Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kalanki Underpass closed for a week to complete construction work

Kathmandu, August 22

The much hyped Kalanki Underpass in Kathmandu has been closed a week after authorities allowed vehicular movement on the newly built structure.

The Ring Road Improvement Project closed the underpass for traffic on Wednesday morning, Kalanki Police Inspector Bimal Thapa told Onlinekhabar. “The underpass was opened only for a few days to test how vehicles move about,” he added. “There is still some construction work that needs to be carried out for the underpass to become fully functional,” explained Thapa.

Project officials say the underpass, which had eased traffic on the Ring Road, will be re-opened after a week.  After its closure, a long line of vehicles has been seen in the area.

Construction work for the 800-m pass began in 2016.  Although the initial target was to finish the project in six months, it took the builders two years to complete it.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Kalimati Vegetable Market reopens with limited stock

Kathmandu, August 22

Kathmandu’s main vegetable market in Kalimati reopened on Wednesday, two days after sellers ‘detained’ government officials monitoring the price and quality of vegetables.

The market reopned after vegetable sellers called off their agitation against ‘government interference’, late on Tuesday. “We are operating with limited stock as farmers only learnt about the withdrawl of protest late on Tuesday,” said Khum Prasad Ghimire, president of Nepal Vegetables and Fruits Sellers Federation.

He said that on a normal day, around 500 tonnes of vegetables would be brought to the valley. However, on Wednesday, only 400 tonnes vegetables made its way to the city.

Meanwhile, the price of vegetables has gone down slightly following government inspection on Monday. Okra, which was priced at Rs 58 per kilo, is now being sold at Rs 52. Similarly, mushroom, which was being sold at Rs 135, is now being sold at Rs 125. The prices of lime and pomogreantes have also been revised.

The prices of tomatoes, cabbage and squash, however, have registered an increment.

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Helping a Child

Connie writes in:

I am 37, female, and single, and have no interest in getting married or having kids of my own. My younger sister (33) and her husband are having their first child in November. I want to help that child succeed. What’s the best way to do that? I have read about a 529. Is that the best route?

This is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. As the parent of three children, having extended family that’s supportive and actually cares about your child is a truly wonderful thing.

There are a ton of things you can do to help that child succeed, not just financially, and all of these things are important. The key for you is to choose a few things you can easily do and do them well, rather than pledging to do most of them and not really doing them well at all. Some of these have financial commitments and some of them do not.

Here are twelve things that can really have a profound impact on a child that you can provide in your situation. I’ve witnessed how powerful these things can be from all of the involved roles – child, parent, and extended family member. Believe me, Connie, you really can make a huge positive difference.

#1 – Open a 529 Plan

The first and perhaps most straightforward option to help a child that you’re not the parent or guardian of is to open a 529 plan for that child’s future educational expenses and contribute to it steadily, or else contribute to a 529 plan for that child opened by someone else (that child’s parents or grandparents, typically).

Money in a 529 plan is typically used to cover the costs of college – tuition, room and board, textbooks, and so on – or trade school. Money used for that purpose can be taken out of the account tax free by the student; money can be used for non-educational purposes, but taxes must be paid on the gains along with an additional penalty.

This is a great way to help a child prepare for the expense of college. The best way to do it is to set up automatic contributions each month. Let’s say you decide to commit $20 a month from birth. Over the course of 18 years, at an average annual growth rate of 7%, you’ll have accumulated about $8,500 for the child. Make that a $40/month commitment and you’ll have $17,000 put away for the child when that child’s ready for college. If another family member or two makes a similar commitment, you’ll be close to paying for their full tuition at a state school.

The key with a gift like this is consistency. You’ll want to set up an automatic contribution and then just forget about it. Don’t touch it, don’t even think about it, just let that $20 or $40 or whatever disappear from your checking each month into that child’s college savings fund.

#2 – Open a Taxable Investment Account for a Graduation Gift

What if you’re not sure that you want to give a gift that’s set up to be exclusively used for education? You can always set up an ordinary taxable investment account, contribute to that in a similarly automated fashion as is described in the section above about the 529 plan, and then gift the proceeds to the child when they graduate from college or get married or reach some other stage in their life.

The advantage here, of course, is that the money can be used for anything, not just college. The disadvantage is, of course, the taxes. As you go along and the investment earns returns in the form of interest or dividends, you’ll have to pay taxes on those – small at first, but it might grow to something noticeable later on.

You’ll also have to decide whether to control the account yourself and gift the money as a lump sum at graduation (you’ll want to be aware of gift tax laws if you do this, but you have way more control over when it’s gifted), or else gift the money as you go along into an account in their name (you probably won’t be responsible for the taxes at that point).

As with the 529 contributions, the best way to do this is to just open up a taxable investment account (either in your name or the child’s name) and then set up automatic contributions and never turn them off. Let it drip in at a rate of $20 or $40 a month and you’ll be able to give a five figure gift at their college graduation, something that can pay off a student loan or buy a car or make a house down payment or pay for a wedding. That’s the kind of thing that can change a life.

#3 – Offer Reliable Emergency Child Care

This might seem a bit out of place here, but bear with me. Being able to step in and provide emergency child care when something goes wrong in the lives of that child’s parents can make an enormous difference in several different ways.

For one, it takes a lot of stress out of an already stressful moment for the parents. It shields the child from having to share in that stressful moment, which is probably helpful for their emotional development. It also shields the parents from what might be a super-expensive child care decision.

There are all kinds of life crises that can come up, from health problems to a natural disaster, from a personal crisis to a professional one. There may simply be times where your sibling is just overwhelmed, and you can help both your sibling and their child by just stepping up and saying “I’ve got this” at a key moment. It will save them money and stress and possible long term emotional damage.

Just be ready and willing to step in when something really goes wrong in the life of your sibling and/or your sibling’s spouse. Take their child, no questions asked, and let them handle the crisis.

#4 – Cover a Meaningful Extracurricular Activity

Another financial hand you can lend is by saving money in an ordinary savings account and coming through with the funds to cover an expensive extracurricular activity that might be extremely important to your niece/nephew but prohibitively expensive for the parents. You might be able to pay for the fees for a summer camp or buy a band instrument or something like that.

Just start at birth by putting aside $5 a week or something like that into your savings account. Set it up so that it’s automatic (notice a theme here) and don’t touch it. Instead, just let it keep building and then pay attention to what’s going on in the child’s life.

There will come a time when that child is really passionate about something that’s just beyond the reach of their parents, who are probably already strapped by the continual costs of food and shelter and clothing and all of the other financial and personal challenges of parenting. When that happens, you can step up to give that child a truly enriching experience – you can buy that instrument or pay for that camp or buy that robotics kit or whatever it is that really matters to them.

This is a confluence of two things – money when it’s needed and attention to know when it’s needed, plus an extra dollop of good communication with the parents so that it’s not a shock out of the blue that can cause problems. Just let your sibling know that you’re saving for this kind of opportunity at some point in their life and remind them every so often. Then, when you see a possibility, check in with them and if they’re okay with it, make it happen.

#5 – Offer Guardianship

Another financially challenging helping hand you can offer is offering to be the guardian of that child should something happen to the child’s parents. Let’s say that your sibling and the child’s other parent (whatever that situation may be) are no longer able to be a parent to that child – could you be the one that steps up to the plate and takes over the job?

It’s a pretty challenging commitment. Sarah and I have made such a commitment a couple of times, but only after some difficult discussions.

The truth is that concerns about guardianship are something that most involved and caring parents worry about. How will our children be cared for if we were to die unexpectedly? Who would stand up to the job? Will they be able to afford to care for our children? There are financial concerns buried in there, too, related to life insurance and other such difficult questions.

The best thing you can do as a supportive relative is to simply make that offer to the parents, if you feel able to. Simply tell them that you are willing to be the designated guardian of their children if they were to choose you. That at least gives them an option of someone willing to take on that burden if needed.

That doesn’t mean that they’ll choose you – they may have multiple options available. However, it is a relief to a parent just to know that there are people in a child’s life who care enough to be willing to take on that burden if need be.

The rest of these suggestions are less directly related to finances, but more directly related to how you can have a profound positive impact on that child’s life by investing other resources you have, namely time, energy, and focus.

#6 – Step Up to Relieve Pressure

Being a parent is stressful in a way that’s often hard for non-parents to understand. You have to be in “parent mode” around the clock, making sure that the children are safe and cared for at all times. That’s a tremendous burden, and when life becomes difficult (as it does at inopportune moments), it can all feel like a pressure cooker. Even when parents behave well around their children, the children can still feel the stress and the pressure, and that’s not a good thing either.

It’s during those difficult moments when you can have a tremendously positive impact on both the life of the child and on their parents by simply stepping up to help relieve the pressure. Just volunteer to take the child for a day or two, or visit to serve as a short term “nanny,” or just make a home-cooked supper for them and eat with them and then do all of the cleanup (trust me, that last part is huge).

