Monthly Archives: February 2015

How To Meet Your Savings Goals For 2015

Another New Year has arrived, and with that usually comes a new resolution or two. Have you decided to shed those extra pounds this year? Spend more time with the family? Let’s face it, we’ve all made at least one of those common resolutions before, but how successful have we been in the past?

Perhaps one of the most common resolutions people make these days, is to improve their personal finances and get better at saving money. While it’s a great idea in theory, unfortunately many of us lack the follow-through and dedication needed to actually achieve those goals.

That’s why we have come up with a basic road map to help guide you towards your personal saving goals. You can travel down this path, step by step, to achieve at least one of your New Year’s resolutions this year and find your own personal financial freedom.

Let’s start with the basics:

Step 1: Identify

identifyThe first and most obvious thing you need to do is figure out why you want to save. What are your ultimate goals when it comes to saving money? In this step you need to identify exactly what it is you are hoping to achieve with this process.

Step 2: Prioritize             

The next step you should take is a close look at what your needs are and prioritize if you have to. You might need to fix that leaky faucet before you can dive head first into putting money away for retirement. Once you have considered what your needs are and prioritized them accordingly, you can then proceed to the next step.

PrioritiesStep 3: Calculate

Your answers to the first few steps have helped clearly define your goals. Now it’s time to calculate exactly how much you’re going to need to save in order to achieve them. For instance, if you’re planning on buying a home, you’ll need to calculate how much you can afford as a down payment, and then how much you can allocate in your monthly budget for a mortgage payment. Knowing these things will help you identify how much house you can truly afford.

Here are some great tips to maximize your savings regardless of what your ultimate goals are:

buy home 2There are a myriad of tools available on the web to help you calculate how much you can afford on a monthly basis for your mortgage payment, as well as how much you’ll need for a down payment.

red2Debt reduction requires a different type of calculation, and there are also many calculators on line to help you with this goal.  You’ll want to take into consideration the type of debt you’re trying to pay down, the interest rate and the amount of time it will take to pay it off completely.


Are you repairing a roof?  Or remodeling your home?  There’s a world of difference between $ 3,000 and $ 30,000.  Whatever the case, be sure to obtain estimates from reputable general contractors.  You don’t want to go through a whole year of saving only to realize you don’t have enough.

nest egg 2

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your retirement fund grow. Why not take the time to calculate exactly what it will take to start saving now so you can enjoy that retirement comfortably later?

Step 4: Plan

It’s time to get out the red pen and start taking a hard look at your monthly expenses. Pull out your bank statements and credit card receipts and look for all of the items that you spend money on each month that are not “necessities”. Start slashing things like your weekly coffee budget and movie nights. It’s the luxury items that need to go first. Remember, they’re called luxuries for a reason. Yes, it’s no fun to do without, but it’s a necessary step when trying to achieve your 2015 money saving goals.

Unexpected-ExpensesYou also need to be very realistic during this step. Understand that unexpected expenses invariably rear their ugly heads. You should plan for those “unexpected” surprises so that they don’t knock you off track, as well as any other expenses you think might come up throughout the year – home repairs, vacations, speeding tickets. It’s not enough to say, “I want to save $ 100 a month.” You should always try to tack on a little more for the unexpected.

Step 5: Stay Focused.

Having goals and being determined to meet them is critical to this process, but it’s going to take a little more than that to get to where you want to be. If only it were as easy as saying, “This is what I’m going to do.”  If it were as simple as that, we’d probably all have a million dollars.

As mentioned above, life throws curve balls. Not only that, but there will be times when you find yourself sliding down the slippery slope of temptation. Your subconscious will say, “Go ahead, buy that $ 50 bottle of wine. You’ve done so good so far, it’s ok to have that now.”

focusThe trick is to squelch that voice. This is where having finite goals will come in handy. It’s easy to talk yourself out of socking money away if you have no clue what you’re saving for. But if it’s there in black and white, all you will have to is stay focused on that end goal to help you ignore that little voice during times of temptation.

Step 6: Ready, Set, GOAL.

goalsWhether you are new to the idea of setting goals or a seasoned pro, there are many applications on line to help you stay focused and reach your financial goals. From tracking your spending habits to helping you stay on budget each month, there is a program out there for your needs.

