Wednesday, January 31, 2007

10 Easy ways to supercharge your new job

by JOE HODOWANES, Special Sections Correspondent

When a U.S. president enters office, the entire Washington, D.C., press corps talks about the administration's first 100 days, which is a critical time for the party in office to gain momentum behind major legislation.

OK, so you're not the newly elected president of the United States. That means you have about 30 business days to make your first impressions at your new company and get the momentum going.

What follows are several activities and suggestions compiled from the book, "How to Land the Job of Your Life" by Jeff Taylor, founder of, and Doug Hardy. These helpful hints can assist you in making a seamless transition into your new job.

1. Before you start a new job, write five strengths and weaknesses from your last job. Privately determine that you're going to change one or two of those weak behaviors in your next job. They don't have to be big changes. For example, are you always late to meetings? Decide to change that from day one at your new job. In those first few weeks, always be on time for your meetings.

2. Start with an on-the-job assessment. If you're a replacement, make a list of the things the former occupant of your position did right and wrong (you'll have to ask around). If it's a new job, make a list of all the reasons why the position was created.

3. Develop one new work habit that will make you more productive. Perhaps it's an organizing habit you already practiced in your job search: You've always put sticky notes all over your computer as reminders. Change to an electronic to-do list in the new job.

4. The great management teacher Peter Drucker suggests this powerful habit: Just before beginning a new job, write down what you expect will happen. Then check that statement three months and then a year later. You'll get a reality check on where you are and are not effective.

5. It's a great time to start working out, start eating better or learn a new skill. You've just proven to yourself that you can make positive changes happen in your work life, so why stop at that?

6. Set up a 10-day check with your boss. Say, "I've been working on the following five things. Do you feel that I'm spending my time in the right places?" This gives your boss the opportunity to say, "I'd really like you to be spending more time on this…" This isn't a formal performance review. You're just finding out if you're on track. Do this again after 30 days.

7. Keep a "brag book." Write down all of your accomplishments above and beyond the call of duty. What did you do? When did you do it? What were the results? When it comes to creating a resume in the future or being asked by a potential employer for your corporate accomplishments, this brag book will give you the ability to quickly produce what you have achieved.

8. Find a mentor. Look for an experienced person who has been with the company for a few years. Have regular conversations about what is going on in the company. Your boss may be a candidate for this role, or it may be someone in another part of the company.

9. Be sure to thank everyone who helped you in your job search. Call or write to them personally. Also, send e-mail updates to your personal network every four to eight weeks. These notes can be informal; the idea is simply to stay in touch. And don't forget to thank executive recruiters, employment counselors and employment coaches.

10. Finally, check in with yourself. At 100 days, assess the big picture. You're the CEO of your own life, so ask yourself important career questions such as how you're doing toward achieving your goals and do you like this company.

How to Win Friends & Influence People

Joe Hodowanes is a career strategy adviser in Tampa. Readers of The Tampa Tribune are qualified to receive a résumé critique, as well as a price quote if you decide that your résumré should be rewritten. For a risk-free telephone evaluation, e-mail your rrésumré to or fax it to 813-264-9203. For questions, call Joe at 813-264-9172 or visit

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

12 Ways to Renew Yourself

Want to boost your productivity? Just as batteries need recharging, our minds and bodies need recharging as well. If you don’t take that time to recharge, you’ll likely experience burnout. It’s important to find ways to rejuvenate and refresh ourselves. By taking renewal breaks, you’ll be more productive, effective and satisfied with your job.

What are some ways to renew yourself? Through vacations, daily personal time, and real-time renewal and relaxation breaks.


Some workaholics boast about not taking a vacation for years. Others take vacation, but stay in contact with work on a daily basis by checking voicemail and e-mail. This is not a real vacation! We need time to unwind and totally relax. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and with more energy to tackle your work. Give yourself the gift of time off work. The organization will survive without you for a week or two.

Daily Personal Time

Take some time each day just for yourself, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes. Take time to pray, meditate or say affirmations. Spend time doing something you really enjoy, like reading or walking in nature. Do something that relaxes you, like soaking in a hot bath or enjoying a neck massage. Just 20 minutes will energize you and help you maintain a better frame of mind.

Real-time Renewal Breaks

When you’re feeling overloaded with work, it’s tempting to skip breaks and work through lunch. However, research shows that those who take frequent breaks are actually more productive in the long run. If you work too long on tasks, the time you need to solve problems increases five-fold. When you start to feel fatigued, take a quick renewal or relaxation break. Here are a few ideas. These will only take a few minutes and will increase your productivity throughout the day.
• Repeat positive affirmations. Keep affirmations on your desk. Repeat them regularly. This will help you stay positive.
• Express gratitude. Remind yourself of all the things you’re thankful for – your family, friends, your home, and even your work. Remember to say “thank you” to those who help you at work.
• Look for larger meaning and purpose in work activities. Keep the big picture in mind. Remember why you’re performing your work and who you benefit.
• Perform small acts of kindness. What can you do to show kindness? Maybe you can buy your co-worker a cup of coffee, bring someone flowers from your garden, or simply hold a door open for someone. Performing acts of kindness will help you to feel better about yourself too.
• Be playful at work. Tell a joke or tell a co-worker about a funny experience. Laughter can be great medicine.
• Take a short walk. Get outside to get some fresh air or just walk the halls to stretch your legs. The exercise, however short, will do you good.

Relaxation Techniques
You can also apply relaxation techniques right at your desk. Here are a few to try.
• Deep breathing – After an especially stressful situation, take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Inhale and count to five and then exhale slowly. As you exhale imagine all your tension leaving your body.
• Stretching – It helps to stretch tight muscles. If you feel self-conscious stretching in your cubicle, then go to the restroom and do your stretching there.
• Muscle tension and relaxation – Most people carry their tension in their neck and shoulders. Tense up those muscles, and then relax them. Repeat this a few times.
• Visualization – By using visualization you can take a little vacation in your mind for a few minutes. Imagine yourself on a warm, sandy beach soaking up the sun as you hear the waves crashing.

The next time you’re feeling fatigued, try out one of these ideas. And don’t forget to plan your next vacation too. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll boost your productivity as well.
Kathleen Barton is a keynote speaker, workshop presenter, and coach who heads her own firm, The Success Connection, specializing in purpose/passion, maximizing potential, career success, and work/life balance. She is also the author of Connecting with Success, Finding Your Purpose & Passion in Life and The Balancing Act: Managing Work & Life audio/workbook. Kathleen can be reached at

5 Ways to Get Rid of Headaches

Since I have a migraine heading my way, I decided this would be a good topic. Headaches are one of the most common afflictions we can have but fortunately, they're often one of the easist to get rid of. So in that vein, I offer you my experience on what will help get rid of headaches.
  1. Drink lots of water - I can't stress that enough. One of the most common causes of a headache is dehydration. This is a big contributor to the headaches that often accompany hangovers as well. Also, we've become a society of caffeine addicts and one problem with that is that caffeine is a diuretic and instead of quenching your thirst, it will actually make you more thirsty because you will be expelling water that your body needs to maintain balance. In other words, don't let coffee, tea, and sodas become a substitute for water. Your body will thank you. I'm not saying that you need to avoid all caffeine, just make sure you drink water, too.
  2. Make sure you're not withdrawing - Along with our caffeine consumption is addiction. You may be addicted to caffeine without even realizing it. Fortunately, if that is what is causing your headache, it's easily solved with more caffeine. It doesn't fix the root of the problem, but it does fix your headache.
  3. Stretch your muscles - When we are under tension or stress, we feel it a lot in our shoulders and our necks. That's what causes tension headaches. Take steps to directly relieve some of that tension by slowly stretching each muscle from your waist to your head. Be methodical and massage each joint. Yes, it will take 5 minutes, but it could be part of your headache solution. Besides, it just feels good.
  4. Go for a 5 minute walk. This has a number of effects. First, if gives you fresh air. This could clue you to any sinus problems that are causing your headache. Also, it will force you to refocus your eyes. We often forget that eyestrain is also a prime cause of headaches. The best way to get rid of eyestrain is to focus on something far away once in a while. And the best way to focus on something far away is to step outside.
  5. Know your over-the-counter pain relievers. Personally, I've found Excedrine® (or the generic alternative) is the best for headaches. It's even got approval by the US FDA to specifically claim it's recommended for migraines. It has the the ingredient in Tylenol® as well as aspirin and a little bit of caffeine. If your headache is sinus-based, you probably want Sudafed® or Sudafed-PE®. If allergies are making your headache worse, Claritin© is your friend. Just follow the directions on the bottles and don't take too much or whenever it's not indicated. Used safely, over-the-counter medications can be a big help if you're taking the right medicine for the right symptom.

Lastly, I can't stress enough that if you have headaches that persist for days or are too severe for you to handle, don't be afraid to see a doctor. A headache can be a symptom of something more. Also, there are medications for migraines that could be helpful if your doctor recommends. One such drug, Imitrex® is even available (by prescription only) to be used on an as-needed basis with not only pills but with a quick-acting nasal spray or a faster-acting injectible pen.

