Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Drive to Run.

As the first site of sunrise slowly extends its finger-like rays over the desolate MacArthur causeway, the taste of a race pipes through finish line hungry runners. It was race day for many, but for Nationwide Van Lines, it was a time to leave the moving world behind to do something for more than just our clients. It was time to say "I finished my first 5K". Sure we have Navy Seals running with us, but this is just a drop of water in a bucket for them. For myself, Shahaf and Lielle....This was an ocean. We didn't want to make just our company proud, we wanted to make the many hungry Americans proud. Running for a selfless cause brings a tingle to your body, not the "my foot is sleep" tingle, but the "walking on cloud 100" tingle. This felt right. 

There were many interesting people and groups getting ready for the run. From multicolored tutu's hugging the waist of ballerinas to Mr Dribble, who passed me effortlessly while dribbling 2 basketballs. Characteristics exploded all over the start line. You could feel the excitement all the way to the shout of "GO!"

We were off. I maneuvered through the crowd as if I was late for 5th period, looking forward to the view of the Port of Miami. Cruise ships dressed the port in a trim of giants, waiting patiently as if they were waiting on me to board. Motivation, pain, and exhaustion masked the face of those around me, placing the truth for all to see as we are searching for the same thing....Completion. 

As the crowd thinned out, another giant stuck its head above the not-so-flat causeway. The highest point of the road ahead stared at me, knowing its caliber of effort it takes to go against gravity to the top. As my calves burned like hot Sprite, I made my way to the penthouse suite to intake the view. What a view, but just for a second. 

Like a Wednesday, we all looked forward to a easier second half of the race. As the causeway decline increases, runners leaned back to keep their balance. This was the chance for many to rest for the final sprint ahead or effortlessly cover ground. As the sight of supporters increased, the finish line became more realistic, yet still not in sight. "Just keep running"chanted in my head as I approached a corner. But this wasn't just any corner, this was the final corner. The finish line jumped out like the participants of a surprise party once the lights illuminated the room. This was the end. This was the time to sprint. This was the time to be a winner. 

After the swarm of greetings, shouts and claps, a memory decorated my neck along with the necks of my team. Our first medal for running. My first win with my company. 

I felt like a kid again so I wanted to know what a kid actually felt about the race. I asked Lielle, age 11, "How was the run?" She paused. You always wonder what a child is thinking prior to their response, especially if they pause. "I felt like I did a good job". That she did. That we all did. As the race ended, stragglers searched for the shuttle ride back to the finish line. Everyone showing their joy of not winning alone, but winning together. Until the next run.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Retirement Abroad

When you think retirement, you may dream about laying on the East Coast sand recollecting the once frowns that the sunrise easily out shines. Maybe the smell of morning dew and the call of nature is a more of a serene sound for you. No matter what ices your lemonade, you want to exhale nothing but "Ahhhhhhhhhs". Today's retiree is not just thinking about the same path of retirement communities and lavish nursing homes, going abroad seems to be the new fancy.

If you're looking for the perfect climate and a better use of your finances, Ecuador may be the place for you. Even if you're not fluent in Spanish, the friendly locals will assure you are more than welcome. Lying directly on the equator, fun in the sun can carry on for 12 straight hours any day of the year. You can choose from an array of climatic locations such as the Sierra mountains, the Pacific coast plains, the eastern rainforests and my favorite, the Galapagos Islands. With climates varying from Spring-like down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, Ecuador offers the perfect climate just for you.  With rent averaging $450 per month and oceanfront property as low as $10,000, no wonder why Ecuador is the talk of the world.

Panama holds second for the most retired to location abroad, but not because of their beaches. Retiring to Panama comes with more spiffs to make your retirement a money saver. Known as the Pensionado Visa, Panama offers discounts for medical services, air fare, entertainment, electricity, phone bills and even restaurants. Though Panama is still developing everyday, they offer the fastest internet and road system in all Central America. Sunshine is almost everyday, making the tropical beaches more enjoyable. With rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranging $700 - $1,500, retiring in Panama is more than possible.

Coming in third is our southern neighbor, Mexico. If you've ever taken a trip across the border, you may have noticed Mexico's extremely low prices for virtually everything. You can easily see cost slashed in half for restaurants, produce and even water. Rent can be as low as $300 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in great areas. Rainfall is a usual event from May to October, so you can enjoy the sun for most of  the year. Offering from Tropic to Desert climates, Mexico can always have a warm place in your heart.

