As a consumer, you’ve probably visited a franchise at least once in the last month. But have you ever thought about owning one? If you’re the entrepreneurial type and looking for a career change or another income stream, it might be worth considering. This kind of business venture allows you to be your own boss and offers more structure than a startup. There are pros and cons to owning a franchise, of course, and some questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge.

Which brand is right for me?
While all franchises follow a similar high-level model, no two businesses are alike. It’s critical to select one that seems truly invested in their franchisees’ success. Ranked lists of the best and worst franchises can shed light on what to look for (e.g., creative marketing) and what to avoid (e.g., high fees).

How can I acquire information?
Once you’ve identified a potential franchise, you’ll want to deepen your understanding of the day-to-day operations and learn all of the ins and outs. Attend a Discovery Day, a soft sales event where you can interact face-to-face with franchisors, ask questions and get a better sense of the brand. And they’ll want to get to know you, as well, before moving forward.

Who can assist me?
Of course, investing in a franchise is a big commitment and life event. When it comes to financial decisions of this scale, it’s wise to consult a business law attorney to review your franchise agreement before you sign. And you’ll want to look at the money side of things with an expert to help you frame your expectations and evaluate how this new business will impact other areas of your financial plan. Think a franchise might be for you? Get in touch.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

No matter how much fun your summer is shaping up to be, it’s no time to put your finances on pause. Take a look at the past six months to gauge how you can adjust your strategic or tactical actions to ensure you’re making steady progress toward your financial goals.

Check In With Your Cash Flow
Is your spending under control, leaving you with a chunk of untouched income each and every month? If not, take a deep dive into your budget to see what your dollars are doing, and tighten that proverbial belt. And make sure your emergency fund is full so you’re not tempted to reach for short-term, high-interest debt when an unexpected need arises.

Look at Long-Term Goal Progress
If your cash flow and emergency fund are in good shape, point that unspent monthly chunk toward larger goals like retirement, kids’ college funds or other investment vehicles. Research has shown that time in the market may be more effective than trying to time the market. Now is an optimal opportunity to diligently and consistently fund investment accounts linked to your long-term goals.

Make Adjustments Based on Life Changes
Have there been any births, deaths, breakups, job promotions or other notable life changes since 2017 began? Milestone events can impact your financial plan and priorities in many ways.

You may need to tweak your insurance coverage, amend your estate planning documents or revisit the beneficiaries listed for your various accounts and policies. Let the appropriate professionals know; they will have the best guidance for each situation, but only if they’re aware of these changes in the first place.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Are you always looking for the latest gadget, or do you prefer to wait and see what stands the test of time? Either way, you’re likely connected to the internet of things whether you know it or not. What exactly does this trendy terminology mean? Here’s an overview to bring you up to speed.

Everyone’s Getting Into It
In a nutshell, the internet of things describes a technological ecosystem of devices — think cars, heart monitors and kitchen appliances — that send and receive data via the internet. This trend is spreading to diverse and surprising industries, including agriculture, retail and transportation, as hardware gets stronger and cheaper.

Less About the Device, More About the Data
Don’t expect to browse the web, stream your favorite TV show or use instant messaging services on these gadgets like you can on your smartphone or computer. Reminder alerts, seamless firmware updates and similar features will appeal to consumers, but the real draw is for manufacturers and other companies. They will benefit from the enormous amount of data that can provide analytics and insight into how people are using the devices, as well as personal data like health-related metrics.

Exciting Pros, Worrisome Cons
Security and privacy are the primary concerns surfacing with the internet of things and for good reason. The extensive data flowing from so many devices poses a logistical issue for IT infrastructure, not to mention the vulnerability to hackers and other cyberattacks.

Staying current with new tech can feel like a full-time hobby, but for those looking to constantly improve and optimize their lives, each year brings further advancements. Just remember to embrace the internet of things and other changes with your eyes wide open.

Looking for a vacation that offers a spiritual break or the opportunity for introspection? Embarking on a pilgrimage where you walk historic paths and visit sacred sites may be the perfect vacation alternative. Here are a few historically significant options, whether you’re looking to go near or far.

International Destinations
Taking the time to explore other cultures on foot can put you in the frame of mind to savor nuanced details. Here are a few pilgrimage options:

  • Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s southerly islands, is home to an ancient pilgrimage trail honoring Buddhist monk Kukai. The approximately 750-mile course, which can take as many as 60 days to complete, features 88 intricate temples.
  • The Camino de Santiago, also known as the “Way of St. James,” leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, where legend says the apostle is buried. The trail contains several branches, though the last 62 miles of the Camino Frances is the most popular.
  • Take in the English countryside on a roughly 53-mile walk (including detours) along the Great Stones Way, which includes a stop at the prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England.

