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Friday, November 30, 2012

How to write a college scholarship essay

By Ivy Research

If you're reading this blog post you may have heard all sorts of misconceptions, and probably read some of them through the internet. One common misconception regarding the college scholarship essay is that for some magical reason it is no longer a typical essay. Guess what, this same fallacy occurs with the college application essay as well. 

The truth of the matter is that an essay is an essay. What is an essay? An essay is basically a literary form that is designed to change the mind of the reader or to convince the reader to do a particular action that you want that reader to do. 

It's that basic, so regardless of which essay you truly admire like for example, George Orwell. If you look at their essays they follow the same standard form while the appearance of the essay might be creative and clever some might even look like a recipe' or a short novel. 

But at the end of the day it has the formalistic elements and structural elements of a typical essay. This includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. The body is what really drives the essay. It's the engine of the essay. The typical body of an essay is composed of an assertion and supporting facts of evidence. 

That is really the essence of an essay. Without it, your scholarship application essay is just a list of opinions or a list of bald assertions. Nobody's going to award you money for college, law school, graduate school, medical school, an MBA program, or graduate program based on your opinion. Opinions are like noses, everybody has one. To make your essay successful, you have to really deliver on the promise of the essay in an effective way. So how do you do that?

Grab eyeballs and work it from there

First of all, you need to grab the attention of the reader; you can do this by identifying a great theme that organizes your personal facts. Don't get too caught up in the selection of the theme because its main job is to organize the facts. It's your facts that really carry the essay, and not anything else. 

Next, in order to be awarded with scholarship money, you have to convince the reader of your essay that you have the traits and attributes they are looking for. How do you do this? You do this by making an assertion and then backing up that claim. So you have to back it up with facts; back it up with actual information from your past. 

You cannot just lay out several opinions and several assertions and expect the reader to buy what you're selling it doesn't work that way. Finally, the conclusion raps up the key assertions that you made in the past. You’re not so much repeating the assertions, but pointing them to a call to action. This action is frozen in such a way that it answers the question: Why should we award you the money instead of another applicant?

Your essay reflects your character. Make sure you autograph your scholarship application essay with quality, and without sloppiness and shoddy sentences. Just high quality writing indicates you have taken the application process seriously

About the author: This guest post was brought to you by the best provider of scholarship application essays on the Internet, IvyResearch.Com

3 great jobs that pay well

When deciding which career to pursue, the median salary of the occupation is among anyone's top priorities. However, there are other aspects which make lucrative jobs which would otherwise be merely good-paying, great. Looking beyond the obvious occupational draw of what an individual happens to enjoy doing, the three great paying jobs that pay well listed here are great for many other reasons.

Job 1: Nursing

The draw for one to become a nurse will, in nearly all cases, deal with more than mere salary. Most individuals drawn to nursing will have a desire to care for and help others - a drive which will undoubtedly be sated with a career in nursing. Of additional interest to those with a desire to pursue nursing is the incredible growth of the occupation in recent years, as well as its predicted growth in the near future: over 600,000 new jobs are expected to emerge in the field, meaning that almost anyone who desires to be a Nurse will have the opportunity to do so.

Not only is there a huge amount of opportunity for those interested on the field; the median salary for a nurse may also serve as a draw for those interested. In recent years the median nurse salary was $65,000, meaning one can pursue their dream of becoming a nurse and make a large enough salary to live comfortably. Technological advancements in the field also contribute to the ease of the job; excising tedious and the otherwise unenjoyable aspects of the job such as patient data recording and collection. With these undesirable elements covered by new technologies, a practicing nurse can enjoy their job to the fullest.

Job 2: Software engineering

For those interested in working with computers and making a great salary, look nor further than a job in Software Engineering. In the ever expanding field of computer-related products, the need for software engineers is ever expanding. With over 175,000 new jobs expected to exist in the field in the next six years, there is no better occupation for the computer-savvy individual. There's no need to sacrifice pay for enjoyment with a job as a software engineer either: the median salary for an individual in the field is $95,000. Those with at least a bachelor's degree in a computer-related occupation (such as Computer Information Systems, Embedded Systems, or Computer Engineering) and practical experience should have the best opportunities in obtaining a job in the field.

Job 3: Computer systems analysis

A relatively new occupation only in existence for about 20 years, Computer Systems Analysis is a another great job that pays well. As with the previous occupation, software engineering, those interested in computers or intra-office communication via technology will be most apt to enjoy a job in this field. There is no better time to pursue a career in it either; 100,000 new system analysts will be required in the next half decade. Their presence in larger business is essential, with companies paying those willing to take the position very well. The median income for the job is $77,000, allowing for an individual interested in computers to do what they love while still making a very lucrative salary. 

About the author: For more career advice and online degree options, please visit Career Relay at www.careerrelay.com "Empower Yourself"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Consider a money wheel for your next charity event

By Lauren Biddle
For charity events, success revolves around the ability to get people to participate. Regardless of which activities attendees like most, it's always a bit harder to get those people who have never joined in at an event before to participate. Charity balls are fun for people who attended previously because they know what's going on, but most new people are shy about getting up there and enjoying themselves in front of others. Installing a money wheel can really improve the situation.

Money wheels add fun to fundraisers
Instant wins have crowd appeal
Money wheels let charities provide their event attendees with non-threatening ways to play. The rules are far simpler than other games, and it's easier for people to instantly grasp the connection between what they did and the prizes they won. Even simple games like bingo are still confusing to people who don't understand how the rules work or what the symbols mean. Although these games are by far the most popular at charity events, hosts who take a clue from the reasons why they're so well-liked enjoy greater success.

