Inside the Economy with SH&J: Election Edition

Today we bring you a special edition of Inside the Economy with SH&J, at a time when our country is divided and there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the potential impacts of the outcome of this election. The media has anticipated turbulent stock markets, but this hasn’t been the case thus far. Listen in to learn why and hear more about our unbiased view of the state of the current economy.

3 Steps to Take Immediately After You Discover Your Identity was Stolen

shj110716_stolen_identity_blog_image-2Identity theft is much more common than any of us would like to think. In 2014, 32 data records were lost or stolen every second! (source) We have written about how to protect yourself in the past and recommend reading it again if it’s been a while. That said, sometimes no amount of protection can completely prevent identity theft.

Here are the first 3 things you should do if you suspect your identity has been stolen:

Lock down Your Account(s)
No matter how you discover your stolen identity, through a phone call from your bank or a database breach, the very first thing you need to do is lock down your problem account(s). Contact your financial institution and ask to either lock or close the account. You can usually roll the funds into another account or create a new one. Continue reading

Retirement Plans for Small Businesses

shj_small_business_retirement_plans_blog_imageSmall business owners have several options for choosing the right retirement plan. When deciding which plan is best, factors you should consider are how many employees you have and how are they paid? How much do you want to contribute to the plan for yourself or your partners, as business owners, as well as for your employees? Do you want to use the plan to attract future employees or for its tax advantages? Three retirement plans to consider are a SEP IRA, Simple IRA, and 401(k). Continue reading

Cash Isn’t King, Mobile is: An Overview of New Payment Methods

shj102416_cash_is_king_payment_methods_blog_imageTechnology has created a wide range of ways for businesses and individuals to accept and send payments. Has your son or daughter recently asked you to “Venmo” them? Are you concerned when farmer’s market vendors swipe your card on their phone? Today we cover some of the most common payment types and how to use them.

*Disclaimer – Sharkey, Howes & Javer does not endorse any of the following products or services. This post is for informational purposes only.

Mobile Credit Card Readers
Mobile credit card readers, such as Square, have been widely successful. These readers offer the ability for anyone to “set up shop” at little to no cost. The card readers plug into the headphone jack of a phone and connect to an app. Instead of charging a flat fee per transaction, these readers simply take a small percentage of the transaction, usually 2.9%. Readers like Square allow small businesses to accept credit cards on the go.

Just like a regular credit card machine, your information is transmitted to the processor over the internet. The risks of using a credit card on a mobile reader and in your favorite big box store are virtually the same. Continue reading

Cost of Living in the United States 1975 vs. 2015

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It is often easy to figuratively compare today’s costs with how much things “used” to cost. However, we don’t always have the numbers to use in the comparison, which is why we are sharing this table today.

If it seems like housing, auto, and education costs are a bigger portion of your paycheck today, then you are right. On average, this is true. It’s easy to see why the amount of college loan debt and car loan debt are steadily increasing. It’s also easy to observe why it is increasingly difficult to achieve the “American dream”. Continue reading

Inside the Economy with SH&J: October 10, 2016

As we enter the 4th quarter of 2016, here in the U.S., there is less stress in the financial system than when we started the year and the S&P 500 is at the top end of its forward price-to-earnings ratio. However, overseas, Deutsche Bank is fighting a $14 billion penalty from the U.S. Department of Justice for “mis-selling” mortgage securities before the 2008 recession. Listen in to hear more on the German bank as well as why Japan has such low interest rates despite the amount of sovereign debt outstanding.

Thinking of Buying a Vacation Home? Consider These 7 Things Before You Commit

shj101016_purchasing_vacation_house_blog_image_2You found an area you love and you’re thinking of buying a vacation home there. Having a second home can make vacationing easier, but it’s not always the right choice. Before you buy a vacation home, do your homework and make an informed decision.

Here are our 7 tips for buying a vacation home:

Have a Clear “Why”
It’s easy to get caught up in the charm of a new area when you’re on vacation, but it’s different to love a place enough to buy a second home there. Make a list of what you love about the area and create a calendar of dates you plan to visit. Does the list of loves and your availability to travel justify the expense of a second home?

Give it a Trial Run
Before you make the decision to buy a second home, be extra sure you like the area. Take a few trips to your desired location and rent homes in different neighborhoods. This will help you get a feel for what you enjoy most about the area and identify target neighborhoods. Continue reading

Should I Consolidate My Student Loans?

shj100416_student_loan_consolidation_blog_imageAs we enter the back-to-school season, many college students may have applied and been approved for a student loan for the upcoming academic year. While students and parents alike welcome the additional assistance in paying for their tuition, the appeal starts to wear off upon graduation when the responsibility to pay back the loan begins. Recent reports show that “the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year” and that the average monthly student loan payment is $351 (source). Often times loans are accumulated from various sources and consolidated down to one loan with the lowest interest rate or most favorable repayment option. However, depending on the type of loans you have outstanding, it may not be in your best interest to consolidate. Continue reading

Inside the Economy with SH&J: September 26, 2016

It is no surprise that the Fed elected not to raise interest rates this month, although the Consumer Price Index is creeping back to the level the Feds are seeking. In addition, funds from Japan and the Eurozone continue to flood into U.S. based investments and will likely remain here for the foreseeable future. Why is this important? Listen in to hear this week’s economic update.

If you have any questions or topics you would like addressed, please let us know in the comments section below and we will cover them during our next recording on October 10th.

10 Habits to Help Increase Your Productivity

shj092616_increase_productivity_blog_imageWe often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day because we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. But how much of our precious time is spent on activities that distract us from our goals? The key to maximizing your time and productivity is to be proactive, not reactive. Staying ahead of your tasks, schedules, and goals can give you more control over your time and increase your productivity.

Here are 10 habits you can adopt to boost your productivity:

1. Make Lists
Lists help organize upcoming projects and tasks. Create a list the night before with tasks for the following day. This will help you focus on the highest priority items of the day without wasting time in the morning trying to figure out which tasks should be tackled first.

2. Bundle Your Tasks
Tackle tasks in batches to make a long to-do list feel much smaller. Set aside time at the beginning of the day (or the night before) for certain tasks, for example: email catch-up and phone calls. Scheduling time for these allows you to continue focusing on the task at hand without constant interruptions. Also make sure to block off time for your most dreaded tasks, it’s best to take care of these in the morning so you don’t think about them all day. Continue reading