Stay Healthy and Wealthy

When you make those New Year’s resolutions, you’re thinking about fresh starts and the year ahead. What you might not realize is that some resolutions also could save money. Here are some popular resolutions that could help get you and your finances in shape in 2017.

Quit smoking: You can save money by stopping a pack-a-day habit, which can cost between $1,825 and $3,650 per year, depending on the cost of cigarettes in your area. Nationally, a pack-a-day smoker is going to spend an average of $2,000 annually on cigarette costs.

Set up and stick to a realistic budget: If you want to resolve to stick to a budget in 2017, you must start with a realistic plan. People tend to make financial resolutions the same way they do a weight loss plan. If you start with lofty goals they will be unachievable within a month. List your priorities for spending rather than restricting your spending. Focus on necessary expenses then include a certain amount for retirement savings. Then with the remaining money you have each month, set aside a little for enjoyment. It’s critical you have rewards in your budget.

Exercise regularly: You’ll save money in several ways with regular exercise. On average, Americans are spending $7,800 annually on health care, according to the National Association of Health Underwriters. But exercise brings real savings. “If people are eating right and exercising three times a week for 20 minutes a day, they see prescription costs decrease by 70 percent and medical costs decrease by 30 percent,” says Ric Edelman of Edelman Financial Services. Stop spending money recklessly: One of the best ways to stop spending your money recklessly is to track where it is going each month. Check with your credit union and download their free mobile budgeting app that shows expenditures by category so you can monitor your spending. A great way to get your spending under control is quit trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. If you want to fix your bad spending habits in 2017 start hanging out with other spendthrifts because you will likely become one yourself.

Eat healthier: A healthy eating plan can be as — or more — economical than fast food. It’s a total myth that eating healthy is expensive. Buy smaller but leaner cuts of meat, eat protein-rich beans and buy produce in season when it’s freshest and least expensive. A smaller amount of a leaner cut can slice your food bill and your bad cholesterol.

Build an emergency fund: Nothing takes the stress out of financial situation like spare cash. If you are among the millions of Americans that don’t have enough money set aside to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies, then you should resolve to build one in 2017. Experts recommend putting enough money in a savings account to cover six months’ worth of expenses in case of unexpected emergencies like job loss, maternity leave or medical issues. You can always apply a small amount of your paycheck towards this account, so you make sure it is hidden from you.

Pay off high-interest debt: Paying down credit card debt is one of the most popular short-term goals in 2017. Try focusing on paying off your high-interest credit card debt before other debts because it is more expensive. And, it you are motivated by seeing those results first hand, start by paying off your card with the lowest balance first so you can feel that sense of accomplishment. Create your estate plan: An important 2017 resolution would be to tie up any financial loose ends for your loved ones so they aren’t left trying to pick up the pieces. Make sure you have a will or trust that designates who’s in control of your assets. You certainly don’t want the state court system to make that decision for you. Don’t forget to designate a guardian for your children, and someone who will make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Develop common financial goals with your partner: Many times finances are the biggest source of conflict between couples. It’s important that couples sit down and create a financial plan. It doesn’t usually work to try and manage their finances separately.

Any of these resolutions can help improve your financial security in 2017. I suggest tackling one financial tip each month so you don’t get overwhelmed. Then as you get accustomed to the new approach to spending and saving, add another. By the time 2017 starts dwindling toward 2018, you will find you’ve made progress on achieving your financial goals.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Busy Families

It somehow seems that modern life is busier than it has ever been. As well as our work and family commitments, there are now so many ways to spend our leisure time; it often feels like 24 hours is simply not long enough to get everything you wanted done in the day.

The problem of being busy all of the time (even though it is a good problem to have) hits those of us who have time-consuming jobs and are also raising a family the hardest. If you fall into this category, you may find it helpful to read the following list of five potential New Year’s resolutions you could make to ensure your 2017 is less stressful than this year may have been!

1) Leave the office on time – Even if it’s only on one or two days a week, it is important that you sometimes put your foot down and leave your place of work as soon as your day is meant to finish. You’ll find that you get much more done in the evenings!

2) Invest in a 2017 calendar – It may sound like a simple step, but that’s sort of the point. Having your work and leisure commitments mapped out for the weeks and months ahead in an easy to view format will allow you to see at a glance just how busy you are and whether you are taking on too much.