There are times where alleviating just a little bit of the pressure in a household with children can make an enormous difference in maintaining the sanity of the parents and the well-being of the children.

#7 – Take the Child for Extended Periods of Time (i.e., A Week At Aunt Connie’s in the Summer)

This is an extension of the previous idea (as it gives the parents an extended period of time without having to worry about their children), but it goes even further than that: it gives you the opportunity to spend extended time with those children and provides a place in which you can take on some of the subsequent tips.

More than anything, it’s an opportunity for children to truly understand that they are loved by more people than just their own parents. It’s a window of opportunity to really connect with that child beyond just family events where their parents are present, to be able to reach a level of comfort together where meaningful connection can occur.

Yes, it’s stressful to take on that kind of care for a child – and it can be a bit expensive because you’re now covering food for another person for a while and you’re probably doing some activities with a price tag. However, in terms of really connecting with a child, showing them that they’re loved by more people than they might think, and also giving the parents an opportunity to not carry that child care burden for a while, there’s almost nothing better that you can do.

#8 – Listen

Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your desire to talk and add to the conversation. Just listen and pay attention.

Listen to what that child is saying. Ask questions – not cute childish facetious ones, but real questions that you would ask of someone if you’re taking them seriously and listening to them. Don’t let yourself be distracted – keep your focus on the child. Let them ask you questions and answer them, but don’t dominate the conversations with your own offerings. Let them steer the conversation, even if you consider the direction to be “childish” – that child is showing you what he or she truly cares about, and that’s important.

This will facilitate an incredibly deep connection with that child if you do it with consistency. They’ll eventually come around to asking you questions that they’re struggling with, things they might not feel okay asking their own parents about. That takes time and it takes a lot of conversation and it takes a lot of building, but when it starts to happen, it’s incredibly valuable for that child.

#9 – Give the Child Experiences Outside of Their Normal Lives

Even the best parent sometimes steers their children’s lives down familiar paths, exposing the children to things that are on the radar of the parents rather than the full variety of experiences that the child could have. As a person involved in that child’s life, you can supplement those experiences with things that aren’t even on the radar of the parents.

Consider taking the child to art museums or musicals or a tractor pull or something that’s not normally part of their experience. Let them eat fried catfish or spicy Thai food that they’re not likely to get at home. Let them decide for themselves whether they like this new experience or not.

I had a few relatives and family friends who did this for me when I was a child and it had a profound impact on me. They gave me gifts that were outside my normal realm of experience and sometimes helped me have experiences that were outside my normal boundaries as well. Sometimes those things fell flat; at other times, they changed my life.

Give those experiences. Yes, some might fall flat. Don’t give up. Try other things. It only takes one new experience to change a child’s life.

#10 – Know The Child’s Interests, Don’t Criticize, and Help Them Explore

One of the most powerful things that a child can have is an “ally” in their family who understands what they’re passionate about, particularly if their parents do not. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re also passionate about that thing, but that you care enough to learn more about it and are able to engage in conversation about that passion and are willing to help them explore it in new ways.

You hear that the child is really into collecting “bugs.” You don’t know the first thing about it, but hearing about that passion is enough for you to learn about insect collection and then a few days later you show up with a bug net and a small terrarium to whisk that child away for an afternoon of bug collecting.

You hear that the child is really into solving the Rubik’s cube. You don’t know the first thing about it, but you spend a few evenings and figure out how to do it (it’s not that hard if you give it some devoted time). Then you can solve it together, talk about better techniques, and maybe even go to a speed cubing competition together.

This does a number of things at once. For one, it helps to validate that child’s interests. It also helps build a bond between the two of you. It can also encourage them to add more depth to an interest that might actually lead to something that sticks with them for life and shapes their path.

#11 – Attend Their Important Events

This is a really simple thing that mostly just requires time and proximity. If the child you care about has an important life event coming up, take the time to be present for that event. Make it to their dance recital or their musical recital or a couple of their games.

You don’t have to attend everything, but making it to at least a few of their events is a powerful way to directly show that you are interested in and care about the things that they’ve invested time and energy on and feel proud of in their life.

This can be difficult to do, especially if you’re remote, so consider taking the time to simply visit your sibling at a time where you can actually partake in something that their child is involved with. Schedule a trip to visit your sibling during soccer season so that you can catch a couple of the child’s games, for example.

When you do this, be attentive about their performance so you can talk to them specifically about how they did, showing that you’re there in mind and spirit and not just in body. It makes a difference.

#12 – Let Your Guard Down

When you spend time with a child, just let your guard down and let yourself be your inner self. Let that inner child come out and don’t worry about who might see it. Roll down a hill. Run through a sprinkler. Play a game with serious intent to win. Talk openly about yourself. Make a mess.

Almost all of us, in our adult lives, have adopted personal “guards” of “adult behavior” that we use quite often, mostly to protect ourselves. Those guards really aren’t needed around children or even teenagers – in fact, it’s those guards and those efforts to seem like an adult that can prevent us from really connecting with children.

Let that guard down. Do what feels fun and right inside (as long as it doesn’t endanger the child in any way, obviously). Be open about things that you might never speak about. Be playful and experimental. Don’t worry about the mess – you can clean up the kitchen later. Don’t worry about seeming a little foolish in public – no one is going to hate you for dancing in the park with your niece.

Letting your guard down like that is going to make all the difference in the world when it comes to making a meaningful connection with that child.

Final Thoughts – Consistency, Above All Else

The key element in all of the strategies listed above is consistency. However you choose to help, make that method a lasting commitment, one that will continue through toddler years, childhood years, preteen years, teen years, and even beyond. Don’t just do it when it’s convenient. Don’t be spotty with it. Be consistent, so that the child knows that it’s reliable. That kind of reliability is incredibly powerful and meaningful.

It’s also worth noting that many of the most powerful ways to help a child don’t involve money. They involve time, energy, and focus. Yes, there are situations where money can help, and saving for a child’s college education can be powerful and meaningful, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of how you can help a child you care deeply about. I’d far rather have involved aunts and uncles than aunts and uncles who are uninvolved but contributing quietly to a 529.

Good luck in whatever tactics you choose.

The post Helping a Child appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Kathmandu’s new police chief vows tough action against smuggling, organised crime

Kathmandu, August 21

The newly-appointed chief of Kathmandu Police SSP Basanta Lama says he will dedicate his term in office to fighting smuggling, organised crime and trade in narcotics.

Lama, who was speaking to mediapersons after assuming office on Tuesday, said that he has deployed a network of informants to monitor the activities of criminals involved in such crimes.

“The situation now is different from the past. Even self-styled dons are silent,” he added. “However, they are still quietly extorting money from business people. We will adopt a tough stance against such activities.”

Lama said his priority was to work together with the citizens of the city. “In a city like Kathmandu, incidents of crime do happen, but police should be there on time and investigate,” he added.

Lama, who was a member of committee probing into the ’38 kg Gold Case’  was appointed to the post last week.

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Five Money Conversations to Have With Your Kids Before They Go to College

It’s never too early to begin discussing the concept of money and personal finances with your children. In fact, some financial experts suggest these conversations should begin during elementary school.

For parents who missed that boat (and you’re not alone if that’s you), all is not lost. It’s even more critical to sit your child down and talk about effective personal finance management as he or she is preparing to leave the nest for college, a time in life when they’ll be faced with credit card offers; signing onto student loans, and, in many cases, living on their own for the first time.

“The earlier you can have these conversations with your child, the better,” says Elizabeth Cady, of Denver-based EP Wealth Advisors. “People lack these skills that carry over into adulthood and that can cause a lot of problems in meeting financial goals.”

EP Wealth advisors feels so strongly about the importance of having such conversations with young children, the company has taken it upon itself to visit schools to discuss financial literacy. With the start of the new academic year just around the corner, here are some of the key money conversations to have with your college-bound child.


Though this may seem like an incredibly basic concept and skill, budgeting is not something that comes naturally, particularly for a young adult who’s never had to do it before.

“The increased freedom and independence (of college) can easily lead to overspending,” says Cady. “You have to make sure they understand how much they can spend on discretionary items. For example, what they have earned from summer jobs or an agreed upon allowance will be the funds they’re going to have available for eating out and social activities.”

Parents who don’t necessarily feel comfortable leading such conversations might consider enrolling their child in an online literacy course before they leave home.

Bringing the family financial advisor into the conversation is yet another option, says Mike Broker, managing vice president of Trilogy Financial.

“I meet with many of my clients’ college-bound teenagers to walk them through what a basic plan looks like and how decisions can impact their future,” explains Broker. “Sometimes that’s because the parent is not as knowledgeable, and sometimes they want me to meet with their child because they’re more likely to listen to me.”

