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What Can Squirrels Teach You About Saving?

Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

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Source: Printer’s 401K, Joe Trybula

Darwin said that organisms don’t need to be the smartest to survive, they need to be the most adaptable. Gray squirrels are a double threat: they are both smart and adaptable, equally at home in the woods, a backyard, or the city. It turns out they also have a phenomenal ability to change their behavior to survive, including finding, storing, and retrieving nuts. This puts them close to humans’ ability to meet a long-dated future goal, such as saving money. Sizing up nuts… and investments.

Much as we assess which investments have the potential to provide long-term growth or preserve capital, squirrels use their sharp peripheral vision to size up nuts to see which ones are good to eat. Nuts that sprout use up valuable nutrients. A savvy squirrel will use its sharp teeth to cut off a nut’s sprouting mechanism, thereby preserving its food value for winter. When evaluating an investment for the future, such as a mutual fund, you want to be sure that the strategy it follows has the potential to deliver the results you expect over many years, often decades. In a way, you’re sizing up your own nuts!

Looking at the fund’s past performance is an often-useful way to evaluate returns, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor. (Remember, past performance does not predict future returns.) In addition, look at the consistency of the fund’s returns over time. How did it do against its benchmark in a down market? A fund that consistently underperforms in a down market is like a sprouting nut. Consider avoiding it, or replacing it with another option. Don’t hide them all in one spot.

According to researchers, fox squirrels move thousands of nuts among five or more locations to discourage pilfering by rival squirrels. By avoiding losses, squirrels reduce risk. You do the same thing when diversifying a portfolio. Rather than putting all your “fund nuts” in one basket, you may be able to lessen the risk of experiencing a large loss by spreading your investments across multiple funds. There’s less likelihood of all investments going down in value at the same time. Investors diversify by including stocks, bonds, and cash in their portfolios. Stocks, which represent shares of ownership in a company, usually perform differently from bonds or cash. Over long periods, stocks generally have provided the greatest returns, but with the most risk. Corporate bonds, which are essentially loans to a company, offer somewhat less return potential, but with less risk than stocks. Cash or “cash equivalents” typically are the least risky asset class, but also offer the least return. Having the right balance of asset classes may help you save more for the future in a smart way — just like our crafty friends, the squirrels.

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Employers and the Eclipse: Are You Prepared for the Path of Totality?

Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

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Source: Barran Liebman

On Monday, August 21, 2017, anyone within the path of totality should be able to see a total solar eclipse. It is the first total solar eclipse to cross from coast to coast in nearly 100 years. With several prime viewing locations throughout Oregon, emergency managers are planning for an influx of about one million visitors into Oregon for several days on either side of Eclipse Day. Businesses should also be prepared for employee absences, crowds of customers, and lots of traffic.

1. Whether to Close

Some businesses have simply decided to close on August 21. However, deciding whether to close the office can be a tough choice for management. There are many factors to consider, including employee and customer safety, business productivity and deadlines, and whether to provide employees with pay during the closure. Starting late or even allowing a few hours off may also be difficult due to the predicted traffic issues. Even though the total eclipse will only last a few minutes, ODOT does not recommend driving at all that day as traffic delays are estimated to be several hours long.

Another option that will increase employee attendance and camaraderie is to host an eclipse watching party in the office. Employers can set aside a small portion of the day, provide a good viewing spot with eclipse viewing glasses, and take advantage of a great team-building opportunity while witnessing a rare phenomenon together.

2. Employee Absences

Many employers are also facing a huge surge of vacation requests while also trying to increase staffing to accommodate tourists. The best thing to do is follow the attendance policy when it comes to granting time off requests. Review any religious accommodation requests carefully as some religions find special significance in a solar eclipse. Employers also should be aware that granting time off to view the eclipse, but denying time off requests for other reasons, could expose the employer to discrimination liability.