People love simple games. Following rules isn't exactly a favorite entertainment activity for most people, so games that have complicated restrictions don't always work. Of course, many games include basic rules as an integral part of play. Spinning wheels let event hosts reach a happy medium by providing players with an activity that's easier to participate in. Anyone who watches someone else take a turn instantly knows how to play.

Another benefit of prize wheels is that winners know if they won instantly.  They don't have to sit around waiting to fill in a bingo card and then check to see if they did things correctly before they can claim their prizes. This keeps events flowing with greater regularity, ensuring that the overall casino night is more successful and fun for participants.

Charity balls are also judged based on how they look. While the main purpose of giving aid to the needy usually remains at the forefront of people's minds, adding flashy finishing touches to events helps people feel like they're really participating in something much greater than themselves. Money wheels that incorporate game show type lighting and designs that change as they rotate foster a sense of high style that really goes over well at charity galas.

Of course, the fact that spinning wheel designs can be changed out each year means that the events and games that include them remain varied, too. Charities can incorporate different prizes appropriate for seasonal gatherings, create more coherent event themes, and even update their organizational logos. These options ensure that each event is uniquely successful.

About the author: Lauren Biddle is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @Biddle23 to see what else he has to say!

Image attribution: US-PDGov

Don't fall for these life insurance scams

By Lisa Swan

If you want to buy life insurance, the vast majority of companies are reputable, and you will get great service from them. However, as in any industry, there are a number of scam artists out there, but inside and outside of the life insurance business. So you need to be careful not to fall for any life insurance schemes. Here are some of the most common scams:

Stranger-owned life insurance

Many elderly or desperate poor people fall for this scam. The way it works is that they either purchase a life insurance policy, or turn over a life insurance policy to an “investor” in exchange for some money upfront. In many cases, the person insured may not even have to pay any money for the premiums.

The scheme usually pays for the first two years of premiums, to get around state laws on insurable interest. And if the person dies within the first two years, their own beneficiaries – usually family members – will receive the proceeds from the policy. After the two years, the person insured can either pay back the money loaned, or the investor can take over the policy.

STOLI, as it is known, is illegal in some states. It is something people should avoid, especially since they could get into hot water with tax issues related to accepting payment for the STOLI.


Seniors are also frequently victimized by this practice. With churning, a current life insurance policy is cashed out by an insurance agent and replaced with another one. One way this works is that the owner of the life insurance policy is promised a new, bigger life insurance policy for virtually the same premium.  But what really happens is that the cash value and the death benefit for the old policy is drained, and then, when the new policy’s actually high premiums are not able to be made, the customer could be stuck without any life insurance.  

Here’s what you need to know: as you age, you are not going to be able to buy new life insurance for little or no cost. And that somebody who approaches you with such a scheme with buying a new policy when you already have one could be a problem, if they want you to cash out the old policy.


Life insurance twisting is very similar to churning, except that the agent may get the second life insurance policy from a different company.

In summary, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

About the author: Lisa Swan writes for a variety of websites, including BestLifeInsuranceDeals.com.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10 Common relocation mistakes

By Keith Barrett
It doesn’t matter if you’re moving down the road or to another country, your plans for the move should be the same no matter what. In the following paragraphs you will find information on the most common mistakes people make when moving home, and as this is already a stressful time, if you follow the advice in this article, it will help your move run far more smoothly.

1. Planning errors

If you don’t plan your move, you could end up in all sorts of trouble. Knowing what you have to do and on what specific dates is vital. One of the best pieces of advice is to make a list. List’s will become you’re best friend over the coming weeks, and they should be your main priority.

2. Poor choice of removal company

Finding the right removal company is only at number two because we feel that when planning your move, this should be on your list. Having the right company to help you move should be your next priority, and you should take your time. Make sure you start by asking friends and family if they know of anyone, and when you do contact someone, CHECK their reputation. They should be able to give you all their insurance information, and prove they have already carried-out many successful moves.

3. Your budget

Watch the pennies! It’s very easy for the money you’re spending to mount up. Little things like packing materials soon add up. Make sure you keep a tally of what you’ve spent and how much you have left. Also, don’t forget to factor the cost of moving you and your family as well as your belongings.

4. Poor packing

If you’re going to pack your own items, make sure you do it properly. Fragile items should be well wrapped, and don’t over-fill boxes. Trying to save a little money on buying boxes could cost you more in the long-run. The last thing you need is for your precious dinner service to end up in pieces all over the floor.

5. Insurance options

When you speak to your removal company, make sure they have enough insurance to cover the cost of your belongings. Many people forget to do this, and if an expensive TV gets broken, you might only get a fraction of what it’s worth, if at all.

6. Withholding details from your removal company

When you tell your removal company what you’re moving make sure you tell them EVERYTHING. There is nothing worse than the team arriving to your home to find that you’ve forgotten to tell them about that Grandfather clock that needs to go with you.

7. Signing the inventory

When you receive the inventory from the removal company, go over it with a fine tooth comb. Make sure the list matches the one you have down to the very last detail.

8. Pets

When you’re in the throws of a move, it can be easy to forget that your pets might need specialist attention. This is especially important of you’re going abroad. Plan well in advance, so pets are properly protected, and are legal to travel to your new country.

9. What you don’t need

Many people make the common mistake of taking everything they own with them. This not only costs you more money because the volume is larger, but you could be missing out on making a bit of cash. Be ruthless with what you don’t need, and consider selling at a car boot sale.

10. Not timing the move

Always make sure you plan at least 3-4 months prior to moving.

About the author: Keith Barrett keeps a keen eye on the property market. He also knows that The Road Ahead can handle European removals, helping to keep things that bit easier.

