Tuesday, 25 November 2008

How to survive (even thrive) in tough economic times

Some years ago I spotted a sign in a shop window. It read "we are not participating in the recession". The owner had decided that it was "business as usual".

High oil prices and escalating food prices have caused everyone some measure of financial discomfort. An economic slow-down of the world's major economies has driven many countries towards recession. Almost everyone has to cut back in some way to survive.

But while the majority will be tightening their belts, some will not be suffering. Just a few days ago I read of a couple running tours of bank-repossessed homes.

A recession means that many investments have become cheap. If you have some cash or are able to raise finance, then now is the ideal time to invest.

The banks now have a massive stock of re-possessed homes that must be sold. These homes are going for a song! If you are in a position to buy, then buy now. These houses will prove to be an excellent investment.

Equities have ended their long bull run and many of the world's stock market indices reveal falling prices of blue-chip shares. The markets are still volatile, but most of the damage has been done. Now is a good time to buy! Many shares have become under-valued though the underlying companies are sound.

It is possible to improve the way you live by changing your spending habits. Cut out the fast foods and meals out. Replace these with quality meals at home. Discover your artistic abilities in the kitchen. Cut back on driving, use a bicycle instead and get fit.

Make a plan to eliminate debt. Cut back on living costs for a few months and use all available resources to eliminate debt. The short term sacrifice will pay huge dividends when you are able to live a debt-free life-style.

Taking on a second job or starting a business is always a viable option. Perhaps you can find a way to transform your hobby into cash.

Business opportunities to provide services needed to cope with hard times abound. Repair services are in greater demand as people repair rather than replace. Second-hand goods - furniture, books, even clothes - become more attractive as disposable incomes diminish. Demand for child-care services will grow as more mothers are forced to work to supplement the household income.

Remember, you don't have to participate in the recession!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

How to make money without working

Making money without working is everyone's dream. Few people succeed in such schemes, but there are a lucky few. While most people have to work for a living, the good news is that there are alternatives.

Some people say that if you earn money doing what you love doing, then it isn't work. Sometimes musicians, artists and writers feel this way. These are people that have a strong need to express their creativity. They would have to do it even if they did not get paid. Success means that they can do what they love and be paid for it.

Developing a business that is self sustaining and produces a residual income is another way to make money without working. Building a business will require some initial effort. The effort may be very substantial, but once the business becomes self-sustaining there is a work free income.

There is always the option of using your vast wealth to make money. If you have enough, then you can let the money work for you. There are a number of ways to do this, but the main investments are property and equities. While there are many that have been caught short in the current financial crisis, they have generally managed to make plenty of money in the long run. If you have some money available for investment, then the best time to invest is now when prices of investments are low.

Then there are the money for free traps. There are thousands of Internet scams offering vast wealth in exchange for a small initial layout. These are a one-way ticket to losing everything. Get rich quick schemes are just that. The originators of the scheme get rich at your expense.

Some people believe that they can make money by gambling. The casinos and betting shops are full of these delusional people. Of course it is possible to win from time to time, but millions of compulsive gamblers have found that the money flows in one direction. Casinos and betting shops ensure that the odds are firmly set in their favour. It is a statistical certainty that the punter will lose in the long run. There are some exceptions. A skilled poker player may be able to make money by playing against weaker players, but the lifestyle is still precarious.

Then there are those that turn to crime. The scammers, fraudsters and armed robbers. Some of them make money - but then participating in crime is their work. So even that does not bring in money without working.

Most people have to work to make money. For them, the only time that success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Choose home solar energy!

Climate change and escalating energy costs have driven many people to consider using solar energy. Solar energy can be a viable way to provide much of your hot water, central heating or pool heating requirements for your home. Solar energy can also supplement your home's lighting and other electricity needs.

The sun is an unlimited source of free and clean energy. The quest to harness this energy began many years ago. Solar energy has become a viable alternative to provide power for your home. The sun's energy consists of heat and light. Both are used as a source of free energy.

The sun's heating or thermal power is commonly used in sunny climates to supplement the hot water requirements of many homes. Thermal panels are mounted on the roof of your home. Water is circulated through a series of pipes and stored in a tank ready for use. These are very effective in sunny climates but have even been used with some success in climates with few sunshine hours.

Photovoltaic panels transform the sun's light directly into electric current. This electricity can be used to provide lighting for your home or to provide power for your home appliances. Surplus energy produced during daylight hours may be stored in a battery. These cost of these units at this time makes their use for large appliances prohibitive.

