How Your Home Can Help You ‘Renovateʼ Your Finances

A house is more than a place to live and raise your family.

Here are some ways the equity youʼve built up could help you pursue other important goals.
By Kathy Kristof

home investment resource

WHEN I TOLD MY 19-YEAR-OLD SON that Iʼd decided to sell the house heʼd grown up in, his usual tough-guy act evaporated. He and three friends sat in my kitchen and wiped away tears. If the near-acre of land on which our two-story home sat had been easier to maintain—or if there were kids still living in any of the four bedrooms—I might have had a change of heart then and there. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked them to trust me. Clearly, downsizing from my empty nest to a smaller, more affordable home was a smart financial decision. But it was also a very tough one emotionally. “People might know intellectually that their home is a financial asset, but they think of it in emotional terms—as the place where they raised their kids, where they want to grow old,” says Gao-Wen Shao, director of Retirement Solutions at Merrill Lynch. Still, Shao adds, ignoring an asset that may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars would be a mistake. “Itʼs critical that you examine all the financial resources you can bring to bear when figuring out a plan for pursuing your goals,” agrees Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

 “Your home might end up being the biggest asset on your balance sheet.”—Matthew Diczok, Head of Fixed Income Strategy, Global Wealth and Investment Management, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

  • So what role should your home play in your overall financial picture?
  • And how can you take advantage of the home equity youʼve built up?

Is Home Ownership a Good Investment?

Thanks to the equity Iʼd built up, I ended up with a nice profit when I sold my home, but not everyone is so lucky. How much equity you have in your home is largely dependent on how long youʼve owned it, how large your initial down payment was and how high home prices are in your area at any given time.

Home appreciation is robust right now, but it tends to track the rate of inflation over time, says Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. Economics at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. In fact, over the long term, the typical home only  appreciates 3% to 4% per year, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.1 Stocks and bonds have traditionally returned considerably more, agrees Matthew Diczok, head of Fixed Income Strategy, Global Wealth and Investment Management, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust. But hereʼs the thing: Few of us invest 20% or 30% of our gross income in the stock market every month. 2 The typical  homeowner usually dedicates that much to his or her mortgage payment, and over the years those steady payments can really add up. Itʼs like enforced savings.

How Your Home Can Help You ‘Renovate’ Your Finances-CHART

Social Media Posting Clues for Business

 Using Social Media in Business

A poll conducted by found that:

  • 73% of Business Owners say that finding time to write quality material for social media is one of their top challenges.

There is good news for them though as Brad Semp, social media professor at Kennesaw State University of Georgia says:

  • Only 10-20% of your social media content should be your own promotional material.
  • 90% of your social media should be other people’s content.

Brad goes on to point out that you need to remember that when considering hiring a company to post for you, even the best of companies will have a difficult time replicating your voice and will not have the ability to engage with your audience as you do, answering questions and responding to content appropriately.

A Few Tips for Posting Social Media

  • Be sure to use at least one of your own keywords in each post.
  • People search for terms by hashtags. Make it easy for your audience to find your material by using them, i.e.: #Jazz or #Waffles.
  • When mentioning other people in Social Media, use the @ before their name, i.e.: @BradSemp. This tags their Social Profiles and connects your audience to them as well. And good news! When people see you are crediting their work, they are much more likely to return the favor!


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Etiquette of Japanese Business Cards: Meishi

The Japanese call business cards “meishi” [pronounced "MAY-SHEE"].Japanese Business Card Etiquette

Expectations of Your Card

  • Foreigners are expected to come with their own bilingual business cards, meaning theses cards have two languages on them, your native language on one side with Japanese on the other.
  • Invest only in high quality business cards. They are considered a reflection on you and your image.
  • Never give out a damaged, folded or wrinkled card.
  • To be truly polite, your card should be removed from a leather or professional business card holder.
  • Never place a stack of your cards on the table and offer others to take a card from the stack.
  • Stand up when exchanging Japanese business cards.

When to Exchange Cards - Meishi Are Only Given Out at First Introductions

  • Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of a meeting.
  • Be liberal when handing out your Japanese business cards. This is looked upon as a friendly act, and done much more frequently in Japan than in most other parts of the world.
  • Always carry more than an adequate number of bilingual business cards on you. You never want to leave someone out while exchanging cards.

