Monday, December 28, 2009

$1 Million: Does It Still Mean You're Rich?

by Douglas Rice

Becoming a millionaire used to mean you were on top of the world. Nowadays, it means you are climbing up the ladder. While a million dollars is completely out of reach for many people, it's just a step along the way for many others. Why? Because it doesn't go as far as it used to.

The term millionaire has been synonymous with being rich ever since we became a country. The person most often credited to be the first American millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby, made his fortune as a privateer during the American revolution. Back then a millionaire did really mean rich.

Also, we all love round numbers. We love to see 1999 become 2000, and our odometer roll over to 100,000 miles. So it's only natural we would fixate on $1,000,000. It's a milestone with a lot of zeros. It's even got an additional comma. Now that's rich -- having two commas in your net worth!  But what does that get you? Not as much as you would think.


Housing is where most people hold their largest chunk of wealth and with real estate falling considerably in many areas, some might think that the lifestyle a million dollars would provide would be luxurious. But that depends on where you live.

There are plenty of nice places to live that don't cost very much, but according to the California Association of Realtors, the median house price in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Manhattan Beach and Cupertino is over $1 million. The median price for the entire San Francisco Bay Area tops $500,000 and Orange County is right behind at just under that. And those are just averages, not even something special. While other areas of the country aren't nearly this expensive, being a millionaire in some areas just means you paid off the mortgage.


Another aspect of becoming a millionaire is not working. If you had a $1 million right now, could you retire and would your money last? This is a simple calculation. If you want to try to live off the interest and you invest the money in tax exempt municipal bonds that pay 4 percent, then you would have $40,000 a year to live on.

But that doesn't account for inflation going forward. If $1 million today doesn't feel like much, imagine what it will feel like in 30 years. At 3 percent inflation compounding for the next 30 years, $1 million dollars will have the purchasing power of $412,000 today and your $40,000 income will feel like $16,500. So retiring when you have $1 million may sound nice, but it's likely that it won't be what many people have in mind when they think of retiring a millionaire.

Instead of living on the interest, you could tap into the principal as well. Those are slightly more difficult calculations. For example, if you were 50 years old right now and wanted to plan for your money to last until you were 95, then you need money for 45 years in retirement. If you stick with the 4 percent return, then you could withdraw about $48,000 a year. Again this doesn't account for inflation going forward. Each year if prices rise, your standard of living would fall. In this example, you have 45 years of prices going up at 3 percent. So that last year will feel like $12,600 does today.

Combining Retirement and Real Estate

If we factor in a house, this gets even worse. If we take the price for a house out of the $1 million, even in a reasonable area and not San Francisco, it's going to be a big piece of your net worth and cut into your funds for retirement. For example, if you bought a nice $250,000 home, you would only have $750,000 left to live on. At 4 percent that would be $30,000 a year or $2,500 a month. That's before inflation takes a bit every year.

These retirement calculations show that even if your house is paid off, that living off a million dollars isn't what it's cracked up to be. And if your house isn't paid off, it's probably not even close to what you want to do.

Bottom Line

So the bad news is that even if you fall into a million dollars, you probably aren't set for life, especially if you are young. But the good news is, you'll still be a millionaire, and that's better than the alternative.

Make $30 an Hour Without a Four-Year Degree

by Thea Nyberg,

For job seekers without a four-year degree, breaking the $25-an-hour barrier can be a challenge. But with more technical certification and associate's degree programs than ever, many well-paying career options are accessible in a broad range of industries.

The following is a list of lucrative careers for those without a four-year degree, presented with median annual salary data from That figure is then broken down to an hourly rate by dividing by 2080, the typical number of working hours in a year, according to PayScale.

1. Sales director
"If you are interested in a career change, but do not want to commit to further education, consider a sales career," says Sharon Reed Abboud, the author of "All Moms Work, Short-Term Career Strategies for Long-Range Success." Sales directors oversee sales staff to help meet objectives, plan and implement sales programs, and work to maintain budgets, among many other duties. While formal training is not a requirement for this position, sales experience and an outgoing personality are vital, according to Abboud. "Successful sales persons can often have the opportunity to climb the career ladder to increasingly lucrative management positions," she explains.

Sales director: $91,900/ $44 per hour

2. Security administrators, computer network
"As technology increases its reach, cyber crime is becoming a major concern for companies," says Debra Yergen, author of the "Creating Job Security Resource Guide." Security administrators work to prevent, troubleshoot, and repair security breaches while educating network users on cyber safety. Certification or relevant experience is essential to entry to this field, especially in absence of a four-year degree.

Security administrators, computer network: $72,000/ $35 per hour

3. Elevator installer/repairer
Elevator assembly, installation and maintenance are the main responsibilities of this position. Participating in an apprenticeship program coupled with paid on-the-job training is the standard, and workers must pass a licensing exam. Union membership is typically required by employers, and unions can help to ensure "an excellent salary, benefits, and pension," says Marky Stein, author of "Get a Great Job When You Don't Have a Job."

