Should you get married if you’re a finance person?

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Marriage – that traditional bond between man and woman where they share their journey through life. Joining in together with the good times and the bad times but above all being a symbol of ultimate love between a man and a woman.

That’s all very nice but forget about all that romantic stuff, if you’re a finance person is now the right time to get married?

One of the cornerstones of a marriage is the gold wedding ring and they are likely to be getting more expensive in the near future as yesterday the price of gold hit a new all time high record price of $1,610 an ounce.

Why has the price suddenly shot up? Is it because the world has suddenly got all romantic and there has been a surge in demand for gold wedding rings?

The answer has nothing to do with weddings but rather the case that gold is seen as a “safe haven” for investments during times of global economic uncertainly.

With the current economic problems in Greece and thoughts that high debt countries such as Italy and Spain may get drawn into the crisis, investors are avoiding shares and government bonds and instead investing in gold.

So, looking on the bright side for those of you that are about to get married, although your wedding ring is likely to become more expensive to buy, not only will your “emotional wealth” hopefully grow after you get married but so will the value of the gold investment on your finger.

Then again, whether you’ll ever be looking to sell your wedding ring at any stage in the future is another discussion altogether…

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Would you go to the gym and post this video on YouTube to get a job?

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Despite most economies around the world looking like they are coming out of the recession, it’s still a tough job market out there and there are challenges in getting the perfect job.

Owen Hargreaves, the former Manchester United player has been plagued by injury during his career. He has played at the very top of the game though having represented England but is currently looking for a job.

He’s no doubt got the skills to play for a leading club and at 30 is still very much at his peak in terms of age.

But what about his fitness levels. Are other top clubs going to pay serious money to employ somebody who may not be able to play if injury hits again?

The corporate equivalent would be asking whether you would pay a significant golden hello and high salary to an employee who may well not be able to work for you shortly after joining you.

“Hats off” to Owen though as he’s taken the unusual step of posting a series of workout videos on YouTube showing him undertaking strenuous exercise. This will hopefully convince prospective employers that he is fit enough to play football again at the top level.

There is one particularly impressive video of him shown below and that is of him undertaking what can only be described as freestyle aerobics on a treadmill.

Personally, I don’t think I’ll try this at the gym tonight though as somehow I feel I’d be unconscious at the back of the treadmill with the treadmill belt spinning around my head within a few seconds of trying to run backwards…

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Do auditors have friends and can they sing?

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“I’m an auditor so I really don’t have that many friends”.

This was one of the quotes from Steve Beguhn in the short movie below.

In case you haven’t heard of Steve he works for (or after the performance below it may now be “worked for”) pwc in America.

I’ll keep this blog entry short as the question is whether the Big 4 auditor did well or embarrassed himself during his recent performance on the reality TV show “American Idol”.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide but one thing for sure is that he’s a better singer than I am!

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Would you steal £30m from ING Bank?

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How much would you try to steal from your employer if you work for ING bank and you’re an accountant?

Hopefully most of you would not try to steal anything from your employer but if you were a lady by the name of Rajina Rita Subramaniam who worked for ING in Sydney, Australia for 20 years then the temptation was just too much.

So what did she steal?

A few pens? Maybe some yellow post-it stickers?

Nope, not even close.

According to press reports in Australia Rajina is about to plead guilty to defrauding ING of an astonishing AUS $45 million (approx. £30 million).

The sharp eyed amongst you will probably guess that she didn’t take if from the petty cash til.

She allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars from the company into a number of private accounts.

Rather than hold on to the stolen money for a rainy day she spent the money on a variety of items including beachside apartments and diamond jewellery (oh, and rather bizarrely some Michael Jackson memorabilia).

Even ignoring the items such as luxury properties she had outside her office, Police allege that she had over 600 pieces of jewellery as well as 200 perfume and make-up items in her office at the ING building where she worked.

Whilst Ms Subramaniam was temporarily one of the wealthiest people in Australia I don’t think she was one of the brightest. Surely it must have been obvious that when a normal bank employee started having the lifestyle of a Saudi Prince there would be certain suspicions raised.

After all, how many of her colleagues also had luxury properties looking over Bondi Beach and wore a Bulgari diamond necklace worth nearly £1 million.

According to prosecutors, the thefts came to light when staff at Bulgari saw that the accountant was paying for luxury items via direct transfers from ING accounts.

It’s not clear from the reports whether Ms Subramaniam wore a Michael Jackson diamond studded single glove to meetings in the office.

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Would you criticise me if I spent ALL of YOUR bonus on alcohol?

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One of the ways that governments around the world have tried to kick start the economy during the recent recession has been through the reduction of interest rates.

10 years ago the Bank of England base rate was 11.38%.

Today, the current rate is 0.5%.

