The Bullseye - February 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In This Issue:
2011 Tax Changes,
Orion Turns 20!,
Alumni Update: Orion's Very First Placement,
Top Reasons People Can’t Sell Their Home,
Congratulations to This Month's Winner,
Participate in Orion's Transition Corner,
The New Checking Account Fees,
Connect with Orion

Orion Turns 20!

Orion celebrated our 20th Anniversary on January 7, 2011. We’ll be commemorating this milestone all year, and this month we’d like to take the opportunity to share with you a bit about our company history.


Orion International was founded by 5 former JMOs seeking to provide career opportunities for fellow former service members that had not been available to them upon their separation from the military. Two of the original founders, Bill Laughlin, and Randy Nelson, continue to serve on Orion’s Board of Directors today. 

Orion opened its doors on January 7, 1991, with headquarters in Raleigh, NC; and offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In its first year in business, Orion found careers for 95 transitioning Officers within 25 companies, including Target, Pfizer, Schering-Plough, DHL, ABB Power, Alcoa, GE Energy, and Ingersoll-Rand. Positions were primarily in Pharmaceutical Sales, Distribution, and Retail Management.

Orion’s very first placement was Jon Fulton, a USNA Grad and 5-year Navy Nuclear Officer. Fulton says “After talking with my recruiter, Bill Laughlin, I felt like he knew who I was, what I was capable of doing, and had my best interests in mind as he sought to place me with the right position and company.” Fulton was placed by Orion in a position with Alcoa Warrick Operations, in Evansville, IL. The company and position were certainly the right fit, as Fulton will celebrate his 20th anniversary with Alcoa in April of this year, where he now serves as Senior Maintenance Engineer. Fulton is profiled in-depth in this newsletter.

In 1994, Orion became the first military recruiting firm to find careers for Enlisted Technicians and Noncommissioned Officers. Other firms followed suit, and today transitioning technicians and Noncommissioned Officers have a wide array of career opportunities available to them.

In total, Orion has found careers for over 23,000 veterans since 1991. Orion currently operates from offices in Raleigh, NC; Virginia Beach, VA; Austin, TX; Cincinnati, OH; and San Diego, CA. The Orion family continues to strive to achieve Orion's Purpose, which is “To strengthen the fabric of America by providing ethical leaders to the nation.” 

Orion is delighted to celebrate our 20th anniversary in an environment where an increasing number of companies hire veterans based on their intangible skills set, as opposed to the civilian who may have more applicable experience. 

Thank you for being an integral part of the Orion story,  and we hope you are finding great success in your career!

2011 Tax Changes

Almost half of the nation still does their own taxes with or without the help of tax prep software and services. Even if a taxpayer uses the software, it isn’t fool proof. It is necessary for every taxpayer that handles their own taxes, software or no, to be on top of tax changes. This will help to ensure that taxes are prepared correctly and, hopefully, avoid audit potential.

According to an article on Investopedia by Tim Begany titled, “2010 Tax Changes You Need to Know,” the following are the four changes taxpayers should be aware of:

1. There are going to be smaller deductions for business and medical mileage. According to the article, a taxpayer can’t write off the cost of a daily commute by car, but can deduct other work-related mileage that the taxpayer isn’t reimbursed for. For example, if the taxpayer drives to a trade show or work-related meeting, he/she can write off 50 cents per mile, down 5 cents from 2009. Also, the deduction for operating a car for medical reasons is now 16.5 cents per mile, that’s down 7.5 cents from 2009.

2. The article also states that there will be better “limits on deductions for property damage or loss due to theft.” In 2009, damaged or stolen property could only be deducted if the loss amount exceeded $500. In 2010, the loss amount must now only exceed $100.

3. If a taxpayer purchased a new car, light truck, motor home or motorcycle between February 17th and December 31st of 2009, he/she can deduct state, local and excise taxes related to the purchase. If the state has no sales tax, the taxpayer can deduct other taxes/fees with regards to the purchase. There are rules that apply, so the taxpayer must be sure to look over them before entering his/her deductions.

4. There are going to be bigger deductions for long-term care insurance premiums. The article states, “those ages 51 to 60 can claim up to $1,230 in LTC insurance premiums this year, compared with $1,190 last year. Similar increases have been approved for other age groups as well: 40 and under, 41-50, 61-70 and 71 or over.”

These are the four major changes, but of course, there are other changes to take into consideration. Taxpayers should refer to the list titled, “Tax Changes for Individuals” on the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Alumni Update: Orion's Very First Placement

John Fulton, Senior Staff Maintenance Engineer, Alcoa

As Orion celebrates our 20th anniversary, so, too, is our very first placement, Jonathan Fulton! Fulton, a USNA Graduate and five-year Navy Nuclear Officer, will celebrate his 20th anniversary with Alcoa in April of this year.