Elevator installer/repairer: $67,100/ $32 per hour

4. Real estate broker
Usually commission-based, real estate brokers' salaries are sensitive to shifts in the economy. Despite the current real estate market, Yergen predicts "resurgence in salary in 2010 with the extension of the housing tax credit." Brokers are tasked with understanding real estate markets, performing transactions, and advising buyers on their financing options. Additionally, real estate brokers must pass a written exam and maintain a license.

Real estate broker: $65,400/ $31 per hour

5. Nuclear medicine technologist
"Nuclear medicine technologists administer a type of drug called radiopharmaceuticals to patients and create diagnostic images that ultimately determine the presence of a disease," explains Yergen. With an increasingly large middle-aged and elderly population and advances in technology, job growth for nuclear medicine technologists is likely to remain steady. A certificate or an associate's degree is needed, and a license is a requirement for many employers and states.

Nuclear medicine technologist: $64,100/ $31 per hour

6. Radiation therapist
Administering radiation treatment to cancer patients is the main role of a radiation therapist. "As radiation therapists continue to be a critical part of the medical radiation oncology team, it will translate into an uptick of jobs," predicts Yergen. There is also room for personal advancement in this field, with opportunities that include teaching and research. Training through an associate's degree or certification program is necessary, and a license is required in many states.

Radiation therapist: $63,500 / $31 per hour

7. Construction manager
Construction managers oversee the construction of structures, facilities, and systems, and are often on call around the clock. On-the-job construction experience and/or completing a construction management certification program provide entry to this position.

Construction manager: $63,400/ $30 per hour

8. Air traffic controller
"As an air traffic controller, your job will be dedicated to keeping the skies safe. It is a very demanding and rewarding occupation." says Abboud. Providing an essential role in aviation, air traffic controllers ensure that planes maintain a safe distance between each other and help to coordinate efficient scheduling.

With most positions employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), air traffic controllers must complete a FAA-approved education program and pass a pre-employment test.

Air traffic controller: $63,000/ $30 per hour

9. Video game designer
Video game designers create the storyline and structure of a video game and determine the rules of play. They typically need to possess an understanding of software design and computer programming, and a degree or certification from a technical school can provide an advantage. Although currently at a point of high popularity, video games tend to go through phases of increased and decreased popularity, cautions Yergen.

Video game designer: $62,300/ $30 per hour

10. MRI technologist
MRI technologists train in programs available through hospitals, colleges and universities to earn a certificate or associate's degree. With more doctors' offices and clinics providing diagnostic services, demand is higher than ever, says Yergen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Health care will generate 3 million new wage and salary jobs between 2006 and 2016, more than any other industry."

MRI technologist: $61,000/ $29 per hour

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Job-Search Rules to Break This Minute

by: Liz Ryan

Old-school job-search advice is the worst. We read and hear it everywhere, yet no one can trace its source. Who made up the rule that we can't use "I" in a resume, for instance? What's worse is that most traditional job-seeking advice doesn't work.

Here are my top 10 most useless job-search rules to break as soon as you get a chance:

1. Never use "I" in your resume.

We've been taught to write a resume like a stiff government document. No one wants to read something like that. "I" is a perfectly wonderful word to use when you're talking about yourself. An HR person who writes in his resume summary, "I'm passionate about helping employees succeed on the job" is stepping out of the formal protocol to tell an employer, "Here's what kind of HR person I am." That's a big plus, not a minus.

2. Never make it obvious (on LinkedIn, for instance) that you're job-seeking.

Poppycock! If you don't include something in your LinkedIn "headline" (the line just under your name) to tell employers and others that you're looking, they'll assume you're employed and they won't reach out to you. A headline like "Start-up Marketing Manager Seeking Next Challenge" gives people a reason to contact you if they've got a job opening. That's free marketing for you. Grab it!

3. Your cover letter should be conversational, while your resume should be formal.

Who says it has to be this way? Lots of hiring managers skip the cover letter entirely. Your resume has to make it clear what you're about, so it has to brim with as much of the brand You as it possibly can. Ditch the "results-oriented professional" for weightier bullets like, "I got our X-25 product out the door six months early to add $10M in quarterly sales." Write a conversational resume summary statement that's free of boring boilerplate like "strong work ethic."

If you're not stuffy yourself, why portray yourself that way in your resume?

4. If you can reach an HR person inside the company, you're ahead of the game.

I wish this were true, but as a 20-year HR leader I must tell you that most HR people are not focused on screening people in -- their role is to screen job-seekers out. You're better off forgetting about HR and finding the hiring manager in the company, either through your network, your LinkedIn connections, or by researching this person and contacting him or her directly.

5. When you're asked for salary requirements, quote the lowest number you can.

Here is more horrible advice that will get you a low-ball job offer, if you get one at all. When you're asked for a salary requirement, give a realistic figure that takes into account what other companies are paying people (right now, not three years ago) with your skills. If you don't have that information, use and to get a bead on it.

