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Thursday, April 14, 2011

8 TechnologiesThat Will Change Your Future

For 87 years, subscribers have relied on The Kiplinger Letter for insights into emerging technologies that will change the way Americans live and do business. Examples of "you read it first in Kiplinger" include the rise of commercial air routes in 1927, the early development of television in the 1930s, electronic office machines in 1953 and mobile phones in 1983.

What will be the tech breakthroughs of the next decade? Watch the energy and transportation sectors. Here are eight forecasts pulled from the pages of The Letter in 2009 that look at some promising developments to come -- everything from spray-on solar cells to
new ways of relieving traffic congestion. And please share
your own thoughts and predictions in the reader discussion area. 

Think an all-electric car is out of your budget range? Maybe not for long. A $25,000 model from U.S. upstart Aptera Motors is close to commercial rollout. You’ll know it when you see it -- a bullet shaped three-wheeler about the size of a Toyota Prius. The range: 140 miles. Buyers have already put down deposits on the first 4,000 to come off the assembly lines. Those orders will be filled by August 2010. It’ll take a year or so longer for General Motors, Nissan and Toyota to produce plug-ins, and they’ll cost more and have shorter ranges. GM’s Chevy Volt, for example, will sell for $40,000 after rebates and will go only 40 miles per charge.

Imagine converting motion -- from auto traffic or pedestrians -- to electricity. Tests are already under way to convert to electrical power the repeated pounding of tires on busy roads and tollbooth lanes or of commuters running to catch the subway. It could be used to run simple devices, leaving no carbon footprint. It may even be possible for joggers to use their footsteps to run cell phones and iPods. The technology could be in use in five years or so if the tests are successful.

New technologies to unsnarl traffic are on the horizon: Traffic management systems that combine video devices with computer logic will reduce collisions, reroute motorists and allow real-time adjustments to signals. They’ll be sorely needed to help ease major congestion that not only frustrates motorists but also slows business shipping and delivery.

The energy storage business will grow 10-fold over the next 20 years. A slew of promising technological developments on the horizon will both provide benefit to energy users and benefit from investment.

Among them: Energy storage systems, such as flow batteries -- in effect, reverse fuel cells -- that can store unused wind and solar energy for use later when it is needed. Conventional lead-acid battery arrays will grow much bigger. And a system that stores compressed air: At night, when demand is typically low, wind-made electricity would run pumps that compress air into underground caverns. In daytime, released air would turn turbines to make electricity.

Ever heard of thorium power? You will. Thorium is a naturally occurring element, slightly radioactive, that is far more common in the ground than uranium. The first nuclear reactor fueled by thorium will be built in about five years, with more to come.

Thorium has a lot of practical advantages over the more commonly used uranium, and it can churn out the same amount of emission-free electricity to power the U.S. Thorium is safer, produces less waste and is abundant here in the U.S. Plus it’s less likely to cause accidents and can’t be used by terrorists for dirty bombs.

North Dakota as an oil patch state? Yes, probably in a decade or less. The state’s Three Forks-Sanish formation could rival nearby Bakken Play, a vast oil shale field. Together they could provide the equivalent of 30 years’ worth of U.S. oil needs.

Oil companies are already scurrying to stake claims to the bonanza. New drilling and recovery technologies make the fields ripe for production. They sit a mile beneath the surface and, until recently, were mostly inaccessible. Though drilling has begun, commercial production at Three Forks is five years away.

Space based power plants are no longer just a science fiction fantasy. Pacific Gas and Electric aims to supply 250,000 customers from one by 2016. The California utility inked a deal with Solaren Corp. for 200 megawatts of electricity -- power to be generated by an orbiting solar cell plant and transmitted as microwaves to Fresno, where it will be converted to electricity.

Solaren, PowerSat, Space Energy and others working on orbital power are getting a lift from state laws requiring more use of renewable sources. And they figure they’ll have a steady customer in the Defense Department, which wants a means of getting power to troops in remote areas.
Source: Kiplinger Internet.

Nine Technologies That Will Change Your Future

 For 88 years, subscribers have relied on The Kiplinger Letter for insights into emerging technologies that will change the way Americans live and do business. Examples of "you read it first in Kiplinger" include the rise of commercial air routes in 1927, the early development of television in the 1930s, electronic office machines in 1953 and mobile phones in 1983. What will be the tech breakthroughs of the next decade? Here are nine we're following.

Biometrics on the Move
Banks are increasingly turning to biometric authentication for mobile and online clients. Fingerprint, voice and face recognition systems will soon become commonplace as banks seek to heighten security for the rising tide of on-the-go transactions.

Customers are accepting such security measures more readily these days. Many smart phones are already outfitted with cameras and only need a face recognition application; in a few, fingerprint scanners are embedded as well. They're already in some laptops, and Microsoft's (NasdaqGS: MSFT - News) Windows 7 operating system contains the needed recognition software. Citibank (NYSEArca: PCO - News) intends to test the waters first in Australia with voice recognition. Look for the trend to spread quickly to other banks as well as to other countries.

