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Sunday, June 30, 2013

What per capita income really is

Statistica data does not necessarily imply factual accuracy
Income measurements vary due to different calculation methods

The commonly referred to statistic “per capita income” is really a somewhat misleading statistic used to represent the general income for the entire working age population. Numerous other statistics including median income and mean income often produce considerable variance in results and change when measured in low-income neighborhoods or other demographic niche areas.


Facts are sometimes statistics, just as some statistics are facts, but not all statistics are facts. This means that representative numbers are subject to being quantitative illusions subject to being taken seriously because they were issued by a Federal Agency. In function, agencies are comprised of people and rules just like any other organization; such being the case, statistical data emerging from federal entities are subject to fallibility, bias and administrative oversight just like any other organization and despite bureaucracy that maintains the status quo.


The average income of all Americans is often higher than the average income of most Americans, and that qualifies average American income as misleading because when used as a general indicator of national economic success, it does not account for huge income differences between demographics. For example, according to the U.S. Census 2007-2011 American Comunity Survey, mean retirement income was $22,490, and per capita income was $27,915. However, mean household income was $72,555 and mean non-family income was $45,893.


The problem of per capita income begins far earlier than the data output of StatPro, SPSS or whatever statistical software used to create them. The data collection process, the selected input variables, the software design and even administrative oversight, all have bearing on what an official or public statistic really is or pretends to say.

Per capita income is the mean money income received in the past 12 months computed for every man, woman, and child in a geographic area. It is derived by dividing the total income of all people 15 years old and over in a geographic area by the total population in that area. Note -- income is not collected for people under 15 years old even though those people are included in the denominator of per capita income. This measure is rounded to the nearest whole dollar.”

In the case of per capita income as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the calculation is defined as follows:

Per capita personal income is calculated as the personal income of the residents of a given area divided by the resident population of the area. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses the Census Bureau’s annual midyear population estimates.”

The problems with both the BEA and the Census per capita income measurements is how they assess income and the inherent generality of the statistics. Moreover, since Internal Revenue Service documents are usually private, the income data being used by these two other organizations must be arrived at another way. None of the data takes the multi-trillion dollar shadow economy in to account either.


Government data is not the only source of income information. Organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and many private and not-for-profit research firms have the freedom to utilize different methodologies in their per capita income measurements, The result becomes a different number entirely. To illustrate, the World Bank uses a metric called GDP per capita. This is a country's gross domestic product divided by the population. In 2011, the World Bank estimated U.S. GDP per capita at $48,112, a number more similar to mean non-family income than per capita income.

When evaluating any economic or financial statistics it is important to realize these are often only representative estimates. In other words, when statistics are based on limited data sets, they are often believed, or intended to be derived from a group of people or demographic that is representative of the whole country. In the case of per capita income, the statistic is a very general number that fails to take income disparity and differential into account. Instead, the aggregate per capita income is more a measurement of macro-economic strength and conditions.

* Image license: MorgueFile; Royalty and attribution free

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pros and cons of renting furniture for your property

Savings and options are attained by purchasing used furniture
Furniture that is bought can be re-used or sold for extended benefit
By Natasha Al-Atassi

There are many ways to save money when letting out a property to tenants, including renting furniture for the home instead of buying some. Here are some pros and cons for doing so, which will help you decide whether to purchase all the furniture for your property or hire it.

Buying furniture – pros

One of the best reasons to buy your own furniture is that you might find it is cheaper in the long run. While you’ll have a considerable outlay at the beginning, you won’t pay any extra for the furniture than you need to. You can find some bargains on furniture if you look thoroughly, with good deals to be had on second-hand pieces or in showrooms when they’re offering big discounts.

You could also purchase furniture on finance, which means you can spread the cost if you need to. This means you don’t have to incur such a huge expense in one go, but you also won’t need to pay more than the furniture’s worth by renting if you plan to let out the property for a long time.

By owning the furniture yourself, you don’t have to worry so much if your tenants damage it. While this will be an annoyance, you can charge them penalties for doing so by taking it out of their deposits. However, if you are hiring furniture, you yourself may have to pay an extra charge, which could be greater than the amount it costs for the repairs.

