Retirement planning crucial for small business owners
Planning for retirement is crucial for everyone, and it is especially critical for small business owners, the business leaders many cite as the life blood of the American economy.
Indeed, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small business owners employ half of all private sector employees, pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll, and have generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
The challenge before American small business owners is keeping their companies financially healthy long-term. This is so that small business owners do not over-rely on the sale of their business alone to take care of them in retirement, and so the business will continue to remain a viable employer in the communities it serves.
Because small business owners and entrepreneurs are busy every day working to keep their businesses running strong, their schedule can often interfere with planning for the future. But in this economy, planning is a must in any business strategy. Without it, business owners may be surprised to find that the ultimate sale of their business may not leave enough for them to live on. This is because the sale timing might be off, or their finances are not strong enough to cover a full retirement.
"Setting a target number - or dollar figure of what is needed to live on for the rest of your life - is important, and it should be determined at least 10 years before you’re ready to retire," says Tara Reynolds, corporate vice president with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). "And as you approach retirement, it’s also a good idea to re-calculate what the business is worth with a proper business valuation to determine how you will need to fund your non-working years, if the value has changed. Having this plan and expectation in place can help you determine the best way and time to retire from your business."
The average business owner expects to retire at age 68, according to a survey conducted by GfK Custom Research North American for MassMutual this year. Yet only one-third of the respondents had a sound retirement strategy to ensure income for life, having access to income when needed, managing potential health care expenses and leaving a legacy to the next generation.
MassMutual financial professional Katheigh Degen of Kansas City offers the following tips to help small business owners stay financially secure during the run up to retirement.
* Anticipate needs - Traditionally, most people need about 70 percent of their current annual income to live comfortably in retirement. Know what your business is worth - both as one entity, and also broken down into smaller parts. Only about 10 percent of business sales involve the entire business as one lump sum.
* Save on the side - You’ve probably heard about diversifying your portfolio, and the same is true with diversifying your retirement plan. Put aside 20 to 25 percent of your gross income in savings outside of the business. This provides you with flexibility as you plan your exit from the business. For example, if you have an heir or employee interested in purchasing the company, they might not be able to afford it all at once, but could take over the helm with smaller payments over a period of time. Having additional savings can help you tide over in retirement while you also receive payments for the business.
* Explore options - As you near retirement, selling off your business in one setting would make everything easy. But as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t always work that way. Knowing your business’ value can help you evaluate offers that come your way, so you can make an educated decision on whether to sell and live comfortably in retirement, or keep working and pursue a better offer.
* Don’t wait too long to find a buyer - Within three to five years of retirement, business owners should start to find a buyer for the business. Of course, this plan demands that the owner set an expected retirement date and stick to it. By waiting too long, owners may begin to experience poor health and low energy, which could affect productivity and potentially the profitability of the company.
Planning for retirement is so crucial, and owning a business can often add complications in timing the retirement perfectly.
"Business owners put so much hard work into building the business and making it strong and viable in the market," says Degen. "With additional planning in retirement strategy, a good business owner can retire and see the business continue to succeed even after it has been transitioned over to new owners."
Courtesy of BPT
Selling your home? Make it more appealing to buyers
(BPT) - You’ve made the decision to sell your home - now you want to position yourself for a quick and successful sale. What’s the most important thing you can do to entice buyers?
“The most important thing you can do is to make your home look welcoming when people drive by,” says Kimber Powell, Realtor and sales manager for Coldwell Banker Mid-America Group in Altoona, Iowa.
“You want to invite them in. Make sure your front door looks nice. Trim and landscape your yard. Accent your entryway with a new door mat and pots of flowers that contrast with the color of your home,” she says.
Follow these tips to position your house for a successful sale:
Enhance curb appeal
A well-maintained house appeals to more buyers and can sell faster and may sell for a higher price, according to Realtor.com.
Maximize your home’s exterior appearance. Keep the lawn and landscaping edged, cut and watered. Inspect doors, windows, trim, foundation and siding for peeling paint. Repaint and replace items as needed. Clean out gutters and replace missing caulk and shingles.
Make your home look bigger by removing clutter and storing personal items and extra furniture before prospective buyers arrive. Make repairs where needed, Powell advises.
