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Gauging the Sequester’s Impact

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Where and how soon might the cuts be made?

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As there was no last-minute agreement between Congress and the White House to postpone federal budget cuts scheduled to take effect March 1, the ax now falls. Unless a bipartisan effort somehow undoes them, assorted federal government agencies will have their budgets reduced by $85 billion between now and October 1, as the initial step in a planned $1.2 trillion deficit trimming over the next ten years. (The belt-tightening could have been more severe: without January’s fiscal cliff deal, it would have been $109 billion.)1,2

What gets cut? Broadly speaking, defense programs will take a 13% hit and other federal programs will have budgets decreased by 9%. (This is according to the projection of the White House Budget Office.)2

Government contractors may be among the first to feel the pinch – especially defense contractors, and by extension their vendors. The White House projects the Army, Navy and Air Force having to slash a total of $34 billion this spring and summer, resulting in layoffs or furloughs for 450,000-500,000 workers. USA TODAY forecasts that four states – Virginia, Maryland, Texas and Alabama –will each see between 20,000-35,000 jobs lost as a direct result.3

Some think that the punch to the labor market might end up being double or triple that. A George Mason University analyst recently commented to the New York Times that as many as 1.4 million private sector jobs could be lost when the effects of the sequestration are fully felt, with a third of them coming at small companies.3,4

This potential wave of unemployment wouldn’t just be traced back to military cuts: the Obama administration has mentioned TSA agents being furloughed every tenth workday, FAA air-traffic controllers and Bureau of Prisons employees working fewer hours, and job cuts or reduced workweeks affecting the FBI, INS, FDA, NPS, VA and FHA. State programs linked to federal dollars (such as unemployment benefits, Section 8 housing assistance, foster care programs, Head Start and school breakfast programs, and Meals on Wheels and job retraining programs for seniors) could also soon see cutbacks. Cuts for many of these programs would begin in April.1,2,5

What doesn’t get cut? While myriad government agencies will face reduced budgets, the cutbacks will not reduce Medicare, Social Security or Veterans Affairs benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid payments, Pell grants or food stamps. Medicare Part D subsidies won’t be cut either.6

That doesn’t mean Medicare or Social Security recipients will be totally shielded from the impact of the sequestration. Some SSA offices might be closed certain days of the month or even for weeks or months – and the lines and waits at those offices could get longer. Medicare payments to doctors are slated to be reduced 2%.6

Is there an undo button? Sort of. Congress might find it later this month, or in April. A short-term fix could be arranged, just like what happened at the start of the year when the fiscal cliff bill was passed: taxes could be raised here, pork could be trimmed there, and a little more time could be bought … time that could be used to improbably craft the “grand bargain” President Obama spoke of in 2012, or to give federal agencies a greater say in what gets cut.

After a few weeks of sequestration, public frustration might become more audible. Or, it might not be: last month, a Pew Research Center poll found that 40% of Americans saw merit in the March 1 cuts, with 70% of respondents saying deficit reduction should be a top federal priority.7

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/01/us-usa-fiscal-idUSBRE91P0W220130301 [3/1/13]
2 – abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/questions-answers-sequester/story?id=18623605&singlePage=true [2/21/13]
3 – www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/19/army-state-by-state-sequester-details/1931051/ [2/19/13]
4 – boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/many-expect-budget-cuts-to-hit-small-businesses-hard-but-not-the-n-f-i-b/ [2/21/13]
5 – www.civilrights.org/census/your-community/funding.html [3/1/13]
6 – aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-02-2013/how-the-sequester-could-affect-social-security-and-medicare.html [2/19/13]
7 – www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57570484/poll-40-say-let-the-looming-budget-cuts-happen/ [2/21/13]

Retirement Seen Through Your Eyes

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

After you leave work, what will your life look like?

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How do you picture your future? If you are like many baby boomers, your view of retirement is likely pragmatic compared to that of your parents. That doesn’t mean you have to have a “plain vanilla” tomorrow. Even if your retirement savings are not as great as you would prefer, you still have great potential to design the life you want.

With that in mind, here are some things to think about.

What do you absolutely need to accomplish? If you could only get four or five things done in retirement, what would they be? Answering this question might lead you to compile a “short list” of life goals, and while they may have nothing to do with money, the financial decisions you make may be integral to achieving them. (This may be the most exciting aspect of retirement planning.)

