Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How to Protect Your Pipes in the Winter

Winter temperatures may be upon us, but there is still time to prepare your home before the first big freeze of the season.

Water has a unique property in that it expands in volume as it freezes. If it happens to freeze inside of a container or a pipeline, the pressure buildup of the expanded ice can cause the container or pipe to burst, resulting in damage and expensive repairs.

How to Protect Your Pipes


To protect your pipes in the winter, wrap exterior hose bibs and exposed pipes with insulation. When expecting a hard freeze, leave cabinet doors open to sinks located on exterior walls, and set your faucets to a very slight drip. Even a small amount of moving water can be sufficient to prevent water from freezing completely in the pipes.

Extended temperatures cold enough to cause pipes to freeze are uncommon in our region, but not impossible. If you are planning to be away from home for an extended period of time this winter, it may not be a good idea to turn the heater completely off while you are away - especially if the region is expecting inclement weather. Leaving the heater on at a reduced temperature, and opening cabinets to encourage warm airflow around pipes may be less expensive than turning the system off and returning home to costly plumbing repairs.

If, after a hard freeze, you turn on your sink and notice drastically reduced water pressure, you may want to suspect a frozen pipe somewhere down the line. If this occurs, your safest option is probably to contact a licensed plumber to assess the situation. If it’s feasible to do so, you may try to apply heat to the pipe gently with heated towels or a heating pad. Do not use blowtorches or any type of flammable material to attempt to thaw frozen pipes!

Now is a good time to walk around your home to identify any exposed pipes with the potential to freeze and insulate them before the harshest weather arrives. When checking your home, don't forget about your sprinkler system! Sprinkler systems that run during freezing temperatures can create hazardous conditions on roads and sidewalks. To avoid receiving a water violation for watering during rain or freezing temperatures, make sure your system is set to the "off" position when expecting inclement weather.

Article Credit

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Father-to-Son Talk on Marriage



李開復 Kai-Fu Lee




Are We There Yet?

- Every kid on a car trip


How Do We Get There?

- Every dad on a car trip

Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Handle Life Affairs? My Room Gave Me All the Answers!


I asked myself how to handle life affairs? 





My room gave me all the answers: 



Roof said: Aim high

Fan said: Be cool

Clock said: Value time

Calendar said: Be up to date

Wallet said: Save now for the future

Mirror said: Always observe yourself

Lamps said: Light up other's life

Wall said: Share others' load

Window said: Expand the vision

Floor said: Always be down to earth

Stairs said: Watch each step you take


The most inspiring one: 


Toilet bowl said: When it's time to let go, just let it go.... 

And the toilet paper said: Expect shit everyday !


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Where to Retire in the States?


Best States for Retirement


Considering the following factors:
  • Affordability
  • Economic Health
  • Crime Rates
  • Populations of residents age 65+
  • Tax situation for retirees (see [3,5,8,9,12,17,18,23,30])

Kiplinger has ranked the following states as the "Best States for Retirement 2015":
  1. Delaware
  2. Florida
  3. West Virginia
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. South Dakota
  6. Arizona
  7. Hawaii
  8. Iowa
  9. Kansas
  10. Wyoming

Worst States for Retirement


Similarly, based on the following considerations:
  • Total population
  • Share of population 65+
  • Cost of living
    • Health care costs
    • Median home value
  • Average income for 65+ households
  • Retiree tax picture
  • Communities and activities  
    • Intellectual environment
    • Outdoor activities
Kiplinger has ranked the following states as the "Worst States for Retirement 2015":
  1. District of Columbia
  2. California
  3. New Mexico
  4. New York
  5. Minnesota
  6. North Carolina
  7. Nebraska
  8. Oregon
  9. Utah
  10. Texas
  11. Illinois
  12. Montana
  13. Maryland
  14. Massachusetts
  15. Indiana 

Final Words


Choosing the best place to retire is a personal decision. No amount of number-crunching can make it for you. Only you can decide how close to your grandkids you want to live or whether you want to hit the road or even head abroad.

