Is Your Mind Open or Closed?

This cartoon is a reminder to keep our minds open to new ideas.

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What a useful perspective from Gregg Braden

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PICKLE JUICE and More!!

Whenever you have lots of entertaining, it can mean some left-over vegetables from the veggie tray, or too many steamed vegetables from dinner.

A great way to upcycle those instead of throwing them out is to put thinly sliced onions, celery, left over carrot sticks and dinner vegetables in the juice of almost finished pickle jars, olive jars or jalapeno jars.

Let sit for 2 days or so, and now you have ready-to-eat snacks or salad additions without purchasing anything new!

You can also add these zesty juices to store bought thick salad dressings to make them easier to pour. These flavorful liquids can be added to marinades for meats and to BBQ sauces.

Or cut up these flavorful bits and add them to your tuna salads or chicken salads.

Yum!

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Astoundingly Delicious Toasted Cheese Bread

Sometimes we find ourselves with a selection of nearly used up salad dressing bottles, and jars containing a few green olives, capers or Italian pepperocinis in the door of the refrigerator. We always have various small pieces of cheese like cheddar, blue, cream cheese or mozzarella in our cheese bin. All this “stuff” takes up a lot of needless room, but we don’t want to throw any of it out.

Here’s what we do.

We pull out all these seemingly mismatched ingredients and put them on the counter. Chop the olives, and/or a few pepperocinis into small pieces and toss them into a large mixing bowl. Grate up some of the cheeses into this bowl (the small pieces first to use them up) add some capers and pour a little of one or more of the salad dressings into this odds-and-ends concoction.

Mix well. It helps if the cheeses are room temperature because they will blend better, and you don’t want the “spread” to be too soupy. You are looking for the consistency of a light paste. Taste for flavor. Need some garlic? What about freshly ground black pepper? Add some paprika for color or maybe some dried or fresh parsley, or very finely chopped green onions. Maybe chop some sun dried tomatoes – not too many!

Mix well and let sit for about 5 minutes for the ingredients to blend. Stir and taste again. You can’t really make a mistake. Each time the flavors will be different, depending on what you have in your refrigerator.

Now take a loaf of sour dough French bread, or better yet, get some of those mismatched hamburger or hot dog buns! Spread this powerfully tasty and nutritious cheese spread onto the bread (parmesan cheese on top?) and broil it under your broiler the same as you do garlic toast. The cheese will bubble and maybe turn a little brown. When it looks how you want it, take it out, cut and serve!

People are always astonished when they eat this bread, and we rarely have any left. But if you do, cut them up as croutons and use them on top of your next salad!

These toasts are really good as a side dish to a salad or soup meal too.

Don’t forget to save the jars of liquid from those olive, capers, jalapenos or pepperocinis and use them to marinate vegetables. I’ll explain about that another time!

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How to Be Debt Free Before Your Retirement

Imagine you’re in your 70’s. You are sitting in your balcony, sipping your favorite tea and just…savoring your golden years. Retirement is good and you have no financial crisis hanging over your head.

Sounds like a dream, right? Like it can’t possibly be real?

But it is.

Here are our tips to be debt free before your retirement.

#1 Say goodbye to your pile of debts.

Obviously, to live your golden age with no financial worries, you need to get out of debt fast. It’s not surprising and it’s not a picnic either, but the good news is that you can pay it off gradually. To do this, you need to know first your choices.

Settling a debt is more complex than you would think.  You have four options you can choose from and they are as follows:

The Debt Snowball

It is better to start small than nothing. This also proves true in paying your debts. First, make sure to get an accurate report on your debt/debts. With this report, you can analyze and apply what we call, “The Debt Snowball”. This is where you start with your smallest debt and pay it off as quickly as possible. After your smallest debt is settled, repeat the process until you finally cleared all your credit.

The Debt Avalanche

Quite the opposite is applying the Debt Avalanche method to settle your credits. In this option, you pay off the debt that has the highest interest rate. Then, you work your way through to the lowest interest rate debt.

