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.


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.


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 !!


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!


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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Forehand Vs Backhand MIG Welding Techniques

Forehand and backhand welding are the most basic of all welding techniques. They are simple, have their purpose and provide a specific type of weld when used properly. In this article you will learn why these techniques are used and most importantly why.

Forehand Technique

Forehand is a technique where the welder pushes the puddle and keeps the arc slightly ahead of the puddle. Forehand welding is done with the MIG gun pointed in the direction of travel. For example, if the welder will be welding from right to left, then the MIG gun will point toward the left at all times. The angle that the MIG gun is pointed toward the direction travel can vary. The angle of the MIG gun can be anywhere between 5 degrees to as much as 35 degrees toward the direction of travel. When traveling forehand the welder must focus on keeping the arc slightly ahead of the puddle.

Backhand Technique

The backhand technique is the exact opposite of the forehand welding technique. In the case of back hand welding the welder keeps the MIG gun pointed toward the weld while traveling away from it. For example if the welder is welding from left to right then the MIG gun will be pointed toward the left. The angle of the MIG gun can vary between 5 degrees to 35 degrees toward the weld.

Understand the Reasons for these Welding Techniques

These MIG welding techniques do serve a very important purpose. What they do is control the weld shape and the penetration pattern.

Forehand welding is the most commonly used technique for MIG welding. What the forehand method does is produce a shallow but wide penetrating weld that is flat in appearance. This is the type of weld and penetration is used for most weld joints where overheating is not an issue.

Backhand welding is the least used welding technique when it comes to MIG. This technique produces the deep and narrow type of penetration that is best suited for thinner metals. The advantage of backhand welding is that the arc is focused onto the filler metal and that means extra material to prevent burn through. When welding thinner metals you always run the risk of burning a hole through the weld joint. With the backhand method the extra filler metal at the arc helps prevent this and at the same time can keep warp age to a minimum.

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Life Insurance Fraud

Life insurance fraud is a black eye on both life insurance companies and life insurance customers. Both parties have been guilty of life insurance fraud and will be again–especially since, sadly, fraud seems to be on the rise according to most statistical measures.

Research by the non-profit The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud concludes that life insurance fraud committed by all parties costs an average household $1650 per year and increases life insurance premiums by 25%.

Life insurers are most often guilty of insurance fraud in the form of their agents doing “churning”. This is where the agent seeks to cancel your existing life insurance policy and replace it with a new policy that is paid for by the “juice”, or cash value, in your existing policy. Agents do this to earn more commissions for themselves without having to seek new prospects for business. Churning can result in increased premiums for a customer and clearly costs them out of their cash value.

Another insurance fraud practiced by agents, however, is called “windowing”. This is where, being unable to attain a client’s or applicant’s signature on a necessary document but already having that signature elsewhere, the agent holds up a signed document behind the unsigned document, presses it against a window to make the light shine through, and traces over the signature with a pen in order to forge the signature of the client or applicant.

When big name insurance companies have their agents do bad things it makes big headlines, but the fact is that the public is far more guilty of insurance fraud than companies are. And of course making false claims is the thing they do the most, which is why all claims on life insurance death benefit payouts are subject to investigation.

But falsely stating background or financial income information is another form of insurance fraud often engaged in by consumers. They might be embarrassed by their medical history or income, or they may realize that if they tell the truth they will have their coverage diminished or their premiums will be very high. If a life insurance company finds out someone lied on their application they have the right not to pay the claim or not pay the full death benefit depending on the circumstances and the policy.

But there are things that buyers of life insurance can do to protect themselves against insurance fraud, since they don’t have the great investigative resources that life insurance companies do.

Remember, when it comes to life insurance, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no free lunch.

Save all of your life insurance paperwork, including getting receipts for every penny you give your agent, and never ignore any notifications from your life insurance company.

Life insurance is never free and it’s not a pension plan, although certain policies can indeed become self-funding–but they never start off that way.

Never buy any coverage that you feel strongly is unnecessary, never let yourself be pressured, and never borrow to finance life insurance.

Although it can be part of an investment portfolio, life insurance’s number one role is protection against the unforeseen–and most people don’t need life insurance in their later years. It is intended to be temporary.

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Understanding the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate in the Philippines

Not a lot of people know what an extrajudicial settlement of the estate is. Well, not unless they have experienced losing a member of the family and dividing his remaining properties.

Extrajudicial settlement of the estate simply means drafting a contract where the properties are divided among the heirs, as the latter may see fit. Enumerated in the contract are the properties left by the deceased, collectively called the “estate”. The properties may range from real properties such as parcels of land, buildings, or personal properties such as money left in the bank, cars, jewelry, furniture and even shares in a corporation.