Self-Driving and Folding Cars
GM's (NYSE: GM - News) prototype EN-V (Electric Networked Vehicle) is just a third of the length and weight of today's average car, thanks to an all-electric, rechargeable power system. There's no bulky engine, transmission or braking system, plus it has built-in smarts to navigate on its own and avoid hitting other vehicles.
The all-electric CityCar (seen here), developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can squeeze its eight-foot length into a more compact five feet, allowing it to fit in teeny urban parking spots.

Personal Bar Codes
A digital code on your business card could soon let folks you meet scan contact information directly into smart phones or other mobile devices on the spot, ensuring correct spelling and phone numbers.
There are plenty of marketing uses for bar codes as well: On property listings — to allow prospective buyers to download info. Postings at restaurants let patrons peek at menus and specials or tip off friends to their whereabouts. For retailers of all stripes, bar codes provide a chance to interact with consumers, making a digital connection.

Genetically Modified Critters
Uncle Sam's OK is expected soon for the first genetically modified food animal — no, not this pig — but for farm-raised salmon with a gene from a wild chinook salmon. The gene-jiggered fish is engineered to grow at twice the pace of its unaltered farm raised progenitors.
Next up: Meet "Enviropig," a porker genetically altered to make the manure it produces less polluting, with phosphorus levels 30%-65% lower than normal. Also in the works: Cattle that are not susceptible to mad cow disease. The animals lack the protein that mutates, so they don't get the disease and can't pass it on.

Farm-Raised Pharma
A better understanding of genetics is also leading to changes in other sectors. In agriculture, scientists can tweak genes to make disease resistant animals. Plus they're using genetically altered animals — cattle, for one — to make antibodies to fight diseases such as botulism and anthrax.
Eventually, the isolated antibodies may be approved for injection into humans to protect against those diseases. Researchers are also using genetically altered swine to grow pancreatic tissue that can be implanted in human diabetics to restore their ability to produce insulin.

New Cancer Treatments
Genetic advances go way beyond a few drugs. Consider Oncotype DX, a test developed by Genomic Health. It can identify whether breast cancer in a specific patient is aggressive and likely to recur. That gives doctors and patients more information when considering whether chemotherapy is a good move.
Similar tests may do the same for colon, renal and prostate cancers. Dako, the global diagnostic company, is developing a test to select patients with metastatic stomach cancer who may benefit from Herceptin, a breast cancer drug. If the test shows chemotherapy won't help, doctors and patients can decide against it, avoiding unnecessary pain, and saving $15,000-$20,000 in medical costs. That scenario could be replicated for scores of other treatments.

New Drug Therapies
Genetic testing is revolutionizing medicine, offering doctors and patients more-educated choices. Using personal gene info, doctors can match patients with the therapies most likely to prove successful.
The Food & Drug Administration is on the cusp of approving a promising drug for lupus, Benlysta, from Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline. Gene mapping will also make drug development faster and cheaper. All this could mean big savings in health costs as well as better results.

Power Up on the Roof
On the horizon: A novel solar roofing system with appeal for homeowners. Dow Chemical will soon roll out shingles with embedded solar chips. Other companies, such as Lumeta, SRS Energy and SunPower, offer similar power generating shingles and tiles, but Dow's have a difference: They can be installed by any roofing contractor. An electrician is needed only for the final plug-in. Others require wiring each shingle.
Solar roofing systems offer big advantages over more conventional solar panels: In addition to being less bulky and more attractive, they offer more flexibility and can cover entire roofs, including irregular spaces, to capture more power.

Time for Your Pill
Half of all Americans don't get prescriptions filled or take prescription medicines when they should. Such negligence contributes to higher costs as people get sicker instead of better. Pharmacy benefit managers can help. Medco Health Solutions, for example, has pharmacists reach out to patients who don't seem to be heeding doctors' orders.
One tech solution: A pill bottle cap that lights up when it's time for a dose. The GlowCap, made by Vitality Inc., emits a pulsing orange light, followed by a beep that becomes increasingly insistent until the bottle is opened. No response will prompt an electronic phone call or e-mail.
 By Kiplinger
Source: Internet.

$1 CEOs and What They Make Now

 Beleaguered by the economic crisis -- and to dodge public scrutiny -- some of the nation's top CEOs pledged to forgo their million-dollar salaries for a mere $1 until their companies returned to profitability. From Citigroup to General Motors to Whole Foods, a handful of the CEOs repudiated the notion of accepting lucrative salaries while at the helm of an underperforming company. Here's who they are and how much these business czars are making in the aftermath.