References

  1. 10 Best States for Retirment 2015
  2. Worst States for Retirement 2015
  3. Most Tax-Friendly States in the U.S.
    • 1. Delware 2. Wyoming 3. Alaska 4. Louisiana 5. Alabama 6. Mississippi 7. Arizona 8. New Mexico 9. Nevada 10. South Carolina 
  4. Nevada
    • State income tax: None
    • State Sales tax: 6.85%
    • Gas taxes and fees: 34 cents per gallon
    • The Silver State is one of nine in the U.S. that impose no income tax. Median property tax on Nevada's median home value of $165,300 is $1,423, according to the Tax Foundation.
    • Food and prescription drugs are exempt from the state’s 6.9% sales tax, but counties may tack on up to 1.3%. The average combined state and local sales tax rate is 7.9%.
    • In addition to sales taxes, vehicle owners are charged an annual “government services tax” that’s based on the vehicle’s value and age. Tax on a two-year-old vehicle with an original sticker price of $20,000 would be $238.
  5. The Worst States For Taxes
    • 1. New York 2. New Jersey 3. Connecticut 4. California 5. Wisconsin 6. Minnesota 7. Maryland 8. Rhode Island 9. Vermont 10. Pennsylvania 11. Massachusetts 12. Arkansas 13. Illinois 14. Maine 15. Delaware 16. Oregon  17. North Carolina 18. Ohio 19. West Virginia 20. Hawaii 21. Michigan 22. Indianan 23. Kentucky 24. Idaho 25  Nebraska 
    • Based on the effective tax rate for single taxpayers earning a taxable income of $50,000.
  6. America’s 50 Best Cities to Live
    • Based on a range of variables, including crime rates, employment growth, access to restaurants and attractions, educational attainment, and housing affordability, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s 50 Best Cities to Live.
  7. 10 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
    • 1. Harlingen, TX 2. Pueblo, CO 3. Norman, OK 4. Memphis, TN 5. Idaho Falls, ID 6. Youngstown, OH 7. Johnsboro, AK 8. Wichita Falls, TX 9. Temple, TX 10. Augusta, GA
    • Based on Cost of Living Index which measures prices for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services
  8. Kiplinger Tax Map
  9. Top 15 Most Tax-Friendly States for Retirees
    • 1. Alaska 2. Wyoming 3. Nevada 4. Mississippi 5. Georgia 6. Delaware 7. Arizona 8. Louisiana 9, South Dakota 10. Florida 11. Pennsylvania 12. South Carolina 13. Kentucky 14. Colorado 15. Arkansas 
  10. 7 States Where Americans Are Moving
    • The following states are top destinations for Americans relocating:
      • 1. Florida 2. Texas 3. South Carolina 4. Arizona 5. Colorado 6. North Carolina 7. Oregon
  11. America's most dangerous cities: 
    • 1. Detroit  2. Memphis 3. Oakland 4. St. Louis 5. Birmingham 6. Milwaukee 7. Baltimore 8. Cleveland 9. Stockton 10. Indianapolis 
  12. Which States Tax Social Security Retirement Benefits?
    • Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.
  13. Nuclear Power Plant location map
    • Safe distance: 30 miles (?)
    • (Kyodo News) "The data showed, for example, more than 1.48 million becquerels (40 microcuries) of radioactive caesium per square meter was detected in soil at a location some 250 kilometers away from the Chernobyl plant. In the case of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the distance was much smaller at about 33 km, the officials said."
  14. 15 Worst States for Taxes on Retirees
    • 1. Vermont 2. Connecticut 3. Rhode Island 4. Minnesota 5. Oregon 6. Montana 7. California 8. Nebraska 9. New Jersey 10 New York 11 Massachusetts 12. Utah 13. Indiana 14. Maine 15. North Dakota 
  15. Great Places to Retire in Every State
    • Decatur AL, Juneau AK, Prescott AZ, Hot Springs AR, Carlsbad CA, Grand Junction  CO, Niantic CT, Milford DE, Punta Gorda FL, Sandy Springs GA, Hilo HI, Boise ID, Napperville IL, Bloomington ID, Des Moines IA, Topeka KS, Lexington KY, New Orleans LA, Bangor ME, Annapolis MD, Pittsfield MA, Ann Arbor MI, Rochester MN, Oxford MS, Columbia MO, Great Falls MO, Omaha NE, Carson City NV, Peterborough NH, Ocean City NJ, Santa Fe NM, Ithaca NY, Asheville NC, Bismark ND, Columbas OH, Tulsa OK, Portland OR, Pittsburgh PA, Providence RI, Myrtle SC, Sioux Falls SD, Chattanooga TN, Sherman TX, St George UT, Burlington VT, Roanoke VA, Spokane WA, Morgantown VA, Madison WI, Cheyenne WY
  16. 20 Best Foreign Retirement Havens For 2015
    • Australia, Belize, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, France,  Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, The Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Uruguay, 
  17. 10 Cities That Pay Some of the Highest Taxes in America
    • 1. Philadelphia, PA 2. Bridgeport, CT 3. Newark, NJ 4. Milwaukee, WI 5. Detroit, MI 6. Providence, RI 7. Baltimore, MD 8. Los Angels, CA 9. Portland, ME 10. Columbus, OH
  18. 10 Major Cities With the Highest Sales Tax
    • 1. Seattle, WA 2. Oakland, CA 3. Chicago, IL 4. Memphis, TN 5. Nashville, TN 6.Los Angeles, CA 7. Long Beach, CA 8. New Orleans, LA 9. New York, NY 10. San Jose, CA, San Francisco, CA (tie)
  19. Death by gun: top 20 states with highest rates
    • 1. Alaska 2. Louisiana 3. Mississippi 4. Alabama 5. Arkansas 6. Wyoming, Montana 8. Oklahoma 10. Tennessee, New Mexico 11. South Carolina 12. Missouri 13. West Virginia 14. Arizona, Idaho 16. Nevada 17. Kentucky 18. Indiana 19. Utah, Georgia
  20. The 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index—Results by Category
  21. Loads of Americans are moving out of these 18 states
