Electrolyte Replenishment After Exercise

Everyone knows that we should stay well hydrated during exercise. When we exercise our body temperature elevates. Our body responds by sweating, this is its way of cooling down. How much we sweat depends of the weather, the intensity of the workout, and even the clothing we are wearing. No matter how much we sweat we lose water and electrolytes when we sweat. This fluid loss is called dehydration. Severe dehydration could seriously impact our health.

Our bodies maintain a very delicate balance of various chemicals to survive. Water is an important component in this balance. In fact, our bodies contain a high percentage of water. Our brain is 70% water as are our muscles. Even our bones contain water. Water helps release toxins from our muscles, kidneys, and liver. So we definitely need to drink water. However, when we sweat we do not just lose water. We also lose electrolytes. Water does not contain electrolytes.

Electrolytes are ions of certain minerals. Ions are positively or negatively charged atoms or molecules. The ions or electrolytes in our bodies help regulate certain metabolic functions. For instance, the negative and positive charges of electrolytes are necessary for the electrical stimulation that contracts our muscles, including our heart. Electrolytes also control the flow of water molecules to the cells. And just like with water, maintaining our electrolyte levels, is critical to our health.

The mineral ions that make up electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate.

SODIUM

  • Assists with electrical impulses in the body allowing brain function and muscle contraction.
  • Affects urine production.
  • Helps maintain proper acid-base balance in the body.
  • Aids in maintaining blood pressure.

POTASSIUM

  • Important in the production of electrical impulses that contract muscles and in brain function.
  • Helps regulate fluids in the cells.
  • Aids in the   transmission  of nerve impulses.
  • Regulates the heartbeat.
  • Aids in digestion.
  • One study links potassium to bone health.

CALCIUM

  • Builds and maintains bones.
  • Part of the necessary electrolytes for nerve impulses and muscle contraction.

MAGNESIUM

  • Involved with the relaxation of the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes.
  • Assists in muscle contraction.
  • Helps activate the neurons in the brain.
  • Assists with enzyme activities.
  • Involved in the synthesis of protein.

CHLORIDE

  • Helps regulate balance of body fluids.
  • Aids in maintaining blood pressure

HYDROGEN PHOSPHATE

  • Assists in controlling the acidity level of the blood.
  • Is instrumental in calcium being deposited in the bones.

HYDROGEN CARBONATE

  • Contributive in maintaining the normal levels of acidity in the fluids of the body, in particular the blood
  • Helps keep the acid-base balance in the body.

Electrolyte replenishment drinks have been shown to provide certain benefits that water alone cannot. One study showed that runners who had consumed a carbohydrate electrolyte sports drink had a higher aerobic capacity than those of the placebo group. In another study, this one measuring the athletes speed, the group that had consumed the sports drink posted faster times than the placebo group. Electrolyte replenishment drinks help retain fluid and use it more efficiently during exercise. Those which include carbohydrates help stave off muscle fatigue.

One thing to beware of is that some sports drinks have a very high sugar content. There are sports drinks with upwards of 70 grams of sugar per serving and some with as little as 12. Despite this the American College of Sports Medicine have found that sports drinks are beneficial in providing energy to muscles, maintaining blood sugar levels, and preventing dehydration, making electrolyte replacement absolutely vital! So make sure to drink plenty of water in your daily life and after you exercise, think of having an electrolyte replenishment drink.

What is a Line Cook and the Responsibilities That Come With the Job?

Fire, a term used to get ready to starting an order that the waiter just placed in. The guest have probably been waiting for at least ten minutes from the time that they first sat down at their table, and are now waiting for that meal that the kitchen staff will prepare.

The front line in the kitchen is where most of the food is fired. It is divided and usually consists of a saute section, a broiler, a grill, a deep fryer, a salamander, cold reach-ins or drawers, and hot water wells. One that works on this line, which may consist of 2 to 3 even 4, depending on the size of the restaurant or the menu, are called line cooks. Sometimes the chef likes to get in on the action.

As a line cook you need to be prepared, you need to know the menu, all the different recipes, have all your tools on hand, have all your ingredients in the menu on the line, and of course you need the skills of cooking.

Being mentally prepared, by far, is one of the most important ingredient a line cook should have. One must be able to concentrate on the task at hand over all the hustle and bustle in the kitchen. the chef would be calling out orders, waitstaff are asking all kinds of questions, you maybe working on maybe three or more things at once, and timing is crucial, everyone on the line must be in sync. With all these distractions one must keep his composure. Getting stressed, or angry doesn’t help but it does happen. Waitstaff asking you how much longer, chef telling you to fire one more thing from another order, your saute cook is a little behind, it’s been almost an hour since this chaotic mess started and your wondering when will it end. Temperatures rise on the front line and I don’t mean the burners.

After all is said and done, there are no complaints, no one waiting long for their meal, guests are happy, a few compliments, waitstaff got their tips, line cooks getting ready to clean the line, and making a list of the prep that needs to be done when they return the next day. Everyone gets a pat on the back, job well done. That is the reward and one of the goals of the front line cook.

Guest satisfaction is the priority of the front line cook. The quality of the meal is your number one concern along with presentation. All the ingredients must be fresh, every cook must be on the same page as far as the recipes go, there needs to be consistency making sure that what you cooked today, will taste the same tomorrow or next week. This is what brings in repeat customers, this is what a restaurant focuses on and depends on. The line cook along side the rest of the kitchen staff strive to do this daily. As a line cook you need to take pride in your job, because if you do, that pride will certainly reflect on the meals you prepare.

