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Question 1: You are interested in opening a business on Hilton Head Island. Where do you go for up-to-date information about doing business here?

Question 2: You already have commercial property here and are looking for opportunities to redevelop it. Where do you go for that?

You may not like either answer.

gift-2At this time of year, we are often reminded that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. But there are a group of local businesspeople who are living that mantra year-round by taking part in what’s being pegged as a “gift economy.”

Simply put, a gift economy is a type of economic system in which goods and services are given without any expectation of reward or payment. According to the New World Encyclopedia, “A gift economy emphasizes social or intangible rewards, such as karma, honor, or loyalty, for giving.”

April Lewis, owner of The Art of Yoga on Hilton Head Island, is an adherent of the practice. Her studio doesn’t charge fees for its services, which include yoga classes, herbal consultation, holistic healing and massage.

“It really is a simple idea about getting what you give,” she said. “People think that way during the holidays, but we hope people will think about that concept year-round.

“It’s all about the honor system. When we tell people the fee is whatever they want to pay, some of them say, ‘Wow, that’s awesome,’ and some people want a ballpark figure of what to pay. But that’s the fun of it – seeing people’s faces when we explain that we’re a donation-only business.”

So how well does it work? Marty Crocker, a massage therapist at The Art of Yoga, says it is simply amazing.

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How do you spell success? For Hilton Head Island’s Ryan Martz, it’s as easy as A-B-C.

OK, so there’s a little more to it, like having an uncanny eye for the world around you, turning a photography hobby into a thriving business empire and having fun the whole time you’re doing it. But really, it comes down to 26 simple letters hidden everywhere you look.

Martz has created a thriving business using photographs of landmarks and pretty much any other item that cleverly resemble letters of the alphabet. Customers at their bustling Coligny Plaza kiosk choose 4-by-6 photographs of these letters (and variety is the order of the day — a simple “D” can be anything from a letter drawn in sand, a half-moon transom, a guitar pick, or even the Salty’s Dog’s hat) to spell out a word. The letters are then framed on the spot and, voilá, customers have a unique keepsake.

0712_retirement_4When retirees give of themselves, it’s a win-win situation for the volunteers and the organizations they serve.
Research shows that retirees who volunteer have fewer physical problems and higher levels of well-being than those who don’t volunteer, according to the U.S. government’s Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

0712_retirement_3As a retiree, you now have time to pursue the activities and interests you’ve put on hold while you worked and raised a family. You’re looking forward to a happy and healthy future.

0712_retirement_2Mike Pope recently received two calls from Hilton Head Plantation residents looking to remodel their bathrooms. Both wanted to extend their stay in their homes, seeking a way to age in place, a movement that has increasingly gained popularity with retirees as a way to maintain independence longer in a safe and comfortable manner.

0712_retirement_1Retirement and retirement planning have a very different look today, with new rules, new strategies, and often, modified expectations.

According to a recent Gallup survey, most Americans now believe they will be able to retire at age 67. This is up from 66 last year, 63 ten years ago, and age 60 in the 1990s. For many the ideal of relying on Social Security and pensions, and filling days with golf, tennis, grandchildren, and travel, seems a bit removed from this new reality. Both retirees and those planning to retire face some difficult questions: When should I take Social Security? Will I be able to live comfortably if I defer benefits? Should I plan to work in retirement, and if so, how will my income affect Social Security and taxes? Do I have a realistic written income and investment plan? How much can I spend from my investment portfolio without fear of running short? These are issues that pre- and post-retirees are grappling with as they come to terms with retirement in the 21st century.

0712_retirementopenerA New Chapter Begins
Take a bow. You’ve done it.
Through financial crises, housing market bubbles and a 401(k) that went from a nest egg to an Egg McMuffin, you’ve soldiered onward to retirement.

blufftonbizCould Bluffton become a mini-Silicon Valley? Local officials and Clemson University certainly hope so.

The town has joined with Clemson’s Institute for Economic and Community Development to create a “technology village” in Bluffton. The goal of this nonprofit public/private three-year pilot program is to diversify the local economy and create a breeding ground for technology companies, which would translate into new businesses and new jobs in Bluffton.

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Not to undermine the importance of financial and investment planning during the other 11 months, but for the most successful investors, January is the month to really step up your game. The hardest part is narrowing down the full width and breadth of fiduciary possibilities to the most important goals. If that’s the case, consider the following a “goal mine” of resolutions to get you off to a profitable 2012.