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Monday, November 5, 2012

Are lawyers a waste of money for small infractions?

By Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop

Nobody wants to ever end up on the wrong side of the law, but from time to time it does happen to even the most law abiding citizens. Luckily, these are usually minor infractions that don’t appear as if they’ll have a huge effect on someone’s life. Most people deal with minor infractions by simply paying their fine or accepting their probation, but doing this can actually have serious negative repercussions. Anyone accused of an infraction, regardless of how minor it seems, should seek the help of a lawyer to avoid these repercussions.

Insurance rate hikes

The majority of minor infractions that people suffer are related to traffic citations. Most people simply pay these tickets and get on with their life, but if they knew the consequences, they may rethink this course of action. Paying these tickets is basically an admission of guilt. Admitting to speeding or any traffic violation may not seem like anything to worry about, but it can actually have a terrible effect on a person’s insurance rates.

Vehicular insurance companies are in the business of making money, so if they believe a driver is a higher liability than others, they will raise their rates. These companies will routinely perform searches on their policyholders’ driving records. When they see that a driver has received a traffic ticket, there is a good chance they will raise their rates. This increase in rates will always cost more than hiring a traffic lawyer to handle the ticket at the onset of the situation.

Employment eligibility

Everyone who has filled out an employment application in their life has been privy to the question of whether or not they’ve ever been convicted of any crime. These applications usually go on to say that a conviction will not necessarily bar a person from employment, but anyone who has answered this question with a ‘Yes’ before knows that it usually does. The definition of ‘infraction’ varies between states, and what may be considered a minor crime in one state could be considered quite serious in another.

In the current economy, most companies have huge discretion on who they hire. This is simply because so many people are looking for jobs. If an employer has one potential candidate with nothing on their record and another with a minor infraction, they have the benefit of choosing the individual with a completely clean slate. This can be especially true with jobs that focus heavily on driving. Even the accumulation of minor traffic tickets may prevent a person from securing a job that involves any amount of driving that could cause the company liability.

The government takes it seriously

Many people choose not to hire legal help because they don’t believe that the government takes minor infractions seriously. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There have even been lawsuits brought on behalf of people in Georgia and Alabama after their minor traffic fines went from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars simply because they missed a court date. These individuals were subsequently jailed for not being able to pay the fine, so it’s quite obvious that state governments have no problem with treating minor infractions as serious crimes.

These minor infractions have recently also hit the national stage when a strip search case went all the way to the Supreme Court. A New Jersey resident was wrongfully arrested for a minor misdemeanor and then subjected to two different strip searches after a six day incarceration. The wrongful arrest was related to a bench warrant for a fine that the man supposedly had not paid. As it turns out, however, he had paid it two years earlier and a clerical error simply kept the ticket in the system. Experienced attorneys can fight these ‘minor’ citations and make sure that they’re removed from the record completely. 

Driver’s license revocation

As mentioned earlier, traffic citations are the most common infraction a person is likely to face. People don’t usually realize, however, that hiring a traffic attorney is actually much cheaper than a criminal attorney. This is due to the fact that traffic lawyers can handle several cases in the course of a day. The low cost of taking on legal aid compared to an insurance rate hike, however, is not the only benefit a person will see from using a lawyer.

Certain crimes, such as driving under the influence, automatically lead to a suspension of a person’s license. Regrettably, people don’t often realize that simply accumulating several minor infractions can also lead to this suspension. Those who merely mail in the fine listed on their ticket are usually unaware that they are likely getting closer and closer to losing their license. These tickets can cause points to accrue on a person’s license, and these points will eventually lead to a license revocation. This may be one of the biggest reasons hiring a lawyer is pertinent even when dealing with minor traffic infractions.

Being involved in the legal system is not something that anyone is looking forward to at the beginning of their day. Simply seeing blue lights in the rearview mirror after rolling through a stop sign is enough to get anyone’s heart pounding. Unfortunately, people don’t realize how serious these minor infractions may become. They may not even lead to any jail time, but their consequences can be brutal. This is why it’s necessary for anyone accused of a crime, minor or major, to get legal help as soon as possible.

