Tuesday, September 28, 2010 Edition #578

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Today’s Highlights:
1st Flash: DECLINING WEALTH   Past issues of GCFlash:
September 21, 2010 Edition #577
September 14, 2010 Edition #576
September 7, 2010 Edition #575
August 31, 2010 Edition #574

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1st Flash

WEALTH noun: an abundance of material possessions and resources; the state of being rich and affluent

Americans measure wealth in various ways. Some by the size of their bank account, some by the size of their home. Others by the size of their heart, or the state of their health.

For the sake of this article, we're going to use the measure officially recognized by economists and government programs. That is, an individual or household's net worth.

Net worth is defined as the value of your assets like your home, investments or other possessions minus your debt. We all know what debt is when we pay those pesky monthly bills.

Just a few days ago, Forbes released its annual list of the 400 richest people in America, all of whom boast a net worth over one billion dollars. The list included folks with various backgrounds and pedigrees, including technology, investment professionals and the energy sector. Four of the top ten are members of the Walton family of Walmart fame.

Among the newest entrants on the list you'll also find the youngest - Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz (both 26) along with cohort Eduardo Saverin (28). Their success best exemplifies one of Albert Einstein's most famous quotes: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Not that these men don't rank among our countries brightest, but it's through bringing their dream alive that they earned this status.

The Forbes list comes at a time when the net worth of Americans declined after showing four quarters of steady growth. The reported decline for April-June 2010 is attributed to stock prices and home values. Stocks have bounced back, but it will take some time before home values do the same.

And that may well be the prime factor in recent census data indicating the growing gap between the rich and poor in our country. Statistics reveal the top 20 percent of earners in the U.S., those earning $100,000 or more annually, receive nearly half of our country's total income. Those below the poverty line receive a measly 3.4 percent.

This gap represents the greatest disparity among the Western industrialized nations.

But is this gap really such a bad thing?

It depends on how the wealthy choose to use their resources. And what kind of example they set for others among their ranks.

The wealthiest man in America, Bill Gates, is a prime example of charity in action. He stepped down from his lofty position at the company that brought personal computers mainstream to devote efforts to the charitable foundation he and wife Melinda founded in 1994. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to supporting health and education around the world, with its largest single grant of $1 billion given to the United Negro College Fund. Other causes supported by Gates generosity help support hunger, homelessness, animals, family support, environmental and human rights issues.

One of the largest contributors to the Gates' efforts ranks number two on the Forbes list. He is none other than Mr. Gates' close friend and confidante, Warren Buffett. His $37 billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest charitable donation by an individual in history.

Yet Buffet's reach extends beyond that of his good friend to aid at- risk/disadvantaged youths, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, cancer causes and blood marrow and organ donation.

Film makers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both made the Forbes list. Lucas supports causes involved with fighting AIDS, those for child welfare, education and the creative arts.

Spielberg used his earnings from directing the Oscar winning film "Schindler's List" to establish the Righteous Persons Foundation. The Foundation funds projects which impact modern Jewish life. According to the web site, it funds programs that "engage the Jewish youth, to support the arts, to promote tolerance and to strengthen the commitment to social justice."

In 1991, he co-founded Starbright, a foundation dedicated to improving sick children's lives through technology-based programs focusing on entertainment and education. The program later merged with the Starlight Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently donated $100 million to the Newark School System. This 26-year-old is following in the steps of those who preceded him among our nation's wealthiest. And if he continues in their path, this is merely the beginning.

Philanthropy isn't limited to Americans. Austrian millionaire Karl Rabeder is shedding himself of all of his worldly possessions to help the poor in Central and Latin America. His personal fortune was estimated to be close to $5 million. In an article appearing in the October 2010 issue of "Reader's Digest", Rabeder is quoted as saying "For 25 years, I worked like a slave for things I didn't want or need….. So we work for the future without ever being able to live for the day."

A divorce and trips to South America changed his focus on life. Rabeder began a micro-credit venture to enable and empower the poor to earn a gainful profession and provide for their family.

None of these causes would succeed if it weren't through the compassion of those wealthy enough to make a difference. Every human heart wrenches at the thought of a cancer-stricken child. But healthcare only addresses a portion of the problem.

Education is our key to tomorrow. Yet our current system is broken. And there just aren't enough taxpayer dollars to reinvent it.

Poverty and homelessness plague our country. Who among us has the resources to make a difference? It's those that top that Forbes 400 list. And without them, this nation would be much poorer. No matter which definition we apply.

2nd Flash

Are you trying to sell your home? In the real estate market, there are less people buying homes today than there were a few years ago. What does this mean to you? Well, it could mean that your home will be on the market for a longer period of time or that you may have to reduce your selling price. This is not good news; however, there are some things you can do to help make your home more attractive to those people out there right now that are looking to buy. This article will go over just a few basic things to help make your home more marketable.

