Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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Benefits of Holidays and Vacations

As a frontline medical practitioner for over 20 years, I have been actively encouraging and motivating my patients, relatives, friends and other people to take holidays and vacations on a regular basis. Except for those people who have serious medical conditions, there are no restrictions to travel and enjoy holidays. Even the elderly, disabled or pregnant women (within 28 weeks of pregnancy) can travel as much as anyone else. The benefits of holidays and vacations are numerous, both short-term and long-term, but most people fail to appreciate the benefits. As a result, only a small percentage of people worldwide travel and harvest the benefits of holidays and vacations. Research has shown that even workers who are offered paid vacations by their organizations do not take advantage of such offers to take some weeks off their work.

In this article, I will briefly highlight some benefits of holidays and vacations.

Longer and healthier life

A recent survey conducted by the State University of New York has shown that people who take holidays regularly every year reduce their risk of early death by about 20 percent. The survey also revealed that those who did not take any holiday in 5 years faced the highest death rate risk, along with higher incidence of heart diseases. This can be explained by the fact that during holidays people are happier, relaxed, carefree, spending more time with family and loved ones, and away from the regular stressing environment. A happy relaxed life increases longevity.

Improvement in mental health

One study conducted by the Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield and published in Wisconsin Medical Journal showed that women who went on frequent vacations had lower susceptibility to depression, tiredness, or tension and they were more satisfied with their marriages. Women who took rare vacations displayed higher stress levels in their homes, felt more exhausted and tired and slept lesser. It is without doubt that regular holidays will not just relax people from the stress accumulated during the day to day hectic life in the short-term but also will improve the overall mental and psychological well-being of an individual in the long-term. Many researchers have shown that depression increases the chances of heart disease. Since holidays provide a break from the normal boring routine, they also help in relieving the symptoms of depression.

Revamping of relations

The always busy, work-obsessed and chronically duty-minded culture of people of modern life has indeed taken a heavy toll not only on our physical and mental health but also on our relationships. People do not have much time to spend with their partners, children or families. As a result, there is disharmony in the family, children are not looked after well and there is increased tension between partners, which has responded in increased number of separations, divorce and other maritime conflicts. Taking regular breaks from work and enjoying holidays and vacations not only revamps the strained and estranged relationships but also renews and strengthens family relations and bonds.

Improvement in self-confidence

When we travel, we encounter various types of situations and meet different kinds of people. Such encounter improve our self-confidence. It also helps improve our social skills and prepare us for unexpected or unknown.

Creative inspiration through holidaying

When we do the same thing again and again, it becomes monotonous and stereotyped. This is what has happened to us in today's world. We have become victims of monotony that has gradually crept into our system and destroyed our creative abilities, new thinking processes, and inspirational opportunities. When we travel, we come across new situations and different environments. Such situations can induce and help develop the creativity within us.

Increase in productivity

Many studies have shown that holidays not only motivated people to work better but the relief from the monotony also rejuvenates people, resulting in higher productivity.

Seeking adventure

Holidaying is a time to pump adrenalin for many adventure lovers. This is a chance to make their dream come true and try manyaring sports and adventures, such as bungee jumping, water rafting, surfing, mountaineering and many others. Such adventures give people a sense of achievement and happiness.

Mental and psychological escape

Many people these days view holidaying as a form of mental or psychological escape. The change in atmosphere, climate, scenery, quiet surroundings, slow pace of life, and clean air is considered by many travelers as pathway to happiness and spirituality.

Improve physical fitness, and lose weight too

Obesity has become a global epidemic. Holidays and vacations can at leastduce people to do some form of exercise. They have more time and any form of physical activity (and away from TV and video games!) Can help lose weight. If they can continue the same sort of exercises once they are back home, it can at least help people change their habit and lose some weight at the same time. Losing weight not only improves the physical fitness and appearance of a person but also reduces the chances of getting depression, some cancers, heart diseases and other conditions.

In conclusion, holidays and vacations not only bring joy, excitements, fun and break in the usual monotony of life, but they also have far reaching effects in the long-term including improvement in physical and mental wellbeing, longer and happier life, revamping relationships , Improving self confidence and productivity, and instilling creative inspiration within us.

