Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Save Big with Liquidators

Looking for bargains on quality items? No need to look any farther than your computer. The Internet offers a variety of online liquidators. Here are a few:

www.overstock.com - best for electronics, jewelry, designer accessories etc.
www.dgse.com - Jewelry - specializes in pre-owned Rolex watches
www.smartbargains.com - Jewelry, electronics, accessories
www.bluefly.com - designer clothes for both men and women
www.playitagainsports.com - new and used sports gear/equipment

Craig's List

If you are looking to buy large or heavy items online, check out Craig's List (www.craigslist.org). Unlike most sites like Ebay, there is a Craig's List for every geographic area. Since the sellers are more local, the shipping/freight charges can often be eliminated - or at least reduced. Also, because the sellers are local, you can often go see the items before you buy, thereby reducing your risk.

And if you have something to sell, in most cases it costs nothing to post on Craig's List.

Oh, and it is the ideal place to look for cheap, last-minute tickets for sporting events, concerts, or even vacations. Many people whose plans change will offer steep discounts to unload tickets they cannot use, and will soon become worthless.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Immigration Part II

This immigration problem is really getting blown out of proportion, primarily because too many folks are using it to push some miopic agenda. In reality, the solution to illegal immigration and the 12 million already here is rather simple. We can get all the illegal immigrants to register, return home, then come back as INVITED visitors, and bring their families with them.

No need for fences. No need to deport too many. No need to grant amnesty. No need to double the border patrol.

We do not have to deport anyone except the criminals - all the others would self-deport and go home to their families if there were no money or services here for them. Period.

1) First we cut off access to any income and services by coming down hard on employers and any agency or local government that is providing services to illegal immigrants. They are then forced to go home.

2) Before they go home, they will have the opportunity to sign up for the guest worker program (they get registered, so we know who they are, and can do background checks).

3) They would then go home, and if they pass a background check, etc., within 6 months they would be legally invited back TO WORK - but not to become citizens.

They would be VISITORS (guest workers) only. Their stay would be limited to 2 years, at which time they must return home for not less than one year (so others can have the opportunity to come and work, as the workforce grows). If they do so, they will then be granted permission to return for another two years, and so on. During their stay, they must remain employed (self-supporting) and not commit any crimes. If they do not follow the rules, they would be deported and not allowed to return.

These guest workers may bring their families, PROVIDED they can provide for them, financially, so as not to be a drain on the resources of America. But whenever they return home, their families must return home with them. As visitors, they may work, earn, spend, pay taxes. But they would not be entitled to any "entitlements", which would be reserved for American citizens. They can only have whatever they can afford to pay for.

If they want citizenship, they must go through the same process as everyone else. To become citizens, they must learn to speak English, must learn American history, and pass through the same process as all others who have legally sought citizenship. Guest workers would not be obligated to learn English, but they would be encouraged to learn it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Influence Others With Language

Chances are you know someone who can easily persuade people, or who can sell ice to Eskimos. What is their secret?

Well, it could be a number of things, but almost certainly part of the secret lies in the actual words they choose.

As you may have learned from the previous post, "Who Are You?", we are products of our environment. As such, one thing is absolutely certain - we rely upon our five senses to absorb info and learn. And the secret lies right there.

Some people rely most heavily on sight for inputting info. Others may rely most heavily on hearing (perhaps their eyesight is weak). Still others may depend heavily upon touch, smell, or taste. The point is, we are most easily swayed by our dominant sense. If you are sight oriented, you are more apt to believe what you see. If hearing oriented, you may place more importance on what you hear.

That brings us to one of the great secrets of effective communication. If you take a few moments making "small talk" with someone (as good salesmen do), take care to learn which sense seems to be dominant, based on their choice of words. For example, if the person uses phrases like, "I think that stinks", that may hint that smell is one of his more dominant senses. If you hear phrases like, "It sounds good" (hearing), or "It looks good"(sight), you have a clue as to how they absorb input.

