Options for Paying for College: Loans and Grants to Consider

Paying for college is stressful in any situation, but with economic hard times facing many people, it becomes even more important to look for options that can help you to get your college student through school, or help you to pay for your own schooling costs. Keep in mind, the competition for resources to pay for school is fiercer than ever, which means that students need to act quickly and put forth his or her best offer.

Finding Aide
One of the first thing for students to do is to get started on looking for financial aid options early on, even as early as Junior year in high school. Find out what options are available so you can apply as soon as you qualify. Further, improve your eligibility for this type of financial aid. Determine what your true income is now, for example, if you lost a job. Many schools have taken to increasing their aid allowances to help ensure that more students are able to enroll. Therefore, still apply to colleges you want to go to, even those more expensive options.

Ways To Save
Save money throughout your college career by making smarter decisions now. For example, high school students should try to take as many AP courses as possible and prepare for the SAT’s and ACT’s. Doing well in these areas will help you to qualify for scholarships and grants that other students cannot. Schools that allow students to earn college credit in high school can also be beneficial options to consider.

Federal, State and Other Aid
Federal student aid is often available, especially low cost loans to student. A good place to start is with the United States Department of Education’s FAFSA application, which can help you to qualify for numerous loan options. It will also provide students with options for grants, including qualifying for the Federal Pell Grant Program, which is a needs based program for low income undergraduate students.

Mistakes to Avoid
There are numerous options available to students for paying for school, but there are reasons to be careful about funding options. In some cases, people can make costly mistakes:

  • Avoid taking a withdrawal from your retirement benefits to pay for college. Although in some cases you will be able to take a withdrawal without paying additional taxes, you are cutting significantly into the earning potential of these accounts.
  • Avoid paying for college on a credit card. This, too, can be incredibly expensive to you. More so, most people will qualify for low cost loans through student aid instead. The interest rate on credit cards can be two or three times as much, if not more, than the rates on credit cards.

There are options for paying for college. The key is for you to ensure you make the right decisions moving forward. Making wise decisions regarding your financial situation right now will help you to pave the way for financial success throughout your life. More so, it can help to minimize the amount of money you pay out overall for school.

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Self-Confidence Boosts for Job-Searching Teens

Psyche Yourself Up to Get the Job You Want

Looking for a job can be a disheartening thing for anyone at any age. This is especially true for you teenagers out there. It’s always hard to hear the word no or to see someone get a job you know you could do better.

After hearing no several times, it’s easy to give up or get depressed. But there’s no reason to let it get to you! Being realistic in your expectations — it is a tight job market out there these days, after all — is the first step in having and maintaining a positive outlook when it comes to finding a job, especially to finding a first job.

And that positive outlook shows. Remind yourself to stand up straight and look people in the eyes when you’re filling out applications or interviewing for a job — and say to yourself, repeat after me, I am a great person. I can do this job. I am smart. I am capable.

Seem silly? It isn’t. What you tell yourself inside has a huge impact on what your outside self is saying. When you feel good about yourself and your abilities, it will show in your body language and your overall demeanor. When you rock, and you do, it will show!

Oh, and SMILE. This may be hard if it’s the tenth interview you’ve had only to not get any of the jobs. But smiling shows you’re open and friendly. No, after all those turn-downs you may not feel all that happy, but this may be the employer that says yes — which is something to smile about, isn’t it?

It’s also easy to lose sight of your good qualities when you’ve had a few rejections. So before your next interview or going to talk with a manager and fill out an application, sit down and make a victory list.

Yep, a victory list. Write down all the things you’ve done right—and well! Like the time you remembered Mom’s birthday without being reminded by Dad. And the time you helped Mr. Stanton across the street keep his lawn mowed when he hurt his back and couldn’t do it himself. That A+ on that science exam. Oh, and don’t forget the time you didn’t smack your sister for using your hair gel. All of these are victories and examples of things you’ve done right.

After you made your list, read it. Now read it again. Don’t you feel better? See, you are a terrific teenager! Those employers just don’t know what they’re missing out on by not hiring you, do they?

Now take that confidence with you into the next interview. Use the nervous energy to show enthusiasm for the job you’re applying or interviewing for. Your eyes will be shining and bright from positive energy so strong the employer will just have to hire you. This one, after all, will know a good thing when he or she sees it.

And if he or she doesn’t? Keep that head held high, tell yourself how great you are and that someone soon will see how much you’re capable of and give you your first job—and they will!

