Not talent, not even education

 Calvin CoolidgeNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference. Calvin Coolidge

Bike commuting is dirt cheap and healthy

Bike commutingIf you live in a city, you are probably driving to work and paying to park once you get there. One driver in Seattle pays $220 a month to park in the city.
Even if you don’t have big parking costs, it would be nice to save on auto expenses, wouldn’t it?
More than 500,000 Americans think so. That’s the number of people who are currently riding a bike to work each day, according to U.S. census data. In cities such as Davis, Calif., about 20 percent of workers ride their bikes to the workplace.
The League of American bicyclists says getting more of us to do it could reduce traffic jams, air pollution, and obesity. Riding takes only a little more time than driving in most cases. If your commute takes you through congested areas, it could take less.
There’s no need to invest in a fancy bike, just about any 10-speed will do. Whatever you ride, it’s important to have these essentials and accessories: helmet, a helmet- mounted mirror for seeing what’s behind you (About $9), good tires (plus lightweight pump and spare tube), fenders, a bright-colored waterproof vest or jacket, a headlight, a rack and panniers to carry clothes and whatever else you need.
In all seasons except summer, you won’t have to worry about getting sweaty. If you wear a layer or two, you can remove one if you get hot. In summer, some riders carry extra clothes, and some shower at work.
The rewards of riding outweigh the hassles and help keep you healthy. That could result in some cash savings as well.

Parent liability: Will you have to pay for your child’s mistakes?

Parent liabilityIf your child injures someone or damages property, will you have to pay the bills? Will the court order it to be debited out of your checking or savings account?
Or maybe it will happen as it did in the case of a boy who thought he was an artist and spray painted the sides of office buildings. His parents were ordered by the court to work with him to repaint the walls. And they had to buy the paint.
Parental liability laws have been passed in 29 states and the District of Columbia. In California, parents can be fined or jailed for allowing children to participate in gangs. Wisconsin requires parents to pay child support when their under-age kids have babies. In Florida, parents can serve jail time if their child hurts another with a gun.
Parental liability laws have been passed to reduce juvenile crime and to compensate victims.
Take steps to keep your family out of trouble.
* Let kids know that if they harm a person or his property, not only will their allowance cease, but you might have to pay a lot of money to the people they hurt. The American Bar Association’s public education division has age-appropriate material about how laws work. Visit
* Take your kids to visit the court so they can see what happens to young adults guilty of injury, property damage, or drunk driving.
* Supervise. Courts are stern with parents for not knowing what their son or daughter is doing. In Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio, parents of chronic school skippers can be fined or jailed.
What to do if it happens: If it’s very serious, call a lawyer. If not, try to negotiate with the injured party. If the injury or damage was accidental, it could be covered by homeowner’s insurance.

States ban text messaging while driving

Text messageLegislators in several states say multitaskers are taking it too far, using their knees or little fingers to steer their cars while punching in cellphone messages.
Washington is the first state to pass a law banning “driving while texting.” The law takes effect in January and calls for a $101 fine for DWT. So far this year, nine other states have considered such legislation.
Driving while texting is a newer form of driver distraction. It joins such crash-causing activities as making calls on a cellphone, eating, and talking to passengers in the car.
Researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute show that driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes. And texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road.
If the drivers’ eyes are away from the roadway for two seconds or more in a six-second window, their risk of being involved in a crash is two times higher than that of an attentive driver.
A 2006 joint report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 78 percent of crashes involved a driver distracted within three seconds before an accident.
At the Center for Mobile Communications at Rutgers University, they say it’s human nature to know something is dangerous but to believe you can handle it better than others. This false sense of confidence could cost you your life and someone else’s life as well.
Think about it next time you want to be DWT. The time you save could be multiplied many times over as time lost if you are injured in a car crash. You couldn’t call it “an accident.”

How to get your rebate: Do it right, do it now

RebateIf you bought your lawn mower, paint, or computer but never got the promised rebate, you are one of many. The Federal Trade Commission reports that “the problem is huge.”
It may appear that the main function of rebate processors is to find a reason to deny the money-back offer. Rules are often so complicated and vague that most customers don’t even bother. Rebate complaints have risen 400 percent since 2002 according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
To get the rebate you expect:

  • Know the terms on the rebate form or store receipt. Ask the retailer to explain the terms.
  • Make copies of everything including store receipts, bar codes, forms, product containers, and serial numbers, recommends Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP/Sterling).
  • Fill in every blank on the form. If it asks for your email address, for example, say you don’t have one rather than leaving the space blank.
  • Act fast. The average time to submit a claim is now 15 to 30 days.
  • Use certified mail and ask for a receipt. Fill out all forms in writing to avoid suspicions of mass-mailing fraud.
  • Shop where rebates are easy to apply for. Stores like Staples, Cingular, and Costco let customers fill out rebate forms at the checkout or online. Some stores have the rebate form printed out at the end of the sales receipt.

