If you are an average investor you should invest money in mutual funds, but knowing where to invest will be a real challenge in 2014. So, let’s first eliminate places you don’t want to go and then focus on where to invest money to make the best of it.This game I call ELIMINATION, and it’s really an application of the scientific method you may have learned in general science class, tailored to determine where to invest. Once you know your alternatives, you eliminate the real losers. Then you pick your best alternatives or choices from those that are left.First, eliminate mutual funds based on the costs involved when you invest. Avoid those with sales charges (loads). There is no good reason to pay money just to invest money in mutual funds. Go with NO-LOAD choices. Then eliminate those with yearly expenses of 1% or more. These costs and other information can easily be found in a fund’s description. When you invest $10,000, it can cost over $500 for sales charges (loads) and $200 or more for yearly expenses.Now that we’ve eliminated the high cost alternatives, the question is where to invest money in 2014 and beyond to cut costs and (by doing so) increase our investment returns. Answer: no-load, index funds. Total cost to invest can be less than 1% per year, period. All costs simply reduce the value of your account, and in a real sense is money that comes out of your pocket.Next, let’s look at the categories or choices available based on where a fund will invest money for its investors: stocks, bonds and the money market. We’ll start with the stock alternatives, keeping in mind that for 2014 and beyond… low, but rising interest rates are in the forecast. Eliminate growth and volatile small-company-stock choices. They are riskier and generally pay little if anything in dividends. Where to invest money: look for funds that have terms like high quality, dividends, and growth AND income on their description page. Look for a dividend yield of 2% or more.In the low-interest rate environment of 2014, a 2% or higher stock dividend yield looks attractive compared to earning considerably less than 1% at the bank; and this dividend helps to support stock prices should the stock market decline. Alternatives paying little in dividends offer no such cushion in a declining market. For further diversification there’s another option as to where to invest: sector funds that specialize in areas like gold, natural resources, and real estate stocks.In the bond arena eliminate choices described as highest quality or long-term in nature. Where to invest money: medium quality, intermediate-term bond funds. Medium quality alternatives invest mostly in corporate bonds that are graded as medium to high quality. They pay considerably higher dividends than the highest quality choices that often load up on U.S. treasury bonds, resulting in considerably lower dividends for investors. The somewhat higher risk of medium quality vs. highest quality is not substantial.On the other hand, long-term bond funds pay higher dividends than intermediate-term alternatives, but with this higher dividend comes a substantial increase in investor risk. If interest rates heat up and climb in 2014, all bond investments will lose money – but the long term variety will get crushed. Rising interest rates send bond values down. In your search for where to invest money in the bond department for 2014 and beyond, definitely avoid long-term choices. Long term spells “high risk” for investors when interest rates threaten to go up.Now let’s talk about where to invest money for safety. For the money you invest that must be safe, eliminate both the stock and bond categories from consideration. Go with money market funds. These investments do not fluctuate in price, they pay dividends based on current interest rates, and there are no sales charges (loads) to worry about. In the super low interest rate environment of 2014, expect about as much in dividends as your bank pays in savings and checking accounts: about zero. If rates do go up as forecast, you can expect their dividends to rise as well. In 2007, before the financial crisis, money market funds were paying about 5%. In 1981 when interest rates peaked they paid 20%!In summary, here’s where to invest money in mutual funds for 2014 and beyond. In the stock arena invest in no-load stock index funds that invest in high quality dividend-paying stocks. In the bond fund department go with no-load bond index funds that invest in intermediate-term, medium to high quality corporate bonds. Where to invest money for safety: money market funds.Don’t work against yourself in deciding where to invest money in mutual funds. In both the stock and bond categories you can avoid costly sales charges (loads). You can also cut yearly expenses (and all of your choices will have them) when you invest money in index funds. These do not pass high management costs on to investors. They keep costs low by simply investing in line with a stock or bond index to duplicate its results.In other words, index funds do not pay money managers big bucks to TRY to out perform an index (like the Dow Jones Industrial Average). In deciding where to invest money in mutual funds in 2014 and beyond keep the following thought in mind. Few, if any, money managers have a proven track record of out performing the indexes on a consistent basis. You rarely get what you pay for when you invest money in mutual funds with high investor costs.
