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U.S. Dollar 

 

The dollar index

The Bear Stearns rescue and the Treasury department’s call for a new “blueprint”  have helped ignite a rally in financial stocks… but it seems nothing can kickstart the dollar.

The greenback saw a short-covering rally after the March 17th lows. But now that rally is running out of steam. The dollar is down 5.5% since the start of the year.

Friday’s jobs report, which marks the largest jobs decline since 2003, is one of the many negative factors keeping a lid on the dollar. To combat recessionary forces, the Fed is keeping interest rates low. As long as rates remain low, the dollar will struggle.

Some believe that other currencies are just as bad off, and that investors should buy the dollar. I would be wary of that advice until the charts and other indicators say otherwise.

The dollar index needs a solid close over 74.00 to turn the short-term trend around.

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If you’re planning to visit Alabama any time soon, make sure you don’t challenge a bear to a wrestling match. It could land you in jail since bear wrestling is a Class B felony in the Yellowhammer State. And if you’re thinking of dressing as a nun to go trick-or-treating in Mobile, think again. Impersonating a nun or other member of the clergy is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $500.These are just two examples of the many wacky statutes on the books, not just in Alabama but in states across the nation. Here are a few more that might make you wonder what lawmakers were thinking:

  • It’s illegal to collect rags or paper in Indianapolis on Sundays. Don’t go rag or paper collecting on legal holidays either, or you could be subject to a fine. However, it’s generally okay to collect rags and paper after 7:30 a.m. and before 5:30.
  • Don’t skip your Saturday night bath in Barre, Vermont. There is a law on the books requiring all residents to bathe every Saturday night. Washing on other days of the week is apparently optional and left to the discretion of the residents.
  • When attacked by a bird, you can throw a rock at it in Indianapolis. However, it is illegal to throw stones at birds if you’re not acting in self-defense.
  • Michigan will pay you to throw rocks at birds. But only if you kill them, and only if they’re starlings or crows. The state pays three cents for each starling killed and ten cents per crow.
  • Florida forbids the tethering of pregnant pigs. It is also illegal to confine an expecting sow to a cage, crate or other enclosure that prevents the pig from turning around freely.
  • You can’t sell your eyes in Texas. “The Eyes of Texas” is the official song of the University of Texas, and they are apparently not for sale. Nor are any other bodily organs, under penalty of law.
  • Pinball is not for children in South Carolina. For some reason, you have to be at least 18 to play pinball in the Palmetto State.
  • In Belvedere, California, dogs must not appear in public without their masters on a leash. The city council probably intended to make sure the canines rather than the humans were leashed.
  • If you have political ambitions in Tennessee, don’t participate in a duel. The state prohibits people who have been in a duel from holding public office.
  • Only genuine smack-downs are permitted in Louisiana. State law prohibits the exhibition of fake wrestling matches.

This is only a sampling of the many crazy laws still on the books in states across the US. In addition to avoiding breaking obvious laws like posted speed limits in your town, you should also take care to avoid whaling in Oklahoma or selling blue ducklings in Kentucky. Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse!

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Motorists take heed: If you ever find yourself driving at night through rural parts of Pennsylvania, state law requires that you stop every mile to send up a rocket signal. It’s true. And if you see a skittish team of horses coming toward you, be sure to take your car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes—unless, of course, you want to be in violation of state law.

 Seem implausible? Actually, this absurd Pennsylvania law is technically still on the books. In fact, Pennsylvania is not alone. If you look hard enough, each state has its own collection of outdated, silly laws. And while these laws may never be enforced, they are still legally valid because no one has bothered to repeal them. Most of these laws are so old, lawmakers themselves aren’t even aware that many of them exist.

Have you broken any of these Laws?

Let’s take Missouri for example. Just so you know—you can’t drive down the highway with an uncaged bear in your car. But if you happen to pass into Farmington, Connecticut, you will have to share the road with bovine travelers. In this city, cows have the same rights on the roads as do motorists.

