All posts by Akeela Zahair

Open Banking Payments
ArticlesBanking

The People Power Behind Open Banking Payments

Open Banking Payments

By Jess Gerrow, VP Marketing, Token

Driven by two complementary, powerful forces – innovation and regulation – open banking is proving to be a seismic shift for payments across Europe.

Reach, cost, conversion, security and user experience – open banking-enabled account-to-account (A2A) payments outperform traditional payment methods in every respect.

It’s, therefore, no surprise that players across the payments value chain are now eagerly embracing them. According to Juniper Research, open banking payments will account for $87 billion of Europe’s transaction volume by 2026. Traditional payment methods, such as cards and cash, continue to lose share and are now projected to account for less than a third of global e-commerce transaction value within the same period.

 

A deep dive into the human element

But a third powerful force behind this explosive growth in open banking payments is often overlooked – and indeed is spoken and written about much less – and that’s people.

At the end of every A2A payment is a person. And in the world of payments, success ultimately depends on human factors, such as how consumers perceive and respond to risk, reward, cost and effort.

This is why we partnered with Open Banking Expo to deliver a data-driven look at the human element that will fuel open banking payments’ march to the mainstream. Earlier this year, we spoke to over 1,100 consumers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland to tackle a question rarely addressed: who will pay by bank?

The resulting report presents the findings of our deep dive into current and potential users of open banking payments. It’s intended to debunk myths, bust misconceptions and highlight consumers’ appetite for A2A payments. It highlights the attitudes, preferences and behaviours shaping people’s financial and digital lives, and we hope it will help payment service providers and other ecosystem participants adapt to Europe’s changing payment landscape.

 

Here’s what we found

Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed had made an instant bank transfer in the three months preceding May 2022, with the figure as high as 67% in Germany.

And it appears the experience has generally been well received, with 81% of consumers likely to make another A2A payment in the future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the UK’s status as an open banking pioneer, 85% of British consumers we spoke to will be embracing A2A payments moving forward.

In another clear sign of growing popularity, instant bank transfers now sit amongst the top five payment methods in each of the six countries we covered.

Our research revealed a wide, and growing, range of use cases. For example, in Germany and France, 55% of consumers use A2A payments to pay off loans or credit card debt, whilst 57% in the Netherlands prefer an instant bank transfer when covering subscriptions.

When it comes to buying a car, we found that instant bank payments are now preferred by over a quarter of consumers in all markets, and nearly half in Germany and Italy (47% and 45% respectively). A2A payments are also increasingly seen as a trusted method of sending money to friends and family, with 59% of people in the UK using them for this purpose and 51% in France.

While A2A payments are still associated more with online payments, with almost a third (31%) of Polish consumers using the payment method for e-commerce, we also see signs of adoption in physical stores as merchants integrate them with QR codes and other technology. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents in the Netherlands said they are using A2A payments for in-store purchases.

 

So what’s next?

In nearly every purchase scenario we presented to European consumers — whether a one-off, high-value purchase like a car or paying off debt, friends or family — they preferred to pay with instant bank transfers over cards. This is huge news for the industry and suggests that the pendulum has swung towards open banking payments.

Who is paying by bank today, and who will be doing so tomorrow? We found the strongest A2A payment adoption rates were amongst consumers in Germany and the UK, particularly those aged 35 to 44. But the footprint is widening, with the greatest appetite for future A2A payments observed in Poland, France and the Netherlands.

People across Europe are becoming more familiar with the benefits of A2A payments, with 58% who have used them saying they were fast, 56% highlighting their ease of use, and 51% calling out their strong security element.

In terms of what would make consumers more likely to make a payment directly from their bank account instead of by card, 59% of those surveyed said an instant discount would attract them to an A2A payment, with 37% saying they would choose A2A payments over cards if they were offered the option to split payments.

As we roll towards the fifth year of open banking in Europe, these are the types of insights that participants in the payments value chain should be aware of as they seek to match their payment offerings to the evolving behaviour and appetites of consumers in Europe.

Managing Mortgages
ArticlesRegulation

How to Navigate the Housing Market Like a Pro

Managing Mortgages

Whether you’re looking for a house to buy or are out to sell your home, you need to navigate the market well to succeed. Most people prefer to sell or shop for houses during spring when it’s warm, green, and sunny. During this season, sellers can showcase their homes to potential buyers better.   

But besides appearance, most buyers pay attention to the selling price attached to homes. They contend with various challenges, including multiple bids, low home inventory, mortgage rates, and steep prices. Although there’s always hope for a balanced housing market, buyers can take specific steps to approach their search for a home confidently.   

If you’re looking to buy a home this year, these five strategies will help you navigate the housing market like a pro:   


1. Get Your Mortgage Pre-Approved  

Before searching for a house, get your mortgage pre-approved by your lender if you don’t plan to pay cash. A pre-approval means the lender has thoroughly investigated your finances and established your eligibility for the loan based on existing conditions.   

It places you at an advantage as most sellers want to deal with buyers who have taken such serious steps. A pre-approval also shows you are both able and serious about buying a house. In hot markets, most sellers turn down offers from buyers who don’t have pre-approval letters. Neglecting this step can cause you to miss out on the home you want. Thus, you can find a broker here if you need a pre-approved mortgage to buy your dream house.

 

2. Clarify Which Aspects Matter Most to You In a Home  

To navigate the housing market like a pro, you need to clarify which aspects matter most to you in a home. While a mortgage pre-approval presents you as a serious buyer, it also gives you an idea of how much you can afford to spend on a home. Having a solid budget allows you to determine the aspects that matter most to you in a home and the ones you can compromise.  


3. Get a Highly-Qualified Housing Agent 

The other thing you need to navigate the housing market like a pro is a qualified agent who has your best interests and understands the local market well. Getting a good real estate agent with in-depth knowledge of local communities and solid expertise offers you a huge advantage when buying a home.   

Such an agent brings reasonable sales prices and understands how fast homes sell in specific locations. You can benefit from their insights on zoning rules, neighborhoods, social amenities, and even schools in localities that you’re considering. While it’s possible to consult a listing agent when purchasing a house, getting a real estate agent allows you to come up with compelling offers in line with your needs.   

The agent can negotiate a good deal on your behalf while guiding you through the selling or buying process to avoid costly delays or mistakes. 

  

4. Support An Offer With a Big Deposit 

When buying a house during the peak season, you need to boost any offer with a considerable deposit. If you can get the funds, paying off a generous amount on the home you want causes sellers to perceive you more favorably. To them, a large deposit reflects goodwill and motivation to make the purchase. Generally, the deposit is applied to the down payment or loan closing costs.   

Withdrawing from the deal for reasons not provided in a contract contingency can mean forfeiture of the deposit to the seller. But this shouldn’t worry you if you have no plans of withdrawing from the deal. Moreover, you can recover the whole amount if it’s discovered that the property has problems or if you cannot obtain title insurance.   

 

5. Be Ready to Act Fast  

You’ll need to act fast to benefit from competitive offers in the housing market, particularly in the peak seasons of summer and spring. In most cases, homes sell within days during these seasons. Any viewing delays can cause you to miss out on great offers. You can benefit more if your agent prepares the way sellers want to avoid wasting time qualifying counter offers.   

 

Final Thoughts 

The housing market can be challenging to navigate, particularly when buying or selling a home for the first time. However, you don’t have to struggle and miss out on opportunities that peak real estate seasons bring. You can navigate the market like a pro by applying the five strategies discussed above.   

Financial Investment
ArticlesFunds

Tips to Help You Financially Prepare for Your Golden Years

Financial Investment

If there’s one goal that everyone shares, it’s definitely saving as much money as possible. In this day and age, money is used for pretty much anything ranging from the obvious necessary purchases to building up financial security. The latter is the most commonly sought-after goal, and for good reason. Having an adequate amount of financial security is how people remain stable even after the time comes for them to retire. Granted, maintaining financial security isn’t always the easiest thing to do for some people. But this is mainly not knowing how to effectively do it. There’s a lot more to financial security than simply saving money. In this article, we’ll be going over tips to help financially prepare for your golden years.

 

Put Your Money Towards an Investment

One of the best ways to start building financial security is to consider putting your money towards a lucrative investment. You might think that this will have the opposite effect of obtaining financial security as investments of any kind comes with their own risks. Risks, in investment terms, are the potential situation where you lose value in your assets or your money as a whole. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many people avoid investments because of risk alone. Although there’s nothing wrong with being cautious, investing your money doesn’t mean you’ll always be doomed to failure.

The truth of the matter is that you can keep risk at an all-time low by simply doing your research first. Many would-be investors end up failing solely because they weren’t prepared and didn’t understand what they were doing. You can start by choosing a method that appeals to you. This can be participating in the traditional stock market to investing into real estate. Both are solid investments to try as both can yield a considerable profit if done correctly.

 

Consider Selling Your Life Insurance Policy

At some point during your life, you might have purchased a life insurance policy. You bought it with the sole intention of ensuring your family had a prosperous life after your demise. However, what if we told you that death isn’t necessary for you and your beneficiaries to receive a payout. You can, instead, sell your life insurance policy through a life settlement. A life settlement is a financial process where you surrender the policy rights to a third-party buyer. The buyer can be either an individual person or an entire company. Regardless, they’ll pay you a lump sum of money that varies on the overall value of the policy.

The amount you get can be up to 30 percent, but it does vary on the life settlement company and buyer. Furthermore, if you’re trying to sell a term policy, you need to make sure it can be converted into a whole one. Term policies aren’t generally sold because there’s no value to them. But if it can be converted, you shouldn’t have a problem selling it. But since the life settlement sector is still new, you might have a harder time finding your way through the process. You can look up a guide that better explains how everything works for more information.

 

Budget Everything Out

Budgeting may already be something that you’re already accustomed to. However, you might not be budgeting extensively. A comprehensive budget is one of the most useful tools you can have in your life. It’s how you can maintain a solid grasp on your finances. In fact, knowing exactly how much you owe and what you can save every month is just another factor in having proper financial security. Go over your bank statements and see how much you’ve made. Then calculate how much you spend on your monthly expenses. This will give you insight into what you’re paying for each month. This also gives you the ability to cut out any unnecessary expenses that don’t belong there. You can cut your expenses by about 20 percent by getting rid of these types of expenses. If you are not a paper and pen or spreadsheet fan, there are financial apps that can help you stay on budget without much output or maintenance on your end.

 

Don’t Spend More Than You Need To

A very common reason why people don’t have enough money is because they often spend more money than they have to. Splurging is a common spending habit among many people. While it’s normal to want to buy what we want, it’s important to learn self-control. You’d be amazed at how self-control can help you save hundreds every month. The money you spend on little things, like a subscription, eating out or a trinket at the store can be put in your savings account.

Production Management
ArticlesRegulation

6 Ways AP & AR Automation Software Boosts Business Productivity

Production Management

Accounts payable and receivable automation tools facilitate easier AP and AR processes management through a robust platform. Automation software provides clear visibility and better control over data collection and financial processes.

Studies show that about 55% of businesses use manual processes to handle financial data. However, over 40% of SMEs plan to adopt AP automation solutions. Now is the best time to explore the numerous benefits of automation and determine whether it’s appropriate for your organization.

 

1. Shorter Processing Times

AP and AR automation technology helps your team to process invoices faster. In the absence of automation, invoice processing can take as long as two weeks since the team must confirm the figures and get the necessary signatures for approval. On the other hand, automated AP solutions cut the processing time to as short as one day.

Invoice processing involves multiple stages, and you can use tools like OCR to scan and index your invoices and minimize manual data entry. Since the filing system is digitized, you don’t have to rummage through piles of paper to find a specific invoice. Most importantly, cloud storage allows business managers and department heads to access invoices in real-time for a quick approval.

 

2. Minimizing Human Errors

Manual invoice processing and data entry create room for errors. Whether it’s document misfiling, loss, or payment mistakes, errors can occur at any stage, and the reasons may not be easy to eliminate. Typically, AP and AR errors can cost your company in various ways. Backtracking and error resolution often consumes a lot of time that could be used to perform essential tasks. Additionally, human errors can lead to duplicate payments, overpayments, or compromise your reputation.

Erroneous invoices can cause unnecessary frustrations to your finance team and hamper effective communication. It’s crucial to have a reliable tool that validates entries and pinpoints errors. The automated AP system can identify inconsistencies and facilitate seamless collaboration among stakeholders through unrestricted access to files.

 

3. Better Oversight and Transparency

Manual filing processes are hectic, time-consuming, and often make it impossible to get a complete picture of the entire process. It’s easy to think that sophisticated automation tools will obscure operations visibility. However, these systems increase visibility by offering real-time access to data.

AP automation software gives you a comprehensive view of payment cycles to enhance oversight. For instance, you can identify critical constraints like payment delays and monitor the individuals responsible for approvals. Most importantly, real-time reporting and detailed oversight accelerates payment cycles to ensure your vendors are paid on time. In addition, the footprints left by the automated process make it easy to identify and expose fraudulent transactions and ensure sustainable financial growth.

The increase in transparency facilitates data-driven decisions on various business issues, including when to pay suppliers and how to achieve optimum efficiency when scaling operations.

 

4. Enhanced Compliance Monitoring and Efficient Process Control

Legal and regulations compliance and establishing trackable audit trails are some of the reasons why accounting professionals and financial advisors are essential to any business. When you don’t have the appropriate systems and tools to control business processes, there is a high chance you’ll overlook vital details like PayPal fees.

Since companies face numerous fraud-related issues, it’s essential to have a system that limits the use of specific functions or flag and report inappropriate processes. Automatic AR and AP software creates transaction archives that help track invoices, processing stages, and authorization rules for better compliance with IRS regulations. In addition, modern invoice management solutions have superior integration capabilities meaning you can link the tools with your accounting software for better process control.

 

5. Better Workplace Collaboration

Improving the speed and visibility of your invoice processing with a digital solution ensures that all parties involved in various processing stages have access to necessary files and data. This feature facilitates real-time collaboration and efficient file sharing for seamless workflows. Since the tools have cloud capabilities, team members and stakeholders can access invoices to clarify, dispute, or approve the process regardless of their location.

Typically, smooth workflows and consistent progress mean team members are less likely to experience frustrations that come with constant disputes. Also, process automation minimizes manual data entry, meaning your workers have enough time to consult the relevant departments and log critical discussions to solve discrepancies without much strife. Ideally, breaking down collaboration barriers in your organization increases worker satisfaction and performance.

 

6. Customizing Business Processes

You can enhance the productivity of your accounting department by customizing the invoicing process to fit the workflow requirements of your business. Most invoice automation software allows custom configurations to focus on specific areas that improve productivity. This means you can establish a growth-oriented workplace culture using digital solutions that are tailored to suit your specific AP processes.

If you get invoices through different channels like fax and email, capturing the data using OCR technology for rapid compiling may be the best option to improve productivity. On the other hand, if your invoices follow a unique route for approvals, you can customize the automatic workflow to follow a channel that saves the most time.

Most importantly, you can personalize the tools to balance employee workloads. For instance, you can channel invoices to multiple employees and share responsibilities or onboard more team members to projects with strict deadlines.

 

Endnote

Manual handling of AP and AR is an intensive process that can leave your employees tired and frustrated, leading to numerous errors. Accounting departments realize these processes bring unnecessary burdens.

Automation eliminates most of the challenges of AP and AR processes, including human errors, processing time, and compliance to enhance productivity. As more finance departments adopt digital transformation, implementing AP and AR automation tools can give you a competitive edge.

Stormy Market
ArticlesMarkets

Dividend Aristocrats: A Safe Haven In a Stormy Market

Stormy Market

With the market continuing to take a turn for the worst, Maxim Manturov, Head of Investment Advice at Freedom Finance Europe, explores three dividend aristocrats as a potential safe haven for investors wanting to see steady cash flow within a time of uncertainty.  

In times of market turbulence, one of the safest investments is in the so-called dividend aristocrats — companies that have consistently paid and raised dividends for more than 25 consecutive years. Today only 65 companies belong to this exclusive club. Although many dividend aristocrats are not high-yield investments, they provide their shareholders with a steady cash flow, even in domestic and global economic crises. We have selected three of the most undervalued dividend aristocrats for investors to consider.