3) Spend 10 minutes doing nothing – Again, this is more productive than it sounds! Set your alarm ten minutes earlier every day so that, before you get up, you can spend this extra time in completely undisturbed silence, thinking about what your priorities should be for the day to come.

4) What are your two most important tasks? – Speaking of priorities, it is also a good idea to take a step back from time to time and decide which the two most important jobs are that you wish to accomplish on any given day. This is a great way of clearing your head when you feel overwhelmed.

5) Consider hiring household staff – You may have thought that hiring a nanny or other household staff might be the ‘easy way out’, but this is not the case. Those who have invested in professional assistance of this kind know that hiring a caring and responsible person to help run your busy home is a fantastic way of relieving domestic pressures.

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Economic Cycles, Stock Market Crashes and the Scary Scenarios

Here we are ready to inaugurate a new president in 2017 and our stock markets are at all-time highs after a huge ‘Trump Bounce’ after the election. Many that study stock market history admit that we are in a need for a pull back as the DOW is almost ready to break 20,000 pts. What does all this mean?

Well, many analysts are suggesting it is very possible we could get a market correction in mid to late 2017 and that it could be 10-20% by the time it is done, the longer this nonsense goes on, and the bigger the bubble builds then the bigger the drop, we are over bought, almost everywhere. Then all that money printed that ended up inflating emerging markets will look for safe haven, coming back here in the short term. As those go one-by-one, that money flies out, because the money is looking for the nicest looking house (for now) in a majorly bad neighborhood, look at the EU, Japan, Middle East, India, and who knows what the hell China’s real numbers are, they have one thing going for them, they own our debt – but that might not be worth much if things go on. All that money coming back to safe haven in the US will cause inflation here, but at what cost?

Cheap loans, another bubble burst and look at the Student Loan issues 35% in default (past 90-days) and cheap car loans is only producing higher repo rates which are hidden by increased sales figures. It’s all lipstick on a big pig, socialism doesn’t work and you can’t have utopia unless you build it, and that takes capitalism which we are crushing into next week for the falsehood of cronyism. But I digress.

If we don’t get a back pedal on the stock market soon, it will all come at once, and 2008 was 8-years ago remember? That wasn’t a recovery that I’d be bragging about – basically we’ve increased regulations, size of government, and cut our military – all very stupid things to do in the present period. We are digging a hole, and I assume when if it starts to fall apart the left will blame capitalism and get their people back into power – and they will just make things worse – this seems to be a repeating problem with humanity doesn’t it? That is what socialists always attempt to do, but it all collapses anyway – Venezuela, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Zimbabwe, hell, how about that Arab Spring a few years ago, still in shambles – Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, who’s next? Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia? Civil unrest, food shortages, people will demand what was promised and take down their governments to get what’s left. Beware the socialist mobs. But I keep digressing.

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LYFT Driverless Car Network

Not so long ago in the past and to be more specific, it has been just 4 years since the announcement of LYFT as a large competitor for Uber. Today the company has grown in size and popularity and is definitely making waves in terms of pricing along with coverage. This company was first thought of as a fly by night company to be hauled away in the next big growth of Uber. However, this has been a far thought for LYFT. This company has been silently building itself and engulfing its efforts in technology. Their most recently talked about innovation to be brought online will be a Driverless Car Network.

Now many have bogged at the idea of Driverless cars, but they are becoming more and more trendy as time moves on. Innovators such as Mercedes has put self-driving capabilities in many of its models, followed by General Motors Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, and Tesla. Self-driving cars are no longer a talk of possibility; they are now here to stay. For that reason, GM has jumped on the forefront to invest $500 million in LYFT’s initiative for their Driverless Car Network. This effort essentially will change the way how we commute and reduce the risks associated with impaired drivers or drivers which are inebriated. As opposed to going out in the car yourself to make a pickup of a friend or parents, a simple call or selection in the LYFT app will send a Driverless LYFT vehicle to the pickup aid of the designated person and taking them safely to their next location without incident. This means that the 94% of road accidents which are caused by human error will be drastically dropped due to the car being driven by Artificial Intelligence. Roadways will be more accessible with less vehicles cluttering the highways as more accessibility for carpools and more ability to work while riding effortlessly to work or to school. Many traffic jams are accounted by accidents which occur during morning or evening rush hour. Imagine not having to deal with such delays and being able to effortlessly get home while finishing up a project for work, school, or leisure. This is the future the LYFT is in the process of unveiling to the world in 2017. As far as designs for the Driverless Car Network that LYFT will unveil in 2017, its all just speculations as LYFT along with General Motors has managed to keep talks or leaks about the designs under heavy guard. At the moment these companies stand at the cusp of changing the way how we all use our vehicles and LYFT is the company that is driving the helm.

