Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Criminals stink!


A relation of mine got her debit number appropriated recently--$300 out of her acct plus time and strain to redo her finances and get the money back, a new card—and she HAS that Lifelock deal.

My phone bill had a notice in it this month about cramming—companies who somehow horn into your phone life and put on charges—you are supposed to know what all those dopey phone charges are—do any look “suspicious?”

Yes—all of them!

Another acquaintance, an older gal, got an early morning call supposedly from her grandson in jail in Mexico City--she almost took an advance on her Visa to spring him until someone said, you know, he's probably not in Mexico...

Every time you open your email someone is perfectly at ease with trying to rob you. Well, just give me your money…why not, be a sport.

I guess such people have always been with us…in fact, I know they have…but come on. Don’t you ever feel besieged?

Go away, weird Russian misfit in your basement trying to get my identifiers, fake Nigerian generals and their sobbing widows, bogus IRS men, big ole crammers…

When you put it that way, it sounds funny. But honestly, it sort of isn’t.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Foreclosures could bite you


Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, Jan 29, 2012, says all those foreclosures around may not be the greatest move for you.

If a house looks bad walking up—it may be bad inside, too.

Be VERY cautious if the house has been empty for more than a few weeks or the utilities cut off for months.

Without heating, cooling, and water, houses decline fast.

Just remember—those prices are low for a reason. Try to get the backstory.

Often they have not been kept up or even have been deliberately damaged—such as removing copper piping, which out here anyhow, brings a pretty penny.

Be sure to get a good home inspection. Try to be present as it takes place. Get a written report, even if that costs.

Don’t assume you can make the repairs yourself—unless you know how.

Worst words every spoken—How hard could it be?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Judging versus hating


I think Hemingway said, “I have been rich and I have been poor, and rich is better.” Or was it the Gatsby guy?

Well, our modern day philosopher Alan on Two and a Half Men was told that money can’t buy happiness and he said, “I have never had either, so I wouldn’t know.”

I usually stay out of politics on this site—but Warren Buffett’s so-called secretary is “coping” darn well at more than $200K in salary. So—lady—in your dowdy duds sitting there…

This is not a zero sum game—despite what our amusing leaders want us to think. If someone gets richer, this does not make me poorer.

So I don’t hate rich people and you can’t make me.

Now, judging how they spend their money—well, that is just fun. At least they spend it, however weirdly or foolishly—and this creates jobs…so I shine it on.

But it is amazing.

Ever watch SELLING NEW YORK on HGTV? Well, try it sometime for laughs.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Would you rather eat spiders?


Someone once said a survey showed many people would rather eat spiders than give a talk.

Yeah, well—you may not get that choice.

To get good at speaking, you need to speak.

First, practice. Try out your spiel on friends and family. Work up to a meeting table of people. It’s not like you are Mick Jagger facing down thousands and thousands.

Be passionate—says Jordan Hamm in the AZ Republic, Jan 15, 2012.

Then, work up—volunteer for panels. You will have to speak less than if you are the sole speaker.

Also, keep it interesting. Maybe I will write on how to do a speech another time. A few core points. Slow it down…only try a joke if you are funny.

Now--check out the appetizer in that picture. Does it make a few short remarks look doable?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unemployed hurting--even with insurance


People without jobs—even if they have health insurance—are less likely to go to the doctor, get checkups, and fill prescriptions.

To me this is sort of a given.

But the CDC seems surprised.

Private insurance is no guarantor of better care—well, shocking.

First, 48% of unemployed adults have insurance, the CDC says. That did surprise me—seemed like a high number. Eighty-one percent of employed adults do.

Now, some are saying (some?) that insurance reform will not make things better for the unemployed.

People can’t afford to use care—even if they are forced to buy it…

High copays, high deductibles—bills keep coming even after deductibles are met. Oh, this mess is a a tricky one.

