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Learning Center

Asheville Savings Bank is focused on providing education to its customers and those visiting our bank website. We have heard you enjoy reading beneficial articles about a variety of financial subjects.

Please see the following topics and select one or more that will be of interest. We will be continually adding articles to the Learning Center as we hear of a need or request from our customers. Let us know what you think…

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Word of Mouth Marketing

  1. Create a “buzz” about your business.
    The first step in “word of mouth marketing” is to generate something to have your customers  talk about.  If your business offers nothing exciting or puzzling to be talked about; then you can never harness the power of word of mouth. What are things you can create to generate a buzz? What will your business offer that customers can talk about? Well, below are five things your business can do to get customers can talking.
    1. Provide the most exceptional service possible
    2. Offer the highest quality products you can
    3. Create memorable words such as “neon” words that will get customers excited… a tagline if you will such as BMW has the “ultimate driving experience”
    4. Organize a contest
    5. Surprise your customers with something unexpected
  2. Encourage your customers to spread the word
    After giving your customers something to talk about, you need to encourage them to spread the word. If your marketing buzz stays with a customer, it dies a naturally death but if it’s spread; it brings tremendous results. Encourage your customers to become crusaders for your business.
  3. Provide your customers with the right marketing tools
    This is actually where the work lies in the game of generating word of mouth. Any content you create to generate a buzz will never be successful if you don’t provide your customers with the right marketing tools to help spread the word. You need to provide them with fuel to keep the fire burning.
  4. Check to see how successful your “buzz” has been. Go out on social media and ask. You will be surprised at the answers.

Written by Nyda Bittmann-Neville, Marketing and Communication Director, Asheville Savings Bank. Information based on research from the internet.

What are you doing with 95% of your time?

In a recent study 95% of companies’ time is being spent on defensive measures such as cost cutting and a mere 5% on offensive actions like finding new customers or expanding into a new marketing niche, marketing, training and motivating staff.

Since downsizing has left companies with fewer personnel doing more, having to stay closer to the office rather than out prospecting. Marketing and training has probably been put on hold or eliminated totally. On one hand dollars are being saved but on the other hand you are losing awareness and presence in the marketplace and employees are not being challenged and developed. If it continues, by the time the markets start a turn around, you will be spending more to play catch up.

We need to use our time brainstorming about how we can find new customers and expand existing relationships. Invite and involve employees from different areas of the company to identify opportunities and develop strategies. Challenge the group to identify 3-5 ideas and then develop several ways each of the ideas may be accomplished. This activity does several things. One it makes employees feel their ideas are valued; two it promotes synergy among different departments; and three they may come up with some great ideas!

Employees that have been retained with the company are the A and B levels. I doubt if many businesses kept the C level or below par players. The employees need to be motivated, challenged, and developed and it is a great time to ensure the desired culture is illustrated and demonstrated. Take time to increase the quality of customer service, practice effective networking, enhance communications and augment business development. Remember employees are your marketeers. They are the ones that interact with your clients and send the messages of who and what the company is all about. Now is the time to spend time and dollars --this is an investment that will have a high ROI.

Invest more than 5% of your efforts in these areas and you will be out in front of the competition.

Answering Machines

I have been making numerous calls of late to a variety of businesses and decided it was time to discuss answering machine messages. I have heard just about everything on people’s machines and most were less than impressive. Talk about unprofessional and certainly not enhancing one’s image, these were it!

One message was recorded as a person was driving and you could hear the wind blowing, the trucks passing by, and the radio in the background. The voice was muffled and at times you could not understand what the individual was saying.

Several examples of messages included:

  • Only stating a person’s first name
  • Smacking gum while talking
  • Speaking so rapidly you could not understand the message
  • So long of a message I became bored….but had to continue to listen to see just how long it was going to be!
  • Musical messages
  • Messages delivered by a famous person’s voice

And the list could continue. What do answering machine messages say about our image? The answer is quite a bit.

Please keep in mind that today initial communication with someone may be conducted via answering machines. In some cases you may carry on a “conversation” via machines long before a personal interaction. So keep your message clear, concise and presented in a professional manner. State your complete name, company name if appropriate, and ask the caller to leave a message. Saying that you have reached an answering machine is not necessary as most everyone understands this method of communication. If possible, state when a message may be received and returned.

