5 Hidden Costs of Financial Fraud

Fraud DefinitionThere are almost as many types of fraud as there are victims of it. From Medicare and insurance fraud to Ponzi schemes and phishing scams, bilking people out of money through deceitful means is a frightfully common occurrence in our tech-heavy modern world.

Billions of dollars are lost every year to fraud, and while the financial toll is substantial, money isn’t the only thing lost when a person, institution, or government is taken for a ride and robbed. From the sense of responsibility and self-blame incurred to the health maladies that can also result, here are five hidden costs of financial fraud that affect those already reeling from the pain of its monetary effects.

1. Self-Blame

About half of all financial fraud victims blame themselves for the fraud, and while assisting that Nigerian prince in order to make a little money on the side does seem incredibly foolish after thousands of dollars have gone missing from your bank account, beating yourself up over the experience only adds insult to injury.

Still, the feeling of responsibility is real, and it can be difficult to overcome. While going into a career to combat fraud is one way to alleviate the feelings of guilt and self-blame, it’s also helpful to remember that the fraud was the fault of the criminal behind the scam, and while being victimized doesn’t ever feel good, there’s no reason to blame yourself for someone else’s nefarious activities. Learn from the experience, and move on.

2. Stress

Roughly 50 percent of people who have been victims of fraud say the experience caused them extreme stress, and it’s no wonder. In addition to the work of “cleaning up” after fraud (monitoring accounts, filing police reports, repairing credit scores, recovering lost funds, etc.), the worry over being victimized again can create a scenario in which stress becomes a dominant feature of daily life.

Because chronic stress can lead to depression, health problems, memory loss, and other troubles, it can end up creating a negative loop where the extreme stress brought on by a fraud event triggers other stressful outcomes that then contribute to even more stress. If you’re experiencing stress due to a fraud event, talk to a therapist, take up yoga, or meditate to try and alleviate it.

3. Emotional

VictimIn addition to stress, there are other negative emotional effects for financial fraud victims. The most common emotion experienced by fraud victims is anger, followed by regret. Anxiety can also arise as individuals and even businesses or institutions experience a “looking over your shoulder” effect that makes people feel as though danger is always lurking and ready to pounce.

Because of the resulting negative emotions, some people also experience difficulty sleeping and depression can even become a factor. Talk through your feelings with a trusted friend or professional to keep your emotions from overwhelming you.

4. Health Woes

While not all victims of financial fraud report suffering health woes, for those that do, it adds considerable insult to an already painful injury. You could be more susceptible to colds and flu as a result of a lowered immune system due to sleep loss and worry, or you may experience the manifold troubles that chronic stress can cause (obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hear disease, gastrointestinal problems, etc.).

Being the victim of financial fraud can wreak as much havoc on your physical health as it does your financial health. If you’ve experienced fraud, talk to your doctor about any health concerns that seem to crop up as a result.

5. Indirect Financial Costs

While the financial costs of the fraud itself is known and quantifiable, there are many indirect financial costs that can make the fraud event much more expensive than it seemed initially. Victims of fraud often have to go to great lengths to recover from the event, and many pay out of pocket for the following:

  • Late fees or interest
  • Bounced check or overdraft fees
  • Lost work time or lost wages to combat the fraud’s effects
  • Private investigator fees
  • Costs of prescription medication to combat the negative emotional effects of the fraud
  • Fees for doctors, psychiatrists, etc. as a result of negative mental health and physical health ramifications due to the fraud
  • Bankruptcy
  • Lawyer fees, court costs, etc.

Financial fraud can feel devastating, and in some cases, it can be that way — at least financially. If you’ve been victimized, try and stay on top of these five hidden costs of fraud so that your recovery from the event can be total.

Pinch Pennies Without Pain During Grad School With These 6 Tips

Penny PinchingKeeping a firm hold on finances is a struggle for many people, regardless of the financial situation in which they find themselves. Throw a wrench into the spokes of that common, everyday struggle — like going to and paying for graduate school — and many people choose to give up financial sense-making entirely.

