Dissecting the Annuity Market

How did your business fare in the annuity market in 2014 compared with other annuity management providers? According to the Financial Planning Association, 29 percent of financial planners either advised their new clients to choose fixed annuities, or have current clients in fixed annuity vehicles. Four years ago, that number was a high of 49 percent.

Seemingly, this might have been an adjustment made to offset runaway inflation and a slumbering economy.
Now that the economy appears to be recovering, at least from the perspective of the cash-rich corporations, more providers may be viewed as being comfortable with variable annuities.

What Can Your Business Do to Encourage Annuity Investment?

Annuities have traditionally been seen as complex investments that are only for financially savvy movers and shakers. Though it is true that your clients need to enter the annuity market with their eyes wide open, it’s equally true that you could woo even more suitable annuity clients if you use the right approach. Here are some ideas for marketing your company’s annuity packages:

Accentuate the Positive

Often, accentuating the positive is as easy as comparing something with another thing that is less attractive. As the following article shows, why not develop some historical financial charts that highlight the returns based on annuity rates versus the returns on other vehicles such as mutual funds, stocks or even certificates of deposit. You’ll be able to shine a light on the positive aspects of annuities without compromising your ethic to offer a choice of investment options that are appropriate for your client’s financial planning needs.

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Press Play: The Evolution of Video Marketing

Video is quickly outpacing still imagery in online content. Following on the heels of YouTube’s success, the exponential growth of companies like Vimeo, Camtasia, and Movavi demonstrates the public’s voracious appetite for an online multimedia experience. Find out why video has surpassed all other media in the marketing world, how your business can benefit from its successes and which professionals you should hire to make it happen.

What Was Wrong With Still Images?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with using still images to help convey your company’s message, and they continue to be heavily used in online content for both personal and commercial use. There will always be a place for images that add to the user’s visual encounter with any website.

Photographic images can act as evocative and powerful vehicles to help carry your site visitors through the buying stages. Quality photographic images, as used in marketing, remain the foundation of visual enticement.


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Building Your Data Analytics Dream Team

At the end of the day, an analysis project is only as good as the people doing the analyzing. But how do you build a data analytics dream team that performs well again and again? The basic principle is simple. Look for people who have a profound understanding of what they should be looking for, people who know what technology is available to help them achieve the goal, and people who are proficient with that technology.

Understanding the Goal

Your data analytics team should have a clearly defined goal that you determine. Big data is vast and can be looked at from multiple angles. Each of those angles can highlight different needs or courses of action that may need to be pursued. Unless your team has a specific outcome, purpose or target data point that they are looking for, they may never find anything of use for your organization.

This can be compared to setting off on a journey with no clear destination. Without a destination, a map and a sense of direction, time and energy will be wasted and targets will never be reached.

Communicating your organization’s needs to your data analytics team is also central to making sure they understand the ultimate goal. Surprisingly, however, even the best communicators won’t be able to get the message across to certain people. There are those in the recruitment business—or for that matter, any business—who are so mired in the old ways that they will give lip service to clients and managers, all the while fully intending to do things the way they’ve always done.

To ensure that your data analytics team fully understands your organizational needs and future goals, implement these communication strategies:

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Giuliano Hazan

Giuliano Hazan and His Extraordinary Food and Wine Tours in Italy

It is evening in Valpolicella, Italy, but a light warm breeze is blowing. A dozen or more people are seated around antique dining tables in the middle of an early 16th century Italian villa near Verona. The people are laughing and talkative, their wineglasses sparkling and their plates full. The tables are laden with Italian dishes that they have prepared themselves. Tomorrow they will journey together to explore this region of Italy, but tonight is consumed with delicious homemade food, excellent wine and new friends. This night has been made possible by Italian Chef Giuliano Hazan.


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Super Easy Ways To Get A Killer Base Tan

Getting a base tan is essential for certain situations. Maybe you’ve been invited to join your boyfriend’s family on their boat in the Bahamas. Or, you’re going down to Florida to visit Disney World. Maybe it’s just that upcoming 4th of July BBQ. Whatever the occasion, you don’t want to show up with your lily white legs while the rest of the girls show off their golden tans. Here are two easy ways to get a killer base tan.