“Repairs are ongoing maintenance needs that show your home has been well-cared-for and kept up-to-date,” she says. “Most potential buyers want turn-key homes that are easy to move into.”
Repaint dingy or stained walls with a neutral shade of paint. Repair cracks or holes in walls, ceilings, tile and woodwork. Replace broken items and consider updating worn-out cabinet knobs, dated curtains and battered bath and kitchen hardware.
Show lifestyle possibilities
Create a lifestyle story to help buyers envision themselves living in your home. Have a small kitchen but a big deck? Focus on outdoor entertaining by adding lights, comfy cushions and showcasing grilling areas, Powell recommends. If you love your neighborhood, highlight a front porch with wicker furniture and window boxes.
“You want to show buyers the ways they can use the entire home and yard,” Powell says. “If you don’t have outdoor furniture or decorations, work with a stager to borrow those items.” Or consider borrowing items from friends or family to get your home staged for sale.
Highlight quality brands
If your home features or you’ve replaced items with high-quality brands, like Pella Windows and Doors, include their names in your home’s sell sheet, Powell says.
“People are very conscious of name brands and high-quality products. They also want to know about energy-saving benefits and warranties that may transfer to them,” she says.
Windows, door replacement
Projects like window and door replacements can recoup more than 70 percent of their cost at resale, according to the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report.
Whether you’re preparing your home to sell, or updating it to live in longer, Pella offers low-maintenance, energy-efficient vinyl, wood, and fiberglass replacement windows and doors that can help improve your home’s curb appeal, and help lower utility bills.
“Stylish exterior doors that look like wood, with the minimal maintenance of fiberglass, are popular replacement options,” says Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella spokesperson. “Plus, fiberglass offers exceptional energy efficiency, weather resistance and outstanding durability.”
Pella fiberglass entry doors offer many prefinished options, as well as custom colors so you can design a door that truly reflects your home’s style.
Five tips for kitchen redos
(BPT) - Feel the need to renovate? If so, you’re not alone. Fifty-three percent of homeowners believe that now is a good time to remodel, according to a recent survey by Houzz.com. When deciding on where the makeover begins, look no farther than the kitchen. Kitchens are a major selling point for homebuyers, so a kitchen remodel is good for the home-selling price. Even if you have no plans to move, the kitchen gets more traffic than any other area of a home and serves as the family hub, so it deserves the attention. To ensure a successful project, keep in mind these kitchen-remodeling tips:
* Add color and light. Splashes of color and artwork can transform a kitchen from a workspace to a fun, vibrant family-gathering spot. To show off those dazzling colors, choose window treatments that let the sunshine in. And take a look at the windows themselves. High-efficiency replacement windows and patio doors can not only save you money over their less-efficient predecessors from the second they are installed, but they often retain most of their value should the home be sold, according to industry statistics. Simonton Windows offers a variety of types, sizes and styles across a number of collections, and can help you find the right windows for your remodeling needs. For detailed window options, visit www.simonton.com.
* Add appeal and ease. Stainless steel continues to be the most popular finish for kitchen appliances, sinks and fixtures. Besides its modern, sleek appearance, stainless steel cleans easily and resists wear and tear. That is especially true for kitchen sinks, which receive the brunt of abuse. New lines of stainless-steel sinks, in a variety of styles, configurations and sizes, are available from Moen. To ease renovation, the new styles feature an updated drop-in deck design. These drop-in sinks include Moen’s refreshed sink-deck design, a minimal, transitional style that coordinates with a variety of decor and faucet designs. The new recessed deck allows sponges or other wet items placed on the deck’s inner ledge to drain back into the sink, and not onto the countertop. The sinks’ wear-resistant, uniform, brushed finish offers durability and resistance to chipping, cracking, staining or peeling.
* Go bold with fixtures. For topping off a kitchen-remodeling project, nothing beats bold and functional fixtures. The new STo collection of stylish, modern faucets from Moen encompass a slim, sleek design, including the innovative, integrated pulldown wand which neatly docks inside of the spout. The rounded, high-arc spout of the STo faucet features a tubular design that unites with a cube-shaped base. Adding the finishing touch is a rectangular lever handle. Available in both single-handle pulldown kitchen and bar/prep pulldown models, STo faucets also feature Moen’s Reflex system, which offers self-retraction of the wand, as well as an exceptional range of motion, generous reach and secure docking retraction. Choose the Spot Resist Stainless finish, with Chrome and Matte Black as other finish options. For more information about Moen products, visit www.moen.com.
