Cliches Associated With Insurance

Isn’t it funny how many cliches can be associated with insurance? I think when a couple of sayings and anecdotes were invented; the inventors had the term insurance in mind!

Have a look at a couple of the following sayings and tell me if you agree…

Nothing is certain, but death and taxes. This can be changed to – nothing is certain, but death and insurance. No matter who we are, what we do, how much money we have or which car we drive… we need insurance!

All is fair in love and war. Once again, this can be changed to “all is fair in love and insurance.” Don’t you agree that we are at the mercy of insurance companies? What they say is law and we have to just sign on the dotted line and accept the fact that we are paying tons of money each month on something that we do not really want. Do not accept the first quote that you are offered. Shop around until you find a policy that you are completely satisfied with. Do not allow any broker, agent or insurance company to force you into taking a policy that you are not happy with.

He has been taken for a ride – he has been taken for an insurance ride! It’s unfortunate to hear how many insurance companies take their clients and customers for a ride. This is usually by means of not wanting to pay out a claim, increasing premiums drastically, or other matters that we have no control over. Always read the fine print before signing any insurance document. By having a good understanding of what your insurance policy entails, a lot of this can be prevented.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – An insurance company is only as strong as its weakest link. When wanting to obtain insurance, make sure that you talk to an agent or a broker who knows what they are doing! The worst thing in the world is dealing with an insurance reseller who has only one thing on the mind and that is to meet their monthly sales targets. Insurance is a very important investment; therefore it is crucial that a qualified professional takes care of your needs and requirements.

A good beginning makes a good ending. Change this to “a good insurance company makes a good ending” and you will be one of the many individuals who are satisfied with the service received from their insurance companies. If a company offers outstanding service and handles queries and claims effortlessly, even a burglary or an accident can have a good ending.

After a storm comes a calm. If you can change this saying to “after an insurance claim, comes a calm” – congratulations! That means that you have recently put in a claim and that it was handled successfully, enabling you to relax after everything has been taken care of.

I hope you have enjoyed this tongue in the cheek look at insurance sayings – it might be a bit of useless information, but hopefully it managed to put a smile on your dial!

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Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

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

Interest expense

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

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

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

Property taxes

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

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

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

Depreciation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning idea

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

Sale of the property

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

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

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Insurance Auto Auctions – Get Great Deals on Salvaged Cars and Trucks

Insurance auto auctions are a great way to get a great deal on salvaged cars and trucks. In fact, the company Insurance Auto Auctions is one of the most commonly used specialists in this area with auto auction locations throughout the United States. The company has been around since the early 1990s providing a variety of auto auction services for car owners, car buyers, and car sellers. If you are looking for a good way to get a car at a cheaper rate, insurance salvage deals are a great option!

Salvage vehicle auctions involve several elements – including a facilitation between buyer and seller as arranged by the Insurance Auto Auctions company. Although IAA is one of the more well known companies in this part of the automotive industry, many other companies exist with the same auto salvage specialty.

Automotive salvage occurs when an insurer considers a vehicle to be a "total loss" in insurance terminology. Essentially, this means that the vehicle is of no use to the insurance provider and the insurance carrier. When this happens, the salvaged vehicle can be sold or parted out. Many major insurance companies work with Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. And similar companies. You will not be surprised to learn that Farmer's Insurance, and even GEICO are just some of the names on the IAA list of regular clients.

Percentage salvage auction sales are more common these days as such companies work hard to get a piece of the action! When a salvaged car is sold at rock-bottom prices, the insurance agency provider is very interested in obtaining rights to at least a small percentage of the insurance auto auction. Since this practice has become more common in recent years, more and more insurance agents and their representatives are seeking percentage shares with companies like Insurance Auto Auctions.

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Avoid Surprises When Your Restaurant Equipment Is Appraised

Appraising restaurant equipment often begs the question of which equipment is personal property – and should be valued for the purposes of the appraisal – or real property — as in, part of the real estate. While most folks have never considered whether a walk-in cooler, for example, is equipment or real estate, that’s a question that any restaurant equipment appraisal could discuss at some length. In general, equipment considered personal property includes all the free-standing equipment, such as ranges, warmers, stainless steel workstations, and most dining room furniture.