    • 1. Hawaii 2. New York 3. Illinois 4. South Dakota 5. Wyoming 6. Indianan 7. Wisconsin 8. Pennsylvania 9. Minnesota 10. Ohio 11. New Jersey 12. Iowa 13. Vermont 14. Delaware 15. Connecticut 16. Nebraska 17. West Virginia 18. Louisiana   
  22. 5 States Where the Middle Class Is Being Destroyed
    • 1. Wisconsin 2. Ohio 3. North Dakota 4. Vermont 5. Nevada
  23. States With the Highest (and Lowest) Property Taxes
    • 1. New Jersey 2. Illinois 3. New Hampshire 4. Connecticut 5. Wisconsin 6. Texas 7. Nebraska 8. Michigan 9. Vermont 10. Rhode Island 11. New York 12. Ohio 13. Pennsylvania 14. Iowa 15. Kansas 16. South Dakota 17. Maine 18. Massachusetts 19. Minnesota 20. Alaska 21. North Dakota 22. Maryland 23. Washington 24. Oregon 25. Florida 26. Missouri 27. Georgia 28. Oklahoma 29. Nevada 30. Montana 31. Indiana 32. North Carolina 33. Kentucky 34. California 35. Mississippi 36. Arizona 37. Virginia 38. Tennessee 39. Idaho 40. New Mexico 41. Utah 42. Arkansas 43. Wyoming 44. Colorado 45. West Virginia 46. South Carolina 47. Delaware 48. Louisianan 49. Alabama 50. Hawaii
  24. America's most rapidly aging cities
    • 1. Atlanta 2. Raleigh 3. Las Vegas 4. Portland 5. Jacksonville 6. Denver 7. Austin 8. Phoenix 9. Sacramento 10. Tuscon
  25. America's Senior Moment: The Most Rapidly Aging Cities
  26. The 10 Best and Worst States to Make a Living in 2015
    • Best: 1. Texas 2. Washington 3. Wyoming 4. Virginia 5. Illinois 6. Michigan 7. Colorado 8. Ohio 9. Delaware 10. Utah
    • Worst: 1. Haiwaii 2. Oregon 3. Maine 4. West Virginia 5. Vermont 6. California 7. Montana 8. South Dakota 9. Rhode Island 10. Connecticut 
  27. 9 Worst U.S. States To Retire
    • 1. New York 2. Washington D. C. 3. California 4. Oregon 5. Hawaii 6. New Jersey 7. North Carolina 8. Minnesota 9. Illinois
  28. Gun Laws by State
  29. America's fastest-growing cities 2016
    • 1. Austin, TX 2. San Francisco, CA 3. Dallas, TX 4. Seattle, WA 5. Salt Lake City, UT 6. Ogden, UT 7. Orlando, FL 8. San Jose, CA 9. Raleigh, NC 10. Cape Coral, FL 11. Denver, CO 12. San Diego, CA 13. Oakland, CA 14. Charlotte, NC 15. Phoenix, AZ 16. Portland, OR 17. Boise City, ID 18. Las Vegas, NV 19. North Port, FL 20. Fort Lauderdale, FL 
  30. 15 States with the Highest Property Taxes
    • 1 New Jersey 2 Illinois 3 New Hampshire 4 Wisconsin 5 Texas 6 Connecticut 7 Nebraska 8 Michigan 9 Vermont 10 Rhode Island 11 New York 12 Ohio 13 Pennsylvania 14 Iowa 15 Kansas
  31. The 50 best places to live in America
  32. Here's where more people are dying than being born in America
  33. 25 Best Places to Retire (2014)
    • 1. Abilene, TX 2. Auburn, AL, 3. Austin, TX 4. Bellingham, WA 5.  Blacksburg, VA 6. Bluffton, SC 7. Boise, ID 8. Bowling Green, KY 9. Brevard, NC 10. Cape Coral 11. Charleston, SC 12. Clemson, SC 13. Fargo, ND 14. Frederisksburg, TX 15. Las Cruces, NM 16. Morgan Town, WV 17. Ogden, UT 18. Oklahoma City, OK 19. Pittsburgh, PA 20. Port Saint Lucie, FL 21. Salt Lake City, UT 22. San Angelo, TX 23. State College, PA 24. Tuscon, AZ 25. Venice, FL
  34. 13 States That No One Moves To Anymore
    • 1. California 2. Vermont 3. Alaska 4. Maine 5. West Virginia 6. Georgia 7. New York 8. Florida 9. Texas 10. Illinois 11. Mississippi 12. Michigan 13. Arizona
  35. The Best And Worst States For Taxes
    • Big three: income , sales and property taxes
    • 1. Wyoming 2. Alaska 3. South Dakota 4. Texas 5. Louisina 6. Tenessee 7. New Hampshire 8. Nevada 9. South Carolina 10. Alabama 11. Mississippi 12. Oklahoma 13. Montana 14. New Mexico 15. North Dakota 16. Georgia 17. Arizona 18. Missouri 19. Colorado 20. Florida 21. Virginia 22. Iowa 23. Utah 24. Washington 25. Kansas 26. Nebraska 27. Idaho 28. Kentucky 29. Indianna 30. Michigan 31. Haiwaii 32. West Virginia 33. Ohio 34. North Carolina 35. Oregon 36. Delaware 37. Maine 38. Illinois 39. Arkansas 40. Massachusettes 41. Pennsylvania 42. Vermont 43. Rhode Island 44. Maryland 45. Minnesota 46. Wisconsin 47. California 48. Connecticut 49. New Jersey 50. New York
  36. Best Places to Retire (Forbes)
  37. 10 Cities Americans Are Moving To Right Now
    • 1. Tampa, FL 2. Jacksonville, FL 3. Charlotte, NC 4. San Antonio, TX 5. Austin, TX 6. Las Vegas, NV 7. Orlando, FL 8. Nashville, TN 9. Raleigh, NC 10. Portland, OR
  38. 25 Best Places to Retire (2016)
    • 1. Abilene, TX 2. Apache Junction, AZ 3. Athens, GA 4. Bella Vista, AK 5. Blacksburg, VA 6. Bluffton, SC 7. Brevard, NC 8. Cape Coral, FL 9. Clermont, FL 10. Colorado Springs, CO 11. Columbia, MO 12. Corvallis, OR 13. Fargo, ND 14. Grand Prairie, TX 15. Largo, FL 16. Lexington, KY 17. Lincoln, NE Meridian, ID 19. Mount Airy, NC 20. Pittsburgh, PA 21. San Marcos, TX 22. Smyrna, TN 23. Traverse City, MI 24. The Villages, FL 25. Walla Walla, WA
  39. Move to Your Dream Destination BEFORE You Retire …
  40. Best and Worst States to Retire Rich
    • 1. Delaware, 2. Michigan, 3. Indiana, 4. Maryland, 5. Florida, 6. New Jersey, 7. Pennsylvania, 8. Mississippi, 9. Ohio, 10. Georgia
      • Delaware tops the list of best states to retire rich thanks to two components: taxes and healthcare costs
  41. The 5 best states to retire to that AREN’T Florida or Arizona
    • South Dakota, Virginia, Kentucky, Utah, Wyoming
  42. EVERY STATE, RANKED BY HOW MISERABLE ITS WINTERS ARE
  43. An aging population 
  44. Top 100 Best Places to Live
  45. Best States Overall Ranking

