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Monday, April 6, 2020

Small Business Survival: Why Now Is The Best Time To Hire A Digital Marketing Agency

The Coronavirus pandemic, small business stimulus package, has had a hard time rolling out.  I can't imagine how horrible the wait must be right now for the many small business owners out there who are depending on this funding to stay afloat.  I sincerely hope that the application process is streamlined and that many SB owners with less than 500 employees qualify for loans.  Local economies depend on these small businesses since they employ tens or obviously, hundreds of people!

5 Things to Look for in a Digital Marketing Agency - Skipper Nico ...

SB owners will earmark whatever loan monies they get to cover their payrolls, and other Cap Ex (capital expenditures).  If you're a SB owner, don't forget to allocate some of your funding to improving your online market presence.  If this pandemic has shown us anything, it's that companies who had been transitioning to or dominating online commerce, are fairing much better than those that didn't work to improve their digital sales platforms, marketing, etc.  Also, keep in mind that there are more people online because they're cooped up at home!  

This is why this may be the perfect time, if you're a SB owner, to invest some of your stimulus capital in digital marketing via a great agency.  Digital marketing agencies provide a whole host of services.  They can for example, work with a client to analyze the look of their website, i.e., website development, how their site is ranking on Google or other search engines, i.e., SEO, and on digital campaigns.  If you're struggling to get visitors to your site(s), if visits aren't converting to sales, if you're not getting enough leads or prospects, your mobile traffic sucks, etc., you may need a digital marketing agency.

A digital marketing agency can also help you develop your brand.  They can help you coalesce everything you've always wanted your business to be, but have had difficulty conveying to the world.  They can help you improve your efficiency and productivity, define your goals and objectives, and learn how to better target your buyers.  Messaging and forming connections with your customers are everything these days!

Some of you SB owners may have already tried to use social media, buying sponsored ads.  If you weren't successful at writing the right script or call-to-action (as evidenced by the lack of sales your ad produced) or if you had a hard time simply defining your target audience, also resulting in few sales, then a digital marketing agency may be your next best bet.  Maybe you chose the wrong platform, a Facebook instead of an Instagram, for example?  A digital marketing agency can analyze your business and determine which online platform is best suited for your business and consumer.  It's hard for a business owner, who has their hands full already, to spend time continually testing strategies.

In sum, digital marketing agencies can help your business boost sales, grow, and increase your ROI (return on investment).  If you're thinking of hiring one, be sure you look at their reviews online.  I can't stress this enough.  As they say, shop around!  They have to be a match for your needs.  Also, make sure they offer a free strategy session.  Most will.  Good luck to all of you in these difficult times!  Keep your heads up my peeps!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

11 Tips To Survive A Recession If You've Lost Your Job & Have No Savings

Have you recently lost your job?  If you have, you are one of millions who did last month.  Sadly enough, we've not yet reached the level of unemployment that this pandemic will ultimately produce.  The $1,200 you may get this month will help more people than others.  In CA, that $1,200 won't go very far.  So it goes without saying that many people are going to be in a world of hurt come late April, and for the rest of Spring.

How to Prepare For a Recession (And Thrive Once It Hits)

I'm optimistic about summer being the start of the end of our Stay-At-Home orders.  And with that, more people will likely be able to return to work.  Unfortunately, there will be enough damage to the economy that will result in the highly competitive employment demand we saw during the Great Recession of 2009.  Remember how people needed to stand on streets with signs begging to be interviewed?  That sucked!  But employers will not be able to flip a switch and get up and running as they were before the pandemic.  Employers will watch their sales and revenue numbers like hawks, only hiring when absolutely necessary.  Can't blame them.  This is what recessions are all about.

What can people do in light of this terrible situation?  Again, best case is for President Trump to announce that the economy is "open" once again, by the start of summer.  But there are no guarantees that he will.  The virus determines the circumstances, as Dr. Anthony Fauci put it best.  This pandemic is a double-edged sword for people.

On the one hand, being out and working can cause you to get ill.  If you aren't one of the lucky ones that gets a mild case of Covid-19, you could land in a hospital.  If you don't have insurance (because you lost your job), you may be indebted beyond your financial means with medical bills.  Or worse, you could die from the disease.  If you don't work, to stay safe, you could run out of money, and end up homeless and hungry.  It's a total Catch-22!

