100 Referral Marketing Ideas


I have place several tips for those interested in making money on line with referral marketing. If you dont want to go through this whole list then simply go to the following link and I will help you put all this into action

 

CLICK HERE TO PUT THESE WORDS INTO ACTION

 

Strategy # 1 – “Evaluate why your customers come to you, then give them more than they expect and you will have a willing referral work force.”

Strategy # 2 – “To receive referrals from word of mouth advertising, you need to work on stimulating them on a regular basis.”

Strategy # 3 – “Give customers a gift and you will get passive customer referrals when they either display the gift or talk about it to their friends.”

Strategy # 4 – “One way to stimulate passive referrals is to give a customer rebate following a large purchase or job.  Let your customer know that your savings through volume discounts are being passed down to them.”

Strategy # 5 – “Another way to stimulate passive referrals is to choose an obscure event or holiday to celebrate annually and give discount cards or gifts to your customers.  If they’re not talking about it to their friends the first year, they will be by the second year.”

Strategy # 6 – “Another passive referral approach would be to package 2 items together for the price of one. Then include a card suggesting that the customer share the 2nd one with a friend.”

Strategy # 7 – “Think of a free service you could occasionally provide to your customers that is related to your business.  For example, if you sell insurance, arrange to have house numbers painted on the curbs of your home owners.”

Strategy # 8 – “Another passive referral approach would be to package 2 identical products together for the price of one. Then include a card suggesting that your customer share the 2nd product with one of their friends.”

Strategy # 9 – “Use a gift phone card to generate passive referrals from customers who have used your travel agency or car rental services.”

Strategy # 10 – “Creating recyclable gift boxes or bags with your company logo will show you are concerned about the environment. When your customers re-use the box or bag, they passively advertise for you.”

Strategy # 11 – “Make sure to keep your target audience in mind when creating your referral marketing plan. Not all referrals are of equal value.”

Strategy # 12 – “Create a souvenir or unique gift that will peak conversations which will evolve to discussions of your business.  Wearable art, coffee table books, or collectables to name a few.”

Strategy # 13 – “Arrange to bottle or package a generic item with your product labeling.  Whether it’s  sunscreen, soap, lip balm or eye glass cleaner, if you give several to your customers, they will share the wealth and information about your company with their friends.”

Strategy # 14 – “Determine a unique aspect of your business and find a way to create a smaller version, or sample of this to give to customers to share with their friends, family and business associates.”

Strategy # 15 – “Referrals do not generate themselves. Since a referral is the best kind of lead, you should spend time to delevop a solid referral marketing plan.”

Strategy # 16 – “Whether you are thanking a customer for a referral, or trying to get them to provide referrals, do it with flare and in such a different way that it will be remembered and a source of discussion. How about paying all your referral fees with $2.00 bills!”

Strategy # 17 – “If you give away postcards in your tourist related business, consider creating a perforated, double postcard that has a large version to mail to a friend, and a smaller version to tear off and keep as a souvenir.”

Strategy # 18 – “Matchbooks used to be a great pass along referral idea.  Try something similar by advertising in small scratch pads that your customers can have, and share with their friends.”

Strategy # 19 – “Have holiday and birthday cards printed that open on the left side.  Then create a message that refers to the backwards printing and relate it to a unique aspect of your business.  This card will get shown to friends and associates.”

Strategy # 20 – “Consider sending home samplers of your best desserts, sauces etc. When patrons leave your restaurant.  Not only will they consider ordering those items next time they come, they may just tell a friend about this unique dining perk.”

Strategy # 21 – “Offer a free dessert certificate that your customer can use on their next visit when they give the name and address of a friend.  Then mail that friend a coupon for a ‘free’ menu item.  Explain that their friend enjoyed their dining experience so much, they asked for the coupon to be sent to their friend.”

Strategy # 22 – “To have your customers become more focused on spreading the word, send them home with a free sample and a gift certificate for a friend to come receive the gift as well.”

Strategy # 23 – “Send a coupon by direct mail or cyber mail to your customer and thank them for their business.  Invite them to share the coupon with a friend or associate.”

Strategy # 24 – “Give a free sample of your product to a local or national celebrity.  This type of exposure often elicits comments or recommendations that will result in referrals to your company.”

Strategy # 25 – “There are a variety of creative sales messages you can put on clocks that can be given to satisfied customers who will display them in prominent places for you.”

Strategy # 26 – “Clocks can also be created with messages for your customers who need annual or regular service reminders that creatively say, ‘it’s time for….”

Strategy # 27 – “Luggage tags are highly visible in airports, train stations, bus depots and taxi stands. Give away tags with unique and easily remembered messages that will invite conversation and referrals.”

Strategy # 28 – “Restaurants could name, or re-name, a dish after one of their long-term customers.  Have a night to unveil the dish and invite the customers’ special guests to attend.”

Strategy # 29 – “Have a customer appreciation day for your best customers and their friends.  Provide special sales, discounts and offer additional discounts if they introduce their friend to one of your employees.” (who will get their name and address)

Strategy # 30 – “Provide customers with a free planning check list that includes your services.  Depending on your business, it could be a helpful list for special events, selling or buying a home, moving, etc.”

Strategy # 31 – “Wear something unique to a trade show or special event that will create an opportunity for discussion.  Something as simple as a medal can be very effective in stimulating questions and referrals.”

Strategy # 32 – “Give customer awards for referrals, quality improvement suggestions or anything that helps your business.  These awards could be a banner, trophy, pin, badge or anything with an interesting shape or design.  Your customer will enjoy showing his friends and telling them about your company.”

Strategy # 33 – “When you send flowers as a ‘thank you,’ don’t just send a seasonal bouquet, send something exotic that lasts a long time.  Everyone who sees the bouquet will comment and give your customer an opportunity to sing your praises.”

Strategy # 34 – “Invite or ’empower’ your customers to give away company products, awards and privileges.  This will endear them even more to your company, while creating new customers.”

Strategy # 35 – “Rather than inviting one of your faithful customers to join you in the use of your season tickets.  Give the tickets to the customer and let them invite a friend.  Follow up with the friend to see if they enjoyed themselves.”

Strategy # 36 – “Have a drawing for one of your bigger ticket items and then give lottery tickets to your customers to give to their friends and associates.  The ticket stubs need to be filled out and returned to be eligible for the drawing.”

Strategy # 37 – “Consider a joint venture with a lawn and garden store.  For any customer that purchases $10 or more of lawn and garden products, have the store give them a free rain gauge with cleverly written information and a contact number for your lawn service.”

Strategy # 38 – “Consider a joint venture with a hardware store or special order air filter company to give away a free outdoor thermometer with any $10 purchase of air conditioning filters.  The thermometer would have a clever slogan and contact information for your air conditioning repair services.”

Strategy # 39 – “Place comment postcards near cash registers, customer service desks and waiting areas and encourage your customers to send a comment to a friend or associate about some aspect of your company.  Capture the contact info. And mail the postcard plus a thank you to your customer.”

