What is Network or Direct Selling?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/22/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Selling, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business, Sales Opportunities

Source: One of the most common at-home business opportunities is the direct sales network marketing of products offered by a parent organization. Direct sales or network marketing has received a bad rap in the past, where advocates and adversaries share their pros and cons about this business model. We take a look at what networking marketing and direct selling opportunities are.

Network marketing/direct selling companies offer their products and/or services by employing a business model that includes a number of independent representatives or marketers who promote the parent company and its product line. The first method in which network marketers earn an income is based on sales commissions for product sales of the affiliated parent company. This applies to both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Network marketers can then earn additional income from building an “organization” or “downline,” which consists of a network of other individuals they recruit to also sell the parent company’s products, making this the “multi-level” business model.

Multi-level marketing organizations have been pitched under a number of monikers. Some of the most common other names for multi-level marketing are network marketing, direct selling, community marketing, referral marketing, pyramid selling, person-to-person marketing, and relationship marketing. Network marketing or direct selling have been the most common terms dubbed since multi-level marketing has been associated with negative perception of the industry as a whole.

Some of the most successful and longest standing direct selling businesses include Avon, Amway, Primerica, May Kay Cosmetics, Legal Shield, and Shaklee. Within the past forty years, the number of network marketing companies that offer products and services have exploded to an all-time high. There are well over fifty companies today that dominate the multi-level marketing landscape, and there are no signs of the industry slowing down.

Billions of dollars in product and service sales have been made for these companies as a result of this business model. In 2015, the industry posted $183.7 billion dollars in sales worldwide. Collectively, these companies claim that over $73.4 billion dollars (roughly 40%) of gross revenue was paid directly to “distributors,” who are the network marketers themselves. The majority of the industry’s sales were collected in the United States, with twenty to thirty percent of all sales having taken place stateside. The industry also did well in China, which is the industry’s second largest market, followed by South Korea, Germany and Japan.

So what makes the industry so attractive? Career marketers will tout there are multiple benefits to becoming involved in network marketing organizations. Network marketers claim the main reason for their decision to join network marketing is because of its unique business model and the flexibility the industry offers.

Network marketers can earn unlimited commissions with most multi-level marketing companies, as well as paid performance bonuses when sales goals are met; and are also paid a percentage on sales from their downline. A common claim of advantage in Network marketing is the sense of owning a business without the hassle of a brick and mortar location, so very little financial investment is required in comparison to the capital necessary to start up a traditional retail or service oriented business. Network marketers have the flexibility to create their own schedule, and are not limited to any one geographic location.

Other terms coined for the sales force of independent sales people that make up a direct selling organization include: distributors, marketing consultants, promoters, representatives, independent business owners, independent contractors, marketing directors, and relationship coordinators. Some of these terms have been viewed by former network marketers as misleading, because the network marketer does not directly own part of the parent company; and many of the network marketers do not operate their venture in an official business structure (such as a corporation or limited liability company). Instead, network marketers are encouraged to register a business name and obtain a tax identification number, so the parent multi-level marketing company can pay a business entity versus paying an individual. This is where the phrase “getting into the business” was developed.

Traditionally, network marketers would introduce the parent company’s products and/or services to potential consumers directly by word of mouth advertising. Some of the most popular forms of this word of mouth advertising would come in the form of “home parties,” where the network marketer would set an appointment to host a home party (or have a family member, friend or acquaintance host the party for product discounts or gifts), and invite guests to attend the party. At the home party, family and friends would gather to share in refreshments and would view the presentation made by the network marketer, who would also showcase the parent company’s product lines and take orders from the invited guests that attended. Once the product orders were available, the network marketer would deliver the products to their customers.

With the coming of the Information Age, the Digital Age, and the Age of Mobile Devices, network marketing has become far more complex, with a host of new direct marketing tools and techniques. Individuals can now sell products and recruit members for their downline from anywhere in the world that the parent company is set up to do business with. Social media has given rise to the growing number of network marketers, where one may expect to see the latest pitch in their news feed or receive a private message from someone who is trying to share the MLM product line or opportunity that they have chosen to partner with.

Just as the methods in reaching potential customers and recruits have advanced, so have the systems used by both single-level and multi-level marketing business models. Most of these companies now offer direct ship programs for their products, so the network marketer no longer has to hand deliver personal orders to customers. Multi-level marketing companies have also integrated back offices, online dashboards and apps, allowing for the network marketer to go paperless while managing their organization or downline. They have also made many of their tools available online to their network marketers, eliminating the need to purchase clunky marketing kits for personal use; and have become more transparent in recent years, providing financial reports, sales commission reports, and earnings in real time for network marketers to review.

Even with the advancements in technology, marketing tools, training, and the many success stories throughout the network marketing industry, the MLM industry and business model is still viewed negatively by many. Some claim that network marketing companies are nothing more than pyramid schemes that prey on people that are hopeful and looking for a remedy for their financial duress or other personal challenges. It is important to note, however, that some of the most successful MLM companies are also those that have come under the most criticism.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.