Below are my tips for living through this pandemic (if you got no savings, or a job) while keeping your financial boat afloat.  Unfortunately, you'll need to expose yourself to the risk of being infected by Coronavirus.  I wish there was some other way.

1.  Only consume your perishables while at home.  Save your canned foods for emergencies.  And instead of grocery shopping as you did before, do number 2 below:

2.  Find Your Local Food Bank or Food Pantry.  Now is not the time to be proud.  There are plenty of non-profits around to help you feed your family.

3.  Apply for unemployment benefits.  This is a big one, of course.  You'll have to tighten your spending budget while receiving unemployment checks.

4.  If you don't qualify for unemployment benefits, find temporary work as an "essential worker."  Supermarkets are hiring.  They need delivery drivers, people to stock the shelves, disinfect, etc.  Find companies who have a strong online shopping presence.  Walmart, Target, and Amazon, for example.  Or try pizza delivery.  Tips plus free pizza!  This may not be the type of work you're used to, but you gotta do what you gotta do for the time being.

5.  While you're working as an "essential worker," to make sure you put food on the table, figure out how to reinvent yourself.  Work on an action plan that details what other things you can do to improve your current situation.  In other words, make yourself stronger in every way.  This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Fight hard to not turn to drugs or alcohol. 

6.  Buy health insurance.  I know this doesn't sound like an option to some of you, but not having health coverage is a recipe for disaster!  This article was posted at CNN just today.  Even if you don't watch CNN, it tells you where you can get health insurance if you've lost your job.

7.  Reach out, reach out, reach out!  This is your time to reconnect with your contacts.  Use FB messenger for private messages and FB posts to ask for what you need.  If you don't ask, you'll never know!  Don't be ashamed to put yourself out there on LinkedIn, Instagram, FB, wherever.  You never know who will come to bat for you and send you a job lead.

8.  Cancel all your non-essential subscriptions.  Yes, this means Netflix!  If you had a bunch of streaming channels on your smart TV, it's time to cancel them all.  You don't need them.  Kids?  Have them go onto YouTube on their computer or phone.  If your gym didn't close, (it should have due to Coronavirus), cancel your subscription or ask that they not bill you for the next 2-3 months.

9.  Call your landlord or management company and ask if they have a renter assistance program.  They may allow you to pay less in rent for a set amount of time.  If you own a home, call your mortgage company and ask that they participate in programs other major banks have now for people in need.  Mortgage relief!

10.  Try not to use your retirement savings to get through the hard times.  But if you've exhausted all other options, you can tap into your 401k.  Here are 6 ways to do so according to Forbes.

11.  Sell items that people are buying during the pandemic.  Use OfferUp or other apps to do so.  If you have exercise equipment or outside games, bicycles, etc., sell them now!  Abide by social distance orders, of course.

If you have other tips for people who've lost their job and have little to no savings, by all means comment below.  If you want to ask me for financial advice, email me at calilimexica@yahoo.com.  Good luck everyone and God bless!   

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Don't Let Covid-19 Stop You From Making Smart Money Decisions!

On my January, 31st post, What's A Value Investor To Do In This Market?, I sort of wished the stock market would catch Covid-19, more commonly called, Coronavirus.  Apparently the saying, "be careful what you wish for..." is not just a saying.  Wow...did the fear fever spread last week!  I was all cash at the time, fortuitously, and waited until mid-week to start small positions in a few beat down stocks.  I grabbed some Carnival Cruise (CCL), Delta Airline (DAL), Ford (F) and even Vanguard's Total Stock Market ETF, (VTI).  I scooped up some more shares of these same stocks as the market rout ensued Friday morning.

The market lost 10.8% of its gains since the hysteria began.  This brings me to a question?  Are we at a "Bull-trap"?  Sure, the market can continue to drop next week.  But maybe it rallies and reaches "The Lower-high" before starting a downward trend again as concerns over a global recession mount.  I still have plenty of firepower (cash) on hand to keep dollar-cost-averaging in the event of a continued sell-off.  My advice for people is to not go all in...ever!  If you're going to buy some of your favorite companies next week, do yourself a favor and start small.  Rome don't need conquering in one day.