It’s also a good idea to start letting your child make financial decisions before they leave the house, adds Broker. That way, they’ll be more prepared to handle the responsibility and consequences of their choices on their own.


Credit card companies send representatives to college campuses around the country with goal of encouraging students to sign on the dotted line. These representatives will offer free t-shirts and other swag to sweeten the deal.

All of which makes talking to your student about credit cards even more imperative, says Norma LaFonte, co-author of “Money Monster or Money Master: Teach Your Kids the Basics of Money and Have Them Love Every Minute.”

Explain to your children how easy it is to spend tomorrow’s money today once credit is obtained, Lafonte says. “Help them understand how and when interest is applied, and how less than a full payment on what has been charged will result in interest charges,” she says. “Credit cards are a part of life, but learning how to manage them is critically important.”

It’s also a good idea to make sure your child understands some of the basic definitions and terms associated with credit cards, suggests Julie Pukas, head of US Bankcard and Merchant Services at TD Bank. In other words, cover such things as credit utilization ratio, credit score, interest rate and minimum payments.

With all of this ground covered, keep in mind that college can be a good time to begin building credit, if it’s done responsibly.

“They need to learn about judicious use of credit,” says Michael Gerstman, of Texas-based Gerstman Financial Group. “I advise use of credit cards but think of them as a debit card. If you don’t have the cash on hand to make your purchase now, then you should not be making the purchase.”

Student Loans

It can be easy for students to head off to college with no real understanding of how much their education will cost, particularly if it’s the parent, not the child, footing the bill.

“Make sure they’re clear on how much is being spent to put them through college, so they’ll take it seriously, whether you’ve made the investment or your child is taking out loans,” says Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of Study.com.

In fact, many financial advisors suggest that if a child doesn’t have skin in the game and isn’t paying for some portion of their education, they may be less inclined to work hard and do well in school. When the student assumes responsibility, however, that dynamic changes.

“The student needs to take their education and attending classes seriously, since this could be debt that will be paid for many years,” says Cady.

You may also want to discuss your child’s major or field of study in association with student loans, identifying careers that will make it easier to pay those loans when they come due, suggests Russel Rivera, president of Voice Wealth Management in New York City.

Keeping Costs Down

A typical 15- or 18-credit class load is not a full-time job. There will be plenty of time left over to do other things. And one of those things could be a part-time job.

“Have a conversation about what they could do with the rest of their time,” Broker advises. “One thing they could do is find a job to keep their total loans down when they graduate. Every dollar counts.”

In addition, not all course credits need to be earned on a college campus. Some courses can be taken online less expensively, and your child might be able to test out of some general education requirements, potentially saving thousands of dollars, suggests Ridner.

And when it comes to minimizing costs, you may also want to discuss the impact associated with changing majors.

“If your child changes majors even once, they may have to stay in college longer and spend more on tuition to fulfill those new requirements,” Ridner explains. “Make sure they understand the importance of knowing what they want to do before committing to a major.”

College Is an Investment of Both Time and Money

College is more than just checking off the next box. For all intents and purposes, it’s an investment in an individual’s future earnings ability and it’s investment of two, four, or even six to eight years of your life. This is an important concept to impress upon your child.

Explain to your student that even if they’re not bearing the financial cost of their college education, they’re making the time investment that it takes to graduate — an investment that will impact their lives for years, if not decades, to come.

More by Mia Taylor:

The post Five Money Conversations to Have With Your Kids Before They Go to College appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Vegetable vendors close Kalimati market

Kathmandu, August 21

Protesting the monitoring done by the government, the vegetable traders have closed down all outlets at Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market in Kathmandu today.

They had briefly detained government monitors at the market yesterday.

Apart from a few local farmers, all other vendors have closed their shops and stopped selling vegetables in the market. Onions, potato, lemons and a few green vegetables, however, can be found in the market from the old stock.

After the motoring, the vendors feared that they would have to lower down the price of vegetables and also face questions regarding the quality of vegetables, which is why they have stopped selling veggies.

This has resulted in the shortage of supply of vegetables in many places in Kathmandu. As a result, the consumers are the ones worst hit by.

However, the government has not addressed this issue or taken any action as they are in a wait and watch mode at the moment.

The always crowded Kalimati Vegetable Market was empty all day on Tuesday.

Vegetable vendors have also prohibited the media from entering the premises to click photo/video stating that all media have written against them.

Onlinekhabar photographer was also threatened by a vendor who asked him to delete many photos. Those who had their shops open also warned the photographer to stop taking pictures.

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Nirmala Pant Murder Case: Locals shutdown Bhimdutta Nagar

Bhimdutta Nagar, August 21

Agitating locals have enforced a shutdown in Bhimduttanagar Bazaar (Mahendra Nagar) in western Nepal, accusing police of failing to investigate the recent murder of a 13-year-old in the city.

Nirmala Pant, a resident of Bhimdutta-2, was found dead in a sugarcane farm along the Mahendranagar-Ultakham road on July 26. According to reports, the deceased was allegedly raped by her murderers.

The protest comes a day after District Police Office organised a press conference to say that Dilip Singh Bista, 41, of Bhimdutta -19, was the main accused in the crime. However, locals are not convinced as they claim he is mentally challenged. They have accused the police of trying to frame him in the case.

Civil society organisations and human rights defenders have been mounting pressure on the police to reveal the facts behind the heinous crime.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Questions About Fast Food, Difficult Workplaces, Smoking, Refurbished Items, and More!

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Difficult workplace
2. Capital One 360 overseas
3. Handling fast food cravings
4. Car total cost of ownership
5. Bicycle for groceries?
6. Overpaid for consulting work
7. Wife’s smoking habit breaking us
8. Outdated books
9. Parents constantly ask for help
10. Why Vanguard?
11. Refurbished items
12. Youtube videos for financial advice

Our family went camping this past weekend as a bit of “last gasp of summer before school starts” celebration. It was a great trip with a lot of outdoor fun (including some excellent time in a fossil gorge) and a higher than average number of insect bites.

School starts this week. Everyone has that mix of worn out and rested that one feels after an active weekend outdoors. Let’s dig into the mailbag.

Q1: Difficult workplace

I’m in a situation where it’s very clicky-gossipy and my friends say it’s sexist against me. I don’t want to leave my job, I keep thinking I can turn it around. My family needs me to have the exceptional benefits, the hours are soft and the locations are beautiful.

I try the cookies, etc methods and get rejected with diets, etc. It’s almost hostile. I get left out of lots of “guy” meetings and projects to the point it may be hurting my career. My boss is a part of this and does not beleive my concerns. My direct questions are evaded with his head hanging so low as he looks at the ground I’m baffled.

I don’t know where to go for ideas to turn this around. Other women in IT have been telling me to leave, I really wanted to stay for another 6 years. I have been starting to put tiny feelers in other non-IT departments I deal with so I don’t have to leave…
– Diane

Diane sent in this question in response to my article from last week, Building Workplace Relationships in a Difficult Environment.

In regards to Diane’s situation, I’d point to one specific quote in the article: “”Yes, some negative gossipers manage to build circles of similarly negative people around them. Those groups are almost always disastrous in the workplace, and if you find such a cabal, it’s probably a good idea to move on to a new job as discreetly and quietly as you can.”

It sounds like something akin to this is going on in your workplace, Diane. There is a tight clique of negative people who are not open to building new relationships. When you encounter a workplace like that, it is almost always going to be bad for your career to stick around there for long.

If I were you, I would follow the advice of your friends and start looking around for a new position. This type of situation often isn’t the fault of the new person, but the fault of a culture that was allowed to take root and those who allowed it to happen.

Q2: Capital One 360 overseas

I will be traveling to Greece in about a month. Can I use my Capital 360 account to get euros there. If so, how do I do it (I bank digitally) and what are the fees?
– Alex

As far as I can tell from their online documents, Capital One 360 does not charge a currency conversion fee for international ATM withdrawals. There are three catches, however.

One, if you use your card as a MasterCard, the MasterCard network charges you a small fee, which appears to be somewhere around 1% of the transaction.

Two, you do still have to pay any ATM fees charged by the owner of the ATM. CapitalOne and AllPoint ATMs seem to be free of fees for 360 card holders.

Three, and I think this might be the kicker, I have seen in several places that the exchange rate that Capital One 360 uses on ATM withdrawals isn’t a particularly favorable rate, at least at times.

There is always a cost involved with currency exchange, no matter how you do it. I think if you stick to CapitalOne and AllPoint ATMs, you should be okay.

