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Entrepreneur | Business | Education and Career | Finance | Real Estate | Technology | Insurance

February 2017

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Inspire, Inform & Educate

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114th Edition

The 7th Annual Black Leadership Forum Welcomed Author

Maggie Anderson 18-19

INSIDE

04 Young Entrepreneur Deidre Mathis Walks Out Among Winners at the Texas Black Expo Elevator Pitch Competition

08 Why We Must Defend Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act

20

Poll Finds Americans United in Seeing an Uncivil Nation;


2  |  February 2017

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Publisher’s Message

MR. D-MARS

Happy Black History Month! This is the time to celebrate African-Americans who are history makers. However, the truth is, we should be celebrating our history all throughout the year. I want to encourage you to support the businesses in the community. Let’s support each other. When we support each other, it is then that our community will truly prosper. This month d-mars.com shines the spotlight on the 7th Annual Black Leadership Forum. The guest speaker for the event was Maggie Anderson, who spoke about The Empowerment Experiment, “Their Year of Buying Black.” Maggie

Behind the Journal

VICE PRESIDENT Kim Floyd

ACCOUNTING MANAGER Eugenie Doualla SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES C.T. Foster Tiffany Black PHOTOGRAPHY L.C. Poullard Grady Carter Taelor Smith

04

– First Lady Michelle Obama

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04 Houston News 04  Texas Southern University Awarded $3.3 Million Grant From the Kellogg Foundation 04  Young Entrepreneur Deidre Mathis Walks Out Among Winners at the Texas Black Expo Elevator Pitch Competition 06  Texas Leads The Nation For The Most Truck Bottlenecks

08  Education & Career 08  Why We Must Defend Obama's Every Student Succeeds Act 08  Say It Loud...I Am Equipped and Proud 10  Winning the Fight Against the Dropout Rate One Student At A Time 12  The Next Big IT Career: Data Analytics Turns Big Data Analytics Turns Big Data Into Career Opportunities 12  The Corporate Couch: Beyond 2017

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14  Business 14  Volkswagen Continues Efforts to Increase Supplier Diversity

MULTIMEDIA DIRECTOR Andrea Hennekes LAYOUT & GRAPHIC DESIGNER Angel Rosa SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR Charlette Washington

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

contents

SR. PUBLISHER Keith J. Davis, Sr.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR Dawn Paul

and her husband, John were successful African-American professionals raising two daughters in a Chicago suburb. In 2009 the Andersons embarked on a yearlong public pledge to "buy black." They thought that by taking a stand, the Black community would be mobilized to exert its economic might. Maggie Anderson shows why the black economy suffers and issues a call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend. As always, thank you for your continued support of d-mars.com. When you support us, you are supporting more than just our company; you are supporting the communities in which we live and work. Working together, we can succeed in making positive things happen.

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16  News You Can Use 16  Recycling Program Helps Keep the Scenic "Show Me City" Clean & Green

Project Coordinator Taelor Smith

18-19  Cover Story 18-19  The 7th Annual Black Leadership Forum Welcomed Author Maggie Anderson

DISTRIBUTION Booker T. Davis, Jr. Rockie Hayden

20  News You Can Use (Continued) 20  Poll Finds Americans United un Seeing an Uncivil Nation

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Texas Southern University Edward Gaston, NNPA Noel Pinnock Dawn D. Mitchell Stacy M. Brown, NNPA James Clingman, NNPA City Govt. of Missouri City, TX J Thomas Smith d-mars.com News Provider

22  Entrepreneur 22  Blackonomics: Business Owners, Take Care of Your Business 23  Finance 23  Seven Tax Tips for the Black Community 24  Can I Get Credit After Filing Bankruptcy 24  Paying for College: Options Reduce Need for Student Loans 26  4  Reasons You Should Review Your Beneficiary Designations

18-19 28  Insurance 28  5 Things Life Insurance Companies Don't Always Tell You

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30  Real Estate 30  Where to Find Rebates, Tax Credits and Rewards for EnergyEfficient Home Improvements 31  Technology 31  Four Real-Life Ways Technology Is Transforming the Present and the Future

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Houston News

Texas Southern University Awarded $3.3 Million Grant From the Kellogg Foundation Research cooperative to address health, social inequities of Gulf Coast families

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he Barbara Jordan – Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University (TSU) was recently awarded a $3.3 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant will expand The HBCU Gulf Coast Equity Consortium, a collaborative project involving Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) formed to address health equity, social inequality, and the vulnerability of children and families in the Gulf Coast. Texas Southern University President Dr. Austin A. Lane says, “We are elated that the Kellogg Foundation has recognized the necessity of this critical research cooperative to improve the lives of people living in the region. It is in line with TSU’s mission as a special-purpose institution dedicated to urban programming, and highlights the academic depth and strength of our talented faculty member and researcher Dr. Robert Bullard and the

Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Beverly Wright are co-prinicpal investigators on the recently awarded $3.3. million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

entire HBCU consortium team.” Dr. Robert Bullard, a distinguished professor in TSU’s School of Public Affairs and Dr. Beverly Wright of the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice served as the grant’s co-principal investigators. “We are excited that the Kellogg Foundation grant allows us to expand our HBCU community-university equity

network to address health and environmental issues in the Gulf Coast region using an equity and racial justice lens,” Dr. Bullard says. “Collectively, our HBCUs are in a unique position to build partnerships and implement a ‘southern initiative’ to address equity challenges that are unique to the South given our region’s history and legacy.” “It is our goal to improve the quality of life for families and children in environmental justice communities through research, data collection, community training and advocacy,” Dr. Wright said. “This generous grant from the Kellogg Foundation gives us the opportunity to do this work." The project will focus on addressing social inequality, health equity, and the wellbeing of children (prenatal to age eight) and families in five Gulf Coast states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida – with a special emphasis on Houston, New Orleans, Gulfport-Biloxi,

Mobile, and Pensacola. The Gulf Coast region ranked highest in poverty, food insecurity and “food deserts,” uninsured, and access to parks. The region also ranked in the bottom quartile for the state health-system performance, family and community wellbeing, and child well-being. Children in the region are considered at “ground zero” of multiple environmental assaults. According to the 2014 Kids Count Report, the South (including Gulf Coast states) is the worst place for children and families due in part to hosting a disproportionate share of the nation’s chemical plants, refineries, seaports, and other dangerous polluting industries. The HBCU Gulf Coast Equity Consortium, using state-of-the-art tools, community input, and policy review/ analysis to develop comprehensive plans and action strategies, seeks to improve the quality of life of children and families in the Gulf Coast.

Houston News

Young Entrepreneur Deidre Mathis Walks Out Among Winners at the Texas Black Expo Elevator Pitch Competition By d-mars.com News Provider

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exas Black Expo, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to stimulate growth and development within urban communities by strengthening businesses, inspiring youth, and building better lives. One of the organization’s recent events was the Texas Black Expo $10,000 Elevator Pitch Competition. Winning 2nd place was Deidre Mathis. Deidre is well-known as a budget world traveler, author, and public speaker. She has traveled to more than 34 countries, 6 continents, and she has lived abroad in 3 of those countries. Her first book, Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional has been supported in countries such as the U.A.E., China, and Australia. This acclaimed book has been featured twice in BLACK ENTERPRISE, and she has received recognition in USA TODAY as a Modern Woman. Other publications that have featured this book on a local and national level include Parlour Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, and Houstonia magazine. Deidre is no stranger to television coverage, making appearances as the “go to” for travel advice and tips. She has graced the screens of Great Day Houston, First Coast Living, WBTV CBS, and other shows as a budget travel expert. Women’s travel conferences and colleges and universities have welcomed Deidre as an expert keynote speaker in the area of travel. Deidre is excited about her latest project, the grand opening of her international hostel, Wanderlust Houston: A Texas Hostel. This hostel

will open in Houston, TX, this summer. This hostel opening will make her a history maker, as she will be the first African-American female U.S. hostel owner. The hostel will be a safe, clean, budget-friendly accommodation option for travelers all over the world. She recently successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign where over 80 people came together to help her secure initial funding for this business endeavor. Deidre will employee up to 5 employees, and she will work with local colleges and universities to offer internships to students studying hospitality. This opportunity for Deidre through the Texas Black Expo is what the organization is all about. “I want to thank Jerome Love and all those who were involved in putting this competition together. This is an amazing experience for a young business person such as myself. This 2nd place prize money of $1,500 will help me grow my business, which will be a part of helping to stimulate the economic growth in Houston,” Deidre says. Please visit Wanderlust Houston on the web at wanderlusthouston.com and subscribe online to receive updates. You can follow Deidre on Instagram at @deidreworldwide and Wanderlust Houston on Instagram at @WanderlustHoustonHostel. To purchase her book Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional, please visit wanderlustybp.com. For more on the Texas Black Expo, please visit texasblackexpo.com.

