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Solar heating article

I tracked down a posting from Daniel D. Chiras that promoted their success with going green.  I like to think that I could live 'off the grid' however I don't in my daily life.  The province of Ontario has some good rebates on energy savings and during times of a heat wave you tend to think more of your environmental impact -- at least I do.

Here is a snippet of the article.

"We are lucky enough to own an earth-sheltered home with good winter passive solar heat gain.

We actually have heating and cooling we don’t have to buy from a public utility.

It’s actually free!

Free is good.

Our house was built in 1976. The long side of our house faces southwest and one short end faces southeast. One corner between the 2 sides points about magnetic due south.

The 2 northern sides, both northeast and northwest are sheltered some by earth in the form of a ground floor daylight basement and also by a windbreak of trees and bushes planted on a hill that rises higher than our house in the back yard.

Most of our trees are hardwoods. In the fall the leaves fall and we get lots of sun during the winter. We only have to heat the house a little on cloudy or snowy days.

But in summer the leaves come back and shade us from the summer sun and keep us cool without air conditioning.

We never pay to cool our house in summer. Free is GOOD! The only electricity we buy runs our appliances. We unplug anything with a built in timer at night.

Any house can be constructed like ours is. And more earth sheltering would keep you cool even in hot climates.

All of the characteristics our house has are easy to build in to any home and would not cost any more than any other house to build.

But it can get better, too.

Better insulation and systems are often part of building codes that did not exist when our house was built.

And keeping heat and cold out is part of what can make any house more energy efficient. Keeping the heat inside in winter and outside in summer means your house will always be cheaper to run over the lifetime of your house.

Windows also play a part in warming and cooling a home. We have double pane Andersen windows that are really good even though they are pretty old. We also have metal blinds that we use to help control both summer heat gain and winter heat loss.

Our garage is also a daylight basement space. In 14 cold winters with lows sometimes below zero we have never had a bottle of water or anything else freeze in either our garage or our house. The garage is unheated but never gets below freezing with the insulated steel door closed.

So earth sheltering and passive solar and passive cooling are saving us big money and keeping us comfortable, too."

Henson Trusts

Canada's pope of Henson trusts

by Christopher Guly
Google "Henson trust" and Ottawa trusts and estates lawyer Ken Pope's website is listed in the top five hits.
The 54-year-old sole practitioner has become an expert on the absolute discretionary trusts that emerged from the 1989 Ontario Court of Appeal decision in The Director of Income Maintenance Branch of the Ministry of Com mu nity and Social Services v. Henson.
The court upheld a 1987 Ontario Divisional Court decision that turned down the Ontario government's attempt to deny social assistance to Audrey Henson despite a provision her father, Leonard, made in his will to transfer his estate to three trustees to be held on his severely disabled daughter's behalf.
Ontario 's appellate court agreed that estate assets placed in a specific way in the care and control of a trustee to be administered on behalf of a beneficiary are not the beneficiary's assets and should not affect provincial benefits.

In these absolute discretionary or Henson trusts, trustees have the power to distribute - and withhold - the trust's income and capital as they see fit. Trusts can either be test amentary, and be taxed at graduated rates, or take the form of an inter vivos trust, and be taxed at top income tax rates at every dollar of income.
(A preferred beneficiary election, available when the beneficiary is severely disabled, allows for a joint election by the trust and preferred beneficiary to benefit from lower personal tax rates.)
Pope says while his clients seem to know about Henson trusts, many of his colleagues do not.
"One time in three, a client with a disabled dependent will go to a lawyer and get a Henson trust established as part of a will," he explains.

"But the other two times, it's either flawed or is just a trust for a child with a disability, which is even worse because such a trust normally states that the trustee is required to feed and house that child."
Pope says that people are going to lawyers who don't spend enough time focusing on estate planning and just "crank out simple wills because they think their clients want cheap, simple wills."
"That misses a lot of estate-planning opportunities that are very substantial and also misses the serious issue of children with disabilities who lose their benefits because lawyers didn't ask their clients if they have children with special needs who should have a Henson trust."
Pope says part of the problem is that a lawyer's secretary, and not the lawyer, often prepares wills in a standard format.

