Community Banks Offer Several Advantages

Quick credit decisions and local ownership combined with personal service and reinvestment in the community are among the top reasons to choose a community bank over a large, commercial financial institution.”When it comes to loans, decision makers are on-site, accessible and ready to help customers through the lending process quickly and efficiently,” says one bank representative. “They’re committed to knowing their customers’ personal situations and recommending products or services that are tailored to those specific needs.”According to the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), there are nearly 7,000 community banks across the United States. Located in small rural towns, suburbia and large-city neighborhoods, they improve this country’s overall economy and communities by lending to local customers and funding nearly 60% of all small businesses under $1 million.Not only do consumers have a wide array of products and services to choose from when they utilize a smaller bank, but they also benefit from a number of other advantages. These include:Personal service: When consumers call their local community bank, they won’t be talking to someone halfway around the world. Instead, they’ll be talking to a banker who resides and works in the same community they do. Often, long-term relationships develop between these institutions and their customers. Smaller local banks often serve several generations of families. These long-standing relationships help to cultivate deep bonds of trust between community bankers and their customers.
Positive local economic impact: Community banks lend locally, where their customers live and work, and this helps keep local communities vibrant and growing. Additionally, they channel most of their loans to the neighborhoods where their depositors live. This is another important catalyst for keeping local communities healthy. “A community bank is a microcosm of the health of the community it’s doing business in,” says one local bank vice-president. “If the community bank is struggling, the community is also struggling.”
Tax revenue: Because community banks pay federal, state and local taxes, they are an important supporter of their community’s local infrastructure, according to the ICBA.
Relationships and expertise: Because community bankers live and work in the same localities as their customers, they understand their local marketplace and the ups and downs of economic cycles in their community. Bankers at smaller banks are also more likely to consider good character and family history when making decisions versus making judgments just by looking at numbers on a computer spreadsheet or credit report. At a smaller, local bank, loyalty is highly valued.
Cost savings: According to the ICBA, research has shown that average fees for checking accounts and other depository services are lower at community banks than large, multi-state institutions.
Community involvement: Community banks are often among the first businesses in a community to sponsor a softball team, donate time and money to local charities and causes or to meet other needs as they arise. Bankers at smaller banks are typically committed to helping their neighbors, in turn making their local communities a better place to live.The next time you’re planning to open a new savings or checking account or need a mortgage, car loan or home-equity loan, consider utilizing a smaller, local bank.

How to Invest For The Next Decade – Summary

Looking BackWhen considering how to best position an investment portfolio for the next decade, an investor can’t help but think back over the past 20+ years and wonder what possibly could happen next. The decade of the 1990′s was the last stretch of a “once in a lifetime” bull market, starting in the early 80′s and delivering over a tenfold increase in stock values. The 2000′s followed with the bursting of the Tech and Real Estate / Credit bubbles, leading to what has been dubbed the “lost decade” for equity investors in the United States; with all major stock indices posting negative returns for the 2000-2009 decade. As we sit here in 2010, where does this leave us? How should we be thinking about our investments going forward for the next 10 years?You never really know what the future will bring. The best you can do is craft a sound investment strategy aligned with your personal circumstances and providing a high probability of achieving a fair return on your money. We believe the four themes discussed below offer sound guidance for investing over the next decade.Anticipate a regression to the mean – don’t be overly influenced by recent, short-term trends”Regression to the mean” refers to the tendency of asset classes to generate returns below their historical average following periods of above average performance (and vice versa). Probably the most discussed asset potentially primed for a regression to the mean is the bond market. Bonds have enjoyed a very nice 20 year run, with Treasuries outperforming the S&P 500 stock index over the 20 year period 1990-2009. This is an unusual occurrence, happening only two other times in modern market history. Stocks have significantly outperformed Treasury bonds over the ensuing 5 years following both other occurrences.The other currently popular investment is gold. The annual return on gold between 1975 and mid-2007 (the start of the recent financial crisis) was about 5% annually. During the three years since the start of the crisis (July 2007 until September 2010), gold has doubled in value. This is an annualized return of approximately 24%. Going back to gold’s cyclical low around the turn of the century, gold is up nearly 400% in about 10 years.Maintain a focus on risk management – control your portfolio risk and potentially benefit from market volatilityAll speculative investments are risky. By maintaining a focus on managing your investment portfolio’s overall risk, you take a step toward achieving a satisfactory return for the level of risk. We believe two risk management techniques are fundamental; ideally allowing you to gain from the market’s volatility. Invest in a collection of low correlation asset classes Regularly rebalance portfolio to maintain target asset allocation Ground your investment strategy with core principles and a long-term, historical perspectiveWhen plotting an investing approach for the next decade, an investor should consider not only aligning their portfolio with market opportunities, but also remaining true to foundational investing principles. We believe the following concepts apply to any sound investing strategy almost regardless of the market environment.1.) Diversify investments broadly, with emphasis on equities Emphasize stocks over bonds Tilt toward value and small-cap stocks Invest internationally 2.) Use low-cost, passive investment fundsMitigate volatility by investing in alternative asset classes not historically available to most investors Investors today can access asset classes historically only available to institutions and high net worth individuals (as expensive unregistered private investments) due to recent innovations by mutual fund and ETF issuers. In the past, investing consisted of buying domestic stocks and bonds. As times changed, and investing became more sophisticated, the number of available asset classes grew. Stocks and bonds fragment into numerous niche asset classes (large, small, value, growth, etc.) and new asset classes became standard in investors’ portfolios – international equity and real estate to name a few.Now in the past few years, we have seen a large number of funds introduced that provide exposure to commodities and investing strategies which previously were the exclusive domain of private hedge funds.An attractive feature of these funds is their low correlation with traditional stock and bond investments. By incorporating these funds into a portfolio, investors hopefully benefit from lowering overall portfolio volatility and increasing the probability of meeting investment objectives.ConclusionThe next decade promises many rewarding investment opportunities for those with portfolios positioned to capitalize. We believe the four themes discussed provide sound guidance for investing over the next decade: Anticipate a regression to the mean – whether it is the recent superior performance of bonds and gold, or the recent poor performance of stocks in developed international markets, be mindful of the potential for returns to reverse course and converge on historical averages. Maintain a focus on risk management – consider constructing a portfolio of asset classes with exposure to different fundamentals, and rebalance your portfolio to maintain a consistent risk profile. Ground your investment strategy – think about a portfolio with diversification across asset classes and with an emphasis on Value and small-cap equities, implemented using low-fee, passively managed index funds. Explore new sources of diversification using funds offering exposure to real assets and alternative strategies. Just remember, reality has a way of disrupting the best laid plans and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any speculative investment is risky and can lose money. By adhering to sound investment principles, you tilt the odds in your favor and hopefully earn a fair return on your capital.This article is a synopsis of a white paper. Click here for full report.