Your answering machine message is a representation of you, your image, and your company, let it speak positively about you.

Written by Nyda Bittmann-Neville, Marketing and Communication Director, Asheville Savings Bank.

Five Ways to Liberate Your Team from Email Overload

#1 Quit Trying to Solve Problems by Email

Gather everyone for a 15-minute huddle at the same time every day or week. With the right people in the room, it will take you seven minutes to resolve issues that might otherwise lead to an hour and a half of emailing back and forth. Plus, since you all know when you will see each other next, you will spend less time messaging one another to set up other times to talk.

#2 Use Hyperspecific Subject Lines

Be nitpicky. It will keep everyone from wasting time searching in-boxes for lost messages. To set up a June 15th call about your budget, use the subject line “June 16 call re budget”. If the date switches to June 17, take three seconds to update it in the subject line. And when you get an email with a vague subject line like “two questions” change it to something more precise in your reply.

#3 Insist on Extreme Brevity

Keep emails Twitter-tight, and ask your team not to send you messages that you have to scroll through, advises Joseph McCormack, author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less”. “Write them on a Smartphone, for a smart-phone”, he suggests. And don’t barrage employees with giant attachments, instead, take a cue form Jeff Bezos: Read the material silently at the start of a meeting-then discuss it on the spot.

#4 Ban Emails with Multiple Parts

More than 43% of professionals abandon complicated emails in the first 30 seconds, according to McCormack’s research. “They either pause and say, I’ll get back to it later’ – or don’t read them” he says. Ask your team to stick to one topic per email and to send a new message for other, unrelated requests. And if you get a three part message, respond to each one with a separate, accurately renamed email.

#5 Close the Conversation Quickly

Long acknowledgments or thank-yous can lead to email clutter—but no one wants to be rude by leaving messages unacknowledged. To thank someone or answer a simple yes-or-no question, put your response in the subject line followed by (EOM) short for “end of message”. Recipients will know they do not need to open the email. Hint: spell out EOM the first time; it will save you from getting a bunch of responses asking what EOM means.

Author: Verne Harnish, CEO Gazelles Inc. an executive education firm Fortune magazine June 16, 2014

How to Establish Credit when You are Young

Establishing credit and learning to use it wisely when you are young can make your transition to adulthood much easier.

Having your parents include you as an authorized user or joint credit card account holder is an easy first step toward building a positive credit history. Equally important, you can help your parents review the monthly statements and perhaps even help make payments.

Learning about the entire credit process, from making a charge to paying the bill, will help you manage credit well when you get out on your own. Understanding the responsibility to make every payment on time is the key to using credit to work for you, rather than becoming a slave to credit. But a positive credit history is more important than just being able to use a credit card to buy things. Your credit history may be considered by potential employers when you are looking for your first job. It may play a part in approving your apartment application. And, it will be critical for buying your first car so you can get to work every day.

If your job requires you to travel, you will need a good credit history to qualify for a corporate credit card used to rent a car, purchase airline tickets, pay hotel bills and buy dinner for clients. Even though you are reimbursed, most company cards are personal accounts.

While you can establish credit after graduating from college, it becomes more difficult. As a truly independent adult, lenders rely on your credit history to make decisions regarding your application. Without an established credit history, it becomes more difficult to qualify for credit cards or other types of loans.

College students are prime customers because they are likely to be financially successful and have proven to be loyal customers over long periods of time. So many students receive a variety of offers.
Most credit card companies only open accounts based on prescreened applications offered to consumers whose credit history meets their risk requirements. If you don’t have a credit history, you don’t get any offers. College students are a rare exception. That doesn’t mean you should complete every credit card application you receive. Be selective. Only apply for accounts that offer the incentives you want and need. Those might include low interest rates, low or no annual fees, or even airline miles you can use to travel home between semesters, if you charge enough to justify the annual fee.
It also doesn’t mean you can spend more than you can afford. Smart students use credit for convenience.

Responsible credit use while you are younger can build a strong credit history that will help you get your adult life off to a strong start when you set out on your own.