When restaurant equipment is installed, however, an appraiser must determine if the installed equipment should be considered personal property – which would be valued for the purposes of the appraisal – or real property – which would be considered part of the building and so not be valued as equipment in the appraisal. Installed equipment of this sort generally includes ventilation & fire suppression systems, refrigeration systems, and other attached items, the removal of which may cause damage to the property or create health code violations.

Determining the value of installed equipment depends, as many equipment appraisal questions do, on the appraisal premise of value. When appraising under an in-continued use scenario, for instance, the assumption is that assets will remain in-use at their current location as part of a going concern. In this case, it may be appropriate for the restaurant equipment appraiser to include the installed items and their related installation costs. If, on the other hand, the restaurant appraisal is being done for what could be an in-exchange or liquidation scenario (such as an appraisal for a bank loan collateral), then the assumption would be a piecemeal sale and the installed items would be less likely to be included.

Whatever the reason for a restaurant equipment appraisal — buy/sell, family law, collateral loan — it’s important to have a plan regarding installed equipment. And if the restaurant equipment appraisal is being done in conjunction with a real estate appraisal, as frequently happens, the respective appraisers should talk with each other to ensure that all of the subject assets to be included in the appraisals are being appropriately handled.

Now let’s discuss those 3 areas of installed equipment. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve included a few photos to illustrate the different types of equipment for which installation costs might or might not be included.

Ventilation Equipment

Typically the cook’s line area of a restaurant will have a ventilation hood, make-up air system, fire suppression system and fire alarm system specially designed for that specific location.

These items are custom designed based upon the overall square feet of the facility and its particular kitchen. The separate items are installed as a complete unit, on-site, and can make up a significant portion of the restaurant’s entire and original cost of initial equipment installation. And, as you might imagine, the cost of these expensive and specific installations is usually impossible to re-capture, especially in a liquidation scenario.

There are two reasons that ventilation and fire suppression equipment lose value: First, once the units have been connected together and attached to the building, they are difficult and costly to remove; compounding that is the fact that since the system was designed as a custom installation for a particular space, these units are unlikely to have any practical use in any other location.

Refrigeration Equipment

Installation issues related to refrigeration equipment are not as clear cut as with ventilation and fire suppression equipment, especially when it comes to walk-in coolers and freezers. Although many restaurant owners have never considered the fact that the walk-in coolers and freezers in their establishments may be part of the real estate and not equipment at all for purposes of their collateral lending appraisal, a fair number of restaurant walk-ins were indeed constructed in place and are considered part of the building.

One important part of the inspection process for any restaurant equipment appraisal, then, is to determine how permanent or removable a particular walk-in is. One great clue as to how removable a walk-in might be is the floor. Is the cooler floor grouted-in tile or poured concrete? It’s probably real estate. Many walk-ins, on the other hand, have raised floors and are obviously designed for easily disassembly and removal.

Other Attached Equipment

The same determination of removability v permanence applies to a variety of restaurant equipment, from dining furniture to shelving. Many items that are attached to the walls or floor (such as banquette seating, counters, or stainless steel shelving) may be claimed by the landlord as being real property. If damage could result from attempts to remove the equipment, the landlord may have a reasonable basis for the claim, not only to protect the real estate, but also to avoid health code violations. Health department inspectors can be very sensitive about holes in any surface where food may get stuck: they want all surfaces to be able to be easily wiped clean. So removing shelving or other restaurant equipment and leaving holes in the surface that the equipment was attached to could create a health code violation for the landlord, who would be responsible for any needed repairs.

Leased Equipment

Leased equipment, of course, is neither personal property nor real estate. The equipment appraiser needs to verify what equipment is leased and therefore not owned by the business owner or landlord. Typically, but not always, this includes dishwashers, soda fountains, coffee & tea service and sometimes POS machines (also known as point-of-sale) and telephone or intercom systems.