Global Economic Collapse – A Worldwide Domino Effect

Economists fear that there is a Global economic collapse brewing as there has been a lot of factors that could work together to produce a global domino effect. Suppose a foreign nation, or a number of large corporations, defaults. One or two major banks could go bankrupt. This, in turn, could frighten depositors in other banks, who might start a frenzy of bank withdrawals. Since banks keep only a moderate amount of cash on hand, there could be a massive liquidity crisis. Bankers would be desperate for cash. This chain reaction could expand into a global economic collapse!Bankers nevertheless say that Global economic collapse is highly unlikely. A former chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank claimed in a recent interview that the banking system “is very sound.” True, “banks do a lot of business with one another, so there is tremendous interdependence.” But he felt it “most unlikely” that such a Global economic collapse would pull down the world banking system. Since the success of the banking system rests on public confidence, however, it is understandable that banking leaders speak so optimistically.’But surely a nation would not allow its major banks to fail,’ you might say. But that is exactly what the central Bank of Italy did! In 1982, the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano received much publicity because of its close connection with the Vatican. When the scandal-ridden bank failed, the Bank of Italy, to the surprise and consternation of European bankers, withdrew its support. Bankers fear this may have set a dangerous precedent to future Global economic collapse situation down the track.Though many claims that this state is unlikely to happen, one must always be prepared for worst.

Mental Health Continuing Education Sources

When you find that you need to start pursuing mental health continuing education, finding the right courses, seminars, or programs to earn the necessary credits can become challenging. Often you learn of seminars or courses covering the topics you need further training in after they have already filled. If you wish to stay current on the courses and seminars in your area, here are some sources you need to get to know well.Professional OrganizationsAre you a member of the appropriate professional organization for your career? For instance, have you joined the American Psychotherapy Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, or the American Psychiatric Association? Organizations such as these, and others more specifically tailored to the various branches in the field, all send out publications and magazines that, among other things, announce upcoming training opportunities.The more professional organizations you join, the more likely it will be that you will know when the training you want to access comes your way. Be sure to find the organizations at your state level as well, as these will be more likely to have information about credit-earning opportunities close to your home and clinic.Professional MagazinesSometimes announcements about mental health continuing education are made in professional periodicals in the field. If a popular speaker is coming to your general area, you may read about it in your favorite professional magazine. Subscribe to several of these, and take the time to read or at least skim through them to ensure that you do not miss one of theses important announcements.Professional ColleaguesWhile other mental health professionals in your area may seem like your competition, you are all on the same page, looking to make your patients as healthy as possible. Make connections with other professionals in your area, and draw on them as a source to learn about upcoming seminars and classes within a comfortable driving distance.Online SourcesWhen all else fails and you need to know about your options for mental health continuing education, turn to the Internet. A simple web search could yield a vast wealth of information about upcoming training events. You can also participate in forums that discuss your options for training. If there is a seminar you could attend, they likely have a website you will find by spending some time online.Your Alma MaterDo you live near the university or medical school where you were trained? Contact them to learn about training opportunities. You may be able to take a course or two through the school, or you may learn of speakers they are lining up for weekend conferences. Either way, you will benefit from first-hand knowledge of the opportunities at your disposal.When you do find an option for mental health continuing education through one of these venues, sign up quickly. You will find that the hottest speakers and best topics fill up quickly. The sooner you sign up, the more likely it will be that you will find room in the class for you.