UK Mortgage Market Review

The Mortgage Market Review

Getting a mortgage is no longer as straightforward as it used to be and is increasingly becoming difficult. Add to this, the difficulty of raising a sufficient deposit. Unfortunately, it may become more challenging to get a mortgage from 26 April 2014 when new rules come into effect, commonly known as the Mortgage Market Review or MMR.

Background to the Mortgage Market Review

Partly due to the property boom, in particular 2005 to 2007; and the severe financial consequences faced by some; the Financial Services Authority conducted a full review of the mortgage market as highlighted in its discussion paper of October 2009. In particular, the Financial Services Authority looked at the regulatory framework to ensure that risky and sometimes, irresponsible borrowing of the boom years is a thing of the past and that consumers are better protected.

Shelter fully supports the changes. Interestingly, in Shelter’s Consultation Response it highlights that the “FSA’s own data shows that nearly half of mortgagor households have either no money or a shortfall after living costs and housing costs, a stark statistic which further highlights the extent of our affordability crisis.”

The Mortgage Market Review Implementation

Buy to let is not affected by the Mortgage Market Review and buy to let lending remains unregulated. The Mortgage Market Review only applies to residential mortgages.

Borrowers will need to satisfy lenders of their income. Effectively, an end to self-certified UK residential mortgages which were popular in the boom years. Evidence of income must be provided by all borrowers.

A significant change is a move away from income multiples in assessing how much a borrower can lend to strong affordability checks to check expenditure versus income to see if a borrower can really afford the mortgage applied for.

Any application for an interest only mortgage will also require the lender to delve a bit deeper than simply taking the word of the borrower. Lenders will looks closely at the proposed repayment strategy and its credibility.

With some exceptions, all face to face and telephone mortgage sales must be on an advised basis (in a nutshell, this where the borrower is advised on the best mortgage).

Some lenders have already announced their changes whilst other have already implemented their new stricter lending policies.

Conclusion

The Council of Mortgage Lenders Director General, Paul Smee, states:

“The introduction of MMR regulation will bring the largest change to how the mortgage market works in over a decade. The industry has shown that it is ready, and we anticipate a smooth transition into the new framework. We hope and expect the new rules will provide a robust and stable framework for the long term. We hope that any transition issues can be managed in a way which minimises their impact on the borrower, and the CML is ready to assist the FCA in this task.”

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has been working closely with the Money Advice Service to produce online guides for anyone wanting to apply for a residential mortgage under the new rules.

The Mortgage Market Review is designed to protect consumers. Borrowers should check revised lending criteria that applies from 26 April 2014, be prepared for a longer mortgage application process compared to previously and should be fully prepared to provide evidence of income and expenditure.

A Quick-Start Incubator Model for Hybrid Math and Science Programs in Kentucky’s School Systems

Abstract

An educational program “incubator” is comparable to a business incubator in that it is a start-up program that may be implemented on a larger scale if it is deemed successful. “Success” may be measured by a number of parameters: the participating students’ standardized test scores, end of course exam scores, ACT/SAT scores, number of students meeting college acceptance criteria, and/or the general perception of the program within the school district/community. A more subjective measure of success, but no less important, is the sustained interest of students (with a focus on young women) in the sciences throughout their primary/middle/and high school years. It is this subjective measure of success that led to the development of this particular “incubator” model’s concepts and strategies.

Introduction

The “incubator” model that I present is not from the perspective of a life-long educator, but from the perspective of a career scientist, an application specialist, an operations manager, and a middle school/high school science teacher for only the past seven (7) years. I readily admit that I am not an expert on pedagogy. However, I believe I have mastered thinking out-of-the-box and applying those revelations to systems that may require a different approach to achieve mandated outcomes. I do not believe the system of education in Kentucky is broken, far from it; there are many great minds and passionate, dedicated people in all levels of Kentucky’s educational system. Nevertheless, I do believe that any company/industry/system that does not embrace an investment in research and development is destined to stagnate. As we have seen with the United States’ status in math & science education in comparison to say that of Finland’s, I believe an evaluation of alternative concepts is in order.

Target Audience

This three (3) year incubator targets a student population from 8th grade through 10th grade – providing accelerated online curriculum, college affiliated dual-credit coursework, water quality and biodiversity fieldwork, science-themed monthly public presentations, and student mentoring at local elementary schools. Students would have the option at the end of year three (3) to start taking college courses full-time in year four (4), having earned enough credits to graduate from high school. The other options available to students in Kentucky would be attending the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University, or returning to their home school and take AP level coursework plus electives (ideal for athletes with 2 years of eligibility remaining).

Student Selection Reasoning: The eighth grade student population selection is based on the following reasoning: in Kentucky, an eighth grade student’s science exposure is minimal at best. Since science is not tested in Kentucky’s middle schools at the eighth grade level, some middle schools do not offer science classes in order to double up on social studies which is tested in eighth grade. By incorporating these students into an incubator, it provides greater continuity for science students and a focus on retaining young women’s enthusiasm for the sciences.

Budget

The initial funding required for this incubator model is dependent upon the availability of resources: classroom access, classroom amenities (calculators, chairs, computer workstations, lab workstations, SMART Boards or tablets, tables, white boards), curriculum, laboratory supplies, teacher salaries, and transportation. If existing teachers are used to staff the model and a location for the program already exists then initial start-up cost may be 50-75K dollars. Annual costs, if just for resupply of used equipment and materials, are approximately 25k-40k per year.

Staffing

Full-time teaching positions: This incubator uses a POD concept. The POD concept is a middle school team model using four (4) Highly Qualified designated instructors (these are the strongest in Language Arts/Math/Science/Social Studies pedagogy and content knowledge available, regardless of certification (high school/middle school)). Project SCALE-UP is designed to support ninety (90) students within a classroom, in this model a cohort, therefore each of the four (4) facilitators will mentor fifteen (15) students per session during the school day.