Energy Healing and the Sacred Art of Transmission

In a sense, we are all transmitting, or broadcasting energy all of the time via our thoughts, feelings and beliefs, as everything is energy and has frequency. Yet I wanted to go deeper here and share with you what I know to be possible, which I am referring to as the “sacred art of transmission” as it is a much more powerful, precise and rare spiritual and healing gift.

It is the ability to transmit spiritual, healing, and intuitive awakenings through look, touch, voice, or even mere presence. It has been over twenty years, but I will never forget my earliest memories of energy transmissions. While some happened through my spiritual teachers, many of them occurred during Reiki healing sessions, and then in teaching and attuning others to this awesome healing art.

Reiki Energy Healing Attunements are Transmissions

After I met my first spiritual teacher, I decided to take a Reiki workshop even though I had never experienced it myself. I was just so curious and my colleague had told me of her experience awhile back, but at that time I was not open, as I had no mental “box” to put it in and kind of shelved the whole concept.

I am so grateful I did. Because I noticed that while there were many great and wise people I knew who were meditating also with the same Master, and most for much longer than me, it was not common for anyone but the energy healers to expect to be able to transmit this potent energy and spiritual space. It was clearly a level of empowerment that I came to appreciate only much later. And it had to do with owning the ability to transmit energy, not just to sit in the energy.

In Reiki Level 1 there are 4 initiatory attunements, which I couldn’t possibly comprehend at that time. Reiki attunements are initiations or transmissions of energy that open the healing channels or energy pathways within everyone.

Yet I now come to realize that the Reiki Master is passing down the ability to awaken or open the healing channels that lie dormant within us all, through these specific attunements. In this instance, everyone else in class was tingling, but I feared I was a Reiki “dud” when we began to practice on each other, and everyone else’s hands were tingling, and I got nada, bupkis.

Until we got to the final two attunements. And something DEFINITELY happened. I actually heard and felt a spirit man initiating me, in addition to the woman teaching the class. When I asked who it was, I got that it was the founder, Dr. Mikao Usui, himself. I asked if he did all of the attunements with her, and she looked stunned. I can only guess that was not everyone’s experience.

Then it began happening: not from me but through me…

I have taught students, who have supposedly already taken Reiki classes with another teacher, and they were very surprised that they felt such tangible energy flow, or experienced such deep meditation states, expansion, and 3rd eye intuitive openings. I was surprised that they didn’t experience that with other teachers. It pains me, but there seem to be many people now teaching a much diluted version of what I received.

It is way more than just intention. It is more like you begin to embody the universal life energy. I now have two decades of validation that direct transmission is happening through me, and not just in Reiki attunements or private sessions. It begins to flow through you like water… and not just via the hands. One Reiki student was walking with me and we stopped at a small waterfall flowing into a pond. She gasped, and said that something was coming out of my eyes; a light, and it felt just like a healing session.

Another time, I met with a new neighbor and she was describing her chronic back pain. I felt deep compassion for her and wanted to help in some way, but it felt too early in the conversation to suggest a Reiki session. But she immediately felt relief, and asked “are you doing that thing you do, cuz my back feels better and better.”

Over time, the knowing what is possible, turns to probable. Now, with very little effort on my part I can align and focus my eyes, my feet, my heart, my thoughts and healing happens, calm serene stillness descends, light radiates. I used to be shy about stating these things, feeling like it was ego. But now I know I must tell you all what is possible for you, just as it became possible for me. I see my students stepping into this mind-blowing reality that they, too can transmit healing energy. There is nothing that delights me more!

How to Know If You Have Male Yeast Infection

Many males will be embarrassed by the fact that they have a yeast infection and will often not seek any medical help. A yeast infection is not something to be ignored and this article should help you to at least determine whether or not you have a yeast infection.

While, it is commonly said that a male yeast infection is a minor problem that can be eliminated by maintaining proper personal hygiene, the fact is that neglected male candidiasis can lead to severe health complications up to damaging the male reproduction organs. This is why it’s obligatory to learn about the symptoms of male yeast infection and ways to initially and properly diagnose the condition.

The following 5 categories will help you to know if you have a male yeast infection:

1. Painful

Things such a jock itch, burning sensations during sexual intercourse or urination. If the pain is server it is a good idea to see a doctor or seek out treatment immediately.

2. Visual

These include dry skin which may be flaky, redness of the penis head and in extreme cases a white discharge.

3. Indigestion

These will include problems such a constipation, diarrhea, intensive gas an in extreme cases even bad breath.

4. Fatigue

A simple lack of energy and mood swings.

5. Sexual dysfunction.

The inability to get or maintain an erection without pain occurring.

6. Dietary preferences changes

Most common of which are cravings for sweets and refined carbohydrates, etc. This is a bad thing because if you have a male yeast infection these types of foods should be minimized

Note that the last four male yeast infection category symptoms are associated with almost any other yeast infection subtype as well. This fact supports the widely accepted alternative medicine philosophy that claims that candida balanitis is first and foremost an internal problem that needs to be addressed holistically rather than a local or external condition.

If you are able to identify any of these symptoms then it is very likely that you have a male yeast infection. Many men are not very forthcoming about seeking help but this is a dangerous approach because a yeast infection should be looked at and treated as soon as possible.

