Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Everybody wants to keep as much of the Money they earn as possible. Those people in the higher income brackets are forever looking for a way to protect their money from the income tax collectors.

Thus, the idea of personal tax shelter. The thing is, how can you tell which ones are the good ones, and which ones are the bad ones. - tax shelters can certainly "keep your money out of the hands of the IRS" - but some of them can cost you dearly as well. Generally, all real estate purchases have definite tax advantage. In even the simplest kind of transaction such as buying a better home for your family, you'll be able to deduct from your gross income the amount you pay in mortgage interest and property taxes.

If you rent out your old house, or buy a house as a rental property, you'll be allowed to deduct all your expenses from the rent you receive. You can also deduct the depreciation on the house, based on the cost or on the market value at the time the house was converted to a rental property, whichever is lower.

You also have the option to compute your depreciation over 15-years, which would probably give you a tax loss even though the property is producing a cash income for you. Remember though, you cannot claim a depreciation on the value of the land, only for the cost of the house.

Until 1981, you could not deduct losses on a property rented to relatives - however that rule has been repealed and now makes family tax savings available in certain situations when you rent to relatives. Be sure to check with your local IRS Office for complete details.

So-called Clifford Trusts are tax shelters that shift the gross income of a company or family bread-winner to other family members in lower tax brackets. An income-producing property is transferred to a trust which must be set up to last 10 years and a day. The beneficiary receives the income during this period, and then the property reverts back to the grantor.

This type of trust is often used to accumulate money for children, who can use it for higher education or for a start in a career or business of their own. You should bear in mind when setting up such a trust however, that parents have a legal duty to support their minor children and thus, a trust cannot be set up to be used for that purpose.

Equipment Leasing Programs are another common income-sheltering method. Most of these programs can be combined with a trust. Her's how they work: The owner of a business sets up a trust for a family member. Business property or equipment is transferred to the trust, and then leased back to the business. The trust gets the income, and the business gets a deduction for the rental fees it pays.

From another angle, the trust could buy equipment for lease to the business and get deductions for interest and other expenses involved. Investment tax credit can also sometimes be claimed in non-net-lease situations.

Making interest-free loans is another method of sheltering one's income. Say you lend several thousand dollars to a son or daughter who invests the money. The borrower gets the income, and you eventually get your money back. If you're in the 50% tax bracket and the borrower is in the 25% bracket, your tax savings can be considerable.

Investing in Municipal Bonds are very definitely a means of sheltering your income. Income from these bonds is tax free, but it's generally lower than from other types of investments. Municipal Bonds pay at a fixed rate of interest. Relative to other kinds of investments you could make, you'll lose on Municipals if interest rates go up, and win only if the interest rates on other investments go down.

By now, everyone knows about IRA's and Keogh plans for the self employed. You put money into a personal retirement trust and pay no taxes on it until you actually withdraw from it. Some companies give their employees a chance to set up their own retirement accounts, thereby deferring part of their gross incomes until after they retire.

However, deferring income until after one retires is no longer as attractive as it used to be, particularly if your tax rate is not expected to change after retirement. If you don't anticipate a lower tax bracket after you retire, it's generally better to take all your income now and invest it in high yield growth funds that will mean more money for you in your retirement years.

There are innumerable ways and methods to shelter your gross income from the tax collectors, all of them legal. The important thing is to check them out with your tax preparer and decide which would be best for you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

WILLS OR TRUSTS? The Case For Living Trusts

How To Eliminate The Hassles Of:



Simply put, living trusts are an expedient way to transfer property at your death. A living trust is a legal document that controls the transfer of property in the trust when you die.

Generally, living trusts are established during an individual's lifetime and can be modified or changed while that person is still alive. Circumstances do change and the option to make alterations in the trust is important.

For this reason, a living trust is set up on a "revocable" basis. Revocable means you can modify or change the trust's provisions. Your other option would be to create an irrevocable trust. Once put in place, you are unable to change the terms of the trust regardless of the circumstances.

As you will see, living trusts speed up the process by which your property moves to your designated beneficiaries after you die. Today, and into the foreseeable future, this is vitally important as the United States is experiencing an unprecedented wealth transfer.

It is estimated, according to "Fortune" magazine, that some $6.8 trillion worth of assets will soon pass from parents to children, grandchildren, friends, charities and others. The questions remains: how will this wealth be transferred? Will it be the traditional methods of wills and probate or the new revolution of estate planning that has incorporated living trusts? Many legal experts believe that living trusts are the future of wealth transfers.

The concept of living trusts has created controversy simply because the legal profession seems evenly split on the issue. Estate planners seem to favor living trusts but there are enough opposed to the concept to avoid a clear majority decision.

Living trusts are also called "inter vivos" trusts, a Latin term preferred by attorneys. The Internal Revenue Service calls them "grantor" trusts. All mean the same thing.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, recognizes the living trust as a valid estate planning tool and exhibits no prejudice against it. There are specific provisions in the tax laws that deal with living or grantor trusts.