Memory Care Units Focuses on Some of the Most Painful Concerns

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 4/22/2018, www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Assisted Living, Baby Boomers, Golden Years, Health Care Facilities, Long Term Care, Quality of Life, Senior Health Care

Source: New facilities specializing in memory care are being designed to handle some of the most complicated mental health senior care concerns. These new designs focus their efforts on therapeutic modalities and facilities that aim at assisting senior residents cope with Alzheimer’s and dementia, loss of memory from an accident or injury, and other concerns that effect one’s mental well-being in their senior years.

Memory care facilities are assisted living facilities specially designed to care for individuals that have degrading mental awareness. Two of the most common memory loss diagnoses are Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s is a chronic disease where an individual’s mind will begin to lose short term memory of recent events, people’s names and dates. As the disease progresses, the individual will begin to have changes in behavior and mood, problems with language and disorientation, loss of motivation, and other slowing patterns.

In many cases, the individual is initially aware of their condition, and out of frustration, will slowly alienate family and care givers. Even care givers find it difficult to administer care to a person with Alzheimer’s, due to the continued behavioral changes and out lashes that the patient displays. Once Alzheimer’s is in its final phases, the body begins to shut down and fails to function as it should, leading to the individual passing. Care for an individual with Alzheimer’s takes a special provider that has plenty of patience as well as the ability to not be easily offended.

Senior elder persons with dementia suffer from and experience many of the same symptoms as folks with Alzheimer’s do. However, there are a few major differences between the two diseases. Dementia is considered a neurocognitive disorder that speeds up the aging process and affects the body more so than other mental disorders and illnesses. People with dementia are usually either chemically or physically restricted so they are not a danger to themselves or others around them. Human rights groups advocate that individuals with dementia should not be restrained, stating they need additional specialized care, including the use of alternative modalities and therapies, as well as individual in activities that are constructive, giving the person a sense of daily purpose.

Memory care services also provide on campus services in conjunction with rehabilitation centers for head injuries where blunt trauma has caused a person to lose their short-term memory.  This care focuses on helping the patient restore their short-term memory along with the individual’s physical health.

Memory care facilities offer around the clock supervised care. The floor plans of these facilities are designed to cater to someone with a memory care concern. They include easy to find central service areas such as a dining hall and activity centers. There are additional security measures at a memory care unit so patients cannot just wander off on their own outside the center’s grounds and limits the risk the patient may be to themselves or others. A memory care facility will usually have additional therapy rooms and places on campus designed to be therapeutic. They may even have a central court yard so residents can spend time outside without leaving the environment and security of the memory care unit.

Assisted living centers that include memory care are changing the model for senior health care in the industry. Memory care units that are added to either a traditional assisted living center or are integrated into the design of a new assisted living facility provide an advantage for senior health care facilities. These duel service centers help families with the continuity of care. If a loved one needs additional care services for memory care, the patient is transferred just down the hall or to a neighboring building. Knowing the same staff will be continuing to serve their loved one’s needs without having to move them to an entirely different facility provides tremendous reassurance during a vulnerable time. A family can count on maintaining the same relationship with the same senior health care provider; eliminating the doubt one would have about having to deal with a new staff or administrator.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

How Would General Colin Powell Lead if He Owned A Small Business?

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author Published on 2/8/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Community, Economy, Government, Small Business, Tax

Source: Every small business has its share of challenges, and each successful business owner must have an iron stomach to lead their business through times of growth or economic downturns, often making unpopular decisions for the good of all.  One of the most successful Generals who ever served this country also had to make difficult choices.  So, let’s entertain a hypothetical situation:  General Colin Powell got bored with retirement and decided to open a small business, offering a set of products and services he was passionate about and felt would be of great service to the community. How would he manage his business? How can you apply his leadership style and methods to your business? Are you ready to take charge of your business to win over Main Street?

“Command is lonely.” Another way to express this is, “It is lonely at the top.” In business, the business owner cannot be everyone’s friend. They must be a leader. You can expect not to be liked by some of your employees, or by your competition, or even by some of your neighbors or even some of your own family, as they may become jealous and resentful of your small business success. What I have found is that most people who would be the first to complain they have less than someone else, are usually the last people to take risk and responsibility for their own situation. They are also the most unlikely to ever own a small business venture, and would rather criticize others from the cheap seats and sidelines.

As the leader at the top, your business will require you to put in the time investment when no others will. That means staying late to serve a customer or to clean your store front. That means giving up doing the “normal things” with family and friends when you need to fill in for an employee who just called out sick. It means spending extra time beyond the normal business hours to take care of the business paperwork and accounting or marketing functions. As a business leader you must accept the idea of being an army of one when everyone else has gone home for the day.

General Powell once said, “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” How does that apply to small business ownership? A small business owner must make unpopular choices that may not sit well with employees. A business owner may decide to set hours that are designed to cater to their clientele, which may mean staying open late on weekdays or open on weekends, when most people would rather be home or out with friends and family. When a small business owner sets the schedule, someone is assigned hours they are required to work that may not be popular. The business is being responsible by recognizing its clients’ needs and accommodating them by the hours of operation the business is open.

