Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo - Top Tips For Winning New Clients

Looking for ways to attract additional clients? Here are some helpful suggestions from a variety of industry sages, including Ron Carson, founder of Omaha, Neb.-based Peak Advisor Alliance, a coaching program for financial advisors.

Explain Your Fees

Based on his research, Carson found that today’s investors — first and foremost — want to understand how and when an advisor they are looking to work with gets paid. Advisors, therefore, need to be precise about how much they will be charging and clear in explaining how they come up with their fees. One way advisors can be more transparent is by simply posting their fees on their firms’ websites, so that any potential clients can see them, carefully review them, and then ask questions.

Don’t Be Condescending

Potential clients also want to be treated as equals. They can sense when an advisor is talking down to them or avoiding the details. The choice of words that an advisor uses when speaking with clients is also important. The wrong word choice can have the wrong effect or make the wrong impact. Terms like "asset allocation," "diversification" and "controlling expenses" are all examples of appropriate word choices that can help a client understand the methods of investing being used, according to Carson. Vague words such as “alternatives” can mean a variety of things and are therefore less helpful.

Millennial investors, in particular, don’t want to be bombarded with a bunch of numbers when an advisor is explaining investment choices. And they certainly don’t want to be “schmoozed” in an old-school way. Instead, advisors should be up-front with their clients and provide them with answers to questions in a clear, straightforward manner.

Make Yourself Available

Today's investors also want to be able to access their portfolios whenever the mood strikes them, so investment advisors need to make themselves available at all times. They should be proactive about alerting clients when changes in the economy, the markets or even the government could have a big impact on their portfolio. They should also be able to talk to their clients about how these changes may affect their investment choices.

What Can You do for Them?

Additionally, clients need to know exactly what an advisor can offer them so advisors should be specific when addressing this. They are less interested in hearing a sales pitch and more interested in learning exactly what an advisor can do for them and what services will be provided. Advisors should also ask any potential clients to explain to them what their specific needs are. At that point, the advisor can express to the client exactly how they will be able to fulfill those needs. Advisors may also want to form their own client advisory councils within their businesses and ask clients to offer detailed feedback about their business practices. It’s a great way to find out areas with your business that may need improvement.

Bottom Line

Advisors looking to attract potential clients need to speak in a straightforward manner, be available for questions and leave the sales pitch at the door. They should make every attempt to learn about a client's needs, be specific about what kinds of services they provide and, most of all, be upfront about how they are paid.


Investing Guide: Evaluating Foreign Investment Restraints in China

As we have written previously, China is engaging in simultaneous bilateral investment treaty (BIT) negotiations with the United States and the European Union. Indications are that the Chinese government is taking these negotiations very seriously. This presents the most significant opportunity for foreign investors in China to influence market access restrictions and other restraints on foreign investment in the country since China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.

At the request of European trade negotiators, we searched hundreds of thousands of measures issued by 39 central government agencies and five representative provincial-level governments in order to identify provisions that frame or limit market access and business activities of foreign-owned companies in China. In the process, we identified over 800 restraining provisions, which we analyzed and grouped into a number of different types and categories. The results provide a useful taxonomy for future discussion both within the BIT negotiation context and beyond.

Beyond published measures, the Covington team reviewed key trade publications and conducted interviews with industry groups to identify and catalogue administrative practices that may also have a restraining effect on foreign investment. As foreign business leaders in China are well aware, many of the biggest obstacles to foreign participation in the Chinese economy are imposed unofficially by government officials exercising legal or extralegal discretion.

A public version of the report prepared for the EU’s Directorate General for Trade is available on the EU DG Trade website. While it does not include the full database of restraining measures, the public version presents detailed descriptions of the types of restraints identified and provides supporting examples and observations.

Material for this post was supplied by Ashwin Kaja of Covington & Burling LLP.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: 3 Tips to Navigate Market Volatility

With geopolitical crises in the news, 2014 has been a "year of fear."

During the months of September and October, the stock market dealt investors more falling stocks than rising ones. Some may suggest the 2014 market has been worse than many years in recent memory. Although that remains to be seen, 2014 has been what I call a "year of fear."

The year began with an extraordinarily cold winter, with places like Austin, Texas, getting snow and freezing rain, and the polar vortex crippling many parts of the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest. Throughout the year, other global events, conflicts and crises have affected stock market performance. Because investors were inundated with so much information (and much of it was conflicting information), many investors did not know what to do.

Although these events are undoubtedly reason to give us pause, if we look at the facts, we should be less concerned for our long-term investing success. Businesses have restructured and refocused on the bottom line, which often translates to better results for their shareholders. In addition, American energy production is at an all-time high, which has resulted in lower oil prices. While you are looking for positive signs in the stock market, here are three tips that may help prevent your investments from getting hurt by recent fluctuations in the market.

1. Don’t be scared by market corrections. Market corrections are necessary. Without them, there would be bubbles. These corrections typically help us keep our expectations realistic. However, it’s important to know the difference between a market correction and a bear market. I tell my clients that any softening of the market that is less than 10 percent is a correction.

