Bosses: The Good, the Bad and the Law-Breaking

According to research there are approximately five million small to medium enterprises in the UK. Out of these, 59% are registered as corporate businesses and 23.8% as sole traders. So, if these figures are right there must be about a million and a quarter businesses out there with employers liability insurance UK. Unfortunately the numbers show that there is nowhere near this amount of take-up for employers liability insurance which means only one thing: that there are a lot of law-breaking bosses out there.

Whether it’s due to ignorance of the law or a deliberate attempt to save money, the fact is that any business operating without employers liability insurance is operating illegally. Not only that but they are leaving themselves open to the risk of having to shoulder the financial burden of any liability claim made by their employees that could run into millions.

The high cost of being a bad boss

The Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 (note the compulsory bit) was brought in to protect the owners from claims made by employees that get injured at work. Some bosses might feel that nothing like that will happen to their employees, but failure to ensure that they have this kind of insurance not only leaves them vulnerable to claims for injuries or accidents at work, but they can actually get prosecuted and incur fines for ignoring the legislation. These can run to £2,500 for each day they have traded without employers liability insurance and even can even involve imprisonment for a maximum of 14 years. Not exactly a ‘slap on the wrist’.

Getting employers liability insurance will bring a boss in line with the law, but to be a good boss they should also get the public liability insurance that often gets sold with it. Unlike employers liability insurance, public liability insurance is not a legal requirement but would prove to be very valuable if a business comes in contact with the public, either face to face or on the roads. A good boss should find a small business insurance quote online and with lots of competition around, a good boss should be able to find a small business insurance quote that won’t break the bank.

Can You Afford to Go Back to School?

Many people enter the workforce in a certain capacity not necessarily because they like the work, but because they need the money. In some cases they regret not being able to further their education so they could get a better job. Other people like what they’re doing but realize they could bring home even more money by improving their level of education. If you fall into either of these categories, or would simply like to learn something new, you may be thinking of going back to school. If so, you’re probably wondering if you can afford it.

Online College Classes

One of the best ways to further your education is to take college courses online. With the advent of the Internet, learning has never been easier. From the comfort and convenience of your own home you can earn a degree or merely learn something interesting. The good news is that many online college classes are cheaper than those offered at a brick and mortar school. When you factor in the lack of travel time and expense, and the fact that you can do the assigned work at your own pace and at whatever time of day suits you, the online learning experience seems unbeatable.

Free Online Courses

If you look around, you may even be able to find some free online courses. By visiting Internet websites such as Educational-Portal.com, whose motto is “We Make Education Accessible,” you may be able to sign up for classes that are free. There are other sources of free online courses, some from major universities, including the University of California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You can use the search engine on your computer to find links to these sources. Although you won’t be able to earn a degree through free courses, you can improve your knowledge base.

Education through Employment

Many businesses have come to the conclusion that their worker’s productivity can be improved through higher education. The theory is that the more a worker knows about a company’s products–how they’re produced and how to improve production–the more profit they’ll earn for the employer. As a consequence, many employers are paying for their employees to learn. In most cases, the employee will have to agree to continue working for the employer for a stipulated period of time after completing the educational process and will probably have to sign a non-compete contract if/when they do leave. Programs such as these are beneficial to both parties. The employee receives further training which more than likely leads to a raise in pay, while the employer enjoys increased productivity and higher profits. Ask your employer if they offer training programs, and see if you qualify.

OpenCourseWare

As a service to the general public, many universities offer reading lists, lecture notes, syllabi (course outlines,) and other related documents that were once used in actual college classroom work at no cost. This information is generally available on their websites. You can access these sites by using your computer search engine using “opencourseware” as a key word. Prestigious schools such as Notre Dame and Utah State University have such material available. People who like to study on their own without the benefit of a formal education quite often use these facilities. Home schoolers also like to take advantage of the free material. You can’t earn a degree in this way, but it is a viable way to gain knowledge with no cost to you except your time.