 

Teen Job Alert: How Not to Get a Job

When it comes to getting a job, you can find more advice than you can possibly imagine. It’s all great information to have and you should definitely read and study as much of it as you can.

What most of that information and advice leaves out, though, is what will really cause you not to get a job. People tell you all the do’s but leave out the don’ts—and the don’ts are what will keep you from getting the job you want quicker than all the do’s done correctly will get you one.

For instance, never show up for a job interview late. An employer will think to himself or herself that if you don’t care enough to show up for the interview on time, you can’t be trusted to show up for work on time.

And never dress like you would to go anywhere but the fanciest restaurant. This means don’t wear your favorite jeans, even though they’re your lucky jeans. Dress up, even if all you’re going to do is go to McDonald’s and fill out an application. The manager will notice, believe me. And he’ll remember you out of all the two hundred other teenagers that applied for the same job.

Don’t take your cell phone. You know to turn it off, but in your rush and anxiety you may forget to turn it off.  If an employer thinks you’ll be spending hours of his or her time making personal phone calls, you can forget about getting the job. Besides, it’s simply disrespectful to have a cell phone ring during an interview, or even while filling out an application at the job site.

Don’t talk too much. Nerves can cause people to babble, and in an interview, this is easy to do. Also, only answer the questions you’re asked. Don’t start answering, only to go off on a tangent about the cool vacation you went on this past summer or your favorite rock group. Even if you’re asked about these things, keep your answers short and friendly — and more important, focused to the question you were asked.

Don’t be overly friendly. You want a potential employer to like you. That’s perfectly understandable, but working too hard at it can make you look fake and won’t earn you any Brownie points. Just be yourself. That’s who the employer really want — and will ultimately get!

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Can Budgeting Software Help You to Stay on Track?

Budgeting software can be a helpful financial tool. For many families, the thought of planning a budget is daunting and overwhelming. Just the thought of it makes people avoid making a budget. However, a budget can be an incredibly helpful financial tool. It allows you to plan where your money is going each month and helps you to achieve financial goals you set up. If you like to manage your accounts online, the right budgeting software can really help you to save money and even make money.

Finding the Right Program

The first thing to do is to look for budgeting software that fits your needs. A vast number of options are available to consider, but not all provide the same level of flexibility and the same features as others. Find one that works for your goals. Here are some features to consider:

  • Allows you to create budgets for all of the categories you need to. Look for a software program that gives you the flexibility to add spending accounts (sometimes in virtual envelopes) and customize your needs.
  • Choose a program that allows you to track assets, including financial accounts. This way, you not only see what is going out each month but can track what you are making on your investments, too.
  • Look for a program that provides you with an easy to use setup wizard. Sometimes the hardest part of using budgeting software is getting it set up to work right for your needs. Some programs just have a better method for getting you set up and teaching you how to use the program than others do.
  • Be sure you can import data. While older accounting-style programs allowed consumers to enter data as it was spent, today’s best budgeting programs connect to your financial accounts, including your checking and savings accounts and download the data from them for you. This means you can easily keep track of what is happening without having to spend a lot of time inputting data yourself.
  • Choose a program that gives you a visual description of what is happening with your money each month. Some programs will produce charges, graphs and various methods to view the account so as to show you where your money is being spent. Some programs will recognize purchases at restaurants and tally those into one section of a pie chart while placing gasoline purchases in another.

Many of these programs have cut back on the costs associated with these programs. You no longer need to have an accounting degree to use these programs.

Making it Work

When it comes to buying budgeting software, choose a product that fits you properly. That is the easy step. The harder step is to use the program properly, which means consistently. You will want to invest in a program that provides you with tools, reminders and automatic payment setups so you can minimize the amount of time you need to use the program. However, make a point to using the program at least one time per week to manage your finances.

For many people, a budget can change a financial life. It can give you goals to aim for and help you to know how much you are spending, really, on each of the purchases you make each day. Factor in the benefit of adding this type of program to your financial management system. It may prove a significant advantage over balancing your checkbook or just “managing” you funds in your mind.

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Accounting Abuses

It is sometimes difficult to understand how, if 1) there are standard accounting rules that all companies must follow, and 2) accounting standards are regulated and 3) certified public accounting firms oversee that companies report their financial results according to these rules and standards, how some companies have been able to  publish financial results that did not show a true picture of the company’s financial success (or lack of it).