Step 7: Reward Yourself.

After all of the sacrifices you have made and the hard work you’ve put in toward reaching your goals, it is important to reward yourself when you reach them. But you don’t have to wait until you have accomplished the entire process to pat yourself on the back.

One of the best things you can do throughout this process is set up smaller, measurable goals to accomplish while on your journey to the ultimate prize. These benchmarks will encourage you to recognize that you are making progress, even if it is slow and steady.

Research shows that when human beings recognize good behavior in the form of treats, they gain self-control. The treat doesn’t have to be something sweet to eat (although who doesn’t love chocolate), it could be that cup of specialty coffee you’ve been craving for days. By setting up smaller, achievable goals throughout this process, you will be reminded of your progress, encouraged to continue, and allow yourself a little treat now and then.


Whatever your 2015 saving goals might be, it’s important to stay on task. It’s equally important not to beat yourself up if you take a step or two backwards.  Everyone has their ups and downs. Your goal for 2015 should be to have more ups than downs. And remember, no matter what kind of financial situation you’re facing, we’re always here to help.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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Are Pediatricians Prepared To Help Patients Who Want IUDs?

The ParaGuard IUD, which releases copper into the uterine cavity, can last up to 10 years. In clinical studies, the pregnancy rate among women using the device was less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women annually.

The ParaGuard IUD, which releases copper into the uterine cavity, can last up to 10 years. In clinical studies, the pregnancy rate among women using the device was less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women annually. Mark Harmel/Science Source hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Harmel/Science Source

When Wendy Sue Swanson started out as a pediatrician eight years ago, it never crossed her mind to bring up the option of intrauterine devices — an insertable form of long-acting contraception — when she had her regular birth-control discussions with teenage patients who were sexually active.

“The patch had been the thing,” she said, referring to a small, Band-Aid-like plastic patch that transmits hormones through the skin to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

But Swanson’s approach changed after a casual conversation with her sister-in-law. This relative wasn’t a doctor, but she worked at the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, and she told Swanson that the devices could be used as a first choice of contraception for teenagers. Now Swanson regularly discusses IUDs, which are more than 99 percent effective, in her Seattle practice.

“I thought, ‘I can’t believe I don’t know this, and no one else in my office knew’ ” that IUDs could be a good choice for some patients, she said.

Yet some pediatricians and other doctors worry they aren’t properly prepared to make this form of birth control available, because their training didn’t cover insertion of the devices.

Serious medical problems reported with the use of the Dalkon Shield in the 1970s frightened many women away from IUDs, and the extra cost associated with their insertion often stopped women from using them. But the devices have become increasingly popular. IUDs, which use copper or hormones to block sperm from fertilizing eggs, are considered safe in part because they do not use the problematic strings that were part of the Dalkon Shield, and a number of physician groups recommend them. And under the 2010 health law, women with insurance are eligible for IUDs without paying out-of-pocket costs.

Almost 12 percent of women who used birth control between 2011 and 2013 chose long-acting contraception such as IUDs or hormonal implants, a rate surpassed only by contraceptive pills and condoms, according to a recent analysis by the Guttmacher Institute.

Last fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first time recommended IUDs as a first-line form of contraception for adolescents who have sex, though condoms and the pill are also accepted options. This recommendation builds on support from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which in 2011 termed it the most effective form of birth control and noted that it posed minimal risks. A year later, the group recommended it specifically for teens. Rare problems reported include disruption of menstrual cycles and, in rarer instances, perforation of the uterus. The IUD also can occasionally be expelled by a woman’s body, meaning it no longer prevents pregnancy.

Once inserted, IUDs don’t require daily attention. They last for years before they need to be removed or replaced. This makes them easier to manage than options such as condoms or daily birth control pills, which teenagers must remember to use or, in the pill’s case, take on a daily basis.

Unlike condoms but like the pill, the IUD doesn’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Though the patch is about as effective as an IUD, it requires weekly maintenance and has attracted scrutiny in recent years for potential side effects such as strokes and blood clots.

“So many kids never pick up the pills, or pick up the pills and don’t take them right,” said Melanie Gold, medical director of Columbia University’s School-Based Health Centers. “Clearly, an IUD is a better choice.”