"Generally, the clientele has been led to believe by lawyers that lawyers know everything and clients figure if this is what the lawyer has given them, that's what they should have."
"But when you have senior lawyers my age telling their clients that they've done it correctly and it's clearly wrong - or they argue it's just a technicality - they clearly don't understand Henson trusts."
He says that not a week goes by when he's not dealing with someone who has received bad advice about Henson trusts from another lawyer.
"In one case, a son who's the executor of his mother's estate came to me saying his mother was assured by her lawyer that she had a Henson trust in her will and it turned out it wasn't included. And in another case, a client was told that there was no Henson trust in the will, but that it could be set up after the client died."
So, in those situations, Pope steps in and does a "fix" to correct the absence of or problem with a Henson trust in a will.

For instance, with one case in Brantford , a judge in Hamilton agreed to vary a will to include a Henson trust.
"There was no trust in the original will prepared by a since-retired lawyer in Simcoe, whose partners are still practising and were on the hook for it," explains Pope.
"The executors for the deceased woman said she thought she had a Henson trust when in fact there wasn't one."

"It was another case where people go to a lawyer and sign a will without even reading it or having it explained to them."

In another case late last year, a third-year law student dropped by Pope's office after visiting his recently deceased mother's lawyer and receiving conflicting information as to whether or not her will contained a Henson trust.

"The lawyer said yes but his paralegal assistant said the wording wasn't there," explains Pope.
"So the son's stomach started to tighten because his brother suffers from a mood disorder and would be affected by the absence of a Henson trust."

According to Pope, part of the problem is that lawyers who attended law school prior to the early 1990s would not have been taught anything about Henson trusts.

And he says that while the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services rewrote the policies and procedures of the Ontario Disability Support Program in 1993 to incorporate the Henson court decision, ODSP staff rarely informs their clientele about this provision.

Indeed, Pope, himself, may not have become an expert in Henson trusts had he not stumbled onto them while preparing for a lecture to the Ottawa chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.
"I looked into the statistics and discovered that in most cities in Ontario, more than one family in 10 has either a child or sibling with a disability receiving ODSP and these people had no way of finding someone with expertise to assist them with estate planning," he explains.

So, Pope specialized his legal practice to help families with a disabled member establish a Henson trust to ensure children with a disability are not penalized for their inheritance. Often they are, as he points out.
Anyone receiving ODSP benefits - at a maximum rate of $979 to cover shelter, food and clothing - cannot own more than $5,000 in liquid assets.

Says Pope: "A person with a disability must be deemed to be living in poverty to qualify for support."
However, an absolute discretionary trust, or Henson trust, is worded in such a way that a child with a disability is not considered to have personally received an inheritance since the trust specifically states that the funds are not in the name of the child.

"Unlike in a normal trust, the child has no control over and no ownership of the assets," Pope explains.
As a result, the ODSP benefits continue and the designated trustee can pay out the trust assets for the benefit of the child at the trustee's "absolute and unfettered" discretion.

Yet, unless a lawyer recommends a Henson trust, Pope says he often sees clients who opt for a disability expenses trust, which in Ontario only allows a child to inherit up to $100,000 without penalty - and - stipulates that the funds can only be used for expenses directly related to the child's disability, such as specialized medical care or a wheelchair.

Or, parents choose to designate multiple beneficiaries and then appoint a trustee who will dispense all of the money to the child with disabilities.

But that type of trust is subject to an annual review and the bulk amount of the trust will result in the disabled child being disqualified to receive ODSP benefits, says Pope.

And if Ontario lawyers are still uncertain about Henson trusts, they can always refer to British common law that dates back more than eight centuries.

"In medieval England , trusts were common to avoid giving back Crown land to the Crown when the person granted the land died or was off participating in the Crusades. So people would establish trusts to grant land to their children," says Pope.

"If someone's child decided to go into the holy orders and there was a vow of poverty, they couldn't give money to that child. It had to go to the order."

"However, they would set up a trust and the trustee would have absolute and unfettered discretion to administer the funds and the assets would not vest in the child."

"Just like Henson trusts. They are vows-of-poverty trusts. You have to have a disability and live in poverty."