Location

Location(s) for this incubator could be: an Alternative school campus, or one (or more) of the existing high schools. The selected location(s) should have sufficient space for two large classrooms with multiple electrical outlets and internet access (wireless or LAN). The classroom need to have multiple large-volume printer/scan/fax devices to support student work. One of the classrooms will be used for laboratory activities, so extra water/gas access points will be needed as well.

Transportation

Transportation to and from Incubator Site: Transportation of students will be defined by the decision for the location of the incubator site. If the site selected is on the campus of the district’s alternative school program(s) or a separate magnet school facility, then consider the transportation plan 1.

Transportation Plan 1: In the morning, students are taken to their home high school, where they are transferred to the incubator site in a second bus – arriving at the incubator site prior to the incubator school day starting time. In the afternoon, students will need to end their school day early, in order to catch the transfer bus back to their home high schools prior to the end of the normal high school day. Students will then take the normal bus route home from each high school. Depending on the number of high schools in the district, additional transportation costs will be the costs for running the transfers to and from each site. School day hours for the incubator site will need to be adjusted to allow transportation of students to and from their home high schools.

Incubator located within the High school locations: If the incubator site(s) are located in the existing high schools, then consider transportation plan 2.

Transportation Plan 2: Students will follow the normal transportation routes to their home high schools in the mornings and in the afternoon. There are no additional transportation costs and no changes to the hours for the incubator’s school day required in this model.

i. Program Transportation Needs

Depending upon the size of the school district, and the number of students included in the program, there are a number of options for program transportation.

Option 1 – Dedicated School Buses (Eminence Independent School District Model): The model employed by the Eminence Independent School District is ideal for a Project SCALE-UP design program with cohort sizes of up to 90 students. In this model, two (2) school buses equipped with A/C and WiFi capability are dedicated to transport program students to all activities during the school day; the buses are used in normal district transportation be- fore school and after school. This concept provides flexibility in transporting program students to field work activities, on-campus college courses, and student mentoring activities, with WiFi access for coursework and research during transportation and on-site. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the vision of the leaders in this district; the simplicity and versatility of their program is exemplary.

Option 2 – Using School Vans (Bullitt County Model): The model employed by Bullitt County’s Advanced Math and Science Program is ideal for cohort sizes of 24 or less students. School vans, in this case 8 passenger vans, where used to transport students to research sites, other schools for mentoring, and to local museums/college campuses for presentations. Use of vans requires that one or all of the instructor’s undergoes driver certification every two (2) years, and there is competition for the use of the van with fall/winter/spring sports and other school groups. If all 24 students where to attend an offsite program or event, then a school bus would be required.

ii. Other Considerations

School programs, student testing and extracurricular activities: It is necessary to plan to transport students to their home schools for events such as concerts, pep rallies, and state exams. This may be as simple as transporting the students one-way, either to home school from the program site or from the home school to the program site. School buses will be required for this transportation.

Sports/Band: Students who participate in sports and/or band require special consideration. It is extremely important that these students do not feel like they must decide between participation in the program vs. participation in sports or band. Although, these students may find as they continue in the program that academic success may be inversely proportional to participation in extracurricular activities. Participation in marching band will require some creativity in scheduling, however since most high achieving students participate in band, I would address that reality early.

Curriculum

Online Curriculum: My teaching experience in the disciplines on math and science have left one indelible impression, printed curriculum is the weakest link in our system of education. From that point in time which it is printed and then distributed to the classrooms, it is out of date. Our foundation of knowledge changes too rapidly during the three to five year textbook selection cycle for the curriculum to ever be relevant. Online curriculum, with yearly cycles of content review is the best option we have at this point.

I readily admit I am not an expert in textbook funding, so I apologize for any wrong assumptions in this treatise. However, I am expert at the scientific analysis of issues and implementation of solutions, so it is from this perspective that I present the following for your consideration:

Research into textbook adoption for the students in Kentucky, yielded the following information: The budget, according to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), for FY2015 textbooks is $21,700,00.00; the number of high school students in the public schools in KY is approximately 400,000 – this number works well in this incubator model. This yields approximately $54.25 per student for FY2015 available to purchase curriculum. Based on my experience and relationships with the online curriculum vendors (Apex Learning, Edgenuity primarily) at a volume of 400,000 licenses the $54.25 per license is very reasonable. I feel very comfortable that a contract could be negotiated without issue. Please keep in mind that online curriculum would be for ALL disciplines – not just math and science.

Flexibility for course selection is a topic that requires a mention in this discussion. I personally found that an online offering of languages (Spanish, German, French, etc.) offered without dedicated instructors to be difficult for students to master. A district may consider offering the language component to the college/university partner to facilitate; also increasing the number of languages available as well.

An additional positive for the implementation of online curriculum, an A.P. certified teacher may not be required to teach their A.P. level courses. This is very beneficial, especially during the program design stage, when addressing the needs of Gifted and Talented students.

A final point for consideration is this: as school districts invest in technology for student use (iPads, laptops, and such) is the use of online curriculum not the next logical step in the evolution of our classrooms?

Project SCALE-UP: Project SCALE-UP [1, 2], initially introduced by Dr. Robert J. Beichner (North Carolina State University) as “Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs” and now renamed as “Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs”[1, 2], is the foundational model for this incubator program. Utilizing a cafeteria-style classroom, round tables seating anywhere from 6-9 students, up to 10 tables per classroom, upwards of 90 students can be accommodated at one time. Project SCALE-UP introduces the use of tangibles, ponderables, and concept inventories in the classroom along with large classrooms (in square footage) that accommodate lab activities and classroom activities in the same physical space. Combined with the aforementioned POD teaching concept, a unique synthesis in hands-on learning plus online curriculum and facilitation by the teachers can occur, and be very successful. And, may be easily adapted to fit the facility, even within an existing space at a high school.

