Offshore Bank Accounts – Easy Introduction For First-Timers

Bond villains, corrupt dictators and even Bono can lay claim to offshore bank accounts. But what about the rest of us? Does anyone really need an offshore bank account, and how much money do you need to make it worthwhile?Getting an offshore bank account simply means opening an account outside of your home country. If you live in America, opening an offshore account in Canada will be ”offshore”. Likewise if you live in Britain, an account in one of the Channel Islands or Ireland will be classed as ”offshore”. In fact if you have lived in another country for any length of time it’s highly likely that you already have an offshore bank account.A separate branch of offshore banking involves accounts provided by an offshore bank ONLY to outsiders. Offshore banks or financial companies operating in this way are frequently prohibited under the terms of their charter from providing banking services to citizens of the country in which they are licensed. A typical example may be an offshore bank in a Caribbean island that offers services to US and European citizens but is not allowed to offer services to citizens of the island.Aside from the simple necessity of having a separate account when you live a foreign country, what is so attractive about offshore accounts? Why is it that rich people have them?1) Offshore bank accounts are frequently available in more than one currency. This makes them extremely valuable to those who work in a different country or travel frequently. It is also very useful to your average investor as a hedge against dramatic currency movements. Some investors for example may like to buy into a currency recognized for its stability like the Swiss franc, to prevent keeping all their money in one currency such as the dollar.2) As a hedge against financial instability at home. When most people think of offshore banks perhaps the notorious ”shell banks” come to mind. Unregulated and at times run out of someone’s bedroom, the most physical presence some of these banks may have is a brass plate on a building along with hundreds of similar unlicensed institutions. However, these days shell banks are increasingly out of favour and ostracised by domestic banks in western countries. The offshore banks that operate seriously are well regulated and as safe or even safer than typical domestic banks.3) Confidentiality. Depending on where and how exactly you bank offshore, offshore bank accounts can be much more confidential than an onshore account. The reasons for wanting this privacy are numerous, and most commonly include protection against threats to your wealth from criminals or frivolous litigation. While swiss bank accounts and cayman bank accounts are traditionally viewed as the most secretive, international developments have rendered them less private than they used to be.4) Access to offshore investments. When people decide to move part of their wealth offshore, it is often not just a bank account they are looking for. The offshore bank account is often a portal to other investments such as foreign equity, offshore funds and financial instruments that give high rates of interest. Some of these investments may be available completely tax-free, depending on your personal situation.5) International payments. Sending and receiving large wire transfers abroad can be a nightmare when using a domestic bank. There are mountains of questions and paperwork to be dealt with. That’s understandable. Domestic bank accounts are really for in-country transactions and not equipped to deal with large volumes of foreign transfers – kind of like using a mini metro to go off-road. Offshore bank accounts on the other hand are specifically equipped to send and receive money from outsider countries, and make the process as fast and efficient as possible.There’s no point in setting up an offshore account if you do not really need one. If you could easily do what is required with a simple domestic account, that’s the best course to follow. On the other hand, if some of the ideas above struck a chord with you, maybe it is a good time to move offshore!

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Organize Health Records For Successful Health Care Encounters

Having complete and accurate information about your own health will allow you to 1) increase participation in your own care, 2) gain insight into your condition and 3) strengthen communication with your health care team.Increase Participation in CareTaking an active role in your own medical care may be one of the most important decisions of your life. You will become an active member of your health care team by keeping accurate health records. The ability to “collect and share” this information-rich data with your provider will improve the quality of care that you receive.Research suggests that patients who take a more active role in visits with their physician may have a greater sense of control and better health outcomes. Once you begin this process you will discover increased empowerment through your ability to organize health records.Gain Insight into Your ConditionHaving organized health records becomes a personal health management tool. As you collect information you will become more informed about your condition and treatment options. Additional information provided by your treatment team will also show you how to manage your condition more effectively.Your personal health record can also be a real life saver as you learn to spot important trends in your medical condition. Keeping accurate health records will help you understand your condition more clearly and at a deeper level.Strengthen Communication with Health Care TeamGood communication with your health care team is the cornerstone of quality health care. You can increase and strengthen the level of communication by having up to date health information to share with all of your providers. Remember, more information equals more informed decisions.Better health status has been linked to more effective information gathering by patients and more communication with their physician. Take time today to organize health records for a much better health care experience.