When the market softens 20 percent or more, we are entering bear market territory, and it is likely time to make some changes to ensure they stay on course and reach their investment goals. We have to realize we have entered a new paradigm of investing. Now that we know that, we have to figure out how to handle the volatility. Your portfolio should be diversified to protect against this volatility as much as possible. While using diversification as part of your investment strategy doesn’t assure or guarantee better performance and can’t protect against loss in declining markets, it is well-recognized risk management strategy.

2. Don’t let market lows give you portfolio woes. The market is a fickle beast. By its very definition, there will be both ups and downs in the market. However, two things are important to keep in mind should either market movement occur. First, you have to remember your plan and time horizon. You developed your investment plan when cooler heads prevailed, which is the best time to create it. Next, you have to realize that since fear is an inherent part of investing your hard-earned money in the stock market, the second thing you should do is take a risk tolerance questionnaire when the market falls.

These questionnaires are available on any number of financial websites, and they can help you put the market in context. Have you taken on more risk than you are comfortable with? If you get out of the market when it softens (and take the financial losses associated with it), by the time you decide the waters are safe enough to get back in, you may be missing out on a potential upswing.

3. Beta-test your portfolio to minimize your fears. Beta is a measure of a fund's sensitivity to market movements, and is calculated by comparative analysis of how your portfolio will perform with respect to the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Performing this kind of analysis can help to take some of the fear out of investing in the stock market. However, a low beta does not necessarily mean that low levels of volatility exist. It only suggests the market-related risk is relatively low.   

For example, an investment in gold will often have a low beta, but despite the fluctuations that can happen in gold prices, the beta is likely to remain low. However, beta can help you determine how much risk there is in your portfolio, and if that lines up with the level of risk you can tolerate.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: How to Invest in Securities

What is a Securities Investment?

Loosely defined, a security in the world of finance is an instrument representing financial value. Securities can be categorized as debt, equity or derivative securities and can be represented through a certificate or non-certificated book entry form. These certificates entitle the holder to rights under the security and can include shares of stock, mutual funds or bonds.

Debt securities, or bonds, refer to a type of loan in which the investor lends an institution money in return for the payment of at certain intervals. Bonds can be issued by credit institutions, government agencies and public authorities with the initial lending amount agreed to be repaid at a later date. Bonds are a reliable securities investment because they generate a fixed form of income through interest. Equities refer to the amount of ownership you buy in a company and can be purchased in the form of stock and dividends. Derivative contract securities derive their value from direct securities in the form of futures, swaps, options and index options.

There are two types of markets to consider when investing in securities: primary and secondary. In the primary market, the money for securities is received from investors in a public offering transaction, such as offering stock to the public. In the secondary market, the securities are assets held by one investor selling them to another investor. The secondary market must exist for the primary market to thrive because holders of securities are able to sell them for cash in the secondary market to other investors. For this reason, investing in securities oftentimes comes with organized exchanges to perpetuate both markets.

If you’re interested in investing in securities, it is worthwhile to check out the latest news and trends surrounding the form of securities you have invested in. InvestorPlace offers the latest news on securities and trends, as well as expert perspectives on the market today. Check out what our industry leaders have to say about securities investment by looking through InvestorPlace today! 

For more info you can visit our Website at Deep Blue Publications Group LLC


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Eric Tashlein - Tips for retirees to trim 2014 taxes

With the holidays looming, taxes probably rank among the bottom of items you are eager to think about, especially if you are a retiree. They won’t be due until April, right?

Sure, but that April 15, 2015, tax bill relates to income received during 2014, and there are only a few weeks left to make adjustments to this year’s numbers. Here are some tips aimed at retirees who want to trim their tax bill:

• Harvest your losses. Look over your non-retirement accounts for any investments that lost money during the year. You can make those losses work for you by selling the investments and writing off the losses against your gains. (Be aware of the “wash-sale” rule that prevents you from writing off losses if you make essentially the same investment within 30 days of the sale.)

• Defer any income. If you are selling a business, land or other substantial asset, consider spreading your payments over several years. Taking a lump-sum payment will skyrocket your income.

• Be more charitable. Give more to your favorite charities and take the deduction. Beyond that, you can start a donor-advised fund, which opens opportunities for additional tax-saving strategies, and you can donate appreciated securities, which allows you to deduct the market value of the asset without paying taxes on your gains.

Limit your income. If you are in the 10 percent to 15 percent tax bracket, you currently pay no federal income tax on long-term capital gains — as long as your taxable income doesn’t exceed $36,900 for singles and $73,800 for joint filers.

One way to remain within the lower brackets is to limit your IRA withdrawals to the required minimum distributions. If you need more income to pay the bills, you can withdraw money from taxable accounts and sell securities. These strategies can be complex, so your financial advisor should do the planning.