If you have ever traveled by air you would know that how tough it is to be in good state after the flight and that is especially if you have long haul flight you better be prepared for some harsh realities. With that said, I would always vouch for the fact that it is better to be prepared than be sorry. There are a few things that you should keep in mind while traveling by air. Airports nowadays are a mess with additional security measures and checks. So make sure that your reach the airport well in time and that means at least three hours before the international flight departure or at least two hours before if you are taking a domestic flight. Then if you are carrying a laptop make sure that it is out of the carry on bag as it has to be separately scanned through the security camera. Also make sure that you have no knife or anything pointed in the carry on luggage. Then comes the seat assignment nowadays all the airlines offer the online check in at least 24 hours before the flight. Take advantage of this facility as this will help you get the best of the best of the seats and you can have the journey in comfort. If you have an infant then make sure that you request for bulkhead seats in advance and also have the bassinet request put in. These are usually done on first come first served basis. Next comes the meal requirement and that is especially true for people who want to have purely vegetarian or raw diet. You need to put in the request very early. For special dietary requirements you need to put in special request and it depends on the airline whether they will be able to accommodate the request. In order to take proper rest during the flight make sure that you have a change of clothes and change into something lighter and comfortable as opposed to a business suit. So travel in easy clothes and then change back into formal wear just before the plane lands or after the plane lands. Make sure that to carry an IPod or a something which you can plug into ear. You can tune into airplane radio or TV also but usually they are very boring so it is better to have your own music device. Hope these simple yet important tips will make your flight less stressful if not enjoyable.
Most of the Congressional debate for health care reform revolves around ways to extend reimbursement for sick care. However, paying for more of the same fragmented, costly care isn’t reform, it’s madness.The $2.2 trillion health care system, the costliest in the world, requires a new top-to-bottom vision, and although the 600 doctors and health professionals gathered at the Institute of Medicine’s Summit on Integrative Medicine last month didn’t agree on everything, they reached a resounding consensus about the need for Americans to change their health habits. Yet how can that best be accomplished?With a primary shift toward health promotion, disease prevention and wellness, a revamped health care system could put the brakes on the disastrous trajectory predicted for 2012, in which total health care costs would equal 20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Providers, employers, and even insurance companies finally concede that the US would fall behind the world’s nations in every imaginable sector if one out of every dollar of our productivity went toward health care costs.For over 30 years, the National Wellness Institute has been reporting that 8 out of 10 Americans suffer from chronic ailments derived from unhealthy lifestyles: poor diet, inadequate physical activity and unmanaged stress. Yet the difficult task of behavior change has always fallen on individuals, without much support from the medical system or their doctors.In addition, cultural support has been lacking for the most at-risk populations, often minorities with higher rates of diabetes and obesity. At present, there are more obese Americans than overweight ones-an almost unthinkable statistic.Cultural support for healthy lifestyles starts with community activists demanding bike paths, public parks, safe streets, farmers’ markets, fresh food options and more from their local governments. Together with cooperation from industry, government, health care, and public health officials, pressure can be placed on developers to build environments that provide opportunities for physical activity. Teachers, parents and consumers can demand that Big Food stop advertising cheap, non-nutritious, calorie-dense, processed foods to kids and young adults. Schools can offer nutrition and PE classes again, and lunch programs can teach kids about healthy choices-and provide them!Should Your MD Get Paid to Teach Wellness?”Lose weight, stop smoking, start exercising, and cut down on your stress-and I’ll see you next year for your physical.” Everybody knows that the once-a-year admonition from your doctor rarely translates into new health habits.A new tier of health coaches can supply the support and encouragement needed for Americans to begin their journey towards maximizing personal health. Health coaches should be part of every public clinic, medical office and hospital wellness center. They should be reimbursed by insurance companies, or be part of the first-access tier of Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance companies and corporate wellness programs. Even Dr. Mehmet Oz suggested that health coaches should be considered a central part of health care reform to CNN’s medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta.Instead of medical doctors expecting to be reimbursed for providing health promotion and wellness services (at rates exceeding $200/ hour), health coaches could easily provide this service at one-fifth the cost. They would also present a more friendly, accessible, peer-support approach to individuals. The specialized training of medical doctors is best directed to complex cases, whether acute or chronic.The entire continuum of care needs to be re-examined and opened up to include reimbursement for health professionals that investigate the foundational causes of chronic illness, and who understand and have specialized skills in countering the ill effects of unhealthy lifestyles-professionals such as Nurse Practitioners, Naturopathic Doctors, and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, Homeopathic doctors, and Chiropractors.For too long, there has been an active collusion barring the advancement of these professions by certain medical organizations with insurance companies, and the public has suffered as a result.When these allied health professionals spoke up, demanding inclusion at the reimbursement table at the Summit on Integrative Medicine, a few medical doctors such as Dean Ornish, MD, championed this democratizing of the medical landscape, but others kept insisting that their own practices could accomplish wellness services, if only they were properly reimbursed.However, reimbursement for lifestyle counseling should not have to include the major overhead encountered by medical doctors, including their clinical offices, costly tuition loans, high-tech equipment, numerous staff and billing clerks.It’s been said that the US health care system is neither healthy nor much of a system. I believe it’s always darkest before the dawn of a new era, and these dark days of an ailing system must mean the light is about to break over the horizon.Bringing health coaches into the US health care system can address the colossal “elephant in the middle of the room”-that the burden of disease and related health costs can be dramatically lowered through healthy behavioral change. Learning to move more, eat well and less, and de-stress often, is not only a prescription for a better life, it’s an Rx for US health care reform.
