Saturday, November 13, 2010

Global smartphone sales rose by nearly 100% in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the same period last year. That allowed Apple and Research In Motion to pick up market share while large handset companies like Nokia, Samsung and LG, which do not have strong smartphone products, lost ground.
The success of the iPhone and smartphones powered by Google's Android operating systems have allowed these 3G and WiFi powered devices to leapfrog over products like the netbook as "PC replacements." iPhone has a huge advantage over netbooks because of the App Store, which has more than 250,000 software applications that enables users to customize their devices to their individual needs.
The first major smartphone was the BlackBerry. It was introduced in 2002, but was built for business use. The iPhone, which was first available in 2007, created a huge consumer demand for smartphones.
The smartphone has begun to replace a number of other consumer electronics devices. As AT&T and Verizon Wireless build their cellular business, landline customers cancel traditional phone lines. They don't need them anymore in a world with 3G wireless devices.
The power of the smartphone as the primary device used for news, entertainment and communication will only increase. New 4G networks will allow subscribers to connect to the Internet with handsets that will download data at speeds similar to those supplied by a home cable modem. Smartphone processors become more powerful each year, and the devices get more storage capacity
This is 24/7 Wall St.'s list of the devices that the smartphone has begun to replace, and in some cases, that process is so far along that the older products have almost disappeared.
The following are the 10 products which smartphones are killing.
1. PDAs
Personal digital assistants, the devices that transformed personal organization in the 1990's, are almost obsolete. The product was a stepping stone toward the superior smartphone. The Palm Pilot, which was the leading PDA, was successful because it possessed a number of features that are now included in most smartphones. Creator Palm's performance in the face of the expanding smartphone market helps further illustrate the decline of the PDA. The company lost about half of its North American market share between 2008 and 2009, while smartphone sales increased 13.9% from the year before. As a result, Palm launched its latest smartphone in June 2009, the Pre.
2. Flip Video Cameras
Cisco Systems' line of Flip video cameras has been modestly popular over the past few years, bringing in about $75 million between February and May 2010, according to Cisco. However, the multifunctional smartphone may soon push Flip out of the picture. Both the iPhone 4 and the Droid X feature 720p video capabilities, the same as Flip cameras. Flip cameras do, however, have a small advantage over smartphones because of their higher video frame capture rate. This slight edge in technological ability isolates Flip cameras as products that only appeal to a small percentage of consumers whose video recording needs cannot be met by a smartphone; a niche market that may not be able to sustain the business.
3. MP3 Players
Companies that make MP3 players have sold fewer and fewer units ever since smartphones began to provide the service. This marks the first time since the inception of the Walkman that portable music players will exist with more than a singular function. According to Deloitte, 42% of smartphone users have reduced or stopped using their portable digital music players because of their phones' music-playing capabilities. Even the iPod, the biggest selling MP3 player of all time, had its lowest point since 2006 in the most recent quarter.
4. Digital Cameras
As handset phone cameras improve in quality, the demand for separate, low-end digital cameras may begin to decrease. Many phones already have 5-megapixel camera capabilities. Market intelligence company iSuppli predicts that the average for phones will rise to 5.7 megapixels by 2013. Digital still cameras, however, averaged 7.6 megapixels in 2008 and may reach 13.9 in 2013. According to Pam Tufegdzic, consumer electronics analyst at iSuppli, "handsets soon may begin to cannibalize the low-end of the DSC (digital still camera) market as they incorporate higher megapixels and flash capabilities." This scenario does not seem too far off, as the recently released Nokia N8 smartphone features a 12-megapixel camera.
