Mandatory Provident Fund

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

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

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

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

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

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

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

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

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

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

Problematic MPF?

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

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

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

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

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

Protection for all?

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

High income people

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

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

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

Low-income people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

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

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

No income group

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

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

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

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

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

Investors of big business

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

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

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

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

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

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

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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10 Reasons Why People Travel

When people decide to leave the comforts of their home and venture to other locations there is usually a reason behind it. Whether the cause to travel was a last minute whimsy or had an actual purpose, it makes one think about all of the reasons why people travel. Reflect on the last time you left your location and ventured to another one. Did it have a purpose behind it? Let’s look and see if your motive to travel matched any of the one’s listed below. These are not listed in any particular order.

1. Romance- There are thousands of people who are involved in long distance relationships. At some point though, they need to see each other. For the sake of love, people will travel for hours to spend as much time as they can with the love of their life.

2. Relaxation- All work and no play is not a good thing. People need to get away from the stress of everyday life, and a nice sunny location with a beach might just be what the doctor ordered.

3. Family/ Friends -Many people have family/friends that are located in different parts of the world. They need to visit with them even if it’s for a short period of time.

4. Religion- There are places in the world that hold religious importance for many people. Religious travel is often related to a purpose such as seeing where the last pope was buried, or traveling to the town where Jesus was born.

5. Death- A relative, friend or acquaintance has passed away and travel is required to attend the funeral which is located out of town.

6. Honeymoon- You’re getting married and are going somewhere special to celebrate. This usually occurs right after the wedding, but there are many occasions where people celebrate a honeymoon years later.

7. Education-You’re getting your education somewhere other than where you live or you are going away on an educational school trip.

8. Celebration- Wedding, Anniversary, Birthday, Birth- There’s always something to celebrate and it doesn’t always happen where you live.

9. Medical/Health- Sometimes the treatment you need isn’t available in the city/town where you live. Often the best medical care is costly and requires travel to receive it.

10. Work- Job requirements might mean a fair bit of travel is involved. Even if the travel is within your own country it still has a purpose attached to it.

Overall, traveling can be a wonderful experience or it can be draining, expensive and just plain torture. Nonetheless if you need to go then embrace it for what it is, and try to make the best of it even if it wasn’t planned.

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Five Power Closing Techniques for Insurance and Financial Advisors

So, you have made it through the prospecting game. You made your cold calls, sent out your mass mortgage mailers, invited people to your coffee-sponsored seminars, you qualified responders as being serious prospects and have set the appointment.

Now what? You have done all this work, are you sure you are going to get their business? In this article are 5 closing techniques to help you solidify the deal and make the sale.

1. Quality Demonstration – If you are going to take the time to give a demonstration, be sure that you listen to your potential client’s needs and interpretations of what they expect to get out of your appointment. There is nothing worse than explaining variable life insurance and all the different cash options and disability waivers…to find out they only have a budget of $50 per month. So, listen and then tailor your demonstration to focus on their needs and to solve whatever void they need filled. Don’t get too wordy. The best demonstrations have few words, but are very poignant.

2. Small-closes – Throughout the demonstration, try to get periodic “buy ins” and acknowledgments that you are on track with solving their needs. Ask for their opinions, ask open ended questions; be sure to engage the potential client. If you can make many small closes throughout the sales process, then when it comes time to pull out the application, they won’t be shocked or caught off guard. When they ask a question, re-state their question. This does two things: it lets the potential client know that you are listening to their concerns, but it also restates to them what they have just said is their need. So, when the time comes for you to discuss possible solutions, such as term insurance to cover the mortgage, or a wrap-around disability income policy to substitute the rest of their income, then they cannot back out and say that it isn’t a concern.