Different Forms of Candida and How it Effects Erectile Function?

The Different Forms of Candida

There are 20 different forms of Candida, the most common being Candida Albicans. These microscopic organisms normally live on the surface of our body without causing any kind of infection or disease. However, under certain extraordinary circumstances, the population of these fungi grows so rapidly that they become the agents of yeast infection or Candidiasis. Thrush, diaper rash, nail-bed infection, vaginal yeast infection and pulmonary candidiasis are some diseases caused by Candida. Yeast infection is mostly prevalent in women; men generally contract oral yeast infection. Penile Candidiasis, or yeast infection that affects the erectile function is quite rare.

Under what situations does Candida start effecting erectile function?

Diabetes- Diabetic men usually have elevated sugar levels in their urine. This makes them the ideal candidates for yeast infection of penis. A large amount of sugar in the urine provides a feasible environment for Candida to grow and multiply in the penis and disrupt the erectile function.

Antibiotics- Prolonged use of antibiotic kills the bacterial flora that is typically present in the penis. In the absence of natural flora, the penis becomes susceptible to infection caused by Candida.

Low immunity- Often, conditions like chronic stress, HIV, hypothyroidism and Lyme lower the immunity of the body drastically and make the penis vulnerable to Candida attack.

Sexual transmission- Having sexual intercourse with a woman who has vaginal yeast infection increases the chances of developing penile candidiasis, which can disturb erectile function dramatically.

What are the symptoms of penile yeast infection?

Frequently, penis yeast infection doesn’t affect the erectile function. In such a case, it is very difficult to detect penile candidiasis. The general symptoms of the disease are excessive itching, particularly on the head of the penis, which can lead to irritation, soreness and redness. In severe cases, small blisters might also appear which is accompanied with a clumpy discharge that is white in color.

The bad thing about penile candidiasis is that its symptoms are very similar to that of genital herpes. As soon as you detect the symptoms, contact your physician immediately to ascertain whether erectile dysfunction is caused by penis yeast infection or genital herpes.

What are some remedies to overcome the adverse effects of Candida on erectile function?

The two drugs that are regularly used for the treatment of penis candidiasis are ketaconazole and fluconazole. These medicines produce their own set of side effects. For this reason, natural remedies should also be tried like yogurt, aloe vera, garlic paste, apple cider vinegar. These can be applied on the affected area for instant relief.

In addition to treatment, certain precautions are also necessary. For instance, if you or your partner is nursing a yeast infection of genital organs, it is advisable to practice safe sex. Furthermore, avoid wearing clothes that are tight at your crotch and keep your genital area absolutely clean and moisture free. Besides these, make requisite dietary changes like start taking pro biotic supplements and Vitamin C in your daily diet.

Efficiency of Candida diet against Candida that causes erectile dysfunction

Candida diet can also prove to be quite effective. While following a Candida diet, you have to avoid eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates. Chicken, meat, non-starchy vegetables, shell-fish, and nuts are found to be very helpful in the treatment of a penis yeast infection. Likewise, you should also avoid foods that are a rich source of yeast like bread, mushroom, cheese, tomato paste, vinegar, and so on.

Concluding words

Penis candidiasis is absolutely treatable. Seek medical advice at the onset of the disease, follow the instructions carefully and try to adopt a healthy and hygienic lifestyle. Switch over to a Candida diet and apart from tried and tested medication, try out natural remedies too. Moreover, keep away from all kinds of stresses and tensions. Practice yoga, meditation and other stress management techniques to overcome all the strains and stresses of your life.

Ease Into the World of Investing

The United Nations does it. Governments do it. Companies do it. Fund managers do it. Millions of ordinary working people – from business owners to factory workers – do it. Housewives do it. Even farmers and children do it.

‘It’ here is investing: the science and art of creating, protecting and enhancing your wealth in the financial markets. This article introduces some of the most important concerns in the world of investment.

Let’s start with your objectives. While clearly the goal is to make more money, there are 3 specific reasons institutions, professionals and retail investors (people like you and me) invest:

  • For Security, ie for protection against inflation or market crashes
  • For Income, ie to receive regular income from their investments
  • For Growth, ie for long-term growth in the value of their investments

Investments are generally structured to focus on one or other of these objectives, and investment professionals (such as fund managers) spend a lot of time balancing these competing objectives. With a little bit of education and time, you can do almost the same thing yourself.

One of the first questions to ask yourself is how much risk you’re comfortable with. To put it more plainly: how much money are you prepared to lose? Your risk tolerance level depends on your personality, experiences, number of dependents, age, level of financial knowledge and several other factors. Investment advisors measure your risk tolerance level so they can classify you by risk profile (eg, ‘Conservative’, ‘Moderate’, ‘Aggressive’) and recommend the appropriate investment portfolio (explained below).

However, understanding your personal risk tolerance level is necessary for you too, especially with something as important as your own money. Your investments should be a source of comfort, not pain. Nobody can guarantee you’ll make a profit; even the most sensible investment decisions can turn against you; there are always ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’. You may lose part or all of your investment so always invest only what you are prepared to lose.

At some point you’ll want to withdraw some or all of your investment funds. When is that point likely to be: in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years or 25 years? Clearly, you’ll want an investment that allows you to withdraw at least part of your funds at this point. Your investment timeframe – short-term, medium-term or long-term – will often determine what kinds of investments you can go for and what kinds of returns to expect.

