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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Benefits of International Travel

International travel can be a great experience; it allows you to witness many new cultures and lifestyles. International travel has many benefits which make it better than your traditional domestic vacation. Depending on your destination, traveling abroad can also save you money because of the current exchange rate. These rates change and may not be available in the future. A good exchange rate or activity that you would like to see may not be available if you put off planning the vacation. Another benefit of planning an international trip today is the current technology, which makes booking a trip easy. Technology can help eliminate the hassle of finding the best prices and locations based on your budget.

Traveling, whether for a long weekend away to a nearby country, or clear across the globe, is invigorating, refreshing and expands so much in one’s life that it is something that more people should do. Traveling abroad can greatly change your life for the better because there are many cultures and lifestyles to experience. These cultures can provide you with an entirely new perspective on life. Once you begin experiencing the beauty of the world, you may even begin planning yearly international vacations.

Currency rates fluctuate regularly and, as stated before, this may be a good reason to plan an international vacation today. Money is necessary if you are planning to travel and see the sights the country has to offer. If your currency can be exchanged at a reasonable rate, this can greatly improve your vacation experience. This is an important reason for traveling internationally now since you can get the most out of your trip. If you put the trip off the exchange rate may change for the worse and you can lose money after arriving at your destination.

Practical reasons

However, let us get down to the more practical reasons for traveling internationally. Frankly, it is understandable why most people would be hesitant to travel now. The economy appears to be in bad shape and many people are trying to save money. However, in some instances, this can be beneficial for travel, the airlines may lower their prices in order to get your business and this can save you money. Airline prices also fluctuate between airlines and by looking around you may find a special promotional vacation package that may not be available in the future.

Vacations are meant to be fun and enjoyable and this is another reason for traveling abroad today. There are many locations to visit from the beaches of the Caribbean to the beautiful and exquisite city of Paris, France. Experiencing something new is always the best way to live and an international vacation provides just that. This can spice up your life by allowing you to find things that you would not normally consider trying.

In fact, these days traveling is so much easier, more efficient and less time consuming than it used to be. We can travel across the globe faster and it requires much less energy than was required years ago. It is also possible watch TV, movies or listening to music while traveling. On some airlines, you can even follow the path of your airplane via satellite!

Technology and travel

Due to the technology available, planning a vacation can be stress-free as well. By using the internet to purchase your international flight tickets, you can plan your trip, get travel advice, and shop around for great deals. Technology has come a long way especially for finding the best travel packages. You can book your hotel, car, flight, and even your entertainment all on one website. If you are unsure of your destination, you can browse through the millions of videos and pictures of different locations to find which location best suits you. Planning an international trip can be an enjoyable experience when compared to the hassle involved years ago.

It is highly recommended to travel abroad at least once in your life and there are many benefits to planning your trip now. Saving money is the main reason for planning your trip today. When traveling abroad, you may have to exchange your money for the local currency. Currency exchange rates change frequently and this can have a large impact on your vacation. Since you do not know what the rates are going to be in the future, it is best to plan your trip while a good rate is available. You should also consider planning a trip because of the cultural value. Experiencing new cultures and lifestyles can help provide much value to your life. It may even change your life completely because you may find something new that you like. If you are planning an international trip, you should consider these suggestions because they can help you get the most out of your trip.

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The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The disadvantages of purchasing funeral insurance are:

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

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

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

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Traveling is Fun

People all over the world love to travel. People travel for various purposes like business, leisure, education or recreational purposes. Traveling has become a part of people’s life and there is no life without traveling. Going to work everyday is also traveling. Traveling helps us to learn a lot. When we travel to other countries, we are able to learn about the culture, language and people of that country.

Many people, we find travel for work related purposes. Some people travel to other countries to seek work and there are lots of businessmen who are globally connected, traveling to various countries in the world to attend meetings, to expand their business, to build relations etc. This helps them to make more money.

A large percent of people travel for leisure. Everybody longs to relax. Nobody can work like a robot. To get away from the stress and tension of their work, they usually take a few days off to visit tourist places with their families to see places and enjoy a fantastic vacation. There are people who travel within their country, and there are people traveling to other countries depending on their budget.

Lots of students nowadays travel for education purposes, mainly for higher studies or for educational tours.

The World Tourism Industry is flourishing with tremendous growth and this industry is making changes every year to meet the demands of the increasing tourist. Tourism brings in a lot of money and increases employment opportunities in the country the tourism ministry in every country seeks ways to develop and promote tourism in their respective countries. The most visited country in the world today, happens to be France and Paris is the world’s most visited tourist destination. Switzerland also is a great tourist attraction because of it’s ski-resorts.

The Internet plays a very important role today in giving information of the various tourists attractions of the world, with the hotel and sightseeing facilities. With just a click of the mouse, you can book rooms suitable to your budget, in any part of the world.