Another example that can be applicable to General Powell’s quote is when dealing with a difficult customer. As a business owner, it is not always possible to satisfy the demands of a client. Say you own a hardware store, and a potential customer walks in the door. They desire to purchase an item, but demand you provide the item at the same price or lower price as a big box retailer down the street. You explain your position of why your price has already been set. You take the time out to educate the potential customer about the higher quality and value your store offers; and yet the potential client begins to argue with you, voicing their demands to the point of shouting at the sales counter. In some cases, you must stand your ground if you believe in the value you offer, and not compromise on your position, even if it pisses off the potential customer who never stepped foot in your store before and may never return.

General Powell also shared, “Keep looking below the surface of appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so, because you might not like what you find.”  Basically, never stop in your journey in improving your business. There is always room for improvement. If a business is not looking to improve itself, or looking to grow, it will begin to fail and die. A business owner can never become complacent and think they are on top, if they do, the advantage automatically will be given to the competition. A business owner must always stay hungry and be in search of new methods or practices that improve the profitability and branding of their business image. I have found that every small business has one area of business competency which lags behind the rest of the operations and functions of that business, and to not go back and improve these areas when resources may be abundant, creates an internal risk.

Also, “Have fun with your command.” This means playing hard when you have earned it. Never forget the passion that was the reason why you went into business for yourself. Look for the joy and celebrate the joy of owning your own business enterprise. Every once in a while, sit back and enjoy the rewards of your efforts, even if it’s in the small things. Remember, when you enjoy what you are doing, it no longer becomes work, it is play.

Most of all, General Colin Powell believes, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”  The direction of any organization will trend toward where the attitude of the people involved take it. If the leader of the business is always looking forward, even in difficult times, their influence can spread quickly to give hope throughout the business. On the flip side of the coin, the sour outlook of any employee or manager can have a devastating effect on the productivity of the organization. It only takes one sour apple to poison the entire situation. A positive attitude can uplift employees when the message is reflected that the business and its leaders are capable.

So, how do you think General Powell would run his business? Do you think he would operate it like an army; ready to serve its clients at any moment? Would his employees be ready in a moment’s notice to meet their objectives?  Would his business be the well-oiled machine you can set your watch to? If he ran his business like he did the armed forces, you can count on it.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Recycle, Re-purpose, Reuse; Giving New Life to Used Items

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/1/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Government, Green, Healthy Living

Source: In comparison against most smaller and undeveloped nations, the United States categorically is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. When compared to the average household in other nations, even the poor are not considered so poor. As a nation we also are some of the world’s most consuming population of material things. Our nation also wastes just as much as it consumes. So how do we lessen our consumer footprint not to be so wasteful?

There is an old saying, “Everything has its place.” Go into any suburban home in post-modern day era, and you most likely will find a basement, an attic, a closet, a garage, or even a shed full of items which have outlasted their initial use. It seems that most households in America will replace their cell phone every six months, a kitchen appliance once a year, and then there is the question of what to do that occasional odd ball item which someone may give us as a gift, yet serves no immediate purpose in our household.

So what are we to do with all of this stuff? The obvious answer is if the item is much past its prime, beyond the cost of repairing it; it is time to recycle it. Every year, landfills run out of space because we still do not recycle enough. Glass, plastic, metal, electronics, appliances, wood, paper, cardboard, automobiles, and even some types of concrete-cement all can be re-processed and converted into other products. Before you throw something into the garbage can, ask yourself can that item be recycled. Most county governments have a waste disposal and recycling center which you can donor your renewable waste. Salvage yards will accept every type of metal and in some cases, plastic, glass, cardboard, and electronics. Wood items are ground down to make mulch or cardboard.

If you have children, you will know this scenario all too well; you buy an outfit, a pair of shoes, or a toy for your young child just to watch them outgrow it in a matter of a few months. There are a few options…You can trade up your gently used items for either cash, store credit, or a donation voucher at a local consignment shop which deals mainly with children’s items. One store in mind is called Once Upon a Child, where slightly used items are cleaned up and prepared for resale well below the original sticker price. You can find many name brand items can be found in these types of stores for a fraction of the former sticker price, thus allowing disadvantage parents to purchase name brand clothing for their children, without the high cost. You can also donate your items to your local church or to a family that might have children that might be slightly younger than yours; thus allowing for the children items to get a second life.

Just about any household item can be cleaned up and resold at a consignment shop, flea market, if the age of the item is correct, and antique shop, or even at a church bazaar fundraiser. There is an old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Your item may have outlived its use with you, however for someone else the item’s life is just beginning. Common items that you can find at flea markets or bazaars include tools, car parts, children’s toys, household decor, and even furniture.

You can try finding a new home for your item online. Craig’s List and EBAY are online havens for folks looking to sell and buy slightly used items. Even Facebook offers their version of the local marketplace. The most popular categories to buy and sell used items include used furniture, used cars and trucks, used garden tools and equipment; and children’s items. You will also be surprised at the amount of private sellers of jewelry, collectibles, and closeout items from businesses which are liquidating their left over inventory.