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Houston News

Texas Leads the Nation for the Most Truck Bottlenecks By d-mars.com News Provider

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he American Transportation Research Institute recently released its annual list highlighting the most congested bottlenecks for trucks in America, including 14 in Texas, the most in the nation. The 2017 Top Truck Bottleneck List assesses the level of truck-oriented congestion at 250 locations on the national highway system. The analysis, based on truck GPS data from 600,000+ heavy duty trucks uses several customized software applications and analysis methods, along with terabytes of data from trucking operations to produce a congestion impact ranking for each location. The data is associated with the FHWA-sponsored Freight Performance Measures (FPM) initiative. The locations detailed in this latest ATRI list represent the top 100 congested locations. "Texas is a key freight generator and a critical link in the nation's supply chain," said Texas Trucking Association President John D. Esparza. "ATRI's analysis allows us to target state and federal resources to keep trucks, and the economy, moving."

The1414bottlenecks bottlenecksininTexas Texasare: are: The •  No. 8 – I-45 at US 59 in Houston •  No. 11 – I-10 at I-45 in Houston •  No. 12 – I-45 at I-30 in Dallas •  No. 13 – I-10 at US 59 in Houston •  No. 22 – I-610 at US 290 in Houston

•  No. 25 – I-45 at I-610 North in Houston •  No. 28 – I-35 in Austin •  No. 33 – I-10 at I-610 West in Houston •  No. 49 – I-35W at I-30 in Ft. Worth •  No. 59 – I-610 at US 59 West in Houston •  No. 60 – US 75 at I-635 in Dallas •  No. 65 – I-45 at Sam Houston Tollway North in Houston •  No. 82 – I-45 at I-610 South in Houston •  No. 88 – I-10 at I-610 East in Houston

"Trucks move 70% of the nation's goods, so knowing where our highway system is most congested can lead to better decisions about what highways and bridges need improvement," said American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear, "and it is our hope that ATRI's research will guide states toward improving these pain points in the supply chain so our industry can continue to safely and efficiently moving the nation's goods." ATRI is the trucking industry's 501(c)(3) not-forprofit research organization. It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation's essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system. Source: American Transportation Research Institute

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Education & Career

Education & Career

Say It Loud…I Am Equipped and Proud! By Noel Pinnock Contributing Writer

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Why We Must Defend Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act w

hen President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, policy makers and educators saw this as an opportunity to invest in new methods for student success— contrary to the No Child Left Behind Act. But, what about parents and community leaders? Starting with next school year (2017-18), all provisions of ESSA will go into effect. One critical aspect is that it requires local and state school leaders to create standards that will yield acceptable—and in some cases, exceptional—student academic outcomes, based on specific solutions for their schools. For the community as a whole, supporting everything education is just plain ole common sense. Without hesitation, educators are professionals who care for the minds, bodies, and spirits of our greatest treasure: our children. Public education remains a game changer for so many parents and students facing the challenges of everyday survival. ESSA requires all hands on deck for each community and with the Every Student Succeeds Act we can conquer problems within the education system. Participating in the process to encourage every student to succeed is an ongoing necessity and investment that must be made by each of us in order for there to be a harvest of success. So what do we do? We, community leaders, must stay engaged, provide insight, question, and oversee the local and state selection of the administrators for ESSA initiatives. We, parents, must listen to teacher recommendations on improving learning experiences and keep a special note on our phones or in a folder with feedback. Educators want to teach; they want to guide. We must use ESSA to leverage their desire to see students succeed by having a respectful line of communication, which can include texting, emailing, phone messages and in special situations, face to face. Use those responses to push for more resources to come into schools from ESSA and community investors. In fact, every school must be supported with every resource available. From making education a priority for taxpayer revenue to churches conditioning their congregations that every adult working in a school should be applauded, respected and invested in. Local businesses should contact the principal of the community school and request a calendar of the school year. The business should choose to sponsor a breakfast or lunch on teacher planning days and take a moment to explain services and products and offer the educators discounts. Every parent can go beyond the PTA and

participate as a judge in the science fair or sign up to volunteer as a chaperone for field trips or reading to the students. Children can never have too many supplies, resources or praise, so the school staff will appreciate the support. The push against public education must stop. Public education is our national treasure, so are our children and teachers. In the past, too many standardized tests have proven to be ineffective in validating school success. ESSA changes this. Not having to constantly teach to the many tests, will allow educators to teach in a common sense straightforward method, ensuring students are ready to compete. ESSA presents a balanced approach to holding the local school district accountable by encouraging testing managed on the state level. Community leaders, parents, and educators must participate in the state’s process for fairly measuring progress in each school. In some cases, this will include selecting the superintendent, and in other cases, it will involve creating or approving test questions, changing curriculum, or adding arts programs. Votes and voices can now take center stage as local and state officials take a more active role in determining the state of public education. Staying engaged is necessary and essential for choosing the best team of educators who will implement ESSA strategies necessary to propel our children forward. Supporters of public education must require that committed educational leaders offer clear plans that they will execute immediately in order to conquer education problems and position all schools to succeed. The plans should be constantly communicated to the community and measured with sensible, infrequent standardized tests. President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act brings public education back into the national forefront where it belongs. Many people see an eagle and apple pie as the symbol of America. It is time again, to see public education as the national treasure it is. It remains the primary weapon that must be sharpened and polished and used to battle poverty, crime, and inequality. Principals, teachers, custodians and administrators in schools, especially schools in underserved communities, educate children on the front lines and must be uplifted and applauded by a nation committed to protecting and growing the national treasure known as Public Education.

pportunity is at the core of our existence. It is especially true when it comes to career and business. If our forefathers/mothers did not leverage the opportunity to explore the great seas in search of a better tomorrow, then we would probably not have an America today. Likewise, if it were not for my teachers of opportunity (i.e. spouse, parents, teachers, counselors, etc.) in my life, then I would not be the man who I am today. Now do not get me wrong, I have failed, floundered, and faltered. I have not made the best of every opportunity. Like you, I am human and to err is human; however, this does not mean that you should not get out there and grab opportunity by the horn and take the journey of success in business. In the midst of uncertainty and a sea of ambiguity, be encouraged that the best of life is yet to come. Joel Osteen’s book, It's Your Time, can inspire you in business: "Your best days (opportunities) are in front of you and not behind you. God will not let you go through more than you can handle. If you have a big challenge that is standing in your way of opportunity that just means you have a bigger destiny. Extraordinary people face extraordinary difficulties. But the good news is we serve an extraordinary God...In tough times you've got to draw the line in the sand. This difficulty will not bury me. This loss, this disappointment, this injustice, will not cause me to give up on my opportunities and dreams. I refuse to live in self-pity. I know I am a seed. That means I cannot be buried. I can only be planted. I may be down but it is only temporary. I'm not only coming back; I will come back better than I was before."

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, young and old, it is never too late. For every setback, God has a predestined comeback; but we have to be open and attentive, because opportunity may not knock on your door or simply show up on your doorstep, especially if you are not proud to be a lifelong student of opportunity. Remember, accomplishing anything in business and your career requires discipline...a deliberate, determined, and definable action with a clear goal in mind. To read more about author Noel Pinnock, B.S., M.P.A., C.A., CCC, IPMA-SCP, please visit www. noelpinnock.com. #GetAtIt

Submitted By: NNPA NNPA Member Edward Gaston of the Florida Star

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Education & Career

Winning the Fight Against the Dropout Rate One Student at a Time By d-mars.com News Provider

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hen you consider the "official" high school dropout rate in the U.S., it might not seem so bad at first; 6.5 percent of young people 16-24 years old have dropped out, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, you don't have to look much closer to realize how very bad that number actually is. Or, to recognize that finding a solution is critical for the future of not only students who've left school, but of the country as well. That seemingly "low" dropout rate equates to more than 1.2 million students who leave high school without finishing every year, according to DoSomething. org. To put it another way, that's 7,000 dropouts a day - one student every 26 seconds. And that "low" rate establishes the United States as 22nd out of 27 developed countries in terms of graduation rates. "In the most prosperous country in the world, we should be striving for a zero dropout rate," says Larry Powell, retired superintendent of Fresno County Office of Education in California. "The key to ensuring every student graduates is to change the tactics the system is using to keep kids in school or get them back if they've dropped out. We need to address the issues that impel kids to leave school in the first place."

What'sdriving drivingthe thedropout dropoutrate? rate? What's Elizabeth Jaimes found out she was pregnant in her freshman year of high school. She didn't want to leave school in her sophomore year, but felt overwhelmed being a 15-year-old mother with a full-time class schedule. Elizabeth's situation is emblematic of a common issue that compels young people to leave school: unplanned pregnancy. According to a report published in SAGE by researchers from Texas A&M University and the Michigan Department of Education, pregnancy is one of the top family-related reasons for dropping out. Other family-related reasons include having to support their family or take care of a family member. School-related reasons for dropping out include missing too many school days, failing grades and not being able to keep up with the schoolwork. Those reasons are very different from the ones students cited decades ago, when researchers first began

tracking the factors that contributed to the dropout rate. For example, in 1955, the leading causes of dropping out were marriage, a desire to work and dislike of school, according to the report, "Understanding Why Students Drop Out of High School, According to Their Own Reports." Researchers differentiate dropout causes as "pull" and "push" factors. When students feel they can't manage something within the school environment, they're "pushed" out of school. When factors from the student's personal life - such as childbirth or family needs - cause challenges, the student is "pulled out" of school. "Successfully affecting the dropout rate requires a system that address both pull and push factors," Powell says. Solvable situations In order for Elizabeth to be able to return to school, she required help in addressing basic needs for herself and her infant daughter. Luckily, she lived near a Learn4Life center, one of 70 resource centers the nonprofit organization operates in California. The program helped Elizabeth learn on her own schedule, at her own pace, so she could manage being a mother and a student.

