Do You Know Your Credit Score?

By Kevin T. Reeder, Loan Officer, First Bank & Trust Company

Surprisingly, many people are unaware of their credit scores and how they affect their access to borrowed funds. Most lending institutions make use of credit reports in determining whether or not an individual will receive a loan and, if the loan is made, the borrowing terms he or she will receive. Being aware of what constitutes your credit report can help you enhance your score and ensure you receive the best available terms from your lender.

How does your credit score look?Three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, collect information reported by various financial institutions (credit card companies, banks, etc.) to produce a credit report. Credit scores range from approximately 350-850 with the most credit-worthy borrowers receiving scores above 750. Your score is affected by such factors as payment history (e.g., late payments), amounts owed, length of credit history, and number of credit accounts. Public information such as lawsuits and bankruptcy can also negatively affect your score and can stay on your report for seven to ten years.

Fair or not, a complicated formula of these factors condenses your entire financial history into a single number which lenders use in making their loan decisions. A low score could result in a high interest rate on your mortgage through secondary market lenders such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or it could limit the borrowing capacity of your small business.

What is the best way to enhance your score?  The most simple and effective way to increase your credit score is to always make your payments on time.

Whether it’s the mortgage on your house or the line of credit for your business, making payments on time will keep you in good standing with your lending institution.
As mandated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can keep an eye on your credit score by requesting a free annual report from each of the major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. In some cases, a late payment could be mistakenly reported, or an unpaid medical bill could be dragging down your score.

By keeping track of your credit score and making sound credit decisions, you will ensure that you receive the best terms from your lender.

Read more from First Bank & Trust Company on Handshake 2.0.

First Bank and Trust CompanyFirst Bank & Trust Company, one of the top community banks in the United States, is a diversified financial services firm with office locations in southwest Virginia – serving Blacksburg, Christiansburg and surrounding areas – northeast Tennessee, and the New River Valley and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Financial objectives are addressed by offering free checking products for personal and business accounts, and assessing lending solutions managed by mortgage, agricultural and commercial lending divisions. Comprehensive financial solutions are available through trust and brokerage service representatives. For businesses, First Bank & Trust specializes in business services, including online banking and online billpay, andbusiness loans.

First Bank & Trust Company is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Who Gets the Real Estate Tax Deduction?

By Micah Fraim, CPA

So everyone knows that if you own your house, the mortgage interest, real estate taxes, and (generally) Private Mortgage Insurance, PMI, are deductible on your individual income tax return. The title and loan are in your name and the 1098 comes directly to you. Easy.

Who gets the deduction?Where the situation gets more complicated is if one or more of those things are not true. What if the title is in your name but not the mortgage? Mortgage but not title? Neither? According to the Internal Revenue Code, IRC, Sec.1.163-4(b) gives someone the ability to deduct interest on "real estate of which he is the legal or equitable owner, even though the taxpayer is not directly liable upon the bond or note secured by such mortgage, may be deducted as interest on his indebtedness."

Who gets the deduction? The key to the answer is something many people overlook called "equitable ownership." This essentially means the person bears both the benefits and burdens of the home ownership, even if they are not directly liable for it.
This principle was highlighted in Ndile George Njenge and Ekinde Sone Nzelle Rachel v. Commissioner. In the case, a couple who was dealing with financial difficulties had their son obtain a loan and buy a house for them. The parents lived in the home, maintained it, and paid the mortgage and all other household bills. The IRS disallowed the deductions on their tax return, claiming they were not entitled to them because the title and mortgage were not in their name.
The court overturned the IRS decision. By proving that they received the economic benefit of the home in addition to bearing the economic burdens of it, the couple was able to prevail.

Have questions about who gets the tax deduction in your situation? Please contact Micah Fraim, CPA.

This post is an excerpted version of Who Can Take the Home Interest and Real Estate Tax Deductions?