 

Three dividend aristocrats for investors 

Polaris (PII) specialises in the manufacture and sale of high-capacity off-road vehicles and snowmobiles, motorbikes, and powerboats. Unlike most dividend aristocrats, the company has not yet reached its financial maturity: its revenues have grown at an average annual rate of 12.03% over the past five years. At the same time, management believes that sales will grow by an average of 7% to 9% a year over the next five years, and the customer base could grow by 50% over the next ten years. Notably, the fastest-growing segment of the company’s customer base is millennials.

In addition to revenue growth, Polaris maintains a high level of efficiency. In the most recent reporting period, return on assets (ROA) reached 8.38%, and return on equity (ROE) was 39.46%. The company can maintain high profitability thanks to its strong competitive positioning and leadership in its target markets.

Two years ago, Polaris earned its status as a dividend aristocrat. The company delivers a dividend yield of 2.57% with a payout ratio of 31.12%. However, dividends are not the only tool Polaris uses to reward shareholders. Through buybacks, the company’s management plans to reduce the number of shares by at least 10% over the next five years. Wall Street analysts value the stock at £107.43 ($131), implying a 29.7% upside potential.

 

V.F. Corporation (VFC) specialises in manufacturing, marketing, and selling branded clothing, footwear, and related products in North and South America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. The company’s portfolio includes well-known brands such as The North Face, Timberland, Vans, and Supreme. In its long history, VFC has survived 24 economic recessions, two depressions, three financial crises, inflation from -2.5% to 20%, interest rates from 0% to 20%, 11 bear markets, and dozens of corrections and rebounds. That said, the company continues to thrive.

Despite short-term disruptions due to supply chain issues and economic weakness in China, we believe that VFS will grow faster than most competitors and maintain its brand recognition advantage in the longer term. As a result, management forecasts that sales will grow by an average of 7 to 8% in the coming years. 

VFS generates more than £857 million ($1bn) a year in free cash flow on equity, and its capital expenditure has averaged just 2% of sales over the past decade. Thus, the company is accumulating significant cash flow to expand its brand portfolio further.

VFC has a solid track record of returning cash to shareholders. The company has steadily increased its dividend over the past 50 years. The current yield is 4.18%, with a payout ratio of 68.64%. At the same time, management has voiced a target to provide shareholders with a compound return of 14% to 16% in the coming years through dividends and buybacks. The average price target from investment banks is £48 ($59), implying a growth potential of 27.8%.  

 

Walmart (WMT) is an American company that operates the world’s largest wholesale and retail chain, dating back to 1962. Walmart’s retail network includes more than 10,000 shops in 27 countries. 

Walmart has several growth drivers in the long term: the company’s e-commerce segment is still growing and has a low penetration rate. In addition, Flipkart India, in which Walmart has a 75% stake, is planning an IPO in 2022-2023, which could lead to a revaluation of the company’s stock.

Regardless of market conditions, the share price will be supported by dividends, which the company has been paying out steadily since 1989. The current yield is 1.86%, with a payout ratio of 27.23%. According to a Wall Street consensus, the fair market value of Walmart shares is £129 ($157), which provides investors with a 31% upside potential.

Credit Report
ArticlesRegulation

4 Factors That Can Have a Huge Impact On Your Credit Score

Credit Report

Credit is an important aspect when it comes to an individual’s personal finances. There are times you need financial assistance to execute projects needing large capital. Financial institutions will offer you this assistance through loans. However, most will assess your credit history before giving you these loans. 

Credit history contains data on how you handled previous debts. It’ll show if you defaulted on a payment and the like. This information helps financial institutions assess your risk factor before handing you out a loan. It’s said that if you’re a risky borrower, lenders are less likely to lend you the money.

They’ll get to take a peek at your credit history on your credit report which shows your credit score too. Credit scores mainly range from 300 to 850, though some go up to 950. Here, the higher your credit score, the more desirable you are as a borrower to the eyes of creditors. 

As a potential borrower, are you wondering what aspects contribute to your credit score? The following aspects are said to affect your credit score:

 

1. Current Debts

When looking for financial assistance, having several outstanding debts isn’t ideal. Financial lenders will interpret this as an inability to manage your finances. They’ll conclude you can’t pay them up on time with all the existing financial baggage. How do they assess your debt?

Most will apply to your credit card, a mortgage, a student, or a car loan. They’ll check the remaining balance for you to complete loan payments. On credit cards, they’ll get your credit utilization ratio, which is the difference between your credit card balance and credit limit. The bigger this ratio, the higher of a risk you’re to lenders.  It’s always advisable to limit your credit card utilization to 30% or less. Beyond it and you’ll come off as an irresponsible spender.

Any lender will resist lending you money when you already have huge debts. It’d help to minimize your debts as much as possible to improve your credit score.

 

2. Credit Age

Credit age refers to the period you’ve had your line of credit like a credit card. The focus is on how long ago you got your first line of credit. Why does it even matter, you may ask?

An old credit card shows lenders you have experience handling credit. It’ll positively impact your credit score, making lenders feel confident to lend you money. However, your credit history age will only positively impact your credit score if you previously made timely payments to your credit balances. Most lenders will find this information on your credit tradelines, including when you opened your accounts.

 

3. Number of Accounts

When looking to avail more funds through limits, you’ll get several credit cards. Yes, you’ll achieve your goal, but what impact does this have on your credit score? In most cases, it’ll negatively affect your credit score. How?

With many cards, you have many debts to pay within a billing cycle. Depending on the amount you’ve spent on each, you’re likely to find it challenging to make payments. You might completely default or end up making late payments. Doing this increases your debt and negatively affects your payment history, aspects which significantly decrease your credit score.

It’d help to have one or two credit cards that you can easily manage to pay within the agreed period. Keep tabs on your credit health too.

 

4. Payment History

Generally, lenders want assurance that you can pay them off within the agreed period. Your payment history will help them gauge this.

If you’re prone to making payments after the due date, your credit score is likely to decrease. The same will happen if you extend late payments for an extended period. Most lenders will give you a grace period of around a month to clear off your loan. In case of failure, they’ll forward your account to collectors who’ll seek the payments on behalf of your lender. The involvement of a third party to help clear your debt will greatly affect your score, leading to bad credit.

Most lenders will avoid lending you money if you’ve got a poor payment history. They’ll believe you’ll give them a hard time during repayment, making you a high-risk client.

 

Conclusion

Your credit score is important to your life’s financial aspect. This feature has shown you the factors that impact your credit score. With this information, you can ensure you maintain a high credit score to assist you when the need arises.

Gold Investment
ArticlesFinance

Understanding Why Gold Is a Safe Investment

Gold Investment

Maxim Manturov, Head of Investment Advice at Freedom Finance Europe, explores why now is a good time to invest in gold.

The risks associated with stronger sanctions against Russia by the West have pushed investors and traders to look towards safer assets. Gold is one of them. Since the beginning of the year, the metal has increased 7.5% in value, rising to £1,466 an ounce. 

While the volume of gold in the global economy is limited, an increase in demand for this asset has sent stock prices soaring. In turn, the metal is expected to generate substantial returns in 2022, as it is seen as a hedge against major economic and geopolitical disruptions.

For investors looking to protect their investment portfolios, analysts have broken down three potential investment ideas with different risk levels. 

 

What is driving the industry growth for gold?

Demand for gold tends to rise due to global political confrontation. In turbulent times, money depreciates, companies’ shares decline in value, and virtual currencies become unstable. In such cases, investors turn to gold, which is an asset that does not change and grows in the long term. 

While experts say that gold does not protect against inflation, the reality is different. The five-year correlation between gold prices and the CPI (Consumer Price Index) is 0.79, reflecting a stable long-term relationship. If inflation is persistent, it will lead to higher gold prices. As a result, the number of gold miners across the globe will also rise. 

For example, the policies of the Federal Reserve System (Fed) and other central banks under Covid-19 caused a wave of liquidity. Inflation, which was initially thought to be temporary due to supply problems throughout the pandemic, turned out to be a long-term structural issue for the global economy. The consumer price index rose to its highest level in almost 40 years and investors increasingly looked towards gold as a safe investment.

 

Three gold investments to watch

1. VanEck Gold Miners ETF Units (GDX.US)

The VanEck Gold Miners exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracks the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index (GDMNTR). This index covers 50+ companies from 9 different countries, the top 5 companies being: Newmont Corporation, Barrick Gold Corporation, Franco-Nevada Corporation, Agnico Eagle Mines Limited, and Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. 

The VanEck Gold Miners ETF has £11.9 billion assets under management (AUM). With its entry price in shares sitting at £28.3, its target price of £34 means the company has a growth potential of 20% over the next 12 months. 

Metal prices have already risen by 11% since the start of the year. Buying units of the VanEck Gold Miners ETF offers the potential to benefit overall from the upward trend in the industry. It is a risk-weighted investment. 

 

2. Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. (WPM.US)

Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. is a multinational streaming company, which specialises in precious metals such as gold, silver, and palladium. Wheaton’s current portfolio includes 24 active mines and 12 projects under development. These assets have a useful life of more than 30 years.

Wheaton has an innovative streaming business model where it finances mining companies to develop and expand their projects. In return, the company receives the production of one or more metals at a discounted price. In addition, Wheaton generates income on rising metal prices, making it more attractive than other mining companies. The costs are predetermined and the average operating margin is 76%. 

Wheaton’s increased financial performance and production volumes signify that this business is full of promise. Over the past three years, the corporation’s revenue has grown at an average rate of 15% – reaching £910 million in 2021. 

The company also demonstrates improvement in its operating and net margins. Each estimate was up by more than 45% year on year (YoY). Net profit for the same period was £571.9 million. For 2021, free cash flow was at £333.3 million.

Wheaton’s current shares price is sitting at £36.29, while its target price is sitting at £45.45. In the period of 12 months, this means the company will potentially grow by 25.2%. Alongside this, the company shows exiting business growth, a strong balance sheet, high-profit margins, and efficient quality of capital structure management.

 

3. Hecla Mining Company (HL.US)

Hecla Mining acquires and develops mines, as well as sells gold, silver, lead, and zinc. The company and its subsidiaries supply precious metals internationally and to the US. Over the past year, Hecla Mining has derived a large proportion of its revenue from gold and silver sales – 42% and 34% respectively. 

The business has accumulated impressive reserves of gold and silver in the last few years, which should also catch investors’ eyes. Silver reserves increased between 2020 and 2021 from 188 million ounces to 200 million ounces. As part of this, the company increased proven and probable reserves by 6%, or 11.5 million ounces, compared to 2020. For gold, proven and probable reserves increased by 14% from 2.4 million ounces to 2.7 million ounces. This helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of the company. 

Between 2018 and 2021, the company showed significant business growth. Revenue growth during this time stood at an impressive 42.5%, with profits reaching £612.11million in 2021. In the same year, free cash flow was sitting at £85.61 million and Hecla posted a net profit of £25.51 million. In 2022, the growth rate of these indicators is expected to maintain this momentum. 

 

Hecla Mining today is a low-cost, high-margin, high-growth company with an extremely healthy balance sheet. 

Calculating Costs
ArticlesWealth Management

Freelancers Should Look for ‘Self Employed’ Mortgages

Calculating Costs

Today is the 16th of June, which is National Freelancer’s Day and the Suffolk Building Society is offering guidance to freelancers about what actions they can take to help qualify for a mortgage. While freelancers may operate under different business structures, such as being a sole trader or a limited company, mortgage lenders tend to group everyone together under a ‘self employed’ banner.

Suffolk Building Society’s Head of Mortgages, Charlotte Grimshaw, said: “Nowadays, many more mortgage providers are inclined to lend to freelancers than perhaps they once were. Some providers offer specific self employed mortgages, while others offer freelancers access to standard mortgage products, as long as they meet certain criteria. So if you don’t see any ‘freelance’ mortgage products it doesn’t necessarily mean the provider won’t lend to you.”

 

Supporting evidence for a mortgage application

If an applicant is employed, much of mortgage lenders’ reassurance and comfort comes from payslips as it shows stability of employment and proof of earnings but as this isn’t feasible for freelancers, lenders will look at other ways to evidence work history and current employment status. For most freelancers, this will mean providing evidence of contracts, company accounts or self assessment tax forms (SA302s).

Suffolk Building Society explains that in general, freelancers need to ensure their work and contracting history is comprehensive and up to date. This includes making sure that their online profile, on sites such as LinkedIn, is representative of their current work.

Charlotte Grimshaw explains: “As mortgage lenders, we’re not trying to catch people out – we really do want to help people buy their dream home. Whether an applicant is a freelancer or not, it’s all about looking for positive supporting evidence.”

Freelancers are not exempt from all the usual checks that lenders undertake for other applicants either, so it’s well worth them scrutinising their own credit report to make sure it’s clean and up to date i.e. all addresses are the same, credit repayments are correct and up to date, no County Court Judgements are present, etc. Similarly, make sure all expenditure is declared and bank statements can be accounted for.

Charlotte Grimshaw concluded: “Having been made redundant during the pandemic, many people turned to freelancing and in most cases, they haven’t looked back as they embrace the autonomy and freedom of being their own boss – but some may be a little concerned if they need to apply for a mortgage for the first time or remortgage their existing property. However, the barriers that freelancers once faced in getting a mortgage are coming down, as lenders embrace different, and often multiple, sources of income. 

“There are plenty of mortgage products for freelancers out there but start by researching ‘self employed mortgages’ rather than ‘mortgages for freelancers’. Don’t get too bogged down in worrying about whether your business structure will be suitable for a specific lender as most are adept at understanding the different ways freelancers are paid – just make sure your finances are organised, comprehensive and up to date.”

Suffolk Building Society has collated a list of useful points to help freelancers be better informed, should they need to apply for a mortgage:

 

Considerations for all freelancers:

  1. Many people, but especially freelancers, gravitate to their bank to obtain a mortgage in the belief that their bank will understand their finances and will be more likely to lend. This is not necessarily the case, especially for freelancers whose finances may be more complex than an average mortgage applicant’s. Finding a specialist mortgage lender who can understand your business gives a much higher chance of a successful application. 
  2. Lenders will understand that different industries make payments in different ways i.e. a videographer may be paid at the end of a project, whereas a marketing consultant may invoice once a month. As long as the freelancer is being paid in what is considered a ‘normal’ way for that industry, lenders tend to take a favourable view.
  3. There is generally no minimum age for freelancers to apply for a residential mortgage, whereas buy to let mortgages often have a minimum age of 21, 25, or even 30. If someone has a proven history and deposit, their age should not hold their application back.
  4. Similarly, there is no legal maximum age limit for freelancers to apply for a mortgage, but lenders will set their own criteria. 
  5. If freelancing is a side hustle (as opposed to an individual’s main source of income) most lenders’ standard position is to use 50% of their freelancing work in affordability calculations and the individual should be prepared to provide tax returns as evidence that this income is sustainable.

 

For freelancers running a limited company:

  1. Two years of company accounts are usually required for freelancers running their own business – some lenders may consider less.
  2. Make sure company accounts are filed on time – late filing could ring alarm bells with the lender.
  3. Different lenders will have different affordability criteria and may base their mortgage offer on salary and dividend, net profit or retained profit. It is worth speaking to an accountant to properly understand the relevant figures before applying for a mortgage.
  4. If a freelancer has switched their business model from sole trader to limited company but doesn’t have two years’ worth of accounts, the lender may take a favourable view if the individual is in a similar industry or sector.
  5. Some lenders will take the average of two years’ accounts, others will base their lending decision on the worst year – whether that be year one or two. Freelancers who have had a particularly poor year (such as due to the impact of the Covid pandemic) but can explain why, will still be considered for a mortgage.
  6. Freelancers who are concerned about having a poor year before applying for a mortgage can ask their accountant for an estimated projections letter to support their case.

