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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India, The Tourist’s Paradise

India is a land that offers a mind-boggling diversity of natural beauty, flora and fauna, a rich, vibrant and proud history of cultural heritage and is famous for its hospitality to people who are fascinated by the numerous stories enchanting stories about India and come To visit the country. And the country does not disappoint them. The majestic snowcapped mountains, the lush rolling valleys, the gushing rivers, green fields, gorgeous colorful flowers and luscious fruits, the arid deserts, the plateaus, the hills, the tea gardens on the mountain slopes, the orchards, the waterfalls, the list Simply goes on and on. Every year, thousands of tourists from different parts of the world flock to this country for visiting different places, to enjoy different festivals, to take part in adventure tourism, pilgrimages etc. Tourism is one of the largest service industries in India and plays a major role in providing employment to the population and the country's economy. The tourism ministry in the country caters to the various demands and needs of the tourists. The India Tourism Development Corporation is a Government of India undertaking dedicated to taking care of travel needs like hotels, flights, trains, car rentals etc.

If you are coming to India the first time, it is advised that you read about the various destinations you are planning to visit and make full arrangements for accommodations. There are reputed hotel chains which have luxury hotels in different tourist destinations of the country. You can make your bookings online or over the telephone using the useful contact information available in their websites. Check out these sites and know more about the facilities, the tour packages, the tariffs etc available here.

If you are traveling on a tight budget, then there are numerous hotels with affordable rates but with high living standards. Before booking you must ensure that the neighboring area is safe, proper transport facilities are available and you can communicate with the outside world too. Book your hotels, cars etc online and enjoy a reliably hassle-free vacation.

The tourism board advises tourists to contact only fully authorized, reputed and trustworthy tour guides and tour operators to ensure a safe travel. These guides should at least have photo identity cards issued by the Ministry of Tourism. Arrange for proper transportations that will take you to different parts of the country. If you want to visit the more remote and somewhat inhospitable areas like the mountains of Ladakh, or the arid deserts of Rajasthan or forest safaris, then you must take proper precautions against potential dangers, diseases etc.

To arrange for flights, search online for cheap flights to India if the budget is limited. There are many websites which list information about flight ticket prices from different airlines, compare the prices and provide you with the best results. You can also opt for affordable holiday packages in India along with affordable accommodations and transportations. Search multiple travel portals to obtain the best options and cheap tickets to India. Just type in your destination and the sites will return a list of airline ticket prices for you to choose from.

Welcome to India and enjoy a vacation experience of a lifetime!

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Problem #1

Prospects have more sales resistance training than agents usually have in sales presentation skill.

Prospect response to insurance agents is designed to get as much information as possible and be in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead insurance agents about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.

The prospect intent is designed to turn agents into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their quotes to compare with their current agent or a competitor.

When prospects have what they need, they stop returning the agent’s phone calls.

Does this make prospects bad people?

Of course not.

We all use this system for dealing with salespeople…it’s almost second nature.

Why do prospects do this?

It’s simple.

It works.

The stereotype of an agent is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a way to deal with agents. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of agents that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall.

So how do most agents deal with the prospects system of defense? Most play right into it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. The agent eagerly:

o gives their knowledge

o makes commitments without getting any in return

o wastes resources on pursuing deals that will never close

o gives quotes to non-prospects who never buy

o misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale

How do most sales organizations contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts products fit best with.

The solution: Train agents on a systematic approach to making presentations so they have “a track to run on.” The training should balance both the prospect and agent’s best interest.

Problem #2

Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.

A manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they give quotes to the prospect.” Why is this true?

Agents don’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry, they are afraid they will lose something they don’t have. Most agents think their job is to close everybody.

Over the years sales training has emphasized, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Insurance agents are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial closes…always be closing…and yes, even be manipulative. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to shield themselves!

Prospects realize agents don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do, they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a agent is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?

The solution: Agents need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects in, not qualifying them out. The top agents learn to ask the hard questions up-front, saving precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most agents, but it can take all the pressure off the agent and increase productivity. This approach allows prospects to feel in control, this then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold.”

Problem #3

Agents talk too much.

A manager recently said, “My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my agents don’t understand them or their issues.

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”

So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reason, not the agents reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, the agent just becomes another agent to the prospect, and then to the prospect, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach insurance agents to stop regurgitating to the prospect and start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions.

