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  • November/2012

The Importance of Estate Planning

by Jared Newnam
November 30, 2012

No one wants to think about depressing topics like who you want to serve as your executor of estate if something tragic were to happen, but by taking care of this information in advance, you can help to make things a bit easier for your grieving loved ones.

Everyone needs a will, according to Legacy Connect. The site states that there are many different aspects to estate planning, including choosing the person you’d like to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated while still living, and deciding who you would like to leave your assets to upon your death.

According to Legacy Connect the general benefits of having a will include:

  • Having the ability to decide who will receive your assets following your death. If you have children, this also includes deciding who will have custody of them if something were to happen to you.
  • Selecting the person who will serve as your executor of estate.
  • Saving your loved ones probate costs.
  • Having the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones won’t have to sort them out upon your death.

Choosing an executor of estate is a big responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly. An article in the New York Times recommends selecting a well-organized person who you feel will be able to meet any necessary deadlines, in addition to of course being a very honest person.

The article also states that many people choose to name all their children as executor of estate, so as not to offend anyone, but says that is a bad idea. It can be a hassle to divide the work equally and get all required signatures on documents, so the article advises selecting only one person, and name any others as alternates.

Creating an Online Will

While necessary to have, a will can be a very costly document to create. That’s why companies like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer offer services where consumers can make an online will for a fraction of the cost.

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, the average estate plan costs between $500 and $1,000 if prepared by an attorney, while LegalZoom documents can be created starting at $69. The article states that people with assets worth more than $2 million should avoid creating an online will due to estate taxes, but for those worth less, it could be a useful option.

Understanding Estate Planning Documents

A number of different documents are involved in estate planning. Choosing which ones you need can be confusing, so it’s important to gain an understanding of the differences, so your estate planning work is completed properly.

LegalZoom explains the differences between a last will, living trust, and a living will as follows:

Last Will

  • Specify distribution of assets.
  • Designate legal guardian for minor children.
  • Give last wishes, including funeral and burial requests.

Living Trust

  • Document helps to evade costs and delays of probate.
  • Allows you to keep your estate information private.
  • Can help to decrease some estate taxes.

Living Will

  • Allows you to decide your preferences for life support in advance.
  • Gives you the chance to specify organ donation wishes.
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Why Time Management is Essential for Online Education

by South University
November 26, 2012

One of the biggest mistakes a student makes while attending school is not having the proper time management skills. Time management is an absolute necessity while working towards your degree and without it, students often fall behind which causes low grades, repeated classes and an extension in time until graduation. Having these skills are important for all students, even more so for those who have a busy lifestyle and are constantly trying to keep up with the fast pace of the day.

We all know what time management is, but not many students know exactly how to create a good time management plan while attending school. They are also unaware of the many benefits that come along with having good time management skills. A student who has a good set of these skills will obtain effective learning, be able to pursue other activities offered through the school other than the general courses and helps prepare for a new career where time management skills are necessary.

If you are looking to implement a time management plan into your everyday life, there are a few things you can do which will help you to create a strong and successful plan. The first thing you need to do is break down your life into categories. For example: personal, work and education can all be categories that must be a part of your time management plan. You can also add in any additional categories that do not occur on an everyday basis such as shopping and other recreational activities.

Once you have broken down your categories, you will want to create a chart. Using a chart until you become familiar with your new time management plan will help you to stay on track. Under each of the categories listed, you will want to determine how much time is needed for that particular category each day. For example, work may require eight hours and personal may require four. This means that 12 hours out of 24 are already used up and the rest is open for your educational needs.

After you determine how much time must go into each category, you want to chart the times that these activities will generally take place. For example, you may want to put education a few hours before bed so that the house is quiet and you are able to focus on the material at hand.

This chart can help you be successful in time management, and, after using it for a short period of time, you will begin to develop the time management skills that are necessary for education success and you will no longer need a chart to track your daily activities.

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The Advantages of Family Time

by South University
November 20, 2012

Parents and children both benefit from spending quality family time together. Children feel special when their parents take the time to do fun activities with them, as even simple everyday errands can make for a great bonding experience.

Nourish Interactive says there are countless benefits of doing family activities together, including:

  • Creating a stronger emotional bond between parents and children.
  • Allowing for better communication between family members.
  • Superior performances in school, as children who spend time communicating with their parents tend to get better grades.
  • Less likely to exhibit behavioral problems, since kids with parents who spend quality family time together typically have fewer problem behaviors.

