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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Media Statistics Part 1

As we find ourselves in the digital high tech era with a new definition to what society has become it is valuable to see the statistics around it all. This new form of communication is here to stay, social media is a way of life that has changed the world. Some predict the new wave will see social networks that differentiate and cater to specific needs breaking up the big players such as Facebook and Twitter.  While we wait and see let us step back and analyze the statistics and behavior of the current social media.

Statistics from 2009 - 2010 by Sysomos reveals that Twitter users with more than 100 friends have increased three-fold since 2009. About 22% of users accounted for about 90% of all Twitter activity and 80% of users have made less than 500 tweets. According to the data as time has passed a good amount of users feel more comfortable disclosing their location, web info and bio on their profiles, this number more than doubled to 63% by Twitter users in 2010. The most popular day of the week for Twitter use is Tuesday and daily activity is at its highest between 11am - 3pm.
The Twitter community has grown steadily and significantly, in August 2010, 44% of the total social network population were new users. More than three fourths of all users have made fewer than 500 tweets, 2.7% have made more than 5000 and only 0.18% have made more than 25,000 tweets respectively. When it comes to number of followers the majority about 95% have less than 500 followers, 2.12% have more than 1000 followers and only 0.06% of Twitter users have more than 20,000 followers. Any Twitter user can be found withing five degrees of separation or less.
Sysomos conducted their research by viewing more than a billion tweets coming from more than 20 million Twitter users in 2010 compared to analyzing 11.5 million accounts in 2009.

Monday, December 19, 2011

UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Overview

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) is a healthcare service provider in the United States.  Founded in 1974 the company offers health benefit plans to public sector employers, mid-sized employers, national employers, and individuals.  Optum UNH's Health Services platform, has three informational and technological based services businesses.  OptumHealth concentrates on financial services and health management. OptumRx is among the biggest pharmacy benefit management organizations and OptumInsight concentrates in technology consulting & actuarial services as well as software products.

In 2010 UNH's revenue grew by 8% reaching $94 billion compared to $87 billion in 2009.  The company's revenue has steadily increased since 2006.  The company's broad health services will allow it to advance its international growth.  The company is well positioned for growth in the coming years, as the need for benefit coverage increases as well as government monitoring and new legislation. 

UnitedHealth Group is collaborating with Cisco (CSCO) with the introduction of a high-resolution teleconferencing technology to give us the first telehealth network which enables doctors to see patients face-to-face when patients are not able to access a doctor or clinic.  NowClinic allows individuals with internet access to chat with doctors and with the use of a web cam you can get the feel as if you were in a doctor's office, DocGPS is one of the first smart phone applications that gives people the ability to locate nearby UnitedHealthcare providers.

As we enter a paperless society UNH OptumInsight working collaboratively with the AMA is aiding in the smooth transition of transforming paper records into electronic health records for those small physician practices.  Small physician practices is where most of the population receives primary care. 

The company has more than 20 distinct businesses and serves more than 6,000 hospital facilities as well as more then 75 million individuals.  UnitedHealthcare Medicare provides benefits to 9 million seniors together with AARP which is vital in an environment that consists of a large amount of baby boomers.  UnitedHealthcare Community and State caters to more than 3 million individuals of which more than half are children, these individuals get coverage via Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare.

When the market bottomed out in March 2009 UNH was priced at $17.90 from which it has recovered quite nicely it is currently priced at $48.97.  UnitedHealth Group is currently paying a 1.30% dividend.
The 52 week average has ranged from $35.05 - $53.50 with a beta of 0.78 yet the stock was not immune to the August drop.  UNH dropped close to 10 points from July to August. 

Providing medical care to the U.S. makes up about 17% of our GDP and costs more than $2.4 trillion, the inflation rate for healthcare was about 9% in 2010.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) predicts that the U.S. total health expenditure will grow to more than $4.1 trillion by 2016 and $4.6 trillion by 2019.  Moving forward UnitedHealthcare Group appears well positioned for the changing technological and legislative healthcare market. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Medicaid 2011

Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) provide health coverage to nearly 60 million Americans.  Medicaid was created in 1965 and provides individuals that qualify with health protection.  It provides long term care for people with disabilities and for older people as well.  Medicaid gives health insurance to low-income families with children and it also gives supplemental coverage for low-income Medicare beneficiaries for those services that Medicare does not cover such as deductibles, premiums and outpatient prescription drugs.