Questions on Equipment Installation Values

As usual, making the right call in regards to installation values in restaurant equipment appraisals comes down to good communication between the client and the various appraisers working on the project. The equipment appraiser should know the correct questions to ask and the appraisal client should expect the appraiser to ask them! When you are shopping for a restaurant equipment appraiser — whatever your reason for an equipment appraisal may be — expect an appraiser to ask these basic questions about installation costs. If the appraiser isn’t curious about leased equipment, real property and personal property, it may be a sign to do a little more shopping before choosing an equipment appraiser to value your restaurant equipment.

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Single Premium Life Insurance – Pros and Cons

Single Premium Whole Life Insurance (SPLI) Explained

Most of the time, when we purchase life insurance, we agree to make monthly, quarterly, or yearly payments. There are some whole life policies which can be paid off, usually over a period of 7 years or more. But another way of purchasing coverage has begun to get more attention lately. This simply involves making one large payment in the beginning. The single premium is set to fund the coverage for the rest of an insured person’s life.

One obvious advantage might be the guarantee that life insurance is taken care of without having to worry about paying any more bills. One obvious disadvantage, as you may have already guessed, is the fact that this first premium must be pretty large.

Who Considers SPLI?

The type of person who may consider this unusual way of paying for a life insurance policy would have a lump sum of cash they are sure they will not need to spend for the next few years. They will also want to leave money to their estate, and they want to turn the cash they have into a larger life insurance death benefit. This way they can be assured they will be able to leave money to their kids, grand kids, or a favorite charity..

Advantages of Single Premium Life

  • Set it and Forget it – You can make on premium payment, and be assured you have funded a lifetime policy.
  • Estate Building – Most of the time, the cash will buy a death benefit of several times the original premium amount. For example, let us say that a healthy 65 year old could turn $12,000 into a $100,000 death benefit to leave behind. That was just an example. Premiums will vary.
  • Cash Value – Since the one large lump sum fund coverage, the actual cash valued of the policy should grow very quickly. The policy may have enough cash value to be borrowed against or cashed in at some future point. The cash value may grow by a set interest rate, or it may grow my some market index, like the S&P 500. This will be specified in the particular policy you buy.
  • Policy Provisions – Policies may have an accelerated death benefit, or provisions for early surrender or using some of the face value while the insured person is still alive in special cases. These cases could include terminal illness or nursing home confinement. These functions can give you a policy which performs “double duty.”

Disadvantages of SPLI

This product is not for everybody. Look at some of the disadvantages to consider.

  • You Need The Money – You must have the lump sum payment. Of course, the premium will vary by the age and health of the insured person, the insurer, and the amount of coverage you buy. The premium is usually several thousand dollars. This must be money that is not needed for the next few years, or ever. If this is in question, you may be better off by buying a policy with multiple payments.
  • Early Surrender Charges or Fees – Here’s why you must use money you will not need to live on. Most policies do have early surrender charges or fees. If you do have to cash in the policy before this term, set in your individual policy, you will probably get back less than you put in. You can only benefit if you can wait until the date of fees or surrender charges has passed.
  • Tax Considerations – These type of policies, purchased with one payment, are considered to be Modified Endowment Contracts (MEC) by the IRS. They do not have all of the tax advantages or regular life insurance.

Example of SPLI

Let us say that a 65 year old retired teacher has a pension and savings which enable her to live comfortably. She also has $12,000 in cash from her own parent’s estate. She would like to turn this cash into a much larger estate she can split with her son and a favorite scholarship fund.

In this case, she is able to purchase a $100,000 single premium life policy. This works out well for her in a few ways. This policy has a provision for an accelerated death benefit in the cash of terminal illness or nursing home confinement, so she does not need to worry about purchasing another long term care policy.

Is Single Premium Life Right For You?

In order to make a good decision, it will help to figure out what you own retirement planning goals are. This product can be a good solution for some people.