Working parents combined with kids involved in extracurricular activities can make for busy schedules without a lot of extra room for family activities. If this sounds familiar, that’s okay. Simple things like having dinner together each night can create the meaningful family time that your children really need.

Fun Activities to Do With Your Family

Spending quality family time together doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. In fact, some of the most fun activities are little-to-no cost adventures. Try these family activities from Parents Magazine to make lasting memories with your children:

  • Volunteer: Instill a sense of empathy in your children by volunteering together as a family at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, hospital, or other local organization that needs your help. This is a very positive way to give back to your community while spending quality family time together.
  • Cooking: Kids love to feel like they’re helping their parents with adult tasks, so spend a rainy afternoon baking cookies together or let them help you make dinner. Not only will this give your children a sense of pride and accomplishment, it also helps to set the foundation for teaching them how to cook.
  • Visit a Fire Station or Police Station: Schedule a tour with your local fire department or at the police station in your town. Your kids will have a great time meeting the firemen or police officers and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of where they work.
  • Check Out a Minor League Game: Have a fun night out at the ballpark cheering on your local minor league team. It’s typically easy to get tickets to a minor league game and a much more affordable option for families on a budget.
  • Sample Exotic Cuisine: Choose a type of food that your children have yet to sample and find a restaurant that serves it. Have fun taste testing different dishes with them to see if they like it.
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Violent Crime Statistics Lowest in a Decade

by South University
November 12, 2012

Statistics show that violent crime is lower than it has been for the past decade. In 2011, violent crime incidents — murder, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape — fell for the fifth consecutive year.

Though violent crime is declining, the FBI said that it is still a serious problem in many urban areas. To name just two, Chicago had 431 murders and New York had 514 murders. Nationwide, in 2011, there were over 1.2 million violent crimes, down 3.8 percent from 2010. Property crime dropped a half percent from 2010 to 2011.

According to CNN, the statistics broke down the following crimes as follows:

  • Murders were down 0.7 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Robberies were down 4 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Aggravated assaults were down 3.9 percent in 2011 from 2010
  • Forcible rapes were down 2.5 percent in 2011 from 2010

CNN also reported that urban areas still saw serious problems because of drugs, poverty and gangs. Even with the positive trend over the past decade, there were still 14,612 murders across the United States during 2011, which is about one murder every 36 minutes. In 2010, there were 14,722 murders. The numbers from 2011 showed a decrease in murders from ten years ago.

According to CNN, most of the murder victims were males. It is unknown exactly how many murders occurred for each race, but of the known information, 50 percent of the victims were black and 46 percent were white.

As for weapons, guns were involved in two-thirds of the murders in 2011. Twenty-one percent of aggravated assaults involved guns, and 41 percent of robberies involved guns. Despite the positive trend, crime remains a serious problem in many urban pockets riddled with gangs, drugs and poverty.

CNN stated that criminologists have pointed to several factors for an explanation of the decrease in crime, including an increase in incarcerations, a “more settled” crack cocaine market and a population that is aging. The media source also stated that data-driving policing and in increase in surveillance/security cameras contributed to the decrease in crime.

However, a criminologist at Northeastern University stated that though crime is declining, it is declining as a slower rate this year than it has in past years. The criminologist calls it a “limbo stick effect,” and states that crime will never get down to zero.

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Parents Save Money With Kids-Eat-Free Deals

by South University
November 2, 2012

Some may say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but several restaurants throughout the country are proving that old saying to be incorrect, at least for children. Many eateries are helping to make dining out more affordable for parents by offering kids-eat-free promotions.

“Ever since the economy downturn several years ago, parents have started searching for ways to save,” says Barry T. Yow, owner and CEO of MyKidsEatFree.com. “Whether it’s on a family night out meal or a family vacation, the internet has provided parents with more and more ways to find out about saving options.” 

“I just returned from a family vacation at the beach with my family,” Yow says. “After a day at the beach, my 9- and 11-year-olds were extra hungry and who wants to cook on vacation? With the average cost of a kid’s meal around $7, you can see where it adds up.  Parents with two kids could save well over $250 during a week-long vacation. Hey, that almost pays for the gas!”

Yow says grandparents are another demographic who commonly seek out restaurants with kids-eat-free promotions, as they are spending more and more time traveling and spending time with their grandkids.

Children don’t always eat everything on their plates, which is another reason Yow likes restaurants with kids-eat-free promotions.

“Many times I have taken my kids out to eat only to see half the food left on the plate,” Yow says. “Waste is never good and especially at $14 a meal, but when it’s free, I tend to not get as upset with them.” 