However, abandoning your budget and savings goals doesn’t have to accompany going back to school. You think of it as practice run for someday running your own business after you finish your MBA. If you’d like to keep your long-term financial health in focus while you’re earning an advanced degree, here are six tips to help keep you pinching your pennies.

Get a Roommate or Be a Roommate

If you own your home but have an extra bedroom, taking on a roommate is a great way to help out with the mortgage during your graduate school years. If you’re renting, consider taking in a roommate, or getting out of your lease and becoming a roommate.

Especially if you’re getting your advanced degree online so you can keep working while you work on your studies, taking in a renter or being one isn’t likely to ruffle your feathers too much — you’ll be too busy to notice any additional people in your living space all that much.

Think of the bottom line: If a renter pays you $300 a month, you’ll generate $3600 a year, and by becoming a roommate, you’ll pay less each month in rent and utilities — savings that will definitely make your cash flow easier in the present, while still adding up over time.

Bike or Bus Instead of Drive

Even if your daily commute to work or school is just 10 miles roundtrip, you stand to save almost $5 each day you ride your bike instead of driving your car. For the bus, if your fare is $3, that’s still a savings of $2 a day or $10 a week. Over the course of a year, then, biking to school or work could save you upwards of $1000, and taking the bus could save you over $500.

Even if you only biked or took public transportation half the time, the savings would still be substantial, and there are other benefits, too. On top of the money boost, you’ll be sending fewer pollutants into the air, and, if you choose the biking route, you’ll find yourself in great shape in no time. To calculate your savings should you choose to bike instead of drive, try the Kiplinger calculator.

Become a Quasi-Vegetarian

One easy way to cut down on your grocery bill is to become at least a part-time vegetarian. A meal of beans and rice provides all the protein you need, and the money you won’t spend on chicken, pork, or beef can go directly into your savings account.

Meat costs tend to range between $2 and $4 a pound, and if you choose to buy meat raised in a humane environment, that cost goes up even more. Beans, on the other hand, cost around $1 a pound. It’s true that fresh fruits, vegetables and wholesome grains aren’t cheap, but if you’re truly cutting back on your meat consumption, you’ll still save money eating a whole foods-based diet, and the savings in medical and environmental costs over the long run — because you’ve cut meat out of your diet — will pay you plenty of dividends in the future.

Get It Secondhand

Do you need new clothes? A hair dryer? A smartphone? Fenders for your car? Consider buying whatever is currently on your radar secondhand so that you can stay on track with your budget and savings goals. From thrift stores and garage sales to websites like eBay and Craigslist, almost anything you’re looking to buy can be found at a cheaper price than it would be brand-new in a store, and oftentimes, you can find it in almost as good as new condition, too.

Bank Smart

If you’re still banking with a big bank that charges exorbitant fees for overdrafts or monthly fees for the right to even have a checking account, it’s time to take your money elsewhere. Smaller community banks and credit unions tend to have policies that are more consumer- and customer-friendly. Not only will you save money each month with free or low-fee checking, but in the unlikely event that your account is ever overdrawn, you could save as much as $20 – $50.

Save Your Change

Stack of PenniesIt’s a simple approach, but it works: At the end of each day, put all the change from your purse or pocket into a jar, and let that change build up over the course of your time in graduate school. Whether you save $200 or $500, you’ll still be saving.

Pinching pennies during graduate school is likely all you’ll be able to do when it comes to furthering your financial goals, but so long as you follow these six tips, the effort won’t be too substantial and the savings will be real.

6 Unexpected Traits Exemplified by Great Leaders

Leadership Compass CardinalsMany people are tempted to believe that true leaders are born not made, but when it comes to leaders of historical importance, that adage rarely seems true. In many ways, leadership, as President John F. Kennedy noted, is indispensable from learning, which means every entrepreneur, pastor, community organizer, or team captain can improve their leadership skills by learning aspects of quality leadership that they then put into practice.

