Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Home Economist: Money can’t

By Brett Graff
The National Retail Association is gushing over its recentlyreleased estimate showing we’re all about to spend $17.6 billion onValentine’s Day gifts for the people we love — that’s an 8.5 percentincrease from last year and highest amount we’ve spent in 10 years. Andwhile perhaps that’s encouraging for the South Florida shoppingenclaves, scientists say those of us who prioritize our jewels, ourwatches and our store-bought status items are most likely to be theleast satisfied in the very marriages that many of those gifts aresupposed to symbolize.
“Materialism does not benefit a long-term,satisfying, stable relationship,” says Luke Dean, the financialplanning program director at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.“For that, you need to focus on people and the relationship and haveless an emphasis on things.”
Dean has made a career out ofstudying money and its effect on our feelings, recently publishingpowerful new findings that prove the more materialistic the marriedcouple, the less satisfying the marriage. The results are shocking evento Dean — spouses with similar values are supposed to be happier — andsuggest that if we’re truly devoted to our matrimonies, we’ll put awaythe cash and instead invest more meaningful resources.
It’s a goal that might be both trickier and more essential here inMiami. While it’s difficult to measure materialism, we are after all —don’t say you haven’t noticed — one of seven U.S. cities with aReal Housewivesfranchise. More officially, our city’s divorce rate got nationalattention in 2010 when The Daily Beast ranked Miami as 26th nationwide.
“The thirst for materialism pushes people to live beyond their means,” says Charlotte Karlan, a North Miami divorce lawyer.
“In South Florida you’ll see a lot of it. That thirst absolutely does drive people towards divorce.”
It’san unpleasant ride filled with conflict and frustration, says Dean, whoexamined questionnaires filled out by 1,700 married couples. Spouseswho said that money and possessions were essential to their happiness inlife also admitted communicating less effectively with their partnersand arguing with them more forcefully. Materialistic people also saidtheir matrimonial unions were less stable and that they derived fromthem smaller amounts of satisfaction. These effects were amplified incouples made up of two materialistic partners, as opposed to just one.
“Generallyresearch supports the idea that in relationships, similarities are likeassets,” Dean says. “The more similar two people are, the better offtheir relationship. But that’s not true with materialism because there’sno person to serve as an anchor — a steady reminder that people aremore important than possessions.”
It makes sense, says Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist and author ofMoney Harmony,who notes that money seems to hold a permanent seat atop all the listsciting reasons for martial discontent. Spending budgets — even for thewealthy — are generally fixed. Two materialistic people will rarelyagree on, say the yacht or the home renovations.
“If they havedifferent goals they’ll fight about those differences,” she says.“Couples who polarize are normal. The trick is to remember that money isnot love, power, control, security or happiness.”
The “negativeconflict” mentioned by the researchers? They‘re talking about namecalling and yelling, says Dr. Netta Shaked, a Miami licensed clinicalpsychologist. Healthy arguing — which involves respecting a differentpoint of view — introduces solutions for solving problems, she says.What’s more, you have to feel your partner meets most of your needs andhelps you feel comfortable expressing them.
“Communication is the crux to any healthy relationship,” says Shaked.
Becomingless materialistic might also help matters, says Dr. Ronda Fuchs, alicensed clinical psychologist in Miami Beach. The first step toshedding a status-conscious outlook: acknowledge that it’s selfish innature, she says. That’s because materialism embraces actions such asacquiring and receiving, rather than sharing and giving. Reverse yourself-absorption by engaging in activities that focus on the otherperson: volunteer together for a non-profit organization, make a mealyour partner enjoys, rub the other person’s tired feet or take them for awalk to watch the sunset.
“Materialism offers temporary happiness,” Fuchs says. “Sharing is what helps us feel truly fulfilled.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/11/2635383/the-home-economist-money-cant.html#storylink=cpy

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Public services reform showing mixed results, says report