All investments involve a degree of risk. One of the ‘golden rules’ of investing is that reward is related to risk: the higher the reward you want, the higher the risk you have to take. Different investments can come with very different levels of risk (and associated reward); it’s important that you appreciate the risks associated with any investment you’re planning to make. There’s no such thing as a risk-free investment, and your bank deposits are no exception. Firstly, while Singapore bank deposits are rightly considered very safe, banks in other countries have failed before and continue to fail. More importantly, in 2010 the highest interest rate on Singapore dollar deposits up to $10,000 was 0.375%, while the average inflation rate from Jan-Nov 2010 was 2.66%. You were losing money just by leaving your savings in the bank.

Today, there are many, many types of investments (‘asset classes’) available. Some – such as bank deposits, stocks (shares) and unit trusts – you’re already familiar with, but there are several others you should be aware of. Some of the most common ones:

  • Bank Deposits
  • Shares
  • Investment-Linked Product1
  • Unit Trusts2
  • ETFs3
  • Gold4

1 An Investment-Linked Product (ILP) is an insurance plan that combines protection and investment. ILPs main advantage is that they offer life insurance.

2 A Unit Trust is a pool of money professionally managed according to a specific, long-term management objective (eg, a unit trust may invest in well-known companies all over the world to try to provide a balance of high returns and diversification). The main advantage of unit trusts is that you don’t have to pay brokers’ commissions.

3 An ETF or Exchange-Traded Fund comes in many different forms: for example, there are equity ETFs that hold, or track the performance of, a basket of stocks (eg Singapore, emerging economies); commodity ETFs that hold, or track the price of, a single commodity or basket of commodities (eg Silver, metals); and currency ETFs that track a major currency or basket of currencies (eg Euro). ETFs offer two main advantages: they trade like shares (on stock exchanges such as the SGX) and typically come with very low management fees.

The main difference between ETFs and Unit Trusts is that ETFs are publicly-traded assets while Unit Trusts are privately-traded assets, meaning that you can buy and sell them yourself anytime during market hours.

4 ‘Gold’ here refers to gold bullion, certificates of ownership or gold savings accounts. However, note that you can invest in gold in many other ways, including gold ETFs, gold Unit Trusts; and shares in gold mining companies.

With the advent of the Internet and online brokers, there are so many investment alternatives available today that even a beginner investor with $5,000 to invest can find several investment options suited to her objectives, risk profile and timeframe.

Diversification basically means trying to reduce risk by making a variety of investments, ie investing your money in multiple companies, industries and countries (and as your financial knowledge and wealth grows, in different ‘asset classes’ – cash, stocks, ETFs, commodities such as gold and silver, etc). This collection of investments is termed your Investment Portfolio.

Some level of diversification is important because in times of crisis, similar investments tend to behave similarly. Two of the best examples in recent history are the Singapore stock market crashes of late-2008/early-2009, during the US ‘Subprime’ crisis, and 1997, during the ‘Asian Financial Crisis’, when the price of large numbers of stocks plunged. ‘Diversifying’ by investing in different stocks wouldn’t have helped you very much on these occasions.

The concept and power of compounding are best explained by example. Assume we have 3 investments: the first returns 0.25% a year; the second returns 5% a year; and the third returns 10% a year. For each investment, we compare 2 scenarios:

  • Without compounding, ie the annual interest is taken out of the account.
  • With compounding, ie the annual interest is left (re-invested) in the account.

Let’s look at the returns over 25 years for all 3 investments, assuming we start off with $10,000 in Year 0:

  • With 0.25% return a year, your investment will grow to $10,625 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $10,644 after 25 years with compounding.
  • With 5% return a year, your investment will grow to $22,500 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $33,864 after 25 years with compounding.
  • With 10% return a year, your investment will grow to $35,000 after 25 years without compounding; your investment becomes $108,347 after 25 years with compounding.

This shows the dramatic effects of both higher returns and compounding: 10% annual returns coupled with 25 years of compounding will return you more than 10 times your initial investment. And 10% returns are by no means unrealistic: educated investors who actively manage their portfolio themselves and practise diversification can achieve even higher returns, even with some losing years.

People of all ages and backgrounds need practical and customised guidance in developing their financial knowledge and skills in order to reach their financial goals. In this article we’ve tried to describe in simple terms some of the most important concepts and principles you need to understand on this journey.

The Opposition of Emotionally Colored and Emotionally Neutral Vocabulary

A tendency to judge that speech is only an instrument for making statements is rather primitive. Some people forget that there are a lot of different possibilities. The way we speak also expresses our emotions, attitude to people interrelations between the audience and the speaker.

Sometimes it is necessary to guide people, to warn them or to show somebody’s disapproval or approval or to make your speech sound more enthusiastic or encouraging. We should take all these into consideration while investigating the lexical meaning of words. Using such terms as “emotive” or “expressive”; “affective” or “evaluative”, some people think they are synonyms, for example, that an emotive word is of necessity also a stylistically colored word, or considering all stylistically colored words as emotional. But that is not the case.

So, let us agree that so-called emotive speech is any utterance expressing different human emotions. It is easy to find in speech a great number of syntactical, lexical and intonational peculiarities. Thus, by lexical peculiarities I mean special, emotionally colored words. The emotional coloring of the word may be occasional or permanent. Let us focus on the second. Lexical units acquire their emotional coloring, in other words, their affective connotation, in emotional contexts of particular situations.