He says offers of free food for kids also come in handy when his children want to try something new.

From my experiences working in the restaurant industry as a director (of) operations, the quality is no different from the ones offered to the adults.

“The meals are small and free so if they don’t like it, it’s not a major cost,” Yow says.

Most restaurants also go the extra mile to make kids-eat-free nights fun by having games, balloons, and magicians on hand, Yow says.

He says business owners do need to be smart about their kids-eat-free promotions to control costs.

Restaurants typically do this by placing restrictions on the promotion such as offering one free kid’s meal per paying adult or entrée, stating that all free food entrées must come from the kid’s menu, requiring a minimum spending amount, and not allowing it to be combined with any other offers, Yow says.

“The original concept of a kids-eat-free night was to help business owners to pull in customers on normally slow nights,” Yow says. “Historically, that has been Tuesday nights since Sundays were for the family meal and Mondays for leftovers.  Tuesday nights are still the most popular, but Thursday nights are gaining.”

Yow says most parents order an appetizer, an extra drink, or even dessert when their kids are getting free food from the restaurant.

“(The) normal cost to a restaurant for a kid’s meal is around $3, which is no great amount when compared to a few drinks and/or desert,” Yow says.

Kids Eat Free From The Denny's Menu

Parents have been enjoying the benefits of discounted family dinners for years with the Denny’s Kids Eat Free special.

“With Denny’s Kids Eat Free offer, guests can receive a free kids meal for up to two children ages 10 and under with the purchase of each adult entrée of $2.50 or more,” says John Dillon, vice president of brand marketing and product innovation for the Denny’s Corporation. “The offer is available on various days of the week from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.”

Dillon says Denny’s offers this promotion to make family night out a bit easier and more affordable for parents.

“We certainly hope that our guests find our Kids Eat Free offer a great reason to dine at our restaurants, but our goal is to make a special night out with family easier to accommodate,” Dillon says. “Denny’s has always been a family friendly environment where guests of all ages can enjoy a satisfying meal anytime of the day or night. Dining out as a family is always a treat so we wanted to encourage families to enjoy a night out together without breaking the bank.”

As a primarily franchise-operated company, Dillon says Denny’s franchisees choose the terms of the Kids Eat Free offer on an individual basis, so parents should check with their local restaurant to see if it participates in the promotion.

Denny’s isn’t the only national chain restaurant offering money-saving options for parents.

Yow says restaurants such as IHOP, Applebee’s, and even a few McDonald’s also offer various kids-eat-free specials.

Hotels are even joining in the promotion, with Choice Hotels allowing children 18 and younger to stay free, when sharing a room with their parents or grandparents, according to certain terms and conditions, Yow says.

Holiday Inn offers double money-saving benefits to parents by inviting kids to stay and eat for free at their hotels, Yow says.

Quality Of Free Food Offered To Kids

Dr. Chizoba “Dr. Zee” Madueke, Ph.D., a Leadership instructor at South University, Online Programs says the free food in kid’s meals is very similar to the meals served to their parents and grandparents.

“From my experiences working in the restaurant industry as a director (of) operations, the quality is no different from the ones offered to the adults,” Madueke says. “They are mostly fried food, processed foods — such as hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, French toast, etc.”

Unlike the standard fare served to children at restaurants, Dillon says the Denny’s menu was created to include healthy options for kids that also taste good.

“Accessibility to nutritious menu options that don’t compromise taste, value or variety is an important step to improve the well-being of future generations,” Dillon says. That’s why Denny’s features a number of healthy meals and menu items on its kids menu. In fact, two dishes — Denny’s Junior Build Your Own Grand Slam® and Spaghetti Plate — were recognized by the Kids LiveWell program for meeting its strict nutritional guidelines and promoting the importance of making healthy food choices.”

Dillon says both of these items on the Denny’s menu provide children with the essential nutrients their growing bodies need.

“Denny’s Junior Build Your Own Grand Slam®, a pared-down version of the adult-sized classic, packs the protein and fiber growing kids need to tackle the day, complete with one scrambled egg white, two slices of delicious turkey bacon, hash browns and a small apple juice,” Dillon says. “The Spaghetti Plate, featuring spaghetti noodles topped with marinara sauce, a side of steamed broccoli, and a piece of garlic bread, provides a wholesome meal without excessive sodium, sugar, or fat.” 

Denny’s strives to please both parents and children by designing the kids-eat-free menu to include fare that’s both healthy and appealing to children, Dillon says.

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