It should be well-noted that an extrajudicial settlement by agreement is only possible if there is no will left by the deceased. Even if there is a will but the will does not include all of the decedent’s estate, then those not covered can by extrajudicially partitioned by agreement.

Moreover, extrajudicial settlement is not possible if the heirs cannot agree on how the properties will be divided. In that case, they can file and ordinary action for partition.

Publication requirement

After the settlement agreement is signed, the heirs should cause the publication of the agreement in a newspaper of general circulation to ensure that interested parties, if there are any, such as creditors and unknown heirs, will be given due notice.

Payment of Estate tax

After the publication, transfer of title may follow. Upon the transfer of the estate, the Estate Tax must be paid in accordance with Section 84 of the National Internal Revenue Code of the Philippines.

Estate tax is defined as a tax on the right of the deceased person to transmit his estate to his lawful heirs and beneficiaries at the time of death and on certain transfers, which are made by law as equivalent to testamentary disposition. It is a form of transfer tax, not a property tax. More particularly, it is a tax on the privilege of transferring the property of the decedent to the heirs.

The Estate Tax Return must be filed within six (6) months from the decedent’s death. The deadline may be extended by the Commissioner of the BIR, in meritorious cases, not exceeding thirty (30) days.

It is interesting to note that the estate itself will have its own Tax Identification Number (TIN). The BIR treats the estate as a juridical person.

The Estate Tax Return is filed with Revenue District Office (RDO) having jurisdiction over the place of residence of the decedent at the time of his death.

If the decedent has no legal residence in the Philippines, then the return can be filed with:

1. The Office of the Revenue District Officer, Revenue District Office No. 39, South Quezon City; or

2. The Philippine Embassy or Consulate in the country where decedent is residing at the time of his death.

For estate taxes, the BIR imposes the pay-to-file system which means that you have to pay the estate tax at the same time the return is filed.

In cases involving a huge estate where the tax imposed can get too high, or in cases where the decedent left properties which are difficult to liquidate and they do not have the cash to pay the taxes, the BIR Commissioner can extend the time of payment but the extension cannot be over two (2) years if the estate is settled extrajudicially. If an extension is granted, the BIR Commissioner may require a bond in such amount, not exceeding double the amount of tax, as it deems necessary.

The estate tax is based on the value of the net estate as follows:

1. If not over P200,000, it is exempt

2. If over P200,000 but not over P500,000, then tax is 5% of the excess over P200,000

3. If over P500,000 but not over P2,000,000, then tax is P15,000 PLUS 8% of the excess over P500,000

4. If over P2,000,000 but not over P5,000,000, then tax is P135,000 PLUS 11% of the excess over P2,000,000

5. If over P5,000,000 but not over P10,000,000, then tax is P465,000 PLUS 15% of the excess over P5,000,000

6. If over P10,000,000, then tax is P1,215,000 PLUS 20% of the excess over P10,000,000

In computing the net estate, allowable deductions shall always be considered. These deductions include funeral expenses, share of the surviving spouse, medical expenses incurred by the decedent within one (1) year prior to his death, family home deduction of not more than P1,000,000.00, standard deduction of P1,000,000.00, among others. It is best to consult a lawyer or an accountant to determine to ensure that the heirs can properly indicate the deductions and exemptions and thereby determine the accurate net estate of the decedent.

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Top 7 Reasons New Insurance Agents Fail to Reach Success

I would like to offer some insights as to why I believe such a high percentage of Insurance Agents fail in their first couple years in the insurance business.

There can be multiple reasons that contribute to a new insurance agents failure. Here are the most common reasons I have found that lead to failure.

  • Most Insurance Agents have a Limited product portfolio and are unable to cross sell other insurance products.
  • Agents do not have a proven sales track or sales system to follow which most new insurance agents need to get results quickly.
  • They do not create consistent cash flow from insurance sales quick enough and must leave the insurance business to go back to an hourly paying job just to survive.
  • New Insurance Agents start out in the insurance business with little or no reserves to fall back on. Most businesses require some upfront capital or reserves to get started.
  • A lot of agents do not get enough training (Product or Sales) to give them a fair chance of making it in the insurance business.
  • Insurance Agents are not taught effective prospecting and marketing techniques that generate a consistent flow of sales prospects.
  • Some people simply do not have the drive, work habits, persistence, self motivation or ability to handle rejection that it's takes to survive in an insurance sales career.

From my experience of hiring and training insurance agents over the past 23 years, I have found the following items need to be present in order to maximize a new agent's chances for success long term in the insurance industry.