Method #1: Fake It

Since the dawn of time, women have been faking beauty features they lacked for one reason or another. During WWII, when silk was hoarded for making paratrooper parachutes, women found their lingerie drawers woefully lacking in silk stocking. Not to be caught out walking around barelegged, clever women of the time simply sued an eyeliner pencil to draw that telltale line that simulated a silk stocking seam up the backs of their legs. The effect was surprisingly realistic.

Which brings us to method number one of achieving a killer base tan. There are lots of great fake tanners on the market, so there’s no reason to resort to those orangey self-tanning lotions that you might have tried in high school. Here are two of my favorites:

Art Naturals Sunless Tanning Lotion works for light, fair, medium and sensitive skin. It contains jojoba oil, so it moisturizes while it’s making your skin look tanned. You get an instant tint to your skin without the sun, and you can build it up to look darker with each application. I like that the packaging is BPA and paraben-free, and that the kit comes with an application mitt.

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner is an organic, natural sunless tanning lotion that works within 4-6 hours to give your skin a sun-kissed natural glow. Works on skin tones from light to medium and is okay for use on sensitive skin. I like it because the ingredients are all organic, including coconut oil, argan oil and aloe vera. Its non-streaking formulation works to give you a fake base tan for between four and seven days.

Method #2: Build It

You can build a real base tan if you have enough sunny day with which to work your tanning magic. Seven sunny days should be long enough to implement this build-it method. Remember, the goal is to build a healthy base tan without burning or otherwise damaging your gorgeous skin.

First, arm yourself with a 6-day, descending supply of sunblock. On day one, use the sunscreen with the highest SPF. On day two, use the next lowest SPF, on day three, the next lowest, etc. On the last day, which will be day seven, switch to a Hawaiian Tropic sun oil that contains all natural oils but no sunscreen. By the end of day seven, even the fairest in all the land (you!) will have achieved a killer base tan you can be proud to show off in shorts and a sleeveless top.

You may notice that I’ve left out the option of tanning beds in this list. The reason is that the CDC has specifically called out tanning beds as potentially more dangerous than outdoor tanning. Because tanning beds operate on a timer, and users normally stay in the tanning bed until the timer goes off, the odds are greater that a burn will develop. Outdoors, you can regulate your skin exposure, but inside a tanning bed, it’s much more difficult to do so, if not impossible. I recommend one of the above methods instead of resorting to a tanning bed.



4 Distracting Things To Do Until Your Food Cravings Pass


Food cravings can sabotage your health and weight loss goals. We all suffer from food cravings at some point, but it is possible to get through them without succumbing to the temptation. Experts say that food cravings usually go away after 15 minutes. Here are some ideas for distracting activities that will not only make the time fly by, but maybe even cut that food craving time in half.

Play Tetris

A surprising study conducted late last year at the University of Plymouth indicates that playing the video game of Tetris for as little as three minutes can reduce cravings by one-fifth. There’s something about this game that makes players forget about whatever food craving they were experiencing. This is the first test of its kind, so it’s possible that other video games can achieve similar results, though that hasn’t yet been put to the test. In the meantime, why not download this Tetris game on your smartphone so it’s ready to play when your next food craving rears its ugly head.

Have Sex

Food cravings can sometimes occur from the desire to fill something that’s missing in our lives, such as an emotional connection with another person. Having sex instead of binging on a bag of chips will not only keep you busy for 15 minutes (longer if you’re lucky), but it may also help to show you that a real emotional connection is available to you. And by the way, your partner doesn’t have to know that you’ve made a choice between him and a Milano cookie. That can be our little secret.

Use Aromatherapy

There is an abundance of anecdotal evidence to suggest that aromatherapy can reduce or eliminate food cravings. The next time a craving comes upon you, try brushing your teeth with minty toothpaste. The fresh taste in your mouth and your minty breath may inspire you to want to avoid ruining that fresh-brushed taste and smell. You can also keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil in your medicine cabinet. Whenever a food craving occurs, just pass the jar under your nose. Some people say that the peppermint scent will rid you of cravings and refresh your senses.


