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There is a simple but undeniable truth in the financial consulting and wealth planning industry that Wall Street has kept as a “dirty little secret” for years. That dirty little, and nearly always overlooked secret is THE WAY YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR IS PAID DIRECTLY AFFECTS THEIR FINANCIAL ADVICE TO YOU!

You want, and deserve (and consequently SHOULD EXPECT) unbiased financial advice in your best interests. But the fact is 99% of the general investing public has no idea how their financial advisor is compensated for the advice they provide. This is a tragic oversight, yet an all too common one. There are three basic compensation models for financial advisors – commissions based, fee-based, and fee-only.

Commission Based Financial Advisor – These advisors sell “loaded” or commission paying products like insurance, annuities, and loaded mutual funds. The commission your financial advisor is earning on your transaction may or may not be disclosed to you. I say “transaction” because that’s what commission based financial advisors do – they facilitate TRANSACTIONS. Once the transaction is over, you may be lucky to hear from them again because they’ve already earned the bulk of whatever commission they were going to earn.

Since these advisors are paid commissions which may or may not be disclosed, and the amounts may vary based on the insurance and investment products they sell, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the financial advice given to you and the commission these financial advisors earn. If their income is dependent on transactions and selling insurance and investment products, THEY HAVE A FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO SELL YOU WHATEVER PAYS THEM THE HIGHEST COMMISSION! That’s not to say there aren’t some honest and ethical commission based advisors, but clearly this identifies a conflict of interest.

Fee Based Financial Advisor – Here’s the real “dirty little secret” Wall Street doesn’t want you to know about. Wall Street (meaning the firms and organizations involved in buying, selling, or managing assets, insurance and investments) has sufficiently blurred the lines between the three ways your financial advisor may be compensated that 99% of the investing public believes that hiring a Fee-Based Financial Advisor is directly correlated with “honest, ethical and unbiased” financial advice.

The truth is FEE-BASED MEANS NOTHING! Think about it (you’ll understand more when you learn the third type of compensation), all fee-BASED means is that your financial advisor can take fees AND commissions from selling insurance and investment products! So a “base” of their compensation may be tied to a percentage of the assets they manage on your behalf, then the “icing on the cake” is the commission income they can potentially earn by selling you commission driven investment and insurance products.

Neat little marketing trick right? Lead off with the word “Fee” so the general public thinks the compensation model is akin to the likes of attorney’s or accountants, then add the word “based” after it to cover their tails when these advisors sell you products for commissions!

FEE ONLY Financial Advisor – By far, the most appropriate and unbiased way to get financial advice is through a FEE-ONLY financial advisor. I stress the word “ONLY”, because a truly fee ONLY financial advisor CAN NOT, and WILL NOT accept commissions in any form. A Fee-ONLY financial advisor earns FEES in the form of hourly compensation, project financial planning, or a percentage of assets managed on your behalf.

All fees are in black and white, there are no hidden forms of compensation! Fee-Only financial advisors believe in FULL DISCLOSURE of any potential conflicts of interest in their compensation and the financial advice and guidance provided to you.

Understanding the conflict of interest in the financial advice given by commission based brokers enables you to clearly identify the conflict of interest for fee-based financial advisors also – they earn fees AND commissions! Hence – FEE-BASED MEANS NOTHING! There is only one true way to get the most unbiased, honest and ethical advice possible and that is through a financial advisor who believes in, and practices, full disclosure.

Commission and Fee-Based financial advisors typically don’t believe in or practice full-disclosure, because the sheer magnitude of the the fees the average investor/consumer pays would surely make them think twice.

Consider for a moment you need to buy a truck specifically for towing and hauling heavy loads. You go to the local Ford dealership and talk to a salesperson – that salesperson asks what type of vehicle you’re interested in and shows you their line of trucks. Of course, to that salesperson who earns a commission when you buy a truck – ONLY FORD has the right truck for you. It’s the best, it’s the only way to go, and if you don’t buy that truck from that salesperson you’re crazy!

The fact is Toyota makes great trucks, GM makes great trucks, Dodge makes great trucks. The Ford may or may not be the best truck for your needs, but the salesperson ONLY shows you the Ford, because that’s ALL the salesperson can sell you and make a commission from.

This is similar to a commission based financial advisor. If they sell annuities, they’ll show you annuities. If they sell mutual funds, all they’ll show you is commission paying mutual funds. If they sell life insurance, they’ll tell you life insurance is the solution to all of your financial problems. The fact is, when all you have is a hammer… everything looks like a nail!

Now consider for a moment you hired a car buying advisor and paid them a flat fee. That advisor is an expert and stays current on all of the new vehicles. That advisor’s only incentive is to find you the most appropriate truck for you, the one that hauls the most, tows the best, and is clearly the best option available. They earn a fee for their service, so they want you to be happy and refer your friends and family to them. They even have special arrangements worked out with all of the local car dealerships to get you the best price on the truck that’s right for you because they want to add value to your relationship with them.

The analogy of a “car buying advisor” is similar to a Fee-Only financial planner. Fee-Only financial advisor’s use the best available investments with the lowest possible cost. A Fee-Only financial advisor’s only incentive is to keep you happy, to earn your trust, to provide the best possible financial advice and guidance using the most appropriate investment tools and planning practices.

So on one hand you have a car salesperson who’s going to earn a commission (coincidentally the more you pay for the truck the more they earn!) to sell you one of the trucks off their lot. On the other hand, you have a trusted car buying advisor who shops all of the vehicles to find the most appropriate one for your specific needs, and then because of his relationships with all of the car dealers can also get you the best possible price on that vehicle. Which would you prefer?