But even with this relatively recent buzz, a December editorial in the journal JAMA Pediatrics asserted that pediatricians often aren’t trained in the procedure — making it, experts said, harder for teenage girls to access this form of birth control, unlike adult women, who are more likely to see a gynecologist.

Pediatric residents typically spend only a month studying “adolescent medicine,” which includes contraception.

Julia Potter, a doctor based in New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s pediatric department and a co-author of the editorial, said the instructors who teach adolescent medicine often aren’t themselves trained in IUD insertion procedure. Medical residents then may not pick up the skills they would need to provide this birth control option once they start practicing.

If residents are exposed to the procedure — something that depends heavily on the patients they happen to see during that monthlong rotation — that time frame is “certainly not enough time to learn how to put in an IUD,” said Jane McGrath, chief of adolescent medicine at the University of New Mexico.

Doctors offered different thoughts on how many times would be enough to become competent in inserting IUDs, but Gold suggested it might take 10 insertions before a physician would feel comfortable doing it.

Pediatricians also may be less comfortable offering IUDs to patients than are other doctors, suggests a 2013 survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study found that 26 percent of doctors practicing pediatrics or internal medicine provided IUDs or other long-acting contraception — compared with 88 percent of those identified as OB-GYNs or family medicine providers.

Those who do bring it up often refer patients interested in IUDs to other providers, such as gynecologists, said Annie Hoopes, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine fellow at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. But for teens, such referrals can get complicated.

Privacy can be an issue, said Swanson, who doesn’t do the insertion procedure in her office. A teenager may not want her parents to know she’s receiving the birth control, but “if she goes in and sees a gynecologist and the visit is billed,” it’s impossible for the pediatrician to guarantee that won’t appear on an insurance statement.

In those situations, Swanson said, she will send patients to Planned Parenthood or a similar provider, where the visit doesn’t get billed to a parent’s insurance plan.

Teens also don’t always act on the referral, said Marissa Raymond-Flesch, an adolescent and young adult medicine fellow at the University of California, San Francisco.

“They may have limited control over their time — particularly if they’re trying to come to receive services confidentially,” she said. That fear of attrition, she added, is a reason her practice has moved to offer IUD insertions in-house. Otherwise, “adolescents could be lost to follow-up.”

And in places where a provider is harder to reach, geography could pose another barrier to teens who don’t get the IUD from their regular doctor.

Meanwhile, conversations with patients and their parents have changed “dramatically” since she began discussing IUDs, Swanson said. Initially, parents would be nervous about IUDs, suggesting, for instance, that they might cause infertility for their daughters. Now, by contrast, both teens and parents seem “very open to” long-acting contraception, she said, and teenage girls are more likely to ask about IUDs without prompting.

Swanson added that, though parents sometimes bring up birth control issues, she waits to raise the subject until the one-on-one portion of a teenager’s visit, when parents are required to leave the room.

It’s still unclear whether and how residency curricula might change to incorporate IUDs and similar forms of contraception. If they become more popular, residents — especially those with an emphasis on adolescent medicine — might come to demand such training in medical school.

But it’s hard to know when or how this might happen, said Mandy Coles, another co-author of the JAMA Pediatrics editorial and an adolescent medicine physician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

“The bottom line is this is going to take more time and advocacy and research to improve training,” she said.

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Health Care

FIAs At Age 20: Industry Leaders Weigh In

FIAs At Age 20: Industry Leaders Weigh In

February 10, 2015 by Linda Koco,

Ease-of-purchase, simplicity, income planning — those are some of the themes that drive fixed index annuity (FIA) business at a carrier that has been in the FIA market for 19 years.

That carrier is Life Insurance Company of the Southwest (LSW), Addison, Texas. The company issued its first index annuity on April 7, 1996. It continues to write FIA business today, 19 years later, as an operating business of its parent, National Life, Montpelier, Vt.

Other players from that early FIA era have stopped writing FIAs in their own names, merged their FIA books with other carriers, and/or otherwise left the FIA business. That makes LSW the industry’s oldest FIA carrier still writing FIAs in its own name.

In a wide-ranging interview with InsuranceNewsNet, LSW president Wade Mayo and LSW executive vice president Carl Lutz provided some insight into their company’s staying power in the FIA market, and to the FIA industry in general.