The revocable provision means that while you live, you still effectively own all of the property that has been transferred into the trust. You can sell it, spend it, give it away; in short, do anything you wish since the property is still yours. The trust itself is merely a document in your lifetime that truly doesn't begin to function until you die. Then, the trust operates to transfer your property privately, outside of the reach of probate, to the specific individuals or organizations to whom you wish to leave your worldly possessions.

What is probate? Why do people try to avoid it?

Technically speaking, probate is the process by which one proves the validity of a will in court. If there is no one contesting the will, this should not take long. If there are complications, probate can take years. For those of you familiar with the works of Charles Dickens, recall "Bleak House" and the neverending probate case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce.

Probate has come to mean not just proving the validity of the will but the entire administrative sequence involving the passing of an owner's title to property after the owner's death. The deceased's property is inventoried and creditors are identified and paid after the payment is made to the estate's attorney, executor and tax entities.

The term "probate" also identifies the court which has jurisdiction over the estate probate and administration. Probate court also has jurisdiction over the guardianship of minors and mentally incompetent adults. All wills go through probate.

The average length of the probate process is twelve to eighteen months. Any estate transactions in that time must be approved by the probate court.

This can create havoc for beneficiaries. Since a living trust replaces a will and doesn't need validation from the probate court, considerable time and hassle can be saved.

This, then, is the purpose behind living trusts. The trust is simple to establish and, when carried out, makes it easy to transfer property. The trust is a matter of explicit instructions as to who gets what property after the owner dies. Like a will, the trust should cover all expected and unexpected events that might occur. The details tell the designated trustee how to use the money and property in the trust.

A living trust is a capable substitute for a will and a document that more and more people, disillusioned with the probate system, are turning to in their estate planning.


Before proceeding further, it might be helpful to define a few terms for you. These terms will occur often during this text and in the actual living trust process, so it's important to familiarize yourself with their definitions.

A/B TRUST: Common term for a "marital life estate trust", generally used by couples whose estates are valued at more than $600,000.

ACCUMULATION TRUST: A trust that does not pay out all of its income until certain circumstances occur.

ADMINISTRATION: Courtsupervised distribution of the probate estate of the deceased. The person who manages this distribution is called the EXECUTOR if there is a will or an ADMINISTRATOR if there is not.

BENEFICIARY: The person or organization legally entitled to receive gifts made under the provisions of a legal document such as a will or trust.

CODICIL: An amendment to a will. It is a separate legal document, properly witnessed and executed.

CORPUS: Property owned by the trust, commonly referred to as "corpus of the trust".

DEATH TAXES: Amounts levied on the property of the deceased called estate taxes (federal) and inheritance (state) taxes.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A general power of attorney that will continue to be valid after its maker becomes incapacitated or incompetent.

DURABLE HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A special power of attorney in which the maker gives another person authority to make health care decisions when the maker is unable to do so, due to injury or sickness.

ESTATE: In general, all of the property you own when you die.

ESTATE PLANNING: The legal maneuvering by which one dies with the smallest taxable and probate estate possible, with the ability of passing on your property to your beneficiaries with the least amount of hassle and expense.

INTESTATE: To die without a will or other valid estate transfer device. Estate will go through probate and be passed to heirs who are specified in the applicable state's laws.

IRREVOCABLE TRUST: A trust that cannot be changed, once established, except by court action in a proceeding referred to as REFORMATION.

JOINT TENANCY: A form of property ownership by two or more people where the death of one owner causes the transfer of that individual's share to go directly to the remaining owner(s). A will has no power to change the joint tenant's right of survivorship. This is another common tool used to avoid probate, a lthough there may be gift tax consequences.

LIVING TRUST: Trust established while the maker is alive and which becomes immediately effective. It remains under the control of the maker until death. It allows property to pass to beneficiaries free of probate.

LIVING WILL: A document that provides instructions to physicians, health care providers, family and courts as to what lifeprolonging procedures are desired if a person should become terminally ill or be in a persistent vegetative state and unable to communicate.

PERSONAL PROPERTY: All property other than land, buildings attached to the land, and certain oil, gas and mineral interests.

PER STIRPES: A legal term meaning that if a person dies, the inheritance will pass to heirs in equal shares. It means "by right of representation".

POUR OVER WILL: A will that transfers the decedent's assets that are subject to the will to a trust that was already in effect prior to the decedent's death.

POWER OF ATTORNEY: A legal document whereby, a person authorize someone else to act for them.

PROBATE: Court proceeding in which the authenticity of a will is established, an executor or administrator is appointed, debts and taxes are paid, heirs are identified, and property in the probated estate is distributed according to the dictates of the will.

QUALIFIED TERMINABLE INTEREST PROPERTY TRUST: Also referred to as a "QTip" trust, it allows a surviving spouse to postpone, until his or her own death, payment of estate taxes that were assessed upon the death of the first spouse. The surviving spouse is still entitled to all of the income from the property.

REVOCABLE TRUST: A trust that can be changed by the trust maker at any time. Living trusts are revocable trusts.