Truly unbiased financial advice and guidance comes in the form of Fee-Only financial planning. You know exactly what you’re paying and what you’re getting in return for the compensation your Fee-Only financial advisor earns. Everything is in black and white, and there are no hidden agenda’s or conflicts of interest in the advice given to you by a true Fee-Only financial advisor!

The fact is unfortunately less than 1% of all financial advisor professionals are truly FEE-ONLY. The reason for this? There’s a clear and substantial disparity in a financial advisor’s income generated through commissions (or commissions and fees), and the income a financial advisor earns through the Fee-Only model:

Example #1 – You just changed employment and you’re rolling over a $250,000 401k into an IRA. The commission based advisor may sell you a variable annuity in your IRA (which is a very poor planning tactic in most cases and for many reasons) and earn a 5% (or many times more) commission ($12,500) and get an ongoing, or “trailer” commission of 1% (plus or minus) equal to $2,500 per year. The Fee-Only financial advisor may charge you a fee for retirement plan, an hourly fee, or a percentage of your portfolio to manage it. Let’s say in this case you pay a $500 retirement plan fee and 1.25% of assets managed (very common for a Fee-Only financial advisor in this situation). That advisor earns $500 plus $3,125 ($250,000 * 1.25%) or TOTAL COMPENSATION of $3,625 – FAR LESS THAN THE $15,000 THE COMMISSION (or Fee-Based) financial advisor earned! In fact it takes the Fee-Only financial advisor over four years to earn what the commission (or fee-based) advisor earned in one year!

Example #2 – You’re retired and managing a $750,000 nest egg which needs to provide you income for the rest of your life. A fee-based financial advisor may recommend putting $400,000 into an single premium immediate annuity to get you income and the other $350,000 into a fee-based managed mutual fund platform. The annuity may pay a commission of 4% or $16,000 and the fee-based managed mutual fund portfolio may cost 1.25% for total compensation of $20,375 first year (not including the “trailer” commissions). The Fee-Only advisor would possibly shop low load annuities for you, possibly put the entire portfolio into a managed account, possibly look at municipal bonds, or any other variety of options available. It’s hard to say how much the Fee-Only advisor would earn as their largest incentive is to keep you the client happy, and provide the best planning advice and guidance possible for your situation. BUT, in this case let’s just assume that a managed mutual fund portfolio was implemented with an averaged cost of 1% (very common for that level of assets), so the Fee-Only financial advisor earns roughly $7,500 per year and it takes that financial advisor THREE YEARS to earn what the fee-based financial advisor earned in ONE YEAR!

The prior examples are very common in today’s financial advisory industry. It’s unfortunate that such a disparity in income exists between the compensation models, or there would likely be many more truly independent and unbiased Fee-Only financial advisors today!

Now consider for a moment which financial advisor will work harder for you AFTER the initial consultations an planning? Which financial advisor must consistently earn your trust and add value to your financial and investment planning? It’s obvious the financial advisor with the most to lose is the Fee-Only advisor. A Fee-Only financial advisor has a direct loss of income on a regular basis from losing a client.

The commission or fee-based financial advisor however has little to lose. You can fire them after they’ve put you in their high commission products, and as you can see from the examples they’ve already made the majority of the commissions they’re going to make on you as a client. They have little to gain by continuing to add value to your financial and investment planning, and little to lose by losing you as a client.

Wouldn’t you prefer a financial advisory model where your financial advisor must continually earn your trust and add consistent value to your planning?

It’s clearly more difficult to earn a living and run a profitable financial advisory firm through the Fee-Only financial planning and guidance model. For this reason, most financial advisors take the easy way and sell products for commissions and charge fees on assets managed – that way they can make a nice living on your investment portfolio and still have an ongoing stream of revenue every year. For this reason also, less than 1% of financial advisors are truly Fee-Only, yet it’s that 1% that is truly objective and unbiased, and that 1% whose only incentive is to manage your financial plan, investments, and overall wealth to accomplish the goals you wish to achieve!

The real “dirty little secret” Wall St. has is the undeniable truth that the commission and fee-based financial advisory model has inherent conflicts of interest, and your advisor may be “selling you investment products” rather than “solving your financial problems”!

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When you start up or re-brand a pet or animal related business one of your first requirements will be getting a great logo design in order to create a brand that you can build upon and develop.

Many new businesses are springing up today that are related to pets and animals. It is no longer just your traditional veterinary clinics and pet stores but a whole host of other service businesses relating to pet care, grooming and other niche areas like pet photography and pet boutiques and pet retreats.

The pet industry can be divided into two area really. Firstly you have pet stores and vets who target the general population and secondly you have luxury pet supplies, gourmet pet food and services that only the upper middle class and the wealthy can afford.

Some people treat their pets like members of the family and want only the highest standards for them in terms of the products that they buy and the services that they require. So the message that you want to convey in your logo is that your company values animals and is basically in the business of pampering them, giving them the best of care and the products that they need to be happy and healthy. If you cater to the upper end of the market you want your logo to hint at the elite services that you offer and create a brand ‘club’ that wealthy pet owners want to be a part of.

Popular images that are used in animal and pet care logos include pets themselves, sometimes in cartoon form and sometimes in other graphic forms and animal paw prints. Animals are cute, eye catching and very brandable and a business in this industry would be crazy to not feature an image of a pet into the logo somehow. Paws alone can work and others have gotten away with simple animal related items such as a dog kennel or a lead but images of pets themselves are almost essential in logos in this niche.

Designers will usually go with pet related color tones such as white, browns, tan and black. Bright colors are often used in some of the more ‘light hearted’ business models while veterinary services and animal hospitals are often more inclined to go for more dull colors for a more serious look.