3. Between 1 and 10 – This has got to be one of the greatest closing lines ever. It is easy to do, and it forces the potential client to sell themselves. When you have finished your demonstration, you simply turn to your client and ask them, “Between 1 and 10…10 being ‘I am ready to fill out the application and never worry about how my family will financially survive if something should happen to me’…or 1 being ‘I wish you would leave my house right now’….where do you fall? And no matter what they tell you, you ALWAYS answer, “Really, a “#”? Why so high?” Even if they tell you a “4”….you answer, “Really, a 4? I thought you would be a 3, you had your arms crossed and didn’t seem interested in anything I was saying. Why are you so high? What made you choose a 4?”

And then let them answer. Even with a low number, they will point out the features that they liked. They will point out the solutions that worked best. They will also tell you what they didn’t like…and then you can move forward from there. If they were turned off by the price….them give them other options. If they were turned off by the fee structure of A-share mutual funds, then tell them about B or C shares.

4. Suggest/Recommend– This isn’t so much a closing technique as it is a phrase that sets you apart from others by presenting you as the expert. Think about the times you have heard people use this phrase with you. Typically most large oil changing stations will say at the end of their “12 point inspection”, “I recommend you flush out your steering fluid or use a fuel injector cleaner”. What happens is that, they are recommending this to you, which gets you thinking, “hmm…they are the experts, perhaps I should listen to them”. Versus someone saying, “you NEED to do this.” That phrase turns us off. “I don’t NEED to do anything!” When you are sitting with a prospective client and you have finished your demonstration and they have agreed that they need to begin a college savings plan, or invest in a sound life insurance policy, the next phrase out of your mouth should be, “As your Financial Representative, I suggest we get started with…..” or “I recommend that we…..”. It sets you up as the professional that they will trust.

5. Take the sale away -This phrase sounds like the opposite of what you want to do, but rather than chasing someone for the sale, make them ask you for it. Statements like, “I don’t even know if you will qualify for this….why don’t we fill out some of the medical questions to see if we should even move forward with underwriting.” Or if they balk at the initial deposit to open a college plan or annuity, try saying, “You know what? Maybe you are right. This college plan doesn’t seem like the right fit to help you cover the cost of your children to go to any school they want to….why don’t you check out state savings plans through the bank…I believe that enrollment period starts in 6 more months”. This gets the person thinking, “Well what is wrong with me? I want to fit in, I want to belong.” When you push something, it moves away from you….when you pull the same item, it comes towards you. Another move you can make…if someone says that the premium is more than they want to spend, you can always say, “you know what, maybe you are right, but why don’t we go ahead and get you underwritten, see if you even qualify for this low of a premium, as you could come back rated. Then once you are approved, then we can determine which policy will work best for you.”

It takes a little time to change your thinking, especially when you are just starting out. But give it some time, and practice these steps. You will see clients becoming more attracted to you as a professional.

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Your House Number Numerology Profoundly Influences All Aspects of Your Life

Are you planning to move house soon? Or relocating to a new city? Or hunting for an investment property? Are you undecided about which house to choose? Then let numerology be your guide. Your house, apartment or unit number interacts with the frequency of your own personal numerology to determine whether you live in harmony or discord. Your lifestyle and personality traits are affected by the vibrations set up by particular house numbers.

Love, relationships, health, money, happiness and general abundance aspects of your life are all impacted by your house number. The experiences you will have in your home can be predicted by your house number – the good, the bad and everything in between. While no one house number is best or worse, there are numbers you should try to avoid in a home address. House numbers can be interpreted and tell of opportunities and challenges as they relate to your personal life, be they in your personality or life path.

The numerological transformation of house numbers is straight forward. Indeed there are many online calculators and resources giving general numerological meanings of the nine base house numbers. However, the real skill lays in the psychic reading and interpretation of your house’s number. To transform your house or apartment number, take the individual digits and add them. Then keep repeating this process until you arrive at a single digit. This is then your house’s special number. For example, say your home number is 672. First add 6+7+2 to get 15. Then add 1+5 to get your base number of SIX. Often units and apartments have more than one number (for example Unit 272, Number 87 Happy Road). The more unique number is the most important, in our example, the unit number ‘272’ – but your numerologist will be interested in both.

