Unlike Last Season, Early Schedule Will Challenge Cubs In 2017

The celebration has ended, the 108 year drought is over, and baseball on Chicago’s North Side should return to normal. In other words, fans of the Cubs can go back to worrying.

Several big concerns face them as they look toward the 2017 season, in addition to the nearly impossible task of topping the World Series Championship they earned in October. No team has won the Fall Classic back to back in this century, although a much shorter span than the Cubs endured between titles.

That trip to the World Series was made easier by the early schedule, an arrangement the Cubs will not enjoy next April. Chicago did not play a winning team until April 18 against the Cardinals, which was their fifth series of the season. The Cubs did not play another winning team until May 2, when they played the Pirates. Spending the first month against the likes of Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, and Milwaukee would provide nearly any team with the confidence needed to carry them through the most important stretch of the season. To emphasize just how important a hot start is, examine the National League from last season.

All four of the teams who reached the Division Series posted winning percentages over.700 during the first week of 2016, led by the Cubs and Nationals winning eight of their first nine games. The Giants were victorious in six of their first eight, and the Dodgers won seven of their first ten.

The advantage of opening against non-contenders will not be available to the Cubs in 2017, when the early part of their schedule features matchups against the only two teams that had winning records against Chicago last year. They open in St. Louis on April 2nd, a Sunday night game between the two rivals that will be broadcast on national television.

What could make that initial series even more troubling for the Cubs is the strong possibility that one of their most exciting players from last year will be playing for the opposing team. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, Chicago’s spark plug at the top of the batting order, is a free agent. Many baseball writers have projected St. Louis as the most likely team to sign Fowler. After the series in St. Louis, the Cubs must play the team that nearly eliminated them in the NLCS. The Dodgers, who won both of their regular season series against the Cubs in 2016, have the opportunity to avenge their playoff loss on the opening weekend in April.

The hot start Chicago used to build momentum for their World Series run last year is far less likely to befall them in 2017, simply because of the competition. Instead of opening against last place clubs like San Diego and Cincinnati, the Cubs will be tested right out of the chute by teams expecting to be contenders.

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The Eurozone Train Wreck Continues Into 2017

The European Union seems to be trying to hold itself together, but it is indeed wobbling itself apart like an aircraft engine with an unbalanced propeller and the vibrations are getting worse reverberating from one side of the continent to the other, where no nation is spared from the challenges which await – so what can we expect in 2017 you ask?

Well, “Brexit” has already had some effect on Germany and other nations are considering similar exits from the EU, which could quicken its demise. The recent Italian vote was problematic as is the condition of the Italian banks. Remember when Greece got caught short? Do you remember in 2014 what was going on in the EU? Let me remind you quickly:

MSNBC Money “China, France drag on global manufacturing revival,” published on February 3, 2014, written by Jonathan Cable and Koh Gui Qing which stated; “Manufacturers around the world enjoyed a solid start to the year as order books swelled, surveys showed on Monday, though a struggle for growth in China and a downturn in France took the shine off the overall picture. Euro zone factories had their best month since mid-2011 and, with unemployment near record highs, increased headcount for the first time in two years. They were led by a sharp pick-up in Germany and a revival among the states on the region’s periphery. But France, the bloc’s second biggest economy, remained a drag on the region.”

As an example Greece, when they entered the EU they had a bad credit rating and any loans would of cost them a lot in interest, when they joined the EU they effectively got the same rate on loans as Germany who as you probably know are very stable in the financial sector, so Greece took loans out at low interest rates for years.

Yah, Greece has always been a financial disaster like Argentina or Zimbabwe… now it’s all gone sour they are left with huge debts and so on, Italy and Spain are in the same boat and seeing as the UK loaned ALOT of money to Spain and others we are massively exposed to the crisis. Spain for example has more empty property (new builds) than the ENTIRE USA.

Real estate tanked in Spain, we all read about that in the WSJ, few in the US realized it was that bad. In 2008 China was challenged even after their 2008 stimulus as their municipals did elaborate growth projects, building for the sake of it?