Strategy # 40 – “Create vouchers with a free or discounted service you can offer to prospects to begin a business relationship.  Then give these vouchers to current customers to share with a friend or associate.”

Strategy # 41 – “Print your business contact information and a favorite saying or defining goal of your company on a shirt, hat, decal, refrigerator magnet, bumper sticker etc.  Then give these items to customers to use or share with friends.”

Strategy # 42 – “Provide your customers with new, important or funny information that they will share with others.”

Strategy # 43 – “Create a sheet of stickers to send out annually with reminders or valuable tips to be placed on phones, computers, light switches, smoke detectors etc.  Include your contact information on each tip and a duplicate sheet for them to give to a friend or associate.”

Strategy # 44 – “Create an interesting tour of your business and invite local schools on the tour.  Provide a souvenir at the end and you will find that many students will discuss the tour with their parents.  This free advertising will promote new business and goodwill that will more than pay for the program.”

Strategy # 45 – “Similar to the sheet of sticker tips, send a reminder postcard to slide behind a light switch until the reminder tip is completed.  Reminders could include fire extinguisher, tire pressure, replenishment of emergency food supplies or spreading fertilzer.”

Strategy # 46 – “Send a card, letter, fax or e-mail with information about product updates or improvements and how this benefits their life or business.  Great information is always shared with friends.”

Strategy # 47 – “Create and name an organization of complimentary, non-competitive businesses in your area.  Have everyone pay dues to cover the cost of an informational booklet and small free gifts for customer referrals.  Display these booklets at all the businesses in the organization to encourage referrals.”

Strategy # 48 – “Word of mouth referrals can be  generated when your customer has a positive experience with your staff.  By rotating the boss and your most knowledgeable employees to the ‘front lines’ each day, you will improve the skills of your less experienced employees and provide your customers with a positive experience.”

Strategy # 49 – “Train all levels of your staff on how to handle basic customer service questions and issues.  If they know your business philosophy, then your customer walks away with positive rather than negative things to share with future customers.”

Strategy # 50 – “Send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter with valuable information, not just advertising for your business.  You will keep in the forefront of your customers mind, and they will share tips they learned from your newsletter.”

Strategy # 51 – “Recycle your posters or other large advertising by giving them to blood banks, hospitals, etc. Where people spend time lying on their back.  Suggest they be attached to the ceiling to give them something to talk or think about.”

Strategy # 52 – “Send your customers a joke on a postcard and encourage them to share a smile with as many friends as possible by passing on the joke.”

Strategy # 53 – “Following a long-term or high dollar business transaction, send a thank you note and another stamped card that can be forwarded to a friend or associate to recommend your services.”

Strategy # 54 – “Create a profile of your customers preferences and refer to them in direct mail and personal contact.  Your customer will be impressed with your attentiveness and their word of mouth advertising will take on a whole new meaning.”

Strategy # 55 – “When creating slogans to display on bumper stickers, shirts, pins, etc. Begin the phrase with something to encourage discussion like…’ask me…check with me…’ this will stimulate your word of mouth advertising.”

Strategy # 56 – “Work of mouth advertising can be a double edged sword.  If your customer has a negative experience, solve the problem as quickly as possible and provide generous restitution.”

Strategy # 57 – “To have ongoing referrals you need to turn suspects into prospects, prospects into customers, customers into clients and clients into friends.  Friends will do regular business with you and refer all their friends.”

Strategy # 58 – “Leverage your time in obtaining referrals by participating in public speaking engagements.  Provide a comment card following your presentation that will generate referrals for your ‘free’ information or sample.”

Strategy # 59 – “Plant referral suggestions with your  customers by discussing how rewarding it is to have built your business on referrals of satisfied customers.  Then highlight what makes your company worth referring.”

Strategy # 60 – “Always reward your customers for their referrals.  Whether it’s a note, a phone call, a gift, or monetary compensation, if you show your gratitude you will be rewarded with repeat business and additional referrals.”

Strategy # 61 – “If you give rewards for referrals, be consistent in the value and timeliness of rewards to customers who provide repeated referrals.”

Strategy # 62 – “Send 2 discount cards to your customer.  Offer one to them and encourage them to share the other card with a friend.”

Strategy # 63 – “Ask for referrals from satisfied customers who have just made a purchase.  Whether it’s at the cash register, or a few weeks after they have enjoyed their purchase. A satisfied customer is a great resource.”

Strategy # 64 – “To help satisfied customers think of valid names to refer, suggest they consider business associates, friends, church members, social groups, neighbors, relatives, professional group associates, and friends through sports, clubs or hobbies.”

Strategy # 65 – “Not only is a prospect a potential customer, they can be a treasure chest of referrals if you treat them well. Even if they don’t make a purchase, ask them who they know that would benefit from your product or service.  Your prospect may not need it, but they have at least one acquaintance that does.”

Strategy # 66 – “Whether you have a service and parts department, or can determine the ‘average’ lifecycle of your product, keep abreast or when your customers will be looking for a replacement of your product.  Then be the first in line to share the benefits of your latest and greatest model.”

Strategy # 67 – “The more confident you apprear to your customers, the more willing they will be to refer their friends to you.”

Strategy # 68 – “If your company does not have a direct marketing advertising budget and only markets through referrals then openly enlist the assistance of your customers.   By letting them know that they help you keep prices down by being a part of your marketing plan it’s easier to ask for and receive quality referrals.”

Strategy # 69 – “Your referrals grow the more you are published.  Whether it’s pamphlets, letters to the editor, articles or books, your writing can earn you the reputation of an expert in your field.”

Strategy # 70 – “You may have clients who could co-author an article or news column.  As you pursue joint publishing, your referrals increase dramatically because your co-author is also distributing the article with their friends an associates.”

Strategy # 71 – “Know who your key referral sources are so that you focus the majority of your referral efforts where you get the majority of your results.”

Strategy # 72 – “Participate in volunteer opportunities that match your interests or talents.  Do it with a sincere heart, not a business head, and as you give back to your community, your circle of influence grows too.”

Strategy # 73 – “Always have plenty of business or information request cards when you are at a networking event.  As you get acquainted with new contacts, trade cards and note follow-up or personal information on the back of their card.  Then be sure to follow-up!”

Strategy # 74 –  In addition to regular networking efforts, also network with reputable competitors.  If your goal is to best serve your customer, then when either you or a competitor are overloaded, or it’s not your expertise, both you and your customer will benefit from a referral and your competitor will reciprocate.”

Strategy # 75 – “Consider doing 30 minutes a day of personal development in your field.  This will help you become the expert in your field and give you an opportunity to communicate regularly with your customers by sending them articles or information specific to their needs.”

Strategy # 76 – “Always have an interesting and informative 60 second commercial ready that extols the benefits of your amazing company.  Pique the interest of your listeners and you will be remembered during referral opportunities.”

Strategy # 77 – “Consider putting a positive twist on all you say.  Even discussing your competitors product with a customer can have a few positive comments before you launch into how your product benefits will fit their needs better.”