She graduated in 2015 and is now pursuing a degree in nursing. Learn4Life's approach focuses on serving the most credit-deficient population by supporting the whole student with non-academic services like housing assistance, food, child care and more. Learn4Life operates under California's Alternative Schools Accountability Model program (ASAM) along with over 1,000 other district, county and juvenile programs designed to offer credit recovery to the most disadvantaged students in the state. Academically, the program centers on one-on-one instruction in a rigorous curriculum. Students work at their own pace, which allows them the flexibility to accommodate both life and educational needs. They advance in the program only when they've demonstrated their thorough understanding of subject matter. Intense instruction in life and professional skills, such as communication and interviewing, and hard skills like proficiency in commonly used software applications, aim to prepare students for personal and professional life after graduation. To date, Learn4Life averages an 88 percent success rate, with approximately 33 percent of its students returning to their school district, and 55 percent graduating or remaining enrolled at Learn4Life in pursuit of a high school diploma. "Learn4Life is breaking ground and making a difference with this program, but it doesn't have to be unique," Powell says. "This type of program could be replicated across the country to help ensure every child can get a high school diploma." To learn more or to find a Learn4Life center in California, visit learnfourlife.org. – BPT

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Education & Career

The Next Big IT Career: Data Analytics Turns Big Data Into Career Opportunities By d-mars.com News Provider

and capital and equipment management have also historically been data-intensive.

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areer opportunities in technology continue to expand exponentially: the computer and information technology field is expected to grow 12 percent, adding nearly half a million new jobs by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic's Occupational Outlook Handbook. What's more, the median wage for people in the field is nearly $50,000 higher than the median for all occupations. If you're considering a career in IT, but aren't sure common jobs like coding or systems maintenance are for you, data analytics is a growth niche that may be worth a look, industry watchers say. In an industry that's booming across all disciplines, anticipated demand for data analysts has inspired leading universities like Western Governors University (WGU) to offer new bachelor's and master's degree programs in the field. What is data analytics? You've probably heard the term "big data" - it's the next big thing in IT. From social media and public records, to mobile phone apps that track spending habits, companies have more sources of consumer information than ever before. The sheer volume of information constitutes "big data," and in the competitive business world, companies can gain an edge by using that information to better market their products to consumers. Data analytics helps companies manage big data and analyze it, so they can better target different audiences, differentiate their messages and product offerings, calibrate their market, and formulate sales and financial strategies. Companies that don't know how to analyze their data risk losing valuable time, money, market share, and customer loyalty.

Becomingaadata dataanalyst analyst Becoming

Using a variety of tools, techniques and strategies, data analysts help companies interpret their big data and find value in the information they gather every day from myriad sources.

Opportunities analytics Opportunities in data analytics Because big data has become so pervasive, virtually every company needs a data analyst, from retail stores to the service industry, heavy industry to finance. A professional with a data analyst degree might work on marketing strategy, marketing management, financial analysis, digital marketing, SEO management, customer experience management, marketing automation, web analytics management, capital and asset planning, property management, and human resources strategy and analysis. Marketing in particular offers many opportunities for people with degrees in data analytics. Finance,

If you already have an interest in information technology, a career in data analytics may be for you if you also: •  Enjoy problem-solving. Data analysis is like solving a complex puzzle you create yourself from the pieces provided by a number of different sources. •  Thrive on challenge. •  Excel at understanding both macro and micro patterns. •  Have good math skills. "Crunching numbers" is very much a part of the data analyst's job, and strong math skills can help you better manage and understand the volumes of data you'll deal with every day. •  Have strong communication skills. As a data analyst, you'll need to be able to effectively explain complex concepts and data-derived insights in layman's terms to executives with varying levels of technical knowledge. To pursue a career in data analytics, you'll also need a degree. The field is growing at such a rapid pace that WGU, a non-profit, online competency-based university with more than 77,000 students nationwide, recently launched bachelor's and master's degree programs in data analytics. The bachelor's program prepares students to establish, secure and maintain data environments, and teach them the skills needed to analyze the data to identify patterns, explain phenomena, and predict trends. The master's program teaches experienced professionals more in-depth skills for data management and analysis, including data mining, manipulation, interpretation, programming and communication/visualization. Visit www.wgu.edu to learn more. – BPT

Education & Career

The Corporate Couch: Beyond 2017 By Dawn D. Mitchell Contributing Writer

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his time of year brings new perspectives, opportunities, and hope for new levels of experience and connection. However, transitioning into a new year is also a FORCED adjustment for everyone, which may bring an element of stress. Why? Because change often results in being uncomfortable, making mistakes, and experiencing anxiety related to uncertainty. For example, there is always that awkward period in the beginning of the year where you may keep writing “2016” on various documents instead of “2017.” The routine, familiarity, and comfort with writing 2016 for 365 days straight

causes our thinking to settle there. In fact, in those moments, we actually are not thinking at all, but have placed that written phrase on autopilot. It doesn’t require concentrated focus anymore to pen. It has been programmed into our consciousness. And we are quite comfortable with that, until next year when we uproot our programming, repeat the cycle, and relax…again. This can also be the case with a career transition. As a career coach, I speak with people daily who are making the adjustment to being unemployed, acclimating to a new career, or taking the plunge to start a business or non-profit organization. The adjustment period can run the gamut between brutal and euphoric depending on the situation. Often, it errs on the difficult side because of the depth of attachment to a previous position, company, or lifestyle. The more attached to a particular state of being, the more anxiety and fear tend to show up when change occurs. It takes time, patience, support and loving reinforcement to navigate through the stages of change, loss, and uncertainty. Although change raises emotional hurdles that must be confronted, it also brings huge opportunities for massive positive results.

If you are experiencing anxiety related to a career transition, the following three steps can help you strengthen your resilience and support a new positive perspective: 1. Focus on gratitude – Gratitude combats anxiety. It is not possible to focus on gratitude and fear/anxiety simultaneously, therefore, making a conscious effort to count your blessings can interrupt fearful thinking patterns and bring back balance to your mind. Try writing down five things you are grateful for every day upon waking. Over time, this will begin to help you manifest joy in your life, as there is always something to be grateful for. 2.  Know who you are – You are not your job title. Your job is just a ROLE that you play; it doesn’t define who you are. You were created for a purpose. Spend some time connecting within and consulting your Higher Power (the “manufacturer of you”) to receive insight. Read inspirational books, walk in nature, and spend time in silence to support this process. The roles you play in life may change, but your purpose for being does not. Getting to know who you are from the inside out (versus the outside in) snatches your power back from outside influences that may have

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previously given you identity. 3.  Get Support – If you are having difficulty adjusting to a job loss or career transition, it may be because you have temporarily forgotten your power, strength, and ability to be resilient. Every one of us forgets sometimes! That is why we need support. Connect with someone who can remind you of all of the obstacles you have successfully overcome, who can see your greatness, help you with a plan, and point you back in the direction of your dreams. Let’s work together to make this the best year yet, but let’s not get comfortable there. Staying open to greater will make each subsequent year even better than the last! Dawn D. Mitchell is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur with a passion for inspiring professionals who have been laid off, wish to make a career change, or who need spiritual support with work-related challenges. As founder of The Corporate Couch, her vision is to give clients the tools needed to create an empowered global workforce. Her new book “Light After a Layoff” has just been released and is available at www.TheCorporateCouch.com.