  • A quality multi-product portfolio to offer multiple insurance solutions when different needs are uncovered during the initial fact finding process with a potential client.
  • A proven sales track and presentation that can be taught and implemented very quickly. One that gets sales results but also generates a generous flow of new prospects and referrals.
  • An advance commission system that provides weekly cash flow so the new agent can focus on their training and sales, not their bills that are due.
  • Tools that make learning and growing in the insurance business fun and automatic. (Ie Archived Training Videos, Health and Life Quote Engines, Live Product and Sales Training Webinars, etc.)
  • Quality contracts that provide immediate 100% vesting rights and commission growth opportunities to General Agent commission levels.

At National Marketing Group we have learned over the years the essential pieces that new agents need to not only survive but thrive in the insurance industry. Our mission statement says it all. "First, to offer the Independent Insurance Agent a support system that provides a platform for success in Insurance Sales. Second, to build long term relationships through a foundation of trust and commitment."

We sincerely believe the 80% -90% failure rate of new insurance sales agents entering the insurance industry can be significantly reduced when the right agent support system is in place. We encourage you and invite you to join us in this very exciting and rewarding career opportunity. Hope to hear from you soon!

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Trusts and Certyty of Intention

This article looks at the requirements and formalities for a valid trust. In UK law, a trust is an arrangement involving three classes of people; A Settlor, Trustees and Beneficiaries. The Settlor is the person who transfers property to the Trust. The Trustees are people who legally own the Trust Property and administrator it for the Beneficiaries. The Trustee 'powers are determined by law and may be defined by a trust agreement. The Beneficiaries are the people for whom benefit the trust property is held, and may receive income or capital from the Trust.

"No particular form of expression is necessary for the creation of a trust, if on the whole it can be gathered that a trust was intended." This statement gives the impression that no formalities are needed, and could be misleading. Although equity generally does look to intent rather than form, mere intention in the mind of the property owner is not enough. For a valid trust to exist, the Settlor must have the capacity to create a trust. He must positively transfer the trust property to a third party trustee or declare himself trustee. Further, he must intend to create a trust, and must define the trust property and beneficies clearly. This is known as the 'three assurances'; Certificate of subject matter, certainty of objects and certainty of intent.

Certificate of intent refers to a specific intention by a person to create a trust arrangement wheree Trustee (which may include himself) hold property, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of another person.

It is clear when trusts are created in writing and on the advice of legal professionals that intention is present [Re Steele's Will Trusts 1948]. However, no particular form of words is needed for the creation of a trust and here the equivalent maxim, "Equity looks to intent rather than form", applies. It is therefore sometimes necessary for the Courts to examine the words used by the owner of the property, and what obligations if any the Owner intended to impose upon those receiving the Property.

It is not necessary that the Owner expresses calls the arrangement a trust, or declares himself a trustee. He must however by his conduct demonstrate this intent, and use words which are to the same effect [Richards v Delbridge 1874]. For example, in Paul v Constance 1977, Mr Constance did not express declare a trust for himself and his wife, but he did insure his wife that the money was "as much yours as mine". Additionally, their joint bingo winnings were paid into the account and withdrawals were considered as their joint money. The Court therefore found from Mr Constance's words and conduct that he intended a trust.

Certiety of intention is also known as certainty of words, although it has been suggested a trust may be infringed just from conduct. Looking at Re Kayford 1975 1All ER 604, Megarry J says of certainty of words, "the question is whether in substance a sufficient intention to create a trust has been identified". In this case, Kayford Ltd deposited customer's money into a separate bank account and this was held to be a "useful" indication of an intention to create a trust, although not definitive. There was held to be a trust on the basis of conversations between the Company's managing director, accountant and manager so words were necessary for the conclusion.

In contrast, where the word 'trust' is expressly used, this is not a comprehensive evidence of the existence of a trust – the arrangement may in fact institute something very different [Stamp Duties Comr (Queensland) v Jolliffe (1920)]. For example, the deed may contain words such as "On trust, with power to appoint my nephews in such shares as my Trustee, Wilfred, shall in his absolute discretion decide, and in default of appointment, to my friend George". Although professing to be a trust, Wilfred is not under an obligation to appoint the nephews and provision is made for the property to pass to George if he does not. This is therefore a power of appointment, not a trust [eg. Re Leek (deceased) Darwen v Leek and Others [1968] 1 All ER 793].