Each state sets its own eligibility standards, benefits package and payment rates, Medicaid is a federal and state program.  According to the NYC department for the aging Medicaid eligibility for those age 65 and older, blind or disabled is as follows: a single individual must have a maximum monthly income of $767 per month and assets of $13,800.  A married couple can have a maximum monthly income of $1,117 per month and assets of $20,100.  Assets can include cash, stocks and bank accounts some assets do not count such as a primary home and your car. To be eligible you have to be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien.

Although Medicaid provides health coverage to the needy studies have found that children with Medicaid have to wait longer for care compared to children with private insurance.  This has shown true even for serious medical problems and according to researchers the lower payments and delays in payment are the main reason why.  The New England Journal of Medicine published the article "Auditing Access to Specialty Care for Children with Public Insurance" which details a study conducted in Cook County, Illinois.  The state of Illinois uses CHIP and Medicaid as a combined program.  The study revealed that out of 546 calls placed to clinics 66% of callers reporting Medicaid-CHIP coverage were denied an appointment for specialty care compared to callers reporting Blue Cross Blue Shield of which 11% were denied an appointment.

States may pay health care providers on a fee-for-service basis or may pay for Medicaid through different prepayment arrangements, such as health maintenance organizations (HMOs).  The providers participating in Medicaid must accept Medicaid payment rates as payment in full.  Most states have "state-only" programs to provide medical assistance to the financially challenged people who do not qualify for Medicaid. 

In 2008 Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP financed $823 billion in health care services according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  National health expenditures in 2019 are expected to grow to $4.6 trillion.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Millennials Prepare for The Future

As we continue to see world news and statistics pointing to a global slow down it is hard to see any positive event to find hope in.  The economy in the U.S. has spared no one in regards to hardship but probably the worst off have been the Millennials.  More than 30 percent of younger-age households have a net worth of zero or less, due to credit card debt and student loans. Many young adults have resorted to moving in with several roomates to manage to be on their own away from mom and dad.  With all this change and economic uncertainty young adults still need to live, dream and prepare for the future.

With lower salaries and low savings the amount of action that can be taken is limited for now but times will change eventually, hopefully for the better.  In planning for the future young adults must realize that retirement may not resemble what it looks like now for their grandparents and parents.  Although that alone might scare a few there is a high possibility that social security will not be there for the younger generation upon retirement.  This requires a more strategic approach to ensure adequate funds for our golden years. 

Participating in a company's 401(k) or an institution's 403(b) is a good choice because of the tax benefits and free money contributed by the employer.  Being well informed about where the money is allocated is important as funds may need to be strategically moved around.  This is a good choice for those not interested in being overly active in investment choices and day to day fluctuations.  For those preferring to invest and learn on their own, opening a stock market account through a brokerage may be a better choice.  This will require more footwork and will also require knowledge of the stock market.  Utilizing both the 401(k) and a personal investment account is also a good idea.  Brokerages offer IRA's which allow investors the ability to trade stocks and not pay taxes on those gains until retirement or until that money is withdrawn. 

In preparing for the future it is best to remain conservative for a while since returns enjoyed before the Great Recession may not be seen anytime soon in both the real estate and stock market. 

Seeing the stock market as an income investor through dividend paying stocks can also be a good alternative for young adults especially with interest rates near zero, rates may remain low even beyond 2013.  Global worries are real yet the world must go on and good times will come again.  If stock markets slow down or experience extreme volatility young adults have youth on their side and can ride out long storms.  Not putting all their hopes on one form of investment is a healthy view and not investing cannonball style all their money at once and in one company is also wise.

Here are a few top paying dividend stocks from the Dow Jones: AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon (VZ), Merck & Company, Inc (MRK), Pfizer (PFE) and General Electric (GE).  These stocks have the ability to generate income as well as capital gains for investors in the long run.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Medicare 2011

Medicare is a national health insurance program for people 65 years and older, a few younger people who qualify can also receive Medicare benefits.  People with kidney failure or long term disabilities are eligible to receive Medicare.  Medicare has four components: hospital insurance - Part A, medical insurance - Part B, Medicare advantage plans - Part C, prescription drug coverage - Part D. 

