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    ‘Buy the Block’ sets out to fund property development

    Real estate crowd investing platform hopes to raise millions for property development in Black communities

    Entrepreneur Lynn P. Smith is the founder and CEO at Buy The Block – one of the only Black-owned platforms in the country that is dedicated to making investments in real estate as a group more accessible. The movement is presently on its way to recording massive success in funding for diverse development projects across Black communities in the US.

    This enviable initiative offers every Black American an opportunity to invest as little as $100, and connect with other investors – with an added advantage of helping every member buy a piece of their first block. Having a growing database of BlockVestors and Block Developers, all it takes to be a member is by signing up on their website.
    With the platform, acquiring property or block of choice in one’s local area is achievable. Getting the funds to make such a big difference can also be without hassles. All that is required of a member is to; find a property, make an offer, bring the property to Buy The Block, get the needed funding from other investors if they so desire, and then purchase the block.

    The ability to share wealth depending on each person’s investment makes it a win-win situation for all block investors. Buy The Block can manage any project from concept to end, and they aim to develop a large number of construction projects, in areas such as; residential, manufacturing, retail, multi-family, medical, religious, and pre-engineered building construction.

    With the focus on the Black communities in America, Buy The Block is on track to raise millions of dollars in funding for development projects in these communities. Having the capacity to take on more significant projects and contracts, they project that they will soon change the face of crowdfunding real estate investing in the country.

    They intend to do this by committing their time to getting great projects and making it a win-win for all sponsored projects. Their mission as stated on their website is to “change investing from confusing and frustrating, to an accessible and enjoyable social experience.”

    Speaking excitedly, Lynn said; “Indeed, we have loads of challenges, but I am determined to educate our community and make this work… thanks to the everyone out there, that united as one to embrace and support this unique concept.”

    Check out all of Buy the Block’s community sponsors: www.buytheblock.com/community-businesses

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    Former Louisiana hotel owner, billionaire to headline International Black Business Week in Chicago

    CHICAGO—While African Americans continue to be the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the United States, they are also failing at greater rates, according to a report released by the Kaufman Foundation. But organizers of the International Black Business Week Expo & Conference said those rates can change with innovation, global relationships, and a focus on legacy.
    Held October 4-6 at Malcolm X College Conference Center, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd.- Chicago, IL, the International Black Business Week Expo & Conference will convene entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and change agents from across the globe to explore critical topics that will propel businesses forward and position small and mid-sized brands for success in state, national, and international markets.

    Covering everything from digital marketing to innovative business funding solutions, asset protection, generational wealth creation strategies, and more, International Black Business Week Expo & Conference will kick-off with a keynote by African-American Billionaire Businessman Michael V. Roberts who once owned a hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana.

    Known as the “Actionaire,” Roberts acquired his $1 billion wealth through real estate investments in hotel properties, shopping centers, telecommunications, and television.

    21366740_10100101843358713_6574805945588486178_o“As entrepreneurs we far too often struggle with finding and accessing tools, valid strategies, and resources that will help grow our businesses. Some of us just don’t know where to look. For those people, IBBW is a solution. We’re putting the people in the room that you need to connect with to take your business to the next level. We’re also intentionally putting the resources in the room. Any question you have, any gaps that exist in your business, any humps you need to get over, IBBW is a center of solutions. If you have a product or service that can be marketed beyond the local marketplace, into the national or international marketplace, we have experts to help you do that as well,” said IBBW founder Traneisha Jones. “There are countless opportunities in other countries that we can leverage to our benefit right here in Chicago. Let’s go global! Get here, so we can get you there!”

    The conference will also feature an exhibition with B2B resources, a signature Personal Branding Lounge and Hustle Lab for those needing innovative solutions for raising capital to start or grow their business, and presentations by a host of business leaders and experts including Professor Devin Robinson of the Beauty Supply Institute, Jamal Miller of Married & Young and Attorney Ernest Fenton of Law Offices of Ernest B. Fenton.

    Register at www.intlblackbusinessweek.com.

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    Liberty Tax Service Offers Tuition-Free Tax School, Sept 12

     Liberty Tax Service at 4911 S Sherwood Forest Blvd and 1402 N Burnside in Gonzales will offer a 10-week, tuition-free* Tax School for aspiring tax preparers, do-it-yourself filers, and those who want a better understanding of income taxes, beginning September 12, 2017.

    Tax School combines classroom discussion with hands-on learning. It offers practice in preparing income tax returns and covers a variety of topics, including: filing status, exemptions, tax credits, and more. Students learn about the tax code and gain a new, marketable skill. Those who successfully compete the course can apply for positions with Liberty Tax Service.

    Registration is open now for the Liberty Tax School that runs September 12, 2017. Small fee for books and supplies. Enrollment in, or completion of, the Liberty Tax Course is neither an offer nor a guarantee of employment, except as may be required by the state. Additional qualifications may be required. Enrollment restrictions apply. State restrictions may apply and additional training may be required. Valid at participating locations only. Void where prohibited. Liberty is an equal opportunity employer.

    For more information, call Liberty Tax Service at (225) 778-5892 or visit the Baton Rouge office at 4911 S Sherwood Forest Blvd.

     

     

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  • Three simple steps to achieve financial goals

    Americans have mixed emotions around financial planning, a new study suggests. But setting specific goals can help you achieve the financial outcomes you want. Forty-eight percent of individuals with specific financial goals say they expect to be in a much better place in the next four years, versus only 12 percent of those without goals.