Q3: Handling fast food cravings

I’ve been trying to cook at home and eat healthier lately and have mostly been successful. I haven’t gone out to a sit down restaurant in more than a month. What has been tougher is fast food. I just crave it. Whenever I’m on my way home from work I just crave going through a drive thru and getting some fast food to eat. I like how it tastes and I like the convenience of eating it before I get home, taking the bag in the house, tossing it in the trash, and I’m done. How do I break that craving?
– Marcel

Honestly, this is one of those situations where discipline is going to make all the difference. You have to simply have the discipline to not wheel into that fast food drive thru after work – there’s no way around that.

There are a few things you can do that will help, though.

First, try to find a commute home from work that doesn’t take you right by your favorite fast food restaurants. Is there a different route home from work you can take that’s of comparable length but doesn’t take you near fast food joints?

Second, start preparing slow cooker meals that you start in the morning and will be done when you get home from work. Knowing that there is a meal sitting there for you ready to eat as soon as you get home, or slightly thereafter, makes things much easier.

Third, bring an “after work snack” with you to work in the morning. It can be something like a sandwich in a cooler or a frozen item that you microwave just before you leave. Pack it alongside your lunch. That way, you have something to eat on your way home and have no reason to stop for fast food.

Q4: Car total cost of ownership

What do you think about buying cars based on total cost of ownership? I have a friend that buys a new car every several years and uses the Kelley Blue Book five year total cost of ownership numbers to decide what to buy. Good idea?
– Darren

I assume that what Darren is referring to is the Kelley Blue Book five year cost to own awards, which estimates the total cost of ownership of various car types and gives an “award” to the lowest total cost in each class.

I think that this approach is a good one if you’re in a cycle of buying new cars and driving them for several years. However, I don’t think that’s the most cost-effective cycle for buying cars. A much more cost-effective cycle is buying a late model used car and driving it until significant mechanical problems start cropping up, then trading it in for another late model used car.

I would assume that you could use these awards as guidance for buying a car in that range, but you’d want to use the award winners from a couple of years ago rather than the current award winners.

I usually stick with cars from brands that have been highly trusted and marked as highly reliable over the last decade in Consumer Reports – Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda lead that pack. Currently, we own two Toyotas (a Prius and a Sienna).

Q5: Bicycle for groceries?

How exactly do you use your bicycle for groceries? You’ve written about biking to a grocery store a couple of miles from your home. Do you use a basket on your bike?
– Edward

Honestly, I use a backpack most of the time, with soft light stuff that might get crushed (like bread) in a bag hanging from my handlebars. I had a used set of pannier bags that either I didn’t have attached correctly to my bike or were flawed and I ended up tearing them to shreds very quickly. I found them on Craigslist really cheaply, so it wasn’t a big loss, but it was still frustrating.

Ideally, I’d like a fresh pair of pannier bags. Pannier bags are bags that hang over the sides of your bike akin to saddlebags, enabling you to store a few grocery bags of food for a ride home from the store. You simply install a rack on your bike – a pretty easy job – and then the bags fasten to this rack and hang in place.

When I did use the panniers, I’d just unlatch them from the bike and take them into the store with me. At the checkout, I’d literally just have them put groceries right into the pannier, then take them out and attach them back onto my bike and ride away. They would each hold about the equivalent of a very full grocery bag.

I’ve also seen people carrying groceries on a basket attached to the handlebars, a crate attached to a rack just behind the seat, and people pulling a small cart behind them stuffed full of groceries.

Q6: Overpaid for consulting work

I was hired to redo some internal software for a local business. We agreed on a total amount, half of which is to be paid up front and the other half is to be paid after work is completed. I worked closely with a two person office staff while setting this up and tweaked several things to their desired specifications and they were thrilled.

After the job was completed, I received a direct deposit for an amount equal to the total cost of the project, not the 50% I was due. I stopped by the office to get this straightened out and one of the office staff said that the extra amount was a “bonus” because I had helped them out so much.

I haven’t spent that extra 50%. I am nervous about doing so because I have never been overpaid like this before. How long should I hold onto this money? How do I file taxes?
– Charlie

In your shoes, I would sit on that extra money until I received a 1099 from them early next year for your consulting work. If everything is up front, it should state the total amount you were paid, 150% of the original agreement.

If that’s not what’s stated on the 1099, I’d stop by their office again and get it straightened out.

I am assuming that this is all on the up and up and that the owner of the business agreed to the bonus and this wasn’t a happy office staffer cooking the books here. This story sounds like there’s at least some possibility that one of the office staff loved the work you did and adjusted the paperwork without the full intent of the boss. This is a situation you want nothing to do with.

Basically, until I had a tax document in hand stating that the 50% bonus is actually yours, I wouldn’t spend that money unless I absolutely had to. If you do have such a document, you can point to that as saying that it was sanctioned by the business and that you contacted the office and were informed that the overpayment was a bonus. Be sure to accurately document when you contacted the office about overpayment.

Q7: Wife’s smoking habit breaking us

My wife smokes about a pack of cigarettes per day (before you ask, I don’t smoke but I don’t mind the smell probably because I’m used to it). I’ve wanted her to quit for health reasons but it’s always been a minor factor. Lately though we’ve been trying to get our finances in line and she basically just acts like her cigarettes are not up for discussion. I’ll note that she’s spending $5 a day just to burn cigarettes and she’s like “It’s $5 and it’s not breaking us!” What do I do?
– Calvin

My response in that situation would be to make up a monthly budget, add a line item for her cigarette monthly total ($5 times 30 is $150), and then add a line that says “Calvin – extra fun stuff – $150.” That goes above and beyond any other budgetary items for hobbies and entertainment.

If she complains about it, go straight back to the cigarettes. Offer to drop that $150 a month if she drops her smoking habit.

Either she’ll just agree to that arrangement (because of her addiction) or she’ll actually try to quit. In the first case, just take that $150 and do something financially smart with it – the specifics are up to you – or else literally use it as fun money. In the second case, support her strongly in her efforts to quit.

The moral of the story is that it’s financially unfair for her to burn $150 a month of your shared money. Either she cuts it down or you burn $150 a month, too. If you don’t do it that way, you’re going to build resentment towards her as you see the potential financial progress burning away, and that’s far worse than any financial consequence.

All you can do is lead a horse to water, and this is the most direct way I can think of.

Q8: Outdated books

What does one do with outdated books like old encyclopedias?
– Stephanie

One option is to just stick them up on Craigslist or Freecycle or your community’s Facebook Marketplace and offer them as a freebie to the first person that claims them. Almost anything that’s free on Craigslist gets claimed – I’ve seen things I would classify as trash get claimed by people.

Another option is to contact local social organizations in your community and see if they have a use for them. Churches and retirement homes may have a purpose for old encyclopedias or other books.

A final option is to see if there’s a scrapbooking club in your area – try checking Meetup. They can almost always use things like encyclopedias, as they’re a great source for images.

Q9: Parents constantly ask for help

I am 33/M/single with a good job. I live in Chicago about five hours away from my parents. They worked hard to raise me and I am appreciative of that, but they are constantly and I mean constantly asking me for money. They say or imply all the time that they invested so much in me over the first 25 years of life and now it is time for me to repay some of it. I don’t have any problem helping them a little, but I feel like they’re asking me to pay for HBO while I’m struggling to get my student loans paid off. I am starting to feel resentment and I don’t call them as often any more and now they call me more. Ideas?
– Adam

You need to have a heart to heart with them where you directly talk about this issue.

Given my own experiences, I am willing to bet that your parents perceive you as having an enormous income, probably far more than you’re actually earning, and think that you can easily afford to help them live a little better life. “He’s rich and he lives in the city and has this really great job…” is probably how their thinking goes. They see you making $120K a year or whatever and then think of the own bills they faced when they were your age and then perceive you as having a ton of money left over. I know that my parents sometimes think this way (though they don’t ask me for financial assistance).

The thing is, that’s probably not your reality. You’re almost definitely facing housing costs far higher than they think. You’re facing student loans that they’re probably not considering at all.

Another factor might be that your parents are struggling more financially than you think that they are. They might be really struggling to make ends meet and you’re the only “out” they have in that situation.

If you really trust and value your parents, you should spend a weekend with them and lay out all of your finances – both theirs and yours – and talk about things openly. They’re probably struggling more than you think, and you’re probably struggling more than they think. That kind of open conversation can really change the dynamic.

Q10: Why Vanguard?

Why do you always recommend Vanguard for investments? What’s wrong with Fidelity or Charles Schwab?
– Victor

There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with Fidelity or Charles Schwab. I mention Vanguard because (a) I agree with their core philosophy of low cost index funds, (b) I like how the Vanguard Group is set up as a business, (c) I use them myself, and (d) they have always done right by me.

Thus, when I’m actually giving advice from what I know works well for me, it’s going to involve mentions of using Vanguard for investing.

Fidelity and Charles Schwab are both good investment firms to use. Fidelity would probably be my #2 choice and what I’d use if I wasn’t using Vanguard, and Schwab wouldn’t be that far back, either. Much of my Vanguard preference comes from actually using them and being happy with the interactions and the results I’ve have with them.

