Super Charge Your Energy at Work: 10 Ways

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Feeling tired at work? Forget the triple shot latte and try these 10 tips instead. You’ll be raring to go!

You may have read the stats. Workplace productivity is up and employment is down. That can only mean that fewer people are in the workplace but now they have to work harder and longer. No wonder so many people are always tired and sucking down coffee and energy drinks.

Since there are still only 24 hours in a day you not only have to be more productive, but also maintain high energy and stay happy. Otherwise you’ll drag yourself down, end up a miserable, grumpy, scrooge, and take a lot of folks with you on the way.

The demands of work are keeping people so busy these days sometimes they forget the simple things that make them feel energized. Here are some tips to keep your energy soaring that don’t require the use of drugs or an unlimited Starbucks card.

1. Start Your Day With a Workout

You would think a big workout would make you tired, but actually getting that blood pumping first thing will keep you going for the day. Don’t forget a good breakfast as well, solid fuel to stoke the day’s fire.

2. Take a 20-minute Power Nap

Of course you don’t want your colleagues to see you sleeping on the job, but studies have shown that a brief power nap can help revitalize you for the whole day. One employer I know actually set up a motorized massage chair in a designated “nap room” for employees and requires they use it for breaks. Check out Inc. columnist Jessica Stillman’s power nap primer.

3. Remove All Personal Grudges

All that emotional baggage takes its toll day in and day out. Whether it’s anger you feel for a coworker or even someone who is distant from work, the emotions can be distracting and absorb energy. We like to think we can ignore the feelings, but often we just mask them and that takes energy in and of itself. Make a list of your grudges and commit time to reconcile each of them until they are gone. Soon you’ll feel like someone added minutes to your clock every day.

4. Take a 15-minute Humor Break

Laughter is a natural energizer. Those endorphins from chuckles are as good for you as a solid workout. Sign up for the joke of the day, or cruise YouTube for some funny videos. Grab some colleagues and have a joke pow-wow. You’ll lighten the atmosphere all around, and help everyone feel good about the rest of the day. This is a good one for 2:30 in the afternoon when the classic after lunch doze is coming on.

5. Take a 15-minute Walk

Sometimes we just need to get out. It doesn’t matter if the weather is hot, cold or rainy, getting up from that chair and computer can rejuvenate your body and your mind. Leave the smartphone behind as well. Stretch, breathe and take in the outdoors to feel refreshed and awake.

6. Read Something Fun During Lunch

A little escape is good to clear the mind and reset your energy. Short stories are my favorite for lunch breaks. Not only are they entertaining, but finishing one at lunch gives you a sense of completion which helps boost your confidence to get back and fight through the day. Try a classic like Mark Twain or Rudyard Kipling, and you’ll feel like you are doing something worthwhile with your time.

7. Resolve Any Conflicts With Your Boss or Colleagues

Concern over conflict can eat away at your attention and tire you quickly. Don’t hold back.  Confront issues head on. If you are open, empathetic, and diplomatic in your approach you may forge a closer bond that will make coming days easier to enjoy.

8. Do Something Nice For a Colleague

Energy is easily transmitted from person to person. This tip helps on so many levels. It’s energizing to think about someone else, the actual act of giving creates a natural high, and of course gratitude provides plenty of energy as well. Try this hat-trick every day for a week and feel the surprising buzz.

9. Call a Good Friend and Chat for 15 Minutes

Nothing perks up my day more than time with a close friend. Whether it’s quick catch up, or a chance to vent some of the day’s frustrations, this short, fun reconnect will recharge your batteries and give you the support required to battle any tough day. The best part is that you will give your friend the same benefit.

10. Make Sure Your Work Activity is Fulfilling

If you hate what you do then none of my suggestions and no amount of caffeine will energize you enough to grind out depressing workdays continuously. Find a way to get paid doing what you enjoy. No need to make yourself and everyone around you miserable. Life is short and you are entitled to enjoy every day of it.

http://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/super-charge-your-energy-at-work-10-ways.html?cid=em01016week52

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : December 17, 2012

MBS_chartMortgage bonds worsened last week, moving mortgage rates higher. Economic news was mostly positive and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) changed some of Wall Street expectations for future monetary policy.

Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate at 3.32 percent nationwide for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate was listed at 2.66 percent nationwide with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs.

Mortgage rates drop, according to Freddie MacBoth mortgage rates had climbed by week’s end, however. Mortgage rates made their best levels Monday afternoon. Between Tuesday and Friday, mortgage rates climbed.

Also last week, the National Association of Homebuilders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) reported 201 improving metropolitan economies nationwide. This index uses data including local employment statistics and home values to determine whether an area’s economy is “improving”.

76 new areas were added to the IMI list in December as compared to November. The geographic diversity the newly-added markets suggests an overall improvement in the national economy.

Last week’s major event, however, was the 2-day Federal Reserve meeting, which adjourned Wednesday.

The post-meeting press release after included the Fed’s commitment to hold the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent where it’s been since December 2008. However, the Fed announced a change to in its plans to raise the Fed Funds Rate from near-zero at a future date.

Previously, the Fed had said it would raise the Fed Funds Rate beginning in mid-2015. Now, the Fed says it will start to raise rates when the national unemployment rate reaches 6.5 percent.

This week, mortgage rates have a lot to move on including Housing Starts (Wednesday) and Existing Home Sales (Thursday) from the housing sector; Jobless Claims (Thursday) from the Labor Department; and a key inflation reading from the Department of Commerce. Each has the capability to move mortgage rates.

Markets will respond to Fiscal Cliff discussions, too.

Eight Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

1. GET RID OF YOUR COLLECTION ACCOUNTS.

Did you know that paying a collection account can actually reduce your score? Here’s why: credit scoring software reviews credit reports for each account’s date of last activity to determine the impact it will have on the overall credit score. When payment is made on a collection account, collection agencies update credit bureaus to reflect the account status as “Paid Collection”. When this happens, the date of last activity becomes more recent. Since the guideline for credit scoring software is the date of last activity, recent payment on a collection account damages the credit score more severely. This method of credit scoring may seem unfair, but it is something that must be worked around when trying to maximize your score. How is it possible to pay a collection and maximize your score? The best way to handle this credit scoring dilemma is to contact the collection agency and explain that you are willing to pay off the collection account under the condition that the all reporting is withdrawn from credit bureaus. Request a letter from the collector that explicitly states their agreement to delete the account upon receipt/clearance of your payment. Although not all collection agencies will delete reporting, removing all references to a collection account completely will increase your score and is certainly worth the involved effort.

2. GET RID OF YOUR PAST DUE ACCOUNTS.

Within the delinquent accounts on your credit report, there is a column called “Past Due”. Credit score software penalizes you for keeping accounts past due, so Past Dues destroy a credit score. If you see an amount in this column, pay the creditor the past due amount reported.

3. GET RID OF YOUR CHARGE­OFFS AND LIENS.

Charge­offs and liens barely affect your credit score when older than 24 months. Therefore, paying an older charge­off or a lien will neither help nor damage your credit score. Charge­offs and liens within the past 24 months severely damage your credit score. Paying the past due balance, in this case, is very important. In fact, if you have both charged­off accounts and collection accounts, but limited funds available, pay the past due balances first, then pay collection agencies that agree to remove all references to credit bureaus second.

4. GET RID OF YOUR LATE PAYMENTS.

Contact all creditors that report late payments on your credit and request a good faith adjustment that removes the late payments reported on your account. Be persistent if they refuse to remove the late payments at first, and remind them that you have been a good customer that would deeply appreciate their help. Since most creditors receive calls within a call center, if their representative refuses to make a courtesy adjustment on your account, call back and try again with someone else. Persistence and politeness pays off in this scenario. If you are frustrated, rude, and unclear with your request, you are making it very difficult for them to help you.

