I Hope Everybody’s Having A Great Summer

Hi everybody.  I just wanted to drop a line because I realize that I’ve pretty much fallen off the face of the earth at least as far as Money Beagle is concerned

Typically, summers are busy as we do most of our traveling during that time, but in the past, I’ve been diligent about writing articles in advance that I could publish even while we were gone.

This year, not so much.

I’ve been working on a new post about some big changes we made to our cell phone carriers.  It might some attention (hint: it doesn’t involve spending less money) but I’ll leave it at that for now.


But I hope that everybody is enjoying the summer.  It’s been a pretty hot July in Michigan, but that’s OK with me as I would much rather have it hot than cool.  I wish it would rain a little more as the grass and such is pretty brown these days, but oh well.

I hope that you’re having enjoyable weather and enjoying the summer as well.

Be back next week, I promise!

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Good Sales Pitch Makes All The Difference

We’ve lived in our house for nine years now, so I was at first a little surprised when, a few weeks ago, my wife told me that she wanted to learn how to cut the lawn.  There are very few hard and fast responsibilities on who does what in our house, but taking care of the lawn was one of few that existed, and I had no problem with that.

At first I was bewildered, though I quickly came to a conclusion about why she was asking: Her new Fitbit.  I’ve had a Fitbit for a while now, but my wife recently got one just several months back.  While we’re not cutthroat about it, there is a little bit of competitiveness between us as to who can get the most steps daily and over a running seven day period, both of which are readily available on the app.

Cutting the lawn adds about 7,000 steps, so her cutting it instead of me could swing the difference a full 14,000 steps in her favor.

When I confronted her about her motivation, her quick blush told me that I had hit the nail on the head as to why.  So, I pretty much just ignored the request.  It helps that I actually enjoy cutting the grass.  It’s one of the few chores that really doesn’t seem like a chore.  It’s good exercise.  It lets me listen to music.  And after I’m done you can see the difference.

She asked a few more times, and each time I sort of deflected it with different reasons.  I pointed out how busy she was or how I was already dressed to go out and do it, or some other way of getting to go outside and just keep doing it myself.

It all worked until she finally came up with….

The Perfect Pitch

One day I was heading out to go cut the grass and she asked me again if I’d teach her.  I gave her my standard chuckle and comment about Fitbit steps when she stopped me with a new angle.

She commented that I should teach her because it gives us more options in case I couldn’t do it or if we were restricted on time.  She even used examples of when we had to do it before a vacation and rain had stopped us or made it where I had to do it at a really weird time (I think once I was outside around 7:45am getting started).

This made sense.  It was, in essence, the perfect pitch!

I realized that she had me.

So, I told her to go get shoes and socks on and an hour or so later, she had cut the grass.   I even had her fill up the mb-201403mowermower with gas before she got started.  After all, preparation is everything!

It reminded me that, sometimes, you can’t just sell the idea that you have and point out how it will benefit you, but you have to point out how it will help the person you’re pitching it to.  Once she did this, she had me!

Think about it, this principle applies in many areas:

  • Applying for a job
  • Applying for a promotion
  • Making an offer on a house
  • Proposing a new purchase

The list goes on and on.

So, because of the perfect pitch, my wife knows how to cut the grass.  Some might wonder if I’m worried that she’ll now start doing it regularly and take control of the Fitbit steps.  The answer to that is, of course, no.

Why am I so confident?

Well, I can always hide the gas can.  🙂

Readers, have you ever failed to convince someone of an idea until you changed your strategy to highlight how it would be of benefit to the other party?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Am I The Only Person A Bit Worried About The Economy?

The economy has been on a pretty good path for the last 8 years or so with slow but steadily improving job numbers, reduced unemployment, and a rising stock  market.  Many have argued that the slow growth is ‘bad’ but I argued a few years ago that slow growth actually provides a more stable foundation and a softer landing when things do start to turn.

I’m starting to wonder if that turn is starting to happen.  Moreover, I’m wondering if we’ve been used to things moving up for so long that people might be missing or ignoring the signs.

I’m not in outright panic mode but here are a few little things I’ve noticed that add up to a little bit of worry (Disclaimer: You should make absolutely no investment decisions based off of this article, which is 100% opinion).