“Flipped Classrooms”: Isn’t this just a model of a “Flipped Classroom”? The short answer is “no”; an explanation is required however. The “flipped classroom” concept revolves around the implementation and use of online curriculum in a standard classroom, usually with a student population equipped with iPads or laptops. Project SCALE-UP and in-turn this incubator takes the “flipped classroom” to the next level by surrounding the students with purposeful, targeted activities that exponentially increase the rigor and inquiry-based learning opportunities.

Suggested Curriculum Themes: As a vocal critic of too many disciplines (Astronomy, Astrobiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, etc., etc., etc.), I continue to seek thematic units that require students to master the Liberal Arts (Language Arts +Mathematics + Sciences + Social Sciences) to successfully complete the unit. There are three (3) that I have used (I’m sure there are others), that I offer for your consideration: Astronomy (recognized as a super-science), Pond/Stream Water Quality & Biodiversity studies, and Sustainability. These three (3) thematic units may be used individually as the subject for one school year’s study; incorporated into public speaking opportunities, science fair concepts, student fieldwork, and student mentoring activities.

Concept Inventories, Ponderables, and Tangibles: How to implement each in the classroom, I remember their implementation sequence in alphabetical order.

Concept Inventories [3], alphabetically leads the list and should lead-off the school year as a pre-assessment (an inventory) of a student’s prior knowledge of common sense concepts and ideas. For example: why are there four (4) seasons? – draw the relationship between the Earth and Sun to support your answer. It is through the implementation of concept inventories and the data obtained that I chose to redesign my incubator to include 8th grade students. Do not fret, one does not need to reinvent the wheel, there are a multitude of research-based concept inventories that may be accessed on the Internet. Concept inventories are traditionally multiple-choice format.

Ponderables [1, 2], teachers may be familiar with the term bell ringers or openers, however these two “concepts” do not meet the rigor of a “ponderable”. A “ponderable” is a pencil and paper thought exercise for students, no guidance for a solution is given and the rigor of the question is such that student-research is required to complete the activity. The timeframe for a “ponderable” may be 10-15 minutes, it measures a student’s ability to research, conceptual knowledge, creativity, and organizational skills. I’ve had success in the past creating “ponderable” questions by taking “missed” questions from a concept inventory and deleting the multiple-choice answers. “Ponderables” are more subjective than objective measurements of student abilities.

Tangibles [1, 2], consider a “ponderable” that is not a pencil and paper tool but a measurement tool for a student’s hands-on abilities and understanding of concepts. For example: using a single sheet of notebook paper, fashion the tallest, free-standing object possible. “Tangibles” gauge a student’s creativity, and application of concepts to a hands-on activity.

Suggestions – Student Laboratory Activities: Think college-level and career-oriented activities. The implementation of online curriculum in the classroom, specifically the science disciplines, comes complete with a set of “dry lab activities”. These activities are useful for the most part, however given the amount of lab time available, these were the first thing I scrapped. I am a firm believer that for students to be successful in college labs and in careers where lab proficiency is a necessity, you can never start too early. When developing start-up and operating budgets for your program, this is not the area to be conservative or short-sighted. Consider the industries in your area, possible collaborations, college/university special- ties, and latest trends in employment. My suggestion – think biotechnology (electrophoresis/PCR/DNA analysis), think instrumental chemistry (gas chromatography/polarimetry/melting point apparatus), think electronics (circuit boards/programming), and think robotics. Select lab benches and tables that give you the most flexibility and bang-for-your-buck. Consider electricity, gas, and water requirements; safety needs; and ventilation requirements. If you have funds left over, purchase a high quality reflecting telescope, a remote data transmitting weather station for the roof of the school, and lots of plasticware and consumables for the labs. Consider purchasing pre-packaged lab activities to avoid storage of large volumes of solvents and acids/bases, and they have readymade student activity outlines. Do not forget to research activities at NASA to incorporate as lab exercises as well, especially in your Astronomy unit. I am an experimentalist at heart so this is my passion.

Student Fieldwork – Collaborations and Topics: Arguably, students take-in and retain more information and master more skillsets outside the classroom than inside. I find that I can teach more, across all disciplines, in the field – especially “observation”. And, if those skillsets are applied to a curriculum that captures their attention and imagination then it is a no-brainer. I can provide two examples that were a tremendous success for our program in Bullitt County; I am sure that these can be replicated elsewhere.

During year one of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Dr. Mark Woorms, Claude Stephens, and Andrew Berry ) in Clermont, KY. The students in our program performed biodiversity studies, GPS mapping, and water monitoring studies (pH, temperature, conductivity, BOD, fecal coliforms, flow rate analysis) on a multitude of streams and ponds throughout the forest. Student’s developed databases for the information interfaced with GPS mapping software, and presented their data to parent and professional groups in our area. Students monitored the streams and ponds Fall, Winter, and Spring – it was never too cold or too wet to discourage participation.

During year three of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with the Kentucky Science Center (Andrew Spence) to allow our students to present science topic demonstrations to visitors at the Center. Our first experience with the students was “DNA Day” at the Kentucky Science Center where students from our program facilitated electrophoresis analysis of “pseudo-DNA” for 900 elementary, middle, and high school students. The student attendees inoculated their own gels, followed the migration patterns in the electrophoresis baths, and then made an educated interpretation of the results. Our students enjoyed themselves more than the attendees.

Scheduling

Hybrid school week plus hybrid school year: I am truly an advocate for changing how we look at the school week and the school year; having the tools mentioned in this article just allows for implementation of the changes more efficiently.

Hybrid School Week: Is there an advantage to mirroring a college weekly schedule? A resounding “YES”. Students leave the comfort of their homes and the familiarity they have with high school classes and curriculum to participate in an alien and at times overwhelming environment called college. If students are not prepared, armed with the study and coping skills necessary to succeed – I believe we are setting them up for failure. I encourage you to design your incubator in such a fashion as to gradually push students outside their comfort zone while they still have the support structure around them.