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Paradox of Our Time by George Carlin




The paradox of our time in history is that 
we have taller buildings but shorter tempers
wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints
We spend more, but have less
we buy more, but enjoy less
We have bigger houses and smaller families
more conveniences, but less time
We have more degrees but less sense
more knowledge, but less judgment
more experts, yet more problems
more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, 
spend too recklessly, laugh too little, 
drive too fast, get too angry, 
stay up too late, get up too tired, 
read too little, watch TV too much, 
and pray too seldom.


We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. 
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. 
We've added years to life not life to years. 
We've been all the way to the moon and back, 
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. 
We conquered outer space but not inner space. 
We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. 
We write more, but learn less. 
We plan more, but accomplish less. 
We've learned to rush, but not to wait. 
We build more computers to hold more information, 
to produce more copies than ever, 
but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, 
big men and small character, 
steep profits and shallow relationships. 
These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, 
fancier houses, but broken homes. 
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, 
throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, 
and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. 
It is a time when 
there is much in the showroom window 
and nothing in the stockroom. 
A time when technology can bring this letter to you, 
and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, 
or to just hit delete.


Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, 
because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, 
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, 
because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart 
and it doesn't cost a cent.
Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, 
but most of all mean it. 
A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt 
when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday 
that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! 
And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.
And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, 
but by those moments that take our breath away.



Friday, July 3, 2015

Medicare: All Things Considered

Qualifying for Medicare doesn't mean that all your health care costs will be covered. Take a note of the following marketing shenanigan:
  • Potential costs per month or year
    • According to AARP, basic coverage still costs seniors, on average, more than $3,000 a year, thanks to premiums and deductibles. And if you sign up for a Medicare supplement to help cover additional out-of-pocket expenses, that could cost you another several hundred dollars a month.
  • Potential lump-sum costs
    • Fidelity estimates that a couple who retires in 2013 will need as much as $240,000 beyond their Medicare coverage to pay for health care costs in retirement.[1]
      • The estimate covers deductibles and copayments, out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and visits to specialists, as well as other expenses, like dental visits, hearing aids, and eyeglasses — all of which aren't covered under Medicare.
The only lesson here is that you need to have adequate savings set aside for your health care in retirement.

Age 65


Starting at age 65, you can enroll in Medicare.[1] You no longer have to rely on employer-sponsored or private health insurance plans. There are 2 main ways to get your Medicare coverage:
  1. Original Medicare
  2. Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
Before you make a decision, you can get local, personalized Medicare counseling from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

Remember that filing for Social Security does not automatically include enrollment in the Medicare program. You need to register for Medicare benefits during a seven-month window, including the three months before your 65th birthday, to avoid paying higher premiums for coverage.

Medicare Part A


What Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) covers includes:[12]
  • Inpatient care at a hospital
  • Skilled nursing facility (SNF)
  • Hospice.
Part A also covers services like lab tests, surgery, doctor visits, and home health care.

Most people benefit by enrolling in Medicare Part A at age 65, whether or not they continue to work. There are no premiums, and enrolling now will help you avoid potential penalties or delays down the road.

If you're covered by your employer's plan and your company has 20 or more employees, that plan remain your primary coverage. If you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare will be your primary insurer.

Medicare Part B


What Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers includes:[12]
  • Doctor and other health care providers' services
  • Outpatient care
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Home health care
  • Some preventive services
Medicare Part B has high-income premium surcharges, you many be better off sticking with your employer plan if you still work. Once you leave your job, you have eight months to enroll in Part B, or face a penalty.

What's Not Covered by Part A & Part B?


Some of the items and services that Medicare doesn't cover include:[13]
  • Long-term care (also called custodial care)
  • Most dental care
  • Eye examinations related to prescribing glasses
  • Dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Acupuncture
  • Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
  • Routine foot care
You can find out if Medicare covers a test, item, or service you need, click here.

Prescription Drug Plan


There are 2 ways to get your Medicare prescription drug coverage:
  1. Adding a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)
  2. Getting a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) such as an HMO or PPO that offers Medicare prescription drug coverage
You can join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan when you first become eligible for Medicare and each year from October 15th to December 7th. Similar to Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D also has high-income surcharges, you many be better off sticking with your employer plan if you still work. However, you should know that if you drop or lose Creditable Coverage offered by your company, you should join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan as soon as possible.