The reason the last few years’ phenomenon of flagrant accounting abuses by major corporations such WorldCom, Enron, Global Crossing, Adelphia, and Tyco were able to occur is that accounting rules are open to interpretation. The many ways to portray expenses and revenues were exploited by creative accounting practices in order to mask losses. The figures did not lie; they were just hidden so well that they became silent. Some of these abuses may simply be questionable; some are actually fraudulent.

One way to hide losses is to depreciate assets more slowly.  If a major capital asset, such as a oil rig has a cost of $10 Million and is normally depreciated over 10 years, each year it would represent an expense to the company of $1 Million. If, however, the company were to change the depreciation schedule to 20 years, the annual expense would be reduced to $500,000, thus increasing the company’s profit, or at least, reducing its losses.   Although this might be considered legal, it would not be ethical if the true life of the oil rig was really only 10 years. At the tenth year when it had to be replaced, the cost would not yet have been fully covered.

A similar abuse, but one that is clearly illegal, is to capitalize, that is spread out over a period of years, ordinary expenses that occur in a single year. This appears to be one of the abuses committed by Worldcom. A company should spread the cost of a major capital item out over several years because it will be used over all of those years; it is a question of interpretation how many years should be used as a guideline.  However, telephone bills, payroll expenses, monthly rent, any items that are related to a current period must be expensed to that period and may not be spread out over time to make it appear that income is sufficient to cover expenses.

Some companies that trade in energy contracts have established “round trip” trades in these contracts wherein no underlying transaction occurred, but served only to boost the apparent revenues of the company. Global Crossing was investigated by the SEC for the same type of accounting trick wherein it did back and forth swaps of fiber-optic capacity, while the capacity never changed hands.

Another way to presenting financial performance more favorably is to conceal some of the company’s debt. Selling debt to off-balance sheet entities, prepaid transactions where the funds are reported as deferred revenue rather than debt, synthetic leases and derivatives may all serve to increase capital without reflecting debt on the company’s financial statement.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the various accounting standards boards and many other financial regulating entities are constantly reviewing how to monitor and control these types of abuses. Innovative and often unethical accounting professionals seem to stay one step ahead of them.

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Understanding Corporate Finance

The Basics
Corporate finance is the body of knowledge that dictates the decisions a company makes about its finances. The scope and implication of this is very broad, since just about any decision that affects the company is ultimately a financial decision. First of all, the company has to define its objectives. The company is designed to make a profit through the sale of its products or services. The objective is defined as: which product(s), which service(s), to which market(s), with which products or materials and through which means. The decision makers in a company (board of directors, CEO, CFO and other senior managers) must address these financial decisions on a number of levels. There are three basic decision levels that all corporate finance attempts to address. They are the Financing Decision, the Investment Decision and the Dividend Decision.

The Financing Decision
Obtaining the right mix of initial capital is one of the first financial decisions to be made by a corporation. Deciding which type of financing matches the needs of the company, marketing the corporation for this financing and matching each type of financing to a specific need of the company in a way that such financing will be most intelligently used is crucial to long term success.

The Investment Decision
The company next decides upon its investment decision. This does not necessarily mean how it will invest its profits, although that forms a part of the investment decision; it also means how the company will decide to invest its resources. Its initial capital, whether built by investments by the principals, sales of shares, or debt must be allocated intelligently to the various needs of the business. Manufacturing infrastructure, salaries for sales, engineer or design personnel, research and development, marketing and many other areas compete for each investment dollar of a corporation.

The Dividend Decision
A corporation must then examine the decision of distribution of profits. Further investment in the assets of the company is important, especially in dynamic fields where new product development is the life line to continued success, but this must be balanced with the need for stability. Capital reserves, bonus structures, and of course, dividend distribution need to be funded if the company intends continue growth, keep vital staff and maintain market value.

The ultimate value of the corporation will be a reflection of how successfully it makes its decisions in each of these areas. If a firm chooses the proper allocation of resources, if the most appropriate types of financing are secured, and finally, if it can determine the proper proportion between how much gets plowed back into operations versus how much will be distributed as profit, the firm will build higher value than firms that make poor decisions in these areas.

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Banking Terminology Abbreviations

Every industry seems to have its own language, sometimes called industry “jargon”.  It usually stems from members of the industry continually using the same terms over and over again and to save time they substitute abbreviations and acronyms.  The banking industry is no different, and many terms have sprung up that may or may not be understood by outsiders. Since this is the banking industry, and most people have had dealings with banks, some of the terminology has become commonplace. Other expressions are usually used by banking professionals and most of the public are not aware of what they mean.

