Monthly Archives: August 2014

You WILL Be Tested; In Life & Business

The THIRD time my car shut off!

The THIRD time my car shut off!

Life is not fair. Never is, never was and never was meant to be. Life is simply life. It doesn’t favor, discriminate or judge against anyone or anything. Life simply just happens. You either learn to roll with the punches or you’re destined to get trampled on.

This year has been particularly challenging for me on a few fronts. The business is going good, but is eating up more of my time (which is a good thing). But that makes working my contract gig a little bit stressful. Take that and throw in limited training time on the bike and my track season quickly fell apart. When you do limited riding to stay in shape, your weight goes up and your clothes get a little tight! To top it all off, throw in a little financial mayhem and things get really interesting.

Which brings us to last week. It was mid-week and I was headed to the contract as usual. Got about 15 miles into my 27 mile commute and in the middle of a downshift (on the expressway) the car cuts off. I mean, just shuts off for no reason! Needless to say, I got it started again and got back on my way to work…only to have it shut off again at the exit ramp where I pull off. Oh wait, it gets better. The pic above shows shut off number 3 on my way home and the car died once more as I was pulling it into the shop.

As of the writing of this post:
1. The car has been at the shop almost a week
2. They still don’t “really” know what’s wrong with it
3. I’m picking it up today to take it to another shop that does electrical analysis
4. Dropping off my daughter has been a little challenging this week

Needless to say, I have wondered several times over the past week just what I did to deserve this or who I made mad. I mean, I really could do without all this extra anguish in my life. But guess what? This is life kid; get used to it or get ready to get run over.

As humans, we often go through the whole “why me?” sequence whenever things aren’t going our way. But the reality is this; life and business don’t owe you anything other than one thing called opportunity. It’s up to you what you do with the opportunities that are given to you and no, no two individuals will receive the same ones. So when life seems a little hard, try and remember these things:

You Must Experience Trials to Appreciate How Good Life Really Is
If you didn’t experience pain, how would you know exactly how good joy feels? You wouldn’t. Thus, know that most of the trials you experience in life are temporary in nature and once over, you’ll be better prepared to appreciate the goodness that life has to offer.

Life Is Good
If you can answer yes to these questions then everything else can be solved:
1. Did you get up this morning?
2. Do you have clothes on your back?
3. Do you have a roof over your head (even if it’s only a viaduct)?
4. Do you have food in your belly or the ability to get some?

life is good

You Can’t Control Life
Life is like a casino dealer who deals out the cards when it’s your turn. Ready or not, when it’s your turn, Life will deal you your hand. Don’t like your cards? Tough luck, play the hand you’ve been dealt. Want some new cards? Maybe the next hand will be better (or worse). What about the player who just got an awesome hand? Worry about your own cards; you can’t change them and the other person is NOT you so it makes no sense to worry about what they’ve gotten.

I will get through this little car issue and some of the other things that are making life a little hard at the moment. But until things get a little brighter, I want to leave you with these quotes:

“You cannot control the length of your life, but you can control its breadth, depth, and height. You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Now give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.”

“You should not confuse your career with your life.”

“You spend your whole life believing that you’re on the right track, only to discover that you’re on the wrong train.”

“You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.”

Is Your Tax Relief Company Reputable?

Scam-Poster

For those who are unaware, the tax relief industry is a highly fragmented one. Companies offering services to the public tend to be either one of the “Big Nationals” or smaller local practitioners. Well, in recent years, there have been some Big Nationals in the spotlight for reportedly violating consumer protection laws (e.g. TaxMasters, JK Harris and “Tax Lady” Roni Deutch). One other such company was American Tax Relief.

The FTC originally filed charges against American Tax Relief in September 2010. These charges included that the defendants falsely claimed they already had significantly reduced the tax debts of thousands of people and falsely told individual consumers they qualified for tax relief programs that would significantly reduce their tax debts. In the end, these clients paid in excess of $100 million for services and received minimal, if any, resolution to their tax problems.

Well, as a partial consolidation, the Federal Trade Commission said it is mailing more than $16 million in refund checks to 18,571 consumers who had paid money to American Tax Relief. All in all, these consumers will receive about 16% of the money the lost. The sad part is that many are still in hot water with the IRS; simply because they picked the wrong company to represent them before the IRS.

So how do you know if the company you are engaging to handle your case is reputable? Unfortunately, with loose regulation of the tax representation industry, you don’t. But here’s where we can help! If you visit our IRS Debt Representation page, you can receive our FREE whitepaper 5 Questions To Ask Any Tax Resolution Firm BEFORE Paying Them A Dime. On top of that, we’d also be happy to discuss your situation absolutely free of charge. Simply follow the instructions on the page and before you know it, you’ll have a professional representative on your side to help you stop your IRS worries for good!