Home solar energy has some great advantages. Once the initial installation costs are met you will have a long-term supply of free energy. While you may not eliminate the power grid completely, you should be able to produce savings of anything from 40-80% of your monthly energy bill. Solar power is clean and environmentally friendly. There are no emissions such as those produced by burning coal. Although generally clean, nuclear energy produces potentially dangerous waste that could present long-term problems for our planet.

As with everything under the sun there are disadvantages. The sun's power is only available during daylight hours. Thermal panels are not effective during prolonged periods of overcast weather. Photovoltaic panels do not work at night. The cost of solar powered hot water panels will be covered quickly by the electricity savings achieved. Unfortunately the cost of photovoltaic panels is still prohibitive. At current costs it takes many years cover the initial layout. But as the technology develops these costs should fall, making this type of solar power much more affordable.

Saturday, 08 November 2008

Addictions: smoking

"Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times." Mark Twain's quote is one that is true for millions of smokers the world over. I too have given up smoking hundreds of times. Each time I decide that this time is for real. This time nothing will deter me.

Tobacco and its key addictive agent nicotine is said to be one of the most addictive substances known to man. During the course of my life I have come across many people with multitudes of addictions. Drug addicts manage to quit heroin but continue to smoke. Compulsive gamblers quit gambling but the smoking goes on. Alcoholics quit alcohol but seldom smoking.

Unlike narcotics, tobacco enjoys a status of legality. There are so many vested interests in the drug that banning it is virtually impossible. Governments rely on tobacco for vast amounts of revenue. Tobacco companies make huge donations to political parties. What government would even consider banning something that sustains one of the world's largest industries?

So tobacco remains legal. Even though it kills more people every year than cocaine, heroin, crack and all the other illegal drugs combined. Tobacco kills more people than alcohol, road accidents and wars.

Many see addiction as a factor of personality. In this view, some people are prone to addictions through inborn character traits. To them the problem is not the drug, it is the person. But there can be little doubt that some substances are extremely addictive. The tobacco companies rely on the addictive nature of cigarettes to ensure daily sales to millions of people.

My most successful attempt to conquer my tobacco addiction occurred many years ago. I used a combination of nicotine chewing gums and acupuncture. The combination worked very well. But a little image in my mind kept reminding me of the "pleasure" of smoking. A work cocktail party a year later provided an opportunity to have just one cigarette. It wasn't very enjoyable, but a few days later the craving had returned. The cigarettes became daily then hourly.

A colleague managed to stop for five years. He was over his addiction, but just one cigarette in a moment of sever stress was enough to reverse the process completely.

A relatively new method to quit smoking has emerged over the last few years. People using an antidepressant called Zyban somehow lost interest in smoking - even though there was no previous intention to quit. Research substantiated these findings, and the drug has become one of the most successful means used for quitters.

My latest attempt to quit has been achieved using this drug. Although I am still smoking, the drug enables me to spend the entire working day smoke-free. It is only at home where another smoker is present that my will power fails. But quit I will. I have said it before and I will say it again - I will not be a slave to tobacco for life.

How to win the Canadian lottery

As you sift through your mail one morning you come across an email from Canadian International Lottery. The mail contains the following information:

"From: Mrs. Susan Davies

Canada Lottery-Soccer World Cup 2010 Promotional Draw

1550 Princess Street Kingston, ON, Canada, K7M 9E3

Tel/Fax: +1-702-447-9499

You are hereby informed about your winning notification which is attached to this mail as a file. Download the attached file to view your Winning Notification. However, you are expected to follow the instructions as stated in the Notification.

Thanks for your anticipated cooperation.

Mrs. Susan Davies (Secretary Canada Lottery Board)"

The poor sentence construction and winnings notification should already make you suspicious. You have no recollection of having entered the Canadian Lottery.

Nevertheless, you download the attachment. It begins as follows:

"Attention: Customer AFRSA680

Ref: EAAL/851OYHI/07

Batch No. Lotto 6/49


The Canadian Government sponsors this lottery for the promotion of the 2010 Soccer World cup to be hosted in South Africa. We happily announce to you the draw of the Euro-Afro-American Sweepstake Lottery International Programs held on the Sat. Sep 20 2008 in Essex United Kingdom and Ontario Canada. Your e-mail address attached to Ticket Number: B956475604545 100, with Serial Number 46563760 drew the winning numbers 2 /10 /24 /31 /33 /49 / with a bonus number 3, for LOTTO 6/49 under the choice of the lottery in the 2nd category of daily three.