Remember the original plan for the EU was to introduce one currency (which they did) and then introduce a EURO Government to manage it, the second part never happened and now the backlash is huge, and it doesn’t really matter that the 2008 crisis started in the US. The EU wasn’t doing that well before the crisis. And we shouldn’t blame the US for the crash, let’s not forget one of the enablers was AIGs London Office selling insurance often with guarantees in excess of 130% of face value on those mortgage bundles and credit default swaps.

Yes, we have some socialists in the US and when the capitalists and socialists get together or start using each other it is as if everyone loses their brains. So, the slow-motion train wreck and Eurozone melt-down continues, who is to say if it can continue for long without falling apart, and once that engine falls off the plane, its coming in for a very hard landing. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in 2017.

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10 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Change the Social & Economic Story

Men and women who create for-profit and nonprofit new ventures can and should do things of the kind that the President-Elect is likely to neglect, negate, or avoid. Entrepreneurs can quietly change the story, one organization at a time, whatever government may or may not do.

Here are ten ways venture founders can alter the course implied by what we know of Donald Trump’s intentions. They are all within our own authority, not those of government. We can:

  1. actively appreciate the economic and social needs of disadvantaged groups and consider how our own organization can make a difference-or start a new one that can; at least ensure that our own organization does not contribute to disadvantage;
  2. be inquisitive about rural and underserved populations adversely impacted by political, economic and tech change-and examine ways that our organization can make a positive contribution, including the offer of products, services or employment;
  3. create inclusive policies on gender, gender identity, race, national origin & religion; offer all employees dignity & respect, provide healthcare, parental leave, clear policies on sexual harassment, & the opportunity for participation in decision-making and sharing organizational success;
  4. take the opportunity to participate in the life of local communities to mutual advantage, through direct civic engagement, as well as supporting employee volunteering; become involved in community supported enterprises;
  5. evaluate all practices of the organization that may contribute directly or indirectly to climate change-and introduce ways that will reduce pollution; seek to be powered by clean energy and move to zero waste;
  6. ensure that the pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid members of the organization does not exceed 20:1 (as it was in 1965) to reduce financial inequity, given that the ratio between average American CEO pay and worker pay is now 303:1;
  7. re-examine the consequences of all purchasing decisions, in order to avoid pain and hardship, either in supplier organizations or the local and global community; research supplier behaviors on socio-economic parameters;
  8. commit to support the lifelong learning of all members of the organization, regardless of where they are starting or what position they hold-through internal development programs and external qualifications;
  9. employ socially responsible financial policies that do not disfavor any stakeholder, either close at hand or nationally, as well as avoiding immoral or self-serving practices, such as the avoidance of repatriating foreign profits;
  10. build a widely communicated progressive corporate story that is reflected through the behaviors of everyone in the organization and enshrined in all official organizational procedures; regularly monitor its reality.
  11. GEI scores 137 countries on 14 pillars of a healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem

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Stay Healthy and Wealthy

When you make those New Year’s resolutions, you’re thinking about fresh starts and the year ahead. What you might not realize is that some resolutions also could save money. Here are some popular resolutions that could help get you and your finances in shape in 2017.

Quit smoking: You can save money by stopping a pack-a-day habit, which can cost between $1,825 and $3,650 per year, depending on the cost of cigarettes in your area. Nationally, a pack-a-day smoker is going to spend an average of $2,000 annually on cigarette costs.

Set up and stick to a realistic budget: If you want to resolve to stick to a budget in 2017, you must start with a realistic plan. People tend to make financial resolutions the same way they do a weight loss plan. If you start with lofty goals they will be unachievable within a month. List your priorities for spending rather than restricting your spending. Focus on necessary expenses then include a certain amount for retirement savings. Then with the remaining money you have each month, set aside a little for enjoyment. It’s critical you have rewards in your budget.