The most common type of emotional words, as it seems to me, are interjections. The fact is that they express a lot of emotions without naming them: Ouch! My! Boy! Heaven! Wow! Ah! etc. The interjections may be derived from other parts of speech or be primary interjections. For example, if you describe something as a “drag”, what do you mean? It is boring, too difficult or physically exhausting? Certainly, something that is annoying or boring. We can find a lot of emotional words in everyday small talks or in the literature: ” I love Sibyl Vane. I want to place her on a pedestal of gold, and to see the world worship the woman who is mine. What is marriage? An irrevocable vow. You mock at it for that. Ah! don’t mock.” ( Oscar Wild “The Picture of Dorian Gray” Moscow Progress Publishers 1979 Volume One, page 170)

To express irritation, mockery or any other emotions the speech should possess some special traits, that would show the audience that the speaker’s emotions are very strong. The traditional word order is not used in such cases, but one can obviously find the inversion. More to that, very interesting and vivid examples of echo-conversations can be found in everyday spoken speech. Sometimes it sounds really amusing: “Why should I… ?” – “Stop why-should-I-ing!” or “Oh, come on!”- “Don’t come-on-me!” These are examples of mockery back-chat. It is funny to find brand new words like “why-should-I-ing” invented by the speaker in the moment of utter irritation. This type of emotional speech is definitely increasing in the speech of young people today, as the native speakers assume.

The emotionally colored words are opposed to the emotionally neutral ones. These words actually express notions (It is the so-called nominating function) but they fail to express the speaker’s emotions or his attitude towards people or the speaker’s mood. However, sometimes it is very difficult to tell the sets as they are not very distinguishing, there are a lot of mixed cases. Some of them may possess traits that belong to both. Many words are definitely neutral in their primary, direct meaning but absolutely emotional in the certain conversation under the conditions of the context.

Another group of words may be called “evaluator-words” which contrasts in speech to the neutral words. These words, while we use them in the sentences, can not only show the presence of emotions but identify or specify them.

Just to sum up what have been mentioned I would like to underline that emphatic and emotional words do not show emotions by themselves but impact these to the whole utterance in the combination with syntactic and intonational means.

The Best Investment Portfolio for 2014 and Beyond

If you have an investment portfolio (like in a 401k plan) take a good look at it, because it might not really be the best investment portfolio for 2014 and beyond. If you are a new investor, don’t start investing money until you are familiar with the best funds to include in your portfolio in 2014.

Your investment portfolio is simply a list showing where your money is, and for most average investors consists primarily of mutual funds: stock funds, bond funds and money market funds. Here we discuss the best funds and asset allocation to achieve the best investment portfolio in the event that 2014 and beyond becomes a tough environment for investors. You may need to make changes in your existing portfolio; and you should also be aware of the following as a new investor before you start investing money.

As an investor you should receive statements periodically which show you where your money is. The problem is that many investors do not give these statements, which clearly show you your asset allocation and your investment portfolio, the attention they deserve. That can be a problem. For example, if you had 50% of your portfolio allocated to stock funds in early 2009, you could have two-thirds of your money in these funds now. If the stock market takes a big hit, you stand to take a big loss. Let’s take a look at stock funds and the best funds for investing money there first.

The stock market and many diversified stock funds have gone UP in value about 150% in less than 5 years, and numerous financial analysts expect a correction (stock prices to go DOWN) in 2014. If your investment portfolio shows that more than half of your assets are invested in stock funds consider cutting back to 50% or less. If you are a new investor ready to start investing, allocate no more than 50% to diversified stock funds. The best funds: those that invest in high quality, dividend paying stocks vs. growth funds that pay little in the form of dividends. This is your first step in putting together the best investment portfolio for 2014, because it cuts your potential losses.

The best investment portfolio also includes bond funds, which have been good solid investments for over 30 years. Why? Interest rates have been falling, which sends bond prices and bond fund values higher. Problem: interest rates have hit all-time lows and appear to be heading higher. Higher interest rates create losses for bond fund investors. Many investors have an investment portfolio loaded with bond funds and are totally unaware of the risk involved if rates go up. If you are getting ready to start investing money you need to know this as well. When interest rates go UP, bonds and bond fund values go DOWN. That’s about the only iron-clad rule in the investment world.

Allocate no more than 25% to 30% of your total investment portfolio to bond funds to cut your risk. The best bond funds are categorized as intermediate-term funds, where the investment portfolio of the fund invests in bonds that mature (on average) in 5 to 10 years. These are the best funds now because they pay a respectable dividend with only moderate risk. The worst funds to hold now: long-term funds that hold bonds maturing (on average) in 15, 20 years or more. When you review your investment portfolio, get rid of these because they will be big losers if (when) interest rates shoot upward. New investors who want to start investing money: avoid them and allocate about 25% of your money to intermediate-term bond funds to avoid heavy risk.

Sometimes the best investment portfolio is loaded with aggressive stock funds and includes longer-term bond funds. Now, looking at 2014 and beyond, is probably not one of those times. For many years now losses in stock funds have been offset by gains in bond funds. Today the problem for investors is that even the best funds of both varieties could get hit if the economy falters and interest rates rise significantly. That makes investing money today a real challenge… one that few investors are prepared for.

