Dr. Diane Hamilton's Blog

Entrepreneurs: Funding Options from Kickstarter

 

Entrepreneurs often find that one of the hardest parts of realizing their dream is to obtain financing.  Some have tried microlending sites like Kiva.org.  Others have discovered a new lending platform called Kickstarter.  The site’s tagline is “a new way to fund and follow creativity.”

Kickstarter describes its site as the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.  This unique site allows entrepreneurs to keep ownership and control over their work while tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to help finance their creative ideas.  The idea must reach its funding goal or no money changes hands.  Entrepreneurs that receive their anticipated funds, can test concepts without risk.

Kickstarter’s Blog offers advice to those interested in creating a new project. The site allows for people to browse current ideas or to create their own.  To begin a new project dedicated to film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and more, creators can check out Kickstarter school.

Once a project is listed on the site, it displays timeline and pledge information including:  Percent Funded, Amount Pledged, Number of Days Left to Receive Funds.  The picture displayed below demonstrates some examples listed on Kickstarter’s site.  On the site’s curated page, it lists “projects curated by some of the world’s foremost creative communities.” The site also allows users to view projects by staff picks, most popular, recently launched, ending soon, small projects, most funded, as well as by category and location.

 

For additional help with the entrepreneurial process, check out the Top 30 Links for the Successful Entrepreneur.  

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Credit Score Savvy

With the New Year, people often make resolutions to fix problem financial situations.  Part of cleaning an individual’s financial house includes taking a hard look at his or her credit.  Credit Score Savvy (2003) was one of my earlier articles that I wrote for a local magazine. At that time, I was a loan officer and found that many people were confused by FICO scores and credit issues.  In the article I explained factors that affected scores and the ability to finance a home.  Although the market has changed since then, a lot has remained the same in terms of confusion about credit issues.  A more recent article titled Polish up Your Credit includes some information about things people can do to improve his or her credit score now.  What may be most useful from this article are some of the statistics. The following chart provides answers to some of the most basic credit-related questions.

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Things To Know Before Investing in an IPO

 

There is a lot of talk about IPOs lately.  IPO stands for initial public offering.  When a company decides to make shares of the company available to the public, it may sound like a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  However, it may not be easy or sometimes wise to buy into an IPO as soon as it is offered.

USA Today had an excellent article about Five Things You Should Know Before Investing in an IPO.  According to this article, some of these things include:

  1. Learn the Lingo – Do you know what a red herring is or an IPO offer price?
  2. It’s Difficult to Get In – It may not be impossible, but you may have to be a preferred client.
  3. First-Day Investing May Be Risky – If you like the thrill of rolling the dice, the first day can be a wild ride.
  4. Know the Sales Figures – Find out about the company’s annual sales performance.
  5. Know the Long-Term Outlook – “The Federal Reserve identified two characteristics of successful IPOs in a 2004 study: The companies have been around longer than other companies issuing stock for the first time, and they’re making a profit before they do so.

To learn more about each of these 5 areas, check out the article by clicking the link listed above.

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Women Becoming More Successful Than Men

 

Women are passing men in their abilities to get a degree, handle families and garner success at work.  As men are falling behind, women are making huge strides.  CNN reported that, “For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.”

Over half of college degrees are now being awarded to women. “In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women’s earnings grew 44% in real dollars from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.”

Women are becoming stronger entrepreneurs as well.  Forbes recently reported:  “As of 2011, it is estimated that there are over 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Overall, women-owned firms have done better than their male counterparts over the past 14 years. The number of men-owned firms (which represent 51% of all U.S. firms) grew by only 25% between 1997 and 2011—half the rate of women-owned firms.”

A study by Barclays Wealth and Ledbury Research may have some of the answers to why women are surpassing men.  One of the reasons they found is that women are less likely to take unnecessary risks or make rash decisions.  The Huffington Post backed up this point stating, “A 2005 study by Merrill Lynch found that 35% of women held an investment too long, compared with 47% of men. More recently, in 2009, a study by the mutual fund company Vanguard involving 2.7 million personal investors concluded that during the recent financial crisis, men were more likely than women to sell shares of stocks at all-time lows, leading to bigger losses among male traders.”

Purchasers from Amazon Responsible for StateTaxes

 

Article first published as Purchasers from Amazon Responsible for StateTaxes on Technorati.

Amazon has enjoyed an advantage over their competition.  They have not had to add tax to the purchase amount in states where they don’t have a physical presence.  Slate reported, “According to Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, companies are only required to collect sales taxes from their customers when they have a presence in the state in which they reside.”

This has been a sore spot for many of Amazon’s competitors.  Many of them feel that if they should have to handle the taxes for customers, so should Amazon.  This advantage has made them undersell big competitors like the Apple Store and Best Buy.

