Would You Rather Pay More Taxes or Pay More for Health Care?

Those Canadians have it made! Or do they?  I’ve talked with two Canadians recently about their health care system and taxes and neither one of them seemed too pleased.

With the rising cost of health care in the US, having medical services funded by the government sounds pretty nice at first.  Here is a summary I found of the Canadian health system.

“Canada’s health care system is a group of socialized health insurance plans that provides coverage to all Canadian citizens. It is publicly funded and administered on a provincial or territorial basis, within guidelines set by the federal government.

Under the health care system, individual citizens are provided preventative care and medical treatments from primary care physicians as well as access to hospitals, dental surgery and additional medical services. With a few exceptions, all citizens qualify for health coverage regardless of medical history, personal income, or standard of living.”

Of course universal health care comes at a cost.  The income taxes in Canada are much higher than they are here in the US.  In fact the Canadian I visited with last night became an American citizen when his mother married a Texan and has no plans to move back to Canada simply because the high income taxes there. The other Canadian I talked with owns a business and said he’d gladly pay more of his own money for health care if it meant lowering taxes.

What do you think?  Do you prefer the current US system or would you rather see universal health care coverage at the cost of higher taxes?


United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Most things are easier when they’re done with the support of a group.  Group collaboration and support are easier now than they used to be due to the communication medium of the web.  Nancy, from Debt Consolidation Care emailed me a while ago to let me know about the community they’ve built online to help people with debt problems.

According to the main page there are 91204 members, that’s a lot of people in debt : (  The site offers videos, calculators, and articles on debt in addition to the forum of people all dealing with debt.  They also feature a list of personal finance sites, one of which is Money Smart Life!  Nancy offered to add Money Smart Life to the list if I’d let my readers know about the community.

When a person signs up on the site they can elect to be referred to a debt counseling company in their area.  If I signed up, I wouldn’t use this feature simply because I’d want to research the available options myself and contact who was the best fit for me. Fortunately, the only debt we have is our mortgage so it’s not a place I’d hang out but it seems to be a good resource for those that need it. 


Six Ingredients for Generating Passive Income

Who doesn’t want to spend more time doing what they enjoy and less time working for money? After reading about both active income and passive income recently I came up with a list of things that can help you move towards generating passive income.

The Idea
You need either a great new idea or a great way to package and distribute an existing idea that hasn’t reached its potential. If you don’t have either one, don’t despair.  If you are observant and curious your list of potential ideas or twists on existing ideas will grow over time.

Always ask lots of questions and regularly give yourself time alone to think(driving to work, early morning walks, lunch break in the library, etc).  Stay in touch with the media whether through newspaper, radio, or the Internet to keep a steady flow of new information mixing into your idea pool.

The Courage
Eventually you’ll need to try one of the ideas on your list.  Courage will be required because doing something new can be daunting, in addition to the fact your first idea could fail.  Courage will keep you going when you doubt yourself and will help you try the next idea on the list when the first one flops.

Many successful entrepreneurs fail at several ventures before they find one that works for them.  Think of it this way, the things you learn and groundwork you lay working on the projects that fail will give you the experience you need to run with the idea that finally takes off!

The Time
We humans can only absorb, process, and act on a certain amount of information in a given day.  It seems there is never enough time in the day to do everything we need to get done.  So, how can we pursue our ideas if we don’t have sufficient time? 

One way is to utilize the time of others.  It might mean partnering with another person or hiring someone to perform specific tasks.  Timothy Ferriss gives some good examples of in his book, The 4 Hour Work Week.  He had an idea, got it up and running, then hired people to keep it going while he travels the world.  Okay, technically its not passive if you’re still working 4 hours a week but that’s passive enough for me : )
 
The System
One thing that enabled Tim Ferris to leave his business in the hands of others was the system that he developed for getting things done in the company.  He doesn’t have to be present because he has processes established and documented he can hand to an employee and walk out the door. 

Your system might be the partners and processes you use to distribute an eBook, movie, or CD you create.  It could be the training program you offer to teach people how to sell your product or perform your service. It might be the franchise you establish.  It could be the  software you build to automate a job.  Once established, you let the system do the work instead of you.

The Friends
Raise your hand if you haven’t had at least one stupid idea in your life. Friends are a great sounding board for your ideas to help weed out the ones with problems you hadn’t thought about.  They can offer suggestions and if you work well together they could even become business partners. Plus spending all your free time working on new ideas can get old, it’s nice to have a little comic relief now and again.