It’s enough to make you sick.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Want to sell or buy--think local


Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, Jan 22, 2012, says don’t look at national stats when wondering if the housing market is coming back—local, local, local.

Some nabes are crawling back to life. Others are total losers and will be for a decade.

If you listen to the politicians on how great everything is, you are an idiot (sorry guys—they lie).

Sid Davis (A Survival Guide to Selling a Home), in Martin’s piece, says consult the pros—meaning real estate agents actively working in the area. Appraiser, mortgage lenders, and attorneys also know the skinny.

Pinpoint a neighborhood. Ask for list-=to-sale data for 90 days. If the difference between asking and selling is narrowing, this is good.

Also look at days-on-the-market. If it’s months—the market is weakening.

Don’t look too much at average sales price—a few biggies can skew it. Check median sales prices.

Look around for remodeling signs—if you see them, people there have faith in the neighborhood.

Even if the market is off, if you need a larger house, you will pay less now…so think about that.

Remember--a house is shelter--this idea of an investment came along later.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Work in health but no icky stuff


Ken Alltucker writes about health care IT—it’s a comer. (AZ Republic, Jan 22, 2012)

De/recession or no, people are going to get sick. So anything "health" may be a job find.

In the case of IT, health care is adding more digitization thanks to that Obamacare thing.

States are launching initiatives, the feds…it’s the rage. The Dept of Labor thinks this could be good for 50,000 jobs.

Here in AZ there are some grants for tuition to get up to speed on this. People get a Certificate of Management of Clinical Information Technology.

At first laid-off IT workers grabbed this. Now more health care workers are getting into it so they can move to a different job.

At a local place here, 2/3 of those who finished the certificate program found jobs.

Hospitals and doctors, experts say, prefer health-trained IT people to plain old IT people. The health people can sling the lingo better.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Better Business Bureau--no longer better


They have the name recognition—it’s just that their mission of reporting on skeevos has subtly changed to not giving skeevos any trouble whatsoever.

I have noticed it personally—looking up companies over the years, oh, an A rating…and they were idiots…or a company with 80 complaints—still an A rating.

Wait a hot one…

First, the BBB is not a govt agency—in fact, it can be a local paying franchise paying execs buckets.

Many state attys general fight this all the time.

At least one member of Congress alleges they punish businesses they don’t like with bad ratings.

They also give good ratings to those who are “members”—according to some. (And report on companies when people complain—even if they are not members…)

All I can believe is my eyes—I have not found them at all helpful.

Went the way of Kodak and Hostess—artifacts of the past, I guess. Like me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ain't kool, yo


I don’t mean to be more snarky than usual, but if hicky English does not bother you, you may speak it.

I think it does flag you with some HR people. I know it does, in fact.

When I moved to Arizona 16 years ago, I moved from a black English place to a rural English place.

Both grate on me, pardon me all to pieces.

“Where he at?” “Where’s it at?” HATE!’

“She don’t…” TEETH GRINDING. “She don’t never…” SCREAM.

“Ain’t”…ain’t my favorite.

We don’t have a king here—but we could speak his English sometimes.

If you want to sound like someone from the road company of COPS in your next interview, OK. Personal decision.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New start or another run at same old


I have reinvented myself so many times over my career that I forgot what I even do. I guess anything for money not involving hot pants.

Dean Newlund, president of Mission Facilitators International, missionfacilitators.com, says the economy is coming back—but of course, soooo slowly---sort of at least not going backwards.

The problem is we are wiped out—slowly is hard to gut out with any style.

We need to be positive, he says, against a backdrop of fear. Well—at least he is not too Pollyanna, this guy.

People don’t like to change. Some researchers say you are more likely to change because of joy than fear. A recent gathering of business types concluded that…

You need to reinvent, not just replicate.

Communicate more than before.

Engage and collaborate in your company or with your peers.

We can find some way to survive and prosper, Dean says.

