Backpacking Vs Organized Tours – A Decision Every Traveler Faces

In planning my RTW adventure, I have been giving considering thought to the options of backpack solo, or booking into an organized tour. In my past travels, I have done a combination of both organized tours and backpacking solo and both have their good and bad points.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE GOOD …

Time Poor – If you only have a limited amount of time to go travel, then an organized tour is great as you will be able to get around and see all the things you want to, without the hassle of organizing the trip yourself.

New Friends – Usually people who book an organized tour with a specific company all have similar interests. I have made some amazing friends through doing organized tours and still, to this day, keep in touch with them.

You can be lazy – Once you have booked your tour, paid and packed your bag, you do not need to worry about a thing! You are in effect paying the tour company to take care of transportation, meals, accommodation and all the hassles involved in traveling.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE BAD …

Usually inept – Every tour has someone on the tour who will drive you nuts. When in India, I was traveling with two girlfriends and because there were 3 of us in total, we had to alternate sharing a room with another female. Unfortunately this female was an older woman who had no self awareness and was clearly an inexperienced traveler, some of the "interesting experiences" we had with her included:

  • She did not shut the door when she went to the bathroom, I would NEVER go to the bathroom with the door open, especially when I had only known the person for a matter of weeks …
  • She did not bring adequate first aid and medication supplies, unfortunately she came down with a mild cold / flu and proceeded to use everyone else's medicine and she never offered to replace it. When we went past a chemist, she was that inconsiderate that she did not even think to buy her own supplies.
  • She forgot her torch, now on this tour we were camping along the Ganges for several days and a torch was essential. So every time she went to the bathroom she borrowed my head torch, the problem was that she put this on her sweaty head and handed it back to me wet .. YUCK!
  • She hung her underwear up all over the bathroom and on my chair and bed, it was not a pleasant experience having to relocate her over sized bloomers every time I wanted to sit down …
  • She would leave the hotel with the key, there were several occasions when I was stranded outside of my room and had to wait for her to return, rule number 1 of an organized tour is ALWAYS leave the key with reception when you go out.

People who do not read the trip notes – Of the tours I have done, I have encountered two travelers, who never should have booked on the types of trips that they did. The first encounter was in Thailand, there were a young English couple on the tour, they had never traveled outside of britain and were both very young. They winged, moaned, sacrificed and did not enjoy themselves and pretty much did everything in their power to let the rest of us know they were not enjoying the experience. Had this couple taken the time to read the trip notes, they probably would have realized what they were getting them into and perhaps, reconsidered their trip.

Waiting, Waiting & Waiting – Now because tour leaders are acutely aware that people are always running late, whenever you need to leave your hotel or meet as a group, the tour leaders always tell you to meet at least 1/2 an hour before the Actual meeting time. This is fine if your the type of person that is always running late, however for the rest of us it means waiting around in lobby's for what looks like forever !!

BACKPACKING – THE GOOD

Now my personal preferred method of traveling is backpacking! And some of my favorite things about this mode of travel include:

  • You do not have to answer to anyone, if you do not like a place, you can simply leave, if you like it, you can stay!
  • You meet some amazing like minded people along the way, hanging out at hostels and having a beer in the lounge can introduce you to some amazing people
  • It is very inspiring hearing what other people have done and are doing, my addition to travel has come out of hearing other peoples stories about what they have done!
  • Other backpackers are generally very considerate and willing to meet new people and share their experiences
  • It is cheaper! You are not paying a premium for a tour company, a tour guide and their accommodation so you can cut costs as you see fit, stay in a nicer hotel or a cheaper hotel if that suits you!
  • If you get drunk and make a fool of yourself, you can just move on! You do not need to deal with anyone the next day!
  • It is easier to have a holiday romance! One of the most amazing romances I have ever had when I finished my organized tour in Thailand and backpacked around for a week, I met a wonderful American man who followed me to Bangkok and then onto Australia! I could not have had a romance when in an organized tour, especially an extended one as if it gets complicated, it can make the entire trip awkward!