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Geode Crystals & Astral Travel

Astral travel can be enhanced by working with crystals and their vibrational field levels during your session. But where do you start and how to help? There are many different suggestions for this, as well as different ones will resonate within different people and their energy fields.

A good place to start is by working with the crystals you enjoy the most. If you are not sure where to start, go with your intuition and follow your gut instincts as they will not steer you wrong.

A wonderful way to work with them in astral travel and meditation sessions are in geode form. The best ones I have come across that have the highest energy vibrational level are clear quartz, amethyst, citrine and calcite. It is best to work with just one type of crystal within the geode, but you can combine them in your circles if you wish. The energy field will be a combination of the different types and will have them make a weaving type of pattern within the energy field. This is a very unique type of field to work within, but may not always be the best, as opposed to a single type of stronger vibrational field you would receive with just one type of geode.

During your astral travel session, surround yourself with as many geodes as possible, in a circle, or alternating the type of crystal found within. The more the better, and even if they are small, the geodes still put out a lot of vibrational fields for you to work within!

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LA Insurance – Franchise Review

Insurance is a must these days. It has become a necessity. People with insurance sleep better because they know that they and their beneficiaries are covered should something happen. Almost everyone in the United States carry insurance which underscores its importance.

L.A. Insurance Agency is one of the most popular insurance companies in the country today. It is also one of the largest independent insurance agencies in Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California, Georgia, Florida and many more. The company was founded by Anthony Yousif who started out as an insurance agent. The company headquarters in Michigan.

The company has grown so much that today they have more than 150 locations in the United States. Their primary offering is insurance for a variety of vehicles like motorcycles, cars and boats. They offer insurance for bodily injury liability, property damage liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and physical damage and recently started offering medical insurance to their clients.

The granting of franchises is the focus of the LA Insurance Agency® Franchise LLC. Individuals interested in being a franchisee will undergo an extensive background check. There is an investigative consumer report and an investigation in accordance with the anti-terrorism legislation of the United States. Among the things which will be examined is creditworthiness. Applicants might also be required to take a standardized Math and English exam. After the form has been filled out and submitted, a representative from the company will contact the interested party by phone or by email.

Aside from extensive credit checks, there are also financial requirements which must be complied with before becoming a franchisee of L.A. Insurance. Failure to comply with the minimum financial requirements will result in the rejection of an application.

While they do not publish the totals, there is the startup cost, franchise fee, minimum liquid assets and operational costs. The company takes care of the advertising, however, it is the franchisee’s responsibility to entice customers to but the insurance he or she is selling.

Once the application has been approved, there will be trainings to undergo. Staff and personnel will be taught how to use the software, as well as how to effectively sell insurance to increase customer base. The company is very hands-on with their franchisees.

When looking to start any business it is important, particularly considering today’s market, that you look for specific ways to cut minimize or reduce overhead and risk. Any business is going to have risk, but it is important to have a full understanding of the amount of investment, startup cost and “ROI” (Return on Investment).

Most people are not aware that 80% of ALL franchise endeavors fail in the first two to five years leaving large debts looming for years thereafter.

One way and in my opinion the best way to cut overhead, startup and investment cost is to take advantage of the new age of entrepreneurship and start a business from the comfort of your home. Opportunities have emerged in the online market that are creating millionaires every single day.

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Books Set in Australia – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

A trip to Australia is one that offers endless variety – you could spend your time partying in Sydney, you could make an adventurous journey to the Outback, or you could wallow in the many wineries on offer in several Australian states. Australia is a big country and unless you have months to spend there, you are going to have to make some decisions on how best to spend you time. To help you do that, here are some books set in Australia – five novels depicting different aspects of Australian life and history.

'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

A story of Australia's beginnings, William Thornbill and his wife Sal are sent from London to the fledgling colony of New South Wales in the early 1800's. After some time in Sydney (very different from the Sydney of today!) They decide to try their luck on some land Will has set his eye on along the Hawkesbury River. The challenges they face from their environment, the local Aborigines and fellow settlers reminds us of how harsh the country was for those who decided to make it their home. There are some magnificent descriptions of the landscape as seen by an outsider, and the books gives a 'warts and all' look at the impact of settlement on Australia's indigenous peoples.