5. CHECK YOUR CREDIT LIMIT(S) AND EVENLY DISTRIBUTE THE BALANCES YOU ARE CARRYING.

Make sure creditors report your credit limits to bureaus. When no limit is reported, credit scoring software scores the account as though your current balance is “maxedout”. For example, if you know that you have a $10,000 limit on your credit card, make sure that the limit appears on the credit report. Otherwise, your score will be damaged as severely as if you were carrying a balance of the entire available credit. Credit scoring software likes to see you carry credit card balances as close to zero as possible. If it is difficult for you to pay down your balances, read the following guidelines to maximize your score as much as possible under the circumstances:

  • There are different degrees that scoring software can impact your score when carrying credit card balances.
  • Balances over 70% of your total credit limit on any card damages your score the most. The next level is 50% of your balance, then 30% of your balance.
  • In order to maximize your score without having to pay down your balances, evenly distribute your credit card balances among all of your credit cards, rather than carry a large balance on one credit card. For example, if you are carrying a $9000 balance on a credit card with a $10000 limit, and you have two other credit cards with a $3000 and $5000 limit, transfer your balances so that you have a $1500 balance on the $3000 limit card, a $2500 balance on the $5000 limit card and a $5000 balance on the $10000 limit card. Evenly distributing your balances will maximize your score.

6. DO NOT CLOSE YOUR CREDIT CARDS.

Closing a credit card can hurt your credit score, since doing so effects your debt to available credit ratio. For example, if you owe a total credit card debt of $10,000 and your total credit available is $20,000, you are using 50% of your total credit. If you close a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit, you will reduce your credit available to $15,000 and change your ratio to using 66% of your credit. There are caveats to this rule: if the account was opened within the past two years or if you have over six credit cards. The magic number of credit card accounts to have in order to maximize your score is between 3 and 5 (although having more will not significantly damage your score). For example, if a card was opened within the past two years and you have over six credit cards, you may close that account. If you have more than six department store cards, close the newest accounts. Otherwise, do not close any at all.

7. OPEN BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS.

Most business credit cards do not report to the personal credit report unless the person pays the card late. Given that fact, any debt carried on these cards does not hurt the credit score if it is not reported. You can carry credit card debt on these cards without hurting your credit score. Just apply for business credit cards now to start building this segment of your credit.

8. KEEP YOUR OLD CREDIT CARDS ACTIVE.

15% of your credit score is determined by the age of the credit file. Fair Isaac’s credit scoring software assumes people who have had credit for a longer time are at less risk of defaulting on payments. Therefore, even if your old credit cards have horrible interest rates, closing those cards will decrease the average length of time you’ve had credit. Use the old card at least once every six months to avoid the account rating to change to “Inactive”. Keeping the card active is as simple as pumping gas or purchasing groceries every few months, then paying the balance down. An inactive account is ignored by Fair Isaac’s credit scoring software, so you won’t get the benefit of the positive payment history and low balance that card may have. The one thing all credit reports with scores over 800 have in common is a credit card that is twenty years old or older. Hold onto those old cards, trust me! Preparing credit is a slow and time consuming process. Full knowledge of your credit profile and how it represents you to creditors and credit bureaus is pivotal to full credit restoration success. Credit bureaus always advise individuals that they have a right to dispute their own credit files, but when the rights of the Credit Bureaus slow you down, you know where to ask for help.

Homeownership as an Investment

by The KCM Crew on December 12, 2012

In Real Estate: Today’s Golden Opportunity we compared the current housing market to the market for gold about a decade ago. Some commented on the fact that you can’t compare gold to real estate as an investment as gold is a very liquid asset and it would take more time and effort to sell a house. We were not trying to make the case for real estate vs. gold as an investment in our blog. We were just showing that all investments go through cycles and that the best time to buy any investment may be when everyone is saying not to.

However, since the subject of comparing real estate to other investments has come up, let’s take a closer look. There are two major advantages to investing in a home of your own rather than another option:

You Can’t Live in Your IRA

When you buy your own home you are not taking available dollars away from another investment. You are replacing one housing expense (rent) which has no potential for a return on investment with another (mortgage payment) that does give you an opportunity for a return. We realize that there has been research showing that over the last 30 years renting has been less expensive than owning. That research also says that if you invested the entire difference between the rent payment and mortgage payment you may have done better financially. There are two challenges with this conclusion:

  1. Today, in the vast majority of the country, renting is actually more expensive than owning a home.
  2. History has proven that tenants DO NOT invest the difference in their rent and mortgage payments.

