Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Messy Workspace Could Hurt Your Office Cred January 25, 2011  – A new survey suggests those with messy office desks may end up with career advancement problems.

A desk in an office.Image via WikipediaNot only do professionals judge their own organizational habits, but over half (53%) surveyed admit to thinking negatively of their coworkers with messy desks. In fact, professionals who see a colleague's cluttered workspace reportedly assume that person must be lacking in other aspects of his or her job (40%) or take it one step further and have a lower overall opinion of this colleague (13%), the news release said. However, some are more forgiving and believe the coworker is simply overworked and doesn't have time to clean up (33%).

How do they get any work done?Image via WikipediaAmericans have the best of intentions to organize their desk or workspace (45%), computer files (36%), or email (28%) but for various reasons never get around to it. The biggest challenge seems to be deciding what goes and what stays. Nearly half (46%) have struggled with prioritizing what should be saved or thrown away, while others claim finding the motivation to get the job done (43%) or having the right organizational tools (27%).

OfficeMax's 2011 Workspace Organization Survey was conducted by Kelton Research between December 30, 2010 and January 4, 2011 via email invitation and online survey.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Costs of Having Employees Who Are Unable to Retire
Guest submission

Question: Our company is trying to decide whether a retirement preparedness program is worth the cost. What are the costs to an employer of having employees who aren't able to retire?
RetirementImage via WikipediaAnswer: The biggest cost is when you have employees who want to retire but cannot. …[Those] who do want to retire but cannot can cost the company dearly. It is nearly impossible to arrive at a set dollar amount, but you can at least get a better understanding of the costs by looking at the impacts in the following areas:
  • Increased health care costs. A key reason employees want to retire, rather than work the rest of their lives, is for the health benefits of a more relaxed lifestyle as they get older. Those who want to retire but are unable to do so for financial reasons are likely to have significantly higher health care costs than average-which translates directly into costs for your company in terms of increased health insurance premiums and indirectly impacts the bottom line in terms of greater absenteeism and lower productivity.
  • Higher costs in the event you need to lay employees off-… . Imagine if no one was ever able to retire due to poor retirement preparedness and your company was shrinking due to financial difficulties. You'd have to lay more people off due to the fact that there was no attrition due to retirement. And you'd probably end up spending more money on severance; especially to the extent the layoff impacted those with more years of service.
  • Declines in performance among older employees who do not want to be working, or cannot effectively handle their job responsibilities but have no choice but continue to work for financial reasons.
  • Declines in performance among those younger employees unable to move up the career ladder, which causes lower morale and decreased motivation-a "mailing it in" kind of mentality rather than the engagement required to take the company to the next level.
Your CFO could run the numbers associated with the increase in health care costs and potential layoffs in a bad economy. Performance declines are harder to measure, but they are often much more expensive over the long run as they compound over time and damage the culture of your organization and its ability to effectively compete.

About Financial Finesse: Financial Finesse was founded with a single mission: Provide people with the information they need to become financially independent and secure. Today, we are the leading provider of unbiased financial education for large companies and municipalities. Our financial education services are fully integrated programs designed to address the strategic goals of the organizations we service and are delivered by on-staff Certified Financial Planner™ professionals as an employee benefit. If you are interested in learning more about workplace financial education programs, contact one of our education consultants at
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Crossing From The Ivory Tower To The Office Tower - On Wall Street

Crossing From The Ivory Tower To The Office Tower - On Wall Street
Behavioral finance has been kicking around the halls of academia for several decades, but now some financial companies are finding ways to apply these concepts in the real world.

Image representing Dan Ariely as depicted in C...Image by via CrunchBaseSome experts scoff at the notion that behavioral finance is too esoteric to be useful. "I've heard this idea a lot, and I think it's funny," says Duke University Professor of Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely, one of the main proselytizers of behavioral finance. He says people naturally use the ideas behind behavioral finance. "Everyone uses psychology, even if they pretend they don't," he says. "Investors naturally think that they know more than other investors," he says, invoking one of the ideas that behavioral science warns about-overconfidence.

Ariely even questions whether financial institutions have an incentive to delve into behavioral finance and help clients improve decision-making. He maintains that they benefit from opaqueness in the market because it helps them convince clients of the value they add.