For more details on the American Tax Relief case, check out Accounting Today’s article: Tax Relief Company Agrees to Turn over $16 Million to Bilked Consumers.

The “Real” Power of Gas Buddy

This App WILL save you money!

This App WILL save you money!

When it comes to saving money, we’re always looking for new and insightful things to share with our clients. Bring in Gas Buddy; a website and App for your phone that tells you the gas prices at a specific station, in REAL TIME. So what’s so good/powerful about this tool? Keep reading.

Recently you’ve probably heard the term “big data” being tossed around a lot. It’s a popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data, both structured and unstructured. This is important to both businesses and individuals, as individuals in Finance already know, more data “may” lead to more accurate analyses.

Big data defined
As far back as 2001, industry analyst Doug Laney (currently with Gartner) articulated the now mainstream definition of big data as the three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. Below is a list of what caused changes in each over the past decade or so.

Volume.   Many factors contributed to the increase in data volume. Transaction-based data was stored in increasing amounts through the years. Unstructured data began streaming more frequently via social media. Increasing amounts of sensor and machine-to-machine data began to be collected. All the above resulted in increased data volume.

Velocity.  Data is streaming in at unprecedented speed and must be dealt with in a timely manner. RFID tags, sensors and smart metering are driving the need to deal with torrents of data in near-real time. Reacting quickly enough to deal with data velocity has become a challenge for most organizations.

Variety.  Data today comes in all types of formats. Structured numeric data in traditional databases. Information created from line-of-business applications. Unstructured text documents, email, video, audio, stock ticker data and financial transactions all floating around the web (can someone say cat video). Managing, merging and governing different varieties of data is something many organizations still grapple with.

Gas Buddy’s Part
So where Gas Buddy fits into this equation is that it allows for two things to happen in the big data realm. Firstly, it allows users to gather data (i.e. gas prices) so that it may be housed in a centralized place. Secondly, it provides visibility to that data where in the past it would have been cost ineffective for consumers to gather it on their own (e.g. driving around to gas stations to see which one has the cheapest price). The outcome of these two things is where the real power of Gas Buddy lies:

The Knowledge To Make Informed Decisions
Our CEO Jared lives about 7 miles from the Indiana boarder. Anyone in the Chicago area knows that there is a significant difference in prices between Illinois and Indiana. Thus, for years Jared would simply go to Indiana to purchase gas “knowing” that he was saving money. How much money? That’s where Gas Buddy helped to clarify some things. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example. We’ll try to keep it simple so as to not use too many numbers.

Real time pricing at your fingertips.

Real time pricing at your fingertips.

Let’s say that Jared has to fill up his car which holds 10 gallons of gas. He knows that the station closest to his house is charging $3.79 a gallon. So if he filled up there he would spend $37.90 for a tank of gas. Now he goes to Indiana enough to know that the prices across the border are about $0.30 cheaper per gallon. So if he buys gas for $3.49 he would spend $34.90. Thus his tank of gas cost him $3.00 less. But the real savings isn’t $3.00 because he had to drive 20 miles round trip to get the gas. Let’s say he burned 2/3 a gallon of gas to make the trip. Ignoring the cost of the gas in the tank and what he purchased, if we assume he spent $2.33 (2/3 of $3.49) on gas driving to get the cheaper gas, then his savings would “really” be $0.77 ($3.00 tank savings less the $2.33 spent to get it).

Not much savings for all that driving right? Well, with Gas Buddy now Jared has visibility 1) into the prices being charged by all the stations he wants to know about and 2) when they are changing (which is key).

Now Jared doesn’t have to assume that he can save $0.30 when he goes to Indiana. He can now compare the cheapest stations where he is currently located (you can get prices nearest you with Gas Buddy) to ALL the cheapest stations. Thus, it may turn out that the station near his house that charges $3.79 is simply overcharging for the area. There may be a station that is 2 miles from his house that only charges $3.59. This narrows the Indiana gap to only $0.10 ($3.59 vs. $3.49). This would make it unprofitable for him to go to Indiana to get gas as the savings wouldn’t outweigh the cost of getting the gas.

He can also see that the station out in the burbs, where he is working on a client engagement, is charging $3.45 for a gallon of petro. This is $0.04 cheaper than Indiana! The result? Jared may just wait to get his gas when he goes to the client site in the morning and get it for cheaper than his beloved Indiana gas.

So there you have it. The lesson to be learned from this? That whole “knowledge is power” adage. The more information that you have at your disposal, the more informed you are when making decisions. The more informed your decisions, the greater the probability of a more bountiful or fruitful outcome.

Until next time…