BACKPACKING – THE BAD

At times you just want to have someone to take your photo! If you can not find someone to do side trips, you end up getting a lot of self portraits that are not exactly flattering!

It can be frustrating navigating around cities and countries on your own when you do not speak the language. Particularly if you are white and traveling to an Asian country, people know your a tourist and can take advantage of this.

  • You are a target, as a female you can be a target from male advances and this can be quite intimidating if you do not have the confidence to deal with it.
  • It can get lonely, if you do not strike up friends along the way, you can end up spending a lot of time alone, which on occasion can be nice, but it is very nice to share experiences with other people.
  • If you get sick, you are on your own, there is no-one to bring you medicine or look after you!
  • When you get home, you do not have anyone to share your experiences with, when traveling with a partner you can always reminounce about the things you have done, or you can email others from your tour and keep in touch. But when you travel solo, the reality is no one really cares what adventures you have been up to, they pretended, but they are not really interested!

All in all there are definite advantages and disadvantages for both backpacking and organized tours, for my trip I will be doing a combination of both n the beginning, however once I have finished in Africa, it is my intention to go solo for the rest of My trip and meet some new and exciting people along the way!

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The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

Funeral insurance, also known as burial insurance is a type of insurance created to pay for the costs of memorial and internment services. Nowadays, many people especially those who are not getting any younger are getting funeral insurance to deal with the costs of burial and funeral services when they die.

Most of these people do not want to leave any type of burden, especially financial burden, to their loved ones. Some of the costs covered by insurance policies are cremation, burial, plots, music, flowers, taxes and even medical costs. Before purchasing funeral insurance, an interested person must consider things such as the location of the cemetery, arrangement and expenses of the funeral, cost of cremating and buying caskets or urns.

Aside from these considerations, he must also determine the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of insurance:

Cash to Shoulder the Funeral Arrangements. The insurance company will give the grieving loved ones lump sum cash that they can use for funeral arrangements. The amount of cash usually depends on the type of funeral insurance policy that the dead relative has purchased.

A Car to Make Funeral Arrangements. While the family members are on the verge of arranging matters of his funeral, the insurance company will provide a car to make sure that they still feel comfortable while dealing with his death and getting ready for his interment at the same time.

Bonus Monthly Payout. The family members who the insured person has left will be receiving monthly bonus cash from the insurance company. This amount of money is expected to help pay out for bills covering food and utility.

Chosen Funeral and Burial. A good thing about having a contract with an insurance company is that when he dies, he will have the memorial and interment services according to his will. He will have a funeral and burial that he thinks he describes.

Get A Tombstone. With the services that the company covers, the family members can choose a tombstone that will serve as its memory.

The disadvantages of purchasing funeral insurance are:

Insurance Policy May not Pay in Full. There are some companies offering funeral insurance that have waiting periods. These periods can reduce the benefits of the insured person. There can also be times when there can be no benefits at all. Some insurance policies can decrease in value as time passes by.

Insurance Policy May not be an investment. A person who chooses to have funeral insurance will have no control on how his money will be endowed. Another thing is that some companies offer very little interest rate. And lastly, some insurance policies are overpriced. This means that some of these policies cost more than the cost of funeral coverage. A person planning to get one must remember that by purchasing one means he is paying more premiumss than collecting insurance claims.

With the advantages and disadvantages of funeral insurance, a person can see that it will be highly recommended to apply for a funeral insurance policy that will fit his needs and requirements.

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Characteristics of Universal Life Insurance

As we mentioned in the previous article, universal life (UL) was introduced in 1981-82, in response to a historically high interest environment and a consumer awareness of the value of self-directed investments because traditional insurance could not compete with short-term interest rates.

Here are some characteristics as follow

1. Account Value

The account value of a universal life plan is the sum of the gross values of all the investment accounts within the policy, including income, after deductions for the current month expenses.

2. Cash Surrender Value

The cash surrender value of a universal life plan is the current account value, less outstanding loans and surrender charges. Surrender charges are usually based upon a multiple of the minimum required premium for the policy back-end charges are larger than front-end charges.