Many non-profit organizations have programs where you can donate your used and undesired car, boat, truck, trailer, or recreational vehicle. The standard previously followed, is that the donor would receive a donation voucher that they could write off their taxes in the amount of the lowest retail book value for their donated vehicle. In more current years, the donor gets a voucher for their item that relates to the scrap value of their former item. Then the non-profit will usually deal with a third party who would determine whether to scrap the item, or offer it for sale at the higher retail value. The public has no idea how much more the third party makes or how much the non-profit will actually receive. In this case, its best to sell your item as a private sale to another individual and then donate the cash amount to the non-profit you desire to assist.

The latest trend is that something old can be made new again. Wooden pallets can be taken apart and remade into shelves, storage crates, or even décor. Metal sheathing can be re-purposed into material for walls, shelving, made into crafts and containers, or even used in the construction or renovation of a home or business. Glass bottles and jars are great for making sand art pieces, planter pots for small flowers, or even fill them with candy or treats as gifts. Even old lumber, such as rustic beams, floorboards, shiplap siding, can be re-purposed for giving a new home the rustic look, or can be used to replace damaged lumber in a restoration project.

Even some waste products around the home can serve another purpose. Food scraps such as used coffee grinds, egg shells, banana peels and bones from meat when added to leaves and grass clippings, make for a great compost mixture for the at home gardener. Cardboard and newspaper can serve as a weed barrier in vegetable gardens and are safe for the soil.  When the cardboard and newspaper break down, they provide contents for earth worms to use to help enrich the garden soil.

Many of us are used to taking former dish and bathroom towels once they are past their prime and put those towels back to work in the garage as wash rags for the car or lawn equipment. Plastic bags from the grocery store can be reused as small garbage bags around the home. Brown paper bags from the grocery store can be made into protective book covers for children’s school books. Gift boxes can be held on to and reused again the following holiday season. Just about any item around the home can be re-purposed and reused into something else.

It is our responsibility as stewards of planet earth, to find ways to get the most life out of the consumer goods and material items around us. With limited landfill space, and the need to protect our precious fresh water supplies, the more we can do to recycle, reuse, and re-purpose, gives us one less item that makes its way to the landfill before its prime.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

8 Ways to Improve Your Health and Wellness


Published by Natural Awakenings Magazine-Central NJ, Natural Awakenings Magazine-North Central NJ, Written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and Author, http://www.SamBurlum.com

There is no doubt that we are living in a fast-paced society. We can receive communications in seconds, order a meal in minutes, and travel cross-country in a matter of hours. However, we pay a price for this lifestyle full of modern conveniences: our health. In order to fulfill all of the day’s demands, we ignore our bodies and minds when they need our attention the most.

One common excuse for ignoring our health and wellness needs is a lack of money. Healthcare can be expensive and it may be that certain options seem out of reach. Another reason is lack of time, which many will relate to given that everyone seems busier than ever before. However, with commitment and a little creativity, there are some small steps that each person can take to reinvest in their own health.

Leave the car at home. If your destination is not too far away, elect to take a walk or ride a bike, and combine exercise with the handling of the day’s tasks. If you will normally walk a couple of blocks, stretch it to a mile.

Eat healthier on the go. Sometimes our schedule does not allow us the time to cook a healthy meal. Try instead to pack a bag of healthy snacks such as fruit or salad for those times that you will be traveling a lot. If you must stop for fast food, consider ordering a salad and water instead of a burger and soda. An increasing number of restaurants also offer organic food selections.

Drink more water. The human body consists of between 60 to 70 percent water, which needs to be replaced throughout the day. When we consume water, our body disposes of water that carries with it the toxic influences that we have ingested or absorbed. In addition to making the choice to drink more water, also pay attention to its quality, for not all options are the same.

Switch to non-toxic chemicals in the home. Many of us enjoy a clean environment free from dirt and grime, resulting in any number of chemical cleaners filling cabinets and closets. When we use these products to clean, the chemicals are also released into the air, so select non-toxic cleaners for maintaining your home. Reducing the number of chemicals used will result in fewer being inhaled.

Take time out from screens. People are exposed to digital screens all day, including phones, mobile devices, tablets, computers and televisions. They bombard our lives with news, information and advertisements. Take a break from screens in order to give the mind a few minutes of clarity. Choose instead to enjoy an activity outside, or pick up a book and read a chapter.

Commit to crushing bad habits. They say too much of anything can become a bad thing. Smoking is one the leading causes of lung disease and cancer, so look for alternatives to picking up a cigarette or tobacco product. Alcohol has also been connected to many health issues, so make an intention to reduce your consumption of it. Commit to having one less drink at the bar, reducing the alcohol you purchase for your home, or attending happier hour less frequently or for less time. To really pack a punch, replace a bad habit with a more productive or healthier one.

Slow down the clock. Many of us schedule every minute of every day with an activity, imposing additional burdens and stress on our minds and bodies. Instead of filling the day with activities, prioritize the day’s goals and focus on doing the best job you can for each task you perform. Slowing down will not only increase the quality of the outcomes achieved, it will decrease stress levels as well.

Take a rest. It is commonly believed that we need around eight hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period. Life gets in the way, and many of us do not get the sleep we need to allow our body to rejuvenate and heal itself. After lunch or mid-afternoon, take time out for a 20 to 30 minute nap, allowing your mind and body a break to refresh itself.