• Give to loved ones. You can give up to $14,000 a year to as many people as you want without triggering federal gift and estate taxes (double it to $28,000 by giving from both yourself and your spouse). Any amount above $14,000 per person per year may eventually be subjected to gift taxes, but only once your lifetime total giving exceeds $5.34 million (for 2015). If you give more than $14,000 in one year to one person you have to fill out IRS Form 709, but this is just a formality until your giving exceeds the $5.34 million lifetime exclusion amount. For all of the above discussions, it’s always a good idea to have financial adviser involvement.

Eric Tashlein is a Certified Financial Planner™ and Principal of Connecticut Capital Management Group, LLC, 67 Cherry St. in Milford. He can be reached at 203-877-1520 or through This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice or legal/tax advice. Please consult your advisor/attorney/tax advisor. Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., A Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge Investment Research Inc., and Connecticut Capital Management Group LLC are not affiliated.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Tips to making sure that property is a good investment

Let’s imagine you know what to expect when buying a home a home for the first time, but did you know that it is the little things that can make all the difference in terms of your long-term happiness with your decision? Below are our top 10 tips for making your buying experience as profitable, stress-free, and enjoyable in the long-term as possible.

-  Research Thoroughly Before You Begin Physically Looking

As an agent, I see it all the time, a buyer–or buyers–want to jump into my car with me immediately and begin feverishly seeing dozens of condos on a Saturday afternoon.

Why is this bad? Easy–the clients and I waste 5 hours running around like chickens with our heads cut off and the entire process–after 2-3 weekends of this–quickly becomes disorganized and stressful. This is the exact opposite of how the process should go!

Instead, take time to do your homework before you even involve an agent and begin seeing homes. Start with online sites like Zillow, Trulia, or Redfin and check into different neighborhoods, price points, etc. so that by the time you do actually want to physically see properties and get more serious, you have a very well-defined idea of what you’re actually looking to buy. Also consider attending a few open houses on your own–just be sure to let them know you’re working with an agent if you’ve already chosen one.

-  Location, Location, Location

This is the most famous saying in our industry when it comes to the three things that most effect buyer’s purchasing decisions.

It’s wonderful that you can buy a 3,000 sq. ft. single family home for a very low price if you go out 7 miles due west of Downtown Chicago, but if no one will come and hang out with you, what was the point?

Location is such a crucial piece of the home buying puzzle because it will have the greatest effect on your overall lifestyle.

Do you love getting up early and walking a block to your yoga class and then having a nice protein shake from the juice bar across the street on your way back? If you do, then think long and hard before you decide to give up your ideal location for a few more interior square feet or some shiny new stainless steel appliances.

- Don’t Forget to Account for the Extra Small Costs

When buyers are setting up their budgets, they always remember to account for things like mortgage, tax, and insurance payments, as well as any association dues (for condos or communities with common amenities). They also remember to budget for utilities like gas, cable, and electric and most even remember things like landscaping maintenance and routine maintenance.

What most people forget about are the little extras which, when you add them up, can become not so little. A prime example- using the tip above about location- let’s say you decide to move 4 blocks farther from your ideal location which isn’t so far- no big deal, right? Maybe not…

Let’s say you’re not much of a walker or are always in a rush–that 2-minute walk for $0 just turned into a $6 cab ride.

Another simple example is a buyer who moves from a more affordable area to a more expensive one. Everyone accounts for the extra rent or mortgage they will pay, but few remember to account for the fact that there are no more $7/plate restaurants out your front door and that $35/plate restaurants have replaced them. Now you’re faced with spending hundreds of dollars more per month to feed yourself or spending money on cabs to get to more affordable options.

Always remember to really take the time to think about your overall budget and account for every penny that your new home will cost on a monthly basis, but also the ancillary income you will need to spend to conveniently live in that location.

-  Scope Out the Area on Your Own for a Different Perspective

Going out with your Realtor on the weekend and seeing homes is a great start once you become more serious about your search, but if you really want to get a feel for the area you’re considering buying in, you need to do more.

Start by visiting the property and general area at 9am and 5pm so you can judge traffic volume, noise levels, and the general feel for the area. Then come back during the weekend and walk around during the middle of the day. Stop in a local restaurant and have a bite and talk to a couple small business owners in the area to get a feel for their thoughts on the neighborhood.

The trick here is to figure out the lifestyle afforded by the area you’re considering and taking the time to make sure that lifestyle will be a good fit once you’re moved in.

- Do Not Compromise on The Quality of the Professionals You Hire

We’ve all heard the saying “You get what you pay for” and this couldn’t be more true than in real estate.

I get it–your girlfriend’s sister’s mom is a Realtor and she’s going to be so so so upset if she doesn’t get the business. Unfortunately, if you let people pressure you into hiring people who aren’t capable of fully representing you, then you can run into problems.

All hiring decisions- attorney, lender, Realtor, home inspector–should be based on merit and made without regard to personal relationships. If you know just so happen to be friends with a phenomenal agent with a stellar reputation who works in the area you’re buying in, then that’s one thing, but to blindly give out business when your hard earned money and happiness at stake is foolhardy to say the least!

- Always Know Your Exit Strategies

A good businessperson always knows their exit strategy up front and you should be no exception when it comes time to buying property.