* Store in style. Kitchen storage can be practical and stylish. After determining what you don’t like about your current cabinetry - consider location, storage capacity, storage flexibility, material and finish - find out what options you have. MasterBrand offers a spectrum of cabinetry products ranging from standard to custom, with solutions for every budget and lifestyle. For more on cabinetry products from MasterBrand, visit www.masterbrand.com.
* Freshen the flooring. While design, color and surface appeal are important considerations, you’ll also want kitchen flooring that can live up to your lifestyle and provide the comfort and durability you need, according to bobvila.com. Natural stone and ceramic tile are high-end products that ooze taste and elegance. If selecting these hard surfaces, also invest in mats for areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods of time. Linoleum and vinyl offer the look of tile or wood in a more economical, easy-to-clean package. Hardwood has made great strides as a flooring option for kitchens, due to improved product quality and sealing technology.
Courtesy of BPT
Sell your home faster with these cost-effective staging tips
(BPT) - Appearances count, especially when you’re trying to sell a home. Even though the housing industry experts predict this spring will be a seller’s market, it’s important to grab every advantage when you’re trying to sell your home. Staging - decorating a house to appeal to the broadest possible range of buyers - can make the difference between a quick sale or a long, painful linger on the market.
Fortunately, many of the most effective staging trips are also inexpensive, from a thorough cleaning to decorator details. Here are five staging tricks that don’t cost a bundle:
1. Cleanliness counts - Nothing turns off buyers faster than a dirty house. Before you list your house, give it a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning - something that costs nothing but the price of supplies if you do it yourself and a couple hundred bucks, tops, if you hire pros to do it for you. Don’t overlook little details like baseboards, ceiling fans, blinds and shower doors. Include decluttering in your cleanup efforts, and remove excess items from your home, even if you have to rent a storage unit to do it.
2. Work those walls - Painting is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to help your home look fresh and great. Choose neutral colors that will appeal to the broadest range of buyers. Don’t forget that neutral doesn’t have to mean bland, either. Consider dressing up an accent wall, easily and cost-effectively with repositionable wallpaper or a removable wallpaper mural. Websites like MuralsYourWay.com offer a wide variety of repositionable wall coverings, called SmartStick, in a variety of designs. A patented adhesive makes it easy to install the mural - creating an eye-catching focal point for any room - and remove it later if buyers decide they don’t want it. It’s a great way to get a designer look at a fraction of the cost - and without the commitment of traditional wallpaper.
3. Fix up the fireplace - Sure, you’re heading into summer selling season, but fireplaces charm buyers no matter what the weather. Make yours look its best. Old brick fireplaces can get designer flare from a coat of paint. If your fireplace is wood-burning, remove and clean the screen. If it looks tired and rusty, give it a fresh look with a coat of heat-resistant spray paint. For gas fireplaces, keep the glass clean and make sure everything is in working order. For a nominal cost, you can install a remote starter - a winning feature for buyers who can envision themselves starting a fire without ever having to leave the comfort of their couch.
4. Spruce up outdoor living spaces - If you have a deck or patio, do whatever it takes to spruce it up, from power-washing pavers and deck boards to staining tired-looking wooden decks. If you don’t have a patio or deck, and don’t want to spend a lot of money adding one, you can still create an appealing outdoor seating area. Mark off an area using stones or plastic edgers near the house or in a shady spot in the yard. Fill in with pea gravel or wood chips, then add an attractive bistro set - with umbrella - to create a pleasant seating spot.
5. Brighten the bath - Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, yet many sellers are reluctant to sink any additional money into staging a bathroom. You don’t have to spend a bundle to make your bathroom more appealing. After a deep cleaning, invest in some designer towels that only come out for showings. Put up a fresh shower curtain and get rid of those nasty area rugs that will make buyers think “germs.” Add a small vase of fresh flowers on the vanity. Bring in more natural light by removing blinds and ensuring privacy with removable film that makes windows look frosted. Have a bathroom that doesn’t have windows? You can really brighten it - and make a designer statement - by placing a removable wallpaper mural on the ceiling. Pick a sky scene with fluffy clouds on a blue background and you can even brighten a windowless powder room.