To receive Medicare you must be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. at least for five years.  People getting Social Security when they turn 65 do not have to apply they will automatically be enrolled for both Part A and Part B, the Medicare card will be mailed three months before their 65th birthday.

If you do not receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits when you turn 65 you have seven months in which to enroll.  People should enroll three months before they turn 65 by contacting the SSA.  If you do not enroll within the seven month period starting three months before turning 65 you will have to wait until the next enrollment period which is January 1 to March 31 of each year, Part B will not start until July. 

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital benefits, home health care, hospice care and skilled nursing facility care.  Part A does not require the patient to pay a premium for this coverage.  Part A helps pay for meals, semi-private rooms, regular nursing services, rehabilitation services, drugs, medical supplies and x rays.  The 2011 Part A cost sharing deductible is $1,132 ($1216 in 2014) per benefit period and $283 ($304 in 2014) per day for days 61-90 of an inpatient stay.

Medicare Part B covers medical professional services, artificial prosthesis, injectibles, outpatient hospital services, outpatient mental healthcare, ambulance transportation, flu, pneumonia & hepatitis B vaccines.  Medicare recipients are responsible for paying the annual Part B deductible.  After paying the deductible  Medicare pays for 80% of Medicare approved charges.  The patient is responsible for paying the remaining 20% Medicare coinsurance.  The monthly premium for Part B for 2011 is $115.40 per month it will drop to $99.90 in 2012 (most people in 2014 will pay $104.90), higher income individuals may pay more.  Part B deductible will be $147 per year in 2014.  Many patients with Medicare supplement this coverage with a secondary Medigap insurance.

Medicare Part C includes Medicare Advantage Plans.  The plans must be approved by Medicare and are managed by private companies.

Medicare Part D must also be approved by Medicare as well.  It is the prescription drug coverage offered by private insurance companies to aid with the costs of drugs.  Part D is a voluntary benefit but if it is chosen it includes a monthly premium as well as a share of the cost of the prescriptions. 

It is important to keep a record of your doctor visits and the processing of your bills as well as never giving your Medicare number to people you do not know.  A word to the wise be wary of duplicate payments for the same services and of people that claim they can get Medicare to pay for a service that is not covered.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rough Times for Young Adults

Being a young adult in this present U.S. economy is quite the challenge.  With unemployment rate at 9% and quite higher for young adults, last year youth age 24 and younger had an 18.4% unemployment rate. High debt from schooling has not guaranteed a job or higher pay.  Those college undergraduates that decided to go back to school and receive a graduate degree to evade the recession find themselves in just about the same position but now with much more debt.

Education should always be a positive investment, but in this economy it seems that going back to school has to be strategized and can end up being a set back.  College costs have grown faster than inflation and lending practices have certainly changed.  These factors have contributed to a lower amount of people going for advanced degrees.  There were more men that earned doctorate degrees in 1975 than in 2005.  The only reason the amount of PhDs grew during that period was because the number of women receiving doctorates tripled.

According to an annual report from the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington the doctorate degrees given in 2008-09 where 28,469 for men and 28,962 for women.  The class of 2008-09 is believed to be the class to be performing the worst, employers prefer to hire recent graduates than to hire someone who has been out of work for such a long time.

Starting in the summer of 2012 the subsidized loan offered by the government will disappear for graduate students meaning they will start accruing interest on their loans the minute the money disburses.  In the past low income graduate students could enjoy going to school interest free on their subsidized loan until 6 months (grace period) after graduation or their last date of attendance.  Low income undergraduates will still have subsidized loans available to them.  Those considering advancing their learning have to think it twice since degrees that take longer to finish will prove to be more expensive.  The added costs will place a burden on the education of college students in a rather slow economy.

Education is what leads to economic growth if the present environment favors the small percentage that is wealthy, then that gives the 1% of the population more of a lead to dwarf all others.  Occupy Wall Street is a sign of what young adults are going through, men and women that want to work and not feel bad because they took out a loan to pay for their education.  Young men and women who want to start families in this decade and have the ability to buy a home.  With little or no credit and student loans that look like mortgages it is difficult for this new generation not to feel upset.  The American dream should not be impossible and young adults should not have to live with their parents until they are well into their 30's in order to be able to survive.