It is important that you brief your designer well before they commence your project and brief them on all aspects of your business. Let them know who your target market is so that they can understand what will appeal to your clients.

Once you become established with your branding on signage and stationary it can be a real hassle to change. You will also lose some of the brand value and customer recognition that you have built up if you decide that a change is necessary. For these reasons it is important to make sure that you start your pet or animal related business off right with a great logo design.

Organic foods are pure and natural foods. These are prepared by natural means and no harmful chemicals are used in their farming or agricultural process. Most of these organic foods are good for health as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. The best thing about organic foods is that no fertilizers, medicines or chemicals are used in their production and thus they are free from any harmful products.

Organic foods are not just good for health but they are also good for nature. It is often seen that in the agricultural process of most of the foods and vegetables, we use fertilizers so as to get better results. These chemicals and fertilizers used today are harming the soil and nature. Organic foods are just perfect for nature and human health. In the production of these foods, there is no harm to the soil, water or farms.

Production of organic foods is much easier and affordable. They require less energy and also the consumption of fuel is much low as compared to the production of other foods and vegetables. Today you get to see more and more industrialization of organic products. This is so because they are getting more popular these days. People working in this field are looking forward for new methods and technologies that should be used so as to get better results. They want that there should be more researches done. More methods should be found so as make these healthy organic foods popular among people.

Although, these foods are good for health as well as nature, you will be surprised to know that they only fulfill 1 to 2% of our food requirements. It is so because they are not yet popular among common man. A research in the recent past had made it clear that organic foods can take the place of other foods and fulfill the food requirements of a common man. Not only this, there is no need of any extra agricultural land or resources.

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In order to make the most of your corporate travel budget, it is critical to plan for leveraging your program for all it is worth. Telling travelers to select the lowest logical airfare is just not enough. Here are the elements that should be considered when planning or evaluating your travel program.

1. Travel policy

A well written and disseminated travel policy is the foundation of any good travel program, and I am consistently amazed that so many corporations have such an outdated and poorly conceived travel policy, if they have one at all. It is not difficult to find a well written policy. One can be found online quite easily. All that remains is that it is edited to reflect corporate culture, and disseminated within the company so that everyone understands and agrees to follow it. For this reason, it is a good idea to have everyone sign a copy of the travel policy to ensure that it is read, understood and owned by all company staff. I suggest that everyone in the company signs a copy of the travel policy, whether they travel or not. They may change positions in the company later and be required to travel. A travel policy need not be long or complex. Some of the best travel policies I have ever seen were only a few pages long.

2. Centralized travel internally and externally

Many companies do not centralize their travel program, and they pay a price in terms of a loss of expense reduction opportunities and internal efficiencies. Many companies that do not centralize travel have a fear of requiring travelers to do something they may not want to do, along with the idea that centralizing travel will require hiring a Travel Manager. Both of these may be legitimate concerns but they do not have to be in most cases. By requiring travelers to book centrally, you are not necessarily causing them to lose flexibility. You can centralize travel while still allowing travelers to book on their own, either with a travel agency of your choice, or online through a provider that you have partnered with and have confidence in. By assigning someone with the responsibility of overseeing travel, you are getting a single point of contact both internally and externally for travel issues. If your company spends less than $1 million in air travel, you probably do not need a full time travel manager. In these cases, travel oversight can be given to the finance department, human resources, or even an executive level assistant. Here is a look at the advantages to be gained by centralizing travel.

When you centralize travel with a single agency, you gain in a number of important ways. You will have a single point of contact for problems while travelers are on the road, and you will have one entity to go to for all your travel needs. This eliminates the problem of consolidating a travel report from among several sources. By bringing travel together, you will gain significantly from economies of scale. If you can measure total travel among various divisions or locations, you can get more for your money from travel suppliers. This will allow you to gain more from airline soft dollar programs, which means more free tickets and upgrades, get a higher percentage discount from our preferred airline, and get better negotiated rates from your hotel and car contracts. Your fulfillment costs will decrease as well, as your travel agency will often discount their fees for a higher overall volume of travel.

3. Mix of online booking and personal service

This is an addendum to the previous element, which calls for centralizing travel with one travel agency. This is important, but in doing so, you need not require travelers to use an online booking system, and you need not require travelers to call the agency directly. By offering travelers the option of doing either, you are accomplishing several goals. You will reduce your fulfillment costs, as online booking is cheaper in terms of a service fee. By giving travelers the option, you are giving them a sense of control, thereby increasing morale and standing a better chance of a high adoption rate. Thirdly, you leave open a best practice of using your online booking engine for less complex itineraries, and allowing senior executives, frequent travelers, and complex itineraries to be booked directly with a travel agent that can offer a higher level of service and a better overall travel experience where it is most warranted.

4. Look under every stone

While the bulk of most travel programs revolve around the air budget, there are several other areas one can investigate to find savings opportunities. There are a couple of more obvious areas to look, such as negotiated hotel rates at your favorite hotels, or car rental discounts with a favored supplier. Often your travel agency will already have discounted rates through consortia affiliations and agency car contracts. There are also some less common areas that should be investigated. For example, if ground transportation is a concern, most suppliers will offer discounted rates and a direct billing option. Direct billing arrangements with hotels and car rental agencies are also a great way to increase efficiencies and make the job of the accounting department easier.

5. Leverage hard dollar and soft dollar contracts

Most major airlines today offer hard dollar discounts as well as soft dollar incentives in exchange for company loyalty to their product. If your travel program is over $1 million in air spend, you can secure a discount off of the lowest fares of your carrier of choice in return for a market share commitment. For your secondary carriers, or if your volume is less than the minimum required by the airline, you can enter in to soft dollar programs for free tickets and free upgrades, as well as traveler status enhancements or airport club passes. These programs require little in the way of volume, but they are not well publicized so you may need to hunt for them or ask Baker Travel or your current agency to point you in the right direction.