Remember that: if you go 63 continuous days or longer without creditable prescription drug coverage, your monthly premium may go up by at least 1% of the Medicare base beneficiary premium per month for every month that you did not have that coverage.

For example, if you go 19 months without Creditable Coverage, your premium may consistently be at least 19% higher than the Medicare base beneficiary premium. You may have to pay this higher premium (a penalty) as long as you have Medicare Prescription Drug coverage. In addition, you may have to wait until the following October to join.
To find out which plans cover your drugs. click here.

Medicare Part C


When you decide how to get your Medicare coverage, you might choose a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and/or Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D).

There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have. You don’t need to sign up for Medicare each year. However, each year you’ll have a chance to review your coverage and change plans.

For further information, do

Further Considerations


Finally, there are some details that you might also want to consider:
  • Medicare doesn’t cover care provided abroad.[9]
  • Once you enroll in Medicare, you're no longer eligible to contribute to a health savings account (HSA).[11]
    • If you're relying on your HSA to boost your savings, you'll need to postpone Medicare.
  • Medicare probably won't pay for long-term care
    • Even if it does, it will only cover you for up to 100 days
    • With the annual cost of a nursing facility averaging around $78,000, it's the kind of expense that can quickly wipe out your nest egg.
  • Medicare premiums will be going up for many[15,16]

References

  1. 8 Retirement Milestones That Affect Your Investment Decisions
  2. For more information about Medicare Prescription Drug Plan coverage:
    • www.medicare.gov
    • Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program for personalized help
    • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
  3. Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan - Notice of Creditable Coverage
    • Medicare Prescritption Drug coverage became available in 2006 to everyone with Medicare.
    • if you will become Medicare eligible in the next 12 months, pay attention to this
    • for more information about Medicare Prescription Drug Plan coverage, visit www.medicare.gov
    • if you have limited income and resources, extra help paying for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage is available. For information about this extra help, visit Social Security on the web at www.socialsecurity.gov.
    • it is very important that you retain this Creditable Coverage notice (from your company). If you decide to join one of the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, you may be required to provide a copy of this notice when you join to show wether you have maintained Creditable Coverage and, therefore, whether or not you are required to pay a higher premium (a penalty).
  4. A Better Alternative To Nursing Homes
  5. The Pitfalls of Working Past Age 65
  6. Obamacare: Six Tools to Make You a Smarter Health-Care Shopper
  7. Why Shopping Is So Important in Health Enrollment
  8. When You Should Sign Up for Medicare
  9. 20 Best Foreign Retirement Havens For 2015
    • Uruguay is that rare country that allows foreign retirees to use the national healthcare system.
  10. Is Travel Insurance a Waste of Money?
    • Medicare doesn't cover you outside the U.S., but many Medicare supplements do.
  11. Not Ready to Retire (Charles Schwab OnInvesting Summer 2015)
  12. What Medicare Covers? (Medicare.gov)
  13. What's not covered by Part A & Part B? (Medicare.gov)
  14. What Health Care Will Cost You (AARP)
  15. Medicare premiums will be going up for many
  16. Medicare Costs Set to Skyrocket for Seniors
  17. Obamacare "Observations" and the Elusive Search for Improvements; Seniors Beware!
    • Make sure you are being "admitted, not observed". The difference can set you back $20,000 or more.
  18. Here’s What’s Really Going On With Obamacare Premiums
  19. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS.gov)
    • The federal agency that oversees the Medicare program.
    • Many Medicare beneficiaries have other insurance in addition to their Medicare benefits.  Sometimes, Medicare is supposed to pay after the other insurance.  However, if certain other insurance delays payment, Medicare may take a "conditional payment" so as not to inconvenience the beneficiary, and recover after the other insurance pays.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to remove and replace a Moen shower cartridge?

Based on estimation, our shower cartridge may have been used for at least 14 years. Now it starts dripping. Here we discuss how to remove and replace it (i.e. a Moen shower cartridge).




Before You Start


For any plumbing project, you need to turn off water at the shutoff valve and drain remaining water from the faucet first.

Depending on where you live (i.e., cool or warm area), your water shut-off valves may locate at different areas of your house.[1,2] In a small Texas town where I live now, the main water shut-off value is located inside the meter box near the curb.

In our city, only authorized city personnel are allowed to open and work in the meter box. However, most newer homes in our area have additional shut-off valves located near the house in the flower bed. After locating the valve, you shut if off by turning it clockwise and on by turning it counter-clockwise. Finally, depending on the size of your house, draining remaining water from the pipe may take about 10 minutes.



Choosing the Right Cartridge


As shown in [3], there are different types of Moen cartridge:
  • 1220
  • 1222
  • 1225
Our cartridge has two white wings as shown in the picture and it's a Moen 1222 single handle cartridge (or Posi-Temp).



How to Remove and Replace?


Without repeating, you can watch video's from youtube from the reference list for instructions. Just one additional reminder, if you run into a cartridge which won't be removed easily. you should consider using a core puller as shown above with the removal process (watch [6] for instructions).