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A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Would you like to travel to Maui? This is the second largest of the eight islands found in the Hawaii State. It possesses three big cities, including Lahaina, Kahului and Wailuku. The region lures many visitors because of its physical landmarks such as the highest volcanic mountain called Haleakala. Even the West Maui Mountains form very beautiful scenery. The western part of the island including Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kapalua has the most luxurious and elegant resorts.

This is a beautiful island and if you want to plan a getaway you cannot be wrong if you choose it. Although you can reach the region quickly by plane, cruising in a ship is more enjoyable. Besides, finding cheap Maui cruises is not a major problem. Since this landmass is a popular destination for tourists, you can expect to compete for cheaper cruise rates with very many people from your region.

How can you manage to overcome this competition for discounted cruise rates? If at all possible, you should look for a reliable travel agency that either has business branches in Hawaii or is based in this state. This is specifically true if you will be a first time visitor who plans to have a stress free trip to the island. A travel agent is therefore very useful when people are planning Maui vacations.

In the following few paragraphs you will find out more about the importance of using a travel agent and related information.

Reasons why you should use a Maui travel Agency

1. It provides guidance and direction through out the trip and is able to help people save money.

2. A travel operator boosts safety of new travelers throughout a whole week’s trip or even a longer one.

3. It keeps travelers from getting into trouble with the authorities in the Island

4. It recommends the best accommodation facilities as well as proper means of transportation in this wonderful island.

How you can locate a Maui Travel Agency

It is extremely easy to locate a good tour company if you know how to use the internet wisely. Look for Maui travel agents’ reviews, analyze them carefully and choose a few good companies. Go to the related forums and blogs and read prior visitors’ comments and articles. In short, you need to take your time to research carefully before making a decision about whom to hire among many tour operators that serve Maui. The best thing to do is to look for an agent that can give you a single package for the entire journey. The package should include the hotel accommodation, foods and drinks, transportation and other leisurely costs.

What your Maui tour guide should tell you in advance

An imperative detail that you want your guide to tell you about in advance is the requirements for entry in Maui, Hawaii. If you come from outside the U.S, you need to know about the passport, visas and other mandatory entry information before the travel day comes. Moreover, the agent should mention something about the climate, especially if you would be traveling with your family.

You want to avoid traveling with kids when hurricanes are common or when the weather is too wet. This is particularly important if you plan to participate in outdoor activities such as water sports and walking to the tourist landmarks. The guide should make you understand the available routes and the things you can see while cruising in a ship.

If you want cheaper rates, the planner of Maui vacations should be able to provide you an inexpensive bill without compromising the quality of your visit. You can also ask the travel guide about trip insurance, car rental services, traffic around the region and many other important issues.

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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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Backpacking Vs Organized Tours – A Decision Every Traveler Faces

In planning my RTW adventure, I have been giving considering thought to the options of backpack solo, or booking into an organized tour. In my past travels, I have done a combination of both organized tours and backpacking solo and both have their good and bad points.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE GOOD …

Time Poor – If you only have a limited amount of time to go travel, then an organized tour is great as you will be able to get around and see all the things you want to, without the hassle of organizing the trip yourself.

New Friends – Usually people who book an organized tour with a specific company all have similar interests. I have made some amazing friends through doing organized tours and still, to this day, keep in touch with them.

You can be lazy – Once you have booked your tour, paid and packed your bag, you do not need to worry about a thing! You are in effect paying the tour company to take care of transportation, meals, accommodation and all the hassles involved in traveling.