Our economy and society has to enhance our education and promote higher learning to all.  We have to enable our society to compete at a global level to expand our growth.  In a world where technology and innovation are rapidly accelerating we should encourage learning and invest in creating jobs that will enhance the quality of life of our society.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Human Genome Sciences Inc. Overview

Benlysta is the first new lupus drug to be FDA approved in over 50 years and one of the first drugs to derive from the human genome.  The human genome project in the 1990's didn't lead to much until now with Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (HGSI) and their lupus compound Benlysta.

Being first doesn't always equal success or fast growth.  During the summer two biotechs were severely punished one of them was HGSI the other Dendreon (DNDN).  Human Genome Sciences' stock price was steadily in the 20's for most of 2010-2011 until the summertime blues came and brought the stock down to trade at about half its value.  Dendreon with its first FDA-approved autologous cellular immunotherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer Provenge also took a slide during the first days of August from which it has not recovered.

The European debt crisis and the worry of a U.S. double dip recession made investors flee for their lives.  The scare made many rethink their strategies as they returned.  New technology is seen as risky and in a slowing economy and volatile market traders want out on these high risk securities.  Investors are not rushing to return to biotech companies in an environment where traditionally safe stocks have been trading violently.

Human Genome Sciences reported a net loss for the third quarter of 2011 of $88.4 million compared with a net loss of $40.9 million for the third quarter of 2010.  In February 2011 HGSI expected cash and investments at the end of 2011 to total about $650 million but has recently stated that they expect that number to drop to about $470 million.

HGSI is co-marketing Benlysta with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) but the worries that the drug may not be as profitable in the next few years has brought down the stock's price.  The Glaxo buyout has been rumored since the drug was still in the clinical trial stages yet it has only been a rumor that has given the stock some brief upward movement. The stock is likely to stay highly volatile for the upcoming months. It is hard to justify a high price for a pharmaceutical like Benlysta when the value is based on future events that are set to happen years from now.  Some analysts have predicted that in 2019 HGSI is expected to reach sales worldwide of well over a billion.

The stock's low price makes the buyout not likely to happen any time soon.  The fact that the two companies are working on other projects to treat other diseases makes another buyer aside from GSK not likely.  If GSK does buy in the near term then that would give HGSI a nice rally and a good chance for traders to exit with a profit.

The number of accounts ordering Benlysta have increased, purchases of the lupus intravenous infusion has been steadily penetrating hospitals with very large lupus cohorts.  Benlysta has also received marketing authorization in Europe making it available in several European countries it is also available in Canada.  It also received approval for public fund reimbursement in Spain.

Pharmaceutical companies operating in the negative zone is common with the R&D and expenses to bring drugs to the market.  Yet once the blockbuster emerges sales are to make up for the weak income statements.  With HGSI Benlysta is the home run the only concern is that the sales may not be as strong and it will take longer to reach the break even point.  The longer the wait the more room for unexpected events to come about either good or bad.  HGSI is a day traders' stock with high volatility and fairly low volume.  For the long term trader the price may seem attractive but this may result in a very long and bumpy ride.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rising Healthcare Costs

Rising healthcare costs have led many companies to trim costs and find clever ways to minimize the bill.

Wells Fargo is planning to cut costs by promoting insurance plans that will encourage employees to spend less on healthcare.  The options are either to put pretax dollars in these accounts or have the company fund an account this will mean the employee will pay higher insurance premiums.

The accounts puts the employee in a position that makes them more involved in how they are spending healthcare dollars.  If employees decide to fund the accounts with their own pretax dollars they will pay more of their medical expenses depending on how often they get sick.  On the other hand if they stay healthy they get to enjoy lower premiums.

According to the Center for Disease Control about half of all chronic diseases are linked to problems that are preventable such as obesity, physical inactivity and smoking.

Many studies have shown that patients with chronic diseases that get involved in their own care and take an interest in their health, have lower health care expenses because their health improves.

Job seekers are more attracted to work at a company that offers better healthcare benefits 25% of them will choose employment based on better health benefits according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  But In this economic environment they will happily take just about any employment and healthcare package that is offered.

According to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey 2007 about 50 million Americans did not have health insurance and 25 million of them were underinsured.

What have the uninsured and underinsured done to survive? 

Couples have been marrying to give their significant other health care benefits.  Others have chosen to travel to receive medical attention.  Destinations such as South America, Central America and Asia have been chosen for those seeking hip replacement, heart surgery, dental work as well as other medical procedures.  According to Josef Woodman author of "Patients Beyond Borders" savings from medical tourism can add up to 40% per procedure.