Business and work place addresses work the same way as house and apartment numbers. Ask your numerologist to figure out your house number and also to look at your work place number for its meaning to build a more complete picture of your numerology.

Even though the mechanics of determining a dwelling’s base number are reasonably easy, it takes a gifted and well practiced numerologist to interpret this number and determine the interactions with your personal life stage numerology.

What happens if my numerologist doesn’t like my house number? Do I have to move? Well not necessarily, as with anything there are degrees of harmony between you and your house or apartment number. It is more a case of being aware of dissonance and compatibilities between your house and you. Your numerologist may recommend adding a complimentary number to the inside of your front door or letter box to modify the house’s base number and restore harmony.

Eventually, you will move into another phase of your life when the incompatibility will go away anyway. For example, if you are young, single and carefree you may be best suited to a house with a base number of THREE. Later, when you have settled and growing a young family you may be more interested in security which can be found in houses with a base number of FOUR.

Better still, if possible get you numerologist to examine your potential house street number before you buy or lease the house in the first place. If all else fails you can of course move house to find a more compatible house number, but this should be last resort. Bear in mind that some house numbers are harder to sell than others. Selling a FOUR house can sometimes be problematic. The natural extension of this last point is that house number numerology has a big impact on property investment. Also, if the house or unit is an investment property, you need to consider the impact of the numerology of the house number on the potential tenants. Are they going to be compatible with the dwelling and live there happily?

I hope you can see now that the number of where you live interacts with your own personal numerology to impact on the all aspects of you life. If you are looking for a new house to buy or apartment to rent then consider the numerological implications of the house, apartment or unit number. And don’t forget that even if you’re house numerology in not favorable – all is not lost. There are things an expert numerologist can recommend to neutralize and overcome the negative connotations of your house’s street number to reinstate harmony in the dwelling. While it is a simple arithmetic task to calculate your house’s base number, it takes a gifted and professional numerologist to decipher the interactions between your own personal numerology and that of your place of abode.

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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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Why Donegal Car Insurance Is the Best

The Donegal Insurance Group tracks its beginnings way back to the birth of the Donegal and Conoy Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1889. It all started in Marietta, Pennsylvania when the area farmers decided to form the company to protect themselves preemptively from losing their properties in fire Accidents and the potential impact that is sure to follow, especially the financial aspect of that impact. As time passed by, they changed its name to the Donegal Mutual Insurance Company. And one of the products it offered to the buying public is the Donegal car insurance.

Bodily injury and property damage liability is the main coverage provided by Donegal car insurance policies. It also includes a vehicle's physical damage coverage. The bodily injury liability accommodates coverage for any legal responsibilities and obligations in the case of accidents that caused any kind of injury to other drivers, their pedestrians and passengers. The property damage liability coverage on the other hand, provides protection for unjust accidents that damages other people's properties. And if ever that accident will invelve any legal costs, especially defense, then it will also be covered as well. There is also a certain type of coverage intended for any uninsured individual, even the underinsured. The uninsured and / or underinsured coverage will protect that customer and his or her immediate family members from the costs of the injury in the event of an accident that was caused by a motorist not insured or those underinsured.

There are also other attractive features included in its auto insurance policies:

  • They offer good student discounts.
  • The Donegal insurance system can account for high chargeable accident thresholds
  • They also offer different programs regarding first accident forgiveness. This means that Donegal Insurance will not raise your insurance rate after the first at-fault accidents.
  • Excellent drivers are entitled extra edge discounts.
  • PACE protector endorsement program.

The car insurance policies offered by Donegal have various options to help you get the best out of your coverage. There's also a collision coverage that handles the repair costs of your vehicle that is damaged by the other party in an accident. Another type, the "other than collision" coverage is offered in particular in cases like fire, theft, vandalism, glass breakage and other known perils.