SETTLOR: Another name for a maker of the trust, also called "trustor", "grantor" or "creator".

TENANCY IN COMMON: A form of joint ownership of property. Each owner is able to sell or give a way his or her share of property, as well as pass it along separately at death. There is no right of survivorship.

TESTACY: Dying with a valid will in place. All property controlled by the will passes through probate.

TESTAMENTARY TRUST: A trust created by a valid will.

TRUST: A legal arrangement under which one person or institution controls property given by another person for the benefit of a third party.

TRUSTEE: The person who, or institution which, manages the trust and its property under specific instruction.

WILL: A legal document that is used to pass property to heirs following a person's death. A will only becomes effective at the death of its maker.


The purpose of the living trust, as mentioned, is to be able to transfer property to a designated beneficiary(ies) without the usual hassles associated with wills and probates.

However, your living trust can't transfer property it doesn't own.

Therefore, the first step in making the trust effective is to transfer ownership, or title, of a property to the trust's name. It's safer to transfer the title to the trust's name rather than to the name of the trustee since it is more likely the trust name will continue even if you change trustees.

For the purposes of transferring title into a trust's name, there are two classifications of property: that which has an ownership document and that which doesn't.

Property without ownership documents include the following:

_ household possessions and furnishings;

_ clothing and furs

_ jewelry

_ tools and most equipment

_ antiques

_ art work

_ electronic and computer equipment

_ cash

_ precious metals

_ bearer bonds

These items are transferred to a trust simply by listing them on a trust schedule. That's it! Pretty simple, right?

Property that has ownership documents requires a reregistration of ownership into the trust's name. Once the trust document has been established, signed and notarized, this process should begin. The document of the title must clearly show that the trust is the legal owner of the property or the trustee will not be able to legally transfer any of that property.

The type of property owned by the trust which requires this reregistration of ownership includes the following:

_ real estate

_ bank accounts

_ stocks and stock accounts

_ money market accounts

_ mutual funds

_ most bonds, including U.S. Government Securities

_ safety deposit boxes

_ corporations, partnerships and limited partnerships

_ cars, boats, motor homes and airplanes

If you set up a trust and fail to reregister ownership of a specific property, it will remain outside the trust after you die. If you do not have a will, property will pass through intestacy and your state's succession law. The chances of leaving it to the person you wanted it to go to are reduced, and you will not avoid probate of the propertywhich is the purpose of a living will! Do not fail to reregister property that has a title. You prepare a new title document for each piece of property, transferring ownership into your trust's name. With real estate, for example, you must prepare and sign a deed listing the trust as the new owner. Then have the deed must be notarized and properly recorded. For bank accounts, ask your bank for the proper form. You can usually accomplish this in one trip.


When you establish a living trust, you must name a trustee. In fact, you should name both an initial trustee and a successor trustee in the event the initial trustee becomes incapacitated and cannot serve.

The trustee is the individual who or institution which actually manages the trust assets that you transfer in, according to the specific instructions you've given. The appointment is important, as this person or entity will have the responsibility of honoring your wishes your after death.

The initial trustee is, most often, YOU! That's why it's called a living trust. Since it's revocable, you can change assets in the trust as circumstances dictate. While you're alive, the trust can conform to your specific wishes.

It is important to understand this: a living trust does not take the control of your property from you- until you die. You handle it while you're alive. It's merely tucked away in a convenient legal vehicle that takes over immediately after you die and passes the property along to the people you designate without publicity and without the potential lengthy delay and costs of probate.

If you've set up a marital living trust, usually both spouses are cotrustees. When one spouse dies, the other spouse continues as the initial trustee.

It is possible to name someone else other than you and/or your spouse to be the initial trustee. It is uncommon and unnecessarily complicates your trust arrangements as you must keep separate records of the trust. You should work with your attorney to select a capable trustee if you wish.

Because something could happen to the initial trustee, it's vital to name a successor trustee. This is the ind ividual who will be distributing your assets according to your wishes after you die, or if you become unable to manage the trust due to injury or illness. For property not held in the living trust, creation of a durable power of attorney and a health care durable power of attorney can designate someone else to carry on with the nontrust assets.

If your trust is a marital one, the successor trustee would not take over until after the second spouse dies.

The successor trustee could also die or become incapacitated, so it's imperative that you name an alternative trustee, too, to take over as successor in that circumstance.

What does the successor trustee do? If your instructions are explicit as to how you want property transferred at your death, then the job is somewhat easier. However are still things you must do:

_ Obtain copies of the death certificate of the initial trustee

_ Present death certificate, copy of the living trust and proof of successor trustee's identity to the various financial institutions or organizations that have the property/assets

_ Prepare documents of title transfer from the trust to the beneficiary(ies)

as appropriate.

_ Supervise distribution of trust assets where no title is involved.

_ If necessary, the successor trustee may manage a child's trust if the beneficiary is a child who has not reached the age at which the initial trustee designated the property to be transferred. The successor manages the property for that individual until he or she reaches the specific age outlined in the original living trust. This may be the only task the successor trustee is actually paid to do. If required, the successor trustee might also file federal and/or state death tax returns.