About 400 organizations worldwide have been accredited by the Joint Commission International.  Of course there are pros and cons when considering medical tourism.  If a medical complication arises or post operative follow ups are necessary the patient will have to travel once again or prolong their trip. Also the doctor overseas will not be familiar with the patient's medical history. On the other hand the patient will get to take advantage of the trip and get to visit popular tourist destinations.  Some oversea doctors have been trained and schooled in the U.S. making them highly qualified.

The Commonwealth Fund found that the uninsured and underinsured both behave very similar when it comes to taking care of their medical needs.  Many of them do not visit the doctor regularly, undergo check ups and lab tests or fill prescriptions. 

The highest rate of underinsured at about 31% can be found in families with incomes under the poverty level.

It appears that the uninsured and underinsured are not as proactive when it comes to medical care and are less likely to seek medical attention.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Severity of The Recession

The odds and predictions of another recession have changed so often that it is hard to say what the outcome will be.  One thing is clear this has been the longest recession since the Great Depression.  Many have referred to it as the Great Recession for the economic period that begun in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research

Some analysts argue that we are not headed towards a double dip recession since the economy never actually came out of the recession as of this date.  Whether the economy will head towards slow growth or a double dip is up for debate.  Just a few weeks ago the market was trading as if we were headed towards another economic calamity.

Before letting the sky fall and before investors start selling securities at the slightest worry lets compare how the Great Recession measures up to the Great Depression.

The Great Depression started in 1929 and it lasted a decade.
The Great Recession started in 2007 and it lasted 18 months.

From 1930 to 1931 GDP decreased by 16% compared to a 6.2% decrease from 2007 to 2008.

At its peak the unemployment level reached 24.9% in 1933 compared to 9.5% in June 2009 although it did top 10% in October 2009.  In 1933 about 4,000 U.S. banks closed compared to 25 U.S. banks closing in 2008.

One thing to consider is that during the 1920's even when the economy was doing well unemployment was fairly high as a result of technological improvements that increased manufacturing productivity.  Currently unemployment hovers above 9% leaving Americans in uncharted territory.  The prolonged length of time that the unemployed have endured has not been witnessed since World War II.

The Dow Jones fell about 89% between September 1929 through July 1932 compared to the near 50% drop in the Dow Jones from December 2007 through March 2009.  Close to 7 trillion dollars in wealth vanished from the U.S. stock market in the 2007 recession.

As the Depression deepened in 1932 President Hoover decided to raise taxes, cut spending and raise interest rates. Unpredictable currency rates and tariffs brought world trade to a halt which made the situation a nightmare.  In Contrast during the 2007 recession the Federal Open Market Committee lowered interest rates and is expected to leave them at the near zero rate until the middle of 2013.  The present government also implemented stimulus packages and cut taxes to boost the economy.

After World War II there has consistently been at least one recession per decade ranging from mild to long in average.  Recessions before the Great Depression lasted about 20 months, recessions after the depression have averaged about 10 months in length.  On the other hand the 2007 recession lasted 18 months. 

The Great Recession may not come close to the economic catastrophe lived in the 1930's but it did out due every other recession after the depression.  Perhaps that memory is still very vivid in people's minds and they fear a double dip even when the economic data points to slow growth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bitcoin a Digital Currency

In a time where banks are raising their fees and charging consumers for using their debit cards, going bankless and using other means of payment has caught on.  About 1 in 5 people are reported to have gone bankless and have resorted to gift cards and prepaid cards as a means of payment and consumption.  People are trying to avoid paying fees for transactions and services consumers also desire to protect their anonymity and privacy.  A fairly new digital currency which was introduced in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto has emerged.  A Bitcoin is a digital currency that can be used to purchase items online.  

Bitcoin is an open source software that allows peer to peer digital transactions.  Users create wallets which have an address, each transaction is broadcasted among the entire network and is stored to prevent double spending.  Some privacy and anonymity is offered through Bitcoin. As a result politicians have criticized the currency of being used for illicit transactions such as money laundering.  There are several exchanges where one can convert the digital currency into dollars, euros and yen as well as other currencies.