One of the best ways to avoid the temptation of a food craving is to exercise. The activity will take your mind off whatever is in your kitchen, and the knowledge that you’re getting in better physical condition will give you willpower to resist food cravings. To make it work, keep your gym bag in the car or closet, ready to go when cravings hit. If you don’t have a gym membership, a brisk walk or jog through the neighborhood will accomplish the same thing. After as little as 15 minutes, your food cravings will likely vanish.

One thing you can count on is, the more often you can resist your food cravings, the less frequent they will become. Remember, all you have to do is get through the next 15 minutes without giving in. After that, it will get easier as time goes on.



Homemade Cleaning Products You Don’t Have To Fear Using

Whether you are looking for homemade cleaning products for health reasons or to save money, you’re in luck. There are homemade alternatives for just about any cleaning chore you face in your home. The best part is, you can look forward to the same or better results that you would achieve with its commercial counterpart.

Laundry Detergent

The following recipe for homemade laundry detergent has been making the rounds around the Internet for a while. There are variations, but the one I’m sharing with you now has been tried and tested by me. It’s currently my go-to laundry detergent. Why is it so great? It’s inexpensive, lasts a long time, and actually works. Note: If you can’t find the ingredients at your supermarket, head to the cleaning aisle of your local hardware store.


  • ½ cup Washing Soda
  • ½ cup Borax
  • 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap

Grate the Fels-Naptha soap using your kitchen box grater. Fill a stock pot with six cups of water. Add the Fels-Naptha and bring to a boil. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Add the Borax and the washing soda to the water and mix with a spoon. Pour the water into a large bucket. Add a gallon and a half of tap water to the bucket and stir. Allow to sit undisturbed overnight. In the morning, you’ll find that it has set into a gelatinous consistency. Use as you would any commercial brand laundry detergent.

Fabric Softener Crystals

You’re probably familiar with those awesome new fabric softener crystals that add fragrance and softness to your laundry load. Unfortunately, they also lighten your wallet with their exorbitant cost. Now you can make a version yourself for pennies.


  • 4 cups Epsom salt
  • 8-10 drops fragrant oil

Just mix the two ingredients together into a bowl and mix well. Use about 1/8 of a cup per wash load. If you desire a stronger fragrance, add a few extra drops of fragrant oil.

Fabric Dryer Sheets

Fabric dryer sheets add a clean fragrance to your laundry during the dryer stage. They are inexpensive, but if you dislike throwing these sheets into the landfill each time, try this homemade, reusable version.


  • Fabric wash cloths
  • Fragrant oil

Gather a few clean and dry wash cloths and place them into a plastic shoe box. Drop about 2-3 drops of fragrant oil onto each cloth. Seal the box tightly. The fragrance will intensify since the lid is sealed. Add one wash cloth to each dryer load.

Window Cleaner

That big blue spray bottle of window cleaner works great, but it can be pricey. Especially since you probably use it to clean mirrors, windows and faucets. You can make a homemade version that is just as effective, though. Save your spray bottle and use it for this recipe:


  • Distilled water (to fill)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Ammonia
  • Drop of dish detergent

Put the ammonia into the spray bottle first, and fill it with distilled water. Add a drop of dish detergent last. (If you put the detergent in first, you’ll get too many bubbles to fill your spray bottle with water.) Use just as you would commercial window cleaner.

Furniture Polish

A lot of the commercial brands of furniture polish leave a waxy film on your furniture. Over time, that film turns yellow, leaving your furniture looking dull and dingy. You can’t use straight water on your furniture, because wood doesn’t like water. If you don’t soak up all the water, you can end up with unsightly watermarks or cracked, dried-out wood.