Remember, if you're in pain, it's your body telling you something isn't right. If you're in ongoing pain, you deserve to find out what is causing it and what can be done to relieve it.

Nobody should accept pain as "just the way it is".

Previous articles:

8 Good ways to exercise your brain

5 Ways To Stress Relief

7 Ways Fighting a Hangover

10 ways to have an Active Mind

10 Ways to get a Good Night's Sleep


5 Ways To Find Products To Sell On eBay

I was part of an eBay Roundtable discussion recently with six other experts and we all agreed that the number one question most new (and even old) eBay sellers ask is:

"Where do I find things to sell on eBay??"

To help answer that question I have compiled 10 ways that anyone can use to find products to sell on eBay. This is by no means a definitive list and depending on your situation, some of the ways may not apply to you. However, if you're a beginner and don't know where to start, this list should help you get on track.

1. Look Around The House:

We all have items lying around the house that we no longer use or need. Have you grown or shrunk in size? If so, you have clothes you can no longer wear and can sell. Did you get a gift for Christmas or your birthday that you will never use? If so, slap it on eBay (just don't let the person who gave you the gift find out). Do your kids have toys they no longer play with? Just looking around your house and garage should give you plenty of things to get your eBay ball rolling.

2. Garage Sales and Flea Markets:

When it comes to eBay, remember this old adage: One man's junk is another man's treasure. Now this is not to say that you should sell junk on eBay. You should only sell products in good condition. The point is you can find items in good condition at garage sales and flea markets that you can pick up cheap and resell for a profit. Remember, nobody wants to buy your old Beanie Babies that no longer have eyes and noses, but they may buy "gently used" items if they're in good shape and offered at a good price.

3. Talk To Your Friends and Relatives:

After you've gone through your own in-house inventory, contact your friends and relatives and tell them you have started an eBay business and will sell their items for a piece of the sales price. Chances are they have as much excess stuff lying around their house as you did. Offer to list the items for them and if they sell, take half the profits. You will probably have to pay the eBay fees out of your pocket up front, but you can then deduct the eBay fees from the sales price before slicing up the pie.

4. Consignment Sales:

Consignment sales are a great way to find a wide range of products to sell on eBay. Consignment selling means that you offer to sell an item that belongs to a company. In exchange for your trouble you get a percentage of the sales price. You can charge up to 50% plus fees for smaller items like clothing, lamps, jewelry, etc. and around 15% for larger items like cars, boats, and bulldozers (yes, I said bulldozers).

Contact every business in town and offer to list their excess goods on eBay for a piece of the action. Most businesses have returned items, liquidated products, used equipment, etc. that they would love to get rid of, but don't have the time to do so. Many will see you as their hero if you can help them get rid of this merchandise and you'll make a pretty profit for your efforts. For business customers you should have them pay the eBay fees on the front end, not you.

5. Thrift Stores:

Thrift stores are an excellent place to look for things to sell online. Stores maintained by the Salvation Army and non-profit%

Tim Knox - Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker
Tim Knox is a nationally-known small business expert who writes and speaks frequently on the topic.

For more information or to contact Tim please visit one of his sites below:

Top 10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Computer Viruses

As more and more people are becoming comfortable using their computers at school, home or in the office it’s only a matter of time before they encounter a computer virus. Here are our top 10 steps to protect you from computer viruses.

Use a high quality anti-virus program. There are many different anti-virus computers programs on the market some of them are better than others. Look to reputable computer magazines or websites for ratings to help you find the one that matches your needs.

Always use your anti-virus software. Make sure your anti-virus software is always turned on and scanning, incoming and outgoing email messages, and any software programs you run.

Keep your antivirus programs up to date. Most programs come with a yearly subscription make sure you take advantage of the updates. More advanced programs allow you to schedule updates or full system scans for “off hours” like 2AM when you aren’t likely to be using your computer.

Keep your computer up to date. From time to time operating systems fall victim to security holes or issue updates. Make sure you check periodically to make sure you are running stable up to date versions of your software.

Backup your data regularly. Most windows computer users keep their documents in the “My documents” folder. This makes it easy to back up all of your important documents. Make weekly or monthly copies to CD or USB drives.

If you use floppy disks or USB drives on public computers like your school computer lab, Kinko’s, or even digital photo printing store make sure you scan them for viruses. Public computers are notorious for not being up to date and properly protected.

Be wary of email attachments. Treat any email attachment as potentially dangerous. Never open attachments from people you weren’t expecting. Also be careful of attachments from people you know but weren’t expecting. Many computer viruses replicate themselves by reading the contacts from an infected computer.

Use text email if possible. While HTML email is prettier and allows you more control over formatting it also can carry computer viruses. If you use text based email the only way to get a virus is by opening an attachment.

Use downloaded freeware and shareware files or software with caution. Try to download them from popular reputable sources that scan the programs before they are uploaded. To make sure you are safe scan the program before you install it on your computer.

Be wary of links in IM or instant messaging software. Don’t accept invitations from people you don’t know and never click a link from someone you don’t trust, they can easily redirect you to another website that will try to install a virus on your computer system.

©, All Rights Reserved.
This article was written by Jim Faller of a website with information about viruses, spyware, adware, backups, data recovery and computer security.

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10 Ways To Increase Your Free eBook Downloads

1. Anticipate the objections your visitors might have about your free ebook offer. You should research your target audience's needs and wants.

2. Allow your visitors to feel good about themselves by giving them compliments. If they feel good, they will also feel good about downloading your ebook.

3. Tell your visitors the emotional and logical reasons why they should download your free ebook. It can be the goals they'll acomplish, positive feelings, etc.

4. Publish a list of respected or famous people that have downloaded your free ebook. Just remember to get their legal permission first.

5. Tell people what they're thinking and feeling as they read your ebook ad. Most people will start to actually do it, statements should back up the ebook.

6. Make your free ebook offer very rare. People perceive things that are rare as being more valuable. You could use a limited time offer or free bonuses.

7. Create rapport with your visitors by telling them something they already know is true. They'll know for sure you're not lying and download your ebook.

8. Show your visitors how much enthusiasm you have for your free ebook. Most people will start to feel the same and download your ebook.

9. Make your visitors curious about your free ebook by telling them they need to sign-up to get access to a password protected site in order to download it.

10. Motivate people to download your free ebook. Tell them a lot of positive things like: "You can now reach your goals and change your life forever!"
About the author:

Rojo Sunsen is a specialized bounty hunter who prefers to work quietly/confidentially for the benefit of her clients.

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5 Ways To Prevent Credit Card Late Fees

Paying a credit card late fee is the same as throwing your money away. Late credit card payments can also hurt your credit score. The payment tips and strategies here will show you how to prevent these costly fees.

When credit card companies process credit card payments, every single detail is extremely important. Get even one of these small details wrong and you will have to pay credit card late fees.

The Fair Credit Billing Act requires credit card companies to credit payments the day they are received. However, this law also allows each credit card issuer to set their own specific payment guidelines. If any of these guidelines are not met, the credit card company can take as much as five days to credit the payment.

That means you can get your payment to your credit card company on time and it could become late during that five-day period. The credit card company could legally charge you credit card late fees. So it's in your best interest to follow their payment guidelines carefully. The payment guidelines are usually on the back of your credit card bill.

Here is the five best ways to prevent credit card late fees.

1. Follow Credit Card Payment Guidelines Carefully

This includes everything from a specific payment address to the time of day the payment has to be received to be credited that day. Some companies even require that payments arrive in their preprinted envelope they sent you with your bill. To be safe, always use the preprinted envelope provided by a credit card company.

Include the billing coupon, and write the amount you are paying in the box provided. Make your check legible, don't forget to sign it and double check that the payment amount is correct. Write your credit card account number on your check and send the payment with the proper postage to the payment address requested by the credit card company.

2 Pay The Minimum Payment Immediately

The best way to prevent paying a credit card late fee is to pay your bill as soon as it arrives. Even if you can only make the minimum payment, it's better than paying a late credit card payment. You can always make additional payments later to keep your interest costs down.

3 Change Your Due Date

Most major credit card companies allow you set your own due date by just asking. Set your due date so your credit card bill arrives right after you get paid.

4 Automatic Online Payments

Paying bills online is also another good way to avoid paying a credit card late fee. Most major credit card companies are accepting credit card payments online. Just sign up for the service on the card company's web site. Make sure to choose a payment amount that automatically covers the minimum amount due on your credit card each month. You can always make additional payments later to keep your interest costs down.

5 Make Your Payment By Phone

Most major credit card companies will accept payments by phone. Some of them will charge fees, ranging from $5 to $15 for the service. But credit card late fees cost you much more so it's better to pay the small fee than a late credit card payment fee. Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card. They will ask you for a check number and the bank routing number, which is printed at the bottom of every check.

If you do get hit with a credit card late fee, try calling the credit card company and ask if they will waive it. Many credit card companies will waive late credit card payment fees as a courtesy to customers with good payment records.