Defence, Home Office and Justice are driving through "real reform", but others are failing, thinktank reveals
Ministry of DefenceApache Longbow helicopters. A new report shows the MoD, Home Office andJustice departments are leading government reform, but others arefalling behind.Photograph: MoD/PA
The Ministry of Defence under its former secretary of state LiamFox, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice are the threegovernment departments where real reform is taking place, according to anew report.
In its second annual rating of central government reform, centre-right thinktank Reformsays it has applied "dispassionate" analysis to assess the impact ofthe government's programme to cut the public sector deficit and reformpublic services – and has come up with some surprises.
Neitherof the two departments at the heart of the government's reform drive,the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, are judged to be carrying out "realreform". The Cabinet Office's open public services white paper andtransparency agency have not succeeded in changing the culture of publicservice delivery, so the thinktank believes the department is"coasting" on reform, while the Treasury is judged to be goingbackwards, because its ringfencing of health and schools budgets has puta "handbrake" on reform and efficiency in those sectors.
Thereport says central government's top reformers in 2011 were Fox,Kenneth Clarke and Theresa May, while the losers are Andrew Lansley andGeorge Osborne. Fox gains praise for his support for radical civilservice reform and his policythat the private sector should jointly manage the entire defenceestate, while May is "driving better performance within tighterbudgets".
However, the thinktank's praisethe Ministry of Defence contrasts sharply with yesterday's National Audit Office reportwhich criticises the department for making drastic cuts in itsheadcount without making planning in detail how it will operate in thefuture.
The report concludes that the government candeliver successful public service reform, but calls into doubt the primeminister's commitment to public service reform, and criticises his"micromanagement" of NHS waiting times, nursing standards, adoption andtroubled families. The thinktank also says the government's U-turn onthe NHS has overshadowed the whole public service reform agenda.
"Managementof reform matters," says the report. "This is a moment of truth. It ispractically impossible for governments to recover the momentum of reformonce it has been lost." The report says the government should implementa full-scale review of health and education workforces, to make themmore flexible, adding that the proposal to introduce regional publicsector pay is a mere "baby step" towards the kind of change that isrequired, on the model of the Winsor review of policing. It also saysthe government should reform "fast and at scale".
Writing for the Public Leaders Network,Tara Majumbar, a researcher at the Reform thinktank, says publicservice leaders across the country are using the cuts as a real catalystfor improving services. She cites West Midlands police as an examplewhere financial pressure resulted in a programme that has "entirelychanged the culture and processes of the force".
Majumbarsays the prime minister David Cameron needs to recognise that there hasbeen real change in departments that mave made the case for competition,value for money and greater accountability to users. "These departmentshave let public leaders make the decisions that are best for theirservices," she argues.
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Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Solicits Cash at Home of Lesbian Couple

By Devin Dwyer
President Obama, who has opposed same-sex marriage but is said to be“evolving” on the issue, this evening is attending a fundraiser at thehome of a lesbian couple whose 2008 Chicago nuptials were described in alocal paper as the “wedding of the season.”
Obama will collect an estimated $1.4 million for his re-electioncampaign from an intimate group of around 40 gay and lesbian supportersat the home of Karen Dixon and Dr. Nan Schaffer in Washington, D.C.,according to a campaign official.
Dixon and Schaffer, transplants from Chicago, held a wedding ceremonyin July 2008 with hundreds of guests attending from all across thecountry, according to an account in the Windy City Times.   Photos ofthe ceremony are available HERE.
But their marriage was not afforded the same legal recognition andbenefits as heterosexual couples because same-sex marriage is not legalin Illinois. (It’s unclear whether the couple has filed for a legalmarriage certificate in D.C., where gay marriage is now performed. Thecouple could not be reached for comment.)
Obama has remained mum on his view on whether couples such as Dixonand Schaffer should be able to legally wed in states across the country,preferring instead to let each state decide for itself.
“I think it’s important for us to work through these issues becauseeach community is going to be different, each state is going to bedifferent,” he said in June after New York became the sixth and largeststate to legalize same-sex marriage. Washington state this week becamethe seventh.
The position — a new twist for Obama, who appeared to supportlegalizing the unions in 1996, later opposed them and most recently saidhis views are “evolving” — has rankled advocates who say the president is making a calculated political decision with an eye toward 2012.
He has, however, opposed the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opposes a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution.
“The president’s position on these issues writ large are well known,”White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week. “You know hisposition, where it stands now, on the position of same-sex marriage. Idon’t have much to add on that.”
Asked whether Obama supports marriages like that between Dixon andSchaffer and whether their marriage in Chicago should have been affordedthe same rights and privileges as those given to heterosexual couples,Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt offered the following comment:
“The President has long opposed a Federal Marriage Amendment,supported the repeal of DOMA, and been clear that this was a matter thanstates should decide.”
Schaffer is a veterinary doctor who specializes in rhinoceros reproduction, according to her biographyin the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. She is also aphilanthropist, political activist and co-founder of the Windy CityMedia Group.
Dixon is an attorney and GLBT community advocate.
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Home sales rebound across county