Strategy # 78 – “Be prompt in arriving to appointments or responding to phone or letter requests.  Promptness shows you’re professional and can be depended upon and those are the kind of people who receive referrals from customers.”

Strategy # 79 – “If you provide quality referrals to your prospects and customers, they will be more inclined to provide referrals to you.”

Strategy # 80 – “Get to know people of influence in your community.  As your circle grows, so will your quality referrals.”

Strategy # 81 – “Even if you don’t need the business, prospect for new customers everyday.  The stream of ‘new blood’ will keep your business going strong.”

Strategy # 82 – “Update acquaintances from the past and you will find many valuable referrals and customers.  Consider finding past acquaintances from school, jobs, neighborhoods, clubs, church, or sports.”

Strategy # 83 – “Send out newsletters with creative and useful information and include a section on referrals and incentives.  It’s a simple process of informing and asking so that the  referrals will role in.”

Strategy # 84 – “When your business gets to a point that you can’t work all of your referrals.  Refer the ones you can’t accommodate to someone who can.  Rather than throwing them away you are passing on goodwill to all involved.”

Strategy # 85 – “If you want to get regular referrals, you need to show common courtesy and provide feedback to the source of the referral.  You will be surprised at the number of new referrals you can receive while providing feedback on a previous referral from your source.”

Strategy # 86 – “It’s important to admit a mistake to a customer and explain how you will fix the problem.  If your customer gets action and not apathy to the problem, they will send more business your way.”

Strategy # 87 – “If your business is in a temporary down turn, don’t appear desperate or your customers will not have enough confidence to provide you with referrals.”

Strategy # 88 – “Never make assumptions that the person you are talking to would not want or qualify for your product or service.  Treat each person respectfully and with interest, and even if they don’t need your product, they will know someone who does need your product.”

Strategy # 89 – “If your product or service is related to food, clothing or healthcare, contact women’s groups and offer to give a talk on an issue that is important to them.  By talking to the right groups for your product or service, you’ll stimulate more qualified referrals.”

Strategy # 90 – “Consider getting involved in a seniors group and give a talk on a product topic of interest.  Take the time to listen and discuss, and not only will you benefit from their insights, they’ll give you referrals as well.”

Strategy # 91 – “If you network in social or service clubs, plan on arriving early or leaving late.  Then you will have the time to interact with the members of the club or you’ve wasted your membership dues and opportunities for referrals.”

Strategy # 92 – “Use a referral fee as your last ditch strategy.  Money has never bred loyalty.  Friendship, trust and a positive relationship are what drive loyalty to you and your business.”

Strategy # 93 – “Create a one-way cross-promotion in which you have someone send out a letter to their customer list promoting you and your business. You then give them a referral fee for those people who buy your service.”

Strategy # 94 – “A powerful referral program is a two-way cross promotion using endorsements from other well-respected people.  An associate sends an endorsement letter about you and your product to their customer list, and you do the same to your customer list.”

Strategy # 95 – “Your business needs word of mouth advertising to obtain referrals, but don’t mistake that with developing a methodical system for your business referral prospecting.”

Strategy # 96 – “Customers that give referrals become more loyal to you and your business.  Once someone makes a public statement about you, psychologically they will become more loyal to you and your business, so it’s a ‘win win’ situation.”

Strategy # 97 – “When asking for a referral, narrow the frame of reference for your customer to think about.  Don’t ask for a general name, get specific with the type of person or associate, and they will be better able to give you referrals.”

Strategy # 98 – “Approach a complimentary business and educate them with special reports you have created that will be tools to help them  help their customers.  As they give out these reports, they are more inclined to pass on a referral to you as well.”

Strategy # 99 – “Provide gifts to complimentary businesses that will teach them how to grow their business. These gifts are always welcome and they will know that you are interested in growing your business as well.”

Strategy # 100 – “Take the time to clearly explain to acquaintances what you do.  Share stories about results your customers have experienced with your products or services.  Ask them if they know people who would benefit from having similar results or experiences.”

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What’s Your Halloween Candy Personality?


Halloween looms and with it the annual candy-buying frenzy. While dieters stock up on candy they don’t like so they won’t be tempted by leftovers, the rest of us buy the stuff we do like and hope that only one or two of those pesky little costumed punks comes a-knocking. (And even then, we smack their grabby hands if they dig too deep: “Hey, pal, you’re only 5 years old. One Butterfinger for you!”)

If you haven’t bought your supply yet, the chart below might help you decide what kind of candy to pass out. We not only provide the history and calorie count for 10 brands, we also asked an expert to tell us what the candy you give out says about you. Steve Almond, the author of “Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America” (Harvest, 2005), e-mailed us his analysis of the personality types who might offer these tasty sweets to trick-or-treaters.

“There’s something incredibly liberating about a holiday that encourages children to take candy from strangers,” Almond writes of Halloween in his book. Indeed. For some reason, Almond asked that we make clear that he is a “professional candyfreak, not a therapist.” Well, that’s good enough for us.

CANDY ALMOND’S CANDY-GIVER ANALYSIS HISTORY CALORIE COUNT

3 Musketeers

Does well in groups but is somewhat pompous. Prone to fancy costumes and arcane weapons. Wears hats in public that are ill-advised. Created in 1932 by Mars, the candy bar got its name because it originally had three pieces in one packet: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. The Fun Size (15 grams) has 63 calories.

Almond Joy

I’m going to put aside my aversion to coconut in praising these folks as happy-go-lucky. Introduced in 1946 by the Peter Paul Candy Manufacturing Co. in New Haven, Conn. It’s a companion to the Mounds bar, which arrived in 1920. The snack size (17 grams) has 80 calories.

Bit-O-Honey

They have contradictory personalities, hoping to express generosity but also having the passive-aggressive desire to damage the fillings of trick-or-treaters. The honey-flavored taffy was first manufactured in 1924 by the Schutter-Johnson Co. of Chicago. It is now made by Nestle. One piece (7 grams) has 26 calories.

Butterfinger

Evasive, slippery, not necessarily to be trusted. Invented in 1923 by the Curtiss Candy Co. of Chicago. The crunchy bar wrapped in chocolate is now made by Nestle. The Fun Size (18.5 grams) has 85 calories.

Candy Corn

Purely deluded people. They don’t get that candy shouldn’t attempt to imitate other food groups, particularly corn. Invented in the 1880s, it was first manufactured commercially by the Wunderle Candy Co. in Philadelphia and by the turn of the century at the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. in Cincinnati. A serving of 22 pieces (40 grams) has 140 calories, or 6.4 calories per piece.

Good & Plenty

Optimistic, perhaps overly so. A little bit of Weimar energy. Strong advocate of gay rights; acquainted with the bitterness at the center of most lives. The licorice candy was first produced in 1893 by the Quaker City Confectionery Co. in Philadelphia and is considered the oldest branded candy in the country. A serving of 33 pieces (39 grams) has 140 calories, or 4.2 calories per piece.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Generous souls. Those who understand the salty in life, as well as the sweet. Created by Harry Burnett Reese in the 1920s. Reese was a former dairy employee of Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Co. In 1963, the Reese candy company was sold to Hershey for $23.5 million. A one-cup package (21 grams) has 110 calories.