Affordable College Degrees

If you want to go above and beyond what free online courses can supply, you may want to look into affordable college degrees. Whether you study online or attend a brick and mortar school, you’re never too old to earn a college degree. By doing some research and shopping around, you are bound to come up with a few places that can provide you with the education you’re seeking at reasonable rates. By using the search engine on your computer, you will be able to access the website of different colleges and universities. By searching within the website you can determine what courses are offered, and what the tuition rates will be. Compare the cost and decide what will work best for you.

College-Level Examination Program

By visiting the Internet website, www.state.gov, you can find out about CLEP, the College-level Examination Program, which helps high school and college students acquire college credits for their basic knowledge, whether or not it was learned in the classroom. CLEP provides the opportunity for people to be rewarded for what they’ve learned on the job, by reading, observing others at work, or simply through life’s experience.

Guest post from Pat Singer. Pat writes about accredited online schools for AccreditedOnlineColleges.com.

Beginners Guide to Credit Cards

So you’ve got a credit card offer through the post and you’re tempted to apply, but you don’t really know that much about credit cards in general. Below you’ll find a quick guide to help you decide whether or not to make the application.

Credit card terms you should understand

  • Credit limit – this is the maximum amount of money you are allowed to spend on your card before incurring charges. Most new credit cards come with a relatively small credit limit of less than £1000. Using your card wisely however will often entitle you to regular credit limit increases.
  • Balance – this is the amount you owe on your credit card at any given moment.
  • Minimum payment – this is the smallest amount you can pay off your balance each month without incurring a charge or falling into arrears. Each month’s minimum payment will be clearly displayed on your statement, along with a due-by date.
  • APR – this is the interest rate that is charged on the balance that you owe. Interest is charged monthly and is included in the minimum payment you have to make. Occasionally a lender will offer credit card deals that entitle you to a 6 or 12 month interest free period on purchases or balance transfers.

The benefits of having a credit card

There are numerous benefits associated with credit cards, not least of which is that you always have a source of money available in an emergency. Many credit cards also come with opening 0% balance transfer offers. These offers allow you to transfer high interest debts e.g. bank loans, store cards etc. onto your credit card where you then pay 0% or a very low interest rate for a fixed period of time. Obviously the terms and conditions attached to your particular credit card offer will need to be read thoroughly as they do change from one provider to another.

The information provided above is very basic but hopefully it will help you decide whether to make the application or not. Do bear in mind though that each application you make gets recorded on your credit report, and too many applications in a short period of time can count against you when being assessed.

4 Alternatives to Traditional Student Loans

You already know that attending college can be one of the best ways to further your education and land a promising career in a field that interests you. You also know that a college education comes with a hefty price tag. Many students opt to pay for college with traditional student loans. Student loans are an easy to obtain means of payment, but the idea of repaying these loans long after graduation is less than appealing to some people. Luckily there are some alternatives to traditional student loans when it comes to paying for your college education.

Scholarships

Many people think that scholarships are only for students with outstanding academic abilities, but the truth is scholarships can be obtained by average students as well. Scholarships are a great way to help pay for college and can help you avoid student loans by offsetting costs. If you are wondering where to look for scholarships, start with local businesses and organizations. There are also scholarships that recognize students by their heritage, extra-curricular activities, or even their major in college. Scholarships are available throughout your college years as well, and some are specifically for students entering a certain year in college. There are many online resources that can help with your search for scholarships, such as FastWeb.com and Scholarships.com. These sites will help you search and apply for scholarships that pertain to you. It is definitely a good idea to apply for as many as you possibly can. The more scholarships you receive, the less money you have to pay for your college education.

Government Grants

Another alternative to student loans are government grants, which are considered a type of financial aid. Grants are money given to you by the government to reduce the cost of your college education. There are various types of government grants available for college students, so you should apply for as many as you can. Although many are income-based, there are grants that are based on what you are studying in college as well. You should really take the time to research the grants available to you, as they can help with college costs tremendously.

Tuition Reimbursement

There are many employers nowadays that are willing to reimburse the cost of college tuition for their employees. If you are looking for a job, you may want to look into places of business that participate in this program, as it can offset your college costs almost completely. You may think that tuition reimbursement is only available for medical fields, such as nursing, but the truth is there are many companies that want a well-trained and educated workforce. To achieve this, the company either pays your tuition up front or after each semester has been completed successfully. Keep in mind that most companies that provide tuition reimbursement require you to be employed by them for a specific amount of time after you graduate college. If you choose to leave their company before this time is up, you may have to reimburse them for your college costs.