The observations come on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the debut of FIAs to the annuity-buying public. That debut occurred in 1995. That’s when Keyport Life launched KeyIndex, the nation’s first-ever FIA policy.

Keyport later merged into Sun Life Financial, but that first policy altered the product profile of the entire fixed annuity industry. It did this by offering a fixed annuity that offers upside potential with downside protection and featuring an interest crediting strategy that links to a financial index.

Today, the FIA business has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. At year-end 2013, the industry’s total sales came to more than $ 38.6 billion, according to figures from Wink Inc.

The LSW story

“LSW is the largest provider of FIAs in employer-sponsored plans,” Mayo said. The company’s niche is selling FIAs to teachers and government workers in 403(b) and 457 plans, respectively.

In terms of industrywide sales, the FIA production of LSW combined with its parent put the company in the top third of the 40 players shown on Wink’s list of FIA writers for the first nine months of 2014. The carrier was in 13th place at that time.

The company’s lead product type is flexible-premium FIAs, which Mayo said are compatible with the monthly-pay nature of its market. It also sells single-premium FIAs and accepts “single sum” rollovers from other qualified plans. The primary distribution channel is independent agents and agencies in the tax-sheltered annuity market, but LSW also sells through career agents of its parent company, National Life.

This targeted structure sets LSW apart from the many FIA carriers that do brisk FIA business selling single-premium FIAs through insurance marketing organizations (IMOs) and other channels.

A formula that works

Mayo thinks the LSW approach helps explain why the carrier has stayed in business as an operating FIA company for the past 19 years. As he sees it, selling FIAs that are easy to sell and purchase (via monthly payments), simple to understand (not too many options and crediting approaches), and provide for lifetime income combines to create a formula that works.

Easy to sell and understand. “We don’t play in the IMO world,” Lutz said. The teachers and government workers market is a defined benefit type of market, he noted. The buyers tend to be risk averse. They also are receptive toward making periodic contributions (as opposed to paying single premiums). So the FIAs that LSW offers are not designed for sale on spreadsheets or based on commissions and rates, he said.

Instead, LSW keeps the focus on offering agents a way to differentiate themselves with a product that provides accumulation, and (once LSW added its living benefits rider) guaranteed lifetime income.

“Our intent is not to compete with equities,” Mayo said. Rather, he said the company focuses on offering opportunity to earn better interest than in a traditional fixed annuity if the buyer is willing to accept a little more risk.

“We say, ‘There won’t be gyrations or volatility, and there will be no downside such as a 40 percent decline in one year,’” Lutz added. “We show the value of the guarantee that the policies offer even when the equities market drops — when ‘zero is your hero.’”

Simple to understand. Innovation in the FIA business has been a constant through all the years. That has led a number of carriers to develop contracts that offer lots of index-linking options and interest crediting strategies.

The carriers that have these multi-featured products may be trying to differentiate themselves that way, Mayo speculated, “but I think that has obscured things.”

By comparison, he said LSW keeps its FIAs “as simple as possible.” For instance, he said the products credit interest annually, and they have a floor and cap but no spread loads. The policies offer only two indexes and two crediting options.

“We don’t compete on complexity,” Mayo said. “We don’t want our products to be seen as obscure.”

About the customized indexing strategies that some carriers are offering today, Mayo said he thinks they’ve been generated by back-casting to find the strategy that looks best. Over time, he predicted, “I think people will gravitate back to the S&P 500” and other index options that are simpler.

The specialty indexes are “something new for agents to talk about,” Lutz reasoned. “But I think the client’s money will go to where they get the best execution and the best value.”

Lifetime income. A variety of approaches is bound to occur in the guaranteed living benefits riders that FIA carriers are increasingly offering with their policies, Lutz predicted. The riders are attracting money to the contracts industrywide, he noted.

The LSW leaders definitely see this as an important innovation in the market. The company has been offering a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit in the 403(b) market since 2007, and overall about 40 percent of policyholders have elected the rider, Lutz said. In 2014, most of LSW’s single-premium sales had the rider attached. The buyers tend to be aged 55 and up.

“Now people are finding that a product that delivers a paycheck for life is attractive,” Mayo commented. The riders plus the policy annuitization options built into the annuities provide people with range of guarantees and benefits from which to choose.