Sometimes in a will, the owner of Property will use 'precatory' words such as expressing a 'wish, hope, belief or desire' that the receiver of property will handle it a certain way. For example, in Re Adams and Kensington Vestry 1884, a husband cave all of his property to his wife, "in full confidence that she will do what is right as to the disposal between between my children …". The Court held that the wife may have been under a moral obligation to treat the Property a definite way but this was not sufficient to create a binding trust. Precatory words can still sometimes create a trust. In Comiskey v Bowring-Hanbury 1905, the words 'in full confidence' were again used, but the will also included further clauses, which were interpreted to create a trust. The Court will look at the whole of the document to ascertained the testator's intention, rather than dismissing the trust because of individual clauses.

There are further formalities required for certain types of trust property, and for a trust to be valid, title to the trust property must vest in the Trustee, or, the trust must be "constituted". This might be done for example, by delivery for chattels or by deed for land. If the trust is not properly constituted, the proposed beneficaries have no right to compel the Settlor to properly transfer the Property, as 'equity will not assist a volunteer'. The exception to this is where the beneficiary has provided consideration (including marriage) for the Settlor's promise, in which case, there would be a valid contract and the Beneficiary could sue for breach.

Where a testamentary trust of land or personalty is purported, the will in which it is contained must be in writing and executed in accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, which means the Will must be signed by the Testator in the joint presence of Two witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the Testator.

Where a Settlor wants to create an inter vivos trust of personalty, the formalities are minimal. Under the usual requirements for a trust (capacity, the three responsibilities etc), the Settlor must observe any formalities required to properly transfer the Property to the trustees – for example, the execution and delivery of a stock transfer form for shares.

To create an inter vivos trust of land or of an equitable interest in land, in addition to the formalities of transferring the land, the declaration of trust must be in writing and must be signed by the person able to create the trust – ie, the Settlor or his attorney [S.53 (1) (b) Law Property Act 1925]. Where this formality is not accepted, the Trustee would hold the land on trust for the Settlor rather than the Beneficiary. The exception is where the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies – the Settlor intended to make an immediate unconditional transfer to the Trustee, the intention to do this was unchanged until the Settlor's death, and at least one of the Trustee is the Settlor's administrator or Executor. In this case, as the property is automatically vested in the Settlor's personal representatives and the trust is constituted.

It is sometimes stated that no particular form of expression is necessary to create a trust if intention was present. Clearly this is not the case. There are formalities for creating inter vivos land trusts and testamentary trusts and if these are not followed, the trust will fail without consideration has been provided or the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies, even if the Trustee had the best intentions. Further, the form of words used in those formalities must be clear and unambiguous, or they may not amount to a trust. He goes on to say that 'a trust may be created without using the word "trust"' and this is true in that other words and conduct to that effect are sufficient. However, the Court does not just regard the 'substance' of the words. If the word used does not meet the 'three assurances' or, for example, the person making the declaration does not have the capacity to make a trust, the trust will fail. This is clearly not the desired 'effect' and not the owner's intention.

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Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

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

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

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

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

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

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

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

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

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Construction Site Management – Accessibility

Construction sites offer different challenges as far as accessibility is concerned. This follows the fact that there is a mass movement of men (labor) as well as material haulers. These range from pick up trucks to trailers. Depending on the items being moved, the weight is different and as such the capacity of the route to and from site should match these requirements. There will also be visitors in light personal vehicles, especially consultants and prospective property buyers in case of commercial projects or prospective tenants in case of residential or other rental spaces. The available or provided access should well cater for these requirements as far as is possible. The different site conditions include;

· Virgin sites: This reflects to a new site where no other construction activity has been done before. This means that there is no access to the specific point of construction. Where such route may be available, it may not be sufficient and may need improvement. This may include works like cutting down trees, cutting high sections and filling low ones, dumping murram or other appropriate material. It will also include compact, wetting and curing of the dumped material. Being a new and sometimes temporary route, it will need maintenance. Where such access is to pass through other people's property, appropriate permissions should be thought. The local authorities must also be informed and provided with plans like ways of averting problems like ecological disturbance. It is usually wise to have the access route for construction being also the permanent access to the permanent route for accessing the completed facility.

· Existing sites: These are sites that have already been built upon previously. They may have existing access. The only hurdle would be where such access is still in use by others, as it will create an inconvenience and delivery use may be regulated to low peak periods only. There could also arise the need to provide alternative routes for the existing users. A good example here is road maintenance or improvement works, wherey diversions are created and maintained in good order during the construction period. Appropriate arrangements should be made to minimize inconvenience as well as prevent accidents.