Buying furniture – cons

In order to buy all the furniture, you will need to be able to afford to do so. Having your own furnishings is often desirable as you can keep them for a number of years; however, if you think you’re likely to have a regular turnover of tenants, you should consider the possibility that you’ll have to update your furniture quite often.

Your property will seem more appealing if it is filled with stylish and clean items, so buying new pieces could help attract more interest and, therefore, fill the home more easily. This investment will be worth it in the long run – but be aware of the initial costs of buying the furniture in the first place.
What’s more, if your tenants damage your furniture, you will have to incur the cost and responsibility of fixing it. This can be cheaper than paying for a rental company to do this, but don’t forget, you have to spend the time to do so – something that may be very precious to you if you own a number of buy-to-let properties in the UK and abroad.

Renting furniture – pros

The alternative to buying furniture is hiring some, and there are many benefits of doing this. For a start, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to fill the house in one go. By renting, you only hire what you need and lower the initial cost by paying on a monthly basis. Therefore, if your property is empty for a couple of months, you don’t need to pay for the furniture when you don’t require it.

Another benefit is that it allows you to be flexible; while all rental properties will require a bed, wardrobe and sofa, you only have to hire any extra furniture your tenants requests. For instance, if they’re happy to use the breakfast bar to eat from, you don’t have to rent a table and chairs. 

Alternatively, you can attract tenants to the property by saying they can have their input when it comes to choosing the rental furniture; this might make more people interested in moving in.
You can also find furniture packages, so if you need to get a whole set of new furnishings in no time, companies can locate everything you need that’ll be suitable for your new tenants – whether they’re students, young professionals or families – without you having to do the hard work.

Renting furniture – cons

While there are considerable advantages to renting furniture, there are also some negatives too. For instance, if your tenant decides to stay in the property for several years, you’ll have to continue to pay hiring charges all this time. You might find this adds up to being a lot more expensive than it would’ve been to just buy the furnishings in the first place.

Depending on where you hire your furniture from, you might not be able to find matching pieces. If you’re hoping to create a sophisticated, stylish abode, you may wish to have a lot of your items match – or at least complement each other – but this could be difficult if you don’t buy them yourself.
You also need to ensure the furniture fits trading standards, as you’re letting out the property to members of the public. Therefore, you need to ensure their safety is paramount and furniture will have to meet fire and safety regulations. You need to ensure all the cloth furniture is made out of fire-resistant material, whether you rent or buy your furnishings.

Hiring certainly gives you the flexibility, while owning your own furniture could be a more cost-effective option in the long term. Whatever you choose, your decision will come down to your own personal situation, but it is worth considering both options just in case the other suits you better.

About the author: Natasha Al-Atassi is a property investment writer for Select Property Investment, collating the latest news about property investment opportunities, as well as updates on the Select Property brand and information to help investors interested in buying real estate.

* Image license: Royalty and attribution free

Friday, June 28, 2013

5 things every MBA student should know

MBA programs affect work, travel and life
Working on an MBA requires organizational skills

By Jason McDonald

Deciding to get your Master in Business Administration (MBA) can be a difficult choice. You may have just completed your bachelor's degree, you may be looking forward to nights that don't involve any type of studying, you may have had your fill of essays and exams, and you may feel as though you've been enrolled in school since the beginning of time. Because of the difficulty in this choice, potential students should be educated about what's involved before signing up for MBA classes. Here is a brief outline of what you should know.

Choose your current job wisely

Any job that requires you to travel 25 percent of the time or more is not optimal (and perhaps not feasible) when juggling MBA classes. Business travel can often be sporadic, popping up when clients' needs arise. The travel can also take you far away, depending on the job and its parameters. This may cause it to interfere with important projects and exams.

Ideally, the job you have while taking your MBA classes would require very little, if any, travel. An even better job would offer at least some amount of flexibility (and a boss who empathizes with your full schedule).