    The study, “2017 Financial Focus: Goals and Reflections of Today’s Consumer,” conducted by Lincoln Financial Group, found that while Americans have a desire to retire comfortably and support loved ones, there is a fear factor involved in actually saving for these financial needs. Staying grounded and focused is a good first step, say experts.

    “Those individuals who are progressing with their goals are first and foremost working to ensure they have a solid foundation to build upon,” said Dick Mucci, president of group benefits at Lincoln Financial Group. “While it might not be exciting, putting extra money toward things like debt, savings or insurance coverage certainly pays off in the long run, particularly if something unexpected happens.”

    The study also looked at progress in achieving New Year’s Resolutions — and 72 percent of Americans are doing pretty well. Those who say they are progressing with their 2017 resolutions in some way are those who are most likely to leverage financial products, such as retirement plans, life insurance and investment accounts. This group also tends to make reducing debt a priority and avoids sacrificing savings when money is tight — instead they sacrifice the extras, such as vacations.

    Here are some effective goal-setting strategies to help you plan for your financial future.

    Be specific. When you make vague goals, it can be difficult to measure progress. When goal-setting, get as specific as possible, both with the goals themselves and the steps you will take to succeed.

    Prioritize your goals. Once you set a goal, make it the last thing you compromise in your budget, whether that is paying down debt, saving for a rainy day or retirement planning. Money tight this month? Skip a luxury item that’s not working toward your goals.

    Take a breath. Thinking about your financial situation and potential circumstances that could arise can be emotional. But taking practical steps to improve your situation can offer peace of mind as you face the future. “Putting the right financial plans and protections in place can help alleviate some financial fears,” said Mucci. “An employer-sponsored retirement plan is a great place to build savings, and insurance coverages offered through the workplace can help protect against the financial challenges that could come with an unexpected injury or illness.”

    More financial planning tips and information can be found at LincolnFinancial.com.

    By setting attainable goals that you can realistically meet, you can get a handle on your finances and better plan for the future.


    By StatePoint

    PHOTO SOURCE: (c) ave_mario – Fotolia.com

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    Young Investors plan for future financial growth with local bank

    Fourth grade students at Glen Oaks Park Elementary School and their parents will soon learn the value of using even small savings to invest in tomorrow’s goals. These 66 Baton Rouge students are the in the inaugural class of Young Investors Children Savings Account Pilot Project class of LABEST.

    “As I crossed the threshold, I overheard a suited man talking to some students clad in their collared uniform shirts and holding brightly colored plastic piggy banks. He said, ‘Feed the pig and we’ll put interest on that…free money! Now, that’s what I’m talking about!’,” said Carmen Green, a policy fellow with the Louisiana Budget Project.

    The Children Savings Account is an initiative of The Middleburg Institute in collaboration with LABEST, a statewide coalition of organizations seeking to influence public polices and improve the lives of low wealth communities over a lifetime. TMI established the Young Investors elementary school savings project with support and research provided by Howard University Center on Race & Wealth, Washington University in St Louis, CFED and the Ford Foundation Building Economic Security over a Lifetime Initiative (BESOL). The Project teaches students the importance of savings and how to develop habits of making money, saving money, and spending wisely.

    Young Investors will raise money to deposit into the accounts. In addition to the personal deposits that students and their parents can make, the Young Investors will try their hand at entrepreneurship. They will engage in monthly fundraising activities for regular deposits so they can witness their accounts grow.

    The Young Investor’s program is partnering with Rhonda Jefferson and Lorraine Oubre, owners of Grandma Tootsie’s Creole Pralines. They plan to make and assist in selling pralines to raise money. In house, Young Investors may be “hired” as tellers in the school bank, and oversee daily accounting.

    The program features financial literacy coaches, professionals, and advisors including those from Edward Jones, Junior Achievement, and local banks who are available to students and parents during monthly learning opportunities.

    Alarian Brown, 10, already has ideas on money management. “With all the money I get, I want to save more,” she said. “I’ll keep it in the bank and when it comes to stuff I need, I’ll get it out.”

    Alarian, who has plans to be an orthodontist, is looking forward to the fundraising aspects of the program, including selling lemonade and pralines.

    That “free money” did not grow on some special cash tree. Financial advocacy group LABEST, The Middleburg Institute, and Gulf Coast Bank partnered to set the students up with a real savings account; each with $40 seed money. State Rep. Rick Edmonds ‘pledged a donation to the Young Investors program increasing the seed money for each enrolled student.

    As a member of the legislative education committee, Edmonds is well aware of the disinvestment in education and equality in the state and took his commitment to another level, said James. He plans to bring the students to the capital for a Young Investors Day this spring. This will give them exposure to state government.

    “As children and parents learn more about money management, it is our hope that this will influence change in behaviors as it relates to investing,” said Joyce James, LABEST state director. “Families may create workable budgets and start an emergency fund. We are able to say we changed behavior and increased the financial future for our children.”

    Green explained that these students will be able to grow into young adulthood with a little investment which they can use in high school or college for the ever-increasing tuition and dissipating scholarship opportunities. “Students will start to make the connection between production, cash and government, through exposure to entrepreneurs and local representatives,” she said.

    “I cannot determine the long-term effect on the city of Baton Rouge or on the lives of the students, but I see the potential. It feels like the Black community is brushing off the dust and moving forward,” Green said.

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    State completes contract with IEM, invites interested subcontractors

    Louisiana has finalized a contract with global consulting firm IEM to manage the $1.3 billion Restore Louisiana Homeowner Assistance Program to help residents rebuild and repair their homes after historic flooding in March and August 2016.

