Life Insurance Accounting – FAS 97 LP

This post discusses accounting for FAS 97 LP life insurance products. I previously covered FAS 60 policies on this blog. FAS 97 was created to address certain long duration products that were not covered under FAS 60.

life insurance acccountingAs stated in the FAS 60 discussion, life insurance accounting is different. It contains topics that are unique to the insurance industry. These topics are rarely taught in accounting classes and are not covered on the CPA exam.

My goal here is to summarize some of these topics and to make them relatively easy to understand for anyone with an accounting background. Continue reading “Life Insurance Accounting – FAS 97 LP”

The Second Bitcoin Halving 2016

July 9th, 2016 marks that day of the second bitcoin halving. Today was the day that bitcoin blocks were cut in half for the second time. This means that 75% of all bitcoins have been mined and less new bitcoins will enter the market than even before.

What does this mean for the price of bitcoin?

Econ 101 - demandsupplycurveEcon 101 teaches that supply and demand drive prices. As supply decreases and demand remains the same, prices increase. This is what I foresee for bitcoin in the short term (the next year).

In the long term, it’s possible (and I think likely) that demand will increase too. This will lead to additional price increases as the total number of bitcoin is capped at 21M. Continue reading “The Second Bitcoin Halving 2016”

Life Insurance Accounting – FAS 60

Today I’m writing about accounting for FAS 60 Short Duration and FAS 60 Long Duration products.

FAS 60Please note that if you’re not familiar with insurance accounting, it’s unique. It’s not taught in college and not included on the CPA exam.

There is a lot to know regarding FAS 60 products. The Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 60 is 89 pages long.

I’m not going into that much detail here. Instead I hope to provide a relatively, easy to understand overview. It may get a little technical, so be prepared to strap on your CPA hat for this one. Continue reading “Life Insurance Accounting – FAS 60”

Family Fun in Nags Head, North Carolina

My family has been vacationing in Nags Head, North Carolina at least once a year for the last 20 years. Below is my guide for fun family activities in Nags Head. This list includes the beach, the sound, bumper boats, mini golf, hang gliding, dolphins tours, pirate adventures and more.

Fun Activities in Nags Head

Go to the beach

Nags Head BeachThis is a no brainer in the Outer Banks. The beaches here at beautiful, not crowded and warm. Nags Head is less populated than other parts of the OBX, so there’s plenty of room to spread out on the beach. My family will often fly kites, play soccer or throw a football on the beach. That’s how much room there is.
Continue reading “Family Fun in Nags Head, North Carolina”

PMP, CPA and CGMA

I’m a PMP (Project Management Professional), a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and a CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant). Below I give an overview of these certifications.

Update: After posting this, I was surprised to receive questions via email and Facebook about being both a PMP and CPA. I answered them all directly.

If you found this post by searching for “CPA and PMP”, and you have questions about these certifications, please feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you.

Continue reading “PMP, CPA and CGMA”

Buying Bitcoin as an Investment

Bitcoin’s growth in value over the last 30 days has been incredible. Year to date, this cryptocurrency has increased about 200% in value. So is buying bitcoin a good investment?

Bitcoin

kenneth ashe bitcoinBitcoin is the world’s first decentralize digital currency. It can easily be sent to anyone in the world and converted to most local currencies. Bitcoin is accepted at over 100,000 retailers including Microsoft, Dell and Expedia.

Bitcoin was created in 2009. Its value has fluctuated significantly over its short life. In 2011 it grew from $0.30 to $32. In 2013 bitcoin hit its high of $1,242. So far in 2016, it’s traded between $363 and $779.
All amounts above are in USD. Continue reading “Buying Bitcoin as an Investment”

Think strategically to drive process improvements

As a project manager, thinking strategically to identifying efficiencies and improve processes is an essential part of my job.

What is strategic thinking?

To me, strategic thinking is the process of proactively envisioning future possible outcomes in order to identify opportunities and threats, not only to your project, but to your organization and stakeholders as well.

the-thinker-statueAs a project manager, my main goal is to add value to my organization. Thankfully, my job provides this opportunity, but my responsibility does not begin and end with my projects. I push myself to look beyond my daily responsibilities and understand the different stakeholders and needs within my organization. Therefore if I see an opportunity to share knowledge or assist another group in a way that adds value to my company, I can easily act on it.

Of course, you need to complete your responsibilities to be successful, but tunnel vision can be dangerous. While at times it may be beneficial to focus solely on your projects, it’s also important to take a step back and look at the full picture.

Some adjectives I’ve heard describe strategic thinkers are future based, long-term focused, creative, curious, lifelong learners and willing to take risks. Being or becoming a strategic thinker will help you on your projects and in your career.

Processes Improvements

I was recently asked a question from a junior project manager on what she can do to improve processes within her organization.

My answer – think strategically!

project management process improvementsWhen it comes to process improvements, look for opportunities where you can add value to your company. I would start with processes that haven’t changed in years.

Once you’ve identified a few, do a complete walk through of each process from beginning to end, and ask yourself, “what can be done differently to make this process better?” It could be making a change to improve efficiencies, quality or accuracy. It could also be eliminating a process that is costly and/or time consuming, but don’t provide much value to the organization (think cost/benefit analysis here).