Q11: Refurbished items

Are refurbished items a good buy or not? I sometimes see them at a lower price than the new version. Better to buy new or not?
– Blaine

I will happily buy refurbished items as long as they come with the same warranty as the new item. If they don’t, then I don’t fully trust those refurbished items. It’s as simple as that.

The issue comes down to the fact that “refurbished” may mean different things to different people. For some, a “refurbished” item means that one thing was obviously wrong and that thing was fixed and it was slapped in a box and sold again. For others, “refurbished” means it was adequately tested to make sure that it works well and the process is supported by a warranty.

I’ll buy the second kind of “refurbished” but not the first. It’s hard to tell which is which, though, so I tend to look at warranties. Is the warranty the same as a new item? If so, I’m fine with refurbished. If not, then I’m very wary.

Q12: Youtube videos for financial advice

I love reading your columns each day but my husband is more of a Youtube watcher. Do you make videos on financial topics? We couldn’t find any. If not, do you know of any channels that have a similar perspective?
– Jana

Although I’ve tried in the past, I currently do not make Youtube videos on personal finance topics. I found it really hard to make compelling video content about personal finance beyond just making cooking videos or basic how-to videos around the house, plus video editing is not really something that shows off my skill set.

The thing is, there really aren’t many good channels to watch out there that cover frugal topics. There are some good DIY channels that cover basic home repair and some good food preparation channels, but the only channels that really delve into personal finance with a perspective anything like mine are mostly just rebroadcasts of a podcast or radio show with either just a static image or someone sitting there talking with occasional charts.

The best channel for video content with a philosophy close to mine, in my opinion, is Beat the Bush. It’s not a perfect overlap, but the general principles are similar and it’s pretty solid video content.

In terms of audio content (i.e., podcast and radio rebroadcasts), check out ChooseFI, Afford Anything, and (sometimes) Dave Ramsey.

Got any questions? The best way to ask is to follow me on Facebook and ask questions directly there. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag (which, by way of full disclosure, may also get re-posted on other websites that pick up my blog). However, I do receive many, many questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

The post Questions About Fast Food, Difficult Workplaces, Smoking, Refurbished Items, and More! appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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529 Plans vs. Brokerage Accounts for College Savings

Saving for college is a daunting task.

It’s hard enough to find room in your budget for contributions on top of your other financial responsibilities, and when you combine that with the fact that college tuition has been steadily rising over the past 30 years, it might feel like sending your child to college is an impossible goal.

And while you shouldn’t stress too much about saving for college, you can at least try to get the most out of every dollar you do save. And one of the easiest ways to do that is simply making sure that you’re using the right type of investment account.

We’ve previously broken down the 529 plan vs. Roth IRA comparison, and today we’re going to compare the 529 plan to a regular brokerage account.

Both have pros and cons, so let’s get into it!

The Basics of a 529 Plan for College Savings

You can click here for a detailed breakdown of 529 plans, but essentially they work a lot like Roth IRAs, just for education instead of retirement:

The main downside is that if you don’t use the money for qualified education expenses, your earnings are both taxed as ordinary income and subject to a 10% penalty upon withdrawal. There are exceptions for scholarships, and you are allowed to change the beneficiary and use the money for another family member, but there’s still some risk involved.

The Basics of a Brokerage Account for College Savings

A brokerage account is simply a regular investment account that comes without any special tax breaks. What it does offer is a lot more flexibility than a 529 plan:

  • You can contribute as much as you want (529 plan contribution limits are much higher than most people will ever need, but they’re not quite unlimited).
  • You can invest in just about whatever you want.
  • Most importantly, you can withdraw as much money as you want at any time and for any reason. You won’t be penalized and your earnings will often be taxed at lower capital gains rates.

Put simply, brokerage accounts offer more flexibility than 529 plans, with the trade-off being a lack of tax breaks if the money is used for education.

How Much Are Those 529 Plan Tax Breaks Worth?

So how much are those tax breaks worth? And how much money might those extra taxes and penalties cost you if you need that 529 money for something other than education?

A lot depends on contribution amounts, timeline, and tax rates, but here’s how it breaks down if you contribute $100 per month from the time your child is born until the time he or she reaches age 18*:

  • If the money is used for education, you’ll have $34,534 available in the 529 plan and $31,700 in the brokerage account. That’s a difference of $2,834 in favor of the 529 plan.
  • If the money is not used for education, you’ll still have $31,700 available in the brokerage account, but you’ll only have $30,427 available in the 529 plan. That’s a difference of $1,273 in favor of the brokerage account.

In other words, the upside of a 529 plan is an extra $2,834 if you use it for education. The downside is a loss of $1,273 if you don’t.

Again, the exact numbers will depend on a lot of variables. This is fairly simple example, but it helps to illustrate the scale of the difference.

*Here are some of the other assumptions I made to run the numbers:

  • You invest 60% of your college savings in stocks and 40% in bonds.
  • Stocks return 6% annually. 4% of that is from capital gains that are deferred until withdrawal. 2% is from qualified dividends that are taxed annually at 15%.
  • Bonds return 2% annually and are taxed as ordinary income as earned.
  • Marginal tax rate is 25%.

How to Choose Between a 529 Plan and a Brokerage Account

Here are a few additional factors to consider as you try to decide whether you’re better off using a 529 plan or a brokerage account for your college savings:

  • The biggest factor is what you plan to use the money for. If you’re 100% sure that the money you’re saving will be used for education, a 529 plan is likely to be the better route simply because of the tax breaks. If you’re not sure, you might be better off using a brokerage account or striking a balance between the two.
  • In general, the more you can contribute and the earlier you start contributing, the more a 529 plan’s tax breaks will benefit you.
  • Those tax breaks are also more valuable if you’re in a higher tax bracket, and especially if you live in a high-tax state that allows you to deduct 529 plan contributions.
  • 529 plans are more valuable if your child is likely to attend K-12 private school at some point, since you’ll have more opportunities to use the money tax- and penalty-free.
  • If you’re not already on track for retirement, with an emergency fund in place and high-interest debts paid off, then it’s probably best to prioritize those goals before contributing to a 529 plan.

At the end of the day, it’s a decision between upside and flexibility that needs to be made within the context of your personal goals and overall financial situation. Both are great accounts, and in many cases it can be smart to strike a balance between the two.

Matt Becker, CFP® is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Mom and Dad Money, where he helps new parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families.

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Parliamentary committee tells govt to impose tax on Facebook ads

Kathmandu, August 20

Development Committee in the House of Representatives has directed the government to impose tax on Facebook advertisements among other paid contents published on social media.

Whereas the government is under fire from members of the public, stakeholders and lawmakers for expanding the tax range of late, the Committee today issued the directive that advertisements on Facebook, Twitter and other social media be brought under the jurisdiction of tax system as their market is expanding everyday.

Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Ministry of Finance have been directed to regulate the social media-based advertising market.

Meanwhile, the Committee also directed the Ministry of Communications to submit a report within next 15 days about improvements in Nepal Telecom’s services including 4D coverage and optical fibre network.

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kathmandu police request govt to ban high capacity bikes

Kathmandu, August 20

The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has sent a letter to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport with a request to stop issuing permission to citizens to operate high capacity motorbikes on city roads, claiming their sounds severely affected road discipline and overall peace in the society.

Police have also argued that such bikes have a bad impact on human health and some people have turned disabled due to the extremely high sounding bikes.

A source claims the Division has already written to the Department of Transport Management to make such a decision at the earliest.

Meanwhile, police have launched a crackdown on such two-wheelers in the Kathmandu Valley recently.

SSP Basanta Panta says police want to control the use of such bikes as they are likely to cause accidents on busy traffic roads besides significantly contributing to overall pollution of the environment.

The target list of police includes Ducati, Crossfire, Bullet, Benelli, and RX brands for now.

Whereas some of the bikes are designed and manufactured in such a way that the sound is high, some riders have also chosen to modify the bikes for such feature. So far, those modifying the bikes have only been interrogated for further action.

According to Panta, riders want to ride on such expensive bikes on a high speed, further creating the fear.

Around 50 such bikes are booked every day in Kathmandu over such reasons. the report adds.

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Kids or Not, It Can Pay to Do Some Back to School Shopping for Yourself

Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be just for parents or kids.

For the last few years, I’ve covered back to school shopping for TheStreet.com, and while I was neither in school nor sending a child off to one, I can almost recite by heart the list of items that get discounted around this time each year. Unfortunately for both me and my wife, some technical difficulties pressed each of us into doing some back to school shopping of our own this year.

I have had my little 13-inch white MacBook for almost a decade. It fills all my writing needs, it remains largely bug-free and, until this year, it required only a new battery every now and then. However, Apple has considered it obsolete for a while now and, this year, it began running incredibly hot and, in its final days, wasn’t responding to mouse commands.

