Friday, September 7, 2007

Have a Blast Visiting Central Park, New York

When going on a tourist trip to New York, the sheer amount of things to tick off the list seems staggering, especially in terms of places to go. The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, perhaps taking a visit to watch stockbrokers yelling at each other on the trading floors of the New York Stock Exchange - it all adds up. So why not take a break by visiting Central Park to recharge your batteries?

The mere concept of Central Park is quite amazing - a landscaped park area, measuring 843 acres (twice as large as Monaco and eight times as big as Vatican city), the park lies slap-bang in the centre of the borough of Manhattan - one of the most expensive property areas in the world, second only to central Tokyo. The value of the land Central Park occupies is estimated at nearly $529 billion, making it by far the most expensive area of parkland in the world.

Whilst much of the area looks like natural wooded grassland, the entire park is in fact painstakingly and exquisitely landscaped. The park contains many attractions, including several natural lakes with fondly-given nicknames, many walking trails, a wildlife sanctuary, a large open area devoted to sporting pursuits, two ice-skating rinks and many playgrounds for children. Additionally, the area is hugely popular with native New York joggers, being the only open area for miles across the Manhattan borough.

Many professional races are run in and through the park, including sections of the New York Marathon. This finishes inside Central Park next to Tavern on the Green, an extremely famous restaurant that's featured in such films as Wall Street and Ghostbusters.

But sport is not the only activity for which Central Park is most cherished - entertainment is also very high up the list, with many famous music acts having performed concerts there throughout the years, including legendary performances from Simon and Garfunkel and Dave Matthews Band.

Central Park has it's own fair share of talent and celebrity too - local folk singer/songwriter David Ippolito, more often known by his usual moniker of "That Guitar Guy From Central Park", has been regularly performing every summer weekend in the park since 1992 and regularly draws crowds of up to 500 people, locals and tourists alike. In fact, such is his love for Central Park, it is the only place he ever performs.

So when you're on holiday, take a little time off from the clamour of Fifth Avenue and Times Square. You'll be able to find a range of hotels near Central Park from which you'll be able to access the area's tranquillity with ease and spend some quiet time revelling in the more laidback side of the hectic Big Apple lifestyle.

Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen amateur photographer. His portfolio, called Capquest Photography is available to view online.

Where Should I Put My Savings? Different Types of Investment Accounts

In the big world of investing, it seems we hear a lot about what securities to invest in, but not as much about what types of accounts to invest in. There are so many different types of investment accounts, each covering a different purpose, and new types of accounts seem to be created weekly. What are some of the basic types of investment accounts and what can they do for you? This article covers some of the accounts that are available currently and why you would use each one.

Retirement Accounts

IRA stands for Individual Retirement Account. An IRA is meant for those who do not have access to employer sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k) plans or those who would like to contribute more than the maximum allowed by their employer plans. Why choose an IRA? Tax-deferred growth is the answer. With a standard savings account, you have to pay taxes on the interest or earnings that the account makes each year. An IRA, on the other hand, doesn't require you to pay taxes until the money is taken out in retirement, thus leaving more money in the account to grow each year. In many instances you can also deduct your IRA contributions on your taxes, giving you further tax savings. It seems like a small thing especially when the account balance is still small, but over time it makes a big difference. Investing $10,000 for 30 years in a regular savings account with a 28% tax bracket and a 6% average growth rate will give you $35,565 whereas that same amount put into a tax-deferred account will give you $57,435. Eventually, however, you do have to pay taxes on the earnings in your IRA, but you are still left with $44,153 after taxes are paid. Your net gain for tax-deferred growth is just over $8500.

Another individual plan is a Roth IRA. It is somewhat similar to a traditional IRA but the difference is that you cannot deduct the contributions and the earnings grow tax-free instead of tax-deferred. This type of plan is good for someone with a longer timeframe to invest or those whose tax bracket in retirement will be close to or higher than their current tax rate. Tax-free growth means that you don't have to pay taxes on any of the earnings in the account. If we start with $10,000 and invest it for 30 years at 6% growth like our example above, you would be left with $57,435. None of that money has to have taxes paid on it since the initial $10,000 already had taxes taken out and the earnings grew tax-free. Before you wonder why anyone would not automatically use a Roth IRA, consider the fact that the initial $10,000 investment wasn't tax deductible like it was for the traditional IRA above. With a 28% tax bracket, the Roth paid $2,800 on its initial $10,000 investment. If we look at the growth potential of $2,800 for 30 years in a tax-deferred account, it grows to $16,082. So, in this person's situation where their tax bracket is the same in retirement as it is while working with a 6% rate of growth, a Roth wouldn't be the best option. The Roth would only grow to $57,435 - $16,082 = $41,353 when all taxes are taken into consideration while the traditional IRA would grow to $44,153. There are several online calculators that can estimate which type of IRA would be to your advantage. Search under Roth vs. Traditional IRA for more information and calculators to determine the best account for you.