Why student loan delinquency rates are rising

Student loan delinquencies rates are up, way up. According to New York Federal Reserve data 90 day delinquencies have risen 2.5 percent to 11 percent since Q1, 2012. These non-payment rates keep rising in to the tens of billions of dollars despite several types of payment plans offered by federal student loan servicers. Among these plans are the income-contingent repayment plan and the income-based repayment plan, both of which reduce the monthly cost of paying back student debt to a manageable amount. So why do grads keep defaulting?  

Complicated applications

As evident in the following payment programs chart, of the three kinds of income linked payment plans, two have to be applied for on an annual basis. Documentation needed includes a tax return, proof of income and an application form. For the borrowers who forget to remember line X, on document Y, written in font Z, that can mean thousands of dollars of extra interest due to a late payment. Even rocket scientists make errors, it would be wise to assume grads will too. 

Insufficient mediation

If a graduate has a complaint against a financial institution that services a Department of Education loan, that loan is mediated by none other than the Department of Education. The potential for conflict of interest is recognizable. The complaint process is further stifled by poor federal disclosure requirements if required at all.  For example, notification of payment plan expiration is not required to be sent by certified mail, and student loan servicers are not necessarily required to prove they even send such notification. 

Negative amortization

The rise in student loan delinquency is also due to negative amortization. This is when the balance of a loan increases, often indefinitely, because the amount of a monthly payment is less than the amount needed to cover the cost of interest. Even though the federal employees, loan officers and others will incessantly repeat the mantra of working with student loan servicers to implement an affordable payment plan, the loan is really not affordable when it is negatively amortizing. Snowballing debt is not a good way to hit the ground running when professional life is only beginning.

Failed investment

Investments that fail lower individual net worth. Naturally, a healthy thing to do would be take the loss and find alternative solutions; in colloquial terminology, suck it up and move on. This is the advice given by some of the same people who would quite possibly consider short selling their home or defaulting on their mortgages because the value of their real estate is less than the amount of the mortgage. Home owners got bailed out to the tune of $22 billion dollars in mortgage relief per Reuters, student loan borrowers have the benefit of no such program.

Federal protection

Federal student loans are usually not subject to typical rules of bankruptcy relief. The Department of Education and their loans are also subject to immunity from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In effect this makes the government above the same law that many Americans attempt to follow. Apparently, the fiscal solvency of the student loan program is jeopardized by loan forgiveness, yet the federal national debt is set to expire in less than two months and has surpassed $16 trillion dollars; an amount in the vicinity of a 1:1 federal debt-to-income ratio.

A problem with student loans is they were originally encouraged via relatively easy availability to fuel the economic need for an educated workforce. That workforce has been experiencing high unemployment and the labor force participation rate had dropped to the lowest level in decades. This means the same need for educated people that federal programs were intended to meet is not there. Even though the promissory notes for these loans were signed under penalty of perjury, there is a flip side to the coin. Namely, a federal intent of educational benefit that's conditions are no longer completely valid.  

Paper or plastic: Choosing the right medium of exchange

More and more people are emptying their wallets of paper currency in exchange for carrying around plastic cards to swipe. Since the creation of debit cards, fewer and fewer people use actual paper cash. A large portion of those who carry cash do so in order to purchase items from stores that don't support digital transfers. However, the number of those businesses that don't have the means to swipe debit and credit cards is dwindling as well. With the availability of direct deposit, online banking, and checking account access through your debit card, there really isn't a need to carry cash in most cases. How is this beneficial to the population? 

1. Tracking

If you're ever in doubt about where your money went, it's as easy as looking up your banking account on the Internet. Through these reports, you can get a better idea of what you need to spend less money on as frivolous purchases will be there forever on a computer screen staring back at you with accusing texts.  

2. Distribution

Digital transfer of money can happen instantaneously to pay anyone located nearly anywhere. With certain services, you can get emergency reserves of cash instantly through on online transfer. For instance, you are vacationing in the Philippines and you run out of money halfway through your visit. If you're using services such as PayPal's MasterCard, you can have anyone add money to your PayPal account instantly in the United States to be used in the Philippines. 

3. Correct change accuracy

 Some of you may think getting exact change could be a good or bad thing. No longer will you have to make sure that the cashier handed you the correct amount of money to prevent a shortage. On the other side of that coin, you wouldn't be given more change than you were due. It's a balance of the financial cosmos that could ensure that goods are paid for as they were meant to be. 

4. Faster transactions 

- Whether you are swiping your debit card or using the smartphone to process a payment, the entire transaction is faster than if you were to give cash. Not all cashiers are created equal and some could take their time counting out exact change. In many cases, a card-swipe transaction could happen three to four times for every one cash transaction. 

 5. Accurate bookkeeping 

Instead of counting out a register or deposits for the bank, the exact amounts are moved automatically. As most bookkeeping software can connect to your bank for record synchronization, it could turn an hour of time into a few minutes with every penny accounted for. Although those who have creative bookkeeping skills can still play with the numbers to his or her benefit, the point is still sound. 

Carrying around a few dollars in your wallet may not be a bad idea if you're an avid card-swiper. In instances where cash is the only currency available to use, having paper cash on hand could mean the difference between filling up a gas-can or walking home. However, as more and more people embrace technology, the need for cash on hand will continue to decrease. 

About the authors: Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. They take care of all the necessary information related to “babysittingjobs.com/”. He personally thinks his blog will help with finding information on all things related to a babysitter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Homelessness survival guide

Seek out homeless assistance programs to ease the difficulty of homelessness
Homeless persons risk exposure to bad weather and crime
A multiplicity of programs and services in the U.S. provide homeless people with some personal finance reprieve and a possible way out of their situation. The first thing to do is to assess the severity of your situation. Where are you located and what resources are available?

Survival situations require fast action, and will challenge your wits as much as those who are not homeless are tasked by a different set of obstacles. The most important thing for you to do is find help or quickly learn how to survive in adverse circumstances.