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Commercial Mortgages – Four Important Strategies for Small Business Borrowers

What are the most important qualities to look for in small business commercial mortgages? This article describes four such qualities. But if a commercial borrower can’t find all of the commercial mortgage qualities that are considered most important, then which qualities should be viewed as the most critical? The answer to the latter question will often depend on the borrower’s unique individual circumstances. For some borrowers there may only be one or two critical qualities that will be essential to the success of their loan. For example, if a commercial borrower needs to refinance a business property and get $1 million in cash to do with as they choose, the ability to get unrestricted cash out will probably supersede the four loan strategies addressed below.Aside from special situations like that, the following advice about four important strategies is based on commercial mortgage qualities considered to be repeatedly critical to the long-term success of a business. There is no attempt to rank these four commercial mortgage strategies in any particular order.ONE:Commercial mortgage borrowers should seek out long-term commercial mortgage loans that are not subject to recall or balloon payments. Commercial properties should not be financed with short-term funds. It is essential to obtain long-term financing of at least 15-20 years (and longer is even better). This is a prime example of using contingency planning to help commercial borrowers adapt to unknown future circumstances. Commercial borrowers should expect to encounter higher interest rates for longer-term financing (when compared to short-term traditional bank loans). However, most commercial borrowers will be pleasantly surprised when they see lower monthly payments in spite of a higher rate. The resulting improvement in positive cash flow can be the critical difference that creates a truly successful business investment.TWO:Commercial real estate loans under one million dollars should be assumable. This strategy is primarily about flexibility and providing for a more orderly transfer of a business to someone else in the future. It is also an example of using contingency planning to select a commercial lender by anticipating future circumstances and selecting a commercial real estate loan that will help a commercial borrower adapt to those circumstances.THREE:Seller seconds and other variations of subordinate financing should be allowed. This will permit the most aggressive Combined-Loan-to-Value (CLTV) for commercial mortgages, up to 95% of the property value. This is important if you are the buyer because it will provide another financial tool to help with financing. It is important to the seller because it might enable someone to buy the property who could not otherwise do so.FOUR:Commercial mortgage borrowers should seek out lenders using Stated Income commercial loans and limited documentation requirements. Very few traditional banks use Stated Income (no income verification and no tax returns) for a commercial real estate loan. Most commercial lenders will perform a thorough income verification as part of their underwriting process. This will typically include copies of tax returns as well as a requirement to sign IRS Form 4506 which authorizes the lender to obtain tax returns directly from the IRS. Many traditional banks will have loan covenants stipulating that the lender must receive financial data even after the loan closing and that the loan can be recalled if the audit of this data is not satisfactory to the lender.Copyright 2005-2006 AEX Commercial Financing Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Alarm System Stay Mode

All security systems are fundamentally the same in their basic operation so the commonly asked questions are always similar. The following is a list of the most asked questions about home security systems.How does my home alarm system work?There are three modes of operation of any home alarm system. They are disarmed, armed away and armed in stay mode. In the disarmed mode the only functions that work will be panic alarms, medical alarms and the fire alarms. These functions will work the same in any of the typical modes of operation. These are termed as 24 hour type of alarms. They can always be triggered manually from the control panel or from a remote location such as a key fob if your system has been setup to have one. If your home alarm system is disarmed then you will still see the announcement of doors or windows that are opened. This may be by an audible announcement at the control panel or a zone light that will also light at the alarm panel.Stay Mode OperationWhen your home alarm is in the stay mode of operation it means exactly how it sounds. You are staying home and this means that any of your inside devices such as motion detectors are shut off. They will still detect movement but they will not trigger your alarm. This way you can move about your home and still have the perimeter protected.Disadvantages of using Stay ModeYou must be careful when you use this mode because it is assumed by many that they are safe and secure at night when they retire to bed and this is not the case. In many systems the home owner has been convinced when they purchased the system that all they needed was the free system that has a front door, back door and an inside motion sensor. If this is the type of coverage that your system has then you are not protected when your system is in stay mode. You see in order for you to be able to move around your own home the inside motion in most cases has been disabled by being armed in stay mode. If you go to bed when the system is still in stay mode then you no longer have the protection of the motion sensor. The only way to overcome this is to have the control panel located somewhere in your home where you will not trip the system when you get up in the morning to disarm it. When using the system in this way you can arm the system in away mode while you are still at home and keep the inside motion sensor on while you are asleep.Away Mode OperationWhen you have set your alarm in away mode it means that all of your zones are armed and if any of them are violated your alarm will trigger. The entry/exit door is usually set with a delay so that you are able to enter the home and disarm the system before it transmits an alarm to the central station monitoring company.If your alarm is triggered a signal is transmitted to the central monitoring station. This signal is received and the monitoring station knows exactly where the alarm was transmitted from and what zone is in alarm. The monitoring station will call you at the number that you provided to confirm an actual alarm. You will have the opportunity at that point if they reach you to cancel the alarm or the police will be dispatched.These are the basic three modes of operation. There are many other functions that you can perform with your alarm system such as disarming individual alarms. Your alarm installer has a variety of choices that can be made when they are programming your system. Many of these installers will program the system without consulting with you about the operation. Your system will still operate but depending on your particular lifestyle there may be some fine tuning that will better suit you.