By Vicki Stout For Williamson A.M
Fieldstone, Westhaven were most active in 2011
 Fieldstone Farms, Franklin’s first planned development, andWesthaven, the neighborhood that will soon overtake it as the biggest inthe county, were the top-selling neighborhoods in Williamson County in2011.
According to Diane Osowiecki andMandy Buchholz of Diane O and Friends, out of Benchmark Realty inBrentwood, home sales improved in 2011 after several challenging years.
“Fieldstone... has a Publix grocery store, restaurants and a school. It haseverything from condos to zero-lot line to a senior community,”Osowiecki said of the neighborhood, which registered 131 home sales in2011.
Amy Tarterof Bob Parks Realty says Fieldstone remains desirable because of itsgood location, pool, clubhouse and homes in a wide variety of priceranges.Westhaven, with 115 home sales in 2011 — with an average sales priceof $526,000 — was the second-best seller in Franklin, according toOsowiecki.“They have lots of amenities, and building has really begun booming there again,” Tarter said.
Thethird-most-active neighborhood in Franklin for 2011 was McKay’s Mill.According to Osowiecki, 72 single-family homes sold there.
“Thecommunity is now a seller’s market,” she said. “There’s so littleinventory there. It’s a very popular live, work and play community.”
Next on the list, she said, is Ladd Park, with 58 single-family homes sold.
“Thecommunity has over two miles of Harpeth River frontage; 240 acres ofopen space are connected by 10 acres of trails, making it verydesirable,” Osowiecki said.
Tarter said Ladd Park’s prices became more reasonable in 2011, helping it make a comeback from a lull.
Fifthon the list of top sellers in Franklin is Franklin Green with 51 salesin 2011. Osowiecki says this community’s great price point made it a topseller. Tarter says the price point and family orientation of thecommunity enhanced its sales.
Brookfield moves in Brentwood
Osowiecki says Brookfield was the top-selling Brentwood community, with 36 homes selling in 2011.
“The homes in this neighborhood range in size from 3,000-plus square feet to 5,000-plus square feet,” Osowiecki said.
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End energy profiteering: The rich get richer, the poor get colder

