Monday, April 29, 2013

Using The Cloud for Travel and Emergencies

          Hopping on a plane and taking a trip is as common as stepping into an elevator. In just a few short hours you can be thousands of miles away.  For most trips many of us now take very little cash. Depending instead on debit cards and credit cards. Need cash, just step up to an ATM. Our wallets and of course for the ladies your purses are stores of financial resources and information. Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Drivers Licenses, Insurance Cards, Auto Registrations, your little cheat sheets for passwords. But what happens if you lose that purse or wallet? What if you get mugged? What if you are in a bad car accident and you are separated from that wallet or purse? What if you lose that credit card or leave it behind and need to cancel it right away? What number do you call? What was the credit card number? Here’s an idea that can give you some piece of mind.

Take a scan of Credit and Debit Cards (front and back), a scan of Passports (including any Visa’s), a scan of your driver license, auto insurance card, auto or boat registration, a scan of your health insurance documents. Scan your airline, cruise and other travel documents. If you are traveling with a minor and you have written authorization to provide medical treatment. If you are traveling with a domestic partner and have documentation that allows you to authorize medical services to your loved one, you should scan these legal documents as well. You may want to include addresses and telephone numbers of people you are visiting or people close to where you will be going. In an emergency, these people can be a resource to you.
Once Scanned create either one master document, or separate documents, password protect them and upload them to Google Docs or any other cloud storage medium.

Now, as long as you can get access to the Internet, you have access as well as a copy to all that critical information should you need it when you are away from home. All you need is one login and the password for the files. It’s also a great idea as part of a hurricane preparedness plan, or any natural disaster. Even if you lose your smartphone or laptop, you can access this file from any hotel computer or internet cafĂ© anywhere in the world.

Communication Apps for Travel

If you have ever traveled outside of the United States you will surely encounter the need if not the urge to reach out and talk or communicate with friends, family and co-workers. Even if you do not travel often you may have friends and contacts and like me business in other countries. So you really want affordable and easy to use mediums to communicate and stay in touch with your VIP’s. Here is a round-up of some cool apps that require web access and keep you in touch. Best of all the apps and the services are free or at very deep discounts!

Skype: Okay I am sure you have heard of this app. Telephone calls for free to anyone that has an account. Or discount calls to land lines almost anywhere in the world. Works on Wifi or 3G. Sends texts, Pics, Videos, and you can transmit attachments. Really good for very large attachments. You can use this on your iPad, computer or iPhone. I use it all the time for those international calls at pennies for the minute. On a smartphone, Skype will use cell phone minutes but if you have a computer or a tablet its Wifi only.

Talkatone: Nice app that requires you’re a gmail account user. Essentially uses your google voice account and the contacts already on your phone. The telephone pad looks just like the iPhone pad. All you need is Wifi access and voila, you’re talking away with your VIP’s; for free.  It does not use your cell phone minutes where google voice does. You can call or SMS text the US and Canada for free and international calls are at a discount.

Whatsapp: You’re on vacation and suddenly feel your thumbs are becoming weak from lack of texting. Or maybe you just want that intermittent interjection of how wonderful your vacation is and how rude the waiter was in Paris. No problem. Whatsapp uses your smartphone contacts and allows you to text other cell phone users anywhere in the world for free. Send Pics, audio notes or videos. Switch from SMS to exchange messages.

            So you say you don’t like being that connected. No worries, turn the phone off. On my next newsletter I will provide the top 10 excuses for not staying in touch during your vacation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Late Tax Season for 2013

        For the past few years congress has enacted numerous tax law changes that require new forms, new rules and a host of new calculations. For each change that congress makes the IRS has to first make or adjust the forms, update their computer processing systems, test the results and then release the final versions to the public. Just about every tax preparer today uses some kind of tax software and as soon as the final form version is released by the IRS and in many cases even before then the programmers are updating the tax software so that tax preparers can service the public. This year it just got worse.