5. Handheld Video Games
For 2010, factory unit shipments of game-capable mobile phones are expected to reach 1.27 billion, according to iSuppli. This will be an increase of 11.4% from the year before. Handheld video game devices, however, are expected to decline 2.5% over the same period, shipping just 38.9 million factory units. The reason is more consumers are using their phones for portable gaming. In 2009, the percentage of portable gaming revenue generated by the iPhone grew from 5% to 19%, according to Flurry Analytics. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said the company has sold more than 1.5 billion iPhone/iPod Touch OS games. Currently, six of the top 10 highest-grossing apps are games, such as "Angry Birds" and "Tap Zoo." There are now reports that a Sony PlayStation smartphone is in the works.
6. GPS
The increase in smartphones with GPS capabilities poses a huge threat to standalone GPS devices. According to iSuppli, by the end of 2011 about 80% of phones will include GPS technology. According to the company, the number of navigation-capable smartphones being used by 2014 will be greater than the number of standalone devices. As a result, very few people will seek out GPS-specific devices such as those made by TomTom and Garmin.
7. PCs
There are plenty of studies that insist that smartphones will begin to replace the PC as the common vehicle for accessing the Internet. Analyst firm Informa Telecoms & Media projects that smartphone traffic will increase 700% over the next five years. IT research firm Gartner predicts that smartphone sales will outpace PC sales by 2012, if not earlier. Google CEO Eric Schmidt, whose company's mobile business has doubled over the last year, has expressed this sentiment as well. As smartphones continue to feature more memory, storage capability and stronger processing power, consumers will increasingly rely on them for Internet use instead of their clunky PCs.
8. Regular Cell Phones
Just as smartphones are making other single-function devices more and more obsolete, they are pushing regular, "featureless" cell phones out of the competitive marketplace. According to iSuppli, smartphone manufacturers Research in Motion and Apple claimed the fifth and sixth spots for top phone brands in the first quarter of 2010. Both companies exclusively produce smartphones. Nokia, however, saw its cell phone market share drop to 28.2% from 36.7%, underscoring its focus on non-smart phones. According to Gartner, third-quarter sales of smartphones nearly doubled.
9. Watches
As more people have become equipped with mobile phones, fewer people have found a need to wear wrist watches. From 2001 to 2006, the amount that Americans spent on watches dropped 17%, according to Experian Simmons Research. This trend will most likely increase, as Tamara Sender of research group Mintel notes. "Many consumers have grown up with technology and are just as likely to associate the notion of checking the time with a mobile handset as with a watch, and as they grow older this mindset will accompany them." It should be noted that many luxury watch brands, such as Rolex, have remained popular. This, however, is due to the fact that these watches are worn for fashion, not function.
10. Remote Controls
Although it is hard to imagine there being a successful replacement for the television remote, smartphones are beginning to do just that. Smartphones now offer apps that act as remote controls for television models made by Mitsubishi, Samsung and Sonos. Additionally, as Internet and television content become more and more intertwined, smartphone remotes seem an increasingly appropriate instrument of control. The iPhone can currently be used for Apple TV boxes, and Google offers its own controls for its television services. According to technology research firm Forrester Research, the number of homes with televisions that are connected to the Internet is expected to reach 43 million by 2015.
Credits to: YAHOO FINANCE ONLINE AND 24/7 Wall St
 by Douglas A. McIntyre

Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Preparedness Tips for Homeowners and Renters
  • Take an inventory of your valuables and belongings. This should include taking photographs or a video of each room. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster.
  • To enable filing claims more quickly, keep sales receipts and/or canceled checks. Also note the model and serial numbers of the items in your home inventory.
  • As you acquire more valuables — jewelry, family heirlooms, antiques, art —consider purchasing an additional “floater” or “rider” to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowners or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Remember to include in your home inventory those items you rarely use (e.g., holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc.).
  • Store copies of all your insurance policies in a safe location away from your home that is easily accessible in case of disaster. You may want to store your policies and inventory in a waterproof, fireproof box or in a safe, remote location such as a bank safe deposit box. Consider leaving a copy of your inventory with relatives, friends or your insurance provider and store digital pictures in your e-mail or on a Web site for easy retrieval.
  • Know what is and is not covered by your insurance policy. You might need additional protection depending on where you live. Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy.
  • Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
  • Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home or possessions after depreciation while replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions without deducting for depreciation. Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether purchasing replacement coverage is worth the cost.
  • Speak with your insurance provider to find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a disaster.
  • Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy accordingly.


Insurance Commissioners Offer Tips for Consumers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 17, 2007) - With healthcare costs rising and longer life expectancies, funding long-term care needs is an increasing concern for millions of people. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 9 million Americans, now 65 or older, will require long-term care. HHS expects that number to rise by 25 percent - to 12 million - by 2020. The average annual cost of nursing home care is $74,806, according to Genworth Financial's 2007 Cost of Care Survey, but that figure can fluctuate depending on the level of care required, and the state in which the care is provided.    
To help consumers make more informed decisions about long-term care insurance coverage, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers tips and considerations through its public education program, Insure U - Get Smart About Insurance, at Additionally, answers to many common questions about long-term care insurance can be found in the NAIC's free "Shopper's Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance," which can be ordered online at Consumers can also obtain the guide by calling their local state insurance department.
"Consumers who would like to protect their assets, minimize dependence on family members and control how they receive nursing or home care, should carefully consider long-term care insurance," said Sandy Praeger, NAIC President-Elect and Kansas Insurance Commissioner. "It's a highly individualized decision that requires people to look closely at multiple factors including their family health history, dependent relationships and personal financial situation."
Understanding the Basics of Long-Term Care Insurance
When people are unable to perform activities of daily living - such as eating, dressing and bathing - long-term care insurance can pay for the services of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and in-home caregivers. Importantly, long-term care insurance covers expenses for those diagnosed with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Standard health insurance policies and Medicare usually do not pay for long-term care expenses associated with these illnesses. Medicaid provides limited long-term care benefits - and only after a person's assets have been depleted.
"People are living longer, but they often don't have the ability to take care of themselves as they reach the older ages," said Walter Bell, NAIC President and Alabama Insurance Commissioner. "Because these costs can become prohibitively high, interest in long-term care insurance is increasing. We encourage consumers to visit our Web site and take the long-term care quiz to find out more about their options." The quiz is located on the right-hand side of the home page
A major consideration for purchasing long-term care insurance, according to the NAIC, is whether individuals have assets they want to protect, as the substantial annual cost of long-term care can quickly deplete even a sizeable nest egg. On the other hand, if one's retirement savings are minimal or non-existent, he or she would likely qualify for Medicaid in a very short period of time, significantly diminishing the need for long-term care insurance coverage. According to the NAIC, consumers should not purchase long-term care insurance if they are currently on Medicaid or their only source of income is Social Security.
Ten Tips Regarding Long-Term Care Insurance from the NAIC
  1. Investigate long-term care coverage if you don't want to rely on others to support you, and you want flexibility in choosing the type of long-term care services.
  2. Long-term care insurance isn't for everyone. If you are currently receiving Social Security or expect to have minimal or no retirement savings, you will likely qualify for state aid and should not purchase long-term care insurance.
  3. Research individual insurance companies to see whether they have a history of raising rates for long-term care coverage. Check with your state insurance department to learn how your state regulates rate increases.
  4. Check with your financial advisor or accountant for guidance on whether long-term care insurance is appropriate for your specific financial situation. If long-term care insurance is for you, shop around for the most appropriate coverage at the best price.
  5. Make sure you understand what a long-term care insurance policy covers and just as importantly, what it doesn't. Ask questions and make sure the company is reputable and licensed to sell insurance in your state. If you have concerns about a company, contact your state insurance department.
  6. Pre-existing conditions, conditions that you have before you apply for the insurance coverage, may be excluded from coverage. In addition, for some policies, age 60 is a trigger for a rate increase. Thus, it may be beneficial to purchase your policy before your late 50's.
  7. Don't rely on Medicare or Medicaid to cover your long-term care needs. Medicare will usually pay for a small percentage of nursing home costs. Medicaid pays for long-term care services but only if you meet federal poverty guidelines, and the choice of care facilities can be very limited.
  8. Keep in mind that tax breaks are available for qualified long-term care insurance policy premiums. The benefit payments received under such policies are tax-free.
  9. Do not divulge personal financial or medical information over the phone, such as your social security number, your health status, your Medicare status or your private insurance coverage. Don't be fooled by mailings about long-term care insurance that appear to be from an official government source. If you are concerned that someone is trying to trick you, contact your state insurance department.
  10. Be wary of advertising that suggests Medicare is associated with a long-term care policy. Medicare does not endorse nor sell long-term care insurance.
Six Special Considerations Regarding Long-Term Care Insurance
The NAIC advises consumers to make sure the following items are included in their long-term care policies:
    • An "outline of coverage" that clearly describes the policy's benefits, terms and limitations in detail. It is important to understand how much money the policy would pay, and how much the policyholder would be responsible for out-of-pocket.
    • A clear description of the elimination period. Some policies have a set number of days that must be spent in a nursing home or in claims status before the long-term care insurance coverage kicks in.
    • At least one year of nursing home or home healthcare coverage or both, including intermediate and custodial care.
    • The right to cancel the policy for any reason within 30 days of purchase and receive a full premium refund.
    • A guarantee that the policy cannot be canceled or terminated because of the policyholder's age or physical or mental health condition.
    • Consider an inflation protection option that periodically increases the benefit level without the need for the policyholder to provide evidence of insurability.
"Consumers can easily protect themselves from being scammed by fake long-term care insurance policies," said Catherine J. Weatherford, NAIC Executive Vice President and CEO. "Before purchasing a policy, take the time to stop, call and confirm with your state insurance department that the company is authorized to sell insurance in your state."
For more information about insurance options, or to order a copy of the NAIC's free booklet, "A Shopper's Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance" The site is also available in Spanish
Credits to: 
NAIC News Release

