Property Tax – Pros and Cons

Property tax can be the fairest and at the same time the not so fair tax collected by municipalities.

Two of the determining factors of how it can affect what an individual will pay for this type of tax are where you live and a person’s economic condition.

Even though we all can appreciate the good points of owning a home vs. renting, when it comes to property tax, renting is by far the better option. States will collect property tax on the following:

Any additions to the property such as improvements to the land

Land itself

Any structures that are not permanent to the property

The assessment is commonly made by an exclusive county tax collector in each state. An individual’s property and land will be appraised of its value and subsequently mailed as a tax payment notice. This usually is paid through a homeowner’s escrow amount stated on their mortgage.

Many times this can negatively affect a property or land owner as the taxes in a specific state can sometimes double or triple in amount and leave the homeowner unable to afford to pay their taxes, forcing them to sell their property or land.

People on a fixed income such as Senior citizens who have retired, can be greatly affected by the increase of property tax. The value of their homes increase, but at the same time they find themselves unable to pay their taxes because of their reduced income. Unfortunately, property tax doesn’t allow much wiggle room in the event of acts of nature or personal tragedy.

Although 2.3 seems to be the average percentage for property tax, it varies greatly from state to state, making it seem highly unfair for certain states such as New Hampshire, as it is a high 4.9 percent.

It also seem unfair when states like Alabama pay 1.3 percent and yet just a little distance away in neighboring Georgia would be required to pay 2.6 percent, then even more in Florida at a rate of 3.1 percent.

So who determines how the money generated from this income is spent or in some cases wasted? The state legislatures will determine this along with the decision to increase or decrease property tax and how frequent it is collected.

Even though property tax can absolutely help states with income,the amount of property tax to be paid can be a determining factor in one’s decision where to reside to achieve the American Dream of land or home ownership.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Property Tax – Pros and Cons

Garage Insurance – Used Car Dealers and Repair Shops Watch Those Symbols

Garage insurance is a much misunderstood policy form. Many professional insurance agents are confused about exactly when to use it and more importantly exactly how. You can use a garage liability policy to protect a used car dealer, often referred to as dealer's insurance, or you can use this same form to protect an automated repair shop or to set up body shop insurance. The trick is to know the symbols. If you own a car dealership or an automotive repair shop and are purchasing insurance for your business, it is advisable that you find an agent who specializes in the garage insurance form to help you with this purchase so you do not end up with the wrong Form and possibly find yourself without coverage after a large loss.

As I mentioned earlier, both types of businesses, auto repair and or body shops and used car dealers both need the garage policy. But exactly what kind of operations are covered in these policies is driven by the symbols shown on the policy. This is very important. If your business is automated repair or body work but your policy is set up with symbols that would apply to a car dealership, you could find yourself without coverage in the event of a liability loss.

So how do you know if you have the correct symbols and then the correct form? Pull out your garage policy and look at the first page. Beside each type of coverage, usually to the left, there will be a least one two digit number between 21 and 31. These symbols will describe what is protected by the coverage shown next to that symbol. Here is a list of the most common symbols and what each one protects:

Symbol 21 Any auto
Symbol 22 All owned autos
Symbol 23 Owned private passenger autos only
Symbol 24 Owned autos other than private passenger
Symbol 25 Owned autos subject to no fault laws
Symbol 26 Owned autos subject to Uninsured Motorists law
Symbol 27 Specifically described autos
Symbol 28 Hired autos only
Symbol 29 Non-Owned autos used in the Garage Business
Symbol 30 Autos Left for Service / Repair / Storage
Symbol 31 Autos on Consignment

As you have probably figured out, if you are an automobile dealer and you have symbol 30 on your policy, you would find yourself without coverage. So why not just put symbol 21 on all coverage? Well, since code 21 is the broadest coverage, you would have to pay for this insurance policy and in some cases you might be purchasing insurance protection that you did not really need.