Just about everyone knows what APR (annual percentage rate), CD (Certificate of Deposit), ATM (Automated Teller Machine) and OD (Overdraft) are. But does the ordinary bank customer know what an OD privilege line is, or an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage)? Here are some not so common terms and abbreviations used in the banking industry.

 ACH- Automated Clearing House, through which everyone’s checks clear.

CARDS- Certificates for Amortizing Revolving Debt, securities backed by credit-card receivables.

CARS- Certificates of Automobile Receivables, securities backed by automobile receivables.

CHIPS- Clearing House Interbank Payment System, an international wire-system for high-value payments operated by a group of major banks.

CMO- Collateralized Mortgage Obligation, a type of mortgage security whereby cash flows from a set of mortgages are repackaged into bonds with different maturities.

CPN- Coupon, the interest rate on a debt security (the issuer promises to pay this interest rate to the holder until maturity; it is expressed as an annual percentage of face value).

EDP- Electronic Data Processing, how banks process all the information on accounts.

EFT- Electronic Funds Transfer, the method by which funds are wired between banks.

Fannie Mae- Nickname for the “Federal National Mortgage Association”, and the mortgage securities that are guaranteed by that agency.

Forex- Foreign Exchange, when a currency has to be exchanged for another currency.

FDIC- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government institution responsible for insuring bank deposits in the United States.

FED, the- The Federal Reserve Bank, the Central Bank of the United States.

Ginnie Mae- Nickname for the “Government National Mortgage Association” and the mortgage securities that are guaranteed by that agency.

L/C- Letter of Credit, a line extended for a short term to cover the shipment of goods. When the L/C is presented to the bank for payment, and it matches exactly the terms of the shipment and the goods involved, the bank will pay the shipper of the goods.

Libor- The London Interbank Offer Rate. This is frequently used as a base rate for many loans.

PN- Promissory Note, an integral part of a loan in which the debtor agrees to pay the lender.

Refi- Refinancing an existing debt. This can apply to ordinary line of credit loans, collateralized loans or mortgage loans.

Repo- The act of repossessing a vehicle on which the loan has been called due to non-payment.

SLA- Savings and Loan Association.

SWIFT- Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, how banks correspond and settle with one another, globally.

T-Bill-Treasury Bill, the investment in U.S. Government security of less than 180 days.

YTM- Yield to Maturity, the final calculated interest rate on a discounted note. 

 

If a bank has international as well as domestic business, this list would grow to include many more phrases and abbreviations, but just keeping track of American expressions is enough of a chore!

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Theme Weddings — Planning Ideas

Today an emerging and very popular trend in weddings is the theme wedding. The theme wedding allows you to express your own individuality while having the traditional element in your wedding. The theme wedding can be just about anything you can imagine, and though they may take a little more work and a great deal of thought, they are well worth it.

One popular theme wedding is the Renaissance wedding. This takes a little more work, but many of the materials you will need are not too hard to find. The very first step in creating the Renaissance wedding theme is the wedding party’s attire. For the bride there are wedding gowns readily available in the Renaissance style, and you may even find gowns for your attendants in the same style. If this is too difficult, it is recommended that you have your wedding gown tailor made along with those of your bride’s maids. Another important aspect of this wedding theme is picking the appropriate setting, decorations and colors. When you are deciding on this part of your wedding, keep in mind what colors and décor dominated that time era.

Another very popular wedding theme is the fairytale wedding. This often involves the notorious Cinderella. With this theme, of course you will want a wedding gown that resembles that of the famous Cinderella gown, and your decorations will closely match this. It is very easy to find the pumpkin carriage drawn by white horses for table centerpieces, and little glass slippers are nice to offer to your guests filled with candy. If you really want to put the icing on the cake, you may be able to hire a carriage with horses for the bride to arrive in and the couple to depart in. Some people find that it is much easier to create this theme by having their wedding and reception at one of the Disney resorts. When you choose to hold your wedding at one of their resorts, Disney has available a real Cinderella Carriage for the bride and groom.