6. Do not neglect hotel volume

Hotel volume is sometimes overlooked but it should not be. Negotiated rates can be had through your travel agency or directly with the hotel properties of your choice. Individual hotels near corporate locations will negotiate discounted rates for you in exchange for a minimum room/night commitment. By utilizing a travel agency, you are likely to receive discounts of 5% to 50% on thousands of hotels worldwide.

7. Have at least one car rental contract

Rental car contracts are easy to enter into and require little in the way of commitment from the corporation. Choose a partner that has airport locations and a reputation for excellent customer service. You can save 5-10% very easily and can also negotiate frequent renter membership for all your employees. This will make them more efficient and enhance morale. You can also enter in to direct billing agreements at the same time that can make the jobs of your travelers and accounting staff much less stressful.

8. Understand group and meeting contracts

Airlines and hotels will discount your fares and rates when you have groups traveling together or meeting at a single destination from multiple points of origin. These meeting contracts can bring you airfare discounts of 2-10%, and if you have enough travelers on a single airline, you may be able to negotiate for free tickets to be awarded at contract completion. The minimum requirement is usually 10 travelers going to the same place at the same time. Some airlines have higher minimums so be sure to ask before a contract is generated. Hotels will discount their rates in a similar way with a minimum of 10 room nights. These discounts can range from 10% to a much higher discount depending upon occupancy rate and seasonal variances.

9. Use reporting to consistently improve metrics

Well managed travel programs require constant monitoring and financial controls to be properly leveraged. Insist on timely and customized reports that can be designed to bring you the information you need most. By receiving regular reporting on traveler behavior and provider contract performance, you will be in a better position to fulfill contract obligations, achieve cost reduction objectives and see where opportunities for future savings may lie.

10. Use all avenues to enhance traveler comfort and efficiency

Lastly, any well managed travel program will take in to account the comfort and productivity of their travelers. When travelers are comfortable, they can focus on their main priorities that help propel your business forward. If travelers are happy, they perform at a higher level. Ask if your travel agency can upgrade traveler status on a preferred airline. Look in to purchasing blocks of airport club passes so they can be used strategically during long and complex itineraries. There are many ways to reward travelers for the difficult and often grueling chore of travel. These kinds of rewards generate feelings of loyalty and increased productivity and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about how your company can better leverage their travel program to benefit your bottom line and the satisfaction of your executive level, feel free to contact me. I am delighted to point you in the right direction.

Money management is not as easy as it sounds. However, in order to lead a happy and successful life, it is a must for each and every individual to manage his or her finances effectively. Managing money effectively doesn’t require any special skills or training, it just requires a little understanding and planning. To help you get started, following are some of the financial tips that will ensure that you live a comfortable and prosperous life.

Plan your budget
Every individual must plan his or her financial budget. You will face times when you will be tempted to make a purchase, which you actually don’t require. However, it’s better to avoid such situations as far as possible. This is more apt in case of youngsters, who tend to spend lavishly on high-end phones, branded clothes and expensive automobiles. However, you should be wise enough and exercise self -control while buying these items. If you do not learn to manage your money at a young age then there is a strong chance that you may face financial difficulties in future.

Create an emergency fund
Irrespective of how much your salary is or how much you are spending, each month you should keep some money separate as an emergency fund. Having such kind of fund will help to ensure that you do not encounter any emergency problem. This fund will act as a cushion in the troubled periods of your life.

Start saving at an early stage
At a young age you can take more risk as the family responsibility is far more limited and thus you must invest in various financial tools that offer high returns. Also, never invest your money in a single financial tool and spread it across various tools to ensure that there is a proper mix of equity, bonds, fixed deposits etc. Also, by investing at an early age, you will be able to save a lot of money for your retirement.

Understand taxes
You must know how the income tax in your country works, so as to save money on it. You should try to invest in various tax saving tools so that you don’t have to pay more income tax. If you have a complicated balance sheet, you must avail the services of a charted accountant. He will suggest you about the various ways through which you can divert your funds, thereby saving money on taxes.

Hillbilly music, country, western music or country and western all refer to country music. This genre of music is diverse. Most modern country music artistes have developed their styles from earlier singers. Whether it is a classic or contemporary tune, for most who are new to country music it would be difficult to understand the different styles. A guide to country music offers comparisons that allow people to identify with inimitable performers. People may read guides to identify with the different instruments that are used to create the styles and rhythms. Since country music is a genre filled with many talented musicians, a number of guides offer details about upcoming artists. They are authentic and allow fans to understand and read about their idols.

People who aren’t terribly familiar with country music may need some help differentiating between the types of music. Guides offer information and help comprehend the varieties included. This includes pop country that is perfected by artistes like Shania Twain. Rebel or rock country music includes songs that are performed by free spirited singers. They are usually independent and use bold rhythms. Texas country has produced singers such as Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green. Old country music is considered to be slow whereas real old country included yodelling. This was the original folk derivation and continues to be popular.

Guides offer an insight into new developments, artists, functions and country music performances. Guides help provide information regarding country music legends and compare modern artistes. These guides discuss a singer’s drawbacks and unique talent. These guides may be written by enthusiasts or critics and may at times reflect only the writers point of view. It is easy to find a country music guide online or in magazines, journals and reviews.

If you have not yet considered a financial solution to reduce your credit card debt and are still carrying the stress, then you must think a little on where this stress can ultimately lead you. There are an increasing number of patients reporting one or other health problem due to such stress. Most of them are under stress because of the money they owe to their creditors.