Do you have enough for a down payment so that if you needed to sell quicker than expected you could without writing a check? Can you rent the home for enough to cover your total monthly expenses as an alternative strategy if you can’t sell?

The bottom line is, you need to make a plan as if you’re going to be moving half way across the world 6-12 months after you buy. If your exit strategy is sound enough to account for that critical of a life change, you know you’ve done your job in this respect.

Buying a home doesn’t need to be intimidating, scary, or complicated- in fact it should be just the opposite- approachable, fun, and simple. Organization, planning, and careful consideration are the dominant themes for all the tips listed above and by utilizing these simple strategies you will exponentially increase the odds that your purchase will end up a success in every way.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo - Investment Tips for Success

Investing, whether it is for your retirement or a big purchase, can be a satisfying endeavor for individuals looking to build up their finances. Whether you are interested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs or any other investment vehicle, there are a few investment tips every successful investor should keep in mind. Here is what InvestorPlace recommends to experts and beginners alike.

Making Investing Profitable

One of the biggest ways people can help themselves succeed in their investments is by truly understanding what they are investing in. Too many people throw their money into stocks without having a basic understanding of what to expect from the market and what to watch for. Regardless of what you are investing in, you should understand the terminology, latest trends, and inner workings of things like stocks and mutual funds, because that is the only way you will be able to truly prepare yourself for successes and failures. Our financial tip to beginning investors: Take the time to research your investment or find a brokerage firm you can trust to take care of the research for you; either way, ensure that you are working with the right amount of knowledge and expertise to keep your money alive.

One of the essential stock trading tips today is to make sure that your expenses do not exceed your expected profit. It’s simple: If your gains exceed your expenses, you will profit; however, if your expenses are too high, whether due to unsound purchases or a broker’s high commission fees, then you could be losing more money than you are gaining.

Whether you interested in stock trading tips or investment tips, it pays to stay on top of the latest news and trends in the industry. Looking into the facts and figures put across by a reliable investment news source is one of the only ways to ensure that you are making the most of the opportunities available to you, as well as keeping tabs on the companies you are currently invested in. Any expert offering up a financial tip will tell you that you have to watch the latest figures like a hawk to see how companies are doing and whether or not another lucrative investment is coming your way. With this in mind, InvestorPlace offers a one-stop shop for the latest news and trends offered from an expert perspective. Check out InvestorPlace today to see what we can tell you about your current investments!


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: The top ten legal pitfalls of starting up

Here, law firm Brecher looks at the mistakes entrepreneurs typically make at the start of their experience.

Entrepreneurs are, by definition, driven and ambitious and usually have an excellent grasp of their industry, gained either through experience or thorough research. Despite this, many are surprisingly unsophisticated when it comes to identifying the legal pitfalls associated with starting and growing a new business. Shared horror stories reveal surprisingly common mistakes being repeated across the sectors.

1. Not choosing the right vehicle
Avoid the tendency to use a particular vehicle merely because someone else does. The structure of each business is unique to that business: while a limited company may be a popular option it can be tax inefficient, whereas LLPs are tax transparent but have other drawbacks like the offsetting of group losses. Make time for proper tax and structuring advice at the outset to avoid leaking profits later in.

2. Getting the equity structure wrong
At the outset of a new venture, an informal agreement as to who should be entitled to what may seem sufficient, but informal agreements are difficult (if not impossible) to evidence should there be a disagreement later down the line. Even without disagreement, deferring the formal allocation of equity until a later date can cause a plethora of issues, including the trigger of tax and causes nervousness among funders. Discuss and resolve at the outset who owns what, and make sure that structure is formally documented to avoid confusion and disputes.

3. Buying an off-the-shelf constitution
Adopting pro-forma articles, or doing away with an LLP agreement, may seem a great cost saving in the short term, but can leave you exposed later down the line. Take the time to put in place appropriate mechanisms and protections to make sure you have adequate control over the equity and management of the new venture. If confidentiality is a concern (eg in terms of sensitive profit shares, control issues or exit rights) shareholder agreements are a useful tool as they do not appear on a public register.

4. Not considering all the finance options
Contrary to popular belief, finance is still freely available, but it remains a lender’s market and investment of any form undoubtedly comes at a cost. While institutional lenders remain risk averse, the secondary lending market has seen huge growth over recent years, and many providers are now willing to consider spreading their investment between traditional loan and equity. The options are endless, complex and come at a cost, so make sure you understand the small print before committing.

5. Not getting the right professional advice
Getting the right advisers on board at the outset can be a huge competitive advantage. As well as giving structuring advice on set up, the right team can add real value not just in pre-empting issues but also in proactively advising on how to resolve them. Professionals used to acting in this area will be an excellent sounding block as to what works and what doesn’t, and their ability to make introductions and open doors should not be underestimated. Where a business has no track record, entrepreneurs are often judged on the quality of their professional team so take time to shop around and find the right team for you.