'A Town Like Alice' by Neville Shute

While the first part of this novel is set in the Malayan jungle during WWII, what follows is a story that brings you to rugged, country Australia. If you want to know what life was like in a small outback town (more of a hamlet really) in the 1940's and 50's then this novel gives you a good idea. You are subject to the harshness of the landscape and the incredible distinctions involved, as Englishwoman Jean Paget travels to the heart of Australia to find a man she met whilst captured by the Japanese in Malaya. The language and attitudes, particularly in relation to Australia's Aborigines, are true to their time and should be taken as such. But it gives a good indication of the realities of life in rural Australia, something which is still a strong cultural impact on Australians today.

'Breath' by Tim Winton

From the desert to the sea now in this novel by one of Australia's most respected writers. This novel is set in Australia's south-west corner, at a time when the area was more of a home for the logging industry than for the tourists and vineyards of today. Set mainly in the 70's, this is a coming-of-age story about teenager Bruce as he seeks to overcome the boredom of country life with some high risk activities – like surfing off what can be a dangerous and deadly coastline, and developing a Dark friendship with an older woman. As Bruce begins to grow up, both emotionally and sexually, we are grateful to some of the most poetic and exhilarating descriptions you will ever find of the 'religion' that is surfing. And you too, will feel as if you have explored the rugged and beautiful coastline of this part of the country.

'Bad Debts' by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is one of Australia's leading crime writers, and this novel is our introduction to his hero Jack Irish. – an inner-city Melbourne solicitor with a love of Australian Rules Football, gambling, and part time cabinet-making. This is Melbourne in winter, complete with its rain, pubs and shady underworld. Irish has barely been sober for a number of years after one of his dodgy clients murdered his wife, and now Danny, another former client, needs his help. But when Danny is killed, Irish discovers there are plenty of the city's political elite who would like the past to remain undisturbed, and he is determined to get to the truth. Temple's novels may not give you 'sun and sand', but you will be treated to as much genuine Australian vocabulary and city sub-culture as you can handle.

'Summerland' by Malcolm Knox

And finally to Sydney, and a novel that explores the life of the city's idle rich. Four young Sydneysiders have been friends since they were teenagers, and living around the city's northern beaches they have the world at their feet. They form two couples and spend every Christmas at Palm Beach, a popular holiday location for the affluent. But despite all this, their friendship is based on lies, as Richard finds out when he learns of the long-running affair between his wife and his best friend. If you'd like an insight into a live of the privileged few in Sydney, then this novel will take you there.

These novels are just a taste of many books set in Australia, but they are well worth reading in the lead-up to your travels or on the plane. Immersing yourself in a novel about the place you are going to will not only give you an insight into the place itself, but it will whet your appetite for your travels ahead, making it far more enjoyable once you get there.

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Things You Should Never Put in Your Will

A will will a vital estate planning document, and allows you to distribute your assets and property according to your wishes. At a minimum everyone should have a will, even if you believe you do not have many assets. It is a common misconception that only rich people need estate plans. A will have a number of limitations you may not be aware of. However, there are several items that should NOT be included in a will:

Property held in a living trust or joint tenancy – property deeded to a living trust can not be refused to someone else, and a will can not change the right of survivorship in joint tenancy, which passes to the joint tenant by law. Do not let the legalese scare you. Let an attorney help you ensure that any property you leave is handled in the way you want.

Accounts with designated beneficies – financial accounts and life insurance proceeds go to beneficiaries who are designated by you via a designated beneficiary form, and can not be given to someone else through a will.

Contingency gifts – leaving assets that are contingent on the beneficiary performing a duty or act (like marrying or attending college) is not always legal. Generally speaking, you can not "manage from the grave" by making an inheritance contingent on someone getting married, changing their religion, etc.
Provisions for those with special needs – this should be done via a special needs trust.