Interconnection of Stress and Debt

Research and studies carried out recently on interconnection of stress and debt reveal some astounding facts. They say that debt does not lead you to depression or health problem but it is the worry. As long as one has to carry this heavy mountain of debt on his shoulders he cannot stop worrying about it. And this constant worrying becomes a habit eventually accumulating a lot of stress.

If anyone want to be perfectly healthy then it is not possible unless there is a balance and proper coordination between body and mind. Debt fills the mind with different emotions like worry, anxiety and stress. Your mind has no space to think of other things in life. You have no freedom to enjoy the life in the way that brings you joy. And you cannot have peace of mind until you achieve your goal of zero debt in your financial life.

Adverse effects of Debt stress

Much of the stress is accumulated in your mind as you do not like to share it with your friends. You feel ashamed to let anyone know about your debt. Hiding your stress from others makes it worse and it affects physical and mental health. Instead of developing a sense of control, what people usually try is to cope up with stress on their own which proves to be more harmful for them.

Some common stress symptoms are watching more television, eating more, smoking, drinking and tendency to act more violently. Stress can also be correlated to symptoms such as abdominal pains, heartburns, migraines and headaches. People also have nightmares and hallucination. The suicidal thoughts also increase due to constant worry and one finds it difficult to sleep. Stress can lead you to several ulcers, migraines, back pain, depression as well as heart attacks.

Relief form Debt stress

So if you are suffering from debt stress, act fast and consider a financial solution that reduces debt. Make a proper plan to increase your sense of control to fight stress. You can approach free debt relief networks that can help you to find debt settlement companies having good success rate in helping their clients to move towards a debt free life.
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So now, you’ve said YES to the all important question your man has been wanting to ask. Now what? Now comes the hard albeit fun part of planning for your wedding. So where do you run to? Why the internet of course!

Cyberspace is a global village full of wonderful wedding planning websites that can help you set up for your most important day. In these websites you can download various checklists you will need for your wedding day. Wedding checklists have been indispensable to the modern day bride. They are the equivalent of live wedding planers but unlike planners that go home at the end of the day, you can carry these with you and refer to your plans, needs, to-do-list anytime, anywhere.

Wedding planning websites are also a good source of inspiration and ideas. Some websites will have free newsletters which can be very helpful not only to the bride-to-be but to the groom as well. You can check out wedding themes, invitation inspiration, color schemes, proper wedding etiquette, potential honeymoon destinations, the tune of your first dance and many more wedding related paraphernalia.

These websites are also good for research. Every bride knows how important budget is when it comes to weddings. It is easy to go overboard during weddings. And while we don’t want to scrimp during this important day, going into debt is also a very bad way of starting off your married life. In wedding planning websites, you can get an idea of how expensive or affordable your wedding will be. Most sites will feature products and services and some of them might even be willing to give you a free quote. This will give you an idea of where you will be financially for your wedding plans.

However, the most important reason why future brides should scour the web for wedding planning websites is for organization. Weddings are intimate affairs that involve planning skills. The wedding goes beyond the bride and the groom. There will be parents and siblings to think about, venues to book, wedding gown designs that need to be considered and many more. Think about it, some relatives that might want to attend may live off state or even abroad. Wedding websites gives you the idea of the logistics, planning and needs that will have to be addressed in order for your perfect day to be wonderful. These websites will also save you time and gas money from going store to store in search of that perfect purse or wedding veil. Try shopping when everything is at the tip of your fingers!

Speaking of organization, wedding planning websites can take off the stress of organizing a wedding no matter how short a notice it is. All you need is some research and you will have everything you need in your computer or via a print out. No relative or friend will be forgotten. Wedding gown fittings, honeymoon bookings, the perfect wedding band and even your favorite song can be found in the internet.

A stress free wedding is every bride’s dream. Planning ahead can give you the edge you need in order to walk down the aisle without any worries. So fire up your computer and search for wedding planning websites and have fun dreaming up your special day!

Every woman starts to become interested in skincare as she ages and sees those fine lines forming around her eyes and mouth. Those wrinkles and sagging skin that just doesn’t glow like it used to. And many women start to realise that natural skincare products are by far the best skincare products. But how do you find the best natural skincare products?

However the first question to ask is why would you want to use natural skincare products? What does “natural” mean and what is the difference between “natural” skincare products and other skincare products?

There is no formal definition of “natural” when it comes to skincare and anti aging products. However to me “natural” means “safe” skincare products.

Safe? Aren’t all skincare products safe? Why would they be unsafe?

Sadly the answer is that not all skincare products and anti aging products (or cosmetics or beauty products for that matter) are safe. It is gradually becoming known that many skincare and anti aging products and cosmetics, perfumes, body care and beauty products contain ingredients that may in fact be damaging to your skin or even your health. I first became aware of this when my young daughter had a terrible skin reaction to her first use of cosmetics when she had her first ballet concert, and have been interested in this ever since.

Many ingredients that go into our skincare products and cosmetics in the US are banned in other countries, like European countries. But here it’s perfectly legal to use suspect ingredients in our skincare and anti aging products and the FDA doesn’t regulate against this. The problem is so bad that there are whole organizations set up to try and foster the manufacture of safe skincare products and cosmetics.

I’ll give you an example. A recent study found lead in over 50% of big brand lipsticks tested. Scary isn’t it?

So many people are turning to natural skincare products and cosmetics to find safe products. And of course they want to find the best natural skincare products because the companies that make skincare products from all natural, and safe, ingredients, aren’t the big brand name companies.