6. In a job interview, talk as much of the time as you can.

Here's why you don't want to do this. When you're talking, you're not learning. Your goal on a job interview is to learn as much as possible about the business pain behind the job ad. The more you learn, the smarter and more targeted your interview responses can be. When you have a chance to ask the interviewer a question, take it!

7. On a job interview, make sure the interviewer knows you're perfect for the job.

You won't know what "perfect for the job" means to a job interviewer unless you ask thoughtful questions and get the interviewer talking. Saying "I'm perfect for the job" is pointless until you understand what problem this new hire is intended to solve. Save the self-praise ("I'm smart and strategic") and use your interview airtime minutes sharing concrete, relevant stories about your accomplishments instead.

8. Ask the interviewer, "Can I have the job?"

This is an old-school sales closing technique that typically doesn't work, but does annoy and even repel job interviewers who have heard this pitch a few million times before. If you're going after a sales job, this approach might work, but the rest of you want to leave with a smile and the confidence that you put your best foot forward. If you're really perfect for the job, then you'll hear from them. Groveling is beneath you.

9. Wait until the job offer is extended before discussing salary.

Don't do this. If you wait this long, you're likely to get a lowball offer that will be difficult to change, and you'll have only yourself to blame. Broach the salary topic at the second interview or in the phone call or email that invites you for a second interview. Make sure you and the employer are in the same ballpark before people start getting the idea that you'd work for peanuts.

10. Only go after jobs that look perfect for you, on paper.

It is nearly impossible to put down everything important about a job in a job requisition. You can't get a job unless you go after it. If you have the background to do a job, apply for it.

A job search is a volume affair. The more interviewing experience you have, the more confident you'll be and the more contacts you'll accumulate. Now get out there!

What's Eating Away Your Money?

by Katie Adams; Friday, December 18, 2009

Recessionary times create cautious consumers. According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, more of us are doing a better job at managing our credit these days, but how are you doing at counting pennies - not just paying off your credit cards? These money-eaters may be slowly picking away at your bank accounts without you even noticing.

Investment Service Fees
Do you know how much money it costs you to invest your money each year? While investing in the markets is a critical step toward building a more secure financial future, it's also important to be aware of — and try to lower - all those fees associated with your accounts. Take a look at your most recent bank account and investment account statements to see what you're paying in account maintenance fees, investment advisory fees, sales charges, in-service transfer fees, performance fees, 12b-1 fees (with mutual funds), withdrawal/surrender fees (with a variable annuity) etc. Talk with your investment adviser or broker about lowering those fees, and reinvest the money you're wasting instead.

Automatic Renewal Fees
In our digital age, signing contracts has never been easier. Unfortunately it's also become much easier to forget the terms of those contracts. You may not realize that the default setting for that movie home delivery service or online greeting card site automatically renews at the end of each year. If you're not checking your credit card statements closely, you could easily continue paying for services of which you never take advantage.

Credit Card Fees
With Congress clamping down on credit card issuers, the industry is getting creative when it comes to finding new ways to generate revenue. Even if you already have a card, check the terms and conditions, because an increasing number of companies are charging existing cardholders new fees, including annual fees, account inactivity fees (if you fail to regularly use the card) and heftier late payment fees. If you're paying an annual fee, consider switching to a card that doesn't charge you for the privilege of charging or, if you have a long history with the card company, ask for the fee to be reduced or waived.

Cancellation Fees
Many companies and services offer incredible signing bonuses - like "free" movie channels offered with a cable company or "free" services added on when installing a new phone line - for a limited time. But even if you discontinue those perks before the promotional period is up, cancellation may come at a cost. Check the terms of every promotional offer as carefully as you would if you were signing up for a paid service - or you will end up paying for it in the end.

Checking Accounts
Who pays for checking anymore? If you are, your bank should send you a thank you for the free money you're simply giving them. Banks and credit unions nationwide are offering just about everything free to checking account customers, including free access to ATMs or debit cards, free online banking services, free direct deposit transactions and unlimited check writing. If you're paying for checking account privileges either ask your bank to switch you to a free service or take your business elsewhere.

Packaged Snacks
When the mid-afternoon munchies hit, you're more focused on crunchy chips than crunching numbers. But if you were to add up the money you spend on prepackaged snacks (candy bars, protein bars, ice cream novelties etc.) you'd realize you could easily spend $25-$50 or more a month. Buy larger sizes and create smaller packages to bring to school or work, and pocket the difference.

Paying for the Name
For many purchases, generic or store brand items provide the same quality at a much lower price. For example, generic drugs, which have the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterparts, regularly cost two-thirds less. In fact, store brands tied or beat out brand names 23 out of 29 times in a Consumer Reports test. Consider what you're really getting compared to the price for that big brand name, opt for generic and keep those dollars in your own pocket instead.

Digital Diddies
You think, "well it's just $2.95 for that iPhone app, only $2 to download a song to your iPod and throw in a few ringtones for $5." None of it sounds like a lot, but it adds up quickly. Make a budget for your digital shopping before you start wildly downloading.

It all Adds Up
Become a more discerning shopper, demand more for your business and read those statements carefully. As Benjamin Franklin said "watch the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves."