After dealing with your immediate needs, the next step is to find a way out of your situation. This involves honestly evaluating your psychological condition, capabilities, and physical health. If your health is compromised, seek medical assistance via mental and other health clinics with free or sliding scale payments. Places to look include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, Needy Meds, and Find The Best.


Numerous programs exist to help disabled people, the homeless, and those in poverty. Vocational rehabilitation, government and not-for-profit social services are available for this purpose. The Department of Labor and the National Resources Directory provide online help with locating such services. Individual municipalities also operate programs that are of assistance. Local government Departments of Homeless Services, or similar such administrative divisions provide information about these programs  


Homeless shelters offer temporary relief from weather
Males comprise the largest percentage of homeless people
If you have exhausted your personal resources or are seeking additional help, a good place to go is a local library. This will give you access to important phone numbers and addresses that could set you in the right direction. For example, The Homeless Shelter Directory and Shelter Listings detail homeless assistance by city throughout the U.S. These social services have the potential to save your life. The HSD website also provides useful tips and guidance about dealing with homeless survival situation.


According to the Food Research & Action Center and The Legal Aid Society, homeless people have the same rights to food stamps as people with homes. However, in the interim period, or if for some reason you are unable to qualify or receive food stamps, other sources of food will be needed while homeless. Apart from hunting game and eating wild edible vegetation, public works offer some help. For instance, Food Pantries and Feeding America provide directories of these services.
To avoid frost bite, homeless shelters loosen restrictions during cold periods
Pan handlers can supplement income with social assistance


Additional programs exist to help individuals and families cope and overcome their financial hardship. Such programs include the Department of Health and Human Services' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program or TANF, and other programs offered via the Department of Housing and Urban Development. To see if you qualify for assistance such as Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children or TAFDC contact your state department of health and human services. To learn about additional or alternative services, the federal government's Benefits Finder is of assistance. 

• Image 1 attribution: US-PDGov
Image 2 attribution: Vermont Housing Finance Agency; US-PDGov
• Image 3 attribution: Ed Yourdon; CC BY-SA 2.0 

A sign of unity: Examination of pro bono work

By James Mayflower

It is no secret the US economy is struggling, in fact this economic struggle has been a dark reality for quite a few years now. Some say, “with struggle comes strength,” while others prefer, “with struggle comes progress,” and frankly, I do not prefer one to the other. Any sign of strength or progress in our nation during times like these would be quite a relief.

Americans are learning the struggles of economic crisis everyday. Unfortunately, the cost of living does not suddenly decrease nor do the trials and tribulations of everyday life go away during a struggling economy. Any sudden change, random accident, or bout of bad luck can send an individual and their family on a downward spiral. It’s safe to say in the US, we are a people who understand struggle.

In lieu of the hard times our country is enduring we do have our very own defenders of justice, masked vigilantes, if you will. A Google News search of the term ‘pro bono’ makes this point very clear. The advocacy for, and examples of pro bono work are on the rise. We should take pride in these hard-working and financially generous individuals who embrace the, “to whom much is given, much is expected” mindset.

From an industry that tolerates criticism and skepticism comes generosity. Lobbyists are often ridiculed more than they are commended. Yet in times like these we see Mike Corcoran and Brian Ballard, two Florida Lobbyists, advocating pro bono work for an accident victim in their state. The Nassau County Bar Association in New York is holding a pro bono legal fair for all residents of Nassau County and providing free legal advice to all who come out. Not to mention, this fair will provide bilingual attorneys in over five languages. If events like this do not restore confidence in our ability to be a united people then I am not sure what will.

Florida Coastal School of Law’s Public Interest Research Bureau has announced their new student-volunteer program. This program assists lawyers in specific fields by providing free research in five states. These students who are hit extremely hard by tuition and fees in our economy lend their helping hand, free of charge.

I will risk writing a post rampant with clich├ęs in order to prove my point. The fact here is that, the proof is in the pudding. Although we may be a nation hanging on by a thread financially those who can help, will.

The term ‘pro bono’ has been shortened form its entirety ‘pro bono publico,’ the full Latin term meaning ‘for the public good’. These examples of work ‘for the public good’ restore my faith in the unity of our society. During a period where individuals are fighting for employment and education, these hard working professionals and students are risking their financial security providing complimentary services. I do believe this should be a light for those doubting society during this very dark time.

About the author: This article was contributed my James Mayflower. You can read more of his work around the web. He's currently promoting an exciting homeowner loans offer from Money QED.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Things you need to know about debt collectors

By Valentine Smith

Having a debt is one of the most unpleasant things you can experience. Does not matter if you owe money to a bank or to payday lenders online, debt collectors always take place when it comes to irresponsible customers.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons regarding why one is not capable of making payments. In order to be ready for these people everyone has to know certain terms and regulations. A lot of debt collectors simply break law and we may not even know this.
The FDCPA - The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act- it is the federal law that manages collections for household, personal and family debts ( mortgages and car loans, credit cards, student loan debt and utility bills that are past due, insurance and medical debt).

The FDCPA has an association with outside deferred collectors of debt, anyhow not to a bank's particular in-house duty authorities (importance deferred payment gatherers who are representatives of a lender).

Law regarding debt collectors may have difference according to your state. It may even be way tougher than the federal regulations. A person is going to need to contact a general office of the state’s attorney to find out more specific information.
Here is the list of what the FDCPA collectors are not allowed to do:

It is no allowed for them to contact you before 8 am or after 9 pm. They can only do this if you give permission to do so. You have a right not to talk to them at all.

They cannot: 

• Call you on Sunday.

• Call or somehow get in touch with your friends, family and even neighbors trying by embarrassing you in front of them make you pay off the debt.

