Stay Healthy and Wealthy

When you make those New Year’s resolutions, you’re thinking about fresh starts and the year ahead. What you might not realize is that some resolutions also could save money. Here are some popular resolutions that could help get you and your finances in shape in 2017.

Quit smoking: You can save money by stopping a pack-a-day habit, which can cost between $1,825 and $3,650 per year, depending on the cost of cigarettes in your area. Nationally, a pack-a-day smoker is going to spend an average of $2,000 annually on cigarette costs.

Set up and stick to a realistic budget: If you want to resolve to stick to a budget in 2017, you must start with a realistic plan. People tend to make financial resolutions the same way they do a weight loss plan. If you start with lofty goals they will be unachievable within a month. List your priorities for spending rather than restricting your spending. Focus on necessary expenses then include a certain amount for retirement savings. Then with the remaining money you have each month, set aside a little for enjoyment. It’s critical you have rewards in your budget.

Exercise regularly: You’ll save money in several ways with regular exercise. On average, Americans are spending $7,800 annually on health care, according to the National Association of Health Underwriters. But exercise brings real savings. “If people are eating right and exercising three times a week for 20 minutes a day, they see prescription costs decrease by 70 percent and medical costs decrease by 30 percent,” says Ric Edelman of Edelman Financial Services. Stop spending money recklessly: One of the best ways to stop spending your money recklessly is to track where it is going each month. Check with your credit union and download their free mobile budgeting app that shows expenditures by category so you can monitor your spending. A great way to get your spending under control is quit trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. If you want to fix your bad spending habits in 2017 start hanging out with other spendthrifts because you will likely become one yourself.

Eat healthier: A healthy eating plan can be as — or more — economical than fast food. It’s a total myth that eating healthy is expensive. Buy smaller but leaner cuts of meat, eat protein-rich beans and buy produce in season when it’s freshest and least expensive. A smaller amount of a leaner cut can slice your food bill and your bad cholesterol.

Build an emergency fund: Nothing takes the stress out of financial situation like spare cash. If you are among the millions of Americans that don’t have enough money set aside to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies, then you should resolve to build one in 2017. Experts recommend putting enough money in a savings account to cover six months’ worth of expenses in case of unexpected emergencies like job loss, maternity leave or medical issues. You can always apply a small amount of your paycheck towards this account, so you make sure it is hidden from you.

Pay off high-interest debt: Paying down credit card debt is one of the most popular short-term goals in 2017. Try focusing on paying off your high-interest credit card debt before other debts because it is more expensive. And, it you are motivated by seeing those results first hand, start by paying off your card with the lowest balance first so you can feel that sense of accomplishment. Create your estate plan: An important 2017 resolution would be to tie up any financial loose ends for your loved ones so they aren’t left trying to pick up the pieces. Make sure you have a will or trust that designates who’s in control of your assets. You certainly don’t want the state court system to make that decision for you. Don’t forget to designate a guardian for your children, and someone who will make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Develop common financial goals with your partner: Many times finances are the biggest source of conflict between couples. It’s important that couples sit down and create a financial plan. It doesn’t usually work to try and manage their finances separately.

Any of these resolutions can help improve your financial security in 2017. I suggest tackling one financial tip each month so you don’t get overwhelmed. Then as you get accustomed to the new approach to spending and saving, add another. By the time 2017 starts dwindling toward 2018, you will find you’ve made progress on achieving your financial goals.

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The Future of Android Games, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

Mobile gaming has come a very long way since the introduction of crude & simple games like Snake and Pong which were available on early Nokia phones. Mobile processors and graphics are now as powerful as desktop computers were just a few years ago. Older generations still remember lugging around a Game Boy or Game gear and begging their parents for another game. New generations literally have access to 100’s of thousands of games on their mobile device.

In short, mobile gaming has exploded in just a few years time. In the month of July 2016 there were 63.1 million arcade games downloaded & games in the “strategy” category generated $195M revenue. In a recent study over 37% of mobile app users with 30 minutes of free time choose to play games over any other activity. We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it ourselves, whether its waiting for an appointment or sitting at the airport, we pull out our mobile device and jump into a quick game to kill the time.

So what does all of this mean for the future of android gaming? For starters, the massive amounts of revenue and user interest in android gaming has bolstered continuous innovation and fierce competition in the global marketplace. For example, just 12 months ago, top executives were saying they didn’t see any major benefit to augmented reality. With the release of Pokemon Go and estimates citing as much as $500 million in revenue in just 60 days, I think we can all agree augmented reality is here to stay. Virtual reality is another area that has been picking up steam in recent months. You can now buy virtual reality headsets at local gas stations for a mere $30. Or if you’re on a budget you can purchase Google Cardboard for as little as $7.00. There are still only a limited number of VR enabled games but that number is increasing daily. Not only that, as more and more people experience VR we are sure to see a blockbuster release sooner or later.

Let’s take a look at some real life examples of recent game releases. Dawn of Titans which was recently released on Google Play was in development for over 2 years. This is akin to the development cycle of a mid-level PC game release on Steam. The game features mass controlled troops, world building elements and impressive graphics. A few years ago this would be considered a major release for the Android platform. These days this is just another drop in the massive pond. With over 2.4 million apps and games currently listed on Google Play it’s become harder and harder to stand out. This is actually good news for gamers as developers are working harder and faster to create new innovative titles to attract users.

I firmly believe that both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) titles are going to gain more traction in 2017. Major developers who can pump out triple A content can’t be left in the dust while indie developers pump out AR and VR enabled games. They will be forced to port existing titles and come up exciting new ways to interact with the mobile devices.