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Importance of a Complementary Educational Agenda for DR-CAFTA

LAYING THE GROUNDWORKIn September 2000, the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Millennium Declaration. That document served as the launching pad for the public declaration of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which include everything from goal one of halving extreme poverty to goal two of providing universal primary education; all to be accomplished before the year 2015. Progress towards the first seven goals are dependent upon the success of goal eight – which emphasizes the need for rich countries to commit to assisting with the development of “an open, rule-based trading and financial system, more generous aid to countries committed to poverty reduction, and relief for the debt problems of developing countries.”1At first glance, the recent actions of Central American countries and the United States to liberalize trade seem to support, at least partially, successful realization of MDG Eight. However, upon closer examination, the picture blurs and the outcome seems uncertain.Following only a year of negotiations, the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) or DR-CAFTA (as a result of its recent inclusion of the Dominican Republic), was signed by the governments of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States in 2004. The agreement, committing each country to reduce its trade barriers with the other DR-CAFTA countries, was ratified by the United States Congress on July 28, 2005.2Rather than attempting to analyze all of the specific economic and social intricacies associated with liberalizing trade in Central America, this brief aims solely to cast light upon the overlap between countries’ efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goal Two/Education for All and their need to implement a complementary CAFTA agenda.Specifically, this document highlights the importance of educational priorities if economic development efforts are to be successful. The premise of the argument elaborated here is that without sufficient prioritized emphasis by Central American countries, multilateral organizations and targeted donor countries on a complementary agenda that directs resources towards education infrastructure, CAFTA will never succeed in assisting these countries in reaching an ever elusive state of “economic prosperity.” In fact, it may deter them from fully accomplishing the MDGs as well.CURRENT STATE OF EDUCATIONWith the need for collaboration between economic and educational efforts in mind, let us examine the current status of MDG Two implementation and broader educational reform in Central America:Over the past fifteen years, most Central American countries have implemented at least basic forms of educational reform. As a result, more children are entering school and spending more days and years enrolled than ever before. On an aggregate level, the larger Latin American and Caribbean region has made considerable progress toward the goal of universal primary education enrollment and according to the most recent UN Millennium Development Goals report, “Net enrollment rates at the primary level rose from 86 percent in 1990 to 93 percent in 2001. The region’s pace of progress in this indicator has been faster than the developing world average (which rose from 80 percent to 83 percent between 1990 and 2001). Net enrollment rates in 23 countries of the region (12 in Latin America and 11 in the Caribbean) surpass 90 percent.” 3 The reality is that, large scale disaster or other unforeseen event aside, all six countries are on target to reach the MDG enrollment targets.Unfortunately, progress towards the target of completing five years of primary education has been slower and few countries in the region can boast success in this arena. The lack of progress towards completion of this target is most directly related to inefficiencies in the education system and the socioeconomic conditions of poor children – both situations that result in high repetition and desertion rates and both situations that must be ameliorated if CAFTA is to succeed. Furthermore, while the number of children initially enrolling in school has increased, the poor quality of education throughout Central America is also certainly a factor in children’s failure to complete their primary education. Quality must therefore also be taken into account when considering educational infrastructure needs.While not necessarily relevant to MDG Two but quite possibly relevant from the CAFTA perspective of needing a skilled workforce, Central America’s educational woes most definitely extend beyond the primary school environment. In response to the recent Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, an Inter-American Development Bank representative wrote “It is difficult to avoid the impression that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are falling behind with regard to secondary education. Although this is not included in the MDGs, it is the single most important educational indicator separating upper and lower income groups in the region.” 4