What would revitalize you? Some people retire with no particular goals at all, and others retire burnt out. After weeks or months of respite, ambition inevitably returns. They start to think about what pursuits or adventures they could embark on to make these years special. Others have known for decades what dreams they will follow … and yet, when the time to follow them arrives, those dreams may unfold differently than anticipated and may even be supplanted by new ones.

In retirement, time is really your most valuable asset. With more free time and opportunity for reflection, you might find your old dreams giving way to new ones. You may find yourself called to volunteer as never before, or motivated to work again but in a new context.

Who should you share your time with? Here is another profound choice you get to make in retirement. The quick answer to this question for many retirees would be “family”. Today, we have nuclear families, blended families, extended families; some people think of their friends or their employees as family. You may define it as you wish and allocate more or less of your time to your family as you wish (some people do want less family time when they retire).

Regardless of how you define “family” or whether or not you want more “family time” in retirement, you probably don’t want to spend your time around “dream stealers”. They do exist. If you have a grand dream in mind for retirement, you may meet people who try to thwart it and urge you not to pursue it. (Hopefully, they are not in close proximity to you.) Reducing their psychological impact on your retirement may increase your happiness.

How much will you spend? We can’t control all retirement expenses, but we can control some of them. The thought of downsizing may have crossed your mind. While only about 10% of people older than 60 sell homes and move following retirement, it can potentially bring you a substantial lump sum or lead to smaller mortgage payments. You could also lose one or more cars (and the insurance that goes with them) and live in a neighborhood with extensive, efficient public transit. Ditching land lines and premium cable TV (or maybe all cable TV) can bring more savings. Garage sales and donations can have financial benefits as well as helping you get rid of clutter, with either cash or a federal tax deduction that may be as great as 30-50% of your adjusted gross income provided you carefully itemize and donate the goods to a 501(c)(3) non-profit.1

Could you leave a legacy? Many of us would like to give our kids or grandkids a good start in life, or help charities or schools – but given the economic realities of retiring today, there is no shame in putting your priorities first.

Consider a baby boomer couple with, for example, $285,000 in retirement savings. If that couple follows the 4% rule, the old maxim that you should withdraw about 4% of your retirement savings per year, subsequently adjusted for inflation – then you are talking about $11,400 withdrawn to start. When you combine that $11,400 with Social Security and assorted investment income, that couple isn’t exactly rich. Sustaining and enhancing income becomes the priority, and legacy planning may have to take a backseat. In Merrill Lynch’s 2012 Affluent Insights Survey, just 26% of households polled (all with investable assets of $250,000 or more) felt assured that they could leave their children an inheritance; not too surprising given what the economy and the stock market have been through these past several years.2

How are you planning for retirement? This is the most important question of all. If you feel you need to prepare more for the future or reexamine your existing plan in light of changes in your life, then confer with a financial professional experienced in retirement planning.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.bankrate.com/finance/financial-literacy/ways-to-downsize-during-retirement.aspx [2/28/13]
2 – wealthmanagement.ml.com/Publish/Content/application/pdf/GWMOL/Report_ML-Affluent-Insights-Survey_0912.pdf [9/12]

What Does the Dow’s Record High Really Mean?

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Does it signal anything more than bullish sentiment?

Market in Bullish condition

Next stop, 15,000? As the Dow Jones Industrial Average settled at a new all-time high of 14,253.77 on March 5, the psychological lift on Wall Street was undeniable – the market was finally back to where it was in 2007. Or was it?1

For many Americans, the Dow equals the stock market, and the stock market is a direct product of the economy. It doesn’t quite work that way, of course. Right now, it is worth examining some of the factors that have driven the Dow to its series of record closes. Does the Dow’s impressive winter rally signal anything more than unbridled bullish enthusiasm?

