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Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.J.Res. 31) – This is the budget appropriations bill that was finally agreed upon in order to avoid a second government shutdown in February. The bill authorizes funding for government agencies through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2019). Among its hundreds of provisions, the bill appropriates the following:

  • $1.375 billion to build a physical barrier along 55 miles of the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas
  • $415 million for humanitarian relief for medical care, transportation, food and clothing at the southern border
  • $12 billion for federal disaster relief
  • $3.16 billion for agricultural research
  • $3.64 billion for rural development
  • $3.3 billion for highway and bridge rehabilitation and construction

This legislation was introduced on Jan. 22 by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). It was passed by both the House and the Senate on Feb. 14 and signed into law the next day by the President.

Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S. 1) – This was the first legislative bill sponsored by by Senate Republicans in the new 116th Congress, largely considered a reflection of their legislative priorities. This bill authorizes several measures in the Middle East, such as:

  • Re-upping the cooperation agreement between the United States and Jordan to streamline defense sales, secure the country’s borders with Iraq and Syria, and fight ISIS
  • Instituting sanctions against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria if several conditions are not met, including releasing political prisoners and stopping the targeting of civilian populations
  • Extending an existing loan guarantee program with Israel through 2023
  • Increasing protections for state and local governments that refuse to invest in or contract with companies that boycott Israel

This legislation was introduced on Jan. 3, 2018, by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The bill passed in the Senate on Feb. 5 and is in the House for consideration.

For the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 1) – The first legislative priority of House Democrats in the new 116th Congress was this expansive anti-corruption bill that includes:

  • Reforming election finance campaigns
  • Overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to eliminate limits on corporate donations
  • Requiring presidential candidates to publicly release their tax returns

The legislation was introduced into Congress on Jan. 3 by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). It will be considered by a House committee next before possibly being sent on to the House as a whole.

Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Jan. 8. It passed in the Senate on Feb. 12 and is now with the House for consideration. This legislation addresses various programs, projects, activities and studies for the management and conservation of natural resources on federal lands. Its provisions include wildlife conservation; helium extraction; wildland fire operations; the Denali National Park and Preserve natural gas pipeline; and a national volcano early warning and monitoring system.

Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act of 2019 (H.R. 1065) – This bill was introduced on Feb. 7 by Rep Stephen Lynch (D-MA). It directs the Office of Management and Budget to examine an individual’s social media activity as part of security clearance investigations. This bill passed in the House on Feb. 11 and is now in the Senate.

Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2019 (H.R. 507) – Sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), this bill would direct the Attorney General to study issues relating to human trafficking, and for other purposes. The legislation was introduced on Jan. 11 and passed in the House on Feb. 7. It is now with the Senate for consideration.

Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019 (H.R. 866) – This legislation was introduced on Jan. 30 by Rep Eleanor Norton (D-DC), passed in the House on Feb. 6 and is currently in the Senate for review.

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The 2019 Consumer Electronics annual tech convention in Las Vegas showcased popular new options for business owners looking to boost employee productivity. Check out some of this year’s favorites.

Laptops

Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1

The new Dell Latitude includes two innovative security features – a fingerprint reader and a contactless smart card reader. The 14-inch laptop combines an infrared camera with Windows Hello facial recognition software to unlock the device as a familiar user approaches. The new feature, called ExpressSign-In, also automatically locks the laptop when the user steps away. However, users might be even more impressed by its new long-life battery – up to 24 hours on a single charge.

HP EliteBook x360 830 G5

The new HP EliteBook has been upgraded with the brightest screen of any convertible notebook. Its new Sure View touchscreen, which is comparable to some high-end HDR TVs, is said to enhance usability over long periods of time. It is especially helpful for holding desktop video-conference calls and incorporates a Sure View privacy screen that limits viewing angles from prying co-workers.

Asus ZenBook S13

The new 13.9-inch Asus includes an HD webcam for video conference calls. However, its unique feature is a screen with a vertical-length “notch.” This hitched design not only makes it to easy to open the lid but enables edge-to-edge screen exposure. At only 0.50 inches, the Zenbook offers the slimmest display of any laptop.