Resource; Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Mortgage Checklist

Mortgage Home Buyer Checklist

What is a bank looking for in a business applicant?

Without a previous track record in business, securing a bank loan may be difficult. Banks cite risk factors and increasing costs of servicing small accounts as the primary reasons for minimizing their exposure to small businesses. Still, it can be done. Here are the steps that you should take to improve your chances of getting that much-needed bank loan:

  1. Keep in mind that to stay in business banks need to make loans. Do not be afraid to ask for one. That is what the loan officer wants you to do. To increase your chances of getting a loan, look for a bank that is familiar with your industry and who has done business with companies like yours. Seek out banks that are active in small business financing. Some banks lend on a conventional basis (lending money without government support), while some banks participate in government programs (in the form of government participations involving direct government funds or loan guarantees). However, be aware that banks often demand stiff collateral requirements for start-ups.
  2. Make sure you are thoroughly prepared when you go to your banker's office to request a loan. You need to show your bankers that a loan to you is a low-risk proposition. Have on hand a completed loan application, copies of cash flow and financial statement projections covering at least three years, and your cover letter.Learn to anticipate every question that the banker may have. Remember, the combination of information and preparation is the most powerful negotiating tool in the world. A confident and thoroughly prepared borrower is four times more likely to have his or her loan approved than a borrower who does not know the answer to some of the basic questions a banker asks. To show the extent of your preparedness, your business plan should also include answers to your banker's questions. These questions normally are:
    • How much money do you need? Be as exact as possible; although adding a little extra for contingencies will not hurt.
    • How long do you need it for? Be prepared to go into detail about what the money will do for you and why your business is a good risk.
    • What are you going to do for it? Businesses use loans for three things: to buy new assets, pay off old debts, or pay for operating expenses.
    • When and how you will repay for it? Your cash flow projections should provide a repayment time frame. Convince the banker of the long-term profitability of your business and your ability to repay the loan by using your financial projections and business plan.
    • What will you do if you do not get the loan?
  3. Do not take an apologetic and negative attitude. Keep your negativity in check. Present yourself as an entrepreneur who can and will repay the loan. Boost your image by providing your loan officer with any promotional materials about your business, such as brochures, ads, articles, press releases, etc.
  4. Dress in a professional manner for the interview. This is a business transaction, so treat it as such.
  5. Do not stretch the truth in your loan application. Broad, unsubstantiated statements should be avoided. The lender can easily check many of the facts on your application. If you cannot support statements with solid data, then don't make them. Do your homework and spend time doing research to be able to support everything you say, including every single number in your projections. It is best to keep projections, assets lists and collateral statements on the conservative side.
  6. Be sure all your documents are neat, legible and organized in a cohesive and attractive manner. Type all your loan documents. Handwritten documents look unprofessional. Don't forget to include a cover letter.
  7. Do not push the loan officer for a decision. Doing so might result in a rejection. Your banker cannot make a decision until all your documentation is complete. To ensure a speedy decision, make sure that your application is complete.
  8. Be confident. An attitude of confidence enhances your chance of getting the loan. Show that you can make a success out of the money that the bank will lend to you. Visualize in your mind the positive results of your bank application.
  9. Keep trying one lender after another, keep trying. To improve your position as you change bankers and banks, the best way is to ask for a referral from a successful entrepreneur. Before you decide to approach a bank directly, find an associate, friend or acquaintance that is in good standing with the bank to give you a good referral. Bankers tend to deal more favorably those who were referred to them by their best customers.
  10. Failure to discuss risk in your application. You must remember one thing: there is no business without risk. If you do not discuss risk, the bankers will assume that you haven't thought about risk. Let's face it - try as we might, we cannot plan for everything, for every contingency, for every turn of events. Bankers would want to know if you have planned for the major risks and how you intend to manage it.

    Then, there is also the risk of too much success. The demand for your products or service may exceed well beyond your expectations, and they would want to know how you intend to handle success.

  11. Remember that the first loan is usually the hardest to get. Bankers prefer to lend money to borrowers who have borrowed at least once and have paid back at least one loan on time. They are not venture capitalists that make high-risk loans regardless of the profit prospects of your business. Bankers prefer to lend to low-risk, low profit ventures than to high risk businesses or those with no record of accomplishment.