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14  |  February 2017

Volkswagen Continues Efforts to Increase Supplier Diversity Business

Edkedsha “KeeKee” Mathis Is on a Mission to Increase Supplier Diversity at Volkswagen By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire

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s the Supplier Diversity Manager at the Volkswagen Group of America’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., Edkedsha Mathis said she relies on a concept called the three A’s: Aim high, apply yourself and achieve your goals. Mathis, whose supplier diversity position falls under the company’s purchasing department within the Chattanooga Plant location, which employs about 2,800 workers, said that her concept is rooted in the philosophy that credibility is built on results and leaders that achieve by doing and not just advising. “As a young adult venturing into the business world, I had a road map and goals. One year, three years, five years and 10 years,” Mathis said. “That’s something you need to stick to. Make two road maps, one for yourself on a personal level and a professional one to present your leadership as the path that you want to follow.” Mathis continued: “When you are in your evaluations with leadership, you can show them this is where you are and this is where you want to be; advise your leadership that you need their guidance and support to meet these goals.” For Mathis – whom colleagues and family members affectionately call “KeeKee,” – mentoring and offering advice to young women, minorities, and anyone within the diversity community is one of the traits she’s demonstrated as she’s helped Volkswagen’s Supplier Diversity Program remain one of the most successful in the world. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Mathis has been with Volkswagen for eight years and she has more than 20 years of experience in purchasing, which includes supporting as a regional buyer, service buyer, supply chain support, key user for all of the purchasing systems and lean management. Previously, she worked for 13 years as a buyer for the Wrigley Company. “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself,” she said. “The only barrier between yourself and success is you. No

Edkedsha “KeeKee” Mathis, Supplier Diversity Manager at the Volkswagen Group of America’s plant in Chattanooga, TN

one can stop you from what you want to accomplish, but you.” The powerful principles of diversity and inclusion — which promotes superior performance and competitive advantage — has helped Volkswagen Group of America create an environment where everyone can feel respected and appreciated, company officials said. Mathis said much of her job is spent traveling and engaging with minority and diverse suppliers as executive leaders in the company participate each year in a diversity strategy conference to help shape Volkswagen’s diversity initiative. Through Volkswagen’s Diversity Outreach initiative, the company has continuously sought opportunities to partner with community and diversity based organizations like the National Urban League, Out and Equal, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), the Tri-State Minority Supplier Diversity Council (TSMSDC), National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and The Chattanooga Chamber. “I closely coordinate with buyers

and purchasing managers to ensure we have inclusion of our diverse suppliers within our purchasing processes,” said Mathis. “Diversity represents a different range of categories including minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned and LGBT.” Mathis continued: “And, it’s not only identifying these suppliers, but mentoring and developing them to make sure they have the capabilities needed by Volkswagen.” For instance, Volkswagen’s commitment toward supplier diversity is almost like no other company. If Mathis and, or, other Volkswagen officials find that some minority suppliers don’t possess the capability, Mathis helps to develop those suppliers to gain the experience and ability to become a Volkswagen supplier. “My job is to support them. In most cases [request for quotations] have gone out when we’ve had really small businesses that wanted to participate in the bidding process,” Mathis said. “I may tell them they can go through the process, see what the scope of the work entails, and they

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will know, in the future, how they can build up their capacities to submit a proper proposal that meets the requirements.” Mathis said that it’s also important to provide diverse suppliers the tools and feedback needed to be successful as Volkswagen suppliers and community members. Those tools include mentoring, training, feedback (positive and opportunities for improvement), networking, and one-on-one meetings with responsible buyers and business units. Mathis said that participating in the Center of Excellence (COE) at TSMSDC is a great way for suppliers to improve their services by identifying their strengths and weaknesses. She also coordinates several best practices that include increasing supplier diversity program awareness within the organization, working to keep top leadership committed and informed about the importance of the program, mentoring suppliers, and training new and current suppliers. Additionally, Mathis works to build strategic partnerships and alliances with diverse suppliers. “I can help suppliers even if it means partnering with them with a larger business that’s willing to work with them, because a larger business can be used as mentors,” said Mathis. “We are always looking for partners throughout the year and there’s no cut off on identifying such suppliers, which is why I attend trade shows and trade fairs nationally.” At Volkswagen, more than 10 percent of production purchasing has been awarded to minority-owned businesses and 10 percent for nonproduction in 2016. Mathis said there are always opportunities for suppliers, however, they must be properly certified, registered, and be competitive. “Volkswagen has been working hard so that diversity and inclusion is a part of our day to day business,” Mathis said. “At Volkswagen, our goal is to be recognized as a top company for diversity and inclusion practices as part of being a top employer in our city.” Source: www.nnpa.org


February 2017  |  15

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16  |  February 2017

News You Can Use

Recycling Program Helps Keep the Scenic “Show Me City” Clean & Green Submitted by the City Government of Missouri City, TX

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here are multiple social, environmental and economic benefits associated with recycling. Missouri City households that participate in the Municipal Solid Waste Program are encouraged to utilize the WCA Waste Corp. single stream curbside recycling service by placing all recyclables in the 65-gallon gray carts. Acceptable items include: loose paper, newspapers, magazines, corrugated and boxboard cardboard, steel and tin cans, aluminum containers and household plastics #1 to #7 (materials are not required to be bagged). Glass is not recycled at this time; however it may be placed in the 95-gallon blue receptacle for regular trash. Pizza boxes should also be disposed of as regular trash due to the oil on the boxes. Also, remember it is important to assure the recycling items are clean. “If In Doubt, Leave It Out,” as one spilled item could contaminate the rest of the recyclables as well. Keeping bins clean is as easy as 1, 2, 3: •  Never place food or liquid in your recycle bin •  Never place plastic bags or wraps in the recycling bin •  No foam products in the recycling bin

The City’s single-stream recycling initiative is part of staff ’s proactive plan to assure citizens receive the most efficient and economical services available. Part of the process involves strategic surveys. The first audit was conducted last August at the six month mark of service with WCA and ref lected the City had a residue rate (incoming contamination and processing residuals) of 40.5 percent; a high incidence of bagged recyclables which can impact efficiencies as they need to be pulled and inspected; and a high disposal level of unacceptable scrap metal. In response, staff met with WCA and Missouri City Green, the area’s Keep Texas Beautiful Affiliate to discuss the findings and formulate solutions, including community events/outreach and recycling education campaigns involving the citizens communications tools and media outlets. A second survey is planned in the coming months to identify improvements that have been made in reducing residue and increasing the various types of recyclables that are acceptable. To learn more about the Municipal Solid Waste Program, which covers more than 93 percent of area homes, visit the City’s website: www. missouricitytx.gov or call 281-403-5800.

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February 2017  |  17

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18  |  February 2017

Conscious Consumerism

Power of Blac By d-mars.com News Provider

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ebruary is Black History Month, and it’s an important month, especially for the AfricanAmerican community. However, the truth is we should be celebrating our history all throughout the year. In addition, it’s vital for us to not only celebrate businesses in our community, but to support them from an economic standpoint. Are you patronizing and supporting Black businesses in the area? Now many of us have moved out of the community and into the suburbs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, we cannot forget to come back to the community and support the areas that we grew up in. d-mars.com is proud to be a platform and a great resource where Black businesses and entrepreneurs can create more awareness of their establishment and brand. It is true that recent events around this country have reminded the African-American community that there is real power in economics, helping to make us more conscious of being intentional in our efforts to support Black businesses. Recently the d-mars.com team attended the 7th Annual Black Leadership Forum, hosted by the Greater Houston Black Chamber (www.ghbcc.com) and the National Black MBA Association Inc. (www.nbmbaa.org). The guest speaker for the event was author Maggie Anderson, who spoke about The Empowerment Experiment and her critically acclaimed book, Our Black Year. Anderson and her husband were successful African-American professionals raising two daughters in a Chicago suburb. In 2009 the Andersons embarked on a year-long public pledge to "buy black." They thought that by taking a stand, the Black com-

The 7th Annual Black Leadership Forum was all about economic empowerment and our community. When we support the businesses in our community, it is then that our community will truly prosper.” – MR. D-MARS

munity would be mobilized to exert its economic might. They thought that by exposing the issues, Americans of all races would see that economically empowering Black neighborhoods benefits society as a whole. However, the feedback was not overall positive, and not what she and her husband had planned or expected. Some Blacks refused to support their own, and this experiment was

met with some condemnation. Drawing on economic research and social history as well as her personal story, in this book Anderson shows why the Black economy continues to suffer. She has issued a strong call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend. Our Black Year also examines the commercial exploitation of Black neighborhoods and explores the reasons why Black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial and ethnic groups in every measure of success. Anderson argues that the social crises that disproportionately impacts Black people and under-served Black neighborhoods could be countered through what she calls “conscious consumerism.” In addition, she urges consumers to seek and support Black-owned businesses; and challenges mainstream corporations, especially those that thrive on Black consumers, to involve more Black firms in their supply chains, stock products from Black companies, and engage more Black franchisees, suppliers, dealers, and vendors. Our Black Year is a hard-hitting call to action to close a gaping hole in the American economy—one purchase at a time. Since The Empowerment Experiment and Our Black Year, Anderson has become the face of a conscious consumerism movement uniting consumers, corporations, and the quality Black businesses that can rescue struggling communities and provide role models to Black youth. A sought-after speaker, she tours the country inspiring more consumer and corporate engagement of Black professionals and firms. Anderson appears on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS Newshour, and CBS Morning News, among many other national television and radio shows. She uses her experience and platform to increase awareness about economic

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February 2017  |  19

m and the

ck Businesses

The The additional additionald-mars.com d-mars.comadvertising, advertising, marketing, media, media,and andcommunication communication marketing, services include: include: services •  Business Journal •  Health & Wellness Journal •  Community Journal •  Subcontractors USA Texas Journal •  Business Development •  Business Consulting •  And much MORE!