It is important to name a successor trustee, preferably one whom you feel will diligently carry out your wishes. It may even be someone who is also a beneficiary of the trust assets. If there is any question about whom you should name, consult with an attorney for suggestions.


A will is a written document detailing instructions as to how you want your assets divided up after your death. You might also include information as to a child's guardianship, how (or if) you are to be buried and the appointment of an executor of your will.

The two main types of wills are:

_ attested

_ holographic

The attested will is the most common. It is usually prepared by a lawyer in typewritten form and signed in front of several witnesses who have no benefit in the will whatsoever.

The holographic will is made without a lawyer, written on plain paper in your own handwriting, dated and signed. If your wishes are clear, this should be as effective as the attested will. It will more likely be disputed than an attested will and be subject to the interpretation of the courts, where anything could happen. Attested wills are safer for carrying out your final instructions.

Most people think they should have a will. Many people do, however, do not have a will because estate planning is generally not a high priority to many people nationwide. There are many fine estate planners around the country who work with individuals, but the average person doesn't put much thought, time or effort into addressing this important financial task of preparing for asset distribution after death.

Attorneys will be glad to help you do an attested will and may not charge much to do so. They'll get paid later- when the will goes through probate court. The payors will be your beneficiaries, who will see assets drain as a result of legal fees and court costs.

Probate can be lengthy, especially if the will and estate is a complex one. Not only does a will diminish the value of the property, it may also slow down the time it takes to actually transfer it to the designated beneficiary.

A will does let you choose your heirs, but the advantages stops there. You will not avoid probate, estate taxes (if any), death income taxes, privacy of transfers or incapacitation. These are the primary reasons one should set up a living trust INSTEAD of a will.

There is a will that is important when establishing a living trust. It's called the pourover will. This documen t puts any assets you failed to place in your living trust during your lifetime into the trust after your death. In effect, it "pours over" assets from the will to the trust. This document may also name the guardian for minor or incapacitated children.

The pourover will is a "failsafe" device to ensure that any property left out of the trust will be placed there. It is also a backup to the living trust in case it's invalidated for any reason. The pourover will can substantiate the trust simply by reaffirming its terms. It would be difficult for one or more heirs to challenge successfully both a living trust and a pourover will if their conditions and instructions are similar.


What is an estate? Exactly what are we trying to protect with a living trust?

An estate is essentially all the property you own (your assets) minus anything that you owe (liabilities). This calculation, assets minus liabilities, will yield a net worth for you. This is the value of your estate at the time it is calculated.

The size of your estate is important. More important is the value of your taxable estate. This will equal, roughly, the value of your estate less property left to your surviving spouse or to charity.

The other estate calculation of note is the probate estate. This is the portion of your estate that must go through probate before it can be distributed. Leaving your assets via a will puts them through probate.

The difference between the taxable estate and the probate estate should be considerable if you plan your estate properly. For example, let's say your estate calculation is $400,000. By transferring the title of your house, valued at $250,000 and your Chrysler stocks, valued at $75,000, to a living trust, you have reduced your PROBATE estate by $325,000 to $75,000. Your goal should be to try and reduce the probate estate to zero if possible.

Living trusts will save probate costs. They do not avoid death income taxes. There are other things you can do, planningwise, to reduce your taxable estate, but a living trust is not one of those. You can and should, however, reduce or even eliminate your probate costs.

Proper estate planning, in general, can accomplish all of the following:

_ select your heirs

_ choose amount and time of distribution of inheritance to heirs

_ avoid probate

_ eliminate or reduce federal estate taxes

_ eliminate death income taxes

_ maintain control over your assets

_ maintain both privacy and flexibility

_ leave directions and the power to act if you are incapacitated

_ leave funeral instructions

_ leave organ transplant instructions

_ make the administration of your estate as simple and quick to execute as possible.

These are important goals. A living trust is one example of addressing these goals in your estate planning. It is by no means the only thing you should do, but it is a document that can help you and your heirs immensely.


By now, you should understand the meaning and main purpose of a living trust. There are, however, other types of trusts that should be mentioned that assist in estate planning goals.

Living trusts are only truly functional when the creator of the trust passes away. It avoids probate costs. Other types of trusts help you to avoid taxes.

MARITAL ESTATE LIFE TRUST: Commonly referred to as the AB Trust, this trust is set up for coupl es whose combined estate is in excess of $600,000. $600,000 is the amount of your estate which is exempt from federal estate taxes. The marital life estate trust lets BOTH spouses take full advantage of the $600,000 estate tax exemption.

When a spouse dies, property is left for the use of the surviving spouse during the balance of his or her lifetime. However, the survivor never becomes the legal owner of the property. If legal ownership is never bestowed, then the property is not included in the survivor's estate and thus avoids being counted for tax purposes.

The trust is complex and has important ramifications for the surviving spouse which should be understood before putting this type of trust into effect.