Here’s a quick tip: What is important for both methods is to still pay the monthly minimum required payment for each debt, so you can still meet deadlines and avoid fees.

Aside from these two, you can also choose to transfer your credit card balance to a different card. This means paying off one credit card using another card. In the same sense, you can also settle your debt by getting a personal loan. Of course, this goes without saying that these methods are both dangerous especially if you don’t use credit responsibly and you’ll likely just end up further in debt.

Further options are debt consolidation, debt settlements, or declaration of bankruptcy.

#2 Fatten up your savings.

For some of us, applying for debts might be the easiest way out to solve a financial crisis, but it doesn’t have to be.

Instead, having solid savings can be our trustworthy rescuer when we’re deep-neck drowning in financial nightmares.

To do this, you have to set tangible goals. Find out how much you can afford to save or how much you need to save to live comfortably in your retirement years.

However, let’s face it: the world is full of material things and all things come with a price. This is the problem, my friend. Saving may be the last thing you’ll think of when you’re out living your life to the fullest.

Fret not, you can still enjoy your retirement years when you…

#3 Earn more.

You guessed it: Larger paycheck is the ultimate key to being debt free before your retirement. When you have a larger income, you can spend more freely and you can pay off your debt faster. Also, in today’s technology, there are a thousand opportunities waiting for you. If you have a low-paying full-time job, you can get a side hustle to earn additional income.

Earning more cash allows you to enjoy more of what life has to offer. After all, financial freedom is truly one of today’s goals.

#4  If you’ll spend money, be wise about it.

Unfortunately, not all of us are filthy rich or six-digit earners. Sometimes, the best thing to do to stay debt-free is to reduce expenses and avoid spending beyond your means. This means choosing the appropriate lifestyle according to your income. Also, undoubtedly, spending is inevitable, so try to be wise when you’re shelling out your money. To do this, make sure that you have a set budget that you can follow. Or…

#5 Get help from financial advisers.

Luckily, financial advisers are available to help us make the best decision about our money. You can reach out to these professionals and get an expert’s advice on how to handle your money. This will help you in creating years that are debt-free and peaceful.

 

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The Benefits of Keeping Your Car in a Garage

Jeff Oxford

It appears that garages no longer serve their purpose as parking spaces for cars. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see a garage filled with junk or seconds as a home workshop. Some households even convert their garages into entertainment centers.

But having a garage is beneficial for your car. Here are five reasons.

Safe from the Elements

The most obvious advantage of a garage is that it protects your car from the elements, no matter the weather conditions. Rain, snow, and wind are your car’s biggest enemies as they slowly chip away on the vehicle’s exterior. Dirt and acid that are left uncleaned can cause rust, diminish the car’s shine, or worse, leave permanent damage.

In extreme weather conditions, a car left outside is vulnerable to hail, falling tree branches, and other debris that can cause broken windows and deep dents. Also, in the summer, when the temperature is exceptionally hot, be wary of UV rays as they are known to cause damage to your car as well, both inside and out.

Fewer Chances of Theft and Vandalism

Garages are enclosed spaces that are typically locked. Keeping your car in one will dramatically decrease the chances of it getting stolen. Since cars are such huge investments—probably the most valuable asset in any household—it’s best that it’s kept away from public view.

Parking outside exposes your vehicle to scratches and vandalism. Nothing ruins a car’s beauty more than graffiti or a visible dent or scratch on the side does. Fender flares, side mirrors, and bumpers are the most at risk here, but vandals can happen anywhere on your car. Don’t make it easy for people to harm your vehicle.

Lower Insurance Costs

Companies often offer lower insurance premiums if you have a garage where you can routinely store your vehicle. Even if the space isn’t even yours—like a neighbor’s garage that you rent out or public parking that is part of a condominium complex—you are likely to still be eligible.

Cars that are kept in gated estates also get lower premiums. The reason for this substantial drop is that there is reduced risk of harm to your car when it is safely parked in a garage.