Provisions for pets – pets do not have the legal ability to own property, so consider acquiring a pet trust to care for your pet (s). Did you know that you can leave money for the caretaker of your pet and of course choose who or what organization you would like to care for your pet.

Funeral instructions – since a will will not be read until after the funeral, leave instructions for your funeral arrangements in a letter of instruction or discuss your wishes with loved ones. It is also advisable to get funeral insurance. Save your loved ones from the hassle of chasing money immediately in the aftermath of your death.

Many of the items above can be addressed in a trust designed by your attorney. It also shows that "wills in a box" software many times will not ensure your desires are abided by. If you'd like to learn more about establishing your personal estate plan, call an attorney today.

To Your Health, Wealth & Happiness,

Walter H. Bentley III
Http://www.wbentleylaw.com

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Benefits of International Travel

International travel can be a great experience; it allows you to witness many new cultures and lifestyles. International travel has many benefits which make it better than your traditional domestic vacation. Depending on your destination, traveling abroad can also save you money because of the current exchange rate. These rates change and may not be available in the future. A good exchange rate or activity that you would like to see may not be available if you put off planning the vacation. Another benefit of planning an international trip today is the current technology, which makes booking a trip easy. Technology can help eliminate the hassle of finding the best prices and locations based on your budget.

Traveling, whether for a long weekend away to a nearby country, or clear across the globe, is invigorating, refreshing and expands so much in one’s life that it is something that more people should do. Traveling abroad can greatly change your life for the better because there are many cultures and lifestyles to experience. These cultures can provide you with an entirely new perspective on life. Once you begin experiencing the beauty of the world, you may even begin planning yearly international vacations.

Currency rates fluctuate regularly and, as stated before, this may be a good reason to plan an international vacation today. Money is necessary if you are planning to travel and see the sights the country has to offer. If your currency can be exchanged at a reasonable rate, this can greatly improve your vacation experience. This is an important reason for traveling internationally now since you can get the most out of your trip. If you put the trip off the exchange rate may change for the worse and you can lose money after arriving at your destination.

Practical reasons

However, let us get down to the more practical reasons for traveling internationally. Frankly, it is understandable why most people would be hesitant to travel now. The economy appears to be in bad shape and many people are trying to save money. However, in some instances, this can be beneficial for travel, the airlines may lower their prices in order to get your business and this can save you money. Airline prices also fluctuate between airlines and by looking around you may find a special promotional vacation package that may not be available in the future.

Vacations are meant to be fun and enjoyable and this is another reason for traveling abroad today. There are many locations to visit from the beaches of the Caribbean to the beautiful and exquisite city of Paris, France. Experiencing something new is always the best way to live and an international vacation provides just that. This can spice up your life by allowing you to find things that you would not normally consider trying.

In fact, these days traveling is so much easier, more efficient and less time consuming than it used to be. We can travel across the globe faster and it requires much less energy than was required years ago. It is also possible watch TV, movies or listening to music while traveling. On some airlines, you can even follow the path of your airplane via satellite!

Technology and travel

Due to the technology available, planning a vacation can be stress-free as well. By using the internet to purchase your international flight tickets, you can plan your trip, get travel advice, and shop around for great deals. Technology has come a long way especially for finding the best travel packages. You can book your hotel, car, flight, and even your entertainment all on one website. If you are unsure of your destination, you can browse through the millions of videos and pictures of different locations to find which location best suits you. Planning an international trip can be an enjoyable experience when compared to the hassle involved years ago.

It is highly recommended to travel abroad at least once in your life and there are many benefits to planning your trip now. Saving money is the main reason for planning your trip today. When traveling abroad, you may have to exchange your money for the local currency. Currency exchange rates change frequently and this can have a large impact on your vacation. Since you do not know what the rates are going to be in the future, it is best to plan your trip while a good rate is available. You should also consider planning a trip because of the cultural value. Experiencing new cultures and lifestyles can help provide much value to your life. It may even change your life completely because you may find something new that you like. If you are planning an international trip, you should consider these suggestions because they can help you get the most out of your trip.

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10 Ways to Get a Shower on the Road

Hello travelers, people living out of a vehicle and other awesome folks, here are 10 Ways to Get a good Shower On The Road.