So, let’s say that you start investing money with less than 50% going to the best funds in the stock department and about 25% allocated to the best funds in the bond universe… or you adjust your existing investment portfolio to these levels… where do you invest the rest of it? Even though interest rates are still historically low, you bite the bullet and invest it for safety to earn interest. In a 401k plan your best safe investment is likely the stable account, if your plan has one. Otherwise, the best fund for safety is a money market fund (even though they presently pay almost no interest). When rates go up, they should pay more. Or you can shop the banks for the best rates on short-term CDs, or savings accounts.

I expect that 2014 and beyond will be a challenging time to start investing money or to manage an existing investment portfolio. On the other hand, now you should have a handle on the best funds to consider when putting together the best investment portfolio possible. Remember, you must stay in the game in order to get ahead over the long term; but sometimes moderation is your best course of action.

A New Way to Invest in Property

The two most frequently asked questions by investors are:

  1. What investment should I buy?
  2. Is now the right time to buy it?

Most people want to know how to spot the right investment at the right time, because they believe that is the key to successful investing. Let me tell you that is far from the truth: even if you could get the answers to those questions right, you would only have a 50% chance to make your investment successful. Let me explain.

There are two key influencers that can lead to the success or failure of any investment:

  1. External factors: these are the markets and investment performance in general. For example:
    • The likely performance of that particular investment over time;
    • Whether that market will go up or down, and when it will change from one direction to another.
  2. Internal factors: these are the investor’s own preference, experience and capacity. For example:
    • Which investment you have more affinity with and have a track record of making good money in;
    • What capacity you have to hold on to an investment during bad times;
    • What tax advantages do you have which can help manage cash flow;
    • What level of risk you can tolerate without tending to make panic decisions.

When we are looking at any particular investment, we can’t simply look at the charts or research reports to decide what to invest and when to invest, we need to look at ourselves and find out what works for us as an individual.

Let’s look at a few examples to demonstrate my viewpoint here. These can show you why investment theories often don’t work in real life because they are an analysis of the external factors, and investors can usually make or break these theories themselves due to their individual differences (i.e. internal factors).

Example 1: Pick the best investment at the time.

Most investment advisors I have seen make an assumption that if the investment performs well, then any investor can definitely make good money out of it. In other words, the external factors alone determine the return.

I beg to differ. Consider these for example:

  • Have you ever heard of an instance where two property investors bought identical properties side by side in the same street at the same time? One makes good money in rent with a good tenant and sells it at a good profit later; the other has much lower rent with a bad tenant and sells it at a loss later. They can be both using the same property management agent, the same selling agent, the same bank for finance, and getting the same advice from the same investment advisor.
  • You may have also seen share investors who bought the same shares at the same time, one is forced to sell theirs at a loss due to personal circumstances and the other sells them for a profit at a better time.
  • I have even seen the same builder building 5 identical houses side by side for 5 investors. One took 6 months longer to build than the other 4, and he ended up having to sell it at the wrong time due to personal cash flow pressures whereas others are doing much better financially.

What is the sole difference in the above cases? The investors themselves (i.e. the internal factors).

Over the years I have reviewed the financial positions of a few thousand investors personally. When people ask me what investment they should get into at any particular moment, they expect me to compare shares, properties, and other asset classes to advise them how to allocate their money.

My answer to them is to always ask them to go back over their track record first. I would ask them to list down all the investments they have ever made: cash, shares, options, futures, properties, property development, property renovation, etc. and ask them to tell me which one made them the most money and which one didn’t. Then I suggest to them to stick to the winners and cut the losers. In other words, I tell them to invest more in what has made them good money in the past and stop investing in what has not made them any money in the past (assuming their money will get a 5% return per year sitting in the bank, they need to at least beat that when doing the comparison).

If you take time to do that exercise for yourself, you will very quickly discover your favourite investment to invest in, so that you can concentrate your resources on getting the best return rather than allocating any of them to the losers.

You may ask for my rationale in choosing investments this way rather than looking at the theories of diversification or portfolio management, like most others do. I simply believe the law of nature governs many things beyond our scientific understanding; and it is not smart to go against the law of nature.

For example, have you ever noticed that sardines swim together in the ocean? And similarly so do the sharks. In a natural forest, similar trees grow together too. This is the idea that similar things attract each other as they have affinity with each other.

You can look around at the people you know. The people you like to spend more time with are probably people who are in some ways similar to you.

It seems that there is a law of affinity at work that says that similar things beget similar things; whether they are animals, trees, rocks or humans. Why do you think there would be any difference between an investor and their investments?

So in my opinion, the question is not necessarily about which investment works. Rather it is about which investment works for you.

If you have affinity with properties, properties are likely to be attracted to you. If you have affinity with shares, shares are likely to be attracted to you. If you have affinity with good cash flow, good cash flow is likely to be attracted to you. If you have affinity with good capital gain, good capital growth is likely to be attracted to you (but not necessary good cash flow ).

You can improve your affinity with anything to a degree by spending more time and effort on it, but there are things that you naturally have affinity with. These are the things you should go with as they are effortless for you. Can you imagine the effort required for a shark to work on himself to become sardine-like or vice versa?

One of the reasons why our company has spent a lot of time lately to work on our client’s cash flow management, is because if our clients have low affinity with their own family cash flow, they are unlikely to have good cash flow with their investment properties. Remember, it is a natural law that similar things beget similar things. Investors who have poor cash flow management at home, usually end up with investments (or businesses) with poor cash flow.