Once you know how they assimilate information, you can use that sense to get them to listen to you more intently, and to better understand what you are saying. This can be very persuasive.

In my career as a real estate investor, selling homes is often a priority. If I find that the buyer uses "sight" words, then I use sight-oriented info to help him buy. I highlight the beautiful view, for example. If he is hearing oriented, I might mention the sounds of the songbirds, rippling brook, etc. In this fashion, I am better able to capture his attention, and in doing so, persuade him to buy. If he uses a lot of "smell" words, I make sure there are cookies baking in the oven, or lots of flowers.

We think, learn and communicate according to how we rely upon our senses for data input. You can use that to influence others.

Who Are You?

From the day we are born, we start becoming a product of our environment. Everything we absorb through our five senses helps to create the person we become. And every person we encounter contributes to our makeup in some way. Our parents, siblings, teachers, peers - each of them burns their mark on us, and helps to forge us into who we ultimately become.

And therein lies the problem.

As long as we accept the person that life has molded us into, we will never be the person we really could be, and therefore it is unlikely we will find the happiness we seek. Why? Because we are not ourselves - we are only what others have made us. Think about it - are you a republican or democrat because Dad was? And do your religious beliefs reflect those of your parents? And what about the beliefs you have about money, relationships, love and family - exactly where did those come from?

As children, we have little choice about our beliefs, our life choices - most are made for us. And many of those will hamper us in later life, as we enter adulthood. For example, only 4% of all Americans ever achieve financial independence. Therefore, 96% of us have no clue how to achieve it, yet we go about teaching our children what we (don't) know. So, they won't be any better off.

If your life is not what you would like it to be, chances are you are simply carrying around too many preconceived and wrong notions and beliefs, instilled as a child. As an adult, it becomes your responsibility to either accept all that, and live with it, or change it. Again, we have little choice as a child, but once we become adults, we do have a choice.

Start by writing down all of your beliefs. Then, ask where you came by them, and why you believe them. Ask if those beliefs can be supported by facts. If not sure, investigate. Study. Learn. As you do this, you will be creating newer, better and stronger beliefs. Beliefs that are founded in truth and reality, and not simply because it was taught to you by someone else. But use caution - you are looking for established facts, and not merely another person's opinion. Too many of us allow ourselves to be swayed by others who are pushing their own agenda. It happens every day on college campuses around the country. It happens in schools, gangs, organizations and political groups.

Of course, not all beliefs can be supported with facts. Belief in a Supreme Power may be one of them. In such a case, you simply need to follow the logic - and, to some degree, the "odds". Or just go on faith.

Just for the record, here are the odds:

If you believe in God and He exists, you win.
If you believe in God and He does not exist, you do not lose anything.
If you do not believe in God, and He does not exist, you do not lose anything.
If you do not believe in God, and He does exist, you lose everything.

So, if you believe, you cannot lose, either way. But if you do not believe, your chances of losing are 50/50.

The ONLY way you can lose is if you do not believe.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Getting People To Do What You Want

Now that can be a real chore! Especially in this age of "What's in it for me?" And that, my friend, is also the answer.

Every one of us has needs and desires. We want to be recognized. We want to feel important. And we want to get ahead. Knowing this, the best way to get people to do what you want is to help them to get what they want.

If you help a person feel important, he will value you, and will be more apt to do what you want. If you recognize their accomplishments, they will respect your opinion, and be more inclined to help you. And if you help them to get what they want, they will need you, and will more likely help you succeed, because his own success has become tied to you.

Hm-m-m. It seems that perhaps the Bible may have something there - you know, the part about "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Even if you are not Christian, or even religious, you can still find all the secrets to success in the Good Book.

Healthful Eating

In my quest to outlive my children's inheritance, I have spent years studying all the "studies" on what is good for you, and what isn't. And I must say, the only thing I learned is that all those studies are worthless. One says eggs will kill you. Another says eggs are a "superfood". One says tomatoes will prevent cancer. Another says tomatoes can cause serious gastric troubles. Butter is bad. Butter is good. Meat is essential. A vegetarian diet is healthier. In short, each study is put out by someone with an agenda.