Many of these suggestions only require a bit of extra attention and time. These low- and no-cost practices may help encourage you towards better health and wellness practices for your body and mind. The first step is making a choice to commit to your own health, for no one can make that choice for you.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

So How Much Do You Really Pay in Taxes?

Source: As the U.S. House, Senate, and the White House bring comprehensive tax reform to the forefront of their policy making agenda, we review the taxes which the average citizen pays out of their income and examine: how much of your earnings do you really get to keep?

Taxes are the government’s form of revenue to pay for all of the programs, services, and protection which it provides to its citizenship. Most working class/middle class individuals will see on average between thirty to forty percent of their earnings allocated toward taxes even before they can cash their paycheck. Most of these commonly known taxes include federal income tax, payment into social security, state income tax, unemployment tax, Medicare tax, and that is just the beginning.

When researching all the taxes in which a wage earner or citizen must pay, I discovered there are four basic categories: income tax (whether its personal income or if you own a small business, business income tax); sales taxes (taxes on goods and services); asset taxes (which place a tax on ownership of assets or acquiring of assets); and fees (charges, surcharges, usage charges, permits, tolls, etc). Some of these taxes and fees we pay directly, while others are layered in the cost of the consumer goods or services we purchase. In all, most of us contribute to paying to over one hundred different taxes, directly or indirectly.

Let’s start by taking a look at our income. If you either earn a salary (paid for your skill sets) or are paid wages (paid for your time); you must pay income tax on your earned income, but this is not the end of the road. Say you take what is left of your paycheck, and you decide to invest some of your money into a stock, mutual fund, or into an IRA account. You are taxed on the earnings your money made for you if you receive a stock dividend, fund payout, or withdraw your own money from your IRA account. The same goes for your savings account. If you have money in a savings account, you are taxed on the interest you earned on your money, which is the interest you earn for allowing the bank to hold and use your money until you remove it from the savings account.

It has long been debated that inheritance should not be taxed, however the other side of the argument is that if someone leaves you money when they pass on, it is either a gift or a one-time income. It has gotten to the point where even perks and benefits are taxed, though they are not cash. They are considered by the IRS as earnings, and so if part of your employment includes health benefits, travel perks, or a personal expense account, you can be certain you will have to pay tax on the value of those benefits.

Individuals who have invested in their home, or precious metals, will hold onto these material things until the value of these items has increased so the owners can make a profit. If you have ever profited from selling a home, a stock, or noteworthy luxury item, you would have been obligated to pay capital gains tax. In some cases, the entire amount is taxed, including the original money invested and the profit, at the point the asset is sold. Currently, there is the debate to tax crypto-currency and the value of barter credits, as people have turned to these platforms to try to reduce the amount of taxes they pay on their earnings.

Sales taxes come in many forms and are vast in their assignment. Most states have a general sales tax that is imposed on every purchase except for food and medicine. This sales tax can range from 6 percent to as high as 9 percent in some states; and is collected at the cash register every time you purchase something.This includes tax on vehicle purchases, cigarettes, liquor/alcohol, gasoline/diesel fuel, soda and fatty foods (snack foods), jewelry, clothing, and more. Not only are products and goods taxed, so are services. In recent years, taxes on hotel stays, lawn care, gas/electric utilities, telephone, paid subscription cable and satellite television, water and sewer have sharply risen; driving up the cost which is passed along to the consumer.

As consumers, the costs of additional taxes are filtered into the bottom line of what the goods we pay for. Taxes on transportation service (via highway use tax) are charged to trucking and freight companies for the use of the highway system, since the majority of the goods we purchase have been delivered by a truck. When we purchase a new car, there is a line item for the Gas Guzzler Tax, imposed upon every vehicle for their lack of meeting fuel economy and/or environmental emissions standards (every car has some form of this tax imposed upon it). As a society, we are driving more efficient vehicles which use less gas, which means less gas tax is collected. In most recent years, some states have transitioned this burden by taxing a vehicle owner on how many miles they drive per year, in addition to tax on gasoline at the pump.

Then we pay tax on what assets we own. One of the largest burdens of home ownership is the responsibility of property tax. In return for property taxes, local and state government are to provide services to communities, including but not limited to waste management; road maintenance; police and first responder emergency services; and public education. In some states, school taxes are collected in addition to property taxes. If you pass away, your estate, and the possessions you leave behind, are also taxed.

And you cannot get permission from government for anything unless you pay your fee. Want to marry your high school sweetheart? You need to buy a marriage license from your state government. Do you want to drive a car? You must pay a fee for your driver’s license and must pay the government to register your vehicle. Want to go fishing or hunting? Yep, you guessed it—you have to buy a permit for a license from the government. What about fixing up your house? Yes, that too, you must pay a fee to obtain a building permit from your local municipality. And when your home improvement is complete, your local tax assessor decides to charge you more tax for taking ownership pride in improving your own property.

When you think about it, your earned dollars are taxed far more beyond your income. If it seems like your money is being double and triple taxed, it is. To understand this concept, let’s take a look at just one dollar of your earnings.

