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Q&a life lessons from the luxury brand world


When one of your first jobs involves filing insurance paperwork for pocket change at your dad's office, it's easy to see how you would yearn later on for something more glamorous. Marla Malcolm Beck went for ultra-luxe. But the early lessons on dollars and cents were valuable, and with the aid of an MBA from Harvard Business School, Beck turned luxury into big business when she founded the high-end beauty retailer Bluemercury in 1998 with her husband Barry. They now have over 100 stores across the country, as well as a skincare line, M-61. In 2015, Macy's purchased the Washington, D. C.-based Bluemercury for $210 million and Beck, 46, remains chief executive. Beck talked to Reuters about her unusual business path. Q: What early lessons about money stuck with you?A: I remember when Izod shirts were hot, my mom wouldn't buy me one because she thought it was ridiculous to spend $20 more just so you could have the Izod symbol. That always stuck with me in two ways: (her message that) if you want a shirt like that, you have to earn your money and buy it yourself. Also, that with brands, sometimes to make a brand where there's this one little extra twist that you have, and some people believe it and some people don't.

Q: What did starting a business in the beauty industry teach you about finances?A: Don’t run out of money. Within the first six months of launching in the late 1990s, we had $150,000 in the bank and we had an Internet site, but we were a little too early, so revenue for e-commerce wasn't building fast enough. Because we couldn't raise more, we had to learn how to build a profitable business. Q: What did you do with your first paycheck?

A: I remember buying a really fashionable black jacket and then being sort of disappointed afterward. After that, I just let my bank account fill up and I used some of it for spending money in college. It was very gratifying to build up your own bank account. It’s a powerful feeling. Q: What has running a company taught you about finances?A: When you set up a company, you have your core mission, your strategy and you have your metrics. It's so critical. Every two hours, I get a report on what the store sales and digital sales are.

Q: What drives you to give?A: We have areas of interest that we give in - schools, entrepreneurship, religion - and then direct giving of those in need. This would be handout money to families that have hit a hard time. There are certain funds that do that - one of our religious groups, one of the schools our kids go to, for example - so we know who's handing out the money. It might be someone’s out of work and needs to pay their utility bill, that sort of giving. It’s very satisfying to know you can help a family or individual that’s fallen on a hard time. We talk about it with our kids. We always talk about how they have to save and give, how you should always be able to reduce the amount you're spending on, teaching them not to buy as much and how to make little gifts. That's important. Q: What money lessons do you pass down to your three kids?A: We always encourage them to be debt free. I remember the day I paid off my student loans - it was six or seven years after my we started Bluemercury. That debt had hung over me until I was able to pay it off myself. I also try to teach the kids entrepreneurial lessons. One of our daughters just started an entrepreneur group. Our other daughter is starting a nonprofit to raise money for orphan diseases (which affect a small number of people) and she’s asking questions like, ‘How do I set up a 501(c)(3)?’  The nonprofit will help with diseases that affect a small number of children but need more research.

Your money as pets live longer, they may need long term health care


If you think only humans are living longer, check out Willoughby. The adorable little shih tzu from Atlanta is still trucking at the ripe old age of 18. In human terms, that puts him well over 100. It is no fluke. Dogs are now living an average of 11.8 years, according to the 2016 State of Pet Health report from privately owned Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates veterinary clinics around the United States. That is up from just 11 years in their 2013 study, and 10.5 years in 2002. Cats are also enjoying more golden years, an average of 12.9 years, or roughly 70 in human terms. That is up from 12.1 years in the 2013 study, and 11 years in 2002."Dogs used to be considered geriatric at six or seven. But these days larger breeds can make it to 15 or 16, and smaller breeds can even live up to 20 years," says Laura Coffey, author of the book, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts." Owner preferences are increasingly tilting toward the longer-living smaller dogs, says Dr. Kirk Breuninger, a veterinarian and lead researcher for the State of Pet Health report. Pets are living longer, primarily due to "education about pet health," says Breuninger, including more check-ups and medication. In the past, elderly pets with health problems might have just been put down. Also helping is better nutrition. Gourmet pet food, which some consider healthier, now accounts for more than one-half of the U.S. market, according to research firm Euromonitor International. In total, Americans spent a record $60 billion caring for their pets in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association. You don't have to tell that to Willoughby's owner Niv Persaud, a financial planner in Atlanta. She spends around $100 a month on medications for dry eyes, arthritis in the hips, and a heart murmur.

A pet owner doesn't need to go broke caring for their animal companion. But one does need to be aware of additional costs as pets age, and prepare for potential health problems before they turn into a crisis. And consider ways to minimize the outlays that will inevitably arise. Here are some tips on caring for your little Methuselah:* Be proactive with preventive careJust like with humans, wellness programs can help prevent more serious (and costly) health issues later on. Administering heartworm medication from an early age, for example, is one way to potentially lengthen a pet's life, Breuninger says. By quickly identifying conditions, like kidney disease in cats, you can design specialized diets that will boost lifespans and extend quality of life.

* Get coveredSome of the array of conditions that tend to affect senior pets, according to Breuninger, include arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and thyroid problems. Insurance from providers like Nationwide Pet Insurance (formerly VPI), Healthy Paws or Petplan can help allay the costs. The U.S. market amounted to $688.8 million in premiums in 2015, covering 1.4 million pets, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.* Don't overlook dental work

Owners do not tend to think much about their pet's teeth, but a lot of older dogs have dental issues, says Coffey. If you remember how painful toothaches can be, think about how your pet feels. Consider paying for professional cleaning and tooth extraction if necessary, which can be "life-changing" for afflicted pets.* Retrofit your homeJust as you would for an elderly parent, look to make your home comfortable and safe for elderly pets, advises Coffey. Rubber mats and runner rugs are better than hardwood floors or tile, which lead to more slips and falls, and are harder on arthritic joints.* Consider rescuesAn increasing number of pet-welfare organizations focus on placing senior pets in loving homes. As part of the adoption, they might help with health examinations and coverage for prescription medicines. Check out the state-by-state resource guide on Coffey's site (MyOldDogBook.com)."Don't be scared to take in an older animal," says Coffey, who shares a home with Manny, a 10-year-old Labrador retriever, and Frida, a 12-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback. "You are making such a huge difference in the life of a little creature who has otherwise run out of options."

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