How to Exchange Meishi

    • Always present and accept cards with two hands
    • and offer a slight bow while grasping the Japanese business cards. This is considered a humble gesture.
    • Present your card lower than your counterpart when they have higher status.
    • Visibly acknowledge their card, accept their card and read it before taking your eyes off of it. Read the English side, first but definitely turn to the Japanese side, this shows that you respect their culture.
    • Take special care in handling the cards as they are considered very important documents. Do not deface or damage the cards in any way. Never write on meishi.
    • Carry a proper case for your business cards and let it be seen that you are preserving their business card. Implement this technique on any occasion that Japanese business cards are presented, even if you are not sitting down in a meeting.
    • NEVER stick the Japanese business cards in your pant pockets as that would communicate that their business cards are unimportant and you do not value them.
    • Never admit to losing a meishi.

In a Business Meeting

Exchanging business cards during a meeting is part of the business protocol. It is part of a formal introduction. The business meeting will not begin until this procedure is complete.

        1. Walk to the most senior person in the other company, introduce yourself, and offer your business card, making sure that you use both hands and bow slightly as you extend the card.
        2. Make sure the Japanese side of the card is facing up when presenting your translated Japanese business cards.
        3. Tell them your company name, your position and your name.
        4. The person will extend the same greeting to you.
        5. Visibly acknowledge their card, accept their card and read it before taking your eyes off it.
        6. Repeat the process moving to the next most senior person. The group you're meeting will most likely line up by rank to make this easier for you.
        7. It is proper to arrange the business cards in front of you on the table, in the order of the participants seating positions, this will also help you remember everyone’s name.
        8. Leave the meishi in front of you for the duration of the meeting.
        9. If someone comes in late — wait until after the meeting and then formally introduce yourself.
        10. Never present cards casually or slide them to someone across the table.
        11. When a business meeting comes to a close, carefully store the Japanese business cards in a card case, or briefcase.
        12. Japanese professionals keep their acquired business cards in meishi binders or cases for many years. You should never dispose of a card unless you're absolutely sure you'll never see the person again.


* Japanese people are known by their surname (family name) and not their first name. For a man, this is then followed by "San" which is used in the sense of "Mister". Never refer to Japanese persons you are meeting by their first name.


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved



Wise Design Choices for Business Cards

Woodstock Ga Wise Business Card ChoicesEven in the digital age, your business card is a powerful first impression tool for networking, acquiring clients and introducing your business.

Your business card is the face of your company. Presented the right way, a business card allows people to quickly remember who you are and what you offer.

Tips to showcase your professionalism:

  1. Remember, generic business cards can make you blend in the crowd when you want to stand out.
  2. Traditional business cards are 3.5 x 2 inches. Odd cuts can be memorable, but make sure the card still easily fits in a wallet.
  3. Choose a design that incorporates your logo and reflects your professional or personal brand for a polished layout.
  4. Your business card should match your website... it’s all about branding. Consistency is key.
  5. Decorative fonts can be difficult and frustrating to read.
  6. Keep font size large enough so potential clients don’t have to wear glasses or squint to read.
  7. For easy reading, print text in dark hues like black, navy or dark gray.
  8. Don’t cram too much information. Stick to covering: who, what, where and why. Utilize white space.
  9. If you conduct business in more than one country, consider printing your design in English on one side, with the other language on the back.
  10. Consider keeping the back of the card clean of print, so the client can jot notes about you and your business.
  11. Avoid glassy finishes. They do look nice, but light bouncing off the card can make it difficult to read and also, people often write notes about you on your business card, glossy finish prohibits this.
  12. Include multiple ways to contact you, like telephone, email, website, social media, text messaging, chose at least two, not more than three.