 

For freelancers operating as a sole trader:

  1. Two years of operating as a sole trader is usually the minimum required to apply for a mortgage. Some lenders will prefer more and some will accept less but two years is a good rule of thumb.
  2. Keep all paperwork related to freelance work – from contracts, to bank statements, invoices and remittance notes as a lender may ask to see it.
  3. It can be helpful, but not always essential, to have a separate bank account to keep track of business expenses and income away from personal finances. If not, be ready and able to clearly demonstrate the difference in personal and business funds.
  4. Lenders may use a day rate calculation such as five times the value of daily contracts, multiplied by 46 or 48 weeks (to allow for some downtime/holiday etc). The S302 form will be used as a way to calculate previous earnings based on submission to HMRC so this needs to be available.
  5. If the applicant’s freelance work is in the same sector as their previous employed job, then an application can sometimes be supported by evidence of PAYE income in the form of P60 forms.

 

For freelancers operating under an umbrella company:

  1. There are mortgage providers who will lend to freelancers who use an umbrella company but it is usually best to engage the services of a specialist mortgage broker for advice on this front as the application can be more complex. Much of the guidance above still applies in terms of demonstrating clarity of earnings and stability of contracts.
Business
ArticlesFinance

What Is the Difference Between ABN and CAN?

Business

In the last few years, Australia has not only become one of the fastest-growing economies but has also strengthened its startup ecosystem significantly, with a whopping 5.8%  growth. As a result, there is a dramatic surge in the number of new businesses, and existing startups are experiencing rapid growth. That makes Australia one of the best places to start your own business.

However, like anywhere else, there are a few critical steps you need to undertake before you get a business up and running in Australia. First, you need to understand whether you need an ACN vs. ABN number when forming your new business. Knowing what your business requires beforehand can ensure it operates legally from the beginning.

If you’re looking to start a business in Australia, here are the main differences between ABN and ACN numbers to help you know what applies to your business:

 

What is an ABN?

An ABN is an 11-digit number unique to every business for identification purposes. An ABN number is issued by the Australian Taxation Office. If you’re looking to start a business in Australia, you must register for an ABN number, no matter the size or structure of your business. All businesses must have an ABN number, including non-profit organizations, partnerships, trusts, companies, and even sole traders. Your ABN is used by the government primarily for taxation purposes and for tracking your business operations.

Failure to apply for an ABN can mean that it’s operating illegally. You must register for an ABN and have it displayed on all your company documents, including

  • Tax returns
  • Invoices
  • BAS
  • Receipts
  • Letterheads
  • Orders
  • Estimates
  • Statement of accounts
  • Any other business correspondence

 

How to apply for an ABN

You register for an ABN with the Australian Tax Office. The registration process is usually easy since you can do it online, and you don’t need to pay any fee to register. You can also have a tax agent or BAS agent register for the ABN on your behalf, but for a fee.

The information you’ll need to complete your ABN registration will often depend on the business structure you’re applying for. However, you’ll typically need to provide your name, date of birth, email address, physical address, and the TFN of associated persons.

Once you’ve registered, the ATO will take less than 24 hours to review your application and issue you with your ABN number, which will apply for the lifetime of your business. You must update any changes to your ABN, like a physical address change, within the first 28 days.

You should cancel your ABN immediately should your business get closed, sold, or end its operations in Australia. Once canceled, you should lodge outstanding returns and activity statements and fulfill any payment obligations.

 

Benefits of an ABN

Besides enabling you to run a business legally in Australia, other advantages of acquiring an ABN include;

  • Makes easy for the government, community, and stakeholders to identify your business
  • Allows the government to easily track your business operations
  • It makes you eligible for GST registration, helping with GST credits claims, or claiming business costs like stationary
  • Stakeholders, such as suppliers, can easily confirm details in business invoicing and orders
  • It also gives you access to government services
  • If your business doesn’t pay taxes, such as non-profits, your ABN helps confirm your business structure

 

What is an ACN?

While you need to have an ABN regardless of your business structure, you should only apply for an ACN number if your business is structured as a company. An ACN is a unique number consisting of nine digits to identify your company. If your business registers for both the ACN and ABN numbers, your ACN number will be the last nine digits of your ABN number.

Unlike the ABN, you register for an ACN with the ASIC or Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Like an ABN, your ACN is used to identify your company and track its day-to-day business operations. Other stakeholders can also use it to know about your company’s information, like the business structure. Your company’s ACN number must be displayed on all your official documents and online information, including

  • Advertisements
  • Order for services and goods
  • Your company’s website
  • Invoices
  • Estimates
  • Statements of accounts
  • Letterheads
  • Receipts
  • And any other documentation related to your company

 

How to apply for an ACN

Registering for an ACN is done through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. You pay a fee to register for ACN. The fee is subject to change, so ensure you confirm the exact fee to pay before applying. You can also ask your accountant or lawyer to help you with the ACN registration.

Some of the critical things you need to consider when registering for an ACN include your company structure, company name, business operational model, and obligations to fulfill as a company. Apart from the ACN, you need to also apply for an ABN number.

 

Benefits of an ACN

Registering your business as a company automatically makes it a separate legal entity. As a business owner, this benefits you hugely since it lowers your risk and liability. Other benefits of having an ABN number include:

  • It gives stakeholders access to any information about your company.
  • Your ACN helps legitimize your business
  • You require it for legal compliance

 

Endnote

To legally operate a business in Australia, it’s crucial that you know whether you need to apply for an ABN or ACN number. And as you’ve seen, both the ABN and ACN are identification numbers but with completely different purposes. For instance, no matter the structure or size of your business, you must apply for an ABN with the Australian Tax Office before starting operation.

Applying for an Australian Business Number or ABN helps identify your business to the government and the community. It’s also for tracking your business operations by the Australian Tax Office and ensuring you stay compliant with the tax laws at any given time. On the other hand, you’ll need to register for an ACN number if your business is structured as a company. Understanding the differences between these identification numbers can help ensure your new business or company fulfills its legal obligations.

Financial Security
Articles

Building Financial Security

Financial Security

If there’s one thing in life that everyone needs to have, it’s financial security. Financial security is when you finally are able to reach such a level of stability in your finances where you can live comfortably without much to worry about. To be more precise, it’s when you can afford your monthly expenses, invest your money, and have enough money left in the bank. However, not everyone has this level of security. Many, unfortunately, struggle with maintaining their finances, but it’s never too late to start building financial security. In this article, we’ll be covering ways to start building financial security going forward and why it’s important maintain for long-term success.

 

Reduce How Much You Spend Each Month

One of the most common reasons why many have a hard time having stable finances is because of how much they spend each month. Monthly expenses are different for everyone, but for some, they can be financially draining. While some expenses are mandatory to pay, there may be some that aren’t. To best determine what’s causing the influx in cost, you’ll need to create an in-depth budget. This may take a little while with tweaking along the way, but crafting a budget is relatively simple. Write down your monthly income, and subtract each of your monthly expenses from it. This can give you insight on how much you’ll be saving each month. It also allows you to see everything you’re currently paying for.

If a cost is too high or there’s an expense you don’t need, it’s up to you to make a cut from your budget. If something costs too much, like student loan payments, there are ways for you to reduce it. One method involves refinancing your student loans into a new one. Refinancing is just a different way of saying debt consolidation. It’s when you combine all of your current debt into a single, new payment. This is a great way to reduce what you have to pay each month while giving you a small security blanket as well. Also, if there is a subscription you could live without, you can save hundreds by canceling it.

 

Curb Your Bad Spending Habits

You might think that this coincides with reducing how much you spend every month. Although this is true, it’s not exactly the same thing. Bad spending habits can drain your finances quicker than monthly expenses. It’s understandable that everyone should treat themselves to something nice here and there. However, there’s a difference between a random splurge and then splurging every chance you get. Having the mindset of “it only costs x amount of dollars” can make this worse. It can go from “it only costs $5” to “it only costs $15”, and so on. If you ever feel the need to splurge, think about what else you could do with the money instead. You can put it in savings or invest it into something you actually need.

 

Watch How You Use Your Credit Cards

Financial security stems from more than your personal funds. Credit cards are among the common forms of financial security. However, if they’re improperly used, that security can turn into another form of debt. In this day and age, it’s really uncommon to have less than two or three credit cards. But it’s also important to not take out as many as possible. Even though you do have the option to cancel ones you don’t need, this also isn’t recommended a lot. The reason for this is because canceling a credit card can significantly lower your score. Only use the credit cards when you absolutely need to. Furthermore, make sure to use them on occasion as not using them at all can also impact your score.

 

Put as Much Money as Possible Towards Retirement

Retirement funds are probably the best example of financial security. When your time in the workforce ends, you’ll no longer have a main income stream. Once this happens, you’ll have to rely on what you’ve put away for retirement and your 401k. Needless to say, not having enough money to fall back on without an income stream can lead to a lot of problems. Not having enough funds for retirement can cause uncertainty about your future. If anything, retirement is why you should really watch what you spend your money on. Use the time you have in the workforce to your advantage and save as much as you can. It’ll also help if you manage to secure a passive income as well.

Invest in Property
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

Things to Know When Investing In Property Abroad

Invest in Property

With sterling struggling on occasions against the US dollar and other currencies affected by often fast-moving fluctuations in exchange rates, having someone in your corner with the expertise to guide you through an investment property abroad is essential. Foreign investment, particularly in property, can still be a wise move, yet we know property development investment abroad involves more than finding the right mortgage.

But when you’re looking to find assistance, there are a wealth of options open to you. So how do you know who to choose and what you need to consider? Here, Enness Global offers our advice on things you should know when investing in property abroad and safeguarding your investments.

 

Foreign exchange (FX)

It is highly likely that you will be buying a property in a currency other than your home currency for any property purchase abroad and will need to borrow in that foreign currency. Finding the best conversions rates can be a minefield and getting it wrong can cost you dearly. It’s essential to be FX savvy before investing and take on expert help that can help you identify the best lenders and conversion rates before harm is done.

 

Know local laws

To ensure you’re not stung, it’s essential to know local laws and enlist the right legal advice. Making a decision without taking quality legal advice before making any big decisions will undoubtedly lead to complications, potentially lengthy and costly delays, and significant legal bills you haven’t budgeted for.

Further to this, you might want to consider the wider EU laws, for example. Since Brexit, there have been many ex-pats who have had to give up their house in the sun because they weren’t aware that residency rules had changed, following the UK’s exit from the EU. Consider too, whether you want to purchase a buy to let or want to use the property for yourself, as the laws applicable to you might be different in each case.

 

The right broker

It’s worth looking for brokers that offer a transparent service that keeps you informed at every step, especially important when foreign investment is involved. When they let you down, don’t have the skills or aren’t putting in the time in your situation needs, this can complicate matters and lead to frustration. Read reviews and have a chat with prospective brokers to get an idea as to whether they’re likely to live up to their claims.

If they dodge questions, don’t have many successful references or reviews and seem reluctant to provide any solid evidence they can do what they say, it might be best to walk away and find someone else.

 

Local knowledge

Going alone to navigate the foreign property market is tough, and you certainly, without experienced help, leave yourself open to being taken advantage of by local developers. However, much can be learned by visiting the area you’re considering buying in, and learning on the ground what benefits there are to the property you’re considering.

Financial Advisor
ArticlesFinance

Financial Advisors For Business Owners: Why Owners Need One

Financial Advisor

As a business owner, you are used to putting in the hard work. You have molded the company into what it is today by getting involved in handling all areas of the business, fulfilling every role along the way. This is fantastic for business, but for your personal life and finances, not so much. 

When you are running your business, you are focused on the business. You want the processes to flow smoothly. You want your business to grow. You want to make sure things like customer satisfaction and brand awareness are headed in the right direction. That leaves little time for anything else. And, the truth is, your personal financial situation can suffer. 

 

Planning For the Future

While you are busy focusing on your business, life is still going on. You are still getting older and your family is probably growing and changing, too. Your business is hopefully going to be a part of your future, but there is always the risk of the unknown. Just consider all that has happened due to COVID-19 and how it impacted so many business owners in ways they never could have imagined. In an instant, pandemics, natural disasters, recessions and more can take it all away. Then what? 

You must have a plan for your future, including getting your personal finances in order so that you have some sense of financial security aside from your business. A financial advisor can help you effectively prioritize planning for your future – with a focus on you, not your business. 

Below are a few ways in which a financial advisor can help. 

 

Managing Risk

Whether you started your business from nothing or took over a business, you likely know all about taking risks. In fact, you probably don’t even see them as a big deal. But it is when it comes to your financial health. 

When you combine the thrill of risk-taking and the optimistic outlook for business success, owners don’t usually do well with managing finances. Planning is important – and winging it is not an option. 

 

Selling the Business to Fund Retirement

Many business owners spend their lives building up a business assuming that one day when they are ready, they will sell it and live off the proceeds in addition to any Social Security they have earned. However, this is not a dependable plan at all. 

There is no concrete proof that your business will successfully sell to another buyer. And even if it does, who knows how much your business will be worth at that time – it may not be enough to help you get by. 

These unknowns should be enough to convince you that you need to start planning for a secure future today with a financial advisor. As you keep busy with the day-to-day demands of your business, your trusted investment advisor can be working to help you achieve your financial goals for retirement. 

 

Professional Experience

Your retirement planning is not something that should be taken lightly. There are some things you can learn from the internet. Then, there are those things you should not risk believing because you read it on the internet – and financial planning advice is one of them. 

Don’t leave your future to chance because you read an article on a website. There is no replacement for the education and experience that financial advisors have. Markets and laws are always changing and you need someone who can help you navigate through them, protecting you and managing your risk every step along the way. 

Are you willing to undergo a medical procedure done by someone who reads how to do it online? No – you want a trained doctor. Financial advisors have been trained with the skills and the knowledge to provide prudent investment guidance to help you prepare for retirement. 

 

Mistakes Can Be Expensive

The traits most business owners possess – risk-taking, confidence, and optimism – may cause you to make riskier investments than necessary. Unfortunately, financial mistakes you make due to impulsive moves can be costly.

A financial advisor will bring an objective, well-thought-out strategy that should include benefits such as: 

  • Creating a customized plan to help you meet your financial goals. 
  • Working with your tax professional to manage tax liabilities now and in the future. 
  • Collaborating with your attorney to create an estate plan. 
  • Developing a retirement plan. 
  • Providing investment guidance and coaching to keep you on track. 
  • Organizing your financial life to free up more time for yourself and growing your business. 

 

Working with a professional financial advisor just makes good business sense. And, as a business owner, that’s something you can appreciate. ICC has been providing wealth management services to business owners for decades. To learn more, visit www.ICCNV.com

2022 Ethical Finance Awards Logo
Press releases

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2022 Ethical Finance Awards

2022 Ethical Finance Awards Logo

United Kingdom, 2022- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2022 Ethical Finance Awards.

Wealth & Finance announced the Ethical Finance Awards this year to acknowledge and reward the pioneers of ethical financing who introduced and promoted ethical and sustainable finance. The Awards programme is designed to recognise those who have encouraged and delivered positive and sustainable results to their customers and clients. Although, sustainable results are put at the forefront, the programme also celebrates businesses who have focused specifically on their customer service and have demonstrated their expertise in the newly thriving industry.

Our Awards Coordinator, Katherine Benton, has commented on the success of the awards programme and has stated: “I am very proud of all the businesses who have been awarded this year and have shown promising success in the industry. I wish them all the best for the rest of the year and all of their future endeavours.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the Wealth & Finance website (https://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/awards/ethical-finance-awards/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Note to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

Wealth & Finance International (https://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/) is a quarterly publication dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content. It is published by AI Global Media Ltd, a publishing house that has reinvigorated corporate finance news and reporting.

Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media (https://www.aiglobalmedialtd.com/) has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Alongside this, we have a luxury-lifestyle magazine, LUXlife, which appeals to a range of high-net-worth individuals, offering them insight into the latest products, experiences and innovations to ensure they can live the high-life to its fullest.

Awards

Showcasing the companies who have worked hard in striving to give their clients the best service and products is important to us. We know and understand how tough making a successful business can be, and so everyone at AI Global Media takes great pride in our awards programmes.

Our awards programmes run across each brand and are completely free to enter, take part in and win. All our winners are offered complementary marketing packages, meaning all businesses despite their size and marketing budget can be rewarded. Additionally, we offer a wider range of marketing materials which winners can purchase for extra coverage on our platform including: cover features, magazine articles and newsletter inclusions.