I guess. I am sending out a marketing postcard. How about you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Choosing retirement property


Some people are choosing retirement property because they lost their big house. Or they have to keep working anyhow.

But say you do want to do what they used to call retirement—voluntarily leave a job and putter around or travel.

The first thing people think of is to move. Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, Jan 8, 2012, says that’s OK, but put some thought into it.

First, how close to the airport are you. I would never think of that, but she says it’s important. International air access means more resale value—hmmm—because foreigners will soon be the only ones who can buy houses?

Also think about energy resources, she says. Some parts of the US may soon be rationing these.

Does an area suit your hobbies or interests?

You may need a life coach. This person can help ideas “bubble up.” This was according to one expert.

Know your budget and resources. If you and your spouse are 60, one can expect to live to 90.

Take a long vacation in your target area. Check out transportation, health care.

And—and this is me now—be sure you are resilient, adaptable, make new friends easily. This can be a huge issue in moving—even to a new neighborhood, much less another state or country.

Trust me on that one.

By the way, ever watch House Hunters International on HGTV? Those folks swanning around Colombia or Belize buying jungly villas? How likely is that?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Extra legs can come in handy


We have three four-leggers around here someplace—two cats and a weird little poodle dachshund deal.

Our third cat Elsie had to be put down at 15. She was so thin, so creaky she could hardly walk. A mother-daughter vet team came to the house. I still think about my Top Cat.

Irene Kraft, LA Trimes, Jan 10, 2012, talks about the obvious fact that millions of Americans have woven animals into their families in a tight knot. I think of it was the animal faction and the human faction.

These animals don’t kill mice or bring down game—they just walk around being animals.

Like people, they can have annoying traits—the big cat has decided the litter box is a bore—yup—on the floor. The smaller cat hides all day and comes out a night when I make a bathroom run. I am a captive fur petter.

And the mutt—better believe he has quirks. Sleeps on the spaghetti of wires at my feet. All wound in, snoring. He barks at air molecules outside—there’s one! YAP YAP YAP. But at night, he sleeps under a bed pillow—all warm and drowsy…only his nose poking out.

According to this article—vets are more sensitive to what people are feeling than they used to be. Personally I wonder if this isn’t sensitivity to what people will pay for. I know—I am mean.

There are now grief support groups. You can talk about how much you loved the animal without some dope making you feel like a jerk.

There is no wrong way to grieve. Write a poem, this author suggests. Conduct a service. Keep the ashes or scatter them.

I miss my dog Spencer—my first ever dog. So much. Every day. Then I see that little nose come out from under the pillow to collect the first petting of the day, and I get up—time to feed everyone.

Friday, January 13, 2012

That darn performance review


Sweaty palms time? Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says try to stay ahead of the curve when it’s time to be “evaluated.”

Reviews where the boss rambles on and you have no idea what you did or did not do or should so are worthless.

Maybe you can scout around before the review and get some feedback, Ask your team members. How am I doing this year?

Don’t get defensive when criticism is given.

If something is mentioned that could benefit from more training—ask can the company help with that.

If you think the boss is sugarcoating and there must be SOMETHING wrong, ask the boss to be honest.

Ask, “Can you think of a couple of things I could work on?”

Back when I had employees, I don’t think anyone ever asked me that. I wonder what I would have thought.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Youngsters get the business at BizTown


A while back, I wrote on kids learning business skills and wondered if they still have Junior Achievement, an organization from my day.

They do!

Kerry Fehr-Snyder, AZ Republic, Dec 23, 2011, wrote about a BizTown, a Junior Achievement “town” at an elementary school.

The kids create businesses—the execs make more than the workers. The paychecks are smaller due to taxes being taken out. They have staff meetings.

There is a bank, but it only lets kids take out $2 or less, so they will have something left.

The Achievers write checks, plan. The teachers have 19 hrs of training—there are also parent volunteers.

Big companies like Best Buy, US Airways, Papa John’s and others sponsor the effort.

