How Becoming An Author Builds Expertise

Building expertise through authorship has been around long before the internet lowered the barriers to entry. It’s still around because it works. Not only does having a book to give to or sell to people make you look knowledgeable, but it will also make you knowledgeable.

Learn a Lot

While writing the book (even if you outsource the writing), you’ll learn so much about yourself and about your niche. You will indeed become a real expert just due to the process of learning that takes place when you want to publish a book with your name on it.

Increase Awareness

When you publish a book about your niche or topic, you will increase awareness about not only the topic but also about yourself. The book gives you a good opportunity to share more information about yourself, your education, and why you wrote the book you wrote.

Gain Trust

Putting “author” beside your name in all your online bios, and linking to your book whenever you can, will automatically make people trust you more. They figure you must know a lot of stuff if you put it together into a book.

Help People

People like reading books to learn things. This is especially true today with the ease of which they can obtain books to read on their mobile devices and Kindles.

Prove What You Know

A book is a great way to prove all the things that you know into one manuscript. Putting it together into book form is a great way to prove what you know.

Increase Your Value

Being an author automatically increases your value. Even with the ease with which anyone can become published today, most people simply don’t do it. You’ll still be one of the few, especially if you also know how to market your book and make the most of it to become the expert you want to become.

Become an Insider

When you are part of a niche, there are people who are perceived as insiders and people who are just not known. If you write a compelling book that teaches something or shares something important about that niche, you will become one of the insiders (with the right marketing, of course).

Gives You a Platform to Begin With

Believe it or not, some people have started with nothing, and the book was the launching platform to give them their start. If you want to come out in a big way with your products, services, or ideas, a book is the way to go. The book, along with proper marketing, can launch an entire new career.

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CARES Act Provisions for Retirement Plan Sponsors and Participants

This article reviews some of the leading provisions of the CARES Act as it relates to pension and retirement plans.

Plan Participant Early Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts

Generally, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) imposes a 10% penalty on early withdrawals from retirement accounts. Early withdrawals are withdrawals before the retirement plan holder reaches the age of 59 ½, before death, or before they become disabled.

However, with the passage of the CARES Act, Section 2202, qualified individuals who have been affected by COVID-19 may be exempt from the 10% penalty on early withdrawals. Qualified individuals include the following.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a spouse or dependent who tested positive.
Individuals with COVID-related financial difficulties due to quarantine, furlough, a reduction in work hours, or unemployment.
Individuals who are financially affected due to a lack of childcare for school-aged children.
Individuals who own a business that closed or cut back hours as a result of COVID-19.
Early withdrawals that may be exempt from the 10% penalty are amounts up to $100,000 that were taken from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. For those qualified individuals whose early withdrawal does meet the 10% exemption under the CARES Act, these individuals must include the amount they withdrew in their taxable income. They may report the “income” either in the year it was received or equally over a three-year period. The amount withdrawn can be repaid either wholly or in-part to a qualified retirement plan within three years of receiving the withdrawal.
Retirement Plan Hardship Distributions and Loans under the CARES Act

Individuals who are not qualified to receive the 10% exemption on their withdrawal may instead be qualified to take a hardship distribution because of the federally declared disaster, COVID-19. An individual’s ability to claim a hardship distribution may vary based on whether the state the participant resides in qualifies for individual assistance under the disaster declaration and whether the participant’s retirement plan allows for such distributions.

Plan participants may also be able to take out a loan from their retirement account, depending on the type of retirement account they hold. The maximum loan amount has traditionally been the lesser of half of the participant’s vested account balance or $50,000. Loans typically must be repaid in level installments over five years, although the term of the loan may be longer if the loan is used to purchase or construct the participant’s principal residence.