Better Internals

During the cold winter months, the garage is the ideal place to store your car warm. This heat keeps the vehicle’s essential fluids in stable condition. The engine oil, for example, will be thinner, allowing for better lubrication of the internal parts at start-up. The result is an engine that runs more efficiently, as compared to one in a car that has been sitting outside.

This efficiency affects every other internal component. This is most likely felt in the car’s heater and air-conditioning system. In cold weather, the interior will warm up faster than it would when the car is out in the open. The same is true for hot days.

Convenience

Perhaps the best reason to keep your car inside a garage is for your own convenience. What if it’s raining and you have somewhere urgent to go? You obviously can’t wait out the rain. A garage lets you access your car without any problem, keeping you fresh and dry for the day ahead.

Remember

Winters can be as challenging. You’ll wake up to a thick coating of snow on your car’s windshield. Before going anywhere, you’ll have to clear everything off. By the time you’re able to do that, either you have frozen to death or wasted a lot of time. Having a garage means that your car is always good to go whenever you are.

Photo URL: https://pixabay.com/en/car-garage-dark-auto-workshop-3504910/

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How to Write a Legacy Journal for Your Grandkids

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.

A legacy journal makes for a personalized, heartfelt gift that your grandchildren will treasure for a lifetime. How should you get started, though — and what exactly goes into the creation of a legacy journal?

Legacy journals stem from the ancient Jewish tradition of passing down written memories and life advice to future generations. Legacy journals follow a child’s growth and development throughout their lives, capturing the magical moments that make your family complete. Here’s how to create a beautiful tribute guaranteed to touch any grandchild’s heart.

Select Your Journal and Format

The first step in creating a memorable journal involves selecting an appropriate medium. Given advances in technology, some may opt to create an electronic journal, while others prefer the personal touch of handwriting in a specially selected journal book.

Truly tech-savvy grannies can easily set up a WordPress account and begin typing away. This works particularly well for those with arthritis, who may find typing easier on painful joints than holding a pen. Tinybeans presents the option of a secure sharing page where family members can upload photos and share only between other family members who join, eliminating privacy concerns.

For those who prefer a quill to a keyboard, select a journal that honors the grandchild eventually receiving the book. Creative nanas may choose to decorate the cover scrapbook-style while others prefer journals already beautified with patterns, flowers or leather.

Schedule Time to Write

The hectic pace of everyday life can leave grandparents with little time to write. Many grandparents today choose to work part-time well into their retirement, while others assist working parents with child care duties and cleaning tasks. Some do both.

Select a time to write when the house quiets down and reflection comes easily. Aim to schedule at least 30 minutes per month to add to journal entries. Investing in a tape recorder can help remind forgetful folk of special details they want to include in their writing later.

Whatever to Say?

The contents of legacy journals vary. Some people prefer to journal about only special occasions, such as birthdays, graduations and holidays. Others consider their legacy journal to serve as their last words of wisdom to their families upon their passing.

Anything and everything, from special moments to large milestones, makes for excellent journal fodder. Pay particular attention to capturing events that occur in a child’s early years that they won’t remember but will enjoy reading about just the same.

Focus on Feelings

Even though many grandparents include words of wisdom intended to enlighten future generations, words coming from the heart mean even more. Celebrate the successes grandchildren achieve and shower them with praise.

Include details such as the feelings experienced when holding the little one for the first time. Use humor when appropriate — every family shares little inside jokes that make for marvelous memories. Sprinkle in words of wisdom among the nostalgia.

Consider a Pragmatic Touch

While legacy journals center on emotions, that doesn’t mean they can’t include practical gifts within. One popular emerging trend involves buying children stock and other investments instead of gifts of toys or clothing.

Including information regarding these investments in a legacy journal makes for an extra-delightful surprise, especially among those planning to gift their journals when grandchildren reach adulthood or graduate from college. Imagine the smiles when grandchildren learn they already have the financial resources they need to buy a home or attend graduate school.

Include the Family

While most legacy journals arise from one-person contributions, getting the entire family, or at least certain members, involved can create an even more memorable gift. Everyone views memories of special events through their own unique lens, and additional praise from family members and friends alike make grandchildren feel especially accepted and loved.