References

  1. Finding and Turning Off Your Home's Water Shut-off Valve (video)
  2. How to Turn Off the Main Water Shut-Off Valve
  3. Old plumber shows tips and tricks on moen faucets. Choosing the right cartridge
  4. How to remove and replace a Moen shower cartridge
  5. How to Repair a Moen Shower Faucet Step-by-Step
  6. How To Use Moen's Shower Valve Cartridge Puller - Smarter How to Tips
    • This video shows you how to use a cartridge puller.
  7. How To Remove & Replace A Moen Shower Valve Cartridge - Posi Temp Repair
  8. Replacing a Moen 1222

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to Invest in A Rising Rate Environment?

As evidence continues to emerge that US labor markets are gradually healing and wage growth is starting to stabilize, market participants are beginning to consider the possibility of inflation in the US. Other signals also seem to point to the same direction—higher inflation.[55,56]

If inflation comes, interest rates DO rise.  In this article, we will discuss how to invest in a rising rate environment if inflation is expected among market participants.

What's Inflation?

When we talk about inflation/deflation, it is important to know whether we’re talking about monetary inflation (i.e., generally Austrian's view) or price inflation (i.e., generally Keynesian' view).[36] As we have seen recently, a rising money supply is not necessarily accompanied by rising prices (although there is a certain long-term rhythm to the two different measures).

At New Orleans Investment Conference, former Fed Reserve Chairman Mr Greenspan has commented that:[40]
  • The Federal Reserve is raining money down from the heavens to fund unprecedented government spending and to keep the banking system solvent.
  • The credit needs of the US government are so huge that if the Fed didn’t add liquidity to the system, the private sector would be choked out, unable to afford to borrow money.
  • An inflationary bonfire is just a spark away. Big Al likened the money supply to kindling awaiting a match to ignite an inflationary explosion.

Inflation and Interest Rate


Interest rates DO rise as a result of price inflation.[15] Over the long term, price inflation (here we use Core CPI) is by far the best indicator of interest rate trends (Figure 1).[1] A combination of factors has led to a secular lower profile for inflation now than in the 1970s and 80s. These factors include:
  • A better supply-demand balance in energy markets
  • The benefits of increasing globalization 
    • At the macro level, globalization has made price inflation slow to emerge, as multinational companies can shift production around the world in response to cost pressure.[17] 
  • The evolution of Fed policies, which now include more effective tools and more timely transmission to the real economy.
These factors have given central banks more room in increasing money supply without facing the price inflation consequences for years. Hence, central banks around the world have become more active in response to economic fluctuations. The consequence is a rising ratio of money supply or credit to GDP. By definition, this means a bigger and bigger financial system, which needs more and more income to survive.


Figure 1 shows that in the long run, interest rates tend to remain above price inflation (investors need to earn a real rate of return), but it also shows that the wedge between interest rates and price inflation has narrowed on a secular basis. We would argue that this is because over time, the Fed-to-market reaction function has become both more efficient and more credible; it takes a lower interest rate premium today than in the past to hold down inflation expectations.

Consumer Price Index


The official measure of price inflation is the Consumer Price Index.  The composition of the CPI (consumer price index) is as follows:


Source: Doug Short

Inflation Drivers


What drives price inflation?  There are mainly two drivers:
  1. Wage-price spirals
    • Wage-price spirals refer to the vicious cycle that occurs when rising wages lead producers to raise prices, which in turn, leads workers to demand higher wages, further driving prices higher.
  2. Credit growth and monetary policy
    • Price inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. 
    • Easy credit and loose monetary policy have the potential to create significant inflationary pressure as increasing amounts of capital bid up limited resources.

Signs of Inflation[2]

Due to the lagging nature of the CPI and PCE[49] reports, they often don’t present the best forward-looking measure of inflation. Like the GDP, they are much better at telling us what has happened rather than what will happen.

Bond yields are very sensitive to inflationary expectations.[65] There are two places we can look for real-time market based inflation expectations are:[48]
Based on the data,global investors in aggregate are currently positioning themselves for roughly 2% inflation.  Inflation can be classified into good inflation vs bad inflation:[44]

"Good" inflation is wages rising faster than prices. When wages rise faster than consumer prices, households have more money to spend on consumption, and it's progressively easier for them to pay down debt and support additional borrowing.

In Japan, where the central bank and government have struggled for years to generate price inflation as the means to "re-start growth," wages have fallen by 9% in real terms since 1997.

"Bad" inflation is prices rising while wages stagnate. In "bad" inflation, prices keep rising as central bank money-printing devalues the currency, but wages don't rise along with prices. As a result, wages decline in real terms, i.e. purchasing power.



How to Invest in A Rising Rate Environment?


If you believe inflation is ahead, cash is your worst enemy, and bonds can appear less favorable as rising interest rates may decrease the value of outstanding bonds. Instead, you would prefer items like stocks, gold, and real assets, which are historically good inflation hedges.[48]

Strategies employ real assets aim to have either an explicit or implicit return correlation to inflation. Real assets include inflation-linked bonds,[58] commodities[64] and real estate or some combination of those assets. This can potentially enhance portfolio diversification, mitigate inflation risk and provide more stable real (after-inflation) returns.

In the chart below, Citi bank also shows the 5 year correlations of weekly returns (sector relative returns vs 10 year UST total return).  You may also base your investment on the appropriate sectors in a rising interest rate (or higher bond yields) environment.

In another chart below (click to enlarge), Janus' asset allocation model shows the firm's sector preferences in a rising rate environment.[53]

Fiscal stimulus, in Janus' view, would have a more direct impact on the real economy. The firm feels the end result would be an increase in demand-pull inflation.This demand-pull driver combined with the cost-push inflation driven by tighter labor supply and the recent reset of commodities prices to a higher range creates an environment where inflation is a very real possibility.