The small picture. Investors should remember that the Dow Jones Industrial Average includes just 30 stocks – 30 closely watched stocks, to be sure, but still just 30 of roughly 2,800 companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P 500, with its 500 components, is considered a better measure of the market. When you hear or read that “stocks advanced today” or “stocks retreated this afternoon”, the reference is to the S&P. As the Dow kept settling at all-time peaks in early March, the S&P was consistently wrapping up trading days at 5-year highs but still remained about 2% off its 2007 record close.2,3

You could argue that the Dow is even less representative of the broad stock market than it once was. In 2007, Kraft, Citigroup and General Motors were among the blue chips; since then, they’ve been tossed out and the index has gotten a little more tech-heavy.1

If you add up all the share prices of the 30 stocks in the Dow, you will not get a number over $14,000. The value of the Dow = 7.68 x the total share prices of all 30 Dow components. How did Dow Jones arrive at the magic multiplier of 7.68? It is a direct reflection of the Dow Divisor, which is a numerical value computed and periodically adjusted by Dow Jones Indexes. For every $1 that shares of a DJIA component rise in price, the value of the Dow rises 7.68 (the Dow Divisor, you see, is well beneath 1 – on March 7 it was 0.130216081).4,5,6

The DJIA isn’t indexed to inflation, so hitting 14,167 in 2013 isn’t quite like hitting 14,167 in 2007. It is a price-weighted index as well (i.e., each Dow component represents a fraction of the index proportional to its price), which also makes a comparison between 2007 and 2013 a bit hazy.1

The big picture. The Dow surpassed its old record thanks to many factors – the resurgent housing market, the Institute for Supply Management’s February purchasing managers indices showing stronger expansion in the manufacturing and service sectors, an encouraging ADP employment report, and of course earnings. Perhaps the most influential factor, however, is central bank policy. The Federal Reserve’s ongoing bond-buying has stimulated the real estate industry, the market and the overall economy, and fueled the DJIA’s ascent. The parallel, open-ended effort of the European Central Bank has diminished some of the anxiety over the future of the euro. In early March, the ECB and the Bank of England again refrained from adjusting interest rates and ECB president Mario Draghi mentioned the need for the bank to retain an “accommodative” policy mode until the eurozone economy sufficiently improves.3

In the big picture, two perceptions are moving the market higher. One is the conclusive belief that the recession is over. The other is the assumption that the Fed will keep easing for a year or more. Pair those thoughts together, and you have grounds for sustained bullish sentiment.

How high could the Dow go? Any time the Dow flirts with or reaches a new record high, bears caution that a pullback is next. Though many analysts feel stocks are fairly valued at the moment, a combination of headlines could inspire a retreat – but not necessarily a correction, or a replay of the last bear market.

While the market has soared in the first quarter, the economy grew just 0.1% in the fourth quarter by the federal government’s most recent estimate. That may have given some investors pause: the Investment Company Institute said that $1.13 billion left U.S. stock funds in the week of February 25-March 1, which either amounts to bad timing, an aberration (as it was the first outflow ICI recorded this year), profit-taking or skittishness.7

If the Dow hits 14,500 or 15,000, that won’t confirm that the economy has fully healed or that the current bull market will last X number of years longer. It will be good for Wall Street’s morale, however, and Main Street certainly takes note of that. Lazard Capital Markets managing director Art Hogan seemed to speak for the status quo in a recent CNBC.com article: “We’re certainly in an environment where good news is great and bad news is just okay. The market has just found the path of least resistance to the upside in the near term and it’s hard to find something to knock it off there.”7

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – business.time.com/2013/03/06/dow-jones-closes-at-record-high-so-what/ [3/6/13]
2 – www.nyse.com/content/faqs/1050241764950.html [3/7/13]
3 – money.cnn.com/2013/03/07/investing/stocks-markets [3/7/13]
4 – www.dailyfinance.com/2013/02/28/dow-14000-economy-meaning-djia-explainer/ [2/28/13]
5 – www.investopedia.com/terms/d/dowdivisor.asp#axzz2MtpUOJVi [3/7/13]
6 – online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-djiahourly.html [3/7/13]
7 – www.cnbc.com/id/100533269 [3/7/13]

Monthly Economic Update – March 2013

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

Weekly Economic Update

10 Weird Gym Tools, Explained

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

1-gym

Trying out that foreign-but-fun-looking equipment at the gym is kinda like pairing stripes with patterns. Everybody’s doing it, and it sounds like a neat idea … but how the hell do you pull it off? Especially if it’s your first trip to the gym in, um, a while.