Domestic Pilgrimages
You don’t have to look outside the U.S. to find a pilgrimage path. There are several across the country, including the following:

  • Navigate part of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, which begins in Nauvoo, Illinois, and leads to Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 70,000 Mormons traveled this 1,300-mile, five-state path in the mid-1800s to escape religious persecution.
  • If you’d like to make a journey by car, venture through the Texas Hill Country and stop by the area’s historic painted churches. These Czech- and German-inspired beauties built in the mid- to late 1800s feature intricate artisanal handiwork and bold colors.

Craving the kind of getaway that helps you hit the reset button in a deep, meaningful way? Find a pilgrimage that resonates with you.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

True wealth is more than what you earn; what you retain and maintain also matters. Proper insurance coverage helps by protecting your assets from risks that can subtract value or cause costly harm. But do you have ample coverage? High net worth individuals often don’t. Many experience an insurance gap and require attention that’s above and beyond the scope of traditional mainstream products.

Umbrella Coverage for Reduced Liability
Sometimes those with significant wealth can be attractive litigation targets, even after less severe situations like a simple fender bender. Consider adding another layer of protection with an umbrella policy. This additional coverage picks up where your existing insurance leaves off to give you extra security and peace of mind.

Extensive Coverage for Real Estate
Whether you monetize them as rental homes or enjoy them as vacation getaways, having multiple properties in your portfolio can pose unique complications when it comes to homeowners insurance. Review your situation with a fine-toothed comb to properly insure personal property, and keep in mind that high-dollar items, like jewelry and art, may require additional endorsements.

Individualized Attention to Insurance Needs
Sophisticated asset protection may require different types of coverage. If you’re working directly with an agent who’s beholden to a single insurance company, you may be missing out on better, more protective alternatives from other insurers. An independent personal insurance manager can pick and choose policies from multiple insurers to get you coverage that’s customized to your needs.

Just because you’re adept at acquiring assets doesn’t mean you’re as savvy when it comes to protecting them. Choosing the right policies to insure your property will help guard your net worth against unexpected drops in value due to accident, theft and more.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

When was the last time you took a few vacation days and left work behind? In a 2016 Indeed poll of approximately 2,000 adults, 20 percent didn’t take a summer vacation and 59 percent of those who did worked while on the break. A busy work life with little to no time to unwind puts you at high risk for burnout. A well-planned sabbatical could be just what you need to recharge.

Taking an Extended Break
Employees may have a couple of options when it comes to getting away for a while. A sabbatical is a period of employer-approved leave that may or may not be paid; it can be as short as a month or as long as a year. When it’s over, you usually return to your job and pick up where you left off.

If you want more time away or don’t want to continue with the same employer, a career break may better suit you. Many who choose this type of hiatus quit their job and use the extensive period away from employment to travel, volunteer or work abroad. When the career break is over, they search for another job, often with a renewed sense of commitment.

Does Your Employer Have a Sabbatical Policy?
Many companies see value in offering a sanctioned gap year to top talent, especially when it comes to high-value employees with a thirst for adventure. If you’re interested, check with your company’s human resources department or scan your employee benefits package to see if a sabbatical policy exists.

When You Return
Once you have your sabbatical behind you, know how to leverage your time away during interviews and other career-related conversations. What lessons did you learn? How did the break make you better? What skills did you improve or acquire during your time away? Let your answers reflect the unique benefits only you can provide.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results

A long-term savings strategy like planning for retirement relies on small steps taken over an extended period of time. Make sure you’re on track by avoiding these common mistakes.

Underfunding Retirement Accounts
Are you among the 71 percent of Americans who aren’t putting enough away for retirement? The most effective determining factors of a well-funded retirement are how early you start and how much you save. Aim to contribute the maximum amount allowable into your retirement accounts each year. If that’s a stretch, commit to increasing contributions to retirement accounts any time your income climbs, whether it’s from annual raises or salary boosts when you change jobs.

Ignoring Tax Ramifications
If you’re early in your wealth-building journey or you anticipate a lower-than-usual income this year, it may be worthwhile to take advantage of your lower tax rate and make Roth contributions in your retirement accounts. Just make sure your employer-sponsored retirement plan has a Roth option. If your income disqualifies you from making Roth IRA contributions, consider Roth conversions.

Concentrating Your Investments Too Narrowly
Many Americans who held most of their funds in a single company or sector of stocks learned this harsh lesson during the dot-com bubble. When the bubble burst between 1999 and 2001, so did a portion of those portfolios. And the same concern goes for tying up the bulk of your wealth in your principal residence. Not only is it time-consuming and costly to convert a home to cash, but you’ll also have the added stress of finding a new place to live. Diversification is key to avoiding this mistake.

Whether retirement is a few decades away or just around the corner, the goal is to make steady progress in the right direction as you prepare for life after work.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Vacations allow you to escape the routine of your everyday life. Making the most of your time away from home is up to you. If you’re interested in springing for once-in-a-lifetime hotel accommodations, here are a few unusual options.