  1. The market is in a trading range – The stock market has bounced up and down between around 1,800 and 2,100 for well over a year now.  Anybody that is ‘buy and hold’ is likely seeing little or no profits, with the only people making money are the ones that have learned to trade in this range.
  2. Job growth really seems to be slowing down – For most of the last eight years, we’ve seen month after month of new job creation.  For a long time, people wished it were growing faster, but now seem fairly settled in.  However, the numbers seem to be slowing down, with only 38,000 new jobs created last month, a pale comparison to the hundreds of thousands per month that were created on average even just a couple of years ago.
  3. Job growth numbers are being revised down – When the job creation numbers are announced, they’re estimates.  The actual numbers come in a few weeks after, and revisions occur as more data becomes available.  In each of the last couple of months, the announced numbers ended up being revised down.  This doesn’t seem a good pattern to me.
  4. A top reason given for equity recovery is kind of BS (and kind of frightening) – The first few weeks of 2016 saw a pretty steep correction in the markets, around 10% or thereabouts.  The recovery was swift, and mb-2015-06-chartlast week, the market largely seemed to even shake off the Brexit news.  This all seems well and good, but when I read a lot of articles, blog posts, or comments to the above, one main reason given for the growth in US equities is that people are selling equities in other areas of the world and moving them here.  That’s not a great endorsement.
  5. Another reason is even more scary – We’re in an extended period of ultra-low interest rates.  This has allowed debt to be financed on the cheap, leaving cash on the sidelines that nobody really knows what to do with, so they stick it in the stock market.  This almost seems to me like money is being invested simply because nobody knows what else to do with it.  Again, not exactly a reason high on my list when plotting out catalysts for growth.
  6. WARN Notices are on the rise – Here in Michigan, when mass layoffs are to take place, the company must file a notice with the State of Michigan, which appears on their website.  Last year, for the first six months of the year, there were 20 notices filed.  This year over the same period, there have been 32.

I’m not sounding the alarm and not panicking, but I do think there are signs that the growth, as slow as it’s been, may be flat lining at best.  So far the markets have been shrugging off every bit of negative data that comes out, but I don’t trust markets as any sort of leading indicators these days, not with a majority of shares traded each day being done by computers.

Readers, what do you think about the state of the economy right now, and where do you think it’s headed next?

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Turn Your Industry Knowledge Into A Consultancy Business

When you’ve gained a lot of experience in a particular field, you may find yourself looking at companies and thinking, They aren’t doing things the best way. Then you probably have a good laugh at your own arrogance, thinking how unlikely it is that they’ll ever ask your opinion about it.

It may not be as unlikely as you think. Many of the decisions made by businesses and government are driven by the input of consultants. These mysterious people swoop in, dig through the entity’s operations, and then provide a report on what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and how to go the right direction in the future.

Could that be you? Could you be one of those corporate mercenaries who come in and right the ship? It’s a possibility.

There’s a very distinct set of skills and experience that these consultants have, and only if you’ve achieved that level of proficiency will you have any chance of succeeding at telling others how to succeed.

Let’s look at some of the things you’ll need to do to establish a successful consulting firm.

Distance Management

As a one-man or one-woman show, you’ll need to be able to operate things from wherever you may be. When your clients want to pay, you need to be ready to accept their money. That’s how Checkout.com serves their customers: they handle online payment transactions while you go on about your normal business.

Most people report to work every day, usually in the same location where they reported yesterday and the day before, and countless hundreds of previous days. When you work as a consultant, you will be based at home, but your workplace will change as often as your clients change. You’ll be on the move for sure.

You will also need to be able to market. If you have a resume with a lengthy listing of former employers, you should start right away by re-connecting with co-workers and supervisors who know what you can do. Those people are likely to be scattered among dozens of new employers themselves, and they can give you inroads to a market without such an arduous process of soliciting business.

Loving Travel!

You may think that operating a home-based consulting firm will leave you snugly ensconced in your spare bedroom, gently sipping coffee while scrolling through email on your laptop.

That’s not the case. Consulting is a job that requires you to go to your clients and see what they do on a daily basis. If they’re in manufacturing, you need to see their fabrication and assembly processes to detect the shortfalls. If it’s a restaurant, you’ll want to view their kitchen layout and dining room configuration.

In short, you have to go to them, and that will require a lot of time in airplanes and hotels. You’ll bounce from one time zone to another, and you’ll miss school plays and birthdays back home. For many people, travel is exhilarating, but if that’s not you, you should consider other career options.

Great Communication Skills

Diplomacy has been defined as the ability to tell someone where to go in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Some of what you uncover about your clients may not make them happy. There may be inefficiencies, fundamental mistakes, or even theft going on.

Can you frame that to them in a way that doesn’t insult them? Remember that you need to give them what they are paying you to give them, but your networking will erode quickly if you are viewed as a hack who just wants to come in and create havoc.

You must be a communicator. You must be able to explain why certain problems must be addressed, both in person and in writing. You need to be able to document the reasons for your recommendations. And in most cases, you had better prepare for a lot of “But we’ve always done it this way!”

Starting a consulting business can provide you with good income, great variability in your routine, and lots of independence. If your experience level is high enough to constitute expert status, this could be a great option for you.

Content contributed by a regular reader and fan of Money Beagle.

Copyright 2015 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.