Employers may also see abuse of sick leave policies. When employees happen to be sick on days for which vacation requests were previously denied, the employer should carefully document the denied request and the absence to establish a pattern of abuse. Employers who reasonably suspect sick leave policy abuse can usually request medical verification, though Oregon requires the employer to pay the employee’s expenses in obtaining such verification. Employers should send out a reminder of proper uses of sick leave prior to the eclipse. If the employer is particularly concerned about sick leave policy abuse, remind employees this week that abuse of sick leave policies will result in discipline.

For specific questions about how the eclipse affects your workplace, contact Sean Ray at (503) 276-2135 or sray@barran.com.

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PLAN SUCCESS BY DESIGN: USING PLAN FORFEITURES

Posted Friday, August 4, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

Source: Printer’s 401K

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Many Plan Sponsors understand that plan design has a big impact on participation and savings rates in their retirement plan. However, many fail to correlatehow the plan design can have a big impact for plan sponsors depending on the plan forfeiture provisions. If a 401k plan is designed to apply a vesting schedule to employer contributions, the plan may generate forfeitures money (forfeitures can be generated when an employee terminates employment and wasn’t 100% vested). How these forfeitures can be used varies depending upon how the plan is designed.

The IRS recently expanded the types of employer contributions that may be funded with forfeitures, making this an ideal time review your plan’s forfeiture provisions to ensure you are leveraging these plan assets appropriately.

The New Guidance- This year, the IRS proposed a change in the regulations that provides greater flexibility on how forfeiture dollars may be used. Historically, plan sponsors have been able to use forfeitures to offset employer contributions such as matching and profit sharing contributions, but have not been able to use forfeitures to fund a Safe Harbor 401(k) contributions, a Qualified Non-elective Contribution (QNEC) or Qualified Matching Contribution (QMAC). The proposed changes permit these types of employer contributions to be funded with forfeiture dollars. Plan sponsors may rely on the proposed regulations immediately. Since there was previous regulatory restriction on using forfeitures to fund safe harbor contributions, plan documents may have to be amended before plan sponsors can take advantage of this provision. You will need to check your plan provisions.

Who May Benefit from the New Rules- Plan sponsors that may benefit the most from the new rules are those who have struggled to pass their Annual Plan Discrimination Testing (The Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) test and the Actual Contribution Percentage (ACP) test.) These tests ensure that the highly compensated employees (HCEs) do not defer or receive matching contributions that are a disproportionately greater percentage of their compensation than the non-highly compensated employees (non-HCEs). Plans with low participation or savings rates often have trouble passing these tests each year. ( Also see ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES PREPARED FOR RETIREMENT? and 4 SIMPLE WAYS TO INCREASE 401K PARTICIPANT SAVINGS)

If a plan fails either the ADP or ACP test for a plan year, the plan sponsor must take steps to correct the failure, such as returning the “excesses” contributions to the HCEs or make a Qualified Non-Elective contribution to the non-HCEs. If a plan has accrued forfeitures for the year, these dollars may now be used to fund these contributions.

Sometimes Plan Sponsors who routinely fail the ADP and/or ACP tests choose to redesign their plan as a safe harbor 401(k) plan, making the plan exempt from ADP/ACP testing if the plan sponsor makes a minimum employer contribution and meets certain other requirements. (also see Is Safe Harbor the Solution to your Company’s Retirement Plan?)

Under the new IRS rules, both types of employer contributions may now be funded with forfeiture dollars, but the plan document may need to be amended to allow for this use. Employer matching and non-elective contributions made under a safe harbor 401(k) plan formula must be 100% vested, so would not produce forfeitures, but other employer contributions such as profit sharing contributions made to the plan may be subject to a vesting schedule and could produce forfeitures.

Plan Design Tips for Forfeitures

The following are some steps you may want to take to include forfeitures in your plan design review.

  • Review the plan document to understand how forfeitures may be used.
  • Review the amount of forfeitures generated by the plan, how the forfeitures are being used, and whether the account is being used up each year.
  • Review the business objectives for the 401k plan, such as reducing plan costs or increasing savings rates, and whether the plan’s current use of forfeitures helps achieve these objectives.