When less than one third of a country’s urban workforce has completed the twelve years of schooling that your or I take for granted, how can they hope to compete in today’s technology-dense free trade environment?HISTORY LESSON -HAPPENING AGAIN?Upon an examination of the Mexico of today as compared to pre-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) times, a rise in the Mexican poverty rate over the last decade or so is apparent. Rather than being directly due to the implementation of NAFTA, it is more likely that this increase in the poverty rate is attributable to Mexico’s failure to simultaneously implement a complementary agenda; specifically, the inability of Mexico’s poorer southern States to improve their poorly trained workforce, infrastructural deficiencies and weak institutions in order to participate meaningfully in a liberalized trade environment. Rather than gain, the southern Mexican states lost even as the northern states benefited from the liberalized trade environment created by NAFTA.Dr. Daniel Lederman, co-author of the World Bank report entitled “NAFTA is Not Enough” (and issued ten years after NAFTA was originally enacted) explained in an National Public Radio (NPR) interview in 2003 that Mexico’s financial crisis in the 1990s was bound to deepen poverty there with or without NAFTA. Dr. Lederman said:Mexican income dropped in one year, 1995, by six percent. Wages across the board for all Mexican workers, on average, fell by 25 percent in less than a year…Still, NAFTA helped Mexico limit the damage, lifting per capita income at least 4 percentage points above where it would have been otherwise. The bottom line is, Mexico would be poorer without NAFTA today. Clearly trade alone won’t alleviate poverty. But if Mexico makes the right investments, especially in education, the next decade should be better. 5POTENTIAL FOR ECONOMIC SUCCESSAs was the case in Mexico, it is likely that the majority of households in Central American countries stand to ultimately gain from the price changes associated with removing trade barriers for sensitive agricultural commodities and other goods. However, in order for this to happen, as Dr. Lederman suggests above, each country must now make appropriate investments in development efforts (most especially in education) in order to guarantee an equitable distribution of the benefits of these efforts in the future.Simultaneously, it is of critical importance that each country provides for the needs of their most at-risk citizens. In order to guarantee that the children of these families are given the opportunity to be counted among those in school, countries must identify resources, both internally and externally, to provide incentives for families “to invest in the human capital of their children.” 6Examples of such incentives have been implemented through funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and several other organizations in Costa Rica (Superemonos), the Dominican Republic (Tarjeta de Asistencia Escolar), Honduras (PRAF), and Nicaragua (Red de Protección Social). Most immediately, these incentives (often in the form of conditional cash transfers) serve to increase food consumption, school attendance and use of preventive health care among the extremely poor. In the long run they are intended to assist with poverty and malnutrition reduction and to improve schooling completion rates. As reported by the IDB, “results are proving that it is possible to increase a family’s accumulation of human capital (measured by increased educational attainment and reduced mortality and morbidity) and, as a result, also raise potential labor market returns for the beneficiaries, as well as overall productivity. The programs have had a substantial positive long-term impact on the education, nutrition and health of its beneficiaries, especially children.” 7In the World Bank’s expansive document analyzing CAFTA’s potential impact on Central America, entitled “DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America” the authors repeatedly reference technology and emphasize the importance of a complementary educational agenda that is tied to each country’s stage of development and innovation. For example, “for those countries farthest away from the technological frontier -such as Honduras and Nicaragua– the best technology policy is likely to be simply sound education policy… in the more advanced settings of Costa Rica and El Salvador, where adaptation and creation of new technologies is more important, issues of education quality and completion of secondary schooling are more important.” 8 In fact, without ever making specific reference to the MDGs, the authors recommend that the former countries focus on the goal of achieving universal primary education while the latter countries focus their energy on expanding and improving secondary level education. Failing to do so is choosing failure in the open market.Ultimately, rather than seeing CAFTA as a first class ticket to a better economic end – with no strings attached, countries must acknowledge the critical importance of first implementing MDG Two – target three. This target, which says “by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” 9 is a critically important step towards guaranteeing the emergence of a workforce that can respond to increased marketplace demand and evolving technologies. Without immediate investment in that future workforce via the education system, CAFTA will surely flounder and drag MDG Two along with it.Furthermore, as mentioned above, educational infrastructure must be put into place now that will not only guarantee a higher quality education but will also be made accessible and desirable to Central America’s most at-risk citizens. After all, based on Mexico’s experience, the likelihood of a positive outcome for both CAFTA and MPG Two is slim. Yet the possibility of economic success does exist if we agree to truly choose “Education For All.”CITATIONS1) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Eight, http://www.un.org2) At the time this brief was written (Dec 2005), the agreement still hadn’t been ratified by the Parliaments of Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.3) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, Aug 05, National Public Radio, All Things Considered, Interview with Daniel Lederman, Monday, December 8, 2003 The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, ibid7) The Millennium Development Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress, Priorities, and IDB Support for their Implementation, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC, August 2005, p. 568) DR-CAFTA – Challenges and Opportunities for Central America, Chapter VII: Obtaining the Pay-off From DR-CAFTA, p199.9) Millennium Development Goals, Goal Two,

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