Firstly, the IRS would not accept personal tax returns until after January 30th, 2013. To make matters worse as of the present date 29 forms have not been finalized by the IRS. In particular, according to the IRS certain forms for partnerships, S-corporations, C-corporations will not be made available until a week before the March 15th filing deadline. It depends if any of these forms pertain to your particular tax return.

For those taxpayers that need a K-1 from a pass through entity, to prepare your personal return, you may have no alternative than to file an extension and wait until all the updates are issued and then file at a later date.

At this juncture, everyone just needs to be patient and in time we can all get through this.

Some Tax Laws Are Still the Same

As part of the current tax law changes congress moved to leave in effect certain tax provisions. Here is a brief list of some of these.

·      The optional deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of deducting state income taxes.

·       The above the line deduction for up to $4,000 in qualified tuition and related expenses.

·       The deduction of home mortgage insurance premiums.

·       The exclusion in income of up to $2 million dollars in the cancellation of mortgage debt for a primary residence.

·         15 Year depreciation for leasehold improvements.

·         50% Bonus Depreciation on purchase of new assets.

·      An increase to $500K in Section 179 first year expensing option for the purchase of new or used business equipment, with an investment limit of $2 million.

It’s important to plan ahead but these could prove to be useful for some taxpayers.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pick Your Startup Managers Like Wine or Whiskey

Without a doubt corporate America is being shaped by many smaller companies that take advantage of trending technology, globalization or shifts in the local or global economy. I like to refer to this in general as market disrupters but, that’s another story. By and large newer and smaller companies are headed by young talent who come to battle in the business community with great innovation and talent but often lack a few critical ingredients. 

In managing a company there is a lot to say for a balanced approach. Personally, I am a big promoter of this in my own business and in my personal life. You need to have a good mix of innovation, bravado, intellect, wisdom and even temperedness to create a good work environment and to carry out the strategic model in such a way that it carves out a positive corporate culture. Unfortunately, when it comes to management, wisdom and even temperedness do not typically come from young managers. It comes from seasoned professionals who have been around a while and know how to adjust their egos and make business decisions that are well measured.

Yes a good dose of ego is good so I will have to say this: “I have always known I have gotten better with age” –LMAO   All kidding aside, this article in Mashable, The Best Entrepreneurs are Older, Have Less Ego is a good read. Essentially, up to the age of 40 you develop good entrepreneurial skills and guess what?, they don’t go away after that. This makes people in their midlife potentially great entrepreneurs. 

So, as I have titled this piece great entrepreneurs are best when aged like a fine wine or whiskey. As for me, I drink both…..but only in moderation.

Stay thirsty my friends. - LOL

A Few Good Apps

Increasingly, I have used my IPad for general business use instead of carrying around a heavy laptop that is bulky and takes time to boot up. But for the most part an IPad is simply not a great productivity device. However there are a few apps that can help you get things done when you simply want to stay productive. So here is a brief list of a few Apps that help me get the job done.

QuickOffice: This is a simple office App that handles Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Power Point presentations and can also handle PDF documents. You can save documents on your IPad or store them on the cloud using Google Docs. It’s a great little App and it has come in handy for doing work, writing a letter, or for meetings where I can share a document, or power point on screen rather than bring in a stack of papers. Works great with a projector, just remember to bring the cable.

LogmeIn Ignition: This is a remote desktop App that allows you to work on your computer just as if you were sitting in front of your computer at the office. Although the IPad is not a productivity device, I have used it to go through my Outlook folders, retrieve files or simply look something up on my office computer. Very handy in a pinch.

CamScanner:  Ever been at a meeting and need to make a quick copy of something. But you don’t know where the copier is, don’t want to miss anything in a meeting, can’t figure out how to work the copier. Use CamScanner to take a picture of it with your IPad, print it later or simply get the information from the document via a screen view. You can do the same with the basic camera on your IPad, although this is a bit more organized. Take pictures of receipts, for travel as well, print them later and attach to your expense report

Stay Connected and Mobile!