How to Live Happily on 75 Percent Less

By Rick Newman , On Tuesday December 15, 2009, 2:37 pm EST

Nine months after getting laid off, Catherine Goerz once again became part of the rush-hour commute--in a way she'd never anticipated.

To pick up extra cash, Goerz took a temporary job handing out fliers touting the benefits of public transportation in the San Francisco subway system. Occasionally she'd bump into people she knew from her former job as a creative producer for a Bay Area communications company. "They're in their corporate clothes," she recalls, "and I'm in this silly T-shirt and hat. 'Cathy, is that you?' they'd ask. 'What are you doing here?' Ugh."

The Great Recession--which is technically over, economists insist--may be morphing into a broader epoch: the Great Humbling. Millions of Americans who felt prosperous just a few years ago are now coping with long-term unemployment, sharp cutbacks in living standards, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and a deep sense of failure. That could persist for years. "This is not like earlier recessions, where things fell, then they bounced back to where they used to be," says Dennis Jacobe, chief economist for the Gallup polling organization. "We haven't seen this before. It's the only time this has happened since the Great Depression."

For many disenfranchised workers, the "new normal" is demoralizing. But some have found fresh career paths, clarified their priorities, and discovered that they're more resourceful than they once thought. After absorbing the initial shock of being laid off, 37-year-old Goerz decided it was the chance to pursue a long-time goal: Filming a documentary. She traveled cross-country with friends and produced a short film called RE:Invention, about creative ways people were toughing out the recession. After a screening at a local film festival, she won a small grant that helped her fund a longer version, which she hopes to finalize soon.

The grant covered only a portion of the production costs, however, with nothing left for living expenses. So Goerz survives on monthly unemployment insurance payments, supplemented by odd jobs and freelance projects. It adds up to just 25 percent of what she earned when employed full time. That has required severe cutbacks but also triggered new discoveries. "My quality of life has not changed at all," she says. "I think it's improved because I'm exploring what I want to do. When I see postings for full-time jobs, something inside me says, 'No, don't do it.' I want to make sure I am making the right choice."

Goerz may be at the vanguard of a historic shift in American attitudes. Researchers studying long-term trends among American consumers believe that a 20-year spending binge, fueled by easy credit, is over for good. "Smaller things now make the bigger statement," according to a new report on consumer trends by the Futures Co., a market-research firm. "The infatuation with having it all--and having it all at once--will give way to putting priority only on what's most important."

The first step is learning to be comfortable without the customary trappings of middle-class life. Many laid-off workers resist abrupt cutbacks at first, to preserve a sense of normalcy. Goerz did the opposite. She received just two weeks' severance when she lost her job in December 2008, and her income fell from about $8,000 per month to $1,900. She put $5,000 in a savings account for emergencies and used the rest of her savings to buy a certificate of deposit, so she couldn't withdraw the money if she wanted to. That meant she'd have to live on no more than what came in every month.

Unnecessary spending on jewelry, clothes, makeup, handbags, movie rentals, music downloads, vacations, taxi rides, and most conveniences stopped. She'd love to buy a new MacBook to help with networking, building a personal website, and promoting her film, but instead she nurses a wheezy old Dell laptop, using programming tricks learned from friends to keep it kicking. When Goerz met a potential client about some freelance work recently, she freshened her outfit with a $10 designer blouse from a consignment shop. Instead of going to a salon for highlights, she squeezes lemon juice into a spray bottle, dilutes it with water, and squirts that onto her hair--a $1 trick she learned as a teenage lifeguard.

Food had been a big part of Goerz's budget, so instead of spending $10 on lunch every day and going out to dinner four nights a week, she's cut back to two homemade meals per day--a late breakfast and an early dinner. Her diet is more healthful now, and there are other benefits: "I can wear clothes from three years ago, when I was on this huge fitness kick. Suddenly, I have a whole new wardrobe."

Goerz still goes out with friends once or twice a month, but always economizes: "My strategy for going out is to eat only half of what I order and bring the other half home. Then I turn that into two more meals, since I keep fluffing it up with more rice or something else." Goerz laughs as she says this, aware of her extreme thriftiness. "I stretch everything," she chortles.

A close circle of friends helps compensate for the spartan privations. One friend who loves to cook hosts a weekly Monday dinner for Goerz and half a dozen others, who usually show up with a couple of bottles of fine wine--one remaining indulgence. Many of Goerz's friends are also out of work, and even those with good jobs seem to have caught the thrifty vibe. "Even people who don't have to cut back are doing it," she says. "It's a new kind of consciousness. They seem to be thinking, 'I don't need all this.' "

Most Americans can live without the proverbial daily latte and a few other niceties, but economic data and anecdotal reports suggest that it's a much bigger struggle to accept permanent lifestyle diminutions, save considerably more, and break with familiar spending habits. Goerz attributes her transformation to lessons learned from other crises she survived: getting laid off in 2001 amid the dot-com bust, a recent family death, getting robbed while traveling alone in India seven years ago.