Keep it clean.
Clean your home from ceiling to floor. This is especially important if you have an older home with an outdated kitchen and/or bathroom. A dirty home will make prospective buyers wonder what else is not being maintained in the home or what problems might be hidden underneath all the dirt.

Make sure it works.
Make sure everything works, from the biggest item to the smallest. This includes everything from the heater/air conditioner down to the front porch light. Put new bulbs in all of the lighting fixtures, make sure all switches and outlets are in working order, make sure all the faucets and toilets work, and clean out the gutters.

De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter.
You may like all the family photos you have spread across the top of the piano, all the books crammed into the bookshelves, and all the knickknacks on top of the coffee table, but to prospective buyers this just looks like clutter or worse... it can make it harder for buyers to imagine themselves living in the space or it could make your rooms look smaller. In addition, having too much furniture in a room may make it look smaller. Look at it this way; if you are going to move, you are going to have to pack it all away anyway. Start now and help make your home more appealing. Once you have packed it all away, move it off-site. It does not pay to pack up all your items and then stash them in your closets and/or garage. The goal is to make your home feel as big and roomy as possible. Packing your closets to overflowing will not help. Buyers want to be able to see how much storage space is available. So while you are at it, de-clutter your closets too.

Keep it neutral.
You may love the hummingbird curtains in the kitchen and the blue flowered shower curtain in the bathroom, but unless they have the same taste as you, these items could be a turn-off for prospective buyers. It may make sense to invest some money in purchasing more neutral items. New bedspreads, throw pillows, curtains, and shower curtains are all inexpensive items that can make a big difference in making your home more appealing. Remember, the key is to purchase more neutral items that coordinate with the colors already in your rooms.

Set the stage.
The big word you hear nowadays is "staging." In its simplest form, staging your home is making your home more attractive to potential buyers by adding, removing, rearranging or redecorating items. This could include everything from putting your oversized recliner into storage to adding a vase with flowers on an end table. There are companies that will come in and stage your home for a fee, but before you go that route, talk with your real estate agent. Your agent should be able to give you some idea of where to start and whether or not you might benefit from professional help.

Doing all of the suggestions listed in this article is a start, but there are also some other basic things you can do whenever you have a showing, such as: open all the curtains to let the light in; close all the closet doors; close all the kitchen/bathroom/bedroom drawers; close the lids on all the toilets; pull the shower curtain across the tub; put away any clean or dirty laundry; put away any stacks of magazines, catalogs, or mail; and put away toys. Little things can make a big difference.

Spruce it up.
One of the best ways to update a property is to give it a new coat of paint. If you can do the painting yourself, this is a relatively inexpensive way to help freshen your home. A top-quality interior latex paint will help hide many imperfections and a fresh coat of paint on baseboards and ceilings will liven up your rooms.

These are just a few suggestions to help you sell your home. As I mentioned previously, your real estate agent should also be able to help you with ideas to make your home more marketable. For other ideas and information, check out realtor.org.

Financial News
The monthly consumer confidence index fell to 48.5 in September, its lowest point since February and down from 53.2 in August. Economists were expecting 52.5 for September. This index was based on a random survey to 5,000 households from September 1st to 21st by the Conference Board, a private research group.

Some economists have said that the recession is technically over, lasting 18 months and ending July 2009. However, corporate hiring remains slow, keeping unemployment hovering just below 10 percent. The Federal Reserve noted last week that it will take action if things get worse. As fall leaves turn, we continue to look for hopeful signs!

Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 430.09 or 4.12% since 12/31/09)
10,858.14 (+0.43%)
S&P 500
(Up 32.60 or 2.92% since 12/31/09)
1,147.70 (+0.49%)
(Up 110.44 or 4.87% since 12/31/09)
2,379.59 (+0.41%)
10 Year Treasury Bond Yield 2.456%  
British Sterling 1.5790  
Euro 1.3565  
On The World Wide Web

Who made Forbe's list of the 400 richest people in America? Find out.

You don't have to start out rich to make a difference. Three friends from the University of Notre Dame wanted to earn some money selling books. And have contributed over $8 million to support global literacy in the process. Buy books online for a cause.

Running errands? Calculate the optimal route with driving directions.

Tip of the Week

Exercise caution when posting your status on a social network. In just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for complaining about customers and the Pittsburgh Pirate's mascot was dumped for bashing the team on Facebook. One study done last year estimated that 8 percent of companies fired someone for "misuse" of social media.


"You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need." - Vernon Howard

Today in History

1968 - The Beatles' "Hey Jude" goes number one where it stays for nine weeks.

Flash Fact

The trucking company Elvis Presley worked at as a young man was owned by Frank Sinatra.

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