Copyright © 2005 Credit Repair All Rights Reserved.
This article is supplied by where you will find credit information, debt elimination programs and informative facts that give you the knowledge to correct your own credit and credit report. For more credit related articles like these go to:

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5 Ways To Neutralize The Dominantly Negative Co-Worker

It was the tale of two airlines, though in each case the planes carried the same insignia and the personnel were paid by the same corporate coffers.

During my first trip to Florida, I was on a flight where the attendants were noticeably cheerful, enjoying themselves, each other, and the passengers, and they seemed genuinely eager to please.

On my second trip, a few days later, a different crew was grouchy and nonverbally venomous.

All of those flight attendants seemed to be in a siege mentality, barricaded behind frowns, and eager to be offstage, as far as possible from the customers as they could get.

“What made such a difference?” I wondered, as I was strapped into my seat, observing the second crew as it went about its sorry business.

Then I noticed the most senior member of the staff was the most acerbic. He looked peevish, prickly, and totally out of sorts, and his mates, who were co-hosting the serving carts, took on his demeanor.

In fact, they seemed to be playing up to his dour personality, almost trying to outdo his displays of contempt for the passengers.

I caught myself wondering, “Could one person have such a negative impact on the whole team?"

And without hesitating, I knew the answer was “Yes.”

I was watching it happen.

In fact, sourpusses spoil lots of workplaces, but this time it was obvious because we were all confined, coexisting in a flying tube. There was no escaping the negativity.

Of course, it got me to thinking, what can we do to at least neutralize the impact of a negative personality, a venom spitter?

Here are five things that come to mind:

1 Ask them directly and quickly after observing their bad vibes: “Is everything all right with you?” Then, if they disclaim any problems, explain briefly “I just thought maybe you weren’t feeling so well because you seem so, uh, SERIOUS!”

2 Boldly walk up to them and say: “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” They’ll be baffled, temporarily, but it may be enough to bring a grin to their lips.

3 Tell them a joke.

4 Say: “You look like I feel; so cut it out! Let’s put on a happy face, shall we? The show must go on!”

5 You might offer to fill in for them for a few minutes. “You look like you could use a break, a little attitude adjustment. Can I help? Want to take a few minutes to yourself?”

Each approach gives the offender feedback as to how he’s coming across to others, and he might be oblivious to it, until you bring it up.

So, don’t suffer in silence.

By taking action you’ll do everybody a favor, including those negative people!
Best-selling author of 12 books and more than 900 articles, Dr. Gary S. Goodman is considered "The Gold Standard"--the foremost expert in sales development, customer service, and telephone effectiveness. Top-rated as a speaker, seminar leader, and consultant, his clients extend across the globe and the organizational spectrum, from the Fortune 1000 to small businesses. He can be reached at:

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Friday, January 26, 2007

5 Ways To Buy Real Estate With No Down Payment

When I got my start in the real estate investing game, it seemed very hard to learn any actual way to buy properties without any money out of my pocket. To say the least, I was discouraged. To save some of our newer members the same frustration, here are 5 tried and true "no money down" real estate investing methods.

The Owner Finance

Quite simply put, this is what happens when the owner owns the property free and clear and extends credit to you in the form of a note and mortgage. If you negotiate the owner finance correctly, you can get into the property with no money down. What's more, if you're really sharp in your negotiations, you can get a pretty nice interest rate as well. The downside of this method is that most owners simply won't do it. There are those who will, but they are a tiny minority among motivated sellers, and even a smaller minority among sellers in general. If you can negotiate an owner finance, good for you! If not, maybe one of these other methods will work better for you.

The "Blanket" Mortgage

The blanket mortgage is one of my least favorite methods, for one simple reason: benefit. The seller gets the tax benefits while the investor pays down the mortgage. In a blanket mortgage deal, you (the investor) makes payments to the property owner which exactly match the owner's mortgage/insurance payments. The owner then pays his mortgage & insurance in kind, getting all the benefits of ownership without paying in a dime. Another pitfall of this method is the possibility of a dishonest seller taking an investor's money for 3-4 months until the bank forecloses, then filing bankruptcy, thereby keeping the house and the investor's money and leaving the bank and the investor in a lurch. You can use this method, but be very careful!

The Partner / Backer

This method can be very lucrative for you and for your partner/backer. Simply, you find someone who wants to invest their cash into your deal, while you invest your time, knowledge, negotiating skills and other efforts. You can split the profit any way you like, and none of the money for a deal comes from you!

The Assumption

Some day people will write songs praising assumable real estate loans. Until then, let me give you a short background on them. An assumable loan is a loan anyone may assume as long as they meet the lender's qualifications for credit score, employment history, etc. Once upon a time the FHA and VA both offered assumable loans with NO qualifying. All you had to do to assume one of these loans was fill out a form and send the agency around $50. There are still some FHA/VA assumable loans out there, but not many. On December 1, 1986, the FHA stopped allowing non-qualifying assumptions and on February 29, 1988, the VA did the same. If you can find an FHA or VA loan issued before these dates, chances are it is still fully assumable without qualifying.

The Lease/Option

My favorite method of property acquisition, the lease/option is both wickedly simple and highly profitable - a combination most investors truly love. In a lease/option, you enter into what is basically a normal lease agreement. The only difference is in the option. An option is just what it sounds like - it's an option to buy a property at an agreed-upon price within a certain span of time. When you put them together, you end up with a rent-to-own scenario. You pay rent each month, the seller credits a certain amount of the rent toward your purchase price. If you decide to buy the property within the option period, you just give the seller a check and get the deed. If you decide not to buy the property, you've still controlled the property for that period of time. Controlling is sometimes better than owning. If you control the property, you don't pay the property taxes. You also don't pay homeowner's insurance. You don't pay renter's insurance, either - your tenant/buyer does. You collect a check once a month, send the seller his share and keep the difference. And each time you put a new tenant/buyer into your property, you collect another option consideration (which is similar to a down payment but usually smaller and 100% non-refundable). The benefits of lease/options are various and sundry, but for this article, suffice it to say it's a great way to acquire/manage real estate.

Keep in mind that this list is by no means all inclusive. There are literally hundreds of ways to buy or control real estate with none of your own money. These methods should get your creative juices flowing and help you to come up with others on your own.
David Jaymes.

5 ways to get credit-card savvy

The good thing about credit cards is that they let you make purchases when cash isn't an option. The not-so-good thing: They tempt you to impulsively charge items you don't really need. Keep in mind that every time you use a credit card, you're borrowing money. So think of credit-card debt as a high-interest loan, and consider these five smart ways to use credit cards:

SHOP AROUND With hundreds of credit cards to choose from, it's smart to shop for the best deal--a card with no annual fee and a low APR (annual percentage rate)--advises Pat Martin, a financial consultant at Ryan Martin Associates in New York. Read the fine print to see if a low APR is a promotional rate that expires after a few months and then leaps up, often dramatically, particularly if you make one late payment. If you plan to pay your bill in full each month, look for a low annual fee and a long grace period--the time between the statement date and the payment-due date in which you'll avoid finance charges. If you plan to carry a balance, go for the lowest interest rate. Also look for a low rate on cash advances. Comparison-shop at and

IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT RECORD A credit report is a snapshot of your debt-paying activity; your credit (FICO) score--a number ranging from 350 to 850--predicts whether you're a good credit risk (above 620 is considered respectable). The higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low interest rate on a credit card, car loan or mortgage. Charging near the limit or maxing out credit cards can lower your score, Martin says. Get a copy of your credit report at least yearly from the three major credit bureaus ( or [800] 685-1111; or [888] 397-3742; or [800] 916-8800) and challenge any errors. (Under a new law, by September 2005 all consumers will be able to get a free credit report.)

LIMIT YOUR NUMBER OF CARDS A wallet filled with credit cards (which represent money you owe or can borrow) may work against you when you apply for a loan or mortgage. Two or three cards are enough, Martin says. If your credit report indicates that you already owe or can access a great deal of money, potential creditors may determine that added debt could strain your ability to repay.

SWITCH BALANCES CAUTIOUSLY If you transfer your high-interest balances to a low-interest credit card, be aware that the low rate may last for only a limited time, and that many credit-card companies assess transaction fees, sometimes up to 4 percent of the amount transferred. Avoid cards that charge hefty fees, which may outweigh any savings offered by a lower interest rate. Scrutinize the application or call a company representative and ask about all charges before signing up. Once you transfer the debt, stop using the old card.

AVOID CREDIT PITFALLS Despite the benefits, there are pitfalls that accompany credit-card use: It can be costly, with some interest rates higher than 25 percent and whopping annual fees, finance charges and penalties that can jack up the purchase price. And you risk spending more than you can pay. Calculate how much you can afford to charge each month, then put your receipts in an envelope and keep a running total on the outside. Once you reach your limit, put away the plastic.