The best idea: Fill out forms carefully immediately after the purchase. Send them along with required proofs that day or the next day.

Unusual cellphone rings called distracting

cell-phoneThe temperature of the workplace was people’s top complaint for many years. In the same location, some said it was too hot and other workers said it was too cold. Fortunately, some thought the temperature was just right.
Very few people think the ringing of someone’s cellphone is just right. In a study by workforce solutions firm Randstad USA, unusual rings were named as workers’ number one pet peeve.
Randstad reports that many rings are particularly obnoxious like fire engine sirens, a fog horn, or a child’s voice crying out. Many people have several rings to identify various callers such as parents, friends, and spouses.
With so many ringtones available online, it shouldn’t be difficult to pick one that doesn’t drive co-workers and customers to distraction. According to M:Metrics, a Seattle-based research firm, 19.8 million mobile-phone users downloaded ringtones in one recent month. About half of them were employed full time.
Part of the problem is with more open workspaces. Some companies pipe “white sound” into open areas to reduce noise. Another factor is the increased number of young people who have grown up with cellphones.
Most organizations require that phones be set on vibrate during meetings and when talking with customers.
We should remember that discretion is best when choosing a ringtone. Consider what bosses and co-workers will think when your phone rings.

Retire early lose a bundle in benefits

poor houseThose who retire early but live long lose a bundle in Social Security benefits
Only about 5 percent of retirees wait until full retirement age to claim Social Security benefits.
Retiring early can cost dearly, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), especially if you live a long time.
The SSA calculates that retirees who live to age 90 would lose $39,000 in benefits if they retire at age 62.
Some financial analysts say retiring early would cost far more because of the cost-of-living increases that boost Social Security checks. They figure the loss would be $83,000 for those who take benefits at 62 and live to age 90 and nearly $149,000 for those who live to age 95. The reason: Cost-of-living adjustments would apply to larger sums if a person retires at age 66.
Age 77 is the SSA’s estimated break even point. If you think you will die before age 77, retire early. If you think you will live past age 77, delay retirement as long as possible.
People are, in fact, living longer. There is a 41 percent chance that a 62-year-old woman will live to age 90. A 62-year-old man has a 29 percent chance.
For a married couple, there’s a 58 percent chance that one of them will live to age 90, and a 29 percent chance that one will reach 95. If you don’t think you’ll live very long, taking benefits early could hurt your spouse. A married beneficiary can continue receiving his or her own benefits or the deceased’s benefit, whichever is more. So spouses who take benefits early also reduce the amount the surviving spouse could receive.
People who want to retire early and can afford to live on their retirement savings until age 66 may also save on income tax.
Married couples with $32,000 in combined income face income tax on half of their Social Security benefits.

A Valentine Day love letter you create yourself

Valentine's Day There are many synonyms for love: endearment, devotion, ardor, and enchantment, among others.
On Valentine’s Day, love is often expressed by a card. But a card doesn’t have to come from the store. In the early history of Valentine’s Day, cards were made by individuals.

  • Rebus Valentines are written ink and have a verse with small pictures replacing some of the words. A picture or drawing of an eye, for example, could be used for the word “I” and a heart can be used for the word “love.”
  • The acrostic Valentine used the name of the beloved. The first letter in each line, in large type, eventually spelled out the name of the recipient. For the name Mary, for example, one could write:

May each day bring my
Adoring thoughts closer to you.
Remember, you are the one I love,
You are the one for me, forever.
When you send a card that you make, you are sending a unique gift, a part of yourself.
Want to make Valentine’s Day very personal by writing a love letter?
If you need some ideas for it, check the Web site:

Valentine Day 2008 Facts, Candy and Love

Valentine's DayOpinions abound as to who was the original Valentine, with the most popular theory that he was a clergyman who was executed for secretly marrying couples in ancient Rome. Emperor Claudius II felt that marriage weakened his soldiers. In any event, in A.D. 496, Pope Gelasius set aside Feb. 14 to honor St. Valentine. Through the centuries, the Christian holiday became a time to exchange love messages, and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. Esther Howland, a native of Massachusetts, is given credit for sending the first valentine cards in the 1840s. The spirit of love continues today as valentines are sent with sentimental verses, and children exchange valentine cards at school.