Budget Tracking
ArticlesFinance

Building a Financially Solvent Way of Life

Budget Tracking

Are you tired of being behind on monthly bills, receiving late notices in the mail, and generally always feeling like you’re one paycheck away from monetary disaster? Since the widespread lockdowns of the last two years ended, many working adults are still in a financial bind and need help getting back on their feet. For some, it’s just a matter of catching up on a few missed payments, but for others, the sting is much worse. If you’re struggling to regain financial solvency or establish it for the first time in your adult life, note that there are dozens of techniques that can bring relief without having to turn your life upside down. While all the following suggestions might not apply to you, it’s best to review each one and consider whether one or more can make a difference for your general solvency.

From using the ABW principle to finding scholarship money for college, there’s likely a hack or tactic that can set your money situation straight. Consider checking all three of your bureau credit scores, making or revising your monthly budget, amassing an emergency fund, being smart about car buying, and aiming for homeownership if you are currently a renter. Here’s how to get started on the road to financial solvency.

 

Use the ABW Principle

You’ve probably heard of the ABW principle in one of its many versions. The letters stand for always be working and are a simple but powerful bit of advice. If you are aiming for fiscal solvency, ABW will keep you above water even when you get laid off from your main job. People who follow the ABW method strive to fill in the gaps in employment by taking on minimum wage work when necessary. Because they never stop working, they’re always receiving paychecks that can usually cover basic bills and living expenses.

 

Be Smart About Paying for College

If you’re planning to earn a college degree, make a financially sound decision and explore all scholarship possibilities before plunking your own money down on tuition, room, board, books, etc. It makes good sense to search for scholarships for college online based on your eligibility and apply for all the ones you have a decent shot at receiving. The great thing about this approach is that no matter how much money you’re awarded, you never have to pay it back. Scholarships are a win-win situation and one method of education financing you can’t afford to ignore. The application process is quick, and you can find out how much money is available in just a few clicks.

 

Monitor Your Credit Scores

You want to build credit the right way and you should check your scores with the three major bureaus at least once per year. Read all the fine print in each report and look for errors. Mistakes are more common than you might think. Additionally, see where you can improve and focus on trouble spots like carrying too much debt on credit cards or making occasional late payments on cars or mortgages.

 

Budgets and Cars

Work hard to stick to a reasonable monthly budget. Consider hiring a credit counselor to help you make one that suits your income and spending needs. Avoid buying new cars. It’s much less costly to buy vehicles that are two or three years old, based on depreciation and general operating condition.

 

Houses and Emergency Funds

If you are a renter, make a detailed plan for buying a home one day. Ownership is the single best thing you can do for your long-term fiscal solvency. Plus, create an emergency fund equal to about three months of income. An e-fund can keep you afloat after a layoff or other financial setback.

Saving
ArticlesFinance

Getting on the Right Track: 5 Ways to Save for What You Want

Saving

Many people view saving money as a challenge. If you’re one of them, you’re not alone. 

According to data reported by CNBC, the average American has $8,863 saved up in a bank or credit union, though that number can drop as low as $2,729 among young adults. 

This can make it harder to make major purchases, such as buying a new car, putting a down payment on a house, or planning a wedding. It may take some time and dedication, but building your savings isn’t impossible. 

Here are five tips to help you save for what you want:

 

1. Define Your Goals

Start by setting a specific goal. What are you trying to buy? How much will you need? For large purchases, you might even want to set smaller milestones along the way to keep yourself focused as you progress toward any larger goals. Apps can be particularly useful in this department, as they help you define your goal and visualize your progress along the way.

 

2. Pay Yourself First

When payday hits, make your savings your first priority. For example, you can set up an automatic transfer that moves money from your checking account to your savings account every payday. This way, you’ll ensure you’re adding to your savings with every paycheck, not just saving whatever money is left over after covering your other bills. Using the right app is also helpful. Monorail app users, for example, can use the automatic transfer feature to split funds into multiple areas, allowing them to set aside money for emergencies or a specific purchase. The best part? Everything is automatic, so you can set it up and save money without even thinking about it.

 

3. Adopt the 50/20/30 Rule

Many people live by the 50/20/30 rule, which means they split their income as follows: 

  • 50% goes to necessities (food, rent, etc.)
  • 20% goes to savings and debt payments
  • 30% goes to lifestyle choices (gym memberships, entertainment, etc.)

For example, if your take-home pay is $4,000, then you should be saving $800 per month. Even if you can’t quite meet the 20% goal, you’ll be surprised how quickly this can add up.

 

4. Ditch the Budget

Not everyone can stick to a budget. According to data from the Pew Research Center, more than 1 in 3 families experienced volatility in their monthly income in 2015, making it harder to create and implement a budget. If this sounds familiar, try tracking your expenses for the month. How much are you spending on housing, clothes, food, and other purchases? Again, this is where tracking apps come in handy. They provide a visual representation of your spending habits, so you can see exactly where your money is going and make adjustments accordingly.

 

5. Think Before You Splurge

It can be painful to deny yourself those small luxuries, like gourmet coffee or takeout. But these “small” expenses can quickly snowball and sabotage your spending goals. If you have trouble cutting back on these little indulgences, limit yourself to only one coffee or meal out per week and, instead, prepare your own food and drinks at home. You may be surprised at how much you can save over time.

 

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Saving money takes discipline and self-control, but the rewards are well worth it. So, define your financial goals, adopt the 50/20/30 rule, and otherwise be mindful of your spending. Bottom line: Make things easy. To that end, you can simplify your financial plan by using apps that make it easier to track your expenses, build your emergency fund, and help you achieve your financial dreams.

Safeguarding Crypto
ArticlesFundsRegulation

8 Tips to Safeguard Crypto Investments

Safeguarding Crypto

It’s said that the cryptocurrency market has gained popularity as an investment option for many in the past decade. The success stories of overnight crypto millionaires are very tempting, but experts recommend a cautious approach to it. 

The decentralized nature of the digital assets market is perhaps the riskiest part of investing in cryptocurrency. It’s crucial to understand that cybercrime is rampant in the crypto market, and your portfolio can disappear into thin air without a trace.

However, such cases shouldn’t stop you from investing in crypto. You can follow these simple tips published here to safeguard your investment. Alternatively, this feature can give you insights into navigating the digital assets ecosystem. 

 

1. Wallets are Key to Security

Once you buy your preferred crypto, move it to your digital wallet immediately. Leaving your investment on the platform is risky because hackers can access the exchange floor and wipe it clean. 

Primarily, the digital assets landscape has hot (online) and cold (offline) wallets that work as crypto storage. Both wallet options have pros and cons, but experts advise using a cold wallet to safeguard your crypto investment. 

 

2. Exchanges Matter

Investing in the cryptocurrency market requires the same business acumen you’d use in the traditional financial market. You must research the intermediaries offering access to the crypto trading floor. 

Exchanges will only protect their interest and can’t guarantee safety for your investment. Additionally, not all exchanges are trustworthy and you could be risking your money buying from any exchange or crypto marketplace. Reach out to the crypto community to learn more about established crypto exchange platforms.

 

3. Use Strong Passwords

Using a strong password is perhaps classic advice in the information age. Encoding your wallets and intelligent devices to transact cryptos will save you the heartbreak of losing your investment. Select a password you can remember since your wallets can lock you out for not having the correct combination.

Aside from solid passwords, using a public network is also risky if you’re using hot wallets or connected to your cold wallet. Hackers will have an easy time collecting cryptos through the shared network. So, be cautious when using untrusted networks.

 

4. Sharing Keys Is Careless

It’s best to keep your private keys to yourself. Sharing your private keys jeopardizes your investment’s safety since it validates crypto transactions. You can disregard the request to communicate your private keys in the cryptocurrency landscape.

Typically, experts recommend printing the seed phrase on a private printer and keeping it safe. It’s perhaps an ideal option since most attackers target unsuspecting online users. Further, access your cryptocurrency only when transacting and avoid browsing the exchange platforms while your portfolio account is online.

 

5. Avoid Dubious Crypto Schemes

In cryptocurrency, you must understand the underlying information before investing. The most basic research will look at the digital asset’s market capitalization and the traded volume.

Cryptocurrency schemes have come up owing to the unregulated nature of the market, and millions disappeared through crypto schemes such as Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in the crypto arena. If you get an invitation to join groups that promise unrealistic returns, reject them and block them altogether. 

 

6. Keep Off Untrusted Links

When transacting cryptos online, avoid clicking unrelated links. You could be exposing your portfolio to cybercriminals. In addition, upgrade your software from trusted sources to back up your crypto investment’s security.

Alternatively, use a separate email address when accessing the internet to conceal your identity. You’ll protect your portfolio from any breach or phishing attempt to access your account.

 

7. Diversify

Keeping your eggs in one basket is dangerous, especially in the digital asset market. For obvious reasons, the market is unregulated and things change very fast. Your safest bet is diversifying your portfolio. 

So, spread your investment across the cryptocurrency landscape and leverage opportunities presented by the influx of new crypto making a debut. Though, you must upskill your knowledge of the underlying digital assets.

 

8. Crypto Hype Is Risky

If you follow the hype in the cryptocurrency market, you might invest in the wrong digital asset and get the timing wrong. The market price changes very fast, and it will not spare your investment.

Consult the cryptocurrency community because investors, crypto enthusiasts, and developers discuss current issues in forums like Quora. It’ll enlighten you to safeguard your crypto investment.  

 

Final Thoughts

Investing in cryptocurrency requires researching the underlying assets to avoid making wrong moves in the market. Plus, your exposure to risk doesn’t stop hackers from trying to steal from you. You must beware of the market volatility that can empty your investment account in seconds. So, deploying the above tactics can safeguard your investment to enjoy digital assets.

Investment
ArticlesWealth Management

5 Countries Where You Can Obtain a Citizenship by Investment

Investment

An increasing number of people find the concept of alternative citizenship attractive, primarily because of the economic crisis. Among the most prevalent options for obtaining passports is the option of obtaining a passport for investment – also known as citizenship by investment (CBI)

Aside from obtaining citizenship by birth, naturalization, or legitimation, some countries can also offer you passports when you contribute to their economy, culture, or society. Programs for obtaining citizenship by investment attract many affluent individuals from developing nations to consider obtaining another passport for travel freedom and mobility.

Law Insider defines CBI programs (also known as Residence by Investment – RBI) as programs that offer individuals from foreign states to become citizens of a country or offer them temporary or permanent rights of residence when they contribute to the development of their society through investments.

 

Why Do People Consider CBI Programs?

Passport obtained by investment comes with less rigorous processes. Averagely, in three months, a high-net-worth investor can get a passport. This approach to citizenship is also accompanied by many stay benefits such as friendly tax programs, visa-free travel, and having your own residence.

 

Who Is Eligible For a CBI Program?

People generally believe that only wealthy individuals can apply for citizenship by investment. But this is not true.

Anyone who can meet the requirements can apply. So, you may not readily have a billion dollars stuck up in the bank. You may be a digital entrepreneur, a physical business owner, an investor, or someone who has a global mindset.

 

1. ST KITTS & NEVIS

St Kitts and Nevis is the founding country behind the CBI program. It first launched in 1984 and has since seen over 20,000 applicants worldwide obtain passports. Aside from becoming a citizen of the country, there are several other attractive benefits the St Kitts citizenship by investment program offers. 

An applicant must have attained at least 18 years of age and must be able to invest a non-refundable $150,000 amount as an individual. The registration process generally takes between 2 and 6months to be finalized.

Benefits include:

  • Dual citizenship 
  • Unlimited stay permit.
  • Visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to over 150 destinations globally. Including the US, UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
  • Future generations will enjoy citizenship by descent.

 

You can also include your spouse, kids below the age of 31 who do not already have kids, parents, and grandparents.

 

2. Dominica

The Dominican CBI program was Instituted in 1993 with the opportunity for an investor to either become a full member of a country as a single party or acquire for their families too. Processing time is just three months.

Benefits include:

  • Visa-free travel to more than 150 countries worldwide, including Singapore, Hong Kong, the Schengen area of Europe, the UK, and Russia.
  • Short processing period.

 

3. Grenada

Grenada established its Citizen by investment program in 2013. And it accepts $220,000 in real estate investments approved by the government with at least five years of maintenance. Another option is to donate $150,000 for societal development.

Benefits include:

  • Visa-free travel to more than 150 destinations globally, including Singapore, China, Russia, the UK, and Europe’s Schengen Area.
  • Grenada citizenship will also allow beneficiaries to access the USA E2 treaty investor visa.

 

4. St Lucia 

French-speaking Saint Lucia offers three options to obtain a passport by investment which is processed between three to four months. One, a $100,000 non-refundable donation is required for a single applicant. But the amount increases based on the number of dependents you’ll be going with.

Two, a $300,000 investment in a government-approved real estate project may produce good profits. Three, a $3.5million Investment in a recognized enterprise project.

Benefits include:

  • Opportunities to leverage its tourism.
  • Quality of life is good with visa-free travel to 146 countries, including the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Europe’s Schengen Area.
  • St. Lucia allows dual citizenship.

 

5. Turkey

Turkey Citizenship by investment program offers permanent citizenship to applicants and an opportunity to access both Asian and European markets.

As an investor, you’ll be required to pay $250,000 in the government-approved real estate market. This amount used to be $1,000,000 at inception and was reduced in 2018 to the current amount. The processing period often takes between 6 – and nine months from the submission date.

Benefits include:

  • Visa-free or visa-on-arrival privileges to about 115 countries worldwide, including Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
  • Candidates who qualify will be eligible for a USA E-2 Investor Visa for five years, which is renewable.

 

Conclusion

If you are self-employed, retired, or independently wealthy, you can consider CBI. The best way to get the most out of your plan is to define your goal clearly. To obtain passports by investment, different countries have different guidelines without necessarily speaking their language. Make financial contributions to the society in the required forms, and you’ll be offered citizenship. You could acquire real estate or securities, create jobs, or start a business.

Investor plan
ArticlesMarkets

Rising Importance of Retail Investors

Investor plan

By Gediminas Rickevičius, VP of Global Partnerships at Oxylabs.io

Retail investors play an interesting role in the markets at large. For one, most academic researchers and hedge fund managers significantly downplay the importance of their everyday counterparts due to underperformance.

On the other hand, there has been a surge in the amount of retail investors since 2020. Investing has been made much more accessible and available to everyday folk. Combined with the global pandemic, these factors led to retail investors’ share of total equities trading volume now being close to 25%. Finally, there seems to be a push towards opening up private markets to more participants, as evidenced by EY research.

If such a trend continues, a massive influx of retail investors might increase the influence of their actions on the market. It might seem like a headache to seasoned veterans, but in many cases it might be a boon.

 

Retail investors provide cushion

As is often the case with many things in life, retail investors are seen through somewhat of a mythical lens. If one were to ask what event would define them, that answer would probably be the GameStop debacle.

It was certainly a visible and emotionally charged event that seemed to have everything you’d expect from a retail investor. Most people sought huge speculative gains through short-term trading without having access to tools that would enable such high frequency endeavors.

Additionally, some invested obscene amounts of capital, “leveraging” what they could. Often those were personal or spending loans. Some liquidated other investments to gain additional funds for the speculative play.

In the end, the event had all the hallmarks of everyone’s preconceived notions of retail investors. They were highly speculative, emotional, and chased significant gains. So, it would seem that would transfer over to other areas of investing.

Yet, some research would state otherwise, making retail investors highly useful to the market. As mentioned previously, they have begun to play a more significant role due to the increasing availability of investing.

A recent study has indicated that retail investors might be providing stability in times of market swings and crashes. COVID’s exogenous shock to the markets caused prices to tumble, but it was offset, by some margin, through the funds of retail investors.

Additionally, stabilization happens through providing additional liquidity to certain stocks. Finally, while they may seem contrarian as they pick stocks of which institutional investors think less, even if the contrarianism were true, it would still provide liquidity to stocks, which have less of it. In the end, retail investors play an important role in markets, especially during times of turmoil.

 

Retail investors talk (a lot)

Convincing someone to give up their investment strategy with all the data and potential software might be a little difficult. It’s a business that entirely revolves around knowledge intended to beat everyone else. Data and strategy sit at the core of investing.