Mayo predicts FIA income features will continue to grow in popularity industrywide. With more and more baby boomers retiring, and more and more corporations no longer offering defined benefit pensions, “income planning has become a huge deal.”

The FIA as security battle

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 brought to an end the multi-year effort by the Securities and Exchange Commission to have FIAs treated as a security. Looking back on that battle, Mayo described the contentions that FIAs are securities as “bogus, disingenuous and with no substance.”

As he sees it, “a lot of companies in the mutual fund and variable annuity space didn’t want us to be in this business. So they produced theoretical complaints that were never proven out.”

Today, he said, “plenty of people still don’t want the competition, so they will always complain about something.” For instance, recent complaints have tended to deal with disclosure, suitability and other sales practice issues.

The Indexed Annuity Leadership Council, of which LSW is a member, is “all for disclosure, straightforward crediting methodologies, and we’re willing to complete,” he said. “Can we make it better? Sure, we’re happy to do that. It makes it a better market.”

But the sales practice issue not the same thing as taking issue with the product itself, he stressed. People should be able to construct portfolios they want with the products they want, he said, adding that “the closer to retirement they get, the more important it is.” There is room for FIAs in the market, he indicated, and based on LSW’s experience with the product, there is demand for it.

Originally Posted at Annuity News on February 4, 2015 by Linda Koco,

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10 romantic getaways you’ve never done before

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Feel like you and your sweetheart have done everything there is to do? This Valentine’s Day, think outside of the (chocolate) box and embark on one of these unique — and unusually romantic — getaways, from the stark orange desert of Oman to the snowy tundra of Greenland.


Perfect for: Luxury-minded lovers of hot weather

Where to stay: Six Senses Zighy Bay. This extremely posh desert resort comes complete with spacious pool villas and butler service and is situated on one of the finest stretches of beach in northern Oman. The holistic spa is the perfect hideaway; indulge in Ayurvedic treatments and a traditional Moroccan hammam for a most relaxing stay.

What to do: The resort staff can hook you up with a number of adventures in the Omani desert and seas, from paragliding to mountain biking to snorkeling. Discover Arabic cooking with a master-chef-led lesson and a tour of the on-site organic gardens. Or embark on a sunset cruise with your significant other, during which you’ll see a gold-and-pink sunset over Haffa Bay.

Finnish Lapland

Perfect for: Dog lovers who don’t mind the cold

Where to stay: Nellim Wilderness Hotel. This eco-friendly hotel tucked away in the wild Inari area is a great base camp for your northern adventures. Guests can book an Aurora Bubble for the best views of the vibrant northern lights, but the cabins with steamy private saunas are also good bets for romance seekers.

What to do: Explore the local wilderness area with the hotel’s expert guides. Visit a nearby reindeer farm alongside a reindeer herder (yes, such a thing exists!). Drive a dogsled led by snow-loving huskies to glittering Lake Inari. Or snowshoe through Finland’s wild and frosty forests before stopping for an open-fire picnic lunch.

Sri Lanka

Perfect for: Escapists who love Southeast Asia’s beaches but hate crowds

Where to stay: Casa Colombo. This hotel in Sri Lanka’s capital is a funky and modern retreat, with 12 eclectic suites combining Moorish balconies, Italian tile and Indian art. Super-accommodating staff, a stylish restaurant and bar, and a pool surrounded by neon lights make this a truly sensual stay.

What to do: Mt. Lavinia Beach ranks among TripAdvisor’s best for its golden sunsets and inexpensive nightlife. Discover Sri Lanka’s long history and colorful culture at The National Museum, a surprising must-see. Or visit the beautiful Buddhist temples that dot the area, including Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, a serene shrine in the countryside.


Perfect for: Anglophiles interested in new landscapes and historic castles

Where to stay: St. George’s Hotel. This Victorian hotel is all elegant style and old-school cool (black-and-white-tiled bathrooms, crystal chandeliers and pitch-perfect service). Plus, it’s near the medieval castles of Conwy, Caernarfon and Criccieth, all of which you can rent for your moody, romantic Welsh wedding.