By Simon Read
Big Six suppliers heading for bumper profits and bonuses as more than 5.5 million UK homes hit by fuel poverty
More than 5.5 million households are suffering under fuel poverty, many being forced to choose between heating or eating.
Meanwhile the Big Six energy suppliers increased their profit marginsby 733 per cent in just three months last year. Enough is enough. TodayThe Independent supports a campaign to force energy companiesto share their profits with the needy. The aim is simple: to makeessential home energy affordable to all.
An estimated 3,000 winterdeaths are caused every year by fuel poverty and as the winter chillreally begins to hit home, with more snow and icy weather forecast forthe next few days, it could be the worst time for the vulnerable,particularly the elderly.
Research by Age UK last month found thattwo million elderly people are so cold that they go to bed when they'renot tired in an attempt to keep energy bills down. More than two-fifthsof people surveyed admitted to turning their heating down even whencold.
Average household bills have doubled in the past six yearsfrom around £600 a year in 2006 to more than £1,200 a year now. Theincreases have more people than ever slipping into fuel poverty – whentheir gas and electricity costs account for at least a tenth of theirincome. According to research from uSwitch, £1,500 a year on energy isthe tipping point at which three-quarters of households will startrationing their energy, three-fifths will go without adequate heatingand more than a third will be forced to turn their heating off entirely.
Thatfigure looks like edging ever closer as further energy increases seemhighly likely, especially after wholesale gas prices reached a six-yearhigh earlier this week. Meanwhile, in October the regulator Ofgemrevealed that energy suppliers had increased their profit margins by awhopping 733 per cent, from £15 to £125 per household.
Thecampaign – End The Big Six Energy Fix – is being co-ordinated bypressure group Compass and has already attracted cross-party supportfrom politicians as well as economists, civil society leaders,charities, religious leaders, celebrities and campaigners. The 100leading figures are today urging the Government to tackle the predatorybehaviour of big energy companies by introducing a new levy on theirprofits.
They set out their three demands in a letter published intoday's Independent signed by a range of figures – including the GreenParty leader Caroline Lucas, the former Home Secretary David Blunkettand the Tory parliamentary private secretary Mark Lancaster.
Themain aim is to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies' profits andto use the money raised to make homes energy efficient, which wouldalso reduce fuel poverty. The funds raised should be ring-fenced to helppeople with their energy costs, particularly those living in fuelpoverty.
The campaign is launched ahead of the profitannouncements of the big energy companies later this month. In the firstsix months of 2011 alone the Big Six energy companies posted profits ofaround £3.5bn.
Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said:"It is completely outrageous that the Big Six are able to rake ineye-watering profits as people up and down the country are forced tochoose between heating their homes and feeding their families.
"Thesecompanies are delivering a crucial public service, and it is now theGovernment's responsibility to hold them to account for failing toprovide anything close to a fair deal for consumers. We need to seeOfgem taking a far stronger role in regulating this out-of-controlindustry."
Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of theEarth, said: "It's scandalous that the major energy firms are nettingbillions of pounds in profit while more than five million households inBritain struggle to heat their homes."
Gavin Hayes, generalsecretary of Compass, said: "If the Government can impose a levy on thebig oil companies, then why not impose a similar levy on big energycompanies?"
Campaigners are encouraging people to sign a new petition at www.endthebigsixenergyfix.org.uk. They hope that public support will pile pressure on the Chancellor to announce plans for a levy in March's Budget.
From today the campaign will be targeting millions of people across Britain through Twitter and Facebook.
Case study: 'It's a case of sitting back and hoping the bills aren't too high'
OwenEllis, 77, finds paying for heating his home a real struggle,especially since the Coalition Government cut back the annual winterfuel payment this year by £50
"My monthly income is about£400 so I can't afford to keep the heating on all the time," said theformer local council worker, who has been living alone in east Londonsince his wife died three years ago.
"But I'm one of the luckyones as the flat I rent is new and well insulated, so if I blast theheating for a couple of hours, it keeps the flat warm for a few hourslonger."
He sticks £7 away every fortnight to pay for hisquarterly heating bills. "It's a case of sitting back and hoping thebills aren't too high when they come in," he said.
"TheGovernment's attitude simply seems to be that if they take the moneyaway from the elderly and people die, it will be less of a financialburden on them."