As a result, outside of pure academical theory, any investment strategy is a closely guarded secret for institutional investors. Retail investors, on the other hand, are not quite the same. Many of them participate in various internet forums as a way of talking about strategy.

You can often find anything, ranging from simple investment advice (usually, ironically preceded by the saying “not financial advice”) to long posts discussing why some companies might be undervalued or overvalued.

Additionally, they are often posted in public forums where, while anonymous, posts are rated according to popularity. It would hold to reason then that such posts would have more sway over other retail investors. As a result, tracking large masses of small investments becomes an easier task.

Collecting such data, however, can be quite challenging. For one, there are places where retail investors congregate, but even then, there are a ton of posts going through them every day, making manual collection inefficient.

Couple that with the fact that sentiments expressed and overall influence can differ, and collecting such data for investment purposes nears to zero ROI or below. Fortunately, automated data collection methods have been developed.

Web scraping can be utilized whenever public data from the internet needs to be gathered at a large enough scale. There are plenty of solution providers online that can build complete out-of-the-box solutions that would make the collection of such semantic data easy.

 

Calculating talk

An important caveat is that even with automated public data collection, everything gathered would be semantic. There would be sentences and paragraphs expressing some sort of sentiment, which might not be immediately obvious, and have an effect that is also shrouded in mystery.

One way to calculate influence is to look for raw ticker mention volume. Quiver Quantitative has done exactly that for a certain piece of Reddit. There’s value to be found, however, pure volume likely only weakly correlates with investments.

It is entirely possible that a majority of such mentions are hidden deep in posts and comments no one ever sees. Only the crawler bot captures them, because it goes through absolutely everything. As a result, it can produce signals that miss the mark.

As scraping can collect any aspect of the data stored within the page, extracting popularity indicators and adding them to the ticker calculations would produce more accurate estimations of how impactful the mention would be.

Finally, sentiment is an important piece of the puzzle. Luckily, we don’t have to build customized machine learning models to extract sentiment. Google’s Natural Language AI and many other tools have already been developed that can serve our purposes just fine.

Combining these three factors with the general talkativeness of the retail investor can give us fairly accurate insight into the inner movements of capital from them. Whether these can serve as a separate investment strategy or enhance current ones, it is something for those who track such data to decide.

Virtual Debit Card
ArticlesBanking

8 Reasons to Use a Virtual Debit Card

Virtual Debit Card

Using debit cards for payment and purchases across the globe has gained popularity since their launch in the 1980s. Today, people appreciate the benefits of paying online transactions with ease.

Like other businesses, technology has allowed the finance industry to advance the use of debit cards, hence, the emergence of virtual debit cards. They differ from the traditional plastic rectangular cards because they only exist in digital form on online portals or mobile phones.

The following highlights some of the benefits of virtual payment cards:

 

1. Safe and Secure Payments

Virtual debit cards are typically hard to copy or steal. Unlike the traditional ones that criminals can clone or steal, virtual debit cards are impossible to tamper with. Account theft is among the top e-commerce frauds criminals use to steal debit cards and then use them in making purchases without the account owner’s knowledge. However, it’s impossible to steal information from virtual debit cards as they don’t have physical copies, ensuring the security and safety of your payments.

 

2. Fast and Easy Acquisition

The traditional debit cards can take days to arrive at your residence. Apart from the card creation process, the issuing company might need more days to verify your identity. Placing an order for the physical debit card from abroad or before a long weekend can also prolong the waiting period before you can start spending.

Meanwhile, virtual cards arrive immediately after completing the application process as it doesn’t require on-site production. You only have to check and confirm the card details, allowing you to start using it without waiting for days on end. They’re also accepted by almost all vendors and utilities, ensuring their reliability as a payment option.

 

3. Convenience

Virtual cards are also convenient as they eliminate the hassle of using a company card. It allows you to make quick purchases through your mobile phone without looking for a card you might have misplaced somewhere in your house or under your purse. This mobile element makes for a seamless shopping process while protecting your information.

 

4. Ease of Cancellation

You might want to make only one or two purchases from a card. This includes purchasing something from websites you don’t fully trust or performing one-off purchases that you don’t want to reflect on your bank statement. This is where virtual debit cards come in handy because they let you create an account and perform your purchase, then immediately cancel the card with no strings attached.

 

5. Controlled Spending

Virtual debit cards are an excellent choice for specific spending activities because they can allow you to control how much you spend on your card. They are ideal for businesses that offer their staff personal spending limits or parents who limit the online purchases of their children.

 

6. Staff Empowerment

Virtual debit cards are also ideal for businesses with employees who make purchases on behalf of the establishment. However, tracking the spending habits of each employee using one physical card can be a tiring task. In addition, there would be too much paperwork if you need to issue a card to every employee.

With virtual cards, you can issue multiple cards to your employees in one go. Thus, you can easily track the spending of each team member. With this, your business can progress as the virtual company card eliminates the need to wait for a physical debit card before you can start making purchases. Implementing limitations like spending limits also guarantees that employees would only buy necessities.

 

7. Cash Flow Tracking

Some businesses often deal with a messy cash flow when making payments to suppliers and vendors before a specific period. Virtual cards allow you to track the flow of payments made and know the available funds through the data in the system, thereby improving the efficiency and transparency of your payment processes. Indeed, virtual debit cards are gradually taking over payments for many businesses.

 

8. Eco-friendly

The use of virtual debit cards can reduce your carbon footprint because it eliminates the manufacture of a physical card. It might not seem much, but this makes sense when considering the number of expired physical cards thrown away daily. Therefore, you promote a positive impact on the environment by using them because they only exist digitally on phones or online.

 

Conclusion

The introduction of virtual cards, an improvement of the traditional physical cards, is due to the continuous advancements in technology. Most shoppers and businesses welcome their use in making purchases due to their many benefits. Thus, virtual debit cards can guarantee a fast, safe, secure, and seamless shopping experience.

Virtual Accounting
AccountancyArticlesRegulation

Benefits of Shifting to Virtual Accounting

Virtual Accounting

In today’s digital age, many fundamental business processes are being automated. People are increasingly moving towards virtual operations as they save you time. Making operations such as accounting virtual can make a significant difference in your finance department.

Virtual accounting is getting your accounting done through remote employees, such as virtual accountants or experienced people with good skill sets. Virtual accounting services like Geekbooks manage and monitor your account bookkeeping from afar, saving time and cost and bringing along numerous benefits. Here is how your business can benefit by shifting to virtual accounting:

 

1. Optimized Work-Time

As a third-party accountant will deliver your work, hiring a virtual accountant can free your finance department employees from bookkeeping and accounting worries to focus on other essential business tasks. The job of recording extensive data and analyzing it will be outsourced to virtual accounting, and you can enjoy quality work from experts in this field.

 

2. Saved Time and Costs

Virtual accounting services provide remote access and encryption of your accounting data on the cloud. This provides your team easy access to all records and saves the cost of physically storing and retrieving all the documents and records. It also saves you the salaries that would otherwise have to be allotted for store management, document storage, and the wages of full-time accounting and bookkeeping employees. This quick availability of these valuable financial records can help prove when requesting an overdraft or loan for your business on an urgent basis.

 

3. Convenience

Virtual accounting is also a very convenient option for your overall business operations. It makes all your documents available online and enables all your remote and full-time employees to work on the same projects or accounting records or report anywhere worldwide. This is particularly beneficial during times of urgency or emergency in projects where even if no one is available at the work desk, the employees can manage their work effectively as all the data is available online. This available data in a digital format can also easily be used in annual reports of your business. They can help shareholders better understand the company’s financial progress over time.

 

4. Improved Security

As per research conducted by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), about 1,291 data breaches were reported by September 2021. This statistic was about 17% higher than the number of data breaches incurred in 2020, 1,108.

Virtual accounting comes with higher data security as all your accounting records and reports have a backup and are well-protected in cloud computing. This prevents any data losses for your company due to natural disasters, theft, or internal data breaches. Cloud security is also significantly cheaper than creating backups for physical accounting records as it requires less storage cost and is more affordable to maintain.

 

5. Virtual Meetings

By shifting to virtual accounting mediums, you can benefit from the skillsets of expert accountants without needing them to be physically present in the workspace. You can take the expert opinion on improving your current financial position and gain valuable insights without hiring an expert full-time at a high salary.

 

6. Superior Technology

By opting for virtual accounting, your business can benefit from up-to-date modern technology and maintain readable accounting records compliant with changing accounting principles without paying for the softwares. Virtual accounting services have these current softwares available, and you can benefit from these services, all included in the fees of outsourcing. Your company will also save the cost of training employees on softwares if you outsource all the work altogether.

 

7. Flexibility and Timeliness

Depending upon the nature and needs of your business, accounting procedures can be outsourced to virtual accounting agencies on a daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or yearly basis. A virtual accounting service can fulfill the needs of your business and create reliable records for the company in your desired timeliness. Your virtual accountant will deliver the record and assessment of your finances on your pre-determined schedule.

 

8. Scalability

Online accounting services are easily scalable and can meet the changing accounting needs of your growing business. The pay-as-you-go model option of virtual accounting services enables you to grow your business quickly and scale up without paying the expense of high in-house accounting assistance. Your virtual accountant can adjust to changes in work volume, especially in busy seasons of your business where there is an increase in transactions or complexity of work.

 

9. Profitability

Your company can increase its productivity and profitability in the long run by opting for virtual accounting. It can benefit your overall business in time, technology, labor, and productivity. This will result in lower overheads, and your business will have lesser expenses in the long run leading to a positive impact on your overall profitability.

 

Endnote

Virtual accounting has numerous benefits, especially for small-scale businesses that want effective management of their financial records and require expert analysis of the financial position of their business economically. Outsourcing accounting to virtual accounting agents allows companies to benefit from superior softwares and technology and get the best service at a low cost. While having an in-house accounting expert will not only cost you more and require consistent training, a remote team of virtual accounting will provide you the same expertise with lower to no maintenance costs.

In this fast-paced world where businesses are increasingly moving towards remote work, this is your ideal time to shift to virtual accounting. Virtual services like virtual accounting help you recruit the best of all talents on board without the problem of geographical barriers. Your staff can work on creating accounting records from any city, state, country, or even across continents. This also helps you get accounting assistance even when your budget is tight. Your recruitment becomes solely based on skills fit and not the geographical fit. This ensures that you attract the best talent available for your firm.

Investment Research
ArticlesFinance

How to Perform Smart Research Before Investing

Investment Research

Investing in individual stocks is risky, especially if you haven’t done it before. Many people are too scared to do it, so they stick to buying low-cost index funds instead. 

However, don’t let them scare you. We think investing in individual stocks is a good idea and many experts agree with us. Aside from the fact that you’ll know what you’re investing in, mixing things up will also diversify your portfolio.

To do that, you need to perform smart research before investing. 

Now, if you’re not comfortable doing that on your own, you can contact Triad securities. Their experience will help you maximize your investment without too much effort. But if you’re ready to fly solo, here are some tips on how to perform research.

 

1. Understand the Company’s Business

Before you start investing in individual stocks, you need to be familiar with the industry you’re planning on investing in. The American stock market can be divided into 11 sectors:

  1. Energy 
  2. Materials 
  3. Industrials 
  4. Consumer discretionary 
  5. Consumer staples 
  6. Healthcare 
  7. Financials 
  8. Information technology 
  9. Communication services 
  10. Utilities 
  11. Real Estate

Now, experts state that it’s best to include stock from all sectors in your portfolio. That’s easily done by investing in index funds because you’re not hand-picking a company. But things are different if you want to invest in an individual stock. You need to know what the market is like in the company’s industry if you want to invest smartly.

A company selling food won’t perform the same as a company selling cars, right?

 

2. Look at the Finances

The companies’ financial reports are probably the best source of information relevant for investing. Now, people get scared when they hear words like earnings per share, but don’t panic – you’ll master them in no time.

The two most important financial documents you should look for are Form 10-K and Form 10-Q.

Form 10-K is an annual report that includes audited financial statements – the company’s balance sheet, the sources of income, and how the company handles cash, revenues, and expenses. Form 10-Q, on the other hand, is a quarterly update that doesn’t include audited financial statements. While the latter may not be as reliable as the form 10-K, both are equally important and contain valuable information.

Since these reports have lots of numbers and words you may not be familiar with, here’s a little glossary:

 

Revenue

Revenue refers to the total amount of money a company has earned during the specified period. There are two types of revenue: the operating revenue and the nonoperating revenue. 

The operating revenue is the amount of money that company has generated from its core business, while the nonoperating revenue typically comes from one-time business activities. Naturally, the first one is more important and reliable.

 

Net income 

This is the amount of money a company has made once the operating expenses, taxes, and depreciation are subtracted from revenue. 

 

Earnings per share (EPS)

Earnings per share show a company’s profitability on a per-share basis, which allows you to easily compare it with other companies. It’s calculated by dividing earnings by the number of shares available for trading.

 

Price-earnings ratio (P/E)

There are two types of P/E ratios you should be familiar with: a trailing P/E and a forward P/E.

A trailing P/E is calculated by dividing the current stock price by EPS, while a forward P/E is calculated by dividing the stock price by forecasted EPS in the next 12 months.

Keep in mind that since a forward P/E relies on potential EPS, it’s not as reliable as a trailing P/E.

 

3. Get Familiar with the History and Compare

Just because the company is doing well this year doesn’t mean it’s been doing that way in the past. For that reason, you should dig deeper and look beyond the newest financial statements.

We suggest that you use websites like Google Finance and Yahoo! Finance to perform research on historical data. Look into the financial statements from the previous years, as well as price charts and such. 

This way, you’ll be able to tell you how resilient the company is, as well as how it reacts to market fluctuations and challenging situations. 

 

4. Ask the Company’s Employees and Management

Most large public companies have investor relations departments that cooperate with potential investors by providing them with financial details, plans, and other potentially relevant data. They should be able to answer your questions about any press releases you might have come across, for instance.

So, don’t refrain from approaching them. Ask questions and pay attention to the information they give you. Are the company’s employees well-informed? Are they confident about things you’re talking about?

Also, pay attention to the management team and the company’s board of directors. If they’re all company insiders, they may not be able to objectively assess the management’s actions.

 

5. Never Stop Learning

It’s important to always be in the loop. Things can change in the blink of an eye and you need to be ready for that.

Blogs and email newsletters from reliable sources can help you do that. Books are also a valuable source of information, but so are magazines and online articles. Steer clear of forums, groups, and other sources with unverified advice. They might get it right from time to time, but you shouldn’t rely solely on those.

 

Conclusion

While index funds are a great way to start investing, individual stocks offer many advantages. 

For instance, unlike with index funds, you only pay a fee when buying and selling stocks. There are no annual management fees. You also won’t struggle with managing your taxes because you’re the one deciding when you want to buy or sell the stocks. 

So, investing in individual stocks is risky if you’re not prepared to do your research before the investment. But it definitely pays off. 

Third-Party Logistics
ArticlesFinance

How Investing in a 3PL Can Help You Save Money

Third-Party Logistics

Using a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) provider can lessen the financial burden of warehousing, fulfillment, and transportation for your start up business.

The supply chain is complex. A product must first be developed, prototyped, and then delivered. After that, demand must be generated for the product. Customers that require your items will purchase in bulk. This sort of attention is good for business, but it may be stressful. You’ll need to handle inventory, packaging, and distribution. This might be overwhelming for small and medium-sized businesses. This is where a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) company can help!

 

Third-Party Logistics Services Save Money

A 3rd party logistics company can help organizations of any size from start up to a large enterprise. These logistics geniuses can save you time, energy, and money by streamlining your supply chain management. Here are five reasons to work with a 3PL:

 

1. More Business Focus

Managing inventory and delivery can be difficult especially if you are a smaller company lacking resources and staff to manage it. These painstaking duties frequently distract you from other commitments. Working with a 3PL provider makes it easier for business owners to keep up with their hectic schedules. Logistics specialists store items and distribute things to clients efficiently. This frees up time for your staff to focus on the business’s core mission.


2. You Have a Logistics Team Leading the Way

Time is money in business. As a business owner, you can’t afford to lose time on the shipping procedures. One of the main benefits of partnering with a 3PL is the knowledge and direction of a seasoned supply chain veteran. These logistics services quickly handle your inventory, delivery, and returns. With these professionals on your side, you can be certain that they are working to constantly keep shipping rules and procedures updated and are working to your advantage.


