General Personal Finance

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warning

For years now, I’ve been receiving emails about binary options. Most of the emails asking my thoughts about the trading vehicle. The good news is that I’m well versed in the topic. In fact, I’ve worked in the binary options industry for some time now. However, the trading vehicle definitely isn’t for everyone. The truth is that for some, they’re a great way to make money. However, for others, they are a great way to lose. At the end of the day, it all boils down to a few simple warnings. If these warnings scare you away, binary options likely aren’t for you. However, if you thrive on high risk/high reward, this may be a great trading vehicle for you.





Warning #1: Not All Binary Options Brokers Are Regulated

As mentioned above, the binary options industry as a whole is a relatively new industry. As a result, regulation surrounding the industry is incredibly thin. While some countries require brokers to be regulated, others don’t. At the end of the day, the Binary Options broker that you choose will make or break the experience. With that said, if you decide that binary options are a good trading vehicle for you, make sure to keep the following in mind when choosing your broker…

  • Regulated Brokers Are Best – At the end of the day, regulation is very important when making sure that your money is safe. While regulation isn’t available with regard to binary options everywhere, if regulation is in your area, make sure to avoid any unregulated broker you come across.
  • Do Your Research – Make a list of brokers and compare everything. Not only their validity as a business, but compare return rates, asset lists, trading types, and other functionalities. For instance, some charge commissions, while other binary options brokers do not – this type of information is very important in order to choose well. After all, you’re going to want to choose a broker that fits with your needs.
  • Read Reviews – Finally, make sure to read a few consumer reviews about the broker before signing up. At the end of the day, if others are having bad experiences, chances are that you will too. On the flip side, if others are having good experience, you can expect to see the same.

Warning #2: By Nature, Binary Options Are High Risk

The truth is that every investment option is going to come with risk. Even putting your money in a saving account is at risk as currency rates can change. However, by their very nature, binary options carry a bit of a higher level of risk than other trading vehicles. The reason for this is relatively simple.











At the end of the day, binary options are a short term trading vehicle. Generally, traders make predictions over a time frame of anywhere from one minute to one day. The truth is that predictions that have a longer period of time to come to fruition are often more successful. Making short term predictions, in many cases, can be like taking a shot in the dark. Nonetheless, with a skilled technical trader, profits are indeed possible, and when seen, plentiful.

Warning #3: Don’t Get Pulled Into Push Button Scams

For those of you who aren’t technical analysts, trading binary options may seem incredibly difficult. As a result, beginners often look to push button programs to make them money in the market. These programs tell users to upload money, then the bot will do the trading for you. However, these bots are generally tied to Shoddy brokers and very rarely make successful trades. So, don’t fall into the push button trap.

Final Thoughts

The truth is that binary options can be difficult. While it is possible to make a profit trading them, it takes a skilled technical trader to be successful. Nonetheless, if you have the technical skills, the willingness to take the time to find a good broker, and the ability to spot and avoid scams, binary options can be a great way to multiply your earnings in the market.

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[Image Courtesy of Pixabay]

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Most people face the same sort of dilemma at some point in their life: they wonder how they will meet their economic goals to provide for themselves and guarantee their families a quality future.

Despite well-known techniques like the 50/30/20 rule, the state of the economy, stagnant wages, and growing wealth disparity haven’t been much of a help to the average family. This may have left you wondering: how am I going to meet my lifetime economic goals?

The truth is that there are a number of different ways to put your money to use and profit from the capital you already have. One of these methods is the opportunity offered by online CFD trading. Forex platforms give you the freedom to make money on your own terms.

If you are new to the forex world and have no idea of how online trading works, let’s go over some of the basics to online currency trading and get an idea of how you can make your dreams a reality by trading online. I suggest you check out this page here for a more in depth explanation of the forex trading business opportunity.

Forex Trading: What It Is and How It Works

Let’s start with the basics: what is forex trading and how does it work? In order to understand the forex markets, it’s first important to understand the nature of international currencies and how they are evaluated.

International currency values are determined by a number of factors. The most powerful forces that set these prices are supply and demand forces that operate on the worldwide economy. But micro forces in a local economy or region also have an influence on currency values and how they are traded.

Take the United States Dollar, for example. The USD is undoubtedly one of the most popular currencies in the world and one of the most highly traded. The price of the USD is set by the supply and demand of US currency across the globe, but it is also influenced by local factors like unemployment rates, the US’ GDP, and political forces like the recent presidential elections.