Fulton attended the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then served for five years in the Navy where he worked as the Damage Control Assistant on board the USS Alabama, a strategic missile submarine based in Bangor, Washington. Fulton credits the equipment he worked with in the Navy, as well as the long hours, heavy workloads, and multiple demands put on him while in the Navy, with making civilian industry work seem easy in comparison.

Fulton started out with Alcoa 20 years ago as a Utilities Engineer responsible for steam, natural gas, and high temperature water. He then moved into Maintenance Engineering and was responsible for compressed air and steam. After a brief stint as a Safety Engineer, Fulton transferred into maintenance management as an Area Coordinator and then a Superintendent. Presently, Fulton is back in engineering as a Senior Staff Maintenance Engineer. After 20 years on the job, Fulton is still enjoying the people, the location, and the work.

Congratulations to Fulton on his upcoming 20th anniversary with Alcoa. Orion is proud to have placed him with Alcoa and wishes him continued success!

Top Reasons People Can’t Sell Their Home

The housing crisis has obviously made selling a home more difficult than in the past.  Research shows that, on average, 20% of US mortgages are for more than their home is worth. And with each passing month, homes are becoming harder to sell and more people are facing foreclosure. Most real estate experts agree that there are a number of things that impede the selling of a home, and there are several things you can do about it.

1. Listing Price - Get an appraisal before putting your house on the market. This may seem obvious, but many people don’t truly know the value of their own home. This gives the seller a more accurate picture of how a bank would value the house. Then potential buyers won’t fall through due to inconsistencies in bank versus seller appraisal values.

2. High Property Tax – This can be an impediment to selling your home. If you disagree with your town’s tax assessment of your property, consider contacting them and asking for a lower appraisal. Some states even have an appeals process. Another way to lower property tax is to put the home on the market for lower than it is appraised. Then, if the home isn’t selling, the homeowner can argue that the home is worth less than it is appraised for.

3. Utilities – If you know you are going to be moving ahead of time, use your water, electric, etc. conservatively. Potential buyers will likely look at the average monthly cost of the utilities on your home. High numbers will indicate high bills for the potential new owner. Conserving your utilities will lower your bills and thus attract potential buyers.

4. Curb Appeal – Advice if you are selling…clean up your yard/house! Trim the bushes, mow the lawn, clear out clutter, and clean the gutters. Also, paint anything that needs painting. These things can have a huge impact on whether or not a potential buyer even wants to step foot in your house.

5. House Inspection – It is critical to make any major repairs that need to be taken care of before you sell the house. This way you have the opportunity to fix the problems at a lower cost than what a potential buyer might take off the offer. And don’t forget to fix the little things.

6. Staging – Yes, staging seems to be a huge buzzword in today’s real estate market. But it can really make a big difference. If you don’t know how to stage a home, consider hiring a “professional stager” for around $200 per hour.

Of course, remember to hire an established realtor with excellent references. And don’t forget that everything is negotiable. Once you have found your realtor, be sure to try and negotiate the fee. Traditionally it is around 6%, but in today’s market some realtors are willing to reduce the fee.

Congratulations to This Month's Winner

 

Steve Rickenbacher won the Job Seeker Referral monthly drawing and is the winner of a $50 gift card.  
 
Ready for your chance to win a $50 gift card? You’ll receive an entry into our monthly drawings for Client and Job Seeker referrals for each referral that you submit – good luck and thank you for the referral!

Participate in Orion's Transition Corner

Orion is currently looking for alumni to participate in Transition Corner. We developed Transition Corner to fulfill the need among transitioning service members for guidance and advice, as well as being able to learn from the experience of a fellow vet who has recently been through the same transition. And we'd like your participation!

As an Orion alumnus, you know that transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workplace can be an overwhelming and uncertain time. And, having successfully transitioned into the civilian workplace, this is your opportunity to serve as a resource for fellow military veterans and share your transition, job-search, and civilian career experience, as well as tips or advice.

Would you like to be featured in Transition Corner? Please contact Allison Thomas to learn more!

The New Checking Account Fees

The New Year has ushered in many good changes and many not so good. On the not so good side are new checking account fees that many if not all banks are rolling out in 2011.

In February, Chase announced it would be enrolling new customers in a “Total Checking” account, which will charge them a $12 monthly maintenance fee. Similarly, Bank of America said that by the end of 2011, it would restructure its checking accounts to include monthly fees ranging from $8.95 to $25. These changes could cost the average checking account holder upwards of $300 in extra fees each year.

These changes are the banks response to the CARD Act that took effect last February, which ended unfair fees and put a stop to extreme interest rate hikes.

Most banks will still offer free checking under certain circumstances. For example, Bank of America will waive their monthly fee for certain account holders if the holder makes at least one direct deposit each month. Other banks will waive fees for not exceeding minimum balances. These options will be slightly harder to find, so don’t expect the bank to use it as a selling point. It will take some research on the consumer’s part.