Balance your courses

You've already completed your bachelor's degree; chances are you've become a pro at scheduling classes. Use what you already know about your personal study habits and balance your courses accordingly. You may choose to take a hard class with an easy class or save the most complicated classes for a term when your office job will be less hectic than usual.

Take time for yourself and your family

Getting your MBA may leave you feeling as if you need to live business analytics and breathe management statistics within a wide range of finance careers. But doing this may drive you (and your spouse) crazy. Instead of letting your studies overrun your life, take some time for yourself and the people you love. Even if it's one night a week, it can still make a big difference.

Cut down on credits

As an undergrad, 12 credits a semester were easy; even 16 credits were doable. However, this will likely not be the case while obtaining your MBA. Unlike undergrad work, when your responsibilities may have been limited to your studies, most MBA students are inundated with outside commitments. These may include a job, a house, a significant other, or a family.

Know it will be worth it

The average MBAgraduate in Georgia makes a salary of $92,000 a year. In comparison, a person with a bachelor's degree makes an average of $70,000 a year and a worker with a high school diploma makes an average of $36,000.

Not only do MBA holders earn higher salaries, but they also may see greater job opportunities. The majority of 2010 MBA grads found employment, even in a bad job market. In a poll where 6,800 MBA grads were surveyed, 93 percent were presently employed.  This study also showed that MBA grads were likely to be employed quickly; 88 percent of the most recent graduating class had jobs.

Getting an MBA requires sacrifice, but many students find that the ends more than justify the means. If you are willing to put in the long hours and hard work, you will be able to reap the rewards after graduation.

About the author: This article was written by Jason McDonald, an Accountant, dog-lover, and self described techie. For more information on getting your MBA and what careers it leads to, Jason suggests visiting your University’s Advising Center, or a site like Money Jobs.

How to live for free

Resourcefulness and careful planning are required to life free
Living free takes work, but is not impossible
Living free well is not the same as living luxuriously. This means one must work at living free just like anything else. Living for free is not necessarily easy, but is not impossible either.

With careful planning, the use of public, private and alternate resources makes living for a lot less, if not free, easier. When determining how to live free, it is wise to first realize how one's life will change as many lifestyle adjustments are necessary for such a relatively unconventional lifestyle.

Freeganism Vs. frugalism

Freeganism is a more radical form of low cost living that goes beyond frugalism by locating free products and services and literally living off them. Frugalism itself is different than minimalism; while minimalism advocates living simply with less, frugalism promotes having more for less. The principle tenet of freeganism is it must be free; it also involves practices that are not necessarily approved or commonly accepted by greater society at large.

Learn about resources

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, it can also be said need is the father of resourcefulness. Self-education is a cornerstone of such and makes the dream of living for free more manageable. The blogosphere, federal and state publications, not-for-profit organizations, free access journals and municipal services such as public libraries all help with achieving this goal. To illustrate this point, the blog “Survival Guide to Homelessness” offers tips and techniques for managing a homeless lifestyle. Even mainstream publications such as Kiplinger and The Atlantic have published articles on the topic.

Managing a free life

In addition to lifestyle changes, living for free requires proper identification of needs, and locating the necessary free products and services to meet those needs. Numerous resources exist to help locate these products and services; in some cases these resources are associated with homelessness. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration and Needy Meds both offer low cost, sliding scale or free health care location services. Additionally, homeless shelter directories offer temporary shelter information. Other helpful resources include Feeding America and Benefits Finder.

Freebine” for financial freedom

Many free products and services exist in varying forms and services. What's more, combining free services with free products sometimes has the added benefit of boosting the existential value or utility of the two free things added together. In this sense, “freebining”, or the combination of two free things results in more value than those two free items separately. For example, combining free street parking with a mobile home or furnished van lowers the cost of living by eliminating vehicle storage costs and potentially rental or mortgage expenses as well. Another freebination is the use of free WiFi in combination of a free VoIP business line.

Living for free or at a low cost is not impossible, nor is it necessarily a negative life decision. In human history, the concept of economics and civilization are relatively new developments that have replaced the natural order of the earth with social constructions such as cost of living, career development and societal survival. There is no law saying you must agree with society, but there also is no requirement for society to agree with a cost-free life. Thus, navigating the free life requires a way of thinking that is unconventional, and a method of living that requires as much attention to the lifestyle as conventional living does.