But what are the features of great leadership? What traits should be lived out and repeated? While the qualities associated with excellent leadership are often those that are the most obvious, the unexpected traits essential to effective leadership are where great leaders put their energies. Here is a closer look at six unexpected leadership traits that can all be put into practice by ordinary people.

1. Self-Belief

The best leaders are those who truly believe in themselves and in what they are doing. Nestled near the intersection of self-confidence and self-esteem, self-belief is an internal quality that combines trust in one’s self and one’s abilities with a trust in the world as being the kind of place where what is desired can be achieved. Thankfully, it’s something that can be learned and achieved through intentional practice such as routinely remembering your accomplishments and meeting challenges.

2. Contagious Enthusiasm

Of course, it isn’t enough for a leader to believe in herself, she must also be able to compel others to believe in her. To that end, a great leader needs a contagious enthusiasm about her goals, work, and vision.

While some people have a natural charisma that inspires and motivates, others need to develop this and other leadership skills through advanced learning. But how does one go about developing and exhibiting contagious enthusiasm? Well, contagious enthusiasm starts with true and genuine enthusiasm — it’s an emotion that can’t be faked. By simply embodying the authentic emotion of fervor and passion for one’s work or goals, others will catch a hold of the same spirit.

3. Vulnerability

It may not seem like vulnerability would be a trait exemplified by the world’s best leaders, but it often is. Vulnerability is the willingness and ability to show weaknesses to others. Far from being the Achilles’ heel it may appear to be at first glance, vulnerability in great leaders actually instills in followers an even greater sense of confidence, because it means they can be trusted to be real.

One of the more difficult traits to practice for many people, developing vulnerability is actually as simple as revealing something that could be considered embarrassing or less than impressive about one’s self to a trusted friend or confidante on a regular basis.

4. Humility

When someone is humble, he has a modest opinion of his own importance, which would seem, at first glance, to be at odds with leadership. However, humility in a leader creates an opportunity for that leader to shine a light on others whose work has been and is helpful to a cause or organization’s success.

Humble leaders are self-aware, appreciative, open to feedback, and they greatly value others, which makes sense because every great leader knows her success is only possible with the faith and efforts of others.

5. Times of Doubt

Great leaders experience times of doubt like everyone else, but they don’t respond to those times by sticking their heads in the sand or giving up. Instead, great leaders use times of doubt to hone their goals and methods. They listen to criticism, because if it’s deserved, they want to learn from it in order to do a better job in the future.

In short, great leaders let their times of doubt teach them how to become better people. Without doubt and the threat or actuality of failure, great leaders wouldn’t exist.

6. Likeability

CG1E93Likeability isn’t the same thing as always being liked, which is a good thing because the best leaders have to sometimes make unpopular decisions. Likeability is rather about the leader himself and his ability to be fair, amicable, and respectful of others even in difficult circumstances.

The best leaders are those whose toughest critics still think highly of their person and character. Being a person who is likeable requires that a person practice honesty and justice in all matters, even when those matters are unpleasant or cost him personally.

Great leaders are made, not born, and if you hope to be one someday, practice these six traits.

5 Common Business Problems Solved by Barcode Systems

bar code imageRunning a small or large business is no simple task, and many business owners experience a series of ups and downs throughout their time as industry or niche specific leaders. This is an especially common case when a business owner is new to the concept of running a business; as most people know, practice makes perfect. Therefore, it is impossible for brand new business operators to know every right and wrong “turn” as they create a new business from the ground up. Since every new business owner goes through this process, there are typically a common set of problematic areas or improvement areas that emerge after a few months of business operation. Business owners who find themselves in this boat may be feeling discouraged or frustrated at this point, but there is no need for distress; almost every new business owner goes through difficult seasons, and there are many solutions available for the problems faced during these seasons.