Finding Health Care Coverage in California

Finding Health Care Coverage in CaliforniaDownload the Finding Health Care Coverage in California
Download the Finding Health Care Coverage in California (Spanish)
Written for consumers, this is a user-friendly, 20-page booklet-version of Health Care Options MatrixT Guide that is available in English and Spanish. This is an ideal tool for health care providers to give their patients, insurance brokers to their clients, teachers to their students, business owners to their employees, and many others.

THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. I am trying to let people know about some resources that are available, but sometimes we are not aware that they exist.  

Buying And Selling Long-Term Care Insurance: 2011 Long Term care Insurance Tax Deduction Limits...

Buying And Selling Long-Term Care Insurance: 2011 Long Term care Insurance Tax Deduction Limits...: "November 2, 2010. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced increased deductibility levels for long-term care insurance policies purchas..."

Current Developments in Employee Benefits and Pensions (Part I)

Current Developments in Employee Benefits and Pensions (Part I)

How to Become a Boss by: Jeffrey Fox

Never forget that your success was not earned by you alone

You are never too important to listen and learn from anybody.
People who keep their promises flourish in good companies
One goal of the great boss is to teach people to think for themselves, to stand by themselves.
The great boss encourages food based mini-celebrations
Your words carry weight; speak with discretion.
Don’t talk about one employee with another employee of equal or close rank.
Lightning can strike in many ways – money, flowers, trips, gifts, handwritten notes, public thank-you’s.
Be mentally tough. Be emotionally tough. Make the tough decisions. You can care and be tough. You can be tough and nice at the same time.
Don’t discount advice given in an obnoxious, rude, or insulting way. Don’t discount advice given in an angry, loud, irritating voice, just because the voice is off-putting.
Listen objectively. Listen with self-discipline. Listen. Consider. Decide. Then do what you think is best.
It is prudent to have an occasional audit of everyone’s expense accounts to be sure people are not unwittingly erring in reporting or are up to date on tax regulations.
The great boss is a champion for the organization. The great boss stands for what the organization stands for. The great boss does not allow the company name to be sullied, and does not allow people publicly linked to the company to defame the company.
Be firm that goals and deadlines set, are goals and deadlines met. Be firm that “to do” lists get done.
Just as children want a parent, not a pal, employees want a boss, not a buddy. So be the Boss.
Always keep in mind that you and your boss are friendly, and not friends.
Human helium is composed of performance, training, innovation, desire, fun, feeling good, validation, and freedom.
The great boss regularly revisits policies to check relevance, effectiveness, and fairness.
Great bosses are civil, polite, courteous, and mannerly.
The competent quirky boss is confident and independent-minded, less susceptible to herd mentality and group think.
Be energetic. Be up. Be Ready. Be active. Being energetic is a state of mind.