Most companies that make natural skincare products have signed the “Compact for Safe Cosmetics” to evidence their commitment to producing safe products. And these natural skincare products are usually much more effective than their less safe but more well known cousins which you see advertised on TV and on the shelves of the stores.

That’s because the companies that make the best natural skincare products are small niche companies. They can’t compete on marketing budget, so they compete on product quality. To survive they need to produce top shelf products so that customers come back over and over again. So they don’t need to spend up big on TV advertising.

There are excellent natural skincare products made up into a complete scientific skincare system that are available to buy and are safe to use, and extremely effective. They aren’t made by the big name skincare companies or cosmetics companies, but if you manage to find them they are cost comparable or even cheaper than the big brands, and safe to use.

Though vineyards exist in almost every U.S. state, California outranks all of the others by a great deal and its production can even be ranked on a global scale. In fact, California ranks # 4 in the world in volume production among wine producers with a total of 2 billion liters per year, following only Italy, France, and Spain. It also ranks as one of the most diverse wine regions in the world due to its ability to produce almost 100 separate high-quality grape varietals. Some of the most popular wines include:

* Merlot

* Pinot Noir

* Cabernet Sauvignon

* Shiraz

* Zinfandel

* Chardonnay

* Sauvignon Blanc

Within the state, there are approximate 4,500 wine grape growers; a testament to the size and importance of the wine industry in California. In 2006, the California wine industry had a $51.8 billion dollar economic impact on its own state and a $125.3 billion dollar impact on the entire United States. The wine industry in California is easily the most profitable of any other area in the Unites States and its wine’s are among the top in quality around the world.

Due to different growing conditions within the state, the California wine producing areas are separated into five major regions: North Coast, Sierra Foothills, Central Coast, Central Valley, and Southern California. Each of these regions can be divided even further into sub-regions called appellations (which are often counties) that many people who are not even familiar with wine will easily recognize by name such as Napa, Sonoma, and San Joaquin Valley. When a wine label contains a specific appellation, it means that at least 75 percent of the grapes used within the wine were grown within that specific region. Wine labels can also contain two or three appellations to classify the different grapes used within the wine if the percentages are specifically noted as well.

The climate range in California varies from region to region which allows for superb production of many different types of perfectly grown grapes which results in many different varietals. Elements of the weather, such as the cool offshore breezes that cool the Sonoma County vineyards, are extremely important in the distinct growing condition needs for specific wine grapes.

The most important varietals produced in the California wine region are chardonnay and cabernet, though many other varietals from the region are massively popular such a pinot noir. The California wine region has a reputation for producing a high-quality wine to be enjoyed in a relaxed setting among friends, just the way its biggest fans would want it.

Merlot

Merlot is a popular thin-skinned red wine grape that is believed to be descended from the Cabernet Franc grape and was first recorded in Italy in 1832. It is used for both the purposes of blending inspired by the Bordeaux wine region of France and also for the production of straight varietal wine. In the 1990’s particularly, Merlot experienced a huge surge in popularity and became the new trendy wine but its popularity has proved to possess staying power. In 2003 there were over 50,000 acres in California devoted to the Merlot grape alone.

Some of the highest quality Merlots comes from Bordeaux, France, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Chile, and Washington State. These areas have elevated the historical planting of Merlot into better quality soils which have resulted in a Merlot that is less-suited for blending and perfect for its own varietal. The taste of a Merlot is dependent on the type of soil in which it was grown. For instance, Merlot from flatter and more clay-like soil results in a smoother, more velvety wine. Merlot grown in more mountainous regions tends to taste more similar to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Many Merlots tend to have a taste reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon, but they has less acidity due to a thinner skin in the grapes and earlier ripening time. It also frequently possesses a wide variety of flavors such as: currant, plum, black cherry, caramel, clove, bay leaf, bell pepper, olive, and violet. It is low in tannins and many wine drinkers believe that it is smooth and an easy-to-drink red varietal.

When blended, Merlot is often combined with Cabernet Sauvignon to balance the taste strengths and flavors of each separate varietal resulting in a blend with the best of both worlds. Another benefit to Merlot and the Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blends is that the cost is often substantially less than the fuller-bodied Cabert Sauvignon varietal itself.

Although many wine drinkers think that red wines should only be served right at room temperature, Merlot should actually be served a few degrees below room temperature as it can sometimes develop less pleasant tastes at approximately 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilling it for simply a couple minutes will ensure that the wine is slightly cooler and result in the best possible flavors.

Because Merlot is not quite as rich as some other red wine varietals, it is still fairly flexible in its easy pairings with many popular dinner choices. Because it is a medium-bodied wine, it will pair well with veal, meatloaf, sausages, and hearty pasta dishes.

Pinot Noir

Thanks to the recent movie Sideways, Pinot Noir has become much more widely acclaimed by the general wine-drinking population in recent years and multiplied quite drastically in popularity. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of France but today, has spread around the world to vastly differing wine regions which encompass almost all wine growing areas. Despite its worldwide popularity, Pinot Noir remains among the most difficult varietal grapes to cultivate efficiently as it is delicate and difficult to control in terms of preventing mutations of the grapes or any other unwanted variations which result in undesirable changes in the flavors or other characteristics present in the grapes.

Pinot Noir reaches its peak in flavor development when grown in cooler wine regions and has never reproduced the level of accuracy and perfection in development that it has achieved in its home in the Burgundy wine region. However, all Pinot Noir wines are typically a light hue of red which range from cherry to plum. They also possess a fragrant aroma encompassing notes of cherries, violets, berries, and spices. Like most other wines, Pinot Noir wines develop a greater complexity of flavors when aged. The aging process can contribute flavors reminiscent of leather and mushroom to the flavor dimensions of the wine.