3. Premiums & Contributions

Premiums are those amounts needed to pay the cost of insurance charges and other expenses for the policy. Deposits are those excess amounts that are of a pure investment nature.

4. Death Benefit Options

The amount of death benefit payable under a universal life policy is based upon 1 of 4 different options

a)Level death benefit: Level coverage throughout the lifetime of the policy.

b) Level death benefit plus cumulative gross premiums: Death benefit increases by the amount of each gross deposit to the policy.

c) Level death benefit, indexed: The amount of death benefit increases, yearly, by a predetermined percentage.

d) Level death benefit plus account value: The total amount of death benefit is always equal to the initial face amount, plus the gross account value. This is the most popular chose by 90% of universal life insurance policies’ owners because

the gross account value is tax free.

5. Premium Flexibility

The premium deposits, plus accrued investment income, must be sufficient to pay for all expenses and deductions, so as to keep the policy in force, tax exempt life insurance contract, flexible premium.

Universal life is not for every consumer

It’s flexibility tends to be reflected in much higher administration costs than are found in traditional whole life plans and the variable nature of the plan may make it unsuitable for those clients wanting guarantees

I hope this information will help. If you need more information, you can read the complete series of the above subject at my home page:

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What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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The Importance of a Balance Sheet

An individual has two primary tools for managing personal finances. The Personal Balance Sheet is ignored and the Budget is the darling of Financial Consultants and the media. The key to understanding personal finances is that you have to understand your Budget and Balance Sheet individually and also how they work in combination to give you a complete snapshot of your personal finances.

Your balance sheet is extremely important because it shows you where the gold is. It is your personal Fort Knox. It is also extremely important because you need to have a stash of gold in your personal financial picture. The gold in your Balance Sheet is not the Assets. They are the positive side of your Balance Sheet but the real picture of how much gold you have in your Fort Knox is your Net Worth. So just as important to your Balance sheet is your Liabilities. The total of your Liabilities is subtracted from the total of your Assets to give you your Net Worth.

You fill out your Balance Sheet and total up your Assets and Liabilities. You subtract the total of your Liabilities from your Assets. That number, your Net Worth will come out to either a negative amount, an amount of or near zero, or it will be substantially positive. These are the only 3 scenarios possible.

• If your net worth is a minus number, you are not managing your financial resources properly. Your Balance sheet is your report card and you are failing. It is that simple. If you are managing your money to deal with life's challenges and planning your personal finances with your retirement in mind, your Net Worth should be positive and growing. If your net Worth is positive, you can ride out financial storms like the current situation. At the time of your retirement, your Net Worth must be substantially positive so that you will be able to keep costs down and have investment income to replace your working income. During your working years, your Net Worth should be growing steadily because a retirement nest egg does not grow without years of nurturing.

• There are circumstances where where it is acceptable to have a Net Worth of Zero or near Zero. The first is when you are just starting out. It just makes sense that it would be zero. You may have student loans but that is offset by some form of education that will allow you to make more money in the course of your lifetime. The key is that this is the best time to start building your net worth. It allows the principal of compounding value to work its magic on your assets for decades. That saves you a lot of work later in life. However, most of us are not that wise and we find ourselves in our 30s and 40s with little or no Net Worth. This means you have less time for compounding to work. So you have to work harder and especially manage your money smarter to prepare for the financial challenges you face going forward. The nice thing is that you have probably made some mistakes that have made you much wiser. You should be able to recover much faster than you would have in your undisciplined youth.

• If you have a positive net worth that means that you are building assets. Just as important is that you are controlling your debt. This is the key that has probably gotten you to this situation. The key to a positive Balance Sheet is that debt offsets the value of your assets when you look at your personal finances as a complete picture so your debt / equity ratio should be less than one and get smaller and smaller. Debt servicing saps cash flow on your budget that could have been used to build assets that can be used to produce income in your retirement years. Clear title ownership of assets such as your home reduce cash draw and this is incredibly important as you approach retirement.