This is a great reminder that life goes on.  Yes, we may all be a little scared about the inevitable spread of Covid-19.  After all, it's a novel virus that has the potential to kill.  There's plenty of uncertainty wound up in this Black Swan event to keep us all biting our finger nails.  Damaging your nails is one thing, stopping your investing or personal finance mind from working because of fear of the unknown is a whole lot stupider!  Look people, it is what it is.  Yes, you or I may catch Covid-19 one day, but until then we have to live out our lives as normal.  Case in point:

Last week, I was listening to CNBC on my way to work.  I heard that Mortgage rates had plummeted to near their all-time lows.  Why?  Covid-19 of course!  Some guy was being interviewed.  He was the CEO of some REIT (Real-Estate Investment Trust) or a Real Estate based company that worked with Chinese investors.  He said some of his rich Chinese clients couldn't close their deals in the U.S. because they're essentially stuck in China.  Trump isn't letting any Chinese land on U.S. soil.  So this CEO lost some deals and money.  He claimed the real estate sector would take a hit.  Well, maybe it will.  But it hasn't quite yet.

From Barrons magazine 3-2-20 edition

That was all good information, but what's it got to do with you and me, right?  If you own a home and haven't refinanced, you're an idiot!  I had tried to refinance last year, but my home didn't have enough equity at the time to get the 80% LTV just right.  Meaning, I didn't have at least 20% in equity.  But then real estate in San Diego county kept rising.  After hearing the news that rates had dropped yet again, I went online to Bankrate.com and investigated.  I decided to fill out their online form and shop for a low-rate.  My home's value has risen enough, I reasoned.  Let me try to refinance again, I said to myself.  People, you gotta be persistent!

So my mortgage rate is currently 5.125%.  The rates Bankrate.com spit out from its partners were in the mid 3's.  Ally Bank came out on top.  Followed by Blue Spot Home Loans.  I clicked on Ally Bank's link and was taken to its online application.  I got to say, Ally Bank's initial application process is awesome.  As an owner of several rental properties, I hate having to populate the section on assets because it takes so damn long.  But Ally has a feature where you can enter the home's address, and other private items and aspects about the loans (like how much you pay each month), pop out automatically.  Within 30 minutes I had a full disclosure of a potential loan for me.  The rate I got was 3.37%, but the cash to close was disappointing: over $7,500.

That's one hold-up for many people looking to refinance.  They don't want to pay any cash to close.  I didn't either!  Luckily, I was being phone bombed by companies galore, all looking for my business.  I don't like getting everyone and their mom calling me to offer their services as possible lenders or brokers, etc.  But that's the price we all have to pay for entering our info online.  Luckily for me, one person from Blue Spot Home Loans texted me a nice message.  I let him know I was still shopping for the best rate and terms.  He asked me to give him a chance to match or do better.

Part of your closing costs are things you can't control.  For example, lenders have to pay a portion or all of your impounds up front.  Things like your property taxes and home owner insurance.  That's usually what drives your closing costs higher.  And of course these lenders want to make some money of their own for their services.  This is the negotiable stuff.  You can ask for more in "lender credit."  I worked this angle with the person at Ally Bank.  But the closing costs were still going to be upwards of $6K.

I went back to the person that was helping me at Blue Spot Home Loans.  I sent him a screen shot of the Ally Bank declaration.  He countered with..."I can do the 3.375%.  My fees would be $1954.  Lender fees: $315, Appraisal $500, Title and Tax: $1139.  I would be giving you $870 in lender credit so only $1084 total fees."  Okay, he got me interested.  Fast forwarding to the part where we are today, I'm going to end-up paying a grand total of $0 to close.  How?  Get this...

They took my word for the value of my home.  Meaning, they waived the appraisal process.  This gave me enough equity to use for better loan terms.  Part of the equity is going to be used to pay my portion of the closing costs (taxes, insurance, etc.).  I don't have to spend any money on an appraisal!  He was also able to give me $1500 in lender credit.  Summing it all up, my rate is 3.37%, my new payment will be $2,895 per month ($-237 from the one I had), and the best part, since I didn't do a cash-out refinance, I get to keep all my home's remaining equity.