Another wonderful theme, is the winter fantasy theme. Often the colors for this wedding are silver, blue and white, which look striking when put together. For this theme you will want to have several ice sculptures created as centerpieces and decorate the chapel and reception room with artificial evergreens that have had a light dusting of snow sprayed on them. Decorate these evergreens with clear white Christmas lights. Silver and white snowflakes hanging from the ceiling top of the atmosphere for the winter theme. With a little imagination, this theme wedding can truly dazzling anyone.

A couple themed wedding ideas for summer include the seaside wedding, or the Hawaiian themed wedding. For the Hawaiian themed wedding you will want to pick very bright, tropical colors, and maybe lots of South Sea items. For the seaside wedding, try keeping your colors softer; maybe some pale pinks, tans and blues. Seashells will of course play a big role in this themed wedding.

With a little imagination, it is easy to make your special day, the fantasy you have always dreamed of.


Las Vegas Weddings

If you are like countess people, you may be contemplating marriage in the near future, but dreading the most strenuous task of all, the wedding. There is a reason that Las Vegas is the wedding capitol of the world, it is one place where you can make your arrangements, and be married in the same day. The ease of taking your wedding vows in Las Vegas is well worth a closer examination.

The simplistic nature of a Las Vegas wedding is just a start, there are several wedding chapels in Las Vegas and many of them offer some interesting incentives. The prices of these complete packages are hard to beat, especially if you consider what the cost of a traditional wedding may run.

The Wedding Bells Chapel of Las Vegas has packages that range anywhere from $167 to $1100 and include, the chapel, the ceremony, a wedding coordinator, a bouquet for the bride as well as champagne, photographs, video and much more. There is no possible way to coordinate a traditional wedding for as little as $200 -$300.

Another notorious wedding chapel in Las Vegas is the Viva Las Vegas. This chapel offers not only the traditional wedding, but the increasingly popular themed wedding as well. You can order up an exotic Egyptian, or Camelot themed wedding, and if that isn’t enough, they also offer a gothic themed wedding complete with a haunting fog filled chapel and best of all, the services will be conducted by Dracula. This package tends to run about $750. Advance reservations are recommended for a Halloween wedding.

If your taste runs a little more towards the futuristic, why not get married by the one and only Captain James T. Quirk or Captain Spock, in the Starship Chapel. This wedding comes complete with one Minister, Transporter, and one illusion entrance, Captain Quirk or Spock as your minister, theatrical lighting, and plenty of fog. All for only about $700. A great price if you are looking for the ultimate galactic wedding experience.

If you are like many women, chances are you have had your heart set on the ever popular Victorian wedding. This wedding package runs $175 and comes complete with use of the Victorian Chapel, a plethora of Victorian memorabilia, one period soloist for the ceremony, punch and petite fours, period music, and first dance at recessional.

For those of you that find yourself stuck in the time era of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, don’t despair, there is a wedding package created just for you. Your wedding can be filled with the classic music of Woodstock in the Woodstock themed wedding ceremony! With the talents of a world renowned impersonator, this is a wedding that will take you right back to August, 1969 and that renowned festival of peace, music and love!

Las Vegas Nevada offers marriage licenses with no waiting period and few restrictions for only $55. Together with the low cost of a fantastic Las Vegas wedding, you cannot help but come out ahead in value.

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Why Hire a Wedding Coordinator?

Every little girl dreams of being a princess and to be swept off her feet by her Prince Charming. A wedding is the time in a girl’s life when they come to feel like the princess and the heroine of a fairy tale. All around the world from the hidden tribes to the most advanced area of civilization, people have always wanted weddings and take considerable amount of preparation for this occasion. Love is most sought for and the public declaration of it is a legitimate and a wonderful reason to celebrate!

Planning a wedding could be a very taxing job. It is the most elaborate event to organize. Most of us have jobs, a busy family and social life, and household responsibilities. Adding a wedding to plan is too much to handle on your own. An average wedding takes about two to three hundred hours to plan. This time should be used to envision your dream wedding instead of laboring for its many details.

As much as it is fun to think about wedding plans it is not as easy as it seems. Murphy’s Law states that “If anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible moment.” That is where wedding coordinators come to our aid, to break Murphy’s Law on your wedding day by being prepared and equipped to handle wedding emergencies.

Wedding coordinators used to be a luxury, but now it is essential to a well planned event. Hiring one saves you both time and money by helping you come up with a wedding that is tailored fit to your budget and preference. They can take advantage of discounts available to the trade only. A wedding planner will add cost to your budget but a good planner can help you save a lot of time, money and effort almost enough to cover the cost of hiring them.