QTIP TRUST: Short for Qualified Terminal Interest Property, it is a type of marital life estate trust that is intended to postpone payment of estate taxes when the first spouse dies. It only postpones them until the death of the second spouse and the taxes could be higher then since the amounts would be calculated on the thencurrent estate, but it saves the survivor a substantial amount of money while alive.

GENERATIONSKIPPING TRUST: You may have heard of this type of trust where the bulk of assets are left to the grandchildren, but the income derived from them is utilized by the trustor's own children. In essence, the estate "skips" the children, going directly to the grandchildren, but the use of the income is still there for the direct heirs; the use of the property is not.

Current laws impose a tax on all generationskipping transfers in excess of $1,000,000. If an estate is worth more than that, the children may want to get this excess property directly since they will have no access other than to income from the property that was transferred to the grandchildren.

It all depends on the size and type of estate.

These are examples of other trusts. This isn't meant to say you should attempt to set up every conceivable type of trust. The key is what your estate and heirs "picture" looks like-this will govern the estate planning devices you will utilize.


To value your estate from both a net worth and living trust planning standpoint, you must inventory your assets and calculate your liabilities first.

Assets: This is the first calculation. You should list each item and describe it, indicating whether you own the property outright or the percentage of your ownership if not. Then list the actual value of the portion you own.

Begin with your liquid assets:

_ cash

_ savings

_ checking accounts

_ money market accounts

_ CDs

_ precious metals

Next, list other personal property:

_ stocks

_ mutual funds

_ bonds

_ other securities

_ automobiles

_ jewelry

_ furs

_ art works

_ antiques

_ tools

_ collectibles

_ life insurance

Then, list your real estate holdings including your own home(s), condominiums, mobile homes, land, etc.

Finally, list any business personal property including partnership interests, copyrights, patents, trademarks, stock options, etc.

Add these up and you will have the total amount of your assets.

Then, list your liabilities by name and the amount you owe, including:

_ personal loans (credit cards, bank)

_ mortgage loan(s)

_ taxes due, current or past

_ life insurance loans

_ other personal debts

Add all of these numbers up to arrive at your total liabilities. Subtract your liabilities from your assets to arrive at your net worth.

This allows you to place a value on your estate. You can see how close your estate is to $600,000. You can inventory property that has to be itemized for the living trust anyway. You can separate property by titled ownership and nontitled property.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Though the price of gas has plunged drastically,i believe this development is just temporary, hence, we need to know how to safe some money when the price goes up again.
The surest way you can improve your fuel cost problem is to change your motoring habits. Listed below under four categories are 30 effective methods of doing so... no need to buy expensive add-on equipment.


Avoid prolonged warming up of engine, even on cold mornings - 30 to 45 seconds is plenty of time.

Be sure the automatic choke is disengaged after engine warm up... chokes often get stuck, resulting in bad gas/air mixture.

Don't start and stop engine needlessly. Idling your engine for one minute consumes the gas amount equivalent to when you start the engine.

Avoid "reving" the engine, especially just before you switch the engine off; this wastes fuel needlessly and washes oil down from the inside cylinder walls, owing to loss of oil pressure.

Eliminate jack-rabbit starts. Accelerate slowly when starting from dead stop. Don't push pedal down more than 1/4 of the total foot travel. This allows carburetor to function at peak efficiency.

6. Buy gasoline during coolest time of day - early morning or late evening is best. During these times gasoline is densest. Keep in mind - gas pumps measure volumes of gasoline, not densities of fuel concentration. You are charged according to "volume of measurement".

7. Choose type and brand of gasoline carefully. Certain brands provide you with greater economy because of better quality. Use the brands which "seem" most beneficial.

8. Avoid filling gas tank to top. Overfilling results in sloshing over and out of tank. Never fill gas tank past the first "click" of fuel nozzle, if nozzle is automatic.


9. Exceeding 40 mph forces your auto to overcome tremendous wind resistance.

10. Never exceed legal speed limit. Primarily they are set for your traveling safety, however better gas efficiency also occurs. Traveling at 55 mph give you up to 21% better mileage when compared to former legal speed limits of 65 mph and 70 mph.

11. Traveling at fast rates in low gears can consume up to 45% more fuel than is needed.

12. Manual shift driven cars allow you to change to highest gear as soon as possible, thereby letting you save gas if you "nurse it along". However, if you cause the engine to "bog down", premature wearing of engine parts occurs.

13. Keep windows closed when traveling at highway speeds. Open windows cause air drag, reducing your mileage by 10%.

14. Drive steadily. Slowing down or speeding up wastes fuel. Also avoid tailgating - the driver in front of you is unpredictable. Not only is it unsafe, but if affects your economy, if he slows down unexpectedly.

15.Think ahead when approaching hills. If you accelerate, do it before you reach the hill, not while you're on it.


16. Do not rest left foot on floor board pedals while driving. The slightest pressure puts "mechanical drag" on components, wearing them down prematurely. This "dragging" also demands additional fuel usage.