You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of 820,000.00 (Eight Hundred and Twenty Thousand British Pounds) in cash credited to file number EAAL/9080118308/07. This is from a total cash prize of 11,100, 000.00 Million Pounds, shared amongst the first One Hundred and-thirty (130) lucky winners in this category Worldwide. Please note that your lucky winning number falls within our Afro booklet representative office in Africa as indicated in your play coupon, because this particular draw was selected to promote the 2010 World Cup to be hosted in South Africa hence your winning information must be kept to enable you participate in our subsequent draws which will see 500 participants traveling on an all expense paid trip to South Africa for the Soccer World Cup 2010. In view of this, your 820,000.00 (Eight Hundred and Twenty Thousand British Pounds) would be released to you byan accredited commercial Bank in South Africa. Our African agent will immediately commence the process to facilitate the release of your funds as soon as you contact our African Agent's office."

The mail looks quite plausible at first site. The site refers to www.canada.com to check the winning numbers. Follow the links to the 6/49 lotto results for September 20th and lo and behold, the winning numbers are exactly as stated in the mail.

What are the clues to suggest that this is a scam? The first is that you have not entered the Canadian Lotto. Even if you have, the numbers on your ticket are not the same as those in the mail.

Can you really believe that "All participants were selected randomly from World Wide Web site through computer draws system and extracted from over 10,000,00 companies and personal e-mails" as the notification continues. Who has paid for these tickets?

Lotto tickets are not handed out for free to random email addresses. Not ever. The mail warns you to keep your winnings confidential until you have received your money. If you tell someone else they may suggest that this is a scam.

There are other rather strange facts quoted in the mail:

The funds will be remitted through a South African bank.

The contact details contain a South African email address and South African phone numbers.

There is at least one spelling error and why should the Canadian Lotto have an African Agent?

Why would the Canadian Lottery make payments through a South African bank and provide South African phone numbers and email addresses? Why is the prize money stated in British pounds instead of Canadian dollars?

The official Lotto 649 site provides the following advice:

"Some Advice Regarding Lottery Tickets

1) Always Sign Your Ticket Immediately!

2) NO Lottery Commission will send you an email telling you that you have won.

3) NO Lottery Commission will call you by phone to tell you that you have won.

4) NO Lottery Commission will ask you for money by email or over the phone.

5) Be Alert - Keep the Above in Mind!"

Read through the letter carefully. It is full of grammatical errors and poor English. An official notification would be much more professional!

Lotteries thrive on publicity, yet you are asked to keep your winnings secret. Especially from the fraud squad.

Look at the email addresses. This scam has genuine looking addresses, but many scams provide hotmail or yahoo addresses. A genuine notification would never have a free Internet email address.

If you still have doubts and think (or hope) that the email maybe authentic and that you stand to win a fortune, then cut and paste the email heading into a Google search engine. The results will leave you with little doubt. The first result reads "Scam Lotteries: Canada Lottery-Soccer World Cup 2010 Promotional Draw".

The site provides details of how to report the scam. Reporting scams helps to trace the criminals responsible.

Do not contact the scammers under any circumstances. If you do, you will be asked to provide your bank details and your signature. This will be used to empty your bank account. You may be asked for a "facilitation fee". You could even be induced to travel to meet the representative, resulting in kidnapping.

I received this email this morning. I have previously "won" the Irish Lotto and the Euro Lotto without buying a ticket! No doubt more will follow. If only these scams were true! I would really love to be a multi-millionaire.

Sunday, 02 November 2008

The world gone mad

"Could it be that I am the only sane person in a world gone crazy?"

The question was posed by a fellow blogger. He cited a whole range of evidence to suggest that the world is mad.

I agree - the world is crazy. The evidence is clearly apparent. The global financial crisis, wars, the inability of people to solve problems using rational means. The inability to talk to each other. South Africa experienced a moment of sanity in 1994 when deadly enemies sat down together, talked and found a solution.

But these scenarios are few and far between.

There can be little doubt. The world is crazy. But it has not just gone crazy. There is a long history of craziness preceding the twenty-first century. Gladiators fighting to the death was prime-time entertainment to the Romans. So was throwing a man into a lion's den. All through history there have been instances of madness. The Spanish Inquisition. The First World War. Hitler. The Nazis. Franco. Mussolini.

Today there are wars all over the world. The US government has dedicated $700 billion to rescue banks that face bankruptcy as a result of greed. This is in addition to the hundreds of billions already spent. Europe has followed a similar path. Is this sanity?

The root of the whole crisis is also insane. People were making huge profits from the so-called hedge funds. Naturally, when there is little underlying value the bubble will pop sooner or later. It happened later with devastating effects. This is greed taken to a monumental extent.

What evidence is there that there is any sanity in the world?


This is Pablo - a 9 week old Rough Collie of champion stock. He joined our family today.
The most friendly and well adjusted puppy.

Just a friendly visit!