3. You’ll Never Need to Buy Equipment

Logistics technology is not only costly but also difficult to set up. You’ll also need to train personnel on how to utilize the system. Not to mention, the space needed to store physical product can be expensive. Why go through all of this when a 3PL already has the tools, space, and expertise? Maintaining this complete IT procedure is routine for them. A 3PL expert keeps up with new shipping technologies. They manage all upgrades and technical maintenance, ensuring the best possible service for each customer.


4. Greater Speed and Lower Shipping Costs

3PL experts work relentlessly to improve shipping. Freight hauling is costly, but 3PL suppliers have more negotiating leverage. Your logistics firm has ample room to handle many loads. This reduces travel and saves money on transportation. Most 3PL providers already cooperate with other private shippers, saving time and money. Additionally, many 3PLs have multiple warehouses across the country to store items and ship from for efficiency.


5. Investing Early in a 3PL

Every firm wants to grow and be profitable, but growth too quickly can strain resources and degrade product quality. Investment in a 3PL early on allows for faster growth and less internal conflict down the road. 3PLs can help you grow your business by lowering transportation costs, providing flexible storage, and monitoring inventory and quality. A capable 3PL can help you solve your most difficult logistical difficulties and remove any logistical roadblocks.

IRA Savings
ArticlesFundsPensions

How to Use IRA Savings

IRA Savings

You may withdraw money out of your IRA whenever you choose, but be aware that if you’re under the age of 59 ½, doing so could result in a tax penalty. This is because the government wishes to discourage you from withdrawing funds from your IRA until you reach the age of retirement. Since an IRA is a retirement account, it’s understandable.

If you are under the age of 59 ½ and you withdraw any money from a conventional IRA you will be subject to a 10% penalty on the amount of money you take out of the account. Additionally, you’ll be liable for standard income tax on the amount of money you take out of the account. This is a bad concept.

 

Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) vs Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (Roth IRAs)

Traditional IRAs, at their most basic level, are available to people who make an income for as long as they continue to do so. This sort of IRA may allow you to deduct your contribution from your taxable income in the tax year in which it was made, as well as possibly allowing your profits to grow tax-deferred. In most cases, withdrawals from an IRA account begin when the account owner reaches the age of 72, at which point they will be subject to taxation.

Roth IRA contributions, in contrast to traditional IRA contributions, are made after tax. This means that there is no tax deduction available. Roth contributions are not taxed when withdrawn as long as you are at least 59 ½ years old. This is because you have previously paid taxes on the money you contributed.

Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are controlled by income levels, which determine who is allowed to make contributions to the accounts and how much they may contribute. The total annual contribution maximum for Roth and regular IRAs in both 2019 and 2020 is $6,000 if you are under the age of 50 and $7,000 if you are 50 or over, regardless of your age.

To put it another way, with a Traditional IRA you pay taxes on your income and profits when you withdraw the funds, but with a Roth IRA you pay the taxes up front. You may be eligible for a tax deduction for the year in which you make your contribution, and your contributions may grow tax-free. Roth IRAs are exempt from required minimum distributions (RMDs) since they are taxed at the time of contribution.

In most cases, you may make penalty-free withdrawals (also known as “qualified distributions”) from any IRA if you are 59 ½ years old or older. However, if it is a typical IRA you will still be liable for income tax. To be eligible to take qualifying withdrawals from a Roth IRA, you must be at least 59 ½ years old and have been contributing to the account for at least five years. Furthermore, if you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA you will not be able to withdraw the money from the Roth IRA until at least five years following the conversion.

 

What Happens to My IRA When I Reach the Age of Retirement?

Knowing what will happen to your IRA when you reach a specific age is just as essential as understanding what an IRA is and how to use one effectively. Here are a few things you should be aware of in order to avoid penalties:

  • Your money can’t just sit in your IRA for an indefinite period of time. Because of congressionally mandated minimum distributions, if you do not remove any money from your IRA throughout your lifetime (RMDs) you will not be able to refuse to take any money from your IRA and just pass the entire account on to your spouse or children. Regardless of whether or not you are employed, once you reach the age of 72, you must begin taking funds from your account to cover living expenses. This need is necessary in order for the IRS to be able to tax money that had previously been exempt from taxation.
  • RMDs are calculated differently for each individual. It is not necessary for everyone to have the same retirement plan, nor have they all invested the same amount of money throughout their working years. As a result, the amount of money that individuals must remove from their accounts each year will vary and rely on a variety of circumstances.
  • The failure to take an RMD leads to a severe penalty. It is true that if you do not remove the requisite minimum amount from your IRA you will be subject to a tax penalty. The penalty is calculated as a 50% levy on the amount of money that was not withdrawn in a timely manner.

 

Another great method of investing the money again would be to put it in self-directed IRA real estate. That way your money could continue to work for itself just as it has for all of these years.

Invest in Gold
ArticlesFinance

Does It Still Pay to Invest in Gold?

Invest in Gold

There are two sides to every gold coin — investing in gold may be profitable or it can be a losing proposition — and then there’s the truth. The truth is always in the center, and in this situation the reality is based on a variety of criteria that include your investing goals, time horizon, and, ultimately, your investment approach.

Gold, the most malleable of commodities, has suffered a setback in 2021, owing in part to rising bond rates. But even if everything isn’t always perfect, it will always be there. For millennia, gold has been a desirable commodity for investors, serving as a money and a symbol of wealth in many forms.

However, there are a few downsides to gold acquisition. For example, gold does not have a stable rate of return. While there are several advantages to investing in gold, there is one significant disadvantage. Gold is not a reliable source of revenue for investors. Gold has no production, whereas publicly listed corporations generate goods and services that customers value. This is a “severe structural disadvantage relative to other asset classes,” according to Michael Reynolds, vice president of investment strategy at Glenmede. While equities provide dividends to investors and bonds pay interest, Reynolds states that “gold does not spontaneously spawn additional gold.” Rather, you profit from the rise in gold’s price. 

“Gold gets 100% of its rewards from price movement, which may and has resulted in extended periods of underperformance,” adds Reynolds.

However, there seem to be more reasons today to invest in it still. Here are three compelling reasons to invest in gold.

 

Gold is Easy to Sell

Physical gold is available in two forms: gold coins and stamped gold bullion (bars) with a purity level. The gold content, rather than the quality or rarity, determines the worth of your gold.

While this value fluctuates, actual gold is easier to dispose of, which is one of the main reasons investors seek it out. Even if the return rate isn’t what you’re hoping for, there are always customers willing to buy gold.

 

Preservation of One’s Wealth

Many investors have put their faith in gold because of its ability to preserve wealth. Consider the difference between possessing £50 in gold and owning a £50 note in 1980. Because gold has increased in value since then, the value of the gold now significantly exceeds the original £50 investment. The £50 note, on the other hand, has not risen in value and, as a result of inflation, cannot purchase as much as it might in 1980.

 

Hedge

The value of gold is usually inverse with the rest of stocks. This means that it can be a balancing asset for you in your investments. People will buy gold in order to hedge their investments. They know that if the stock market plummets they’ll still be able to use their gold to build their portfolio and trade at that time. Then once the market equalizes again they are able to buy gold bars at a cheaper cost and sell their stocks. No matter how the market is looking, they are able to find balance in their investments and create revenue out of their diversification.

 

Safe Haven

Gold, unlike currencies, is unaffected by interest rate changes and cannot be created to manage supply and demand. Gold is a rare asset that has held its value throughout time and has demonstrated its usefulness as an insurance policy in the case of a downturn in the economy. As a result, many investors perceive gold to be a safe haven — and it’s proving itself right.

Loan Application Rejected
ArticlesFunds

Common Reasons Mortgage Loans Are Rejected

Loan Application Rejected

Without the existence of mortgages, relatively few Americans would be able to realize their dreams of homeownership. So, when submitting a home loan application, you’d do well to remember that a lot hinges on lender approval. Needless to say, considering how much money is at stake with the typical home loan, lenders typically aren’t keen on making unwise bets. As such, homebuyers preparing to start submitting loan applications should familiarize themselves with some of the most common reasons for rejection.

 

Poor Credit

It should come as no surprise that poor credit can be a huge detriment to mortgage loan approval. After all, if you have a history of failing to pay off debt, many lenders are liable to conclude that you won’t be able to keep up with monthly mortgage payments. So, if your intent is to make yourself an attractive borrower, take care to get your credit in order before proceeding to submit any loan applications.

When trying to maximize your chances of loan approval, you’ll want to have the lowest possible debt-to-income ratio. This means getting your credit card debt as close to zero as you possibly can – if not paying it off entirely. This also entails paying off any bills that have been sent to collections in full. Virginians who are looking for Virginia Beach mortgage lenders would do well to get a handle on outstanding credit card debt before proceeding to apply for loans.

You should also abstain from submitting mortgage loan applications immediately after paying down your credit card debt, as your credit score needs time to recover. Furthermore, avoid adding to your debt throughout the loan application process. So, if the need to make any large purchases arises during this time, either pay for them in cash, put them off or borrow money from a trusted friend or family member. 

  

Lack of Credit History

Just as a troubled credit history can hinder your chances of loan approval, so too can a lack of a credit history. While you may view having no credit history as a positive, most mortgage lenders are unlikely to share this opinion. If you’ve never had to make monthly payments or purchase anything on credit, lenders won’t have any evidence of your trustworthiness or reliability with regard to financial obligations. So, unless you have a good cosigner, it’s generally recommended that you take the time to build your credit history before proceeding to apply for a mortgage loan.

 

Insufficient Down Payment

The higher your down payment is, the better your odds of approval are likely to be. Putting forth a high down payment illustrates a firm commitment to homeownership, as well as a strong sense of financial responsibility. As an added bonus, a large down payment stands to lower the cost of your monthly mortgage payments. The more you put down at the outset, the less you’ll have left to pay off.

On the flipside, a low down payment will have the opposite effect. Low payments often give off the impression that borrowers aren’t particularly serious about buying homes and aren’t in a great place financially. So, if you’re hoping to wow lenders from the outset, try to muster up the largest down payment possible.

 

Lack of Regular Income

It’s only natural that mortgage lenders would regard regular income with importance. After all, if someone isn’t making money consistently, how are they going to keep up with monthly mortgage payments, home insurance, property taxes and other house-related expenses? Of course, this isn’t to say that regular income has to come from a traditional job. Pensions, trust funds and strong investment portfolios may also be viewed as acceptable sources of income. So, if you’re currently without a consistent source of income, it’s strongly recommended that you find one in advance of applying for a mortgage loan.  

Since mortgages serve as a gateway to homeownership for countless Americans, all homebuyers should approach the loan application process with seriousness. While it’s not unusual to be approved for a mortgage loan on one’s first attempt, it’s also very common for applications to be denied for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, educating yourself on these reasons can help prevent you from inadvertently sabotaging yourself during the application process. So, if you’re looking to get approved for a good mortgage loan posthaste, be mindful of the factors discussed above.

Finance Goals
ArticlesFinance

Financial Goals to Strive For

Finance Goals

When we are first introduced to the aspect of money, it’s when we see our parents hand over some paper slips and swipe their cards. However, what we don’t realize at a young age is that the funds were used for a purpose. Money isn’t something we spend just to spend. Having financial goals is important for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’re what propel you forward in establishing security. But maybe you’re unsure of what goals you should be striving for. Here are a few financial goals to work towards.

 

Opening Your Own Business

One goal that many hope to achieve is to put away enough money to start their own business. Businesses, despite how common they are these days, require a lot of funding to get up and running. Some people even dive into their personal savings and retirement account just to launch it. While you’re more than able to pay for everything yourself, it’s good to avoid depleting your savings. Rather than risk everything, you can play it safer if you take out a small business loan. There are companies that commit themselves to ensuring the success of every business they give loans to. In additional to offering favorable interest rates, they can connect their borrowers to a rich, diverse support network.

 

Having Children

Children are the future, but they also cost more money than you’d expect. Similar to opening a business, many people want to have a family of their own. Some people even start planning for it when they get their first job. The average price of child care is between $10,000 to almost $15,000 annually. This goal should also teach you the fundamentals of budgeting and saving your money as well. When you have something as important as a child to take care of, you need to be extremely diligent with your money. Following the 50/30/20 rule into your budget is a great way to get a good grasp on your finances.

The 50% goes to necessities such as child care and rent, 30% goes to whatever you may want and the remaining 20% goes to your savings. If you’re looking to maximize your saving potential, you can combine the 30% with the 20% and have an even 50/50. The first half goes to what you need and the other goes right into your bank account.

 

Take Up Investing

You should know your own net worth before determining how much, if any, money you have to invest since investing is one of those high-risk, high-reward financial goals. Granted, there are many ways you can invest ranging from the traditional stock market to trying your hand at cryptocurrency. The choice is yours to make. Regardless of that choice, however, you need to have an appropriate amount of money to get started. You don’t just throw $20 and expect it to multiply by the hundreds overnight. It’s a process you need to be careful about because the risk can cause almost irreparable damage to your finances.

Personal Loan
ArticlesFinance

What are the Benefits of a Personal Loan?

Personal Loan

There may come a point in your life when you realize that you need (or want) to borrow money. Maybe you want to do this so you can renovate your home. Or perhaps you’re seeking a loan to use for debt consolidation. Thanks to a variety of benefits, a personal loan is one type that you should strongly consider. Here are just a few of the many reasons to get in touch with a personal loan agency.

 

Flexibility

A personal loan can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from home renovations to debt consolidation to paying off medical or educational expenses. Furthermore, you don’t have to explain to the lender how you’ll use the money. As long as you’re using the funds legally, you don’t have anything to worry about. This type of flexibility opens up a world of opportunities. 

 

Variety of Terms

With a variety of loan terms to choose from, you can find the one that best suits your short and long-term budget. Generally speaking, personal loan terms range from 12 months to 84 months. If you’re seeking the lowest possible payment, opt for a longer-term. Conversely, if you want to save on interest and pay off the loan as quickly as you can, a shorter term is the way to go. Before you do anything, compare the monthly payment and overall cost of multiple terms. This will help you understand what works best for your financial circumstances as a whole. 

 

No Collateral 

As an unsecured loan, you’re not required to provide your lender with any collateral. This is in contrast to a secured loan — such as a home equity loan — that requires you to put up collateral to reduce their risk. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that unsecured loans generally have slightly higher interest rates than secured loans. This is the result of the bank taking on more of a risk. If you default on the loan, they don’t have anything to repossess to make up for their loss. 

 

Competitive Interest Rates

Even though a personal loan is unsecured, interest rates are competitive with secured loans. Get the best deal by requesting quotes from three to five lenders. This will give you the opportunity to see what’s available both in regards to terms and interest rates. Note that shorter-term personal loans have a lower interest rate than those with longer terms. This means that you pay less money in interest over the course of your loan if you opt for a shorter term. 

 

Easy to Manage

When it comes to managing your money, it’s critical to implement a system that won’t bog you down. You want to make things as easy on yourself as possible. A personal loan is easy to manage, especially if you have good advice on handling your finances. You’re left with one fixed monthly payment for a predetermined period of time. For instance, you may have a payment of $500 for 36 months. This makes it simple to plan your short and long-term budget. Adding to this, most lenders have an online system for managing your personal loan. You can make payments, view your balance, request statements, and more. 

 

Questions to Ask Your Lender

There are sure to be questions on your mind as you compare lenders and loan products. Here are some to start with:

  • What terms do you have available?
  • What are the eligibility requirements for a personal loan?
  • How long does it take to receive funds?
  • Are you able to send the funds via bank wire? How about a check?
  • How long does it take to receive an answer on my loan application?

Asking questions like these will help you better understand your situation, what’s available to you, and how to proceed.

 

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the many benefits of a personal loan, you can decide if it makes sense to move forward in the near future. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking your time and comparing personal loans to other types of financial products. The most important thing is that you make the right decision at the right time. What are your thoughts on applying for a personal loan? Have you benefited from this type of loan in the past?

