “Thankyou” to a customer in a better way that the competitor is not enough. Another temptation to avoid is the centric mind-set that the business and industry has to behave according to your own belief or philosophy. This strategy rarely works out in a positive way. You have seen these business owners that rarely listens to their customers and as a result they have a revolving door of both customers and employees and the business stagnates and does not grow.

Growth must have a major role in the definition of your business because that is the incentive to attract customers, employees, and even investors. As a potential business-owner you will have to cleanse your mind of working for a company and view your company as your tangible boss. This may sound counter intuitive, but the cascade is like this, the economy drives the consumer or businesses that drive behavior which drives your company which eventually drives you to make the right decisions to meet the demand.

So far you have done your research, and you know how much it will cost you to compete in your local market. The next thing is to consider your liabilities as it relates to the company. You may use this also to determine what form of business ownership will work for you. It is a good business practice to incorporate whenever possible and in some states there are differences in levels according to projected revenues. Incorporating also gives you more protection than a DBA or partnerships. At this point you will learn another strategy that many successful business-owners do, delegate tasks that require professional expertise to professionals with their fields. A good business attorney, accountant, and business consultant are essential for start-ups. This is a gap that many would-be business people fall through the cracks. Another benefits is that these professionals may also assist in giving information that may be crucial in developing a comprehensive business proposal. They can help with the work you have done to reflect the requirements needed.

In review, you have your research, feasibility study, chosen your business ownership type, adjusted your expectations, hired professionals that know the laws and regulations better than yourself and you are ready to get started on the business proposal. Not so fast, “Where are your customers?” You guessed it, marketing research needs to take place for the particular individuals or companies that will use your products and or services within your area or online. One question to ask yourself, “How much will it cost me to contact a potential customer before a sale is completed?” And secondly, you need to discover the best way to contact these people or businesses. The prevailing statistics are that radio advertising a person is a passive-listener and only hears about every fourth word, direct mail only about 9% responds. Signs and other ad-hoc methods vary and television may be expensive depending on stations and providers. This means that a considerable budget may need to exist in order to solicit business. Again, this is another area where many would-be business people fall off the wagon and failure is waiting to catch them.

There is not an exact science to forecasting revenues so the goal is to have a very plausible theory and approach to this process. Avoid the temptation of raising expectations too high as some did in the dot com era for instance and went broke. The increases in expected revenue should be modest and function on the Standard Rule of 10, meaning that expenses should never go over 10% of revenue. Now, there are some businesses with a lower profit margin at 50%, but that is akin to paying US$10 for every US$20 received in revenue. As you can see pricing strategies for your products and or services are important and trying to make profits off of volume only works for those entities with high capacity transactions. This is the reason why 99 Cent Stores do so well low inventory cost and high turn-over of products. As a foot-note the difficulty with starting a business with very low prices is that it usually attracts the cost-conscious customer who is rarely brand-loyal and will use a comparable competitor. You see this behavior in customer that may shop at Wal-Mart, but purchase other specific items at the 99 Cent Stores. The danger in depending on these cost-conscious customers is that when prices rise they usually leave. Therefore, your pricing model needs to be established as feasible to sustain the business based on the value-added customer that you can possibly up-sell items or services. This is essential to your company’s growth and expansion.

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