LinkedIn: In the Know

By Risa Pesapane

After attending LinkedIn Live in Blacksburg, Virginia, I learned a lot about some basic new features of LinkedIn beyond résumé posting. Perhaps I was living in the LinkedIn dark ages and this information is not new to others, but for those in the dark with me, here's light on the subject:

  • LinkedIn now has an active homepage with a newsfeed much like that on Facebook. As the world’s largest professional network on the internet with more than 225 million members, LinkedIn wants to be your go-to professional social network. The site can be used to share professional content contacts, find new connections, and gain exposure for future employment.
  • Businesses can now have LinkedIn profiles. That’s not a new idea, but using them to build a business might be. A business can attract “followers” who are potential customers, partners, collaborators, and even employees. By regularly posting content to a LinkedIn page, businesses can remain active on the newsfeeds of followers, thus promoting awareness of the company’s industry knowledge. LinkedIn can make businesses easier to find through Google searches, too, and high-profile connections can speak favorably of a business.  Essentially, LinkedIn can provide three assets for a business: Branding, Networking, and Finding Talent.
  • For individuals, LinkedIn is no longer just a résumé posting board. Many business leaders now say that they not only use LinkedIn for recruiting talent, but the quality of the LinkedIn profile can dictate whether or not they grant interviews.   Employers can immediately verify a résumé based on LinkedIn content, contact previous employers or references, and determine how professionally active a candidate is in the industry. 

Risa Pesapane on LinkedIn

Here are my takeaways from LinkedIn Live for all LinkedIn users.

  • Keep a vibrant, up-to-date profile. It’s important to have an active presence on LinkedIn demonstrating your professional accomplishments and industry knowledge.
  • Don’t mix business with pleasure. LinkedIn is a professional network and it’s important to keep that separate from your personal social network on Facebook. Post the office antics on the Facebook page and the press releases on the LinkedIn page.
  • Have a photo. Every profile should have an engaging profile photo. For a business, this helps brand your company image. For an individual, this quite literally “puts a face to a profile” making it easier to identify with you as a person with unique qualities. In the world of e-applications, this is about the best opportunity you have to humanize your résumé to leverage an interview.
  • Make connections. If someone visits your profile and sees very few connections out of a network of a 225 million-user network then it shows that you are not interested in networking and potentially expanding your opportunities for business or collaboration.

 A cautionary note about LinkedIn is the use of endorsements. “Endorsing” someone’s skills is meant to show their proficiency. As LinkedIn grows as a social network though, endorsements are quickly becoming a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” kind of activity. How do you get more endorsements? Well, you visit your connections and endorse them with anticipation that they’ll return the favor. With all this freedom to endorse, it seems the purpose quickly loses meaning. Just because I met you in the coffee shop and connected with you on LinkedIn does not mean you can vouch for my abilities in a startup company!

Risa Pesapane is a the Project Director for environmental startup company Rural System, Inc.

See LinkedIn's slides from LinkedIn live on Slideshare.

Rural System, Inc. is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Go Global in Blacksburg and Roanoke, Virginia

From VT KnowledgeWorks

Observe 14 university teams from around the world compete in the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Business Concept Challenge as they pitch their business ideas for a $25,000 grand prize and trophy. This event is open to the public at no charge (lunch is not included) but registration is required by August 9.

Global Student Challenge - Register by August 9

8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Washington Lecture Hall, The Hotel Roanoke 
Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Directions 

Global Student Challenge Teams 2012

Mix and mingle with elite students teams, faculty, and leaders from universities around the world at the Tastes & Sounds of the Valleys Reception in conjunction with VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week as we celebrate our growing place in the global community with unique food and music from our region.

Tastes and Sounds of the Valleys Reception - Register by August 9

5:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Shenandoah Ballroom, The Hotel Roanoke
Roanoke, Virginia, USA
Directions

  • Registration: $75/person, inclusive of all food and drinks; or $135/person, which includes reception admission, plus admission to the Global Student Challenge and a light breakfast and lunch (August 22) at The Hotel Roanoke.
  • Learn more about the global audience attending!
  • Live performances at the reception by acoustic quartet Windfall and the Blue Ridge Mountain Cloggers.

For more information about the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership, and the VTKW Global Partnership Week 2013, please contact Lindsey Eversole, Global Partnership Manager, VT KnowledgeWorks, at [email protected].

The VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week offers university students and faculty from all over the world a chance to collaborate, form partnerships, build their global networks, and congregate in Blacksburg and Roanoke, Virginia. During this week-long celebration, elite student teams compete in a Global Student Business Concept Challenge as they pitch their business ideas for a $25,000 prize.

The Fourth Annual VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week will be held August 18 – 24, 2013. 

Keep in the know about VT KnowledgeWorks through Twitter and Facebook.

VT KnowledgeWorks encourages and enables creative entrepreneurship world-wide, through innovative curriculum, local business resource centers, and a global network of cooperating regions, all focused on three essential contributors to success: clear understanding of fundamental business principles; access to timely, relevant information; and meaningful personal and corporate relationships. It is a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, supported by the continuing confidence and enthusiasm of its clients, sponsors and friends, both corporate and individual. Its world headquarters are in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

New Leadership Position? Here’s Where to Begin

By Anne Giles Clelland

Dear Anne: 

I was recently selected to head a non-profit organization by the board of directors and the vote was split (a little more than half wanted me, I'm told).  From what I have been able to learn about the organization, the board of directors has been split and primarily ineffective on nearly every issue.  Finances are a shambles, public image is poor, and strong leadership is desperately needed at the director's level. Problem is, I don't have solid backing. What should I do?

Dear Split:

Work: It's Personal by Anne Giles ClellandWhether taking on a leadership position at a non-profit or a for-profit, whether you’re leading a start-up with no structure, an established corporation with a proven business model, or a well-meaning organization that’s floundering, the place to start is the same.  To quote old wisdom, popularized by Stephen R. Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind."

What did you see was possible for this non-profit organization that called you to accept the position of leading it?  When you resign this position for the next opportunity, what do you want to be able to say you’ve been able to make come true for the organization?  That’s your to-do list and there’s your timeline.  

Clarity on your personal vision, and how you’re going to contribute that vision to any organization’s mission will make you your own first, and best, backer.  From that place of strength, rather than from one of doubt about what to do you, you are much more likely to accomplish your personal vision, build consensus around your leadership, and to achieve the ultimate goal – backing for the organization itself.

. . . . .

Need help with a personal problem at work? E-mail your question to [email protected].

Please include the subject line "Workplace Advice." Anne regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Valley Business FRONT's Workplace Advice Column, written by Handshake 2.0's Anne Giles Clelland, appeared monthly in Valley Business FRONT from 2008-2012.  A collection of her columns was published in Work: It's Personal. A version of this column first appeared in the April, 2011 issue.

Symposium Inspired by 50th Anniversary of War on Poverty

United States President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. As the 50th anniversary of that declaration approaches, the Cabell Brand Center has organized the symposium "Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities."

“We felt after 50 years it was time to reflect and evaluate what we’re currently doing and look at new ideas,” said Risa Pesapane, executive director of the Cabell Brand Center, quoted in The Roanoke Times.

From The Cabell Brand Center for Global Poverty and Resource Sustainability Studies and the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, Washington and Lee University:

People are attending from 12 cities across Virginia, some even traveling from as far as Richmond for the event. Included among the attendees are leaders from more than 20 prominent community related non-profit organizations and 6 major educational institutions. We are hoping to attract a great number of participants from areas of business and government.  

The Cabell Brand Center would like to cordially invite you to attend our upcoming symposium:

Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities
Friday, July 19, 2013
8:45 AM – 4:30 PM EDT
Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities SymposiumRoanoke Higher Education Center
108 N. Jefferson Street
Roanoke, VA 24016
Directions 

The intention of the symposium is to increase awareness about pervasive poverty issues in rural and urban environments and to explore innovative approaches to alleviating poverty. We will explore how we currently define poverty, how poverty is viewed in our society, how we measure poverty, and who can take action for those in need.

By uniting community leaders in open conversation we hope to achieve a deeper understanding of the challenges we face as well as novel opportunities for progress.

Two nationally known speakers, Mimi Abramovitz and Keith Kilty, will be presenting at the symposium and we have planned round table discussions on how to tackle aspects of poverty across Virginia and beyond.

Please view the Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities progam (.pdf) for more detailed information and Program Schedule (.pdf).

Attendance is free but registration is required.  Donations are welcome and are tax deductible.