Displays

Samsung SR75 4K UHD Space Monitor 32-inch

Workers with small desk space will appreciate this new Samsung Space Monitor, priced at $499. The 32-inch display mounts against a wall and then folds down, enabling up to 40 percent more usable desk space than the usual computer monitor. The screen boasts a 3,840-by-2,160-pixel resolution. The HDMI cable is conveniently fed through a slot at the back of the mount and the clamp is integrated as part of the display.

ViewSonic M1 Projector

The ViewSonic projector is a great solution to take on the road for mobile presentations. Priced at $337, the projector features a bright 250 lumens but weighs a mere 1.5 pounds – including its integrated smart stand. This means it easily fits into a laptop bag without adding extra bulk or weight. This year’s model is also the only mobile projector with a USB-C port, and the company claims 30,000 hours of operational battery life.

Power Packs

Mophie Juice Pack

One of the biggest challenges for business travelers is how to keep their cell phone charged. In this latest model, the Mophie Juice Pack smartphone case enables users to charge wirelessly while allowing access to the iPhone lightning port. The $119 case is reputed to provide 31 hours of usage and is Qi-compatible for wireless charging.

Problem Solve

In the ever-changing world of technology, it’s tempting to purchase the newest innovations. However, it is always prudent to conduct an annual technology review to identify what problems your firm might be experiencing. Open up a forum among employees to seek input regarding what issues impact their day-to-day responsibilities. For example, connectivity problems both inside and outside the office, finding better solution options to optimize communication, scheduling or project follow-up. In other words, how can you enhance productivity?

Once you identify such issues, use new technology investment to resolve problems. If you are tempted to simply buy the latest and greatest electronic devices – you could end up adding to technology problems instead of solving them.

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Getting a tax refund is always a great feeling. But what should you do with it? While the first thing you might be tempted to do is spend it on a splurge for yourself, here are a few other things you might want to consider.

Start an Emergency Fund. If you don’t have one, this kind of account is critical. If you already have one, add to it. Online savings accounts that are interest bearing or money market accounts are your best bets. You can’t control the future, which is why being prepared is your best defense.

Pay Off Debt. Whether it’s a credit card, student loan or car loan, paying on – or eliminating – the account with the highest interest is best. Becoming debt free not only provides emotional relief, it’s also the key to financial freedom.

Start Saving for Specific Dreams. Do you want to travel? Buy a new car? Make a home improvement? You can either put your entire refund toward one of your life goals, or break it up into different buckets. This way, you’re not only being disciplined and mindful, you’ll also avoid taking on future debt. Most importantly, you’re taking intentional steps toward making your dreams come true.

Refinance Your Mortgage. When you do this, you still have to pay closing costs and fees, but your refund can contribute to or cover this entirely. Plus, you can potentially save a lot of money each year on mortgage interest. You’ll thank your future self for this move.

Start a College Fund. With costs skyrocketing, this might be one of the best gifts you can give your kids or grandkids. Set up a 529 plan, a tax-advantaged investment vehicle designed to encourage savings for a designated beneficiary’s higher education expenses. The best thing about this is that you might be eligible to deduct it from your state income taxes. Thinking ahead pays off in the long run.

Kick Your Career Up a Notch. If it seems like your colleagues are getting promotions and raises because they know a certain skill, then use your refund to enroll in a class and catch up. One of the cool things about this is that you can take advantage of a Lifetime Learning credit and claim it on your taxes. Remember, you’re worth it.

Donate to a Charity. What are you passionate about? Giving to a cause you believe in not only helps others, you can also use it as a deduction on your taxes. Doing good for those in need always feels good.

Put it Toward Your Retirement. Though you might be years away from retirement, it will be here before you know it. Use your refund money to purchase or add to a Roth or traditional IRA. That irresistible thing you might be tempted to blow your money on today will be long forgotten by the time you retire.

Truth is, what you do with your tax refund is up to you. However, putting it toward something that has a long-term pay out or a significant goal can be a very smart thing to do.