Throughout the day, all of these forces play out and result in fluctuations in the currency’s price. As traders buy and sell different currencies, the prices jump and fall; sometimes these changes are just by a small amount, and other times the jumps can be huge as a result of some major cause.

All online currency trading is based on these changes in currency values. Forex traders buy, sell, and trade world currencies and profit based on the slight rise or fall in currency values. Traders that are able to identify a forex trading business opportunity can make a huge profit by investing in the right currency at the right time.

How Trading is Done

Forex traders take advantage of the market’s decentralized nature to trade via the internet. For many, this is the real value that forex trading offers. Thanks to the omnipresence of the internet nowadays, traders can access forex markets from any place that has an internet connection.

This gives traders a level of freedom and independence that most have never seen before. Anyone can trade from their home, on the go, or even while on vacation. For those that want to create a major income stream from forex trading, this gives them the freedom to work wherever they want. For those that are looking to make a little money on the side or make ends meet, this allows them to trade whenever they have leisure time.

How to Choose a Trusted Broker

The way forex traders access the markets is via a broker. There are many large forex brokers that offer services to traders across the globe, so many that it may be difficult to decide which broker to use and which to trust.

While we can’t tell you exactly which broker is best, we can give you an idea of what characteristics to look for in a quality broker.

First, you want to stick with a broker that is regulated. The biggest, most-trusted brokers, will be regulated in the large markets, providing consumer protections to traders. If you decide to take advantage of the forex trading business opportunity, you will be investing your own money. You don’t want to get stuck in a position where you were taken advantage of and you weren’t protected.

Next, you want to be sure that the broker you are using has a good platform to help you make quality and well-informed trades. The best platforms will give you access via both your mobile device and desktop computer, and will have concentrated market information like current currency values and trading charts.

Lastly, be sure to stick with a broker that has a good level of customer service. The best brokers offer 24/7 customer service to help answer any questions that you may have. During your time trading, you are likely to encounter difficulties and problems. You want to be sure that the broker has your back and will help you get over these stumbling blocks.

Learning About the Markets

The most important step to becoming a good forex trader is learning as much as you can about the markets. The key to successful trading is knowing how markets will move and investing based on those movements. That means taking the time to do some real research to get a thorough understanding of how the markets work and are influenced by different factors.

You also need to get a handle on the market lingo. There are a number of terms that are specific to the forex market and if you want to succeed, you have to learn what they mean and how to use them.

Overall, if you are looking to reach your economic goals in life, the forex trading business opportunity could be a great way to supplement your income or generate a second income stream. Forex trading offers traders a level of freedom that can’t be found anywhere else, and if you invest properly, you could make a hefty profit. Just remember, research and hard work are the best ways to succeed. If you take the time and effort to learn about the markets, you can easily meet the economic goals you have set for yourself.

InvestmentZen Images

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Press release

Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX) dives to recover treasures from shipwrecks.

But its current project may be the most challenging yet … a desperate dive to recover its own shipwrecked company.

While investors may find other viewpoints here, TheStreetSweeper sees one titanic disaster in the making. Here’s why:

*1. Poof: Cash, Assets, Don Diego Hope

The company reported, as of March 31, operating cash had fallen to $2.8 million … At the same time the company is burning through $2.7 million in just one quarter.

So OMEX appears to be operating on fumes.

At the same time, OMEX is struggling with debt deals and owns virtually no assets.

Filings state: “we have pledged the majority of our remaining assets to MINOSA, and its affiliates, and to Monaco, leaving us with few opportunities to raise additional funds from our balance sheet.”

OMEX’s financial lifeboats recently have been anchored on expectations that Mexico approve the Don Diego permit. But Mexican authorities denied this critical application.

The Don Diego represents a Hail Mary business restructuring for OMEX and, in our view, another reason for investors to brace for failure. Read on….

*2. Mexico: Application Denied

Way back in 1994, the company began navigating the thrilling but choppy waters of undersea excavation and recovery.

OMEX found five major shipwrecks over those 22 years but lost $123 million in the process, Bloomberg reports.

In 2007, the company began a very public 5-year battle with Spain over gold and silver recovered from the “Black Swan” warship. OMEX lost the loot and a federal judge ordered the company to pay $1 million for “bad faith and abusive litigation.”