Simple. You breeze through our how-to guide, with smartypants moves from gear guru Bryan Jackson, a former pro soccer player and trainer at the P.E.P.P.E.R. program in New York City. Using these tools, you’ll love your sweat sessions way more—and damn, those workouts will look good on you.

Plyo Box

2-PS-Plyo-BoxesLooks like a nice place to display potted plants or magazines, right? Yes, but don’t let your inner Martha Stewart distract you. Leaping onto these industrial-looking metal boxes can earn you a sky-high calorie count, serious butt- and leg-sculpting love and it’s easier on your joints than boring burpees or squat jumps, Jackson says.

Go-to move: Box jump

Plyo boxes come in a range of heights, from as little as six inches tall to four feet high. Pick a height that challenges your jumping ability (ahem, skip that six-inch box, please), but isn’t so high that it makes you nervy or forces you to use your hips, rather than your legs, to power you up. Most newbies can tackle an 18-incher.

Try it: Stand in front of the plyo box, feet hip-width apart. Squat halfway down, then explode up, pumping your arms upward to propel you, and landing softly in a squat on top of the box. Step back down with one foot, than the other, and repeat. Do 3 sets of 5 reps.

What it works: Abs, butt, legs.

Prowler

3-prowler-fiar296This mess of metal works a lot like a loaded-up shopping cart—except pushing it will tone your ass and legs like no Costco run ever could.

Go-to move: Prowler walk

The prowler itself weighs 60 to 80 pounds, so load it with light plates to start (10-pounders should do) on the two metal rods, and work up in weight from there.

Try it: Make sure you’ve got plenty of space, and position yourself on the side with the rods closest to you. Get into a forward lunge gripping the rods and push the prowler like you would a shopping cart for 5 minutes, turning it and doubling back as you need for space.

What it works: Arms, back, butt, legs.

Balance Disc

4-balance_disk_mainSure, you know what this is. “Um, self explanatory,” you say. But have you ever actually used a balance disc at the gym? (And we mean besides standing on it for five wobbly seconds then deciding, nope, this is stupid.) Well, now you will. This move from Jackson takes an oldie-but-goodie—the side plank—and adds the balance disc for abs-olutely incredible core cuts.

Go-to move: Side plank reach

Try it: Lay on your right side, feet stacked in center of balance disc, right forearm on floor, elbow underneath shoulder, and left arm raised to ceiling. Raise hips to create a line from feet to shoulder. Hold for a beat, then sweep your left arm down to reach between your torso and the floor, twisting so you can see your left hand. Return to start; repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.

What it works: Shoulders, abs, obliques, lower back.

Sandbag

5-SKLZ-Super-Sandbag-Heavy-Duty-Training-Bag-DetailThey’re more than a failsafe from flooding! The constantly shifting sand inside the bag gives you dynamic resistance when you’re carrying, lifting and throwing these babies—which means you’ll firm and burn faster than using traditional weights. We’re seeing sandbags used more and more in bootcamps and group classes, and they’re becoming staples in obstacle runs like the Spartan Race and Civilian Military Combine.

Go-to move: Because we heart them so much, we’ve got a whole workout—plus a DIY on how to make your own sandbag—for you to try. P.S. It’ll also get you in kickass shape to nail a mud run, if that’s on your 2013 crush-it list.

What it works: Everything! Shoulders, chest, arms, abs, back, butt, and legs.

Battle Ropes

6-battle-ropes---blackRemember that ginormous rope you used for tug-a-war as a kid? Remember how using it always kinda sucked? (The rope burn! Feeling ridiculous when you lost your footing! The rope burn!) This will be nothing like that. But the props are pretty much the same. Trainers and bootcamp instructors love using these burly, oversized ropes for their awesome ability to ratchet your heart rate way up and give you total-body toning at the same time. Next time you see ’em at the gym, walk straight over and try this.

Go-to move: Alternating squat wave

Try it: Stand with feet wide and grab a rope end in each hand, fists together (the ends are wrapped in rubber, so no rope burn; score!). Squat low, with back flat, shoulders down and chest out. Explode up, pulling hands wide apart in front of you, elbows slightly bent, then squat again, bringing hands back together; this creates a wave effect on the rope. Continue as quickly as you can for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Repeat twice.

What it works: Everything! Shoulders, chest, arms, abs, back, butt and legs.