In addition to individual plans there are also employer-sponsored plans. SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA and Keogh plans are in between Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts and the standard employer sponsored plans such as 401(k)'s. SEP's, SIMPLE's and Keogh's are for self employed individuals or small companies that need to put aside more money than a standard IRA allows but aren't large enough to warrant the expense of a 401(k) plan. Each plan allows both employee and employer contributions. Each has set maximums between $6,000 and $30,000, depending on the plan and the contributor, and each has tax incentives for both the employer and the employee. These plans are great for small businesses to be able to set aside money for themselves and their employees and not have to go through the time and expense of larger employer sponsored plans.

The last type of retirement plans are employer sponsored plans. When it comes to retirement, it seems everyone knows the term 401(k). This is because a 401(k) is the retirement plan of choice for medium and large companies. In 2006, the maximum contribution to a 401(k) is $15,000. If you are over fifty and your employer offers the 401(k) "catch-up" contribution, you can contribute up to $5,000 more, so $20,000 total. Your employer may also contribute to your 401(k) plan which generally doesn't decrease your contribution allowance. Originally, 401(k) plans were only offered to for-profit companies. Those who worked for non-profit companies such as charities, schools, universities and hospitals weren't able to contribute to 401(k) plans but were able to open 403(b) plans which allowed most of the same contribution limits as a 401(k). Government or public employees often used 457(b) plans for their contributions and for highly compensated employees there are 457(f) plans. This eventually changed to where 401(k) plans are now available to non-profit companies so more and more of the non-profit sector are opening 401(k) plans for their employees. Taxes on these types of plan can vary from one plan to another, so it is best to consult your plan director or talk with the investment company that manages your employers plan.

Education Savings Plans

Education plans have become available in the past decade allowing parents to better save for their children's education. Instead of trying to set money aside in taxable savings accounts, parents can now setup an education savings account that has various tax advantages depending upon the type of account used. Choosing an education savings account depends upon what your long-term goals are for the money. There are three basic types of education savings accounts, IRC section 529 plans, the Coverdell Education Savings Account (CESA) and the Uniform Gift to Minors Account (UGMA). Each plan is tailored a little differently when it comes to its tax advantages and who gets the money from each plan, but each has the same general purpose, to save for your children or grandchildren's future.

Medical Savings Accounts

There are three different types of accounts to help you save for healthcare costs, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA). The first of these, Flexible Spending Accounts are also called section 125 plans or "cafeteria plans." This plan allows participants to put pre-tax money into the account each year to cover health insurance deductibles, co-payments, dental care and other medical expenses. Cafeteria plan money cannot accumulate from year to year, however, so it needs to be used up in one year or it will be gone. The second type of medical savings account is a Health Reimbursement Arrangement. It is similar to an FSA but the employer contributes to the account instead of the employee.

The employer can make contributions contingent on an employee participating in designated health and wellness programs. In June 2002 it was updated to allow funds to rollover from year to year, but it cannot be rolled over from employer to employer so if you change employers, you loose the accrued benefit. The last and most recently created plan is a Health Savings Account. This plan enables employees with high-deductible health insurance plans to set aside and invest money to use to pay the deductibles or other healthcare costs in the future.

These plans are designed to put healthcare decisions more into the hands of the employees. These plans are also portable so they move with you when you change employers and they can be rolled over from year to year.

Other Accounts

For those who are just looking to invest, a brokerage account is the medium to use. Brokerage accounts are setup through investment companies to allow you to purchase securities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money markets, options, etc. Generally the money sits in a "core" account such as a money market until you are ready to invest it in other securities. There are fees for purchasing many securities which vary depending on the company that the account is setup with. Brokerage accounts can also offer check writing, debit and ATM cards for easier access to money in the account. Since there are no tax-advantages of a brokerage account, money can be withdrawn at any time from the core account. These accounts are perfect for additional savings that you want to invest in the stock market.

The standard savings account is probably what everyone is most familiar with. Offered by any bank, a savings account allows you to set money aside and receive a variable or fixed interest rate depending upon the account. Savings accounts are very liquid and can be withdrawn at any time, but they don't allow check writing capabilities. Most savings accounts now days do offer ATM cards. Certificates of Deposit or CD's are types of savings accounts that require money to be left in for a certain period of time in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate, these accounts are less liquid and there is generally a fee to take the money out before the predetermined period of time.