Pittsburgh has a special cleaning ordinance on the books that bans housewives from hiding dirt under their rugs.

When parking your elephant at a meter in Orlando Florida, be sure to deposit the same amount of change as you would for a regular motor vehicle. And if you stop for a beer in North Dakota, don’t expect to get any pretzels with your beverage. It’s against the law in that state to serve beer and pretzels at the same time.

Blue Laws

Blue Laws are those established specifically to prohibit certain behavior on Sundays, or “God’s Day.” Although in general, few people strictly uphold the Sabbath anymore, many cities and towns across America still have legal reminders of this observance on the books. For example, in Salem, West Virginia, it’s against the law to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church service.

In Winona Lake, Wisconsin, it is illegal to eat ice cream at a counter on Sunday. And don’t expect to order a slice of cherry pie a la mode in Kansas on the Lord’s Day. No restaurant is allowed to serve it unless they’re willing to run afoul of local police. Marbles, Dominoes, and yo-yos are also banned on Sundays in a handful of states.

Concerning Man’s Best Friend

If you are a dog owner, be sure to take care not to violate any of the numerous laws concerning your four-legged pal. If you’re planning a short stint in Hartford, Connecticut, you might want to keep your dog’s obedience training under wraps. It’s against the law to educate dogs in that city.

In some places, it’s also against the law to expose your dog to the hazards of smoking. In Illinois, for example, it’s illegal to give lighted cigars to your pets—even if they do enjoy a good Cuban from time to time. If you happen to stay in Normal , Oklahoma, be sure to restrain yourself from teasing dogs by making ugly faces. You guessed it, that kind of inflammatory behavior is against the law.

Women and the Law

Not surprisingly, many of the antiquated statutes passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s were aimed at protecting the fairer sex from unwanted attention or less-than-flattering reputations. For example, an old city ordinance in Cleveland, Ohio prohibits women from wearing patent leather shoes in public. The reason? Shiny footwear could afford a nearby gentleman an unintentional peep show.

In many parts of the country, the price of beauty can be stiff. Women in Florida, for example, can be fined for falling asleep under a dryer in a hair salon. And if you’re a single thrill-seeker, head some place else. The sunshine state also prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sundays.

Forget about trying to publicly adjust your stockings in either Dennison Texas or BristolTennessee. Performing such a lewd act could land you a sentence of up to twelve months in the state penitentiary.

If you’re a woman living in Michigan, you might want to check with your husband before heading to the hair stylist. According to state law, your hair belongs to your spouse and you’ll need his permission before you can alter it. When visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, don’t plan on packing light. According to city law, you must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public. Even in fashion forward New York City, there are laws concerning how a woman dresses. In the Big Apple, wearing clingy or body-hugging clothing carries a $25 dollar fine.

Not all old laws aimed at women are intended to preserve their virtue, however. Some were apparently designed to promote household hygiene and public safety. For example, Pittsburgh has a special cleaning ordinance on the books that bans housewives from hiding dirt under their rugs. And in Memphis, Tennessee, women can’t drive a car unless there is a man with a red flag in front of the car warning the other people on the road.

The Times are A’ Changing.

One can easily conclude that some of these silly laws were simply designed to get a laugh or to alleviate the boredom of local legislators. How else could you explain the following Texas law? “When two railroad trains meet at a crossing, each shall stop and neither shall proceed until the other has passed.” But as for the rest, you can rest assured they reflect the public standards of the time. In fact, if you want to study how public values have changed over the years, there is no better place to start than with your state and local statutes. Not only will you glean some insight into our past prejudices, but also our best intentions. After all, who but a well-intentioned public official would make it a crime to molest butterflies in California?

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Do any of the following people need to sign a power of attorney?

Mr. Jones lives alone, has no close family, and is scheduled for major surgery in a few weeks. Ms. Smith has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mr. And Mrs. Adams will be out of the country for the next 6 months but have a house they need to sell. Ms. Davis is single, runs a successful business, and has no medical or economic concerns.

The answer is yes. They all do. A power of attorney (POA) is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. However, all POA are not created equal. Depending on the breadth of control you would like to hand over, a type of power of attorney will correspond:

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney gives broad powers to a person or organization (known as an agent or attorney of fact) to act in your behalf. These powers include handling financial and business transactions, buying life insurance, settling claims, operating business interests, making gifts, and employing professional help. General power of attorney is an effective tool if you will be out of the country and need someone to handle certain matters, or when you are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. A general power of attorney is often included in an estate plan to make sure someone can handle financial matters.

Special Power of Attorney

You can specify exactly what powers an agent may exercise by signing a special power of attorney. This is often used when one cannot handle certain affairs due to other commitments or health reasons. Selling property (personal and real), managing real estate, collecting debts, and handling business transactions are some of the common matters specified in a special power of attorney document.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney grants your agent authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own. While not the same thing as a living will, many states allow you to include your preference about being kept on life support. Some states will allow you to combine parts of the health care POA and living will into an Advanced Health Care Directive.

Durable Power of Attorney

Suppose you become mentally incompetent due to illness or accident while you have a power of attorney in effect. Will the document remain valid? To safeguard against any problems, you can sign a durable power of attorney. This is simply a general, special, or health care POA that has a durability provision to keep the current power of attorney in effect.

You might also sign a durable power of attorney to prepare for the possibility that you may become mentally incompetent due to illness or injury. Specify in the power of attorney that it cannot go into effect until a doctor certifies you as mentally incompetent. You may name a specific doctor whom you wish to determine your competency, or require that two licensed physicians agree on your mental state.

Looking for Mr. Good Agent

Trust is a key factor when choosing an agent for your power of attorney. Whether the Agent selected is a friend, relative, business, or attorney, you need someone who will look out for your best interests, respect your wishes, and won’t abuse the powers granted to him or her.

It is important for an agent to keep accurate records of all transactions done on your behalf and to provide you with periodic updates to keep you informed. If you are unable to review updates yourself, direct your agent to give an account to a third party.

As for legal liability, an agent is held responsible only for intentional misconduct, not for unknowingly doing something wrong. This protection is included in power of attorney documents to encourage people and businesses to accept agent responsibilities. Agents are not customarily compensated; most do it for free.

Should you, a friend, or relative suspect wrongdoing on the part of your agent, report the suspected abuse of power of attorney to a law enforcement agency and consult a lawyer.

Can Too Many Agents Spoil the Broth?

While you can appoint multiple agents, decide whether these agents must act jointly or separately in making decisions. Multiple agents can ensure more sound decisions, acting as checks and balances against one another. The downside is that multiple agents can disagree and one person’s schedule can potentially delay important transactions or signings of legal documents.

If you appoint only one agent, have a backup. Agents can fall ill, be injured, or somehow be unable to serve when the time comes. A successor agent takes over power of attorney duties from the original agent, if needed.

Being of Sound Mind. . .

A power of attorney is valid only if you are mentally competent when you sign it and, in some cases, incompetent when it goes into effect. If you think your mental capability may be questioned, have a doctor verify it in writing. If your power of attorney doesn’t specify requirements for determining mental competency, your agent will still need a written doctor’s confirmation of your incompetence in order to do business on your behalf. A court may even be required to decide the competency issue in some circumstances.

Signing, Sealing, and Delivering a Power of Attorney

You must sign and notarize the original power of attorney document, and certify several copies. Banks and other businesses will not allow your agent to act on your behalf unless they receive a certified copy of the power of attorney.

Attorneys are unnecessary to execute a power of attorney. However, it may be wise to consult one to provide advice about the powers being granted, to provide counsel on your candidate agent, and to make sure your document meets all legal requirements.

Remember, you can revoke a power of attorney at any time. Simply notify your agent in writing and retreive all copies of your power of attorney. Notify any financial institutions and the County Clerk’s office, if applicable, that your agent’s power of attorney has been revoked.

Needing a power of attorney is almost as certain as death and taxes in everyone’s life. Illness, injury, old age, or daily life commitments happen to everyone. It is important to understand what a power of attorney is and how it can assist in taking care of business, even when you can’t.

Please consult your attorney before making this descission.

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If you want to buy a car, to pay for school or to purchase your dream house, you’ll need a loan. To get a good one, you need a good credit score. articlesWriteProductBox(42); Credit scores help determine if you are a good credit risk. Your credit score predicts the likelihood that you will repay money you borrow and make the payments on time. The higher your credit score, the better. Your credit report offers information about your financial history which determines your credit score. Lenders receive your credit information from the three main credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

By improving your credit score, you increase your chances of getting the loans that you want and at the best interest rates possible. Here are seven tips you can follow to help increase your credit score.

1. Get a copy of your credit reports

Consumers can get a copy of their credit reports from each of the reporting agencies. It is always a good idea to check your credit report once a year and also several months before you plan to apply for a loan. Make sure your credit report is accurate. Check for any mistakes in the report such as wrong home address, incorrect social security number, and unauthorized purchases. If you discover any errors, contact the credit reporting agency. It can take a minimum of 30 days to resolve a disputed item or to correct information on your credit report. The toll-free numbers for the reporting agencies are Equifax: (800) 685-1111, Experian (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union: (800) 916-8800.

2. Pay bills on time

Paying bills late, having accounts sent to collection agencies and declaring bankruptcy will negatively affect your credit score. The solution is to make payments promptly. This is especially important in the months before you apply for a loan. If you are already late with a payment, try to get current as quickly as possible. If you know you will be late with a payment, talk to your creditor and try to make payment arrangements. Try to negotiate with the creditor to keep some of your late payments out of your credit reports.

3. Pay off credit card debt instead of moving it around

Debt consolidation may not be a good move because the ratio of credit card balance to credit limit is important. If you owe the same amount but have fewer open accounts, this will lower your credit score.

4. Reduce balances on credit cards

Lenders look at how much money you owe on your credit cards and your credit limit. It is best to have your balance 30% or below the total limit you have on your cards. Try to pay off as much of your credit card balance as possible before approaching lenders.

5. Don’t apply for new credit

To many recent credit inquiries will lower your score. Opening new accounts in a short period of time can be viewed negatively. Only apply for new loans if it is really necessary.

6. Don’t close unused or paid-off accounts

The zero balances in these accounts could improve your score. Closing an account does not remove it from your credit report.

7. Use a credit counselor

If you think your finances are getting out of control, contact a legitimate, non-profit credit counselor. A good credit counselor can negotiate lower interest rates on your behalf and set up a debt repayment plan.

There are steps you can take to improve your credit score, but there are no quick-fixes. Be wary of companies that claim they can repair your bad credit in a short period of time. It is not possible. Increasing your credit score takes effort and time but it is worth it in the long run.

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You’ve finally found it – the apartment of your dreams. Maybe that means it comes with a parking space and laundry facilities. Or maybe your piece of paradise has hardwood floors and lots of light or maybe it’s ultra-modern. And the move-in costs don’t even require a bank loan.Naturally, you start wondering – is it too good to be true? Maybe the apartment was the scene of a violent crime or a death. Even worse, maybe the family above you is a troupe of tapdancers. Or that dog next door might start yowling and never stop after your move-in day. Does your potential landlord have to warn you of these property turn-offs before you sign the lease and move in? What are your rights?Renters’ Rights

Renter and landlord rights are generally covered by state and local statutes. In short, laws vary depending on where you live. Housing laws typically cover concerns about the physical property and the terms of the rental arrangement. Major areas spelled out by most states include the following:

  • The amount of rent you pay: Some areas are rent controlled. Rent control limits the amount of rent landlords can charge. In addition, security deposit limits are determined by law.
  • The condition of the rental property: Most laws require that rental property have certain standards for habitability. While this may seem subjective, habitability typically means a vermin-free apartment with functional plumbing, electricity and heat.
  • Access to the rental property: Both landlords and tenants have rights regarding property access. In most places, landlords have to notify a tenant in advance before they enter the property. There are obvious exceptions in emergency situations, like a flood caused by a water leak.
  • Eviction: In a perfect world, everyone would pay their rent on time and move out after giving proper notice. In the real world, renters sometimes abandon property and landlords need to evict. Laws protect the rights of those involved and may even anticipate unusual circumstances. For example, if someone in Iowa is evicted and leaves their personal property behind, the landlord has the right to pile the stuff on the curb. In other places, the landlord must store the property for a set length of time.
  • Liability: If there is an accident on the property, who is liable? What if the property’s condition leads to a health problem or is hazardous? Local laws also address these issues. Recent cases have involved the presence of lead paint and mold in older buildings.
  • Discrimination:Under federal law, housing discrimination is illegal. Rental discrimination is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. No one may be denied access to a personal property rental on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
  • Disclosure: So, what about that former axe-murderer tenant or the family of bagpipers in the building? Does your landlord have to disclose death, suicide or disease to you? Local codes dictate what landlords have to disclose. In some places, a landlord must disclose if a death occurred on the property; in other communities, only violent deaths must be disclosed. Often, there’s a statute of limitations on disclosing death. If you’re really wondering, consider meeting your new neighbors to ask questions and satisfy your curiosity.

How to find out about your housing rights

Whether you are a renter or a landlord, it pays to learn your rights. For more information about your local housing laws, see if your community has a Fair Housing Board. Such groups are usually non-profits or government organizations set up to help people understand their housing rights. You may also find city or state websites with information on rental legislation and answers to frequently asked questions. There’s no reason not to ask the questions that confirm the rental of your dreams won’t turn out to be a nightmare.

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Whether you work from home or own a multi-million dollar company, there are numerous reasons to separate personal and business finances. Yet, business owners still make the mistake of using a personal bank account for their business. Although having two bank accounts appears inconvenient, you shouldn’t use a personal account for your business finances primarily because it can affect your legal liability.

In fact, one of the first steps to owning a business should be opening a business bank account, in addition to a personal bank account. Most banks now offer free business checking accounts so cost shouldn’t be an issue.

Legal Protection

When you set up an LLC or a corporation, one of the primary advantages of doing so is the legal liability protection it affords you. The bottom line: the courts consider the corporation a separate entity from the individuals who own it. For example, when you do business as a corporation, if the corporation gets sued, the party suing the corporation cannot sue you as an individual, unless of course you have personally guaranteed something. But, if you mingle your finances, a court can potentially go after the individual running the company because it looks less like you are running a separate entity and more like you and the corporation are one and the same.

Tax Advantages

It does not matter if your business is run out of a home office, is strictly Web-based, or is a “brick and mortar” office location, a separate business account has its advantages. Regardless of whether you set up an LLC, Corporation or Partnership, maintaining a business bank account will help you avoid unnecessary hassles.

For example, using a separate business account makes it much easier come tax time, as you will need to file your business income and expenses separately from your personal transactions. Differentiating personal expenses from business expenses when they are in the same account can be time consuming and cumbersome.

Bryan Greenwood from Washington Mutual® Small Business Banking notes, “Keeping separate accounts (business and personal) is always the smart thing to do. Many business owners are so busy starting, running and growing their businesses, it is always better to develop good business habits early, especially when it comes to finances and record keeping.” You can email bryan.greenwood@wamu.net to learn more about free business checking accounts and other small business banking services.

In addition, the IRS has stringent rules for those who work from home about what can be deducted as “business expenses.” If you use your personal account for business use, the IRS may frown upon those deductions, even if they are legitimate business expenses.

Credibility

Besides IRS auditing issues, using a business account also adds a note of professionalism to your company. If a client receives a personal check for services rendered, they may not take you as seriously as you would like. However, a professional check from a business account will convey professionalism and, more importantly, confidence.

Added Convenience – the Business Credit Card

One of the best ways to make sure you distinguish between personal and business expenses is by using a separate business credit card. Expense reporting can be a daunting, yet crucial task for small businesses, and credit card statements can be a valuable asset when monitoring business spending.

In addition to the obvious reason of deducting business expenses with ease, using a business credit card gives businesses an additional line of credit that may not be an option from a traditional bank. Not only can businesses extend their cash flow to pay for business supplies, vendor services, and other ongoing payments; business credit cards can be used so that monies do not come out of the business’s cash accounts. As soon as a customer pays his or her bill, the credit card bill can be paid.

Many business credit cards also come with business “perks,” such as frequent travel discounts, higher credit limits, longer billing cycles, and lower interest rates. For example, the American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card is very popular among entrepreneurs. You can earn up to 40,000 bonus membership rewards points during the first year, enough for one round-trip free domestic ticket.

In addition, some business cards also give business rewards , such as a cash back options on the purchase of office supplies, while other flexibility to businesses that may not be offered with a standard personal credit card. The Advanta® Platinum Business Card is another popular credit card that offers business owners 5% cash back and no annual fee.

In addition, some business cards give business rewards, such as cash back options on the purchase of office supplies, while others offer flexibility to businesses that may not be offered with a standard, personal credit card. Finally, credit cards have zero liability for fraudulent charges, giving businesses added protection if their credit is used by an unauthorized party.

Processing Credit Cards

With the ability to shop on-line and run in and out of a store in the blink of a Visa swipe, business owners are realizing that customers hardly ever carry cash anymore. So what happens when a potential customer comes into your small business with only a MasterCard, but you only take cash? What if a customer searches for companies on-line with your specific product, but doesn’t find you because you lack a Web site with on-line shopping? This is where a reputable Merchant Account Service is key.

A merchant account is a credit card business service set up by a financial institution, allowing businesses to accept credit cards as payment for goods or services. These companies process funds from respective credit card companies and then transfer the collected funds into the business’s checking account.

There are two types of merchant accounts: traditional merchant accounts and on-line merchant accounts. Traditional merchant accounts authorize and transmit credit card payments using a credit card machine (swipe terminal), which is installed at the business. On-line merchant accounts accept, authorize and process credit card transactions securely over the Internet.

Like any type of business partnership, merchant account providers should be researched thoroughly. The best way to find a suitable merchant account is to shop around and compare merchant accounting service companies, as many of them may try to take advantage of unknowing business owners with hidden fees, such as chargeback, pass through, minimum or termination fees.

Be sure to read any contractual agreement extensively before signing on the dotted line, as some contracts may carry a non-cancellation clause. Be sure to read any contractual agreement extensively before signing on the dotted line, as some contracts may carry a non-cancellation clause. First Data offers a free consultation (or account evaluation) for interested entrepreneurs.

Setting Up Accounting

Determining whether you will need a business bank account, credit card and merchant account service is imperative, but setting up the accounting for the business is also an important step. You have probably already determined what type of business you will be running, whether it is a corporation, sole proprietorship, or partnership. If not, this must be established, as your business structure will determine which type of accounting will be best suitable for your business’ needs.

Regardless of what you decide upon, you’ll need a good accounting system to manage your accounts receivable/payable, expenses and cash. Microsoft offers a FREE download of MS Office Accounting Express 2008.

Once the business structure is established, the next step is to clarify the business’ spending requirements. How many checks will you be depositing each week? How many checks are written? Does your company need the ability to deposit large amounts of cash? Is in-person banking a priority or will you be making deposits after hours via an automatic telling machine? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered in order to find out which type of bank accounting is right for you.

With each of the above, finding a reputable company is imperative, whether it is a bank, credit card company or a merchant account. Select a company that is convenient to both your business and your lifestyle. In addition, be sure to choose the most appropriate type of account for your particular business.

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