Despite living in a tech-driven corner of Oregon, only one computer shop would take my hobbled laptop. As it turned out, the battery had swelled beyond the laptop’s casing and had bent the clickpad out of place. It came home fixed, but with a warning that even third-party companies weren’t producing batteries for it anymore.

My wife, meanwhile, had dumped her old Dell laptop into a magazine rack beside our couch and left it there do die. She’d purchased it 11 years ago for a graduate program and had it repaired multiple times by technicians at her father’s workplace. When it, too, lost battery integrity and became more buggy than she could deal with, she made do with a free tablet from our wireless provider until she could shop for another.

That’s when I remembered, after years of consulting sites like DealNews and LifeHacker, that late-summer back-to-school sales are second only to Black Friday for laptop deals. I checked Best Buy during its “Black Friday in July” sale and found a MacBook Air that sells for $999 on Apple’s site listed for $849. It wasn’t refurbished and, while it wasn’t the $699 version I could’ve received if I was a student, it was still a fine deal.

Laura, meanwhile, paid just $200 on Amazon for an updated version of the Dell Inspiron that cost her more than twice as much a decade earlier. As DealNews notes, however, last year saw Dell prices drop 11 percent between July and August, while Lenovo 11.6-inch laptops (far smaller than her 15.6-inch model) sold for about $130.

While Apple, Best Buy, and other tech retailers will restrict their best deals to card-carrying college kids or their parents, there are still deals out there for those who won’t be attending classes in the fall. According to DealNews, 31 percent of the tablet deals offered in August 2017 were among the best deals of that year.

Besides, not every sale needs a student ID card. Notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, disinfectant wipes, and more wind up on sale at Walmart and Target, often for less than a buck apiece. Staples used to not only revel in parents’ back-to-school shopping, but still slashes the prices of notebooks, pens, folders, rulers, index cards, Post-It Notes, and other items around this time each year. If you’re an adult who uses pens and paper in any capacity and you aren’t using this time of year as an excuse to go to Office Depot and stock up on stationery and other office supplies, you’re missing a pretty great opportunity for frugality.

The National Retail Federation estimates that parents will spend $82.8 billion this year amid increased consumer confidence. However, those shopping for college and beyond spend $55 billion of that total, and roughly $941 apiece. That includes more than $229 on electronics — but clothes, shoes, furniture, and home goods all go on sale as a result of college kids’ whims as well.

Summer apparel always sees a price drop around this time of year at places like the Gap, Kohl’s, JCPenney, and Old Navy, but shoes also get a back-to-school boost as Clarks, Famous Footwear, DSW, Puma, Adidas, and Tilly’s all offer deep discounts. According to DealNews, Puma and Adidas brands drop as low as $25 for adult sneakers around this time of year, while online outlets like Sperry, Shoebacca, and Foot Locker will offer discounts of 33 to 75 percent.

However, you can’t discount just how much of an effect back-to-school sales have on “filler items” like stacks of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, paper towels, and other items you see as you head toward the registers or that pop up as suggestions to get you to free shipping. This year, Target offers $15 off $50 worth of household supplies, while Walmart pushes bedding and small kitchen appliances with college kids in mind. Bed Bath & Beyond, meanwhile, built itself on offering storage containers, shelving, hangers, laundry kits, and shower items at a deep discount around this time of year.

Those big piles of sale-priced storage containers at Home Depot or Lowe’s? Those giants skids of pencils and tape at Costco? None of them require a child or a teacher’s list to pick up for yourself.

You just have to think somewhat like a college student or school parent. How much of each of these items will it take to get me through the year? How many of these do I actually go through, and is it worth getting this many to get the bulk discount? Is any of this apparel multi-seasonal? How long will it be before I actually need to buy shoes again?

Shopping for laptops during back to school season this year was just a sound reminder of the frugality behind shopping these sales when you have kids in school. You want to get as many of the best items you can at the lowest cost possible, and you want to make sure what you buy will be durable enough to get you through at least the school year.

If you can stock up on a year’s worth of clothing, office supplies, cleaning supplies, and other home goods for dorm-room prices, all while picking up a laptop that will survive a collegiate career, you’re learning one of the best lessons the start of the school year can teach.

More by Jason Notte:

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Maoists, UML merged only to hold on to power: CP Mainali


Kathmandu, August 19

Nepal Communist Party ML leader CP Mainalai says the then UML and Maoist Centre parties entered into a merger just to assume state powers and to hold on to it.

Mainali, a former member of the UML, says the leadership of the Nepal Communist party do not care about the needs and aspirations of the people. In an interview with Onlinekhabar, he said that the government still hasn’t signed the much-talked-about trade and transit protocol with China and it is not taking steps to minimise the country’s dependence on one trading partner.

“Inflation is rising because of policy lapses on the part of the government. Similarly, cases of violence against women are on the rise and the government is not doing anything about it.”

There have been severel hi-profile cases which the government has not consistenly investigated, he added. The 33kg Gold Smuggling Case and the pledged action against contractors are all cases in point.

Mainali said that the government has made lots of mistakes in its first five months in office. “These are only signs of what is to come.”


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Nepal Telecom MD dismissal case: Supreme Court refuses to issue reinstatement order

Kathmandu, August 19

The Supreme Court has refused to issue an interim order to reinstate Nepal Telecom Managing Director Kamin Rajbhandari, who was recently relieved of her position by the government.

Rajbhandari, who moved court following her dismissal last week, claims that she was removed illegally and urged the court to reinstate her to the post.

A bench of Justice Cholendra Shamsher Rana, however, issued a show-cause, to the government asking it to clarify its stance on the case. Rajbhandri was dismissed from her post by a meeting of the Cabinet last week saying that her performance as the head of the country’s biggest telecom company was not satisfactory.

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Minister Yadav wants restrictions on use of NOC land lifted

Kathmandu, August 19

Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Matrika Yadav, has requested lawmakers to lift legal restrictions on the use of land procured by Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to build storage facilities.

At a meeting of the Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumers Interest Committee of the House of Representatives on Sunday, the minister said that restrictions put in place following disputes in the procurement processes are hindering the NOC’s plans.

“The NOC needs the removal of restrictions on the land it had purchased for the specific purposes,” he said, pledging to discontinue the ‘syndicate’ imposed by petrol pumps and tankers involved in the distribution and transportation of petroleum products. A lottery system, if necessary, could be practiced to make the process of granting permission to operate tankers and pumps transparent.
According to him, efforts are on to remove misconducts long existing in the industrial sector.
Prior to this, the committee members drew the attention of ministers towards the issues of embezzlement of funds in the purchase of plots of land by the NOC. RSS

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Chand Maoist leader Bishwokarma remanded in custody

Kavre, August 19

Kavre District Court has remanded former minister and Netra Bikram Chand-lend Maoist splinter group spokesperson Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma (Prakanda) in custody for three more days.

Bishwokarma, who was earlier arrested on charge of extortion, was released on Saturday. However, he was re-arrested on the court premises for allegedly attacking a crusher plant in Kavre.

The top Maoist leader was presented before the district court on Sunday. Police had requested seven days to investigate the case. However, the court granted only three days for investigation.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mr Virgin Movie Review: A collection of stale jokes

Out of the three Nepali movies that were released this week, Mr Virgin, because of its trailer, looked promising. But like all movies, it too failed to live up to the hype.

The movie revolves around three men: Dhal Bahadur (Gaurav Parihar), Pavitra Prassad (Bijay Baral) and Kumar Kancha (Kamal Mani Nepal), all of whom are in the mid-thirties are yet to ‘lose their virginity’. After getting poked at by a Chumman Lal (Bhola Raj Sapkota) the three friends decide it was time they made make him eat his words.

The next night they decide to get laid, and in search of girls they visit Thamel, where they meet a taxi driver Pyasi Mohan (Rabindra Jha) who instead of helping them, takes advantage of the trio.

The first half of the movie is average. Director Bisharad Basnet tries to lighten the mood with humour but fails to entertain the audience as all the funny bits were already on the trailer. The jokes were clichéd and inappropriate, especially those involving transgenders.

While the joke kept the audience seated during the first half, there was nothing worth watching in the second as the movie slowly started to lose the audience. The half failed to explain the gist of the movie or the characters which makes the film confusing and not as funny as the makers though it is.

The presentation of the story in both the halves made some in the hall leave their seats.

Parihar, who is known to play serious roles, is poor in the film which makes the audience question his reason to accept such a film. He doesn’t look comfortable in his role which questions his versatility as an actor too.

Baral is another character that has disappointed. He comes out fake and doesn’t seem to have understood his character. His few dialogues like ‘I’m so excited’ and ‘I’m so confused’ are funny but apart from that, there is nothing worth noting about his acting. Nepal, however, has tried to make sure he does his character justice, but the poor script doesn’t help.