 

Sources

https://www.moneycrashers.com/what-to-do-with-your-tax-refund-money/

https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/tax-refund/12-smart-things-to-do-with-your-tax-refund/L6SfIkAEh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/529_plan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifetime_Learning_Credit

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/taxes/smart-ways-to-spend-your-tax-return/

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Over a 10-day period in December 2018, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped by more than 350 points six different times. It then experienced its largest increase on record – a 1,000-point gain in one day. This dramatic volatility fueled speculation that we are on track for a long overdue market correction in the near future.

Most investment advisors discourage long-term investors from engaging in market timing, which is the strategy of buying and selling based on market movement. The general consensus is that no one can accurately predict upswings and downturns, and history shows that staying invested over the long haul is generally the best strategy.

However, there are scenarios in which investors might wish to reconsider their portfolio positions. Specifically, people who have recently retired or are nearing retirement, as they should be very careful about market losses at this juncture. When a portfolio experiences a steady sequence of poor returns this close to the distribution phase of retirement, there might not be enough time to make up for investment losses.

If you are rethinking your stock exposure, consider the following strategies to help reduce the impact of volatility.

  1. Consult with an experienced adviser to see if your current plan is “stress-tested” to meet your financial goals for both now and in the future.
  2. Protect your portfolio with a strategic asset allocation plan and diversified holdings designed to weather every type of market environment.
  3. If you start to feel anxious when the market declines you might want to reconsider the overall risk level of your portfolio.
  4. Consider reducing exposure to your most high-risk stocks and moving to more conservative, all-weather options.
  5. Seek out lower-risk opportunities with overlooked upside potential across different sectors and countries.
  6. Rather than moving to a more conservative allocation all at once, deploy a regular, automatic transfer strategy. This works like the reverse of dollar cost averaging, so that you don’t dump all of your stocks when prices drop.
  7. Rebalance your allocation periodically to ensure that stock market gains or losses do not make your portfolio too risky or too conservative.
  8. Consider using a portion of your assets to create a source of guaranteed income during retirement, such as an annuity.

Despite predictions regarding a market drop in the near future, it might be a good idea to maintain stock market exposure throughout retirement to help ensure you don’t run out of money. Assets invested for more than a decade are likely to recover from short-term losses.

Also, if you are still working, it is a good idea to continue investing automatically in a retirement savings plan. This enables you to take advantage of buying stocks while prices are low, as new contributions will buy more shares. If you’re not comfortable continuing to invest during a market correction, use your excess cash to pay down debt while waiting for your portfolio to recover. Reducing your liabilities can help increase your overall net worth despite the market correction.

Finally, recognize that market pundits have been predicting a substantial decline for several years now. And yet, fundamental economic indicators are strong. Unemployment levels remain low, inflation and interest rates are relatively stable, companies are well capitalized, and both investor and consumer confidence remain high.

Moreover, thanks to the Democratic foothold in the midterm elections, we can expect legislative gridlock in Washington, D.C. for at least the next two years. This is actually good news, because markets hate uncertainty – so, no movement bodes well for continued market stability.

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With speculation of a third round of Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs), understanding how they’ve been implemented and how they’ve performed is essential to see just how this program might be extended. According to the European Central Bank, TLTROs “are Euro system operations that provide financing to credit institutions for periods of up to four years.” Their purpose, according to the ECB, is to help European countries’ banks provide more lending to all segments of the economy.

TLTRO Origins

As a reaction to the sovereign debt crisis, the ECB created the TLTRO program to help increase liquidity and reduce the chances of European sovereign debt defaults. One notable takeaway of the proposal for TLTRO III is to base the interest rate that European banks pay on the proportion of loans they make to individuals (excluding for residential real estate) and to businesses outside the financial industry. The greater percentage of these types of loans made, the more favorable interest rates European banks could expect from the ECB.

The first round of TLTROs became public on June 5, 2014, and a second round began on March 10, 2016. With approximately 722 billion Euros of long-term lending from the ECB slated to begin maturing in 2020 and an uncertain legal and economic environment, European banks are likely to face challenges when looking to refinance replacement funds when rates increase due to market forces. However, this can be avoided if the ECB implements another TLTRO program. 