5 Ways To Stress Relief

Stress has been called 'the plague of our time'. More than ever before stress relief seems to be in great demand and especially for people in stressful jobs or careers. It would be more appropriate to ask which jobs or careers are not stress related and you would probably be able to count the number on one hand. As a self help tool for handling stressful situations in your everyday life, I'll give you 5 simple methods for instantly relieving stress that has worked great for me. I really hope these methods can be useful for you as well.

Remove stress with relaxation

If you are stressed, sit down at the most comfortable place you can find, close your eyes and say to your self slowly:

"I am calm. Absolutely calm. I feel relaxed. My hands are heavy. I'm calm and relaxed. My arms are heavy and relaxed. My arms and my legs are relaxed and heavy. My torso is relaxed, calm and feels heavy. My shoulders and neck are heavy and relaxed. My entire body is calm, relaxed and heavy. I feel great, relaxed and calm. I feel warmth spreading from my stomach to all parts of my body. My entire body is calm, relaxed, heavy and warm. I feel good and I’m totally relieved from stress. "

Continue having this feeling of being totally relaxed and stress less for as long as you can or want. When you decide to finish this down-stressing session, take a deep breath and stretch out your arms in a short and energetic movement. How do you feel now? Practice this exercise every time you feel stressed.

Sit down and look at the Sea

If you are stressed and need to relax go to the harbor, the nearest beach or any place close to the sea, or a lake if you live in the inland. Just sit there and feel it, smell it, hear it. Don't think so much, just sense. Do you feel relaxed? Keep on until you feel the stress has left you.

Take a Walk

If you are stressed leave your home or office and take a thirty minute walk. Just walk don't talk to anybody. Try to relax while you walk. Instead of thinking or focusing on your current problems, try to sense your environments like smell, sound impressions and what you see as well as your inner feelings; heart beat, your feet touching the ground and the movements of your arms. Do you feel relaxed now? After half an hour your stressful feelings should have disappeared.

Listen to Music

If you are stressed sit or lie down, walk or do whatever you want, while you are listening to music. Don't listen to heavy rock and similar music, this might invoke even more stress. Relaxing with a Nat King Cole ballad or two, some slow pace smooth Jazz, the Adagietto movement of Gustav Mahlers 5th symphony or Mozart's Grand Partita for wind instruments are all great. Do you feel more relaxed? Is your stressfulness leaving you? It should.

Laugh, laugh and laugh

If you are stressed, call or visit friends that you have had much fun with. Talk with them about funny things you have done in the past and as they the youngsters say, “Get your laugh on”. Do all you can to provoke good and healthy laughter as it is very relaxing and dissolves the away the stress. Read a joke magazine, watch a comedy DVD or video or listen to a funny audio. If you have kids around you, play a crazy and childish game with them, they love it and everybody will relax. The point is, laugh and your stress will disappear and you'll feel relaxed.


9 Ways To Avoid Credit Card Pitfalls

1. Be aware that the card issuer has a great deal of leeway. They reserve the right to change the terms of your card, including the APR (annual percentage rate), at any time, for any reason—with as little as 15 days notice. So check your monthly statement carefully.

2. Even if you make your credit-card payments on time, the bank can raise your interest rate automatically if you're late on any other payment elsewhere (such as a water or heating bill, or an outstanding charge on any other account). This is called "universal default."

3. Your credit score—commonly referred to as the FICO score—has become a vital statistic for Americans seeking credit, and can be widely shared. Even if you don't think you have a credit problem, numerous studies—including one by the General Accounting Office—indicate that 70 percent of credit reports have some sort of error! Check your credit report at least once a year—since your credit report is the basis of your all-important credit score, you want it to reflect your true credit history. A free resource:

4. There is no limit on the fee a credit-card company can charge a cardholder for being even an hour late with a payment. That's due to a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Smiley v. Citibank) that lifted the existing restrictions on late penalty fees. Today, $30 is the most common late fee, according to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Ten years ago, that number was $13.

5. There is no federal limit on the interest rate a credit-card company can charge. Take a look at your credit-card statement. Most likely, the return address is located in a states where state governments have weak "usury laws." These usury laws determine whether or not there is a cap on the amount of interest that can be charged on a loan.

6. It's possible to negotiate better terms if your interest rates change or you have received a penalty fee. Always call your card issuer to try to negotiate these terms.

7. Most lenders like a debt payments-to-income ratio with not more than 36 percent of a consumer's gross income, according to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas. In other words, for every $1,000 of income, don't have more than $360 going to pay debts. If you exceed this ratio and want more credit or a better interest rate, you'll have to reduce your debt or increase your income.

8. Specialty cards and department-store cards usually have higher interest rates than general-purpose cards like Visa or MasterCard. While they may save you 10 percent on your first purchase, you'll likely end up paying for it in the long run.

9. One late payment can result in a significant drop in your credit score—of up to 100 points—so pay on time every time. A drop in your credit score of just 50 points can mean you pay $100 more a month in your mortgage payment.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

5 Ways to Stay Motivated in Your Work at Home Business

Whether you're just starting out with your work at home business or you've had a home business for many years, you'll need to stay motivated if you're going to see continual success. Everyone goes through a home business slump occasionally, but it's those who stay motivated who will reach their goals. Here are five simple ways you can stay motivated in your work at home business.

1. Work from a List

Create a daily, weekly and even monthly list of things to do in your business. This sounds so simple, but yet a "to do" list is a powerful tool in helping you accomplish home business tasks. Prioritize your list each day so you can do those things that are most important first. If you have tasks that you absolutely dread, then put those tasks at the very top of the list if possible. This will give you a free mind for the remainder of the day to concentrate on the tasks you enjoy.

A list can consist of many things, from promotion steps to phone calls to make, and even a stack of papers that must be organized on your desk. Most successful business people create a list and then check off items as they are completed. This gives a sense of accomplishment throughout the day as you complete tasks.

2. Search for New Opportunities during Slow Business Times

Having a slow time in your work at home business? Don't despair. And, whatever you do, don't go apply for a job at the local fast food chain - just yet! Stay motivated by seeking out other home business opportunities that may tie into your current business.

Perhaps you offer a product or service that sells very slowly during the spring months. You could seek out related products or services that would be popular during those months to offset the other in profits. This will give you a chance to make money and enjoy multiple streams of income year round!

3. Take an Online Training Course for Better Education

Educate yourself through online training courses related to your field so you can learn how to maximize your skills and profits. There are many training courses available online today in the fields of web design, graphic design, online marketing, real estate, travel, office skills, medical, insurance, and finance.

With online training, you choose only those courses that will benefit you and your work at home business. You can usually take the courses at your own leisure from home, and will pay far less than you would for a college course.

4. Expand Marketing Avenues

Don't settle for less. Use the wisdom and experience of others who have been in business a while to expand your marketing avenues. You might consider reading after top marketers to get Internet marketing ideas. Also, there are many ways to promote your work at home business off-line.

To stay motivated, always test your efforts to see what results they bring. This is far more exciting than paying for ads and never knowing if they work or not!

5. Network with Others

Another way to stay motivated during a business slump is to network with others. Find others in related fields who can offer advice and encouragement about your business. A work at home business can be lonely at times because you never leave the house! Finding others online and off-line who do the same thing will give you an outlet for those lonely days.

Use these tips to stay motivated in your work at home business. You deserve success, so don't give up!

Article Source:

15 Easy Ways To Keep Your Speaking Inspiring and Creative

When stressed or blocked it is wise to make a change so that we don't stay in that place. Yet, many times we forget some of the simple things that we can do for ourselves, quickly and easily to bring our inspiration back and increase our creativity.

1. If you usually type your speech first, hand write them.Nothing compares to seeing the ink mesh into the paper and display what you created.

2.If you spend too much time at the computer, take a break every hour. Go for a walk or just sit outside in the sun.Even five minutes in a winter sun does wonders for a mood and creativity.

3.Flip through magazines or books. Their colors and ideas will give you sparks and switch your attitude. Blue and green can reduce your stress levels by 30% or more.

4.Add strong smells to the room. Light scented candles around you, visit the fruit isle at the grocery store, or go to a store that is heavily scented. Find an orange or strawberries and smell it. Both will change a mood or create inspiration. Smells awaken your creativity. Smell strigger memories and are a great method to rekindle stories from the past.

5.Go see or rent an inspirational movie. Relaxation time is important. Watch the movie with a notebook and record inspiring phases or ideas that pop in.

6.Read a book on the topic that stirs and sparks your creativity. Poetry can do the same.

7.Look at bold and bright colors for a few minutes. These change your mood.

8.Talk with a friend about your topic to flesh out ideas,titles, and content. Tape-record the conversation so you don't miss anything. You would be surprised at how much we think we hear and how we actually do.

9.Write an email to a friend to tell him or her what you want to accomplish. If you are stuck, say so and ask for help.

10.Check in with your vibrational energy and do something to switch it into high gear. Take a shower. Go for a walk or dance naked in the moonlight.

11.Hire someone to transcribe your recording so that you can stay focused on the creative end of the speaking.

12.Authentic, flat-out, raw laughter frees the psyche and opens the creativity process.