I don't know if it's just my experience, but it seems like lenders are willing to move a bunch of obstacles out of the way to ensure they make your deal happen.  So if you couldn't refinance before, try, try, again!  Especially now with Covid-19 making rates fall again.  If you're thinking of buying your first home, then now is a great time.  Rates are low.  Inventories remain low too, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.  You can wait to see how Covid-19 might play out.  But you might miss an opportunity of a lifetime if you do!  And I'm out!!!


Friday, February 14, 2020

Why Kobe Bryant's Death Was A Wake Up Call

Kobe Bryant's premature death was hard for many people, including me.  I'm not a Lakers' fan, but while attending UC Santa Barbara in the late '90s, I got to see the Lakers scrimmage at the Thunderdome (the Gaucho's event center).  This was early in Kobe's career, but already he was a superstar.  Living in Santa Barbara also enabled me to catch many Lakers games when they played my team, the Golden State Warriors.  Despite my support of the "Dubs," I was a Kobe fan.

Image result for kobe bryant

As we know, Kobe Bryant didn't die alone.  His daughter, Gianna Bryant, as well as other people, tragically met their end when the helicopter they were flying in crashed.  It's been a few weeks now since the tragedy.  The Kobe Bryant Memorial Services are next week at the Staples Center.  The last I read, it appears the event will be huge.  Kobe was loved.

There's an inherent flaw in all of personal finance.  I've read countless articles on topics galore relating to PF.  The authors of countless blog posts and books (myself included) all assume one thing: that you will make it to retirement.  Those who are proponents and practitioners of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) have one thing going for them, early retirement.  In other words, by saving half their income or more, and investing mostly in safe vehicles like mutual funds with great track records (so they preserve capital), these individuals want out of the workforce by their 30s or 40s.  Done!  About the only thing I personally like about the FIRE movement is being young at retirement.

But no one is safe from the Grimm Reaper.  This is why Kobe's death was a wake up call to all of us.  Sure, young people die all the time.  Some from natural causes, and others tragically.  Some of these deaths make the news.  We may lament and feel awful for the surviving family members.  But the impact Kobe made in life magnified 100 times over or more, his premature death.  Kobe was not only a Hall of Fame NBA player, he was a successful businessman with quite the fortune.  Kobe had all of his affairs in order.  No doubt.  His family won't have to deal with extended family or quarrels.  But for every Kobe, there are 60 people who die every day without a Will or a Living Trust.

Image result for estate planning

According to a 2017 AARP survey, 6 in 10 Americans haven't done a will yet.  I'm one of them!  My wife, Jessica, and I were at our annual tax appointment with our EA yesterday.  We asked him about his Living Trust service.  It's going to cost us $1,500 to set up a Living Trust, and $175 for each rental property transfer.  Ouch!  Oh well.  Whereas a will goes into effect upon your death, a trust goes into effect as soon as it's created.  Another key difference between a will and a trust is that a trust avoids the courtroom, saving everyone time and money.  You have to figure out what works best for you.  A living trust works best for my family.

Okay, so you may be doing great saving for retirement.  That's not the norm in the U.S. as many people struggle just to make ends meet.  But I bet you haven't considered your death or potentially failing health, as much as you should.  Do you have a health care power of attorney?  Do you have term life insurance so your loved ones don't struggle without the loss of your income?  Do you have a trust?  You don't?  Then what the heck are you waiting for?

Do you think Kobe thought he was going to die at 41?  Obviously, no!  My wife and I go out on date nights, leaving the kids with a babysitter.  What if we get in a car accident and die together?  The what?  We feel incredibly fortunate to have several rental properties as assets and our residence here in coastal CA to leave to our two kids, but we feel like idiots for not having a living trust yet.  We left the EA's office with the forms in hand and are going to sit down this Presidents Day weekend to start working on them.  Perhaps it's time you talk estate planning with your significant other too.  Do it for Kobe!  Mamba Mentality. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

What's A Value Investor To Do In This Market?