When improving processes, make sure to quantify the outcomes. For example:

  • By modifying process XYZ, we improved accuracy by 20% saving us $20,000 in rework.
  • By eliminating process ABC, we saved 80 man hours a year.

project presentationLastly document and talk about the improvement. If you get a chance, present your project and results to large group. If you’re adding value, you want to make sure people see this. This will give you the recognition you deserve and will make implementing change within your organization easier going forward.

The Issues List (aka Issues Log)

Today I’m going to write about one of my favorite project management tools!

The Issues List – A Key Project Management Tool

All project managers should be familiar with the issues list, but I find that people who have never been involved in a large project don’t know what one is. That’s why I’m explaining it here today.

Issues

Put simply, issues are problems that occur on a project. As you go through a project, many issues often arise. This is expected. Issues can range from missing requirements to changes in the schedule. Issues can be large, and issues can be small. Some may be easy to resolve and others may go unresolved. But all issues should be recorded and tracked. This is where the issues list comes in.

The Issues List

The issue list is where you track issues identified over the course of a project.

There are many ways to record issues. On large scale projects, issues are often managed using issue tracking software. On smaller projects I prefer to track issues in excel.

Issues List

Above I’ve included an example of an issues list in excel. Each issue is given an ID number and priority (high, medium, low). Other categories I recommend are:

• Title
• Issue Status
• A description of the issue
• The person who raised the issue
• Action steps that will be taken to close the issue
• Who the issue is assigned to (who will take action)
• The date the issue was discovered
• The date the issue should be closed by
• The date the issue was resolved
• A description of the final resolution of the issue

Issues vs Action Items

There’s a difference of opinion around issues and action items. Some project managers keep a separate log for each. I don’t. I view them this way (using the waterfall method):

Actions exist to solve issues. They go hand in hand. Every new action originates from an issue. Said again, you would not need to act on something new (unplanned) unless it originates from a new issue.

Issues vs Risks

A risk is an uncertain event that may or may not occur. It’s important to identify risks on a project, but as their occurrence is uncertain, you may not have to assign an owner to the risk. (That said, you may still want to determine if you should mitigate or avoid the risk, plan a risk response or just accept it.)

Risks are not recorded on the issues list. Instead they are recorded on a separate risk register.

Monitor the Issues List

The issues list is a great project management tool, but it won’t work unless you use it properly. Once you identify an issue and assign it to an owner, you need to manage and monitor the resolution of that issue just as you would any other part of the project.

Quick Tips

• An issues list is a great way to avoid scope creep on a project. If issues are raised outside of the original project scope, you immediately know that there is scope creep.

• Issue lists should be reviewed with the project team regularly.

• Issue status is yet another metric that you can track on a project (see the example below).

Issue Status

9 Characteristics of Strong Project Managers

During a recent job interview I was asked, “What are the three most important characteristics of a project manager?”

Having never been asked this question before, I listed the first three things that came to mind. I think I answered it well, but this question stayed with me for several days. There are so many important skills that project managers should have that it’s hard to pinpoint the top three. That said, below I’ve listed a number of traits that I feel are important:

– Project managers should be enthusiastic about their projects. PMs are leaders, and the project team can easily take its cue from the PM. If the PM is upbeat, energetic and optimistic about the project, the team is likely to be as well.

Tuckman's stages of group development– Project managers are team builders, especially on the long-term projects. They conduct team building activities, manage conflict and set ground rules to keep meetings moving. Teams often go through different stages of development, and team building is an important aspect to running a successful project.

– Project managers should be well organized. Projects have a lot of moving parts. The PMBOK guide 5th edition lists 47 processes that may occur on a single project (and I’ve heard there will be more in the 6th edition). With so many moving parts, an unorganized project is bound to fail.

– Project managers are leaders. PMs led project teams to success. We are not co-coordinators. We’re ingrained in the project and invested in its outcome. This forces us to lead. (It’s important to note that there are many different types of leadership methods and styles.)

– Project managers should be adaptable. We live in a global workforce, with different customs, cultures and norms. What may succeed in the United States, may be unacceptable in Europe or Asia. This can be challenging, especially when you consider virtual project teams with different team members throughout the world. This is one example of how PMs need to be able to adapt to different circumstances.

– Project managers should be strategic. It’s important to look forward and identify opportunities and threats, then analyze and determine what opportunities you should capitalize on and what threats you should seek to avoid or mitigate.

– Project managers should be proactive. They should take action to address opportunities and threats quickly and efficiently. PMs should roll up their sleeves and not be scared to get their hands dirty when it’s needed.

– Project managers should be strong communicators. With so many stakeholders, PMs need to be both strong verbal and written communicators.

– Project managers should be ethical. This may seem like a no brainer, but there are many places in the world where ethics is a concern. Having strong ethics enables PMs to make the right choices for their projects and project teams.

If I’m ever asked this question again, I’ll easily have more than three answers to provide. The ones I said during the interview where:
– A project manager needs to be organized.
– A project manager needs strong people skills.
– A project manager needs to be proactive in addressing concerns and anticipating needs.

I haven’t gotten this job yet, but I still may. I’ll update this post either way. UPDATE: I got the job 🙂

How would you answer this question? Please feel free to leave a comment below.