What to do: Llandudno, a seaside resort town, is a largely undiscovered destination with beautiful and ancient churches, long stretches of picturesque sand and Great Orme, a towering limestone landmark. Take a cable car up its cliffsides for stunning views of the north Welsh coast and emerald-green hillsides dotted with sheep. Bring your cutest sweaters.


Perfect for: Road-tripping oenophiles who like a good view

Where to stay: The Inn at Little Washington. The 24 splurge-worthy rooms and suites are unbelievably decorated in an English manor-home aesthetic and come complete with fireplaces and soaking tubs. Chef Patrick O’Connell’s restaurant of refined American fare is continually considered one of the best in the U.S. — perfect for a once-in-a-lifetime romantic meal.

What to do: In the state’s rural countryside, it becomes clear why the tourism slogan is “Virginia Is for Lovers.” Wineries and distilleries dot the rolling land along the western edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Pull over for a round of tastings, embark on a scenic journey along Skyline Drive or descend into Luray Caverns.

Budapest, Hungary

Perfect for: Twosomes who want city lights and tons of culture

Where to stay: Corinthia Hotel Budapest. This grand hotel sits behind one of the most beautiful Neoclassical facades in Central Europe. Rooms are large and luxurious, and a pampering Ayurvedic treatment at the massive Art Deco spa is the way to cap off a day of sightseeing.

What to do: Budapest, called the “Paris of the East,” is all bustle and charm. Soak in a thermal bath at Gellert (which is utterly romantic, with Art Nouveau style and Roman columns buttressing its pools). Explore the city’s eclectic museums, wander the wide grassy parks and savor the culinary scene of Hungarian comfort food and refined, shareable desserts.


Perfect for: Stateside city slickers who are sick of New York

Where to stay: Four Seasons Toronto. This sophisticated stay is a top pick on TripAdvisor for good reason, with luxury suites, a 30,000-square-foot spa, a Daniel Boulud-helmed restaurant and, coolest of all, an in-house art curator who can give you tours of the Four Seasons’ magnificent private collections.

What to do: Toronto’s food scene is, simply put, crazy good. Get a glimpse of the city lights from Canoe, situated high atop the TD Bank Tower, and dive into Chef John Horne’s tasting menu of elegant cuisine that spotlights different regions of this vast country. Before dinner, check out AGO for an eye-opening slate of Canadian art plus rotating exhibitions featuring everyone from Da Vinci to Basquiat.


Perfect for: The couple who prefers the road less — almost never — traveled

Where to stay: There are a few hotels scattered about the island, but the best way to experience this fascinating land is via a cruise. Hurtigruten’s MS Fram, made specifically for sailing in polar climes, takes you up close to the colossal icebergs and stark national parks. Discovering Greenland from your deck-side Jacuzzi is an otherworldly experience.

What to do: Embark on daytime hikes, boat trips, and glacier walks led by the ship’s expert expedition crew. Check out the local museum in Qasigiannguit or interact with the locals in the Ukkusissat settlement. Shop for handicrafts, then settle down for a coffee and a regional sweet.


Perfect for: Nature lovers, birdwatchers, eco-travelers

Where to stay: The Lodge at Pico Bonito, near La Ceiba. Away from Roatan’s crowds, this eco-lodge surrounded by lush rainforest is a true sanctuary. Find nature in all its glory at the on-site butterfly farm and in the relaxing pool hidden by colorful gardens. At night, unwind on your cabin’s private verandah, where you can listen to the birdsong.

What to do: In this birders’ paradise, guided nature tours introduce you to the vibrant flora and fauna of Honduras’ rainforests, from rare and gem-colored birds to monkeys and jaguars. Hike winding trails, see spectacular waterfalls, ford two rushing rivers or snorkel along the world’s second-largest barrier reef beneath the vibrant blue Caribbean.

Portland, Ore.

Perfect for: Hipsters, book lovers, the food-obsessed

Where to stay: The comfortable Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland. One of Conde Nast Traveler’s 2013 World’s Best, this property is basically in the middle of everything and comes with tons of amenities: a bed menu, free French press coffee, twice-daily housekeeping service and all the other little extras you could want on a romantic getaway.