Today, studies show that owning a home is no more expensive than renting a home. However, even if this wasn’t the case, history shows that owning a home creates greater wealth.

Paying a mortgage creates what financial experts call ‘forced savings’. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University released a study last year titled America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities. In the study, they actually quantified the difference in family wealth between renters and homeowners:

“[R]enters have only a fraction of the net wealth of owners. Near the peak of the housing bubble in 2007, the median net wealth of homeowners was $234,600—about 46 times the $5,100 median for renters. Even if homeowner wealth fell back to 1995 levels, it would still be 27.5 times the median for renters.”

There Are Tremendous Tax Advantages to Investing in a Home

There is no doubt that selling an investment such as gold is easier than selling your home. However, this liquidity comes at a price. The price is called capital gains. That is the tax you pay on any financial gain you receive from the investment. This tax doesn’t apply the same way when you sell your primary residence:

Theresa Palagonia, a CPA and the Accounting Manager for the firm G.S. Garritano & Associates, was good enough to explain the Home Sale Exclusion Rules:

“You may qualify to exclude from your income all or part of any gain from the sale of your main home. 

Maximum Exclusion

You can exclude up to $250,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if all of the following are true:

  • You meet the ownership test.
  • You meet the use test.
  • During the 2 year period ending on the date of the sale, you did not exclude gain from the sale of another home.

If you and another person owned the home jointly but file separate returns, each of you can exclude up to $250,000 of gain from the sale of your interest in the home if each of you meets the three conditions listed above.

You may be able to exclude up to $500,000 of the gain on the sale of your main home if you are married and file a joint return and meet the requirements. (Special rules apply for joint returns.)

Ownership and Use Tests

During the 5 year period ending on the date of the sale, you must have:

  • Owned the home for at least 2 years, and
  • Lived in the home as your main home for at least 2 years

Certain exceptions exist in which you may qualify for the exclusion without satisfying the tests listed.”

Bottom Line

Every investment has pros and cons. That is why there is such an assortment of great opportunities. Real Estate has been, is and always will be one of those opportunities.

A Simple Trick for Being More Memorable

By Jessica Stillman

Inc.com article

Want to make sure that investor you met at a conference or networking event remembers you? Try this.

Being memorable isn’t hard. But being memorable without seeming like a crackpot or a shameless self-promoter is trickier.

Sure, showing up with a ridiculous hat or boasting about your many, many amazing accomplishments will probably ensure that most folks you meet, no matter how busy they are, will remember you. The obvious downside, though, is they will remember you for being insane, ill dressed, or simply annoying.

But perhaps one can channel the same principle that makes the oddly attired and bizarrely brash stand out in our minds. That’s according to a tidbit of wisdom in the business book Dinosaur Brains: Dealing With All Those Impossible People at Work unearthed by Farnam Street, a consistently interesting blog dedicated to hunting down just these sorts of fascinating ideas in out-of-the-way places.

People are more memorable when their names and faces are linked to stories or experiences. The more associations your new contact has for you, the more likely you will get permanently lodged in his or her long-term memory. This, according to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, is the same technique author Joshua Foer used to learn an obscure African language in all of 22 hours–he associated vocabulary with elaborate images or stories, making it easier to recall.

How can you put this insight to use at your next business function? Dinosaur Brains spells it out:

Assume that when people think of you, they will store your name, a mental picture of you, a few words they associate with you and a few stories about your behavior. From this they will make all the decisions they have to make about you.

Name association is a good start for promoting yourself because you can do it in a self-deprecating way. Decide what you want people to remember when they think of you. Then say things about yourself that create those images.

You can say,

“I’m just an old war-horse. I’ve been around here forever.”

or

“Back in 1967, when I started managing in this division …”

In short, give people pithy and relevant context to help them remember you, and their memory banks are more likely to light up for the right reasons when you follow up later on. (According to 42Floors founder Jason Freedman, it also doesn’t hurt to simply remind busy people of the context in which you met them.)

What other nifty tricks do you use to be memorable?

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist, among others. @EntryLevelRebel