Whatever the reason or account used to set aside money, it is always a good thing. Savings in any form creates a more secure financial future and allows for problems or emergencies to be taken care of without having to obtain loans or dip into less liquid savings such as a home or other physical assets. Opening up any of the above types of accounts gets you started on the right track towards savings.

Copyright 2006 Emma Snow

Emma Snow is a writer who specializes in financial planning. She has worked in the financial industry for over eight years. Currently Emma works on a Finance and Investing site at and Investing Partners

Forex - Trade The Non-Farm Payroll Report for Super Profits

Many investors in the foreign-exchange (FOREX) market trade only at or around the time of the release of the U.S. Non-farm Payroll Report (NFP). They are attracted by the volatility of currencies - particularly the major pairs involving the U.S. dollar - that occur during that time. Investors relying on this and other financial news events for their trading activity are referred to as news traders. Many others, while perhaps utilizing other methods of trading are sure to include the NFP on their trading calendars. Let's find out why so many traders are interested in this report.

The NFP comes out once per month, typically on the first Friday at 8:30 a.m., New York time. On occasion, it will come out on the second Friday of the month rather than the first, but always at the same hour of the day. The U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for the compilation and release of the report, which is kept secret until the official time for release arrives. The report contains data regarding unemployment in non-agricultural sectors of the U.S. economy. Incidentally, other industrialized countries also publish some semblance of this type of report. Simply put, if the numbers published in the NFP represent a major revision of the estimates previously made, the market response is likely to be quite pronounced.

The reaction to the anticipated NFP data on the part of traders world-wide, in terms of buying and selling activity, generally causes the price of the U.S. dollar to spike up or down. This usually happens the very moment the report becomes public. Sometimes, the spike occurs early, i.e. within the minute immediately preceding the 8:30 a.m. release. Although less frequently, it has also been observed that the spike can occur up to 15 or 20 minutes after the release of the report.

Other regular financial reports can also move currency prices, but are not as consistently dramatic or dynamic as the NFP in their result. Within the past couple of years, the range of movement in the price of the U.S. dollar as a result of the NFP has usually been between 50 and 90 pips in one general direction. Re-tracement, i.e. movement of the price back toward the original price, often provides additional trading opportunities. Many traders experience returns ranging from 5 to 20 percent from this one report alone.

Why does the NFP stand out in its ability to move the market? The NFP is published by the government of the United States as an official statement of what the U.S. economy is doing. Based on the contents of the report, the measurement of the health of the country is viewed in terms of its employment situation. Many scholars and traders alike view the employment situation in a country as a leading indicator of how things are economically with that country. If the employment situation is bleak, so must be its general economy. A weak economy invariably spells bad news for the currency of that particular country.

One must acknowledge and appreciate that the U.S. dollar has always generated a lot of interest among traders world-wide. Known for its liquidity, relative stability, and being backed by the worlds largest economy (at least until China takes the number one spot as expected in 2026), the greenback is often accepted as payment for goods and services all around the world. This is true even where it is not the official currency in a given jurisdiction. It is one of the relative few currencies known as hard currency, in the global financial realm. It is always in the spotlight as a global player.

Recent times have seen the U.S. dollar in a weakening trend in comparison to other currencies. Undoubtedly, global events including the U.S. involvement in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have contributed to the dim view shared by some regarding the value of the dollar. On the other hand, some see it as a good opportunity for U.S. corporations, large and small, to export goods and services to other countries. This may result in a rebound of the dollar in the long term.

Various strategies have been devised to take advantage of the tendency of the market prices to spike during the time of the NFP news release. As one might expect, some strategies work better than others. More and more vendors and programmers are developing and selling automated software to traders interested in the fast-paced environment surrounding the release of the NFP. The price range of such software can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Of course, manually trading the NFP can still be done successfully as many traders are proving. Regardless of the method or strategy, many in the trading world will continue to pay attention to the NFP and utilize its release as one of the greatest regular and recurring opportunities for trading in the FOREX market.

If you are ready to change your future by stepping into the exciting world of trading FOREX, go to for more information. Sandy Robinson, J.D. is part of the Winning Traders Association, an educational organization founded by John Beiler, President. The organization consists of a network of committed trainers and motivated traders willing to provide support to those interested in trading foreign exchange. Many of the members work from home.
Sandy Robinson, J.D.
Copyright 2007