Oct 312014
 

It’s that time of year again when we encourage kids to go beg for candy at random people’s houses. Yes, because taking candy from strangers when it’s dark outside is exactly the kind of thing we should be teaching children to do. :P Sometimes kids are forced to wear embarrassing costumes because parents think they look cute. Even animals are subject to such abuse as more owners are dressing up their pets these days. ;) Some people make their own outfits, but it’s often more convenient to buy them from stores where the costumes are mask produced. :D

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The Economics of Halloween

Halloween is big business. In the U.S. alone people anticipate spending an average of $80 this year on decorations, costumes, and candy, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s about 10% more than last year. October 31st is the chocolate industry’s most lucrative holiday for sales. More chocolate is purchased for Halloween than for Easter, Christmas, and even Valentines Day.

Chocolate will probably become more expensive in the future. It’s due to limited supply and a growing world wide demand. On the supply side the cocoa plant can only grow in very specific parts of the world, mainly near the equator in West Africa. Two countries in that area, Ivory Coast and Ghana, produce most of the global cocoa supply. It sounds like West Africa is a pretty sweet place to work in. :D But basically the production of cocoa cannot be easily scaled. And on the demand side consumers in developing economies of Asia and Latin American are quickly developing a sweet tooth for chocolate, with sales expected to increase by more than 20% over the next few years.

As global demand continues to increase the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers like Mars, Mondelez, and Nestle have to raise prices in order to maintain their profit margins. Hershey has already announced they’ve increased their wholesale price this year by 8%.

Altogether Americans are expected to spend about $7.2 billion on Halloween in 2014. Which will be good for the economy. Have a fun night everyone. :) Stay safe. And for anyone who cares, just a friendly reminder to turn your clocks back on Sunday morning this weekend. ;)

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Random Useless Fact:
Many animal shelters won’t allow black cats to be adopted around Halloween, out of fear that they might be sacrificed or tortured during rituals.

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Oct 312014
 

The following is by staff writer, Peter.

If you accept credit cards in your business or you are planning to do that in the future, one of the things that you will need to do is to choose a credit card processing company. There are many different companies that you can choose from, so how do you choose the right one? Before you can pick one, you need to know what to look out for.

Not Reading the Fine Print14-10-credit-card-dealer

According to Skybank Financial, a huge mistake that a lot of business owners make when it comes to credit card processors is that they don’t read the fine print in the contract. This can be quite costly. You want to do more than just glance at the contract.  Check for the fees that they are charging up front, along with the hidden fees, penalties, and other things.  Even though credit cards are made to make life easier, the industry is also huge and they’re out to make money. They want to make as much money as possible from everyone.  If you’re not careful, you can be facing a lot more fees than you expect.

Bad Selection of Plans

Most of the companies that offer credit card processing via a POS system like Shopify also offer a lot of different plans that vary by services provided and price.  A huge difficulty for many business owners is deciding which of the plans is going to be best for their business. For example, one business might choose a certain plan that assumes there will be a lot of transactions every month. But this is going to likely be better for a larger chain that is able to meet those obligations. Another example would be a business that is rapidly growing conservative in their estimates regarding the type of service they’ll need. Maybe they underestimate how many transactions they’re going to have. This can result in a plan that’s insufficient or the business having a lot of fees.

Ignoring the Termination Fees

According to Singular Payments, this is one of the most common mistakes people make. When you are looking for a card processing company for your business, it’s essential to look at all of the information before you choose one. One of the most common types of fees that businesses often will ignore is the termination fee. This is what a company will use to lock their clients into contracts. These fees are really high and many of the processors ask that their clients sign an agreement for more than one year. Even though these seem innocent, this kind of contract often will lead to the provider charging you a fee for early termination. They also often may charge a penalty for liquidated damages due to lost profits.