    Founded in Baton Rouge in 1985 and headquartered in North Carolina, IEM focuses on emergency management. The company has worked on major recovery efforts, including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. It also has a full-service office in Baton Rouge.

    Interested subcontractors can contact IEM directly by calling (225) 952-8256 or emailing Rela_subcontracting@iem.com.

    The homeowner assistance program is funded by $1.6 billion in flood recovery allocations through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, the state is negotiating a contract with CohnReznick LLP, a quality control accounting, tax and advisory firm, to monitor the program.

    The Restore Louisiana Task Force comprises 21 individuals from throughout the state who were appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to oversee the rebuilding process after historic flooding in March and August 2016 impacted 51 parishes. The Task Force’s mission is divided into six categories: community planning, economic, health and social services, housing, infrastructure and natural and cultural resources. All task force documents are available at http://restore.la.gov/resources/. For more information, visit restore.la.gov.

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    Bill to exempt flood victims from taxes pass in Senate

    Senator Neil RiserA key Senate panel approved Senator Neil Riser’s bill exempting flood victims from paying state income tax in 2017. Without objection, the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee approved SB 240 on May 1.

    “This morning, we sent an important message to flood victims across Louisiana that you are not forgotten,” Riser said. “Many families and businesses are still struggling to recover. With limited funds available, the least the state can do is exempt them from paying income tax for one year while they rebuild their lives,” Riser said.

    If the bill becomes law, the first $100,000 of income that a family earns in 2017 will be exempt from state income tax if the family sustained $10,000 or more of losses during 2016 flooding.

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    New app helps flooded homeowners with title problems

    Flood Proof: Free Legal Help for Homeowners with Title Problems launched a new iPhone app to streamline the process for homeowners seeking to obtain a clear title to inherited property.

    “Homeowners who were affected by the August floods and lack clear title to their home need to gather information and documents to prove title.  The Flood Proof App is a tool that will allow flood victims to do exactly that from their home or place of temporary residence, and hopefully minimize the number of times that they have to take off of work or arrange child care in order to make multiple trips to an attorney’s office,” said Judy Perry Martinez, Special Advisor to the newly created American Bar Association Center for Innovation and former chair of the ABA Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services.

    Many homeowners living in homes passed down from family members are unable to qualify for federal or state recovery aid due to the floods, loans to repair their homes, or insurance proceeds because they cannot prove they own their property. This typically happens when a loved one dies and a relative still living in the home then has legal rights to the inherited property. Title does not automatically pass to the relative as a legal matter until he or she takes legal action to open a succession, file documents with a court and obtain a judgment of possession.

    “From making repairs to their homes, to finding new schools for their children, to caring and taking in loved ones, victims of the August floods already have so much that they have to wrap their heads around,” said Martinez. “The goal of this overall project and of the app is for homeowners to begin the process necessary to obtain a clear title to their homes in the quickest and most efficient way possible and afford free legal services to those who qualify. We already are seeing results.”

    As of March 3, almost 130 individuals had begun the process of obtaining clear title by attending legal fairs hosted by Flood Proof attorneys or by calling the 1-844-244-7871 hotline number. People affected by the August 2016 flooding can use the app to find out what information they will need, quickly and safely upload relevant documents, and find out if they are eligible for free legal services.
    Flood survivors can download the app by searching for “Flood Proof: Louisiana Legal Help” in the iTunes App Store or by visiting the Flood Proof: Free Legal Help for Homeowners with Title Problems website. The app is also available for download for Android users in Google Play.

    The Flood Proof app was developed with support from Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation, Stanford University Law School and the LSU Law Center.  The project is led by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in collaboration with the Baton Rouge Bar Foundation, Southern University Law Center, LSU Law Center, Louisiana Appleseed, and the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation.  Generous support funding the project is provided through grants from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Equal Justice Works Foundation, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

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    Tax tips often-overlooked by Blacks

    3 TIPS FOR 2017 TAX SEASON

    Sadly, many African Americans don’t think about taxes until the days and weeks leading up to April 15. However, there are many things you can do now to help our results then be more appealing.

    1. Make Wise Business Purchases
    If you are business owner, think about purchases that you can make between now and year end. If possible, try making purchases that you were planning to make in January in December. Consider pre-paying your cell phone or internet bill. But careful, though, about large purchases such as heavy equipment, as these may need to be depreciated rather than capitalized, greatly minimizing the tax impact you might be expecting from such a large purchase.

    2. Maximize Your Heath Savings Accounts (HSA)
    With the political climate and uncertainly on the continuation of Obamacare, Health Savings Accounts (HSA), along with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP), may see increased popularity. If you already have a HSA and have not yet maximized your contribution for the year, now would be a great time to do so. Contributions and interest earned are tax free and the maximum contribution amount for 2016 is $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for families. If you are over 55 years of age, you get an additional $1,000 in catch up contributions which will be tax free as well.

    3. Manage Tax Withholdings/Exemptions
    Employees that changed jobs or started a new job this year should review their tax withholdings/exemptions claimed on their new hire paperwork (Form W-4). Claiming too many exemptions could result in an unexpected or large tax liability at tax time. Claiming too few exemptions could result in giving the government more money than necessary, which could result in a cash flow problem for you during the year. Ask you HR or payroll department to review your withholdings and ask your accountant or tax adviser to review them for you so that if adjustments are needed, you can catch them at the beginning of the new year to avoid potential problems during next year’s tax season.