The financial crisis we are in now is described as a Balance Sheet crisis. We are in this crisis because nobody was paying attention to their Balance Sheets, not even at the rising heights of our financial infrastructure. The symptoms were everywhere. While researching I found that the top sites on the internet for Balance Sheet are those who want to sell you something so that they can gain access to any assets on your balance sheet that might be left after this disaster. Before the disaster, the only thing that had any importance was whether a potential buyer of anything could afford to make the payments on whatever he was buying assuming he made 120% of his declared income. The most outrageous symptom was that people would take appreciating home equity and borrow against it to buy depreciating assets and consumer goods. They overbooked their budgets and now they have gutted their balance sheet.

The resulting loss of home values ​​is the disaster we have now where people have either a zero or minus Net Worth. The other aspect is that we are now wiser. For the good of our society and our financial infrastructure we had better be. Going forward we must pay attention to our Balance Sheets and recognize that is where the gold is. You must save and protect your gold. Net Worth is where financial power is and that is the Importance of a Balance Sheet.

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Important Issues For Green Card Holders to Remember and Consider When Traveling

Clients who are Green Card holders (ie permanent residents) frequently ask me about issues that need to be aware of when traveling internationally, outside of the United States.

Here are some things to consider to minimize the potential for problems at the border. After a long intercontinental flight, nobody wants to find themselves in a position of being subjected to lengthy questioning by CBP officers at the airport. Particularly in situations where the Green Card holder has spent significant time (more than 6 months, typically) outside the US, there are potential pitfalls one needs to be aware of – or risk risk losing the highly-prized Green Card. CBP, interestingly enough, in its operations manual, has some good guidance on what immigration inspectors are to consider when inspecting Green Card residents seeking re-admission into the US

Admission, generally The CBP officer shall admit a resident alien returning to an unrelinquished domicile, if not otherwise inadmissible, upon presentation of an unexpired Green Card (I-551), a reentry permit, refugee travel document (indicating lawful permanent residence), or Temporary evidence of LPR status such as an Travel Statmp (or ADIT stamp).

A returning resident alien is not required to present a valid passport for reentry into the US, although most will have one, since a passport is often required for entry into a foreign country. When presented, the passport is normally annotated with "ARC", and the alien's "A" number should be written on the page with the admission stamp.

Admission after prolonged absences A Green Card holder, who has been outside the United States for more than one year (two, if presenting a reentry permit), may be seen by CBP to possibly have abandoned residence. Other indicators of possible abandonment of residence are:

(1) employment abroad,

(2) having immediate family members who are not permanent residents,

(3) arrival on a charter flight where most passengers are non-residents with return passage,

(4) lack of a fixed address in the US, Egypt

(5) frequent prolonged absences from the United States.

In questionable cases, it is appropriate for CBP to ask for other documentation to substantiate residence, such as driver's licenses and employer identification cards.

Green Card holder without Green Card? Lawful permanent residents (LPR) lacking evidence of alien registration because it has been left at home or in a safety deposit box, may obtain from CBP a visa waiver, with fee, or defer the inspection to another CBP office local to the Resident's home in The US

If the LPR claims the card has been lost or stolen, the POE may accept a Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, with fee. These actions may be considered once the identity of the LPR has been confirmed, preferably by checking against the data contained in the CBP computer systems.

A LPR requesting a visa waiver must complete a Form I-193, Application for Waiver of Visa or Passport, if otherwise admissible. The applicant requesting the waiver is to review the information recorded on the printed form for accuracy and sign where indicated. If the waiver is approved, the LPR is to be given a copy of the Form I-193 and be acknowledged as a returning resident. If a waiver is denied, the applicant may be placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

CBP officers can also use something called "deferred inspection". This is usually limited to a Green Card or Visa holder who:

O will be able to produce the requisite document within a few days; Egypt,

O claims to have lost or had the Form I-551 stolen, is unable to pay the Form I-90 fee at the time of initial inspection and has not been previously deferred for presentation of the Form I-551 document.

The LPR will be required to file a Form I-90 with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the next 30 days.