Be a Part-Time Student/Pay As You Go

If you want to go to school but don’t want to use student loans to pay for it, you can always attend college part-time and keep working full-time. Although your college education will be more drawn out, working full time should allow you to pay for your college costs as you go. This is especially helpful for students that attend college later in life. You should try to save as much money for your college tuition as you can while you are working full time. Many colleges are willing to set up a payment plan for those who choose against student loans. This means you may have a few months to pay for the up-coming semester of school. Keep in mind that all schools are different when it comes to payment policies and guidelines. You should check into the specifics regarding part-time students and paying as you go before choosing a school.

These alternatives are all great ways to avoid taking out large student loans to pay for college. Although it may take some time and effort to get these things going, the end result will be worth it. When you graduate college, you can enjoy the benefits of your degree instead of worrying a about repaying a student loan.

Guest post from Robin Price. Robin writes about online schools for OnlineColleges.net.

Top 5 Things You Should Know About Residential Real Estate Appraisals

When buying, selling or refinancing a home there are many steps involved in the process. One of those steps is having the appraisal done. When getting your home appraised, here are 5 things you need to know about residential appraisals.

The Steps
First you should know about are the three different steps of the appraisal process. When an appraisal is ordered, usually either by a bank or lender, the first step is that the appraiser, or inspector, will come to your house to evaluate it to determine its fair market value. Next, he’ll do a comparative market analysis by looking into similar homes that are near yours and into recently bought homes to find a fair price. Lastly, he’ll generate his final report according to his research and the inspection.

The Purpose
The purpose of the inspection is to determine the physical condition of your house to calculate its fair market value. The appraiser is also ensuring that the property actually exists and is suitable for residency. He’ll look at the condition of every room and check for damage on the interior or exterior that would lower the value. He’ll also verify that any improvements you provided on the pre-inspection paperwork truly did happen and he’ll look into permanent fixtures that affect a home’s value. There’s no reason to withhold information or lie to the appraisers so to make sure your appraisal is on the schedule be sure to provide full and correct information from the start.

Inspectors are Objective
No matter what the result of your appraisal is, you should keep in mind that the appraiser will always be an objective inspector. He won’t take into account anything in your personal life or why you need to sell your house. He’s there to figure out the home’s current value based on its location, age, features, and size and nothing else.

Value Can Change
Values can change overnight and without warning. If your appraisal ends up being much lower than what you researched last week, it could be that the home’s value decreased in that time. If you sell months after an appraisal was done then you’ll probably want to get another one done. Also keep in mind that the money you invest in renovations or upgrades may not increase the home’s value by the same amount. For example, putting $10,000 toward bathroom upgrades doesn’t mean your homes overall value will increase by that much. It could but there are no guarantees.

Second Opinion
Just like with medical care and car damage, you can always get another opinion from a different appraiser. The first inspection isn’t necessarily completely accurate so if you’re unhappy with the results, you can have another appraiser come. That’s completely up to you. You’ll have to pay for the subsequent appraisals but if you find one that appraises your home at a higher value, the money could come back to you.

Once you’re through your appraisal, you’re ready to buy, sell, or refinance your home! To make the process easier on you, consider hiring a realty company like SFI Realty, Inc to help through the many steps.

Mistakes People Make When Renovating a New Home

Buying a new home can be a wonderful experience. However, most people will find that the house isn’t exactly the way they envisioned there home would be. They generally want to do some renovations after they first move in. Here are some common mistakes that you will want to try to avoid.

Not Deciding What You Want

You need to be absolutely clear what you want before you start remodeling your home. Far too many people end up gutting the entire house before they start renovating it. This can lead to very costly mistakes that are nearly impossible to fix. Think about what you are going to want long-term before you reach out to a contractor.

You will want to conceptualize an idea for your home that you will enjoy living in for the entire time you are going to be living there. You may live in that house for another 30 years so make sure that you can commit to a particular layout during that time. Try to stay away from chic designs, because fads change over time. You will probably be better off living in a contemporary style home that you will always be comfortable in.