Statistic Brain Business Card Statistics

Business Card Statistics Data
Company sales increase for every 2,000 cards passed out 2.5 %
Percent of business cards handed out that will be thrown out in less than a week 88 %


Reason given for throwing out business card
Don’t need service provided by card giver 63 %
Don’t want to do business with specific card giver 24 %
Added information into digital contact list 9 %
Other 4 %
Prospective clients hold on to a color card 10 times longer than a standard white card
Opinions Poll on Business Cards Yes No
Survey conducted by Statistic Brain Research Institute online from 842 working professional respondents
Do you judge a company of person by the quality of their business card? 72 % 28 %
Would you choose not to do business with someone if they have a "cheap looking" business card? 39 % 61 %


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Remote Employees, the Millennium Workforce Trend

FlexJobs estimates project that 50% of people will work remotely by 2020

workforce trends article. business advisers woodstock gaAs the world is changing, business trends for are anticipated to continue to cater and mold to the ideas of the new millennial led workforce, who according to Forbes, will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, (only 8 years from now).

Remote work continues to soar as technologies, video conferencing for collaborating and cloud services make it easier and more efficient.

Since customer service, social media, programming and many other positions only require access to a computer and Internet, it’s a no brainer for talented and tech savvy millennials to be hired for these positions no matter where they live.

Adding to the rise of remote employees is startup companies evaluating the old brick and mortar building concept, which can lead to much higher startup costs, against virtual models that are accelerating in the global marketplace with success.

Interesting Stats about Remote Work

  1. 77% feel they are more productive than when they work in the office.
  2. 24% were willing to work longer hours than normal to accomplish more.
  3. 30% accomplished more in less time.
  4. 52% were less likely to take time off when working remotely.
  5. Offeringremote work options reduced employee turnover, and “job attrition rates fell by over 50 percent,” Stanford University
  6. Companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs. Two examples from big companies: Aetna (where some 14,500 of 35,000 employees don’t have an “in-office” desk) shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million. American Express reported annual savings of $10 million to $15 million thanks to its remote work options.
  7. Remote workers are often more engaged with colleagues and supervisors than in-office workers, Harvard Business Review.


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Mobile Marketing Business Strategy for 2017

Well into 2017, this is a perfect time to review your small business current marketing strategies and renew your marketing efforts!

Whether you have all the time and money in the world or are stretched for time and on a shoe string budget, we have several marketing tactics you can implement to boost your marketing strategies!

Mobile Marketing

business marketing strategy woodstock gaStop and look around. At any given moment what do you see? Everyone has a smartphone or android in their hands, or at the very least, in their pockets. Most are not even talking on the phone…but texting.  Even the most dated phones can send and receive messages!

Forbes Magazine reports that JPMorgan Chase offered to eliminate voicemail for thousands of employees who don’t interact with clients directly.  65% took the offer which resulted in over $3 million in annual savings for the company. In a similar move, Coca Cola employees reported only 6% of their employees decided to keep their voicemail service.

Most workers under age 40 have long relied on email, texting, instant messaging and social media to communicate with others BOTH on the job AND in their personal lives.

This declining phone call exodus is led by millennials (usually defined as people born between 1981 and the early 2000’s), who according to The Wall Street Journal, feel phone calls are an interruption to production and prefer to only take scheduled calls. The new etiquette seems to state that calling someone to interrupt their day can make it seem as if you are prioritizing your own needs over theirs.

Usher in the new era of communication!

By including the option of text messaging with your customers you are incorporating the interface of the future and staying open to the new flow of trending customers.

Texting Statistics

Texting is the most widely and frequently used app on a smartphone.

Over 80% of American adults text, making it the most common cell phone activity.

90% of all text messages are read in less than 3 minutes of being received.

It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to email, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message. (CTIA)

79% of companies believe customers want SMS/text support. (ICMI)

80% of people are currently using texting for business. (eWeek)


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Hurdles Aren’t Just For Track & Field

profit and loss balance sheetsA familiar trap for businesses to fall into occurs around profits. It’s a relatively simple metric – it even has its own financial statement devoted to it.

On top of that, many of the performance criteria for bonuses and pay raises are tied to it.

The trap comes when profits are not considered in relation to something on the balance sheet.

Companies will quite often have profit goals and look for increases in profit over prior years and possibly even look for increases in profits relative to sales.

Far too often increases in profits have been boosted by increases in capital deployed and although profits might go up, the efficiency at which additional capital is committed is decreasing and thereby reducing the competitiveness of the business.

When you really want to give yourself an operating hurdle (and you should) – always look for a metric combination that crosses between the P&L and the Balance Sheet.