Mariska Pokharel, who plays the role of an escort, is another character portrayed in an odd manner. Her acting is strange and the way in which her character is introduced is abrupt. Her concluding scene is just as abrupt which makes the audience question why was she even in the movie.

The only person who has done his role justice is Rabrindra Jha, who plays the role of a taxi driver. His unique dialogue delivery is sure to tickle everyone’s funny bones.

The reason why the actor’s performance is so poor is down to the director who has done his job amateurishly. There is no continuity between scenes and sequences which confuses the audience. The story was unique and could have been presented in a different manner. But even with such a good cast, Basnet failed to entertain the audience.

The background score is poor and the editing is below par. The dialogues, in the end, are too loud.

For a comedy movie, Mr Virgin does not make the audience laugh. Its inappropriate jokes and clichéd dialogue makes the audience cringe throughout the two hours. Overall the movie is a poor watch.

“I am so disappointed.”


Run Time: 130 minutes

Director: Bisharad Basnet

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Gaurav Pahari, Bijay Baral, Bholaraj Sapkota, Mariska Pokharel

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Practical Goal Setting for Finance and Personal Success

Marcus writes in:

I was really intrigued by your goal setting process. Could you walk me through that in more detail?

Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what Marcus was referring to until he pointed me at this little section in my article early this week about the battle against scarcity:

In a very practical way, the most useful tool I’ve ever found for figuring out what I really valued and turning them into practical goals is the “three morning pages” journaling routine, where I sit down with a notebook and strive to fill three pages of it with whatever comes into my brain. This often turns into an exploration of what I truly care about and what I can do to manifest that in my life, which sets the stage for practical goal setting with goals that are really meaningful to me. When I have goals that are truly meaningful to me, I am strongly motivated to achieve them and I tend to hold onto the results of successful thirty day challenges if they help me move toward that goal in a real way.

I’ve written about goals before on The Simple Dollar – this article about SMART goals in personal finance is probably the best one – but all of those articles start off with the assumption that you already have some sort of goal in mind and you’re just honing it into something that will be successful.

When you step back and think about it, that’s really the fourth or fifth step in the process. A great goal doesn’t just spring out of nowhere. There’s actually a chain of things that go on before you even have any semblance of a goal, and it’s usually because of stumbles in that process that people wind up with goals that don’t really match up with what they want out of life.

So, let’s walk through all of this from the start, step by step.

Step 0 – Live Life

A good personal goal comes from the way you live your life, nothing more, nothing less. This is the core of every good personal goal – it emerges from the patterns of your daily life.

This might seem like an obvious beginning, but many people come into goal setting without having done this. They hear about some idea pitched somewhere that appeals to them in some way and decide that this new thing they just learned about is their goal. They dive into it and then it fails, as it inevitably will.

That’s because good goals are rooted in the reality of your life and your experience and who you are as a person, and that’s different from everyone else on Earth. You can’t just wholesale take on a goal that someone else came up with because it sounds good at the moment, because it doesn’t come from you.

Live your life. Don’t pay any attention to what others say and what goals they think you should have for yourself. Live life fully, but with your eyes wide open.

That brings us to the true first step…

Step 1 – When You Notice Something You’re Not Happy With, Don’t Ignore It

Eventually, we all notice something we’re not happy with in our lives. For some, this comes really easy, because we’re immensely dissatisfied with some part of our life. For others, it can be harder, as a generally content person might find it hard to find some real form of discontentment in their life.

Although I’m generally content with my life, I can name several things I’m unhappy with. I am unhappy with my weight (though I’m in a better place that I used to be). I am unhappy with my flexibility. I am unhappy with the state of organization in my office. I am unhappy with how my free time is divided up.

At this point, it’s simply noticing that there’s a problem of some kind in my life. I don’t have any sense of a goal at all, just that there’s something that’s not where I want it to be.

In my own financial journey, I could see this starting to happen about a year before my own financial meltdown. I wrote about it in my journal about nine months before things really moved into crisis mode. Right there, I was already noticing the problem, but the issue then was that I didn’t move on to the next step until things got significantly worse.

In general, once you’ve noticed something you’re unhappy with, the next step is to give it some serious thought.

Step 2 – Think Through the Problem

Once you have a sense that there is something in your life that you’re genuinely unhappy with in a lasting way, you still shouldn’t jump straight to a goal.

A goal at this point would be just a Band-Aid on top of a serious wound. It’s a quick “fix” but it doesn’t really fix the problem in any meaningful and lasting way. The Band-Aid is likely to fall off and not help at all or even make things worse.

Instead, the best approach here is to give yourself some time to think through the problem. I use three key tools for this.

Step 2a – Spare Thoughts

Whenever I have some spare moments in my life, like when I’m driving somewhere or I’m waiting in a line or something like that, I consciously turn my thoughts to what’s going on in my life. I think about things I’ve noticed that I’m unhappy with and I toss them around a little. (I also often visualize upcoming situations and try to come up with a great way to handle them, or replay recent situations and try to figure out how to handle them better.) In general, I’ve tuned my spare thoughts to be self-reflective in a way that I think will make me into a better all around person.

The approach I often like to use with this is what I call the “five whys.” I think about something I’m unhappy with in my life. Why am I unhappy with that aspect of my life? I spell out that reason. Well, why does that make me unhappy? And I answer that. I do this until I’ve asked “why” five times, and usually the final answer is something that’s got me a bit emotionally agitated, but it’s usually something that’s really close to the root of the problem.

This was a thought process running through my head quite a lot during my financial low point. I felt very on edge about everything, and it was through asking lots of “whys” that I was able to burrow down to the core problem, which was that I was failing my family and my own future.

Step 2b – Homework

Another key aspect of thinking through a problem is to study the problem in detail, discovering what others have done to successfully deal with that issue in their life and what researchers have found about good ways of addressing the problem.

For me, this usually involves checking out many books from the library and reading most of them and browsing the rest. When I’m trying to bear down on a specific problem in my life, I become a voracious reader.

What I find, though, is that the more I read and the more I think about a problem, I often find myself changing directions a little bit because I begin to discover that the actual problem that needs solving isn’t exactly what I initially thought that it was.

Step 2c – Freeform Journaling, or “Three Morning Pages”

A strategy I’ve been using in the last year or two that works incredibly well for piecing through life’s problems (and other intellectual problems, like figuring out where I stand on a political issue or working through a new idea) is called “three morning pages,” which I learned from the writings of Julia Cameron.

“Three morning pages” is a really simple idea. In the morning, just set aside an hour or so, open up a notebook, grab a pen, and start writing whatever comes into your mind. What happens is that the focus and time it takes to write down one thought often leads to the next thought that sensibly follows it, and so on, which usually ends up leading to greater understanding and a good conclusion. It’s kind of like the “five whys” that I do in my head, but more freeform.

At first, I was really skeptical of devoting this much time to a journaling practice in the morning, but I came to realize that this was an incredibly effective way of “sharpening the axe.” The process almost always left me feeling clearheaded and refreshed, and it almost always helped me integrate the things I was thinking about and the things I was learning into some really powerful conclusions.

What I’ve found is that this “three morning pages” practice often ends up being part of a feedback loop. I’ll end up thinking about some of the conclusions I’ve drawn and then that ends up fueling more reading, which ends up fueling more morning pages. Eventually, I end up reaching a really firm conclusion about what the problem actually is, but it usually takes some cycles of reflecting, reading, and journaling.

I view this as moving from just slapping on a Band-Aid to actually evaluating the disease and figuring out what’s wrong.

A Note About Step 2 – Recognize the Internal Value

Most people care in a relatively shallow way about a lot of things, but they really only care about a few things (beyond their basic needs) enough to really take action on them. Think about how people profess how much they care about a political issue, for example, and then can scarcely “find the time” to even vote, let alone do campaign work or run for a local position.

Here’s a key truth for you: if a goal is not intrinsically tied to one of those things you truly care about on a deep level, it’s probably not going to succeed.

I was aware of my personal finance problem for most of a year, but it took the connection of that problem to something I cared enough about for me to take action – namely, my child’s future and my self-identity as a good father. If not for that, I likely would have kept pedaling in place, frustrated about my finances but not really changing anything about my behavior.

Why is it hard? Usually, we adopt behaviors we don’t like in some ways because we do like them in other ways, and when the habit is established, it’s very hard to break. We have to value something different more than the path we’re currently on plus the effort needed to change it. That’s not easy, especially when we already like aspects of the path we’re on.

That’s not easy. We all care about a lot of things, but very few things meet that threshold, and without that threshold, it’s hard to set a goal that requires major changes in life.