Candy is Dandy

Number of locations producing chocolate and cocoa products in 2005. These establishments employed 38,718 people. California led the nation in the number of such establishments with 128, followed by Pennsylvania with 121.
Source: County Business Patterns

Number of locations that produced nonchocolate confectionary products in 2005. These establishments employed 21,389 people.
Source: County Business Patterns

$14.9 billion
Total value of shipments in 2006 for firms producing chocolate and cocoa products. Nonchocolate confectionery product manufacturing, meanwhile, was a $6.2 billion industry. Source: Annual Survey of Manufactures <>

Number of confectionery and nut stores in the United States in 2005; they are among the most popular sources of sweets for Valentine’s Day.
Source: County Business Patterns

26 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2006. Source: Current


$411 million
The combined wholesale value of domestically produced cut flowers in 2006 for all flower-producing operations with $100,000 or more in sales. Among states, California was the leading producer, alone accounting for about three-quarters of this amount ($316 million).
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service <>

$31 million
The combined wholesale value of domestically produced cut roses in 2006 for all operations with $100,000 or more in sales.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service <>

The number of florists nationwide in 2005. These businesses employed 101,861 people.
Source: County Business Patterns


Number of jewelry stores in the United States in 2005. Jewelry stores offer engagement, wedding and other rings to lovers of all ages. In February 2007, these stores sold $2.5 billion in merchandise. Source: County Business Patterns
and Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services

The merchandise at these locations could well have been produced at one of the nation’s 1,798 jewelry manufacturing establishments in 2005. The manufacture of jewelry and silverware was an approximately $10 billion industry in 2006.
Source: County Business Patterns and Annual Survey of Manufactures

Be Mine

2.2 million
The number of marriages that take place in the United States annually. That breaks down to 5,918 a day.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

The number of marriages performed in Nevada during 2006. So many couples tie the knot in the Silver State that it ranked fourth nationally in marriages, even though its total population that year among states was 35th. (California ranked first in marriages.)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics <> and population estimates, <

25.5 and 27.5
The estimated U.S. median ages at first marriage for women and men, respectively, in 2006. The age for women rose 4.2 years in the past three decades. The age for men at first marriage is up 3.7 years. Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
56% and 60%
The percentages of American women and men, respectively, who are 18 or older and married (includes those who are separated).
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
Percentage of people 30 to 34 in 2006 who had been married at some point in their lives — either currently or formerly.
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
5 million
Number of opposite-sex cohabitating couples who maintained households in 2006. These couples comprised 4.4 percent of all households.
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
Among women who married for the first time between 1985 and 1989, the percentage who marked their 15th anniversary. This compares with 79 percent of women who married for the first time between 1955 and 1959. Source: Marriage and Divorce: 2004
The percentage of currently married women who have been married for at least 50 years. Just more than half of currently married women have been married for at least 15 years. Source: Marriage and Divorce: 2004

Looking for Love

Number of single men (either never married, widowed or divorced) who are in their 20s for every 100 single women of the same ages.
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
Number of single men (either never married, widowed or divorced) 65 and older for every 100 single women of the same ages.
Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2006
The number of dating service establishments nationwide as of 2002. These establishments, which include Internet dating services, employed nearly 4,300 people and pulled in $489 million in revenues. Source: 2002 Economic Census

Try Looking Here . . .

Romantic-sounding places to spend Valentine’s Day:

Roseville, Calif. Rose City, Mich. South Heart, N.D.
Loveland, Colo. Darling township, Minn. Loveland, Ohio
Romeo, Colo. Sacred Heart, Minn. Loveland Park, Ohio
Lovejoy, Ga. Heart Butte, Mont. Love County, Okla.
Loves Park, Ill. Valentine, Neb. Loveland, Okla.
Lovington, Ill. Lovelock, Nev. Lovelady, Texas
Romeoville, Ill. Loving, N.M. Loving County, Texas
Rosemont, Ill. Lovington, N.M. Valentine, Texas
Romeo, Mich. Love Valley, N.C. Rose Hill, Va.

Source: American FactFinder

Giving Love a Second Chance

Average length, in years, of first marriages ending in divorce.

3 1/2
The median time in years between divorce and a second marriage.

12% and 13%
Percentage of men and women, respectively, 15 and older who have married twice. Three percent each have married three or more times. By comparison, 58 percent of women and 54 percent of men have made only one trip down the aisle.

52% and 44%
Among adults 25 and older who have ever divorced, the percentage of men and women, respectively, who were currently married.

Source for the data in this section: Marriage and Divorce: 2004