Staging a home can help make it more appealing to potential buyers, and ensure you sell it faster.
Courtesy of BPT
How to make your home stand out in a hot real estate market
(BPT) - The residential housing market is heating up, but before you post that for-sale sign, consider making upgrades that add style and value to your home. With many buyers seeking wood floors, kitchen upgrades and other add-ons, it’s important for homeowners to highlight these features so their property stands out from the competition in today’s market.
“It all comes down to dollars and ‘sense,’ ” says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. “In addition to warmth, beauty and durability, hardwood features increase your home’s resale value. Even with a modest budget, if you take the time and price your options, updating worn floors, dated cabinetry, and lackluster walls will make a significant difference. And it’s easier and less expensive than you think.”
Survey says hardwood floors sell
When it’s time to sell, hardwood floors not only add good looks, they increase the value of your home. According to a nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association, 99 percent of respondents agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. In addition, 90 percent said these homes sell for more money.
“Absolutely true,” says Bob Strader, a real estate agent with The NORTH Group of Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. “Between two similar properties, buyers will gravitate toward the home with hardwood floors, and that home will sell in half the time.”
Debbie Gartner, known as “The Flooring Girl” by customers at her New York-based flooring store, agrees and says quality increases value. “Hardwood sells,” notes Gartner, adding that you’re in luck if you already have a hardwood floor under a carpet. “Clients are shocked when I tell them it’s almost always less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to re-carpet a room.”
What about the kitchen?
Real estate agent Strader advises sellers to “upgrade their kitchens prior to going on the market because buyers see kitchen upgrades as being rather expensive.” He adds that, “Homes without updated kitchens will take longer to sell, and will sell for less.”
Gerry Henley, president of Kitchen Solvers, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise, suggests simple cabinetry updates that won’t break the bank but will result in a higher return on your investment. And hardwood products offer plenty of options.
“Many homeowners overlook the low cost and high impact of re-facing their existing kitchen cabinets,” he says. “By swapping out dated doors and drawer pulls, a homeowner can get the look of a newly updated kitchen and save up to 50 percent of the cost of a complete overhaul. Cabinet re-facing is a quick-moving project and the kitchen remains functional throughout installation.”
Value in the details
Architectural details - hardwood crown moulding, baseboards and other millwork - add depth and character, provide a finished look, and change lackluster to extraordinary, so much so that according to the National Association of Home Builders’ “What Home Buyers Really Want” study, crown moulding ranks higher than other luxury features such as fireplaces, kitchen seating and window seats.
Strader agrees. “From my experience, millwork adds the ‘wow’ factor that stays in a buyer’s mind. And most sellers are unaware that a custom look can be obtained relatively inexpensively with off-the-shelf moulding patterns available at home improvement stores.”
The American Hardwood Information Center offers some additional tips to keep costs low. For crown and other decorative ceiling mouldings, consider using a less expensive species such as poplar. Where durability is a must, such as baseboards, door casings and chair rails, consider a harder species, like white oak.
Behind in saving for retirement? Approaches to catching up
(BPT) - Does the pace of your busy personal and professional life leave you feeling like you’re always playing catch up? From finally reading that best-seller that’s been sitting on your book shelf for a year to getting a solid eight hours of sleep to making sure you have enough money set aside for the future, it can be difficult to regain lost ground. If you were among the millions whose retirement savings and investments suffered during the recession, there’s good news: you can start to catch up with a few simple steps.
On average, baby boomers say they have saved or invested $275,000 for retirement, but believe they’ll need a median of $750,000 to live comfortably, according to a Boomers & Retirement Survey released by TD Ameritrade, Inc. (“TD Ameritrade”), a broker-dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NYSE: AMTD). That means some boomers may face a shortfall of nearly a half a million dollars as they head into retirement.
Smart retirement planning, thoughtful choices and a handy -option called a “catch-up contribution,” can help boomers regain ground lost during the recession. A catch-up contribution allows people older than 50 to increase their contributions to their IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plans beyond the usual limits for such tax-deferred retirement plans.