It is said that the total limit number of Bitcoins will reach 21 million, most trading for Bitcoins goes on in MtGox.  Some people are warning others not to make large investments on the digital currency since it is seen as a high risk investment.  On the other hand small businesses have started to accept the currency for payment.  Many retailers remain skeptical to accept the currency since the exchange rate risk is high and there are no methods that allow to hedge against the wild currency movement and thin trading volume.

The currency and its value are sighted as being affected more by the currencies fluctuation correlated to goods rather than by major currencies.  Since the currency is fairly new the value is influenced by speculators.  There is also another concern that there isn't a single price quoted at any time rather several prices on different exchanges.

The Bitcoin wallet is a file on your computer therefore the threat of theft by hackers and viruses is a possibility.

Bitcoins as a digital currency has appreciated very fast, but this summer the currency suffered a security breach in which a large amount of Bitcoins where sold sending down the currency's value significantly.  Since the hacker attack the currency has steadily decreased in value.  Yet it still trades rather high compared to the dollar about $5 for 1 Bitcoin on MtGox.

All of this comes at a time when the Canadian dollar hit a 12 month low against the U.S dollar on Friday, the euro is also losing ground against the dollar.  The U.S. dollar is looking attractive to the market because of its liquidity it is also a safe haven.  The dollar was up against most major currency pairs on Friday.

Although this currency suffered its first crash and is fairly new, there are still questions to ask as Bitcoin moves forward.  How safe and well monitored is this new form of digital currency? Will any other online currencies enter the game? Is this changing the way in which we will handle transactions and does this show a step towards a universal currency?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Changes in Medicine

Just like in every industry technology and innovation changes how things are done. Online music and movies changed the whole entertainment industry to a point where it obliterated some well known companies. Medicine is also constantly going through changes, new procedures and vaccines eliminate sub specialties.  The human genome has brought us a breakthrough genetic treatment for lupus; Benlysta by Human Genome Sciences.

A cardiac surgeon is not a lucrative profession as it once was.  Medical breakthroughs and the elimination of coronary arterial bypass surgery have drastically changed the way medicine is being implemented. It is becoming hard to find a job in this field.  The balloon coronary angioplasty is one of the sophisticated ways for a cardiologist to perform the procedure on the heart without ever picking up a scalpel.  Only the most complicated cases will not benefit from minimally invasive surgery. In other words cardiologists have taken the work away from the cardiac surgeons.

GE has added a lot of innovative products to the healthcare sector.  Their smart medical room is one of them. The room uses optical sensors, RFID tags, computer vision algorithms and facial recognition along with speakers and cameras.  The software is designed to monitor healthcare staff as well as patients for various reasons,  it is basically being used to monitor and improve performance. The room can track patients and their movements this is done to help the patient if they are out of bed and in risk of a fall.  GE believes that some day we will be able to identify facial expressions to recognize the typical characteristics of a stroke by using these technologies.

Microsoft has also been working on medical innovations as well,  they are using medical avatars that can interact with a humans just as a health care worker might do.  With the use of probabilities and computer algorithms the avatar will recognize the symptoms a patient is experiencing and give a diagnosis. Although it is in its initial stages these futuristic concepts can become a reality.  Seeing how robotic surgeries first started as a once a week procedure in operating rooms they quickly caught on with patients and turned into the norm.

As we move into a paperless society we can see that hospitals are starting to make the transition.  There are advantages such as lower costs, greener environment and saving lives.  The government is giving bonuses to the first hospitals to adapt and threatening penalties and cuts in monetary payments to those providers who resist to change.  Hospitals are also testing patient digital hand prints as a form of identification in their emergency rooms.  This is to identify patients and to have easy access to their medical information even if the patient arrives unconscious.


 Some of the information for this blog came from the following book
 Smart Medicine: How the Changing Role of Doctors Will Revolutionize Health Care (Macsci)



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is GE a Good Long Term Investment?

In 1892 General Electric was founded by Thomas Edison it was part of the 12 leading American Companies that made up the Dow Jones since inception and it is the only one remaining.  It is a conglomerate and a global titan.  In 2011 it was ranked one of the largest companies in the world, best global brand and most profitable.