Snickers

Just going with the crowd, the safe candy choice, guaranteed to please the masses. Not ambitious, but dependable. Created in 1930 by Mars, Snickers bars sold for a nickel. The Fun Size was introduced in 1968. The Fun Size (17 grams) has 80 calories.

Twix

Both brittle and supple in social situations; sort of trapped between personality types. A Mars product, caramel-and-cookie Twix bars were created in the United Kingdom in 1967 but weren’t sold in the United States until 1979. The Fun Size (16 grams) has 80 calories.

Twizzlers

Sickos. Truly demented. Plastic people living plastic lives. The Twizzlers brand was introduced in 1929. The red licorice strips are manufactured by Y&S Candies, a company established in 1845 that is now a Hershey subsidiary. The snack size (14 grams) has 37 calories.

How can I relieve stress? Six simple ideas.


How To De-Stress

stress busting tips

Everyone experiences stress occasionally.  Unfortunately, a growing number of people are struggling to cope with stress that is chronic.  Be proactive!  Unaddressed, the symptoms of stress can affect your health and emotional well-being.  Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and incorporate these natural stress relievers into your daily life.

Exercise

At the end of a stressful day it can be hard to force yourself to go to the gym.  Your need to find something you will do on a consistent basis.  How about a walk around the neighborhood before dinner?  Spend 30 minutes on an exercise bike, treadmill or rebounder while you watch a program on TV or listen to some of your favorite feel good music.  .  Once you’ve formed the habit it will be easier to continue.

Sex

(I’m sorry did you say SEX!)

Sex is one of nature’s best stress relievers.  It can also be considered a form of exercise for those of you who are looking for an alternative to suggestion #1.  Do yourself and your partner a favor and make sure you’re including sex in your weekly activities.  A decreased sex drive is one of the symptoms of stress. However lower your stress by manually increasing your sex.

Sleep

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.  It’s common to develop trouble sleeping when we’re under stress.  Make sure you take time to relax for 30 minutes before heading to bed.  Listening to soothing music or sounds of nature is helpful as well.

Massage

Muscle tension, pain and headaches are all classic symptoms of stress.  Massage can relieve the muscle tension thus easing the pain and headaches it causes.  Consider it health care of the most basic kind.  Make room in your schedule for a massage ASAP!  Remember your partner may want to give you that massage it will help them relieve their stress and may even lead to another stress reliever (see #2).

Meditation

Meditation is about learning to empty your mind and shifting your focus from stress to tranquility.  These are many types of meditation so do a little research and find what will work for you.

Crying

A study by the University of Minnesota found that the chemicals that emotional stress builds up in your body can be removed through your tears.  Another recent study puts the number of those who experience stress relief and improved mood after a good cry at just below 90%.  You may not be able to let go in the midst of the stressful situation but don’t fight the urge to give in to those tears later.  They can be healing.

 

How do you relieve stress? let me know in a comment below.

DJ STATIX ADVICE #2 Oct 5 2011


Question: My boyfriend and I have been together a good 5 years. But the last one and half years have been really hard on both of us. I started to sense that he was checking out of the relationship by noticing small things like I was the only one who called, the only one who made plans for the weekends, the only one who initiated talks on our relationship. I told him how I felt and things seemed to improve for a while but not like the way they used to be. We have our good days and even some good weeks but most of the time I don’t feel like we’re in a relationship at all. It has reached a point where sometimes the only communication between us is the casual “How are you?” Our sex life is pretty much gone and when it happens – which is very rarely – there is nothing there anymore.

I move from feeling let down by him one day and the next feeling like a complete failure for not being able to make him want me. Only God knows how hard I’ve tried and continue trying to save this relationship. Everywhere I’ve sought advice I’ve been told I should just end the relationship and move on. I’m not one to run from my problems or when things don’t go my way. Sometimes I feel like he is waiting for me to end it because he doesn’t have the guts to. I love him so much and don’t want to lose him. I just feel that there is something more I can do but I don’t know what. Please help!

DJ Statix’s Answer: First up, I admire and respect you for being true to who you are and not listening to the “move on” crowd. People who run away from problems or when things don’t go their way do so out of fear of failure or because it’s a familiar reaction when things don’t go their way. Nobody ever became successful at anything by running away from it – and once a quitter, always a quitter.

The tendency for many people when they feel that the relationship is slipping away is to hold on even more tightly – cling, nag, complain, criticize, spew biting sarcasm, get angry, give ultimatums, threaten, etc. One, this does not help make things better and two, it just makes things worse.

If you really want to turn this relationship around or at least try to, my advice is for you to let go – on a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. Nothing kills attraction faster than “trying too hard” and nothing ends a relationship faster than trying to control it.

1. Mentally

Letting go mentally means stop all the planning, scheming, calculating, over analyzing, worrying and obsessing about the relationship. Just stop! Stop trying so hard to force the outcome you want. Accept that there is nothing more to DO and allow yourselves to be together without trying to control the experience or the outcome.

2. Emotionally

Letting go emotionally means letting go of fear – fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of what other people will say etc. The reason you need to let fear go is because fear distorts reality and while you might be “doing only God knows” to save this relationship, your very actions which are being driven by fear are creating what you fear most. To be able to let go off your fears, you must face your emotions and allow them to inform, teach and help you. The best way to do this is to ride each wave of emotion with patience.

3. Physically

Letting go physically means letting your body release what it wants to. Physical activity (gym, sports, walking, dancing etc) helps. If you need to, go somewhere safe for you to scream, shout, yell etc. Let yourself go, let it out!

Sometimes letting go physically may require you to physically walk away from the situation at a time when you feel you must hold on. But do not walk away out of anger, fear, an attempt at emotional blackmail or some other weak energy. This usually backfires. Explain to him why you need time alone and offer reassurance that you’ll be back. Even if he does not see it your way, give yourself permission to do what is right for your well-being.

5. Spiritually

Letting go spiritually means believing that good things can happen anytime and even the things that look bad if you can open yourself and allow the experience to unfold will move you to a better place -whatever that place IS.

And how will letting go save your relationship?

When we’re threatened with the possibility of losing someone we love, we often don’t see the things in front of us including how our own words and actions may be more self-destructing than helpful. This is especially true when you feel like what you worked hard to build (and keep) is slipping through your fingers and there is nothing you can do about it. You feel powerless, overwhelmed and out of control so you desperately try to regain a sense of control.

The sense of having control (and power) in a relationship is very important. But in order to BE in control you have first to let go the need to control.

Doesn’t make sense, right?

It actually does when you think of letting go as releasing what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance you towards your goal in order to create space for what fits or works, and what brings you closer to the desires of your heart.

Then why do most of us hold on to what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance us towards our goal?

Because letting go is scary. For many of us it means giving up or giving in. Giving up or giving in means loss or defeat. If we give up then it means that’s it. It’s gone – possibly forever. And if we give in, we accept defeat and open themselves up to being controlled by another. Giving up or giving in is just not an option.

