Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Barack Obama 'hasn't smoked for nine months'

Mr Obama has battled cigarette addiction for years, but press secretary Robert Gibbs said that he has not seen any evidence of the president having a cigarette since March, when he was advised by doctors after a routine medical examination to quit.

Mr Gibbs told CNN that Mr Obama "has done enormously well in quitting".

"It was a commitment that I think he made to himself at the end of the health care and with his two daughters in mind," he said.

Mr Gibbs said Mr Obama has helped to overcome his habit by chewing Nicorette gum.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Obama vowed to quit smoking. However, since moving into the White House, he admitted there were times when he had "fallen off the wagon" and smoked an occasional cigarette.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 expert tips for holders of with-profits bonds

Andrew Barker, the chief operating officer of Skipton Financial Services, the advisory arm of Skipton Building Society, lists the most important factors that with-profits bond investors should consider.

• Is the with-profits fund any good? With-profits bonds are a spent force in the world of investments, so you should always ask yourself is there a pressing reason why you should stay in. If there isn't, then move. More transparent investments such as unit trusts or open ended investment companies (Oeics) are much better options.

• Is the current rate of return reasonable compared with the returns achieved elsewhere?

• How financially strong is the with-profits fund?

• Is the with-profits fund closed to new investments? If it is, this often signals poor returns for those trapped in the fund.

• Are there any early exit penalties? These usually apply in the first five years of a policy, but some extend for longer.

• If a market value reduction (MVR) applyies:

(1) Is there an MVR-free point in the future when the reduction won't apply? If there is, it might be worth waiting, as the surrender value is guaranteed to increase by an amount equal to the current MVR.

(2) Are there any MVR-free allowances? Some companies allow you to take out part of the investment without applying an MVR. For example, with some Prudential policies you can take out up to £25,000 without an MVR applying. Often policies allow you to take out an income, say up to 7.5pc a year, MVR-free.

(3) What's your life expectancy? MVRs normally aren't applied on death, so if you are in poor health or very old you might be better off hanging on to the bond. Also, some policies pay out more - often an extra 1pc - on death even if an MVR isn't applying.

• Does the policy have a minimum guaranteed bonus rate? A small number of policies do, which could be valuable.

• Are you likely to require long-term care in the near future, such as moving into a nursing home? At present, the capital in a life assurance bond, such as a with-profits bond, should not be taken into account in the local authority's means testing calculation as long as the bond wasn't taken out with this in mind.

• Will surrendering result in a tax liability? Surrendering a with-profits bond can result in a higher-rate tax charge or loss of age allowance. If this is a big problem, consider splitting the encashment between two or more tax years, or waiting if your tax rate is likely to drop in the near future, for example if you're about to retire. However, a tax charge might still be worth incurring if the with-profits fund is poor – don't let the tax tail wag the investment dog.

• Are there any better funds available to switch to internally? Internal switches into better funds might be available, which would help avoid the crystallisation of a tax liability or early exit penalties.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Health department offers tips on how to make the holidays lite

The staff of the Henry and Stark County Health Departments ask, "Do you wish you could make the holidays "lite." After all, the holiday season seems to be a food fest. No wonder so many people have to make New Year's resolutions to lose weight.

To prevent the weight and keep the cheer, we're passing on some of the best holiday advice we know. Going to a holiday party without gorging yourself? Do you think that's a contradiction in terms? If so, think again.

Here are some ways to live it up without over-indulge:

* Try not to go to a cocktail or dinner party thirsty and famished.

* Have a large glass of water or low-fat milk and a piece of good wheat bread or crackers before you go.

* Head for the veggies and go light on the dip.

* Eat slowly and chew your food; this allows the "appestat" - the fullness control in your brain, to catch up to what's really happening in your stomach.* Dilute wine and punch with club soda.

* Throughout the evening, alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

* Be the last in line at the buffet. You'll be less likely to have seconds.

* Don't hover over the food table or at the bar - you're much more likely to eat and drink too much.

* And, put down your fork from time to time and join in the good conversation that usually abounds during celebratory meals. Taking time to talk slows down the feasting and keeps you from gulping down food.

After all this good advice, what you do if you haven't been able to resist the temptation to overindulge in the bird and all the trimmings? Well, don't hesitate to loosen your belt or take off your girdle. This helps to prevent indigestion caused by acidic stomach juices backing up into the esophagus. Lying down flat or a nap after a heavy meal may cause similar problems. However, if you do end up with heartburn, a dose of

antacid, sold in any drug store usually puts an end to your discomfort.