In the midst of that public drama, the company restructured operations in 2010 to focus on deep water seabed exploration of minerals.

Much hope went into the Don Diego seabed deposit off the Mexico coast – considered the restructuring centerpiece –  and shares ran up around $9 in early April.

Then on April 11, Mexico denied the company’s environmental permit application amid concerns about the environmental impact on sea turtles. OMEX plans to dredge Don Diego’s phosphate rock lurched to a halt and the stock took a 55% dive.

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

OMEX is diving deeper and deeper  …

*3. Delisting

Now OMEX is at the brink of being delisted. Nasdaq notified the company May 23 that its market value had fallen below the $35 million minimum. To regain compliance, Florida-based OMEX must reach and maintain that amount for at least 10 days by Nov. 21.

The company’s valuation is about $15 million short. And at a $20 million valuation, OMEX is, in our view, extremely overvalued.

*4. Exploration Vessel Sold: Quarterly Loss Explodes

The company sold its exploration boat in May. Now it plans to rent boats to conduct explorations.

The same June 7 8-K containing that news also includes this odd statement:  “As communicated in a press release on May 12, 2016, the Company expects to at least double its revenue from its marine services activities between the first quarter and the second quarter of 2016.”

Let’s compare this extremely promotional fluff with reality …

Marine services last quarter generated $0.58 million.

The company last quarter lost $4 million.

*5. Goodbye: Chief Financial Officer Flees

The long-time CFO jumped ship last month. When the money-guy leaves, the company’s usually in deep trouble:

Departure of Directors or Principal Officers; Election of Directors; Appointment of Principal Officers.

As of June 8, 2016, as part of Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.’s on going cost-cutting strategy, one full-time executive position has been eliminated. As a result of this restructuring, former Chief Financial Officer, Philip S. Devine, is no longer with the company. Jay A. Nudi, Odyssey’s current Chief Accounting Officer and Treasurer, has assumed the additional duties as Interim Chief Financial Officer.

Such severe cost-cutting is necessary but experience shows that last-ditch effort frequently prolongs the pain. Think of Sears and KMart.

*6. Desperate: Revenue, Earnings

The chief financial officer may have been relieved to extract himself from OMEX and its perilous revenue and earnings trend:

(Source: Company SEC filing)

Just since 2013, revenue has dropped 77% and negative earnings have accelerated 98%.

7. Doubtful: Ability to Operate

Company filings refer to the failed restructuring centerpiece – the Don Diego application –  and warn: “the April 2016 decision has delayed our expected cash inflows from this project. Therefore, the factors noted above raise doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.”

Yet OMEX market valuation now is $20 million..  thanks to hope and hype floating on a market misunderstanding of OMEX’s desperate situation… virtually no cash, no salvageable business plan.

*Conclusion:

Any OMEX treasures washed away long ago and this shipwreck is slipping into the deepest, darkest depths. They’re loading the lifeboats, the sharks are swimming and Kevin O’Leary is hollering, “Never cry for money. It doesn’t cry for you.” In our view, the stock goes to zero.

* Important Disclosure: The owners of TheStreetSweeper hold a short position in OMEX and stand to profit on any future declines in the stock price.

* Editor’s Note: As a matter of policy, TheStreetSweeper prohibits members of its editorial team from taking financial positions in the companies that they cover. To contact Sonya Colberg, the author of this story, please send an email to scolberg@thestreetsweeper.org.

[Image Courtesy of Wikipedia]

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Turtle Beach HEAR Stock News

By Sonya Colberg, TheStreetSweeper Senior Editor

After living on Easy Street for a month, even while feverishly discounting products, Turtle Beach Corporation (HEAR) is now quietly recalling $6 million in next-gen products.

The recall of almost 60,000 China-manufactured gaming headsets began last week, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall came after consumers reported mold on gaming headsets, posing a health risk.

The XO FOUR Stealth headsets were sold in stores and online this year from June to September.

Here’s a snapshot of the government notice:

(Source: US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Click for more details)

The recalled headsets, recently introduced for Xbox One console game systems, are core to Turtle Beach. Gaming headsets account for nearly every penny of sales.

This recall represents just the very latest downside risk to Turtle Beach.

Investors may find other viewpoints here, but TheStreetSweeper presents other challenges poised to make turtle soup of this stock.