There are many places around the world you can call home with a great cost of living and welcoming locals you. It's all about what fits your fancy and less about what fits in your wallet. Extend your boundaries. As a matter of fact, extend your borders. Go abroad.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Different Ways a Moving Company Charges You.

If you've ever used a moving company, you most likely felt like the whole ordeal was a learning process. Charges easily could ring up for the simplest things. The simple things you easily could forget about between trying to blend wall blemishes to get your deposit back and trying to make sure your electric is on when you move into your new home. No matter what charges it takes to make your move happen, you will be charged. Don't rely on a moving company to ask you cost effective questions. Show them you know your stuff. Show them you mean business. Here are some of the cost effective components your mover SHOULD ask you to mold your price.

The first thing you must understand is that this industry is not like a fast food franchise where the menu is priced virtually the same everywhere. You get your smile at the cash register, the chance to play soda mix as you wait for your food and then you receive what you've ordered.

In the moving industry, sometimes it's not that easy. Company A may give you a free flight of stairs where Company B gives you an hour of labor. Company C will give you free boxes where Company D doesn't give you anything free at all. Free may be an act of kindness or a nicely baited hook. Don't look at the "free" until the end. Make it a desert more than an appetizer.

Now that you've closed your eyes to each company's flashing billboard, now you need to figure how will they charge you. Will it be by weight or cubic feet? Will they charge by the time it takes or guarantee everything based on your items. No matter how a company charges you, know how safe their method is. Let's dig a little into these various ways so you can know what's coming around the bend.

Weight Based

Most clients will encounter weight based charges more than anything. This traditional method is based on filling up the truck, weighing the truck on a weigh scale and then appearing at the delivery with your final charges. Your previous estimation may be right, it may be wrong, but you have to pay to receive your furniture.

Cubic Feet Based

Cubic feet based price is a pretty popular method. The idea is to fill up the truck and determine how much space is taken due to the cubic feet markings. This method provides your price after loading, allowing you to see the space you occupy. A professional and honest company would pack your belongings tight to take up the space your contents truly need. On the other hand, you could have a company pack loosely, taking up more space than you need. It's all about the packer so maybe have an eye in the hom
e and an eye on the truck.


For local moves, hourly is the easiest method for a customer to control their price. Most movers have a minimum amount of driving and labor hours, good for quick moves. You could cut time for the movers by having everything boxed and disassembled or even cut down the bulk of move by shuttling your smaller items in your personal vehicle. As long as every minute is used to move you, your charges shouldn't get outrageous.

Guaranteed price based on items

Guaranteed pricing due to inventory is a method many feel is safe. Yes, the truth of a price could scare you away, but at least you know your price upfront. No one can trick you with extra charges of weight or time because it's all about the furniture pieces. If you are on a budget, a guaranteed price will help you plan more efficiently.

Now that we covered the true bulk of your c
harges, lets briefly look at the extra charges that could increase your base price.


Make sure you know more than how many flights you have, know your step count. There are various opinions of how many steps make a flight, so have your count ready for all locations within your move.

Long Carry

Know the distance from truck to door your mover is giving for free. You can measure using a measuring tape or simply Google Map your home and use the distance tool. A mover will definitely charge for you for a longer walk.

Truck Access

Know the dimensions of the truck(s) your mover will use at all locations. If the driver can't park close enough, you may have a long carry fee or may be charged to shuttle your items. Speak to your local precinct, leasing office, HOA and even neighbors for insight.


If the movers truck is too large at any of your locations, a shuttle truck will be utilized. This fee is mostly based on the size of your move. The movers will rent a smaller truck, load your items and transfer your goods to the larger truck.


Most people throw away their large flat screen box away after the unpack it. Now you need a box. A quite expensive box. If it takes more than moving pads to realistically move it, protect it yourself or you will be charged...... and I say realistically because some people believe a blanket is good enough to pack a flat screen. Some items may need wood crating to keep it safe so suggest it for items like sculptures and chandeliers.  Pack what you can. Estimate high for box count. Take fragile's in your vehicle. Whatever you do will save you money.

Extra Stop

If you have an extra stop above your pickup and destination, some companies will charge you. Know the distance of the extra stop from the location that's within your pickup or delivery. Most importantly, don't forget the above extra charges.