Conditional Residents A conditional resident is generally admissible to the US if applying before the second anniversary of admission for conditional residence. The conditional resident may also be admissible if he or she has a lettering letter (or "transport letter") from a US Consulate, has been stationed abroad under government orders, or is the spouse or child of a person stationed abroad under government orders. Otherwise, the applicant for admission as a conditional resident must have filed a joint petition or an application for waiver, Form I-751 (marriage-based cases) or Form I-829 (investment-based cases), in the US within the 90 Days before the second anniversary but not more than 6 months prior to the application for entry.

Once I-751 has been filed, the applicant will receive a receipt notice (I-797 Notice of Action) from USCIS, extending the conditional residency status for another year, allowing travel.

If none of those conditions exist, the inspector may defer the applicant to file Form I-751 or I-829 if there is a reason to believe the service will approve a petition or waiver. If the applicant is not admissible, CBP has authority to place him or her in removal proceedings.

Question of "Meaningful Departure" When examining a Green Card holder who has spent significant time abroad (usually more than six months), when there is a question as to whether the LPR may have abandoned his / her US residence, the CBP inspector has to Evaluate the situation and make a determination as to the LPR's intent and the nature and reason for the prolonged absence from the United States. Prior to 1997, if a lawful permanent resident was believed to be inadmissible, immigration inspectors had to first make a determination which his / her absence was "meaningfully interruptive" of permanent residence. Later revisions to immigration laws have formalized a 'test' for immigration inspectors to apply in this situation. Under this test, a lawful permanent resident is NOT considered to be seeking admission, unless the alien:

O has abandoned or relinquished that status;

O has been absent continuously for more than 180 days;

O has engaged in illegal activity after departing the US;

O has departed under legal process seeking removal;

O has committed certain criminal offsets;

O is attempting entry without inspection; Egypt

O has entered the US without authorization by an immigration officer.

If CBP believes an LPR may be inadmissible or no longer entailed to lawful permanent resident status, CBP should refer the alien for removal proceedings if a deferred inspection is not appropriate.

Special Rules for Dependents of US Service Members Spouses and children of US Armed Forces servicemembers, or civil employees of the US Government, are exempt from many normal requirements for returning residents. If a dependent is a temporary resident, and the period of conditional residence has expired, CBP should admit the person and advise to file Form I-751 within 90 days.

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Could the Great Chicago Fire Been Prevented?

  • Nearly 300 deaths
  • More than 2,000 acres
  • 17,500 buildings
  • 73 miles of road
  • 90,000 left homeless
  • $ 222,000 in damage
  • The destruction of between two and three million books from private library collections

What do these have numbers have in common? If you answered the Great Chicago Fire of October 1893, you would be correct. And while as devastatingly as fire is in Chicago history, it is not the only horrific fire-related Chicago history. In fact, just a few years later (December 1903) there were more than 600 deaths when the Iroquois Theater burned and later listed as the deadliest single-building fire in American history.

What is more interesting, is that while the exact cause of the Chicago fire has ever been determined, the Iroquois Theater fire could have been prevented had the proper measures been taken. History shows that a Chicago fire department captain, toured the facility and noted that "there were no extinguishers, sprinklers, alarms, telephones, or water connections; the only firefighting equipment available were six canisters of a dry chemical called" Kilfyre ", which was Normally used to douse residential chimney fires. "

He reported the problems to his superiors, but was told that nothing could be done, as the building had its own fire warden. In addition to the lack of firefighting equipment, the editor of the Fireproof Magazine , toured the facility and reported that there was an "absence of an seize, or stage draft shaft; the exposed reinforcement of the (proscenium) arch; the presence of wood Trim on everything and the obligation provision of exits. "

After each of these events, Chicago rebuilt. But what if there had been something in place to send out an early alarm? How many lives would have been saved had the Iroquois Theater taken the time to make the necessary changes? Yes, it was a century ago, and modern assumptions as we know today were not available, but that does not excuse the loss of life and property destruction.

