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Get It Direct!
Are you among the 10 million people who still receive your Social Security or SSA payment by paper check each month? If so, better listen up.
The Treasury Department will no longer issue and mail paper checks after March 1, 2013. If you've been dragging your feet in enrolling for direct deposit, it's time to start shuffling. The deadline is drawing near.
Enrolling for direct deposit is simple. Stop in to any of our four branches where our customer service representatives will be happy to help you. Notices will be inserted into your monthly statement that explain the switch and what information you'll need to provide. You'll find the details here.
You can apply online here. Certain information is required to complete the form:
Or you can call toll-free (800) 333-1795 with this same information.
Congress mandated this change in the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 as a means to save money. Studies show each digital payment costs 92.5 cents less a month than a paper check. Included in that savings is the cost of paper, envelopes, postage, machinery to print checks, salaries for government workers to process the checks and those employed to deal with checks that are lost, stolen, forged or cannot be delivered.
The move is estimated to save taxpayers $125 million a year.
Things can happen to paper checks that can not happen to directly deposited payments. Paper checks can be lost, stolen or forged. The Treasury department reports that it receives almost two thousand calls per work day from people that have had a problem with a government check.
In fiscal year 2007, they received reports of 670,000 lost or stolen Social Security checks. Another 70,000 had been altered or fraudulently endorsed.
Each check gone awry means delay for the beneficiary. Time has to elapse before they notice the problem to report it. A claim has to be filed before a new check is eventually issued. Many of the elderly count on their monthly check for survival. The delay can be costly.
Receiving your check electronically assures your funds will arrive in your account promptly, safely and accurately. You won't have to trek to the bank with check in hand to make a monthly deposit. Your funds are immediately available, even if you're away visiting the grandkids.
Even after you begin receiving your check electronically, you may still want to visit your local branch every once in a while. They're going to feel lonely at the beginning of each month. No doubt they'll miss seeing your smiling face.
Sit Still, Stay Fit
I'm a freelance writer. I work from a home office rather than make a daily commute.
This lifestyle has decided advantages. And disadvantages.
Besides the commute, I don't have to listen to a co-worker's personal phone calls drifting over from the other side of the cubicle. I don't have to comfort them when their boyfriend dumps them. Or cover their phone calls when they have to run off for a meeting with their child's teacher.
Neither am I present to bounce ideas around, give input during project development or gather around the water cooler the day after the Eagles beat a division rival.
My pay is based on performance rather than hours. So the more I can churn out, the more I earn.
There are days when I suddenly realize it's been almost six hours since I've gotten out of my chair. When the creative juices are flowing, you don't want to stop midstream and risk writer's block when you return to the keyboard.
While my cram sessions may be good for productivity, they're not too good for my health. Research has shown sitting for prolonged periods of time can lead to poor circulation, blood clots and muscle strain in your neck and lower back. It can be a factor in diabetes and heart disease.
There are several ways to reduce the risk of health problems. Most importantly, practice good ergonomics.
Keep your computer directly in front of you, slightly below eye level, to avoid eye and neck strain. Your hands should reach the keyboard without having to bend your wrists.
Buy a chair with good back support where your weight is evenly distributed. Practice good posture. Your back should be straight. Don't twist your body, slouch or extend your neck for long periods of time.
Regular short breaks can make a difference. By getting up and moving at least two minutes three times an hour, you can shorten your risk of health issues by 30 percent.
That equates to once every 20 minutes. But time can pass quickly when you're focused on a project, and you can soon realize an entire hour has passed without a break.
Take a brisk 10-minute walk a couple of times a day instead. Good opportunity to walk the dog!
Do stretches once an hour. Bend forward to touch your knees, or your toes if you can reach that far. Keep your knees slightly bent for a good back stretch. Relieve pressure in the small of your back by putting your hands on your hips and leaning back while looking up.
Stretch your neck by tilting your head forward, backward and from side to side. Apply gentle pressure using your hand for an extra stretch. Don't roll your head around in circles.