Pension Scams
ArticlesFundsPensions

Pension Fraud Is On the Rise – Here’s 5 Simple Tricks to Stay Savvy Against the Latest Scams

Pension Scams

Pension and investment scams can have a serious impact on your financial health, losing you a lot of money. Falling victim to fraud may affect your wellbeing and leave you feeling anxious, stressed, and worried.

New research from Lottie has found a recent rise in scams targeting the over 55’s. Over the last three months, online searches for those looking for support after falling victim to pension and investment scams has significantly increased:

  • 75% increase in online searches on Google for ‘scam help’ and 50% increase for ‘fraud support’
  • 24% increase in online searches for ‘pension fraud’
  • 22% increase in searches for ‘pension scam’ and ‘investment scam’

 

Here’s why pension frauds are on the rise, according to Lottie’s Will Donnelly:

“More people than ever before are seeking online support after falling victim to fraud. With more flexibility in managing your pension at retirement, it is no surprise there has been a recent rise in pension and investment scams.

Fraudsters have exploited the uncertainty around the pandemic and the recent rise of living costs to trick people into transferring over their life savings. Many people choose to retire at the end of March because of a lower rate of Income Tax, so there is now more opportunity to fall victim to pension and investment scams.

Anyone can fall victim to a fraud – especially as they are becoming more sophisticated – but the over 55s are most likely to be targeted, according to previous research by Citizens Advice.

Scammers will often try to persuade you to remove some or all money from your pension fund. They may ask you to invest in unusual, high-risk investments, including overseas property. Or they may contact you out-of-the-blue for a free pension review, promising advances on your pension pot.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your risk of falling victim to fraud and we must raise awareness about staying savvy to scams.”

 

Five simple tricks to lower your risk of pension fraud:

Frauds are becoming even more sophisticated, so it is important to stay clued up on the warning signs of pension and investment scams. They can lead you to losing a lifetime’s worth of savings in one moment, so you must stay cautious.

  1. Watch out for warning signs

Scammers will often contact you unexpectedly, whether that is via a phone call, text message or email. Remember – since January 2019, there has been a ban on cold-calling about pensions. So, if you do get contacted and offered a free pension review or investment opportunity, it is likely that it is a scam.

Simply hang up or ignore any unsolicited text messages promising you more money.

  1. Seek financial guidance first

If you are keen to review your pension, there are ways to receive free, impartial advice, including Money Helper’s Pension Wise service. Before changing any of your pension arrangements, seek out impartial financial advice from a reputable source, first.

Take the time to check any investment opportunities before transferring over any money. Make sure that whoever you are dealing with is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and they are authorised to provide you with financial advice.

  1. Keep up to date with the latest scams

It is no surprise that fraudsters are becoming even more sophisticated. An important part of reducing your risk of falling victim to fraud is staying clued up on the latest scams. Age UK provide information on the latest scams – including fake Ukraine fundraisers and fake energy refund emails.

  1. Speak to your loved ones

If you have fallen victim to fraud, do not suffer in silence. Anyone can be susceptible to scams, especially as they are becoming more sophisticated. Even the most careful people can be caught out.

Make sure you speak to your friends and family, as it can feel a huge relief to open up about how you’ve feeling. They can support you in reporting the fraud and help you cope with any stress, anxiety or worry you are experiencing.

  1. Report a scam

Most importantly, do not feel embarrassed about reporting fraud. There are organisations that can support you and you will help them track down the fraudsters. Contact the police via 101 immediately if you feel threatened or if you have transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours.

You can also report fraud to the Citizens Advice service – make sure you note down all details about the scam, including whether you have transferred any money, who you have been in contact with and the type of information you have shared.

Finance Funding
ArticlesFinance

How to Fund Your Small Business: Seven Key Options to Consider

Finance Funding

If you need to make a major investment for your business, you shouldn’t be afraid to explore financing options. It’s a good idea to speak with a financial advisor so you have a clear view of how taking on debt can impact your taxes and cash flow.  

There are multiple funding options available for entrepreneurs. Proceeds can be used to purchase new equipment, expand the locations of stores or warehouses, or inject money into your business to help your cash flow. Be sure to check with your lender to make sure the way you want to use the loan is acceptable. 

Here are some of the main financing options available for business owners.

 

1. Crowdfunding financing 

Crowdfunding can be  a great way of funding new projects, primarily through online forums and specific crowdfunding platforms, by raising money from the general public. 

The crowdfunding option works best for consumer-facing businesses that have a product or vision that everyday people can get behind. You can get started on popular sites like Kickstarter®, GoFundMe®, and Indiegogo®

One of the main advantages of using crowdfunding to fund your new investment is that you gain access to a larger and more diverse group of investors. Equity crowdfunding is also an option available to you. It enables public investors to take a proportionate slice of the equity in your business in return for their money. 

But there are drawbacks, such as the fees associated with crowdfunding platforms and, on some sites, the inability to use pledged funds if you don’t reach your funding goal.  

 

2. Equipment financing 

If you need to invest in equipment for your business, you have the option of getting a loan from a lender that’s an expert in your industry. You can then make simple repayments and eventually own the equipment. 

For example, if you run a machine shop business, you would need to make major investments for equipment like lathes, mills, and press brakes. In which case, you could find a dealer that offers financing facilities

Look for a true simple-interest loan with flexible financing structures.

Once you pay back the loan, you’ll own the equipment, which means you have another physical asset as part of your portfolio. 

 

3. Bank loans

Whether you need to purchase machinery or make another type of major investment for your business, you have the option of obtaining a loan from a bank. The key advantages of borrowing from the bank are, as long as you keep up with the repayments, banks generally shouldn’t set restrictions on what you can use the loan for, and you can often get favorable interest rates. 

Also, if you already have an account with the bank, you could get sound lending advice about your options from a financial advisor. 

However, there are disadvantages to getting a bank loan. The application process can be lengthy, eligibility criteria are often strict, and secured loans carry risk. Start by contacting your own bank to discuss your options. If that route isn’t suitable, you can always apply for a loan with another bank.

 

4. Angel investor financing

If your business is quite new, you could have an angel investor on board. Angel investors are high-net-worth private investors that provide entrepreneurs and small businesses with either a one-time investment or an ongoing injection of financial support, in return for ownership of equity in the company. 

When an angel investor is a part of your business, you should approach him or her for funds to cover your major investment needs. 

While investment from an angel investor can be a great way of securing funds for your immediate requirements, funding via angel investors does come with risks, but it usually comes with more favorable terms in comparison to other lending options. Angel investors are often friends or family, so if you want to go down this funding route, start by asking the people you know if they would be interested in supporting your business. 

 

5. Venture capital financing

If you need to make a major investment in your business but haven’t yet actually started earning revenue and profits, you could have the option of venture capital financing. Venture capital investment funds are pooled funds from investors who want private equity stakes in small to medium-sized businesses that have strong potential for growth. 

However, venture capital financing is known to be high risk. The funding option is usually best reserved for new businesses that seek accelerated growth. Tech companies and businesses in emerging industries typically go down the venture capital financing avenue. 

 

6. Peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer financing works like this: smaller-scale investors are matched with a small business that requires funds.

With peer-to-peer lending, you effectively cut out the need for a middleman. You can apply for peer-to-peer financing on various online sites and obtain a loan from a pool of investors. 

Repaying a peer-to-peer loan is similar to repaying a bank loan. You’ll agree to an interest fee upfront. If you should fail to make repayments, the usual debt rules will apply.

 

7. SBA loans

The most prominent assistance program that the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers is a guarantee on loans made through banks, credit unions, and other lenders they partner with. By securing a portion of an SBA loan in the case of the borrower defaulting, the lenders are presented with less risk so they are more likely to offer an affordable loan.

SBA 7(a) loans from $30,000 – $350,000 from banks can be used for debt refinancing and working capital. Working capital includes operational expenses, marketing, hiring, etc. SBA loans can be used to fund new equipment purchases as well. SBA 7(a) loans can also be used for refinancing existing business debt not secured by real estate (such as cash advances, business loans, and equipment leases). With low rates and long terms (10 years), an SBA loan can be a great solution. 

 

Summing up

It’s important that you carefully consider each of the above funding options to determine which is most suitable for your needs. Begin by thinking about your specific requirements and the pros and cons of each investment option.

Then, create a list of the options, with your most preferred financing option at the top and your least preferred option at the bottom. You can then try each option in order. Hopefully, your first option will be able to provide you with the cash you need to fund your major investment. 

To recap, here are the main financing options you have available:

  • Crowdfunding
  • Equipment financing
  • Bank loan
  • Angel investor financing
  • Venture capital investment
  • Peer-to-peer lending
  • SBA loans

 

Don’t be afraid to explore each option in detail. Get answers to any questions you have before you decide on your course of action, and always read the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line. 

As long as you spend time determining which financing option is the best choice for your specific circumstances, you’ll more easily be able to find the right financing route for you and expand your business further.

Press releases

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2022 Retirement Planning Awards

United Kingdom, 2022- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2022 Retirement Planning Awards.

Retirement Planning manages and maintains in the background for many reasons. Over the last couple of years, this has become an increasing need. In response to the growing need and unparalleled work carried out, Wealth & Finance Magazine launched the 2022 edition of the programme. We endeavour and aspire to support, encourage, and celebrate both businesses and individuals that are surpassing many challenges, growth, and development with their unmatched talent and expertise. Adapting to the trials they face, they have not only nestled into their industry but taken the lead and inspired others.

Speaking on the success of these deserving winners, Awards Co-ordinator Victoria Cotton said: “When it comes to impeccable business, we are proud to showcase these accolades awarded to a variety of bodies that have excelled in their industries. We sincerely hope you enjoy the rest of 2022 ahead.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the Wealth & Finance website (https://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/awards/retirement-planning-awards/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Note to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

Wealth & Finance International (http://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/) is a quarterly publication dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content. It is published by AI Global Media Ltd, a publishing house that has reinvigorated corporate finance news and reporting.

Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media (https://www.aiglobalmedialtd.com/) has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Alongside this, we have a luxury-lifestyle magazine, LUXlife, which appeals to a range of high-net-worth individuals, offering them insight into the latest products, experiences and innovations to ensure they can live the high-life to its fullest.

Awards

Showcasing the companies who have worked hard in striving to give their clients the best service and products is important to us. We know and understand how tough making a successful business can be, and so everyone at AI Global Media takes great pride in our awards programmes.

Our awards programmes run across each brand and are completely free to enter, take part in and win. All our winners are offered complementary marketing packages, meaning all businesses despite their size and marketing budget can be rewarded. Additionally, we offer a wider range of marketing materials which winners can purchase for extra coverage on our platform including: cover features, magazine articles and newsletter inclusions.

Extra Income
ArticlesFinance

How to Earn Extra Cash While Working Full Time In the UK

Extra Income

Many immigrants move to the UK to increase their economic status. That is good, as the UK has a lot of opportunities for immigrants. For some, their breakthrough is finding a good job, which a UK skilled worker Visa can guarantee. 

On the other hand, a good job is not enough for immigrants with many financial responsibilities. Well, the way to go is getting a side-hustle that brings in extra income. There are many legal things immigrants can do to increase their income. 

Here, we’ll give you a list of ideas that can help you earn extra cash while working in the UK. 

 

Start a Small Service Business

Skilled people can start a small service business to make extra income. It is easy to grow a service business with word-of-mouth marketing, so start by advertising to people in your direct network and ask them to spread the word. For a service business, the list is long. Just pick a skill you are good at and sell it.

 

Freelance Content Creation

Immigrants with a good command of English and subject matter experts can freelance on the side. Many companies seek writers who can help them with blog posts, marketing copy, website content, etc. Even bloggers are constantly on the lookout for writers, as they don’t have enough time to do all the writing. 

First, it is great you have an adequately edited portfolio of written content that can be shown to potential employees. After that, search for jobs in the freelance marketplace or pitch to blogs that caught your interest. Some tools and software will make this work easier. So, conduct research, find an employer and earn more income.

 

Get Paid to Do What You Love Doing

It’s simple! Document what you love doing in your free time. If you are good at trivia, ask your local bar to host their trivia game. If you love swimming, then offer to teach people swimming. Whatever skills you have, you can teach other people and generate revenue. Whether playing a musical instrument, cooking, driving, dancing, etc., you could organize a fitness class if you are good at sports. You could even teach about your home country’s culture and tradition.

Even if you don’t have a hobby, you could take online surveys or attend focus group discussions. Many companies and organizations conduct consumer and market research, and they are ready to pay for data. So, you can earn some extra bucks (or gift cards) while sharing your two cents about a product you love. You can boost your account balance by becoming a tour guide in your neighborhood.

 

Teaching Online

If you have advanced certification like a master’s degree or PhD, you can teach online. Even if you have a full-time job, you could always teach part-time. Those with specialized knowledge in a particular subject can also tutor students online. To make extra cash, it is best if you know the current curriculum. Nonetheless, if you study the right resources, you’ll do great.

If you intend to migrate to the UK with your advanced certification, you should learn more about the work EB2 Visa to know your eligibility.

 

Rent Out Your Stuff

As an immigrant, it is now easy to make money by leveraging the stuff you own. Many are familiar with Airbnb, where you can rent out your properties. The exciting part is that you don’t need to rent out your whole apartment. By renting out a spare room in your apartment, you can increase your income.

Asides from AirBnB, there are other things you could earn income from. Rent out your car, cameras, parking space, and so much, provided there’s a listing platform.

 

Virtual Assistant

Immigrants with a personal assistant, secretary, or other administrative experience can become virtual assistants. This is an excellent job as you can do it from your home’s comfort and spare time. You can succeed in this role with a computer, internet access, and administrative skills. This job is an incredible way to earn extra even with a full-time job in the UK.

 

Invest In Real Estate

Before now, all the ideas highlighted are all active income streams. How about making money passively? One good way to earn returns is real estate investments. You can start by buying a small condo in a nearby country and let it out to renters and vacationists. Alternatively, immigrants can get started with commercial properties. With as little as 4000 GBP, you can tap into this income stream.

 

Final Words

Getting a side-hustle is a fast way to make extra money and stay on top of your finances. Even with a full-time job, other gigs can be done in spare time to earn extra. 

Big investments
ArticlesFinance

Major Investments You Need to Prioritize

Big investments

You probably know all too well that business can be low when you first open. However, as time progresses and you’ve gained more customers, you might notice you have enough savings to finally invest into your company again. This can be an exciting change and you likely already have a laundry list in mind of things you want to put money towards within your business. But with so many things your business needs, you might not be sure what to prioritize. Here are a few major investments that you need to prioritize.

 

A Fleet

Depending on what kind of shop you’re running, you’re going to need a fleet. A fleet is a group of vehicles that’s exclusively used for a company. It’s used to distribute products and administer services. You might think these vehicles are best suited for grocery stores and restaurants. However, fleets can also be used to advertise as well. Since fleets are composed of multiple vehicles, you’ve probably guessed that you’re going to be spending quite a bit.

However, that’s just for the cars. That isn’t counting the cost of fleet insurance and the necessary technology. Before you can operate your fleet, every vehicle needs to be equipped with the proper technology to ensure driver safety. Dash cams and wireless devices are to name a few. You’ll also need to implement tachographs, ELDs, and GPS tracking systems. These allow you to go more in-depth with the vehicle telematics, which is what allows you to keep track of every operating vehicle in your fleet.

 

Renovations

There are times you need to spend money to make money as a small business owner. Whether it’s adding new equipment or appliances or simply expanding the space, renovations are a key part of any growing business. Adding more space gives you more room to organize things while being able to house more customers and employees. As for the equipment, what you need depends on what business you’re running. If you own a restaurant, for example, you’ll need to have the following:

∙ High-quality refrigerators

∙ Freezers

∙ Ovens

∙ Safety gear

∙ Grease traps

∙ Food processers

∙ Employee Training Programs

If there’s one thing that has allowed your company to thrive, aside from your hard work, it’s definitely the employees. Employees help keep a business stable by tackling the less-demanding tasks while you prioritize more demanding concerns. And since you’re planning on expanding, that means you need to plan on having more workers.