If you would like help in reviewing your unique circumstances, analyzing the options available, and would like best-practice recommendations, please contact me at joe@printers401k.com or at 800.307.0376.

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors, but is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax or legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements, and you should consult your attorney or tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does advisor assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations

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A Guide to Understanding Color

Posted Tuesday, August 1, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

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Color Your Business Successful

How important is color to your business, or more specifically, how important is accurate color? When products reach the shelf, do they attract attention? Do they inspire confidence? Do they ensure immediate brand recognition?

Color is a factor in answering all of these questions. Studies show that 70% of the buying decision is made at the shelf, and consumers will reach past a package that looks faded to get a “fresher” one with brighter colors.

This Guide to Understanding Color is a handy educational tool and how-to guide for all things color. Whether you are a novice or an expert in the art and science of color, you will find useful information here that will help you ensure that color plays a positive role in the success of the products you are manufacturing and recognition of their respective brands, especially at the Zero Moment of Truth when the buying decision is made.

We’ll talk about the basics of color, how best to measure, manage, communicate and report on color, and proactive approaches to ensuring consistent and reliable color, in even the most complex of workflows and supply chains.

With all of the recent advances in color measurement instruments and software, ensuring that color complies with specifications and is within acceptable tolerances is easier than ever before. We hope you will find this Guide useful in coloring your business even more successful!

Want to learn more? Attend our upcoming webinar, Color Standards: Now and Next on August 15, 2017. Register Here. Hosted by X-Rite and PPI.

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Social Media: Ongoing Rules of Engagement

Posted Friday, July 28, 2017 by Jules VanSant.

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By Jules Van Sant, Executive Director, Pacific Printing Industries Association

Featured in the July Issue of PIA’s The Mag

Last month I shared my enthusiasm about the need and opportunity for those in the print/visualcommunications industry to be engaged in the world of social media. To ignore it is a missed opportunity, putting your brand and market messaging at risk.

It Already Affects Your Decisions

How? In a time when we all engage on one or multiple devices to communicate, research, and purchase, consider how you make your buying decisions. Do you check out product ratings, even if you went to a store to purchase? When deciding to dine out, do you check Yelp? Hiring a house painter, plumber, or going on a trip? Do stars, comments, and photos assist with your final decision?

It Affects Your Customers’ Decisions Too

I keep hearing that today’s “print” buyers are multitasking, less educated about the production process, and more interested in quickly finding the right provider. It’s likely they’re researching you, your company, and brand before having a meaningful engagement. They check your website, which may or may not have current information. If you list social media channels, they check those to understand your current products and services, your culture, and what others are saying about you. If they checked right now, would they see the real you?

In today’s world of ratings and reviews, a simple, well-managed presence is important in the short and long run. It should be a key part of your overall marketing plan. Create, modify, revisit, and repeat often with your key staff, sales, and customer service personnel to ensure the message going out is what you want clients to hear.

Here are some guidelines to follow as you build your online presence:

  • Consistency is key to creating a brand message. Posting every three years or six months doesn’t cut it. At least twice a month (if not twice per week) gives you the opportunity to reinforce your company’s forward-facing voice.
  • It’s about conversation, not just a bulletin board or brochure. Today’s consumers look for authenticity. Canned posts and no follow-up responses quickly minimize the positive impact and remove the human element from the interaction.
  • Professional vs. personal is the elephant in the room. Managing and monitoring regularly from the top down, along with a company social media policy, eliminates potential issues. It’s not a one-anddone strategy. You can reap solid results when populating culture, capability, and company information from a few key internal contributors.
  • Positivity wins the day! Buyers not only want a greatoutcome from your production capabilities but a solid experience to pay forward and return to. Use case studies on the effectiveness of print, show outcomes of your amazing projects, fun events, and interesting facts.

New followers and “likes” indicate you are on people’s radar. Reciprocate. Thank them for connecting and invite them to your other channels and website. Finally, if you start the process, post it! #word

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