Hauptman, O'Brien, Wolf & Lathrop are dedicated to serving Nebraska. Their approach of treating every case as its own specialty differs from the cookie-cutter methods of many others. Their successes defending the rights of those in the Omaha area are numerous; so contact them if you want the best Lawyers in Nebraska on your case.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

8 expenses of having children

By Nancy Parker

When people think of how much children cost, the first thing most of them will imagine is the hospital bill when the child was born. While most insurances will cover the cost of the birth, the hospital bill is just the tip of the ice-berg. For the next 18 years, your child will run up quite a hefty tab.

1. Food - For the first couple of years, the impact of food on your budget will actually be fairly minimal. However, as soon as the child gets his or her teeth, the food bill could increase by 50% or more. Coupons can lessen the blow to your finances.

2. Clothing - As most people give infant clothing as a present after birth, your baby could have more of a wardrobe than you do. However, that will be short-lived as soon as the child is in his or her toddler years. Slowly, the costs of clothing gain strength and power like a hurricane marching across the ocean.

3. Diversions - Toys and games are quite common place in a house with children. This is another aspect that grows in cost as the child gets older. However, many children can be satisfied with fun items bought at thrift stores, yard sales, and sites like eBay.

4. School Events - In order to not alienate your child from social activities, you'll have to bear in mind the costs of school events. Involving your child in scholastic programs could help his or her development with social interaction. Having a budget for this is a small price to pay for a socially developed child.

5. Bedroom Furniture - From a basic wooden crib to a king size bed, your child will outgrow everything in the bedroom. Pillows, blankets, desks, chairs, and more can easily rack up a hefty bill in terms of furniture and comfort. Again, yard sales and thrift stores could be a blessing.

6. Kitchen - Do you have enough dishes and silverware for a family? Children are clumsy and could cost you quite a bit in replacement dishes. Buying plastic is not only cheaper, but can survive a tumble to the floor when a child misses putting it in the sink.

7. Soaps - Laundry and personal hygiene products will also be affected by having a child. If the child has allergies, then you could be spending more money on hypo-allergenic products.

8. Utilities - As soon as your child is able to walk, the utility bills will begin to climb. Whether it is electricity use in a bedroom, water for showers and toilet use, or gas for keeping the family warm, all the bills will increase. Look towards energy saving products to lessen the burden.

Although children can cost quite a bit of money, they are worth the investment. By planning your finances well, you can reduce the amount of money you spend annually on many aspects of a child's needs. Government sponsored services can help reduce the costs as well if a family can qualify. Budget your money wisely and all will be fine.

About the author: Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny, www.enannysource.com/ etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com

Friday, November 2, 2012

EB-5 reform could help the U.S. economy

By EB5 Investors

The EB-5 visa program has been a successful pathway to permanent residency for thousands of foreign investors for over twenty years. It has also been an important source of financing for many commercial enterprises in the United States during that time, especially over the last several years as the country has endured one of the worst recessions in history.

The EB-5 program, which is formally known as the Immigrant Investor Program, gives foreign entrepreneurs the opportunity to obtain green cards in exchange for investment in commercial enterprises in the United States. The green card that is awarded to investors who meet the requirements of the program is called an EB-5 visa, for the employment-based visa category it represents. The U.S. government established the EB-5 program to spur economic growth and the creation of lucrative jobs and other employment at home by attracting commercial investment from abroad.

An immigrant entrepreneur who invests either $500,000 or $1,000,000 in a commercial enterprise in the United States is eligible to receive an EB-5 visa if their investment leads to the creation or preservation of 10 permanent full-time jobs within two years. The lower investment amount, $500,000, can be made in a commercial enterprise that is located in a rural or struggling economy (Targeted Employment Areas), while a $1,000,000 investment can be made in a commercial development within any location in the United States. The same “10-jobs-created-or-preserved” requirements apply to both investments.

A growing number of foreign entrepreneurs use Regional Centers to manage their commercial investments. Regional Centers are federally-designated investment and development entities that (in the context of the EB-5 program) can accept money from multiple foreign investors and channel it into one or more commercial enterprises. Regional Centers can be government-sponsored agencies, public-private partnerships, or privately-held companies that identify areas for EB-5 investment, develop business plans, and manage EB-5 projects. This approach increases the likelihood of a successful EB-5 commercial enterprise, since most Regional Centers are led by experienced U.S.-based developers and business executives.