Take some time to look at your policy carefully and review the symbols for each line of coverage to make sure that they are appropriate for the work you do. If you need help with this process, consult your agent. If you agent does not specialize in businesses needing garage policy, ie dealers insurance and auto repair shop insurance, then find one who does. This protection is just too important to leave up to an agent who is practicing on the job learning on your policies.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Garage Insurance – Used Car Dealers and Repair Shops Watch Those Symbols

Trusts and Certyty of Intention

This article looks at the requirements and formalities for a valid trust. In UK law, a trust is an arrangement involving three classes of people; A Settlor, Trustees and Beneficiaries. The Settlor is the person who transfers property to the Trust. The Trustees are people who legally own the Trust Property and administrator it for the Beneficiaries. The Trustee 'powers are determined by law and may be defined by a trust agreement. The Beneficiaries are the people for whom benefit the trust property is held, and may receive income or capital from the Trust.

"No particular form of expression is necessary for the creation of a trust, if on the whole it can be gathered that a trust was intended." This statement gives the impression that no formalities are needed, and could be misleading. Although equity generally does look to intent rather than form, mere intention in the mind of the property owner is not enough. For a valid trust to exist, the Settlor must have the capacity to create a trust. He must positively transfer the trust property to a third party trustee or declare himself trustee. Further, he must intend to create a trust, and must define the trust property and beneficies clearly. This is known as the 'three assurances'; Certificate of subject matter, certainty of objects and certainty of intent.

Certificate of intent refers to a specific intention by a person to create a trust arrangement wheree Trustee (which may include himself) hold property, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of another person.

It is clear when trusts are created in writing and on the advice of legal professionals that intention is present [Re Steele's Will Trusts 1948]. However, no particular form of words is needed for the creation of a trust and here the equivalent maxim, "Equity looks to intent rather than form", applies. It is therefore sometimes necessary for the Courts to examine the words used by the owner of the property, and what obligations if any the Owner intended to impose upon those receiving the Property.

It is not necessary that the Owner expresses calls the arrangement a trust, or declares himself a trustee. He must however by his conduct demonstrate this intent, and use words which are to the same effect [Richards v Delbridge 1874]. For example, in Paul v Constance 1977, Mr Constance did not express declare a trust for himself and his wife, but he did insure his wife that the money was "as much yours as mine". Additionally, their joint bingo winnings were paid into the account and withdrawals were considered as their joint money. The Court therefore found from Mr Constance's words and conduct that he intended a trust.

Certiety of intention is also known as certainty of words, although it has been suggested a trust may be infringed just from conduct. Looking at Re Kayford 1975 1All ER 604, Megarry J says of certainty of words, "the question is whether in substance a sufficient intention to create a trust has been identified". In this case, Kayford Ltd deposited customer's money into a separate bank account and this was held to be a "useful" indication of an intention to create a trust, although not definitive. There was held to be a trust on the basis of conversations between the Company's managing director, accountant and manager so words were necessary for the conclusion.

In contrast, where the word 'trust' is expressly used, this is not a comprehensive evidence of the existence of a trust – the arrangement may in fact institute something very different [Stamp Duties Comr (Queensland) v Jolliffe (1920)]. For example, the deed may contain words such as "On trust, with power to appoint my nephews in such shares as my Trustee, Wilfred, shall in his absolute discretion decide, and in default of appointment, to my friend George". Although professing to be a trust, Wilfred is not under an obligation to appoint the nephews and provision is made for the property to pass to George if he does not. This is therefore a power of appointment, not a trust [eg. Re Leek (deceased) Darwen v Leek and Others [1968] 1 All ER 793].

Sometimes in a will, the owner of Property will use 'precatory' words such as expressing a 'wish, hope, belief or desire' that the receiver of property will handle it a certain way. For example, in Re Adams and Kensington Vestry 1884, a husband cave all of his property to his wife, "in full confidence that she will do what is right as to the disposal between between my children …". The Court held that the wife may have been under a moral obligation to treat the Property a definite way but this was not sufficient to create a binding trust. Precatory words can still sometimes create a trust. In Comiskey v Bowring-Hanbury 1905, the words 'in full confidence' were again used, but the will also included further clauses, which were interpreted to create a trust. The Court will look at the whole of the document to ascertained the testator's intention, rather than dismissing the trust because of individual clauses.