TRX

7-trx_largeIt doesn’t look like much—just a tangle of straps and handles—but you can do hundreds of killer toning moves on this trendy suspension system. Group classes devoted to TRX moves are becoming super popular, and it’s also easy to use outside the gym (check out the company’s sweet new at-home kit. Whether you’re testing the waters in a class, or solo at your club, you’ll want to know how to do this sculptor. It’s one of the simplest to master and modify.

Go-to move: Standing push-up

Try it: Adjust the straps so the TRX handles hang above hip height. Face away from the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart and hold the handles with your arms extended. Slowly lower chest to handles, bending elbows out to sides. Press arms back to start; repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. Tip? To make it easier, walk feet farther away from the anchor point, to make it tougher, walk them closer.

What it works: Shoulders, chest, back, abs.

Superband

8-image_prodprod490024_white450pxThink of this like a gigantic rubber band that can fit around your entire body. You may have used these suckers before to do assisted pull-ups (you tie the band around the bar, then step or tuck your knees in the loop to help spring you up during the “pull” part ). But they’re also awesome total-body toning tools. Unlike typical resistance bands, there’s no fumbling (if you’ve ever tried to rig a handled resistance band to a doorjamb only to have it fly in your face, you know what we mean). Because the Superband is one huge loop, you are the anchor. Which makes using one—almost anywhere—cake.

Go-to move: Guess what? We think the Superband is so rad, we designed a head-to-toe workout with it. Best? It’ll only take you 10 minutes. FYI before you start: The width of a Superband indicates its resistance level. So if you’re used to wielding 5-pound dumbbells, opt for a half-inch band. Comfy with 8s and heavier? Try 3/4 to 1 inch.

What it works: Everything! Shoulders, chest, back, abs, butt and legs.

Dynamax Ball

9-dynamax1bIf a stress ball and a medicine ball had a baby, that lovechild would be the Dynamax. This soft, squishy, weighted wonder is big enough to wrap up in a hug—then hurtle against a wall or slam on the ground for a tension-melting workout that melts cals and hones hot muscles.

Go-to move: Squat, toss & catch

All Dynamax balls are 14 inches in diameter, and they can range from 4 to 30 pounds. For Jackson’s move below, try a 6- to 8-pounder to start, and upgrade as you get more badass.

Try it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and holding the Dynamax ball in both hands at waist, elbows bent. Squat low, then explosively jump up, simultaneously throwing the ball into the air above your head. Catch it, then return to start and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

What it works: Everything! Shoulders, chest, back, abs, butt, legs.

Parallete Bars

10-Parralettes-3If you’ve seen these in your gym, first, kudos! You’re in a true athlete training facility. Second, don’t they look like the world’s smallest parallel bars? That’s part of their heritage (those beefy gymnasts who can work it on the 6-foot-tall real parallel bars had to start somewhere), but they’re also clutch for athletes and regular fit folk to use for body-weight exercises.

Go-to move: See saw

This souped-up plank will challenge even the hardest of cores. Plus, you’ll look hella cool doing it at the gym. 2016 Games, anyone?

Try it: Set the bars parallel and about two feet apart. Start in push-up position, hands gripping center of bars, body in line from shoulders to heels. Shift all your weight to your hands, and tuck your knees in, kicking your feet through the bars and planting your heels on the floor on the opposite side, hips up and legs straight, in a reverse plank. Reverse movement to return to start. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

What it works: Shoulders, abs, lower back, hips, legs.

Ab Incline Bench

11-web_hf4261Unlike all that heavy-metal equipment in the weight room, the simplicity of the ab incline bench—it looks just like it sounds!—makes it mildly approachable. But maybe you’ve done a driveby and just thought “Uh-uh.” Machines are intimidating, and often there are a dozen other more simple, dynamic and effective exercises you can do rather than jump on one.

But this one’s different. It uses gravity to shred your abs into Gwen-Stefani-lookalikes. We know, we know. That plush surface and reclined angle begs for a swell place to take a breather, not do sweaty work. But trust us. Use this bench at the gym, and you’ll be the six-pack benchmark.

Go-to move: Dragon flag

Try it: Lie face-up on the bench with your head near the top, hands gripping the foot pads, weight resting on shoulder blades, legs flat on the bench. Tighten your abs, and, keeping legs straight, raise your hips until the soles of your feet are parallel to the ceiling. Slowly lower your legs until they’re parallel to the floor (and not touching the bench!); rise back up for 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 8 reps.