Resource: Small Business Administration

Money Management

Learning effective money management not only enables you to live comfortably within your means, but also helps you to increase your wealth. Use these money management tips to stay in control of your money!

  1. Set a Money Management Goal
    Money management is a means to an end. However, make sure your goal is practical and be sure the "end" is in clear sight. Although your money management goal may be to have a comfortable retirement, start small with objectives like paying off a credit card within X number of months or saving $X by the end of the year. In money management, like in any regimen, there's nothing like the satisfaction of success to keep you on track!
  1. Know what you have
    Before you can live within your means, you need to know what your means are. Start money management by taking stock of your money. You'll probably be surprised at how rich you really are!
    • As well as the cash in your pocket or purse, include piggy bank cash and bank balances.
    • Go on a treasure hunt to find lost money. Look in coat and trouser pockets, through birthday and other greeting cards, jewelry boxes, dresser drawers, under furniture cushions, behind and under furniture, in your freezer, and under your mattress!
    • Although our money is an asset and all of our assets are types of our money, generally we're more inclined to think of assets as property.

      However although all of our possessions are parts of our wealth that we can turn into cash, usually we want to protect these possessions from creditors. For instance, you probably don't want to sell your car or cash in a valuable coin collection to pay a bill. Yet, the ability to convert property to cash is a good concept to remember in identifying and effectively managing your money.

      Some assets like vehicles and appliances depreciate (decrease in value) over time. Yet, while they don't increase spending power, you can turn them into cash.

      Long-term assets like real estate holdings, investments (stocks, bonds, etc), and personal property such as collections, artworks, and antiques appreciate (increase in value) over time and actually enable us to save money and increase our wealth.
  1. Track your income
    Really track your income! If you have at least a month's worth of old check stubs, add them up and divide them to see what your average income is. Better yet, if you can add them for a quarter year and divide by 13 (number of weeks in a quarter) you'll get a more accurate view of your earning power. If you haven't saved check stubs, do it for at least four weeks. Don't just add your weekly wage times four. You'll be forgetting sick days, flat-tire days, and omitting extra income from overtime and holidays.
  1. Track your spending
    Once you know what money you have now and what income you can expect to get, it's time to find out where your money goes. Take a month and track your spending down to the penny.

Record everything! In addition to tracking the cash you spend, record every bill payment, check, debit, and credit card expenditure. Include the amount you paid, who you paid (or where you shopped), and the date you made the purchase.

After a couple of weeks, you'll find yourself reconsidering if you really need that pack of gum or mid-morning cafe latte. This money management exercise is designed to show you how you usually spend your money so it's important during this month not to deny yourself your usual pleasures, no matter how trivial they are.

Setting a realistic goal, knowing what you have, what you expect to earn, and tracking your spending are the basics of money management that enable you to control your money and make wise budgeting choices in the future.

Baby Boomers - a reality check

According to the 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI),1 the following is true of workers aged 55 and older:

  • About 60% have less than $100,000 in retirement savings
  • 36% have saved less than $25,000
  • 29% have saved less than $10,000

As a point of reference, of all workers surveyed:

  • 76% have less than $100,000 saved
  • 56% have less than $25,000 saved
  • 46% have less than $10,000 saved

Despite the apparent lack of adequate savings, 63% of all workers surveyed also say they believe they are "doing a good job of preparing for retirement"—even though only 42% of all workers have ever taken the time to create a retirement plan!

Evidently, there is still a disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to how much we will need to spend in retirement and how best to fund that spending. It shouldn't be too surprising, then, that roughly half of those 45 and older say they have never tried to calculate how much they need to save for retirement. Here’s one last sobering statistic: Despite wishfully thinking their spending needs would drop in retirement, 50% of retirees found that their actual retirement spending was equal to or higher than their pre-retirement spending (with 7% of those saying their post-retirement spending was much higher).2

Don't count on inheritance

What about the multi-trillion dollar intergenerational wealth transfer so talked-about in the 1990s? So far, it has yet to materialize.