I believe the year 2011 will be pivotal in the battle for an affordable and workable Health Care system that will serve the United States. If we will face the cold hard facts and develop a clear understanding of what a model system looks like, we can enjoy better individual health and economic prosperity beyond anyone’s belief system to comprehend. This first article of the New Year will lay out what a model system looks like and subsequent articles will give more details of how we can move toward a system that really works.With an ill-conceived “Obamacare” system taking effect this year, with no benefits for three years, the time has come to change my approach from “fixing” the system to “saving” the system. It is not my style to “scare” people into action, but the fact remains, if we do not stop this “Obamanation” in total, we are destined to become a third rate country with economic problems unlike anything our citizens have ever faced. Every single citizen needs to get involved now and stay involved for years to come because there will always be those who seek power to control our lives. Look around and see the symptoms. Already we have debt our grandchildren will be paying for, unemployment at never before seen levels and forecast to continue for years, freedoms neutralized or taken from us, and what do our leaders tell us? With obvious lies they tell us we are on the right track, and it will take years to make things better (better for who?). We need to take action NOW because the longer we allow these conditions to continue, the more devastating they will be and the longer it will take to fix them.So, let’s start with a clear understanding of what a workable system looks like. First, a free enterprise health care system that constantly adjusts to market conditions will best serve everyone. In other words, get politicians and government out of the business. Never in our history has any politician/government run program of any kind ever been successful, never!Step One to better health: Un-elect politicians who claim they will provide a health care program for you.Second, each individual needs to understand they have an individual responsibility to take better care of their health. Eating properly and exercising routinely will do more to improve one’s health and reduce future health problems than any “co-pay health plan”.Step Two to better health: Purchase only “catastrophic health care plans”. Everyone needs to realize that “co-pay plans” are not really what they seem. These plans are responsible for grossly increasing costs and are nothing more than financial plans to pre-pay for medical care one may or may not need as determined by an insurance company employee. It is my opinion that eliminating these plans would reduce costs by as much as 70% almost overnight.Third, take the profit for lawyers out of the industry. Lawyers do absolutely nothing to improve health care for anyone. Lawyers are nothing more than “vultures” hovering around hospitals looking for opportunities to sue someone.Step Three to better health: Individually we must learn how to vote and elect only politicians who will support the concept of taking all of the profit for lawyers out of the industry.Fourth, everyone must assume personal responsibility for their own health. Every individual has health concerns that are specific for them and individually should be responsible for learning to deal with them. To assume one can get healthy by going to a doctor, or a hospital, or by taking drugs (of any kind), or being covered by health insurance, is living in a fantasy world, it is not going to happen. Each of us owns something that will work to improve one’s health, and that is our own body. It was marvelously created to serve each of us and the better we take care of it, the better the results.Step Four to better health: Be responsible for your own health and learn as much as you can about the relationship of good health and your body.There you have it, a look at what health care should look like and some suggestions how to achieve good health. Subsequent articles will expand on thoughts I have that I think will be helpful to everyone. But, what questions do you have? I would love to hear from you with questions about health care. You can reach me on my website, www.TheHealthCareFix.com