There are many gimmicky games available that utilize the phones microphone, gyroscope, camera and accelerometer. However, these sensors combined with AR and VR could bring a whole new experience to gamers. Imagine walking through a recreated 3D world that represents your neighbourhood, immersed in full virtual reality, and using your phone as a targeting device to defend against waves of zombies. This is already possible with the technology that is available, it just needs to be packaged in a user friendly way that people can enjoy. Combining meticulous graphics with well thought out virtual reality experiences would be impressive indeed. If you’re familiar with PC based virtual reality demo’s you already know how immersive the experience can be. It’s only a matter of time before these same experiences make their way to our mobile devices en masse. And to think, only 30 years ago we were playing Mario on our beloved Nintendo consoles. Let’s not even mention the Virtual Boy that burned your eyes after 2 minutes of playing tennis. Android games and mobile games in general have come a long ways since then and they will continue to push barriers even further in the near future.

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Whither the World’s Fair?

The moniker “Expo 2017” is currently being bandied about in North America. In the US, various optimists, often plain vanilla citizens like you and me, have launched web sites and forums promoting a return of the world’s fair–or Expo 2017 in this case–to America. In Canada, at least four cites and/or organizations have recently promoted the idea of an “expo”, with one of the first efforts publicly unveiled in Montreal in 2007.

In America, the idea of a world’s fair–an officially sanctioned one, that is, will conceivably remain a distant dream until Washington comes to its diplomatic senses and rejoins the Bureau of International Expositions, or BIE–the governing body in Paris which awards world’s fairs in much the same fashion as the IOC decides who gets to hold the next Olympic Games. Just like the Olympics, an aspiring world’s fair applicant is required to invest a considerable amount of energy and expense putting together a bid, and, of course, impressing the appropriate officials. Unless, perhaps, you’re the city of New York which, after a clash with French dignitaries, decided to hold its 1964/1965 World’s Fair without BIE approval. At the time, superpower America had enough clout that many of the nations who were subsequently prohibited by the BIE from participating decided to show up anyway, posing as trade and tourist organizations.

Right after New York, and only a skip across the border, the city of Montreal staged what is often considered to be the most successful (and BIE approved) world’s fair of all time. Set on a sprawling venue of two man-made islands and a peninsula in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, Expo 67 introduced a number of technological and cultural “firsts”–including the now ubiquitous moniker “expo” itself.

There are “expos” for everything now, from computers to kitty litter, while the mighty world’s fair that spawned these cheap imitations hasn’t been seen in North America for decades. Even if a city here managed to secure an official bid for “Expo 2017” it would be for a much smaller affair, a “recognized” expo limited by the BIE to 25 hectares exhibition area. That’s because there have always been two types of world’s fairs, a very large one (a “universal expo”) and, in-between, a smaller one (a “special expo”)–both of which are now, respectively, called “registered” and “recognized” fairs. In 2017, unfortunately, only the smaller recognized expo is allowed.

Nevertheless, I would argue that the world’s fair not only needs a major boost in North America, but that North America desperately needs another world’s fair. No other event has the collective potential to attract a huge audience to the latest cultural and scientific endeavours humankind has to offer. With our planet in the precarious state we have put it in, and North America no longer as influential and respected as it used to be, a world’s fair, properly staged and presented with the latest social and environmental initiatives, could be the political and technological beacon of hope this continent is yearning for. Of course, that might mean that Expo 2017 would need to encompass a great deal more than 25 hectares exhibition area and would need to address a lot more than the narrowly restricted theme (the fair’s purpose) officially allowed by the BIE for a smaller “recognized” expo. This could be done, with a little creative thinking (and without resorting to New York’s 1964 strategy), but that’s for another article to address.

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Resort Wear Trends

A style of clothing for affluent women who jet set to warm-weather climates post-Christmas, resort wear is in itself a fashion season. Spectacular destinations of the wealthy host champagne sipping water-side activities that requires donning the best of the best. Because if you’re someone, you’re wearing someone.

So what kind of apparel and swimwear is in store for 2017 resort wear?

The Lingerie Look
Sexy black lace swimwear, cover ups and resort apparel are said to rule the resort wear runway for 2017 collections. Think honeymoon meets yacht party, bring the bedroom to the beach. Opposite of the daringly sexy black lace look, you may see some white crochet swimsuits and cover ups as well. The trend is sexy peek-a-boo of skin for a demure feminine and more playful look. Festival Inspired
Festival wear, whether you love it or not, is not going anywhere. With Coachella, Stage Coach and new music festivals popping up all over the world, fashion is looking to cloth the celebrities who love festival music. The resort festival look is elevated with decorative fringe, Grecian goddess inspired straps, pretty palm tree prints, amethyst-colored tie dye that would make you reminiscence of that staple Farrah Fawcett hair, and rich feather prints for a Native American princess look. Festival swimwear pieces will look gorgeous at the pool, and even more so at the next music festival. Never grunge though. Only festival glam is acceptable.

Embellishments
Eye-catching, attention grabbing, glitz and glam. Resort wear and swimwear trends for 2017 are all about the embellishments. Think large jewel details and golden hardware that sparkle in the sun. Solid print bikinis need unique and stunning embellishments such as these to set them apart. The affluent never lead boring lives and their clothing reflect just that point. These luxury swimwear and apparel pieces are evocative of the finer things in life and meant to be pedigree proof. Getting Cheeky
Ladies and gentlemen, the cheeky bottom has arrived. The new swimsuit bottom trend will be a hybrid of the traditional bikini bottom and a thong-like look. Potentially scandalous in previous decades, this new bathing suit bottom is a new standard of bikini wear in an era of equal pay and titles. Fashion takes its cues from worldly headlines and happenings, and this trend is no different. The cheeky bikini bottom provides just enough coverage while simultaneously adding that alluring sex appeal to bring out the highest degree of confidence from every woman.

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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