13.Find a setting with lots of trees and flowers and feel nature. If the weather permits, take off your shoes and socks and feel the grass between your toes. Nature has away of freeing our spirit to let the flow out of our best material.

14.If you are used to practicingyour speak in a quiet place, create noise and practice. You will learn to speak with distractions.

15.Go for a quiet leisurely drive and practice your vowel soutlook expand your voice range

10 Ways to Quit Smoking Forever

Quitting is big business, and there's an endless array of ways to spend money on kicking the habit. Smokers spend about $2,400 per year on cigarettes, so, while some of the products and therapies are expensive, they are still less expensive than a life-long smoking habit. As with all programs, each person is different, so everyone will respond to a program in a different way. Giving up smoking is like giving up a neurotic relationship. Ultimately there comes a day when the decision is made, only to return to what you know is bad for you. Premature wrinkles and yellow teeth don't deter smokers - so, how do you quit? Here are some of the most popular program today.

Many people try to quit cold turkey. It's the easiest method to begin. Simply stop smoking and resolve -through willpower alone - to never take another puff. The success rate is about 3-5% because most smokers are not prepared to take on both sides of quitting: intense withdrawal cravings and smoking habits. If you have had a difficult time trying to quit in the past, studies show you should consider trying an assisted quit method

The patch is KING! In clinical trials, nicotine replacement therapy was shown to double a person's chances of quitting. The patch functions by transdermally (topically) feeding the body nicotine at a continuous and regulated pace over a 24-hour period, controlling the body's physical addiction which allows a smoker to sever the mental reliance on tobacco. The total cost of Nicoderm is $270 for the 10week therapy. There are normally no adverse reactions, but side effects can include irregular heartbeat, rashes, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and weakness.

Grass Roots "Smoke No More" is an herbal tincture. This option is popular because of the "oral fixation" so often associated with smoking. Whenever a smoker has a craving, the Smoke No More drops are placed under the tongue and held there until its absorbed. According to the creators, the tincture works based on healing the connection of mind, body and spirit. Relaxing the mind staves off cravings. And the absence of tobacco detoxifies the system. Reports claim that the drops are horrible tasting and burn immediately upon using. Side effects include quesiness, making the user less interested in both smoking AND eating, but it is something to do with the mouth. Smoke No More can be purchased for about $22 at herbal stores.

If you'd like to try acupuncture, don't confuse the National Board Certified or Licensed Acupuncturist with Certified Acupnucturist. The latter is a doctor or dentist who has completed only 300 hours of course work. These types are great for physical injury but are less equipped to handle internal problems. According to this Chinese tradition, inserting needles in certain points on the body will draw energy to that point and then redirect it to the area of concern. This allows the body to heal itself. For addictions such as smoking, the three points that correspond to the liver, kidneys and sympathetic nervous system are targeted and, by detoxifying the body, the cravings for nicotine are reduced and there is an increase in the flow of energy into the body. While peaceful and stimulating at the same time, for a half-hour treatment one can expect to spend $75 for the first treatment and $55 for subsequent treatments. Over a series of 20 treatments, although acupuncture is not a miracle cure, the experts guarantee the results.

Many people find the support and encouragement of counseling or group treatment helpful. Counseling can help smokers identify and overcome situations that trigger the urge to smoke. Research shows the success rates for all quit methods are higher when coupled with ready access to support. For help with your quitting effort, consider selecting a program that is at least four to eight weeks in length. The programs that work best provide plenty of encouragement and weekly one-on-one meetings with a counselor.

Deciding to do an in-home hypnosis program like Dr. Walton's or employing the services of an certified hypnotist, stimulating the occurrence of deep focus and relaxation means making yourself vulnerable to someone else. By filling out an extensive questionnaire to determine one's particular smoking habits, motivations and patterns, the hypnotist can use the subjects brain to "reprogramm" the cravings. Self-affirming phrases like "I don't want to smoke" and "I don't need to smoke" are used to convince the brain that what it has been told during hypnosis is factual, therefore allowing the body to "ignore" the need to smoke. The National Institute for Mental Health reports that 80% of smokers who use this method successfully quit smoking; it's the longest lasting form of therapy on the market. For this service, expect to do sessions again and spend $75/hour to drop your average addiction.

CHANTIX is a pill that is different from other ways to quit. It contains no nicotine but works on the same receptors as nicotine. And it's the addiction to nicotine inhaled from smoking that makes quitting so hard.
Ciga-Rest is also a pill designed to help smokers overcome the urge to smoke whenever and where ever it strikes.

Smoking cessation prescription medications are clinically proven to help smokers.

There are also the fun ones that let you think you're actually having a cigarette! E-Z QUIT is a smokeless cigarette substitute that fills your need to do something with your hands and mouth, and to inhale deeply. Smokers can use E-Z QUIT by itself or together with any other quit smoking method.

While unpleasant in any form, quitting smoking can be devastating. Most relapse and then crawl back on the wagon without successfully giving up. Picking and sticking to one of these methods is the best way to ultimately increase health and rid the body of cravings all together.

Top 15 Ways to Stop Smoking

10 Ways to Quit Smoking - by Kevin Dark

7 Successful Ways to Quit Smoking


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

15 ways for successful family life

The family life is like a heaven as per Vedas (divine sacred books). Family is the foundation for the well being of the society. If every home has to become a heaven- the wife and husband should observe certain norms.

How to turn your home into a heaven:

1. They should be righteous and behave lovely.

2. They should behave courteously with each other.

3. Wife and husband are like two wheels of a cart. Unless the wheels move coordinately, the cart can not move smoothly.

4. Their mind should be pure and blameless.

5. Their character and conduct should be perfect.

6. They should be honest and have good consciousness.

7. There should be discussions in their homes on spirituality and knowledge. Children keenly observe the behavior of their parents from their childhood.

8. They should not be separated. They should not think about taking divorce. They should support each other through thick and thin.

9. Both should feel happiness and get mental peace by their good behavior.

10. Husband should cooperate with the wife in keeping house clean. As is wife; so is their house.

11. They should be like parrots (i.e. move together and live together).

12. If there is no love and attachment in that house- the house is like a hell. Parents are the first teachers and the teachers are the second parents to their children.

13. Devotion towards GOD and Almighty is highly necessary in parents. The devotion towards GOD should become hereditary in that family. Strong belief in the existence of GOD does not allow the parents to commit wrong doings.

14. They should show keen interest in charitable activities depending upon their economical capacity.

15. The home= the house+ happiness. Otherwise it is a building with four walls. The heaven and the hell are not at far away places. They are in and around our home. We are the chief architects of our heaven and hell with egos and bad character.


Top 3 Ways In Which You Can Optimize The Use Of Bodyweight Exercise

Bodyweight exercise is the best place to begin when starting a physical fitness training program, should be added to programs that otherwise neglect bodyweight exercise and should be diversified with resistance training for programs that use bodyweight exercise exclusively.

Some people love bodyweight exercise and some people hate it... similarly, some people think bodyweight exercise is valuable to a physical fitness training program, and others don't.

I believe that bodyweight exercise is not only the best method to start a physical fitness training program... but I believe that it should remain an active part of any well balance physical training program.

Let's look at bodyweight exercise from three different perspectives... from the beginner just getting started, from the experienced weight lifter that neglects bodyweight exercise and from the bodyweight exercise only crowd.

1. Bodyweight Exercise For Beginners

Most commercial gyms will prescribe an exercise regimen of strength training, usually in the form of machines, and cardiorespiratory endurance training, normally in the form of stationary "cardio" equipment.

This is a generalization of course... but these two types of training are the predominant forms of physical training in most gyms, regardless of how they are put together.

Notice... bodyweight exercise is missing.

Answer me this... should a beginner with no prior experience with physical training start by jumping right into resistance training with free weights or machines, or would they be better served by learning more about the movement of their bodies by using bodyweight exercise?

Physical training allows you to improve the body by supplying increased stimulus that is not normally found in your daily lifestyle.

For the beginner, bodyweight exercise is the logical place to start... because most beginners are actually going from a state of complete inactivity to a state of activity.

The beginner has not even scraped the surface of what their body can perform without resistance... and should therefore strive to make improvements using bodyweight exercise first.

Once the beginner has made sufficient gains and reached an improved state with bodyweight exercise... then they can add resistance.

2. Bodyweight Exercise For The Experienced Weight Lifter

Many people with a great deal of experience and expertise in physical training completely neglect bodyweight exercise... or believe it to be ineffective.

They notoriously use all types of resistance training methods... while neglecting bodyweight exercise all together.

I propose that the goal of any physical fitness training program is to improve performance that can be used to meet the challenges of sport, work and life with excellence.

Many of those challenges will be met by the effective control and movement of your own body... and not the movement of other objects through space.

And what is the best way to train the improvement of body movement and control of your own body... that's right, bodyweight exercise.

Here is an example...

Many people that have trouble doing a push up will focus on the bench press with hopes of improving their push up numbers... with limited results.

If you want to be able to do more push ups... do more push ups!

The point is this, the improvements you will see from physical training are specific... so if you want to see improvements in a bodyweight movement, use bodyweight exercise to do so.

