Stop Procrastinating and Retire Richer: 3 Tips to Act on Now

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After a great 2013, smart investors are giving serious thought to how they can keep the gains going in 2014 and beyond. If you don't procrastinate, you can jump-start your investing and take maximum advantage of the financial resources at your disposal.

Here's how to put time on your side and reap big rewards in the years to come.

Make Your 2014 IRA Contribution Now

Most people understand that contributing to a retirement account is a great way to save for your golden years. Taking advantage of benefits like tax-deferred growth can help your savings grow a lot faster and get upfront tax breaks to boot.

When it comes to actually putting money into IRAs and other retirement accounts, though, many people fail to follow through. Luckily, the tax laws give you until mid-April of the following year to make contributions to an IRA. So if you haven't yet made a 2013 IRA contribution, you still have more than three months to gather money together and get it into your retirement account and enjoy the tax benefits immediately.

Still, rather than waiting until the last moment to ...

10 money moves you can make during commercials

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Couple on sofa watching television together © Blend Images, Hill Street Studios, the Agency Collection, Getty Images

Making smart year-end money moves doesn't require a lot of time. In fact, you can give yourself a year-end review and makeover during commercial breaks while you're watching TV.

The presents have been unwrapped; the tree may even be down. We are now mere days away from the start of a new year -- a clean slate, a fresh start, a … well, pick your own metaphor.

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is major downtime for many people. The holiday parties are generally over, and you may have taken a couple extra days off work with nothing to do.

Of course, you want to enjoy those down days, but don't squander all that free time either. Here are 10 smart money moves you can get done all in the course of watching your favorite shows on TV.

1. Change passwords

In between trolling online stores for after-Christmas sales, make a point to update all your passwords for next year, especially those for bank, credit card and other sensitive accounts.

You could use a notebook and pen to ...

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Why I’m Happy Losing Money as a Landlord

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I have a confession to make: I lose money on my rental property every month. But I'm OK with that. I've got a long-term plan. Or I'm still delusional and hoping for a turnaround in the housing market. Either way, I stubbornly refuse to lose $30,000 in home equity by selling. I'd rather pay $300 a month out of my pocket in the hopes of hanging on to what little equity I have left.

It's a Renters Market Out There

Much like a home buyer, a renter has a lot of purchasing power. It's a pure case of supply and demand if there ever was one. There are simply more homes on the market for rent in many parts of the country than there are renters. Renters have pricing power to force homeowners to lower the price of rent they pay each month, and as a landlord this causes me to personally lose about $300 a month.

But I'm fine with losing $300 a month. In fact, I'm actually happy about it. Let me tell you why you should be, too, if you're ever in the ...

3 Reasons Why Your Business Technology Is Failing

This item was filled under [ Business ]

As businesses depend on technology to get more and more work done, the rate at which that technology is failing them is on the rise, new research shows.

A study by technology-performance firm Compuware Corp. revealed that businesses of all sizes face pervasive technology failures, with more than half registering a significant technology failure within the past year and 81% indicating they had the same fiasco occur multiple times. Overall, nearly half of the companies surveyed said they experience tech-performance issues daily, while more than 25% reported that the frequency of failures is increasing.

Compuware CEO Bob Paul said that, at a time when technology permeates the operational fabric of every business, technology performance becomes a key competitive differentiator.

"Properly functioning technology can lead to expanded market shares, improved margins and increased revenues," Paul said. "Corporate leaders must understand the impact of technology on their businesses and take technology performance as seriously as they take other business-critical areas of their operations."

However, the study found that most businesses don't know the true impact of a tech breakdown: Only one-third of the businesses surveyed regularly collect data and quantify the impact of failures.

"You ...

5 Unique Mobile Apps for Your Business

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As many business owners have discovered in recent years, mobile technology has dramatically changed and, in many ways, improved the way they work. Whether they enhance productivity, schedule meetings or simply keep you organized, apps specifically designed for business can help you accomplish more than ever this year. If you're looking for a new tech tool to boost your business operations in 2014, try one of these five unique mobile apps.

Kiosk

As a small retail business, it can be difficult to compete with national retailers when it comes to gift registries for weddings, baby showers and other events. MyRegistry.com, a leading universal gift registry site, has already helped couples and individuals create custom registries with items from around the Web. Last month, the company announced the launch of its new iOS app, Kiosk, a tablet-based tool that allows merchants to create their own in-store gift registries integrated with customers' smartphones.

"The existing gift registry model that is currently in place for merchants can be very limiting and costly," said Nancy Lee, president of MyRegistry.com. "Our new Kiosk app provides retailers with a useful and affordable gift registry system that will ...