Vikram Pandit
CEO of Citigroup
(NYSE: C - News)
In 2009, the chief of Citigroup, Vikram Pandit, agreed to a salary of $1 until the one-time world's largest bank rebounded under his direction. Citigroup received a government bailout of $45 billion amid the economic downturn, which the company repaid in full in 2010. In fact, the government's sale of Citigroup shares in December yielded $12 billion for the American taxpayer. Following this positive news, in January of this year, Pandit's salary was raised from $1 to $1.75 million, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Rick Wagoner
 Former CEO of General Motors (NYSE: GM - News)
Under pressure from Washington lawmakers, the former CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner, took a $1 salary as the government bailed out the auto industry. About four months later, on March 30, 2009, the Obama administration rejected Wagoner's plans to restructure the company and government officials forced out GM's titan. From 2005 until 2009, it is reported GM accumulated more than $80 billion in losses under Wagoner's management. Nevertheless, his retirement package is valued at more than $10 million. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, this includes $1.64 million in annual benefits for each of the next five years and $74,030 for each year of the rest of his life.

John Mackey
CEO of Whole Foods
(Nasdaq: WFMI - News)
When the grocery entrepreneur John Mackey warned that food sales would slow amid the recession in 2007, he also announced that he would be reducing his salary to $1. Since then, he's advocated against sky-high executive pay and has stayed true to his own convictions. Not only does he not take a salary, he's also passing up a bonus and stock options. The after-tax remainder of proceeds on future stock options was $379,636 in 2009 and Mackey donated that money to an animal charity.

Edward Liddy
Former CEO of American International Group, Inc.
(NYSE: AIG - News)
After insurance giant AIG secured $85 billion in government loans and rumors emerged about the excessive perks for the company's head honchos, Edward Liddy -- who was tapped by the former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson -- was brought in to do some damage control. Along with slashing corporate bonuses for AIG's top executives, Liddy took a salary of $1 for 2008 and 2009.
But Liddy was later under fire by government officials for paying out $165 million in executive bonuses -- by this time, the American taxpayer had invested $182 billion in the company. In the wake of this uproar, Liddy stepped down. Liddy also has extensive experience serving on the Board of Directors of major blue chip companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Boeing and 3M.

Jen-Hsun Huang
(Nasdaq: NVDA - News)
Fueled by a tough business year, in 2009, Jen-Hsun Huang, the CEO of the graphic processor company, Nvidia, moved to reduce to his salary to $1. But Huang, who ranks No. 10 on the Forbes list of top CEO compensation, still pulled in $31.4 million in stock gains. He also reportedly owns 4.4% of Nvidia shares, which are worth about $300 million.

The Bottom Line
Taking a $1 salary for most CEOs is a symbolic gesture to their shareholders and the public that they are committed to the job -- not just to the dollar figures. Despite dropping their salary to nearly nothing, CEOs also have the advantage of profiting from stock options and other types of compensation. In 2008, the heads of 32 companies in the Russell 3000 took $1, but many still earned millions of dollars, according to data from the research firm, The Corporate Library.
by Megan Mollmann
Source: Internet

The 10 Highest-Paid Government Jobs

 Working for the government is often referred to as public service. The term implies sacrifice or taking less than what could be earned in the private sector or in an entrepreneurial position. Many government workers seem overpaid but are probably underpaid when you consider the scope of their responsibilities. Indeed, many in the private sector would not want to stand up to the scrutiny required of a top public service job or to get elected to public office.

The salary of the President of the United States is actually a token sum considering the responsibilities of the office. Still, officials in other public service jobs seem egregiously overpaid. People who hold these jobs are "set for life" after their public service ends because they are in demand for paid speaking gigs, memoirs and consulting roles in private industry.

24/7 Wall Street has gathered data from many public sources to ferret out how much these top government officials earn. Salaries of some jobs are shielded from public scrutiny because of national security reasons. We did not consider the healthcare and retirement packages, security and transportation benefits and more. In some cases, our public service executives have actually taken considerable pay cuts to serve.

One thing also needs to be considered here. Some government salaries are actually shielded under executive order. Some of the shielded pay grades may be well into the hundreds of thousands or even more. Some information, intelligence, and cloak and dagger positions are shielded and above our pay grade when it comes to identifying how much they are.

10. Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton
Annual Base Salary: $186,600
Maximum Job Length: Generally 8 Years
Previous Job: Senator From New York
Job Description: The Secretary of State is appointed by the president to serve as chief diplomatic representative of the U.S. Besides overseeing all State Department operations, including the operations of the U.S. embassies and representation in the UN, Secretary of State Clinton is responsible for the foreign operations of the CIA, the Defense Department, and the Department of Homeland Security. Clinton is also fourth in the chain of succession for presidency.

9. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner
Annual Base Salary: $191,300
Maximum Job Length: Generally 8 years
Previous Job: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Job Description: Appointed by the President, the Secretary of the Treasury serves as the principal economic advisor for the President. According to the Department of the Treasury: "The Secretary is responsible for formulating and recommending domestic and international financial, economic, and tax policy, participating in the formulation of broad fiscal policies that have general significance for the economy, and managing the public debt." Geithner is a proxy for many other presidential cabinet members, who make the same amount, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

8. Senate Majority Leader: Harry Reid
Annual Base Salary: $193,400
Maximum Job Length: Indefinite, usually 4-8 years, or until Senate changes hands
Previous Job: Governor of Nevada
Job Description: The Senate Majority Leader did not exist until the beginning of the 20th century. According to the U.S. Senate website: "The leader must keep himself briefed and informed on national and international problems in addition to pending legislative matters. On the floor of the senate he is charged by his party members to deal with all procedural questions in consultation with them and his party's policy-making bodies." Additionally, Reid must be in contact with all of the various committees and maintain a line of communication between them and the senate. This position stands as proxy for the minority and majority leaders in both the Senate and House, who all make the same amount.