Questions gather information. Ask questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does during an office visit. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.

Problem #4

Weak Agents focus on price.

Price is never the real issue! Agents focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have, or improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.

The solution: Teach agents to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in making sales.

Problem #5

Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting.”

Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Agents, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Unpaid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospects problem, which is where it belongs.

The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our agents need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.

Problem #6

Agents fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front. Many insurance agents are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many agents avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that agents have.

The solution: Knowing whether there is money upfront will help the insurance agent distinguish between a prospects who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to management, where resources are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your agents to find out two things about money:

o How much the problem is costing the prospect; in other words the amount at risk.

o How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.

Without a candid discussion about money, the agent is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Problem #7

Agents fail to get firm commitments from prospects.

Insurance agents are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a quote, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive.

How many quotes has your team/distribution sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your team/distribution on an annual basis to do quotes that go nowhere?

The solution: Agents must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects’ level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.

Problem #8

Lack of sufficient prospecting.

A quote from a manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.'” All professional agents will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar?

o Over 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales

o And 80% of all new agents who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

The Solution: Insurance agents need to develop a realistic activity plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.

Problem #9

The insurance agent has a strong need for approval.

It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be an insurance agent.” You end up with an insurance agent that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite: a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.

The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to ask pre-hire screening questions that helps to hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.

Problem #10

Insurance agents don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and CPAs’ all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many insurance agents are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to invest in top performers and help them grow their skills. Ego stunts your growth so managers have to be willing to set their ego aside and be willing to grow, modeling behavior that demonstrates it is more important to the manager to be effective than to be right. We can all learn from each other.

In Summary:

Hiring: Distributions, supervisors and managers must complete, step-by-step, a formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Look to hire goal achievers not goal setters. Most managers hire goal setters and are surprised when agents never achieve their goals. The truth is the agent only had a wish list. Ask the agent when interviewing or coaching to describe goals they set and “how” they achieved the goal. If they didn’t achieve then it was it a goal or only a wish list?

Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.

Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective recruiting, hiring, coaching, growing, and developing agents. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance from yourself and your agent, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your team production-if you are not meeting standards. how can you expect to hold your agents accountable?. In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect. Remember, you manage things – you lead people.

Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time.

Phone scripts and rebuttals are intended to assist in moving your management and sales career forward or allowing you to increase you current volume of business.

Remember these are only meant to be sales tools, they do not work, you have to work them.

The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.

Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!

The clock starts NOW!

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Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

In today's economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings – facing tight family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there's no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

Neverheless, many homeowners are not using insurance discounts to lower rates – even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they're getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today's economy.

Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:

"53 million household responders 'admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply did not know' about policyholder discounts they are reasonably qualify for."

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.

Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts – such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.

How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?

Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It's also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:

  • Dual duty – Do not overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
  • New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
  • Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is evenly 'protected' to boot.
  • Rooftop savings – Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs – naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house – you'll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage alike.
  • Be a new policyholder – You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a 'sign up' discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent may be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
  • Your track record counts – make sure you discover discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record … when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history typically qualifies you for this discount; If you've never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
  • Risk reductions – Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community's fire department also applies.
  • Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Although discount criteria varies, you may be able to get savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar Alarm or home security system.
  • Good breeding gone bad – Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely – be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
  • Score card – Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer's application. Plus, if you've had a less-than-score score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
  • Raise the limit – consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible – $ 2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $ 5,000.
  • Agent vs. Agent and the extended marketplace – Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around – explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents do not usually have the same agility – they're usually limited to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you're committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate rates, discounts and savings offered by the brand's competition.
  • 'Home pride' and stewardship are vital – Even many insurance agents do not understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you'll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible – it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.

So, you'll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.

In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance – even when times are tough.

Get started on discounts for savings ….

  • Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates – what companies provide home insurance in your community?
  • Get guidance on the details – an independent insurance agent is not tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
  • Identify discounts – make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
  • Do the 'homework' – the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
  • Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
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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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Geode Crystals & Astral Travel

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

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

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

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

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Garage Insurance – Used Car Dealers and Repair Shops Watch Those Symbols

Garage insurance is a much misunderstood policy form. Many professional insurance agents are confused about exactly when to use it and more importantly exactly how. You can use a garage liability policy to protect a used car dealer, often referred to as dealer's insurance, or you can use this same form to protect an automated repair shop or to set up body shop insurance. The trick is to know the symbols. If you own a car dealership or an automotive repair shop and are purchasing insurance for your business, it is advisable that you find an agent who specializes in the garage insurance form to help you with this purchase so you do not end up with the wrong Form and possibly find yourself without coverage after a large loss.