What it works: Hips, abs, lower back.

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America’s Coolest Small Towns, 2013

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

This year’s winner in voting for America’s coolest small town has a population of 9,369 and a history of 257 years.

84eb8761-fbd1-40bb-aa9f-0ce199094dcf_lititz

After 96,605 votes and 2,415 comments in support of 924 towns, the list of contenders was trimmed to 15. Among those finalists, Lititz, Penn., was the undisputed winner for 2013, unlike last year, when two other towns tied for No. 1.

What makes a coolest small town? The town must have a population under 10,000. It also needs that indescribable something: independent shops, a sense of energy, an epic backyard, culture, delicious coffee. In other words, cool doesn’t necessarily mean quaint: We wanted towns with an edge and a heart.

Winner: Lititz, Penn.
Photo: Amy Spangler
(Population: 9,369)

Founded in 1756 as a Moravian community, Lititz takes its 250-year history seriously even as it embraces its vibrant present. This Lancaster County town’s Lititz Springs Park has been a center of town life since the 18th century, when it was the site of public concerts, and houses a welcome center in a replica of a 19th-century Reading & Columbia Railroad depot.

The Lititz Historical Foundation offers costumed guided tours and a museum that includes Native American artifacts, a replica of a Moravian home, and a heritage garden. But, of course, the past is only the beginning in Lititz, where visitors can quaff handcrafted ales at the Appalachian Brewing Company of Lititz, savor homemade ice cream at Greco’s, or shop for furniture made by noted Lancaster County craftsmen.

Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Photo: Courtesy Ellis Anderson
(Population: 9,260)

You might call Bay St. Louis the little town that could. Hurricane Katrina made final landfall near this Mississippi Gulf hamlet in 2005, lifting homes off foundations, crumbling bridges, leveling businesses, and killing 12 people in its wake. But the storm didn’t crush the spirit of Bay St. Louis.

Evidence of renewal can be found at every turn, like at the Mockingbird Cafe. First opened to serve Katrina volunteers and locals, it’s now a neighborhood mainstay in Historic Old Town, serving up frothy lattes and their belly-filling signature Mockingburger. Also calling the 300-year-old neighborhood home: a quirky mix of restaurants, galleries and Creole cottages and inns.

Once a month, the district opens its doors for Second Saturday Artwalk, a day filled with art shows, live music and regional food specialties. Beach Boulevard’s restored 19th-century waterfront homes are just a few blocks away, and the historic Bay Town Inn bed and breakfast is being rebuilt. Also under way: a $21.1 million harbor project that includes a 1,100-ft pier and a recreational beach, due for completion in 2014.

Camden, Maine
Photo: Kenneth Keifer / Dreamstime.com
(Population: 3,570)

We’ve all been faced with the classic vacation dilemma: the mountains or the beach? But there’s no need to settle, because Camden’s got them both covered. This mid-coastal town located on Penobscot Bay is one of only two places on the Atlantic seaboard where the mountains meet the sea.

Those gorgeous vistas have been attracting vacationers to this former ship-building town since the 1800s, when wealthy families snatched up properties to build summer homes. Today, many of those mansions and estates have been converted to inns and bed and breakfasts, most within walking distance of the harbor.

Go ahead, it’s not cliché to dine on Maine lobster paired with a local wine at Fresh, a waterfront restaurant on Bay View Landing. Afterward, browse the galleries, antique shops and general stores on Main Street for one-of-a-kind crafts, clothing and jewelry. When the ocean is calling, take sail from Camden Harbor on a tall-masted schooner cruise that explores the Maine coast, lighthouses, islands, and coves. Left your sea legs back at the B&B? No problem. Camden Hills State Park offers 30 miles of hiking trails in 5,700 acres of wooden hills including Mt Battie, an 800-foot summit with stunning views of the bay.

Elkhart Lake, Wisc.
Photo: Courtesy Elkhart Lake
(Population: 967)

You might say Elkhart Lake runs on two speeds: adrenaline-pumping fast and good-ol’-days calm. Just outside of town, in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, speedsters can find Road America, a four-mile off-road race circuit built in the 1950s where racers have been known to pass the 200 mph mark.