The Money
Notice money is the last thing listed. Sure you need some to get started, but lack of money shouldn’t be a barrier to progress. You don’t have to get venture capital funding to pursue your passive income ideas.  So where do you get it from then?  You can choose to either make some extra money, I’d recommend selling on eBay, or spending less and saving some of what you earn in your day job.

Enjoying Your Time
There is definitely work that goes into generating passive income. Jonathon offers a formula that helps determine just how “passive” income actually is.  Despite the work up front, once you have your system in place you’ll hopefully be able to spend more time doing the things you enjoy and less time working for money.


How To Make Money Off of Halloween

Halloween has become one of the most profitable seasonal events around.  How can you get a piece of the $6 billion industry this year?

1) Buy Costumes on Clearance after Halloween
Places like Spirit Halloween setup shop in empty store fronts in September and jam them full of Halloween merchandise.  The day after Halloween they drop their prices considerably.  They remain open for a few more days to sell as much as they can on clearance, then pack it all back up and ship it off to a warehouse until the next year. Load up on cheap costumes after Halloween this fall and list them on eBay next September.

2) Halloween Video Profits
Get out your video camera and capture kids being frightened out of their wits or adults making fools out of themselves at costume parties this year.  If you get some really good footage you can upload it to a video site like Revver or MetaCafe and make a little money every time someone views your movie. Revver recently announced they’ve paid out $1 million to their video producers and affiliates over the last year.

3) Create Your Own Halloween Products
Create your own Halloween design and offer it for sale on CafePress.com.  You can customize shirts, baby clothes, or hats and bags in Halloween style and make a little money for each item that sells.

4) Create a Halloween Affiliate Site
There are a lot of people spending a lot of money online the few weeks before Halloween.  You can setup a Halloween affiliate website and get paid a commission for every person that buys a costume through you.  Of course there are many sites for people to choose from so you’d need to make yours unique in some way. 

For example, I recently registered CostumeComfort.com, a site that will feature only comfortable costumes. What fun is it to spend the night at a Halloween party in an uncomfortable costume? If you’re going to pay the money to buy a costume, why not buy a comfortable one?  Of course, now I just have to find the time to setup the site : )

Plan for Success
Like most seasonal events, making money during the season requires planning ahead and preparing for the big rush.  With Halloween only a month away there’s not much time to waste so get started on your Halloween idea today! What other ways can you think of to make money off of Halloween?


Going Steady with Your Boss – 20 Reasons Your Job Is Like a High School Relationship

Several decades ago, people built a career-long relationship with their employers.  Now-a-days companies are all about the bottom line and our employer relationships are more like bad high school crushes.  How many of these 20 reasons can you relate to?

Pre-Relationship
1) Every person has an image of their ideal job in their head; many people spend a lot of time searching for the ideal job but never find it.

2) Somehow all your friends seem to know when you’re in the market and everyone knows this “perfect job” that they want to set you up with.

3) The interview is like the initial phone call. You don’t have enough time to really get to know the employer and what they’re all about in an hour.  Based on what you learn in that short time you set your first day(te) and hope for the best.  If it doesn’t work out, oh well, there are other fish in the sea : )

4) The early relationship is only based on mutual benefits. You’re attracted to their salary and benefits and your knowledge of AJAX or DB2 is what really excites your perspective employer.

Honeymoon Phase
5) The first day(te) is the most exciting part of the relationship.  Everything is brand new.  There isn’t any hard work, you’re still spending all your time learning about the employer, not arguing about client requirements and whose needs are more important.

Reality Check
6) Once the honeymoon phase wears off those quirky habits of your co-workers stop seeming so harmless and start becoming annoying.  Eventually you feel comfortable enough with them to let them know what you really think of their habits.

7) At least one weekend a month is ruined by “quality time” with your job, paging you for extra work or working overtime to help “maintain customer relationships”.

8) It never fails, your clingy job always comes up with something it wants you to do at 5:30 on Friday afternoon instead of going out on the town.

Green With Envy
9) After a while every day(te) starts to feel the same.  You start to wonder, where did the passion go?  You catch yourself sneaking peeks at sexy jobs on Monster.com.

10) The grass is always greener.  Did you hear about John?  He hooked up with this awesome new job with a bombshell company.  They have cool new technology and hot stock options!

Self Doubt
11) You make yourself believe you can change your job.  Sure you don’t like the way things are but if you “talk about it” with your boss you just might be able to salvage the relationship.