Sometimes you can't have your items dropped off as fast as the movers can. Storage is the best solution to keep your items safe, but there may be more charges than you think. Yes, the unit has a cost, but understand that the movers are moving your items twice. This is called an S.I.T. (Storage In transit) charge. It helps cover the additional labor. Some companies offer climate and climate controlled prices, which can vary due to your choice. No matter what storage option you utilize, do note that you don't have any access to the unit.


Every move comes with a standard coverage of $0.60 per pound per item. You do have options of Full Value Protection, which covers what I call the "3 R's", Repair, Replace or Repay. Then you have Full Coverage Insurance from many 3rd parties that will cover everything completely. No matter the cost, do consider a coverage above the minimum offered.

Bulky Items

If it's a strain or hassle to move, prepare for an additional charge for handling. From safe's to glass bars, a mover will charge you for making their job a little more challenging and time consuming. You may get a high charge so the question may be, "Is it worth it?"

Geared with this information, you can keep a grip on the many charges that could occur. If you educate yourself of the different charging methods and the customer reviews, you should alleviate most of your stress. Take your move seriously and make sure the company you choose does the same.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

First Time Home Buyer Tips

Buying your first home could be pretty exciting, yet a bit on the scary side. You see the possibilities of that dream home with the 2 car spacious garage and a backyard you could get lost in. You start mentally coloring the walls, adding accents to make it feel and look like home. But reality strikes. The house is great, but the neighborhood isn't so great. Mountains of paperwork where your signature looks like the only thing you understand. It can be a nightmare. Don't fret. You can prepare yourself with simple tips to help you along your venture.

Firstly, know what you are working with. Know your credit score and available finances before the lender gets to know you. There are many lenders just waiting to offer you the money you need to buy your home. You also may qualify for a federally-backed loan or state sponsored programs to help you into your new home. There are various interest rates being offered so give yourself some time to shop around. Once you know your spending limit, you can now develop your list of homes of interest.

"Location. Location. Location". This famous real estate saying should be etched into your temporal lobes. There are many appeasing homes out there, yet the surroundings are not so comfortable. You have places to go outside your home. Work. The grocery store. Shopping. The last thing you need is a long commute just to do everyday things. When looking at the location of your home, pay attention to what's around you. Check for nearby major roads, highways, and even attractions. Try driving around during rush hour to get a feel of the density of traffic. This may be your home location for quite some time so make sure you are comfortable.

Since we are in the realm of location, don't tune your mind into the now. Your new neighborhood has a future. If you're like the residents of Hollywood Beach, a once quite vacation spot is now turning into a conglomerate of massive buildings, eliminating the great view of the smaller structures. This could easily dissatisfy a home buyer, especially if you plan on residing there for a chunk of your lifetime. A good way to know of the future developments is to visit the city hall. If there's any development plans for the future, this will be a great place to start.

The space dedicated to your home can look pretty spacious, but do you own every inch? That horrific tree you planned to cut down once you purchase your home turns out to grow from your neighbors property. There are many occasions where a land survey unearths inaccurate information. It's best to closely look at your future land with a professional eye, not through the sellers knowledge.

Before you commit to anything, grab a calculator. Lay out all of your current expenses that are not home related. Now, add the expected expenses of actually owning the home.Include the extras of maintenance and the various insurances needed. Don't forget Uncle Sam loves his taxes for breakfast so make sure that meal is within your equation.

If you have children, planning on having some or none at all, the quality of the local schools should be a deciding factor. The quality of the school does effect the value of your property. This will be the leading source of your child's future knowledge and friendships. Try visiting the school to learn about what your child could experience. Access their records to get an idea of the quality of the education being provided.

Sometimes what you see is not what you get. You can find out what's going on behind that closed door, but what about behind the walls? Don't leave the inspector to tell you the condition of the home. Dig into the records of the home from breaking ground to today. If there's an attic, check for water stains, decaying wood and proper wiring. 

Expect a showdown when it comes to negotiation. Make as many realistic offers to the seller to help shave down the asking price. You may feel like you're in a tennis match swapping at counter offers, but every little effort pays off. Know what you want and stand as firm as you can. Most importantly, know when to fold.

Down payment equals equity. The more you put down on your home, the greater your chances of actually owning your home. Sure there are alleys of full financing with nothing down, but this method makes the house less yours and creates less appreciation.

Improvements of a home is a great way to develop equity. A simple addition to the house can raise your value and make your resale more appeasing. Look at each property as a project. Try to put aside some home improvement funds to make your house more into a home. A small chance of change could put some change in your pocket.

