Mighty Decision 2016 may be many things but it certainly hasn't shown any signs of being over. Most election cycles, companies large and small try to stick to a level of business-friendly neutrality. But the Trump/Clinton divide has brought out the pitchforks in the culture wars more than any election, perhaps, ever, so it isn't surprising that even the multinationals aren't keeping quiet. Back in October, one of America's largest brewers, Yuengling, caused a stir when they very-publicly endorsed Trump. And just last week, The Kellogg Company--the food brand behind Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts--pulled its advertising dollars from Breitbart, the far-right wing website connected to the soon-to-be Counselor to the President, Steve Bannon. It's now a Twitter war.

So why do companies do it? Should you do it?

Back in 2012, Chick-Fil-A got in some steamy water when Dan Cathy, its COO, announced his opposition to gay marriage and it was revealed that the company had been donating money to a host of anti-gay nonprofits. But shortly afterward, the company seemed to regret the move: soon rescinding its capacity to have any opinion on anything at all and slowly cutting any financial connection the brand had to less reputable charities.

But the effect of that endorsement was curious: sales had mysteriously soared, occasional-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had announced a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. On the other hand, this year, the retailer Target suffered a 6.4% percent decrease in its is stock value and a 10% percent drop in Buzz score, a consumer perception index, shortly after aligning itself with the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. Did that mean a political stance had to be aligned with the local geopolitics of your brand in order to galvanize your most passionate customers to make up for any boycotting? Or did it mean that the effect of taking a stance on big-ticket issues were simply too chaotic to make business sense?

Others have speculated that the particular divisiveness of the current climate might work to practically mitigate whatever political direction you take your brand: a poll conducted by Morning Consult found that "Americans are just as split when it comes to whether they'll support or oppose businesses that take a position on Trump," with 35% of respondents saying they are less likely to shop at a store that supported Trump and 31% saying they are more likely to. More important, says Carol Cone, a PR consultant that Morning Star talked to, is that a brand maintain consistency: "[Brands] shouldn't shift because that would be inauthentic," Cone explained, and instead companies should focus on "social issues that are aligned with their business, their brands [and] their purpose."

A more successful alternative, suggests Jonathan Haidt, a professor of business and ethics at NYU and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, might be aligning your brand with social movements that the average person simply cares about less. "Over the last 5-10 years many businesses have made environmental responsibility and sustainability into a part of their brand and strategy, especially high end consumer products," he cited to me as an example, noting that "rich people care more about such things than do poor people." By catering your business' politics toward a niche that your product in some way serves, the statement becomes part of your brand. People might actually feel good about working with your business!

"Much of the action is greenwashing," Haidt concluded, "but much is sincere too."

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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