6. Not protecting your crown jewels
It is surprising how often this ‘basic’ is overlooked, but the value of the business will be depend on the value of its assets. So protect them. If the business is reliant on intellectual property rights, register them. If it is contract based, document those contracts. If the information is reliant on information, make sure it is not released without robust non-disclosure agreements being put in place, and if it is dependent on key employees or consultants, ring fence their terms of employment with suitable non-complete obligations. Without these, the faster the business grows, the faster its inherent value will be eroded.

7. Using the wrong incentives
Don’t give away the equity too early or too lightly. Shareholders, however small a stake, acquire additional protections at law, and (if not structured correctly) can cause a real headache in terms of administration and decision making. If you do give away equity, consider creating a new class of share with limited voting rights, and consider ‘good leaver/bad leaver’ provisions that oblige an existing shareholder to sell his shares when he leaves, with the price he receives varying depending on the circumstances of exit. As an alternative to allotting shares immediately, why not grant options the exercise of which is dependent on performance related targets. Phantom share schemes can be a useful alternative, as they reward an employee by tracking the increase in value of the business without diluting the equity. There are a large number of alternatives, many of which have tax consequences, so take proper advice to make the most of these and avoid making a costly mistake.

8. Having unrealistic objectives
It is always tempting to present rosy figures to potential investors, but don’t promise more than you can achieve. Excessively optimistic statements can erode trust and credibility, and making a statement you know you can’t deliver is fraud. Investors can (and do) sue on that basis.

9. Getting lost in the here and now
Getting that first development, or that first contract, underway is critical and can be all consuming, but it mustn’t allow you to take your eye off the pipeline three, six or nine months down the line. If you don’t have resources, and cash flow, in place to fulfil the commitment, the business will fail. Run conservative projections, and keep an immaculate trail of outgoings at all times. If finance isn’t your forte then don’t be too proud to bring in someone with suitable expertise who can help you keep up to date and pre-empt issues before they arise.

10. Leaving the legals to the last minute
It’s really tempting when finance is tight to see lawyers’ fees as an unnecessary cost to be deferred. That view can often be short-sighted, as issues that would have taken an hour to address at the outset can take several days to unpick later on. Lawyers don’t have to cost the earth, and finding the right adviser at the outset will pay dividends in the long run.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Social Media Tips for Investment Managers

The rise of social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter has been unprecedented over the last couple of years. LinkedIn now has some 313 million users and in Q2 2014 its revenues rose by 47 per cent to USD534m reported the Wall Street Journal on 31 July 2014.

McKinsey estimates that there is a GBP772bn opportunity for business to use social media.

All of us use social media in one form or another but when it comes to applying it to the workplace, the asset management industry has remained largely apathetic. This would appear to stem from a fear of falling foul of compliance in what has become a tightly regulated market.

One of the pillars of any asset manager’s marketing strategy today should include social media but it’s important to understand the potential roadblocks. This prompted SEI recently to publish a brief on the subject entitled “Stepping in to Social Media”, in which eight tips and considerations are presented for investment managers.

“I think it’s true to say that all asset managers have been reluctant to get into social media. From a compliance perspective, there’s a lot less control over the way information is broadcast and who you, as a firm, are communicating with,” says Lori White (pictured), Marketing Regulation Counsel, SEI. “The reluctance has largely been from compliance officers as they look to get comfortable complying with existing regulation.”

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) published more substantial guidance recently and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in August this year established the Social Media Charter in light of the fact that 71 per cent of employees at financial firms had breached their firms’ social media policies.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Why You Should Avoid Zombie Structured Notes

Occasionally I see financial products spring from the dead to devour investor dollars. One such product is called a “structured note.”

I first wrote about these vehicles more than three years ago for AARP Magazine, The New York Times, Reuters and Here’s the warning the SEC and FINRA issued after I wrote the pieces.

Structured notes are like bonds, only linked to derivatives. Brokers sell them to mostly older, yield-hungry investors. They are dangerous because they are almost universally backed by the credit of a bank — they are not federally insured — and promise a healthy yield during low-yield times.

I don’t recommend these products because of the risks and costs. They can certainly lose money and reap huge commissions for the brokers selling them. Many of them are labeled “principal protected.”

No one quite knows how these notes will perform in a prolonged bear market, but we have a clue. Lehman Brothers sold billions of them prior to the 2008 crash and investors got their shirts handed to them.

UBS, the Swiss bank and one of the biggest brokers of the Lehman products, agreed to pay investors $120 million to settle a lawsuit over the Lehman notes last year. UBS spokeswoman Megan Stinson told Reuters the Swiss bank was “pleased with the settlement, saying it avoided the cost and uncertainty of litigation, and had set aside reserves to cover it.” The bank did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

As stock-market volatility soared in the past month, though, brokers have seized the opportunity to sell even more structured products. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig was on top of the sales surge:

“Over the two weeks that ended October 10, 343 structured notes totaling $2.17 billion were issued by various investment banks. That’s more than three times the amount of deals issued over the same time last year,” reported Zweig, who cited research by Exceed Investments in his report.