If you are like most tax paying citizens, about 30 to 40 percent of your earnings are taken from you even before you get your pay check. So out of one dollar, you might be left with 60 or 70 cents. Then you decide to purchase something; sales tax is imposed upon you, taking an additional 6 to 9 percent of the purchase price from you. Then you must pay property taxes for the house you live in. Say you drive to work; the purchase of your car involved a sales tax; the gas you are putting in the vehicle to power it is taxed, and the road you travel might be taxed by way of a road toll.

In reality, over 60 to 70 percent of your earnings are taken from you systematically by taxing every area of your life. Some government organizations are now trying to tax families according to the environmental footprint they make on the planet. They wish to levy a tax for the clean air you breathe, called a carbon tax.

Abusive and overburdening taxes are the very reasons our Founding Fathers fought England for independence in 1776. It’s the curse that plagued major ancient civilizations such as the Romans, for they taxed their citizenship into total brokenness and poverty. If history has been any indicator, it has shown us that all societies which were overtaxed by their governments and/or by their kings and queens, eventually collapsed. Take for instance the French Revolution—the people overthrew King Louis and Queen Antoinette for over-taxing the people, because they left communities in ruin while the leadership enjoyed a life of luxury.

As current lawmakers decide to overhaul the existing tax code, they should keep in mind that in order to reform the tax code, you must eliminate some of the taxes its citizenship is burdened with paying.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Is Main Street on the Rebound?

Source: With large retailer box stores shutting their doors, and the surge of small business community advocacy on the rise, is it possible for Main Street to rebound from the bleak decimation left in the wake of big box stores duking it out?

Is Main Street on the mend? There is a resurgence of small business on the rise in America. Visit any community where there streets lined with mix use commercial/residential buildings, and where the larger big box retailer has failed, and you will find a movement in motion. The family owned small business is making a comeback. So what is driving the trend?

With the big box discount retailer Kmart and one of America’s oldest retailer institutions, Sears-Roebuck with final plans to close hundreds of stores, towns and communities which relied on these mainstays are forced to find their needs somewhere else. These large retailers that offered a multitude of combined products and services have left a void in and a vacuum, which is in quick need of being filled.

The traditional Sears department store offered products and goods such as clothing for the family, to appliances and tools for the household, gardening equipment, to jewelry and housewares. In addition, Sears also provided services including a full service automotive department service center, on site appliance repair, and even other services such as photo studio and salon.

Kmart became the mainstay discount retailer once brand name variety stores such as Woolworth, Caldor, Bradlee’s, Jamesway, and Ames, which closed their doors as a result of the very aggressive rise of Wal-Mart and Target. Now Kmart is following in the footsteps of retailers now only a memory.

The demise of the big-box retailers such as Sears and Kmart leaves the path open for opportunity. New housing developments constructed around these mega malls which housed these former retailer giants, and with the expansion of the modern-day suburbs, support services are needed to keep these communities moving.

Though as in the past, when one large retailers’ space would go dark and vacant, another store would eventually fill its place; the retailer of today is so much more specialized. Instead of the all-inclusive full service retailer model, most retailers are experts in one area of goods. With rising cost of property taxes and lease rates at an all-time high, the turnaround time to replace an anchor retailer takes years when in the past it only took a few months. This leaves consumers looking for shopping alternatives. Hence the vacuum and need for the return of the family owned small business.

So which types of businesses are benefiting from this type of recovery? The trends which have been observed are the rise of the specialty boutique. Specialty stores which cater to a particular product or good are finding themselves the benefactor. These businesses become very good at providing one or two types of services or a set of exclusive product lines, establishing themselves as the go-to authority in the area.

Traditional service businesses such as the dry cleaner, barber shop, hair salon, corner pizzeria, or local pharmacy have always found themselves surviving the rise and fall of the big-box retailer when other businesses have not been so lucky. What is so interesting is the stores that have beaten the odds are stores that have a long history of developing relationships within the community.

Small local businesses that have outlasted the larger big-box retailer wars have also been found to be problem solvers. A pure example is the local hardware store. From offering everything for home and business improvement to expanded departments that offer home goods and custom kitchen and bath services, the local hardware store has evolved from being the last stop on the list when you need a nut and bolt to being the go-to expert in home improvement.

It has been found that there is a life cycle to the big-box retailers, as they do come and go. First there was Channel and Rickle’s. To replace them was rise of Home Depot and Lowes. Most homeowners have changed their attitude about the way they spend money on home improvement. Now they are returning to the local retailer, the name and store they can trust on providing quality products for the home; thus allowing the home owner to get a better return on investment when recouping home improvement cost.

Consumers are also finding the quality of what they purchase from the big-box retailer related to big-ticket items have stark differences to the quality of their purchase made from the local provider.

“There are different grades to tools, appliances, and even some of the housewares,” as explained by Richard Fitspatrick, from The Hardware Store, located in Sparta, New Jersey. “Though the packaging may look the same, the outside of the product or tool may appear to be the same, the inside components are not.

“There are two grades of the same high-end ticket item in many cases. Manufacturers of power tools, for example, in order to fulfill the need for volume quantity versus quality, will often cheapen up the inside parts on a saw or drill for a larger retailer who has the desire to offer the power tool for almost half of what you would pay at the local hardware store, but so goes the quality. Unfortunately the consumer does not find this out until after the tool breaks or wears out faster than expected,” continued Fitspatrick.