Even though you have the "ready to buy" itch, don't scratch it just as yet. Negotiate continuously during the buying process. "The wood flooring needs to be replaced. I need a discount". Present every cost effective issue to the seller to help reduce that big sticker price to a more comfortable number.

You have the price you want. Now, there's a contract being waved in your face. You want to get to the escrow portion of the sale so no one else can snatch your home from underneath you. Don't grab that pen just as yet. Read the contract once, once again and then again. Have someone else review the contract just in case you missed something. Ask as many questions possible to assure that you know what you are signing. This is a huge commitment so take all the time you're allowed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Packing Tips for Household Moving

Looking for tips on packing your boxes? Many can agree that moving your livelihood isn't something to look forward to. Your "To-Do" list is growing more than you would have expected. As a former mover and sales representative, I can say that disorganization is one of the leading causes of just not having enough time to pack. I've appeared to many homes with the client still packing up boxes, hoping we won't be done by the time they are done packing. This, of course, leads to timing issues and also an increase of price since it's easier to have the movers charge you to finish up the job. All of this could be easily avoided with the right discipline. I've put together some tips to help keep you stress-free and clear minded for your upcoming adventure.

Tip #1

A little a day will keep the stress away.

We all may have heard the good old "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" line some time in life. When it comes to packing, the best thing to do is to start NOW. The average move consist of 75 boxes. If you were to pack just 5 boxes a day, you will be done in about 2 weeks. Doesn't sound hard does it? With this method, you will not obtain much stress and your quality of packing will never diminish.

Tip #2

Box quality is important.

Dumpster diving may sound like a jump into free boxes, but don't get your gloves on just as yet. Used boxes are great if they are stable, clean and was used for very light items. The last thing you want is a box in your hands with the contents on the floor. I suggest to buy the best boxes you can find and also assure that they are crush proof.

Purchasing boxes from the mover or a supply store helps you in the following ways:

                  - The boxes are brand new
                  - You will know the size and dimensions of the box 
                  - Most likely there is a buy back program for your unused boxes
                  - The quality of box will be known. 
                  - You will have access to other moving supplies

Tip #3

Always expect more.

No matter how many homes I've moved in my career, I still can't tell you how many boxes you will end up with. Furniture is easily seen, but your life's accumulation can hide in the most oddest of places. The best thing to do is go with an over estimation of boxes for 2 reasons:
    1. You can help the movers assure they have enough space just in case you go over
    2. You will be able to know what it will cost IF your box count does exceed tremendously.

With some companies, you can get a price per box to help you determine how much extra could come out of your pocket.

Tip #4

The heavier the item, the closer the box to its size.

One of the most common mistakes in packing will be the box size you choose. We've all unloaded groceries once to find that the bagger put the eggs with the half gallon of milk just to save a bag. In moving, this will surely hinder more than help. When deciding which box to use for what, it's best to determine what's light, heavy, fragile and non-fragile. The heavier the item, the closer the box must be to its size. Imagine carrying a box just slightly larger than the bowling ball its holding. You could feel the bowling ball as if it's in your hands alone. Now, take that same bowling ball and put it in a very large box. You may want to watch your foot.  Yes, you may end up with more boxes than you could, but at least all your contents will be safe for the upcoming trip.

Tip #5

Bubble wrap  isn't a song. Peanuts aren't just for elephants.

Many clients tend to look at that large roll of bubble wrap in the store as unnecessary. When moving fragile items, bubble wrap and peanuts are the keys to keeping everything safe. Always use more bubble wrap on your items just to make sure that there's no clinging or chance of damages. Peanuts are great fillers for oddly shaped items. If you can't find peanuts, plain popcorn also works as well. Just don't offer it as a snack to the movers at the destination.

Tip #6

Mark wisely.

Once you've packed a box, don't move it from the room it's in. I've seen many clients make things harder for themselves by moving all boxes into one room. Your mover will move all of your boxes no matter where they are in the home so save your back. Clearly mark the room and the box number on all sides and also the top. This will make it easier for your movers to place your boxes in the correct room for an easy unpack. A brief description of the contents can really help also.

Tip #7

Try not to convince yourself that you are a professional packer.

I know you are looking at your 60'' flat screen television saying "This is easy, I can do this". But if you're like most people, the original box has already made a home at your local dump. When it comes to packing, saving money always sound great, but are you really saving? The cost to replace a fragile item usually exceeds the price to pack it correctly. Yes, packing could be costly, but you are placing your items in a professionals hand with the right packing material.