For example: establish class schedules that are Monday-Thursday, Tuesday- Friday with Wednesdays open for labs, fieldwork, and study halls. Assign work on Mondays that is due the following Thursday; Tuesday’s work to be submit- ted the next Friday. And, most importantly keep an updated syllabus for every class online and do NOT accept late work unless due to an excused absence. For labs, prepare a lab exercise manual listing all the labs to be completed that semester requiring completion and preparation of lab reports in the appropriate, documented format. Prepare your lab stations prior to the start of the semester, allow students to organize their time and efforts to complete all labs by the established deadline. Hold the students accountable for the submission of their work on time. You are in the classroom to facilitate their success, not to spoon-feed them knowledge.

Hybrid School Calendar: The advantage to using an online curriculum is the ability to prepare a syllabus that implements year-round school scheduling. An instructor can use the summer months to reinforce student weaknesses: reading and writing techniques, study skills, and the preparation research papers. Instructors may also schedule refresher courses to keep students on top of their games prior to returning in the Fall, especially math skills. I am also an advocate for utilizing discussion boards and cloud technology for students to submit commentaries on books in the reading lists I assign for the summer. This keeps students from writing the dreaded book reports that they procrastinate writing and I wish to avoid grading. The discussion boards’ generate conversations that I can monitor and contribute to in real-time.

Conclusion

This article addresses just the tip of the iceberg when considering the establishment of an “incubator” for a hybrid education program in your district or within a single school. Without a tremendous initial capital outlay and using existing teaching resources, an “incubator” could be established within an existing high school to determine the viability of such a program with your student demographic. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of faculty selection; the teachers must be facilitators of knowledge not merely instructors. Having access to online curriculum does not minimize the role of the teacher in the classroom, it enhances it. And, finally, always remember “transparency” is critical in the success of your program incubator. Your administration, parents, students, and teachers must have input. And by soliciting input you can, in the best of all world, ensure that you have buy-in from all groups. Establishing ownership at all levels of the program contributes to the success.

References

[1] “Beichner, R., Saul, J., Abbott, D., Morse, J., Deardorff, D., Al- lain, R., Bonham, S., Dancy, M., and Risley, J. (2006). Student- Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Pro- grams (SCALE-UP) project. In E. F. Redish and P. J. Cooney (Eds.), PER-Based Reform in University Physics. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers

[2] “R. Beichner, and J. Saul, Introduction to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) Project. In Invention and Impact: Building Excellence in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, proceedings of a conference by the Am. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, April 2004, Washington DC, 2005.

[3] “Development and Validation of Instruments to Measure Learning of Expert-Like Thinking.” W. K. Adams & C. E. Wieman, 2010. International Journal of Science Education, 1-24. iFirst, doi:10.1080/09500693.2010.512369

Kelly Cleavinger, Eruditio-Demutare.com

April 25, 2014

Role and Responsibility of an IT Project Manager

Working on and leading a project would seem to have a lot in common, so selecting competent contributors to lead and assign work packages seems fairly logical. A milestone is a date when you expect a specific part of a project to be done. A good project manager will have the skills required to make the most of a limited budget and also to minimise risks within such a role. All must be managed together if to be a success. There are many ways in which a deliverable can be carried out and the way in which it is executed.

Upon approval of scope changes by the Change Control Board and Project Sponsor the manager will update all documents and communicate the scope change to all stakeholders. The manager executing the project will be involved in the entire lifecycle, from beginning to end. Any delegation of approval authority to the project manager should be done in writing and be signed by both the sponsor and manager delivering the project. Within the overall organisation, there will probably be teams defined as functional, project, or matrix structures. The project manager will deliver change requests to the owners for his/her immediate attention, and produce/obtain baseline schedule after approval from the sponsor.

A project is considered to be temporary endeavour because the goal is to deliver a specific product or implement certain process(es). A project is a temporary organisation, established to fulfil a specific remit. Project management is more than knowing how to build a team. Emphasis lies on the core methodology, risk management process, and contract management process as well as other aspects of the lifecycle. A successful project process must address the various phases of the overall lifecycle. The final values have to be agreed upon in a negotiation between the project delivery manager and the customer.

Students interested in earning higher degrees in project management often have undergraduate degrees. Degrees in project management have become an option when choosing a degree, which many institutions offering a wide variety of project management degrees requiring full-time attendance or part-time correspondence courses, making project management a career choice for many people with a through grounding in management and project methodologies and strategies such as IT project manager using PRINCE2 that sets out to separate various aspects of projects from planning, authorisation and execution to closing down a project.

Benefits derived from successful projects are not always straight forward as some projects endeavour to save money and others to simply processes. The term is highly relevant in a Project Management environment since most projects do not make any revenue and spend their initial capital in their execution phase.

Due to some major problems, some projects are abandoned during execution stage. When evaluating options, the whole-life value should be considered and not limited to the short term initial investment. Sometimes it’s best to spend a little and save a lot if the project is discovered not to be feasible proposition for the organisation early on. Projects within large organisations are almost always started in response to solve problems or fulfil a newly identified need.