• Call you at work if the collector of debt is informed that your boss doesn’t want you to be reached in the middle of working hours.

• Contact your current employer regarding owed debt, only if past-due child support is the case.

• Communicate via postcard.

• Use language or symbols indicating the business of the debt on or within mail.

• Constantly call you within short period of time. It is considered to be a harassment, which makes it illegal per the FDCPA.

• They cannot threaten you in any way: For example, they may not mention jail or insult you with bad words.

• Try to collect more than you actually owe. Only in one case they can do this: if you creditor allows collectors to do that.

Be careful with debt collectors; make sure you know your rights to avoid nasty situations.

About the author: Valentine Smith is a financial consultant at PaydayLoans@ Online Company wants to tell you how to deal with debt collectors.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The U.K. Pension Protection Fund: What to expect

By Hal Wightman

In 2005, the U.K. government set up a fund designed to protect defined benefit pensions which are forced into wind up proceedings. The Pension Protection Fund (and the related Financial Assistance Scheme) delivers most or all of member's future pension payments in contexts where their scheme is insolvent and underfunded. PPF transfer is a way of ensuring the financial future of contributing members and maintaining a wider confidence in the effectiveness of pensions across society.

Essential details

The PPF covers pensions which were free from wind up (or a triggering insolvency event) at the date the fund became operational on 6 April, 2005. The FAS covers schemes which entered wind up before 6 April, 2005, right back to 1 January, 1997. Levels of compensation offered by the PPF cover 90 to 100 percent of payments, based on a number of factors, including retirement age and health status. There is an annual compensation cap for PPF pensions - which currently stands at £34,049.84 - although it is reviewed every year. The scheme is funded by levies on occupational pension schemes - and dependent on the likelihood of the scheme requiring financial assistance.

The assessment process

Current economic pressures mean insolvency events have become more common in recent years and placed increased pressure on the PPF to deliver compensation. The application process for PPF or FAS compensation reflects this pressure - pensions need to be able to prove the legitimacy of their claim, via a strict assessment period, before access to the funds can be granted. The assessment period for the PPF can last from 6 to 18 months as the assets and liabilities of a pension scheme are established and checked rigorously.

The assessment process for FAS or PPF transfer is demanding - and remains the responsibility of a scheme's trustees. The extra duties PPF transfer brings come in addition to the trustee's standing role - which includes paying pensions and communicating with contributing members. The administrative challenges of PPF transfer are significant - and a burden that can be difficult for lay-trustees without relevant financial experience. With that in mind, many pension schemes seek the services of professional trustees to help expedite the application process: identifying potential problems before assessment begins - or tackling them when they occur. Professional trustees bring independence and years of experience dealing with pension wind-ups - their presence can be beneficial to members who are uncertain or anxious about the status of the PPF transfer - and to lay-trustees without the same level of financial expertise.

Successful application

Once all the requirements of the assessment period have been met, trustees will take the steps necessary to transfer the liabilities and assets of a scheme to the PPF. When PPF transfer is complete, trustees are discharged from their roles and the PPF itself takes complete responsibility for future payments and member communication. The demands of PPF transfer should not be underestimated - the entire process may generate understandable concern amongst members who are worried about their future payments. Ensuring trustees are able to cope with the pressure is crucial to reaching a successful resolution as quickly as possible.

For more information, see Dalriada Trustees’ PPF transfer page. Written by Hal Wightman of Pensions Clarity.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Private equity and pension funds: The honeymoon is over, but the marriage is strong

By Matthew Ng

In today's low interest rate environment, pension fund managers have chased high returns by increasing their exposure to alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity. As pension funds invest heavily in private equity funds, both industries will struggle to adapt to each other in a protracted and iterative process that is likely to be as competitive as it is collaborative.

In the United States, pensions are usually funded with contributions that are periodically adjusted according to actuarial necessity. Historically, contribution levels were discounted against anticipated investment income, but today’s low interest rates have contributed to a shortfall in investment income which has left pension liabilities significantly underfunded. 

Meanwhile, increases in lifespan exacerbate the problem, while changes in the demographic dependency ratio limit the collection of future funds. Pension fund managers find themselves squeezed on both sides, they are pressured by their inability to secure high returns, and motivated to compensate for demographic trends. Understandably, pension funds have embraced private equity funds for their promise of above-market returns.

Last year pension funds increased their exposure to alternative investments by almost 5 percent, resulting in an influx of billions of dollars into private equity. In recent months, however, several state pension funds have sold major holdings in private equity. California, Wisconsin, New Jersey and New York have collectively sold billion dollars of private equity holdings, while Texas and Illinois are poised to make similar divestures. But these recent highly publicized divestures by major state pension funds don’t signal a loss of interest in private equity, but rather a desire for a higher level of engagement with a fewer number of funds.

The losers in the recent exodus are disproportionately the big names in private equity, such as KKR, Carlyle and Blackstone. These larger funds yielded lower returns over the past few years than their smaller counterparts, largely due to the end of the mega-buyout era. While the loosing private equity fund managers are characteristically silent on recent dumping of their funds, pension fund managers have been more forthcoming, citing a misalignment of interests, insufficient returns and high fees.

Talk of misaligned incentives is a backlash against changes in the ownership paradigm of private equity. Since KKR and Blackstone went public in 2007, ownership of private equity management has been up for grabs with public offerings and sales of equity stakes to third parties. These arrangements, according to Wisconsin’s investment consultants, misalign interests between management and the limited partners.

Private equity must reassure skittish pension fund managers that returns for limited partners is the primary goal of the general partners. Also, fund managers must reposition their services as a partnership rather than just money management. This might include providing more services, or discounting fees in return for a large investment, a continued relationship or a longer commitment.