Still, she's not sure how long she can live on a reduced income. Her health insurance premium recently quadrupled, to almost $400 per month, after a government subsidy expired. She lives with three roommates, which keeps her rent at an affordable $871 per month. But she craves her own place, which would obviously cost more. "I have this niggling fear that I'm screwed," she says. "Will I ever be able to buy a home or a car? That's my biggest motivation to succeed financially: to get my own place."

Goerz fosters an outside hope that the debut of her documentary might lead to paying work in the film industry and a fulfilling new career. But she also knows that she may end up back in corporate America, sacrificing some of her freedom for comfort and stability. So she's also looking for jobs in her old field, hoping to find a perfect fit. Even if her income goes back up, however, she hopes that her new lifestyle sticks. "I'd want to save money like crazy," she says. "I'd like to experiment with keeping my frugal ways." Today, that sounds like a novel idea. Tomorrow, it might be mainstream.

Beauty is between eyes, mouth of the beholden

by Karin Zeitvogel Karin Zeitvogel Fri Dec 18, 9:45 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder as in the measurements between the eyes, mouth and ears of the woman being observed, US and Canadian researchers have found.

In four experiments aimed at finding "an ideal facial feature arrangement," US and Canadian researchers asked students to compare color photographs of the same woman's face, in which the vertical distance between the eyes and mouth, and horizontal distance between the eyes, had been doctored using Photoshop.

The features -- eyes, mouth, nose, contour and hair -- remained the same and a woman's face was only compared to her own, never to another's.

Students looked at different pictures of the same woman's face laid out side by side and selected the face they found more attractive.

In all four experiments, they chose the faces with specific proportions that the researchers have dubbed the "new golden ratio."

Two of the experiments tested for the ideal distance between the eyes and mouth as compared to total face length, measured from the hairline to the chin. Both came up with 36 percent as the golden ratio for "the maximally attractive face."

The other two experiments measured both the ideal length and width ratios.

They both confirmed 36 percent as the golden ratio for the length of the maximally attractive face, and 46 percent as the ideal width ratio -- where the distance between the eyes is 46 percent of total face width, measured between the inner edges of the ears.

Happily, the 36/46 percent ratios "correspond with those of an average face," the study said, meaning there's no pressing need to get out the measuring tape and calculator or to rush to the plastic surgeon.

In fact, there are easy, non-invasive ways to trick beholders into thinking a woman's face is "maximally attractive," says the study, published in Vision Research.

Changing the hairstyle, is one example.

"Our study... explains why sometimes an attractive person looks unattractive or vice versa after a haircut, because hairdos change the ratios," said Kang Lee, a professor at the University of Toronto and one of the lead authors of the study.

Lee also told AFP that the researchers studied the faces of a few celebrities.

"Angelina Jolie does not have golden length and width ratios," he said.

"Elizabeth Hurley gets the golden ratio for length but is different from the width golden ratio by one percent."

But Canadian country pop musician Shania Twain has "both the length and width ratios."

The study looked only at white women. More research is needed to determine if the golden ratios for men's faces, the faces of people of other races, and children's faces, are the same as for the women's faces in the study.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Work Hard, Play Hard

By Jason Latshaw

Many of us remember the days when our time was filled with playing a game or inhabiting an imaginary world. Unfortunately, the demands of a full-time career, family, and other responsibilities have since curtailed such flights of fancy.

But what if your career consisted of playing? There are many jobs that revolve around the concept of playing. And playing, whether it is for entertainment or therapy, is becoming an increasingly big business.

So if you're someone who pines for the games and endless hours of fun from childhood, check out these four careers that pay you handsomely to play.

1. Toy and Game Designers: From initial sketches and computer concepts to the final prototype, designers of toys and games are involved in the whole process. Most toy and game designers are entrepreneurs who are skilled in pitching their ideas to toy and game companies. However, many also work in-house for those same companies. To become a toy and game designer, you need to be able to communicate your ideas visually, something you can learn with a creative degree program, like one in graphic design.

The Play: Toy and game designers get to play with prototypes while testing iterations and figuring out how to make everything more fun. Hours are dedicated to making sure the consumer (children of all ages) has the best possible time with the eventual released product.

The Pay: The U.S. Department of Labor maintains no salary figure specifically for toy and game designers. But as with other entrepreneurial jobs, the sky's the limit if you have the skills and passion. For those designers employed by toy and game companies, reports that the annual mean wage is $53,000. Not bad for such a fun job.

2. Video Game Designers: The increasingly popular world of video games has created a number of new job opportunities, like video game designers, who influence many aspects of the game, including graphics, characters, animation, code, and design. To become a video game designer, look into video game design degree programs.

The Play: Despite the job title, it's not all fun and games. There can be long hours and grueling work sessions to get the video games just right - especially when a ship date is looming. However, this is offset by the fact that you get to create worlds and characters, interact with them, and improve the playing experience until its perfect.

The Pay: According to, this popular career pays from $38,000 to $88,000 and upwards, depending on how many years of experience you have.