12) You think about venturing out after other jobs but aren’t ready to risk it.  You already have a decent catch, if you leave now, where will you get your health benefits?  What will you tell your friends when they ask which job you’re working steady with?

Death Throes
13) You begin complaining about your job behind its back to your friends.

14) You really want to check out the other available jobs but you can’t at work with your boss hovering over you and the proxy server blocking your view of job sites.

15) You start lying to your job because you can’t bear to spend another day(te) doing the same boring thing with the same boring people.  You call in sick an hour before the day(te) begins so you can spend time looking for other jobs.

Break Up Worries
16) You can’t decide whether you should ask for your ring back, I mean your two weeks banked vacation, when you leave.

17) You feel guilty when you think about leaving the relationship.  Senior prom, I mean the end of the quarter is coming up.  What will they do without you there?  They need you, maybe you should stick around at least a while longer.

18) You start to doubt your decision to move on.  What if I don’t like the next job?   What if I miss the old one?  Will they take me back if I admit I was wrong?

19) You decide that today’s the day to end it but you chicken out part way through the day(te).  You just couldn’t find the “right moment”.

Freedom?
20) You feel SO GOOD after you finally break it off!  You wonder why you didn’t do that a long time ago!  You can’t believe you stayed with that loser job for so long!  Now, on to find the next job and start the same dance all over again :(


Personal Finance Review – New Pavestone Patio Edition

As our son becomes more mobile, we’re spending more time in our backyard chasing him around.  This has given us the idea of installing a new patio behind our house.  The current plan is to use the Pavestone system to lay a 13 x 16 patio. 

Never having done this before, we headed to Home Depot this weekend full of questions.  Unfortunately the Pavestone experts were gone for the day so we’ll have to check back with them next week.  We did pickup a planning brochure and a multi-media CD with some planning information.  Has anyone ever used Pavestone for a patio before?  Any suggestions or tips you could offer that would help us get it done faster, cheaper, or with fewer mistakes : ) would be appreciated.  Here are some money articles I enjoyed this week:

-Top High-Yield Savings Accounts: Interest Rates And Some Thoughts @ Money, Matter, & More

-“Are You a Better Investor?” @ Suns Financial Diary

-A Lazy Portfolio @ Lazy Man & Money

-12 Ways To Beat Inflation: Don’t Let Rising Prices Get You Down @ The Digerati Life

-Transferring Assets Upon Death Through a Will @ Generation X Finance

-Vanguard Reduces Barrier to Entry for Voyager Services @ Five Cent Nickel

-ETF 101: 5 Reasons ETFs Trump Mutual Funds @ Free Money Finance

-Coolest Credit Card Loyalty Rewards @ Blueprint for Financial Prosperity

-A $503,000 typo? @ Mighty Bargain Hunter

-Financial Advisers and Stock Brokers: What’s the Difference? @ Consumerism Commentary

-Day 21 of 33 Days And 33 Ways To Save Money And Reduce Debt: Focus @ No Credit Needed

The Accidental Investor @ Paid Twice

-Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People @ Get Rich Slowly

-How To Build A One-Person Million-Dollar Web Business… By Age 17 @ My Money Blog

-The One Hour Project: Thoroughly Research A Stock @ The Simple Dollar


eBay Market Research – A Creative Way to Determine What to Sell on eBay

Ups

Do you want get started selling on eBay but you’re not sure what to sell? Here’s a simple trick you can use to get some good local product ideas.  What do most eBay sellers that aren’t drop shipping their products have in common?  They have to ship the packages themselves via US Postal mail, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.

It’s kind of like the National Geographic researchers that hang out by the watering holes in dry climates.  They know all animals need water so the ones they’re studying will show up there sooner or later.  Of course, you don’t have time to hang out at the local UPS store all day snooping for ideas. Why not “spy” on other eBay sellers in your area with the help of the people that work at UPS or FedEx stores?  These people are in contact with other eBay sellers every day and could pick up some good information for you through those interactions. 

Shipping Research Contact
Start off by building a relationship with the owner of your local shipping store.  The local post office probably wouldn’t be an ideal spot.  There are so many people working there on varying schedules it would be hard to form a relationship with one.  Plus postal workers are government employees that aren’t necessarily in the same customer relationship mode as franchise owners like UPS or DHL that is conducive relationship building.

Let the store owner or worker know you’re going to be starting an eBay business and would like to use them as your primary shipper.  Bring up the fact you’re looking for some product ideas and ask if they’d be willing to help you do some simple research.  If they say no, just move on to the next shipping store.