They guide you in the whole process by supplying you with planners, checklists, helpful articles and a list of reliable resources for all your wedding needs. Moreover, they can do the walking and talking for you. No need to visit every possible venue and to meet up with numerous photographers, musicians, caterers and vendors. They can attend meetings on your behalf.

Wedding planners have a good fashion sense. They are in the know with the latest style and trends. They are imaginative and resourceful. They are artisans who assist you to come up with creative, original ideas to make your wedding a wonderful event to be remembered.

Most common mistakes can be avoided with a wedding professionally planned. Often times we make mistakes like not sticking to the budget or hiring the wrong photographer. With a coordinator to guide you, you will be able to save on some things and spend on what you prioritize more. They would often advice you not scrimp on your budget for the photographer as the guest will forget about your food and other details but the pictures will always be there for you to cherish and show off years after the big day.

Although you may be organized and well-meaning friends and family members might offer help, it is best to leave it to the expert who has broader knowledge and experience in this industry. Besides, you planned your wedding for ten months and dreamt of it your whole life. Why would you want to work that day? Furthermore, your wedding is for your family and friends to enjoy too.

Most importantly, you need a coordinator to orchestrate the wedding day itself. You need not worry about wedding day emergencies like stains on dresses and runs on stockings. They can even act as a mediator to simple family arguments about the event. The planner will now serve as a buffer between the bride and the problem. You can have peace of mind and focus on the excitement and joy of this wonderful day. All you have to think about is how beautiful you are and how happy you will be to say I do to the man you love. So go on and leave the worrying to the planner and concentrate on your role as a blushing bride. This is your day and all eyes will be on you. So smile, laugh, cry, dance and be happy. Have a fun and stress free wedding!

If you do decide to hire a wedding coordinator, do not forget to check references. It is also important that you are compatible with them so you can have fun planning you big day!

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Seatbelt Laws Save Lives

There was a time not too long ago when many people did not see the need to wear seatbelts while in a car, and not only that, rarely were people putting their children in car seats. With the passing and enforcing of laws that require passengers to wear seatbelts and parents to ensure that children are in proper safety seats, some people have changed their habits.

What is so amazing is that with so much proof that seatbelts save lives, there are still numerous people who do not wear seatbelts. Seatbelt laws are not just a hindrance to a citizen’s free will, but a very useful law in saving the lives of drivers and passengers alike. Not wearing seatbelts causes more accident fatalities that almost any other cause today. Over 68% of all fatalities in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of impact. That is a very large percentage of lives that could have been saved simply by buckling up.

It has been estimated that seatbelts save nearly 10,000 lives every year and it is not hard to imagine how much this could be increased if everyone that got into a car used their seatbelts. The most likely candidates for not wearing seatbelts are males between the ages of 17 and 25. Even the most expansive of educational programs are not helping to convince these drivers to think of safety first. The most likely reason is the natural inclination for people of that age group to think of themselves as invisible.

With a program of education not getting through to those who prefer not to wear seatbelts, the solution is not clear. It may be that more aggressive laws need to be passed to promote the use of seatbelts. Together with this needs to be a very aggressive prosecution of those cited for not following the seatbelt laws.

The myth that you do not need a seatbelt if you are driving only for a short distance or at a very low speed is simply inaccurate. Almost 50% of accidents happen at speeds of less that 40 mph, and fatalities have been known to happen at a speed of 12 mph. It is also a fact that 80% of accidents involving a fatality occur less that 25 miles from home.

It is pure myth that you are safer during certain types of accidents by not wearing your seatbelt. Though submersion and fire account for less that half of 1% of all accidents, you still stand more of a chance surviving if you are wearing your seatbelt. If you are knocked unconscious during the accident by hitting your head on something, you certainly will not escape a burring car.

The shoulder harness is also an important part of seatbelt safety and should be worn at all times. This will keep you from hitting the steering wheel, windshield or dash. If the shoulder strap does not fit correctly, it can be dangerous and should be adjusted until it does fit right.

Protect your life and the lives of your passengers by requiring anyone in your car to wear a seatbelt, and that all children are securely fastened in child safety seats.