4 Unconventional Ways to Increase Employee Productivity

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Want your employees to get more done during the workday? Some employers might think that setting limitations on things like mobile devices and Internet access is the answer, but many companies have found that giving their workers more freedom and flexibility through certain policies is the key to increased efficiency.

"Progressive companies are evolving their benefits programs and finding ways to drive employee productivity without breaking the bank," said Chris Duchesne, vice president of global workplace solutions at Care.com, a care provider matching service. "They are providing tools to help reduce the amount of time employees spend on personal issues, giving them time back in their day that they often designated back to working."

Duchesne suggested a few policies that can be implemented to boost productivity, morale and culture among employees: [5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today]

Reduce stress through family-care programs. Help employees manage their personal and professional lives with programs and services that help them address the most pressing and stressful needs in their lives: their families. And it's not just about child care, either. Think about how you can help them take care of ...

U.S. Rate Rise Sends High-Dividend Stocks Lower: EcoPulse

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The prospect of rising interest rates in 2014 is sending shares of high-dividend-yielding companies lower as fixed-income assets become more attractive to investors.

The Dow Jones U.S. Select Dividend Index has lagged behind the Standard & Poor’s 500 Total Return Index by 4.6 percentage points on a total-return basis since April 30. During the same period, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries has risen to 2.88 percent from 1.67 percent. The dividend group fell to its lowest level in more than a year Dec. 11 relative to the broader gauge.

The dividend index -- made up of 100 companies including cigarette maker Lorillard Inc. (LO) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) -- has weakened since the Federal Reserve began bracing investors for a phase-out of its unprecedented monetary stimulus. At the conclusion of a two-day meeting May 1, the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement it was “prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.”

Amid this environment, “stocks that have been hurt the most are those that benefited a lot from lower interest ...

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Advice for Workers Retiring in 2014

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The oldest baby boomers will turn 68 in 2014. Some boomers are already retired, and many others will join them in the coming year. Here are some tips for people planning to retire in 2014:

Revisit your asset allocation. It's important to dial down the risk in your investment portfolio as you approach retirement, but you also need to ensure your portfolio will keep up with inflation over what could be several decades of retirement. "As you approach retirement, it makes sense to scale back some of the risk in the portfolio," says Susan Strasbaugh, a certified financial planner and principal of Strasbaugh Financial Advisory in Colorado Springs, Colo. "When you are talking about a 30-year retirement period, you don't need everything really conservatively invested because you still need growth to stay ahead of inflation." Strasbaugh recommends investing a portion of your assets in cash or short-term bonds, while investing some of your longer-term money more aggressively.

Stress-test your retirement finances. Take a look at the worst-case scenario for your investments, and consider whether you will be able to pay for all of your retirement necessities if that happens. "If you ...

Should You Stay in Stocks When Fed Finally Tapers?

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For me, trading has always revolved around economic fundamentals and stock market analysis. And if you’re like me, you’re getting somewhat irritated with the recent trading in the stock market by investors who seem more inclined to trade on what economists at the Federal Reserve do with their quantitative easing strategy than on what’s really important—the underlying fundamentals of the economy and corporate America’s financial health.

The reality is that corporate America is struggling to grow revenues. This means that companies and consumers aren’t spending at levels that make me comfortable with the economy. Of course, the stock market doesn’t really seem to care; it simply wants the flow of cheap money to continue.

In my view, it’s the same old thing that continues to engulf the trading in the stock market, and it’s annoying. For instance, if we see strong non-jobs economic data, the stock market edges higher. If we see signs of strengthening in the jobs market, the stock market sells off.

Of course, that’s because the Fed has made it clear that jobs creation is the focal point that will dictate when the central bank will begin to ...

On Cyber Monday, here’s how to not get cyber screwed

This item was filled under [ Technology ]

‘Tis the season for getting monster deals online. 

But just because Cyber Monday lacks the threat of being trampled to death by a hoard of penny pinchers doesn’t mean you’re safe. Scammers, hackers, and swindlers of all types are lurking in grungy basements around the world, ready to dupe anyone who fails to properly protect their e-commerce transactions. 

Here’s everything you need to do to make sure your Cyber Monday goes off without a hitch.

Get updated
Software updates can be annoying, but they often include key protections against the latest security threats. To have the best chance of escaping Cyber Monday without any battle wounds, install updates for your Web browsers, email clients, and operating systems.

Antivirus all the way
Many of the online threats this year come from malware that can steal your payment information and otherwise wreak havoc on your life. To limit the chances of getting pwned by a virus, make sure you have antivirus software installed and activated. There are many quality free versions to choose from, which you can check out here: Windows, Mac.

Ignore emails and pop-ups
Even if you have antivirus software up and running, there’s ...

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Five future transportation technologies that will actually happen

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Just when you thought your commute was getting too routine.

