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Successful Women

SPRING 2015

A Smart Approach to Entrepreneurship

Being your own boss is an intoxicating idea, but the reality can be sobering. Even if you don’t mind working on your business 24/7 and eating Ramen noodles when cash is low, you still must swallow the fact that it’s a big risk. About half of all new businesses fail within five years, federal statistics show.

If you’re sure you can be the next Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart and your passion can carry you through, don’t give up on your dream. Instead, reduce the risk by getting educated about managing money. Why is this so important? A lack of working capital is a top reason for business failure, and it usually points to problems with money management.

Frugal beginnings

Technology has reduced some initial costs of starting a business, such as forgoing traditional office space for a table at a local coffee shop. Many entrepreneurship courses teach students to start a business on a shoestring budget, saving cash to deal with the volatile beginning phases. Women-led businesses also should take note of various incentives, loans and grants offered by federal, state and local governments to stay on budget. By obtaining certification as a Women Business Enterprise, which requires women to control 51% of the firm’s operations, you make your firm all the more attractive to government purchasing agencies that have tax incentives to hire you.

Smart capital

Those interested in franchising are going to be paying a large chunk of money to get started. Most franchises cost somewhere in the six figures to get off the ground. Compare that with $65,000, the average cost of starting a small business from scratch, according to a Babson College report. Either way you choose, you’re likely going to need financing.

To get your business off to the right start, it’s best to secure capital well beforehand. You don’t want to add scrounging for money to your day-to-day challenges. There are several sources to consider, including a loan through the Small Business Administration, selling assets, taking out new lines of credit, borrowing against your house or taking a loan from a family member.

Once you’re operating and can show that your company has value, you’re ready to seek funding from investors for growth opportunities. Showing an investor that you’ve managed money well during the startup phase can go a long way in winning them over.

Seeking expertise

Before you start your venture, take inventory of your skills and create a plan for managing any weak spots. Taking free online courses in accounting or marketing might help – edX.org and Saylor.org have business courses to choose from. You’ll also want to create a network of experts whose counsel you can rely on.

In areas such as tax planning, retirement savings and insurance, your financial advisor can offer guidance and support, keeping your business goals aligned with your personal ones. Your advisor also can help with contingency planning for your business, putting measures in place to maintain operations in the event of the unthinkable.

Starting your own business can be both risky and rewarding. With the right financial knowledge, determination, a great idea and perhaps a pinch of luck, you can enjoy the satisfaction and flexibility of taking control of your success.

A Modern Legacy

For too many, legacy planning focuses solely on the transfer of money and legal documentation, which generally fall under the estate planning umbrella. While all of that is very important, there should be a more personal aspect to the process. After all, we’re talking about your life and how you’ll be remembered.

Your stories, traditions, beliefs and values need not be taken to the grave. These things make you who you are and should be shared with your children and grandchildren. In the past, loved ones might have inherited a shoebox full of letters and photos that helped tell the story of a life well lived. Today, our digital selves – in the form of Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blog posts – hold the personal details of our lives, so it’s important to have a plan for digital assets and a way to take control of your life story.

There is a practical side to this as well. If heirs don’t have access to your email account, they might never uncover assets not listed in your will, assuming you have one. About 64% of Americans don’t, according to a 2014 survey conducted for website Rocket Lawyer. The survey also showed 51% of Americans age 55 to 64 don’t have wills.

A basic plan

Creating an estate plan is particularly important for parents of minor children; property and business owners; those who would prefer to keep money matters private through a revocable trust; and those with a history of poor health. But there are more reasons than ever to have a basic plan in place.

A well-drafted will has a number of purposes, including specifying who is in charge of making decisions; outlining the care of any minor children; and minimizing state and federal estate taxes. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure your loved ones receive as much of your wealth as possible and have less to deal with during a time of grief.

A note from beyond

To accompany a formal estate plan, you might also consider writing what’s called a family love letter or ethical will. This is the idea of documenting your spiritual and religious beliefs, life philosophy, worldview and wisdom in a video or love letter to your family. Doing so can help you organize your thoughts so you can be sure you’ve communicated everything you want to share.

You might also create a document with instructions related to your online accounts. The American Bar Association recommends naming a digital executor to help sort through your digital life, whether it’s a trusted colleague or your computer-savvy daughter. It’s also a good idea to provide an inventory of accounts and a means of access. This evolving document should be updated regularly, focusing on the most important digital assets.

A fond farewell

Creating a lasting legacy is about more than distributing assets to those you love. It’s clearly communicating your thoughts, feelings, traditions and values to the next generation. Working with trusted financial, tax and legal advisors can help you ease any confusion or conflict that may arise for your survivors. After all, we want to leave memories of a life well lived, not a tangle of personal debris to wade through.

10 HABITS FOR SUCCESS

How you manage your time and talent matters

Successful women know you can’t get great results without a stellar process. Here are 10 habits they have in common.

1. Exercise.

CEOs swear by the positive effects of their daily workouts, from endorphins to endurance. Studies, including one by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have even linked cardiovascular exercise to improved brain function.

2. Save time on the mundane.

From saving for retirement with paycheck deductions to replying to common emails with a form response, it makes sense to make the boring but important bits of life take less of your time and willpower.

3. Brand yourself.

Make more than a good impression. Make a lasting one. Figure out what you do better than anyone and communicate it in a clear way, whether you’re giving an elevator speech or connecting on LinkedIn. Embrace what makes you unique, talented and sought after.

4. Say yes to calculated risks.

In her bestseller “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg urges women to seek new roles in the workplace and stretch themselves instead of avoiding the challenge, even if they’re only 60% certain they have the credentials. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Learn when to say no.

When you are asked to do something, think hard about the opportunity costs. Is this how you want to spend your time? What will you give up? A life spent doing things you don’t want to do isn’t very fulfilling.

6. Play to your strengths.

Embrace the ones that are stereotypically female. The ability to connect with people through empathy and compassion is powerful. Get in touch with your abilities and put them to work.

7. Cultivate creativity.

When you’re constantly challenging yourself, learning something new and stepping outside your comfort zone, you’re on the right track toward innovation and finding creative solutions.

8. Find your flow state.

All those text and email alerts aren’t helpful when you need space and time to think. Recognize the hours of the day that are productive for you and safeguard them – turn off the alerts and get in the zone.

9. Be goal-oriented.

If you think about your actions not in terms of what is easy, but what will make you better and get you closer to your objectives, your chance of reaching a goal increases. You’ll also have an easier time focusing if you define your mission and vision the way a company does.

10. Create habits.

But don’t be afraid of change. Sometimes you need to spice things up. A routine can be comforting and easy, but it can also lead to stale thinking. Seek out new ideas and perspectives whenever possible.

Forming a habit takes on average 66 days, according to a 2009 study led by psychologist Phillippa Lally of University College London. As you attempt to change your way of life and ways of thinking, give yourself the time and space to make habits stick. The results may surprise you.

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
– Twyla Tharp, famed dancer and choreographer who founded the Twyla Tharp Dance Company