I'm sick of this market!  And my attitude is so garbage right now that some days I wish the market would get Coronavirus.  But it seems that the bull is immune to everything.  Back in late 2018, I thought for sure the end of the bull had arrived, only to see Trump convince the Fed to lower the Fed Funds rate (several times).  But the Fed went beyond the call of duty, doing Quantitative Easing (Q.E.).  The latter has been kept hush, hush, to the public at large, but if you want to know what truly turned the market around in early 2019...it was Q.E.!!!

And now we are here in 2020.  When I say, "we," I'm referring to value investors.  Hey guys, remember when you could find lots of stocks with growth rates higher than their P/E's?  Yeah...neither do I.  In the strict sense of the word, value implies finding shares who have future growth rates higher than their current P/E multiples.  This was something that could be done with ease at times, but these days, your stock screener will turn up dead crickets when you search with those parameters.

Don't take me wrong, there are plenty of stocks with P/E's between 10 and 20 out there to choose from.  But having a low P/E doesn't make a stock a pure value play.  You might have to turn to mid-cap or dare I say, small-cap stocks to find value.  There are some value stocks in beaten down sectors like Financials, but then you're going Contrarian because rates don't seem to be budging up any time soon.  So long as Trump can scream at Fed Chief Powell with a bombardment of critical Tweets, the Fed will not hike.  This brings me to another point, is Trump a systematic or unsystematic risk?  I can't quite tell.  Or you can try the energy sector.  But gasoline is so 20th century.

4,000 plus days and counting.  Some people are just beginning to march along the bull as if they were in Spain.  Are they nuts?  No!  It's the usual FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) effect.  It happens at the tail end of each bull market.  I sold the stocks I owned in my taxable Brokerage account yesterday, realizing a $300 loss for the year.  But it's only January!  I know.  I'm a value investor and I'm at a loss for ideas.  I still own stock in my 403b by way of an Index Funds: Vanguard's Total Stock Market, allocated at 65%.  So if the bull should keep strolling down the street, I'll still be making money.

It may not be the best time to jump into the stock market for the very first time.  In fact, it's one of the worst times.  But, it's the perfect time to invest in your financial education!  My latest book, Stock Market Investing for Minority Teens & Friends is out and live at Amazon!  It's a beginner's guide at heart, written for teens and young adults, but the information is perfect for all beginner's.  You can now read the front matter and the first 1.5 chapters using the Look Inside Feature.  Here's a picture of the book with a link to the page.  Thanks for reading!!


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Stock Market Investing for Minority Teens & Friends Book Coming Soon!

I've just finished writing my latest book: Stock Market Investing for Minority Teens & Friends.  My target audience are all low-socioeconomic and underprivileged teens, especially ethnic minorities.  However, the book's other audience includes the allies of my target audience, or basically, any non-ethnic, i.e., white teen who hangs out with my target audience at school, etc.  Basically, any lower or working class teen ages 14-19.

This is the image that will grace the front cover.

If you're wondering why I chose this audience...well, there are zero books on beginning stock market investing that cater to the one audience that really needs a book on this topic!  The wealth/income inequality gap is huge.  I don't need to justify a book like the one I've written.  Clearly, more Americans should be investing in stocks, but especially Americans of color.  If you're upset or think this is some sort of race baiting, get over it! Every other book written on stock market investing is for a white consumer.

If you don't mind references to school, video gaming, the occasional use of the word, "white person," or "white man," and you want to learn about stock market investing, then my book will break down the toughest topics and distill them into pure understanding.  After all, as a teacher, I'm accustomed to helping students learn incredibly complicated science content, e.g., Newton's Laws and Einstein's general relativity.  So I can definitely help a beginner make sense of stocks!

The book is currently being reviewed by some critical friends of mine.  After I get back their editing tips, etc., I will fine tune the document and publish the book at Amazon.  It will be between 95 to 100 pages total.  Every chapter will have section exercises so that you can practice the skills of stock evaluation.

If you're a parent or guardian of a teen, and you know nothing about the market, please, please, look out for this book.  You have absolutely no idea how much of a disservice it is to teens of color to lack even the basics about stock market investing.  Let me tell you that you may as well as be setting up your child for financial failure if they never learn to invest in stocks.  So be on alert!  Peace.