17. Avoid rough roads whenever possible, because dirt or gravel rob you of up to 30% of your gas mileage.

18. Use alternate roads when safer, shorter, straighter. Compare traveling distance differences - remember that corners, curves and lane jumping requires extra gas. The shortest distance between two points is always straight.

19. Stoplights are usually timed for your motoring advantage. By traveling steadily at the legal speed limit you boost your chances of having the "green light" all the way.

20. Automatic transmissions should be allowed to cool down when your car is idling at a standstill, e.g. railroad crossings, long traffic lights, etc. Place gear into neutral position. This reduces transmission strain and allows transmission to cool.

21. Park car so that you can later begin to travel in forward gear; avoid reverse gear maneuvers to save gas.

22. Regular tune-ups ensure best economy; check owner's manual for recommended maintenance intervals. Special attention should be given to maintaining clean air filters... diminished air flow increases gas waste.

23. Inspect suspension and chassis parts for occasional misalignment. Bent wheels, axles, bad shocks, broken springs, etc. create engine drag and are unsafe at high traveling speeds.

24. Remove snow tires during good weather seasons; traveling on deep tire tred really robs fuel!

25. Inflate all tires to maximum limit. Each tire should be periodically spun, balanced and checked for out-of-round. When shopping for new tires, get large diameter tires for rear wheels. Radial designs are the recognized fuel-savers; check manufacturer's specifications for maximum tire pressures.

26. Remove vinyl tops - they cause air drag. Rough surfaces disturb otherwise smooth air flow around a car's body. Bear in mind when buying new cars that a fancy sun roof helps disturb smooth air flow (and mileage).

27. Auto air conditioners can reduce fuel economy by 10% to 20%. Heater fan, power windows and seats increase engine load; the more load on your engine, the less miles per gallon.

28. Remove excess weight from trunk or inside of car - extra tires, back seats, unnecessary heavy parts. Extra weight reduces mileage, especially when driving up inclines.

29. Car pools reduce travel monotony and gas expense - all riders chip in to help you buy. Conversation helps to keep the driver alert. Pooling also reduces traffic congestion, gives the driver easier maneuverability and greater "steady speed" economy. For best resutls, distribute passenger weight evenly throughout car.

30. During cold weather watch for icicles frozen to car frame. Up to 100 lbs. can be quickly accumulated! Unremoved snow and ice cause tremendous wind resistance. Warm water thrown on (or hosed on) will eliminate it fast.


Install pressure regulator valve (sold in auto parts stores)... Use graphite motor oil... Beware of oil additives, regardless of advertising claims... Add Marvel Mystery Oil into gas fill-ups... Investigate fuel/water injection methods and products... combine short errands into one trip... Use special gas additives to prevent winter freezing of gas lines... convert your V8 engine over to a V4 - no special kits needed!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Plastics (and some metal) engraving is accomplished with the aid of a pantograph -- a scissors-like device with tracing stylus on one end and a cutting tip on the other. It works something like a Le Roi set. The operator guides the stylus by following or tracing within the grooves of brass "masters" (letters or designs), which causes the other end to cut or scratch the identical design, but not necessarily the same size into material fastened beneath it. By adjusting settings on the pantograph, the operator can make the design the same size, twice as large, or up to eight times as large as the pattern being traced by the stylus.

Plastic name tags, signs, etc. are made from layered plastic. The core is one color, coating another. When the top layer of blue is cut through, the white core shows -- which results in white letters on a blue background.

Different sized cutting blades are used so that large letters have wider strokes and the edge of the name tag is beveled to frame the finished product. There are many combinations of colors; some even have three layers for usual effects.

Metal name tags are similar except that the cutting blade does not rotate and the design is actually "scratched" into the surface. Metal tags are considerably more expensive and are probably not worth the extra cost. The metal is usually brass or some other soft material that comes with a plastic coating but still scratches easily.

The vast majority of name tags and engraved signs are on plastic, some of which looks very much like metal, but wear better and are easier to work with.

Plastics engraving requires no special talent or extensive training. One only needs to acquire a little dexterity, which can be learned in a few hours and a high school understanding of measurements and ratios.

Engraving is a business that grows amazingly fast and has very little competition. With an initial investment of $1,000 - $3,000 in equipment and startup materials, you can learn to operate the machine, lay out copy and start turning out finished products.

It takes about 30 minutes for the average person to learn how to make a one line name tag, complete with cutting the letters, beveling the tag, and attaching the pin on the back. With a little time ( and a few mistakes of course), you can easily master multiple line layout and some of the other routines.

Turning out a name tag only takes a couple of minutes for an experienced engraver, especially when many are made assembly line fashion.

Engraved plastic signs and badges routinely sell for ten to twenty times the cost of the materials because of operator skill, investment in the equipment, and the fact that there is not all that much competition.

Used engraving machines (New Hermes are one of the better brands) are sometimes offered in ENGRAVERS JOURNAL for about half retail along with other pertinent equipment and supplies.

There are two basic types of engraving machines -- manual and computer. They both turn out good quality work, but the computer is much faster.