    In addition to tax adjustments, some basic financial planning can go a long way in setting the stage for you (and your money) as you enter the new year.

    By Randy Hughes
    Counting Pennies, LLC

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    TOPS funding cut to less than half for Spring

    According to the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, due to the historic budget shortfalls, students in Louisiana will only be eligible for 41.8 percent of the total Taylor Opportunity Program for Students award for the spring semester. Gov. John Bel Edwards released the following statement, Nov. 15, on this shortfall in funding. 

    When we leave our kids with more student debt than necessary, we’ve failed them. Going forward, it is my hope that we can restore funding to TOPS because too many students across the state are dependent upon the assistance it offers. In fact, despite the budget shortfalls we’re currently facing, we will not be making further cuts to this program. Today, we risk having an influx of students drop out of college or leave with burdensome debt. We can and must do better.

    As I said in June, the gimmick of ‘front loading’ TOPS gave students and parents false hope for the future. Today, as I said this summer, Louisiana’s budget problems are having a real impact on students and their families. The upcoming regular session in 2017 will give us another opportunity to stabilize Louisiana’s budget and invest in our children’s futures, and I’m asking the legislature to work with me, so that Louisiana’s students are not left to shoulder the burden of our state’s financial problems.

    This year, despite the financial challenges facing the state, students in higher education faced the smallest increase in tuition in a decade.

    Information regarding TOPS funding for the spring semester is available in this FAQ from LOSFA by clicking here.

    On June 24, at the close of the second special session, Edwards criticized the plan to ‘front load’ TOPS and the refusal of certain members of the legislature to work in a bipartisan way to avoid the shortfall.

    In the same press conference, Edwards reminded the public of the potential shortfall for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 and how it would necessarily require action this fall.

    In June, Edwards also called the budget gimmicks from certain members of the legislature regarding TOPS “disingenuous.”

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    Hardy named Southwest CEO

    The board of directors for the $95 million Southwest Louisiana Credit Union has appointed president/CEO Ronaldo Hardy of the Lake Charles-based cooperative that serves more than 17,000 members.

    Hardy began his career in the financial services industry in 2001 at a community bank. In 2004, he became a part of the La Capitol Federal Credit Union team. During his tenure there, he served as a phone center supervisor, member service supervisor, loan underwriter, electronic services dupervisor, branch manager, business development officer, and sales manager. In 2011, Hardy was named runner up in the Credit Union Executives Society’s (CUES) nationwide search for the Next Top Credit Union Executive. This allowed him to attend the CEO Institute I at the Wharton School of Business. In 2007, he married Cristian Carroll Hardy, and together they have three children, Raynah, Josiah, and Laylah. 

    Hardy will start his new job on Oct. 3. He succeeds Jim Giffin who resigned in March 2016 for a financial advisor position with Edward Jones.

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    Ponchatoula, Hammond school supply lists now available online

    Parents from local schools have a new tool in their back-to-school bag of tricks this year, as all of their schools supply lists are now posted on TeacherLists.com.

    With just one or two clicks, parents can find all of their 2016 lists and get a head start on this annual back-to-school chore. Parents can print their lists or – for the first time – look up their lists right on their smart phones in store aisles. They can even shop easily online as TeacherLists automatically shares the lists with national retailers.

    The site already includes lists for:

    • D. C. Reeves Elementary, Ponchatoula
    • Hammond Westside Montessori School, Hammond
    • Perrin Early Learning Center, Ponchatoula
    • Ponchatoula Junior High School, Ponchatoula
    • St Joseph School, Ponchatoula
    • Tucker Memorial Elementary, Ponchatoula
    • Vinyard, Martha, Elementary Sc, Ponchatoula
    • Woodland Park Early Learning, Hammond

    “For decades, the supply list process has been a frustration for parents,” points out TeacherLists President, John Driscoll. “Where to find the lists? When are they available? Forgetting the list on the counter at home? All of those issues are solved with TeacherLists”

    More than 50,000 schools now have lists posted on TeacherLists. Lists for more than 1 million classrooms are live on the site and include required and requested items as well as specific notes and clarifications from teachers and school staff. Parents can even print coupons for back-to-school savings from popular back-to-school brands.

    Complete details and all the lists are available at www.teacherlists.com <http://www.teacherlists.com/>

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    New book “Black Author Secrets: How I Make $2,500+ in Book Sales Every Month!” availiable now

    Nationwide — Award-winning entrepreneur Dante Lee has just published the first ever African American guide to selling more books, and in this unique step-by-step guide, he reveals all of his secrets on how authors can be more profitable and more successful.

    The book is entitled, Black Author Secrets: How I Make $2,500+ in Book Sales Every Month! and it’s exclusively available for just $2.99 via his publishing company at www.UrbanEbooks.com

    In this 108-page book, Lee, who himself sells an average of 100 books or more per day, teaches existing and aspiring authors everything they need to know to generate constant streams of revenue with their books. He shares his own personal knowledge, insight and experience!

    “I wrote this book,” Lee comments, “because I know that a lot of authors, especially African American authors, are having difficulty making money from their books. They spend a year or more writing, editing, and proofreading, and then after the book comes out, nothing happens!”

    He adds, “This book is the first book of it’s kind that shows African American authors exactly what they need to do to make at least $2,500 a month in book sales.”