Private equity and pension funds have much to offer each other. In a world where skittish banks are unwilling to back large deals, private equity needs large institutional investors that can tolerate illiquidity. Pension funds need high yield investments that can produce their target 8 percent while providing returns that are uncorrelated with the market. It is no surprise that pension funds and private equity funds have embraced each other. Recent divestures are not a breakup of the marriage, but rather a lover's spat.

About the author: Matthew Ng writes on financial investment news and corporations from across Asia. For further reading, he recommends Crescent Point Venture Capital and David Hand Crescent Point Asia.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

EB-5 program helps struggling developer bounce back

By EB-5 Investors

In 2009, Garrett Kenny’s company, Feltrim Developments, was facing a stiff challenge.  The Florida based real estate development company’s leading project, the Tuscana condominium resort near Orlando, FL was experiencing low occupancy rates and was struggling to sell its units.  Even worse, they still owed $12 Million to the bank for the construction loan.  The company was also losing $6 Million on a failed plan to redevelop the Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort in Haines City.  To survive as a company, Feltrim had to re-engineer itself and find a new way to do business.  They were able to do just that, and business is now better than ever.  And one of the most important aspects to their re-tooled look is the EB-5 visa program.

The EB-5 visa program was created by Congress in an effort to stimulate the American economy, promote job growth and attract capital investment by wealthy immigrant investors.  The program provides US visas to immigrant investors and their families, allowing them to become residents in the country, in exchange for a substantial investment in a US business.  The investor must fund either $500,000 in a new US commercial enterprise located within a rural or high unemployment area or $1 Million in any desired US location.  In addition, the investment must create or preserve a minimum of ten full-time jobs for American workers within two years.

Kenny said that Feltrim is on path to receive approval to open an EB-5 regional center at Feltrim’s Davenport headquarters.  EB-5 regional centers, which exist all across the country, are government-approved centers that act as hubs where EB-5 investors can pool their investments together to fund special or large projects.  The EB-5 regional centers can assist immigrants with their applications and act as overseers of the projects and make reports to the government to ensure that the rules of the program are being followed.

Feltrim had shifted their focus to buying and restoring distressed homes, and then reselling them, mostly to international investors.  As a result, his company developed contacts with many investors in China who were interested in the EB-5 program.  Kenny states that there are numerous investors in China looking to invest in US enterprises and that the EB-5 regional center will be a method for them to raise money to develop in the future.

The first project on the horizon for Feltrim’s EB-5 regional center is a hotel in Haines City.  Details of the project have yet to be solved, but hotels have proven to be a favorite project for EB-5 regional centers all over the country.  Hoteliers such as Hyatt Hotels, Starwood Hotels and Hilton all currently have projects underway which are relying on EB-5 program money, and Marriott has undertaken 14 projects to be funded through the EB-5 program, including a $168 Million hotel near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.  Kenny and Feltrim hope to be added to that list of projects, which are all made possible by the EB-5 program.  

Thanksgiving Day: Financial news

AP: Drought level of continental U.S. has reached 60.1%
ZH: Stimulus funded corporate buybacks a contrarian indicator
MN: Recession possible despite Fiscal Cliff solution per economist
CB: Net impact of Superstorm Sandy not yet reflected in LEI
Business Insider: Economics blogger "always right" since 2005
NYT: Share prices ↑ day before Thanksgiving on low volume
Reuters: Pre-holiday online shopping ↑ 16% year over year
CNBC: Lower mortgage payments prevent delinquency
CNN: Mortgage rates on 30-yr loans fall to a record 3.31%
Fox: Possible port-worker strikes currently in negotiation
BBC: Eurozone delay of Greek bailout putting Euro at risk
Bloomberg: Intntnl. trade still at risk from China-Japan dispute

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finance tips for this generation

By Terrence Stoker

Times, they are a changing. Personal finances, priorities and their frameworks change from each generation to the next.

While your grandfather may have some excellent methods of how he managed his finances during the earlier years, often the changing face of modern economics will render his advice less than perfect.

So what are some of the key lessons that we can pass on to this generation that will make their financial lives easier to manage? Managing the little lessons of finance now and following them throughout our adult lives can lead to larger and more important rewards in your later years.

Organising your finances

Make a concerted effort to track all your finances in some form. With the multitude of personal finance apps and the familiarity of people of the computer generation to make use of spreadsheets and simpler software to track finances is easier than ever before.

Gone are the days of shoe-boxes of receipts, most days simply by using the data form your internet banking accounts, its simple to mark your expenditure and income for each month. If you are using these digital systems, try to use cash as often as possible as it’s easier to keep records of, and most banks have flat card transactions rates.

Set up monthly savings payments into your account or ask your employer about long term retirement fund options. Your employer will often have policies such as the 401(k) (if you’re in the US) where before tax you will get an allocation of your salary paid into a long term savings account.

Many employers will contribute to this as well to improve your growth year in and year out.  If your employer does not offer a retirement plan package for their staff, ensure that you set up monthly debit orders at the beginning of the month to put away a savings amount that you can invest on your own.

Dealing with debt

Prioritise any long term credit payments so that they work for you. Many of us throughout our life will require some form of credit, be they mortgages, bonds, student or personal loans. Make sure that you manage the repayments in priorities, for example focus on paying those with the highest interest rates back first.

Check the stipulations of each contract and pay back the credit earlier that yields you benefits for early payment. Some long term credit has no benefit for early payment and can actually cause you to be penalised by the lender.

Personal finances have changed greatly over the last few decades, from apps, payment methods and lending systems based on the modern economy. Make sure you keep up with the times, watch your cash flow and ensure that you start saving early for the benefits during the rainy days. 