*Terrible Timing

Significantly, the recalled units are part of the next generation headsets that the CFO says were critical to the small sales hop to $22.6 million last quarter (though 6-months’ revenue fell 30 percent below last year).

“Strong consumer response to our expanded portfolio of next generation headsets” primarily drove that little quarterly improvement said CFO John Hanson.

The recall couldn’t come at a worse time.

Video gaming companies introduced the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2013 to try to wake up gamers who’d fallen asleep at their old, no-longer-exciting consoles. Companies wanted to quickly offer headsets for these new consoles. But Turtle Beach fell a little behind the curve, for instance, because it couldn’t get its hands on a headset adapter for Xbox One until March 2014, four months after the system came out.

Meanwhile, gamers have been turning up their noses at old-gen game consoles and the headsets that go with them. Rapidly.

“…the transition from prior-gen to next-gen consoles will and has put pressure on our operating results and the decline in old-gen consoles and associated accessories continues to be faster than we or analysts expected,” said CEO Juergen Stark.

That means the company is forced to spend big bucks advertising old headsets and tossing them into the bin at huge discount.

*Discounting Pain

The company’s stuck with a growing truckload of inventory: $37 million worth.

Turtle Beach has been forced to hold a fire sale. An Amazon search reveals discounts as high as 70 percent:

(Source: Amazon.com)

Discounting can’t be casually swept aside. Well-heeled first-party companies like Microsoft can command greater market share by discounting and bundling.

But that blue-light special discount essentially steals from smaller, cash-poor companies. Look at how a couple of small Turtle Beach rivals have crumpled as they faced heavy discounting.

Here’s the LeapFrog (LF) stock chart, showing an 84 percent drop this year:

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

The discount bin is also eating into Skullcandy (SKUL), despite that company’s cushion of better margins of 42 percent versus Turtle Beach’s low 15 percent margin. Skullcandy stock has fallen 28 percent this year:

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

*Headset Status: Popularity Appears To Decline

Comparing Turtle Beach headsets with other companies’ headsets, a couple of troubling issues emerge.

First, the influential PCGamer.com recently ran an article comparing the best gaming headsets, here. Turtle Beach didn’t even get a mention.

And sales of $186 million fell significantly below the $205 million reported just three years ago.  The dollar share was 53 percent then. It’s 49.1 percent now.

Google search trends show gamers are vastly more interested in Microsoft’s own gaming headset than Turtle Beach. Even Skullcandy brand Astro attracts more interest. See below:

(Source: Google)

*Next Thing: Cash Drain, Late To Market

What about the prospects of Turtle Beach’s secondary product, HyperSound?

The company owes a lot – almost an 80 percent jump in stock price – to the CEO’s mention of an upcoming initial shipment of HyperSound Clear.

But TheStreetSweeper is concerned about the irrational exuberance surrounding this old, expensive technology whose chief accomplishment is draining Turtle Beach.

The company has already sunk about $10 million on HyperSound directional speakers, primarily on research and development, and appears on track to drain another $10 million this year.

When they do go to market, the units are expected to cost $1,500 and anticipated to be used by people positioning the units near their television sets.

But, as an author beautifully explains, high price is the largest barrier to entry for hard-of-hearing folks.

If people want to plunk down over $1,000, they may be more likely to go with hearing aids.

In fact, research shows subjects vastly preferred the sound of speech (shown in red below) heard through hearing aids over PSAPs.

(Source: audiologyonline.com)

If hard-of-hearing people prefer a PSAP (personal sound amplifier product), the market is already flooded with competitors’ cheaper products, suggests an audiologyonline.com interview.

Indeed, consumers can also buy a competitor’s more mobile sound amplification device for just about $70.

A fresh rival is also undercutting Turtle Beach prices with a couple of new audio transmitting devices for just $249 to $269.

*Lawsuits: Uncertain Costs, Potential Stock Dilution

HyperSound technology ended up under Turtle Beach through a reverse merger in 2013 that an ongoing shareholder lawsuit alleges resulted in breach of fiduciary duty. This litigation is costly, distracting and the ultimate decision stands as another question mark.

Another shareholder filed a lawsuit in February that could result in the redemption of his stock. An unfavorable judgment could unleash the plaintiff’s stock – worth around $15 million. So, the plaintiff’s potential sale of millions of shares poses a massive risk of dilution to stock held by other shareholders.