Nobel Prize Winner Herbert Simon, coined the t...Image via WikipediaRegardless of its application, behavioral finance has been kicking around the halls of academia for a couple of decades. Herbert Simon, a professor of computer science and psychology at Carnegie Mellon, won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978 for his work in decision making. But it wasn't until psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel in Economics in 2000 that these ideas really began to gain traction.Daniel KahnemanImage via Wikipedia
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Take a Look at Foursquare

Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing
posted by: John Jantsch
Mon Jan 04, 2010
…The idea behind location awareness is that people will use the GPS capabilities in today’s mobile devices to check-in, tweet, review, and refer and add their location while doing so. Today I would like to talk about what I think is one of the first location aware services that is already beginning to impact small business.
Foursquare (social networking)Image via WikipediaThe service is called Foursquare and while it’s receiving lots of hype from the bleeding edge social media types as the next Twitter, it may be totally foreign, or at least nonsensical, to many small business owners. While I want to use this post to introduce you to Foursquare, keep in mind that my primary point of view is that of the small business marketer and what I believe Foursquare has to offer, and not really the Foursquare user per se.
Having said that I do first feel the need to give you an overview of Foursquare.
The big picture
Foursquare is a location enabled service that allows users to “check in” when then stop at a bar, restaurant, park, bookstore or really anywhere they want to list. The service further allows users to connect with friends and alert them of your location if you choose. …  Foursquare also turned this activity into a game: a point that I believe led to its current role as a leader in this evolving space. …
Foursquare is self-described as – “Think: 50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.”
Users compete with check-ins to earn points for their city, badges for various types of activity and to become mayor of frequented spots. …
Users also add and update information about businesses, write tips and make suggestions for anyone to consume. …
Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseFoursquare is set-up around cities and enhances the kind of neighborhood, hyper-local, branding and community building that is so important to local type small businesses. The service is currently available in a growing list of cities and is driven by iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps. Check out the Foursquare help page for some more detail.
… I’m not ready to suggest that every business rush to Foursquare as the next red hot thing, not yet anyway, but I do want to point our a handful of reasons that many small business should start paying attention to this growing force, even if you don’t get it.
Below are seven reasons why I think Foursquare may hold promise for small business
1) Hyper local, tech savvy, evangelists – Foursquare user are people that really love their neighborhoods, getting out and evangelizing the businesses they love. This tech savvy, early adopter is exactly the kind of consumer business should kill for as they often influence large circles. Embracing Foursquare and giving these tech leaders the tools to promote your business is just plain smart business.
2) Online offline – …Foursquare is yet another way for local business to use the efficient online tools to drive more in-person, offline activity. People are physically checking in to your business and talking about online in what can turn into a tremendously effective one-two punch.
Showing nearby venues on the Foursquare Androi...Image via Wikipedia3) Make offers – On a recent trip to Chicago I checked into my Marriott on Foursquare and immediately received notice that three nearby businesses had a special offer for me. … You can visit the Foursquare business page to get your business signed up. …
4) Track and reward – Foursquare’s gaming functionality allows businesses to create special promotions for mayors and badge earners and in effect setting up a competition among their most loyal fans. The image below comes from a special promotion hosted by blynk organic, a restaurant in North Carolina. By creating and communicating Foursquare’s tools and platform you can begin to educate customers and create Foursquare advocates for your business. Some bars and restaurants routinely promote free offers for mayors.

5) The power of making it a game – One of the most intriguing aspects of Foursquare is the game. It’s amazing what some folks will do in order to win a game, come in first or, in this case, be the mayor of a popular spot. …
6) Automated CRM data – … Every business should find ways to capture everything they can about a customer. Obviously email is a great tool and can be very effective for follow up marketing. … Foursquare can provide business owners with check-in stats for users. What this means is that the customer that comes in every day can now be tracked and even incentivized to get a free cup of coffee for every tenth check-in. It’s like the digital/social version of the loyalty card. …
7) Sync with Twitter and Facebook - Like all good social media platforms Foursquare understood the need to integrate with platforms that others already use. Foursquare users have the option to tweet or add a Facebook status update every time they check-in. What this means is that a Facebook user with a few hundred friends might expose your business by way of a Foursquare check-in to thousands of Facebook walls. While many of those folks on Twitter or Facebook may not be in your part of town, I’m thinking it’s still a pretty good thing for the brand.

While I’ll caution again that Foursquare might not be the highest priority for many businesses, it’s something that is coming and will be put to use by businesses outside of the retail and entertainment world (I can already imaging how real estate agents could use this.) Businesses that get how to use, stimulate adoption and promote Foursquare now could hold a significant advantage when and if Foursquare becomes the next Twitter.
Sidebar: Look for Facebook or Google to acquire Foursquare before the year is over.
Image credit: Joshua Kaufman
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Misusing Behavioral Finance