About the author: Terrence Stoker is a Blogger with a keen interest in the development of finances over the ages. Whether its savings, loans or day to day expenses, Terrence is fascinated in ways that he can control finances better, simpler and make the execution of his budgeting faster each and every month.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Avoid bankruptcy: Tips to grow your small business economically

By John Reiter

There are many more small businesses in the United States than large businesses, so it’s easy to understand why they are vital to the U.S. economy. Considering that even multi-million dollar corporations have had to file for bankruptcy protection or close their doors completely in recent years, many people mistakenly assume that small businesses are struggling in today’s economy.

Small businesses can be successful

Small businesses run the gamut from local law firms with 100 attorneys to Mom and Pop corner stores with 50 employees and even one-man operations that are run out of the owner’s home office. Although it’s inevitable that not every small business will ultimately be a success, many are flourishing. A recent study by Chicago-based SurePayroll surveyed 300 small businesses, and an impressive 30% of respondents had actually seen a sales increase over the past year.

Review business operations during down times
Small business success hinges on revenue, cost control and effective management
However, if you are a small business owner who is experiencing tough times rather than watching your sales forecasts soar through the roof, it may be tempting to throw in the towel. A few of the top reasons that many small businesses fail include:
  • Lack of experience
  • Insufficient capital (lack of funds)
  • Poor location
  • Poor inventory management
  • Poor credit arrangement management

Bankruptcy can be avoided

Whether your business has significant debt because it is just getting off the ground or you are keeping creditors at bay by juggling debt from one credit card or line of credit to another, therefore treading water while trying to stay afloat, it is possible to grow your small business and avoid bankruptcy.

Planning and preparing for the future, which will predictably include some bumps along the way, is one of the best ways to help your business grow economically. The Small Business Administration recommends the following:

1. Forecast for growth in the future even as you focus on the present. Strategic thinking and planning can help you achieve your ideal outcome.

2. Use technology to stay competitive. It’s vital for small business owners to understand current technologies and take advantage of them! Business accounting software, planning software such as an online calendar, time tracking software to help determine which tasks are profitable, email management programs to keep things streamlined between multiple email accounts and mobile devices that can make life easier when you’re on the go are just a few suggestions.

3. Develop a marketing plan that will help you make a profit. A solid marketing plan should include everything from understanding your target audience and how you plan to reach it to how you will separate yourself from the competition and make more sales.

Marketing plans are a key component of business strategy
Consistent revenue and earnings growth are accomplished with marketing

4. Consider franchising your business if you are interested in expanding without spending most of the money yourself.  Realistically speaking, few small businesses can be franchised, but it is possible if you offer superior products or services that are in high demand and your business model is easy to duplicate. Setting up the legal end of things will involve significant costs, but you could expand your business and earn franchise fees.

These are just a few suggestions to help your small business grow and avoid significant debt. If you honestly feel that bankruptcy may be your best option, it would be wise to meet with a legal professional for feedback and advice.

Consider other corporations when developing a business strategy
Modelling existing corporations helps small businesses refine their techniques

About the author: Jon Reiter is a marketing agent for John B Clarke P.C., experienced Denver bankruptcy lawyers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How much should you spend on your first car?

By Christina Jones

Buying your first ever car can be incredibly exciting, but you might also find it very stressful and a little bit scary. This is because you’ll probably be parting with more money than ever before when investing in a single purchase and you’ll need to choose a car that you’ll still be happy to use a few years down the line. There are a million and one things you need to take into account when choosing your vehicle, from its general appearance to its inner workings.

The full amount that you spend on your vehicle will entirely depend on how much money you actually have available. So, in order to make sure you don’t accidentally overspend on your first ever car, here are a few pointers when it comes to setting your budget:
  1.   Be realistic
When you’re going into your budgeting process, always be realistic with yourself. If you know for a fact that you haven’t got a lot of money to spend, don’t go looking at cars that are worth thousands and thousands of pounds, you’ll only be taunting yourself. You should always figure out the logistics of buying your first car before you actually go to look at any, as this will ensure you don't get your heart set on anything that's out of the question.
  1.   Plan everything
You should sit down and examine your finances carefully before buying your first car. Find out exactly how much 'spare' money you have every month and see how much you have in the way of savings. This will allow you to come up with a suitable budget for your first car. Generally, though, you don't want to spend too much on your first car as there will be a higher chance of you being involved in a car accident when you’re a new driver and aren't that confident out on the roads yet.
  1.   Consider finance
Having said that, if you take finance options into consideration you might be able to get a car that wouldn't usually be available to you. This is because you will be able to spread the cost over a number of months, and you can often find finance deals that offer interest free periods. If you were able to pay off your loan before this period ended, you wouldn't need to pay for any added interest.
  1.   Go second-hand
In this day and age, buying a brand new vehicle makes little sense for most people. New vehicles cost so much more than second hand or used cars, and you can get some amazing models that are just a few years old when buying second hand.
  1.   Research fuel consumption
Once you've found a car you like the look of you should always look into its fuel consumption before buying it. This will give you an idea of how much you'll need to spend on petrol or diesel each month. Cars with higher fuel consumptions will obviously end up costing more to run, which can run up your bills every month even with an interest free finance option.
  1.   Look into insurance costs
Certain cars will cost more to insure than others, so don't allow this to take you by surprise after purchasing a vehicle. It may be worth consulting a number of different insurance companies as well so that you can find out what the best price for your insurance would be with such a car.

How much will you be spending?

About the author: Christina Jones is a freelance writer, focusing on the finance and motor industries with particular interest in UK car credit and finding the best car loans.

How to make peer-to-peer capital a part of your investment portfolio

The words "peer to peer" have the ability to drive fear into the heart of the most seasoned investor, but in terms of venture capital lending, peer to peer is just another name for "private equity" done on a more middle class level. The only difference is regulations that apply to private equity do not necessarily apply the same way to peer to peer investments.