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Stranger Awareness — Safety Information

In today’s society, it has become increasingly important to keep your eyes open and alert when in public. There are too many people who are ready to take advantage of individuals, and are looking for every opportunity when they believe your guard is down. Consider the following tips to build your awareness of strangers without becoming paranoid:

Parking garages
If you work in an environment in which you park in a parking garage, or happen to have been shopping in a place in which you are forced to use a parking garage, the most important thing you can do to make it safely to your car (especially for women) is to hold your head up high and walk with purpose. Do not look down or away, or individuals looking to take advantage of you might see that as a sign of weakness, and could turn around and attack you.

Make sure when entering the garage, you remember where you parked your car, and watch carefully for all people who are walking through the garage. As you approach your car, look carefully to see that there is no one close by, and once you get into your car safely, lock all the doors.

Do not stop to provide directions or assistance to strangers, because you don’t know if they really need help or are looking for someone to victimize. If you have a cell phone, make sure you have that in one hand with your keys in the other, ready to get into your car and/or call in the event of an emergency.

Dimly lit parking lots
Similar to a parking garage, keep an eye on dimly lit parking lots, especially in the winter. Know where your car is parked and head straight for it. Keep your keys in one hand and a phone in the other (if applicable). Keep your eyes open and aware of all that is around you, and listen closely for anything that might be different from a normal sound. Check your car carefully before getting in, as many abductors have hidden under individual’s cars in order to attack them as they get ready to get in the car.

If your car has an auto door unlock or an panic button, and you are unsure as to whether or not someone might be near your car, use the buttons to scare off any strangers. Again, do not stop to talk with or help strangers-if someone appears to need help-once you are safely in your locked car, offer to call someone to help them, but do not allow them access to your vehicle nor use of your phone.

Strangers visiting your home
Even in the safest neighborhoods, you never know who is watching your house, waiting to break in and burglarize your home. If someone comes to the door that you do not know, make sure you look through the peephole of your door, first. Talk through the locked door to the individual to see how you can help them. If you do not have a peephole, then crack the door (using a chain at the top if applicable) to see what the individual wants. If you have a window, look out the window first. Whatever you do, do not let a stranger into your home. This includes young teenagers and kids. You may think you can trust a young person, but you do not know anything about them, and may not be aware of their true intentions in entering your home.

If you are having repairs done to your home, and you know someone will be coming by, you might want to ask a friend or family member to come by while the repair person is there. If you have a dog, keep your dog out and visible to the repair person at all times. This will ensure the repair person does what they are supposed to do, and will show them that your dog’s job is to keep you safe. Dogs are very smart when it comes to people and are great judges of character. They will let you know if the person in your home is to be trusted. Keep the phone with you at all times as well-this will show the repair person you mean business, and want them out of your home as quickly as possible.

Strangers walking, unescorted, through the workplace
Many people have had personal belongings, including credit and debit cards, stolen from the workplace by strangers who have managed to gain access to your workplace. If you see someone walking through your workplace that you do not know, do not be afraid to stop them and ask who they are and if you can help them. If they are there on legitimate business, you will learn that quickly. If they are not, you can help your company by escorting them out of the workplace. Building this awareness in your workplace will help keep you and your co-workers safe and prepared in the event an individual wanders through your workplace aimlessly.

Exercising outdoors in the early morning/evening
If you choose to exercise in the early morning or evening, there are few things to keep in mind. First, you may want to consider inviting a buddy/partner to go with you. Using the buddy system will keep you safe, as strangers will not approach a team of two with malicious intent. Second, don’t go the same route at the same time every day. If a stranger is watching you, they will know your routines and will know when/how to attack you. Change your routine regularly so as to detract potential predators from attacking you.

Third, make sure you wear light-colored clothing that is easily visible. If you choose to exercise alone, make sure your spouse or a close friend knows what time and where you will be, and have them check in with you to make sure you are safe. Fourth, carry your cell phone with you, along with a small can of mace. If someone attacks you, you will be able to fend off a stranger more easily with mace and a phone.

The biggest and most important thing is to be familiar and aware of your surroundings.

Mall shopping/walking
If you choose to go shopping at the mall, or you “walk the mall” in the mornings or evenings, keep your eyes open as to who is there with you. If strangers approach you, be polite, but make sure you keep going and are aware of where you left the stranger. Go into different stores and try to divert a stranger’s attention who may be following you.

Overall, the key to building stranger awareness is developing a constant radar within yourself to ensure you know who is out there with you at all times. Carry a cell phone or mace (or both) at all times, and make sure you remain confident and poised in every situation. Do not act scared, nervous, or apprehensive in any way-even if you feel that way. Remain calm, confident, and aware!

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