Pinot Noir wines are usually considered light or medium-bodied as they are quite a delicate varietal which often also encompass fine silky tannins.

The Pinot Noir grapes, while notoriously difficult to grow efficiently, also become difficult to maintain consistency in the winemaking process. Winemakers struggle to modify the winemaking process for Pinot Noirs in order to find the optimal process to highlight the delicate flavor and structural aspects of this varietal. For example, winemakers must take great care in the aging of Pinot Noirs with oak barrels because the woody flavors can easily overtake the natural fragility of the flavors balanced within the Pinot Noir. Batches of Pinot Noir wine grapes can also be blended together in a way that masks the imperfections due to changes in the winemaking process or weakness inherent in the grapes themselves.

When pairing Pinot Noir wines with foods, remember to go easy on the spices, otherwise the delicate flavors of the Pinot Noir will be masked. Salmon is one of the best pairings for Pinot Noir wines, as the flavors are both fairly light but with a complexity that compliments the opposite quite nicely.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet is a term which encompasses a few different varietals: most notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon is a particularly popular varietal which arose from a grape developed by crossing the Cabernet Franc grape with the Sauvignon Blanc grape. In fact, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely grown red grape in most wine regions of the world and particularly the Boudreaux wine region in France. In other parts of the world Cabernet Sauvignon is also referred to as Petit Cabernet, Sauvignon Rouge, and Vidure so it is important to keep those phrases in mind while abroad.

Additionally, since the 1960’s, Cabernet Sauvignon has been the most common varietal term for red wines due to it’s wide appeal and critical acclaim. Because it is so widely in demand in many wine circles, Cabernet Sauvignon becomes easily subjected to inflation-related cost increases as demand from wealthy wine-lovers drives prices upward. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent grape Cabernet Franc is less popular because it is a less desirable grape than its grape offspring. However, it is quite often used as a blending element in mixed varietal wines, particularly with Merlot. A general tip for most novice wine consumers is that most bottled wines labeled Cabernet belong to the Cabernet Sauvignon family of grapes, rather than the Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive best in regions with long growing seasons due to a warm climate and reaches maturity quite late in the season. It also grows well in slightly arid areas with well-drained soil. These elements will allow the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to mature with a fruity taste, rather than the more herbal flavor that arises from the grape’s exposure to increased moisture and excessive soil-based nutrients during the growing process. The grapes themselves are comparatively small with a tough outer skin that protects the grapes from many elements. They are considerably resistant to disease and can be viewed as a fairly hardy grape varietal.

Cabernet Sauvignon is also one of the best aged wines. It is traditionally aged in small oak barrels for up to eighteen months before bottling. This aging period allows the wine to develop a greater complexity and depth of the flavors it encompasses. Some of the flavors which are most often attributed to Cabernet Sauvignon are: dark cherry, black currant, olive, pepper, cedar, and tobacco. Cabernet Sauvignon’s can also sometimes have spicy or earthy taste profiles as well.

Sirah – Shiraz

Shiraz currently accounts for one-fifth of all wine grape production in Australia and is one of the most widely harvested grapes in the country. Though the intense popularity of the rival red Cabernet Sauvignon has accounted for the secondary status of Shiraz in the minds of wine consumers in recent years, many vintners are beginning to revitalizing their Shiraz with new styles and methods of aging.

The Shiraz wine grape has an interesting history and place in the contemporary wine world as well. Generally described as “New World” wines, these wines are generally thought to be more fruity in their predominate flavors in opposition to the “Old World” wines which are often labeled Syrah. Because both variations of wine are derived from the same grape genetically, the differences between them are minimal to say the least. Some wine purveyors even maintain that the distinction between Shiraz and Syrah is in relation to style preferences only.

However, South Africa, Canada, and Australia are three of primary growing regions which refer to this varietal of wine as Shiraz rather than Syrah. These regions keep with the trend of identifying their exports with the New World wine classification of Shiraz which identifies it as a lighter and more aggressively fruity style of wine.

The Shiraz grape is commonly used in the production of red table wines which characteristically age well. Shiraz often reaches its prime complexity of flavor after approximately ten to fifteen years of aging; however it can easily be consumed much earlier in its aging process without sacrificing its excellent taste. It is also commonly used as a blending wine, although this occurs primarily in Spanish regions.

Shiraz wines are characteristically quite full-bodied and flavors vary easily depending on the physical characteristics of the wine region of its production. Some of the flavors most commonly attributed to Shiraz wines are: blackberry, chocolate, black pepper, plums, and spices. Shiraz also has soft tannins and varying degrees of oak flavors. They flourish especially in the wine regions of Australia with cooler, dry climates which allow for the berry finishes. Other Shiraz wine grapes grown in warmer climates tend to encompass the more mellow plum flavors.

Despite its frequent New World wine associations, Shiraz is one of the oldest known wine grape varietals. In fact, it is named for the city of the same name in Iran where wine-making may have originated many thousands of years ago.

Zinfandel

Zinfandel often gets a less-than-stellar reputation among the most pretentious of wine drinkers as it has recently held the reputation of being a “starter wine,” especially for women, due to its popular sweet taste in the 1980’s and 90’s. However, in the past several years, winemakers have responded to this prejudice against Zinfandels by improving the complexity and balance of flavors within their wines to make them a more palatable choice to the savvy wine consumer’s sophisticated sense of flavors.