3. Bodyweight Exercise For The Bodyweight Only Crowd

As you can already tell, I am a strong advocate of bodyweight exercise... but not exclusively.

There are various physical fitness training programs that use bodyweight exercise almost exclusively... like Yoga or Pilates.

While I have no problem with these forms of training... I believe they can take you only so far on the road to physical fitness excellence.

We must remember... Yoga exercises are performed in conjunction with meditation and Pilates was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation for war veterans.

The point is this... bodyweight exercise only programs will only take you so far, and then some form of resistance training must be applied to see further improvement.

In Conclusion...

Bodyweight exercise is an important part of any well balanced physical fitness training program.

If you are just getting started... bodyweight exercise is the perfect place to start.

If you have notoriously neglected bodyweight exercise in your training... add it to improve the physical abilities you have been neglecting.

If you only use bodyweight exercise... diversify your fitness training program by adding some form of resistance training.

In this way, each group can optimize the use of bodyweight exercise.

Do not underestimate the importance of bodyweight exercise... Use it effectively and in the right proportion to meet your goals, needs, abilities and limitations and meet the challenges of sport, work and life with excellence.

Best Bodyweight Exercise

10 ways to get the most pay out of your job

A lot of people assume that more pay can come only from winning a promotion, or finding a new job elsewhere. But there are ways, large and small, to put more money in your pocket each week. Separately, these strategies may not be enough to change your life. But put several together, and they start adding up.

"It's nickels and dimes that can get you to a dollar," says Alan Johnson, managing director of Johnson & Associates, a New York pay consultant. "A thousand here and there can add up to real money."

Here are 10 tips from compensation experts, human-resources managers and employees on how to beef up your pay.


You may work harder than the people around you, but your annual raise and bonus award may still be lower than theirs. That's because your co-workers are getting more of the right things done than you and making sure their boss is aware of it.

"To say it concisely, the main way to increase your paycheck is to do a good job and make sure the right people know about it," says Craig Schneier, executive vice president, human resources, for Biogen Idec Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., pharmaceutical company.

The best performers received raises averaging 9.9 percent in 2005, compared with 3.6 percent for average performers and 1.3 percent for poor performers, according to a survey by Hewitt Associates, a consulting firm in Lincolnshire, Ill. Thanks to compounding, those differences translate into a lot of money over time.

Hewitt offers the example of three hypothetical employees, each hired in 2001 at a salary of $50,000. They then received salary increases related to their performance. After five years, the poor performer earns $52,807, the average performer makes $57,821, and the top performer earns $72,078. (Hewitt calculated the final salaries based on actual increases for the three types of performance since 2001.)

What's more, don't assume you know what your manager expects, and don't be afraid to ask. You must understand exactly what he or she thinks is outstanding performance in your position, says Laury Sejen, practice director of strategic rewards for Watson Wyatt, a global compensation consulting firm.

Have two meetings with your manager, she advises. At the first, ask how you can earn the maximum amount of pay over time at your company. This can tell you what career goals to shoot for. At the second, ask how you can receive the highest salary increase.

"Some organizations struggle to set objectives," says Ms. Sejen. "You can take the responsibility to have it clarified."

Write down what you both agreed to and give your boss a copy, says Steve Gross, head of rewards consulting in Philadelphia for Mercer HR Consulting. At the end of the year, you can use this list to discuss how well you performed against your goals.

"Now you both have a scorecard for the performance review, which makes it easier for your boss to recognize your performance," Mr. Gross says.

You don't have to brag to get a top-dollar raise. Simply citing your accomplishments will set you apart "because a lot of people don't take the time to do it," says Paul Dorf, managing director of Compensation Resources Inc., an Upper Saddle River, N.J., consulting firm. He adds that if you have no significant contributions to list, "you probably shouldn't be seeking more money."


Having a bonus tied to performance goals and hitting them can get you more money annually. More than 95 percent of companies offer a chance to earn annual bonuses to executives, while 80 percent offer them to managers, 68 percent have plans for professionals and 54 percent award them to clerical and technical workers, according to Mercer HR.

Target bonus awards vary by industry and company type, but a typical bonus for an employee earning $50,000 might be 10 percent of salary, while someone earning $75,000 in salary might have a 15 percent target bonus and a $100,000-a-year employee might have a 20 percent target, Hewitt reports.

The key to receiving more bonus money is superior performance. If you meet your goals, you should receive your target bonus amount. But at some companies, if you exceed the targets set for you, you may receive an award that exceeds your target bonus. At Biogen Idec, for instance, high-performing employees can receive up to 200 percent of their target bonus amount, says Mr. Schneier.

In the mid-1990s, Eric Herzog was director of marketing for a computer-hardware-storage company in Silicon Valley that paid its senior executives salaries only. Mr. Herzog says he wanted the potential to earn more money, so he told the chief executive officer that the company might be more successful if it created an annual bonus plan for executives that was tied to revenue and profit goals.

He explained that every executive had the ability to influence profits and that the plan could be designed so that bonus awards would be distributed only if the company made more money. Having all six of the company's executives in the plan was key, because then they would aim toward common goals, Mr. Herzog says he told the CEO.

The CEO agreed and created a bonus plan tied to revenue and profit objectives. "We hit the goals, and I received 20 percent over my base pay," says Mr. Herzog, now a vice president of product management, channel marketing and communications for Maxtor Corp., a computer-hardware-storage company in Scotts Valley, Calif.

It's hard to increase the size of your target bonus once you've accepted a job. But when negotiating with a new employer, you might be able to swap a higher salary for a larger target award amount, Ms. Sejen says. Suppose the employer offers you a $100,000 salary and a target bonus of 10 percent of salary. You could counteroffer that you'd take a $95,000 salary if your bonus-award target was 20 percent of it. Your annual target pay then would be $114,000 instead of $110,000. "An employer might be willing to change the pay mix," Ms. Sejen says.


Executives who are skilled at running their companies often aren't so skilled at managing their own finances. Many could benefit from financial counseling so they know what to do with their stock options, restricted stock plans and other long-term incentives, says Mr. Dorf of Compensation Resources.

"Most executives, if pushed, would say they are financially challenged when it comes to doing their own deals and could use a financial counselor to advise them," he says.

One little-known Internal Revenue Service regulation allows executives to pay tax on the value of restricted stock when they receive their grants. This may help lower capital-gains taxes when you sell the stock.

A counselor can also help you determine when it's most beneficial to exercise stock options and whether to do so with cash or trade stock you already own. Using appreciated stock to exercise options may be better than using cash, because you reduce your taxable gain on the existing shares, notes Mr. Dorf.

"I estimate that 75 percent of the executives I know do not know what they earn from year to year because it's coming from so many sources," Mr. Dorf says. "They could be smarter about it."


Many employers pay one-time bonuses to employees who bring in new business or refer candidates for hard-to-fill company jobs.

After taking a break from the work force, Deirdre Carey joined Kel & Partners, a Westborough, Mass., marketing-services company, as director of client services last year, accepting a salary that was lower than her prior pay. After her employer offered all employees a 15 percent commission for landing new clients, Ms. Carey brought in a $10,000-a-month account, garnering a $1,500-a-month salary increase for 12 months, or $18,000 total. "I'm already starting to work on some other new business," she says.

Company owner Kel Kelly says six of the firm's 15 employees also have earned the commissions.

Special bonuses also may be awarded to employees who accomplish something that's unusual for their positions. Companies often call these "spot" awards, and about two-thirds of U.S. employers offer them, according to Mercer HR.

Typically, a pool of money is set aside annually to allow managers to give out spot awards at their discretion. The amount awarded might range from $100 to six figures, although some companies give gift certificates or other noncash items, says Mr. Gross.

So, find out whether your company has a spot-award program. If it does, learn what your manager thinks it takes to get one. Mr. Gross says that at a previous employer, he gave his secretary a $1,000 bonus for bringing in a new client, which he viewed as exceptional behavior for someone in her role. "It's the event based on the expectations for that person," Mr. Gross says.


Taking home a bigger paycheck may be as simple as having less tax withheld. One sign that your current deduction is too high is getting a big refund from Uncle Sam on April 15, says Tim Jones, vice president, global human resources, for IXIA, a Calabasas, Calif., technology manufacturer.

Your goal is to have your company deduct only what you will owe the government. "Otherwise you are loaning money to Uncle Sam," says Mr. Jones.

Unless you say otherwise, your federal withholding filing class determines your state filing class. You can change either anytime by visiting your human-resources department.

Be careful not to have too little money withheld, or the IRS may fine you, says Art Kaufman, a tax accountant in Monmouth Junction, N.J. The IRS requires at least 90 percent of your upcoming tax bill to be deducted, he notes. (The IRS offers a withholding calculator at

After joining the Abelson Group, a New York-based public-relations firm, four months ago, account director Liz Erik asked a professional to do a tax projection to determine how much she should have taken out for taxes. She changed her election and now receives $150 more per pay period, or $300 more a month, than when she started.