Because of the fear of “being out of control” or “being controlled” many of us are quite reluctant to let go. We hold on to the belief that the only option we have left is to try harder, scheme better, play mind games and manipulate where we can, force, push, resist, and if that doesn’t work, run and hide. We cling, nag, complain, criticize, spew biting sarcasm, get angry, give ultimatums and threaten, and if that doesn’t work, we sabotage the relationship (and ourselves), break up with the person before he/she rejects us and cut off all contact (more self-sabotage!).

Breaking up does seem like regaining that sense of control (and power) because it somehow stops us from feeling the loss or frustration with our current situations, or at least so it seems. But then, the pain from the end of the relationship takes over and you once again hold on, afraid to let go of the pain (anger, resentment, regret, guilt etc) because if you let go of even that, then you have nothing to hold on to.

In holding on to what no longer fits or works, or what doesn’t advance you towards your goal, in manipulating the outcome of things, in pushing harder and/or resisting the inevitable, you keep yourself trapped in a reality that you most wish to change. Most people become intense, easily irritable, cold and/or bitter making them unattractive and not much fun to be around.

Letting go does not necessarily mean giving up or giving in. It doesn’t even necessarily mean moving on (forget the relationship and find someone else). Letting go means clearing away unnecessary thoughts, expectations, belief systems etc; it means releasing your attachment to how things should be or how your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse should behave; it means getting real and acting from a place of authenticity; it means allowing time and space for things to happen/unfold without trying to manipulate the outcome to your favor; it means being optimistically open to possibilities, opportunities and to the (yet) unknown. This is letting go.

And when you let go like that, a new reality appears. The choices available to you become clearer. The actions that you must take towards what you really want and need become more specific. Even more importantly, by taking the pressure off both of you, you change the energy you’re working with and in turn change your reality. A more relaxed and mellow you is a more attractive and more relatable you!

This is in alignment with a principle of Psychology: If you step out of the way, the power of the subconscious will take over.

If you move yourself (ego, unnecessary thoughts, expectations, belief systems) out of the way, the power of love will take over. You can only realize the power of love when you realize that to let go is not to give up control but to be in control through conscious turning yourself over to something greater than your preconceived notions, limited perspectives, false beliefs and inconsistent optimism; and seeing clearly and listening to what it is you truly want and need. It’s that ability to be still (stop the hassling and DO-ing) and allow yourself to go with the flow of how things are right now – in the present.

In fact if you can fully master conscious letting go (moment -by-moment), you’ll realize the true control and power you have over all your relationships – and life!

Letting go is a choice – a very powerful and effective one!

Are Your Friends Really Friends?


Are your friends really your friends? Are they supporting and enhancing your life or are they teaching you to think and behave in darker ways that you never thought you would? The company you keep is so important. They will change you in more ways than you know.

I have been wanting to write about this topic for a long time as it is something that affects each and every one of us. And, it is something that becomes more obvious the older I get. I really hope all of you reading this will leave a comment and tell me your thoughts on this matter as I would love to know what you think.

Why your friends are important

We all know that friends are important in our lives. They keep you company when you are bored and they love you when you are sick or sad. But this isn’t what I am talking about. I am talking about the fact that your friends are (other than your parents) the most influential people in your life. You spend hours upon hours with these people and after a while you start to mimic their behavior. Your friends change you.

Take a look at the quote at the start of this article. It is a very important quote to understand. If you go off to a mountain retreat and live with monks and yogis you will find that your behavior and outlook will naturally start to become very peaceful. If you go to Wall Street and hang out with cocaine sniffing wealthy executives you will find that you naturally become more greedy and competitive. The people you hang out with change who you are. Because, as humans, we take in information from the world around us and, more importantly, we try to fit in to that world around us.

Your friends are important. They play a big role in how you see and interact with the world. Your future is largely dependent on their influence. So, are your friends really friends?

Signs your friends aren’t really friends


Now I want to go over a few signs that might indicate that your friends aren’t really your friends. I hope you will read over them and let me know if you can think of any others.

1. You have to be someone else around them
If you feel like you have to be someone other than your normal self around your friends then chances are they aren’t your real friends. We all know this feeling. You go out with these people but you feel like you need to dress or talk differently in order to fit in.

These people aren’t your friends. These people are tools you are using to try and be more popular. And this type of pursuit won’t get you anywhere at all. Next time you meet up with a “friend” take a look at your own mind and behavior and see if you are falling into this trap.

2. You gossip more
Gossip is a terrible thing. It hurts other people and it makes you feel bad about yourself in the long run. One sure sign that your friends aren’t really your friends is when you find that you gossip more around them.

In the new movie Doubt with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep there is a wonderful scene where the local Priest (played by Hoffman) gives a stirring sermon about gossip. The wonderful acting by Hoffman made this an extremely moving section of the movie – so powerful that I wanted to share it with you. Here is the transcript:

A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew – I know none of you have ever done this – that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing.

‘Is gossiping a sin?’ she asked the old man. ‘Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?’

‘Yes!’ Father O’Rourke answered her. ‘Yes, you ignorant, badly broughtup female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!’

So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness.

‘Not so fast!’ says O’Rourke. ‘I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!’

So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed.

‘Did you gut the pillow with the knife?’ he says.

‘Yes, Father.’

‘And what was the result?’

‘Feathers,’ she said.

‘Feathers?’ he repeated.

‘Feathers everywhere, Father!’

‘Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.’

‘And that,’ said Father O’Rourke, ‘is GOSSIP!’

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.

Gossip is, unfortunately, the product of many bad friendships. Often times we meet with people and, after running out of things to talk about, we start talking about the mistakes that other people have made. If you’re friends are making you gossip more it might be time to switch company.

3. You’re moving further away from your goals
Everyone has goals that they want to achieve. Some people want to buy a nice big house, other people want to travel and some of us want a good career. Whatever your goal in life is it should be supported by your friends. They should help you get closer and closer to this goal.

I went to school with some really motivated people. They knew what they wanted to do in life (doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.) and they knew how they were going to do it. But around senior year a lot of these friends met with bad company that lead them astray. They started drinking a lot, taking drugs and skipping school. By the time exams came around they were so far behind that there was no chance they were going to get into the college degree of their choice.

This is a really sad example of how bad friends can change your future. The very act of hanging around with the wrong people can cause you to lose track and lose your way. If your friends are taking you further away from your goals then you really need to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if they are the best thing for you.

4. You don’t notice any positive qualities growing
One thing that you will find happens quite naturally when you hang out with good friends is that your positive qualities will grow and flourish. If you find that no new positive qualities are developing and, in fact, you are developing some negative traits then it is time to be worried.


As an example I have an old yogi friend who has spent many years in meditation retreats. Whenever I hang out with this guy I find myself becoming more loving and patient and relaxed. On the other hand, I have some friends who leave me feeling more anxious, agitated and angry at the world. There is a big difference.

Friends should bring out the best in you. They should help you to reach new heights, not bring you down to their problems. Take a look at how you feel during and after meeting your acquaintances and see what is going on with you.