How to Raise a Family of Six with One Income

I was at CostCo the other day and was talking about Multiple Egg Baskets blog and how I was trying to blog about personal finance items that mattered to Canadians and I was offered a few tips from the women at the frozen food aisle. I hope that you enjoy:

Today it is very hard to raise a family off of two incomes, much less one. This is intended for those people who need a little help in ways to make ends meet. Below is a list of things you can do to help you make the most of your situation, whether you are a single parent, a two parent family with one staying home with the children, or you are in a situation where one of the parents just got laid off. This list will make an incredible difference in the amount of money you spend and the amount of money you get to keep for your family. Let’s begin.

1. The first thing you need to do is to not put yourself any further in debt than you already are. Debt can be a wonderful thing if you are in need of a house for your family, but if you already have a house then don’t borrow anything else. Not even for a new car. New cars are not necessary. They depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the lot. A good used car will fit your family’s needs just as well. Take all your credit cards and cut them into shreds. Lots of credit cards today carry an interest rate of 21% or more, depending on whether you have made any late payments or not. Start paying all your credit card debt down and never pick up another one again. It’s very easy to sign your name to a debt and it takes a lifetime to erase it from that same debt.

2. When you go to the doctor and need a prescription filled then always ask if they have a generic for the prescription. Generic drugs can cost half the price of name brands. This will save your family big time.

3. When you go grocery shopping, always by the store brand products instead of the name brands. Lots of store brands are made by the name brand makers and just have a store label on them. This will allow you to buy your family more of the foods they love.

4. Never go grocery shopping if you or any of your family members are hungry. This will cause you to buy more groceries than normal.

5. Always make a grocery list before leaving for the store. Never buy anything that isn’t on your list. Calculate what your groceries are going to cost you before you go and buy them. If your cost runs over the amount you can afford, then delete some of the unnecessary items on your list.

6. When it comes to your children’s clothing, hand-me-downs are a good thing. This will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. If one of your children grows out of something and your smaller child will be able to wear it in the future, then put it in a plastic trash bag and label it with your smaller child’s name and the date. Place it in your building, storage facility, or closet. Later you can go back and see if those same clothes fit your child.

7. Go to yard sales. You can find slightly used and sometimes new clothing at yard sales. Lots of times they only cost a dollar or two. This can save you all kinds of money.

8. If your children need health or dental insurance, it is provided by the state if your income doesn’t exceed the income limit. Your local social service department provides the forms available to apply for this insurance. It pays all doctor and dental bills for your children. This can be very helpful, especially if you have a very sickly child in your family.

9. Your local health department will give your children all their vaccinations for free. All you have to do is make an appointment and take their immunization records along. The health department also has a department that helps you provide formula, baby cereal, and juice to your baby or milk, cereal, grits, eggs, cheese, juice, dry beans, and peanut butter to your other children.

10. If you are pregnant, you may qualify for free health insurance for you and your baby also at your local social service department. All you have to do is take a paper to prove your pregnant with the due date of your child wrote on it from your doctor to the social service department. There they will go over your total income to see if you and your child qualify. If you don’t have a doctor yet, you can get a pregnancy test done at the health department for around ten or fifteen dollars. There they will determine your due date and give you the proof slips you need to apply.

11. Cooking big meals in a big crock pot will also help in making sure there is plenty of good hot food to eat and will save you time and money on your power bill.

12. Limit your luxuries. Cable vision and satellite TV are not necessary to run a household. They usually are showing the same movies over and over again anyway. You can go out and rent new and old movies from your local library for free or you can go to your local video store and rent only the movies you want to watch. This is better than paying for movies you don’t want to see or have seen already.

13. If you have addictions like smoking, drinking, or doing drugs then kick that habit to the curb. You could give your family a whole lot more and be around longer for them if you were not spending so much on trying to kill yourself slowly. Love them enough to love yourself, quit!

14. Don’t eat out every night of the week. It costs less to cook meals at home than it does to eat out and you know you are getting good wholesome food that is prepared safely if you do it yourself.

15. Use florescent light bulbs. They use less power and have to be replaced less often than regular ones.

16. If you have lamps then use them instead of your regular lighting. Some ceiling fans have four bulbs and that uses more power which makes your power bill go up.