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee comprises of some of the most distinguished politicians in Russia. The committee will take the responsibility of managing all events related to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, including execution of financial plans for the Sochi 2014 budget. The committee will not only monitor and manage the course of the Olympic objects’ development, but resolve all issues around the environment, public relations and political image. The committee is spearheaded by three members:

  • Alexander Zhukov is a former deputy prime minister of Russia who was recently elected as President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in May 2010. Before entering politics, Zhukov successfully finished his Economics and Mathematics degree at the Moscow State University. He also finished his master’s degree from the Harvard Business School in 1991. Zhukov served as vice president of the AVTOTRAKTOR Industry and became a board director for East-West Bank in 1992. He formally began his political career in 1994 when he was appointed by former acting Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to serve as deputy head for the State Duma Financial Committee. A decade later, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov appointed Zhukov as the first Russian deputy prime minister under his rule. Prior to his appointment as head of the ROC, Zhukov has played an active role during the initial preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games last year. He will take over Leonid Tyagachev’s seat after his voluntary resignation as 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee head.
  • Dmitry Kozak is the current deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation. He is famously known to his countrymen as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kozak served as chairman of the Putin’s campaign team when the latter ran for presidency during the 2004 Russian Presidential Elections. He also became an active member of the media committee administered by the Russian government until 2008. Born in the remote village of Bondurovo located in the Kirovohrad region, Kozak served as the head of the legal department of the Monolit-Kirovstroy Company and chief legal consultant for the Russian Association of Trade Ports in 1989.
  • Alexei Kudrin is the country’s deputy prime minister for finance. He entered the world of politics in 1996 under the presidential rule of Boris Yeltsin. With more than ten years of service, Kudrin’s highly-reputed status in approving budget reforms and intensifying the country’s “free market” rule earned him the “2010 Finance Minister of the Year” award from Euromoney magazine and World Trade Organization. Born in October 12, 1960, Kudrin graduated in Finance and Economics.

Debtors Can’t Be Hoarders

To some people, great art is more important than anything, including food and shelter.

For most of us, though, no matter how moving we find a piece of artwork, the choice between parting with it and meeting our basic needs would really be no choice at all.

The conflict between preserving culture and survival has recently played out on a national scale. Portugal, a country that remains desperately short of cash, partnered with Christie’s to prepare 85 pieces of art by Spanish surrealist Joan Miro for auction this month. However, in part due to the efforts of Portugal’s Socialist Party to challenge the sale, Christie’s withdrew the art just hours before the planned London auction. Even though the High Court in Lisbon dismissed the challenge, the auction house still cited concerns about legal complications that could affect future ownership rights.

The incident has been an embarrassment for Portugal and also leaves the government in a bind. Jorge Barreto Xavier, Portugal’s secretary of state for culture, said the government would have to consider next steps. “If we want to hold onto these works, we will have to find money for them somewhere,” he said, possibly in the form of additional cuts to the already slim budgets for education or health. (1)

The Banco Portugues de Negocios, the bank that formerly owned the artwork, was nationalized in 2008. The bank purchased the Miro collection from a Japanese investor in 2006; the collection was never displayed in Portugal. Though The Wall Street Journal reported that it is not yet certain whether the works will be auctioned by Christie’s in May or if they are destined for another fate, Portuguese opponents of the sale have lauded Christie’s decision as a cultural triumph anyway.

Pedro Lapa, the art director of Lisbon’s Berardo Museum, said “The Portuguese people should have the right to keep and enjoy what is now theirs.” (2)

His sentiment is understandable but deeply misguided. Portugal still relies on other members of the European Union, and other international sources, for support. But somehow it has become vital that this collection of artwork remain in the hands of the government, which never set out to acquire it in the first place.

If it is truly of great importance to the people of Portugal to retain this art, and if they would rather pay higher taxes, forego even more services or sell some other government property instead in order to keep it, that decision is their business. I don’t object. But it seems crazy to imagine that most of the people who have suffered through five years of crushing austerity will say their government’s top priority should be to collect artwork on their behalf.

The channel of art from private collection to collapsing bank to government to auction, in all its variations, is nothing new. The Bank of Ireland was among several Irish banks to sell their art collections during the height of that country’s recent austerity. Seized artwork from a collapsed South Korean bank went to auction in 2012. But the gap between critics’ reaction and financial reality is most closed mirrored by a situation here in the United States.

As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Detroit hired Christie’s to appraise the value of the portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection owned by the city. The auction house valued the 1,741 works of art in question between $421.5 million and $805 million. Some of the city’s creditors claimed this was a low-ball estimate. Either way, it is dwarfed by Detroit’s $18 billion debt.

Detroit is literally broke, making its situation even more outrageous than that of Portugal. The city barely functions. A lot of people to whom Detroit owes money are not going to get paid in full, or anywhere close. It is the duty of the bankruptcy court to get creditors paid as much as reasonably possible while allowing the debtor to clear the slate and go on with life.

Art lovers who have visions of Detroit someday becoming a world-class city again are loath to part with the city’s collection. But when the streetlights don’t work, ambulances don’t come and pensioners don’t get paid, it is at best a case of grossly warped priorities to insist on holding the art.

If some wealthy philanthropist – or a group of them – wanted to buy the art at fair market value and arrange to lend it to the DIA indefinitely, or establish or endow an independent museum in Detroit to house the art, that would be a great answer. There would be nothing more to talk about.

For now, a group of private foundations has stepped forward to try to preserve the art. Instead of purchasing it from the city, however, the group would pledge its funds toward Detroit’s pension obligations directly in exchange for the city leaving the art alone. So far, the foundations have pledged $370 million – not enough to meet even low end of Christie’s estimate. Officials at the museum have pledged to raise an additional $100 million, and Gov. Rick Snyder has asked the state Legislature to provide $350 million to reduce possible pension cuts and, at the same time, leave the museum’s art collection whole.

Art is important, but it is hard to argue that it is more important than reducing Detroit’s 58-minute average 911 response time or meeting its pension obligations, believed to be underfunded by up to $3.5 billion. Any outcome that leaves Detroit’s artwork in the hands of a city that can’t afford to maintain it, much less do without its value, or that underpays the city for what the art is worth and thus underpays the city’s citizens and creditors, would be almost grotesquely unjust.

Being broke has consequences. One is that you have to liquidate some assets and carefully set your priorities. Debtors can’t afford to be hoarders.