*Another Financial Backer Special

Money-losing Turtle Beach’s pathway circled around MDB Capital, a firm which underwrote Parametric Sound Corp. in 2012, just before it merged into Turtle Beach.

TheStreetSweeper has warned investors about a number of risky MDB-associated companies, including Resonant (RESN ~$14 StreetSweeper publication day, now   ~$3.90), Uni-Pixel (UNXL ~$7 publication day, now ~$1.20 per share) and Clearsign Combustion (CLIR ~$6.79 publication day, now ~$5.80 per share).

MDB Capital is known for taking on extremely risky companies. We’ve seen so many of these deals go south that we consider any MDB Capital association another great reason to dash the other way.

Indeed, Turtle Beach’s stock ranged from $1.75 – $6.08 over the past year and has fallen more than 38 percent since the 2012 MDB underwriting.

*Poor Financials

Quarterly net revenue remained flat compared with last year, yet salary expenses and losses rocketed.

(Source: Company SEC filing)

Six-month comparisons more fully indicate the seriousness of the matter:

(Source: Company SEC filing)

So, even before the recall, Turtle Beach reported increasingly negative earnings per share, rising losses and deteriorating sales.

*Who Loses; Who Wins?

While shareholders watch Turtle Beach’s losses exceed last year’s losses, executives are rolling in compensation totaling $6.6 million.

(Source: Company SEC filing)

What happened to the stock price during the time executives were pushing wheelbarrows in to carry off their compensation?

The stock fell 78 percent:

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

Golden parachutes will land CEO Juergen Stark and CFO John Hanson gently and prosperously upon their termination and resignation plans – handing them up to $1.2 million combined.

*Insiders Selling Company Stock

Meanwhile, it looks like a big insider is cashing out.

In the past year, even with the stock as low as $2.21 per share, beneficial owner Carmine Bonanno has stayed as busy dumping stock this year as last year. Earlier this month, Mr. Bonanno unloaded more than 96,000 shares.

It’s sure not the first time insiders have pulled out the stops. Cofounders Mr. Bonanno and Frederick Romano – who pulls down $1,635 per day working as the company’s operations and supply chain advisor – sold 371,500 shares to “a group of institutional investors” in August 2014 as shares traded close to a 52-week-low following an earnings miss.

(Source: Nasdaq)

*Earnings Misses Common

Looking at earnings misses, Turtle Beach has a bad habit of disappointing analysts. And even if earnings uptick in the last quarter, analysts predict a 2015 earnings loss to investors of $-0.29 per share. History suggests it won’t even make that, as shown below.

(Source: Yahoo Finance)

Just that much more silliness for this stock with a ridiculous forward price-to-earnings of 84.75, and a $143 million market valuation.

*Conclusion

Turtle Beach is wading into a big recall of next-generation headsets – presenting a giant question mark on the ultimate monetary and reputation costs. Meanwhile, the company deals with having to discount headsets more rapidly than expected while its market share declines to 46 percent from 49.1 percent in 2013. At the same time, Turtle Beach losses mount up by the multi-millions.

And TheStreetSweeper can’t imagine its secondary product HyperSound living up to the rushed, irrational exuberance that recently set the stock on fire.

Sure, Turtle Beach argues the $1,500 HyperSound price tag is cheaper than hearing aids.

But HyperSound is late to market, already roughed up by much cheaper, effective alternatives. Research shows people prefer the voice quality of hearing aids over all the PSAPs, anyway.  And let’s face it. People can pop hearing aids into the ear and go. But no one’s going to drag along a pair of these 7.4-pound speakers and amplifier boxes the next time they visit the theater or grocery store.

All considered, this Turtle Beach hot stock will get freeze-dried and we see over a 50 percent downside from here.

* Important Disclosure: The owners of TheStreetSweeper hold a short position in HEAR and stand to profit on any future declines in the stock price.

* Editor’s Note: As a matter of policy, TheStreetSweeper prohibits members of its editorial team from taking financial positions in the companies that they cover. To contact Sonya Colberg, the author of this story, please send an email to scolberg@thestreetsweeper.org.

[Image Courtesy of Wikipedia]

Darden Stock News
Darden Restaurants (DRI) is expected to report earnings on Tuesday, September 22nd. The whisper number is $0.57, in-line with the analysts’ estimate and showing neutral confidence from the WhisperNumber community. Whispers range from a low of $0.55 to a high of $0.59. Darden has a 63% positive surprise history (having topped the whisper in 30 of the 48 earnings reports for which we have data).