Remember that although holiday feasting is an accomplishment, much of the joy of the season comes from reuniting with friends and family, reminiscing, catching up on news, and enjoying good conversation. So put

the emphasis on the company and not the food, and have a happy and healthy holiday season. For more information on healthy holiday eating visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Porter Health System’s Senior Circle Program Presents “Personal Safety Tips”

Learn how to better protect yourself and increase awareness of your surroundings during Porter Health System’s Senior Circle Program’s presentation, “Personal Safety Tips,” by Adam Depew, martial arts instructor and trainer. The program will be held from Noon to 1 pm, on Thursday, Dec. 9, at Banta’s Village Park Enrichment Center, 605 Beech St., Valparaiso. 
Depew will present a lively discussion and demonstration on personal safety and offer seniors tips that they can incorporate into their daily lives. A blood pressure screening will immediately follow the presentation. 

Porter’s Senior Circle is part of a nationwide organization committed to enriching the lives of adults age 50 and better. Annual membership offers a generous selection of valuable discounts, activities and events, a chapter newsletter, national publication subscription, in-hospital privileges and much more. 
The program is free. To register for the program, learn more about Porter’s Senior Circle program or to become a member, call 1.800.541.1861 or visit www.nwiseniorcircle.com

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Aussie workers show corporates the meaning of charity

THEY have enjoyed record profits in excess of $78 billion, but Australia's 20 biggest companies are still three times less generous than the average Australian. 

The nation's leading companies have been found desperately wanting in the generosity stakes, donating only 0.85 per cent of their profits to the community last financial year, well short of the benchmark of 1 per cent that social experts deem adequate.

Multinationals gave about $680 million in cash, product and time, community investment initiatives and by matching employee donations in 2009-10.

When calculated against total revenues, that figure represented just 0.23 per cent, a less than charitable spend when compared with the average Australian, who last year gave $440 of tax deductible donations, equal to 0.74 per cent of the average wage.

The corporate donation figures are even starker when it is considered a significant chunk of the giving includes money that employees raised and donated to charity and revenue that companies have foregone to provide cheaper products and services to low-income earners.

Having leapt aboard the excessive rate hike bandwagon earlier this month, the figures reveal the ANZ Bank is the leading scrooge.

It only donated $16.5 million from its bumper $6.6 billion pre-tax profit, a mere 0.21 per cent.
However, unlike its banking rivals, the bank maintains it does not include any "foregone revenue'' in donations to charity figures.

Oil giant Woodside was only marginally better with a donation rate of 0.31 per cent, giving $9.2 million from its pre-tax windfall of $2.9 billion.

Telstra was also caught short, having donated $30.8 million in the last financial year, equating to 0.46 per cent of its $6.66 billion profit, while the Commonwealth Bank, QBE Insurance and Brambles refused to release dollar details of their giving.

But the corporate rap sheet did not reflect poorly on all major companies.

Biopharmaceutical company CSL gave 1.9 per cent of its $1.3 billion profit, giving $26 million to research.
"We try to give in ways that make the most of our capabilities and in areas where we have expertise,'' a CSL spokeswoman said.

Renowned giver Macquarie Group also passed the test with $26 million worth of donations and community investment, although $6.8 million of that was money raised by its employees.

Wesfarmers won the battle of the retailers, giving $45.7 million (1.57 per cent).

Investment analyst Michael Walsh, of Hunter Hall Ethical Funds, said companies should be aiming to give at least 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits.

How our our top 20 companies make $780b a year

... and give less than 1% to charity

Top five givers
1. CSL - $26 million (1.9 per cent of profit, 0.56 per cent of revenue)
2. Macquarie Group - $26.6 million (1.75pc of profit, 0.39pc of revenue)
3. Wesfarmers - $45.8 million (1.57pc of profit, 0.08pc of revenue)
4. Woolworths - $36.3 million (1.20pc of profit, 0.06pc of revenue)
5. Westpac - $113 million (1.19pc of profit, 0.66pc of revenue)

Worst five givers
1. ANZ - $16.5 million (0.21pc of profit, 0.10pc of revenue)
2. AXA - $1.7 million (0.25pc of profit)
3. Woodside - $9.2 million (0.31pc of profit, 0.21pc of revenue)
4. Telstra - $30.8 million (0.46pc of profit, 0.12pc of revenue)
5. Suncorp - $6 million (0.50pc of profit, 0.03pc of revenue
Source  http://www.news.com.au/money/money-matters/aussie-workers-show-corporates-the-meaning-of-charity/story-e6frfmd9-1225960638243