Sources:

1) The Washington Post, “Legal concerns foil Portugal’s art sale ambitions”

2) The Wall Street Journal, “Christie’s Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar”

What’s Forecast for 2014? 5 Predictions for the New Year

What’s Forecast for 2014? 5 Predictions for the New Year

1. The Gamification of Education – connecting like-minds to consolidate learning.

It’s a well known fact that gaming captures a teenager’s attention for hours whilst the traditional, listen-and-learn, lecture-theatre environment is failing to capture imagination with quite as much vigour as once did. 2014 will be the year when inspired educators seek to have fun with existing technology by way of making their material more captivating in its consumption. This will further open up the accessibility to advanced learning material. It will give Further Education Establishments a competitive challenge that will see them specialize with strong unique selling points or struggle to stay alive as information created by learners for learners, in practical, digestible terms – finds fun ways to reach its audience.

2. The Internet of Money – leaving behind the legacy of the recession – will it bite again?

#Bitcoin is gaining attention as financiers and entrepreneurs ask whether or not this currency is worth investing in. When I spoke with Andreas M. Antonopoulos, a leading #Bitcoin pioneer, his answer was clear. “Bitcoin is more than money for the internet, it’s the internet of money”. When you think about what the internet has done in terms of decentralizing communication, levelling the audience reach of a growing talent pool and increasing the accessibility of advanced learning materials as inclusively accessible – suddenly you can see how a currency with such a strategy as its raison d’être could implode the money markets as we currently know them to be.

The recession left us very slow at making decisions – whether we’re able to push past the cold-climate mindset the financial dip collectively caused remains a challenge for 2014. Analysts predict a potential market collapse as interest rates rise in May/June and we’re far from completely out of the dark days. The future is open to innovators and entrepreneurs willing and able to embrace the open doors such dramatic shifts in the sands of society – create.

3. Pinpoint Marketing and SOCIAL Engine Optimization – building on mobile, location, sensory and diverse data technologies to accurately target you at your most receptive.

Adverts dotting the sides of our screens and positioned as banners on pages are no surprise to us – quickly we’ve learnt to largely ignore them. Adverts disguised as cleverly positioned posts from our friends – entertaining, enlightening, captivating in their ingenious designs… infiltrating our social networks, pinpointing our needs with alarming accuracy and stimulating us into sharing them with our friends… 2014 will see the rise of directly targeted marketing. Created for social sharing, such advertising will blend with peer posts and leverage the trust you have in your network by way of enticing you into to a sale.
It’s scary. If you’re selling something you need to know how the power of such promotion works if you intend to retain your market share. Your search field will narrow as analytics get “better” at giving you what they think you want. Search Engine Optimization matters but SOCIAL Engine Optimization will matter more in 2014.

4. “Mean Green” (selfish shockers we thought we’d all out grown) – giving rise to an environmental agenda of growing economic interest as viable business models emerge.

A friend of mine’s 19 year old daughter asked for a real fur scarf for Christmas. I’ve been a vegetarian for 27 years – and an active feminist all my live – what I mean is I live to expect equality between men and women and give nature my full respect. We have had all of these debates endlessly; the environment, equality, poverty etc. – “Green” – as this colour has come to mean. I predict 2014 will sadly shed light on selfish acts we thought we’d outgrown with regards to disrespecting minority groups and disadvantaged individuals as well abusing nature and the environment. Such behaviour, seemingly unacceptable a few years ago will go relatively unreported and openly tolerated throughout the year.

This bad behaviour will be counteracted by Green communities, further incentivised by a noticeable decline in support for their cause. Suddenly the Green movement will gain momentum and accelerate in the right direction as re-innovated technologies become cost effective and viable business models emerge – particularly in respect of the supply of Green Energy.

5. Cross-cultural collaboration like we’ve never seen – driven by Millennial minds; people around the world, connected by a common cause, sharing and transferring know-how on a large scale.

The bottom-up revolution in the restructuring of society will gain momentum as the millennial generation empower ways of collaborating, creating together, sharing and transferring knowledge and skills in ways the baby boomers could never imagine. 2013 showed us how huge groups of people can quickly be pulled together through the power of social media – and how first hand facts, recorded and shared from the scene will spread faster than the information reported by mainstream media. Quite where this collective force will carry us throughout the year – remains to be seen.

There is a lot of positive energy surrounding 2014 and I am very excited about the prospects the year ahead has in store. Furthermore, I get the feeling that I’m not the only one caught up in such emotion.

We’re realizing more and more how much our state or mind, our mental well-being – how we feel, emotionally and intelligently – makes a massive difference to the quality of our health and wealth.

As you move into 2014 – my approach is to embrace the year whole-heartedly. Be aware of targeted advertising and the narrowing of your search field that will ensure. Work openly to broaden your interests.

Follow what excites you – make a point of meeting more like-minds, and be open to unexpected opportunities. It is with certainty AND surprise that TOGETHER we will thrive!

Have a great year!

To be included in the 7 part email series celebrating the start of 2014 – PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Can a Property Buyer Really Help You Financially?

The property market can always be a difficult area to follow. With the predicted increase of UK house prices by 7 per cent over 2014, many buyers are looking to invest. But what does this mean for home owners and sellers? As a home owner this means now is the best time to sell.

With more people desperate to buy, home owners and sellers can look to sell their properties for as much as 95% of asking price whereas on average sellers tend to sell for as little as 80% of asking price. This benefits any home owner you can gain more for your property than before. Home owners can also expect to achieve a quick house sale.

Although property prices have been increasing steadily over the recent months; studies show that the rate of property transactions have not increased at all. This means that despite the recent surge in property prices, the amount of sales has not increased which could prove worrying over the coming years. The fact is, mortgages are harder to gain and the government scheme ‘Help to buy’ has yet to be seen.

“House prices and the number of transactions remain well off their pre-crisis peak: we are not seeing an all-consuming bubble with prices running out of control and buyers snapping up anything at any price.” Said Nicholas Ayre, managing director of Home Fusion.

Many property experts are predicting a house price bubble. This means even if the prices are increasing now, there is a chance that property values will eventually decline and crash.