“We have seen some consumers still fall into the big-box store trap. For instance, we sell the same type of Ahrens Snow Thrower that Home Depot would sell, and our price is ninety-nine cents more, however we assemble the machine, test-fire the engine and will deliver it in town for free. Consumers will want us to match what Home Depot offers the machine for, without recognizing the value in the service that we provide that accompanies the snow thrower when someone purchases the machine from us.”

With the rising cost of most consumer goods, and the cost of replacing cheap goods an inconvenience, people are finding themselves willing to pay a little more for quality that may last double or triple the lifespan of the identical cheaper version which may only last months. Is it possible that consumers are waking up to these kinds of tactics that have been under their noses for years?

The internet is highly responsible for providing information for consumers on where to turn when a consumer is in search of a product or is need of a problem solving service. Websites such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Yelp are supplying potential consumers with data and reviews of other consumer purchasing experiences. Whether it is a retail product or service-driven business, these reviews are helping drive consumer traffic or deter consumer traffic to the doors of businesses. Businesses receiving the flow of consumer traffic are those documented for going beyond the call of duty in serving their clients.

How do they get these great ratings? What has been observed is that the businesses where the owner is fully invested in the success of the business, and has a passion for the best customer experience possible, will do far more for their clients so they keep coming back, than the big-box retailer whose executives are not working the floor, but rather a legion of low-wage entry-level clerks who see their position as temporary just until something else better comes along.

Even with so much technology integrated into our lives, communities thirst for relationship engagement, a trust in knowledge, and peace of mind that the person on the same side of the transaction of the cash register cares about their needs. This is where small businesses blows away the competition and thrives.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

The Manawa Community Living Center Difference

Written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and Author

So you have just retired from your career; the kids have all moved out of the home; you may have lost your spouse or loved one; and you may no longer have all of the mobility that you once had. What do you do next? You begin to make lifestyle changes and choices. You may choose to let go of the house you called home for most of your life. Where do you go? Do you choose to find residence at an assisted living facility, or do you find yourself in need of more in-depth services of a nursing home?

Or what if you are the family member of the loved one who can no longer make these decisions on their own? You have come to the realization and conclusion that your loved one, whether it is a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even a spouse, will receive better care and attention than what you may have to offer. Your loved one may be at a point in their lives where they need round the clock care, if they are trying to cope with a major chronic illness or physical disability. So you turn your research efforts to the internet and stumble upon a few choices.

One of those choices may be the Manawa Community Living Center. So you decide to investigate, and take a tour of the facility. Then you may explore other choices for employing senior health care services for either you or your loved one. So how do you know which facility to choose?

Understanding what matters in providing excellence in senior health care, such as a facilities low rate of employee turn-over; how the facility ranked in its last state inspection or CMS rating; or even the facilities policies themselves in how they handle risk such as infection control or out of control patients; are all important deciding factors in choosing a facility. What type of care do you need; Assisted living, intimate nursing home services, or rehabilitation center? Can you afford the price of admission, and maintain a standard of living that is relative to your budget?

Once you have been able to answer all of these questions, usually a major deciding factor is the overall feel of the staff, their ability to meet the needs of residents and patients, under a strict code of conduct that benefits them. After visiting a few facilities you return to the idea of the Manawa Community Living Center. So what is it that makes Manawa so special?

For starters, the Manawa Community Living Center is not corporate owned. In order to be competitive against the typical “chain” of nursing home facilities that are corporately owned, they must pride themselves in other areas of competency that are lacking elsewhere. They pride themselves on being your community senior health care center; totally focused and devoted to the health and well-being of the residents that are considered part of the “Manawa Family.”

Proprietor Phil Castleberg explains, “In part of what is the Manawa Difference is people. The majority of our staff lives within the surrounding area. They most likely grew up around some of the patients and now have an opportunity to serve them as they enter their elder years. Being a part of the community of Manawa, allows our staff of nurses, aides, and administration to be more attentive and respectful of the needs patients here at the center. As a result, our staff have a higher regard for life, and treat every patient with respect, honor, and love,”

Manawa Community Living Center has adopted the latest trend of offering multiple services under one roof. They offer assisted living quarters and nursing home services. Rehabilitation services and therapy are also available on campus. Manawa provided for continuity in care, having these services in the same location provides a resident or patient the ability to have all of their needs met, regardless of what phase they may be in their lives. This removes the stress of moving from one facility to another, and creates a friendly environment that you are being attended to by the same trusted nurses, therapists, and aides no matter which division of the facility you call home.

Manawa has a unique atmosphere to it. When you first pull up to the facility you have the feeling you have just arrived to the doors, you automatically feel at home. There are no fences or walls that block the sights and sounds of the surrounding community; and is located a short distance from the Main Street of Manawa. When you enter inside of the facility, you can view the many visiting areas and sitting rooms that give this facility the look and feel of a country bed and breakfast. If it were not for the usual tile flooring found in most facilities, in order to create a sterile environment, one would think they had entered a small country retreat. Residents get a full view and can stay in touch with the outside world just outside their window, even if they are physically confined to their spacious room. They can still open the window and hear the community around them.