Earnings history:

– Beat whisper: 30 qtrs
– Met whisper: 2 qtrs
– Missed whisper: 16 qtrs

Our primary focus is on post earnings price movement. Knowing how likely a stock’s price will move following an earnings report can help you determine the best action to take (long or short). In other words, we analyze what happens when the company beats or misses the whisper number expectation.

The table below indicates the average post earnings price movement within a one and thirty trading day timeframe:

DRI915A

The strongest price movement of +1.4% comes within ten trading days when the company reports that beat the whisper number, and -2.9% within twenty trading days when the company reports earnings that miss the whisper number. The overall average post earnings price move through thirty trading days is ‘as expected’ (beat the whisper number and see strength, miss and see weakness) when the company reports earnings.

The table below indicates the most recent earnings reports and short-term price reaction:

DRI915B

The company has reported earnings ahead of the whisper number in all of the past four quarters with a whisper number. In the comparable quarter last year the company reported earnings three cents ahead of the whisper number. Following that report the stock realized a 2.8% loss in one trading day. Last quarter the company reported earnings fifteen cents ahead of the whisper number. Following that report the stock realized a 5.0% loss in five trading days. Overall historical data indicates the company to be (on average within thirty trading days) an ‘as expected’ price reactor when the company reports earnings.

WhisperNumber provides detailed earnings analysis and earnings trade alerts. Learn more here.

[Image Courtesy of Contract Design]

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Disabled people have to contend with a whole host of challenges unfamiliar to the general population. This is especially true for those living overseas. Many of these will be dealing with different national standards of health care and will be navigating many new cultural and location-based challenges. And some of them will be sending money back home to friends or family.

In this last situation, it is imperative to maximize the amount of money that the receiving party is sent. But a lot of remittance and money transfer companies don’t make this easy. Instead, they’ll take huge fractions of a paycheck, meaning that the person working for this money is going to have to work even harder, not just for the people back home, but to support his or her own challenging existence.

The key to making this a workable situation is to find better exchange and fee rates. But money transfer companies don’t make this easy. The biggest and most recognizable names also have the worst rates and service. This is almost always true. The newer companies which are providing valuable competition to the old guard of money transfer giants are reliant upon new technologies and communication channels, like mobile devices and the internet. It isn’t guaranteed that all individuals will have access to these technologies. And even if they do, will they be able to find out about these smaller companies?

The first step is to know they exist at all. If you simply google “overseas payments from UK”, you might not immediately discover the best rates and service terms. That’s why the above link is valuable. There are sites like these that do the heavy lifting in researching the best deals for transferring money. If you are able to find one such company, you could be saving 10% or more on the money you send overseas. For people living on a small or fixed income, with dependents in another land, this savings can be a godsend.

So why haven’t improved services like these become the norm? Well, in some circles they have. There’s a whole side of the industry which relies on this new generation of remittance services, and has all but forgotten that the old way exists. But the old guard of money transfer companies is still very much in effect. And they’re succeeding because of their persistence in the brick and mortar world. Companies like Western Union have tens of thousands of physical locations. And they’re strategically placed to be people’s only option when they need to send money.

That’s why you see tiny offices like these in places like airports and besides bus stops. Travelers are often in a bind, and don’t have the luxury to shop around for the biggest savings. That’s why it’s important to do the research before you actually need to use the service. Ten minutes searching for the most competitive rates could save you hundreds (and a lot of hassle) when it finally comes time to send money back home. Your friends and family will end up with more money in their pocket, and you won’t have to work so hard to make the money you send.

Image Source: Quazie

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This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.

Personal fitness and life insurance used to be two exclusive considerations. Because life insurance didn’t pay off, by its very nature, until the expiration of the person who started the policy, life insurance, at the very least, didn’t seem to favor those who maintained good standards of physical health. If anything, healthy people just paid more, as they had more monthly payments to make during their (potentially) longer lives.

But all of this is starting to change. Recent John Hancock polls reveal that prospective customers are starting to believe that it is important for health insurers to start incentivize fitness among their customer base. For those who grew up in the old way of thinking, the benefit for the customer seems obvious, but the benefit for the insurer might seem more oblique.