So how can a property buyer help you? A property buyer can help you in many ways, the first being landing you a large sum of money. With mortgage interest rates increasing, a property buyer can help to take away any mortgage payments you may currently have and save you from any debts. If you are looking to sell your house fast, there is no better time than now. Selling now will help you to avoid a housing bubble and help you gain maximum value for your property. With some buyers offering cash for property, there is no reason to wait. Selling now ensures a safer route out of any debts and mortgage payments giving you a comfortable future.

To summarise, rising house prices aren’t always a good thing. With recent problems in the British economy, many people are struggling; with wages at a standstill. Many people are stuck with low equity and are unable to progress. Increase in property prices in the short term may help, but with the fears of a possible house price bubble, it is advisable to not to take any risks. If a thought on your mind is “buy our house”, then look into a property buyer.

Jobs in the Film Industry

If you are looking for a career in the film industry, you are looking at a pretty competitive business. The good news is that many people are getting jobs in this area, even when the economy is suffering from a slump, because entertainment is the one thing people still spend money on during tough times. Here are a few statistics pertaining to careers in film.

In recent years, theater admissions did decline, but it seems that the year 2006 ended a three year downward trend because admissions increased three.3 percent over 2005. Revenues from ticket sales increased by 5.Close to 5 percent, making 2006 a $9.49 billion year. Movies released in 2006 were up 607, marking an 11 percent increase over the number of releases in 2005.

If you want to learn how to be a director or a producer the latest published data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the film industry provided 157,000 jobs for actors, directors and producers in 2004. This number is expected to grow between 9-17 percent by the year 2014.

In 2002, there were about 360,000 jobs in the motion picture and video industries, but most of these workers were involved in the production end of film making. There are many companies in the industry employ 10 workers or less. The good news is that a 31.1 percent increase in jobs is expected industry-wide between the years 2002 and 2012. This growth is about twice the 16 percent growth expected across all industries combined over the same timeframe.

How much money can you can make by getting a job in the film industry? It seems that median annual earnings for salaried producers and directors, were about $46,240 in 2002. And if you were really good, and lucky, the top ten percent earned over $119,760.

Those who are really serious about a career in the film business should take a look at programs with film mentor teachers from inside the industry, which takes you out of the classroom of some film schools in colleges and onto real movie sets. This is how and where you’ll learn by doing while you apprentice, one-on-one with a mentor, or by working with a professional – a producer, actor, or a director – in the area of film that you want to study. There are plenty of Los Angeles film schools, and even New York film schools, and many in between in just about any major city in the U.S., but the reality is that in order to really “break into the film business” you will benefit by studying with a working professional.

The reality is that no matter what the economy has in store, or what the job market statistics come in at — if you really want to work in the entertainment or film industry, the best way to do it is to learn your skills from a mentor in the entertainment industry who will help you get a job once you graduate.

The Future of US Accounting – Similarities and Differences Between GAAP and IFRS

The United Sates will begin the switch from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles(GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards(IFRS) in 2014. This transition will bring significant changes in the way accountants treat, record, report, and interpret financial and other relevant industry information within U.S. and foreign companies. It is therefore important, before we begin to learn accounting in practice according to IFRS, that we inform ourselves about the key similarities and differences between GAAP and IFRS. Thorough research of web articles concludes that both systems of accounting have numerous similarities but have significantly more differences. Once completed, convergence will break down the accounting standards translation barriers that domestic and foreign firms currently have among their accounting processes and lead to harmonization in the accounting world.

Today, the majority of United States’ businesses are involved in overseas markets and most foreign companies are already using IFRS. The Securities Exchange commission has recognized this and released a statement in support, in February of 2010, of the need for a universal, unified set of accounting standards to be followed, and that IFRS is the best suited set of standards to take on that role. The SEC also developed a road map to achieve this task of convergence and plans to make a final decision in 2011 regarding the definite incorporation of IFRS into the United States. The recent economic recession that affected the majority of the world is one such reason a global set of accounting standards is in need. Many worldwide capital markets were affected by the recession and this only strengthens the argument of the need for a unified set of accounting standards. The convergence of IFRS and GAAP will unify all companies in a common financial reporting language and will iron out any differences domestic and foreign firms encountered in the past. Before this convergence begins, it is important to have a discussion of a few of the major similarities and differences between IFRS and GAAP regarding the Financial Statements, Inventories, and Revenue Recognition so that we may begin to understand how greatly this convergence effort will affect us as U.S. GAAP users.

Before any interested party can begin to examine the internal workings of a company they usually begin in the same place, the financial statements. Financial statements are useful for a multitude of reasons to investors, creditors, directors, internal and external managers etc. and comparability of foreign and domestic financial statements is essential to the modern business. Fortunately, IFRS and GAAP already consider the same financial statements to be the accepted standard for reporting. Under both systems, the preferred statements are: the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Other Comprehensive Income Statement which is called the Statement of Recognized Income and Expense under the IFRS system, the Statement of Cash Flows, and the Notes to the Financial Statements. Both frameworks require the accrual method of accounting be used with the exception for the Statement of Cash Flows. Both frameworks however, have their significant differences. GAAP allow comparative statements be issued or even a single year in some cases. The balance sheet must be presented with the two most recent years as a comparison and all other statements must cover a three-year period based upon the balance sheet date. Under IFRS, all reports must be released comparatively with the previous period. A standard layout of the balance sheet and the income statement is not necessary under GAAP however, public companies must follow specific rules. Under IFRS, there is no standard layout, just a list of minimum items that must be disclosed. Balance sheets under GAAP must present debt to be paid in more than one year as a long-term liability while IFRS requires all debt to be classified as current unless the agreement to pay the debt was made prior to the balance sheet date. Under GAAP, expenses are classified according to function. IFRS allows expenses to be classified according to function or nature of such expense. Extraordinary items must be unusual and infrequent in occurrence to be included in GAAP income statements whereas extraordinary items are prohibited under IFRS. This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of the differences between the financial statements under both of the frameworks. It is clear to see though, how even the slightest differences between a set of two financial statements, one IFRS and one GAAP, could lead a user of such statements into a troubling situation.