The computer engravers run several thousand dollars, but are well worth that to large operations that turn out hundreds of badges and signs per day. Whatever machine you get, make sure it has multi-ratio adjustments. Some of the cheaper and older models will make letters only exactly 2 or 4 times the size of the pattern -- which just won't do. You must be able to adjust the size of the letters at fractions of those ratios, according to the length of the line.

A name like Joe Doe, for example, should be in bold letters, while Frederick H Moskovitch must be adjusted down to fit within the width of the name tag.

With the cheaper models, you have little choice and sometimes have no choice but to make these names too big or too small.

With an adjustable pantograph, you simply place the cutting blade at the margin of the name tag, and that is the setting All names will "look right."

This multiple adjustment is even more critical when you get into logos and larger signs, where 4 times won't fit on the sign and 2 times the size will make the sign look like it has too much wasted space. With the adjustments, you can always have nice margins -- about the width of two letters.

This business is adaptable to wholesale or retail trade -- and there are plenty of places where you can send out work that you can't (yet) do -- large companies that "service the trade, and still leave you room for a modest profit.

If, for example, you got an order for 1,000 fire escape signs that you simply could not do in the allotted time, you send the order out to a company that does the work by computer. You would not make as much doing the work yourself, but then you would not be doing the work either. In fact, you would be working on other jobs. Not only that, but your customer dealt with you -- he knows that you can take care of him.

To get a good look at the engraving industry, subscribe to THE ENGRAVERS JOURNAL (418 per year). Read a couple of issues, investigate some of of the advertisements, and notice the different companies that serve the industry -- these can help you get a good well-rouned business started.

A special note of possible interest: rubber stamps can be made from engraved designs! Anything you can engrave into phenolics (hard plastics for outside use), you can make into a rubber stamp with a stamp or laminating press. Engrave the design fairly deep; clean and dust with talc ( baby powder is fine), cover with rubber and heat 5-7 minutes at 2-4lbs. pressure. When cured, peel off, trim and glue to a mount. Years ago, vendors would set up shop in heavy traffic areas and make rubber stamps to order in about 10 minutes.

It is easy -- almost unavoidable -- to add profitable sidelines, such as hot stamping, inside signs, rubber stamps and desk accessories to an engraving business once you get started. these require essentially the same skills, very little additional investment, but most importantly, you already have a ready-made market for these added products because it is the same as for your engraving business!

Probably the biggest and most expensive headache encountered by engravers (as well as sign and rubber stamp makers) is getting the name or message incorrect.

Most "pros" soon discover the value of repeating back, letter by letter, every word of copy that is to go on the product. There are some letters that some of us seem to have more trouble with (like "B" and "D") over the phone -- so if there is any possible doubt, it is a good idea to say "B as in boy or "D as in dog."

On a single name tag the loss is not much, but large orders could be disaster. Also, keep a dictionary handy (within easy reach of the engraving table) and look up any word that could even possibly be incorrect (call the customer if necessary). Last, but certainly not least, keep the order that shows the desired copy in full view during the engraving process -- and check it constantly.


THE ENGRAVERS JOURNAL, Box 318, Brighton, MA 48116, 313/229-5725. The trade journal of the engraving industry. Subscribe to this as soon as possible!

A TO Z ENGRAVING, 1150 Brown St.,Wauconda, IL 60650. 312/526-7396. Custom engraving and hot stamping for the trade.

NEW HERMES, INC., 20 Cooper Square, New York, NY 10003. Manufactures high quality engraving equipment and sells high quality (and high priced) parts, accessories and supplies. Their engraving mechanical engraving machines have been industry standard.

AWARD SUPPLY CO.,1212 California Ave.,Arlington, TX 76015, 817/465-7210. dealer in used engraving equipment.

ABILITY PLASTICS, INC.,3254 Laramie Ave.,Chicago, Il 60650, 800/323-2722. Engraving equipment, cutter sharpening, wide assortment of supplies and materials -- excellent prices.

ENGRAVING MACHINERY AND SUPPLIES, 419 East 91st St.,New York, NY 100128. Wholesale engraving equipment and supplies.

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC., 31 East 2nd St.,Mineola, NY 11501. Discount books, clip art, stencils, etc.

QUILL CORPORATION, 100 Schelter Rd.,Lincolnshire, IL 60917-4700, 312/634-4800. Office supplies.

NEBS, 500 Main St.,Groton, MA 04171, 800/225-6380. Office supplies.

IVEY PRINTING, Box 761, Meridan, TX 76665. Write for price list.

SWEDCO, Box 29, Mooresville, NC 28115. 3 line rubber stamps - $3; business cards - 413 per thousand.

ZPS, Box 581, Libertyville, IL 60048-2556. Business cards (raised print - $11.50 per K) and letterhead stationery. Will print your copy ready logo or design, even whole card.

WALTER DRAKE, 4119 Drake Bldg.,Colorado Springs, CO 80940. Short run business cards, stationery, etc. Good quality, but no choice of ink or color.