However, some modest reforms to the EB-5 visa program could help encourage further growth and development in the United States, while offering talented and entrepreneurial immigrants the opportunity to obtain permanent residency visas. For example, while Canada took in over 180,000 “economic immigrants” in 2010, the U.S. government has set the ceiling for employment-based visas at 140,000 per year. Canada’s population is a fraction of the United States’ population, and they are certainly not experiencing the same level of economic hardship as their neighbor to the south. There may not be a direct correlation between Canada’s immigration policies and their relatively stronger economic position, but the fact that they welcome substantially more immigrants relative to their overall population most likely has some positive economic impact.

Moreover, the U.S. government has set quotas on the number of visas issued to citizens of various countries, including China and India, which has the effect of shutting out hundreds or thousands of qualified and talented immigrants, and depriving the U.S. of their potential contributions. Student visas are typically revoked as soon as an immigrant has completed his or her studies, effectively forcing highly-educated individuals to return to their home countries with skills they have mastered in the United States, rather than encouraging them to remain here to apply those skills for the benefit of their adopted home. Why not grant permanent residency to student-visa holders who meet the requirements of this program?

Although up to 10,000 EB-5 visas are available each year, a maximum of roughly 6,000 have ever been issued in any given year. Since there are thousands of EB-5 applications out there, this suggests the U.S. government and its responsible agencies could do a better job of efficiently administering the application process so that more EB-5 projects are approved.

Finally, the government could consider increasing the number of employment based visas to 300,000 and designing the application process in such a way that the quality and number of immigrants from various countries is taken into account, so that otherwise qualified and talented individuals are not artificially eliminated from consideration. Perhaps it is also worth considering lowering the investment requirements for the EB-5 visa and engaging in an aggressive educational campaign throughout the world to increase the visibility of the EB-5 program and make foreign entrepreneurs aware of its benefits.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How the risk-free interest rate is determined

Investments with little or no risk have a risk-free interest rate
The risk-free rate of interest is often equated with U.S. Treasury security yields

On the surface a risk-free interest rate is perceived to be the rate of return on an a financial allocation that has no financial risk associated with it. However, 'risk' itself is a word that has more depth to its meaning when coupled with financial instruments. This is because risk also includes the influence of variables such as devaluation from inflation, opportunity cost, and issuer default.

Characteristics of risk-free assets

According to Aswath Damodaran of the New York University Stern School of Business, risk-free assets have no variance from the expected rate of return. In other words, what you see is what you get without question; an example of such being guaranteed fixed interest rates. In this sense, risk-free rates do not have to be universal or the same across financial instruments such as savings accounts and government bonds, but do have to possess a strongly assured yield. 

Risk-free interest rates do not include a 'risk premium' or an added amount of interest yield that accounts for the risk associated with investing or depositing money into a financial instrument. For example, a 5 year corporate bond from Company A offers 4.5%, whereas a 5 year bond from Company B offers 5.6% These yields differ with perceived risk as measured in part by credit ratings. These ratings are determined by credit rating agency methodologies such as those used by Moody's

To illustrate 'risk premium' and 'risk-free rate' further, bond issuers with lower credit ratings have more credit risk associated with them, and are not therefore 'risk free'. The risk premium is determined by market forces such as the rate of return  investors are willing to accept for financial instruments  priced at certain levels with specific levels of risk as defined by credit rating and investor valuation(s). The risk free rate is often bench-marked using a shorter-term financial instrument such as 3-month Treasury Bills according to Rutgers University

Risk-free financial instruments and credit rating

Even if an issuer has a very high credit rating and is considered 'risk free', that can change. A recent example of this, and as reported by Reuters, was when the Standard and Poor's Credit Rating Agency lowered of the U.S. Government's credit rating from AAA to AA. These changes are somewhat predictable via rating agency 'outlooks', but for longer-term time horizons, are not always so clear. It is for this reason that a risk-free short-term financial instrument is not actually risk free when longer loan terms exist for the same issuer and instrument. 

What constitutes a risk free rate is not constant, and multiple financial vehicles can be considered to have risk-free rates.  For example, a financial statistics class at The Wharton School of Business considers a 1-month Treasury Bill as being risk free instead of a 3-month. This difference in opinion is further highlighted in a report by the financial consulting firm Value Advisor Associates. Moreover, in the report, both 5 year and 10 year financial instruments are considered acceptable proxies for the risk-free rate due  to factors such as upward sloping 'term-structure' i.e. higher rates of return for longer duration bonds.

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