Save Letters, Cards and Photos

Legacy journals make the perfect place to preserve favorite letters, cards and family photos for grandchildren. Those utilizing a traditional paper journal can include these items scrapbook style. People creating electronic legacy journals can scan and upload postcards from family vacations and pictures of special celebrations.

Deciding When to Gift

The final step in creating a legacy journal involves deciding when to make the gift. Timing really matters.

Grandparents who consider their legacy journal to serve as a sort of last will and testament may wish to rent a safe-deposit box to be opened only after they pass on. Others, especially those who have made surprise investments for their grandchildren, may wish to present their journal upon the child’s high school or college graduation. Some choose to gift their journals when their grandchild has their first baby to encourage younger family members to continue the tradition.

Legacy journals make the ultimate personalized gift. Leaving a piece of yourself and your treasured memories allows your words and traditions to pass down to future generations. Get started on your own journaling journey today.

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Smokey Sweet Chipotle Sauce

There are lots of ways to add Pizzazz to your life right now. One way is through color, music, dance, travel and changing up an old pattern. An easy way to add spark is through food.

Below is an quick recipe, able to be prepared in minutes, and it will uplift burgers, sandwiches or use as a dip for chicken wings, ribs, or vegetables.

This is a tiny can of Mexican Chipotle Chilis in Adobo sauce. You can find it in your international food section of your grocery store. There are about 5 chilis in the can, the size of a “fat” thumb.

Can of chipotle peppers

Take out one chipotle, slice it open and scrape out the seeds. Chop into a paste. Put this paste into a small bowl and mix in about 1/3 cup of your favorite Ranch or Caesar dressing and let sit for about 6 hours.  Add a few drops of water if you want the consistency to be thinner. Take the sauce out again and stir. It’s ready to serve!

The smoky, slightly spicy chili in the salad dressing will AMAZE your friends. Great as a dipping sauce for buffalo wings or ribs. Or as a vegetable dip. It’s also terrific on a burger or sandwich. This dipping sauce will definitely add PIZZAZZ to your meal.

Susan: Sounds good, but my husband has Rosacea often triggered by spicy foods. Any suggestions for toning down the spice?

Akaisha: Chipotle is one of the lesser spicy chilis. This chili-to-salad dressing ratio gives just a hint of picante. Just a TINY bit of bite. I would make this recipe, let it sit for the 6 hours or so… and then taste it. If it’s too spicy, simply add more salad dressing.

Chipotle is known for its smoky flavor more than its spice. Also, since chili is a product of nature, each chili is different. So depending on the certain chili in the can, it will change thespice.

You could make one dip for your husband (diluted with salad dressing) and one revved up for your guests.

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The Forex Market Has the Lead

Jane Brown

People are always looking for ways to invest their money. But the right type of investment can be tricky and complicated. Just because you have some money on your hands doesn’t mean you’ll be able to double its value by investing. It requires proper research and understanding the ins and outs of how the investment sector truly works.

The Forex Market Has the Lead

When it comes to investment, everyone can agree that the foreign exchange market also known as the (Forex market) is undoubtedly the biggest financial market to exist on earth. Interestingly, the currency market is quite a bit larger than the stock market itself, which indefinitely makes the Forex market a much better investment choice for anyone.

If you’re wondering how hard it could be to exchange one currency for another, then you’re in for a surprise. It isn’t as easy as it may seem. There are some unique attributes and skills that a trader needs to learn before stepping into the market, especially the new traders. It’s important to know the key terms for a trader. For instance, you should know that an exchange rate is basically at what price a currency is exchanged for another. It’s the exchange rate that holds the power to drive the Forex market.

