Business & Economy
The Architect 401(k) Open Multiple Employer Plan Launches New and Enhanced Website PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Steve Finnegan   
Monday, 14 April 2014 08:54

West Des Moines, Iowa, April 14th, 2014 – The Architect 401(k), LLC (The Architect), a leading retirement plan solution provider for employers wanting to outsource their fiduciary and administrative responsibilities of offering a 401(k) plan, has created an easy way to offer low-cost, high-efficiency retirement plan management by launching its new and enhanced website effective today.

The Architect Multiple Employer Plan (MEP) eases the burden for employers by becoming the Plan Sponsor and taking on full fiduciary responsibility, while managing all aspects of administration and operations. The result is a turn-key solution for employers to extend a quality retirement program for employees.

The Architect was created to help in designing, building and supporting the next generation of “Open” MEPs, built on an open-architecture platform to maximize flexibility and minimize expenses. The Architect’s new website eases the administrative headaches of retirement plan management.

The new Architect website provides mobile-friendly on-demand tools. That means when days are filled with appointments, online access is available after normal business hours—saving time by doing business in real time. Greater assistance is delivered through streamlined access for Employers, Advisors and Participants to all account information. With just one click, they can access their account, get a quote, get a sample proposal or download a marketing brochure.

According to Steve Finnegan, Managing Partner, “The Architect’s new website assists with the day-to-day operations of plan management as it relates to enrollments, notifications, administration and documentation—leaving more time for our clients and key employees to focus on the business at hand.”

The Architect’s “Open” MEP has been reducing risk, saving time, eliminating headaches and saving money for their clients for years—now their new website offers these same benefits. The Architect 401(k) is a collaborative effort between the Finway Group, a TPA; 401(k) Advisors, a 3(38) RIA and Aspire Financial, a technology-enabled recordkeeper and business process outsourcing provider.

The Architect is a single point of contact that eliminates confusion, enhances the retirement plan experience and delivers best-of-breed retirement plan solutions. The new Architect website makes it easier and faster to do business. http://www.thearchitect401k.com/.

About The Architect401k.com

The Architect 401(k) LLC was established for the sole purpose to help employers today walk through the many land mines of the 401(k) retirement plan industry. The Architect 401(k) MEP takes the fiduciary risk and responsibility of offering a turn-key 401(k) retirement plan for employers to provide a quality program to their employees without administrative burden or incurring unnecessary costs. To learn more, visit www.TheArchitect401k.com.

 
Foreclosure Crisis Remedy PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 11 April 2014 15:01

Debt Specialists Offer Entrepreneurial Remedy for Continuing Foreclosure Crisis
Experts Say Simple Strategy Can Help Families Keep Their Homes, Avert Proliferation of ‘Zombie’ Properties’

Despite the recovering economy, home foreclosures have not abated – in fact, they surged in January.

“There’s a lot of distressed debt still being held by the big banks because they can’t just dump it back into the market all at once; they have to  slowly release it,” explains Dean Anastos, founder of Apollo Financial Group, (www.apollofinancialgrp.com).

“That means we’re going to continue to see new foreclosure filings, families getting locked out of their homes, and ‘zombie’ foreclosures.”

In January, 21 percent of all U.S. homes were in the foreclosure process, adds Ricky Brava, senior partner at Apollo, citing a recent RealtyTrac report.

“Of those, 152,000 were ‘zombie’ foreclosures – homes that were already vacant, resulting in declining, unmaintained eyesores,” Brava says. “That creates serious problems for neighboring home values.”

As for the families facing the loss of their homes, Anastos is especially sympathetic.

“I lost a property to foreclosure during the real estate crash,” he says. “That’s when I realized how much power the mortgage note holder has. If the banks don’t want to negotiate, you’re out of luck.”

Anastos went to work learning the mortgage side of the real estate business and now specializes in helping families hold onto the American Dream while averting more “zombie” foreclosures.

“Basically, we buy distressed debt bank portfolios that aren’t generating cash for the bank and work with the families in the homes to refinance at affordable rates,” Brava says. “Because we buy the bank note for much less than its original value, we can provide the homeowner with reasonable loan terms in line with the true value of the home.”

Anastos and Brava share these tips:

•  Purchase non-performing first and second lien bank notes: Non-performing bank notes are bank-originated loans that are no longer performing according to the terms they were written – they’re not generating income. Look for promissory notes with an underlying mortgage or deed of trust that secures the loan by a collateralized property.

Second lien mortgage notes are riskier than first liens so they’re sold for much less, however, buyers must make sure their investment is covered by the property’s equity in case they need to resort to a short sale or foreclosure.

•  Do your due diligence! Before purchasing the note, conduct a thorough title search of the property to reveal any liens. Check with the county to ascertain what, if any, outstanding property taxes are due. Contact a local real estate agent to get an estimation of the property’s as-is resale value. If you don’t pay for a full Broker’s Price Opinion, do arrange for photos of the property to be shot from the street.

•  Help the homeowner save his or her home. Most homeowners have some equity in their home and an emotional attachment to it. The shady dealings that created the housing bubble have made them unwitting victims who now cannot afford mortgages worth twice as much as their home. But because you purchased the lien at a discount, you can work out a loan modification that allows them to preserve their equity and remain in their home. When this happens, you’ve made a profitable investment that preserves the American Dream for one more family.

Unfortunately, not every homeowner is wiling or able to make payments even on a modified loan.

“We’ve found that, because the foreclosure process can take years, some people become accustomed to not making payments and they just don’t want to start,” Anastos says.

Unemployment and other serious problems can also affect the homeowner’s ability to pay. In such cases, Anastos and Brava say, lien holders must act to protect their investment.