Using Substandard Materials

You need to use quality building materials for all your projects. Lower quality materials are going to be more likely to fail and lead to other costly problems down the road.

Don’t start working on a project until you know you have the money to pay to do it right. This may mean that you will have to hold off on some less urgent improvements until further down the road.

Failing to Do the Necessary Preparations

You need to do everything right from the very beginning. This includes doing all of the necessary prep work. Most contractors understand that nobody enjoys doing prep work, but it is something that everyone will need to. Starting a particular task too early or without doing the necessary preparations can cause very expensive mistakes.

You will need to measure everything properly before you proceed with anything. Find out what windows and frames you need and what tools you need to set them in.

Not Getting the Right Permits

Most homeowners feel irritated that they need to ask for permission from the government to do anything on your own home. Many first-time homeowners decide to proceed without getting a permit. You don’t want to make that mistake. Your homeowners insurance won’t cover any damages for work that you did without a permit.

Refusing to Hire a Contractor

Many people want to save money doing all the work themselves. I can understand the temptation, but you will need to be realistic about what you can tackle yourself. There are some projects that you definitely cannot do on your own. You shouldn’t do any dangerous electrical work unless you are a licensed electrician. It is easy to even make mistakes on more mundane tasks such as carpet installations, which is why you may want to try using a carpet flooring Phoenix company to help.

Do Your Due Diligence

Renovating a home can be difficult, especially for first time homeowners. You will want to do all your research before you tackle any home improvement projects.

About the author: Kalen is a lifestyle, home improvement and financial writer. He suggests that you visit Superior Stone & Cabinet if you are working on a home improvement project in the Phoenix area.

How to Negotiate Your Medical Bills When You Don’t Have Insurance

Millions of Americans don’t have health insurance. If you’re one of those millions, the costs of seeing a doctor even for small issues can be exorbitant and may lead you to avoid visiting the doctor whenever possible. For those times you can’t avoid the E.R. or a doctor visit, you can try and lower your medical bills through negotiation. Many never think to do this with their healthcare providers because we’re used to our system in which insurance companies have already done the negotiations for us. Next time you have to go to a doctor, use these tips to try and negotiate your medical bills down.

Make your situation known right away, before the service has been rendered. If you can open up to your doctor, the service provider, or the billing manager before the procedure or service has even started, you’re more likely to be successful. Whether you’re unemployed, uninsured, or on an especially tight budget you might be able to lower your medical bills by just talking with them. The doctor’s office may even have payment options or other help available for patients who are unemployed or on a fixed income but they won’t know you need help unless you tell them.

You might get turned down at first; don’t give up. Keep requesting help. You can also try paying in cash. During your visit ask the billing manager if you can get lowered costs if you pay them directly. If she says no to that, then offer to pay with cash in full as soon as the service is rendered. One of the biggest headaches for medical billers is getting the money from insurance companies so if you pay them directly, they may be willing to help you out. If you pay them directly in cash, they may be even more willing to help you since receiving direct cash is rare in the healthcare world.

In some cases, it will be impossible to negotiate your medical bills before the service takes place so for these instances, just plan to start negotiating with the billing department as soon as you can. Research what a fair price for the services you had is; these prices are what a medical office would accept from an insurance company as full payment. You can do this online, in the Healthcare Blue Book, or with insurance companies. Once you collect a range of numbers, find the average price and mark that as the price you negotiate for. When working with the billing department, every time the person you’re talking to turns you down, ask for his supervisor. Keep doing that until you get what you want or until you’ve reach the end of the line.

It will be easier to negotiate medical bills for necessary surgeries and procedures but you may even be able to bring the cost of that nose surgery down using the tips mentioned above and with the right attitude.

If all else fails, you should at least be able to negotiate a fair and doable payment plan with the medical office. Medical bills are a huge stressor for many Americans but with persistence and politeness, you’ll be surprised how far you can get. Good luck!