inequalities that starve Black neighborhoods and deny Black businesses. She also speaks on how proactive support of Black businesses can create jobs and curb crime in America. Anderson’s book can be found on Amazon.com or AuthorMaggieAnderson.com. d-mars.com is all about economic empowerment for the African-American community, encouraging us to support one another in business. MR. D-MARS built this award-winning advertising and marketing agency with the idea that promotional services should be affordable to everyone in the small and mid-size business marketplace. He seeks to preserve the entrepreneurial

spirit of business owners by supporting the local engineering firm, the mom-and-pop shop, and the family medical practice with competitive solutions. This is the passion of MR. D-MARS, and that same passion is shared by the d-mars.com team. Today, after almost 20 years in business, d-mars.com continues to successfully serve the needs of clients throughout Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. d-mars.com provides an array of services including printing, graphic and web design, public relations, photography, videography, and social media marketing.

d-mars.com will always be known as the media company that is a vital platform for African-Americans to raise awareness of their business and brand. A popular d-mars.com marketing tool assisting the Black business community is the d-mars.com Black Pages Online Business Directory. This highly effective business marketing tool has new features for customers and suppliers. Sign up today at www.d-marsonlinedirectory.com. Are you supporting business in the community? This month is a perfect time to start being intentional when it comes to financially supporting the businesses in our community. Let’s support each other. Let’s all win. When we support each other, it is then that our community will truly prosper. There is great power in economics. Visit d-mars.com on the web at www.d-mars.com. Source: AuthorMaggieAnderson.com

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20  |  February 2017

News You Can Use

Poll Finds Americans United in Seeing an Uncivil Nation;

Divided About Causes and Civility of Presidential Candidates-79% of Americans Say 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Was Uncivil; 97% Say It is Important for U.S. President to be Civil By d-mars.com News Provider

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n the aftermath of a divisive presidential election, the American people are united in their belief that the campaign was – and our culture is – uncivil, according to the seventh annual Civility in America poll conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research. This unified outlook on the state of civility in America, not surprisingly, divides along partisan lines in terms of who is responsible, how uncivil the presidential candidates were and the likelihood that our national civility "crisis" will ease anytime soon. A record high 69 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. has a major civility problem, a view shared equally by people who voted for Donald Trump or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Seventyfive percent say incivility has risen to crisis levels, with Clinton voters more likely to have that view than those who voted for Trump (81 vs. 72 percent, respectively). Among the nearly six in 10 Americans (56 percent) who expect civility to get worse in the next few years, nearly 9 in 10 Clinton voters (89 percent) named politicians as the group most responsible for the decline in civility, followed by the Internet/social media (69 percent) and news media (51 percent). Trump voters blamed the news media (77 percent), demonstrators/ protestors (76 percent) and the Internet/social media (75 percent). Only 28 percent of Clinton voters saw demonstrators or protesters as a leading reason for the erosion of civility in the years ahead. Only 53 percent of Trump voters cited politicians. "We have been tracking how civility impacts our nation's social fabric since 2010, and we have seen a steady increase over that time in the recognition of how civility is a major problem facing Americans," said

Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick. "Without a doubt, public discourse was challenged in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and the public is divided about whether we will see an improving environment for thoughtful dialogue in the public sphere." While citing the media for contributing to the nation's incivility, both Trump and Clinton voters said broadcast/cable news and the Internet/social media are by far their leading sources of news about national politics. Eighty-three percent of Trump voters and 88 percent of Clinton supporters said the media is obligated to report when a public official is lying. There was also agreement on the uncivil nature of the 2016 presidential campaign. By nearly a 4-to-1 margin (79 vs. 21 percent), Americans found the election uncivil. While substantial majorities of Trump and Clinton voters (72 and 83 percent, respectively) viewed the campaign as uncivil, there was significant disagreement in the two camps about the civility of the two candidates. Voters were equally divided over Secretary Clinton's civility (47 percent uncivil vs. 50 percent civil), but views differ between Trump and Clinton voters. Eighty percent of Secretary Clinton's supporters saw her as civil, with only 18 percent saying she was uncivil. Of Trump's voters, 77 percent said Clinton was uncivil against 21 percent who thought her civil. As a candidate, Trump was viewed as uncivil by 72 percent of American voters, with only 26 percent finding his candidacy civil. Even a majority of his voters (53 percent) found him uncivil vs. civil (46 percent). Clinton's voters found Trump more uncivil (89 percent) than civil (nine percent). While majorities of both Trump and Clinton voters said civility was an important consideration in their decision to vote for their candidate, the two camps split in their willingness to accept uncivil campaign rhetoric. Presidential Candidate Civility Perceptions Total Voters

Clinton Voters

Trump Voters

% describe candidate Clinton as civil during the election

50%

80%

21%

% describe candidate Clinton as uncivil during the election

47%

18%

77

% describe candidate Trump as civil during the election

26%

9%

46

% describe candidate Trump as uncivil during the election

72%

89%

53

Although only a third of Americans (31 percent) agreed that "there is nothing wrong with a politician saying what is on their mind, no matter how uncivil," there was a pronounced difference in the opinion of Trump and Clinton voters. Nearly half of Trump voters (48 percent) agreed with this statement while only one out of five Clinton voters (21 percent) did. "What these findings suggest is that some of candidate Trump's campaign rhetoric that was criticized as uncivil was interpreted as appealing, tell-it-like-it-is authenticity to many voters," said Pam Jenkins, President of Powell Tate. Looking beyond the presidential campaign to the new president's administration, voters were all but unanimous in saying it's important for a president to act in a civil manner, with 97 percent of Trump voters and 99 percent of Clinton voters agreed on that point. The voters agreed that political incivility affects the reputation of the U.S. (86 percent); that uncivil comments by political leaders encourages greater incivility in society (79 percent); that incivility leads to less political engagement on the part of the American people (75 percent); that the U.S. is losing stature as a civil nation (73 percent) and that incivility deters people from entering public service (59 percent). These views were held by majorities of both Trump and Clinton voters. The incivility of the presidential campaign kept some people from going to the polls altogether: Incivility was cited by 59 percent of non-voters as either a major factor (41 percent ) or minor factor (18 percent) in their decision not to vote in 2016. "The American people are aware of, and worried about, the consequences of the incivility that has infected our society and political process," said Jack Leslie, Chairman, Weber Shandwick. Optimism that the nation will become more civil in the years ahead followed people's voting patterns with 84 percent of Trump voters hopeful about the future of civility in America, compared with only 27 percent of Clinton voters. The seventh annual Civility in America survey captures the American public's views on civility in society. Subsequent reports on civility as it relates to personal interactions, the workplace and solutions for fostering a more civil public discourse, will be released in the coming months. Source: Weber Shandwick

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February 2017  |  21

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22  |  February 2017

Entrepreneur

Blackonomics: Business Owners, Take Care of Your Business By James Clingman NNPA Newswire Columnist

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hear it all the time. “I patronized a Black-owned business and was treated terribly.” How about this one? “I went to that Black restaurant and the service was bad, the food was cold, and the staff was discourteous and very slow.” And the grand-daddy of them all: “I tried to do business with Black contractors, but they didn’t show up on time, they wanted me to pick them up, because they didn’t have transportation, and they wanted me to go out and buy the materials needed for the job.” As the “Buy Black!” hue and cry is raised by more and more of our people, we should do a collective self-assessment of our businesses and our relationship with them. Recently I proudly wrote about one of the best and most conscious businesses in the nation: Compro Tax. Now I want to discuss those businesses that are not so good and not conscious at all when it comes to reciprocity. I write a lot about the responsibility of Black consumers to support Black owned businesses, and sometimes it’s brought to my attention that I do not spend enough time dealing with the obligation Black businesses have to provide good products and services—and like-

wise give their support to other Black owned businesses. I get that; believe me, because I know that everything black (small “b” intended) ain’t Black. In my entrepreneurship and business planning classes I always placed an emphasis on good service, integrity, and simply doing what you say going to do for the customer. Our businesses have it hard enough without heaping more problems on themselves by not following through on agreements, not opening on time, not showing up to do the job on time, cheating and stealing from their customers, and the list goes on. You would think they would make sure they are providing the very best customer service. You would think, considering our mental enslavement, that Black business owners would try a little harder, do a little more, and make that extra effort to please their customers, especially their Black customers. You know how quick we are to turn our backs on one another. Some of our business owners feel it’s all right to do a brother or a sister wrong, maybe because we never expect to be dragged into court and sued. But we sure are afraid of mistreating others; and we make every effort to take care of our obligations to them, because we know what will happen if we don’t. Shamefully, some of us go about our business ripping off our customers with schemes

and practices that pull us farther and farther apart, and we wonder why we cannot “come together.” But what do we do? First of all, Black business owners, get your act together! Stop taking short-cuts, stop cheating and lying to your customers, and read or re-read what Jawanza Kunjufu in his book, Black Economics, calls the African American Creed Business Commandments. He points out that our customers are our most important resource and in the final analysis, if they stop coming, we go out of business. So respect your customers above all, treat them fairly, and do what you say you are going to do. We must work very hard to bring the ultimate economic partnership together, that of Black consumers and Black business owners. Once upon a time, during segregation, we had that ideal relation-

ship but were not allowed to have access to the general marketplace. Our access is virtually unlimited now, but we must still have a firm economic foundation among our own people. Our charge as business owners is to meet our consumers a little bit beyond the middle and do what is necessary to change them into repeat customers. “The best customer is the one who returns.” We can ill-afford the lack of support for one another that we see in today’s Black economy, especially when you consider what little bit of an economy we have. So, indeed, “Buy Black,” but learn the difference between “black” and “Black,” and emphasize to them the importance of circulating some of their Black dollars to another Black business along the way. Let’s work together to build our relationships, our love, our respect, and our trust for one another. Through business ownership and good business management we can win. Take care of your business and your customers, and they will take care of you. James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.