    For more details about either book, visit www.UrbanEbooks.com

     
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    Jones announces financial lecture and book tour

    What happens when you are taught to RAISE YOUR FINANCIAL I.Q., LEARN TO BUDGET YOUR MONEY, GET RID OF DEBT AND BUILD WEALTH from a self-made millionaire? Well, Above Average Group is excited to announce that best-selling author and motivational speaker, Paul D. Jones will be hosting a financial seminar and book tour starting April 2, 2016 from 10am – 1pm at the Sheraton Metairie where he will be answering these questions and more while motivating and inspiring you to “INVEST IN YOUR MIND”.

    A recognized “wealth builder” in the financial world, Jones has helped over 500 entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes optimize profits and experience exponential growth through increased customer loyalty. He’s the author of “Who Told You…You Were Broke?”, “Schedule for Success,” “What You and Your Kids Need to Know About Credit” and now announces his latest writing entitled, “I Quit” (Being Broke) in conjunction with his lecture tour, “Financial Literacy University”. This tour not only targets recent college graduates burdened by paralyzing student loan debt and wanting to start off their careers correctly after graduation, it also gives a plethora of useful investment information to those who would normally “splurge” or perhaps not know how to invest. In addition, the tour exhibits significant benefits for single parents and families who simply want to get out of debt and enjoy a peace of mind from excessive debt due to non-budgeting.

    Growing up just outside of Chicago and raised by a single mother who taught him the importance of giving back, Jones has taken that passion and applied it to his own career and uses it to empower others. Through this informative seminar and book tour, attendees will receive information on better managing their money, acquiring better spending habits, growing and budgeting their business and improving and building their credit. “I can’t stand a victim mentality”, Jones protest and because of his “take charge of your life” attitude, participants of the seminar will walk away with real world, pragmatic advise that they can implement immediately into their daily lives.

    The “Financial Literacy University” and “I Quit” seminar and book tour schedule is as follows:

    * New Orleans – April 2nd
    * Houston, TX – April 9th
    * Phoenix, AZ
    * Savannah, GA
    * Orlando, FL
    * Memphis, TN

    Registration is currently open for New Orleans and Houston areas. Other locations will be opening soon. For more information and to stay up-to-date on new cities added to the schedule, visit www.pauldjones.com.


    Available for Interviews
    Double XXposure Media| 201-224-6570 | N.J. Office/ Email: Theellerbeegroup@aol.com
    Atlanta – (678)439-9641/ Email: Foxmediaprinc@gmail.com

     
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    Savings Strategies for Millennials

    Ask any financial expert what the ideal age is to start saving money and you’re likely to get the same response: “now.” Even at an entry-level salary, it is critical to start 2016 on the right foot and begin paving the way to financial freedom by setting aside money for short–term needs such as a vacation or an emergency, or longer-term goals like retirement.

    “Having a savings strategy is crucial to a person’s overall financial well-being,” said Diane Morais, chief executive officer and president of Ally Bank, member FDIC. “There are simple steps Millennials can take to ensure that they are not only saving, but maximizing the earnings potential of their nest eggs.”

    When it comes to designing a savings plan, Millennials should consider the following tips.

    Choose Your Bank Wisely

    Look for a savings account that doesn’t require a minimum deposit to open, doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees, offers a competitive interest rate, and ideally, compounds interest daily. These features will help your money grow faster.

    Your bank should offer both checking and savings products, since having one bank with both types of accounts makes it easier to transfer funds from one account to another depending on your immediate circumstances. For example, Ally Bank’s Money Market and Interest Checking accounts are interest-bearing, charge no monthly maintenance fees and come with free debit cards and checks.

    Pay Yourself First

    A lot of people think saving is about putting away money that is left over after other expenditures. To build savings consistently and faster, treat savings as a mandatory expense in your overall budget.

    Consider opening an online account to “automate” saving money and take advantage of rates that tend to be more competitive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

    Specify Savings

    Once you’ve found a bank with no maintenance fees or minimum deposit requirements, you can establish separate accounts for your special goals. Some banks will even allow you to assign nicknames to these accounts, such as “new car” or “vacation fund”.

    Use Technology

    Tracking your money on-the-go can make you more aware of your spending and saving habits. One iPhone app option is Ally Bank’s “Ally Assist,” a voice activated assistant that responds to inquiries, and analyzes savings and spending patterns.

    The benefits of online banking include bill pay, click-to-chat assistance, online transfers and the ability to access your accounts anywhere and anytime.

    Think Retirement Now

    Beginning to save at a young age is essential to ensure a comfortable retirement. It’s important to choose the IRA that is right for your circumstances. Traditional IRAs may give investors a tax deduction for the year the contribution is made, while a Roth IRA offers tax-free growth, meaning you owe no tax when you make withdrawals in retirement.

    While you may feel the pinch now by putting some of your hard-earned money away, developing good savings habits while you’re young will pay big rewards over the long term, helping you enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle.

    By StatePoint

     

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    SUS Million Dollar March kicks off

    The Southern University System Foundation kicked-off its second annual Million Dollar March campaign July 23, 2015, at the Donald C. Wade House on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus.

    The 90-day viral campaign endeavors to bring campaign volunteers and the business community together via email, text, and social media posts in effort to secure philanthropic contributions to support the five campuses of the Southern University System.

    Southern University System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton Ph.D. said, “I am overwhelmed to have the opportunity to be in the midst of the Southern University supporters who give unselfishly of themselves to the Million Dollar March, and I am excited to be among those who make sure the University has the infrastructure to support the goals and aspirations of the Southern University System.”

    SUSF Foundation Board Chairman Domoine D. Rutledge said the success of the Million Dollar March means the University will continue to grow and remain stable. Rutledge reminded the audience that, “as we work for Southern we must remember that we are remnants of the legacy of Southern and with that comes the great obligation to stand and confront the challenges and overcome those challenges to embrace the future of our University.”

