The opportunity to expand your financial horizons

Successful Women

FALL 2022

Homes smart enough to save you money

When it comes to smart home technologies, there is an abundance of options. Here are some we think are worthy investments

Homes smart enough to save you money

It’s been reported that Oprah Winfrey has a high-tech ski home in Telluride, Colorado, that boasts a radiant heat system that allows her to skip shoveling snow from the driveway. And Mark Zuckerberg has an AI-powered home system that acts as his personal butler.

While the technology in this article might not be as lavish, there are some that may be worth the investment (and may even save you money in the long run). Certainly, they can elevate your space and make your life easier.

Smart technologies that impress

There are options for every taste and purpose when it comes to smart home technologies. According to research, the worldwide smart home industry is expected to grow almost 12% by 2025. Here’s a list of some worth considering.

Cleaning robots – We’re not just talking about a Roomba vacuum or mop here. There are many options in the robot-cleaning category, like automatic grill cleaners and window scrubbers. Interest in this category has been skyrocketing since the pandemic. These gadgets are perfect for saving time when it comes to certain cleaning jobs or in between visits from your cleaning service. Remember Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons? We might be closer to that than you think!

Central air purifiers – In the vein of cleanliness, research shows the air purifier market size is predicted to grow 10% by 2028. Central air purifiers in homes reduce contaminants like dust, smoke, pet dander and pollen. Some systems even offer medical grade filtration. Depending on the size of your home and factors like brand, quality and capabilities, they can cost up to $10,000 – which is on the higher end of the spectrum.

Custom lighting – Creating an ambiance with lighting is the perfect way to set a tone in your home. Smart lighting has come a long way, with Lutron systems coming preprogrammed with settings optimized for cooking, dining and entertaining for the kitchen, as an example, or “home” and “away” settings for your entryway. Additionally, companies like Nanoleaf manufacture smart color-changing light panels for the wall with music-sync and screen­-mirror features to take design and experience in your space to the next level.

Integrated security systems – The latest in surveillance systems is equipped with facial recognition technology. While surveillance cameras are not guaranteed to save you money, the feeling of security is something that doesn’t have a price tag. (And insurance companies do sometimes provide discounts to premiums as well.) The technology has gotten so advanced that some residential systems can recognize family members and will only send an alert when unapproved visitors approach. These higher-end systems produce fewer false alarms than motion sensors without facial recognition.

Smart thermostat – Heating and cooling can account for half of a home’s energy costs, so automating your thermostat will certainly save on costs. Especially if you do a lot of traveling – you can adjust a smart thermostat from afar. They’re reasonable in cost (premium models can sell for $250) and some electricity companies may even give you credits for them. This simple solution will lead you to a more energy-efficient home.

Solar energy systems – Maybe one of the most popular renewable energy additions to a home right now, solar energy systems are often eligible for tax credits. (This includes solar water heaters and solar panels.) These systems capture light energy from the sun and covert it directly into electricity. Some energy companies will “buy back” the excess energy you produce and give you metering credits for future bills.

PRO TIP: Learn more about a federal tax credit that’s being offered by the government for residential solar photovoltaics at energy.gov. Some states are also offering specific credits for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including solar panels. To see what your state offers, visit dsireusa.org, which is the official Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency website. You can filter by state, technology category and financial incentive.

Other renewable energy systems – Through 2023, there are other residential federal tax credits available for geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, fuel cells and biomass fuels cells. You can find additional information on energystar.gov. There are some nuances to qualifying for credits, but they are available for existing and new construction homes alike.

High-performance windows – Surprisingly, windows can account for 50% or more of lost energy in a home. But nonconductive framing materials and higher-quality, air-tight construction are changing that. Premium windows also reduce the risk of wind damage from hurricanes and block UV light with double glazing and other protective coatings. Here’s where you’ll save money: Some insurance companies give discounts for premium windows. A bonus? High-performance windows will typically reduce noise in your home as well.

Consultants who can help

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to being more eco-friendly, there are professionals who offer energy efficiency assessments. Even your energy provider may offer an energy audit. There are several government resources to help find qualified individuals, including Residential Energy Services Network and Home Performance with Energy Star. An energy efficiency assessment may help you see where you should look to improve first and where you would get the biggest bang for your buck.

On that same note, smart home consultants are becoming increasingly more common, especially for new builds. These professionals can advise on smart home technology and design, including lighting controls, automatic window shades, audio and video systems, security systems, temperature controls and more. Once you’re using a company for one eco-friendly improvement, they can integrate more beneficial products throughout your home.

While all these smart technologies require an upfront investment, they offer incentives – financial and otherwise – for using them in our home. One thing’s for sure – we’re a bit closer to replicating a Skypad-Apartments-type home like the Jetsons these days. Next stop, Orbit City!