We hope you will accept our invitation to contribute your perspective to this landmark event.

Register for Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities

For more information, please contact Risa Pesapane, Executive Director, Cabell Brand Center,  [email protected]   540-998-8353.

Who’s in FRONT? Susan Still

Susan Still
Susan Still,  President and CEO of HomeTown Bank, was featured in Valley Business FRONT.

Photo: Dan Smith

Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0? is a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. Keep in front with Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

A Great Place to Live Under the Star

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT June 2013 story "Fixing Up Riverside" by Jeanne Chitty


Aaron EwertAn old mill and scrap yard once occupied the area across the way.
The only reminder of this bygone era is a century-old brick building, which the developers are planning to convert into a coffee shop and restaurant that will maintain the charm of the building’s rough brick walls and enormous wooden beams. Along with this renovation in the project’s first phase will be a five-story 156-unit apartment building with underground parking, and a long pedestrian promenade that will follow the river.

“We are excited about redesigning this space into an urban village, with all of the amenities that people could need. It will be a great place to live under the star, to enjoy dining, entertainment, and exercise right on the river, and to be so close to the downtown scene,” said Aaron Ewert. “Eventually, we will construct a building attached to the front of the apartments, where we’ll put in retail stores and offices on the street level, so our residents will have the convenience of shopping right at their doorstep.”

Read the full story in the June 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Photo: Jeanne Chitty

On Handshake 2.0, read key excerpts from Valley Business FRONT articles in Valley Business FRONT News. View Who's in FRONT on Handshake 2.0?, a showcase of  photographs of the people featured in business news magazine Valley Business FRONT.

Keep in front with news magazine Valley Business FRONT by subscribing by mail and using Valley Business FRONT's iPad app.  Read Valley Business FRONT's blog, moreFRONT, and find the latest news on Twitter and Facebook.

Valley Business FRONT is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities Symposium

From The Cabell Brand Center for Global Poverty and Resource Sustainability Studies and the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, Washington and Lee University:

The Cabell Brand Center would like to cordially invite you to attend our upcoming symposium:


Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities

Friday, July 19, 2013
8:45 AM – 4:30 PM EDT
Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities SymposiumRoanoke Higher Education Center
108 N. Jefferson Street
Roanoke, VA 24016
Directions 

The intention of the symposium is to increase awareness about pervasive poverty issues in rural and urban environments and to explore innovative approaches to alleviating poverty. We will explore how we currently define poverty, how poverty is viewed in our society, how we measure poverty, and who can take action for those in need.

By uniting community leaders in open conversation we hope to achieve a deeper understanding of the challenges we face as well as novel opportunities for progress.

Two nationally known speakers, Mimi Abramovitz and Keith Kilty, will be presenting at the symposium and we have planned round table discussions on how to tackle aspects of poverty across Virginia and beyond.

Please review the Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities progam (.pdf) for more detailed information and the anticipated schedule.

Attendance is free but registration is required.  Donations are welcome and are tax deductible.

We hope you will accept our invitation to contribute your perspective to this landmark event.

Register for Poverty Today: Challenges and Opportunities

For more information, please contact Risa Pesapane, Executive Director, Cabell Brand Center,  [email protected]   540-998-8353.

Workshop: Reaching Donors – How to Maximize Fundraising Efforts

All are invited to a free, informative workshop with experts in marketing, fundraising and social media who will share tips on how to reach donors and raise money for your mission.


Reaching Donors – How to Maximize Fundraising Efforts
Workshop: Reaching Donors - How to Maximize Fundraising Efforts
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
9:00 AM – 1:00 PM EDT
Hilton Garden Inn
900 Plantation Road
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Directions

This event is free, lunch will be provided, and is limited to the first 70 people to register.

Door prizes include gift baskets, a Wordsprint gift certificate, free facilitation and consultation with the Community Foundation, and a romantic getaway at the Hilton Garden Inn.

"Reaching Donors – How to Maximize Fundraising Efforts" will provide valuable information on effective print and electronic marketing and fundraising tools for your organization.

Register for this free workshop.

Sponsored by the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, Wordsprint and Handshake 2.0.