You also have the option to add coverage for the towing of your disabled car and other labor charges, and a rental reimbursment coverage to handle payment of the rented car cost in the event of a spiritual loss. You can also save on Donegal's insurance coverage if your car possesses passive seatbelt restraints and air bags. It would also be ideal if you have anti-theft devices and anti-lock brakes in your car. You can be qualified for credits with these. There are also other wonderful discounts that you can enjoy if you car pool and if you have undergone a driver's education class. Save additional money as you avail the multi-car discount program. You can qualify if you have more than once insured car. Now you can see why the Donegal car Insurance is the best.

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Thermal Mugs: Plastic Vs Stainless Steel

The basic design of thermal mugs, whether they are plastic or stainless steel is the same – double wall insulation with a lid to seal the top. But even though stainless steel versions cost more than plastic versions, in the long run, they are the best deal for travelers. They can also be made of ceramic or glass, but those are generally designed for household use and not for travel due to the possibility of breakage.

The main benefits of a stainless steel mug are durability and better insulation. Steel is tough, and although plastic mugs can take a beating, a steel mug can last much longer. This is especially true when compared to the more brittle, hard plastic mugs that are sometimes used to display stylish designs and finishes. Although messy, dropping a steel mug of coffee will not generally cause any damage.

There are three basic types of insulation used; Air, foam or vacuum between double walls. Plastic versions usually use either air or foam. Both work acceptably, but air or foam is not as effective as vacuum insulation. More often than not, steel mugs use vacuum insulation which can keep beverages hot for a longer period of time. This can be quite important especially on long (and cold!) Morning commutes.

Beyond the two primary benefits, there are a few other benefits that stainless steel thermal mugs have when compared to plastic mugs. Plastic, being slightly softer, is more difficult to clean. You can use tough cleansers (making sure they're non-toxic!) On steel, but the same cleansers will scratch and damage plastic. For the same reason, plastic mugs tend to retain the flavors of the beverages that have been in them. This is not really a problem if you just drink regular generic coffee every day, but if you use the mug for different beverages, it can be.

When you look at all the factors, durability, ease of cleaning, effective insulation and better flavor, the stainless steel thermal mug is by far the best choice, even though it can be a bit more expensive. The only real benefits of plastic mugs are the lower price in the short run (which can be a big benefit if you lose your mug frequently!) And that they are slightly lighter than stainless steel mugs.

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What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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The Advantages of Traveling in a Campervan

One of the most exciting ways of traveling when on holiday is through a campervan. Hiring a motorhome is an easy thing to do and it is undoubtedly an affordable way to see the world, coupled with the freedom to pause where you like and stay as long as you wish at each stop. Comfortable and convenient, a campervan will take you to where you can experience exhilaration, adventure, sensuality, and breathtaking beauty without having to worry about the sun setting down.

Campervan travelers know that there are many models for them to choose from, depending on the number of people traveling with them, and their preference for home-on-the-road travel. Most motorhome vehicles come equipped with beds, tables, chairs, cooking facilities, toilet and shower cubicles, and even CD players, television, and DVD facilities. Meanwhile you can also hire extra items like outdoor chairs, tables, tents, and more.

The ease and accessibility of campervan travel is only one of the advantages to motorhome road trips. Affordability plays a great role, imagine not having to pay for hotel accommodations that would otherwise eat up a huge margin of a holiday-makers budget!

No vista or landscape is ever the same on this quest of discovery. The great outdoors makes for a more cheerful trip, and the freedom of choice to go off the beaten track is beyond compare – a freedom that isn’t available when taking the travel agency and run-of-the-mill tourist route.

Imagine pulling over and stopping by a grassy glade for a refreshing cup of coffee while enjoying the sunrise. Or lounging on a pristine beach while a romantic moon shines down upon the water. The next day can be lunch with the locals overlooking a ruggedly uplifting mountain canyon. No one day is ever the same.

More importantly, traveling by campervan creates experiences that are meant to last forever. The freedom of the road, and various adventures shared with family and friends will be mental keepsakes that can be taken out with reverence and joyful remembrance again and again.

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Benefits of International Travel

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

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

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

Practical reasons

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

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

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

Technology and travel

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

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

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