3. Recreational Therapists: You know that playing can be fun, right? But did you know it can be healing as well? Recreational therapists know this secret, and this growing field uses a large number of fun activities - games, arts and crafts, animal visits, sports, music, and more - to help people with disabilities and illnesses in a variety of ways.

To become a recreational therapist, a person normally completes an undergraduate degree in therapy or counseling.

The Play: Playing is a powerful part of many therapy programs and can be used to help people deal with depression, recover a wider range of motion, learn valuable skills, and more. And the fun part is - while helping and leading activities, you also get to participate in them as well.

The Pay: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, recreational therapists are paid a median of nearly $35,000.

4. Activities Directors: College campuses, cruise ships, vacation resorts, and even nursing homes and hospitals could all use activities directors to coordinate fun events. Aspiring activities directors can prepare for the role with a variety of degrees, including marketing, business, or hospitality - all programs which prepare people to work and organize large groups of people.

The Play: Activities directors coordinate games, meetings, events, and other forms of entertainment. The fun part: They often get to participate in all the fun and entertainment they plan and organize!

The Pay: or those who work at nursing homes, the median annual wage is nearly $35,000. For those leading activities on a cruise ship, pay can be up to $90,000, according to


Monday, December 7, 2009

10 Biggest Job Interview Blunders

by Anne Fisher

In this lousy market, don't be your own worst enemy. Here are the most common mistakes candidates are making -- and how to fix them.

Dear Annie: A few months ago I lost a middle-management job at a company where I worked for 14 years. I received four promotions during that time, but it had been quite a while since I actually interviewed for a new job.

I've gone on several interviews in the past few weeks, which I know I was lucky to get, but they've all been dead-ends. A friend suggests that I hire a coach to help me polish my interviewing skills and figure out what I'm doing wrong. Your thoughts? -Rusty

Dear Rusty: You aren't necessarily doing anything wrong. With unemployment now at 10.2% nationally, and much higher in some states, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that there are 6.3 job hunters for every available job. That's three times the average that prevails in a healthy economy, the BLS notes, so the numbers may simply be working against you.

That you've gotten several interviews in the past few weeks is a good sign. And it's certainly true that a competent coach could help you improve your interviewing technique.

But before you invest in a coach, see if you're making an easily avoidable mistake you could clear up on your own.

"The competition is tough enough without giving potential employers reasons not to hire you," says Tim Schoonover, chairman of outplacement and leadership-development firm OI Partners.

Here are the most common errors career coaches at OI Partners see -- and how to fix them:

10. Over-Explaining Why You Lost Your Last Job

It's okay to mention that your last position was eliminated, but then move on to what you can do for this employer.

9. Conveying That You're Not Over It

"During interviews, some people are acting wounded, angry or sad," Schoonover says. These are normal emotions after a layoff but they don't belong in a job interview -- or you may "seem unstable and communicate that you don't grasp the business reasons for layoffs," he adds.

8. Lacking Humor, Warmth, or Personality

Many anxious job candidates are "one-dimensional during interviews, and are too focused on getting their talking points across," notes Schoonover. "Don't forget to show qualities that can be a real plus in the decision-making process, including humor in good taste, warmth, and understanding." One thing interviewers want to know, of course, is how pleasant you would be to have around the place every day.

7. Not Showing Enough Interest or Enthusiasm

After all, "companies are looking for people who are excited about working with them," Schoonover says.

6. Inadequate Research About a Potential Employer

It's essential to be up on the latest news, so be sure to Google the company before the interview. Be prepared with well-informed, thoughtful questions about its products or services and its future plans. Many applicants aren't bothering, Schoonover says, and it shows.

5. Concentrating Too Much on What You Want

Focus more on what the interviewer is saying. Listening carefully is crucial in steering the conversation toward how you would fit in and what you have to offer.

4. Trying to Be All Things to All People

"Devote most of your effort to talking about what you know you do well, and don't try to stretch your actual qualifications too far," Schoonover advises. A good rule of thumb: Don't apply for any job unless you have at least 75% of the stated qualifications.

3. "Winging" the Interview

Schoonover hears from many hiring managers that candidates often aren't ready to answer difficult questions. So rehearse. "Prepare and practice a 90-second verbal resume, and some answers to possible questions, so that you come across as succinct," he suggests.

2. Failing to Set Yourself Apart From Other Candidates

"You have to make the strongest possible case for why you are the best person for the job," Schoonover says. "Specifically address what impact you can have on sales, profits, costs, or productivity within the next three to six months. Use quantifiable achievements from past positions to back up your performance promise."

And the No. 1 mistake OI Partners' coaches see job hunters make:

1. Failing to Ask For the Job

"You have a much better chance of getting the job if you ask for it," says Schoonover. "Close the interview by summing up what you can bring to the job, and ask for the opportunity to deliver those results."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Anti-Gym Workout: Easy Ways to Burn Extra Calories Throughout the Day!

by StyleCaster

Is staying fit on your list of important New Year's resolutions? Afraid to commit to working out because you're always at work? It can be intimidating to start a routine, especially if you're not regularly accustomed to getting up and going to the gym every morning. With anything new that you start, it's important to pace yourself.