There are further formalities required for certain types of trust property, and for a trust to be valid, title to the trust property must vest in the Trustee, or, the trust must be "constituted". This might be done for example, by delivery for chattels or by deed for land. If the trust is not properly constituted, the proposed beneficaries have no right to compel the Settlor to properly transfer the Property, as 'equity will not assist a volunteer'. The exception to this is where the beneficiary has provided consideration (including marriage) for the Settlor's promise, in which case, there would be a valid contract and the Beneficiary could sue for breach.

Where a testamentary trust of land or personalty is purported, the will in which it is contained must be in writing and executed in accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, which means the Will must be signed by the Testator in the joint presence of Two witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the Testator.

Where a Settlor wants to create an inter vivos trust of personalty, the formalities are minimal. Under the usual requirements for a trust (capacity, the three responsibilities etc), the Settlor must observe any formalities required to properly transfer the Property to the trustees – for example, the execution and delivery of a stock transfer form for shares.

To create an inter vivos trust of land or of an equitable interest in land, in addition to the formalities of transferring the land, the declaration of trust must be in writing and must be signed by the person able to create the trust – ie, the Settlor or his attorney [S.53 (1) (b) Law Property Act 1925]. Where this formality is not accepted, the Trustee would hold the land on trust for the Settlor rather than the Beneficiary. The exception is where the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies – the Settlor intended to make an immediate unconditional transfer to the Trustee, the intention to do this was unchanged until the Settlor's death, and at least one of the Trustee is the Settlor's administrator or Executor. In this case, as the property is automatically vested in the Settlor's personal representatives and the trust is constituted.

It is sometimes stated that no particular form of expression is necessary to create a trust if intention was present. Clearly this is not the case. There are formalities for creating inter vivos land trusts and testamentary trusts and if these are not followed, the trust will fail without consideration has been provided or the rule in Strong v Bird 1874 applies, even if the Trustee had the best intentions. Further, the form of words used in those formalities must be clear and unambiguous, or they may not amount to a trust. He goes on to say that 'a trust may be created without using the word "trust"' and this is true in that other words and conduct to that effect are sufficient. However, the Court does not just regard the 'substance' of the words. If the word used does not meet the 'three assurances' or, for example, the person making the declaration does not have the capacity to make a trust, the trust will fail. This is clearly not the desired 'effect' and not the owner's intention.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Trusts and Certyty of Intention

A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Would you like to travel to Maui? This is the second largest of the eight islands found in the Hawaii State. It possesses three big cities, including Lahaina, Kahului and Wailuku. The region lures many visitors because of its physical landmarks such as the highest volcanic mountain called Haleakala. Even the West Maui Mountains form very beautiful scenery. The western part of the island including Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kapalua has the most luxurious and elegant resorts.

This is a beautiful island and if you want to plan a getaway you cannot be wrong if you choose it. Although you can reach the region quickly by plane, cruising in a ship is more enjoyable. Besides, finding cheap Maui cruises is not a major problem. Since this landmass is a popular destination for tourists, you can expect to compete for cheaper cruise rates with very many people from your region.

How can you manage to overcome this competition for discounted cruise rates? If at all possible, you should look for a reliable travel agency that either has business branches in Hawaii or is based in this state. This is specifically true if you will be a first time visitor who plans to have a stress free trip to the island. A travel agent is therefore very useful when people are planning Maui vacations.

In the following few paragraphs you will find out more about the importance of using a travel agent and related information.

Reasons why you should use a Maui travel Agency

1. It provides guidance and direction through out the trip and is able to help people save money.

2. A travel operator boosts safety of new travelers throughout a whole week’s trip or even a longer one.

3. It keeps travelers from getting into trouble with the authorities in the Island

4. It recommends the best accommodation facilities as well as proper means of transportation in this wonderful island.

How you can locate a Maui Travel Agency

It is extremely easy to locate a good tour company if you know how to use the internet wisely. Look for Maui travel agents’ reviews, analyze them carefully and choose a few good companies. Go to the related forums and blogs and read prior visitors’ comments and articles. In short, you need to take your time to research carefully before making a decision about whom to hire among many tour operators that serve Maui. The best thing to do is to look for an agent that can give you a single package for the entire journey. The package should include the hotel accommodation, foods and drinks, transportation and other leisurely costs.