Whether you are traveling for business or for pleasure, it is most important that you stay safe and enjoy your trip. First of all, you have to plan your trip well in advance. Once you have chosen your destination, plan your itinerary first. Book your flights and hotel reservation much in advance, especially during the seasonal period, to avoid disappointments. If you are choosing low budget hotels, make sure that you make proper research, because you might end up without the facilities mentioned on their websites. It is always best to book hotels with Internet facilities, because you can use Skype to keep in touch with your near and dear. This will help you to save a lot on your long distance telephone bills.The most important thing that you need during your travel is currency. You can use your ATM cards and credit cards. Travelers Checks can also be useful while traveling. The best advise for traveling is always travel light. Also be very careful about what you eat. Unhealthy eating can cause stomach problems and might end you up in the hospital, which can lead to an unexpected expense.

Traveling can be a very pleasurable experience if you do proper planning in advance.

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Real Estate Agents – Strengths and Weaknesses in Listing Commercial Property Today

In this commercial property market there are some real pressures and challenges that confront a lot of property owners when they want to sell or lease their property. They need the help of top agents that really understand the local area, to help in moving the property.

Contrary to popular belief, it is in markets like this that good agents can make a lot of commission. It all comes down to the way in which they package their services and help their clients.

In simple terms, top agents and experienced agents can do very well today providing them work the local area and their database. A good database will always get you through any market conditions and frustrations. In saying, that I am a big believer that a salesperson's database should not be delegated to the office administrative staff to control.

Every salesperson should take ownership of their database; In this way they will get good activities from it. In this market you need leads that you can do something with. When a database is passed over to the administrative staff to control, the inevitable result is inaccurate and old data. The database soon becomes redundant. The salesperson does not keep it up to date.

Become Change Agents

So we are the 'agents of change' when it comes to helping our property clients an owners get results in this market. We should know how to attract the right people to every property listing that we take on. Exclusive listings are more important in today than ever before. Some top agents will not take on 'open listings' for the very reason that they are a waste of time and effort.

When you know the drawbacks of the industry and the listings today, you can offer the clients that you serve some solid solutions. So what are the drawbacks? Here is a list of some of the larger ones:

  1. The time that it takes to sell or lease a property can be longer today. Every client has to be conditioned for the best price or rent so the time on market is not lengthened. The first few weeks of every marketing effort are the most important. Position the property correctly to get the best inquiry in this time.
  2. High prices and high rents will achieve nothing. The price or rent for the property should be optimized for inquiry. You have to do more with less when it comes to marketing and inspecting of properties.
  3. A larger number of competitive properties can frustrate your marketing efforts and time on market. Check out these properties before you do anything with your listing.
  4. Buyers and tenants are slower to inquire, inspect the property, and then make a decision. Your skills with each stage of the listing should be optimized. Hone your skills accordingly.
  5. Limited finance can put some 'brakes' on the larger deals. Find out where your prospects can get finance from and what the criteria of approval may be.

Whilst these may be drawbacks in the market, they are also opportunities for agents that can get focused and organized. Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

Are you a solution provider in this commercial real estate market? Top agents are just that. You can be too.

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LA Insurance – Franchise Review

Insurance is a must these days. It has become a necessity. People with insurance sleep better because they know that they and their beneficiaries are covered should something happen. Almost everyone in the United States carry insurance which underscores its importance.

L.A. Insurance Agency is one of the most popular insurance companies in the country today. It is also one of the largest independent insurance agencies in Michigan, Colorado, Nevada, California, Georgia, Florida and many more. The company was founded by Anthony Yousif who started out as an insurance agent. The company headquarters in Michigan.

The company has grown so much that today they have more than 150 locations in the United States. Their primary offering is insurance for a variety of vehicles like motorcycles, cars and boats. They offer insurance for bodily injury liability, property damage liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and physical damage and recently started offering medical insurance to their clients.

The granting of franchises is the focus of the LA Insurance Agency® Franchise LLC. Individuals interested in being a franchisee will undergo an extensive background check. There is an investigative consumer report and an investigation in accordance with the anti-terrorism legislation of the United States. Among the things which will be examined is creditworthiness. Applicants might also be required to take a standardized Math and English exam. After the form has been filled out and submitted, a representative from the company will contact the interested party by phone or by email.

Aside from extensive credit checks, there are also financial requirements which must be complied with before becoming a franchisee of L.A. Insurance. Failure to comply with the minimum financial requirements will result in the rejection of an application.

While they do not publish the totals, there is the startup cost, franchise fee, minimum liquid assets and operational costs. The company takes care of the advertising, however, it is the franchisee’s responsibility to entice customers to but the insurance he or she is selling.

Once the application has been approved, there will be trainings to undergo. Staff and personnel will be taught how to use the software, as well as how to effectively sell insurance to increase customer base. The company is very hands-on with their franchisees.

When looking to start any business it is important, particularly considering today’s market, that you look for specific ways to cut minimize or reduce overhead and risk. Any business is going to have risk, but it is important to have a full understanding of the amount of investment, startup cost and “ROI” (Return on Investment).

Most people are not aware that 80% of ALL franchise endeavors fail in the first two to five years leaving large debts looming for years thereafter.

One way and in my opinion the best way to cut overhead, startup and investment cost is to take advantage of the new age of entrepreneurship and start a business from the comfort of your home. Opportunities have emerged in the online market that are creating millionaires every single day.

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Factors That Affect the Price of an Airline Ticket

The wide range of prices encountered when shopping for an airline ticket, make this a daunting task. What factors affect the price?

  • Fuel cost has one of the greatest effects on tickets. As the price of crude rises, so do the airline's costs. Airlines that negotiate fuel acquisitions well into the future can avoid sudden spikes, and pass on savings to the customer.
  • A weak economy causes people to cut back on non-essential travel. This encourages airlines to give discounts to lure fliers back. Conversely, when business is good, and planes are filled to capacity, there is little incentive to offer low price airline tickets.
  • Airport fees are another part of ticket prices. Airlines using smaller airports save on fees.
  • Destination is a factor. Competition will greatly affect price. An airline that enjoys a virtual monopoly for a particular route can charge pretty much what they want. Those flying international routes have stiff competition from other countries, and have to keep prices in line with what they are offering.
  • Budget airlines can sometimes provide the cheapest airline tickets through a "no-frills" approach. This is most effective on short-haul domestic flights.
  • Timing plays a role. If departure time is nearby, and a flight still has a lot of empty seats, the airline may offer them at a substantial reduction. If flying on a particular day is not critical, it may worth holding out until the last minute.
  • Where the ticket is purchased can affect its cost. Travel agents get bargains from the carriers, but charge for their services. The internet produces some bargains, but be careful who you are dealing with. Occidentally the airlines' own websites have unadvertised discounts.
  • Plain, old-fashioned greed. Air travel is a market driven economy, and airlines will charge as much as they can get away with. Do not believe anyone. Do your own research.

When shopping for cheap flights, be aware of what you are actually comparing. One airline advertisements a flight to an Asian destination, as $ 800, while another gives a price of $ 1300. Reading the fine print shows that the "cheap fare" has another $ 700 in hidden fees and surcharges, meaning it is actually $ 200 more than the all-inclusive fare.

There are many factors that affect the cost of an airline ticket. How well the carrier manages these costs will determine their bottom line. Competition is the key, airlines that most want your business will offer the best deals. Careful shopping will help find the cheapest flights.

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Understand the Pros and Cons of Saving Money in Piggy Banks

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

Advantages

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

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

Disadvantages

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

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

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Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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Best Finds From the Antiques Roadshow

The comforting, familiar nature of the Antiques Roadshow has been likened to ‘the feel of a warm bath’. From its beginnings in 1977, the show delved through the possessions of others, with guests telling us stories of the current owners, past owners and beyond. Usually the item might be worth a few hundred or few thousand pounds, but rarely – and most excitingly – a true gem would be uncovered.

The Halt in the Desert – a painting by Richard Dadd

In 1987, a couple from Barnstaple, North Devon, came along to a show with a painting. Unbeknown to them, the painting was actually The Holt in the Desert by Richard Dadd – a national treasure which had been missing for more than 100 years. After authentication, the painting was valued at £100,000.

In the watercolour, a camping party is seen on the shore of the Dead Sea with Dadd himself seen at the far right. The scene was painted from memory by Dadd from a mental institution, as after coming home from the expedition to Greece, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt he murdered his own father ‘supposedly at the behest of the Egyptian god Osiris[*].

Spider’s Web Bottle – by William Burges

A guest brought in a little brown bottle his dad had picked up in 1950 to the Antiques Roadshow in Skegness. The expert was delighted to reveal that in fact, the bottle was an original by William Burges – the renowned Victorian designer – which had been lost for most of the 20th century. The bottle was engraved with a spider’s web design of silver, enamel, moonstone and pearl and was valued at £20,000 – £30,000.

Silver Drinking Vessels Collection

After inheriting a collection of silver drinking vessels, a young man from Crawley brought them in to the Antiques Roadshow for examination. In an amazing discovery, each piece that emerged seemed to be more valuable than the last. The haul was valued at a remarkable £100,000, and later sold at auction for £78,000, needing some serious antiques insurance cover.

Faberge Brooch

A lady with a love for jewellery brought in a bumper bag of brooches to expert Geoffrey Munn at Chatsworth House. The guest had bought the bag at auction for just £30, and was shocked to when the expert pulled out each of the brooches and valued them successively for £125 – £150. That was until he spotted the real gem – a genuine pink Faberge brooch – valued at £10,000.

Lalique Vase

Possibly one of the canniest purchases to have appeared on the Antiques Roadshow was this 1929 work by celebrated designer Rene Lalique which later sold at auction for £32,450. The owner had bought it at a car boot sale in south Scotland for just £1.

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