The best way to stay committed is to gradually build up a tolerance. You may not even realize the amount of exercise opportunities that are presented to you daily that you lazily overlook. Instead of thinking that the gym is the only way to whip weight-loss, start taking a look at the easy exercises you could do, without even thinking about it. Here are a few tips on how to start working in a work out into your everyday life, without ever going to the gym:

Take the stairs

Every day most of us are faced with some form of stairs vs. escalator/elevator challenge. Instead of taking the easy way, start your day off with an old-fashioned stair-master, and climb your way to your cubical. After a week of taking the stairs you'll forget the electronic way even existed.

Pick up not delivery

Start walking to your favorite sushi spot instead of having it delivered. The walk will let you take in some fresh air which is definitely good for the bod. It may even take less time. Believe it or not, you know you need to get back to your desk in time to finish that project your boss assigned you, so you'll power walk and burn more calories.

Face to face

Instead of emailing a co-worker on the opposite side of the office or different floor, take a walk over and speak in person. This is another way to fit in a walk that will make a difference.

Pump up the volume

Listen to your iPod while your washing the dishes or cooking dinner at home and shake your stuff. Dancing while making dinner is a fun way to stay in shape. Remember to cook a healthy dinner, staying away from fatty foods and desserts.

Drink water

Take a break from your calorie-filled coffee. Staying hydrated during the day is essential to having a healthy body. Drink at least two glasses of water during the day to keep you feeling fresh.

If you live close enough, take your bike to work or to the store. Biking is fun and is sometimes a lot easier that walking. You'll get to your destination quicker without having to put any gas in your tank or pay a taxi fare. If you don't have a bike, pick up a pair of rollerblades. Blades won't take up as much space and will burn twice the amount of calories as biking.

Pasta myths… debunked!


It doesn't get any better than a bowl of pasta, right? But too often cooks ruin a great dish by following one (or more) of these myths. Avoid them, and you'll be licking your plate clean in no time.

Myth: Breaking long pasta into shorter pieces makes it easier to eat.
If spaghetti were better short, it would have been made that way! Plus, broken strands are hard to eat since they’re not long enough to twirl onto a fork.

Myth: Add olive oil to the cooking water to keep the pasta from sticking.

Pasta shouldn’t stick when properly cooked. If it’s cooked with olive oil, it will actually coat the noodles and prevent sauce from sticking.

Myth: Throw the pasta against the wall—if it sticks, it’s done.

The only way to know if it’s done is to taste it! It should be al dente, or firm to the bite. The more pasta cooks, the gummier it gets, so if it sticks to the wall it’s probably overdone.

Myth: Rinse pasta after cooking and draining.
This will make the pasta cold and rinse away the starch that helps bind the sauce to it.

Myth: It’s all about the sauce.

Italians will tell you it’s pasta with sauce—not sauce with pasta! Too much sauce buries the flavor of the pasta and overwhelms it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The top 8 most addictive foods

by The Foxy Life by Elycia Rubin and Rita Mauceri

There are foods – and then there are addictions. There’s plain ol’ snacking and then there’s devouring. We all have weaknesses and days when something super sweet or superbly salty is all that will satisfy us. Here, our list of most nosh-worthy delights.  And yes, we realize we haven't included everything so feel free to share your faves -- pizza binges, diet soda splurges, and other irresistible treats and indulgences.

  • Dark Chocolate M&M's.  That’s right, we said DARK. Ever since M&M’s surfaced in this flavor, we’ve been in heaven. They’re teeny tiny – therefore easily downed by the handful -- and completely delicious -- a deadly combination. With these little suckers the trick is to avoid eating the entire bag (and we’re talking the 8 oz size here).
  • Guacamole.  Fresh ripe avocados take on an entirely new level of tastiness when mashed up with garlic, cilantro and tomatoes. Even non-avocado fans love this chunky stuff – spread it on bread, dip veggies in it, or just enjoy it straight up by the spoonful.  And we’re not sure why the chips and guac combo is so unstoppable, but there’s a reason restaurants serve them by the basket!
  • Popcorn.  Sure, microwave popcorn is addictive but that movie theater stuff is what sends us over the edge. It must be freshly popped to make the cut. Dousing it with hot, melted butter just ups the ante. Give us an XXL tub slathered with oozy butter (or butter-like) topping and we’re in heaven.
  • Rolos.  We try to be good and always make the mistake of thinking that popping a single one may do the trick of satisfying a sweet tooth. Not a chance. The caramel center is so perfectly chewy and delish that 5-10 seems to be the minimum requirement. We often place a dish of these on our coffee table when guests are coming over (because the little gold nuggets look so pretty) and they magically disappear -- within minutes.
  • French Fries.  An ill-tasting fry is hard to find, right? They’re also fun to eat. Everyone has their favorite method – traditionalists do straight ketchup, adventurers mix it up with ranch dressing or spicy mustard. For us, those time-tested buggers from McDonald’s still top our list. Full disclosure here: We kind of miss the Super Size. (For make-it-at-home goodness, devour a bag of Trader Joe's frozen sweet potato fries.)
  • PopChips.  Maybe they call them PopChips -- not because they’re really and truly popped -- but because you can’t stop popping them in your mouth. Light, crispy and woops…all gone! Better than full-fat greasy potato chips in our book – healthier and every bit as tasty.  We recommend the original flavor.  (An honorary mention to Kettle Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper chips.)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Anything “bite size” is dangerous and one store-bought cookie is never ever enough. While we love homemade, we go ga-ga for Health Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re all natural and made with organic ingredients, so we don’t feel somewhat less guilty after polishing off one of those bags in less than thirty minutes.
  • Ice Cream.  The sweet and dreamy creamy texture makes most flavors irresistible, but Haagen-Dazs classics, Chocolate and Vanilla, take the crown. The chocolate is rich, rich and the vanilla tastes like true vanilla. (The strawberry, coffee, and dulce de leche are also insane!).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2-Minute tricks that beat stress