    Agricultural sciences and animal science major, Robert Easly Jr. echoed the sentiments of Rutledge, as he stated his experiences as a SU student and his gratitude to the SUSF donors who support students like him. SU student Robert Easly Jr. The Opelousas native is a testament of the positive impact of philanthropy, and says that he is proud to serve his University as a SUSF Jag Talker. “As a first-generation college student, I was afraid of the challenge I was about to face. Today, I can say that Southern University not only paved the path that led me to my highest potential, but also did the same for countless of other students. I learned about resilience, tradition, and pride. Most importantly, I learned that the true purpose of living is to take what you have received and give it back,” said Easly.

    Last year, the MDM generated $1.2 million in cash. That success stemmed from the dedication of volunteers who contributed their time and loyalty to the cause to support SU. “People give to people for good causes, and the success of the Million Dollar March will be based on the work that we do as volunteers,” said Alfred E. Harrell III, chief executive officer for the SUSF. Harrell adds that, “The impact of that success can be seen from the work of the SU family.”
    SUSF Chief Executive Officer Alfred E. Harrell III

    The MDM Campaign will end on October 1, 2015, with a one-day giving blitz. The amount raised will be announced on Saturday, October 17, 2015, during the homecoming football game halftime show.

    The Mission of the Southern University System Foundation is to promote the educational and cultural welfare of the SU System by generating annual reoccurring financial support for its five campuses.

    ONLINE: milliondollarmarch for more details.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Energy Assistance Funds Available for Low-Income EBR Residents

    Applications to be accepted starting Monday, Feb. 2

    East Baton Rouge’s Office of Social Services has funds available to assist qualifying low-income households with their energy bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

    To qualify for assistance through the program, a household’s total monthly income cannot exceed the limits in the table below. Qualifying households cannot have received a previous benefit within the past six months.

    Household Size                       Maximum Income
    Per household                            per month
    1                                                       $1,807
    2                                                       $2,363
    3                                                       $2,920
    4                                                       $3,476
    5                                                       $4,032
    6                                                      $4,588
    7                                                      $4,692
    8                                                      $4,796
    9                                                      $4,901
    10                                                    $5,005
    11                                                     $5,109
    12                                                    $5,214
    13                                                    $5,318
    14                                                    $5,422
    15                                                    $5,526

    All applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis according to the program’s waiting list. To get on the waiting list, please call the nearest Office of Social Services location (see table of zip codes below) on Fridays, 8am – noon. Applications will then be taken by appointment only, beginning Monday, Feb. 2nd.

    Applicants must provide, at a minimum, the following documentation at the time the application is taken:
    (1) Copies of each household member’s social security card
    (2) Proof of income of all household members age 18 or older
    (3) A copy of an energy bill (must be within the last 6 months)
    (4) A photo I.D. of the applicant
    (5) At least one other document that was mailed to the applicant at the service address indicated on the energy bill.

    If additional documentation is required, the applicant will be notified at the time of application. Households reporting zero income will also be required to provide additional documentation. All information provided with the application will be subject to verification. Intentional misrepresentation of information may result in criminal prosecution of the applicant and anyone assisting in the misrepresentation.

    Income eligible applicants who have received a Disconnect Notice and who have not received assistance for a Disconnect Notice in the prior 12 months may also apply.

    LIHEAP Application Sites

    • Central Office, 4523 Plank Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70805 358-4561 70805
    • Chaneyville Community Center, 13211 Jackson Road, Zachary, LA 70791 658-9790
    • Charles R. Kelly Community Center (Delmont Service Center, 3535 Riley Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70805 357-5013
    • Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center, 950 East Washington St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802 389-4814
    • Dr. Martin L. King Community Center, 4000 Gus Young Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70802 389-7679
    • Jewel J. Newman Community Center (North Baton Rouge Community Center), 2013 Central Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807 778-1007
    • Rural Program, 5736 Rollins Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70791 658-7494 70791
    Read more »
  • ,

    $20k to be awarded in scholarship

    The deadline to apply for the scholarship is January 14, 2015.

    The Gates Millennium Scholars Program (also known as the Bill Gates Scholarship) awards scholarships each year to African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic American students.

    The program, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, selects 1,000 talented students each year to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice. The scholarship is renewable and may be used in the freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate years. Students must have financial need and meet Pell Grant eligibility requirements. They must also maintain a grade point average of 3.3 and have a strong interest in leadership and community service. Students may attend any college or university they choose.

    Established in 1999, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program aims to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential. The program reduces financial barriers for African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students with high academic and leadership promise who have significant financial need. The program also increases the representation of these target groups in the disciplines of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences, where these groups are severely underrepresented; and develops a diversified cadre of future leaders for America by facilitating successful completion of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

    For more details and/or to apply, visit: http://www.gmsp.org/

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  • ,

    Freezing Temps Can Mean Higher Energy Bills

    Jack Frost dropped by a bit early this year, and that could mean higher-than-normal utility bills for Louisiana customers.

    “We’re used to lower bills during the normally mild fall season, but this early taste of winter is a good reminder to everyone that when the thermostat is cranked up, bills rise too,” said Melonie Stewart, director of customer service for Entergy.

    Weather is an important factor in determining how high or low energy bills may be. In fact, heating and air conditioning make up more than half of the total energy bill. Entergy encourages all customers to take advantage of convenient payment options and energy-saving tips to manage their monthly cost.