Many employers will match the amount you contribute to a 401(k) retirement savings account, up to a certain level. The company's matching amount might be, say, half of your contributions up to 6 percent of your salary. At minimum, employees should contribute enough money to get the maximum free matching money, Mr. Jones says.

While having money deducted for a retirement account reduces the size of your paycheck, the free money and the tax-free account growth will pay off. Still, only about 75 percent of eligible employees participate in their companies' 401(k) plans, reports Hewitt Associates.

At Biogen Idec, for instance, not all employees are in the 401(k) plan, even though the company offers a 2-for-1 match on employee contributions up to 3 percent of their earnings, says Mr. Schneier. He declined to disclose the percentage of employees who don't participate.

Discount stock-purchase plans that allow employees to buy company stock for less than the fair market price also translate into free money. Typically, employees receive a 15 percent discount on the stock's trading value, which means that unless they are required to hold the stock for a few months, they can sell it immediately and receive the gain.


Many companies offer employees flexible-spending accounts that can be used to pay for commuting, health-care and child-care costs with pretax income. The enrollment period, when employees sign up for the accounts and say how much they want deducted from their pay, usually occurs in the fall. Employees receive the untaxed money after submitting their expenses to their companies or a third-party administrator.

The potential for savings is significant. An average employee might owe 28 percent in federal, state and Social Security taxes, says Craig Copeland, a senior researcher for the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington. Such workers would have to earn about $14 of taxable income to cover a $10 expense. By having a fund of pretax money, they can keep the $4 that would go for taxes.

The more money you can set aside, the greater the saving. For instance, an employee who has $5,000 in pretax income deducted to pay medical or child-care bills would save $1,400, he notes.

But it's important to know that you'll forfeit any unused funds, so you have to be careful when deciding how much to have withheld. Participating also means less take-home pay initially. Employees benefit at tax time because their federal taxable income is lowered by the deducted amount.

Cathy Summers, an account director for Shift Communications LLC in San Francisco, has $1,500 deducted annually to cover parking and daily commuting cost from Walnut Creek to the city's downtown financial district; $2,000 taken out for medical expenses; and 5,000 for child-care costs. When she submits receipts, the expense reimbursements are automatically deposited in her bank account.

She estimates that she realizes about $200 in extra income monthly due to the plans. "As a single mom raising a 5-year-old son," she says. "I'm always looking for ways to stretch my dollars."


You may be able to boost your salary outside of annual salary increases just by taking on more responsibility or being assigned to a department where employees doing the same thing are paid more.

Or, if you're a valued worker and the market suddenly heats up for people with your skills, the company may want to raise your pay to ensure it retains you. This was the case with information-technology employees for a few years beginning in the late 1990s.

"The outside world was moving so quickly that some companies were giving IT workers raises every six months," Mr. Gross says.

Such salary adjustments are akin to getting a promotion-based increase without the promotion, says Ms. Sejen. Companies set aside funds every year for this purpose, but employees must have justification for receiving unscheduled raises, she says.

Following a downsizing at his former employer, a technology-consulting firm, Derek Messulam met with the company's CEO, who said two remaining units were going to be merged into a group Mr. Messulam already managed.

One of the firm's youngest vice presidents, Mr. Messulam knew through the grapevine that he was underpaid relative to his peers and that in light of the increased responsibilities, he could expect a pay review and a possible increase.

He decided to see if he could squeeze a larger raise than the company may have been planning by taking an unconventional approach. When he sat down with the human-resources manager, he told them he didn't want a raise. This prompted concerns that he might be leaving, Mr. Messulam says. "The result was to shift the negotiation from a conversation centered on money to a passionate discussion of the great things the management team would accomplish," he says.

The company then designed new objectives for his role and offered Mr. Messulam a larger salary and bonus. "I was extremely satisfied," says Mr. Messulam, now a vice president at GE Capital Solutions, a unit of General Electric Co. in Danbury, Conn.


Lowering a company expense can sometimes translate into a larger paycheck. This is the case for employees who are paid to "opt out" of company medical-benefits plans because another family member provides coverage for them. The size of the payments usually varies depending on whether your health insurance was for a single person, couple or family. Your salary also will grow if you no longer have health insurance co-payments deducted.

You also might have grounds for a higher salary during initial pay negotiations by offering to forgo health benefits. Debbie Veney Robinson, a communications vice president with Communities in School Inc., an Alexandria, Va., nonprofit that helps kids stay in school, negotiated a $10,000 salary increase by offering to do without health benefits when she accepted her job in 2005. Ms. Robinson receives health-insurance benefits through her husband's plan.

"I said I would save them a lot of money now and in the future by not taking health benefits," says Ms. Robinson. "This allowed them to afford me and me to bump up my compensation a bit."


Some employees don't take advantage of a plethora of benefits and freebies available from their employers, says Mr. Johnson, the pay consultant. "Read the manual where it tells you all these things," he says. "A lot of people have no idea what a company will or won't pay for."

Tuition reimbursement is offered at 85 percent of companies, while 30 percent match education or other charitable donations, according to Mercer HR. You may not have to take courses in your field to get reimbursed for educational expenses.

Some companies subsidize gym memberships. Nearly one-fourth allow employees to purchase products at a discount, while 19 percent offer discounts on movie or theme-park tickets and other entertainment events, Hewitt reports.

"You don't pay attention to those things until you are standing in line at Great Adventure," Mr. Johnson says, "and it's going to cost you $99 for each member of your family."


8 Good ways to exercise your brain

8 ways to exercise your brain

There are some aspects of aging, such as gray hair, that Laura Bestler-Wilcox can accept.

Mental decline is not one of them.

"I'm only 38, but I have no intention of growing old - mentally, at least," said Bestler-Wilcox, from Ames.

She started playing Nintendo's Brain Age game last month, and says it helps keep her brain active. The goal is to score the ideal "brain age" of 20, which you achieve by doing a range of exercises - from math problems and counting the number of syllables in words, to reading aloud and Sudoku.

"I do math better," said Bestler-Wilcox, who plays the game every other day for about 20 minutes. "It's like doing exercises for different parts of your body. This is exercising your brain."

Staying mentally fit is a hot topic - from new research touting the benefits of mental exercises, to seminars on maintaining your brain health done by AARP and the Alzheimer's Association.

Two new studies, one done in Des Moines, show that brain workouts are beneficial for mental health, and can help improve brain function.

Brain health is an important issue among America's approximately 78 million baby boomers. The AARP Web site includes tips for a healthy brain, as well as brain puzzles. The organization conducted about 30 presentations nationwide on brain health last year, said Michael Patterson, manager of AARP's "Staying Sharp" program.

"People seem to be more willing to put up with physical decline, more than mental decline," Patterson said.

Here are eight ways people of all ages can keep mentally sharp.


Brain games may help improve mental function, and could possibly help prevent dementia.

That's according to a six-month pilot study in Des Moines that included Alzheimer's patients.

Participants used the "Happy Neuron" software (, said geriatrician Dr. Robert Bender, who led the research team. The activities targeted language, visual-spatial and memorization skills.

The findings were released earlier this month.

The games seem to help overall brain health, said Bender, medical director of the Orr Center for Memory and Healthy Aging in West Des Moines. Researchers don't know yet whether doing the exercises can definitely prevent diseases like Alzheimer's.

"The challenge is to stretch yourself, at the same time without making it frustrating," Bender said. "At all ages, we need to challenge our brain to learn new things, and that's the main thing."

The study's "brain wellness program" also included: consistent social interaction, physical exercise, a low-fat diet, stress management and meditation.

Caregivers also participated in the study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Brain training can help ease daily tasks. Seniors who did certain mental exercises improved their thinking skills, according to a recent study.

They also had an easier time performing everyday tasks, even five years after receiving training, compared to untrained people.

The difference was significant for people who had reasoning training, said Michael Marsiske, one of the principal investigators of the study.

The study included 2,802 adults age 65 and older who were living independently and had normal brain function.

The training exercises included:

- Memory: To help people memorize word lists, one method was to organize a grocery list by the sections of the store, said Marsiske, an associate professor in the department of clinical health and psychology at the University of Florida.

- Visualization: Use all your senses to remember things. For example, if you need to remember a dog's name, visualize what the dog's fur feels like, recall the sound of its bark, and, yes, try to re-create its smell.

- Reasoning: Participants learned to use highlighters to identify key points in complicated information. That included underlining important information like dosage and frequency on a medication.


Don Eller of Urbandale says he stays sharp by volunteering to do people's taxes as part of a program run by AARP.

"In preparation to do that, there are tax classes you attend," said Eller, 76. "So you are continuing working with numbers and math concepts."

During the off-season, he likes to play Sudoku online. He also tries to take daily walks, and on most days walks about three miles.

Marsiske recommends taxpayers take a crack at those pesky forms and complicated columns of numbers before handing them off to professionals. It's just one way to flex your mental brawn.

"That's where you're engaging your mental activity," Marsiske said.

Another simple numbers tip: Figure out the calculations yourself, first, before breaking out the calculator.