One of the best ways to clean your furniture is to use a vacuum attachment to remove the dust. To polish your furniture to a high sheen, though, try this:

Use a microfiber cloth, which attracts and retains all those tiny dust particles. Spritz with a little bit of mineral oil and buff the furniture. The wood will soak up the oil, keeping it lustrous and shiny looking for years to come.

Bathroom and Kitchen Disinfectant

Kirstie Alley once went on the Oprah show and talked about how she uses vodka to disinfect her bathroom and kitchen. She’s not nuts. Vodka’s high alcohol content makes it an effective germ killer, and since it evaporates quickly, it will leave your bathroom and kitchen fixtures sparkling.

If you prefer to drink your vodka, though, here’s an alternative:

Fill a spray bottle with water and ¼ cup of white vinegar. The white vinegar works as a natural germ killer, and it will bring back the shine to water-splattered fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen. If you dislike the lingering odor of the vinegar, try adding a few drops of fragrant oil.

Making your own homemade cleaning products does save you money. But the biggest benefit is more of a health related one. So many chemicals these days have been linked to asthma, and other chronic health conditions that it makes good sense to avoid their use whenever possible.

Are You Being Poisoned? Hidden Toxins in Your Daily Life

You try to take care of yourself by eating right and exercising. But did you know that there are hidden toxins in your daily life that can sabotage all your efforts? Check out these sources of toxins to see if you are susceptible.


Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical that is used in a variety of ways in what is considered safe amounts, according to the FDA. But when quantities of arsenic exceed those safe amounts, it can wreak havoc on your health, including causing hair fallout, cancer, vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

Arsenic can build up in your body, so even if there are “safe” amounts of arsenic in your drinking water, your body will accumulate more arsenic if you get it from other sources. Those levels can reach toxic levels, which can lead to arsenic poisoning symptoms.

Here’s the bad news. A study in 2015 found levels exceeding safe amounts of arsenic in all but one of the five states in the U.S. that produce wine. So the wine that you drink from Washington, California, Oregon and New York has been tested by the Environmental Protection Agency and contains levels of arsenic that are over two timesabove safe levels. A class action lawsuit has been filed, but in the meantime, you might prefer to choose European wines until the mess has been sorted out.

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Worthy Ways To Upcycle Your Old Books

As a book lover, you probably have a collection that includes a few you know you won’t be reading again. If you love the look of all those books, and don’t necessarily want to give them away, why not try a few of these ideas to reuse your old books?


Turn a stack of old books into a stunning table lamp with these instructions.

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Several hardcover books (the number will depend on their width and your lamp hardware)
  • Lamp kit (available at woodshop craft stores or online)
  • Lamp shade
  • Drill and bits
  • Box cutter
  • Clamps
  • Screwdriver and screws
  1. Stack your books on the work table. Measure the center rod from the lamp kit and subtract one inch. That’s the maximum height your stack of books can be. View your stack of books critically and determine the arrangement that is most appealing to you according to which one you want at the top, bottom, etc.
  2. Move the stack of books, keeping just the bottom one. Clamp the bottom book to the table. Use a ½ inch bit to drill into the center of the book (through the front cover), up to halfway through the book.

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sad dog

Pet Depression: Is It Real And What Are The Signs?

As a pet owner, you know that your pet has moods just like you do. Try cuddling up to your cat after leaving him alone at home for a week and you know the reception will be less than warm and fuzzy. Or see how different your dog treats you when you decide all his toys need to be replaced with freshly bought ones with that brand new smell. But when Fido is down in the dumps for a long time, or Sprinkles has lost interest in her catnip mouse, you might be wondering if it’s possible for your pet to get depressed in a similar way that humans do.

According to the North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill animal shelter and adoption organization, pet depression is a clinical, medical condition that exists. Though some of the causes of pet depression are different that what might cause depression in humans, many of them are the same.


Pets can fall into depression from being left alone for hours at a time. If you have a pet that stays at home all day by itself, he may start to feel lonely. If you go out straight after work, or don’t pay attention to your pet when you do get home, the feeling of loneliness can be exacerbated.

If you think your pet may be lonely, there are a few options:

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