At the end of the BizTown business day, nine of the 15 companies paid off their starter loans, selling pencils, stamps, and other items.

And yes, the execs wear suits.

Bet no one calls THEM “vulture capitalists.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Psst--it's the money


Health care spending in 2009 and 2010 grew at the slowest rate in 50 years.

The govt (yes, ours) says it’s the high unemployment and reduced income.

In other words—even with insurance, people can’t afford to go to the doctor.

People scrimp—the govt’s word. They also mentioned financial uncertainty.

Well, yeah! Fewer hospital admissions in 2010 than 2009. Duh.

Fewer doc visits. Shocking!

More people put off going to the doctor. I believe it. I DID it.

Now the insurance companies MAKE you go—no doctor appointment, no prescription, hope you live, see ya.

I am finally going to the eye doctor—the $35 copay made me delay most of last year.

Oh, well…this is what the word WHATEVER was invented for.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Those evil typosquatters


Robert Anglon, AZ republic, Dec 24, 2011, says to watch out for criminals who use bad spelling to their advantage.

There is a joke in there somewhere—but continuing on…

These twits deliberately take you to a bogus website by misspelling one word in the url. There are as many as 2,000 of these typosquatters hunched out there waiting to get your info. Or infiltrate your whole computer.

Best Buy, Walmart, Apple—all have bogus counterparts you might type in. Say you type wallmat.com—the site would look legit, but your credit info will be captured. Apple could have three P’s.

These geniuses also add a different suffix—instead of .com, they put .net., spelling the rest correctly.

Some people will enter that.

Fake quizzes or offers like a free iPad—these are ways to get you also.

Yes—this is illegal but it’s hard for companies like Go Daddy to quash all of it.

Some companies like Amazon do register every misspelling they can think of so the bag guys can't use them--but this is only a partial solution.

So type slowly…

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fluffing up your resume can be risky


Anthony Pomposelli, AZ Republic, Jan 8, 2012, says HR people advise you not to stretch the truth on your resume.

Mainly—this is because they can tell.

Word also travels fast about someone who has gold-plated.

Also many companies now do background checks.

Even if you get the job, if you don’t perform as your stated experience said you would, they may check further.,

Also, if they find out you lied, even if you CAN do the job, you may get the boot.

Try to use strong keywords peculiar to the industry—rather than stressing your titles. If you do change your title—do it only because the one you had was only used within that company, such as Morale Manager.

Never extend employment dates to cover gaps—this is ferreted out fast.

Don’t claim a degree or certificate if you only did part of the work—explain you signed up but have not yet finished.

My rule—if you feel queasy, don’t do it.

Let your stomach be your guide.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ooops--you are outta here


If you quit, you may give two-weeks notice, but don’t count on getting that money. Lawyer Ty Frankel of Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint, says unless you have a contract specifying this, the employer can just ask you to leave.

And don’t let the door…

You only need to be paid for the time you worked and under employment at will, employers can terminate you anytime. Such as when you say you are quitting.

This can also have unemployment benefit implications.

But not paying the notice period can cause ill will and low morale, so many employers do go ahead and do it.

If they don’t do it, employees may know that and just walk without putting their files and situation in order first.

Try to plan this and know where you stand..

Is your employer dickish—well, think about that ahead of time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You are not alone


I know so many people changed and marked by this stupid economy. Gradually, we are letting our minds take in that it may not change much and will almost certainly not snap back to the good years.

The business of freelancing is in the ditch. Some little twits whipped in and tried to game Google AdSense by search engine optimization of total crap content in order to get ad money. This meant getting “content” almost free. And writers said oh, cool, I don’t mind that.

Slowly—over 3 years—the rates for writing slumped then collapsed. I have been offered a hundredth of the fee I used to command. This is even from the big publications and sites—rates went down.