“We wanted to create the sense of being home. All of our patient rooms have been renovated and decorated with the assistance and input of our staff that live in the surrounding area. I asked them to design the look and feel of each room as if they were going to be the occupant of that room. As a result, each room has small touches that make them unique from one room to another. Our staff did a great job in making this facility feel like home,” Castleberg continued.

Manawa’s culture focuses on personal health and wellness. When you first meet the staff, you get the sense that they really care about the people who enter Manawa. Their attentiveness to detail and ability to recognize that life, regardless of age, is valuable reflects in the way they serve guests, residents, and their families. The smiles of the staff and their welcoming demeanor inform us that the employees of Manawa Community Living Center enjoy their profession and more so they enjoy being a part of the Manawa team.

“Being here at Manawa is a choice and a lifestyle. We are a smaller family ran local operation. One must understand what it means to be a member of the community of Manawa and have a love affair with Main Street to truly appreciate what we have to offer.”

Other factors that make Manawa special is that they operate above industry standard. Having doubled the nurses and aides ratio to every patient versus the industry norm allows Manawa to provide immediate care and expedient services. The strict discipline and commitment to excellence in senior health care have actually assisted Manawa to be more affordable for the average senior or family member in search of senior health care accommodations. So if your decision to enter a facility is strictly based on price, Manawa has you covered.

Manawa also knows the pain experienced in the last moments of life. Our specialized team of hospice care experts treats every patient and their families with comfort in their bedside manner. Life at Manawa is valued from the time you enter to the time you depart, and no matter, will always remain in the hearts of the staff that make up the Manawa team.

“That is the Manawa Difference.”

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

The History of Senior Health Care in Manawa

Written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and Author

Manawa Community Living Center was originally founded and built in 1971 as a retirement-nursing home. In the early days of senior care, there was not much regard for privacy, individual patient quarters, or special amenities, for Manawa Community Nursing Center (then known as) was a 60 bed unit with three patients to a room. The facility remained much the same for over fourty years until the Castlebergs (originally from Wood County, Wisconsin); purchased the facility in June of 2011.

The Manawa Community Living Center would undergo a major renovation, which included bathrooms, dining facilities, every individual patient and resident room; visitation rooms; and administrative offices. All of the buildings core systems including heating/air conditioning, safety and sprinklers-fire prevention, plumbing, and safety and security alarm systems, water received major upgrades and/or were replaced, bringing the building into compliance, meeting today’s strict local, state, and federal building standards and codes. Well over $700,000 was reinvested into Manawa Community Living Center, as small improvements to curbside appeal are ongoing.

“We wanted to create an environment in which promoted wellness and positive health; a facility that would be worthy of memorializing the lives of each individual that would come through these doors and call Manawa their next home,” —-Phil Castleberg, proprietor.

“We utilized all local contractors, labor, vendors, and suppliers, to demonstrate our commitment to the community that we were serious about investing our financial resources in local business development, added Castleberg, “Having a local supply chain to provide us our needs in our renovation was very important to us.”

Manawa Community Living Center today accommodates just 15 nursing home beds and 10 assisted living beds. Each room has been totally renovated, retrofitted with private bathroom facilities and upgraded decor. Located at 400 East Fourth Street, the Manawa Community Living Center is now a cornerstone of the community of Manawa.

“We downsized the number of beds to just one patient per room. It was our objective to provide personal care and quarters for each resident, allowing for seniors who needed special care and services to receive them in a dignified manner.”

Castleberg continued, “We spared no expense to recreate the experience one would have in their youth of visiting say a bed and breakfast. Manwa is more than a nursing home or assisting living facility; Manawa is a place which individuals in their golden years whom have lost their ability of mobility can still relive the memories of their youth. We welcome the faithful traveler of life…”

Manawa Community Living Center offers multiple services under one roof, including nursing services, assisted living, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, respite care, and hospice care. Manawa not only provides all of the traditional amenities, but it is one of the first its industry to institute multi-media two-way information-communication technology as part of its practice; connecting staff, residents, and family regardless of their location. This new system allows for staff to release the latest news, updates, information, and emergency alerts to residents and families of patients direct to their mobile device.

Manawa recently adopted its Employee Creed, with the core focus and mission of Manawa in uplifting its residents and patients to the best quality of life it can offer.

“We are absolutely devoted to the health and well-being of our residents. We consider them respected members of the community and will offer them nothing less than the highest level of dignity, honor, grace, and love when they are under our care. We have created a different kind of senior care facility, which extends far beyond the building itself; it’s an attitude and culture where people are first, profits are second, and peace rules all…that is the Manawa Difference,” Castleberg concluded.

In 2013, Manawa Community Living Center (then known as Manawa Community Nursing Center) received a 3-star rating (out of five) from CMS of Department of Health and Human Services, on April 24th. This score means that Manawa Community Living Center slightly above average overall based on health inspections, nursing home staff, and quality measures.

The City of Manawa was originally founded in 1871, with the City officially named in 1874. Manawa relied mainly on the timber industry and local agriculture for its economic development. Today, almost 1400 people call Manawa home, and maintains a strong Main Street presence. More about Manawa can be found here: http://cityofmanawa.org/

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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