ORGANISED TOURS – THE BAD …

Usually inept – Every tour has someone on the tour who will drive you nuts. When in India, I was traveling with two girlfriends and because there were 3 of us in total, we had to alternate sharing a room with another female. Unfortunately this female was an older woman who had no self awareness and was clearly an inexperienced traveler, some of the "interesting experiences" we had with her included:

  • She did not shut the door when she went to the bathroom, I would NEVER go to the bathroom with the door open, especially when I had only known the person for a matter of weeks …
  • She did not bring adequate first aid and medication supplies, unfortunately she came down with a mild cold / flu and proceeded to use everyone else's medicine and she never offered to replace it. When we went past a chemist, she was that inconsiderate that she did not even think to buy her own supplies.
  • She forgot her torch, now on this tour we were camping along the Ganges for several days and a torch was essential. So every time she went to the bathroom she borrowed my head torch, the problem was that she put this on her sweaty head and handed it back to me wet .. YUCK!
  • She hung her underwear up all over the bathroom and on my chair and bed, it was not a pleasant experience having to relocate her over sized bloomers every time I wanted to sit down …
  • She would leave the hotel with the key, there were several occasions when I was stranded outside of my room and had to wait for her to return, rule number 1 of an organized tour is ALWAYS leave the key with reception when you go out.

People who do not read the trip notes – Of the tours I have done, I have encountered two travelers, who never should have booked on the types of trips that they did. The first encounter was in Thailand, there were a young English couple on the tour, they had never traveled outside of britain and were both very young. They winged, moaned, sacrificed and did not enjoy themselves and pretty much did everything in their power to let the rest of us know they were not enjoying the experience. Had this couple taken the time to read the trip notes, they probably would have realized what they were getting them into and perhaps, reconsidered their trip.

Waiting, Waiting & Waiting – Now because tour leaders are acutely aware that people are always running late, whenever you need to leave your hotel or meet as a group, the tour leaders always tell you to meet at least 1/2 an hour before the Actual meeting time. This is fine if your the type of person that is always running late, however for the rest of us it means waiting around in lobby's for what looks like forever !!

BACKPACKING – THE GOOD

Now my personal preferred method of traveling is backpacking! And some of my favorite things about this mode of travel include:

  • You do not have to answer to anyone, if you do not like a place, you can simply leave, if you like it, you can stay!
  • You meet some amazing like minded people along the way, hanging out at hostels and having a beer in the lounge can introduce you to some amazing people
  • It is very inspiring hearing what other people have done and are doing, my addition to travel has come out of hearing other peoples stories about what they have done!
  • Other backpackers are generally very considerate and willing to meet new people and share their experiences
  • It is cheaper! You are not paying a premium for a tour company, a tour guide and their accommodation so you can cut costs as you see fit, stay in a nicer hotel or a cheaper hotel if that suits you!
  • If you get drunk and make a fool of yourself, you can just move on! You do not need to deal with anyone the next day!
  • It is easier to have a holiday romance! One of the most amazing romances I have ever had when I finished my organized tour in Thailand and backpacked around for a week, I met a wonderful American man who followed me to Bangkok and then onto Australia! I could not have had a romance when in an organized tour, especially an extended one as if it gets complicated, it can make the entire trip awkward!

BACKPACKING – THE BAD

At times you just want to have someone to take your photo! If you can not find someone to do side trips, you end up getting a lot of self portraits that are not exactly flattering!

It can be frustrating navigating around cities and countries on your own when you do not speak the language. Particularly if you are white and traveling to an Asian country, people know your a tourist and can take advantage of this.

  • You are a target, as a female you can be a target from male advances and this can be quite intimidating if you do not have the confidence to deal with it.
  • It can get lonely, if you do not strike up friends along the way, you can end up spending a lot of time alone, which on occasion can be nice, but it is very nice to share experiences with other people.
  • If you get sick, you are on your own, there is no-one to bring you medicine or look after you!
  • When you get home, you do not have anyone to share your experiences with, when traveling with a partner you can always reminounce about the things you have done, or you can email others from your tour and keep in touch. But when you travel solo, the reality is no one really cares what adventures you have been up to, they pretended, but they are not really interested!

All in all there are definite advantages and disadvantages for both backpacking and organized tours, for my trip I will be doing a combination of both n the beginning, however once I have finished in Africa, it is my intention to go solo for the rest of My trip and meet some new and exciting people along the way!

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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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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