Image license: RGBstock; lusi

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Timeline of banking customer service trends from the 1980s to the 2010s

The banking industry was reshaped by technology and regulatory changes
Banking deregulation in the 2000s greatly affected the banking industry

From the earliest filing systems for marketing and customer information to the first software for analyzing bank profitability to the all-encompassing customer relationship management tools of today, the banking industry has come a long way in the last 30 years. Technology has allowed banks to become more profitable while offering services and conveniences to customers that they weren’t able to provide before. The following timeline explains some of the key highlights of banking customer service and profitability trends from the 1980s to today.

The banking industry of the 1980s

In the 1980s, banks still had a long way to go toward effective customer relationship management and analysis of profitability. Smaller banks were still doing most of their processes on paper, including the maintenance of customer information, which made it difficult to keep track of marketing data that could help them better serve their customers and attract new members of their target market. Larger banks had computer systems in place, but their files were all separated into inconvenient and difficult-to-access systems. Most banks didn’t have a comprehensive marketing customer information file that combined all their data from checking and savings accounts, credit card accounts and mortgage loan accounts. It was difficult to perform strategic analysis of customer information when all these files were stored and maintained separately.

The banking industry of the 1990s

The banking industry made great strides in the 1990s. Most banks, even many of the smaller ones, had implemented consolidated marketing customer information file systems by the end of the decade. While many of these banks were still maintaining their checking and saving, credit card and mortgage loan account files separately at the beginning of the decade, by the end of the millennium, it was much more common to see banks moving toward an integrated customer relationship management and bank profitability analysis system.

The banking industry of the 2000s

After the turn of the century, the banking industry saw a huge shift toward profitability analysis. Integrated technology systems and widespread Internet access made it much easier to ascertain the profitability of each customer. Suddenly, banks were able to do things they never could before. New software systems made it possible to determine the total revenue that each customer brought in, minus the expenditures that the bank made each month to keep that customer, such as banking services, deposit insurance, loss provisions and overhead costs. This allowed banks to allocate their resources more effectively and strategically for the sake of profitability and elevated customer service to the majority of bank patrons.

The banking industry of today

In 2013, banks have access to more customer marketing information than ever before, and they have implemented electronic data management systems that make it easy to access and analyze all their customer account files simultaneously. This allows banks to better serve customers and maintain higher profit margins. Banks of all sizes are able to compute their profits in an all-inclusive software system, analyze their customer marketing information, introduce new products on an ongoing basis and provide a wide range of online and mobile services to customers everywhere.

About the author: Shawna is a researcher and writer with expertise in the banking sector, and a particular interest in banking technology and history. She thinks that knowing the background of technologies and software can help people in the industry make predictions for the future, as well as situate themselves in a larger picture. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and point of view with others.

* Image license: RGBstock; Credit: Lusi

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Oil prices and your investments

By Richard Craft

Since the Industrial Revolution the world economy has been heavily affected by the price and availability of petroleum fuel. Oil is used within most industrial processes, and serves as a key indicator of the problems that the global economic system will face in the long-term. As such, the recent rise in oil costs has had a significant effect on various investment terms, as the increased price of fuels has considerably changed consumer behavior. Investors must take steps to compensate for the effects that oil prices have on these investment vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Effects of oil prices

During the early 2000s, the price of oil skyrocketed across the globe due to the disruptive effects of taking Iraq off the oil market as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of the country. However, even after Iraqi oil resources were placed back on the market, the prices continued to increase. While much of this increase was due to oil speculation on the market, post-recession prices continued to grow to their peaks in 2007. For the long-term, oil is forecasted to continue increasing in demand, as the emerging markets are set to heavily expand their industrial and consumer bases. Greater disposable income will fuel growth in the automotive and other industrial industries, where consumption of petroleum fuels remains high.