“These short-term bonds are typically structured to limit or eliminate your exposure to losses while giving you a stake in potential gains, making them especially alluring in weeks like the one we just had, when stocks were glowing red,” Zweig reported. “But whether you should buy them depends on the exact terms of each note-and on whether you can trust your advisor when he says he understands them.”

Jacob Zamansky, a New York-based lawyer who also represents individual investors, also has this warning:

"While some deals work the way they are designed, other structured notes have caused thousands of investors harm, all the while drawing the scrutiny of securities fraud attorneys. UBS (NYSE:UBS) and other brokerages sold structured notes in 2008, and many of those deals were issued by the now defunct Lehman Brothers. After Lehman filed for bankruptcy, the structured notes were worthless. The spate of lawsuits by customers and regulatory actions that followed underscored the complex and opaque nature of these critters and how investors were misled by their advisors.

Should the structured note sales boom continue, it is essential that brokers and investment banks make full and clear risk disclosure to investors. We are not predicting a Lehman-like collapse that would create panic and havoc in the broad market and also wipe out a swath of structured note holders, however, each deal is complex and laden with risk. Stay away if you don’t understand the devastating losses structured notes could create in your retirement savings.”

In short, structured notes are complex investments. Brokers selling them may not fully understand how they will perform under adverse market conditions, so avoid them.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group: 4 Money Moves To Outsmart Your Brain

Finally, the explanation for why Americans aren’t saving enough: It’s not sexy. Now, spending: that’s sexy.

That’s one of the findings in Thinking Money: The Psychology Behind Our Best and Worst Financial Decisions, airing on public television stations beginning Thursday, Oct. 16; check local listings. It’s produced in association with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA is the largest independent securities regulator in the U.S.).

In truth, the show is really about behavioral economics, but that’s not very sexy either.

So the program serves up key principles by interviewing experts from the likes of Princeton, Stanford and Yale  — as well as what we call in the journalism trade “real people” — to explain why our brains keep us from doing the right thing with our money and how to outsmart them. For instance, you’ll learn how to combat “the IKEA effect,” which makes you put more value on products you helped create than ones you don’t.

If this all still sounds a little wonky, it’s worth noting that the program has some pretty funny and weird experiments.

For instance, someone gets wine coursed through a vein while in an fMRI (a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine that measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow) to see how the brain reacts when it thinks the person is drinking a $90 bottle of pinot noir versus a $10 bottle. In another, the jokey host — comedian/actor Dave Coyne — wears Virtual Reality goggles to see what he’d look like “old.”

As Thinking Money’s producer and writer John Greco told me, the show offers ways “to fight your instinct to spend money now.”

Four lessons from the show:

1. Don’t let an overwhelming number of choices paralyze you from making smart investing decisions. In Thinking Money, the brilliant, blind Columbia University business professor Sheena Iyengar (author of The Art of Choosing) discusses her jam study. She let some people select among 24 flavors and others had a choice of six. They were more likely to buy a jam when given a smaller selection; choosing among 24 flavors was too confusing.

The jams, the show explains, are an excellent proxy for all those investment choices employees often have to pick through when deciding where to put their 401(k) money. As it turns out, the more 401(k) choices people have, the less likely they are to invest in the plan. “Iyengar found that so many people are so confused by their 401(k) choices that they invest in what they can understand, like money market funds. But those barely keep up with inflation,” said Greco.

2. A good “nudge” can help you achieve your financial goals — especially if the nudge has unpleasant consequences attached. “Behavioral economists like the nudge idea because they don’t have much faith in our ability to make the right decisions,” Walter Updegrave, of (and a Next Avenue contributor) noted at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW)/National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) Personal Finance Reporting Workshop I attended on Thursday.

Thinking Money describes the clever, free website,, where users sign up for “commitment contracts” to force them to reach their goal. (The genesis of the site came from Yale economists.) When setting your goal and a date, you can also tell Stikk which organization you detest that should receive money charged to your credit card if you fail.

On the show, grad student Graham Brown says he took out a commitment contract to force himself to make lunch three days a week and put the money he’d saved toward a road trip with a buddy. It worked.

3. Beware of confirmation bias. This is when you look for justifications for decisions you’ve made or are about to make by finding ones that support your view and ignoring ones that don’t. Thinking Money says the dot com bubble of the 1990s is an example of this. So was the 1630s tulip bubble in Holland, when, as Greco said, “bulbs were going for 10 times the salary of skilled craftsmen and were completely overvalued and a lot of fortunes went with them.”

How to avoid confirmation bias? Daylain Cain, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale University, advises in the show that when you’re about to make an investment purchase, be a devil’s advocate and ask yourself: What could go wrong?

“Any of us can do that, we just have to be motivated,” said Greco.

4. Don’t hand over money to a crook because you fear you’ll miss out on a spectacular investment opportunity if you don’t. AARP’s Washington state director Doug Shadel, a financial fraud expert (“he has interviewed more con men than I have had hot meals,” said Greco), explains in the show how fraudsters and marketers prey on that behavior.

One secret of con artists, says Shadel: They look for people who’ve just lost a lot of money because those people are angry and upset. As a result, they aren’t thinking clearly.