However, you might not be able to single-handedly train everyone you bring on board. That’s why it’s in your best interest to invest into a training program. You’d be surprised at how far an employee training program can take you, and your employees for that matter. It ensures you can trust them to get the job done, attract your ideal candidate and have a serious advantage over your competitors.

 

Invest in Yourself

Investing in yourself may sound a bit unorthodox when it comes to business. We don’t mean treating yourself out to lunch on the company credit card. By investing in yourself, we mean bettering your knowledge and skills to benefit your company further. This could look like personal enrichment courses to better your leadership skills or earning advanced degrees or certifications in your field to level up your expertise. Whatever you decide on, investing in yourself is rarely a losing bet.

 

Your Physical Location

Depending on the nature of your business, the location in which you operate can be another opportunity to invest in your company’s future. If you are a business that relies heavily on foot traffic, maybe relocating your business to a walkable downtown area might make sense for you. If you are operating out of warehouses, maybe a location closer to freeway access to optimize fleet routes is a good choice.

Either way be sure that you do some research before uprooting your operations. In some cases, location matters more than others and you want to be sure that you are not going to negatively interrupt your customer base with a move. If you have employees that are reporting to the office each day that is also something to consider. While it would be impossible to optimize commute times for each employee, recognizing that they have all created routines around your current location and how a move might impact that can go a long way.

Private Equity
ArticlesFunds

Resilience Within the Private Equity Market Can Lead to New Opportunities

Private Equity

Philip Dakin (Managing Director) Restructuring advisory, Kroll.

According to Preqin’s 2021 Global Private Equity and Venture Capital Report, the global private equity market is now worth over $4 trillion. The UK, long the most developed private equity sector in Europe, remains at the centre of this trend. However, as we come out of lockdown there are two sides to this picture—the dry powder available to private businesses, and the impact the pandemic has had on private equity vehicles.

 

Supply and demand meet

COVID-19 has been without a doubt one of the biggest challenges ever to confront the economy. No more so than for the private sector. However, for businesses, both large and small, government support has been available in the form of loan schemes, the job retention scheme (aka furlough) and moratoriums on rent and HMRC liabilities. 

While cash flow may look strong today, the rollback of government support will start within months, and for some, pressure on balance sheets will follow soon after. This is not to say that the financial pressures facing businesses will drive many into insolvency but dealing with an increase in working capital requirements is a challenge facing many business owners in the short term.

Potential changes to capital gains tax are also beginning to focus the minds of many business owners who may now see this as a time to invest or indeed sell.

For many, public ownership has fallen out of favour as an exit strategy, and selling to a competitor, especially in the current circumstances, can have its own business risks. The private equity market has been the beneficiary of a trend that has been happening for over a decade following the last great economic shock of 2008.

With the supply of investment opportunities looking healthy, what does the demand curve look like? 

As mentioned previously, there remains a high level of market liquidity and a strong desire from funders to invest in quality businesses, with private equity funds—a continued firm favourite route—to market for institutions, family offices and high-net-worth individuals. In other words, there is lots of opportunity for investment and acquisition. This has already been demonstrated, with global M&A activity in Q1 2021 being at its highest for over a decade.

However, whilst there is plenty of dry powder, the stage at which a private equity fund was in the normal fund lifecycle when the pandemic hit, will have a potential impact on the success of that fund and its ability to raise its next fund. How the portfolio of investments within a fund have been managed through the pandemic and how they recover post-pandemic will be crucial.

 

Portfolio Resilience

PE firms themselves have faced their own unique issues as a result of the pandemic. Funds briefly stopped active transactions back in March 2020 as economies closed and people were ordered to stay home. All attention was instead focused towards an almost A&E “triage” assessment of their portfolio companies at the start of the pandemic, with origination and portfolio teams working together to support the management teams of their portfolios.

Many sponsor-backed companies struggled to access government-supported loan schemes, such as CLBILS and CBILS, ironically due to EU laws on state aid for “undertakings in distress.”

The typical private equity investment structure using quasi-equity debt instruments to fund investments being the root cause. However, most have taken advantage of the job retention scheme by furloughing employees and sought access to grants and the deferral of accrued HMRC liabilities to weather the storm. Needless to say, in some instances, this has resulted

in a squeeze on working capital, and any top-up funding has had to come from existing lenders and/or equity injections from the PE houses themselves. The question now is how much of that dry powder has been utilised in supporting their portfolios to maintain a status quo for 12 months, and what impact does that have on their ability to make new investments.

But despite the uncertainty, many PE firms are adapting and keen to point to their funders’ patience and understanding in what has been a difficult period for the business world. Equally, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to acquire some assets cheaply as some corporates fail in the post-pandemic market. These may provide bolt-on opportunities for existing portfolio investments or create a new platform investment.

We are without a doubt entering uncharted territory, and unlike previous recessions, the pandemic may have long-term effects on consumer behaviour and business models.

Like all other markets, private equity needs to negotiate the current COVID-19-induced economic crisis. But the sector is immensely well placed to weather the storm because one of the key characteristics of PE is its ability to be nimble and respond quickly to changing trends.

Investment Scheme
ArticlesTax

Enterprise Investment Schemes – Four Tax Reasons That Make Them Great

Investment Scheme

Since 1994, Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) have been an important tool in the investors’ kit, but many potential investors worry that EIS-eligible businesses are too high risk. Here, Craig Harman, a tax specialist at Perrys Chartered Accountants, explains everything you need to know about Enterprise Investment Schemes, and the tax savings you might be missing out on if you’re not getting involved.

A government-backed initiative, the Enterprise Investment Scheme was designed to encourage individual investors to buy shares in higher-risk companies by offering generous tax reliefs to those who invest. To be eligible for funding under the EIS, a business must be within seven years of its first commercial sale, not have gross assets worth more than £15 million before shares, and have less than 250 full-time employees. It’s true that investing in less established businesses may carry a greater investment risk. However, there is the potential for higher returns and the tax relief available can minimise any loss should the worst happen. 

 

Income tax relief

Of all the benefits of investing in an EIS, one of the most attractive is the income tax relief you can receive. You can claim relief for a maximum annual investment of £1 million, or £2 million if you have invested in a knowledge-intensive company. You can claim for up to 30% of your investment, meaning that you could receive up to £300,000 tax relief a year – or £600,000 for investments in knowledge-intensive companies. This is one of the most generous tax relief schemes currently on offer in the UK.

 

Loss relief

Of course, returns are not guaranteed when investing in early-stage companies, and indeed most investments carry an element of risk. However, the EIS provides attractive loss relief at your marginal tax rate. When you combine this loss relief with the income tax relief you receive when investing in an EIS eligible company, you greatly reduce the amount of capital you have at risk.

 

They support small/medium businesses

Since its launch in 1994, the EIS has been pivotal in helping small to medium, new starter companies in the UK achieve vital growth capital. Over the last two decades, the scheme has helped EIS businesses access billions of pounds which might otherwise have been ploughed into lower risk companies. The EIS stipulates that those receiving investment under the scheme must use it to grow their business – increasing revenue, customer base and number of employees. This means that you can be sure that your investment is helping small businesses to thrive, while providing valuable jobs and services to local communities.


Profits are tax free

Another initiative of the EIS are the Capital Gains Tax advantages. For most non EIS investments, any returns will be liable for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) above the CGT-free personal allowance. When you invest in an EIS, provided you meet the conditions, all growth in value is exempt from CGT, meaning you can achieve a greater net profit, while saving your personal allowance for other investments.

 

The use of the scheme is subject to detailed conditions. Therefore, it is important these are met otherwise your investment may not qualify. If you have any doubts, it is best to seek advice from a specialist EIS accountant. 

Anti-Money Laundering
ArticlesRegulation

Enforcing Sanctions and Combating Money Laundering

Anti-Money Laundering

Creating beneficial ownership registers is an important step in combating money laundering and evasion of sanctions but it has to be done in tandem with ensuring public access and information accuracy. 

The discussion around beneficial ownership registers has made many headlines in the last few years but has intensified recently in the context of the war in Ukraine and the global sanctions imposed on Russian businesses and politically affiliated oligarchs. Sanction circumvention is however a reality through the use of asset ownership concealment schemes and doing business via countries that have not joined or committed to the global sanctions efforts.

Wally Adeyemo, deputy U.S. Treasury secretary even issued a warning to anyone assisting Russia in bypassing the economic sanctions by way of shell companies or crypto currencies. “What we want to make very clear to crypto exchanges, to financial institutions, to individuals, to anyone who may be in a position to help Russia take advantage and evade our sanctions: We will hold you accountable,” said Adeyemo.

The main purposes of establishing and maintaining Beneficial Ownership Registers are to deter Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, to help enforce sanctions and to identify those who seek to conceal their ownership and control of corporate entities. Such registers will ensure that the ultimate owners/controllers are identified and that this information is readily and publicly accessible.

 

Shell companies and nominees

In order to comprehend the issue of beneficial ownership, we need to understand some of the terminology : a beneficial owner is commonly defined as a person who ultimately owns or controls an asset. Shell companies, according to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, are a key feature in schemes designed to disguise beneficial ownership. History, and a long list of leaked documents such as the Panama Papers, have taught us that shell companies often enable money laundering, sanctions circumvention, tax evasion and other unlawful activities. According to sources, tax evasion costs governments globally close to $427 billion in losses each year. Europe loses $184 billion a year, more than half of which is from private tax evasion. 

Another vulnerability of beneficial ownership registers is the practice of using nominee directors and shareholders. The role of these “straw-men/women” is to conceal the identity of the real company or asset owners. This is often done using undisclosed agreements which essentially allow for one individual to hold shares of a company in the name of another person. While the appointment of nominees is legal in many countries, this practice is seen by the FATF as a cause for grave concern.

 

The benefits of beneficial ownership registers

Ieva Tarailiene, who holds the positions of Head of Registry practice and principal consultant roles at NRD Companies and served as interim CEO of the Lithuanian State Enterprise Center of Registers explains. “It is clear that if a business wants to hide the ultimate beneficiaries, the real shareholders, and to conceal its links with sanctioned persons or hide the origin of ill-gotten capital, it is likely to find ways to do so. However, imposing an obligation to provide mandatory beneficial ownership information to public authorities, to registers, will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to identify illegal activities or attempts to bypass sanctions. Failure to provide such information or falsifying data should carry serious consequences”.

In the last few years, both the FATF and the EU have issued recommendations and directives relating to beneficial ownership. FATF’s Recommendation 24 states that “Countries should ensure that there is adequate, accurate and timely information on the beneficial ownership and control of legal persons that can be obtained or accessed in a timely fashion by competent authorities”. The 4th EU Anti Money Laundering Directive (AMLD 4) from 2015 required member countries to establish beneficial ownership registers and “ensure that corporate and other legal entities incorporated within their territory are required to obtain and hold adequate, accurate and current information on their beneficial ownership, including the details of the beneficial interests held”.

As this 2021 illustration demonstrates, some countries in the EU have failed to establish such registers while others have imposed a myriad of obstacles — geographic access restrictions, registration requirements, paywalls, and public access limitations.

Transparency International has also called for a number of fixes to ensure global standards for improving beneficial ownership transparency including closing loopholes such as the use of nominees and clearly defining the term “beneficial owner” which differs between jurisdictions. To illustrate the inconsistencies in global regulations and according to the World Bank, registering beneficial ownership was mandatory in only 64 economies in 2020 (out of 191 economies included in the sample), and more common amongst high income economies. Beneficial ownership disclosure requirements in certain world regions are substantially lower — 20% in East Asia and Pacific; just over 20% in Sub Saharan Africa; and just under 30% in Europe and Central Asia.

Ms. Tarailiene concludes that “registers of beneficial owners are at the heart of a robust system aiming at financial transparency. Register of beneficial owners is a starting point towards a more transparent business environment and an essential part in a system to fight ill-gotten wealth, money laundering and terrorist financing, and circumvention of sanctions. Governments should take steps to not only establish the registers and make them freely accessible, but should also build mechanisms to validate the accuracy of the beneficial ownership information provided to them. Such mechanisms would require the involvement of other agencies such as Financial Intelligence Units and other law enforcement agencies to uncover false fillings and deter others from doing so”.

Investment Account
ArticlesBanking

Saving Through Investment Accounts: 4 Options You Should Know About

Investment Account

Big moments in life require a purposeful plan toward saving money. This is true whether you’re hoping to purchase a home, plan a big wedding, send your kids to college, or retire early. 

However, it’s not as easy as simply putting money aside. If your savings aren’t earning any interest, you’re not only missing out on an opportunity to make more money but you are, in fact, also losing it due to inflation.

The trick is to find the right balance between risk and interest-earning potential. In particular, you want to choose a low-risk option that will yield a substantial return over time. Fortunately, there are many options that offer exactly that. Here are the pros and cons of the four major low-risk options:

 

1. Education Accounts

The most popular payment option for post-secondary education expenses is a 529 savings plan. These tax-advantaged savings plans can be opened on behalf of the beneficiary (college-bound teens) — and anyone can contribute to it. However, the account owner — not the beneficiary — ultimately retains control over the funds.

  • Pros: The 529 savings plan involves fairly low maintenance and is easy to set up. There are no contribution or high aggregate limits, and contributions are considered gifts to the named beneficiary. The income grows tax-deferred, and distributions are tax-free — as long as they’re used to cover qualified education expenses.
  • Cons: If the distributions aren’t qualified, they will incur an income tax, as well as a 10% penalty (there are a few exceptions, though). Investment options included in the 529 plan are limited to a static portfolio that should reduce the risk. Account fees can vary significantly, so make sure to choose a low-cost 529 plan that will cover your family’s specific needs. 

 

2. Standard Brokerage Accounts

This type of account offers a wide portfolio of investment opportunities, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and more. Brokerage accounts are subject to taxes, and you must be age 18 or older and have a Social Security number or tax ID to own one. This is a good choice if you plan to save for more than five years.

  • Pros: You can open a brokerage account as an individual or share it with a spouse or a relative. There’s no limit on contributions, and you’re free to withdraw your money at any time.
  • Cons: Ultimately, you’ll need to pay taxes on the interest or dividends your portfolio earns, as well as any gains made by selling your assets.

 

3. Retirement Accounts

Similar to standard brokerage accounts in terms of investment opportunities, retirement accounts differ in taxation and withdrawal conditions. The most popular retirement accounts are traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Some companies offer 401(k) investment opportunities, in which your employer matches any contributions you make up to a certain amount; it’s usually 5%. To qualify for an IRA, you have to have earned an income.

  • Pros: The greatest benefit of IRAs is that your funds grow tax-free. Plus, traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible. Of course, there are some limitations to this rule, so make sure to research them.
  • Cons: Contributions to an IRA are limited, and your money will be tied down until you reach retirement age — unless you’re willing to pay a penalty to access these funds early. There are some exceptions to early withdrawals. After age 72, you’ll have mandatory withdrawals with high penalty fees if you don’t utilize them (50% + taxes).

 

4. Children’s Investment Accounts

Each of the previous options requires that the owner is age 18 or older. However, there are also a few options for custodial accounts that can be owned by minors. 

The two main types of children-owned accounts are custodial brokerage accounts and custodial IRAs. Assets in custodial brokerage accounts can be typical investments (i.e., stocks, bonds, cash, etc.) or even tied to real estate. Once placed into the account, the funds cannot be transferred to another beneficiary, but they can be used for any purpose. 

Conversely, children are eligible to open a Roth or traditional IRA if they’ve earned an income through a custodial IRA. The funds are not taxable, and there are no withdrawal penalties.

  • Pros: These types of accounts are easy to set up, and there are no income or contribution limits. There are also no penalties for early withdrawals and no restrictions on how the funds should be used. The income is taxed at child rates and the contributions are tax-deductible. 
  • Cons: Custodial accounts count as a child’s asset, so they might not be eligible for financial aid such as student loans or grants. And once the child owning the account becomes an adult, they will be liable for taxes on income gained at the regular tax rates.

 

Choose the Right Investment Savings Account for Your Needs

Finding the best savings options that fit your circumstances may not be limited to one type of investment account. In fact, you may decide to split your savings into short-term and long-term options, giving you more flexibility to save for goals you’re anticipating in the next few years. Once you’ve assessed all your available options, you’ll gain greater clarity on the best route to guide you and your family toward financial freedom.