This has affected investors in select industries, as the oil price increases have dramatically changed consumer behavior. High fuel prices have lowered consumer demand for fuel-inefficient vehicles; vehicle lines such as the Hummer were discontinued by manufacturers due to low sales figures. Essentially, investors that have invested significant capital into energy inefficient sectors of the economy will continue to suffer. However, investors in the energy sector have profited significantly in the aftermath of high oil prices as companies have posted record profits.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


For investors in the energy and automotive sectors, the increase in fuel prices will promote the development and deployment of more efficient technologies in order to lower the effect of increased prices on industries as well as consumers. Product lines such as the Toyota Prius and other fuel efficient and hybrid vehicles are favored by consumers, and as such, companies have increased their investments in this area. Furthermore, profitability in 'green' industries has continued to grow as consumers become more conscious of their energy use.

There is a high potential of growth in the automotive industry, as purely electric vehicles have been introduced into the market. Tesla is forecasted to grow significantly on the back of this trend, and investors would be wide to diversify their portfolio to include this type of company as part of their investment strategy.

High oil prices have spurred a consumer movement to source their electrical usage from renewable energy. Solar power has become a popular outlet for energy sourcing, and solar companies have grown considerably due to support from the federal government.

Ultimately, the increase in oil prices has benefited investors by creating new growth sectors as an outlet for a surplus in investment funds. As a result of the recent recession, many economic sectors have stalled as consumers have altered their spending patterns to better adjust to the new economic reality.

About the author: This article was written by Richard Craft, an MBA student who looks forward to sharing more of his knowledge so you can be better informed about the trends in the market and make better investments. He writes this on behalf of Gulfland Structures, your number one choice when looking for Offshore Accommodations for your oil ventures. Check out their site today for more information about what they can do for you! 

What do consultants have to offer businesses?

Consultants add competitive edge to high stakes business
Consultants offer highly specialized guidance and techniques
Many business owners may ask the question why their business needs a consultant. After all, you’re an expert in your industry and you do your job well. While that may be the case, it’s important to be current within your industry and within the structure of your company. Here are several reasons why your business, and all businesses, need a consultant.

Staying well-informed

Being up-to-date on your industry’s market, on trends, consumers and your competition is absolutely vital to running a successful business. When you’re busy running a company, doing your research isn’t your only priority and certainly can’t take up all of your time. Consultants make it their job to do this research and stay as informed as possible. Consulting firms then offer that knowledge and understanding of an industry to you.

These firms also have the advantage of working with other people in the industry. This offers a well-rounded perspective and understanding of the industry as a whole and can help companies try alternative methods to growing their business.

Getting a fresh look

Business efficiency is improved by some consulting work
Small adjustments can make big differences to profit
Consulting firms offer a fresh look to a business. For example, the services offerred by consultants help evaluate the efficiency of business capabilities and assist with boosting strategic planning objectives. Naturally, business owners may feel that they do what they do the best. While that very well may be the case, it’s always a good idea to get another, unbiased opinion.

This third party perspective can look at your business clearly and critically. This is especially important for new businesses that are just starting out and may lack the experience and expertise. However, it’s also a very good idea for companies who have been in business for many years as over time, they can get settled and comfortable – lacking a fresh and new approach. It’s important for your company to have an outsider’s opinion of your strengths and your weakness.

Finding your target market

Consultants help improve marketing strategy
Marketing consultants help identify and analyze the best demographic to market to
Once of the most important things a company can know is their target market. Who is it that you’re trying to reach or sell to? Consulting firms make it a point to research and analyze the current market of your industry. They study what they want, what they’re looking for and the best way to reach them. Markets change frequently so it’s important to adapt your marketing strategy to correlate with that change in your target market.

Creating a firm foundation

Businesses can also help in the organization and structure of your company. Within any business, it’s vital to have a consistent outline of how things are to be done. This way, there’s no question on how to do a task and everyone is on the same page. Organization and a firm foundation is important for efficiency and making a business thrive.

Consultants can help evaluate the positions within the company and determine which job positions need to be redefined, eliminated and what important roles may be missing. They can help write job descriptions to create clarity within each position so that everyone has a clear understanding of their role within the company. This way, jobs function more smoothly and important tasks don’t go unmissed. It also helps create a fair work load for all associates.