In 2010 GE's earnings expanded by 15% and raised the dividend twice. GE's R&D spending will grow to 54% from 2008 to 2011.  More than 50% of the world's planes have GE engines. More than 60% of GE's revenue in 2011 will come from outside the U.S. Jeffrey Immelt stated that most of the engines GE sells may be sold overseas but they are manufactured domestically.  It has created 6,300 new jobs since 2009. GE aviation has invested much in R&D this will keep its earnings flat in 2011 but it does have a high backed up amount of orders and earning growth should return in 2012.

GE reported better than expected earnings last quarter and its stock rose to a day high of $19.53 in July 22nd.  Then came the summer jitters the debt worries and a S&P downgrade that proved to be a low blow to the U.S. and GE came tumbling down.  Its correlation with the S&P 500 has punished it throughout the summer yet it found support at $15 showing a better U.S. economy compared to the beginning of 2009 when GE sank below $10.  This also lets us see a better GE emerging one with less vulnerability to tail risk events and with plenty of cash on hand.  A once again high dividend paying stock in a low interest rate environment.

GE Capital has been restructured to a smaller more focused slice of the pie set up for growth in the next few years.

GE continues to lead in growth markets investing long term in economies such as Australia, Latin America, Canada, Germany and Russia. They recently announced an expansion in its position in Russia with two new ventures which will generate about $10 to $15 billion in sales.  Where it will sell gas fired power generated turbines, GE is also entering health care joint ventures in the fast growing Russian market.

GE is also expanding in China and India a colossal market in which over one billion people will be joining the middle class.  John Rice GE's most senior Vice Chairman was asked to move to Hong Kong to lead operations in the global market. It's the year of the rabbit and it is said that anyone having a rabbit as a friend can consider himself financially lucky.

Last quarter GE Healthcare grew by 8% and it is continuing to invest in healthcare with about $5 billion in the next few years in the fight against cancer which is one of the top 3 U.S. killer diseases.  GE is working on bringing innovation and breakthrough to oncology and individualized treatment.  They have started a healthymagination open challenge to aid in the screening and treatment of breast cancer.  It also entered a partnership to bring the latest screening technologies to under served parts of the world.  In this rough economy healthcare has been one of the few sectors that has continually added jobs and seen growth and innovation.

GE has positioned itself to see innovation and growth in the years to come.  Global investments in infrastructure are expected to reach $4 trillion in 2015.  GE has franchises in energy, healthcare, aviation, water and consumer products.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Contemporary Art Prices

How is contemporary art priced ? It seems it has nothing to do with cost since the oil, canvas and materials utilized do not exceed a fraction of the price for which these pieces are sold for.  The price is not based on time either; some paintings/sculptures take 3 - 4 hours others 3 months. 

This market is priced by dealers.  They will price work according to its size and the reputation of the artist.  The reputation of the dealer as well as the status of the client is all taken into account to place a numerical value on art.  A new artist's work will be priced according to the dealers reputation therefore a mainstream gallery will price an artist with no history at about $5000 - $10,000.  This builds trust between dealer and client.  From this point on the dealer will increase art prices to build an illusion of success.


To invest in the art world it is always good to be well informed.  Just like investing in stocks it is good to diversify by buying several art pieces instead of putting all your money on one artist and one painting.  Here is a helpful link to check auction prices: http://www.artnet.com/?gclid=CPGB3IuO86oCFc465QodFCcZNg

While a Picasso or Monet may be sound investments there is little room for greater appreciation compared to a new up and coming artist.  According to a professor of economics David Galenson the most valuable artwork is created at the beginning or at the very end of a successful artist's career.

Some people claim that contemporary art is a better way to create wealth in comparison to investing in stocks, gold or governmental bonds.  They base this on the Mei/Moses art index http://www.artasanasset.com/main/.  The problem is that the index has a few flaws one being it does not take taxation into consideration. 

One interesting point by Mei/Moses is that financial markets and art markets do not move in unison.  When stock markets crash investors liquidate their stocks and invest in museum quality art.


Here are a few facts from art experts:

A portrait of an attractive woman will appreciate better

Colors that sell most are red,white and blue least saleable colors green and black

Pale colors don't sell as well as bright colors

Nudity seems to sell more than modesty

Paintings with cows don't do well

Roses sell better than other flowers

When it comes to superstar artists some of these rules can be broken



Art Pricing Game: See if you can accurately guess what these artworks sold for click on link for answers














Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can - Andy Warhol

A. $250,000
B. $1,575,000
C. $11,776,000




White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) - Mark Rothko
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/arts/16iht-melik17.1.5731441.html

A. $11.5 million
B. $72.84 million
C. $84.52 million





Bloodline The Family No.3 - Zhang Xiaogang

A. $500,000
B. $4,760,000
C. $6,083,363

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Looks That Pay

According to research good looking people tend to earn higher salaries in all career fields. The advantage seems to favor men more than women. Daniel Hamermesh an economics professor of the University of Texas states that aesthetically challenged people earn 5 to 10 percent less than average looking people who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those that are considered good looking.