7. Chairman of the Federal Reserve: Benjamin Bernanke
Annual Base Salary: $199,700
Maximum Job Length: 14-28 years
Previous Job: Professor of Economics at Princeton
Job Description: The Chairman of the Federal Reserve is in charge of the Federal banking system of the U.S. As head of the fed, Bernanke dictates and explains the direction of U.S. fiscal policy and works with the Department of the Treasury.

6. Chief Justice of Supreme Court John G. Roberts
Annual Base Salary: $217,400
Maximum Job Length: Life
Previous Job: Judge on the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals
Job Description: As the Chief Justice of the nine-member Supreme Court, Roberts is the head of the U.S. Federal court system, and is effectively the Leader of the Judicial branch of the government. The Chief Justice is the spokesperson for the court, deciding who writes its opinions. Roberts is also responsible for setting the court's agenda.

5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Admiral Michael Mullen
Annual Base Salary: $220,734.36
Maximum Job Length: 8 Years
Previous Job: Chief of Naval Operations
Job Description: While the president is technically the commander of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the combined panel of the Army, Air Force, and Navy — is the functional leader of the military. The Chairman is appointed by the President.

4. Speaker of the House: John Boehner
Annual Base Salary: $223,500
Maximum Job Length: Potentially Unlimited, Generally 4-8 Years
Previous Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives From Ohio
Job Description: The Speaker of the House does not legally need to be a member of the House of Representatives, but there has never been a speaker appointed from outside the legislative branch. The speaker is third in line for the presidency. The speaker's role includes presiding over the house and setting his party's agenda. This position stands as proxy for the House Minority Leader, who makes the same amount.

3. Vice President: Joseph Biden
Annual Base Salary: $227,300
Maximum Job Length: 8 Years
Previous Job: Senator from Delaware
Job Description: While the Vice President of the United States is the second-in-command of the executive branch, and aids the president in all of his bureaucratic and diplomatic efforts. The VP is also officially the President of the Senate, and presides over all meetings, although his only important role is to serve as the tiebreaker in the event of a voting deadlock. Vice President Biden is also next in line for the presidency should Obama die or become incapacitated.

2. Postmaster General: Patrick R. Donahoe
Annual Base Salary: $245,000
Maximum Tenure: 8 years
Previous Job: A number of executive positions in the U.S. Postal Service
Job Description: Donahoe is the leader of the U.S. postal service, a position which is older than the U.S. Constitution. Once a presidential cabinet position, appointments for the position now come from within the service. Donahoe helps set postal rates and services, and oversees all major regulation changes.

1. President: Barack Obama
 Annual Base Salary: $400,000
Maximum Job Length: 8 Years
Previous Job: Senator from Illinois
Job Description: The President is the head executive branch, the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and the nation's leader and figurehead. Obama is responsible for a great number of bureaucratic appointments and nominations, and many of the people on this list are put in place by the president.
by Michael B. Sauter and Jon C. Ogg
Source: Internet.

9 Ways to Build Wealth in 2011

Want to build some wealth in 2011? Revisit those New Year's resolutions.
You probably haven't thought about your pledges in more than a month. But odds are at least one of them involves getting rid of debt, increasing your income or building some financial security. To help you out, nine experts in the fields of money, debt, real estate and consumer affairs have shared their best wealth-building tips for 2011.

1. Funnel That FICA Cut Into a Retirement Windfall
David Bendix, CPA/PFS, CFP, president of The Bendix Financial Group: Take the money you won't pay in FICA, or Federal Insurance Contributions Act, taxes this year and redirect it to your 401(k). "It's a great concept that you're taking that 2 percent and using it to fund your retirement," he says. "It's one great technique for the coming year."
Tip for success: For the maximum impact, talk with human resources ASAP and change your deductions, Bendix says. One hopes the habit of saving a little more will stick with you through next year, too, he says.

2. Look For Low-Cost Mutual Funds and Watch Those Fees
Jill Gianola, CFP, owner of Gianola Financial Planning, LLC, and author of "The Young Couple's Guide to Growing Rich Together": "One of my favorite ways to build wealth is to pay close attention to the cost of investing and stick to low-cost, no-load mutual funds," she says.

One example: "If you invested $10,000 in small-cap, value funds with a commission and higher-than-average operating expenses and earned 7 percent a year for 10 years, your balance would be $16,005 and you would have paid a sales charge of $575 and $1,890 in operating expenses," she says.
"Compare that to investing the same amount for the same time period earning the same return in a no-load, small-cap, value fund with low operating expenses," she says. "Your balance would be $19,128 and you would have paid $408 in operating expenses." The difference: $3,123.
 Tip for success: Calculate cost and differences with Bankrate's mutual fund fees calculator.