Ultimately, business consultants offer an expert opinion and a fresh, alternative look at your business. You never know what you might be missing or what you could be doing better and it’s important to stay up-to-date and current within your industry. 

About the author: This guest blog was written by Colaborate, a full-service medical laboratory consulting firm. Colaborate delivers strategic tools, best practice technology, and innovative solutions to meet the specific needs of our client organizations. We understand that effective clinical laboratory management from your labconsultant is key.

* Image licenses: 

1. Morguefile; Attribution and royalty free 
2.  Capabilities rich; CC BY-SA 3.0 
3. Grochim; GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0

Where LA residents go for budget-friendly fun

Free entertainment is found at several free L.A. public venues
Los Angeles offers a bounty of free activities

By Akilah Richards
Just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t find fun, budget-friendly activities in Los Angeles. If you're a resident living in or near Santa Clarita, you are in luck. This area of California is ripe with amazing experiences that are easy on the pocketbook. In fact, you can enjoy many of the activities for free. Below is a list of some of the best free places to visit in the Santa Clarita area. 

Get outdoors

To enjoy being outdoors, Hart Park is the perfect spot for you. You can easily make a whole day out of it. The park has awesome hiking trails. You will encounter bison and other farm animals. If you get hungry, there are many picnic areas where you can stop and eat.

Placerite Canyon Natural Area is another wonderful outdoor spot in Santa Clarita. You can take a self-guided nature hike where you will be able to see the habitats of many different plant and animal colonies. There are also wonderful educational programs that are free of charge.
Check out the Santa Clarita classifieds for more activities that happen year-round.  You'll find that there are outdoor activities that are perfect for all members of your family; young, old and in between.

Feeling artsy

During the months of July and August, you can enjoy an amazing night under the stars with concerts in the Park. Bring blankets, chairs, food and your loved one as you prepare to rock out to some amazing musicians.

If you are an art lover, be sure to mark the first Thursday of each month on your calendar. The streets are filled with local and regional artists displaying their work. The art is paired with great music and a wide selection of food trucks. Want to spend the day discovering new art? Pick up a map of the local public art locations and take a self-guided tour. Go for a quick look or take your time soaking it all in.

History buffs

History is big in Santa Clarita, and it has many historical spots you might enjoy, like the William S. Hart Museum. Take a tour of his retirement home which is now filled with art and mementos from the early 1900 western movies.
Old Pico Number Four is the oldest oil well in California. Many historic homes built in the 1880s are still standing strong. 

For the kids

Looking for a budget-friendly activity to do with your children? Check out the Santa Clarita library. If you look on their website, you will find a list of classes where your young ones can learn and explore. After class, let them choose a few books to bring home. The library also has an inviting selection of DVDs.
The local Barnes and Noble bookstore also offers story time every Saturday. Children get to listen to a story and sometimes see a beloved book character. Many store locations also have trains or building blocks for children to enjoy.

Whether you want to enjoy the outdoors alone or want to find weekend entertainment for your children, there is a lot to do in Santa Clarita, even are on a budget. 

About the author: Akilah Richards is a busy wife, mother and entrepreneur who shares insightful ways to manage the emotional and financial costs of living. As a Certified Family Life Educator, Akilah sees the impact that money and life management skills can have on a family. Visiting informative sites like Santa Clarita classifieds is a great way for a California family to empower themselves to live well while spending less.

Image license: Dadblunders; CC BY-2.0

Tips for finding affordable medical care

Conventional healthcare does not typically prescribe natural remedies
Comparison shopping is important when looking for health insurance
By Kenneth Gray

As Americans age, and the occurrences of cancer and diabetes seem to increase, it’s more essential than ever that they find affordable medical care. Many people simply can’t afford medical insurance. Americans have incurred a boatload of debt because of medical expenses, so they should be aware that they do have other options available to them.

Finding affordable medical care is like a job search in some ways. The first prospect may not be the best one, and it takes time  to compare and contrast what options are available. It also takes research about the background of various healthcare providers and their customer satisfaction to get the best care.