What to do: Eat and hit the outdoors. For the first, a slate of America’s top ethnic restaurants awaits, from Pok Pok (Chef Andy Ricker’s superlative northern Thai restaurant that’s worth a flight alone) to Andina, a Peruvian tapas joint that uses Portland’s pristine produce, meat, and seafood. After you dine, hit Portland’s many public parks or find a corner at Powell’s cozy flagship bookshop.

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VW Tanner Foust Racing ENEOS RWB Beetle Brings Some Color to Chicago Show

It’s hard not to notice the bright-orange VW Tanner Foust Racing ENEOS RWB Beetle at the Chicago Auto Show, even though we’ve seen the car before at SEMA.

A love child of VW rallycross driver and Top Gear USA host, Tanner Foust, and famed Japanese Porsche tuners RAUH-Welt Begriff, the Modified wears a unique bodykit that adds some eight inches of width making room for the custom 18-inch Motegi Racing Traklite wheels on chubby tires.

There’s no mention if any changes were made under the hood, but the lack of information suggests that this muscled up Beetle might be all show and little go.

The black and yellow painted Global Rallycross Beetle that’s also being showcased in Chicago on the other hand, has plenty of oomph packing a +560hp TSI turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive.

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Dangerous Precedent in Airport Negotiations

A dangerous precedent is about to be set if an airport concession agreement is approved with wording regarding what counts toward gross receipts.  

Car rental companies operating on airports are bound by concession agreements that dictate their business terms for a specified time period. These agreements are renegotiated at regular intervals, often every five years. One of the main tenets of a concession agreement is the “minimum annual guarantee,” which is an agreed-upon fee that the car rental company pays the airport for the privilege of operating there.

The fee is often based on a percentage of a car rental company’s annual revenue. What is included as revenue varies by agreement, but it always includes time and mileage and usually traditional ancillary revenue, such as counter sales of insurance-type products (CDW/LDW), navigation units, child car seats and the like.

Auto Rental News has learned that in at least two agreements with small commercial airports, the airports have attempted to add a clause that requires rental companies to include loss-of-use recoveries in gross receipts — essentially, equating loss of use as a source of revenue. One of those agreements is being negotiated now.

The clause is written as part of an exclusion to gross receipts. While recovery of damage payments for the cost of repairs to cars damaged by customers is excluded, loss of use is not:  
“The foregoing exclusion shall not include any amount paid to Company by a customer or insurance company as damages for loss of use of a damaged car, or a markup, fee penalty or charge related to and in addition to the actual cost of repairs.”

For the uninitiated, when a rental vehicle is damaged, the rental company is denied the use of that vehicle, which the courts have held is a compensable loss in and of itself. Loss of use is a calculation most often based on days out of service multiplied by the contract rate.

Lumping loss of use in with gross receipts is the definition of the proverbial “slippery slope.” Loss-of-use recovery is not revenue! Any payment of loss of use from one entity to another is solely to compensate the harmed party for losses sustained as a result of a damage incident. Recovery of loss of use is designed to make the harmed party “whole” as much as monetarily possible. It is part of the measure of damages. Because loss of use is remedial by its very nature, it is inconceivable to consider it as a source of revenue.

In fact, in the specific state in which these agreements are being negotiated, the state’s court of appeals has ruled that “the claimant is entitled to receive as damages such sum as will compensate for loss of use of the repaired vehicle.”

While loss of use has been a hot-button issue in car rental for years, there is specific legal precedent (see PurCo Fleet Services Inc. v. Judith Koenig) that car rental companies are entitled to recover loss of use and appropriate administrative fees.

This exclusion has other potentially treacherous implications, specifically found in the phrase “related to and in addition to the actual cost of repairs.” Pay attention to “actual.”

This could be legally interpreted as: If your rental car is damaged and the cost to repair is $ 1,500, and you decide to for whatever reason repair only half of the damage, then the airport is entitled to lump that $ 750 you saved in with gross receipts and call it profit!

Once again, you, the property owner, have the right to be “made whole,” but that doesn’t mean you are obligated to repair that rental vehicle to its condition before the accident. The person that caused the damage is simply obligated to compensate you for your loss. What you do with that compensation is nobody’s business but yours.

Because this is an ongoing negotiation, Auto Rental News has decided not to publish the specific airport where this is taking place. But it is vitally important to reveal this to the industry. If this agreement is finalized, it allows a dangerous legal door to be opened that allows legally recoverable damages regarding vehicle repairs to be viewed as revenues.