Hold these stretch positions for about 30 seconds each.
Loosen your upper back by keeping your arms at your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Flex your shoulders backward, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat 10 times.
More people have desk jobs today than ever before. That trend isn't going to change anytime soon. We have to learn how to live with this changing workplace. Our life depends on it.
Growth Rates and Prosperity:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced today that it had revised downward its projection for world output growth to 3.3%. One can draw several conclusions from this otherwise innocuous pronouncement.
First of all, the forecast is revised downward from a July estimate of 3.5%. Although it might not sound like much, the .2% change is huge, and means elusive prosperity for millions of people across the globe. And while a 3.5% growth rate might sound just dandy for developed countries such as the United States and Europe, it is downright terrible for the world as a whole.
Why? Because the worldwide figure is an average that includes both developed countries and developing countries, the latter of which more often than not have much higher initial growth rates, north of say 5 or 6% and sometimes even double digit. One can certainly remember the double digit growth rates that China experienced a decade ago.
For example, Ghana, a very, very poor country is expected to grow by nearly 14% in 2012, but this equates to a level just 9% of the world average. A gradually developing China is back to the single digit GDP growth rates at just less than 10%.
So while much of the underdeveloped world experience growth rates north of 5%, much of the developed world are experiencing much lower growth rates, and some such as Europe are expected to actually be negative. The United States, formerly an economic power house, is expected to barely eke out 2% GDP growth rate in 2012. Considering this is several years into a recovery, by historical standards, would aptly be described as pathetic.
The problem is that developed nations, as they gain in prosperity, invariably manage to cripple the means of production and wealth creation in an altruistic attempt to regulate business and redistribute wealth. The data supporting this trend is unmistakable. And one can only draw one conclusion: Those who wish to redistribute wealth, all too often forget how it is produced. This is the malady of wealthy societies.
There is good news. Even at a 3.3% growth rate, world productivity will double in about 22 years (no fancy formula needed, just divide 3.3 into 72 - this is a handy approximation and is known as the Rule of 72).
Of course, world population will also increase, but is growing at a much slower rate, down from just over 2% in the 1960's to barely over 1% today. So if we use the 2011 world population growth rate of 1.1%, (using the Rule of 72 again) it will take about 65 years for world population to double. The take away from this is that there will be more of us, but on average, we will be richer. Of course, the distribution of this wealth won't be perfectly even, but a rising tide has the ability to lift all ships.
The news is less good on a country-by-country basis. Take Europe, for example. At the current negative GDP growth rate, the standard of living is actually falling on that Continent. And it is falling even more quickly when the low, albeit positive, growth in population is considered.
The U.S. GDP growth rates of the last half decade are not much better, and when adjusted for population growth, have been barely positive in real terms. Most, although not all underdeveloped countries, have growth rates far exceeding their population growth, leading to rapidly rising living standards.
Countries like China have aggressively (some say immorally) tried to restrain their own population growth through various policies. Constrained population growth, when coupled with China's very high GDP growth rates, has led to astonishing increases in living standards in that county. It is no surprise to most economists that this was only accomplished after a transformation from an economy based on socialism to one based on market capitalism. Please don't confuse the system in China with democratic market based capitalism, of which it is no such thing.
The bottom line is that a country, any country's, healthy economy should be able to achieve a GDP growth rate that exceeds its own population growth rate, thus allowing for rising living standards for citizens. Unfortunately, the antigrowth economic policies of much of the developed world, such as Europe and to a lesser extent the United States, has led to long-term GDP growth rates that now barely keep up with population growth.
It seems the obsession with "fairness" and "redistribution" invariably override the quest for aggregate growth. This is a sad testimony to how such countries manage their own economic well-being, and left uncorrected, doom the citizens of such countries to lower living standards over the long term, even as the rest of the world is lifted out of poverty. As Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once quipped about socialism, "An equal slice is usually a very small slice."
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