3. No Shortcuts: Year After Year of Consistent Savings
Ric Edelman, chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services LLC, and author of "The Truth About Money": "The best way to build wealth remains unchanged: Invest as much money as you can (which is usually more than you think you can) into a diversified set of low-cost mutual funds and exchange-traded funds -- and keep doing this for many years, no matter what."

4. Get Rid of High-Interest Card Debt
David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies:
"For most people, building wealth is not about what to do with excess disposable income," he says, but "how to keep more of the money that they earn."
"The best way to do that: Reduce the amount of money spent on interest payments -- especially high-interest payments attached to credit card purchases," Jones says. "If a consumer can work to pay off just one high-interest credit card and not overcharge it again, then the money saved after it is paid off can go to a building-wealth plan. This may not be easy, and it may take time, but it's a realistic goal for just about every consumer."
Tip for success: Find a certified credit counselor to help you draft your own personal spending plan for free. To find one, visit either the AICCCA or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
"If the consumer sticks to that plan, it will be their best chance to begin a systematic process for building wealth," Jones says. "It may be modest at first, but with diligence, everyone can have a chance to improve their financial circumstances."

5. Buy a Home
Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of Realtors and principal broker for Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.: Want to build wealth in 2011? Buy a home, Phipps says. Mortgage rates are low, selection is great, prices are about one-third lower than five years ago, "and, by the way, you can live in the investment," he says.
Homeownership remains a long-term vehicle to financial independence and wealth, Phipps says.
Tip for success: Even though it sounds "pretty elementary," it's especially vital to "use common sense when buying and selling," Phipps says. "Price at the market to sell. Buy what you need and can afford."

6. Balanced, Diversified Portfolio Plus Education
Karen Altfest, CFP, principal adviser and executive vice president of client relations at Altfest Personal Wealth Management, a fee-only financial planning firm based in New York:
"Have a balanced portfolio," Altfest says. "So many people think that as they get older, money will come from interest. The secret is (keeping) a well-balanced, diversified portfolio and learning what it all means."
Too many times, people take the "set it and forget it" approach with their retirement accounts, she says. But you shouldn't "let it get cobwebs because you can't deal with it," Altfest says. "Get help." Your goal for the year: Get educated about what's in your retirement accounts and why.
Tip for success: You don't solely want only fixed-rate instruments such as bonds and CDs, she says, because it takes more than compounding interest to build a retirement fund.

7. If You Have an HSA, Max It Out
Eric Tyson, author of "Investing for Dummies" and "Personal Finance for Dummies":
"I'm a very big fan of (health savings accounts) because they offer better potential tax benefits than a traditional retirement fund," Tyson says. With HSAs, investors receive an upfront tax break, compounding investment earning, and pay no tax on the money that is withdrawn "as long as its use is for health expenses," he says.
But the device might not work for everyone. "Obviously, you have to have a high-deductible health plan," he says.
Before 65, if you pull money from your HSA for nonhealth expenses, you'll pay income tax and a 20 percent penalty on the withdrawal. After 65 (or in cases of death or disability), such withdrawals are taxed as income -- without the 20 percent penalty.
The maximum you can put into an HSA in 2011 is $3,050 for an individual account (plus an extra $1,000 if you're 55 or older), and $6,150 for a family account, he says.

8. Do Your Due Diligence
John Breyault, director of the National Consumer League's Fraud Center:
To build wealth that you can rely on, vet the adviser and the investment thoroughly, Breyault recommends. Some red flags:
• Guaranteed returns. "There's no such thing as a guaranteed return," he says.
• Pressure. "If it's a good investment opportunity today, it will be a good investment opportunity tomorrow."
• Nothing in writing or a reluctance to share information you could present to a third-party. "If it's a significant sum of money, I wouldn't hesitate to run it by an attorney," Breyault says.
• A significant upfront sum. "You shouldn't have to invest more than you're comfortable with," he says.
Also, "you should be able to get your money out easily," Breyault says.
Tip for success: Run investments and their representatives past state protection agencies such as the office of consumer protection and the state attorney general's office, he says. Also check with business sources such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau.
Check with regulating authorities such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, BrokerCheck, the Federal Communications Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. And verify any degrees and accreditations directly with the bodies that offer them.
And run a Google search on the company name, principals and basics of the investment.

9. Start Your Own Side Business
Robert Pagliarini, CFP, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors and author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth and Purpose":
"Start a business in your free time," he says. "I'm a big proponent of having a side venture, something you are passionate about that you can work on after your 'day job.'
"I think this is the best advice to give someone now -- especially for those who are unemployed," Pagliarini says. "And starting a business doesn't have to cost much, if any, money."
 Credit: Dana Dratch

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ways to Stop Marriage Money Fights

 It's no secret divorces in America are a popular trend. According to the National Center for Health, about half of marriages will result in divorce, and with many families struggling to make ends meet and with the unemployment rate hovering around 10% this past year, stress and arguments over money are not uncommon.