If individuals have variable rate loans or mortgages on their home and the interest rate falls, their interest payments will also fall.

As a result these people will have more money in their bank account and in theory this additional money should make them feel more relaxed about buying goods. If these additional goods are purchased then the economy is stimulated.

Lower interest rates may also encourage individuals and organisations to take out new loans. This money can then in turn be used to buy products which again should stimulate the economy.

Now, whilst low interest rates are good for people that are borrowing money, they are not so good for people who are investing money and looking to receive interest on the cash they’ve invested.

Certain parts of the population are more reliant on interest received as part of their income than others. Pensioners for example, who are no longer working can be hit particularly hard as they often rely on interest income.

I’ve just had a quick look at the internet bank Egg.

Egg was established in 1998 and 4 years ago was bought by Citigroup (Citi). It’s one of the top internet banks around and offers good interest rates when compared to some of their competitors.

But what sort of interest rate do you get?

The Egg site today includes the following text:

“Egg Savings Account – watch your money GROW.

Get 0.60% gross pa/AER variable and watch your savings grow.

Includes a fixed 12 month introductory bonus rate of 0.10% gross pa/AER from the date your account is opened on balances from £1 to £1 million.”

The accountant in me likes to play with figures so let’s just think about this for a moment.

If you open an account with Egg with a £1,000 deposit, after the first year you’ll receive a bonus of £1.

Yes, a whole £1.

My favourite drink is London Pride beer and a pint will set me back £3.50.

Just think, in one year’s time if I invested £1,000 in the Egg savings account I could blow the bonus on just over a quarter of a pint of beer.

Then again, I couldn’t actually buy a quarter of a pint as I’d have to pay tax on the £1 bonus received…

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Are they really going to get their money’s worth for $8.5 billion?

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What was founded 8 years ago by 2 entrepreneurs and was last week bought by Microsoft for $8.5 billion?

Little did Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom and his Danish colleague Janus Friis realise that the Skype product they introduced back in 2003 would be worth a mighty $8.5 billion 8 years later.

Skype, whose name comes from the abbreviation of the initial project name of “Sky peer-to-peer” has turned into the most successful online voice and video phone service.

It has over 650m users with the vast majority of users only use the free call facilities.

Even allowing for its success in terms of the numbers that use it, it’s still a pretty hefty amount that Microsoft paid for it.

If you look at the history of the company you’ll see that Zennstrom and Friis founded it in 2003, it was then purchased by eBay for $3.1 billion in 2005 in the anticipation that it would be integrated into their online auction site to help people negotiate over their purchases.

This wasn’t a huge success and eBay cut their losses when they sold it 4 years later to a group of investors with the company valued at $2.75 billion.

The investors that bought it from eBay though have done pretty well.

With Skype being valued at $2.75 billion in 2009 here we are 2 years later with Microsoft buying it for $8.5 billion – a pretty healthy return of approximately 300% over a couple of years.

If you look at the figures behind Skype then some people will argue that Microsoft have paid over the odds for Skype.

In summary, the latest reported annual figures for Skype are:

Sales: $860 million

Profit (eh, actually it’s a loss): ($7 million)

Amount Microsoft paid for it: $8.5 billion (or $ 8,500 million)

So, Microsoft paid $8,500 million for a company whose most recent reported annual results showed a loss of $7 million.

These figures clearly show that Microsoft are hoping to create a lot of value from the acquisition of Skype and possible integrations discussed include using Skype within Microsoft Outlook and their computer game XBox.

This is a big amount of money to recover though and only time will tell whether the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history will turn out to be a good call or not.

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Should you be scared of the property next door to you?

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It’s Friday the 13th today and for a lot of people this is considered to be an unlucky day.

“Friggatriskaidekaphobia” is the medical term for the fear of Friday the 13th and although it looks like the type of word that you’d get if your cat walked across your computer keyboard it affects a number of people and in extreme cases these individuals will refuse to leave their home on Friday the 13th.

Another tricky to pronounce word is “triskaidekaphobia”.

This is a fear of the number 13 and could have interesting implications for the valuation of property.

A report released today highlights that if you’re thinking of buying a property in the UK then you may well be able to pick up a bargain if the property address has a number 13 in it.

According to a survey by property website Zoopla, the current average value of a house in the UK with the number 13 in it is £205,085.

This is nearly £4,000 less than the average value of £209,009 for properties with the neighbouring numbers 11, 12, 14 or 15 in their address.

They also found that more a quarter of UK streets don’t have a number 13 address as some local authorities have banned the use of number 13 in new housing developments.

So, whilst people who currently own properties with 13 in the address may feel a bit cheated, if you don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia and are looking for a potential bargain then the £4,000 saving could be quite attractive.

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Would you have made this mistake?

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When did you last send an email?