by Liz Vaccariello

The next time you’re having a bad day (or week or month) take heart: you can perk up your mood quickly and simply. According to experts, life circumstances account for only 10% of happiness. Half depends on your genetic “set point,” which is kind of like the weight your body bounces back to after a crash diet. And about 40% of your happiness is influenced by what you do deliberately to make yourself. Here are a few easy tricks to try:

1. Flip through Old Photos

When you’re feeling down, break out your kids’ baby albums or pics from your favorite vacation. It may actually make you feel happier than a square of chocolate would! That’s what researchers at the United Kingdom’s Open University found after they examined how much people’s moods rose after eating a chocolate snack, sipping an alcoholic drink, watching TV, listening to music, or looking at personal photos.

The music and chocolate left most people’s moods unchanged; alcohol and TV gave a slight lift (1%), but the winner by a long shot was viewing pictures, which made people feel 11% better. To keep your spirits high at work, upload your favorite pics to your computer and set them as a rotating screensaver. Or splurge on a frame that flips through digital photos; has plenty of options at a wide range of prices.

2. Munch on Nuts

Or sneak salmon into your salad for lunch. They’re both packed with omega-3 fats, which may make people less prone to depression—and easier to get along with, say researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. They measured the blood levels of omega-3 fats (a reliable indicator of consumption) of 106 healthy adults and gave them psychological tests. Those with the highest omega-3 blood levels scored 49 to 58% better on the tests than those with the lowest blood levels.

3. Inhale a Calming Scent.

In an Austrian study, researchers wafted the smell of oranges before some participants and lavender before others. The two groups felt less anxious, more positive, and calmer when compared with participants who were exposed no fragrance at all. Add a few drops of either oil to a room diffuser (we like the Scentball, available at and use in your office on stressful days.

4. Open Your Shades

To feel happier in seconds, let the sunlight stream in when you first wake up.

One study of more than 450 women found that those who got the most light, particularly in the morning, reported better moods and sleep. Got more time? Eat breakfast near a window that gets plenty of daylight, and put exercise equipment near a bright view. Some researchers speculate that combining exercise with morning light exposure may amplify light’s beneficial effects on mood, sleep, and alertness, says Anthony Levitt, MD, a University of Toronto light researcher.

5. Clear Away Clutter

For some, “clutter is a reminder of things that should be getting done but aren’t,” says Elaine Aron, PhD, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. “It can make you feel like a failure.” For a quick fix, straighten up a few surfaces in your office or in the areas of the house where you spend the most time. “It’s when every bit of space is messy that it’s most disturbing,” says Aron. Don’t bother to organize unless you have a chunk of time. Instead, arrange papers, books, and other detritus of daily living in neat piles or store them in baskets. “Just the illusion of order is enough to ease the mind,” she says.

6. Think Fast

Turn your thoughts into a race—it can lift the blues in minutes, says Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin, PhD. For example, when your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, give yourself 30 seconds to make a list of all the ways she’s been helpful to you in the past—you’ll feel better fast. (If nothing nice comes to mind, quickly jot down other ways she bugs you; speed thinking negative thoughts can still improve your mood, Pronin found.) Researchers believe that rapid thinking may release feel-good brain chemicals—or it could just be a helpful distraction.

7. Cue Up YouTube

Stanford University researchers literally saw this on fMRI scans, where they traced changes in brain activity to a region called the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), which rewards behaviors such as eating and sex (and laughing) by releasing dopamine, a natural opiate. When stress builds up or you feel as though you may snap at any minute, make yourself giggle: Watch a funny video clip online, or stop by the office of a wisecracking pal for a quick chat.

8. Put On a Happy Face

Studies show that even muscular changes in your face can elevate your happiness, as can good posture, says Lyubomirsky. Call it the blush effect: To apply blush to your cheekbones properly, you need to smile. Smiling works, she says, because “if you act like you’re a happier person, you can experience all these positive social consequences. You make more friends. People are nicer to you. And these things can have real consequences.”