Exercise regularly: You’ll save money in several ways with regular exercise. On average, Americans are spending $7,800 annually on health care, according to the National Association of Health Underwriters. But exercise brings real savings. “If people are eating right and exercising three times a week for 20 minutes a day, they see prescription costs decrease by 70 percent and medical costs decrease by 30 percent,” says Ric Edelman of Edelman Financial Services. Stop spending money recklessly: One of the best ways to stop spending your money recklessly is to track where it is going each month. Check with your credit union and download their free mobile budgeting app that shows expenditures by category so you can monitor your spending. A great way to get your spending under control is quit trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. If you want to fix your bad spending habits in 2017 start hanging out with other spendthrifts because you will likely become one yourself.

Eat healthier: A healthy eating plan can be as — or more — economical than fast food. It’s a total myth that eating healthy is expensive. Buy smaller but leaner cuts of meat, eat protein-rich beans and buy produce in season when it’s freshest and least expensive. A smaller amount of a leaner cut can slice your food bill and your bad cholesterol.

Build an emergency fund: Nothing takes the stress out of financial situation like spare cash. If you are among the millions of Americans that don’t have enough money set aside to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies, then you should resolve to build one in 2017. Experts recommend putting enough money in a savings account to cover six months’ worth of expenses in case of unexpected emergencies like job loss, maternity leave or medical issues. You can always apply a small amount of your paycheck towards this account, so you make sure it is hidden from you.

Pay off high-interest debt: Paying down credit card debt is one of the most popular short-term goals in 2017. Try focusing on paying off your high-interest credit card debt before other debts because it is more expensive. And, it you are motivated by seeing those results first hand, start by paying off your card with the lowest balance first so you can feel that sense of accomplishment. Create your estate plan: An important 2017 resolution would be to tie up any financial loose ends for your loved ones so they aren’t left trying to pick up the pieces. Make sure you have a will or trust that designates who’s in control of your assets. You certainly don’t want the state court system to make that decision for you. Don’t forget to designate a guardian for your children, and someone who will make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Develop common financial goals with your partner: Many times finances are the biggest source of conflict between couples. It’s important that couples sit down and create a financial plan. It doesn’t usually work to try and manage their finances separately.

Any of these resolutions can help improve your financial security in 2017. I suggest tackling one financial tip each month so you don’t get overwhelmed. Then as you get accustomed to the new approach to spending and saving, add another. By the time 2017 starts dwindling toward 2018, you will find you’ve made progress on achieving your financial goals.

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Think Outside the Marketing Box: 10 Quick, New Ideas for 2017

The holidays are upon us again. It’s the time of year for good cheer and some creative marketing ideas to end your year right.

If you’ve been in a marketing slump through the fall, try a few new and interesting ways to get a little more business for your small business:

  1. Create a personalized calendar to gift your clients. You can include inspirational quotes or advice for each month. Staying in front of them will solidify your brand in their minds for years and years to come.
  2. Give your customers a small gift of appreciation, like a customized sticky screen cleaner or promo handout. If you happen to give something that is useful and is well made, your customers won’t just thank you, they will be more interested in giving you referrals to other potential clients. Offer gift cards to give customers more flexibility for gifts. Be sure to place them near your checkout to encourage impulse buys. Starbucks or Amazon gift cards tend to be consistently well received.
  3. Take clients to a more personal lunch or brunch instead of throwing a larger, impersonal holiday party. Focus on having a good time and building rapport through not talking about business. They will take the gesture and thank you by becoming your biggest cheerleader.
  4. Host a day with Santa at your business where you provide free photos with the jolly old man. If your target market has kids, this will be a huge hit.
  5. Give holiday shoppers a free shoulder massage by hiring a masseuse for a few hours.
  6. Partner with other local businesses to give a package of coupons in each shopping bag. This is also a way to encourage sharing business ideas with your neighbors or setting up referral incentives with them.
  7. Sponsor a local event. This time of year many run clubs and other organizations hold holiday runs or New Year’s Day resolution runs or other events. Pick one you enjoy and sponsor it to get your name out. Pair with a local charity. Schedule an event where you and your staff volunteer with the organization. Offer discounts to your customers who volunteer their time with the same organization.
  8. Hold a customer appreciation sale during hours when you are normally closed to show your customers how much you appreciate their loyalty. Create a special invitation and think about giving them door prizes and small gifts for patronizing your business.
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