In Janus' view, this demand-pull inflation should benefit consumer discretionary names as workers are incentivized to spend. Materials and energy firms should also effectively manage cost-push inflation, especially following the recent uptick in commodity prices.


References

  1. Is Inflation Next?
  2. Inflation is coming?
  3. Are You Ready for Rising Rates?
  4. Rising Rate--What You Need to Know?
  5. Don’t dump your bonds when interest rates rise
  6. Personal Income and Outlays
  7. Inflation Is Coming, What to Do—Now
  8. Why The Fed's Dual Mandate Is Doomed (In 2 Simple Charts)
  9. Assuage Your Fears of Rising Rates with Global Diversification (Pimco)
  10. Moving Forward With the Normalization of Yields (Pimco)
  11. A Classic Barometer 
  12. U.S. Inflation Edges Up In March But Inflation Expectations Remain Moderate
  13. Market Beginning to Shift Inflation Expectations
  14. Tight Job Market in U.S. Cities Prompts Higher Pay
  15. What’s the Relationship Between Inflation and Interest Rates?
  16. Daily State Of The Markets: Bears Got It Wrong Again (On Bonds)
  17. Slow Motion Bust - The Long Goodbye - One-Sided Incentives
  18. What To Do About Inflation Risk
  19. Get Ready For Higher Food Costs
  20. Wage Inflation?
  21. A Leading Indicator Of The Coming Inflation?
    • Allan Meltzer warns that increases in food prices have been a leading indicator of inflation in past cycles.
  22. Producer Prices Jump, Hint of Rising Inflation
  23. Peter Warburton: The debasement of world currency: It is inflation, but not as we know it (Peter Warburton's classic essay from 2001)
  24. Stagflation Is Now On The Table
    • The reason why the interest rates are so low?  May be that America and the world at large is growing older, retiring, and are choosing to keep their money in government bonds, and other "safe" investments, and more in cash than ever before
    • If so, low interest rates may not move higher as inflation goes higher as they normally have. They may continue to respond instead to a slowing and unpredictable economy.
  25. StreetSmart Post
    •  The price of oil is usually a pretty good indicator of overall inflation. 
  26. A Look at the Coming 30-Year Inflation Cycle
    • War is always inflationary for commodity prices and would only serve to heat up the economy faster than the new 30-year inflationary cycle would do on its own.
  27. The Seeds of U.S. Inflation Have Sprouted and Could Be in Full Flower in 2016 
  28. BLACKROCK: 2 Big Market Stories Investors Should Focus On Right Now
    • Such segments include both small caps and certain defensive income plays, like utilities — both of which have historically proved more vulnerable to contracting valuations as real rates rise.
  29. MIT vs. ShadowStats – Who’s Right on Inflation?
  30. The Prices We Pay: Part 2
    • People’s short-term inflation expectations are very sensitive to movements in oil prices
  31. Sisyphean Fed Struggle to Create Inflation; Faber on Gross' Deflation Theory, Japan's Bond Ponzi Scheme, and Gold
  32. After the Bank of Japan, the long march of the RMB is over
  33. Labor Market Strength Increases Odds of Rate Hike
  34. How the Markets Tempt Us Into Making Mistakes
  35. How to Create a Bond Ladder Using ETFs
  36. Thoughts from the Frontline - The Last Argument of Central Banks‏ 
  37. Bond Market Outlook: Low Rates Into 2015?
  38. GOLDMAN: The Stock Market In 2015 Will Be
    • Goldman Sachs forecasts 2018 neutral fed funds rate of 3.9%; others expect ~2%
  39. Stock Trading Data Service Providers 
  40. Miller's Money Weekly (December 4, 2014)
  41. We Were Crazy Hippie Bastards
  42. This Is What The Next Financial Crisis Might Look Like
  43. The Fed's Policy Trajectory Is Tied To Global Recovery
  44. Central Banks Have Failed Because They Can't Push Wages Higher
  45. What Lies Behind The Plunge Of The Ruble? (good)
  46. Interest Rate Trends
  47. U.S. Stocks Living On Borrowed Time As 2015 Begins
    • Statistically, the rate of increase in current government expenditures at 1.2% per year (i.e., spending growth) from 2010-2014 is historically in the deflationary zone.
  48. Is Inflation on Our Doorstep?
  49. PCE
    • This number – the PCE annualized inflation rate – is released near the 20th of every month
  50. What is Inflation? A Mauldin Economics Guide to Inflation, Deflation, and Everything In-Between
    • Cost-push inflation: arises when wages, taxes, raw materials, or import costs increase 
    • Demand-pull inflation: occurs when too much money chases too few goods
  51. There are 2 good options to protect your investments from inflation
  52. Bank on this Play for Rising Rates
    • Big banks vs regional banks (KRE)
  53. Is Inflation Bubbling Below The Surface?
  54. Prediction About Future Of Inflation
  55. 2017 Global Investment Outlook (BlackRock)
    • Increases in inflation expectations priced into the bond market have been one of the main results of this increase of expectations of future inflation.
    • Rising rate will cause pain for holders of long-duration bonds. However, in this environment dividend growers – companies with sustainable free cash flow and the ability to raise payouts over time without harming their balance sheets – look attractive.
  56. The Billion Prices Project
  57. LIBOR At 1% For First Time In 7 Years - A Significant Level For Leveraged Loans
    • Due to the floating-rate characteristics discussed int this article, leveraged loans tend to perform well in environments of rising rates (or expected rising rates). 
  58. Primer: Understanding Inflation-Linked Bonds (good)
  59. Should We Be Worried About Inflation?
    • A correlation study is a reliable tool to determine asset classes that are most effective in terms of hedging against unexpected inflation.
    • The most effective asset classes to hedge against inflation are commodities, certain real assets such as oil and private real estate, and TIPS.
  60. Nominal interest rate vs real interest rate
    • nominal interest rate = real rate + premium
      • premium could be
        • liquidity premium
        • political risk premium
        • currency premium 
    • Investors in fixed income products typically get the nominal returns
  61. 5-Year Breakeven Inflation Rate 
    • The latest value implies what market participants expect inflation to be in the next 5 years, on average
  62. 5-Year, 5-Year Forward Inflation Expectation Rate
    • This series is a measure of expected inflation (on average) over the five-year period that begins five years from today
  63. Corrective Forces Persist
    • A market-based measure, the 10-year breakeven (conventional yield minus the 10-year TIPS) has been stable since early November around 2.0%.  
  64. The growing case for commodities (etf Investment Insights)
  65. Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook—4Q2016
  66. Update On The Food Inflation Cycle Theme: Next Leg Is Coming To Cereals
    • In past inflationary cycles, oils had led cereals by 6 months.
    • It's understandable why most equity investors domestically focus on cereals when it comes to soft commodity inflation
    • The majority of investment options are driven by the top three crops: corn, soybean, wheat, and arguably one could simplify it down to just following the price of corn as a tell.
    • The FAO Food Price Index (The Food And Agriculture Administration of The United Nations ), as the best tracking method for determining when a food inflationary cycle has started.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Texas Property: File Your Homestead Exemption