Understanding the Ins and Outs

There are many different official currencies used by the Forex traders globally. These traders are always looking for opportunities to purchase a currency which has the potential to be revalued in the future. For instance, there are several investors who had purchased the Iraqi Dinar for its low value in hopes that the day the currency revalues they’ll make a profit. The revaluation of the Iraqi currency is in the hands of the Central Bank of Iraq and it has made several efforts to bring back their currencies value by revising the country’s monetary policy and by supervising its financial systems. There are several players in the Forex market:

  • Banks
  • Central banks
  • Investment managers and hedge funds
  • Corporations
  • Individual investors

Understanding Currency Appreciation

Basically, currency appreciation is the increase in the value of one currency in comparison to another currency. Interest rates, government policy, business cycles, and trade balances are one of the many reasons why a currency appreciates. In simpler terms, appreciation is directly related to demand. If, for instance, the value appreciates (goes up) the demand for the currency will also rise. But if it depreciates (goes down), it’s going to lose its value against the currency to which it is being traded. Currencies are traded in pairs in the Forex market and a currency appreciates when the value of one currency goes up compared to the other currency. The Forex traders are almost always hoping for a currency to appreciate to have huge returns when exchanged with another currency.

How the Revaluation and Devaluation Affects The Currency And Investment Opportunities

Since the Forex market is based on the revaluation and devaluation game, it’s important to look into it. Currency devaluation and revaluation are the changes brought to a country’s official currency compared to the other currencies in the world. Devaluation involves the lowering of the exchange rate and revaluation involves the rise of the exchange rate. Currency devaluation is often confused with depreciation. It’s extremely important to understand the difference between the two.

Devaluation is an attempt to deliberately lower the exchange rate of a country’s official currency and setting a new rate in respect to a foreign currency like the US dollar. Whereas, depreciation is the decrease in the currency value compared to the other benchmark currencies due to the market force.

One of the reasons a country indulges in devaluation is for economic policies. When currency value is lowered, in comparison to foreign currencies, it improves exports, reduces a country’s debt and shrinks trade deficits. Therefore, exports are encouraged and imports are discouraged as foreign countries will be interested in buying cheaper goods. All this will eventually solve the effects of a trade deficit and create a balance of payments because the export rate will be higher.

It’s important to understand why, when and how a country is indulging in revaluation or devaluation practices. If an investment trader does not have the basic knowledge of how a currency functions in the economy, it will be impossible to make the right investment decisions, which will only lead to a disaster.

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6 Strategies to Consider to Help You Retire Early

Mike Rivers is a retired small business owner and freelance writer. He was fortunate enough to be able to retire early and enjoys contributing to society through his writing and community involvement. He lives in Texas.

Retiring early is a dream for many people. Who doesn’t want to kick back and relax or have the flexibility to pursue hobbies while they still have the energy to do them? But for most, early retirement is more like a fantasy than a reality.

With life expectancies getting longer and healthcare costs skyrocketing, people are required to work for more years to amass enough to sustain them through their retirement years. Long gone are the days when retiring at age 55 or even 65 was realistic. Consider this: according to Fidelity Investments a 65-year-old couple retiring this year can expect to spend $280,000 on healthcare over the course of their retirement. Plus, that’s not factoring in any unexpected illnesses, injuries, or the need for long-term care.

There’s no doubt that retirement is expensive — and the longer you stay employed, the more money you can save. However, if you commit to making the necessary sacrifices, it is possible to reach your goal of retiring early. Keep in mind, though, that it may require a big change in your current lifestyle in order to reap the future payoff.

With that in mind, here’s a look at six strategies you can employ now to set you up for an early retirement later.

6 Strategies to Try if You Want to Retire Early

  1. Determine Your Number

In order to successfully retire early, you first need to figure out how much income you’ll require for 30 plus years out of the workforce. After all, if your aim is to retire at 50, barring any health incidents, living to 80 is a real possibility, which means you’ll need serious cash. This is particularly true if you want to pursue a certain hobby or spend your retirement days traveling the world.

In order to ascertain just how much you’ll need, create a retirement spending estimate that takes into account your current monthly spending and how much it will decrease or increase when you retire. For instance, you may decide to downsize from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom condo, which will reduce your monthly outlays. You’re commuting costs and work attire expenses may be reduced, but you could spend more on activities or travel. Once you come up with the number, multiply it by 12 to get your annual figure.  Add an additional 10% or 20% to give you more of a buffer. If you fear costly health incidents, raise that percentage even more.