If you and your spouse have been arguing over the finances, how can you prevent these disputes so your marriage doesn't end up in divorce? MainStreet asked relationship and financial experts to share simple tips on how to manage money peacefully in a relationship.

Set Goals
To reduce financial stress, first come up with a clear path toward financial success. If you constantly argue with your spouse about debt, then create a plan of action to crush it.
Joshua Duvauchelle, associate editor of Focus on the FamilyCanada, says to "talk about your financial goals, fears and shortcomings. For example, financial conflict sometimes crops up when one person doesn't think that a little credit card debt is a big problem while the other one does. The only way you'll be in mutual agreement is if you talk about it." Be respectful and work together to dig yourselves out of your financial dilemmas; don't have a screaming match.

Get Organized
Organization is key to fixing your finances. Certified Public Accountant John Faggio recommends that couples "set up a common area for supporting documents where each spouse can easily see where the money has gone. Passwords or security questions should be common knowledge to both spouses."
When the bills arrive in the mail, pay them! Don't throw them in a drawer or leave them on the kitchen table where you're likely to forget about them. Keep your financial documents and bills in an easy to access area for each spouse.

Create Money-Saving Rituals
Saving money and living frugally is a critical component to achieving most financial goals.
Patty Newbold, marriage educator at, tells MainStreet, "There will be times you have to cut back. While you have enough, create your own low-budget traditions: camping, a walk on the beach at sunset, an inexpensive meal you both love, fixing things together or making crafts to sell."
These activities will spawn continued dialogue between you and your spouse about the importance of saving money and staying committed to your path toward financial success.

Make a Date With Your Finances
Money isn't typically discussed on a date, but if you're serious about getting your finances on track and preventing financial arguments, consider setting up a "business meeting" between you and your spouse, as suggested by Danielle Marquis, adjunct professor of personal finance at Red Rocks Community College.
"Order takeout, get a bottle of wine and then work on some aspect of your finances together (and maybe watch a movie afterwards as a reward)," Marquis says. "In January this might be setting up a budget for the rest of the year, in February it might be tax prep, in March it might be asset allocation for investments."

Consider Joining a Credit Union
To help bolster your finances, take advantage of the benefits credit unions offer. Savings accounts at credit unions usually offer higher interest rates than typical banks and credit cards with lower interest rates. Credit unions serve in the best interest of their members.

According to the Credit Union National Association, in 2009, lending to small businesses from banks dropped 18%, but rose 9.9% from credit unions.
Diane Tegarden, author of "Getting Out of Limbo: A Self Help Divorce Book for Women," tells MainStreet that "once you establish a relationship with your credit union, it will be easier to qualify for a loan if you need emergency funds." [What Is the Government's Credit Score?]

Be Honest
Hiding debt from your spouse or lying about how you spend the family's money will only create more tension in the relationship. While a spouse might feel angered and upset if they discover the other spouse was lying about how much debt they had, it is far more beneficial to the relationship to maintain an honest and open dialogue.
"Keep no secrets. Be honest with each other about what you have spent (and on what) and disclose everything," suggests Ray Lucia, a certified financial planner.

Reward Yourself
If you notice that you and your spouse are achieving your financial goals and the arguments over money are virtually nonexistent, treat yourselves to a night out at the movies or a reasonably priced weekend vacation.
Spending quality time with your spouse will allow you to take a break from constantly thinking about and dwelling on the household finances. In the end, it's not just about excelling financially, it's also about improving your relationship with your spouse and ensuring that money problems don't destroy a marriage.

 Learn When to Discuss It
Timing is everything, so be sure you know the right time to bring up your finances with your spouse.
Duvauchelle also recommends that couples not "wait to communicate about finances when you're angry or when the bills come in. Discuss it when you're both calm. Otherwise, the underlying current of anger or the stress of a looming bill can make it counterproductive to discuss your budgets and financial settings."

Know Your Spouse's Salary
Be honest with your spouse about exactly how much you earn. Chances are you both don't earn the same amount of money, which can cause further tension when deciding how much each spouse will contribute to bills. Instead of splitting the bills 50/50, use the same ratios, rather than equal sums of money.
For example, if you make $5,000 per month and your spouse makes $12,000 per month, then your joint income is $17,000. But if your monthly expenses amount to $4,000 per month, then divide $4,000 by $17,000, which is about 23.5%. That way both you and your spouse will contribute 23.5% of your monthly incomes to the monthly expenses, which results in different amounts. This is fair because even though you both don't earn the same amount of money, you're still contributing the same percentages to the household expenses.

 Don't Play the Blame Game
If the reason for your financial troubles is because one spouse was irresponsible with money and used the family credit cards to rack up thousands of dollars in debt, the other spouse must be supportive and not accuse each other of causing the financial mess.
Teamwork is critical and you won't escape your financial dilemmas unless both you and your spouse work together and commit to acting responsible with money. This will also result in fewer financial arguments.