At beginning of each year, it's time to mail in your homestead exemption form in order to receive a discount on your property taxes, should your property be eligible.  But, if the chief appraiser grants the exemption(s) in previous years, you do not need to reapply annually. However, you must notify the chief appraiser in writing if and when your right to this exemption ends.

On 01/12/2015, I have received a Form 50-114 (i.e., "Application for Residence Homestead Exemption") from my local County taxing authority. Usually this form will be mailed between January and the end of March. And, you have until 04/30 of that same year to file homestead exemption (see below). If you qualify for the age 65 or older or disabled persons exemption, you must apply for the exemption no later than the first anniversary of the date you qualify for the exemption.

Finally, filing your homestead exemption is free through your local taxing district.

Homestead Exemption


One of the easiest ways a homeowner can lower his or her property tax bill in 2015 is to file a homestead exemption. A homestead is generally the house and land used as the owner's principal residence on Jan. 1 of the tax year. Homestead exemptions reduce the appraised value of your home and, as a result, lower your property taxes.

Who qualifies for an exemption?

Anyone who owns a home on Jan. 1 and uses it as their primary residence on that date is entitled to a $15,000 homestead exemption to lower school taxes this year, and it doesn't matter if your home is a house, condominium or mobile home. Counties, cities and special taxing districts may also offer homestead exemptions.

Are other exemptions available?

Indiviauls age 65 and older, or disabled as defined by law, may qualify for an additional $10,000 school tax exemption. Also, if you qualify for the 65 or older or disabled exemption, you're entitled to a permanent, locked-in "ceiling" on the school property taxes on your home. The age 65 or older homeowners school tax ceiling transfers to the surviving spouse, if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of death and lives in and owns the home. The age 65 or older homeowners (or their surviving spouses 55 years of age or older) also may transfer the percentage of school tax paid, based on their former home's school tax ceiling, to a new home.

North Dallas Taxing Authorities


If you pay tax in two separate counties, you MUST file in both counties.[1] For example, your school district or city taxes are collected by a different county than the one you live in. Location and address information for the appraisal district office in your county may be found at [2].

Country Appraisal District Phone Email
Collin (469) 742-9200 www.collincad.org
Dallas (214) 631-0910 www.dallascad.org
Denton (940) 349-3800 or
(972) 434-2602
www.dentoncad.org
Grayson (903) 893-9673 www.graysonappraisal.org
Rockwall (972) 771-2034 www.rockwallcad.com
Tarrant (817) 284-0024 www.tad.org

Based on Real Estate Agent Debi Leavvitt,[1] if you receive a survey from the County or City asking you what you paid for your home, you do not have to disclose this information.[4] Only your loan amount was recorded by the title company. This may help you keep your taxes down a little longer. But some may want to disclose this if it works in your favor.

Note that all applicants are required to include a copy of their Texas driver's license or state issued identification card according to Texas Property Tax Code Section 11.43. The address shown must match the address for which the exemption is sought. Failure to send the required documentation will result in the exemption being denied.


References

  1. File Your Homestead Exemption for 2014! by Debi Leavitt (www.debileavitt.com)
  2. Contact Your Appraisal District (Texas)
  3. Property Tax Assistance (Texas)
  4. Example of Survey letter from County Appraisal District
    • Currently, the State of Texas does not have a disclosure law, Therefore, the County Appraisal District is conducting an ongoing survey of real estate sales and asks for your assistance in supplying of the following information.
  5. Residence Homestead Exemption Frequently Asked Questions