Has similar language been included in one of your concession agreements? Let me know.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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Auto Rental News

The Latest Health Wonk Review Is Up

Peggy Salvatore at the Health System Ed blog hosts the latest version that’s been aptly titled the Valentine Edition of the Health Wonk Review: For Health Policy Lovers Everywhere. The aw shucks PHB is there with other blogging luminaries who are embracing topics that run from the cells of women to health-worker strikes.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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The Population Health Blog

John Hancock unveils new term life insurance product

IBR Staff Writer Published 12 February 2015

Manulife subsidiary John Hancock Insurance has introduced a new term life insurance product, in a bid to provide an affordable protection to consumers.


Starting with face amounts of $ 250,000, John Hancock Term will allow consumers to plan for the unexpected and protect their individuals.

John Hancock Insurance president Michael Doughty said: “According to a recent industry survey, eighty-six percent of consumers who believe they need life insurance haven’t purchased it because they think it’s too expensive.

“We’ve redesigned our term insurance to help change these perceptions and make it financially easier for more consumers to take that important step toward protecting their future.”

The new term life insurance product will provide protection for 10, 15 or 20-year durations, according to John Hancock.

Based on the varying needs of its clients, it will also provide a flexible conversion option helping them to convert to one of the company’s permanent life policies.

The company also added a new interactive tool ‘UCheck’ to its illustration system that will allow producers to quickly and easily estimate the risk class of their term life customers.

In addition, John Hancock provides a wide range of diverse permanent insurance products such as universal life insurance, indexed universal life insurance and variable universal life.

Image: John Hancock’s new term life insurance product provides protection for 10, 15 or 20-year durations. Photo: courtesy of cooldesign/

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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IBR – Life Insurance & Pensions News

Hosting a Super Bowl Party? Here’s What You Should Know

On Super Bowl Sunday, everything is big. Except for Thanksgiving, Americans consume more food on this day than on any other. The game usually ranks as the most watched television event of the year in the U.S. And with 90% of viewers at their home or someone else’s, that means there are lots of Super Bowl parties – and lots of risk for homeowners.

If you’re planning to serve alcohol at your Super Bowl party, you aren’t alone. More than 51 million cases of beer are drunk during the game. But many people don’t know most states have liability laws that hold alcohol-serving hosts accountable for their guests’ actions.

In many situations, a host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest. But as the person who served alcohol you could be liable for injuries to third parties in situations such as drunken driving accidents.

So no matter the size of your Super Bowl party, here are a few steps to limit your risk of liability:

  • Limit your guest list: The better you know your guests, the easier it will be to identify who’s had too much to drink. It’s also much easier to ask friends to cut out bad behavior or sleep on a couch than an acquaintance or stranger.
  • Discourage driving: Make sure your guests have a safe option to get home. Between assigning a designated driver, taking public transportation, or using a ride-share app such as Lyft, there are plenty of options to avoid driving after drinking. If you see a guest who is visibly intoxicated, it’s in your best interest to help them find a way home or let him or her spend the night.
  • Offer food and non-alcoholic options: Drinking on an empty stomach is an easy way to magnify the effects of alcohol. The average fan consumes about 1,100 snack food calories during the game, so don’t feel guilty about serving lots of fatty food. Additionally, be sure to have non-alcoholic drinks on hand to keep everyone hydrated.
  • Stop serving alcohol before the end of the game: Your guests may appear sober, but that last drink ‘for the road’ could be what puts them into a dangerous situation. As the game winds down, be sure to offer water, coffee, soft drinks, and other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t allow drinking games: Some fans enjoy having a drink for touchdowns; that can quickly escalate to drinks for every first down.

Even if you’re hosting a small party with only trusted friends, it’s worth examining your home insurance policy to understand the conditions and limitations of coverage. A typical homeowners insurance policy provides some liquor liability coverage, but the standard coverage limit can be as low as $ 100,000. In a major claim, this may be insufficient. If you regularly host parties, you might want to increase your coverage.

If you’re done reviewing your coverage and preparing for unexpected risks, you can grab a snack, kick back, and enjoy the big game.

Photo credit for preview image: Flickr user/Andrew Ratto

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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