 All Things Financial Planning Blog
January 19, 2011 by Chip Workman, CFP®
Behavioral finance has been around for quite some time, but seems to be gaining lots of steam in the popular press, which tells me more and more people are interested in learning about the brain’s often cantankerous relationship with money. The results of this trend are both encouraging and troubling.
At its best, behavioral finance can teach us to stop focusing on chasing returns and use that energy to understand why we’re wired to make poor financial decisions, how to manage our reactions to emotional investment events and create less stressed, more successful investors who understand their financial goals and how to achieve them.
I’m a firm believer in dealing with that which we can control. We can’t control the markets, but we can control how we react to their ups and downs, how much our investments and related advice costs and how we spend and save. Given that, this shift in focus is a move in the right direction and a trend which I hope continues.
So, what’s troubling me? Well, the financial services machine is starting to pay attention to this phenomenon. Without naming names, large wirehouses and other institutions are adding behavioral finance specialists to help them understand what this means to their business model. … In a recently released video, one of these new teams explained how they were using what they know about behavior to build products to fit various personality styles and soothe whatever the prospective client fears most. … It might appease them now, but will likely cost them dearly in the long run.
This seems to be a continuation of an increasing trend in society to always find the most immediately gratifying solution while ignoring real problems. …
…Increased interest in behavioral finance allows for spreading the advances we’ve made in understanding how we process financial decisions. Using it for anything other than creating better educated, more disciplined investors is a misuse of these tools and only enhances these damaging effects.
The goal of good financial planning and advice is not just to put the client at ease about whatever recent headline or crisis has them most concerned. …While a frank and honest look at where one stands can be stressful and unsettling, having a path that will guide you towards a realistic expectation of success is the ultimate de-stressor.
We should, of course, continue to explore the science of behavioral finance.  It is vital that we all understand the importance of the self-imposed roadblocks to improving our financial health. But, responding to those results with a quick-fix is the wrong approach. As with all health-related issues, skip the miracle cures for the tried and true methods to a long and healthy life.
Chip Workman, CFP®, MBA
Lead Advisor
The Asset Advisory Group
Cincinnati, Ohio
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Monday, January 3, 2011

The Pitfalls of Pollution Allowance Trading

Managing POWER magazine
By Kennedy Maize
Although Congress killed the Obama administration's plans for a cap-and-trade program for controlling power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, many advocates of that policy approach, …continue to push for allowance trading. The argument is that trading mechanisms are more efficient than conventional command-and-control. But a new policy analysis from the environmental think tank Resources for the Future (RFF) highlights the problems cap-and-trade programs have faced in regulating emissions of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen. According to the analysis, changes in just one program—the sulfur dioxide rules—have wiped out some $3 billion in the value of utility-held emissions allowances.
Environmental journalism supports the protecti...Image via Wikipedia…[Says] the RFF analysis—"Banking on Allowances: The EPA's Mixed Record in Managing Emissions Market Transitions" —cap-and-trade programs have suffered from declining credibility and market support. Say Arthur Fraas and Nathan Richardson, "…[Changes] by regulators in the rules governing the use of allowances can significantly affect the certainty and credibility of the emissions-trading programs and the value of allowances. Such changes may lead to undesirable market behavior, including an emissions increase as sources use up or dump their banked allowances."
… The prototype trading programs for SO2 and NOx have all allowed utilities to bank excess pollution reductions, giving the allowance owners flexibility in timing and financing their reductions. But all of the programs changed substantially as time passed—particularly as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to tighten caps over the years. ...
Space-filling model of the sulfur dioxide mole...Image via Wikipedia"Because emissions allowances convey certain rights," says the RFF discussion paper, "it is important that emissions-trading programs maintain clear and consistent rules of the use of allowances in order to limit uncertainty and assure a smoothly functioning market." But that has not been the case, …
Pushed by internal and external policy and political dynamics, the EPA has repeatedly ratcheted down emissions targets, or caps. …[Says] the RFF discussion, "If banked allowances are used in the new, stricter program, emissions will be greater than desired in the short term until those banked allowances are drawn down. … [This] delay before the new caps 'bite' will be perceived as problematic and will create pressure to reduce or eliminate these 'excess' allowances."
"Striking the right balance" between the need for greater reductions and the value of banked allowances "is not easy," says the RFF paper, … "Though the problems have been consistent, the EPA's response has not” …
The damage to cost-effective reductions can be significant, says the analysis. … In the policy tug-of-war over new emissions reductions, environmental groups and their allies have pushed to eliminate the use of banked allowances, while business interests have argued for preservation of the value of the emissions.
The Emissions Trading Economics of Two Partici...Image via WikipediaPart of the problem is that the government has specifically avoided treating banked allowances as property; … Both Congress and the EPA have insisted through the law and implementing regulations that an allowance "does not constitute a property right." The RFF paper says the best way to understand the emissions allowances is to see them as "carrying some (but not all) of the rights in the property bundle. For example, holders can exclude others from using allowances they hold. But the statutory provisions and government agency decisions that create allowances limit allowance holders' rights." One of the problems in the property "bundle" is "the extent to which banked emissions allowances hold value as emissions caps decline and new programs are created."
… Although the EPA historically has sought to preserve the value of banked allowances during program shifts, most recently the agency proposed to wipe out banked allowances from the CAIR program to apply its successor "Transport Rule" regulatory regime. This EPA move, says the RFF paper, "represents a shift" in the EPA's traditional approach "that can only be detrimental to the overall efficiency of the EPA's cap-and-trade programs." …
—Kennedy Maize is MANAGING POWER's executive editor.
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