    “With the official start of winter still weeks away, it’s a good bet we can expect more cold weather in our future and potentially higher-than-normal utility bills. So now is a good time to sign up for one of Entergy’s convenient tools to help manage those costs,” Stewart said.

    One payment option that can help customers manage their budgets during extreme weather is Level Billing, which calculates their billing history over the previous 12 months and allows customers to pay an average amount each month. It helps manage the spikes in energy costs caused by extreme weather.

    Other options that can be found at entergyneworleans.com include:
    Pick-A-Date, which allows customers to choose the date when their bills are due.

    Automatic Monthly Payments, which save customers the trouble of writing and mailing checks.

    To stay comfortable and save energy when the temperatures drop, here are some helpful tips:

    Turn the heat down – During winter months, keep the thermostat set on 68 degrees. Each degree warmer will increase your bill by about 3 percent.

    Blanket your water heater – Heating water for cooking, cleaning, laundry and bathing is the second-largest energy user in homes. Insulating blankets for electric water heaters are inexpensive and readily available at any home-improvement store. These will make a difference in your energy bill.
    This early cold snap also gives customers time to make their homes more energy efficient before additional cold weather heads our way.

    If you’re more a do-it-yourself person, you can find general energy-saving tips and tools online at entergyneworleans.com for either no-cost or low-cost tips, an energy calculator, do-it-yourself videos and more.

     

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  • Your 2014 money solution starts now

    IT’S THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAr and time for you to think about money. You have been told for years how to handle your money. You’ve been told:

    “Live within your means”

    “Pay yourself first”

    “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul”

    “Save for a rainy day”

    “Don’t bite off more than you can chew”

    “Pinch your pennies”

    “Start on your golden parachute”

    The reality is that you must live every day. For most of you, you owe, you owe, you owe, and your credit needs work. For some, your money is tight. You are living “right,” and you just need guidance to the financial light.

    The New Year money solution you seek is known as personal budgeting, and it begins now with some great New Year money tips.

    1. Visit your local credit union or bank and open a Holiday Savings account. Set up for a small amount to be taken out of your account each pay period for 2014 holidays. Use the amount you spent this year and divide by the number of pay periods to determine the amount to save.

    2. Use a portion of your tax returns to get a secured credit card from your local credit union to improve your credit.

    3. If you are a homeowner, visit your local HUD Certified Counseling agency for a mortgage checkup to determine if you qualify for lower rates

    4. Open a vacation account along with your Holiday Savings account. Determine where you want to go and when and

    start saving towards the travel.

    5. Use a portion of your tax returns to pay off a pay day loan to break the cycle.

    6. Use a portion of your tax returns to catch up your child support payments. Decide to pay Peter and Paul on time to avoid late fees.

    7. Live within your means. Try to move to cash only transactions. The less you put on your credit card the closer you get to living within your means.

    8. Pay yourself fi rst. Paying off debt and not making more debt is a modified version of paying yourself fi rst.

    9. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Make every effort to pay off your payday loan and identify a less costly product for quick cash. Check with your local credit union.

    10. Save for a rainy day. Every day is a rainy day for some. Do your best to create an emergency fund.

    11. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need the biggest television and the most current cell phone.

    12. Pinch penny. Roll the loose change that you find around the house and make it a point to deposit them each month.

    13. Start on your golden parachute. Some people believe that life starts at 65. Meet with someone this year to learn the truth about retirement.


    This commentary was provided by Ed Gaston. He  is vice president of community development for Wealth Watchers Inc. in Jacksonville, Fl.  For More information click here.

     

     

    Read more »
  • ,

    Wealth Watchers: 13 solutions for your money resolutions

    wealthwatchers_logo

    It’s the beginning of the year and time for you to think about money. You have been told for years how to handle your money. You’ve been told:

      • “Live within your means”
      • “Pay yourself first”
      • “Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul”
      • “Save for a rainy day”
      • “Don’t bite off more than you can chew”
      • “Pinch your pennies”
      • “Start on your golden parachute”

      The reality is that you must live every day. For most of you, you owe, you owe, you owe, and your credit needs work. For some, your money is tight. You are living “right,” and you just need guidance to the financial light.

      The New Year money solution you seek is known as personal budgeting, and it begins now with some great New Year money tips.

      1. Visit your local credit union or bank and open a Holiday Savings account. Set up for a small amount to be taken out of your account each pay period for 2014 holidays. Use the amount you spent this year and divide by the number of pay periods to determine the amount to save.

      2. Use a portion of your tax returns to get a secured credit card from your local credit union to improve your credit.

      3. If you are a homeowner, visit your local HUD Certified Counseling agency for a mortgage checkup to determine if   you qualify for lower rates or mortgage modification.

      4. Open a vacation account along with your Holiday Savings account. Determine where you want to go and when and start saving towards the travel.

      5. Use a portion of your tax returns to pay off a pay day loan to break the cycle.

      6. Use a portion of your tax returns to catch up your child support payments.
      Decide to pay Peter and Paul on time to avoid late fees.

      7. Live within your means. Try to move to cash only transactions. The less you put on your credit card the closer you get to living within your means.

      8. Pay yourself first. Paying off debt and not making more debt is a modified version of paying yourself first.

      9. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Make every effort to pay off your payday loan and identify a less costly product for quick cash. Check with your local credit union.

      10. Save for a rainy day. Every day is a rainy day for some. Do your best to create an emergency fund.

      11. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t need the biggest television and the most current cell phone.