“That makes them more susceptible to the con man’s pitch,” said Greco.

You can find other useful tips on saving, investing, controlling debt and protecting your future at FINRA’s site.

After watching Thinking Money, maybe you’ll feel a nudge to trim back spending and save more for your impending retirement.

Greco told me that, since working on the show, that’s exactly what he’s done. “I work primarily at home and used to think nothing about buying lunch out. Now I find myself making lunch a lot more.”

He added: “It’s never too late to change spending habits that can hurt you.”


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Four Tips for Agile Thinking (And Sales Success)

At the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel, "Competitive Edge in Today's Sales World," led by sales guru Jill Konrath who is known for her innovative strategies and thinking.

Jill's latest book, Agile Selling, is a must-read for sales people looking to succeed in today's competitive landscape. She talks about how it took more than basic sales skills to be successful, and tells how she dealt with fear, mastered a "never-fail mind-set" and learned to see things from her customers' perspectives. She realized how important these traits were to her "agility" -- her ability to rapidly acquire knowledge and develop new strategies.

The panel discussion was lively and informative, and it struck a chord with me because I've long adhered to many of Jill's beliefs. We were each asked four questions on the panel, and I'll share my answers in the hope they'll help people understand how crucial agility is in today's market.

My husband likes to joke that I can't keep a job. I have had a number of roles in my career and I like to think it's because I have demonstrated the ability to be an agile learner. Whenever a new task or project is at hand, I work to come up to speed quickly and swiftly execute a plan.
As Chief Content Officer at Thomson Reuters, I seek to learn everything I can about our vast content operation, which is at the core of what we do as a business. It sometimes feel like I'm drinking from a fire hose when it comes to understanding important trends such as big data.

Whenever I take on a new role I immerse myself in a 30-day deep dive of interviews with key stakeholders, including employees across the business, customers, partners, and thought leaders. I ask lots of questions: What are our strengths? Our biggest challenges? What are the key factors affecting our customers? And perhaps the most important question (because the answer can be so informative): What would someone else focus on if they were in my role? All of this helps me learn--and respond with agility to any challenge.

We live and work in a data economy where the key to success is information and knowledge. Competitive advantage rests with companies that know how to unlock data to drive their businesses.

But taking the idea of data down to an individual level, the most important skill--one that truly unlocks the power of knowledge -- is curiosity. Curiosity about your own company's products and businesses motivates you to see resources, product briefings, information days, etc. not as a task but as a tool.

Curiosity about your customers can transform a meeting with them from a pitch session to a listening session. I believe 80 percent of the first meeting with any customer should consist of the customer talking about their business -- and what they need. I prefer to leave our product pitches for later meetings, where they are more likely to be successful because we're more prepared to respond to what the customer wants. Curiosity is at the heart of this process.

In the world of information overload, the key to learning agility is determining how to increase the signal-to-noise ratio and focus on data that counts. That's what we do at Thomson Reuters, but it's really what all successful sales people do.

I meet with customers all the time, and our sales teams expect me to be helpful in opening doors to senior client executives. The challenge arises from the fact our clients are all over the world, and in a diverse range of businesses. Remaining credible as one tries to meet the needs of an Australian bank, the Chief Risk Officer of a London investment firm, and the Head of Oil Trading at an Asian commodities house can be a challenge.

I use what I call a 3x3 planning tool for my meetings. I provide the client with three pieces of insight about what we see across the industry and at their peers; I ask three questions about their business and their industry; and I create three opportunities for follow-up engagements. I prep for each meeting this way, then treat it like a conversation. It rarely fails to be worthwhile for everybody involved.

As I've said before, the key is to conquer the "imposter syndrome." This is the insecure feeling that you are out of your depth, too "far over your skis," that you will be seen as a fraud. I've felt this at times throughout my career, and most other women have as well. The surprising thing is that many men also experience it. The difference is that women seem to have less risk tolerance than men. We let imposter syndrome overpower us and stop us from taking on the kind of challenging assignments and roles that might advance our career. Here again agility comes into play, since the key to not being overwhelmed by fear is to embrace the learning and curiosity skills that are the hallmark of agile sales people.

I want every woman and man to embrace the feeling of "Can I really do this?" and know that it is normal -- and a sign you are stretching your potential, taking it to new heights. Keep at it.


Investing Guide at Deep Blue Group Publications LLC Tokyo: Are You Saving Enough for Retirement?

Unlike Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men, we trust that you can handle the truth. No matter your age, securing a comfortable retirement is a huge concern. Folks want the whole truth about their financial outlook, but straight answers are hard to come by.

Both sides of the mainstream media habitually present opinion-tainted partial facts. Case in point: the unemployment numbers announced earlier this month. One side is cheering because unemployment dropped to a six-year low, while the other side is calling it pure fraud.