As I mentioned earlier, both types of businesses, auto repair and or body shops and used car dealers both need the garage policy. But exactly what kind of operations are covered in these policies is driven by the symbols shown on the policy. This is very important. If your business is automated repair or body work but your policy is set up with symbols that would apply to a car dealership, you could find yourself without coverage in the event of a liability loss.

So how do you know if you have the correct symbols and then the correct form? Pull out your garage policy and look at the first page. Beside each type of coverage, usually to the left, there will be a least one two digit number between 21 and 31. These symbols will describe what is protected by the coverage shown next to that symbol. Here is a list of the most common symbols and what each one protects:

Symbol 21 Any auto
Symbol 22 All owned autos
Symbol 23 Owned private passenger autos only
Symbol 24 Owned autos other than private passenger
Symbol 25 Owned autos subject to no fault laws
Symbol 26 Owned autos subject to Uninsured Motorists law
Symbol 27 Specifically described autos
Symbol 28 Hired autos only
Symbol 29 Non-Owned autos used in the Garage Business
Symbol 30 Autos Left for Service / Repair / Storage
Symbol 31 Autos on Consignment

As you have probably figured out, if you are an automobile dealer and you have symbol 30 on your policy, you would find yourself without coverage. So why not just put symbol 21 on all coverage? Well, since code 21 is the broadest coverage, you would have to pay for this insurance policy and in some cases you might be purchasing insurance protection that you did not really need.

Take some time to look at your policy carefully and review the symbols for each line of coverage to make sure that they are appropriate for the work you do. If you need help with this process, consult your agent. If you agent does not specialize in businesses needing garage policy, ie dealers insurance and auto repair shop insurance, then find one who does. This protection is just too important to leave up to an agent who is practicing on the job learning on your policies.

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

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Five Reasons Why You Should Work For the Travel and Tourism Industry

The travel and tourism industry is a massive global industry that caters for the needs of those who have to travel away from home in terms of providing facilities and services like hotel accommodation, air and road transport. Close to a billion people are involved in international travel in this industry which generates billions of dollars every year. Sometimes making a decision on which industry to work for can be quite hard given the many options available today across the globe. Below are five reasons why you should consider working in the travel and tourism industry.

1. There are lots of work opportunities. The travel and tourism industry has a lot of opportunities employment for those seeking employment. You can work in the aviation sector, road, rail and water transport, accommodation providers like hotels and lodges, leisure and business travel agents and tour guides. It is now also possible to work from home thanks to technology which is convenient for some people like mums who have a child or children and do not want to be far away from home.

2. The perks are good. The travel industry provides rewards that not many other industries do. For example those working in the airline industry can get free tickets for themselves and immediate family members to fly to any destination that the airline they work for flies to. Those who work as travel agents can get reduced travel fares and even pay reduced accommodation rates. Then there are the familiarization trips that those who work in the industry have the opportunity to take. Just think of an all expenses paid trip to places like the Seychelles, France, the Kenyan coast of Mombasa to name just a few.

3. It is a growing industry. In spite of the recent downturn because of the threat of terrorism and the world recession, travel industry players are optimistic about its growth. In good times and bad times people always get the urge to move. And with more and more places becoming accessible because of air travel and with both air travel and hotel rates coming down in order to accommodate peoples pocket there is reason to believe that the travel industry will continue to grow and more markets will be reached which is good news for service providers. Furthermore technology like the internet has made it possible to access markets anywhere in the world, at any time of the day.

4. It is never boring. Working in the industry almost means that you will meet new people from time to time. This is especially true for those who work as frontline staff in travel agencies, airline offices or hotels. Those who work in the airline industry as flight attendants have the opportunity to travel to different parts of the world, visit different towns and cities and see and experience different cultures. That can never be a boring job.

5. You do not need years of studying to work in the industry. You may love a certain profession but because of the years of studying involved in learning it you may be discouraged from joining it. Not so with the travel and tourism industry. Three to six months may be enough depending on what qualification you are studying for to get you started working for this exciting industry. Some people because of their love for the work and experience gained in certain areas of the industry have even started working and studied for the paper qualifications later.

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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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