I guess it was a few minutes or hours ago. Maybe at a stretch it was a couple of days ago.

What about when you last sent a letter?

My guess is that it may have been weeks or even months ago and therein lies one of the challenges faced by Post Offices around the world. Namely, more and more people are relying on emails, texts and phone calls to communicate as opposed to letters.

I must admit that if I decided to suddenly send a letter then it would be a bit of a hassle for me to go and buy a stamp. That in itself would put me off posting a letter.

I don’t want to sound lazy about this but after getting used to the convenience of emailing from my mobile device the thought of heading to a post office to buy a stamp and then posting the letter seems rather slow.

The Danish Post Office though has just launched a novel system to make it easier for people to send letters.

Instead of having to buy a stamp to put on the letter, people can send a text message from their phone to the post office and get back a unique code which they write on the envelope in the place of a stamp.

The cost of this is 8 DKK (£0.92p) and the charge for the code will be added to a mobile user’s phone bill.

This is a nice idea and it removes the hassle of having to go somewhere to buy a stamp.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, there was a bit confusion with the designers at the United States Postal Service.

They recently launched a new design of postage stamps which had an image of the world famous Statue of Liberty.

The design was finalised and 3 billion copies of the stamp were printed.

All was well with the stamp until one eagle eyed stamp collector noticed that the image of the Statue of Liberty was not that of the famous statue in New York harbour but instead was a picture of the fibreglass and foam half sized replica which can be found outside the New York – New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas and can be seen in the photo above.

The stamps show a close up of the face and crown of the statue and the US Postal Service has said that they will leave the stamps in circulation.

Meanwhile, the owners of New York – New York in Las Vegas are no doubt extremely pleased to be the first Las Vegas casino to be featured on a US postal stamp.

In fact, they are probably so pleased that they have texted all of their friends.

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You would have to be a really sick person to agree with this…

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According to pwc, the British do it twice as often as the Americans and Japanese.

Within the UK, if you happen to be a civil servant or state employee then the chances are that you will be doing it 20% more often than the average UK worker.

After polling over 2,000 firms and public sector employees around the world, pwc found that UK workers have an average of 10 days unscheduled absence from their jobs each year.

This is approximately twice the level that is found in the US (5.5 days) and Asia-Pacific (4.5 days), but roughly the same as Western Europe (9.7 days).

They estimated that the total sick days taken across the UK cost the economy in the region of £32 billion a year.

Richard Phelps, HR consulting partner at PwC, says that “absenteeism is a malaise for British business.

With sickness accounting for the lion’s share of absence, the question for employers is what can be done to improve health, morale and motivation. The line between ‘sickie’ and ‘sickness’ can be blurred, with disenchantment at work sometimes exacerbating medical conditions or preventing a speedy return”.

Whilst genuine sickness should be looked upon sympathetically there are no doubt a certain number of people who maybe take a day off due to “sickness” when in fact they aren’t really too ill to go to work but instead just fancy an extra day’s holiday or two.

Now, as a lot of you are members or students of professional bodies I’m sure you’re too ethical to throw a “sickie” and will only be out of the office on sick leave if it is a genuine illness.

Less scrupulous friends of yours though may have noticed that there are various sites on the internet that provide advice on how to take a “sickie” from the office.

One bit of advice is that when phoning up your boss to tell him or her that you are ill you should “make the phone call to your boss whilst lying on your back as you automatically sound groggy”.

This also means that you don’t even have to get out of bed to make the call…

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If Prince William and Kate Middleton were accountants then surely they…

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I’ve just finished watching the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and I have to say that it was a very moving and impressive event.

Very many congratulations to the happy couple.

From a slightly less romantic angle though there should also be congratulations to the project managers that were involved in organising the wedding as everything seemed to go extremely smoothly.

Westminster Abbey was looking splendid and has to be one of the best locations for a wedding but I wonder whether the organisers maybe should have considered holding the wedding at One Moorgate Place instead?

As shown at their website, One Moorgate Place is a “beautiful, romantic venue for your wedding reception”. The location offers:

•    Elegant rooms with stunning architectural details and decorative features

•    Beautiful and unique backdrops for photography

•    Exquisite menus designed to your specification

•    An experienced wedding planner assigned to your event

•    Central location in the City of London

This all sounds very nice indeed but if you’re an accountant in the UK then the name of the location may itself also sound very familiar.

One Moorgate Place is the home to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

As well as being called One Moorgate Place, the location is also known as Chartered Accountants’ Hall and is headquarters to ICAEW. The building is rather nice and was designed by Victorian architect Sir John Belcher RA and built in 1890.

So, although William and Kate are not accountants, if you happen to be an accountant who is thinking of getting married to another accountant then what better place to tie the knot than at the home of the ICAEW?

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