17. On days when it is cool outside raise all your windows instead of running your air conditioner. You can even put a fan in the window to circulate the air if you want to, this will still use less power than running that air conditioner.

18. If your children are young, you can save money on your water bill by giving them all a bath in the same water. Older children seem to object to this because they feel it is nasty to wash after each other.

19. You can visit dollar stores and purchase items that you normally use a whole lot cheaper than other stores.

20. Watching TV together not only promotes family time but also saves power.

21. You can have your own yard sale to make a little extra money and get rid of the items around the house you never use anyway.

22. Buy things that are on sale if you use them regularly, if you don’t then don’t buy them just because they are on sale unless they cost the same as a similar item you normally buy.

23. When shopping for your meats buy family packs of meat then separate them into meals when you get home and put them into the freezer. This will save you money because family packs are cheaper.

24. Drink more tea and less soda. Tea is cheaper to make, lasts longer, and is better for you than sugary sodas.

25. Limit your family’s snacks to one or two a week. This is better for their health and their teeth, not to mention it will save on your grocery bill.

26. Grow your own vegetables. If your family likes vegetables you can grow them yourself and freeze or can them for later.

27. Let your children ride the bus to school. This will save you time and money. Gas isn’t getting any cheaper these days.

28. Always turn off all lights and electrical appliances when you leave a room. Teach your children to do the same.

29. If you must have Internet service, subscribe to dial-up. It’s a lot cheaper. If you don’t want to for fear of your phone line being busy, then PeoplePC offers an Internet Call Waiting service for free for 30 days then after that it will cost you $6.95 a month if you chose to keep it. With this service you can answer your phone while on the Internet by just the click of a button so you’ll never miss a call again. If you don’t choose to keep it they give you Caller Id. on your computer for free. So, the next time someone calls you and you are on the Internet you will know that they have called and you can call them right back after you get off.

30. If you have to go into town then do everything you need to do for that week in one trip. It saves time and gas.

31. If you must have a cell phone then get a pay as you go phone. This will eliminate that monthly bill and you only pay for the minutes you use.

32. If you can do something yourself, don’t pay someone else to do it for you. Example: If your husband knows how to work on your car, don’t pay the local garage to do it instead. It saves money when you do things yourself.

33. After each meal, always wrap up the leftovers and put them in the refrigerator. Wasting food is wasting money. You would dare throw your money in the trash.

34. Do not ever pay a babysitter to keep your children if you or your partner is at home, or you have a relative who is willing to watch them for you. In most family situations the grandparents are very eager to keep their grandchildren.

35. While at the grocery store, always use any coupons you have on hand for the merchandise you are purchasing. But, never buy an item just because you have a coupon for it. Only buy it if you regularly use that item. You can find lots of coupons in your local Sunday newspaper.

36. You can save hundreds of dollars by hanging your wet laundry out on a clothesline.

37. You can make a little extra money by keeping other parents’ children while they work, especially if you or your partner stays home with your own children.

38. You or your children can offer to cut the neighbors’ yards for some extra money.

39. Wash all your dirty laundry in cold water.

40. Carpool to work or church if you are able to do so.

41. If you have pets, then give them their vaccines yourself. You can order them through the mail and do it yourself a lot cheaper than you can go to the vet and pay them to do it for you.

42. Some phone companies have an extended calling plan, where you can call anyone within an extended area for one flat rate. This is usually cheaper than paying for all your long distance calls. Call your local phone company and ask them about theirs.

43. Always turn your heat down before you leave your home. There’s no use to keep it warm and cozy if you’re not there to enjoy it.

44. If your local waste facility is close to your house, then take your trash off yourself. It is cheaper than paying someone to come out and empty your cans for you.

45. Never try to keep up with the neighbors. So what if they cut their grass after every rain. You are saving money by cutting it when it needs to be cut.

46. Pay all your bills on time to avoid any late fees or interest. They can really add up in no time at all.

47. Always wear out the clothes you have before going out and buying new ones. Your old clothes will just sit in your closet taking up space if you have new ones to wear instead. Everyone would rather wear new clothes.

48. When you have a dinner with other family members, ask everyone to bring a dish with them. This will save you money and put lots of variety on the table.