I have friends who lost their houses. One lives with a cousin. One, who owns a popular restaurant, short-sold and is now renting. He is a city councilman, but openly admits, “We got ahead of ourselves.”

I also declared bankruptcy 1.5 yrs ago.

Another friend told me he left his big job with a nice portfolio, lost $60K on Enron, piddled away the rest, and is now on Social Security, which works for him because he inherited a paid-for house.

I have a friend who just popped a detached retina (like my sad story) and said it really sucks to not be able to make it for a few weeks while not working (editor).

A famous entrepreneur around here also went BK and is living in a friend’s guest room. She is trying to rebuild.

A mortgage banker I know now assists his wife in making toffee and selling at farmers’ markets.

For those of you who still have jobs or work—thank your lucky stars. For those of you rebuilding or thinking of trying to, keep reading. I will try to help as much as I can.

If we don’t help each other, we are lost. The politicians--all wealthy--have no idea. And even those in our midst who are still working reasonable jobs don't seem to get it.

Or else they can't stand to think about it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Working at home...careful


More then 26 million people worked at home an entire day at least once a month in 2010.

This is people with “real” jobs.

This was 20% of the workforce.

According to CareerBuilder, working at home can be a mixed blessing.

First, make a list of the pros and cons. Does the prospective employer have a good reputation, is the work amenable to solo production, and so on.

Ask questions—how many workers work at home. All the time or how often? How do they stay in touch?

Be honest with yourself—if you are a flake and the siren song of the internet is too enticing, this may not be good.

No matter how much you learn in advance, it may be weird in practice—you may be passed over for promotion, forgotten about, distrusted.

Those cameras to track if you are working? No way!

Oh, one more thing. That baby in the picture? You will need a babysitter in a separate area of the house or a preschool or daycare in order to keep business hours.

Oh, yeah.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Those flight attendants


Allure (Nov) had some random stuff on being a flight attendant.

In the 12th century, Bona of Pisa, a nun, helped religious pilgrims. She was made patron saint of flight attendants in 1962.

In 1926, the average number of people on a flight was 12—the copilot served the meals.

In 1930, a nurse from Iowa named Ellen Church applied to be a Boeing pilot and was turned down, so she suggested Boeing hire nurses—she became the first stewardess, as they were called then.

In 1967. the memoir—supposedly—called Coffee, Tea or Me was published.. It was bogus and written by a man.

In 1970, it was ruled illegal for flight attendants to be required to be single. The term flight attendant was also coined in the 70s.

And—you can be fined $25K for disobeying a flight attendant. Alec Baldwin, call your service.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Saving money--month after month


Cutting spending. It’s not just for Congress anymore. AZ Republic reporter Sue Doerfler writes about some hints for doing it this year.

JANUARY—Vacuum the condenser coils on the back of the fridge. Change filters in heating and a/c.

FEBRUARY has five Tuesdays—look for Tuesday savings deals. Repaint outdoor furniture.

MARCH--Garage sale! Having a St Pat’s party—check the dollar store for decorations.

APRIL—Take winter clothes you did not wear to the consignment store. These people can be snooty, though—and reject you.

MAY—Time to weatherstrip. Keep drapes closed during the day—that Mr Sol is getting serious.

JUNE--Ceiling fans! Ooops—school is out, time to find cheap entertainment.

JULY—Going on vacay? Unplug toaster, coffeemaker, and TV. Keep thermostat at 90 unless there is stuff in your house that needs to be cooler.

AUGUST—Those air filters again! Every month! Lower the temp on your water heater a few degrees in summer.

OCTOBER—Five Tuesdays—look for bargains. Also, for H’ween, Dollar store.

NOVEMBER—Clean closets—store summer stuff. Anything you didn’t wear—try the mean girl at the consignment shop again. Probably just hormones.

DECEMBER—Remove shade screens and clean them. Open drapes in day, close at night. For Christmas lights—LED is cheaper.

Just be mindful—shave here and there.