Relax in Luxury
Looking to indulge beyond the traditional hotel and continental breakfast? A well-appointed retreat that makes you the focus can help you recharge your mind, body and spirit. One option: the art-centric Hotel Marques de Riscal in northern Spain, which was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and sits on an established vineyard of the same name.

Or you can add a little adventure to your luxury getaway. At Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambore, India, guests can sip champagne from the observation tower and spot royal Bengal tigers at a nearby watering hole, along with other indigenous wildlife.

Travel off the Beaten Path
If a real escape sounds like music to your ears, consider a remote destination where you can avoid real-world interruptions. How about a quiet island retreat off the east coast of Africa? The Manta Resort on Zanzibar’s Pemba Island offers privacy and romance and the option to stay in an underwater room surrounded by untouched coral reefs and their inhabitants.

If that’s not remote enough, consider White Desert’s Whichaway Camp in Antarctica. From November through January, travelers can experience the South Pole and all of its beauty in comfort and style.

Go With What Speaks to You
Finding a one-of-a-kind stay isn’t as hard as you may imagine; just give some thought to your personal interests. Car enthusiast? The 4.5-star, auto-themed V8 Hotel in Stuttgart, Germany, may speak to you. Nature lover? Sleep among the clouds in one of the treetop rooms in Sweden’s aptly named Treehotel. Your options for unconventional lodging across the globe are nearly limitless.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Like estate planning, long-term care insurance is a critical component of a financially secure future, but many people tend to put it off or actively avoid it. Planning ahead helps you avoid burdening your family and loved ones with the mental and financial costs of providing care. Read on for more about adding a long-term care policy to your overall wealth portfolio and what to consider along the way.

  • Chances are high you may benefit from this coverage. Thanks to modern medicine, we’re living longer than ever. But that also means we’re more susceptible to cognitive impairment as we age, and that often makes daily activities difficult enough to require assistance. Hiring help to perform activities of daily living can be costly, particularly if conditions persist indefinitely, since Medicare payments cease if your stay in a skilled nursing facility exceeds 100 days. From Day 101 on, you will be responsible for all costs.
  • Long-term care insurance policies aren’t getting better. The unfortunate reality is that this kind of coverage is an increasing loss leader for insurance companies. When long-term care is needed, it’s usually necessary until death, which means extended payout periods for insurance companies. Fewer companies offer long-term care contracts, and many of those that do have significantly increased premiums on existing policies. If you’re interested in long-term care coverage, consider shopping sooner rather than later.
  • Buy early, or put an alternative plan in place. Those in their 30s and 40s with a few decades to spare may look into alternate ways of paying for long-term care. Having more options to address future needs, like a health savings account or long-term care annuities, can provide security and flexibility as the insurance industry continues to evolve.

Before biting the bullet on long-term care coverage, weigh your options to come up with the strategy that best fits your lifestyle and needs.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Landing on the Fortune 500 is a pie-in-the-sky dream of many business owners. The most profitable U.S. companies that make up the latest list collectively employ 27.9 million individuals across the world and represent $840 billion in profits and $12 trillion in revenues. Who are these business dynamos and where are many of them based?

The Top 10
In June 2016, Fortune magazine took a look at 2015’s top moneymakers, most of which are household names. The No. 1 spot goes to the Arkansas-based big-box retailer Wal-Mart, followed by oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil, tech innovator Apple, insurance and investment outfit Berkshire Hathaway, and pharmaceutical distributor McKesson. Health care companies, auto manufacturers and a communications company round out the top 10.

Hot Areas for Headquarters
Many Fortune 500 company headquarters are on the East Coast — from Comcast (No. 37) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; to JetBlue Airlines (No. 405) in Long Island City, New York; to General Electric (No. 11) in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The Midwest also houses several successful centers of operation, including Motorola Solutions (No. 451) in Schaumburg, Illinois; Harley-Davidson (No. 432) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Dow Chemical (No. 56) in Midland, Michigan.

How States Rank for Business
Knowing where a state ranks on business matters and understanding their differing approaches to incentives, tax rates and more may narrow down where to move next, even if a job isn’t waiting for you upon arrival. According to Chief Executive magazine’s “Best and Worst States for Business,” Texas is the most beneficial, pro-growth spot for business owners, while California ranks lowest.

As we begin a new year, one way of exploring the economic landscape ahead of us is to examine the biggest revenue generators in America and the impact they have on national and local scales.

The information provided in Eddleman’s Economic Insight is not intended to be used as investment advice; rather it is provided as general economic news and information for your awareness or for discussions with your investment professional. Please consult your investment professional or CPA for advice specific to your situation! Past performance is not indicative of future results.