“Anyone approaching retirement should consider different opportunities, like catch-up contributions, that might make sense for their retirement investing plans,” says Lule Demmissie, managing director, retirement, TD Ameritrade. “These catch-up contributions could help workers 50 years and older save thousands more - perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars more - toward their retirement. When planning for retirement, every dollar counts, especially when it’s going into a tax-deferred vehicle.”
Demmissie offers some guidance for baby boomers approaching retirement:
* There is no standard target amount for retirement. When setting a target for your retirement investing or savings, you need a realistic idea of how much you’ll need to maintain the standard of living you desire in retirement. Online calculators and tools, like those found on TD Ameritrade’s online retirement center can help you set goals by exploring various real-world scenarios that might impact your assets over time and at retirement. For example, do you have health challenges that may create medical expenses? Perhaps you and your spouse would like to travel when retired. Different objectives and circumstances will influence how much you’ll need to save in order to live comfortably.
* Don’t rely on Social Security benefits, but don’t overlook them, either. They should be a part of your overall retirement plan, but not the heart of it. Unfortunately, 65 percent of retired boomers said they rely on Social Security benefits, and nearly one-third said they wouldn’t be able to live comfortably without these payments, according to TD Ameritrade’s survey. “The best way to avoid having to rely completely on Social Security is to set a retirement savings goal and work toward it prior to retiring,” Demmissie says.
* Take advantage of catch-up contributions. As long as you will be 50 (or older) by the end of the calendar year, you may be eligible to contribute an extra $1,000 per year toward your IRA until you turn 70 (which is the last year to contribute to a traditional IRA). If you save an additional $1,000 per year for 20 years and get a 5 percent rate of return, you could have an additional $34,719 toward retirement. Fully fund your IRA with $6,500 a year between ages 50 and 70, and that could amount to an additional $225,675 for retirement.
“Remember, it is never too late to start planning for retirement,” Demmissie says. “If you experienced financial setbacks that stalled your retirement efforts, it may just mean you have to adjust your retirement expectations, work a little longer or think of other means of support that you may have not considered before. But it’s never too late to get started.”
Six simple steps to financial success
(BPT) - After watching the stock market soar to record highs over the first four months of the year, many investors are wondering if they should make changes to their investment portfolios. Perhaps - but not because of what the stock market has done. Investment decisions based on short-term market moves are often short-sighted. A better approach is to stick to a long-term strategy built on proven investment fundamentals, and aligned with your goals and objectives. Here are six simple steps from Thrivent Financial that can help put your financial plan on the right track.
1. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, use it. For a variety of reasons, it is often going to be your most attractive investment opportunity. Most employers will match a portion of your contributions, making your effective returns higher. If you contribute $1,000 to your plan, for example, and your employer matches that at 50 cents on the dollar, your contribution is actually worth $1,500. A 401(k) also offers tax advantages on contributions and investment gains. Finally, it puts your contributions on autopilot via systematic payroll deductions. That makes it less likely you’ll skip contributions, and also lets you take advantage of the powerful benefits of dollar-cost averaging. (Dollar cost averaging does not ensure a profit, nor does it protect against losses in a declining market. Because dollar cost averaging involves continuous investing, investors should consider their long-term ability to continue to make purchases through periods of low price levels.)
Simply put, your regular, fixed-dollar contributions buy more shares when prices are low, and fewer when they’re high.
2. Understand your investment horizon. Many people underestimate how long their retirement savings will need to last, which can lead to a host of mistakes. Some invest too conservatively, making it hard for their portfolios to keep pace with inflation. Others draw down their assets too quickly in retirement, boosting the odds that they’ll run out of money in old age. The average 65-year-old in good health can expect to live about 20 more years. Your investment strategy should reflect the possibility that you will not only meet, but perhaps exceed, the life expectancy averages.
3. Don’t underestimate the corrosive effects of inflation - even at low levels. At a rate of just 2 percent, inflation cuts the buying power of a dollar by a third in about 20 years. At 3 percent, it does the job in 14 years. Make sure your portfolio includes some assets, like stocks, that historically have outperformed inflation over long periods of time.
