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Husband-wife team is a ‘couple’ of architects

robinsons 600The number of licensed African-American architects working in Tennessee – and across the United States for that matter – is a mere pittance compared to the overall percentage of architects working for themselves or for architectural firms.

Count the husband and wife team of Michael and Carolyn Robinson among those who are fortunate to work in a field that may indeed be considered by some as an exclusive membership club. This wasn't a factor for the Robinsons when they launched Robi4 Design and Planning, Inc. in 1999.

Consider the numbers: There were 105,596 registered (licensed) architects in the U.S., according a 2012 survey of U.S. architectural registration boards by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Of that number, 1,558 (or 1.5 percent) were African American, according to Dennis Alan Mann's Center for the Study of Practice at the University of Cincinnati.

  • Written by Wiley Henry

I’m self-employed: What are my saving options?

CharlesSimsJr-160Good news: There are a lot of them. The challenge is figuring out which of the major lone-eagle plans best suits you.

The most common retirement accounts for the self-employed are SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs and individual 401(k)s. These plans have two factors in common: up-front tax breaks and tax-deferred saving, meaning you don't pay taxes until you withdraw the money in retirement.

The Roth version of the individual 401(k) is slightly different: you don't get an up-front tax break, but your money not only grows tax free, withdrawals in retirement are also tax-free.

So you want to be billionaire? Think about it!

onwealthynigeria 600Many entrepreneurs struggle to make ends meet and make payroll on a regular basis. Others make it so big that they reach billionaire status. That's a level beyond the dreams of most and that is why most will not ever make it.
According to Forbes magazine, it is the thought processes and patterns of billionaires that separate them from other business owners. So let's look closely at a few of the characteristics of those that have achieved the ultimate.

Dream and mindset

Mark Zuckerberg of FaceBook, Richard Branson of Virgin, Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Apple, and Oprah Winfrey of Harpo all dream large. This country is full of "mom and pop" stores and restaurants whose owners have fulfilled their dreams of business ownership. While many are happy and satisfied at their current levels of success, there are billionaires who have taken a store concept to a whole new level.

Consider Wal-Mart, which has multiple stores in cities across the country. Sam Walton had the mindset and vision to take the concept of one store to many stores. The goal was achieved as vision was coupled with the execution of plans to get there. Today, the Forbes Richest People in America List features several members of the Walton family.

Think globally, act locally

Herbert LesterA Scottish town planner may have been the first person to use the concept, if not the exact words, back in the early 1900s: "Think globally, act locally." Regardless of its origins or history, it needs to be an idea practiced by every person wanting to participate in Memphis' share of the global economy.

As workers, investors, inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, business people or community members, we are part and parcel of a global economy, and it is not waiting for any of us.

Thomas Friedman, in his 2005 bestseller, "The World is Flat," tells this fable to illustrate the urgency of the matter:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.

Tax-deferred investments and early withdrawal

moneymatter 600Withdrawing funds from a tax-deferred retirement account before age 59½ generally triggers a 10 percent federal income tax penalty; all distributions are subject to ordinary income tax. However, there are certain situations in which you are allowed to make early withdrawals from a retirement account and avoid the tax penalty.

IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans have different exceptions, although the regulations are similar.

IRA exceptions

The death of the IRA owner: Upon your death, your designated beneficiaries may begin taking distributions from your account. Beneficiaries are subject to annual required minimum distributions.

Taxes: Making the most of refunds

TaxRefunds 600With W-2s and 1099s in hand, most folks expecting a refund are lining up to file those returns. The doors are open to the many tax preparers who have waited patiently for the season to arrive. Once the money arrives there are many things that can be done with those much-anticipated dollars. Plan to get the most out of the money and improve your financial position. So, let's discuss a few of the many options of spending the refund checks.

Checking, savings or money market account

One option is to save your refund check for a rainy day or emergency. Experts advise that savings should equal between three and six months of expenses for cushion in the event of layoffs or cutbacks. This rainy day or emergency fund is separate from other accounts to make sure that it is not spent or mingled with the rest of the funds. It is to be used for the mortgage, rent, car repairs and such in times of need.

Instead of spending every cent received, try placing some in a checking, savings or money market account. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through direct deposit will place your money electronically into your account as instructed. The IRS will even divide your refund over multiple accounts with the completion of Form 8888, which is the Allocation of Refund Form.

Tax season means it’s time to focus

taxes 600As employees receive W-2s and independent contractors receive 1099s, many will be anticipating a refund and others may owe money. The connecting bottom line is that taxes must be filed in a timely manner.

Those expecting a refund usually will rush to file as soon as possible. While those expecting to owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will frequently wait until the April 15th deadline.

Many years ago, there were only a few major tax preparation firms, along with accountants, that prepared taxes. Now, small businesses dedicated solely to tax preparation have sprung up all over the Mid-South. These businesses are thriving and experiencing tremendous growth with a business model based on operating only a few months of the year.

Spotlight Productions & the business of videography

FabianMatthews 600Even as businesses grow and expand, there is a never-ending need to connect with customers. One way to assist in that outreach is the strategic use of commercials.

When I first started a business in Memphis I used the services of Spotlight Productions to create my website and my very first commercial. The result was incredible for a new business. Over the years, Spotlight Productions – co-founded by Fabian Matthews – has become a major player in the video, commercial and web arena. This week Matthews shares his journey.

Carlee McCullough: Tell us about yourself.
Fabian Matthews: I'm a graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. I'm married, with 2 kids, Darion and Mia. I've won 3 Emmy Awards and 8 Telly Awards. My First job in TV was at KAIT in Jonesboro and then WMC-TV in Memphis. I started Spotlight Productions in 1999 with Isaac Singleton and Craten Armmer.