So, with a proactive focus in mind, what are you doing to protect your home and family from fire, theft, burglary or mayhem of any sort? Whatever you choose to have utilize the services of one of the local Chicago home security systems or opt for a nationally recognized company, taking care of what matters to you is important. After all, as the early residents of Chicago learned, it's not much fun to clean up after a fire! Do not make the mistake of thinking you could be excuse form personal injury, property damage or a break in. Do your part to keep your family safe.

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Understand the Pros and Cons of Saving Money in Piggy Banks

It is always a great idea to put some money away for a rainy day or for a future purchase. But where you put it is a personal choice depending on what your considerations are. Do you have security in mind? Or is it convenience? Whatever they may be, you might have thought of getting a piggy bank in which to store some extra money. It may help you if you understand what using one of these entries. There are obvious advantages as well as disadvantages that come with piggy banks.

Advantages

We all have spare change left over from grocery shopping and other small purchases, and sometimes we just put it all over the house because we do not have a central place to deposit it. A coin bank will enable you to keep track of the small amounts of money that might otherwise simply lie around or get lost. It can also be a great way to actually save toward a small purchase such as something you saw on sale at the shop down the road. Small, regular deposits into the piggy bank will accumulate enough to reach the desired amount. There are some large piggy banks that are convenient for growing a decent saving, so that might be of interest to you.

Most piggy or coin banks by their very design are pleasing to look at. That means that besides using them to put away some money, you can also use them as decorative pieces in the house. The piggy bank may not needlessly come in the design of a pig, but some are modeled after other animals or objects. So you could choose to become a collector of them and make them serve the double duty of storing your money and brightening up your house.

Disadvantages

When you are saving money, it is usually for a particular reason. Therefore, it is in your interest to ensure that it accumulates enough to achieve your goal. For instance, if you are saving to treat yourself to a night out on the weekend, it is possible to get temped during the week to use the money for something else because it is readily available. It requires that you exercise self control and discipline to not raid the piggy bank at will just because it is convenient.

There are really no disadvantages of keeping money in a piggy bank except that you may get tempted to withdraw some amount when you need it. But it is really not such a bad idea to withdraw money when you need it. The piggy banks serve as your instant back-up plan. You have to go to a bank and withdrawal money and that involves time and energy. On the other hand withdrawal from a piggy bank home is very easy.

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Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.

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How to Properly Insure Your Concrete Pumps

The business of concrete pumping comes with many challenges, one of them being being perfectly insured when something goes wrong. Many concrete pumping companies have pumps and assume they're automatically insured under their general liability policy, unfortunately they are not.

Trailer concrete pumps should be insured under what is called an inland marine floatater. This type of insurance policy provides comprehensive coverage for your pump, insuring it from perils such as theft, vandalism, and damage you may cause it in the event of a car accident. This is similar to the coverage you may have on your car.

Just like any other trailer, liability coverage is automatically extended from the vehicle to the trailer it's towing. For example: If your trailer sideswipes another vehicle, your auto policy will provide liability coverage to repair the vehicle you damaged. Repairs will only be provided up to your policy limits. Keep in mind if the auto policy your truck has not include business coverage the insurance company will most likely deny your claim. Make sure you have a proper commercial auto policy before you toward anything for business use.

What about concrete pumps you can drive, how are they insured? Because these type of pumps are self-propelled they would need to be insured under a standard commercial auto policy. Make sure to mention any custom equipment you have to your agent. Just like on any auto policy custom equipment should be stated as such and approved into the coverage limits. Custom equipment can include any aftermarket stereo systems, hose reels, ladder racks, etc.

Always provide the replacement cost you'd like if your pump is stolen and ask for it to be stated in your policy. This way you'll be sure you have enough to replace the pump in the event of a loss. Some carriers provide the actual cash value for your pumps without otherwise requested. This means you'll get the replacement cost minus depreciation to compensate you on your pump. Actual cash value may not be enough for you to buy another pump if yours is damaged, this option is not recommended.

Always consult your insurance agent before making any final decisions on your insurance policy. Each concrete pump is different and may have specific needs. Keep these points in mind when shopping for your insurance policy and you'll be well on your way to protecting your business in the event of a loss.

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