· Tight Sites: These are unique sites in the fact that they have minimal space for maneuverability. Examples here are found in town centers or institutions. Regulation here is very strict and as such stringent measures should be put in place to follow such regulations. These sites are very difficult to manage as far as accessibility is concerned. An example is where concrete is to be delivered on site already mixed (In premix trucks). This presents the headache of timing as well as preventing inconvenience to other users.

The provision of access to sites should be a well thought out activity. Maintenance should be in top priority. The design of such access roads should also cater for the traffic envisaged for the said project. Road signage and other such furniture should also be provided and well maintained.

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Benefits of Holidays and Vacations

As a frontline medical practitioner for over 20 years, I have been actively encouraging and motivating my patients, relatives, friends and other people to take holidays and vacations on a regular basis. Except for those people who have serious medical conditions, there are no restrictions to travel and enjoy holidays. Even the elderly, disabled or pregnant women (within 28 weeks of pregnancy) can travel as much as anyone else. The benefits of holidays and vacations are numerous, both short-term and long-term, but most people fail to appreciate the benefits. As a result, only a small percentage of people worldwide travel and harvest the benefits of holidays and vacations. Research has shown that even workers who are offered paid vacations by their organizations do not take advantage of such offers to take some weeks off their work.

In this article, I will briefly highlight some benefits of holidays and vacations.

Longer and healthier life

A recent survey conducted by the State University of New York has shown that people who take holidays regularly every year reduce their risk of early death by about 20 percent. The survey also revealed that those who did not take any holiday in 5 years faced the highest death rate risk, along with higher incidence of heart diseases. This can be explained by the fact that during holidays people are happier, relaxed, carefree, spending more time with family and loved ones, and away from the regular stressing environment. A happy relaxed life increases longevity.

Improvement in mental health

One study conducted by the Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield and published in Wisconsin Medical Journal showed that women who went on frequent vacations had lower susceptibility to depression, tiredness, or tension and they were more satisfied with their marriages. Women who took rare vacations displayed higher stress levels in their homes, felt more exhausted and tired and slept lesser. It is without doubt that regular holidays will not just relax people from the stress accumulated during the day to day hectic life in the short-term but also will improve the overall mental and psychological well-being of an individual in the long-term. Many researchers have shown that depression increases the chances of heart disease. Since holidays provide a break from the normal boring routine, they also help in relieving the symptoms of depression.

Revamping of relations

The always busy, work-obsessed and chronically duty-minded culture of people of modern life has indeed taken a heavy toll not only on our physical and mental health but also on our relationships. People do not have much time to spend with their partners, children or families. As a result, there is disharmony in the family, children are not looked after well and there is increased tension between partners, which has responded in increased number of separations, divorce and other maritime conflicts. Taking regular breaks from work and enjoying holidays and vacations not only revamps the strained and estranged relationships but also renews and strengthens family relations and bonds.

Improvement in self-confidence

When we travel, we encounter various types of situations and meet different kinds of people. Such encounter improve our self-confidence. It also helps improve our social skills and prepare us for unexpected or unknown.

Creative inspiration through holidaying

When we do the same thing again and again, it becomes monotonous and stereotyped. This is what has happened to us in today's world. We have become victims of monotony that has gradually crept into our system and destroyed our creative abilities, new thinking processes, and inspirational opportunities. When we travel, we come across new situations and different environments. Such situations can induce and help develop the creativity within us.

Increase in productivity

Many studies have shown that holidays not only motivated people to work better but the relief from the monotony also rejuvenates people, resulting in higher productivity.

Seeking adventure

Holidaying is a time to pump adrenalin for many adventure lovers. This is a chance to make their dream come true and try manyaring sports and adventures, such as bungee jumping, water rafting, surfing, mountaineering and many others. Such adventures give people a sense of achievement and happiness.

Mental and psychological escape

Many people these days view holidaying as a form of mental or psychological escape. The change in atmosphere, climate, scenery, quiet surroundings, slow pace of life, and clean air is considered by many travelers as pathway to happiness and spirituality.

Improve physical fitness, and lose weight too

Obesity has become a global epidemic. Holidays and vacations can at leastduce people to do some form of exercise. They have more time and any form of physical activity (and away from TV and video games!) Can help lose weight. If they can continue the same sort of exercises once they are back home, it can at least help people change their habit and lose some weight at the same time. Losing weight not only improves the physical fitness and appearance of a person but also reduces the chances of getting depression, some cancers, heart diseases and other conditions.

In conclusion, holidays and vacations not only bring joy, excitements, fun and break in the usual monotony of life, but they also have far reaching effects in the long-term including improvement in physical and mental wellbeing, longer and happier life, revamping relationships , Improving self confidence and productivity, and instilling creative inspiration within us.

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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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