Inside the World of Couponhunting

The concept of “couponhunting” has blatantly exploded in the last year. This is a combination of a popular reality TV show, several websites and a ravaged economy. These days, everyone is looking for ways to save a few dollars. By couponhunting, you can substantially decrease your food expenses, for one.  Be warned though:   there is a steep learning curve. The first few grocery shopping trips you take may be intense; keep with it, however and you’ll learn the tricks of the trade.

 

How to Get Started

Be prepared! It’s true for the Boy Scouts and it’s true for you, too. Proper preparation prevents panic (say that a few times fast). Gather these items to prepare to become an all-around successful couponhunter:

  • Binders! These serve to sort and classify various coupons. Having a pile of coupons is fine for the average coupon user, but to go “pro,” you’ll need the right equipment.
  • A shopping list! Every trip, compare your coupons with your grocery needs. Make a list based off of this information. This will help you avoid “deals” on things you don’t actually need.
  • Coupons! To be a great couponhunter, you definitely require coupons. Set up a subscription to the Sunday paper. Visit your favorite brands online for printable coupons. Follow them on Facebook, as companies are known to post coupon codes. There are even coupon-clipping services that will send you coupons from other parts of the country that may be quite lucrative. Check into coupon services and promo codes found on the internet. Compare the costs of these programs to the possible amount of savings before signing up, to make sure you get the most for your money.

Now you’re ready to become the next legendary couponhunter! There are some practices worth adopting and others to completely avoid.

Best Practices to Adopt

Expert couponhunters have tested a variety of techniques to go from saving a couple bucks to saving hundreds. Fortunately for you, these tried-and-true tips are compiled below:

  • Know your store’s policies – Learn the coupon polices for every store that you frequent. This allows you to save money by stacking coupons or avoid wasting time by trying. By knowing their policies, you can get the maximum out of your time and money.
  • Know your expiration dates – Experts sort their coupons by expiration date, so they don’t have to constantly go through their collection. They try to use the coupons at the beginning of their binder before the rest.
  • Plan out your shopping trips – Investigate sales before you arrive and know which coupons you are going to use. Know which stores to visit and which items to look for.
  • Be courteous! – This is perhaps the best practice to adopt. Imagine being the cashier that has to enter and process all of these coupons. It’s a lot to deal with, so be nice! Do not argue over a coupon they say they can’t accept. Take it back and save it for later, or altogether toss it. Is saving 50 cents on a can of tuna worth a headache?
  • Keep storage space in mind – You only have so much freezer room! This also applies for your fridge and pantry. Take note of how much space is available before embarking on your trip. There is nothing worse than having to throw out a great deal.

Worst Practices to Avoid

Many would-be couponhunters end up chasing their tail and quitting by adopting some bad habits. Avoid the following worst practices:

  • Avoid over-shopping – Set a budget before each trip and stick with it. If you spend more money than you have in pursuit of a deal, you lose. The goal is to save money,
  • Don’t compare yourself with others – Everyone is in their own unique situation. If a friend is saving more than you, be happy for them. Don’t compare your savings with theirs. They are buying different items; they have different needs. Let them inspire you!
  • Don’t chase every deal – Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you have to stock up. Spending money on items you don’t need and won’t use is a complete waste, even if it’s on sale. Do you really need 300 bags of pasta?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Couponhunting is a great way to save some extra money at the cash register. However, take it easy! Treat it like a hobby. If you spend three full days clipping coupons and planning your shopping list, and save 20 dollars, was that really worth it?

You may be tempted to imitate the professionals, but they do this for a living. They don’t make money from couponhunting; they make money from the TV show or website that shows you how. You don’t. Keep your day job and save money whenever possible.

 

This article was written by Kim Jacobsen, who as a mother of five is always looking for ways to save money.  She recently visited www.gopromocodes.com where she found Orbitz promo codes that saved her and her family money on an amazing vacation.

What do lenders think your credit score is?

A credit score is a rating given to a consumer by a lender in order to risk assess the likelihood of that consumer paying back the money they owe without incident.

Consumers with high credit scores will be offered the best loans and the best rates of interest, so it is essential to make sure your credit score is as good as it can be possibly be before asking to borrow any money.

The first thing to understand about credit scores is how lenders work them out. Each lender uses their own formula and sets their own thresholds for who they will and will not lend money to, but there are certain things that almost everyone will take into account.