Scott Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website  He has appeared on NBC's TODAY, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, Fox News, ABC News and CBS.
Source: Internet.

Surprising Home-Energy Hogs

 It's the small appliances that can waste the most electricity.
 Digital picture frames are small, so it's hard to think of them as energy hogs. But if each U.S. household had one of these frames running around the clock, it would take five power plants to run them all, says the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an electricity-focused research and development nonprofit.
Large home appliances like refrigerators and dryers are typical examples of energy-hungry devices, but energy hogs don't necessarily need to be large in size. Small devices are also collectively sucking a lot of energy from the power grid, and as these devices become commonplace their energy consumption rises exponentially. "It's the subtlety of the effect of large numbers of very small consuming devices," says Tom Reddoch, the executive director of energy utilization at EPRI.

Other small energy hogs include mobile phone chargers and laptop power adapters that are always plugged in to electric outlets. These chargers continue to draw energy even when the devices they charge have been disconnected. And "always-on" appliances like printers or speakers are called "energy vampires" because they also suck up power even when they're turned off or in an idle state.

Worse yet, the number of always-on devices is on the rise. Reddoch estimates that the typical U.S. home 30 years ago had about three always-on devices; today that number has climbed to more than 30.

Slaying energy vampires, however, is worthwhile in the long run. While a refrigerator typically accounts for about 8% of the typical household's total annual energy consumption, Reddoch says, vampire devices account for about 4%.

What's the best way to rein in energy hogs and vampires? The simplest answer is to turn off and unplug devices when they're not in use. If unplugging isn't practical or convenient, use a smart power strip to help stop the flow of electricity to an idle current. For instance, some smart strips allow you to set up a lead device like a computer so that when it is turned off, other supporting devices, like printers and speakers, are also turned off.[Technologies That Will Change Your Future]

We don't often bother to change a device's default settings, but we can save energy here too. For example, you can manually lower the default brightness and intensity settings on a TV.

Knowing how much energy we waste keeping devices on all the time should also motivate us to change our habits. Kyle Tanger, chief executive of green consultancy ClearCarbon, recommends using an electricity monitor like the Kill A Watt, a product that measures the energy efficiency of household appliances, to give you a better sense of their usage cost.

We can also buy energy-efficient products, and this year happens to be a great time to do that. Consumers are eligible for a rebate from the government when they buy an Energy Star appliance. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy website for more information the rebate program.

"There isn't a secret to what's hogging the energy," says Tanger. "If people pay attention to the little lights or fans in equipment, there is a lot in energy-efficiency gain that isn't just low-hanging fruit -- it's on the ground."

Surprising Home-Energy Hogs
Plasma TVs
Plasma TVs are hot items -- literally. While they are popular, they also consume a lot energy, giving off lots of heat in the process. A typical 27-inch CRT TV uses about 110 to 120 watts and a 42-inch LCD TV uses around 200 watts. Plasmas easily gobble the most: a 42-inch plasma TV uses up to 325 watts.

 Digital Picture Frames
Once a high-end item, digital frames are quickly becoming more affordable, with prices as low as $20 to $30. If every home in the U.S. had one of these frames displaying around the clock, though, it would take five power plants alone to power them all, the Electric Power Research Institute estimates.

Videogame Consoles
The high-level graphics processing that creates the visually stunning games on these devices also requires a lot of energy. And a lack of energy-efficiency standards for consoles, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, doesn't help. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that consoles in the U.S. collectively consume around 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year, roughly the same energy usage as the city of San Diego.

 Set-Top Boxes
Set-top boxes like cable and converter boxes seem like relatively innocent appliances: They typically only draw about 30 watts of energy. But because these boxes are always on, one box over the course of a year can use up to 265 kilowatt-hours, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of a 28-inch CRT television.

Battery Chargers
Individually chargers for mobile devices like cellphones and PDAs are small energy consumers, only using 7 to 10 watts. But if they are left plugged in to electric outlets even when the charged device is not connected, they continue to draw power. Today most U.S. homes use more than one charger. Add them all up across the country, and they could consume the energy output of several power plants.
 by Oliver J. Chiang
Source: Internet.

Real Madrid Becomes Highest Earning Sports Team Ever!

For the sixth consecutive year, Real Madrid tops the Deloitte Football Money League, and in doing so, became the highest earning sports team ever, reports Business Insider. Despite not winning any trophies, the club's earnings jumped from $541 million for the 2008/09 season to $592 million for the 2009/10 season, enabling them to continue funding Cristiano Ronaldo's most extravagant purchases. Like exclusive yet unenforcable baby rights.  

Barcelona came in right behind Real for the second straight year (even though the standings were the other way around in La Liga) and the first time ever, the combined earnings of Deloitte's 20-club Money League topped $5.4 billion.

By comparison, the top earning NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, made $420 million according to Forbes and the top earning MLB team, the New York Yankees, made $441 million. That would only put them fifth and fourth, respectively, in Deloitte's list of football clubs.