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Six Tech Trends to Know Heading Into the New Year

As we look back at 2016 and gear up for a new year, it’s smart to brush up on new trends in the legal industry. By new trends, I mean new technology, because the terms have become almost synonymous.

Technology has impacted our profession dramatically in recent years, and it continues to do so at an accelerating pace. If you’re not on the technology bandwagon, you and your firm will have a hard time staying afloat.

This fact isn’t a revelation. We’ve known for decades that success in most industries comes down to adopting new technology. But doing so in the legal profession comes with its set of challenges.

First, regulations make change difficult. Second, sometimes it’s hard to know which new products and approaches in the legal industry have value, and which are just hype.

Those challenges aside, firms that don’t embrace technology will have trouble attracting the best new legal talent. The revenue at law firms clinging to old school ways will drop off as a new generation of clients takes their business to new-school, tech-savvy companies.

What does it take to join the ranks of the new-school? There are six major trends to be aware of going into 2017.

Social networks

Social networking is the cornerstone of legal industry marketing. This fact shouldn’t be a surprise. Rainmaking has always been about networking, relationship building and word of mouth. It still is; these techniques in their offline form still build practices. But if you’re not working the online component, too, you’re at a catastrophic disadvantage. Social media has become a factor in how clients choose attorneys, according to a survey taken this year by FindLaw. In 2017, take steps to ramp up your social presence on your website and blog, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Doing so will maximize your online presence and help you grow relationships over time.

Your clients, prospects, and leads are online and checking social media regularly. Being part of the social media landscape isn’t hard, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Invest in expert help this year. Set a goal to get your social marketing plan up and running in 2017.

Virtual Law Firms

These are firms that can operate anywhere: A lawyer’s home, a satellite office, even from inside a Starbucks. Many lawyers have closed their downtown offices and work remotely. Technology lets them do this without hurting service or quality. Remote work can reduce overhead and travel time while increasing flexibility and improving work/life balance. Plus, you have the option to rent offices or meeting rooms as needed.

The leap to virtual doesn’t have to happen overnight. Experiment by working remotely one day a week and see how it impacts your productivity and revenue. It may very well provide the edge your firm needs to succeed in 2017.

E-discovery

Electronically stored information (ESI) is now considered discoverable in court. ESI includes e-mails, texts, instant messages, voicemails and other electronically stored information. What you need to know: This technological reality has changed the face of litigation. Lawyers can (and should) use digital services to access all types of records. And we need to remind our clients that their deleted texts and e-mails are retrievable.

Legal process outsourcing

Outsourcing legal work to a vendor, law firm or overseas resource has become an increasingly favorable trend for law firms. Streamlined by new technology, LPO continues to cut expenses and reduce workload overflow. It can be a huge factor in scaling your business and managing workflow. LPO technology firms that market to the legal industry are on the rise. They’ll be coming after you in 2017 to present their case. When they do, listen.

Reviews and testimonials

Adding positive reviews to Google+, Yelp and Avvo is critical to growing your business and managing your reputation. 72 percent of consumers said they trusted companies more when they have positive customer reviews, according to a BrightLocal survey in 2014. The number of people reading online reviews is increasing, so take steps to post reviews in 2017. If you can’t get customers to go on record, that’s OK. According to the data, consumer trust increases even when the reviews are anonymous.

Cloud-based online document repositories provide secure, on-demand access to records for you, your clients, and your team members. You can store, organize, view, and change files.

More customers want instant gratification and access to their documents and records. It’s relatively easy to set up, makes for a better consumer experience, and can save you time from fielding emails and sending attachments. Make sure your clients have this access in 2017!

So there you have it. Six new trends that aren’t entirely new, per se, but are increasingly important as our industry ventures forth into the brave new world of 2017.

Lawyers like to err on the side of caution. Many of us are slow to embrace new technology or rock the boat. Historically, we get hung up asking ourselves whether we can afford to take such risks.

But what we need to be asking is: Can we afford not to?

At the end of 2016, the answer is a resounding no.

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