You have to recognize that achieving a goal means giving up something in your life right now. Achieving a goal means you’re devoting some resource in your life to that goal, whether it’s money, time, energy, or something else. That resource is currently being used for something else, probably something you value at least a little.

Part of the reason for carefully thinking about a goal and working through it is to uncover whether or not you really care about something enough to actually make change in your life or whether it’s wishful thinking. For most of us, that means it has to tap into something truly more important and urgent than the reasons why we already spend our time, money, and energy.

Simply adopting a goal isn’t enough. You have to know why you’re adopting that goal, and that’s why the homework and the journaling and the thinking is so important. You have to understand the why.

Step 3 – Stating the Basic Goal

At some point, a switch will flip and it will begin to feel more “right” to actually start making a change in your life than to let things be as they are. That’s when you’re ready to actually develop your goal, and the first step is stating that goal.

This might seem obvious, too, but it’s actually harder than you might think. Most goals that people set for themselves aren’t all that useful – they’re really strong notions that pack a powerful personal punch, but they don’t really lead to any sort of action.

For example, you might want to “get your finances in order,” but what does that even mean?

Start by thinking about what you want to be different in your life as compared to how things are right now. That should be the core of your very basic goal. “I am currently X. I want to be Y.”

For example, you might say “I am currently in debt. I want to be free from debt.”

Or you might say “I am currently overweight. I want to have a normal weight.”

Or you might say “I am currently a bad father. I want to be a good father.”

A good goal starts by distinguishing where you’re at from where you want to be. That way, the change that you need to make becomes clear and then you can start revising that goal into something meaningful.

Step 4 – Making the Goal SMART

A good goal is one that sets you up for something clear that you can do each day to move toward the goal. One way to massage your goal in this fashion is to use the SMART rubric. SMART is an acronym for five elements that a good goal should have.

Spacific means that it is extremely clear what it is that you want to do. Simply stating your goal should make it abundantly clear what it is that you want to accomplish.

Your goal should answer five questions – what? why? where? who? which? Sometimes, some of these questions are assumed, but you should make them either as clear as possible or else rely on them as a very obvious assumption (“where” is often assumed, for example).

A goal of “I want to get my finances in order” can be made specific by “I want to eliminate my family’s debt load and set up an automatic plan to save enough to comfortably retire.”

Measurable means that the line between success and failure is immediately clear and usually represented by a number.

For example, with the finance goal above, the “measurable” is already there for part of it – a total debt of zero. The other part probably depends on some calculations – maybe you need to be automatically putting aside 15% of your salary for retirement to say you’ve succeeded. That’s clearly measurable.

Achievable means that it’s a goal you can actually pull off if you work hard at it. It doesn’t rely on things happening that are outside the possibility of your current life.

Debt repayment is an achievable goal for most people. On the other hand, becoming a billionaire isn’t an achievable goal for most people because it requires things that are outside what they have and what can easily be acquired. All the effort in the world won’t make you a billionaire unless you add a great idea, a bunch of skills, and a ton of luck.

Realistic means that it’s actually achievable within the constraints of your life. Everyone’s life is different – something might be achievable for a lot of people, but it’s not realistic for some of them.

A perfect example of this is a goal that is something you could pull off if you didn’t have kids or a husband or a job, but it’s essentially impossible to do with those things gobbling down resources (time, energy, money) in your life.

A good way to check whether a goal is realistic is to think about the people in your life that will be affected by your goal. Will they be able to “flex” enough to make room for the changes needed for you to achieve your goal? What will that require out of them?

Time-limited means that you’re setting a deadline for yourself to achieve that goal, which gives you some constant pressure to work on it. This time limit should be realistic, of course, and within what’s actually achievable (though pushing the edge of what you think you can handle can be a good motivator).

For example, someone who’s losing weight might shoot to lose 1.5 pounds a week for a year, which adds up to a 75 pound weight loss in a year.

When a SMART goal comes together, I find it useful to start constructing a plan almost immediately, and that plan comes from a series of questions. I ask what I can do in a series of timeframes to complete this goal or move forward on it.

What can I do in the next 12 months to achieve this goal?
What can I do before the end of the year to achieve this goal?
What can I do in the next three months to achieve this goal?
What can I do this month to achieve this goal?
What can I do this week to achieve this goal?
What can I do this weekend to achieve this goal?
What can I do today to achieve this goal?

I ask those questions over and over again, almost on a daily basis, which moves us into step five.

Step 5 – From Goals to To-Dos and Reminders

Almost all of the goals I set for myself are made up of some combination of two elements. They consist of to-dos, which are very specific actions that I need to take, and reminders, which are changes in behavior that I need to maintain in my life.

For example, if my goal was to read 20 books on a topic in a year and take notes on them, I would add an item to my to-do list, a repeating to-do that would tell me to read for an hour each day with my notebook and pen beside me. I constantly look at my to-do list throughout a given day and strive to empty it out most days. Having a to-do list that I don’t have to actively think about during the day is a great thing. (Unsurprisingly, my “three morning pages” often clarifies today’s to-do list, adding things and removing others.)

Other goals don’t work quite as well with specific to-dos. For those, I use reminders – more specifically, I use the “triggers” technique that I learned from Marshall Goldsmith’s book of the same name. Each morning, I run through a list of “triggers” – ongoing behavioral changes I’m wanting to work on in my life – and think about how I’m going to nail each one today. In the evening, I give each one a score from one to ten based on how well I pulled it off that day. Almost all behavioral goals I have wind up on this list of triggers.

Going through my trigger list makes up two of the items on my daily to-do list, to be done early in the morning and in the evening.

Again, these to-dos and triggers all spring forth from that series of questions I ask myself about that goal. When that goal is set in a SMART format, I start answering a cascade of questions about it that breaks it down into what I need to do today to move that goal forward, and those things are either to-dos (on my to-do list) or behaviors (on my trigger list).

Step 6 – Even SMARTER – Evaluate and Readjust

Forming a good goal is great. Starting out on the journey to achieving it is great, too. To-dos and triggers are the nuts and bolts of it. But that’s not enough. Your goal will never go perfectly according to plan, ever, and success comes from constantly evaluating and readjusting your goal.

For me, this loops back to the journaling I mentioned early in this post. I do evaluation of my goals constantly in my thinking and in my three morning pages. Is this goal going well? Is it going poorly? What do I need to adjust, if anything?

I usually try to give a goal a month in its current implementation before I make changes. Quite often, the first few weeks don’t show any real results and I want to give it some time. Meditation as a daily practice, for example, didn’t show me any real results for the first three weeks, but now it’s a daily practice of mine; without giving it a month, I would have missed out.

Once a month or so, I go through my ongoing goals carefully. Is this going the way I want it to go? Why or why not? I also re-ask all of those goal breakdown questions and make sure all of the answers still make sense for me.

Again, this seems like extra work at first glance, but this kind of thing is the definition of sharpening the saw. Spending some time making sure that you’re doing sensible things and that you’ve got the tools you need to do them and that everything is in place almost always makes the whole task go far easier, and usually it ends up taking way less time and energy (even including the prep work) than just going about it in a haphazard and unconsidered way. Appreciating the power of sharpening the saw is one of the biggest steps forward I’ve made in my life in the past few years. If you spend time setting yourself up to knock things out of the park by thinking them through and getting ready for them, you’re going to end up with better results in less overall time and with less overall effort than you would have by just attacking them head on without any prep work.

Final Thoughts

I wish I could say that I had packaged all of this together so neatly during my own financial turnaround, but the truth is that my own turnaround was a lot more haphazard than this. I spent a long time sensing that there was a problem without really delving into it until I almost stumbled completely off a financial cliff, then I fell into a panic mode of homework and haphazardly throwing different tactics at the wall to see what stuck.

It worked solely because I was driven by something I cared deeply about – my sense of responsibility to my own future and that of my child. That pushed me to keep stumbling forward, but it was a stumble for a long while.

Knowing what I know now, the whole process would have been much smoother and much more efficient and less trying in places. If I had worked through the above process as soon as I began to sense something wrong, I would have been in a much better financial position much faster.

Another advantage of this process is that it has often kept me from diving into major goals that won’t end up panning out. I often care about something and want to work on it, but I realize that I don’t care enough to take on the changes in my life and those around me that it would require. Recognizing that early on has saved me from feeling like a failure about not achieving some ambitious goals that I cared about but not deeply enough.

If you have this nagging sense that something is “wrong” in your life – your finances, your relationships, your health, your career, whatever – start working through this process, right from the top. Start by “sharpening the saw” and thinking about what’s actually wrong, and when you’ve figured that out, try to transition it into a goal and see whether or not it fits into your life. It might turn into a life-changing goal, but even if it doesn’t, the process will bring you to a better place where you understand the realities of your life much better than before, and that’s well worth it.

Good luck!

The post Practical Goal Setting for Finance and Personal Success appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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