But I can’t just give up on my friends!

With all this talk about leaving bad friends and finding better company you are probably having the natural reaction of not wanting to give up on your friends. Good. That is normal. It shows you have a heart. The task is to discover inside your own mind whether or not this is the best solution. And it is something that only you can ascertain.

For example, if you can stay friends with a bad influence because you feel like their example doesn’t rub off on you and, in fact, you are benefiting the person by being their friend then by all means you should stay their friend. But, on the other hand, if you are finding that this person is bringing you down and you really aren’t getting anything from the relationship then you might need to make the tough decision to see them less often.

Only you can decide what is the best thing to do. You know your own mind and behavior better than anyone else so if you can see changes going on for the worse you need to take action. Nobody else can take it for you.

Conclusion

The company you keep is important. They influence you for both the better and the worse. Take a look at your five closest friends and see if they are good for you. Because those five people are your biggest influences. You will surely begin to emulate them in one way or another.

Please leave a comment if you have anything to add on this subject. I would be really interested to hear your advice, thoughts and experiences with bad friends.

How Can I Really Save Money In A Recession?


Since money really doesnt grow on trees

The financial gurus will be debating for years how we got into the mess we’re in—and how we’ll get out of it. But while the talking heads are talking, you’d like to know how to shore up your resources so you won’t have to worry about every little hiccup in the stock market. Here are time-tested strategies you can master—how to spend less, reduce your debt, make the most of your tax breaks, and finance your retirement. The idea, says William Speciale, a Boston-based adviser with the financial planning firm Calibre, is to focus on what you can control: “Little steps can really make a huge difference.”

Taxes
Forget the short form. Most taxpayers-65 percent of us, to be specific—just take the standard deduction. But you may save money by itemizing your deductible expenses. It doesn’t matter if you use an online program (like turbotax.intuit.com or completetax.com), a current tax guide, or a storefront preparer. Out-of-pocket health care charges, business expenses (including some for job searches), and charitable donations are just a few of the items you may be able to deduct. Fill out the long form, known as the 1040, and compare numbers. If your total deductions are greater than $5,450 (the standard deduction for 2008 for a single person) or $10,900 (for a married couple filing jointly), you’ll save money by itemizing when you file.

Your kids should file a tax return. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t care how old they are. If they earn more than $5,450 in a given year (in wages and/or interest income), they have to file-even if you claim them as dependents. And if they make less than that, they should still file because they’ll get back all the money their employer withheld. Help them fill out the paperwork. It’s a great learning experience that may earn them some extra cash    Follow these 29 tips to survive the current economic crisis.

Avoid a tax refund. You may feel giddy knowing you’ll get a check from the IRS this spring, but you shouldn’t. Getting money back means you’re essentially lending money, interest free, to the government for the year. Better to have that cash in your account than lend it to Uncle Sam. So if you’ve been getting big refunds or have had a big life change (a marriage, a baby, a divorce, a radical increase or decrease in income), adjust the withholding allowances on your W-4 form. You can do that for your 2009 taxes now at irs.gov. Use the withholding calculator to determine the correct figure for you. Then print a new W-4, fill it out, and give it to your payroll department.

Avoid “rapid refund” programs. Sure, they sound great. After all, what can be better than getting your money fast? A tax-prep chain might try to get you to agree to one of these “instant” or “anticipation” options. Don’t take the bait. This is not your refund. It’s a loan—and a very high-interest loan at that. The average for 2008 was 123 percent. If you file electronically, even if it’s through a tax chain, the IRS will deposit your refund directly into your bank account within a week or two.

Checking and Savings
Make sure your free checking is really free. A lot of banks advertise it, but read the fine print. If the minimum balance is steep-thousands of dollars, in some cases—look for a bank with no minimum requirement. This could save $100 a year or more. Bankrate.com is a good site for comparing accounts. (And don’t waste $2 on ATM withdrawals at another bank’s machines.)

Bank online. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to pay bills, transfer funds, save automatically, and keep track of it all. In fact, gathering records at tax time will be a cinch. And by setting up the automatic bill-payment option, you’ll help protect your credit score. Banking online is actually safer than banking at a brick-and-mortar institution. Banks have spent a fortune to make sure their sites are among the most secure on the Internet. Besides, most cases of identity theft happen the old-fashioned way—by crooks who raid your mailbox.

Keep your money in supersafe places. Aim to amass at least six months of emergency expenses, in case you lose your job or become disabled. Where’s the best place to keep it? FDIC-insured bank savings, CD, and money market accounts are still three of the most secure places. (The government recently increased the limit it will insure to $250,000 per account until December 31, 2009.) Money market funds that invest in Treasury bills are supersafe, too, but low yielding. Internet banks and credit unions tend to pay higher interest rates, but go to fdic.gov and check to make sure they offer the same government-insured guarantee. Look into Series I bonds, or I bonds, which are just as safe and are guaranteed to keep up with inflation. They’re also free from state and local taxes (and possibly federal tax, if you use them for college costs). The downside? You can’t redeem them for at least a year. And if you cash them in before five years, there’s a small penalty. Other savings options, including corporate and tax-exempt money market funds, are a bit riskier. Compare yields at cranedata.us.

Debt
Cut up your extra credit cards. But don’t close the accounts. Yes, it’s smart to reduce your temptation to splurge by destroying your cards. But if you actually cancel them, it could hurt your credit rating. Here’s why: Lenders worry about how close you are to using all the credit available to you. If you close an account, you lose its credit line. As a result, you are using a greater portion of the reduced amount you can now borrow. How many cards do you need? While the average American household has nine, two or three active cards should be plenty.

Pay your bills on time. A single late payment means that you could pay a much higher interest rate on any future loans and on your existing credit card accounts. That’s because even one missed payment can lower your credit score by as much as 100 points. That plunge means that lenders view you as a risky customer. If you’re shopping around for a mortgage, you could end up paying as much as a full percentage point more. That’s an increase that could ultimately cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest. Set up automatic payments to make sure you’re never late on your major bills. The sooner you can show lenders you’re back on track, the better.

Pay $10 more each month. Most American households keep their credit balances at around $2,000, but about 10 to 15 percent carry balances that are $9,000 or higher. If you paid the minimum $224 required on that $9,000 balance each month, it would take you 31 years and over $13,000 in interest to pay it off. Increasing your payment by just $10 a month, to $234, until you’ve paid off the balance would save you $8,900. And you’d get rid of the debt in five years. (To check your own balances, try the calculator at bankrate.com.)

Put your savings to work. Many people who are deep in debt usually have some savings stashed in a bank account. They argue that they don’t want to use their hard-earned savings to pay off debt. But do the math: It would make sense to keep the money in savings only if the bank is paying you an interest rate higher than the one your credit cards charge. Paying off a card with an interest rate of 13 percent is the equivalent of earning 13 percent interest on your money after taxes. There are no savings or investment options with that kind of guarantee. Experts caution that you still want to keep emergency cash on hand. A good rule is to take 5 percent of your paycheck to pay off debt and put an additional 5 percent into savings.