Over the next decade, the idea of getting to work on time, heading out to the hinterlands for your family vacation or even going to the game will become much easier. Cars will drive themselves along pre-determined routes. Trains will use new magnetic rail systems. And an amazing new “hyperloop” train will speed along at 800 miles per hour.

The best part? These innovations are not just spinning their wheels. They are set to debut within the next 10 years or have already started transporting us.

“New technologies have the potential to make our roads and transit systems safer, greener and more efficient,” Gregory Winfree, the administrator of the Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, told FoxNews.com. “We are working hard to ensure that these technologies can be integrated safely into our existing system.”

“We will need to do something,” said Thilo Koslowski, the lead automotive analyst at research firm Gartner, who studies next-generation transportation, “given that we will continue to see more vehicles on the road but won’t be able to grow infrastructure at the same time. We have to get smarter about using that infrastructure and/or innovate in passenger vehicles ...

Comcast Said to Consider Bid for Time Warner Cable

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Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) is weighing a bid for Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), a deal that would unify the largest cable providers in the U.S., according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

Comcast doesn’t see insurmountable regulatory obstacles to the transaction, since the companies don’t overlap in many regions, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The two companies have held some talks, though the process is in the early stages, the other person said.

The move would disrupt efforts by Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR), backed by billionaire John Malone, to make its own bid for Time Warner Cable. Charter has been in discussions with banks, including Barclays Plc, Bank of America Corp. and Deutsche Bank AG, to borrow funds for an acquisition, two people familiar with those talks said. The deal would mean acquiring a much bigger rival: Time Warner Cable has an enterprise value of $61 billion, compared with less than $28 billion for Charter.

“Comcast has an advantage through sheer size, and they could make an offer that would be far less ...

No Rewards Without Risk: How to Determine Your Risk Tolerance

This item was filled under [ Business ]

When it comes to building your wealth, it’s all but impossible to do so without assuming some type of risk. Some of the most effective means of creating wealth — investing in the stock market, starting a business, etc. — come with a significant level of risk. Even if you make educated, thought-out decisions, there are always factors that could limit your level of success or even cause losses.

However, the possibility of loss should not hold you back from making the moves that will increase your bottom line.

Understanding Risks and Rewards

In the financial world, risks are directly related to rewards. In other words, the higher the risk, the higher the reward when things go as planned and the greater the loss if things go awry. The lower the risk, the lower the reward — but the potential losses are also lower.

To manage risk, many investors turn to the risk pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid, you’ll find those investments considered “safe” and have a reasonable likelihood of some type of return. In the middle are slightly riskier investments, such as real estate, stocks and equity funds. These investments ...

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5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Content Marketing Strategy

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Technology has changed our lives and influenced the way we make purchase decisions. Landlines have been cut and consumers are on the move, using their devices to consume an ever-expanding array of content and services.

Our environment has changed and, as marketers, we need to respond to this development and shift the way we interact with our audiences.

Where does content marketing fit into this shift? According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, the formal definition of content marketing is “A marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

While I don’t believe content marketing is the only marketing you need, you cannot successfully market and grow your business without it, and you should incorporate content marketing into the overall marketing mix.

It doesn’t matter if you are a consumer-driven brand or focused on business-to-business sales, content marketing will help you reach your goals. Here are a few reasons why you need to consider content marketing:

1. Media Overload

We live in an “always on” society with a constant ...

The Secret to Building a Profitable Business

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Perhaps the most important marketing step any business can take is to discover a way to be different.

Different is doing something like no other. Different is creating your own category. Different is exceeding people’s chronically low expectations. Different is marketing in a way that makes people take notice.

Most of the time marketers seem to be in a race for sameness and this is what leads to low profits and that sinking feeling that somehow your business is stuck. Now, if I’ve got your attention let me add this.

And here’s the tough part. You’re probably pretty remarkable already, but it’s just that you’re remarkable at something everyone else claims. I know you do better work and provide better service than anyone in your industry – heck, your existing clients know this too, but those are expectations that everyone can boast.

Testing different

Don’t believe me? Try this. Go to your top five competitors and copy the first bit of content you encounter on their website onto a blank document. Do the same for your own site. Now, on this document, black out the names or any reference to the name of the ...

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3D-Printed Fossils & Rocks Could Transform Geology

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Whether they're cracking open rocks or scanning tiny changes in topography, geologists already work in three dimensions. But one of the most popular attractions at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Denver last week was a 3D printer spitting out fossils, globes and fractured rocks.

The 3D printer belonged to Franek Hasiuk, a geologist at Iowa State University and proprietor of the GeoFabLab, a hub for 3D geologic printing. By scanning and copying rocks, fossils and geologic data, Hasiuk hopes to revolutionize research and teaching.