So, where to turn? That's as easy as understanding who and what we are. Look to nature, because we are, after all creatures of nature. Frankly, we are nothing more than cavemen with SUV's and Blackberries. So, if we know what was a natural, healthful diet for our erstwhile ancestors, we'll have a good idea of what is good for us today.

In nature, man is an omnivore - both a plant-eater and meat-eater. The proof lies in our physiology. We have molars, for grinding (like herbivor/vegetarians), and canine teeth for ripping and tearing flesh. So, nature dictates that our optimum health relies upon both meats and plants as food sources. Our physiology also requires complex amino acids, many of which are very difficult to get from a strictly vegetarian diet.

Now, science indicates that early Man was a forager - he had few, if any, tools and weapons. But what he did have was some intellect. As such, it is likely that his diet consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables, roots, berries, seeds (whole grains) and nuts, with smaller, periodic portions of fish and red meats (as they were more difficult to come by, and usually had to be shared among the entire family unit).

Most of these foods contain their own fats, but those fats are good, dietary fats, and not the chemical poisons that are found on supermarket shelves. And early foods were free of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics.

This leaves us with an ideal, natural diet that, when coupled with ordinary, moderate exercise, would keep us out of the clutches of the drug companies. My diet consists of organic, natural foods, fresh or frozen (nothing in a can), including (for meats) natural beef, chicken, pork, turkey and wild, cold-water fish, and (for plants) whole grains, fruits, veggies, berries, and nuts.

It is also recommended that our diet is balanced - "forage foods" such as plants, nuts, berries etc. should constitute about 80-85% of our diet. Meats should be in small portions, perhaps 2-3 times per week, with fish at least 1-2 times per week.

Finally, we should eat the way our ancestors ate - small meals throughout the day, rather than three big meals a day. Why? The "three squares a day" routine raises Hell with our blood sugar levels, which can - and often does - result in obesity and diabetes. Our sugar is either peaking, or petering out. And "fasting" for several hours between meals causes you to eat too much when you finally do get to stuff your gullet. But if you "graze" throughout the day, as early foragers were forced to, your blood suger levels are going to remain relatively stable, resulting in better health. Also, your body can only use just so much fuel at any given time. Large meals mean some of that food is going into storage, folks! Spreading hips, waist and thighs are the result, especially as we grow older and exercise less.

Well, it works for my family!


Like millions of other folks around the country, I have been following all the hullaballu about illegal immigration, and what to do about it. The recent bill before the Senate only serves to prove that our elected officials have no clue. Here's how I see it...

America is our home. Now, people can be in your home as residents, visitors, workers doing a job or, in some cases, as burglars or trespassers. All people in your home should be accorded the treatment normally bestowed upon any person in that class. Residents (legals) may come and go as they please, as long as they follow the rules of the house (the laws). Visitors may be invited, and stay only until they either choose to leave, or are asked to leave. While in your home, he must follow the house rules (adhere to the laws, if they fly a flag, it should be the Stars & Stripes, and they should attempt to speak the language) Workers should be allowed to do their job, then leave. And trespassers (univited guests) should be sent packing, or even arrested.

Therefore, as I see it, the answer to the immigration situation is no different from how you would treat a person coming into your home. Each should be treated according to their purpose for being in your home. If an illegal immigrant breaks the law, or does not contribute to the community and nation, they should either be deported or arrested and jailed. If they come here to work, they should leave when the job is done - and their presence does not entitle them to raiding the fridge or watching the television (no entitlements).

We already have laws on the books that allow us to control the immigration situation, so the proclivity of congress to pass MORE laws seems rather inane - if they won't use the laws they already have, why pass more that will also be ignored?