A report published by the AARP3 found that only one-fifth of baby boomers had received an inheritance by the end of 2004 and that the median amount was only $64,000.

Therefore, most baby boomers shouldn't count on an inheritance windfall to bail them out. In fact, given the current state of boomer retirement savings, perhaps the best we can hope for is that the parents of baby boomers will have enough to support themselves during their own retirement. After all, saving for retirement becomes even more difficult for a baby boomer sandwiched between dependent kids and dependent parents.

Not your father's retirement

Not so long ago, retirement planners talked about the three-legged stool of retirement income: Social Security, traditional company pensions and personal savings. But that three-legged stool seems more like a pogo stick these days. Traditional pensions are on the wane—replaced by contributory plans such as 401(k) s and 403(b) s—and there's widespread skepticism regarding the long-term viability of Social Security.

The parents of boomers could rely on pensions and Social Security for the bulk of their retirement income. And Generation Xers, who entered the workforce at a time when the uncertainty of pensions and Social Security was already apparent, have more time to adjust. But the shifting realities of retirement seem to have caught the bulk of baby boomers by surprise.

Speaking of those more self-reliant Gen Xers, one has to wonder how long they'll put up with shouldering the burden for their boomer predecessors should Social Security projections prove true. For boomers, the advice used to be, "Don't trust anyone over 30." For the Xers and beyond, "Don't trust anyone over 65" might be more appropriate.

Some likely scenarios for the future of Social Security, in addition to increased FICA taxes, might be reduced retirement benefits, means testing (as Medicare has already put in place by adjusting premium costs based on adjusted gross income) or a higher eligibility age. All the more reason for boomers to focus on their own ability to save and prepare instead of relying on others and hoping for the best—particularly at a time when life expectancy and medical costs continue to rise.

Stretching exercises

Maintaining a supple body as you grow older takes some effort, but the benefits are worth it. Likewise, maintaining flexibility in your financial life takes a little work, but can pay off down the road. Here are a few "toe-touching" exercises you can do today to help ensure your financial well-being and independence in retirement:

  • Create a plan. Run the numbers to see how much you should be saving, based on your best estimate of what you plan to spend in retirement. Get some help crunching the numbers if you need it, but be sure to use realistic figures for how much you need to accumulate and what rate of return you can expect on your investments (don't forget to take market volatility into account). Balance is key—you don't want to be overly optimistic and run the risk of missing your goals, but neither do you want to be overly pessimistic and sacrifice more of your current lifestyle than is reasonable.
  • Save more. Once you've set a reasonable savings target, do whatever it takes to make it happen. Spending less so you can save and invest more is one way to get there. For example, saving an extra $2,000 per year (less than $170 per month) for 20 years could mean an additional $98,850 when you're ready to retire,4 if you manage to average an annual compound return of 8%. Other viable options include retiring a bit later, working part-time in retirement (at something you enjoy), or spending less in retirement. Of course, these choices aren't mutually exclusive. A combination, to one degree or another, might work well for you.
  • Do your own reality check. Manage your expectations and stay flexible. There's no magic formula. And, no matter how well you plan, the future remains fundamentally unknowable. The best you can do is put probability on your side through prudent planning, discipline and hard work. Being well prepared ahead of time will put you in a much better position to roll with the punches later on, when your options will be more limited.

The ultimate goal is a comfortable retirement—one in which you can maintain your desired lifestyle and "do your own thing" with as much peace of mind as possible. It's still doable, but time is running out.

 

If you haven't already, put a plan in place. Get help if you need it, but get going. It might seem hard at first, but saving and investing a little extra now could have you shouting "Bring it on!!!" come retirement time.

 

Resources:

  1. The 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey, March 2011, Employee Benefit Research Institute, ©2011.
  2. The 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey, March 2010, Employee Benefit Research Institute, ©2010.
  3. In Their Dreams: What Will Boomers Inherit? Research Report, John Gist and Carlos Figueiredo, AARP, Public Policy Institute, June 2006.
  4. Projected value assumes additional retirement contributions are made at the beginning of the year.