Purchasers from the Amazon site may think they are getting a better deal. In reality, there may be taxes owed, but it won’t be by Amazon.  What many people in certain states like Arizona don’t know about their purchases on Amazon, is that it is going to be up to them to keep financial records of what taxes are due.  At the end of the year, when they file their tax returns, these taxes should be included in any amount owed to the government.

According to the Arizona Republic, “If you buy something online from a retailer who doesn’t have a physical presence in Arizona and they don’t charge state tax or the tax from the state where they’re located, then you’re probably liable for the use tax – the 6.6 percent tax. The safest thing to do is if you buy something online and you get a receipt, save it. It’ll probably show if there was any sales tax from the state where it was charged. If there’s not and there is no Arizona tax, then you should think about paying the use tax on that.”

What if you haven’t kept all of your Amazon receipts?  Go to your account page on Amazon and under Order History, click on Download Order Reports.  This tool allows you to put in the date range of purchases to request a report of purchased items.

According to Amazon’s site, “Items sold by Amazon.com LLC, or its subsidiaries, and shipped to destinations in the states of Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, or Washington are subject to tax.”  It is wise to check with your state to see what your tax obligation is.  For more information from Amazon regarding taxes, click here.

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College Students Beware of Financial Aid Scams

In the recent article 15 Common Financial Aid Scams to Watch Out For, the author points out that college students may be a vulnerable demographic.  So-called financial aid experts may be out to take advantage of those looking for legitimate ways to finance their education.  Watch out for some of the following wording:  Unclaimed Money, Buy Now, Application Fees, Free Seminar, and Guaranteed.  For the complete list of scams with explanations, click here

Finaid.org claims, “Every year, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. The victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually.”  There is some protection against fraud.  The Scholarship Fraud Protection Act of 2000 has increased the penalties for this fraud, including a maximum fine of $500,000 and jail time. 

If you feel you have been scammed, you have recourse.  According to the Finaid.org site, “The following organizations can help you determine whether an offer is legitimate. They will tell you whether they have received any complaints about the company, or whether it’s currently under investigation. They can also provide you with additional information or assistance.

National Fraud Information Center (NFIC)
In addition to providing helpful information, the NFIC will pass your complaints along to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state’s Attorney General’s Office. The NFIC also maintains a toll-free hotline at 1-800-876-7060.”

Who is Buying Stocks When Everyone Is Selling?

With the recent stock market drop, there was a mass sale off of stocks.  This may lead to the question:  If everyone is selling, is there a chance that there are stocks that no one wants to purchase?  The answer is technically no.  There are always as many buyers as there are sellers and that keeps the system going. 

If you are wondering who would want to buy stocks when the market is going down, the answer is:  a lot of people.  Some shares are picked up through options and some are picked up through money managers that have been waiting for a strike price. 

There are many people who set up stock limit orders so that when a stock hits a certain dollar amount, it is automatically purchased.  According to Money.cnn.com, “If you place a market order with your broker, then you are saying that you’re willing to buy at whatever happens to be the prevailing price for the stock. If you have a specific price in mind, you can set a limit order specifying the price you’re willing to pay. If the stock dips down to that level, your order will be automatically filled. Limit orders can be left open for a single day (a day order) or indefinitely (good until canceled). After you’ve bought a stock, you can instruct your broker to sell it if the price drops to a level you specify (a stop loss order). That’s a kind of insurance; it means that no matter what happens to a stock’s price you’ll never lose more than a specified amount.”

Some may look at this as legalized gambling.  A capitalist is always on the look out to get a better price or better dividend yield.  Dividend yields are based on the price of the stock.  If the stock goes down, the yield may go up.  For example since dividends are in dollar amounts and not percentages, if a $1 dividend is divided by a $20/share price then the dividend yields 5%.  If that $1 dividend is divided by an $18/share price then that dividend yields more at 5.5%.

The sheer volume of trading is staggering.  A local stock broker looked up today’s trade volume.  For August 9, 2011, 9 billion shares traded. 

Defaulting on a Mortgage: How it Affects Your Credit Score

Many consumers have taken a financial hit with the recent economic climate.  As more people are defaulting on their home loans, it is interesting to see the impact on FICO scores. 

What may be a surprise is how many wealthy people with good credit are going into foreclosure.  A recent article by the Arizona Republic mentioned how affluent, savvy homeowners are choosing to default on their home loans based on weighing the pros and cons to such a decision.  “Recent research suggests that affluent people tend to be the main strategic defaulters, and these individuals are also the ones who would sustain more serious credit-score damage.  This chart shows the resulting credit scores for two hypothetical consumers – one with an average initial score of 680 on the FICO scale and another with a high initial score of 780.”