Life insurance has always had passive benefits for the policy holder, if not financial ones. In the recent poll, nearly 90% of respondents said that having life insurance meant that they had a lot less worry to carry around regarding their family’s future. This translated into higher personal confidence for 73% and lower stress levels for 65%. But still, these were secondary benefits. Until recently, there was no direct financial benefit for people with life insurance.

John Hancock is changing this. With their new Vitality program, they are able to track customer fitness behaviors (like walking, running, getting immunizations) using wearable fitness technologies. As customers get healthier, they have to pay less for their premiums. If it’s not immediately evident why this is a good thing for insurers, the benefit is actually twofold. For one thing, it’s great advertising. In their recent polls 87% of prospective insurance customers reported that this sort of health motivation should be standard for all life insurance providers. 84% said that such a program would make them much more likely to buy such a policy.

But a healthy customer base is also much more cost-effective for health and life insurance companies. Healthy people don’t cost as much to insure. They tend to live (and pay) longer, and they provide a more robust base, which often translates into farther reaching advertising and client acquisition focusing.

For the individual customer, it’s simply a win-win. Not only do individuals get to enjoy the primary benefits of fitness (better health, less time spent ill, fewer aches and pains, better aging, just to name a few), the lifestyle change translates into savings for the wallet. With less money spent on a life insurance or health insurance policy, that’s more money that can be invested in other ways: in travel, in family, in savings, in retirement investment. It’s a feedback loop that favors the customer and helps to build a healthier country, especially among one with as many senior citizens as the United States. As programs like this take hold, you can be sure that other industries will follow suit, and the health of a nation may just improve.

I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

Image Source: Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club

In John Hancock’s new ad campaign, they have a string of investment professionals speaking of their passion and obsession for providing their clients with the investment advice. Thinking this is the end of the ad, the viewer prepares for the video or article that comes after this simple message. But then John Hancock throws in a little twist. Each investment talking head then says that they’re glad they someone who’s in their corner the same way that they are for their own customers. John Hancock is where investment professionals go for their investment advice.

This is the essence of the John Hancock campaign, and has been for some time. John Hancock emphasizes an elite kind of investment advice, one which searches out investment opportunities from around the world and provides them to a very high level of client. With investment, there’s no summit, but it gets harder and harder to climb as investors increase their ability and earnings. As investors become masters at their craft, it’s important to employ a team of experts who work with their interests in mind. It’s why Warren Buffett sits down at a large table of colleagues and proteges whenever he has a big decision to make, in addition to his own personal research and reading.

This is the sort of dynamic that a John Hancock investment specialist (or specialists) offers to their clients. As an expansive network of investment knowledge and prowess, John Hancock extends a world of insight to the qualified customer. Their Manager of Managers approach provides layers of accountability and experience which will prove valuable to investors at the top of their game. If you feel that your investing is strong, but that it has plateaued, John Hancock has the size, scope, and muscle to take your portfolio to the next level.

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A monthly budget is the first weapon in your fight to save money. However, there are still ways to save money by saving money on your monthly budget. Most people can form a budget. They can even keep to a budget. The problem is they fail to monitor the budget adequately enough. That is where they lose money.

We’re going to show you how you can go about saving money on monthly budgets.

Don’t Let it Sit

The biggest mistake people make is they form a budget, stick to it, and never review it. You should review your monthly budget every month and make adjustments when needed.

It’s vital you know where every dollar is going within your bank account. Let’s say you allow one or two dollars to slip by. Add this up over the course of a few weeks and months and you could be losing a sizeable amount of money.

Review your monthly budget every month by checking your incomings and outgoings against the previous months.

Reduce Your Bills

People sometimes have the misconception that a monthly budget helps them to save money. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with saving money. It’s a financial snapshot for a single point in time. It’s a way to inform you about where you are right now.

To really save money you always need to be looking for ways in which you can reduce your monthly bills.

First, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to reduce your water, rent, or energy bills. These tend to be on a fixed rate and are only reviewed once every few months.

Areas where you can reduce bills include:

  • Luxuries.
  • Entertainment, such as restaurant and cinema visits.
  • Food.

Make Alterations

As already mentioned, a monthly budget is a mere snapshot in time. It doesn’t save any money on its own. However, monitoring said budget and making changes as and when your incomings and outgoings change will help you to avoid leaking money.

For example, if your energy bills go up unexpectedly, you should not be using the same monthly budget. This is where money tends to go missing.