4. Diversify your investment portfolio, but understand that you will need to do more to mitigate longevity risk. Diversification is the simplest and most effective approach to managing investment risk, but is ineffective at managing many other threats to your financial security. Longevity risk, for example - the risk of outliving your savings - is best managed by pooling your risk with other investors. One way to do that is with an annuity contract issued by an insurance company. Certain annuity contracts work like old-fashioned pension plans, paying a fixed income for life. (Guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.) Some include escalation clauses that increase your payout over time to keep pace with inflation. Knowing that you have provided for your basic living expenses with an annuity can provide the reassurance you need to take a long-term perspective on stocks and other growth-oriented investments - the ones your portfolio needs to keep pace with inflation.
5. When investing in stocks, don’t confuse where a company is headquartered with where it earns its money. Many people are looking to capitalize on investments in the fast-growing emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Often, though, emerging-market companies are not fueled by growth in their own economies. Many are mining or other natural resources firms whose results are driven by global commodity prices. Rather than investing directly in emerging markets, a better alternative for many people is to invest in U.S. companies that do business globally. Many of these companies have brands that are household names in emerging markets, and some even earn more overseas than they do in the U.S. In fact, a large share of the profits of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index is generated outside the U.S. Bottom line, you already enjoy substantial global diversification with U.S. stocks.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The ever-expanding array of alternative investments can seem overwhelmingly complex, and may require frequent and ongoing attention. Rather than trying to do it yourself, consider working with a financial professional. Getting their advice on matters critical to your financial well-being will usually make good fiscal sense.
Insurance products issued or offered by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Appleton, WI. Not all products are available in all states. Securities and investment advisory services are offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., 625 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415, 800-847-4836, a FINRA and SIPC member and a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Thrivent Financial representatives are registered representatives of Thrivent Investment Management Inc. They are also licensed insurance agents/producers of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Deposit and lending services are offered by Thrivent Federal Credit Union, a member-owned not-for-profit financial cooperative that is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration and doing business in accordance with the Federal Fair Lending Laws. Insurance, securities, investment advisory and trust and investment management accounts and services offered by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans or its affiliates are not deposits or obligations of Thrivent Federal Credit Union, are not guaranteed by Thrivent Federal Credit Union or any bank, are not insured by the NCUA, FDIC or any other federal government agency, and involve investment risk, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.
For additional important disclosure information, please visit Thrivent.com/disclosures.
Courtesy of BPT
New itineraries, ships and offerings draw more cruise travelers to European rivers
(BPT) - Europe continues to attract the attention of American travelers, and travel on river cruises is one of the best ways to see many of the continent’s sights and explore much of its history. In response to strong demand, cruise lines are offering many new and expanded services to accommodate this growing travel interest:
Expanding to new rivers. Many river cruise lines are bolstering their cruise portfolios by expanding to rivers where they haven’t before offered itineraries. Such is the case with Tauck, a leader in premium quality guided travel, which is adding two new cruises on the Seine River. “Cruising the Seine Plus Versailles, Paris & London,” 14 days, begins with an included two-night stay in London at the landmark Savoy, complete with guided sightseeing. Guests travel next to France for a nine-day cruise along the Seine, before enjoying an in-depth exploration of Paris and a two-night stay in Versailles at the Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria property.
“Rendezvous on the Seine,” 10 days, includes a two-night stay in Paris. A subsequent seven-day cruise on the Seine is highlighted by a tour of Normandy’s historic D-Day beaches, an excursion to seaside Honfleur, guided tours of abbeys and chateaux, and a farm visit and tasting of local specialties in Etretat.
Added offerings on existing rivers. Many of the popular rivers already traveled by cruise lines will have additional options added. These rivers include the Danube - where travelers can visit Regensburg, Germany and travel to Bratislava, Slovakia - and the Rhine, where visitors love exploring nearby Amsterdam, Cologne and everything between to Basel, Switzerland.
New ships. Many river cruise lines are expanding their fleets to keep up with demand, and Tauck is no exception. Next year the company will launch a pair of “newbuilds,” the ms Savor and ms Inspire. At 443 feet, the ships will be the longest in the company’s fleet, but the new vessels will accommodate far fewer passengers than same-sized ships in other lines, to ensure a less crowded and more intimate atmosphere. As with its existing ships, Tauck will also staff the new riverboats with a Cruise Director and three professional Directors to provide the highest possible levels of service.
Those interested in more information on Tauck’s river cruise offerings can visit the company’s website at www.tauck.com, or call 800-468-2825.