Situation Initial 680 Score Initial 780 Score
     
30 days late on mortgage 600-620 670-690
90 days late on mortgage 600-620 650-670
Short sale, no deficiency 610-630 655-675
Short sale with deficiency or foreclosure 575-595 620-640
Bankruptcy 530-550 540-560

The savvy homeowner that sees their home investment as a money pit, may go ahead and buy what they perceive as a better home  purchase, perhaps a short sale, before they default on their original investment.  In this way, they have good credit to purchase the new home before they take the hit to their credit score caused by the default of their original home purchase.

What to Know before Investing in IPOs like LinkedIn or Pandora

Is investing in an initial public offering (IPO) a good idea?  With the recent LinkedIn and Pandora IPOs and talk of future IPOs with Twitter and Facebook, this is a question that many investors may be considering.  Imagine getting in on the ground floor of a giant like Coca-Cola? It might have been a wild ride, but those that hung in there, had a nice payoff.  Joshua Kennon of About.com reported, “A single share of Coca-Cola purchased for $40 at the IPO in 1919, for example, crashed to $19 the following year. Yet, today, that one share, with dividends reinvested, is worth over $5 million.”

Kennon suggests that if you have the stomach for risking your investment, you might want to consider whether the company can grow at a rate high enough to justify its price, whether there are any patents or trademarks to protect the business, whether you’d want to hold onto this stock for 30 years and if it fell by 50% would you have the stomach to handle it?

DailyFinance reported some additional questions to ask before investing in an IPO: (1) Is there an attractive market for the product? (2) Does the company have a significant share of the market? (3) Is the company’s management team experienced? (4) Is the company growing and profitable?

The following list shows some more recent IPO original offering prices compared to their current price (as of July, 2011):

Google Initial Offering Price, 2004:  $85/share

Google Price July, 2011:  $530/share

Pandora Initial Offering Price, June, 2011:  $16/share

Pandora Price July, 2011:  $19/share

LinkedIn Initial Offering Price, May, 2011: $45/share

LinkedIn Price July, 2011:  $98/share

Many employees of companies like Google became wealthy overnight when their companies went IPO. The New York Times article Google’s IPO 5 Years Later stated, “When the offering finally happened, it turned an estimated 1,000 Google employees into millionaires, at least on paper. Since then, many more millionaires have been minted inside the Googleplex, the Web search company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.”

Not all startups have been this successful.  Businesspundit lists the 25 Internet Startups that Bombed Miserably. MSMoney also warned, “Many investors fret they’ll miss the next big thing because they have no access to the IPO market, but study after study has proven that IPOs historically underperform the broader markets.” FIGuide echoed that same sentiment in their article Should You Invest in IPOs, stating that there might be better options.  “A seminal paper published in The Journal of Finance looked at IPOs from 1970 to 1990. During the five years after issuance, investors in these IPOs got average annual returns of only 5%.(1) By contrast, the overall stock market’s average annual return from 1970 to 1990 was more than double that figure, at 10.8%. To put this in perspective, $1,000 invested at 5% for 20 years would have generated $2,653, while $1,000 invested at 10.8% would have generated $7,777, almost three times as much.”

Can the Unemployed Manage to Eliminate Debts?

 

Unemployment is at its worst in this recent economic meltdown and these unemployed people are struggling to pay off debts. Are you in a similar situation? Then you can file bankruptcy as it is considered to be the last option of debt relief programs. But if you declare bankruptcy then it might ruin your financial future. Therefore, you can follow a debt management plan to avoid the adverse effect on your financial situation.

Here are a few tips that will help you eliminate your debt without damaging your financial situation:

1. Look for a job:
You can be successful in eradicating your debts if you get a job immediately. You can use your income to pay off the debts and attain financial liberation. You need to work hard in order to get a well paid job therefore start applying for it. Until you get a job try to deliver newspaper, set up a roadside soft drink stand or deliver pizzas and utilize the money towards paying off your debts.

2. Negotiate with the creditors:
The next crucial step to eliminate your debts is to negotiate with the creditors to lower the principal balance and interest rate to make it affordable. You can easily convince the creditors by stating your financially distressed situation. If you directly approach the creditors then you can avoid the threatening calls from the creditors. Make sure that you are aware of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) then you can take action against your creditors if they harass you.

3. Pay the accounts down.
Right now do you have a part time job? Then inculcate the habit of saving so that you can start paying off your debts immediately. If you are unable to manage your expenses then formulate a budget plan as it will help you pay off the debts in an organized way.

4. Keep a track of your credit report:
You need to keep a track of your credit report once you pay off your debts. Make sure that your credit report shows paid in full otherwise your credit rating will drop. Therefore, request your creditors to notify the credit bureau as “paid in full”. You should review your credit report every three months in order to check if there is any discrepancies on it. If you locate any wrong entries on the credit report then ask the credit bureau to remove it.

5. Avoid borrowing:
It is advisable to avoid borrowing in order to secure your financial situation. You can create an emergency fund and deposit a portion of your income in the savings account then you can prevent yourself from taking out new loan.

GUEST POST: Stewart Smith, financial writer.