Next steps

If you’re thinking about upgrading your home with the latest smart technologies:

  • Speak to a smart home consultant or energy efficiency professional to determine what would be the best investment for your goals
  • Consult your advisor on how you can budget for the addition of smart technologies within your home
  • Prioritize your home improvement investment based on what will bring you the most joy

Sources: nanoleaf.me; northwesternmutual.com; energystar.gov; cnet.com; homeadvisor.com; grandviewresearch.com; cnet.com; prnewswire.com; homeadvisor.com; smarthomeperfected.com; lutron.com; warnerbros.fandom.com; thejetsons.fandom.com

Building your social media presence: a no-fuss guide

Learn how professionals are gaining more than just followers on social media

Building your social media presence: a no-fuss guide

In the age of the influencer, many professionals find it important to be active on social media. It’s almost in a must in some professions, like sales or marketing.

But building your personal brand and social media following can feel like another full-time job. So how can you bolster your online presence without overwhelming yourself? Read on.

A focused (and balanced) effort

Every social media platform has industry niches. For example, creatives flock to Instagram because of the visual nature. Regardless of your profession though, it’s a matter of identifying your target audience and tailoring content that will be insightful for them.

First and foremost, focus on quality over quantity. Your goal for engaging on social media should be to make genuine connections and share meaningful content. To do this, create posts that your target audience will gain something valuable from. Share what you know and what you’re passionate about. Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul and investor on “Shark Tank,” does a great job of sharing short, insightful snippets on Twitter.

As you gain more followers and see increased interactions, it can be overwhelming to keep up. Blocking your calendar once a week to schedule out your posts using a free tool like Hootsuite or Crowdfire can help you save time. Consider a smaller block of time midway through the week to share and interact with other people’s content and respond to comments on your profiles. It does not need to consume you!

Have an open mind

One of the benefits of being active on social media is to expand your network. It can lead to jobs, side gigs, clients and other industry connections. To accomplish this, you must be deliberate and thoughtful about your content and outreach. Use smart and relevant hashtags, as this will ensure people seeking out this information who haven’t come across you yet will find your posts and profile. You’ll often see artists on Instagram using hashtags like, “#artistsoninstagram,” or “#dailypainting,” because they want to be discovered by new followers.

Also, don’t be shy. If you find someone sharing inspirational content in your space, reach out and let them know. Direct messaging people will get you in front of them and can help you make a meaningful connection. Or, better yet, comment on one of their posts to help them get reach. (You never know, they may just repay you the favor.)

Just as it is in person, networking digitally means mustering up some courage to make direct outreach in the hopes of building relationships. It may also take time, so be patient and consistent. Start with posting content more regularly and build up your commitment based on what resonates with your followers. You could reach influencer status in no time!

Next steps

If you’re trying to grow your social media following, try these tips:

  • Start following people you respect in your industry and use their content as inspiration
  • Block out your calendar so you can focus on curating posts that are genuine and insightful for your audience
  • Reach out and build meaningful connections with people you’ve not yet met in person

Sources: twitter.com; nytimes.com; pewresearch.org; everhour.com

Making a career move? Don’t overlook the negotiation phase

Consider these tips for maneuvering through the current candidate-driven job market

Making a career move? Don’t overlook the negotiation phase

A recent study shows the “Great Resignation” has become the “Great Reshuffle.” In fact, the data showed that up to half of workers were planning to change jobs this year. Are you one of them? Now may be the time to reassess and do some soul-searching as you embark on a fulfilling job hunt that paves the way for a brighter future.

Once you’ve polished your resume and nailed the interview, consider the negotiation phase as another stage of the hiring process. Women are chronically underpaid (in 2021, 83 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), so this the opportunity to make up ground and get what you deserve.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when considering a career move in this candidate-driven market:

Don’t speak first when it comes to salary. Recruiters will often ask your ideal salary range during the screening process, but you don’t have to give it. Do your research on sites like Salary.com, PayScale and Glassdoor first, then think about your worth.

PRO TIP: Come up with your “wish,” “want” and “walk” salaries. According to an article on CNN, “Wish is a high, specific number you open with; want is the actual target that is a little lower; and walk is the point in which the deal is no longer good for you.”

Do consider vacation time. More companies are boasting unlimited vacation policies in their job ads, according to Indeed. Make sure leaders walk the walk by taking vacations, personal days and not expecting their employees to always be on call.

Don’t undervalue working remotely. One of the motivating factors employees cite for seeking a new gig is the appeal of virtual work. Many employees got a taste of it during the pandemic and aren’t eager to return to an office without additional perks. Beyond cutting out the commute, working remotely offers a work-life balance many prefer.

The biggest “do” during this Great Reshuffle is to be open to opportunities that come knocking – and negotiate an employment agreement that you just can’t say no to. Once you do, have a conversation with your advisor about boosting your retirement savings or investing in life insurance with your pay raise.

Next steps

Once you land that new job, be sure to:

  • Assess what immediate impact you can make in your new role to prove your worth.
  • Speak to your advisor about how best to save or invest your sign-on bonus or additional salary.
  • Evaluate your employer-provided 401(k) or IRA and determine how it fits into your overall financial goals.

Sources: bls.gov; weforum.org; cnn.com