Paid political ad by Chris Brown for Controller Campaign, James L. Robertson, Treasurer.

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February 2017  |  23

Finance

Seven Tax Tips for the Black Community ByStacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Columnist

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ax season has officially begun and it’s time to find those deductibles and items that might help offset some of what you might have to pay the government by April 15. For African-Americans, filing income taxes has never been simple – nor has it historically been anything to look forward to. “One thing that’s certain at the top of each year is tax season. Yes, that one thing that most of us dread yet we know we have a short window of time to complete what should be done as the New Year begins,” said Cozette M. White, an acclaimed author, financial analyst and tax strategist. White is also founder and CEO of My Financial Home Enterprises, a financial management firm that helps organizations and entrepreneurs develop solutions that fuel business growth and transform products into accelerating profits. White said it’s important to decide early on who will be preparing your returns. “Tax preparers are the least trained, but the cheapest to hire,” she said, noting that enrolled agents are typically more competent than tax preparers but much less so than a certified public accountant. Further, White said it’s important to be organized – set aside a manila folder for all tax documents. “Schedule your appointment early, especially if you have a child applying for financial aid and, if you have not updated your payroll department with your new address, do so today to avoid delays,” she said. The new tax year accompanies an interesting set of new facts for African-Americans, according to The White House. For instance, the unemployment rate for African-Americans has seen a larger percentage-point decline in the recovery, much faster than the overall unemployment rate over the last year, President Barack Obama’s administration reported. The real median income of Black households increased by 4.1 percent between 2014 and 2015 and President Obama enacted permanent expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which together now provides about 2 million African-American working families with an average tax cut of about $1,000 each. A recent report from the Census Bureau revealed that the real median household income grew 5.2 percent

from 2014 to 2015, the fastest annual growth on record. Income grew for households across the income distribution, with the fastest growth among lower- and middle-income households. The number of people in poverty fell by 3.5 million, leading the poverty rate to fall from 14.8 percent to 13.5 percent, the largest one-year drop since 1968, with even larger improvements including for African-Americans, Latino-Americans, and children. The poverty rate for African-Americans fell faster in 2015 than in any year since 1999. While the poverty rate fell across all racial and ethnic groups, according to a Census Bureau study released last year, it fell 2.1 percentage points for African-Americans, resulting in 700,000 fewer African-Americans in poverty. African-American children also made large gains in 2015, with the poverty rate falling 4.2 percentage points and 400,000 fewer children in poverty. So, for tax time, it means more African-Americans need to better understand what they should and shouldn’t do; what deductions and credits might be available, White said. The veteran tax expert urges contributions to 2016 Roth accounts and, if donations have been made to charities in any amount above $250, be sure and have the proof to support the write-off. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says that charitable contributions are de-

ductible in the year made and donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2016 count for the 2016 tax year, even if the bill isn’t paid until 2017. Also, checks to a charity count for 2016 if they are mailed by the last day of the year. Taxpayers who are over age 70 ½ are generally required to receive payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2016, though a special rule allows those who reached 70 ½ in 2016 to wait until April 1, 2017 to receive them. So, what else can be done to limit tax liabilities for individuals and businesses? “Defer bonuses,” said Lisa GreeneLewis, a certified public accountant and Turbo Tax expert. “If your hard work paid off this year and you are expecting a year-end bonus, this extra money in your pocket may bump you up to another tax bracket and increase your tax liability,” she said. Folasade Ayegbusi, a certified public accountant (CPA) and owner of Suncrest Financial Services in Maryland, advises business owners to call their payroll processing company and have them process a one-time annual salary amount to satisfy any S-Corp reasonable compensation requirement. Also, she said, purchasing depreciable assets like a car, furniture, iPad, computer and other items needed for a busi-

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ness would help offset any tax burden. Randy Hughes, founder of Counting Pennies, a nationwide tax and accounting firm that specializes in tax preparation, bookkeeping and debt management, said African-Americans need to immediately think about taxes and not wait until the April 15 deadline. Hughes recommends making wise business purchases, maximizing health savings accounts and managing tax withholdings and exceptions. “Employees that changed jobs or started a new job should review their tax withholdings and exemptions claimed on their new hire paperwork,” he said. “Claiming too few exemptions could result in giving the government more money than necessary, which could result in a cash flow problem for you during the year.” Perhaps as important as any suggestions, the IRS said it continues to see an uptick in tax scams – one of the most recent involved a caller telling a taxpayer that he or she is entitled to a large refund, but first must hand over a certain amount of money first. “Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement. “Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money. We continue to say, ‘if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you’re not hearing from us.’”


24  |  February 2017

Finance

Can I Get Credit After Filing Bankruptcy? By J Thomas Smith Contributing Writer

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an I get credit after filing bankruptcy? As a bankruptcy attorney, I hear this question a lot. In fact, one of the first concerns people ask when they are considering bankruptcy, is whether they will be able to get credit after the bankruptcy is over. They fear that creditors will not have confidence that they will pay their debts in the future. However, bankruptcy is about giving you a fresh start. In a nutshell, the answer is simple, "Yes you can." You can rebuild your credit right away in many cases.1 While bankruptcy gives you protection from creditors, your assets will be used to cover your debts after allowable bankruptcy exemptions. So, one might feel that they will not be given a chance to start over. But, in many cases, creditors may be willing to give you a fresh start immediately upon your receiving a discharge from the bankruptcy. Sometimes, you even retain your credit cards after you declare bankruptcy.

YouMust MustDisclose DiscloseAll of Your You All of Your Debts Debts Sometimes, debtors ask if they have

to disclose debts if they want to retain certain accounts. Yes, you are required by law to disclose all of your outstanding debts. You must report any and all debts that you have. Failure to do so may make it difficult for you to get credit after bankruptcy discharge. Furthermore, it could cause you to land in jail. If you do not owe anything on a particular credit card, you are not required by law to report the bankruptcy to the creditor.2 Based on these facts, you could have a line of credit after your bankruptcy discharge. However, the creditor may discover your bankruptcy through other channels and subsequently cancel your line of credit. A number of companies will cancel your credit card as a means of minimizing bad debts, but this is not always the case.

ReaffirmingDebt DebtIsIsNot Reaffirming Not Recommended Recommended While you are not required to do so, most creditors will allow you to reaffirm your debt and permit you to keep your card after discharge. I typically advise my clients against reaffirming debt since the whole objective of bankruptcy is to give you a fresh start. But, if you are willing to keep the old obligation and the Court approves it, the creditor will require you to enter into a new

about now is credit after bankruptcy, although it is possible. For an evaluation of your financial status and whether you qualify for a fresh start through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney. agreement.3 If the debt is discharged in bankruptcy, the creditor cannot collect the debt from you. However, if you reaffirm the debt, they will be able to collect the full amount of the debt you owe to them. After all, they are in the business of providing credit for a cost.

TheGoal GoalofofBankruptcy BankruptcyIs a The Is a Fresh Start Fresh Start For the person considering bankruptcy, remember the goal is to get a fresh start, a chance for a new beginning. Creditors want to profit from your fresh start so they are very happy to offer you credit after bankruptcy, since you cannot get a another discharge for eight years if you had to file again.4 While you may be offered credit after bankruptcy, you may have a smaller line of credit and you may pay a higher interest rate. The company will do this to minimize their potential loss. However, if you are having financial problems, the last thing you should be thinking

J Thomas Smith is host of “Sunday Morning Live” on “The Real Sound of Htown” KMJQ/Majic 102.1 (911 cst). He is an attorney, author, keynote speaker, and mental health consultant. Your comments are welcome at jtsmith@radio-one.com or jtsmith@worldfamousradio.com. Follow on Twitter @drjtsmith102 on facebook.com/jthomas.smith.12 and instagram.com/drjtsmith102.