Most businesses in the U.S. and worldwide all have one aspect in common, inventories. Luckily, the basis for valuing inventory under IFRS and GAAP is cost. They both define inventory as assets held for sale in the ordinary course of business, in the process of production for such sale, or to be consumed in the production of goods or services. The cost of inventory is also supported by the money that was spent readying inventory for sale, such as freight-in. Likewise, the two standards have their differences when it comes to reporting inventories. Under GAAP, any cost method can be used for inventories whereas IFRS prohibits LIFO and requires the same costing method be applied to all inventory similar in nature. GAAP requires inventory be measured at the lower of cost or market value. IFRS states that inventory must be measured at the lower of cost or net realizable value. There are several more issues to deal with regarding inventories, in particular mark-down reversals of inventory under each system are different. There are currently no ongoing convergence efforts regarding inventory by the FASB and IASB.

The most important asset to a business, many say, is cash. Without cash the business will be in trouble when it comes time to pay off debts, make any capital expenditures, or simply get lines of credit. One of the ways of getting cash is from revenue into the business. Revenue is defined as the gross inflow of economic benefits during the period arising in the course of the ordinary activities of the entity when those inflows result in increases in equity except increases in equity from distributions from owners.

Under both sets of standards, revenue is not recognized until it is earned or realized(or realizable). When discussing the sale of goods, GAAP requires that there is a legal transfer of ownership and the goods have been delivered at a set price and the seller can reasonable expect payment. Under IFRS, revenue can only be recorded when the risks and rewards of ownership are transferred and the buyer has control of the goods. When recording service revenue, GAAP does not allow any up front revenue recognition if the services are to be performed over a period of time. Such revenue must be amortized. IFRS does allow the option to record the revenue all at once even if the services will be performed over a period of time. In regards as to when to recognize revenue for contingencies, U.S. GAAP requires companies to wait until the contingency is resolved before they record any revenue. IFRS does allow for contingent revenue to be recorded as long as certain mandatory requirements are met. This presents a problem because a company using IFRS could potentially record revenue earlier than it actually received the inflow of assets, misleading users of financial statements.

As one can see just by viewing the similarities and differences among these three categories, the task of convergence is going to be quite challenging. The two sets of standards both have their logic in some areas yet have their downfalls in others. Convergence will benefit the United States in the sense that our financial statements will be much more easily compared to foreign companies’. Though it may take some time and money to be completely unified in our financial reporting, the benefit to global accounting harmonization far outweighs the cost.

Content Marketing Ideas: 14 Simple Ways To Get Awesome Ideas For Your Content Marketing

Content marketing is continuing to play an increasingly important part in marketing your business effectively.

There’s only one small problem. You need to have a steady and consistent supply of content for it to work… and how can you come up with enough content marketing ideas to keep that flow going?

What content can you continue to create that will attract the right traffic for your business, and bring new leads and customers through your door?

That’s where this article comes in, and it’s actually far simpler than you might believe.

Here are fourteen awesome ways to keep ideas flowing into your content marketing funnel, and allow you to build an increasing level of online visibility and traffic for your business in the months and years ahead.

1. Keyword research

Did you know sites like eHow.com have built much of their success on keyword research? Their content is largely created on what their research tells them people are looking for online. You can simply employ the same strategy.

2. Quora

Quora has a huge amount of potential for idea generation. It contains queries on a ton of different topics – simply find your niche, and look through the queries to discover what people are trying to find out about.

3. Customer Questions

Your own customer support is an invaluable source of ideas, because you hear straight from the horse’s mouth what information your customers and prospects are looking for.

4. Blog Comments

Similar to the above, comments on your blog enable you to listen directly to your marketplace, and you can then create content to respond to those needs.

5. Other Blogs In Your Niche

By reading other blogs within your niche, you can get some great ideas for your own posts, and gain further inspiration from the comments they receive. For example, you might be able to flesh out a topic they briefly touched on in their post, or approach it from a new angle.

6. Twitter

Search Twitter and discover what’s happening in your own niche. As well as comments you’ll see links to a lot of other content that could help inspire your own.

7. Hot Topics

What are the main topics of conversation in your industry right now, from your customer’s point of view? What are their primary concerns, right now?

8. How-To Tutorials

How-to type content remains very popular, and providing such content is a great way in which you can immediately gain authority and trust with someone. You’ll also find people get referred to your tutorial from others who have benefited from your advice.

9. Items in the News

What’s in the news right now that affects customers in your niche? Alternatively, how could you adapt and apply key news stories to your business? Tapping into the conversation already in your customer’s mind can be a powerful way to capture their attention and reach audiences who haven’t come across you before.

10. Previous Content

Content you have created before can easily form the basis of new content. For example, you can approach it from a different angle, or use a different media. A blog post written previously can form the basis of a video on YouTube. Topics briefly touched on before can be expanded into completely new content items.

11. List-From Content

This article is a list-form article – content formed on the basis of creating a list about something. What lists could you create of relevance for your own potential customers?

12. Stay Alert!

Train your brain to take advantage of new ideas as they arise. Opportunities for new content are all around you! Start carrying a notebook and pen around with you, or use your smartphone. Jot down new ideas whenever they arise… your brain will get used to it, and supply you with increasing numbers of ideas to pick from.

13. Interview Someone

Who is well known and familiar to your customers, and who has relevance to your business (or how can you make what they do relevant)? You’ll be surprised at how willing most people are to be interviewed. Just make a list of questions, and record the conversation… use Skype or a Google Hangout.

14. Interview Yourself!

Either ask someone to interview you, or interview yourself. This gives a great opportunity to display your expertise, gain credibility with your audience, and reach new audiences you wouldn’t otherwise reach. For example, someone interviewing you could make the interview available to their own list.

So there you have it… 14 simple ways to get an everlasting supply of awesome ideas for your content marketing.