Falling for the Bait & Switch

If you are looking for something and you think that it seems almost too good, you may want to look elsewhere. A lot of merchant services will lure businesses into something with a great rate or some other delectable item and then change it after you’re hooked. When you’re considering a company to process your credit cards, you want to ask them if they’re offering guarantees about what you’re being sold. Look for guarantees that offer protection against baiting and switching so that you know what you are getting into and you don’t have to worry about unpleasant surprises.

Not Reading Reviews

One of the best ways that you can find out about a credit card processing company is to read the reviews online. Look at the things that other people have said about the company and what they say about their fees, services, customer service, and anything else you want to know about the company. This is going to help you make the right decision.

Not Comparing Companies

In order to find the right processing company, one of the best things that you can do is to look at the different companies that are available. You may find one that you really like, but if you stop looking, you may miss out on one that you would have liked better. So compare the different companies and see what they have to offer, and then choose the one that is going to be best for you.

A gentlemen wrote about his own search for a credit card processing company and the problems that he had dealing with all the fees, manipulations, and other less-than-stellar tactics used by card processing companies for the New York Times. If you are concerned about finding the right payment processor, then follow in the NYT writer’s footsteps and tread warily, pay attention, and take your time to think.

When you take the time to learn what you shouldn’t do and what you should do, you will have a better chance of finding the right company for processing your credit card transactions. Take time and look for the one that suits you best and you will be less likely to make mistakes. If you want a good POS system, go visit Shopify and see what sort of services they can provide.

Oct 192014
 

Overreaction leads to market turmoil

Over the last several weeks investors saw a 10% correction in the Canadian stock market, and a 9% correction in the U.S. Someone with a $100,000 portfolio invested in index funds could have just lost $10,000. Ouch. :| Is this market sell off justified or is it simply an overreaction to some recent bad economic news? First, let’s review what those news are.

  • The Canadian dollar has dropped to a 5 year low
  • Germany’s economy is weaker than expected
  • The rest of Europe is still in a mess of unemployment and stagnation
  • Last week the Athens Stock Exchange in Greece tumbled more than 6% in one trading day.
  • ISIS is causing havoc in the Middle East
  • Ebola fears

I currently own shares in the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.) It’s one of the largest companies in the country and has been around for over 180 years. Over the last month the price of this stock fell 8%. Instead of asking where the stock will go from here, we should instead be asking does all the recent bad news justify an 8% drop in value for one of the largest banks in Canada? My answer is absolutely not. :P It’s important to remember that when we buy a stock we are literally owning a part of that company. This means we, as stakeholders in Scotiabank, are still entitled to split the $6.5 billion profit that the company makes every year, regardless of how the price of BNS shares performs in the short term.

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A lower loonie will likely spur economic growth and will not hurt Scotiabank’s profitability. Europe’s stalled economy is nothing new and Canadian banks don’t lend that much to Europeans anyway. The media has succeeded in sensationalizing the threat of Ebola in the U.S. Yes it’s a terrible disease, and there’s an outbreak in Africa. But Ebola will not hinder businesses in the U.S. and Canada from continuing to rake in profits. Literally more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from Ebola – both a terrible fate. :(

For the intrinsic value of Scotiabank to actually fall by 8% substantial circumstances would need to be met, such as major accounting fraud or a 10% national unemployment rate, that would legitimately jeopardize the company’s ability to make money. The recent news is relatively trivial so an 8% correction of BNS shares seems like an overreaction. Imagine selling our stocks now only to see the markets rebound next month and regain all its losses. :|

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Oct 172014
 

The following is a guest post.

The days when you had to shell out thousands of dollars for a good cash register are gone. In their place and for less money, you can have a sleek cash drawer and a tablet computer with a card reader. Despite the minimal setup, the system works just as well as before. In fact, it’s often better, as the new systems like Shopify are faster and more efficient. These advances in technology might lead you to wonder when you will be able to set up a register with just the tablet and the card reader, without the receipt printer or bulky cash drawer. Those days aren’t here yet, sadly. For the moment, you still need all of these in order to make your checkout experience complete. Still, a cashless society is looming on the horizon and more than a few people are wondering what it will look like.