Product Idea Research
Just ask your shipping contact to strike up a conversation with their customers that are sending packages with pre-paid PayPal labels.  See if they’ll ask what they’re selling, where they get their product, how much they make, those kinds of questions.

Some people will be guarded and won’t want to share but other people love to talk about their business and might go into some detail.  Your shipping contact likely won’t reveal the identity of their customers to you but they don’t have to.  All you’re looking for are ideas that work for others.

Strategy in Action
I have established a great relationship with the owner of our local UPS store and he has given me some good ideas on seasonal and hot products that he’s heard from other customers. In return, I loaned him some informational resources and gave him some advice on how he could sell on eBay.  He setup an eBay Store to make some extra money and passes product tips onto me. If you’re looking for some ideas, give it a try!


How to Quit Your Day Job in Six Not So Easy Steps

What’s the secret to being able to quit your day job? Make your own time worth more to you per hour than your employer is paying. How can you do that, one step at a time : )

Step One – Overcome Naysayers
This is a topic I’ve been giving a lot of thought to recently. Actually twice yesterday, first when a fubar project blindsided us at work and then again while seething in snarled traffic on the drive home. How can I make my time worth more than $39 an hour (around $52 an hour including benefits)? This is quite a tall order, daunting to say the least. I think the first step to quitting your day job is convincing yourself that you can swing it. It’s not an easy thing to do, so there will be many naysayers, yourself included.

There are some days when doubt hits me big time the first few minutes after the alarm goes off. “What am I doing”, I think to myself as I recap the previous night working into the early hours of the morning. “Why can’t I just be happy with the steady job I have? Why do I push myself so hard? It’s never going to happen, just give it up.” Luckily as I slowly wrap my brain around these thoughts the optimist inside me starts to wake up and I’m planning my “work outside of work” schedule for the day ahead by the time I leave for the office. You’ll doubt yourself at times, just keep going! If you’re really struggling watching the Pursuit of Hayypness should get you going again.

Step Two – Set Expectations
How I’d love to give my two weeks notice tomorrow but alas that’s not realistic with a family and a mortgage. You have to set a time table for success, decide when you’ll be ready to strike out on your own. My date is January 10th 2013; 13 years after the day I started work with my current job. If the day comes sooner that’d be GROOVY but as of now I’m planning to give my two weeks notice right around Christmas time 2012. Having a D-day not only gives you something to look forward to and work towards but also sets you up for the next step, planning.

Step Three – Plan Backwards
One problem I have with making progress towards my D-Day is that I have too many ideas and get easily distracted from my plans by new projects. As I recently listened to Simpleology for some tips on staying focused I picked up on the backwards planning method where you begin with your end goal. You picture yourself achieving your goal and then determine the last step you took just before reaching the goal. You continue this process of looking back one step at a time until you’ve reached the current point in time. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and do this yet. Once I’m finished, I think I’ll have a much better idea of the different things I need to succeed at to reach my goal.

Step Four – Reality Check
Run the numbers from your backwards plan against where you are today. What are your living expenses now, what do project they’ll be around your D-day? What financial changes do you need to make to accomplish your goal? The less you spend, the less you’ll need to earn. Does your current financial reality fall in line with your plan, if not what needs adjusting?

Step Five – Network
I don’t know where I read it or who said it but I think it’s true. One of the best ways to become successful is to help make other people successful. Surround yourself by like minded people and help them succeed. Sharing ideas, giving & getting getting feedback, and partnering together on projects will help you both grow.

Another important step is to find good mentors. Just last night I heard a quote from Tony Robbins something along the lines of how you have to ask the right questions to get the right answers. If you have an experienced mentor they’ll not only be full of answers but will hopefully steer you towards asking the right ones.

Step Six – Get Started
Of course, you actually got started with step one but I’m referring to the work you have to do after the initial steps. You’ll have to get started every day and every night. Luckily, after you get started enough times it becomes a little easier because you create routines and figure out smarter or more efficient ways to do things. But if you don’t get started, you’ll never get where you’re headed, so get going!

Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily listen to me. As you’ve read, I’m still at my job. But I have created the six not so easy steps to leaving it so stay tuned to my progress and see if they really work!

Recommended: Fly On the Wall Club
Serious about quitting your job? Learn from a Super Affiliate how to build your business on the web and become your own boss! Watch Colin McDougal build an online business step-by-step as part of the Fly On the Wall Club.

Every Day is a Sales Event – Sales Tactic #5

Today is a good day to shop.  As was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  At least that’s what retailers would like you to believe.  Having a Sales Event is a favorite weapon in the arsenal of sellers and the fifth in the Sales Tactics Revealed series.