1) At a campground Campground showers vary from one place to the next. Some are excellent, some use solar power so you are out of luck if it’s after dark, and others are not heated at all. Water pressure is also a variable. Some have consistent water pressure while others will only get a weak stream when someone hops in the shower next to you or runs the sink. Campground showers can vary from deluxe with your own private changing room to just a primitive curtain or in rare instances, nothing at all. Some are well kept and impeccably clean and others you get to share with a few spiders and other mystery guests.

2) A community pool is another option. You may have to pay a few bucks to use the pool, but the showers are generally free. And hey, why not go swimming while you’re at it? They usually only accept cash and hours are limited.

3) Get a 5 gallon solar shower These are pretty cheap, usually less than $20 for a simple one, and can be quite useful when you’re roughing it. If you leave it in the sun for a few hours you’ll have a hot shower. If it’s not hot enough, a cup of near boiling water should do the trick. Just don’t burn yourself! If privacy is still a concern, for around $70 you can get a portable privacy shelter, such as the Texsport Deluxe Camp Shower/Shelter Combo. It works great for car camping.

4) The Solo 465 Stainless Steel Sprayer can be used as a medium pressure camp shower. Several people have commented they place it on a stove top burner and heat it up, then pressurize it and then it’s shower time. My friend tried this by pouring hot water into a 2 gallon plastic sprayer tank that he had and it made a great shower. It uses about 40 ounces per minute so that is a 6 minute shower using only two gallons. Another suggestion is to shower with Dawn Direct Foam soap instead of bar soap, then when it’s empty, you can refill it with your own scented soap and distilled water. The foaming soap lather won’t be affected by hard water. And it works for dishes too.

5) Get a day pass to a local fitness club. They usually run just $5 to $10, have really nice showers, and there is no excuse not to get a great workout while you’re at it!

6) Stop at a road house or large gas station such as Flying J, TA or Pilot, and other road trip stops with amenities for travelers and truckers alike. These tend to be some of the nicest showers you can get on the road as you get your own private bathroom with plenty of hot water and water pressure. Plus you get your own sink and toilet. Towels and soap are usually provided though you’re welcome to bring your own supplies. The cost is usually between $5 and $10 USD. If you’re traveling with your significant other, they’re usually willing to let you pay the one fee for a shared room. If you’re a little hard up for cash and feeling brave, you can also try asking a trucker if he or she has an extra shower coupon. Truckers often get free shower coupons when they buy gas and may have an extra to give away (or sell for a buck or two).

7) Visit a friend, relative or make a new acquaintance and ask to use their shower…sure, you might get a funny look, but what are friends for?

8) Try the “It Makes Sense Shower head.” You still need a water supply, but this device will help you save water. You can take a hot shower using very little water which is helpful when you’re on the road, so long as you don’t mind the chill in between the water spray. It has a chain to pull to adjust the flow of the water from a full spray to a trickle while you lather. It’s similar to a navy shower, and great for conserving water.

9) Zodi Hot Tap Single Burner Travel Shower runs off propane and 4 D batteries, so you can get a hot shower any time of day at the push of a button. It holds 4 gallons of water which is good for a 10 minute shower. Costs about $130

10) Hotels with swimming pools will sometimes let you use their pool for a small fee, and usually have public showers.

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Avoid Surprises When Your Restaurant Equipment Is Appraised

Appraising restaurant equipment often begs the question of which equipment is personal property – and should be valued for the purposes of the appraisal – or real property — as in, part of the real estate. While most folks have never considered whether a walk-in cooler, for example, is equipment or real estate, that’s a question that any restaurant equipment appraisal could discuss at some length. In general, equipment considered personal property includes all the free-standing equipment, such as ranges, warmers, stainless steel workstations, and most dining room furniture.

When restaurant equipment is installed, however, an appraiser must determine if the installed equipment should be considered personal property – which would be valued for the purposes of the appraisal – or real property – which would be considered part of the building and so not be valued as equipment in the appraisal. Installed equipment of this sort generally includes ventilation & fire suppression systems, refrigeration systems, and other attached items, the removal of which may cause damage to the property or create health code violations.