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Make money teaching online

By Kim Komando
It’s true that money-making scams are very common online. Thegood news is there are perfectly legitimate ways to make money over theInternet. Many don’t even involve eBay.
If you have experience asan English language teacher or tutor, you can make extra incometeaching English online to Asians, South Americans and other peoplearound the world. It has, in fact, suddenly become an incredible growthindustry.
Most of theteachers providing this service work part time from home, and — thanksto broadband Internet video-conferencing — it doesn’t matter if thathome is in Cody, Wyo., or Miami. Talk about globalization!
Inthe early days of teaching English online, freelancers had to hustle tofind their own clients. Today, there are several online services thatact as liaisons between learners and teachers.
Onlinelanguage services all work a little differently. One might be a betterfit for you than another, depending on how entrepreneurial you are.
Once you’re accepted at Verbalplanet.com (www.verbalplanet.com),for instance, you hang your shingle up in the marketplace and hope thatstudents like your profile and experience. New teachers often offerfree trial lessons to attract students and get the positive-feedbackball rolling.
Verbalplanet.comsupplies easy-to-use appointment and invoicing software. You set yourown rate (most tutors charge around $30 per session), and get paid bythe students through PayPal.
Verbalplanet.comis a partner of Harper Collins, which publishes MP3 audio languagecourses, foreign language dictionaries, and other educational materials.The service takes no cut from the teachers.
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Friday, 10 February 2012

Home economists create placemats for Meals on Wheels

By The Spokesman-Review 
It began in the spring of 2009 with a conversation in a Wenatchee quilt shop.
CathyLobe, a member of Spokane’s Retired Home Economists, inquired about anumber of homemade placemats hanging on the wall. The placemats, Lobelearned, were made by local quilters and donated to Wenatchee’s Meals onWheels program. Lobe, an avid sewer, came home and shared the idea withthe other women of the Spokane Retired Home Economists.
Aftersome discussion and planning, Lobe and members Jan Stripes, Betsy Blake,Donna Graham and Gloria Irsfeld agreed to meet every other month tomake their own homemade placemats, which they donate to Spokane’s Mealson Wheels program.
Since 2010, the group has made 2,100 placemats for Meals on Wheels recipients. The placemats also are used in meal centers.
The women, who all hold degrees in home economics, have the same goal.
“It’singrained in our family and consumer sciences mind that we give back,”Graham said. “Having contributed more than money and making somebodyhappy – that’s a real joy,” she said.
Lobe said she feels thesame way. “I always knew that sewing was going to be a part of my life,but I’m not going to make clothes. I’m making them (the placemats) forsomebody else, and they’re loving it,” she said.
The placemats aremade with fabric and supplies donated from other women in the homeeconomists group, giving each a unique look. The placemats include atag, made by Lobe’s husband, Gary, which says “Made especially for youby a Retired Home Economist.” The women said the response has beenpositive, both from Meals on Wheels and the clients.
“One senior said that the placemats were so lovely that they should be sold at Kmart,” Lobe said.
Graham added, “For some of the seniors, that was the only thing they got for Christmas in the way of gift,” Graham said.
Irsfeldsaid it doesn’t take much to make those receiving the placemats happy.“It’s just a simple touch to give somebody pleasure,” she said.
Thegroup’s efforts don’t stop with placemats. During this past holidayseason, they called themselves “Christmas Angels,” collected 150Christmas socks and filled them with personal hygiene products. Thesocks were donated to the veterans program at Volunteers of America andthe CAPA program at Catholic Charities, which includes Crosswalk forteens and Hope House for single moms. The socks were a welcome surprise.
“We were told the Crosswalk kids decorated their Christmassocks,” Lobe said. The Christmas Angels made their goal for this year to225 socks.
“The response was so great that we and the charitieswant to do it again. We know exactly what they would like to have now,”Lobe said.
Beyond the Christmas Angels and the placemats, Lobesaid their next project is to start a blog about their efforts. She saidthey want to challenge others to make placemats, similar to the“Million Pillowcase Challenge,” a nationwide project where homemadepillowcases made from simple patterns are donated to local charities.
“Why can’t our placemat project go national?” Lobe asked.
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