Shop, Shop, Shop
Why is it that every holiday seems to be all about shopping?  We finally get a day off work, a break from earning money all week.  We finally have time all to ourselves.  At last, we can forget about the office and do whatever we want, yet the retailers get us to hit the stores looking for deals.  How do they convince us, by having a “fabulous” sales event!

Reasons to Shop
The sellers have turned every holiday or life event into either a day we shop or a day we shop to prepare for. Every time you walk into a store, they are reminding you of some event that you need to spend money on, for example:

  • Beginning of Summer
  • Back to School
  • Father’s Day
  • Christmas
  • Thanksgiving
  • 4th of July
  • Easter
  • Labor Day
  • March Madness
  • Mother’s Day
  • Valentines Day
  • Halloween
  • New Years
  • Memorial Day
  • Graduation

When there is no holiday or life event, they make up reasons to have a big sales event:

  • Inventory Sale
  • Customer Appreciation Event
  • Spring Cleaning Sale

Warning Signs 
• 4th of July Blowout   • Holiday Sales Event
• Open now for our special Thanksgiving offer
• Countdown: 3 weeks, 2 days, 5 days until Christmas

Tactic in Action
Why do we drag ourselves out of bed the day after Thanksgiving?  We have a day off, why can’t we just enjoy it?  Why do we have to spend all day long being stressed out and waiting in line?   I’ll tell you why, Black Friday is the first day of the year some retailers start to make a profit.  They WANT you in those stores, they NEED you in those stores, and they’ll do whatever they can to get you there and spending money. 

Protect Your Paycheck
Shop Offseason
Retailers will sometimes stock up on certain items to sell during a sales event.  Think decorative lights during Christmas, candy for Halloween, or summer clothes for Beginning of Summer Sale.  Once the event, holiday, or season is over they may find themselves with too much of certain products and start discounting it for faster sale.  Try to shop at the end of sales events instead of the beginning and you can save money.

Sales Tactics
Sales Event is the 5th sales trick in the Sales Tactics Revealed series. Be sure to check out the first four as well: Don’t Miss Out, You’ll Be Sorry, Buy Now, Pay Later, and Rebate Ransom.


Should Healthy People Pay Less for Health Insurance?

Why did you sign up for health insurance? Was it to help share the risk and cost of potential health issues across a large group of people?  What if some of the people in your group are voluntarily behaving in ways that raise their risk and the cost to you and everyone else?  Should you be offered a discount on your deductible for abstaining from those behaviors?

Getting “Credit” for Being Healthy
One of the largest health insurance companies in the US, United
Healthcare, has launched a pilot program called Vital Measures that is intended to “reduce out-of-pocket health care expenses for individuals and families with healthful lifestyles”.

The program creates incentives for its members to adopt healthy behaviors. According to the Kansas City Business Journal, participants in the United Healthcare pilot program take tests to measure their health against body mass, cholesterol, blood-pressure, and nicotine usage benchmarks similar to those set by the National Institutes of Health. Any member that is in line with or better than the benchmarks earns credits towards their deductible.

Is a Health Credit Legal?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) does contain guidelines about imposing different premiums or deductibles based on health factors. However United Healthcare has implemented the Vital Measures program to use a high-deductible health care plan along with a fully insured supplemental plan from Benicomp Group that can reimburse deductibles or co-payments, which is thought to be exempt from HIPAA.

The press release announcing the pilot program offers the following description:

“A typical Vital Measures program design might combine a $2,500 deductible medical plan with a supplemental plan that allows the employee to earn up to $2,000 in deductible credits if each of the four health benchmarks are met or exceeded. “

Employer Health Costs
The driving force behind Vital Measures is likely the increasing cost of health care that employers are having to shoulder.  Companies are looking for ways to lower these costs and United Healthcare responded with a program that encourages plan members to take action to control their health care costs.

The chief medical officer for United Healthcare, Sam Ho, offers an interesting statistic:

“More than 70 percent of health care expenditures in the United States are spent on treating conditions that are lifestyle-related and can be potentially reduced by more healthful lifestyle changes.”

Of course “lifestyle-related” is a pretty broad term which could cover many different things but I can see how some purely optional behaviors could really increase the cost of health care for some people.

Good Idea, Bad Idea?
What do you think?  Is this kind of plan a smart move?  Do you think its fair to shift more of the cost to the people that choose to engage in higher health risk behaviors?



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