First and foremost, the lender will look at your income, how long you’ve been in your employment, whether you are a homeowner and what your outgoings are, including whether you have any dependants.

These things give the lender an idea of whether you are in a stable financial position and whether you are likely to be able to meet your monthly loan repayments.

Other things the lender will look at include your borrowing history, whether you have defaulted on any repayments in the past, whether you have ever declared yourself bankrupt and whether you have recently made any other applications for credit that have been refused.

These things will give the lender an idea of how good you are at managing your money and whether you are a responsible borrower.

Each of these items will be given a value using a formula that is based on past experience of lending to consumers who have a similar profile to yourself.

You will then be given a credit score, which is a number between 1 and 1,000. The higher the number, the better your score and the less risk you are seen to represent.

You can find out your own credit score for free by contacting credit agencies such as Experian and Equifax. It’s a very good idea for you to know your credit score before applying to borrow money, as a poor credit score will only get worse if you add a loan rejection to your record.

If you check your credit score in advance, there are things you can do to increase your rating and give you a better chance of getting the best loans and interest rates.

Closing down accounts you no longer use, building a positive credit history by using a credit card or flexiloan which you regularly pay off and clearing debts early can all help boost your rating.

It is also important to make sure the credit agencies have your details down correctly and that your file is up to date.

If you have a negative history of falling behind on payments, perhaps due to a change of circumstances such as being made redundant or going through a divorce, it is possible to add a note to your credit file explaining the background to any problems.

If a lender knows any difficulties making payments in the past were due to one-off circumstances, they may be more likely to take a favourable view of events.

Knowing what a lender will see when they look at your credit score gives you more control over your finances and allows you to make sure you only apply for deals you are likely to be granted. It also means you stand a better chance of being accepted for the best loans and credit agreements.

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Brainstorming sessions- bring them on!!

It is often said that the best of ideas and innovations come from brainstorming sessie. Brainstorming sessions have been instrumental in some of the best marketing and other success. It is the perfect way to bring out some mind boggling, stupendous ideas and implement them for a greater purpose, thus helping the organization achieve its goals. It might be difficult initially to challenge the status quo and people might be reluctant to initiate anything different. However, once people get in the groove i.e. get into brainstorm, there are ideas and concepts abuzz in the room.

There are some grand tips for a successful brainstorming session, following which can solve the purpose of a successful and productive session.

  • Moderator holds the key – An effective moderator holds the strings of a successful brainstorming session.  A moderator sets the tone of the discussion and can make the session lively, thus reliving from boredom in between.  A moderator needs to identify the objectives of the sessie, the agenda and the possible outcome of the session. He needs to elaborate the importance of the session and get the best out of everyone present in the room. He or she also has other tasks at hand. He needs to sound peppy and keep everyone upbeat at all times.
  • Know your people- To have the right mix of persons in the fold is essential for the perfect brainstorming. A group of people who are extremely zealous about the product needs to converge with a host of sane and not over excited comrades who are also keen to contribute towards the product.  This eclectic mix would generate enough buzz regarding the product and points and ideas would simply flow.
  • Importance of a venue – The ambience holds equal importance for a productive brainstorm session. A venue could be a poolside restaurant, a banquet hall or even a resort facing a beach! The location is also a deciding factor of a great session.
  • Break into sub sections – Fragment the brainstorming sitting into some sub sections if need be to get into the crux of the matter and for digging deep into the concern. Encourage some non conventional ways to approach the subject within a defined time frame and try to cover every nuance of the subject.
  • Respect – Ensure every person gets the chance to talk about his points without appearing to impinge on other speakers. Any idea is a great idea and in no way should an idea be suppressed with others intruding in between. A mark of respect to all the persons should be known at every time. Everyone must be egged on to speak and share his thoughts, no matter how outlandish it might be.

The end of a brainstorming session does not mean people would stop working or thinking on those ideas.  People should be informed to come back with further ideas or suggestions later as well. There would be some half baked ideas too, which other participants can use to devise new ideas from the source. Ideas in such sessions could be extremely creative in building success.

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