Have you ever wondered why the world’s greatest investors, such as Warren Buffet, tend only to invest in a few very concentrated areas they have great affinity with? While he has more money than most of us and could afford to diversify into many different things, he sticks to only the few things that he has successfully made his money from in the past and cut off the ones which didn’t (such as the airline business).

What if you haven’t done any investing and you have no track record to go by? In this case I would suggest you first look at your parents’ track record in investing. The chances are you are somehow similar to your parents (even when you don’t like to admit it ). If you think your parents never invested in anything successfully, then look at whether they have done well with their family home. Alternatively you will need to do your own testing to find out what works for you.

Obviously there will be exceptions to this rule. Ultimately your results will be the only judge for what investment works for you.

Example 2: Picking the bottom of the market to invest.

When the news in any market is not positive, many investors automatically go into a “waiting mode”. What are they waiting for? The market to bottom out! This is because they believe investing is about buying low and selling high – pretty simple right? But why do most people fail to do even that?

Here are a few reasons:

  • When investors have the money to invest safely in a market, that market may not be at its bottom yet, so they choose to wait. By the time the market hits the bottom; their money has already been taken up by other things, as money rarely sits still. If it is not going to some sort of investment, it will tend to go to expenses or other silly things such as get-rich-quick scheme, repairs and other “life dramas”.
  • Investors who are used to waiting for when the market is not very positive before they act are usually driven either by a fear of losing money or the greed of gaining more. Let’s look at the impact of each of them:
  • If their behaviour was due to the fear of losing money, they are less likely to get into the market when it hits rock bottom as you can imagine how bad the news would be then. If they couldn’t act when the news was less negative, how do you expect them to have the courage to act when it is really negative? So usually they miss out on the bottom anyway.
  • If their behaviour was driven by the greed of hoping to make more money on the way up when it reaches the bottom, they are more likely to find other “get-rich-quick schemes” to put their money in before the market hits the bottom, by the time the market hits the bottom, their money won’t be around to invest. Hence you would notice that the get-rich-quick schemes are usually heavily promoted during a time of negative market sentiment as they can easily capture money from this type of investor.
  • Very often, something negative begets something else negative. People who are fearful to get into the market when their capacity allows them to do so, will spend most of their time looking at all the bad news to confirm their decision. Not only they will miss the bottom, but they are likely to also miss the opportunities on the way up as well, because they see any market upward movement as a preparation for a further and bigger dive the next day.

Hence it is my observation that most people who are too fearful or too greedy to get into the market during a slow market have rarely been able to benefit financially from waiting. They usually end up getting into the market after it has had its bull run for far too long when there is very little negative news left. But that is actually often the time when things are over-valued, so they get into the market then, and get slaughtered on the way down.

So my advice to our clients is to first start from your internal factors, check your own track records and financial viability to invest. Decide whether you are in a position to invest safely, regardless of the external factors (i.e. the market):

  • If the answer is yes, then go to the market and find the best value you can find at that time;
  • If the answer is no, then wait.

Unfortunately, most investors do it the other way around. They tend to let the market (an external factor) decide what they should do, regardless of their own situation, and they end up wasting time and resources within their capacity.

I hope, from the above 2 examples, that you can see that investing is not necessarily about picking the right investment and the right market timing, but it is more about picking the investment that works for you and sticking to your own investment timetable, within your own capacity.

A new way to invest in properties

During a consultation last month with a client who has been with us for 6 years, I suddenly realised they didn’t know anything about our Property Advisory Service which has been around since April 2010. I thought I’d better fix this oversight and explain what it is and why it is unique and unprecedented in Australia.

But before I do, I would like to give you some data you simply don’t get from investment books and seminars, so you can see where I am coming from.

Over the last 10 years of running a mortgage business for property investors:

  • We have executed more than 7,000 individual investment mortgages with around 60 different lenders;
  • Myself and our mortgage team have reviewed the financial positions of approximately 6,000 individual property investors and developers;
  • I have enjoyed privileged access to vital data including the original purchase price, value of property improvements and the current valuation of close to 30,000 individual investment properties all around Australia from our considerable client base.

When you have such a large sample size to do your research on and make observations, you are bound to discover something unknown to most people.

I have discovered many things that may surprise you as much as they surprised me, some of which are against conventional wisdom:

Paying more tax can be financially good for you.

This one took me years to swallow, but I can’t deny the facts. The clients who have managed to get into a positive cashflow position have paid a lot of tax and will continue to pay a lot of tax, whether it is capital gains, income tax or stamp duty. They don’t have an issue with the tax man making some money as long as they continue to make more themselves! They regularly cash in the profits from their properties and reduce their debt, but always continue to invest and park their money where the return is best. In fact, I can almost say that the only people who enjoy positive cashflow from their investment properties are the people who have little concern about paying taxes as they treat them as the cost of doing business.

Just about every property strategy works. It just depends on who does it, how it is done, when it is done and where it is done.

When I first started investing, I went and read many property investment books and attended many investment educational seminars. Just about every one of them was convincing and this confused the hell out of me. Just when I was about to form an opinion against a particular property strategy, someone would show up in one of my client consultations and prove that it worked for them!