49. If you take your family on a picnic, make your own food to take with you instead of buying it on the way. A cooler of drinks goes further than a single drink in ice for everyone.

50. Limit your family outings to once or twice a month, but make them count.

I hope you find these pointers to be very helpful in helping you and your family meet all your needs. They have been very helpful to me and my family. Lots of people ask us how we do it. Here are the answers.

Rebecca Anne

Steve Jobs Apple

Four essential lessons from Steve Jobs1.      Lesson One: Say noJobs makes it his business to obsessively hit on a small number of things that are important to him.Apple limits itself to three product lines – the Macintosh computer, the iPod, and the iPhone, with the recently announced iPad making it four.With just three main product lines, Apple has a market capitalization of more than $150 billion. Jobs has resisted the call to offer lower-end products and milk the company's great brand. His philosophy is that "it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important."Implications:There is no shortage of opportunities in this business. What there is a shortage of is conviction. The easy thing to do is to go to a meeting, hear a few good ideas, and then go out and try them. When that does not work, you go to another meeting or hear another speaker and make a half-committed effort with new ideas, getting similar unacceptable results.Ultimately, you find yourself trying things but never really finishing them. Most advisors have to-do lists. What fewer have but would benefit from are not-to-do lists. With not to do lists, advisors only take on initiatives that will have a dramatic impact on their business, small scale projects that only make a difference at the margin will drain energy and focus and ultimately leave you bogged down without really advancing your business.2.      Lesson 2: Practice the rule of 100%Jobs built Pixar Studios into a company that he sold to Walt Disney for $7.4 billion. At Pixar, there is no 80/20 rule. It's simply the Rule of 100% – every effort gets 100% support.Jobs is a notorious stickler for minutiae and one of the most obsessive detail oriented people you're likely ever to run into.Accordingly, Pixar delivered an average of only one movie every 18 months, many fewer than most major movie studios. However, the result was outstanding. Pixar has generated more than $3.5 billion in worldwide box-office receipts since 1995. And it has had no bombs.Implications:Many successful advisors have 500 or more clients. These advisors had successful businesses that generated substantial revenue and comfortable profits.Yet who got short changed in that deal? The clients! None of those advisors would ever go on the record as saying they did a great job of taking care of all of their clients. Typically, 20% received great care and the other 80%, well, they were mainly an entry in a database.So the key question for advisors is how to restructure their business to deliver 100% quality to 100% of clients?3.      Lesson three: Focus on your peopleJobs devotes a considerable amount of his time to talking with prospective employees that he thinks can be A-list players on his team. At the end of the day, there are no weak links in his executive suite. He's as obsessive about the quality of his people as he is about his products.Implications:Quality work starts with quality employees. For many advisors, finding and retaining quality staff members is a perennial issue. Advisors are tempted to hire the first person who marginally fits the bill.Unfortunately, that's a recipe for long-term pain. It's better to bite the bullet now and continue pursuing the right person, rather than settle for an average candidate who is destined to deliver mediocre results.If you currently have no support staff, then go out and hire your first person. Without staff, you'll have a job, but you'll never have a business. If you have existing staff, continue to support and nurture your A players – make sure they feel appreciated and know that they're an important part of your team.For your weaker links, work with them to try to get them to A status. If they can't make the jump after you've given them every opportunity to do so, it's time to let them go.4.      Lesson four: Refuse to settleThe last lesson is not to settle. Jobs says, "We're just trying to make great products. We do things where we feel we can make a significant contribution." To him, it's about staying focused. It's about doing great work. It's about loving what you do and doing it with all your energy. Don't settle for anything less.Implications:Settling is a common trap for many advisors. They rise to a level of production that makes them comfortable and then they coast. They have the house, the cars, the vacations, the club membership, and the kids' college education funded. No need to push yourself any further by asking for a referral or making more calls, right?When you get to a point in your life where you are comfortable, coasting is the worst thing you can do. You'll get stale disenchanted, and start cynical. The key is this: When growing your business is no longer satisfying, it's time to start growing your self. 
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Bp price up

Bp share price is up today after news that they will not have to release more shares to cover the cost of the relief well and cleanup. Will this creative more negative press or will the financial facts stay as the primary guide for bp stock price?
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