References https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/ rebuild-credit-after-bankruptcy/ http://bankruptcy.findlaw.com/chapter-7/ exempt-vs-non-exempt-property-underchapter-7.html http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/ bankruptcy/bankruptcy-basics/chapter-7bankruptcy-basics http://bankruptcy.findlaw.com/chapter-7/ chapter-7-debt-discharge.html

Finance

Paying for College: Options Reduce Need for Student Loans By d-mars.com News Provider

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hile only a fortunate few students can expect a free college education by winning full academic or athletic scholarships, everyone can take advantage of a combination of academic aid, grants, fellowships, workstudy and student loans to pay for a four-year degree, says Peter Gayle, a vice president for Prudential Advisors. Unfortunately, many prospective students and their families often don’t know where to look. With student debt increasingly becoming a long-term burden on graduates and families, adds Gayle, it’s never been more important to minimize the out-of-pocket expenses to put a student through college — and reduce reliance on student loans. To put the weight of student debt in perspective, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that in 1995, 54 percent of graduates had loans averaging $11,491. It’s more recent data in 2015 showed 71 percent of graduates joined the workforce with student debt averaging slightly more than $35,000. What’s more, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates 25 percent of those who owe federal student loans are delinquent or in default. The good news is that anyone willing to put in the time can likely find pro-

grams that help foot the bill — helping to reduce the need to take out loans — so a student’s education won’t break the budget or jeopardize a financial future. According to Gayle, families can take a few initial steps before choosing a school: •  Learn how the financial aid process works and get the most out of options that don’t need to be repaid. •  Understand each school’s actual net price — after financial aid — and set realistic expectations, choosing from the most affordable institutions. •  Explore types of financial aid, including grants, work study programs and scholarships; examine the specific types of aid available per school and find out how much of a family’s demonstrated financial need each school will cover. •  Understand the kinds of loans available, including a variety of federal loans and private loans, which may be used to fill any financing gaps after exhausting other options. •  Understand how parents’ “available income” is used to calculate how much parents are expected to contribute to their child’s education, especially for federal financial aid purposes. Several guides, including Prudential Financial’s www.prudential.com/payingforcollege, can help families take a carefully considered approach to fi-

nancing a college education while safeguarding a student’s long-term financial future, including the ability to save for retirement. For families that must use student loans, the federal government is making it easier to understand how to borrow, process applications and repay loans through new online tools. Since 2010, all new federal loans, except Federal Perkins Loans, have been issued through the U.S. Department of Education, which offers information about borrowing and repaying loans. There are multiple options to repay federally funded student loans, which generally require repayments to start six or nine months after a student graduates, leaves school or drops to half-time enrollment. A few popular choices for repayment include types of incomedriven plans, which calculate payments based on a borrower’s ability to repay. One catch: It’s critical to re-certify income and family size annually to avoid huge monthly payment increases. When debt becomes too burdensome, some loan programs offer forgiveness through public service, federal government employment, and options like teaching in underserved school districts. Private loans are trickier since there is no standard: Interest rates and repayment terms vary from lender to lender.

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It’s also worth considering the need for life insurance to cover the full loan balance to aid co-signers or beneficiaries in the event of the borrower's death, says Gayle. Financial advisors would be wellequipped to help explore this and other options, Gayle notes. Employers are also beginning to offer employee student debt benefits to put their employees on a course for financial security. At Prudential Financial, for example, new employees hired through the company’s campus recruitment program beginning in January 2017 could earn an incentive of up to $5,000 toward paying off student loans after one year of service. Other companies match student debt payments with contributions to employee retirement savings plans. Studies show college education can be worth the price. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that students who attend college can earn nearly twice as much over their lifetimes as those with only a high school diploma. But with college tuitions continuing to rise, families must find the most effective way to finance a child’s college education to avoid jeopardizing their ability to save for retirement. "Prudential Advisors" is a brand name of The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries located in Newark, NJ. – BPT


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26  |  February 2017

4 Reasons You Should Review Your Finance

Beneficiary Designations

IRA is worth more than $12,400, more than a third can be lost to the IRS. Unless there is a compelling non-tax reason to name a trust as beneficiary of an IRA or retirement plan, you should help your clients avoid making a costly mistake. Encourage your client to speak with their estate planning attorney about the pros and cons to naming a trust as a beneficiary of a retirement account.

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aby boomers have been planning and saving for retirement for decades. They are also planning their legacy — creating wills, trusts and other sophisticated estate planning strategies to transfer their wealth to the next generation. However, most people may not realize their IRAs and qualified retirement plans — a large part of their estate — are not subject to probate nor affected by the terms of a person’s will. These assets will pass to the next generation determined solely by the client’s beneficiary designation form. Accordingly, the beneficiary designation form is one of your client’s most important estate planning documents but it is often overlooked when creating a legacy plan. Here are some common beneficiary designation mistakes to avoid:

Ex-spouse Ex-spouseas asaabeneficiary beneficiary Few people really intend to leave IRA and retirement assets to an ex-spouse, but this happens all the time. People fail to update their beneficiary designation form after a divorce. Often, they are under the mistaken belief the divorce decree will automatically negate their prior beneficiary designations. Divorce decrees, court orders and wills generally have no affect on a beneficiary designation. “Per Stirpes” or “Per Capita”

Estateas asaabeneficiary beneficiary Estate Many clients unintentionally name their estate as beneficiary of their retirement accounts. Some clients will actually direct their retirement assets to be paid “pursuant to the terms of my will.” Other clients simply fail to complete their beneficiary designation form or forget to name a new beneficiary after a beneficiary dies. When this happens, the assets are usually paid to the client’s estate by default, which is probably the worst beneficiary for IRAs and retirement plans. IRAs and qualified retirement plans — assets that normally avoid probate — will become subject to probate when paid to the estate. The probate process can be long, cumbersome and expensive. Further, these assets may have to be liquidated and paid to the estate within five years after the client’s death. While individual beneficiaries can elect to have IRA assets paid over their lifetime, thereby “stretching” their tax liability over many years, estates cannot. Finally, estates are subject to a much higher income tax rate than individuals. This can result in more money going to the IRS than necessary. To avoid this

mistake, make sure your clients have an up-to-date primary and contingent beneficiary designated for all their retirement accounts.

Trust Trustas asaabeneficiary beneficiary Many attorneys like to use trusts to facilitate an effective transfer of wealth and maximize all available gift, estate and generation skipping tax exemptions. However, there are several dangers to having retirement assets paid to a trust. First, the IRS generally requires the assets to be paid to the trust within five years after the death of the client. The “stretch” rules generally do not apply to trusts unless the trust is drafted to be a “look through” trust. If the trust is a “look through” trust, the IRS permits you to “look through” the trust and

“stretch” the IRA to the trust over the life expectancy of the oldest trust beneficiary. Trusts that fail to be a “look through” trust include those that have beneficiaries that are not individuals, such a charity, estate or another trust. Second, it can be expensive to establish and maintain these trusts. If an IRA is “stretched” to a “look through” trust, a lifetime of legal, trustee and administrative fees can significantly reduce the amount the ultimate beneficiaries will receive. Third, trusts become subject to the 39.6 percent tax rate (currently the highest) as soon as the income exceeds $12,400. By comparison, married taxpayers filing jointly do not reach the 39.6 percent tax rate until their income exceeds $366,950. That means if the

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IRA and retirement assets are not always distributed as intended. Most IRAs will allow the owner to designate multiple beneficiaries. For instance, it is common for an IRA owner to designate his or her children as equal beneficiaries. If one beneficiary predeceases the owner or “disclaims” the inheritance, the remaining primary beneficiaries will generally receive the balance of the IRA and not the children of that deceased beneficiary. For instance, assume Dad has an IRA he wants to leave to his two children Sue and Tom. Sue and Tom also have children of their own. If Tom were to die before Dad, Sue would inherit Tom’s share and nothing would go to Tom’s children. This is called a “Per Capita” distribution. If Dad wanted to make sure Tom’s share will benefit Tom’s family, Dad should make a “Per Stirpes” designation. This means Tom’s half will be shared equally by Tom’s children. By conducting a review of your clients’ IRAs and retirement plans, you can help your clients avoid costly mistakes and assure the right beneficiaries inherit these hard-earned assets. – BPT


February 2017  |  27

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5 Things

28  |  February 2017

Insurance

Life Insurance Companies Don't Always Tell You

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life insurance policy can be the difference between financial security and disaster for families whose primary breadwinner passes away unexpectedly. A significant loss of income can leave uninsured families struggling to pay bills, including final expenses. This is particularly serious when you consider that nearly half of all Americans don't have enough emergency savings to cover three months worth of expenses, and more than a quarter have no emergency funds at all, according to a Bankrate survey. Still, life insurance isn't the answer to all of life's financial challenges, especially if you buy a policy without fully understanding how it works, or what life insurance can and can't do for you. Here are five things your life insurance company won't always tell you about life insurance:

4.4.Your Yourterm termlife lifepolicy policydoesn't doesn't (always) have to end. (always) have to end. Term life is cheapest because it has a definitive end date. Term life aims to provide insurance for when you most need it, such as until your kids finish college. However, most term policies sold today are convertible - at the end of the initial term you can either continue with a new term (at a higher rate), or convert the term policy to whole life (also at a higher rate).