After testing many of these strategies myself, I came to realise that it is not about the strategy,(which is only a tool) but rather it is about whether the person is using the tool appropriately at the right time, in the right place and in the right way.

There is no such thing as the best suburb to invest in, forever.

If you randomly pick a particular property in what you think is the best suburb over a 30 year window, you will find that there are periods during which this property will outperform the market average, and there are periods when this property will underperform the market average.

Many property investors find themselves jumping into historically high growth suburbs at the end of the period when it is outperforming the average, and then stay there for 5-7 years during the underperforming period. (Naturally this can taint their view of property investing as a whole!)

There is no such thing as the worst suburb to invest in, forever.

If you pick a property in the worst suburb you can think of from 40 years ago, and pitch that against the best suburb you can think of over the same period of time, you will find they both grew at about 7-9% a year on average over the long-term.

Hence in the 1960s, a median house in Melbourne and Sydney was valued at $10k. The worst property around that time may have been 30% of the median price for then, which was say about $3k. Today, the median house price in these cities is about $600k. The worst suburb you can find is still around 30% of that price which is say $200k a house. If you believe a bad suburb will never grow, then show me where you can find a house today in these cities, that is still worth around $3k.

Median Price growth is very misleading.

Many beginner property investors look at median price growth as the guidance for suburb selection. A few points worth mentioning on median price are:

We understand the way median price is calculated as the middle price point based on the number of sales during a period. We can talk about the median price for a particular suburb on a particular day, week, month, year, or even longer. So an influx of new stocks or low sales volume can severely distort the median price.

In an older suburb, median price growth tends to be higher than it really is. This is because it does not reflect the large sum of money people put into renovating their properties nor does it reflect the subdivision of large blocks of land into multiple dwellings which can be a substantial percentage of the entire suburb.

In a newer suburb, median price growth tend to be lower than it really is. This is because it does not reflect the fact that the land and buildings are both getting smaller. For example, you could buy a block of land of 650 square metres for $120k in 2006 in a newer suburb of Melbourne, but 5 years later, half the size block (i.e.325 square metres) will cost you $260k. That’s a whopping 34% annual growth rate per year for 5 years, but median price growth will never reflect that, as median prices today are calculated on much smaller properties.

Median price growth takes away people’s focus from looking at the cost of carrying the property. When you have a net 2-3% rental yield against interest rates of 7-8%, you are out-of-pocket by 5% a year. This is not including the money you have to put in to fix and maintain your property from time to time.

Buying and holding the same property forever doesn’t give you the best returns on your money.

The longer you hold a property, the more likely you will achieve an average growth of 7-9%. But you will be bound to hit periods where your property outperforms the 7-9% growth and periods where it under performs the 7-9% growth.

The longer you hold a property, if its growth is at or above average, the lower its rental yields will become.

The longer you hold a property, the higher the capital gains tax you will need to pay when you sell, and the less likely you will be able to sell it.

The longer you hold a property, the more likely there will be a need for an expensive upgrade of the property.

The longer you hold a property, the more likely you will forget which part of the equity actually belongs to the tax man, AND the more likely you will be to try to leverage the equity that doesn’t belong to you. This can get you into a negative equity position with a negative cashflow forever, unless you have proper financial guidance.

A Buyer’s Guide to Kids ATV

Buying a kids ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) could be a confusing task. Often, most people do not know how to go about buying the ATV. There are so many factors to consider. Size, make, price and safety are examples of factors that must be taken into account. Of course, looks too play an important part. After all, your child will not accept a kids ATV that doesn’t look cool! So, how do you buy the right bike?

Size: When it comes to size, most parents make big mistakes. It is common for them to buy a kids ATV that is one size bigger so that their child can grow into the bike gradually. But, buying a quad bike that is bigger than the required size is dangerous. Your child should have comfortable access to the handle bars, brake and accelerator. If they cannot reach these parts comfortably, it could be dangerous. Parents must also consider the size of the engine. If the engine is too powerful, it could go out of control. 50cc engines are best suited for young children.

Quality: When you buy kids ATV, it is important to consider the quality of the bike. A quality bike equates to lesser number of break-downs, repairs and low maintenance costs. Reputed brands are highly conscious of the quality of their machines. Also, since kids grow out their ATVs pretty fast, you need to consider your re-selling options. A reputed brand fetches much more when you want to resell. If you are about to buy a brand that sounds new, find out more about warranties, guarantees and so on.

Safety: Kids ATV must keep to high safety standards. High quality quads have a large number of safety features. Some even have safety features that may not be present in adult ATVs. Examples include kill switches which help kill the engine in case of trouble. Remote controls allow parents to control the ATVs, in case of necessity. A safe engine keeps your child safe.

The ATV is also known as the quad or four wheeler. According to the ANSI (American National Standards Institute), the ATV is a vehicle that is equipped to travel on all terrains. It has four low pressure tires and a handlebar. The vehicle is legal in some countries and not allowed on the roads in other countries. Regardless, kids need to learn how to be safe on the kids ATV before they can graduate to more powerful ATVs.

Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 must always ride a kids ATV with a 70cc engine or lesser. As age and experience increase, they can opt for more advanced models. It is necessary to buy the ATV that suits your child’s physical make up. In this regard, you cannot accept any industry norms. The only way to find out is to take your child for a test drive. Your child must be able to shift gears if you intend to buy manual   transmission . Otherwise, go for the automatic ATVs.