This is my favorite author. Mr. Jeffrey Fox has many wonderful business books. Anybody can easily understand the concepts taught in his books. Thank you Mr. Fox for giving me the opportunity to learn so much from you. 

Property Taxes

Questions You Should Ask About Property Taxes
By: Michael Magaw / Peter Wollner
Real Estate Update, November 2010

Property taxes are a major expense, one which often totals thousands of dollars per year. But property taxes are not the same for like properties or for every owner.
Property taxes provide much of the revenue used to fund local and state governments. As property values go up, property tax collections also rise which means additional dollars are available for more public services -- and perhaps even for tax refunds. Alternatively, if property values decline, then government programs tend to be squeezed or there is pressure to raise income and sales taxes to make up for short-falls.
How much you pay for property taxes depends on the value of your home and also local tax policies. In the usual case, a property value is established by government assessors. Once a value is set the tax rate is then applied. For instance, if the rate is $1.50 for each $100 in value, then a home worth $100,000 would have an annual tax bill of $1,500 or $125 per month.
The road from the tax assessment to a bill for property taxes is rarely straight, however. There are often complications, so it pays to ask questions:

  • What value is used to assess taxes? You might think that a home's current market worth would be used to establish a value for tax purposes, but that's not always the case. In many areas under circuit breaker programs annual tax increases are limited so the tax can be less than current market values might allow. Another approach is to apply the tax rate to a portion of the assessed value and not the full worth of the property.

  • What are the current owners paying? Is their tax bill consistent with neighboring homes of equal size and condition? If different, why?

  • How will property taxes impact your ability to borrow? Lenders use a number of measures to qualify borrowers and one of the most important is the percent of gross monthly income spent for mortgage principal, interest, property taxes, and insurance -- what loan officers call PITI. Low property tax bills can make it easier to qualify for a loan.

  • Has the tax bill been appealed or is it being appealed? Values by tax assessors can be contested if owners think estimates are too high -- perhaps because the valuation did not consider certain factors, the math was wrong, or an incorrect schedule was applied. Local assessment offices can tell you how to appeal and in many areas there are services which will do the fighting for you.

  • Are you or the current owners entitled to an exemption? Local rules vary extensively, but those over 65, veterans, individuals with limited incomes, and others may be entitled to a full or partial exemption. If, for example, the current owner has an exemption which will not apply to you, then current tax costs may be effectively understated.

  • Can property taxes be deferred? To ease cashflow burdens for retirees, it may be possible to have property taxes accrue as a lien against a home. Owners in such situations need not pay some or all of their property taxes: instead, when the home is sold, taxes are taken from the sale proceeds. One jurisdiction, Montgomery County, MD, actually allows qualified owners of all ages to defer property tax payments under this system.

  • What are the income tax benefits of property tax payments? In the usual case, property taxes are deductible from federal and state income taxes. For details, speak with a tax professional.

  • Will the sale of a property trigger a different tax bill? A sale may suggest a new and higher value to assessors, past exemptions may not apply, and circuit breakers may be re-started or even turned off.

  • How often are assessments made? In some areas physical assessments are only made every two or three years. This means that property taxes may be based on values which are out of date, something that can be important in communities where property values are rapidly changing, either up or down.If all of this seems fairly complex, it is. The local tax assessment office can tell you how the system works while real estate brokers can provide general information. In the end, of course, there are always taxes to pay, the only question is how much. 

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    The best of luck to everyone... blanca
  • JFK; Bush; LBJ; Nixon