But back around the lake—crystal blue, spring-fed, cedar-lined, and 120-feet deep—the pace is decidedly more relaxed. At the three lakeside Victorian-era resorts, activities such as pontoon boating, wakeboarding, and summer bonfires will call to mind those long-lost memories of summer camp.

Flagler Beach, Fla.
Photo: Flagler Chamber of Commerce
(Population: 4,484)

Twenty miles north of Daytona Beach on A1A, Flagler Beach couldn’t be more different from its party-hardy neighbor to the south. In fact, the area seems to attract more sea turtles and right whales than spring breakers. And it’s not hard to see why: This thin strip of a beach town, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, has remained significantly less developed than its neighbors.

The six miles of pristine sand—which boast an orange hue thanks to crushed coquina shells—are only interrupted by one fishing pier. In town, the vibe is laid back and retro, thanks to spots like Grampa’s Uke Joint, which sells ukuleles, and High Tides at Snack Jack, a 1950s fish shack that attracts surfers with funky dishes like tuna reubens, ahi club sandwiches, and sake Bloody Marys.

Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Photo: Glenwood Springs Chamber Report Association
(Population: 9,614)

For a Rocky Mountain town, Glenwood Springs is surprisingly focused on water. Sitting at the confluence of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers, 40 miles north of Aspen, the town is home to the largest natural hot springs pool in the world, which has attracted the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holliday, and Al Capone since the opening of a lodge in 1890.

In addition to soaking in the steamy springs—even when there are feet of powder on the ground—you can try water-centric activities from whitewater rafting to fly-fishing to kayaking. As you can probably tell from the waters bubbling up under Glenwood Springs, there’s as much going on underground as there is above it. Below the town are miles of caverns, filled with creatively named formations like cave popcorn, moonmilk, soda straws, and cave bacon.

Greenville, K.Y.
Photo: Courtesy Greenville Tourism Commission
(Population: 4,312)

That particularly Southern combination of down-home charm and old-fashioned grandeur is old hat in Greenville. Founded in 1799 and settled by Revolutionary War veterans, it grew over the next century into the seat of one of the South’s most profitable coal-mining regions. That history is reflected in the enduring elegance of city landmarks such as the 105-year-old Beaux Arts courthouse and 111-year-old Palace Theater.

On Main Street, laid-back locals and mom-and-pop establishments evoke the guitar and harmonica twangs of folk songs. You might even hear John Prine’s “Paradise” as you stroll the streets—the renowned singer-songwriter penned some of his most famous lyrics about the coal-mining history of Greenville and the surrounding area. The town’s musical legacy lives on at Rockford’s Place Café: part eatery, part jam session venue, it adds a little funk to the Greenville scene.

Gulf Shores, Ala.
Photo: Gulf Shoes & Orange Beach Tourism
(Population: 9,741)

Folks in this Gulf of Mexico beach town must get tired of hearing tourists do their best Bubba impersonations. But comparisons to Forrest Gump’s shrimp-loving sidekick are only logical: Each October since 1971, the town hosts the National Shrimp Festival, often attracting over 250,000 people with shrimp cook-offs, concerts, and sandcastle contests. If you don’t make it here during the three-day festivities, don’t fret.

Shrimp shows up on menus all around town, including the dockside Lulu’s at Homeport Marina, which is owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy. Like much of the Gulf of Mexico, the area was hit hard by the 2010 BP oil spill. But, ironically, the area’s powdery white beaches got an unexpected PR boost from the disaster and subsequent successful cleanup): For many Americans, it was the first time they learned Alabama even has beaches!

Quincy, Calif.
Photo: Kelly Mosinski
(Population: 1,728)

This gold rush town on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where prospectors flocked in the rush of 1849, remains a mother lode of attractions for those who like to spend their days in the wild but welcome some culture and pampering in the evening. Nearby Bucks Lake Recreation Area is the kind of place you can visit every weekend and never quite do the same thing twice, including world-class fishing, water-skiing, hiking in warm weather, and winter snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Back in town, the historic 1920s-era courthouse is just one of several architectural gems. Pick up a self-guided Heritage Walk tour pamphlet at the Plumas County Museum, behind the courthouse, and explore downtown’s murals depicting scenes from the area’s history. Then take your pick of excellent pub and café fare that, true to Northern California tradition, belies its small-town locale.

Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Photo: Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce
(Population: 1,859)

Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about New York’s Finger Lakes region isn’t that it’s home to stunningly beautiful and, yes, finger-shaped, bodies of water, but that there is so much else to see and do here. Award-winning wineries, awe-inspiring gorges and waterfalls, and a racetrack that draws visitors to auto-racing events are also front-and-center.

If you want to spend a day (or two, or a week) in nature, Watkins Glen State Park offers a series of jaw-dropping waterfalls, and the Finger Lakes National Forest (the only national forest in New York State) is heaven for the trail-happy hiker. Watkins Glen International Racetrack draws crowds to NASCAR races and other auto events. To get a taste of the vineyards of Watkins Glen and its neighboring communities, set out on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, which includes 50 local wineries, many renowned for their light, crisp Rieslings.

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Juice Cleanses: What’s The Point?

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Good-looking celebrities such as Sofia Vergara, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Salma Hayek have all admitted to being on a juice cleanse at some point in their lives.

A juice cleanse is when you give up food and drink only fruit and vegetable juices for anywhere from a day to a few weeks. Or, in Ali’s case, four hours.

So why would anyone do that? Ali asked AJ Jacobs, author of ‘Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection,’ who tried a cleanse or two for his book. Do people really need to clean their organs? Or are they just trying to lose weight quick?

According to Jacobs, a juice cleanse doesn’t really help you do either. Any weight you lose during a cleanse will come back once you’re done. “An easier way would just be to restrict your calories and eat normal food.”

And cleaning toxins out of your body? Well, that’s what your kidneys, liver, and intestines do anyway.

Both Ali and AJ admitted to getting light-headed and spacey when attempting a cleanse. Other side effects include crankiness and tiredness. So what WILL you get out of a juice-only regimen? “Expensive urine,” AJ says.

So unless you really really like juice, maybe leave the cleanse to the celebrities.

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6 Ways to Start Your Own Business for Less Than $20

March 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Business

6_Ways_to_Start_Your-5cb3f0e0908b5378e9cc809fd560f557Tired of working that 9 to 5?  Got a great idea for a startup, but not a lot of money?  Launching your own business is not without it’s challenges, but getting the initial ball rolling when you are short on cash, doesn’t have to be one of them.  Here are 5 ways to start your own business for less than $20 ($16 to be exact…but whose counting)?

1. Logo from Fiverr – if I told you could get a great logo created for your company for only $5, would you believe me?  Well, sites like Fiverr.com make it possible for you to brand yourself in no time by connecting with creative types from all over the world, and at the cost of an average cup of coffee. Not bad at all.

2. Free Website – you’ll definitely want a corner of the world wide web you can call your own, where customers can find you and your products with ease.  So I suggest a website being one of the first things on your to-do list of starting your own business. For my frugal style blog (Frugal-Nomics.com), I use WordPress.org…installation is quick and loads of free plugins and widgets make it really customizable.  All you need to do is buy hosting from a site like Godaddy for like $5 bucks a month, and you are on your way.

3. Barter for what you need – I think bartering is a great way for startups to make relationships with other startups and get much-needed things done, without the exchange of capital (which you are probably both lacking).  So maybe you’re starting a small photography business and need some test subjects and you know some stylish bloggers who are trying to spread their brand as well….consider swapping some great pics for some praise worthy mentions on their site. I think it’s a win-win for both.

4. Get the word out – social media is one of the most convenient and free ways to reach hundreds of thousands of people (or even millions) from varying backgrounds and geographic locations, so why not take full advantage of it?  Sign up for a Facebook Fan Page, Pinterest Account, or Instagram and finally use Twitter to your financial advantage — promoting sales and releasing new products — instead of just venting about the juicy details on the latest episode of ABC’s Scandal.

5. Business Cards – for all the networking you are going to be doing with the new business you’ll be generating; you’ll need a way for leads, customers, and contacts to stay in touch. Use sites like Vistaprint to get you started with 250 free business cards, for only the cost of shipping ($5.99).

6. Start at home – There’s no need initially to run out and get a fancy office space. If Steve Jobs and Woz started what would become Apple in a garage…I think it’s safe to say you can start your business from the comfort of your living room (after all, that’s what I do).

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