Added Security for Customers

14-10-cash-registerWhenever there’s a security breach online, people rush to point out that this is why cashless societies will never work. It’s just too easy to steal someone’s information, right? This argument only holds up if you forget that people get mugged and banks get robbed. Your cash isn’t safe, either. If someone steals your money, you can’t report it to a company and expect to get all of that back again. You can’t track where the thieves went after taking your check; there’s nothing for you to do but regret that you ever went down that dark alley or trusted that bank. Credit card theft is a very serious issue, but a person who can show that their identity and their cards were stolen stands a good chance of filing their claims and disputing the charges. With over 11 million cases of identity theft annually, according to Statistic Brain, there are systems in place to deal with these damages.

Tipping Doesn’t Vanish

One of the things that people are afraid of in a cashless society is that tipping will die. When you’re paying for your latte with a swipe of your card, how are you going to drop your change into the tip jar? Digital tipping is always an option, but most people think that working out how much to tip on a small purchase like a cup of coffee or a sandwich just wouldn’t be worth it. However, when tipping is made easier, then the amount that people tip digitally versus with cash actually rises. When taxi drivers in New York City started adopting a mode of tipping that let the customer check a box on a touchscreen payment device to add 10-30% to their bills, they saw their tips rise drastically. The average before digital tips was only 10%, and the average afterwards was 22%, according to The New York Times. That’s a huge boost! If this carries over to other industries, then ease and convenience of tipping might lead to better salaries for everyone from baristas and waitresses to bellhops and chauffeurs. Not to mention the fact that it will cut out the honest mistakes that people sometimes make when trying to find the proper 20% tip on an eight-person check.

Paperless Saves Business Expenses

Paperless is the way to go for many businesses looking to save costs. If you’re looking for the most expensive liquid in the office you can skip that water cooler that everyone loves and head straight to the printer. At an average of $3,330.14 cents per gallon according to Techopedia, printer ink is the most expensive reoccurring expense in your business. When you don’t have to print every receipt, you save money. When you don’t have to print out every report and checklist, you save money. When someone pays with cash, the only way for them to record their purchase is to get a receipt from you. When they’re willing to go paperless, you can either email their receipt to them or they can just check their debit or credit card statement online. The itemized lists will tell them exactly where that $50 they meant to save got away from them. This level of ease provides customers with more security and an easier way to plan their budget. No one wants to sit down with a ledger and a month’s worth of lunch receipts, bills, and payments made and missed when they can set everything up online and read the printout. You’re saving time and your customers are saving money.

Budgeting Advice Is the Only Thing That Stands in Its Way

Perhaps partly because mental math will put the brakes on your spending spree, the only place you really see someone advocating to pay cash these days is in the advice of budgeting analysts. There’s nothing to stop you from going over budget like literally not having the money to pay for something. But even electronic money can be budgeted, so when we do become a cashless society, the same principles will still apply.

Oct 132014
 

The trickle down effect

It has been said that if we cut taxes for the rich and help profitable businesses make even more money then the economic benefits would trickle down from the top to the rest of us. But for many in the working class this has simply not been the case. :(

14-10-trickle-down-treading-water

14-10-household-income-us treading water The top 1% have never been wealthier, but the rest of us still face many financial roadblocks. Both consumers and governments of all levels are still carrying a lot of debt. However real incomes in the U.S. have been slowly declining since 2008. Up here in Canada our debt-to-income ratio is near an all time high.

We often receive conflicting messages from policy makers. The Canadian Central Bank is keeping rates low to encourage consumers to spend and stimulate the economy. But at the same time it says that rising consumer debt is a major risk in this country. That’s right, patronize consumers for their debilitating debts when the Central Bank is responsible for creating the cheap money in the first place. Sound logic, Mr. Poloz. :P

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