"Humans are visual and tactile," Hasiuk told LiveScience. "When I have something I can hold in my hands," it makes it a lot easier to understand, he said.  [How 3D Printers Work (Infographic)]

Visualizing rocks, in space

A former petroleum geologist, Hasiuk sees 3D printing as a new way to visualize pore spaces in rocks — the tiny voids where oil, gas and fluids hide. He spent about $3,000 of his startup money (unrestricted research funds universities give to newly hired faculty) to buy the 3D printer this year, and about $1,400 on a 3D scanner that scans and digitizes objects.

"In the oil industry, CT scanning of ...

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Google’s dreaded ‘blacklist’

This item was filled under [ Business ]

Small businesses are reeling from an increase in cybercrime, but a hacked website can have even greater consequences if Google lists you as "infected."

The search giant is constantly scanning the web's 60 trillion URLs for malware and phishing scams. If it deems a site suspicious, businesses can say goodbye to their customers until the problem is resolved.

"If Google blacklists an infected website, you're basically off the Internet until the website is fixed," said Peter Jensen, CEO of StopTheHacker.com.

Google (GOOGFortune 500) estimates that it flags and quarantines 10,000 websites daily (it doesn't use the term "blacklist"). It not only scans Google's search results and ads, but also flags suspicious URLs typed into browsers. The search engine Bing, run by Microsoft(MSFTFortune 500), treats infected sites in a similar fashion.

Being blacklisted can quickly decimate a small firm's reputation and sales.

"Businesses say they're not at fault and shouldn't be penalized. Google [says] it wants to keep the Internet safe for its users," said Jensen, whose firm is contacted 20 or 30 times a day by businesses that have been blacklisted.

Google spokesman Jason Freidenfeld emphasized that point. "About 1 billion people receive protection against phishing ...

5 Frightening Facebook Marketing Mistakes

This item was filled under [ Marketing ]

It’s happened to all of us. A quick action that you think will either be harmless, or even beneficial. But oh, how wrong you were. You had no idea the consequences would be this bad, and regret your decision.

Who knew that liking a Facebook page could be so awful?

But some of the people maintaining Facebook pages just don’t get it. They either post constantly or rarely, typing whatever they want with no thought or strategy, and you can tell they’re not even that familiar with Facebook.

The last thing you want as a marketer is to be one of those people.

You want your audience to look forward to your page’s next post, not dreading it. If they’re annoyed enough, they’ll unlike you. If they just ignore you, you may stop showing up in their feed because of how the News Feed algorithm works.

So spruce up your posts. You want them to be relevant, visually appealing, and invoke enough of a reaction that your fans will click, like, comment, or share. There are a lot of mistakes that are easy to make if ...

6 Things That Could Be Hurting Your Personal Brand

This item was filled under [ Business ]

Whatever you want to call the business of being yourself, chances are you’ve already taken steps to enhance your individual brand. There’s no shortage of “how to brand yourself” advice on the web, and most of it boils down to this: Put yourself out there—online and in person. So why aren’t more of us branding gurus by now?

Sure, you’ve printed up business cards. And you’ve dutifully joined Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which you visit regularly and update at least occasionally. Yet opportunities still aren’t flowing your way.

Why? Well, blame the overcrowded interwebs.

“The reality is, the internet is a global talent pool,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and bestselling author of “Promote Yourself.” “If you want to compete in this economy, you have to have the right online presence. It’s do or die.”

So what is the right online presence? How can you leave competitors eating your digital dust? Avoid these six common self-branding mistakes, and you’ll soon stand out from the pack.

Self-Branding Mistake #1: You haven’t clarified your purpose.

First, ask yourself what you want to be known—or hired—for. In a time when jobs are scarce, it feels smart to boast about your broad range ...

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Why the K Show is Essential to the Plastics Industry

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Every three years, the plastics and rubber industry’s top companies and specialists meet up at the K Show, where new technologies, discoveries, and innovations are introduced. K 2013 is set to take place from October 16th to October 23rd. Why is the K Show so important to the plastics industry? Read on to see why we’re so excited for this upcoming event!

If you are active in the plastics or rubber trade, you should already have plans for October. Anyone who is interested in innovations in the industry, focused on offering attractive products, or wants to check their competition should book a flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, for K 2013, an international exhibition which takes places every three years.

K 2013 will showcase the latest developments in the industry; expect to see new standards in speed, quality, flexibility, and efficiency of processing plastics introduced, and to observe groundbreaking changes in compounding and recycling equipment.

The show’s theme this year is “K makes the difference”. The letter K stands for the innovation that gives companies the ability to perfect any product, from plastics and rubber. The exhibition will include more than 3,100 companies ...