The biggest chunk of Real Madrid's revenue came from their ongoing $1.4 billion TV rights deal, but they also make nearly as much from numerous sponsorships and matchday earnings. And if there's one thing Real like more than making money, it's spending it. Over the last decade, they've spent more than $1 billion on player transfers as they keep breaking their own transfer records for individual players to fill out club president Florentino Perez's live-action fantasy team. 

Here's the full Football Money League top 20...
1. Real Madrid -- $592 million
2. Barcelona -- $537 million
3. Manchester United -- $472 million
4. Bayern Munich -- $436 million
5. Arsenal -- $370 million
6. Chelsea -- $345 million
7. AC Milan -- $318 million
8. Liverpool -- $308 million
9. Inter Milan -- $303 million
10. Juventus -- $277 million
11. Manchester City -- $206 million
12. Tottenham Hotspur -- $198 million
13. Hamburger SV -- $197 million
14. Lyon -- $197 million
15. Marseille -- $190 million
16. Schalke 04 -- $189 million
17. Atletico Madrid -- $168 million
18. Roma -- $166 million
19. Stuttgart -- $155 million
20. Aston Villa -- $148 million 

Fun, right? Well, it's not so much when you look at how quickly those earnings disappear. As the Andersred Blog points out, just one of the seven English clubs on Deloitte's list turned a profit (Arsenal). Barcelona had to take out a loan to pay player wages last summer and Real's debt is in the hundreds of millions. So keep that in mind when imagining club executives diving into warehouse-sized safes full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck.  
By Brooks Peck
Source: Internet.

Google accuses Microsoft of cheating on search - Tensions flare as the two giants get closer to one another's business cores

Google is accusing Microsoft Corp. of cheating as the two duel for Internet search supremacy, but Microsoft denies the charge, saying it's just using all available weapons to lessen its rival's dominance.

The dust-up between the two companies that process virtually all of North America's search requests grabbed the spotlight Tuesday at an event sponsored by Microsoft about the future of Internet searches. Microsoft's practices have even wider implications now that its technology powers Yahoo Inc. searches in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Brazil as part of a 10-year partnership that grew out of the companies' inability to mount a serious challenge to Google on their own. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Google's attempt to embarrass Microsoft at an event devoted to innovation served as the latest reminder of the tensions between the technology heavyweights. While Microsoft has been pecking at Google in search, Google has been chipping away at Microsoft's advantage in computer software with its own suite of competing products.

"We just want everyone to know the truth about how Microsoft operates as a search engine, which is by taking the hard work of others and presenting it as their own," said Amit Singhal, a Google fellow who oversees the company's closely guarded search formulas. He made his comments in a phone interview.

Microsoft did nothing more than adjust its results after monitoring Internet Explorer users' search requests and clicking activity on Google as well as its own site, Bing, according to Harry Shum, a corporate vice president for Bing. In a blog post, Blum derided Google for engaging in a "a spy-novelesque stunt."

Google Inc. set out to expose Microsoft's tactics last year, said Matt Cutts, the head of Google's Web spam team. That's when it appeared Bing was showing search results that seemed a little too close to Google's own — especially for obscure, misspelled queries.

The similarities raised suspicions that Microsoft's IE Web browser and various other tools were feeding information back that helped Microsoft's engineers make Bing's results more Google-like.Google laid a trap to prove it. The company made a list of gibberish or obscure search terms and manually linked them to unrelated websites. Then, 20 Google engineers took home laptops loaded with Internet Explorer, searched for those terms and clicked on the artificial results. Soon after, searching for the same odd terms on Bing would call up the same odd results.

Cutts likened the trap to a mapmaker drawing a fake street or the Yellow Pages adding a fake name to its directory to flush out copycats.
The "Bing Sting" was first reported on the Search Engine Land blog before emerging as a hot topic during a panel discussion that included Cutts and Shum. The San Francisco event was streamed over the Internet.

"It's not like we actually copy anything," Shum said. "We learn from customers who are willing to share data with us, just like Google does."

Those data include not only the searches people type into Bing, but also into Google, and what links they click on. The information can be used to fine-tune Bing's own search results. And that sort of "collective intelligence," Shum said, is how the Web is supposed to work. Google doesn't use people's behavior on Bing the same way, Cutts said during Tuesday's event.

In an interview, Singhal argued it's unfair for Bing to piggyback on Google 's technology.
"It's like a student cheating on his test and saying, 'Yeah, I could see my classmates' test, so I wrote it down,'" Singhal said. "If that's not cheating, what is?"

Cutts and Shum traded jabs about whether people read the fine print when installing the Chrome or IE browser software that explains what Web surfing information is fed back to the company.

When the discussion moved on to the problem of increasing spam pages and low-quality content online, Shum blamed Google for rewarding the owners of such pages with advertising dollars.

Cutts said Google manually blocks spam pages regardless of whether they carry Google ads but wants to find a technology solution for the problem instead of picking off useless sites one by one.
 By Jessica Mintz and Michael Liedtke
Source: Internet.