An Unlikely Solution

Interestingly, one of the most valuable tools for solving common business improvement areas is somewhat underrated: the barcode system. Barcode scanning and printing systems are hardly new, but many business owners are still scratching their heads and trying to sort out finances with pen and paper. Business owners who have not yet made the “big switch” from pen and paper to digital barcode scanning and printing may be in for a pleasant surprise. Using a quality barcode system, such as the barcode systems offered by Shopify, may increase the overall success of a given business by a large percentage. Those who are interested in learning more about how barcode systems can remap the success story of a given business are in the right place. Read the information below to learn more about how barcode systems are renovating struggling businesses consistently and successfully.

Reducing Errors

Accuracy is important for any business, especially since it takes a great deal of accuracy to “balance the books” every month. Obviously, reaching a financial balance is absolutely imperative for the operation of a business. Without appropriately calculated financial information and statistical reports and analysis, any business has a high likelihood of “going under.” No business owner starts a business with the intention of failing, so it would be safe to assume that most business owners are simply ill-equipped for business startups. Barcode systems are the perfect solution for business owners who are struggling with financial accuracy. Not everyone was born an accounting major, and it is important to understand that not everyone should attempt doing the job of an accounting major. Purchase a quality barcode scanning system so that prices can be easily recorded instantaneously and accurately – all without those unfortunate hand cramps that every statistician dreads.

Making Customers Happier

Can a barcode system make customers happy? Absolutely. This may seem like an outrageous statement, but barcodes really do increase customer satisfaction by a marginal percentage. When employees are spending less time calculating figures in tiny notebooks, they are able to spend more time making eye contact with customers and maybe, just maybe, giving them a genuine smile or two. Creating an employee-customer bond is essential to successful business operation, and the ability to scan an item in a few seconds creates an opportunity for maximum employee-customer interaction.

Fostering Professionalism

Let’s be honest, any business that operates with the help of barcode scanning equipment simply appears to be more trustworthy and professional. Business that have invested in quality equipment typically “mean business,” so to speak. They emit an attitude of seriousness and dedication, which is never a bad thing.

Making Better Use of Time

It seems as if everyone is always searching for “more time” to get things done. After all, the plants are dying again and the car needs washed – not to mention all of the things that need done within the walls of any given startup business! Nowhere is the phrase “time is of the essence” more appropriate than in the lives of small business owners. The good news is that barcode scanning and printing technology allows business owners to spend their time accomplishing important tasks instead of counting jars in the inventory room. Barcode scanners allow individuals to get the job done quickly and efficiently – without sacrificing accuracy.

Small business owners who are experiencing the “downs” that often occur during startups may want to carefully consider the information above. Many individuals find that the initial investment made toward a quality barcode scanner and printer system is well worth the resources spent. In the long run, barcode systems allow businesses to operate in a far more accurate, friendly, professional, efficient manner. Who wouldn’t want that? Do a little research and investigate the research behind barcode technology; business owners all over the world are discovering that a little tool makes a huge difference.

 

Which of These 4 Business Specialties is Right for You?

A career in business can offer many different adventures. Some people start their careers at established companies and then switch mid-career and launch their own enterprises. If you know you want a business career but you’re unsure which direction to choose, take a look at these four business specialties to decide which one is right for you.College Graduate

Management

If you admire leaders like Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Indra Nooyi or Marissa Mayer, then you might be a candidate for management. You’ll need leadership chops, an eye for great opportunities and the ability to get the best from the people who work for you.

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in management. If you want a more focused bachelor’s degree than just a bachelor’s in general business, go with a bachelor of management (BAM) degree. This degree will prepare you for management in companies of all sizes (read this article from one accredited BAM program comparing management in both small and large companies).
  • Go for your MBA. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and you want to earn a master’s, apply to an MBA program. Many online MBA programs are designed to fit around a busy work schedule.
  • Think about human resources. If your primary strength is people management, consider earning a human resources degree. You could still make your way into management positions, even becoming a company’s VP of human resources.