Pay more on your mortgage. You may have heard that because the interest is tax deductible, a mortgage is a good debt. But even if you’re getting a tax break, you’re still paying interest—and the longer you’ve had the mortgage, the smaller the tax break (because you pay less interest each year). As with all debt, paying it off sooner is better. So once you’ve paid off your credit cards and other high-rate debt, go ahead and add an extra payment each year (or spread it out over 12 months). If you do that over the life of a 30-year fixed loan with a rate of 6 percent, you’ll shave roughly 20 percent off the total interest you pay. On a $150,000 mortgage, that means saving about $26,000.

Reduce your credit card interest rate. It may be time to get nervy with the credit card companies. If you pay your bill on time and your credit card company still raises your rates or lowers your limits, call the company’s toll-free number (ask for the retention department) and explain that you’re thinking of taking your business elsewhere. You may reap a rate reduction. No matter what you’ve heard about the current credit crunch, banks are still motivated to keep good customers. And check your accounts often. These days, banks are increasing rates even on good customers.

Get your credit report for free. You’re entitled to one free report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) every year. Beware, though. Many sites advertising “free credit reports” are actually fronts for companies trying to sell you services—credit monitoring, debt consolidation, credit repair-most of which you don’t need. The reports are free, but you’ll be automatically signed up and billed for these products. Get your reports from annualcreditreport.com, which is sponsored by the three bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission. You can purchase extras on this site, too, but just stick with the free reports. If you want to see your credit scores (a numerical representation of how good a credit risk you are), you’ll have to pay $48 at myfico.com.

Insurance
Shop around for car insurance. An online search and a few phone calls can turn up vastly different rates in the same area. You’ll also want to ask about lesser-known breaks. For example, even if your kids are grown and out of the house, they might be able to get a substantial discount if they insure their cars through the company you use. One place to start is carinsurance.com. Once you’ve found the best rate, ask your insurance agent if he or she can match it.

Sign up for an FSA. Many employers offer flexible spending accounts as a way to set aside part of your salary for health care and child-care costs. You can pay for everything from Band-Aids to orthodontic work with pretax money, which translates into a discount of about 30 percent or more, depending on your tax bracket. But plan carefully. If you don’t use all the money in your account within the year (at many companies, you have until March 15 of the following year to submit receipts), you lose whatever’s left.

Keep grown kids on your health insurance policy. If you’re going to end up lending (or giving) your children money for coverage, it’s much cheaper to keep them on your policy as long as possible. In some states, you can do this until they are 26, whether they’re still in school or not. (New Jersey will give you until they turn 30.) Some states require proof that they are single, without children, and that they live in the same state as you. For the rules where you live, go to statecoverage.net. Even if your state doesn’t mandate extended coverage, your plan might, so call your human resources department for details.

Hold off on that long-term-care insurance. The soaring cost of extended nursing care has prompted many people in their 40s and 50s to sign up for long-term-care insurance in order to lock in a rate. It’s true that the premiums go up as you get older, but not by the huge amount you might expect. According to data collected by America’s Health Insurance Plans, a 65-year-old may end up paying just $126 more a year than someone who bought a policy at age 55. During those ten years, that person would spend close to $19,000 on coverage, even though he or she probably won’t need it until age 83 or so (if at all). Depending on your health, the best time to buy is between 60 and 65. Until then, make retirement savings the priority, not long-term-care insurance.

Sign up for disability insurance. It helps protect your income in the event you become unable to work for a long period. Ideally, you should have enough to replace 60 to 70 percent of your salary. If your company plan doesn’t provide this much coverage, consider buying more on your own. It can be costly, but it’s worth it if you can afford it. Visit affordableinsuranceprotection.com or unum.com for quotes.

Think twice about life insurance. If you don’t have dependents, you may not need it. If you do have kids or other dependents, you’re probably better off with term life insurance until, say, your children are grown and can take care of themselves. It’s generally less expensive than whole-life or other types of policies that build up value until you die or cash them in. Agents will tell you that whole-life insurance is a good investment because your money builds up tax-free, but these policies often have very high fees. You’re better off putting that money toward your 401(k) and IRA instead. To comparison shop for term life policies, try term4sale.com.

Write your will. Although no one likes to think about dying, you need to. A will doesn’t have to be a fancy contract that teams of lawyers slave over. It’s just a written record of whom you want to entrust your kids and assets to when you die. You can write one using a simple boilerplate form and then sign it in the presence of witnesses (usually two people who aren’t named in the will). The legal publishing company Nolo has a good template and instructions you can download for less than $25. (These templates are valid in all states except Louisiana. Of course, if your situation is complicated or you’d like a professional to look it over, consult an attorney.) You’ll also want to make sure all the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies and bank and retirement accounts are up-to-date.

Retirement
Contribute to your company’s 401(k). If your company matches funds, sign up. This will be the best investment you can possibly make. Typically, a company will kick in 50 cents for every dollar you save, up to 6 percent of your salary. That’s the equivalent of earning an immediate 50 percent return—a rate you can’t get anywhere. Yet incredibly, one in three American workers who are eligible isn’t taking full advantage of it. With the matching funds, you can more than double the size of your 401(k) in 20 years, even if the stock market remains flat. For a family making $44,000, your contribution may cost you as little as $30 a week, money you won’t even miss after a while.

Put retirement savings ahead of college savings. This sounds crazy to parents who need to come up with tuition money well before it’s time to retire. But because of the tax breaks and the flexibility of retirement accounts, you’re much better off contributing to a 401(k) or an IRA and taking out loans for college. Many people don’t realize that the contributions you put in Roth IRAs can be withdrawn free of penalties at any time. That’s very different from the college savings plans, called 529s, that smack you with a significant penalty if the money is not used for college. Another plus: Most schools don’t count money in your retirement accounts when assessing how much financial aid they’ll offer you. (For more detailed advice, check out Kalman Chany’s book, Paying for College Without Going Broke.) Once you’ve saved the maximum amount that the government allows in your retirement accounts, then research 529 plans at savingforcollege.com.

Say no to company stock. Think of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Enron. All were once on top, but when they went under, many employees were left without jobs and with retirement accounts that were overloaded with worthless company stock. You already have a huge stake in the company because you depend on it for your paycheck. Don’t risk your retirement money as well. If your employer offers company stock as a 401(k) option, don’t take it. If you get company stock as part of your matching-funds plan, sell it as soon as you’re allowed to and switch that money into some other type of investment. Ask your HR representative for details.

Don’t worry about Social Security. You’ve probably heard the dire predictions that anyone younger than 35 can’t expect to collect Social Security. Even in bleak economic scenarios, though, Social Security will probably pay you 65 to 80 percent of your currently promised benefits. And with some fairly modest changes—like raising the retirement age or increasing payroll taxes for anyone earning more than $250,000 annually-the system can be shored up for decades to come. Make sure you’re saving enough so you don’t have to count on the program for your entire retirement income.