Thirteen Common Sense Tips to Improve Your Personal Safety and Security

  1. Be aware of your surroundings and people walking near to you. If you suspect someone is following you, turn around to see if anyone is there rather than being taken by surprise.
  2. Use a money clip and keep your cards separate.
  3. If you come home and suspect you’ve had a break-in, don’t enter your home. Wait until the police arrive.
  4. If a stranger asks to use your phone, have them wait outside while you make the call.
  5. If your car breaks down, raise the hood and stay inside your car. If a stranger wants to help ask them to call for help.
  6. If you get attacked most people would shout "HELP" but you will get more attention if you shout "FIRE".
  7. Don’t get distracted in a crowded situation. Pickpockets may be about.
  8. If a friend or taxi driver takes you home, ask them to wait until you're safely inside.
  9. If you are at home by yourself, make sure all windows and door are locked.
  10. If a stranger telephones or comes to your door don’t give the impression you are on your own.
  11. Be alert when using public transport.
  12. Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, then leave.
  13. Be careful where you cross the road. Don’t walk between parked cars, otherwise drivers may not see you.

Resource: Home Security Systems installation tips.

Create an Inspiring and Challenging Strategy for Your Life! Here are several critical factors to help you do just that.

Create an Inspiring and Challenging Strategy for Your Life! Here are several critical factors to help you do just that.

  • Decide what you really, really want out of life
  • Research the things you want of out of life so you have a clear picture
  • Question what you researched
  • Discuss what you discovered in your research with others that you feel will provide you an objective review
  • Think what has been the impact of this process thus far and where you have been elevated
  • Be crystal clear about the opportunity
  • Think BIG! Give yourself an epic challenge to create your life
  • Check where the threats will come from to try and tear your life down, be prepared
  • Make sure you have the people to help you move down the road effectively
  • Work out the first five steps that you will take to move forward
  • Plan a budget, and then plan again
  • Assume that it will take you twice as long and double everything, including the cost
  • Be flexible
  • Progress is never a straight line, shoot, life is not either
  • Enjoy your journey.

Resource: Nyda Bittmann-Neville, Marketing and Communication Director, Asheville Savings Bank.

Change…like waves on the beach

How many of you enjoy a day at the beach? It is one of my favorite places to relax, rid myself of stress, reflect, and rejuvenate. Smelling the sea air, feeling the sand between my toes, enjoying the vitamin D from the sun, and watching the endless comings and goings of the waves. Ahhhhh yes!

One way to think about change is that change is like waves on the beach. Just like change, waves are relentless and can be powerful, and there are only three things you can do with a wave: let it knock you down, survive it or ride it. Let's take a closer look at each of these three ways to handle change.

We let the waves of change knock us down when we take the dead roach approach to change - flat on our back, feet in the air and just out of control. What a visual!

You can tell you are taking this approach when you say things such as:

  • "I'm so stressed out!"
  • "I can't take this!"
  • "This isn't fair!"
  • "Why does this always have to happen to me?"

Doesn't surviving change sound like a good thing to want to do? Though in a few cases it's really the only thing you can do, it really isn't the optimal approach to take. I don't know about you, but merely surviving doesn't sound like a very compelling way to live.

If you're thinking or saying these things, you've probably settled on merely surviving:

  • "How can I get through this?"
  • "What's the worst that could happen here?"
  • "I don't know if I can take this."
  • "What can I do to get by?"

The problem with taking a survival approach is that you just merely get by. When you're ready to do more than just get by, it's time to begin managing change.

Riding the waves of change means seeing things from a different point of view, rather than looking out at the waves you are looking toward land from the sea. Think of riding the waves as the process of making change work for you.

Here are some questions to ask to begin to learn how to thrive on change:

  • How can I make this work for me?
  • What's good about this?
  • What does this change allow me to do that I couldn't do before?
  • What positive things might this change force me to do?

Change is inevitable. How we handle it is optional. Make the choice to ride the waves and you're likely to create a compelling life for yourself.

We will be continually adding articles to the Learning Center as we hear of a need or request from our customers. Read on….

For general inquiries contact us at:
800 222 3230 | customerservice@ashevillesavingsbank.com | PO Box 652, Asheville, NC 28802

Copyright 2015 Asheville Savings Bank