Determining the value of installed equipment depends, as many equipment appraisal questions do, on the appraisal premise of value. When appraising under an in-continued use scenario, for instance, the assumption is that assets will remain in-use at their current location as part of a going concern. In this case, it may be appropriate for the restaurant equipment appraiser to include the installed items and their related installation costs. If, on the other hand, the restaurant appraisal is being done for what could be an in-exchange or liquidation scenario (such as an appraisal for a bank loan collateral), then the assumption would be a piecemeal sale and the installed items would be less likely to be included.

Whatever the reason for a restaurant equipment appraisal — buy/sell, family law, collateral loan — it’s important to have a plan regarding installed equipment. And if the restaurant equipment appraisal is being done in conjunction with a real estate appraisal, as frequently happens, the respective appraisers should talk with each other to ensure that all of the subject assets to be included in the appraisals are being appropriately handled.

Now let’s discuss those 3 areas of installed equipment. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve included a few photos to illustrate the different types of equipment for which installation costs might or might not be included.

Ventilation Equipment

Typically the cook’s line area of a restaurant will have a ventilation hood, make-up air system, fire suppression system and fire alarm system specially designed for that specific location.

These items are custom designed based upon the overall square feet of the facility and its particular kitchen. The separate items are installed as a complete unit, on-site, and can make up a significant portion of the restaurant’s entire and original cost of initial equipment installation. And, as you might imagine, the cost of these expensive and specific installations is usually impossible to re-capture, especially in a liquidation scenario.

There are two reasons that ventilation and fire suppression equipment lose value: First, once the units have been connected together and attached to the building, they are difficult and costly to remove; compounding that is the fact that since the system was designed as a custom installation for a particular space, these units are unlikely to have any practical use in any other location.

Refrigeration Equipment

Installation issues related to refrigeration equipment are not as clear cut as with ventilation and fire suppression equipment, especially when it comes to walk-in coolers and freezers. Although many restaurant owners have never considered the fact that the walk-in coolers and freezers in their establishments may be part of the real estate and not equipment at all for purposes of their collateral lending appraisal, a fair number of restaurant walk-ins were indeed constructed in place and are considered part of the building.

One important part of the inspection process for any restaurant equipment appraisal, then, is to determine how permanent or removable a particular walk-in is. One great clue as to how removable a walk-in might be is the floor. Is the cooler floor grouted-in tile or poured concrete? It’s probably real estate. Many walk-ins, on the other hand, have raised floors and are obviously designed for easily disassembly and removal.

Other Attached Equipment

The same determination of removability v permanence applies to a variety of restaurant equipment, from dining furniture to shelving. Many items that are attached to the walls or floor (such as banquette seating, counters, or stainless steel shelving) may be claimed by the landlord as being real property. If damage could result from attempts to remove the equipment, the landlord may have a reasonable basis for the claim, not only to protect the real estate, but also to avoid health code violations. Health department inspectors can be very sensitive about holes in any surface where food may get stuck: they want all surfaces to be able to be easily wiped clean. So removing shelving or other restaurant equipment and leaving holes in the surface that the equipment was attached to could create a health code violation for the landlord, who would be responsible for any needed repairs.

Leased Equipment

Leased equipment, of course, is neither personal property nor real estate. The equipment appraiser needs to verify what equipment is leased and therefore not owned by the business owner or landlord. Typically, but not always, this includes dishwashers, soda fountains, coffee & tea service and sometimes POS machines (also known as point-of-sale) and telephone or intercom systems.

Questions on Equipment Installation Values

As usual, making the right call in regards to installation values in restaurant equipment appraisals comes down to good communication between the client and the various appraisers working on the project. The equipment appraiser should know the correct questions to ask and the appraisal client should expect the appraiser to ask them! When you are shopping for a restaurant equipment appraiser — whatever your reason for an equipment appraisal may be — expect an appraiser to ask these basic questions about installation costs. If the appraiser isn’t curious about leased equipment, real property and personal property, it may be a sign to do a little more shopping before choosing an equipment appraiser to value your restaurant equipment.

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How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

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