We have a great and wonderful nation. If we want it to prosper and remain strong, we need to be wiser in how we run it, and smarter in who we put in Congress and the Presidency. Right now, I look, and I am not impressed with the choices of either party. We need to get past looking down party lines and seek out people who have intellect, wisdom and strength of conviction, and elect those people regardless of party affiliation. John Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronnie Reagan were such people. I am looking for others in our current time, and to date, have only found one that I feel good about. And maybe, just maybe, Newt will run. Meanwhile, I will look for others.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Planting Time

It is that time of year - I have to get out and get my little veggie garden started. The good news: I have learned how to get the same harvest with a garden 1/3 the size. And the harvest lasts an extra 5-6 weeks. Now, anything that results in less time working the garden is something this old man can appreciate.

The secret? Wide rows. Instead of planting all crops in single rows, I now scatter seed in a wide row (about 16" wide). Once the seeds sprout, I thin just a little. The objective is to have enough plants growing close enough together to have their tops form a canopy that keeps the soil cool and moist, and prevents weed growth. In this fashion, I get three times as many veggies in the same space as single-row planting.

As a side note, I make my wide rows as raised beds because they are easier to maintain, easier to fertilize, and promote stronger root growth. And I leave 30" between rows, because my rototiller is 30" wide.

More important, I can begin harvesting earlier, picking the first to gain in size, which allows more room for the smaller ones to grow. These early, young vegetables are usually much sweeter and tastier. As each week passes, I just keep picking the biggest. This extends the harvest by up to 6 weeks, because of the sheer number of plants, and because this thinning process results in some plants maturing at different times.

Most crops can be planted in wide rows, but a few should stay in single rows, such as corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

Is Good Food More Expensive?

Many people have noticed that good, healthful food that is truly organic and natural is more expensive than processed foods, which, in turn, are more expensive than "junk" foods. And, while it is true that good foods do tend to be about 15% more expensive, a reality check shows that these good foods are actually no more expensive in the long run? Why?

When a person eats good, nutritious fresh food, that person tends to be much healthier than the person who eats processed foods. This translates, on average, to health care savings of about $2000 per year. In other words, those who spend $2000 per year more to eat healthy foods would normally save $2000 per year on health care costs. Therefore, it would seem that eating well costs about the same as eating poorly.

There is another benefit, of course - healthier people tend to live longer (^.^)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tax Implications of Moving

When you move to a different state, you should note that both states may be able to tax your estate when you die. There have been cases where an estate has been taxed by as many as four states, leaving nothing behind for heirs to fight over.

Each state has its own rules as to what constitutes legal residency, and the courts tend to side with them inspite of the simple fact that a person can only have one permanent domicile. Domicile and residency are not the same thing.

So, what this boils down to is this: if you move to another state, make a complete and clean break from your "old" state. Move bank accounts. Hire new accountants, attorneys etc. in your new state. Leave nothing in the old state that could be construed as ties that might be determined as residency. This includes any rental properties, investments, business holdings, and even charities that you donate to.

The more you do to prove that you no longer have any ties to a state, the weaker becomes their claim on you when it comes to taxation.

And, no, just because you are married does not mean you must both be residents of the same state for tax purposes. But if you choose dual state citizenship, understand that you could be jeopardizing a big chunk of your estate when you die.

IRS Property Auctions

As we all know, the IRS has a history of taking property - personal and real - from taxpayers who do not pony up as they are supposed to. But the IRS is not allowed under law to keep confiscated property, so it periodically auctions off all that great stuff.

Examples of items include real estate, business equipment, automobiles, boats, coin collections - even patents. One recent item was, of all things, an amusement park!

Auctions must be attended in person, and be prepared to pay. Dates, times and locations of auctions, along with pictures of the items being auctioned, can be found at www.treas.gov/auctions/irs

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

How to "Find" More Money

I know people who earn less than $15,000 per year and still manage to save, while others who earn over $100,000 a year are living paycheck to paycheck. How can this happen? Because some people know how to control spending habits.