What makes a wine more appealing to wine lovers? Complexity and fullness of the flavors are a few of the key aspects of a well-crafted wine. In Zinfanfels, a few of the most popularly described characteristics of the flavors are blackberry, raspberry, cherry, cloves, black pepper, and anise. However, depending on the complexity of the Zinfandel, many other levels of flavors may emerge, especially through a tasting in which you carefully give your attention to the subtleties released within the entire experience of the wine. Another interesting characteristic of Zinfandels is that they are also often mixed with others such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Syrah.

Because Zinfandels range from lighter-bodied whites to quite robust reds, they are no steadfast rules for which foods to pair with them. Some zinfandels do possess enough body and presence of flavors to drink even with a hearty steak or rich chocolate dessert. The lighter zinfandels can be a great pairing for Latin American and tropically-inspired foods.

Zinfandel originates from a distinctly American red-skinned Zinfandel wine grape that is used to make both red and white Zinfandels. Formally named in 1832, Zinfandels are traditionally defined as an American varietal and can occasionally be quite difficult to locate in overseas markets. It was recently discovered that Zinfandel grape is genetically identical to the Primotivo grape native to Italy. This discovery begins explains the previously unknown heritage of the Zinfandel grape’s development.

Californian vineries have come to embraced Zinfandels as their own characteristic varietal, leading the reputation of Zinfandel to become a representation and branding image for California wine. Some of the most popular regions for the production of Zinfandels are: Napa Valley, Sonoma, Mendocino-Lake, Central Valley, Bay area, Sierra Foothills, and Southern California. However, Zinfandel’s aren’t exclusive to California and can be produced in American regions as distant as North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as overseas locations to which the Zinfandel grape has been exported.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay has become the most popular white wine in America in the past few decades. The reasons for this development are varied. The first is that Chardonnays possess a widely appealing taste often consisting of fruity and full-bodied buttery notes. Due to the wine’s versatility, it can possess many distinguishable variations of flavors and vintners can even mix Chardonnay with other varietals as a way to experience new flavors with blended wines. One of the other most important reasons for its popularity is that it’s widely available and can be quite inexpensive due to the small, hardy Chardonnay grapes resistance to many diseases and thus easier to grow in many conditions. Thus, the demand for Chardonnay becomes easily to fill, despite the fact that Chardonnay grapes are more delicate in the wine-making phase of development.

Some of the key distinguishing characteristics of this well-loved wine white are that it is dry and often quite full-bodied with the most popularly distinguished flavors and aromas mentioned in descriptions of Chardonnay are apple, melon, pears, lemon, and pineapple, as well as buttery, nutty, creamy, vanilla, oak, and citrus. Particularly when Chardonnay is aged in an oak barrel, it develops a toasty or buttery quality along with a vanilla or coconut flavor which adds to the depth of the richness in the tasting experience. Many cheaper types of Chardonnay that try to achieve the oak-aged taste, use steel barrels with oak chips to lessen production costs while still obtaining similar flavors and textures within their wines.

Chardonnays are one of the most popular varietals grown in the California wine region but also flourish in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and South Africa. In 2000, Chardonnay grapes accounted for 40 percent of the total white wine grapes planted in California wine regions and can thrive in many regions with quite distinguishably different weather patterns. French Chardonnays are also reputed to be of extremely high-quality and in fact, in the Chablis wine region of France, Chardonnay grapes are the only grape varietals allowed.

Today’s Chardonnays are less-heavily subjected to oak fermentation as public preference has shifted to lighter and crisper versions of this varietal. The reason for this preference can be viewed as a return from the past several decades in which all chardonnays were so heavily processed with malo-lactic fermentation and other aging techniques that even the most distinctive Chardonnays began to lose their distinctive flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a currently very popular white wine varietal. Californian Sauvignon Blanc is also occasionally referred to as Fume Blanc. The growth of Sauvignon Blanc grapes encompasses nearly 14,000 acres in California alone. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown in regions such as South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Italy, France, Australia and can even be grown in surprising regions such as Canada and Long Island, New York.

Sauvignon Blanc is often viewed as the best white wine for many food combinations as its tangy, aggressive flavor pairs well with foods. It is especially well-matched with foods containing components such as peppers, garlic, cilantro smoked cheeses, and tomatoes which are foods that would ordinarily completely overpower even the strongest-flavored Chardonnays in addition to most other dry white wines.

Sauvignon Blanc possesses a unique aroma which makes it easily identifiable compared to other white wines. Its flavors tend to be classified as herbaceous such as those of lemongrass, gooseberry, and freshly mown grass. However, it also possesses some other more traditional flavors such as green melon, grapefruit, passion fruit, and bell pepper. Overall, Sauvignon Blanc is a strong, tangy, and flavorful varietal that outweighs many other white wines in intensity and sharpness of flavors.

Unlike many other wine varietals, Sauvignon Blanc is not frequently aged in oak barrels because it often departs an unfavorable taste combination. However, Sauvignon Blancs are frequently blended which is a technique that calms their occasionally abrasive tastes. Blending Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon (another wine varietal grown primarily in France) is a popular practice, especially in France’s legendary Boudreaux wine region, as the Semillon adds a fig flavor and softens the overall taste profile of the Sauvignon Blanc. The ratio of Semillon blended with the Sauvignon Blanc ranges on the region and occurs primarily in France. However, some versions are comprised of 70 percent Semillon and 30 percent Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties are comprised of the nearly inverse ratio of 75 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 15 percent Semillon. These blends are a perfect option for the wine consumers who enjoy some of the flavors of Sauvignon Blanc but find it a little too aggressive for their palates.

Because Sauvignon Blanc is still not as popular with many wine drinking consumers as its more popular cousin varietal Chardonnay, many quality Sauvignon Blanc are very economically priced. Combined with its perfection in matching many difficult to pair food combinations, Sauvignon Blanc is a great choice for a dinner party varietal.