Friday, December 5, 2008


If you are handy with table saws, wood lathes, and related equipment and woodworking tools, a lucrative business is the purchase, repair and resale of old furniture. We don't mean just davens or arm chairs. We're talking about everything from baby furniture and children's play equipment, to antique bedroom sets.

You can pick up just about anything at garage sales, moving sales, yard sales, flea markets and sometimes find a bargain at a second hand store.

Quite often you can clean out someone's attic or garage and take the "junk" as pay for your services. Strip and repaint the various furniture, tighten it up, change and modernize, do whatever is necessary to put it in good saleable condition with the least amount of time and expense.

Advertise that you purchase old and broken down furniture on one side of the newspaper and on the other side your ad can detail the large choice of all types of tables, chairs, baby furniture, children's play things and other furniture and toys you have available at bargain prices.

You can start out in your basement or garage, but eventually, as your business grows you may have to rent or buy a workshop and sales display area, or set up a retail outlet.

After you become more experienced you can specialize only in those items that have the best market and make the most money per unit. Then when you grow large enough, distribute your works to various sales outlets on a distributorship or wholesale basis

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Only coin collectors know about this; but you can still find 40% silver-clad half dollars in circulation today. Here is how.

Go to banks or savings and loan companies, and buy rolls of halves at $10.00 each. Buy as many as you can afford, the more you buy the more you stand to find. Take them home and check them. Keep all halves made before 1971.

U.S. silver dimes, quarters, halves and dollars minted in 1964 or earlier are 90% silver. Then Kennedy half dollars of 1965 through 1970 have a 40% silver content. The 1970 half dollar was not released for public circulation, so any specimen of it would be a mishandled collector's coin or one which had accidentally been placed in circulation. A coin-collection is stolen and the coins are just spent as regular coins, especially by teenagers who do not know their numismatic value. Sometimes these teenagers just snitch a coin or two and go for a malted at the local drug store or malt shop. So always watch all your coins.

These 1970 half dollars command a sizeable premium.

Half dollars after 1970 have no silver in them with the exception of the proof and mint sets (which were not put into circulation - they were for collectors only.)

I have been a coin collector since 1964 and over all I have made money at it - however I collected, bought and sold everything.

I still find 40% silver halves, and once in a great while I find a 90% half. In addition to the banks and the savings and loan companies, I make it a habit to stop at small town banks, and especially country stores and ask them if they can or will sell me some half dollars. Usually they will.

Every time I make a purchase at any store, I ask them if they will sell me some or all the half dollars in their till. Most businesses are glad to get rid of them. No one wants to handle them any more. They all use quarters for making change.

Roll up all the halves that have no silver content and return them to the bank. Cash them in or trade them for more rolls or use them to buy groceries or other merchandise.

So keep at it and don't get discouraged when you go through several rolls and don't find any... The law of averages will even it up for you.

If you would like to join the most enjoyable and profitable hobby int he world, visit your local coin shops and attend some coin clubs, and coin shows. You should purchase a copy of A Guidebook of United States Coins, what the coin collector calls the RED BOOK.

You might also want to subscribe to a coin paper such as Coin World. Their address is: Coin World, Sidney, Ohio 45367.

Good Luck!

MAKE SCRAP FOIL For Hobby, Pastime and Profit

A very interesting little practised craft, is creating effects with scrap foil. It is a cheap medium to work with, supplies being obtained freely from the wrappers of sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cigarettes, and other articles. If one prefers to use new foil, it may be obtained quite cheaply, and there is not waste at all.

Pictures of your own design, calendars, trays, advertising signs and firescreens are but a few of the articles that can be made in a wide range of patterns and colors. Materials required are few, and consist of a piece of glass, the size of the article being made, cardboard, Indian ink, photographic paste, and passe partout binding.

As an example, let us begin with a colorful picture of a basket of flowers, selected from a glossy magazine. Most pictures are suitable for this type of work, but those with small details should be avoided.

Transfer the main outlines of the design on a piece of tracing paper, then place the blank side of the paper against the piece of glass; back it with cardboard, and secure the whole with elastic bands or paper clips to prevent movement. The design should now be seen reversed, as in a mirror.

Thoroughly clean the front of the glass to remove any fingerprints of greasy patches. With Indian ink, black out all of the background, leaving the parts that will show the foil clear. When thoroughly dry, apply a second coat of ink. After allowing that coat to dry, the paper and card may be removed. Cut the foil roughly to the shapes required, and using photographic paste, place the pieces in their respective positions on the inked side of the glass, and smooth the foil gently. If the foil slightly overlaps the ink, it does not matter; it will not show.

Build the picture up from the center to the outside, and finish one color before starting on the next. Cover the finished work with paper, and smooth gently but thoroughly all over to ensure that every part is firmly fixed. When dry, coat with clear varnish, and leave to set.

Place the backing cardboard into position again, not forgetting to fix any hangers if they are required, and then bind the edges with passe partout.

Even the smallest piece of foil left over will have a future use, and every bit however small, should b e saved. In the case of buildings, remember that light windows should be shown in silver or gold foil, an skies should of course be blue, grass green, etc.