Stay away from individual stocks. In spite of what you may hear from your cousin the broker, buying the stock of a single company is generally not wise. It’s essentially putting all your eggs in one basket-and paying broker fees that could eat up your earnings. In fact, you don’t really need a broker. Instead of buying individual stocks, invest directly in mutual funds, which spread your dollars among a group of stocks. It’s usually safer, cheaper, and simpler. But remember, you should do this only with money you can invest long term and can afford to lose in the short term.

Stick with index funds. You’ll want to go with a special type of mutual fund called an index fund, which buys a little piece of each of the companies that make up established market benchmarks like the S&P 500. One of the best-kept secrets of investing is that in the long run, index funds perform at least as well as the funds that charge high fees and have a professional stock picker making the choices. And how are index funds doing these days? As of early December, they had actually lost less than the average stock fund run by the so-called experts. For a list of low-cost index funds, go to vanguard.com or fidelity.com.

Don’t buy investment products from your bank. Banks sell a wide range of mutual funds, annuities, and individual stocks and bonds. These aren’t FDIC-insured, and they tend to be more expensive than what you could get elsewhere because banks usually charge high sales commissions. Buy directly from mutual fund companies instead. Go with companies like Vanguard or Fidelity, which charge low fees and no commissions.

Build a portfolio. The rule of thumb is to put 50 percent of your long-term savings in stocks and 30 percent in bonds and keep 20 percent available in cash (that means in a savings or money market account where you can withdraw it at a moment’s notice). In tough times especially, getting the right mix will depend on the risk you’re willing to take and how soon you’ll need your money. Stocks are generally more risky than bonds, but there are exceptions. For example, bonds issued by companies that are in questionable financial health-called junk bonds or, more euphemistically, high-yield bonds are a lot riskier than, say, stock in utility companies. Financialengines.com, which charges about $40 for a three-month subscription, is a great site for calculating the right mix.

Bonus Tip
Take care of your health. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Says Rutgers finance professor Barbara O’Neill, “The last thing you want in a financial crisis is huge medical bills.”

Keep Your Money Safe
Supersafe:
FDIC-insured bank savings, CD, and money market accounts
FDIC-insured credit unions
Series I bonds
Money market funds that invest in Treasury bills

Somewhat Riskier: Corporate and tax-exempt money market mutual funds

Riskiest: Bank investment products not FDIC-insured Individual stocks

***
Learn More
A clip-and-save guide to the sites in this feature.

Taxes

Checking and Savings

Debt

Insurance

Retirement

Men’s Most Annoying Habits by April Daniels Hussar


Yes GUYS !! I did it I let a women tell us what we need to know that shouldn’t be a problem it should be what you pay attention to and act on immediately.

ARE YOU THAT GUY?

Ah, boys. How we love them. And how they can drive us … crazy! A while ago we ran an article on what guys find most annoying about us womenfolk (Who us? Hard to believe!) – so it’s only fair that we cover the other side of the coin, don’t you agree?

But first, let me paint you a little picture.

It’s a dark and stormy morning. The lights in my house are on, providing a cozy glow and, handily, helping us to see our food. Breakfast has ended, and my husband heads upstairs to his home office, remembering, as always, to turn the lights off as he leaves. Isn’t that nice?

No, actually it’s not … because I’m still sitting at the table!

Which brings us to our first complaint:

1. Over-zealous light turning-off.

I thought this was something only I had to suffer, but my writer friend Jenna, 40, assures me it is not.

“My husband calls me ‘Light-Leaver-Onner’ and subsequently walks around shutting off lights, including in rooms I am in. I’ll be using the toilet and he’ll walk by, open the door and turn off the light.”

But is this a green thing? A money thing? Who knows, but it seems to me that these guys are all taking An Inconvenient Truth just a little too far…

Case in point: My husband’s favorite line, whenever he discovers I’ve (yet again) left the light on in the basement laundry room, “Mother Earth is crying.”

Read Why You Should Date Men Raised By Single Moms

2. Leaving wet towels on the bed.

A gal we’ll call Penny, 36, tells me with a sigh, “I had an ex-fiancé who always, and I mean always left wet towels in the middle of the bed. He’d take a shower, walk into the bedroom, drop the towel in the middle of the bed, get dressed and leave. The wet towel would sit there all day long. Ick.”

Ick indeed. But why? Are beds and towel racks so similarly shaped that guys get confused? And let me just point out that she says ex-fiancé.

OK, some guys at least make an effort to put their things away…but when it comes right down to it, good intentions alone aren’t quite enough.

After reading our article on the annoying things women do, one commenter, “Bandijacks”, shared her pet peeve about guys: “The most annoying thing for me is when they almost put something away, but not quite. Like putting the dirty dishes beside the sink rather than inside, or putting dirty clothes on top of the hamper rather than opening it and putting them inside. Grrr.”

Come on guys, you’re so close. Close, but no cigar!
3. Turning into big babies when they get sick.

Sound the alarms! Call the Red Cross! Baby has a …sniffle!

If you’ve even been called into a living room filled with empty mugs coated with Theraflu and used Kleenex, a mound of misery lying woefully on the couch, and been asked to hand a certain someone the remote so he doesn’t have to strain himself reaching to the coffee table … then you know what I’m talking about.

Claudia, 30, says, “It’s like one sniffle must be the plague and no one has ever, ever felt as bad as they do.”

“Of course,” she wisely points out, “the worst part is, you can’t really complain about it because you just come across as mean and unsympathetic.”

True. Better to play sympathetic nursemaid/slave for a few days so you can cash your chips in next time you need a late-night Ben & Jerry’s run, if you know what I mean.

4. Not giving good phone.

Alissa, 22, has been dating her guy for two years. Her number one complaint? “He’s so bad on the phone! We’re talking zero enthusiasm, very quiet, and I’m the one who always needs to keep the conversation going.”

You might think it has something to do with his personality. You might be wrong. “He’s completely different in person — very lively, funny, and talkative,” says Alissa.

What’s a girl to do? “I’ve asked him many times to improve his phone skills, but nothing seems to work,” she says. “So now, I just talk and talk and talk until I want to hang up, and he just has to sit there and listen!”

Read XBox Game Teaches Guys How to Talk to Girls

5. Leaving a trail of ______ around the house.

It’s as if some guys never quite got over the lessons they learned from Hansel and Gretel, right? Wherever they go, they must leave little markers, for fear of not being able to find their ways back to … the kitchen?

Jenna, the “Light-Leaver-Onner,” has this one bad: “My husband likes to eat cheese slices at night, and I’ll find the little wax papers everywhere the next morning – in his pockets, on the coffee table, tucked between the damned couch cushions.”

Well, at least they don’t still have cheese in them.

And Christie, 21, always knows where her boyfriend’s been by his trail of dirty socks. “I find those things everywhere! On the bedroom floor, on the couch, under his kitchen chair, you name it.”

Of course, despite these pesky little habits, we love our guys anyway. All these little things add up to just that – little things.

But it’s kind of fun to b—- a little, amongst friends, isn’t it? Come on, dish it up: What’s your guy’s most annoying habit?