What your Maui tour guide should tell you in advance

An imperative detail that you want your guide to tell you about in advance is the requirements for entry in Maui, Hawaii. If you come from outside the U.S, you need to know about the passport, visas and other mandatory entry information before the travel day comes. Moreover, the agent should mention something about the climate, especially if you would be traveling with your family.

You want to avoid traveling with kids when hurricanes are common or when the weather is too wet. This is particularly important if you plan to participate in outdoor activities such as water sports and walking to the tourist landmarks. The guide should make you understand the available routes and the things you can see while cruising in a ship.

If you want cheaper rates, the planner of Maui vacations should be able to provide you an inexpensive bill without compromising the quality of your visit. You can also ask the travel guide about trip insurance, car rental services, traffic around the region and many other important issues.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on A Brief Description Of Maui Island And Why You Need A Travel Agency Assistance

Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Mandatory Provident Fund

How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

Funeral insurance, also known as burial insurance is a type of insurance created to pay for the costs of memorial and internment services. Nowadays, many people especially those who are not getting any younger are getting funeral insurance to deal with the costs of burial and funeral services when they die.

Most of these people do not want to leave any type of burden, especially financial burden, to their loved ones. Some of the costs covered by insurance policies are cremation, burial, plots, music, flowers, taxes and even medical costs. Before purchasing funeral insurance, an interested person must consider things such as the location of the cemetery, arrangement and expenses of the funeral, cost of cremating and buying caskets or urns.

Aside from these considerations, he must also determine the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of insurance:

Cash to Shoulder the Funeral Arrangements. The insurance company will give the grieving loved ones lump sum cash that they can use for funeral arrangements. The amount of cash usually depends on the type of funeral insurance policy that the dead relative has purchased.

A Car to Make Funeral Arrangements. While the family members are on the verge of arranging matters of his funeral, the insurance company will provide a car to make sure that they still feel comfortable while dealing with his death and getting ready for his interment at the same time.

Bonus Monthly Payout. The family members who the insured person has left will be receiving monthly bonus cash from the insurance company. This amount of money is expected to help pay out for bills covering food and utility.

Chosen Funeral and Burial. A good thing about having a contract with an insurance company is that when he dies, he will have the memorial and interment services according to his will. He will have a funeral and burial that he thinks he describes.

Get A Tombstone. With the services that the company covers, the family members can choose a tombstone that will serve as its memory.

The disadvantages of purchasing funeral insurance are:

Insurance Policy May not Pay in Full. There are some companies offering funeral insurance that have waiting periods. These periods can reduce the benefits of the insured person. There can also be times when there can be no benefits at all. Some insurance policies can decrease in value as time passes by.

Insurance Policy May not be an investment. A person who chooses to have funeral insurance will have no control on how his money will be endowed. Another thing is that some companies offer very little interest rate. And lastly, some insurance policies are overpriced. This means that some of these policies cost more than the cost of funeral coverage. A person planning to get one must remember that by purchasing one means he is paying more premiumss than collecting insurance claims.

With the advantages and disadvantages of funeral insurance, a person can see that it will be highly recommended to apply for a funeral insurance policy that will fit his needs and requirements.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

Tips On How To Clean Your Dirty And Smellygage

Your luggage travels in different conditions. The rain, the muddy pathways and the dirty pavements can all make your luggage dirty and smelly. If you do not take good care of it, your precious travel bag can wear out faster.

Cleaning your dirty and smelly luggage should not be too daunting. Let me tell you some tried and tested cleaning tips:

1. Vacuum your luggage. Try to get rid of as much dirt and dust from your travel bag as you can. Also vacuum the casters and the interior of the bag. You might want to use a vacuum machine with a good filter to effect suck minute dirt and dust particles.