Also, when coming up with your calculation, don’t forget to consider taxes and those nonrecurring expenses that crop up from month to month. Including these in your estimate will give you the most accurate picture.

  1. Overhaul Your Budget Now to Save Later

The only viable way to retire early is to save enough money to live off of.  In order to save more, you may have to sacrifice by altering your current lifestyle. In some cases, the changes may be drastic. For instance, people who aim to retire early usually start by reducing their costliest monthly expense, which is usually their housing. The money they save from downsizing to a smaller home or apartment can be funneled into their retirement savings account.

However, that’s only the start. Lots of people who are serious about retiring early will put as much as 50% of their income in savings. Others scale back the extras in their lives and live very frugally for many years. There are many ways to cut expenses to the bare minimum, however, in order for this strategy to be effective, you have to be extremely committed. Living frugally can be tough, but if early retirement is important enough to you, it will be a lot easier to achieve.

  1. Get Out of Debt

Ask most people who were able to retire early what their secret was and many will tell you that part of it was a lack of debt. Unsecured debt, in particular, can be costly, requiring you to pay a lot more to cover the interest. The more debt you have, the costlier and more difficult it is to get out from under it. That’s why it’s important to rid yourself of it if you want to retire early.

The last thing you want to do is have a monthly credit card payment hanging over your head when you don’t have an income to pay it. Plus, the sooner you pay off the debt, the more you can save for your retirement.

  1. Invest for Growth

Retiring early means you will have a shorter time span to amass money to live off of. Saving is one part of the equation, but growing your money is another really important one. In order to achieve your savings goals, you’ll need investment returns that are greater than if you were investing over the course of thirty years. That means considering growth investments that may be riskier but can yield you a better return.

No one is advocating making reckless investments that leave you penniless, however, being too conservative is an enemy of an early retirement plan. Make sure to keep an eye on the costs associated with your investments. If left unchecked, they can eat at your returns, greatly reducing the amount you amass for your pending retirement. Go for index funds and exchange-traded funds to keep costs at bay.

  1. Get a Side Gig

Thanks to the gig economy, there are plenty of ways to earn extra cash that can add to your savings. There are a host of part-time jobs that afford you the ability to earn extra money and are flexible enough to fit into your schedule. While driving for a service such as Uber or Lyft is top of mind for many people looking to raise extra cash, there are also other options — from working at a retailer to waitressing in a restaurant, for example. If you have a marketable skill, you could consult or work freelance gigs on the side. Even selling used goods on a resale website like Amazon or eBay can boost your savings.

If you don’t have the time to get a side gig, try to get a higher paying salary at your current employer or move to another company that is willing to pay you the salary you’re aiming for. The higher you earn, the sooner you’ll be able to save enough to realize your dream of an early retirement.

  1. Accept That You May Have to Re-enter the Workforce

Sometimes even the best-laid plans fall apart, and that can easily happen in retirement. The good news, however, is that if you opted to retire early and ran into an unexpected need for cash, you can easily re-enter the workforce for a period of time. If you’re okay with the idea that you may need to work from time to time, it will be an easier pill to swallow if worse comes to worst.

Of course, the goal is to stay retired — but if times are tough, being willing to jump back into the workforce can make the idea of an early retirement a little less risky.

Final Thoughts

Early retirement isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re willing to make the necessary financial and lifestyle sacrifices during your working years, it can be done. Being able to retire early will require you to amass a lot of money, adopt a frugal lifestyle, and invest with an eye toward growth. That’s why before you take the plunge, it’s crucial that you determine whether or not you’re committed to making the lifestyle changes necessary to achieve this goal.

If you follow smart strategies and adopt the right habits, the dream of retiring while you are still young and healthy is achievable.

Do you plan to retire early? What action steps are you taking to achieve this goal?

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