AccountingFinance Professional

Today’s accountants work with the latest technology, using powerful data analysis tools to interpret and quantify business performance. If you have a head for numbers and a strong sense of ethics, take one of these paths toward becoming an accountant:

  • Land your accounting degree. An undergraduate degree in accounting is usually good enough to start your accounting career. If you already have a bachelor’s or if you want to become a CPA, apply to an MS in Accounting program.
  • Pick your specialty. Accountants can specialize in taxation, auditing, not-for-profit accounting and management accounting. Pick the track that most closely matches your interests. If you want to eventually open your own practice, then work toward taking the CPA exam.
  • Think different. Not all accountants work within corporations or own their own practices. Many work with law enforcement as forensic accountants or as certified fraud examiners (CFE).

Marketing

If you love developing the perfect product pitch or if you live and breathe social media strategy, then a marketing career could be right in your wheelhouse. Consider these options:

  • Pursue a marketing degree. Many colleges allow you to focus on marketing even at the bachelor’s level. At the master’s level, you can earn a traditional marketing degree or choose a school that offers social media specialization.
  • Get an internship. Marketing is a competitive field, and an internship could put you on the inside track for a great job offer. Internships also allow you to explore whether you prefer the public relations or advertising side of marketing.
  • Start a portfolio. Most marketers need Web portfolios showcasing their copywriting and creative skills. Start a portfolio for yourself, even if it’s just student work, to stay ahead of the game.

Finance

Accounting considers acquiring and presenting financial information, but finance focuses on using market strategy to find, acquire and manage assets. If you love following the stock market and using your quantitative know-how, then finance could be your optimal career track.Tracking the Markets

  • Get a finance degree. Some programs let you specialize in finance as an undergrad, and many MBA programs offer a specialization in finance that can put you on the path to becoming a CFO.
  • Read all that you can about investing and business. You can learn a lot in school, but you need to stay on top of the latest financial market information to be relevant.
  • Research your career options. As a finance major, a corporation isn’t your only employment option. You could start off your career at an investment bank and then become a stock trader or a personal financial planner.

A business major can lead to a varied, rich and rewarding career. Pick the track that fits your interests, and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

Business Plans Lead to Profit

mind map of a business planSmall firms are losing out on profit by not having a business plan, according to new research.

Companies with a business plan are consistently more profitable than those without one, according to findings from business and finance software provider Exact.

The power of planning

Small enterprises with a plan are almost 20% more likely to increase profit margins and more than twice as likely to achieve their business goals.

Around 70% of small businesses that had a plan in place last year turned a profit, compared to 52% of businesses without a plan, says the research.  Clearly, business plans are conducive to profitability.

Results

Over a third of the UK’s 4.8 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are failing to reach their full profit potential.

The research set out to gain a better understanding of some of the challenges that SMEs face in achieving their business objectives. The top three goals for SMEs were:

  • Increasing profits
  • Increasing revenue growth
  • Attracting new customers

Planning process

Many people don’t see the need in having a business plan but it can help a company to reach its full potential.  A business plan should:

  • Set out long-term goals for you and your team
  • Identify ways to achieve these goals
  • Help to check your progress along the way
  • Detail your sales and marketing strategy
  • Outline financial forecasts

Your financial projections should include a sales forecast, cashflow forecast and a projected profit. Factor in your premises (rent or mortgage payments),electricity and gas usage, insurance for business, wages and all other essential items.

Cover all bases

You will also need to consider business continuity management. Identify the priorities within your business and analyse any risks involved. Create a plan to try and keep your business going if faced with a major incident. The planning process will provide your business with resilience if a major incident occurs.

While natural disasters are impossible to predict, if you run a business in an area at risk of flooding, you need to make a flood plan. Some firms reported several thousands of pounds worth of damage to stock and supplies due to the devastating winter storms, and were let unable to trade. Ensure you take practical steps to protect your business.

Review your plan

Ongoing business planning is essential. Small business needs can change and you need to adapt continuously. Reviewing your plan will help to keep projects on schedule, and identify if deadlines need to be more flexible. You can also check with a business insurance advisor to make sure you are covered if your needs change.