Courtesy of BPT
How do you get people to come to your party? It’s all in the invitations
It’s a story that’s been told a thousand times. You’re throwing a reception and need to purchase some generic invitations, but you’ve passed the six week mark. Ms. Emily Post recommends to send them in the mail to your potential guests. Once inside your nearest invitations retail location, you browse the aisles and get a sinking feeling when you realize that nothing truly fits your needs and you’re too late to customize something.
Or, perhaps you are a business owner seeking to retain your patrons by hosting a series of events and private parties to show appreciation for their business. You also have very limited time to dedicate to the creation of an invitation from the ground up, but you’d like to have something tangible to send to your customers.
Here are some tips for meeting your invitation needs:
* When designing your invitation, first and foremost, you want to ensure that your guests have a clear understanding of when and where the event will be. It’s imperative that you allow enough time in your party planning to give those invited plenty of time to respond and reserve space in their calendars. If you find the date of your event quickly creeping up and you haven’t finalized anything aside from the date itself, a save-the-date may be a good option for you. It serves as a courtesy by notifying guests to reserve the day, and lets them know more details will follow.
* If you are hosting your event in a remote location, be sure to include directions and look into getting a group discount on hotel accommodations for out-of-town visitors. Integrating this information into the invitation will assist attendees in making the ultimate decision as to whether or not to attend your event. Additionally, when giving the location, state whether it’s outside or inside so guests can plan their attire. If you plan on holding your event on a boat, airplane or other vehicle, provide ample notice to your attendees. You should also feature the reason you’re hosting the event prominently on the invitation itself. For instance, if you’re hosting a gala to celebrate the election of a new president for your company, then attendees will know it’s more formal than a birthday party for a child.
* The design, color and paper quality selection also play an integral role in grabbing your invitees’ attention and getting them to commit to attend. This is why it is so important to take advantage of an invitation vendor who can accommodate your customization needs, with styles available in full color, in a matte, glossy or even linen finish and matching envelopes to complement your masterpiece. Be sure to include a way for your guests to RSVP. A low-cost option is to provide a phone number or email address where guests can leave their responses. If you want to be slightly more formal, include a response card with a pre-printed, postage-paid return address envelope with your invitations.
* Finally, it’s important to remember to stamp those invitations and RSVP envelopes. Otherwise, the chances of you getting RSVPs will be slim to none. Following these simple tips will help you create the perfect invitation for your next big event.
Courtesy of BPT
Three easy tips to create a more natural bedroom
(BPT) - The formerly “fringe” back-to-nature movement has become mainstream in America and nowhere is the desire for a more natural approach to living more prevalent than in our homes. From organically grown fruits and vegetables to VOC-free paint choices, the trend is toward fewer additives, synthetics and chemicals.
But for all the farmers market-purchased food in the kitchen and goat milk soaps in the bathroom, one room that has been neglected in the quest for a more natural home is the bedroom. However, it doesn’t take very much to make the bedroom more natural or “green.” Here are three easy and effective tips:
Choose natural bedding materials
Down and feathers come from nature, are biodegradable and renewable; consequently they have the lowest carbon footprint of any bedding fill material. Thirty-six percent of U.S. adults use down and feather bedding precisely because it is eco-friendly, according to a recently completed Harris Survey commissioned by the American Down and Feather Council (ADFC).
Being a natural insulator, down helps regulate body heat for an optimal sleeping experience, which allows homeowners to turn down the thermostat at night and save on heating costs. The survey found that 55 percent of U.S. adults who use down and feather bedding have chosen it precisely for its natural warmth.
Add fresh plants and flowers to your decor
Live plants act as natural air filters and some plants - spider plants, Boston ferns, rubber plants and palm trees - are particularly effective absorbers of chemical pollutants emitted from carpets, furniture and electronic equipment. Adding fresh flowers and plants to your bedroom helps with the natural cycle of carbon dioxide and oxygen, improving the overall air quality in your bedroom.
Take advantage of nature’s best heater: the sun
In the cold winter months, open blinds, draperies, and shutters during the day to let solar energy warm and brighten your room naturally. In the hot summer months, be sure to do the opposite, and close your window coverings to prevent your bedroom from overheating and causing air conditioning units or fans to work harder, thus using more energy.
Courtesy of BPT