It's not the big expenses that keep a person living on the edge - it's the nickle and dime stuff. Most people spend small, insignificant amounts every day, without even noticing. But what they do notice at the end of the week is a shortage of ready cash, or a lack of savings.

For example, if you get your lunch each day from the office vending machines for about $4.00, that comes to a whopping $1,000 a year. The daily paper, at 50 cents, comes to another $150/year. And that $3.00 cup of gourmet coffee of cappuchino every workday - that's another $750. And a weekly movie, at about $10, adds another $500. Just these few small things can reduce your discretionary cash by $2,400 per year. Not much, you say? But invested, and earning 10% per year, that small amount accumulates to over $51,000 in just 10 years.

Places where most money is wasted:

* Shopping without a purpose (shopping for fun)
* Impulse purchases, especially in the grocery store or department store
*ATM fees
*Late fees - credit cards, utilities, video rentals etc.
*Items purchased because they were on sale, but not needed
*Miscellaneous items, like that cappuchino

To get your spending under control, spend one week tallying up every dime spent that you do not have to spend. At the end of the week, that is the amount you should strive to save each week. And pay yourself first! If you wait to save "what's left" at the end of the week, rest assured nothing will be left.

If an item is necessary, such as lunch, opt for brown-bagging at about $1.00 a day, and save the extra $3.00 from not using the vending machines. Rent a movie for a dollar rather than spend $10 at the theater. And instead of the newspaper, get the news for free, online, or on the radio or TV.

Understand this: until you know exactly where your money is going, you can never get your spending under control. And if your spending is not under control, you will never have as much wealth as you could have had.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Burn Calories With Water

Did you know that plain water can help you shed pounds? You already know that water can fill you and quench your thirst without any calories, because there are no calories in water. But just as important, drinking water increases your metabolism, causing your body to burn more calories. And the colder the water, the more calories your body burns, trying to warm it up to body temperature.

Increasing water consumption by a 1.5 gallons a day for one year would help you shed 5 pounds by burning 17,400 calories. Now, that may not seem like much, but if you couple that with the calories burned by chewing food at least 20 times, and eating more slowly (see archive post, April 2007), you can shed 10 pounds a year without dieting or exercising.

Studies have also shown that tea drinkers tend to have 20% less body fat than non-tea drinkers. It is thought that tea increases metabolism, and lowers absorption of sugar molecules.

Friday, May 4, 2007

"Nuts" to Adult-Onset Diabetes

Tens of millions of Americans will develop adult-onset diabetes after age 45. The SAD diet (Standard American Diet) is primarily responsible. But you can take a simple step to help protect yourself from developing this disease - eat a handful of nuts (or a tablespoon of peanut butter) a few times each week.

Rich in fiber, magnesium and unsaturated (good) fats, nuts help facilitate insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, and reduces cholesterol levels (all good things). Reducing simple carbohydrate intake (white breads, sugar, soda etc.) will help to almost insure that you will escape this disease.

Negotiate Real Estate Commissions

Few home sellers are aware that the Realtor commission for selling their home is negotiable. You should consider the broker's "offer" for the commission to be a starting point for negotiation. Why?

The biggest reason is due to such high property values. When the average home is $280,000, a 6% commission is a whopping $16,800. While Realtors will want that much, seldom would they object to getting paid a "mere" $11,200 (4%). And some "discount" places like ZipRealty and Assist-2-Sell only charge 1-2%.

So, if you are selling your home, don't be afraid to negotiate that commission - it can put thousands of extra $$$ in your pocket. Especially with more and more homes reaching the $500,000 value.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The "Secret" of Happiness

Actually, it's not really a secret - it simply goes unnoticed. So, take notice!

The most valuable things in life, such as love, happiness, and respect, are what you might call "enigmas". They are not what they seem. Such things cannot be gathered, chased, or taken. They cannot be held. In order to have such things, you must give them away!