While a third round of TLTROs is expected, one needs to look at the program’s past structure along with the current economic situation to see how the program will likely be run. Many investors believe that, unlike past programs with a maturity time-frame of 48 months and lending rates that matched the deposit rate of negative 0.4 percent, a third generation of TLTRO is would last only 24 months. According to research from Pictet Wealth Management, 2016’s TLTRO contributed to an increase in inflation by 0.3 percent over 24 months.   

While the risk of deflation is not as bad as it was in 2016, there’s still a noticeable risk for it to reoccur. Some investors believe the ECB might make the TLTRO a permanent program that creates a sliding interest rate that mirrors the ECB’s Main Refinancing Operation. With a variable rate, those in the ECB would have an option to increase rates in the future.

There are a few different schools of thought that offer insight into the ECB’s take on interest rates. With the last iterations of the ECB’s TLTRO loan program, the TLTRO II round is set to be in full swing by the middle of 2020. It will need to have made an action plan for liquidity contingencies as the TLTROs begin maturing during this time frame.       

If banks are put up against a wall, reducing their ability to provide loans, it can put pressure on Europe’s growing economic development and keep the ECB more involved, thus extending this type of economic stimulation program. As President Mario Draghi of the ECB explained, the EU-wide bank sub-zero deposit rate continues to affect the loan makers’ ability to make money.

Additionally, the ECB reported an increase in loan requests in the third quarter. During the same period, banks softened credit standards for businesses and mortgages.

While a third round of TLTROs may be necessary to maintain liquidity, another round of ECB loans will indicate to some that Europe’s economy has a long way to go to emerge from instability. 

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When it comes to making cash flow projections, we’re all aware that it’s not an exact science. One of the main difficulties about accurately projecting cash flow has to do with timing. Examples include factoring in overhead such as payroll; lease or tax payments on the building; using credit to make purchases or for future investment to grow the business; and when payment is collected from clients.

Understanding Cash Flow Projection

One important reason that many business owners create a cash flow projection is to include it in their business plan when they approach an investor or bank for a loan. Detailing a company’s cash flow projection consists of three parts: positive, negative or break-even results going forward.

The first section details all incoming cash flow. Examples include sales revenue from products or services expected to be collected during the month noted. These often include assumptions when the majority of receivables are collected within 30 days. However, the projection may be more or less dependent on whether invoices go unpaid or collections efforts are more costly or last longer than anticipated.

The second part documents all cash outlays that will be paid during a month for business expenses. Examples include payroll and associated taxes, installment payments on loans, buying new equipment, lease or rent payments, etc. The third part of the cash flow projection for each month takes the incoming cash flow and subtracts the cash outlays from it.

Cash flow projection is a good way to determine if there will be enough collections on invoices, if expenses will be in line, and if the existing business strategy needs to be adjusted for more sales of products or services. This also can help business owners better determine strategy if they need a larger initial investment before opening or an injection of new capital post-launch.

Profit & Loss Statement

The first part consists of how much revenue the business made (from either products and/or services sold), minus any returns that must be repaid.

The second part of a Profit & Loss Statement looks at the cost of goods sold. It calculates how much it costs the company for any input or raw material expenses, labor for employees to manufacture the product or deliver the service, and whatever it took to run the factory or office. However, the costs associated with products not sold or delivered during the time frame are not included.

Along with the ability to include business overhead expenses for consideration, an important distinction with the Profit & Loss Statement is that some non-cash considerations are included –  such as depreciation or how much the business can deduct for the purchase of a fixture or vehicle.   

The final section specifies if a business made or lost money from selling any assets or it received interest income during the time frame.

Much like cash flow analysis is important to business operations, companies can use the Profit & Loss Statement to modify their business’ path. For example, a business owner may wish to evaluate whether or not he can increase profitability by choosing different material suppliers. Or, hedge for projected increases in raw materials to improve profit margins.

Depending on the stage of the company, these are two ways a business owner can better understand how to account for the operation in order to enhance his chances for profitable and long-term sustainability.

 

Sources

https://www.sba.gov/blogs/how-improve-your-chances-getting-loan-bulletproof-pl-statement

 

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