General loan guidelines have been modified, however, with the passage of the CARES Act, Section 2203. The maximum loan amount has been increased to the lesser of the participant’s entire vested account balance or $100,000 for loans taken within 180 days of the CARES Act’s enactment. Furthermore, the due dates for new and existing loans have been extended. The due dates for payments due on or after the CARES Act’s enactment through December 31, 2020 are extended by one year with subsequent payments also delayed by one year.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are generally required to be taken by individuals by April 1 of the year following the year in which they turn 72 (or age 70 ½ for those who turned 70 ½ before January 1, 2020). However, with the passage of the CARES Act, Section 2203, RMDs have been suspended for the year 2020. The RMD suspension applies to individuals who took their first RMD January 1, 2020, to April 1, 2020.

CARES Act Implications for Plan Sponsors

Sponsors of single-employer pension plans are generally required to make an annual required contribution (ARC) to a plan. The required contribution is generally equal to the value of benefits earned by participants in the year, plus a share of any prior years’ plan underfunding. If plan sponsors fail to contribute they may receive an excise tax. However, with the passage of the CARES Act, Section 3608, sponsor contributions due in 2020 have been suspended and can be paid, with interest, on January 1, 2021. Section 3608 also allows plans to use the funding percentage for the 2019 plan year rather than the 2020 plan year in determining whether plans must impose benefit restrictions.

Private-sector pension plans also face a variety of deadlines and requirements imposed under ERISA. The Secretary of Labor has the authority to delay, for up to a year, any action required under ERISA in cases of a presidentially declared disaster or a terroristic or military action. With the passage of the CARES Act, Section 3607, the events that allow the Secretary of Labor to delay deadlines have been expanded. Deadlines are now allowed to be delayed if a public health emergency has been declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In response to the passage of the CARES Act, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced they would be extending deadlines for upcoming premium payments and other filings with the agency. Due dates for filings and actions that would have been due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, have been extended to July 15, 2020. This includes PBGC premiums, ERISA Section 4010 reports for underfunded plans, and the annual Form 5500. It is important to note that due dates for some particularly important or time-sensitive filings have not been extended.

Careful Planning is Required

ERISA and CARES Act rules can be very complicated and may vary depending on individual circumstances. Plan sponsors and plan participants will want to fully understand compliance requirements before taking any action.

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Baseline Releases and Data Validation

In order to measure project performances, the quality assurance department of an organization releases baselines periodically. These may be variance of actual effort over planned effort, the variance of actual schedule over-planned schedule, organizational productivity ratio, defect density, etc.,

Baselines are released every quarter or periodically. An improvement in adherence to schedule or a reduction in the defect density would imply that the organization has made improvements. For example the release may state that the organizational baseline I for schedule variance is 8.9 percent and the organizational baseline II for schedule variance is 5 percent. The conclusions may hence be that the organization has improved its schedule adherence by 3.9 percent or in other words the projects are delivering to the customers on time.

Now let us understand that such an analysis has been done on two different data sets at two different times. One data set measured the effort,schedule and other project metrics during Quarter I, the second data set measured the effort,schedule, and other project metrics during Quarter II. The mean may have significantly shifted, or the variance may have shifted or in other words, the comparison may not be being made on similar data.

For example, during Q1 the company may be executing large scale projects and during Q2 the company may be executing medium scale projects. In the case of large projects,estimates tend to have more variances and so the mean of all schedule variances hence has lowered.

Similarly, the variability between individual data points in the distribution may be significantly different due to data collection methods. During Q1 the baseline may have used a manual data collection process and during Q2 the baseline may have used data entered in the automated time management system by the employees.

When conclusions regarding baselines are derived, it is essential to see if there is a significant change to parameters which are correlated to the metric being evaluated for process improvement. More specifically, a measure such as schedule variance is correlated with many parameters such as complexity of the project, training level of the employees, work timings etc., When a result related to improvement in the performance of the process is obtained, then one should make sure that the factors on which the metric is correlated do not change significantly.

For example a mean schedule variance of 9 percent where the mean size of the projects are 20 FP should not be compared to a mean schedule variance of 5.9 percent with mean project size 10 FP or a project or a mean schedule variance of 9 percent with employees with low skill should not be compared to projects with a mean schedule variance of 5.9 percent that have employees of high skill.

In such cases one should use a statistical regression equation which expresses schedule as a function of many other variables to scale the measurements to a common base.

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