Driving distances

Some things to look into are what health care centers are located within driving distances. These are usually much cheaper than going to a regular doctor’s office and often charge a flat fee. There are many good points to health care centers, such as:
  • They never turn away the uninsured or those who can’t pay
  • Patients can pay on a sliding scale
  • Quality of care is comparable to care received at a private practice
With the reported dearth of doctors becoming even greater when the ACA (Affordable Care Act) starts kicking in, looking into what nurses practice in the area is also a good idea. While you still might eventually decide to get treated by a doctor, for lesser ailments nurses also are qualified medical professionals.

Right insurance plan 

Another essential thing to do is to make sure you get the right insurance plan. Take into account what pre-existing conditions you have, what disease runs in the family, and search for an insurance plan that will offer full coverage for your specific concerns.

This is where research is essential – your health is at stake here, and this isn’t the time to cut corners. This is also important if you have children or any other dependents.

Public assistance programs 

For those who really can’t afford insurance, these include people who are underemployed or unemployed, they should look into if they qualify for public assistance programs. While the minimum has been raised for these programs, it’s worth looking into.                                         

Another thing you can do to lower medical costs is to separate the essentials from the non-essentials when it comes to your health regiment. Surprisingly enough, vitamins reportedly have little health benefits, and can be left off your list of health expenses. Routine screenings can also be dropped off the list.  When money is tight, this is a non-essential treatment that can be dropped to save money.


Colleges and Universities are also often untapped medical resources. The one drawback is that you will being worked on by a student. But in many cases that is preferable to no treatment at all, particularly for such health services as dental work checkups. 

The treatments may even be free, but it’s always worth to check what bills will be charged, and if there’s a payment plan. Also attend local health screenings if you ever hear about them. You may be able to get free health screenings and get your blood pressure checked and immunizations.

Research homeopathic options 

Lastly, and perhaps most controversial, research homemade, natural treatments and alternative forms of medicine. These might be cheaper and also will introduce you to the world of herbs and other natural healing ingredients. While what work for one person might not work for another, many people swear that by trying alternative forms of treatment they were able to treat their health issues holistically.

So for people who believe healthcare is out of reach to them, there are alternatives available. Although these options may take extra research and persistence, the gift of long-term health is worth the extra effort.

About the author: Kenneth Gray is the founder of Pasadena, CA based medical billing company A-Fordable Billing Solution. Keep up with Kenneth Gray's writings adding him on Facebook.

Image license: Morguefile; Royalty and attribution free

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leading, lagging and coincident indicators

Economic conditions are reflected by coincident indicators
Technical indicators provide buy and sell signals to currency traders

By Mario Singh

Forex traders use indicators extensively in making their trading strategies. But what are indicators? It is anything that is employed to help in anticipating an economic or financial trend. We see indicators almost every day. A good example of indicators is the economic statistics and figures that are released by government bodies to show a country’s performance. Among the most popular indicators are the unemployment rate, inflation index, and consumer confidence.
There are three types of indicators that are differentiated by the type of predictions they produce.

Leading indicators

Leading indicators are the type that is related to future events. The indicators will give signals as to what the sentiment will be. One of the most popular leading indicators is bond yields, which is a great match for those trading stocks. The reason for this is that bond traders always anticipate and try to guess economic trends. Of course, leading indicators are not always 100 percent accurate so use it with a little caution.

Lagging indicators

This type of indicator is gives a signal after an event has started and after the trend has begun. This indicator can be considered as a kind of wake-up call for the trader to pay attention because a trend is happening and he should probably get in on it. You might think that a lagging indicator is useless because the signal happens after a trend has already started. But it is an important indicator because it is used to confirm that a pattern is beginning to happen or is about to happen. One of the most popular lagging indicators is the unemployment rate. A high rate confirms that the economy is not doing well.