What this means is that the peer-to-peer investment industry is a much more free way of making money, but it is also much more dangerous for those who do not know what they're doing. There are many advantages to peer-to-peer investing that no other sort of investment class has. Below are some of the ways in which you will know if peer-to-peer lending is right for you. 

One: Study successful peer-to-peer investment campaigns

Once you have studied scucessful peer-to-peer investment campaigns, then you have personal knowledge of campaigns that resemble those successes. With any form of investment, paper trading is definitely a way to figure out the ins and outs of an investment without losing any money. Before you begin investing real money in any peer to peer lending campaigns, follow a few of them and test your instincts on paper first. Once you have success on paper and you have found campaigns that are similar, you will know that you are ready to put real money down on a peer to peer lending campaign. 

Two: Note peer-to-peer campaigns that have been successful in the past

Do not think that just because an investment class is called peer-to-peer that there will be any greater percentage of bad ideas versus good ideas. The only difference between peer-to-peer investing and the venture capital industry is the amount of money that exchanges hands. You want to look for peer-to-peer campaigns that have been successful in the past. Do not waste your time with pie-in-the-sky ideas from would-be business owners that are looking for their "shot." Real business owners know how to make money for their investors, whether they get those monies from peers or venture capitalists. 

Three:  Do not be fooled by an idea alone. 

Take heed of the interest rates and probability structure of peer-to-peer investing campaigns. There have been many studies done on the mathematics of business, and as long as return rates are comparable to the market, you can take them as a very true indicator of the probability of success of a business. This means that if you want to invest in a peer-to-peer investing opportunity that has a high return on investment, you must be prepared to take more risk. This does not mean that the idea is bad; it simply means that you must do more research into the management team and the industry before you invest. 

Four: Take an assessment of your own financial situation

Many financial experts agree that you should not begin investing in peer-to-peer investing campaigns beyond 10% of your expendable income. On top of that, many financial experts agree that you should not invest in anything until your gross income is above $100,000 per year. No matter how good an idea for a business is, there is always the chance of failure. You do not want to put yourself in a precarious financial situation because an investment went downhill.

About the author: Interested in keeping your credit score up? Check out Kel Credit Report for more information on credit as well as answering the question, “How do you fix credit?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Traffic court: When is it worth the cost to contest a ticket?

If you do not have the upper hand in terms of proof, logic, and testimonial strength, then it is a good idea to think twice before contesting a ticket, as doing so can lead to even more costs, and wasted time. Those who do not pre-pay traffic tickets are usually required to attend traffic court if they are to testify for their plea of innocence. If you think you are not-guilty of a traffic violation, then be careful before making the decision to not pay a ticket. Below are some considerations to take in to account:

• If the judge does not find you innocent, court fees often apply
• If the ticket is not waived, both the ticket and fees will be due
• If ordinances say one thing, executive decisions may say another
• The judge who hears you influences the outcome of your testimony
• You must either prove your case, and/or officials must prove your guilt

Evaluate the liklihood of success before contesting a traffic ticket.
Some tickets are not worth contesting

Assess fault

If you are in clear violation of any road markings, street signs, or municipal ordinances, there is a reasonable chance paying the ticket will cost you less than contesting it. If you believe you are not in violation of ordinances, or road markings, but competing rules or signage exists, your innocence or guilt is up to the judge. Remember, there is supposed to be a transcript of the court proceedings, so citing the specific code you did not violate, and asking the officer a question that places the burden of proof on him or her should not be a problem for you.

Essentially, you want to ensure there is no room whatsoever for anyone including the judge to argue against you. It is wise not to forget that the county can make its own decisions, and that a judge will not necessarily rule against them. For example, suppose a municipal ordinance states no parking is allowable within 30 feet of a stop sign, but a (no) parking sign indicates otherwise. What should you do?

Questions to ask

To illustrate how one might go about assessing fault, consider the following example. If you park next to the stop sign, then you are in violation of the ordinance, but if you do not, you may be ignoring the sign. Questions to ask:

• Why is the sign there?
• Was it placed there incorrectly?
• Who decided how it should be placed?
• Will a judge side with underlying law or county decisions?

Utilize official evidence to make a convincing case
Ambiguity gives reason for doubt

Prove ambiguity where it exists

Whenever there is ambiguity, prove it is ambiguous without cause. For instance, if the sign is placed in front of corporate offices, did those offices or non-judicial county officials influence the decision to place signs in a way that challenges the logic of the general law? Even though you may be right in terms of the ordinance, you may also be wrong in terms of the county's decision to place the sign the way they did.

Falsify reasonable doubt

The existence of any reasonable doubt weakens your case. Doubt, is therefore a good thing to pay attention to, for the keys to proving your innocence are also contained in proving that doubt wrong. In the case of the above example of a sign with conflicting messages, you must obtain a written statement from an applicable county official that clarifies whether or not the sign is correctly positioned or not even if you did not break the law.
Traffic court does not operate the same way as criminal court
Traffic offenders are not necessarily innocent until proven guilty
Think in terms of the four branches of government: judicial, legislative, executive and financial. The last branch is unofficial, but even the government has financial motives. It helps to have at least two of these on your side. For example, you must not be in violation of the law, and the judge must be convinced by your testimony, or you must not be in violation of either the law or executive decisions. Furthermore, an unrefutable case is often necessary in traffic court because the house/court has the advantage. Moreover, as the following video illustates, there is an inherent conflict of interest when the judge represents the state issuing tickets.

Image licensing:
2. Jarek Tuszynski; CC BY-SA 3.0  
3. US-PDGov 

Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice, nor is it guaranteed to be an accurate portrayal of any reality surrounding the nature of traffic law.