There's a whole new body of research showing that individuals with a lot of education, highly challenging jobs, and who are very socially engaged have the highest levels of mental function and the lowest levels of decline later in life, Marsiske said.

"If we do things to produce healthy brains early in life, then we will benefit from that later in life," he said.


Keep track of your passwords - without the help of your computer. This is Marsiske's trick: "I never let my computer remember any passwords," he said. He writes them down in a hidden spot, in a hidden code. "What I want to do is engage in that act of having to remember."


Remember that you want to find activities that test your mental mettle. One danger with crossword puzzles, Bender said, is that people who regularly do them may already be familiar with the vocabulary. Avoid slipping into the familiar, and try something new.


Translation: Learn Spanish, or another new language or mechanical skill. "It's important to find things that we enjoy because that lowers stress and that helps the brain work better," Bender said.


What's good for the body is good for the brain. More research is confirming that exercise, diet, a healthy lifestyle and getting an adequate amount of sleep not only keep you physically healthy, but also mentally, Marsiske said.


50 Ways to Take Notes

I am constantly writing notes. Whether it be for my blog, work, meeting, new ideas, or just basic notes, I am always jotting something down. So I started thinking about all the services I’ve used for taking notes and thought it would be a good idea to share them with you and while I’m at it, to make a list of any others that I find. Now, when it comes to note taking, I personally look for quick and simple. If I have something on my mind, I don’t want to go through some advanced system and climb a mountain just to save a note for myself. There won’t be all the note taking tools out there on my list, but ones that I feel get the job done well.

Quick Public Pages
Using a quick public page service, as I call it, is my favorite method of saving notes on the go. Some are simply a text field on a page that you fill and in click save, others allow you to record notes to a service directly through Instant Messaging with AIM, and some are full planners for creating well outlined documents.

  • ShortText - Fill in your text, click save, and you’ve got yourself a permanent url to a text note. Includes private pages as well.
  • YourDraft - Create and share content using a rich text editor (WYSIWYG) instantly without registration.
  • - The Internet Clipboard. Copy and paste between computers.
  • Sabifoo - (Personal favorite) Simply use an Instant Message client (ie: AIM), message “sabifoo”, and your message is recorded online to a permanent link and RSS feed.
  • Deusto - A new service for the creation of small web pages (digital books) in a simple and fast manner.
  • Backpack - Organize to do lists, notes, images, photos and share.
  • BareWiki - Build your own website and easily allow others to edit it.
  • Infogami - Build good-looking, easily-editable web sites.
  • Zoho Planner - An online organizer to Plan & Organize yourself.
  • Change To Link - Easily create a page of information to bookmark or share with friends.
  • PasteHere - Make pastes from screenshots of your desktop, code from your clipboard, or any other image/text. Pages last for 15 days unregistered user / 30 days registered user.

Basic Note Taking
Quick public pages aren’t really made for note-taking, although they work really well for it. Here are a few services and applications that are meant for note taking.

  • Pianist - Simple memo manager helping you save your ideas.
  • JotCloud - Jot down notes in a cloud of sticky notes online.
  • Web Note - Quickly takes notes with an online post-it like interface.
  • Performancing Firefox - Meant for blogging, although it has a section for saving notes and drafts that works rather well.
  • Forty Internet Notebook - (Note: Service sadly may not be live much longer) Simple and categorized place for you to keep notes saved hierarchically.
  • Backpack - Organize to do lists, notes, images, photos and share.
  • JotSpot Live - JotSpot Live allows you, your colleagues or clients to take notes together on the same web page at the same time.
  • TaskToy - More for to-do lists, but also features searchable notes and memos.
  • Zoho Planner - An online organizer to Plan & Organize yourself.
  • Campfire - Although meant for chatting, Campfire also works great for taking notes! Read this How-To.
  • SyncNotes - “Your notes. Anywhere. Anyhow.”
  • Yahoo! Notepad - Yahoo! Notepad is very simple, especially when using this handy Notepad Bookmarklet.
  • Google Desktop Scratch Pad - Although Scratch Pad requires the Google Desktop software, I find myself using this little plugin all the time. Just type and it saves automatically.

I’m a programmer and when I’ve got an idea on my mind for a script or code snippet, I want to get it down ASAP. I find that collaborative programming services, like Pastebin, or just a service that lets you save a script and share works perfectly. These are like quick public pages, but for programmers.

  • Pastebin - Collaborate on debugging code snippets and receive permanent links to code snippets.
  • TNX - “Simple web service for temporary text storage. A unique URL is generated, that can be easily pasted in a message, but is hard to guess.”
  • TextSnippets - Public source code repository in that you can tag and categorize code. You may also set snippets as private.
  • PasteHere - Make pastes from screenshots of your desktop, code from your clipboard, or any other image/text. Pages last for 15 days unregistered user / 30 days registered user.
  • Nopaste - Pastebin with Syntax Highlighting for PHP Programming.

Online Documents
I found that there are times that simple text notes just don’t always fit my needs. There may be a note or part of a document that I need to save with text formatting, colors, and headings, but most note-taking services are text-only. In time, I started using services like Writeboard more and more because I can just down notes with it during a conference adding headings and lists making reading my notes a lot more organized. Makes sense, so I decided to make a list of a few.

  • Writeboard - (I find I use this often because of Basecamp integration for work) Collaborative writing software online. Write, share, revise, compare. You can share by email invitation only.
  • Writely - Writely allows you to edit documents online with whomever you choose, and then publish and blog them online.
  • Rallypoint - (I use this for project notes often) Rallypoint combines the powerful features of your favorite desktop word processor with the collaborative abilities of a secure hosted wiki, giving you the best of both worlds.
  • Zoho Writer - Online tool to create a document, edit in your way, and share with anyone.
  • WideWord - Write and share documents easily, quickly and privately!
  • YourDraft - Create and share content instantly without registration. The WYSIWYG editor allows fast and flexible drafting.
  • gOffice Word Processing - gOffice has a nice Word Processor that I’ve only used once before, but worked well then. (Update: Just tested again and it seemed to have made an error when exporting, but works for saving still. Seems to work fine now)

Voice Recording
Don’t think your stuck with typing all your notes on a computer when it comes to note taking. Sometimes it’s just simpler to speak something out loud rather then writing and although the following services aren’t meant for taking notes specifically, they seem to work quite well. Sure, they are for emailing and podcasting, but that’s not stopping me!

  • Evoca - Evoca is excellent for recording podcasts, but it also seems to work for notes as well because when you record, it simply saves it to a list in that you can listen to at any time. They are private until published.
  • Odeo - For podcasting as well, but as does Evoca, Odeo’s podcast recorder also works well and saves your recordings as podcasts which you can easily listen to at any time. They are also private until published.
  • Springdoo - Springdoo allows you to send voice email, as does Slawesome. When you make a recording with Springdoo, it will allow you to preview the recording and send the address to others. Simple bookmark the address or send it to yourself.
  • Slawesome - Meant for emailing voice recordings, but I simply email myself and mark it in my email client as an important note in my memo folder. (Update: Voice recording does not appear to be working as of now, although the emails still send along with your note. It will save, but won’t play it seems.)

Start Pages
What better place to write notes then a start page that opens every time you open your web browser? As I mentioned the other day, I now have Netvibes as my homepage for my browser and I found that I use the Webnote module quite often. Most start pages include note functionality, but I’ll list a few favorites with note modules.

  • Netvibes - My start page of choice which has a simple Webnote module with auto-saving and multi-color selection.
  • PageFlakes - Personalized start page with notes and many “flakes” bringing the web to your fingertips.
  • Protopage - A very neat start page allowing for notes and drag and drop containers for just about anything. Also allows for making multiple pages and setting pages public.
  • Fold - Allows for adding of multiple Notepad Containers which you can drag and drop any where in your Fold Start Page.
  • Google Personalized - Google’s Personalized start page works great for notes when using the Google Notes Module that saves your notes automatically.

Online Databases
Online database services can also be used for managing notes. I’ve made a system in Dabble DB and Zoho Creator for notes which I have made to my liking because I choose what is recorded. Any of the following will allow you to create your own database application for recording your notes.

  • Dabble DB - (Private Beta) Dabble DB is the most powerful service of the bunch with large customization options and application flexibility. Can’t wait for it to go public so everyone can experience it’s power.
  • TracksLife - “Your Friendly, Personal, Online Spread-abase.” Very simple system that works very well. Also allows for public tracks and rss feeds.
  • Zoho Creator - Free online service to create and share web applications with just a few mouse clicks. Very customizable.
  • FlexLists - Create your own online sharable lists with this database like service allowing for custom fields and values.
  • Lazybase - Lazybase allows anyone to design, create and share a database of whatever they like.

That about wraps it up! I hope this list was of help for anyone looking for simple solutions on taking notes. As always when I make a list, if you know of any other services, feel free to share with us in the comments. And for those of you curious as to what solutions I use most often, I tend to use Google Scratch Pad, Netvibes, and Writeboard the most and have recently become addicted to Sabifoo. What ones do you use?