Coincident indicators

A coincident indicator happens at about the same time as the conditions are re-indicating. Instead of predicting future events, these indicators would change to reflect what is happening in the economy or in the forex market. A good example of a coincident indicator is personal income – a high personal income happens alongside a robust economy.
It must be noted that these indicators, while potentially supportive of what they indicate, would more often conflict with each other. This is a pitfall of using indicators in doing your trade strategy. You should always remember this when using indicators and make the necessary adjustments to make your trade strategy relevant and accurate.

How indicators affect the forex

The exchange rate of a currency is partly affected by the demand for that currency. How the leading and lagging indicators of an economy behave affects the strategy and decisions of forex traders. For example, if the indicators are showing that a country’s economy is moving very positively and is poised for an expansion, forex traders will buy more of that country’s currency. Because the demand for the currency begins to rise, this will result in the value of the currency to also appreciate, which takes on the form of a higher exchange rate relative to the currencies of other countries in the forex market.

About the author: Mario Singh is a renowned figure in the forex trading world. He is the owner of the popular forex strategies website Askmariosingh.com.

Image license: RGBstock; Credit: Lusi 

Monday, June 24, 2013

A US/EU Free Trade Zone?

By Richard Craft

With the continuing economic crisis taking place in both Europe and North America, the finalization of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could potentially open up avenues for economic growth and reform and lead to a US/EU Free-Trade Zone on goods and industry. Although such a pact has been discussed in the past, the formalization of negotiations has only now begun, and while proponents point to the boon it would give to both countries' economies, critics of the TTIP are wary of what it could mean for the rest of the world.

Increased economic activity would be a likely result of US/EU free trade
Photo from Shutterstock with License


The decision to negotiate a free-trade agreement has coincided with a number of key elements related to both the spiralling economic conditions, compounded with the political instabilities that the EU and the US have faced in recent years and months. The TTIP mandate seeks to lower existing tariffs, restrictions, and other bureaucratic hurdles that exist between the world's largest bilateral economic relationships. Currently the economic transactions between both the US and the EU account for one third of all trades and services, and is equivalent to half of the global economic output. 

This also comes at a time when there is continued frustration over the World Trade Organization's prolonged inability to initiate their Doha Round, which is a similar trade negotiation proposed in 2001 that includes agricultural and creative property sectors in its agenda. Critics point out that in the 12 years since its inception very little has been done to arrive at a cohesive settlement, whereas the TTIP could be introduced much more quickly and efficiently.


The proposed TTIP would boost economic factors on both sides of the Atlantic -- the EU would see a benefit of 119 billion per year, and the US 95 billion. This would be equivalent to an extra 545 in revenue for UK families, and 655 for US families. The cost of lowering or eliminating these tariffs would also be minimal, and would be able to increase general supply and demand without inviting increased spending or international borrowing.

From a labor force perspective, it would also add to the 13 million American and European jobs that are already supported by mutual investment, help markets grow in their selective industries by reducing tariffs and barriers that hamper a free flow of goods, and encourage future investments in respective industries. 

The TTIP would also foster transparency of economic practices, and help to sustain middle and small-sized businesses. Agriculture is becoming increasingly more important, and a more liberal exchange of goods would also help to boost the food-producing sectors in both countries.


Many people point to some of the problems that have faced similar trans-national trade agreements like NAFTA, which included unforeseen issues with loss of employment and loss of industry, as well as significant ecological repercussions4. They also point to the exclusivity that many similar agreements have incurred on big businesses and its preference for large industries over smaller local enterprises.

There is also wariness regarding cultural appropriation and breach of creative property rights, specifically as it relates to the arts and to entertainment. A 'carve-out' of industries like film, with the imposition of quotas and regulations, could arguably compromise certain cultural precepts, as well as lead to the exclusion of other facets of the economy.

The main opposition against the TTIP concerns the fact that there are relatively few impositions and tariffs in place (on average around 4%), and that the energy spent on further reducing them will not make any considerable difference, especially to smaller businesses and individual ventures. 

About the author: This article was written by Richard Craft, an MBA student who looks forward to sharing more of his financial knowledge so you can make better investments for your financial future. He writes this on behalf of Diamond Transport, the number one provider for interstate freight carriers across the United States. Check out their website today and see how they can help your business!