Check for Sticking

You should be sticking to your monthly budget like glue. It tells you how much you should have left over at the end of the month. Save your receipts, statements, and see if your budget is correct. If it isn’t you need to use these receipts and statements to see where you’ve spent more money than you should have.

Financial discipline really is the key to this.  There are many ways to save on your monthly expenses.  The best way to get started is to create a budget and analyze past months.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

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Recession
Recession risk in the US remained low in the kick-off month for the third quarter, based on a broad set of economic and financial indicators. Although economic growth remains modest, the available data through July suggests that the broad macro trend was still firmly positive.

The outlook for the expansion remains a work in progress, however. The Wall Street Journal’s survey of economists this month projects a modest acceleration in Q3 GDP growth to 2.7% from 2.3% in Q2 (seasonally adjusted annual rate). But the Atlanta Fed’s new GDPNow projection throws cold water on that forecast–the bank’s current Q3 estimate anticipates deceleration to a tepid 1.3% rise for GDP, based on the Aug. 18 nowcast. In other words, the expected pace of growth for the near term is still open for debate. Nonetheless, the published numbers to date strongly suggest that last month wasn’t the start of a new downturn for the US.

Using a methodology outlined in Nowcasting The Business Cycle: A Practical Guide For Spotting Business Cycle Peaks, an aggregate of economic and financial trend behavior shows that business-cycle risk remained low through last month. The Economic Trend and Momentum indices (ETI and EMI, respectively) are still at levels that equate with expansion. The current profile of published indicators through last month  (12 of 14 data sets) for ETI and EMI reflect a positive trend overall. The exceptions at this point: the corporate bond spread and the real monetary base.

Here’s a summary of recent activity for the components in ETI and EMI:

table.19aug2015

Aggregating the data into business cycle indexes reflects positive trends overall. The latest numbers for ETI and EMI indicate that both benchmarks are well above their respective danger zones: 50% for ETI and 0% for EMI. When the indexes fall below those tipping points, we’ll have clear warning signs that recession risk is elevated. Based on the latest updates for July — ETI is 88.1% and EMI is 6.7% — there’s still a wide margin of safety between current values and the danger zones, as shown in the chart below. (See note at the end of this post for ETI/EMI design rules.)

eti.emi.chart.2015-08-18

Translating ETI’s historical values into recession-risk probabilities via a probit model also points to low business cycle risk for the US. Analyzing the data with this methodology implies that the odds are virtually nil that the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) — the official arbiter of US business cycle dates— will declare last month as the start of a new recession.

probit.eti.chart.2015-08-18

For another perspective, consider how ETI may evolve as new data is published.  One way to project future values for this index is with an econometric technique known as an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) model, based on calculations via the “forecast” package for R, a statistical software environment. The ARIMA model calculates the missing data points for each indicator, for each month through September 2015. (Note that May 2015 is currently the latest month with a complete set of published data.) Based on today’s projections, ETI is expected to remain well above its danger zone for the near term.

eti.f.chart.2015-08-18

Forecasts are always suspect, of course, but recent projections of ETI for the near-term future have proven to be relatively reliable guesstimates vs. the full set of published numbers that followed. That’s not surprising, given the broadly diversified nature of ETI. Predicting individual components, by contrast, is prone to far more uncertainty in the short run. The latest projections (the four black dots on the right in the chart above) suggest that the economy will continue to expand. The chart above also includes the range of vintage ETI projections published on these pages in previous months (blue bars), which you can compare with the actual data that followed, based on current numbers (red dots). The assumption here is that while any one forecast for a given indicator will likely miss the mark, the errors may cancel out to some degree by aggregating a broad set of predictions. That’s a reasonable assumption when we review the historical record for the ETI forecasts.

For additional perspective on judging the track record of the forecasts, here are the previous updates for the last three months:

20 Jul 2015
17 Jun 2015
20 May 2015

Note: ETI is a diffusion index (i.e., an index that tracks the proportion of components with positive values) for the 14 leading/coincident indicators listed in the table above. ETI values reflect the 3-month average of the transformation rules defined in the table. EMI measures the same set of indicators/transformation rules based on the 3-month average of the median monthly percentage change for the 14 indicators. For the chart showing EMI and ETI through last month, and for the near-term forecasts, the missing data points are estimated with an ARIMA model.

Source: US Business Cycle Risk Report | 19 August 2015

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