Not everyone everyone needs 1.1.Not needslife life insurance. insurance. While most people can probably benefit from having life insurance, it's not for everyone. For example, most financial experts agree the majority of people don't need to buy life insurance for their kids. The purpose of life insurance is basically to: replace lost income (most kids have no income); pay final expenses (they're likely to be manageable); or accrue cash value. You may think a whole life policy could give your child money toward his or her education once the policy matures. However, there are other ways to save for a college education that offer tax benefits a whole life policy doesn't. Likewise, if you're a young worker with no dependents and no debt, you might not need life insurance right now. You could put what you'd spend on premiums into your retirement savings. Or, if you're older with no dependents and already have a legacy set aside for your descendants, you might choose other types of investments. However, anyone who has debt and dependents could probably benefit from having life insurance protection.

end date), whole (costs more, has no end date, accrues cash value and premiums are fixed) and universal (also permanent and accrues, but with premiums that can vary). Insurance agents are happy to sell you any kind of policy, but of course their commission rewards are greatest when they can sell you more expensive policies. Each type of life insurance has advantages and drawbacks for different people, depending on a lot of factors like your age, health, why you need life insurance, and how long you need it. To ensure you're getting the best value, understand the policy and how it works for you before you buy.

Youmay maybe beable ableto tosell sellyour your 5.5.You term policy for cash. term policy for cash.

2. Online tools can help you 2.figure Onlineout tools helplife you howcan much figure out how much life insurance you really need. insurance you really need. Years ago, people relied on their insurance agent or company to advise them on how much life insurance to buy. The internet has made it easy to know exactly how much death benefit you really need. Online tools and "robot advisors" have become very useful resources for helping consumers figure out how much life insurance is appropriate for their unique

circumstances. A quick web search for "life insurance calculator" will yield numerous results, including calculators not provided by insurance companies or anyone in the insurance industry. For example, personal finance websites Yahoo Finance and Nerd Wallet both offer life insurance calculators.

Nosingle single"best" "best"type typeofofpolicy 3.3.No policy fits everyone. fits everyone. Life insurance comes in three basic types: term (the cheapest kind, it has an

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If you're a senior and you own a convertible term policy that will soon expire, you may think your choices are limited simply because there was no "cash value" built up in the policy over the years. Your life insurance company is unlikely to tell you otherwise and, in fact, many insurers prevent their agents from informing you of any alternatives to either letting the policy expire or converting it to a more expensive new policy. But the truth is that you may be able to unlock the value in your policy by selling it to outside investors for a lump-sum cash payment. According to the Life Insurance Settlement Association, in the right situation, a policyholder can turn a term life policy into cash in their hands, provided that it is able to be converted to a new policy and has a death benefit of at least $100,000. By selling your life insurance policy, you can avoid higher premium costs and generate some cash to help fund your retirement. Call (888) 521-8223 or visit www.lisa.org to learn more. – BPT


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30  |  February 2017

Real Estate

Where to Find Rebates,

Tax Credits and Rewards for EnergyEfficient Home Improvements By d-mars.com News Provider

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f you're planning to make some home improvements this year, you're probably thinking about energy-efficient options, knowing they can save you money in the long run. However, many eco-friendly home improvements that help lower your energy bills can also pay off right away in the form of rebates and tax credits. Whether you're considering installing an energy-efficient tankless water heater, putting solar panels on your house, or adding a skylight, chances are you can find a program that will put cash back in your pocket for improving your home's energy efficiency. Here is where to look for rebates, tax credits and rewards for your energyefficient home improvements:

Qualifying improvements Qualifying improvements When you think of energy efficiency, insulation and appliances probably come to mind. But a number of improvements can help reduce your home's energy consumption, and many of them qualify for tax credits, rebates and incentives from a variety of sources. The kind of improvements that can make your home more efficient and get you some cash back typically include: •  Solar energy systems (such as solar panels) •  Tankless water heaters •  Solar-powered appliances •  Energy-efficient windows and doors •  Skylights and solar-powered blinds •  Wood or wood-pellet stoves •  Home wind turbines

Manufacturer rebates Manufacturer rebates and and incentives incentives Makers of energy-efficient products and appliances often offer their own rebates to homeowners for making eco-friendly upgrades. If you're considering an energy-efficient upgrade such as installing new windows, HVAC system or tankless water heater, be sure to ask the retailer or installer about any available manufacturer's rebates. For example, now through at least Feb. 15, 2017, you can get up to a $650 rebate on select tankless water heaters from Noritz. The average American household spends nearly 18 percent of its energy use on heating water, at a cost of $200-$600 per year, accord-

ing to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient because they only heat water when you need it, rather than constantly consuming fuel to keep water hot in a tank. To learn more about tankless water heaters and the rebate, visit www.noritz.com.

Federal tax tax credits Federal credits Although many tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements expired at the end of 2016, some are still available. The federal government offers a tax credit of up to 30 percent for home solar energy systems through Dec. 31, 2019, and there's no upper limit on the credit, according to EnergyStar.gov. If you'll be making energy-efficient home improvements, be sure to talk to your professional tax preparer about any credits or deductions that may be available to you from the federal government.

State-level programs State-level programs In addition to federal programs, a number of states offer their own incentives to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficient improvements. For example, Alabama allows homeowners to deduct 100 percent of the purchase price and installation costs of a wood-burning heating system. In Minnesota, homeowners can borrow up to $20,000 at 4.99 percent interest to make energyefficient improvements such as water heaters, lighting, furnaces, air conditioners, insulation, windows, tankless water heaters and more. You can find a searchable Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at www.dsireusa.org.

Utility company company incentives Utility incentives Many utility companies also offer programs designed to help home-

owners reduce energy consumption and save money. Typical programs include free LED or CFL bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs in a home, and rebates or discounts for installing energy-efficient HVAC equipment or programmable thermostats. The best way to find out what programs your local utility offers is to check out their website or give them a call. You can also find state-specific lists of programs at www.dsireusa.org. Energy-efficient home improvements pay off over the long-term by reducing your home's energy consumption and utility bills. With a little bit of planning and legwork, you can also find rebates, tax credits and incentive programs that will also repay your eco-friendly investment right away. To learn more, visit Noritz.com, www.direusa.org, energy.gov, energystar.gov and irs.gov. – BPT

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February 2017  |  31

Technology

Four Real-Life Ways Technology Is Transforming the Present and the Future By d-mars.com News Provider

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martphones keep people constantly connected, smart cars can drive and park themselves, and smart buildings are designed to use less energy as they keep everyone occupying them comfy and productive. Of course you think you know how technology is revolutionizing everyday life. But do you really understand that tech now touches everything? Technology's influence on modern life may be even greater than you realize. Here are four ways technology could transform your life at home and at work:

Homelife life 1.1.Home Technology is making homes "smarter" and more connected. You may already have a smart thermostat in your home that adjusts the temperature automatically and learns your patterns and preferences to provide you with maximum comfort for minimum energy expenditure. But wouldn't you like to be able to control that thermostat - or the lights, alarm and blinds - from your office using your smartphone? Wouldn't it be great if you could ask your refrigerator whether you need milk so you can

pick it up on your way home from work? The technology to do all those things already exists and is becoming more commonplace. BI Intelligence predicts that by 2020, 193 million smart home devices will be shipped. The devices will range from smart clothes washers and dryers to alarm system components, energy equipment like thermostats, and smart lighting.

Saferroadways roadways 2.2.Safer The leading factors that lead to car crashes have one thing in common they all involve a human being behind the wheel. Data compiled by the Auto Insurance Center found bad driving behaviors like failure to yield right of way, not staying in the proper lane and reckless or careless driving were leading causes of accidents. Emerging technology aims to reduce the element of human error. Connected cars use wireless technology for a range of purposes, from navigation to remote monitoring and control and even managing vehicle systems. Expected to enhance the driver's experience, all new passenger cars sold in 2025 will be connected, according to the 2015 study,

"Connected vehicle-Succeeding with a disruptive technology," from Accenture Strategy.

Lesstime timeinindoctor's doctor'soffices offices 3.3.Less Every time you visit a doctor's office or stay in a hospital, many costs are incurred. Co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles cost you cash, plus you could lose valuable work time. Insurance companies pay for covered services, while visits to the hospital or doctor's office costs health care providers costly staff hours. Technologies such as remote health monitoring and diagnostics can help trim costs and deliver care. Remote monitoring uses a variety of devices (monitors) to help patients and doctors keep tabs on important health indicators, such as blood pressure or blood sugar levels. It can help physicians provide health care while incurring fewer costs associated with missed appointments and hospital readmissions, notes the Deloitte University Press.

Safersenior senioryears years 4.4.Safer As they grow older, many people find they need help at home in order to remain independent. Assisted living facilities aim

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to give seniors basic in-home care, such as help with taking medications. Technology is now available to help seniors who remain at home, including fall detection sensors and activity monitors to interactive food logs, and symptom tracking to machines that help automate wound care and physical therapy. Devices ranging from sensors and environmental controls to vehicles that are connected through the internet are some aspects of the Internet of Things, and it's a network that continues to grow, which could make tech skills more desirable. DeVry University, which was founded in 1931 with an emphasis on technology, offers degree programs that focus on information technology and computer sciences. DeVry has put technology at the core of its business, tech and health care programs. – BPT


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E X P E R T

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