I found author and libertarian-about-town Wayne Root’s remarks in a recent article for The Blaze particularly telling:

The middle class isn’t getting richer, it’s getting poorer…

The only people being hired are your grandparents. 230,000 of the new jobs went to those in the 55-to-69-year-old age group. In the prime working age group of 24 to 54 years old, 10,000 jobs were lost…

It means grandma and grandpa are desperate and willing to take grandson’s low wage job to survive until Social Security kicks in. The US workforce is now the oldest in history. And if grandpa has to work (out of desperation) until the day he dies, there will never be any decent jobs for the grandkids.

Here’s the part Root gets wrong: Baby boomers are not working until Social Security kicks in. They’re working well past that point, because they feel they must. Smart boomers know they can’t afford to wait until robust interest rates return; they’re taking action to protect themselves now, lest their circumstances become truly dire.

You’re 65—Now What?

The Employee Benefit Research Institute surveys workers each year concerning their retirement confidence. Despite an uptrend, the latest report shows that 82% of workers feel less than “very confident” about having enough money to retire comfortably.

With that statistic in mind, we looked at three different 40-year retirement scenarios. Note that the numbers and charts in this overview are meant to illustrate several scenarios, not provide individual guidance. Every person’s situation differs in terms of taxes, time horizons, and other parameters, and we encourage you to work with a financial planner to manage your savings.

The data exclude other sources of retirement income you may have, such as Social Security or a pension. All of the amounts, including annuity incomes, are pre-tax.

Scenario 1. Scenario 1: He Who Takes It All Is Not the Winner

- At age 65, you decide to retire with $500,000 in personal savings. You anticipate your expenses will rise approximately 3% annually. Thus, with each subsequent year, you will need to withdraw 3% more than the previous year. You estimate that your savings will grow by 5% annually. You are planning for a 40-year retirement, meaning your savings must last until age 105.

How much money can you withdraw each year, using those assumptions?

Scenario 2. Scenario 2: Spreading Out Risk

- At age 65 you have the same $500,000 in personal savings that you did in Scenario 1; however, you take $100,000 from your account and buy an annuity. Our go-to source for annuity information, Stan The Annuity Man, says that currently, this annuity would pay $527 for the rest of your life. You use the remaining $400,000 as principal for the next 40 years in the same fashion as in the first case: assuming the same 5% rate of return and an annual 3% withdrawal increase.

Scenario 3. Scenario 3: Delayed Gratification

- Instead of retiring at age 65, you work for five extra years and buy a 100,000 annuity at age 70. We will assume you did not add to your savings during that time (though it did earn interest).

Many boomers use extra working years to eliminate any lingering debt, so they can retire 100% debt-free. (However, note that we encourage a different approach: using extra working years to save as much as possible, including maximizing catch-up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA.)


Deep Blue Publications Group: Tips on Avoiding Accounting Bloopers

Newly established businesses can run into a lot of mistakes particularly in accounting which can be expensive for the company. Avoiding them by learning from professional accountants can give business-owners a head-start.

According to expert accountants from the FreshBooks Accountant Network, the most common accounting mistakes committed by small enterprises are the following:

1. Fumbling with Receivables

Getting money into your business is definitely good. However, it Is not enough that you receive payment; you have to reconcile your invoices (records of who owes you how much) with your customer deposits or payments. Leaving them unreconciled will result in so much waste of manpower hours. A regular monthly process to avoid this mistake will save any company time and money in the long run.

A good way of easing up your accounting work is to receive payments online. You can also use cloud accounting software to automate and facilitate your work.

2. Failing to keep Expenses Receipts

Not keeping copies of business expense receipts can produce problems in tax, accounting and cash flow computations. Not knowing specific expenses in your bank account statement can result in high tax payments and other problems if ever you are audited.

The solution is easy: Keep your receipts. How do you do it?

- Use your business or credit card for business expenses
- Collect all your receipts in a bag or a box.
- Do a weekly or monthly filing of the receipts in your tax folder or keep digital copies.

The best tip, of course, is to add all those expenses as you incur them. You can use accounting software to make the task faster and simpler with the use of a smartphone.

3. Failing to Keep Cash Expense Records

Accounting is all about knowing what goes in and what goes out. Hence, not keeping records of your expenses is like going to war without counting your troops, not to mention those of the enemies. This holds true especially to cash expenses since other payments, such as those made through credit cards, debit cards or checks, are reflected somewhere in your bank account. Again, there are apps the business-owner can use with their smartphone so that they can keep track of those cash payments. But it all starts with asking for a receipt each time you make a cash-payment.

4. Failing to Connect with Your Account

Often accountants use jargon or technical terms the ordinary small-business owner cannot understand or does not have any idea how they affect the business. It is assumed that hiring an accountant means getting information or advice that is translatable into layman’s terms so that any business-owner can make the necessary steps to translate the technical knowledge into practicable measures.

Financial professionals can communicate with their own kind, but not with the rest of humanity. Make sure your accountant understands this problem.

These actually seem like easy problems to recognize in the daily operations of any business venture; but, as with so many other things, the easy tasks are the most neglected or taken for granted. If you wish to succeed in your business and keep your shirt on your back, you cannot afford to leave these areas unattended.