      12. Pinch penny. Roll the loose change that you find around the house and make it a point to deposit them each month.

      13. Start on your golden parachute. Some people believe that life starts at 65. Meet with someone this year to learn the truth about retirement.

      By Ed Gaston
      Wealth Watchers

      Ed Gaston is vice president of community development for Wealth Watchers Inc. in Jacksonville, Fl. His column is distributed by the Jozef Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter @edsvision. ONLINE:wealthwatchersfl.com

      Read more »
    • IRS Shares Three Tax Tips to Help You Save

      ALTHOUGH THE YEAR IS ALMOST OVER, you still have time to take steps that can lower your 2013 taxes.
      Taking these steps can help you save time, tax dollars, and help you save for retirement. Here are three
      year-end tips:

      1. Start a filing system. It can be as simple as saving receipts in a shoebox, or more complex like
      creating folders or spreadsheets. It’s always a good idea to save tax- related receipts and records. Keeping good records now will save time and help you file a complete and accurate tax return next year.

      2. Make charitable contributions. If you plan to give to charity,consider donating before the year ends. That way you can claim your contribution as an itemized deduction for 2013.This includes donations you
      charge to a credit card by Dec. 31,even if you don’t pay the bill until 2014. A gift by check also counts
      for 2013 as long as you mail it in December. Remember that you must give to a qualifi ed charity to
      claim a tax deduction. Use the IRS Select Check tool at IRS.gov to see if an organization is qualified.
      Make sure to save your receipts. You must have a written record for all donations of money in order to
      claim a deduction. Special rules apply to several types of property, including clothing or household
      items, cars and boats. For more about these rules see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

      3. Contribute to retirement accounts. You need to contribute to your 401(k) or similar retirement plan by Dec. 31 to count for 2013. You also have until April 15, 2014, to set up a new IRA or add money to an existing IRA and still have it count for 2013. The Saver’s Credit, also known asthe Retirement Savings Contribution Credit, helps low- and moderate-income workers in two ways.It helps people save for retirement
      and earn a special tax credit. Eligible workers who contribute to IRAs, 401(k)s or similar workplace retirement plans can get a tax credit on their federal tax return. The maximum credit is up to $1,000,$2,000 for married couples. Other deductions and credits may reduce or eliminate the
      amount you can claim.

      for more information from the IRS on how to save click here

      Read more »
    • Current Policies to Blame for Wealth Gap Increases

      MASSACHUSETTS—A NEW research study completed earlier this year at Brandeis University shows the dramatic gap in household wealth that now exists along racial lines cannot be attributed to personal ambition and behavioral choices, but rather reflects policies and institutional practices that create different opportunities for whites and Blacks.

      So powerful are these government policies and institutional practices that for typical families, a $1 increase in average income over the 25-year study period generates just $0.69 in additional wealth for an Black household compared with $5.19 for a white household. Part of this equation results from Black households having fewer opportunities to grow their savings beyond what’s needed for emergencies.

      “Public policies play a major role in widening the already massive racial wealth gap, and they must play a role in closing it,” said Thomas Shapiro,Ph.D., director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and a principal author of the report.

      The study, “The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide,” was conducted by the IASP. The research followed nearly the same 1,700 working-age households over what is now a 25-year  period, from 1984 to 2009 to understand what happens to the wealth gap over the course of a generation and the effect of policy and institutional decision making on how average families accumulate wealth.

      The new study found the wealth gap almost tripled from 1984 to 2009, increasing from $85,000 to $236,500. The median net worth of white households in the study has grown to $265,000 over the 25-year period compared with just $28,500 for Black house- holds. The dramatic increase in the racial wealth gap has accelerated despite the country’s movement beyond the Civil Rights era into a period of legal equality and the election of the first Black president.

      The resulting toxic inequality now threatens the U.S. economy and indeed, American society, the study concludes. Researchers were able to statistically validate five fundamental factors that together account for two-thirds of the proportional increase in the racial wealth gap.

      Those five factors include the number of years of home ownership; average family income; employment stability, particularly through the Great Recession; college education, and family financial support and inheritance.

      “And what these particular factors provide is compelling evidence that various government and institutional policies that shape where we live, where we learn and where we work propel the large majority of the widening racial wealth gap,” said Shapiro.

      Each of the factors highlights a number of specific reasons that whites and Blacks accumulate wealth at different rates. When it came to housing, for example, home equity rose dramatically faster for whites due to the following: White families buy homes and start acquiring equity eight years earlier than Black families. Due to historical wealth advantages, white families are far more likely to receive family assistance or an inheritance for down payments.

      The ability to make larger up-front payments by white homeowners lowers interest rates. Residential segregation places an artificial ceiling on home equity in non- white neighborhoods. Based on these and other historical factors, the home ownership rate for white families is 28 per- cent  higher.

      “The report shows in stark terms that it’s not just the last recession and implosion of the housing market that contributed to widening racial wealth disparities,” said Anne Price, director of the Closing the Racial Wealth

      Gap Initiative at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. “Past policies of exclusion, such as discriminatory mortgage lending, whichcontinues today, ensure that certain groups reap a greater share of all America has to offer while others are left out.”

      The report recommends that policymakers take steps such as strengthening and enforcing fair housing, mortgage and lending policies; raising the minimum wage and enforcing equal pay provisions; investing in high-quality childcare and early childhood development, and overhauling preferential tax treatments for dividend and interest income and the home mortgage deduction.

       

      ONLINE:www.

      brandeis.edu

       

       

      Read more »
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