2. If you are using a canvas luggage, try cleaning it with a mild dish washing liquid. Mix two drops of the dish washing liquid in two cups of warm water. Soak a sponge or a clean towel in the mixture. Wring out the excess. Use this to wipe the interior and the exterior of the machine.

Make sure you remove dirt particles. Also wipe away dirt and crusty mud on the wheels of the luggage.

3. For your leather luggage, try to get rid of the mud using a leather polisher. Apply leather polisher on a clean rag. Wipe it all over the bag.

4. Get a soft bristled brush and use this to remove dirt particles in the zippers, wheels and the handles of the bag. You can try soaking the brush in the dish washing liquid solution first. This will loosen up the crusty mud or dirt.

5. Sprinkle baking soda on the interior and exterior of the luggage. Leave it on for an hour. Baking soda can effectively diffuse unwanted luggage odor. This will also help get rid of lingering stains and dirt.

6. After an hour, vacuum the travel bag again to get rid of the baking soda residues.

7. To deodorize the luggage bag once again, try spraying it with lemon juice solution. Just mix one cup of lemon juice with one cup of water. Place it in a spray bottle. Spray it all over the luggage. This should work in diffusing unwanted bag odor.

8. Let it dry completely. Place the bag in an area not directly exposed to the sun.

If you are traveling during rainy seasons, make sure you use a luggage cover for your bag. These can be purchased from travel bag stores. They can protect your bag from further damage.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Tips On How To Clean Your Dirty And Smellygage

Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner

When you rent someone’s property, it’s good to know how what your responsibilities are in order not to have inconvenient situations. When some people rent someone else’s property they think that they are responsible only for a few little things and the rest of responsibilities should be taken care by a leasing agent. But usually it is vice versa. When someone rents a house or apartment, they are usually obligated to sign a contract where all the responsibilities of leasing agent and renter are fully described. In case if something happens both parties understand what they are responsible for.

Responsibilities Of Renters

Normally, renters bear responsibility for the area that is around their apartment and for the apartment itself. Usually, these are areas inside the apartment as well as their backyard. So this includes common sense responsibilities and rules of maintenance and cleanliness of the area. Such things such as repairing certain parts of the interior or the exterior or painting the walls are the responsibilities of the renter.

But still, this is not it. Renter is responsible for some other things in leasing agent’s house. If something happens with the bathrooms, the renter is also responsible for fixing it if it’s possible. But if such things happen and that renter doesn’t feel comfortable to accomplish this job she might contact the maintenance contractor for proper help.

Renters must know their responsibilities and always show respect to other renters in their area and not cause damage intentionally. Not picking up trash after yourself if you left it somewhere is the same as intentional littering. Renters that don’t follow these rules are fully responsible for their actions and might be forced to pay fines.

Responsibilities Of Leasing Agents

If something happens with that exterior of the building or the equipment is not working properly then it is the responsibility of the leasing agent. Leasing agent is always supposed to take care of his renters and make sure that they are always provided with all the necessary utilities and that everything is working properly in his apartment. For instance, if problems with water occur in the apartment then the leasing agent he supposed to contact maintenance staff.

And also, one more of responsibilities of a leasing agent taking care of public areas. This is usually that surround that area of the apartment, such as grassy parts of the land.

So basically, the leasing agent is always has to take care of his renters and make sure they don’t have any complaints or concerns. If the leasing agent doesn’t pay attention to any complaints that he’s renters might have, this may lead to having problems with clients or with the local housing authority. Again, if the client or the renter is not provided with what he expected and paid for, he will be very disappointed about the maintenance service. In these cases renter might call a maintenance company to resolve the situation and bill the expense to the owner.

So before you rent an apartment to a renter as a leasing agent make sure that both of the above are working fine. A renter faced with this kind of problems, can contact the department of housing and ask them to provide advice what to do in this situation.

In some cases, leasing agents may break their rules of that agreement and disobey points of the contract. The department of housing is usually responsible for enforcement in this kind of situation and if the renters still have complaints, they have the authority to force the owner to provide a remedy.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner