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Beware of Investment Opportunities Promoted by Social Media

Almost any business these days has a Facebook or a Twitter account, and the public is accustomed to accessing information just about anyone or anything, including businesses, through their social media accounts. But with the advantages of social media also come disadvantages –this is particularly true in the case of making investment decisions.In a recent Reuters interview, the FBI expressed its concern with fraudulent stockbroker’s use of social media to attract potential investment victims. Like a business or person tweets or gives status updates, it provides the platform for fraudulent stockbrokers to taut the high earnings and low risk of their investment opportunities. While these tweets or updates can be completely false, the savvy way that the stockbrokers use social media helps provide an official front to the investment scam. And the constant reminders of how good an investment opportunity is and how much other people “like” it (including other involved in the scam who leave false positive feedback about the scam) can eventually mount the pressure on a potential investor to take the plunge.Investors should be wary of following investment trends on Facebook and Twitter, especially if the one tweeting is an investment professional. Integrity Research Associates reports that half of surveyed investment advisement firms who are registered with the SEC have established written policies that forbid their advisors from using social media for business purposes. While other firms have increased their use of social media, investors should still not make investment decisions based on information gathered from it.The high pressure, immediate need to invest created by social media is usually bad news for investors, and can be a sign of potential investment fraud. Investors should always take their time when deciding how to invest their money.There are several overall tips to safe investing when it comes to social media:• Don’t fall for hype. Just because an investment is widely talked about or liked doesn’t mean it’s a good investment for you. The hype surrounding an investment might also make you feel pressured to invest quickly, but the life of your investment will outlast how popular it is one day on twitter. Take your time deciding on how to invest your money.• Don’t be wooed by an online investment advisor. Even the most simply investments take some time for potential investors to understand and for advisors to explain. This explanation is best done in person, so that you can review terms together and ask questions. Questions the advisor can’t help you with should be reviewed with your lawyer or other investment professional.• Know that online credentials can be faked. While an investment professional may have an active and legitimate looking firm online, the reality may be much different. The best way to know if your investment advisor is a good fit for you is to check their professional credentials. You can do this on FINRA’s BrokerCheck, available for free on their website. BrokerCheck will let you know if and how your advisor is accredited, and if they are in good standing with regulatory boards.While investments touted on social media may seem like good options for your investment portfolio, investments should always be carefully researched to ensure you don’t give over your hard-earned money to an investment scam.

Travel Agent or DIY Travel?

A friend asked the other day why didn’t I do family trip planning for people and my simple response was that it’s just not what I do. He wanted to do one-stop trip shopping, where he could go to one place (online) and say, “hey I want to go here on this date with this number of people. Just tell me how much it costs and what time I have to get on my flight.” I told him that this is basically the task of a travel agent. They will do it all for you – especially if you don’t have the time or motivation to do any of it yourself and are willing to fork over the extra loot for their services.I recently purchased an airline ticket through unconventional means for myself. I worked with a ticketing agent. In general, I do all of my travel planning online as I’m privy to many different resources that I like, which have worked well for me in the past. This time around, I chose to use an agent because I enrolled in a travel rewards program and in order to get credited rewards points, I needed to book my travel through the company. No problem. It saved me time, though not money per se. I paid the same amount for my flight, purchasing through the ticketing agent, as I would’ve if I had purchased on my own. However, I did get rewarded 5 points per dollar. So, in that sense, I guess I came out better.Generally speaking, do you use a travel agent or do you do all of your planning yourself? Are there times when you can say you’d definitely use a travel specialist, such as if you are doing a group trip or traveling to a foreign country or some place that you know nothing about?The internet has empowered the traveler to easily and quickly plan a trip if they know exactly where to go to get the services that they need. I think the availability of this information motivates travelers to bypass the travel agent and do all of the planning themselves. Review sites, price comparison sites and portals are a dime a dozen and honestly, I can’t tell you who has a leg up on who or what separates many of them. I have my personal preferences but I think it’s mainly because they were in the game first (or at least I’ve known them longer) and I have familiarity with them.However, travel agents offer so much more value than simply booking hotels and flights. The sheer convenience of having someone navigate everything and handle problems that may arise would seem like reason enough to use a specialist each and every time we travel. So why don’t we? If I had to take a stab at it, the main reason would be cost. For many people, saving money is a definitive motivation for doing things themselves. In addition, many avid travelers enjoy the process of trip planning, no matter how time-consuming it may be. The remedy to the latter point is to just start planning earlier or visit sites that have “last-minute” booking options.I have to admit that I am one of those who enjoys the hands-on process. On the flip side, I have no problem paying for convenience, especially if it’s to a foreign country or if I’m planning a group trip. Time is money and if it’s going to cost me too much time, then an agent would be the prudent way to go.The thought keeps running through my mind that as the sea of information expands, people just may go back to basics and revert to outsourcing tasks such as trip planning. Who knows? It’ll be interesting to see. However, there’s not much doubt that what they may lose in dollars, they’d gain back in time and peace of mind.

The Modern Dilemma – National Health Care

National health care is a hot issue all over the world at the moments, but in no country more so than in the United States. As health care is not provided free as a rule, there are major debates regarding affordability and value for money. Fewer and fewer people every year have insurance cover should anything happen to them and as a result society is beginning to deteriorate. Very few people would be able to afford expensive health care and thus fewer people are spending on it and prices rise to recoup lost costs and profits. The medical services suffer as a result.Companies used to provide healthcare as standard in every benefits package, but fewer are now offering it. Instead, they are finding ways around it, like using agency applicants rather than taking on individuals to fill job roles independently. Agency fees are generally lower than those charged by insurance companies to ensure that employees are sufficiently covered. However, as hazards in the workplace increase, the nation’s health is beginning to suffer and calls for a national health care system are growing in momentum and volume. A national health care system has already been implemented in the UK and has proved successful so there is a good model to base a US service on.Health costs in the USA are higher than anywhere else in the world at the moment, which does price it out of range for the average person on the street. However, as other national health care systems have proved, health care that is readily available as well as affordable can improve the economy and improve the nation’s health on the whole!Affording National Health CareIt is not a question of whether individuals could afford national health care because, by its nature, it is whether the government can. There are a number of ways that it could be funded. In most cases, the cost is actually funded via taxes. Nobody pays for individual care but there is a flat rate of tax added on to a bill at the end of the year. It could actually be taken straight from an individual’s pay packet every month so that it is not as noticeable for an individual.If it is deemed desirable to keep health insurance as it is now then it may be possible to offer a flat rate for individuals looking to take out the insurance for a national health care system, with the government subsidising it. This would make it more affordable and health care more widely available without adding a tax. However, what would happen if some individuals did not have national health care insurance? Would they be refused treatment? As a result of this question, there are a number of arguments that pick at the flaws. There is also nothing to say that the overall costs can be lowered.National health care does work if it is implemented correctly and it can dramatically improve the nation’s health as a whole, but there may be problems with initial implementation. As long as health care is made available for all at affordable rates, anything is worth a try!