“You may have to foreclose or to arrange a short sale,” Brava says. “These are two of the exit strategies you should consider and plan for when buying distressed debt.”

About Dean Anastos and Ricky Brava

Dean Anastos is the founder of Apollo Financial Group, (www.apollofinancialgrp.com), and Ricky Brava is senior partner. Anastos is an entrepreneur with a background in real estate, computer programming and trading data communications equipment. Brava specializes in education, marketing and new business development, with an expertise in data-driven, long-term strategic planning. Both men have a strong interest in business opportunities that help resolve societal problems.

 
Governor Quinn Statement on the Passage of Job Protection for Pregnant Women PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Dave Blanchette   
Friday, 11 April 2014 14:50
SPRINGFIELD – Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement about the Illinois House passage of House Bill 8, which provides job protection for working pregnant women:

“No woman should have to decide between keeping her job or keeping her baby. I commend Representative Mary Flowers for championing this bill and securing its passage in the House.

“The legislation requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for all working pregnant women, including part-time and full-time employees. These protections will ensure healthier women and babies, and a stronger workforce across our state.

“I urge the Senate to quickly pass this important bill.”

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Tempted to Buy Social Media Followers? Why Less is More PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 11 April 2014 14:46

If you get spam emails, you’ve probably seen subject lines like this:

“Buy followers for cheap!”

“Look more legit – Twitter followers $2.99 per 1,000”

Boosting your following on social media for just a few bucks can be tempting. Popularity increases perceived value, so a large audience conveys clout and credibility. It’s also an endorsement of you and your message by other individuals, businesses and entities using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

But paying for those followers can have the opposite effect. Cheap “followers” are often dummy accounts, overseas users (many businesses pay low-wage workers overseas to create fake accounts), and inactive accounts. And there are plenty of free online tools that can quickly tell you how much of an account’s following is fake.

If you’re a celebrity or politician, that can make for embarrassing headlines. If you’re a business or individual trying to market yourself or build a brand, it can make you look downright untrustworthy.

On the biggest platforms, the money spent on followers will ultimately be wasted. Twitter and Facebook now routinely delete fake and inactive accounts. Those 40,000 Facebook “likes” you bought can disappear in a matter of days. And the sudden drop in numbers will alert any real followers you have that you’ve been artificially bulking up.

Fake followers also defeat the purpose of social media marketing: They’re not real people who are going to spread your message and who might eventually do business with you. Their only value is in making it appear that you’re popular.  Until you’re not.

Don’t succumb to the come-ons for cheap followers. Even if it’s just a dollar, it’s a dollar wasted – or worse.

If you’ve never bought followers, it’s likely you have a few fakes and inactive accounts following you anyway. That’s not your fault; they’re out there and most people have some!

It’s a good idea to periodically do some housecleaning and get rid of the accounts that aren’t doing anything for you. Our in-house team of social media strategists at EMSI Public Relations shared their thoughts on how to do this for the largest platforms – Twitter and Facebook:

•  For Twitter, use free online tools to see what percentage of your followers are good accounts.
We use fakers.statuspeople.com to see what percentage of followers on an account is genuine, inactive or fake. If 80 percent or more of your following is good, you don’t have to worry about appearing disreputable. And keep in mind, the tools that tell you how many fakes you have are neither foolproof nor entirely accurate.

That said, fake and inactive followers don’t do you any good. Engaging users – having them respond to, retweet, favorite and “like” your content – is what helps create future customers.  Clean house by running your account through ManageFlitter.com.  This app identifies which of your followers are fake, among other details, and allows you to easily remove them.

•  Review those who have liked your Facebook page. Businesses, brands, artists and others using Facebook to interact for promotional purposes use pages specifically designated by Facebook for that purpose. People simply “like” your business page rather than submit a friend request as they do with personal pages. The number of likes you have indicates the number of followers you have. Again, since the value of the platform is getting people to engage by sharing and “liking” your content, it’s better to have 500 engaged potential customers than 10,000 followers in India.

Review who’s following you by going to the Admin Panel in the upper left-hand corner of your community page and clicking “see all likes.” Go through the list – you may recognize names of regular customers or people who often “like” or comment on your content. Check the user profiles of the ones you don’t know, or who look less than genuine, to decide if they’re real people. The list gives you the option to remove anyone with the click of a button.

If you haven’t purchased followers, cleaning house once in a while shouldn’t be much of a chore.  Your reward will be having a higher percentage of engaged users who will actually help spread your message to other potential customers or clients.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a 24-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a top public relations firm that provides PR and social media services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The Three Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business.” Tune into her weekly Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3 p.m. EST. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman

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Loebsack Statement on FY2015 Ryan Budget PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joe Hand   
Friday, 11 April 2014 10:25

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after House Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, passed their misguided budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

“As someone who was raised in poverty, I know all too well about sitting around the kitchen table and having to make tough decisions. And it is even more difficult when you are setting the budget for the entire nation. But when you are sitting at your kitchen table the last items you cut are medical and prescription costs, education expenses, and the grocery bill. Unfortunately the Ryan Budget makes those cuts first by ending the Medicare guarantee as we know it, slashing Pell Grants, increasing out of pocket costs for seniors who purchase prescription drugs by reopening the donut hole, and eliminating small business tax breaks. Pulling the rug out from under seniors, students, working families, women and small business owners, while giving tax breaks to millionaires, is not the way to address the unsustainable deficit that our nation faces.

“I hear from folks every weekend when I am back in Iowa about how dysfunctional Congress is and the need to quit all the political posturing so we can actually focus on growing the economy and creating jobs. I could not agree more. At a time when so many people are still struggling, now is not the time to go after those who can least afford it. Americans deserve a budget that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and connected.”

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