You heard that right. If you want to be loved, you must first give love. If you want happiness, you must first give it away. If you doubt this, consider the following:

I was really in the dumps. A recent divorce and other disasters had me ready to give up. It seemed that happiness was not in the cards. While feeling sorry for myself, I stopped into a coffee shop to drown my sorrow in 100 proof caffeine.

A young girl who could not have been more than 16 waited on me. She was visibly upset, and I could see she had been crying. I asked another waitress what the problem was, and was informed that the girl's boyfriend had broken her young heart. I paid for my coffee and left.

Within 30 minutes, I returned with a single rose, handed it to the girl with the broken heart, smiled, then turned and left. As I reached the door, I turned and saw that she was smiling, and bouncing over to another table where an old man sat, alone. There was a spark of renewed happiness in her, and strangely enough, in spite of all my own troubles, I, too, was feeling happier for having given happiness to another. But my happiness soon faded as I watched her give that rose to that old man. I felt "used".

A few days later I returned to that coffee shop. The girl bounced over to me, all smiles and bubbling over with apparent joy. I told her that I was happy to be able to make some small difference in her mood that day, but was disappointed that she so readily gave away my gift. She smiled sweetly, grabbed my hand gently, and whispered, "Don't you know? You should, because I learned it from you. Happiness spreads when you give it away. You gave me the rose, and with it, happiness. I saw that lonely old man who had lost his wife last fall, and gave the rose to him, so that he, too, might share in the happiness. In giving him the rose, I found happiness a second time that day. And he returned next morning to say he gave the rose to a lady in the complex he lives in, and they are now spending time together. And that made me happy a third time. So, you see, the more happiness you give away, the more you have. I thought you knew!"

Thanks to the wisdom of that little 16 year-old girl, I have not had too many days without finding some happiness. All I have to do is give some away...

It works! And it's easy. Try it.

Getting Things Done

Some folks find it difficult to get everything done when needed. Others find it hard just to get started, or to finish. Whatever it is that keeps you from getting things done and move forward toward your goals, you may want to take a look at my system. It works for me.

First, keep a pocket-sized notepad and writing instrument handy at all times (or some electronic gadget that can take notes). Every time a task that needs to be done rears its head, and you cannot do it right now, make a note of it. All too often we try to rely on our memory to get things done. That will almost always result in things not getting done, causing frustration and stress.

Now, before you go to bed each day, choose those tasks that are most important and those that must be done soonest. Choose more than you believe can be accomplished the following day - that way, you will not waste part of the day without accomplishing something. Also, make sure you include something that you enjoy, and include at least a couple of breaks - they are worth their weight in gold.

Now schedule this list, as follows:

The very first task should be the most difficult, dirtiest job on the list. By doing that first, you take greatest advantage of being fresh and having your most energy of the day. And by getting that out of the way, you benefit from the reduced stress of not having that dirty job to look forward to all day. The day gets easier as you go along. Of course, the second worst task should follow the first, ensuring your day does get easier.

During the day, make certain that the most important tasks are taken care of at the earliest convenience, or according to any necessary schedule. If necessary, postpone less important tasks and reschedule them in your notebook.

Whatever you do, make certain that you schedule part of each day for your own enjoyment and relaxation. All work and no play will make you a bore, and will age you before your time. Use this time as a reward for having accomplished so much during the previous day.

Before retiring for the evening, go over the list of things you accomplished during the day. By doing this, you strengthen your sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. All too often we fail to take inventory of a job well done, or a day well spent. If you do not take a few moments to notice the strides you have made and the small successes of the day, you could easily become discouraged. The main idea here is to not go to bed until you know that you have taken at least one positive step toward your long-term goals. Hear this: there is only one reason we even bother trying to accomplish anything - we are striving for happiness. But you will never find happiness if you do not take the time to appreciate what you have done. Some call it "smelling the roses along the way".

Then, after realizing you have done well, put together tomorrow's list of tasks, starting with the hardest, dirtiest job first.