There are certain occupations where looks are more sought after such as customer service and fashion. It may also appear that employers want to have good looking people around.  On the other hand if unattractive people have a bad attitude about life that alone may turn off employers. 

Unattractive women are less likely to hold a full time job compared to attractive and average women. They are also more at risk of marrying men with less talent and men that are less successful in life.

Dr. Gordon Patzer who has been studying the subject matter for years states that we tend to judge good looking people as being more talented, honest and intelligent.

Although good looks can be an advantage in the work place that does not mean unattractive people are doomed. Some of the most successful business men in the world would not be considered attractive yet they have the highest salaries. Most of the smartest and talented people I have met are not what people would consider eye candy.

We all have to use our strong points whether it is smarts, charm, good humor, personality or communication skills. We all have talents and good qualities that we can rely on to get us through the door and succeed in life. Good looks may not last forever so it is best to focus on more than one trait to market ourselves.

Good looking or not success and high salaries are available to those who work hard.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cost Effects of Spinal Cord Injury

Based on my own research on the central nervous system/spinal cord from numerous books and documentaries I see a need for a major breakthrough. There has been little progress in the field. Before World War II patients didn't survive for long they would typically die from pneumonia. Years later we still haven't been able to give people the ability to walk again all that medicine can offer is rehabilitation and an average life span.

Based on February 2011 figures more than 12,000 people are disabled by traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) in the U.S each year. The financial cost of such injuries can be devastating and unbearable not only for the patient but for the family as well. Injury to the cervical vertebrae C1-C3 will cause paralysis to the arms,trunk, hands and legs. This type of injury will surely require 24-hour-a-day care.


According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center https://www.nscisc.uab.edu/public_content/pdf/Facts%202011%20Feb%20Final.pdf
Injuries to the cervical vertebrae (C1 - C4) will cost $985,774 the first year and $171,183 each subsequent year till death.  Injuries to (C5 - C8) average at $712,308 the first year and $105,013 each following year. That includes yearly healthcare and living expenses but does not include losses in wages,benefits and productivity which were estimated to be about $66,600 per year in December 2010.
About 80% of spinal cord injuries reported are male patient cases.  Motor vehicle accidents, falls and gun shot wounds are the national leading causes of spinal cord injury.  This is true for both male and female.  Although men outweigh women in the number of spinal cord injury cases, there are percentage differences between the sexes. Women have a higher rate 4.8% of SCI due to medical/surgical complications than men 2.0%.  Percentage wise women are also more likely to develop SCI from a vehicular accident compared to men. 

Here is a link of research being done in the field the title of the documentary is "Mapping Stem Cell Research Terra Incognita" http://www.hulu.com/watch/53868/pbs-indies-mapping-stem-cell-research-terra-incognita



Below you will find a clip from The Institute of Spinal Cord Injury

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Previews


As a business school graduate and a healthcare employee I will write blogs to share my experiences and hopefully help out others.  I have acquired my skills while working in peri operative services, grants, finance, school of medicine, research, business competitions, stock trading, currency trading, options/derivative trading, physical fitness and Wall Street.






Here are the topics for next up and coming blogs in no particular order:

Changes in Medicine
Medicaid
Medicare
Trading Stocks
Trading Currencies
Retirement
Investing for the Future
Real Estate
Time
Contemporary Art Economics
Spinal Cord Injury and its Financial Impact
The Correlation between Good Looks and Salary












Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Landing a Job

Although the recession may be technically over it seems jobs are still hard to get.  With our unemployment rate at 9.1% http://www.bls.gov/ it is a competitive world out there.  It is good to keep a positive and hopeful mentality.  Whether you have just graduated from college, been layed off or part of the hard core unemployed, I believe that jobs are still available to those who are persistent and well prepared.  I would recommend to seek your dream job even if we are in a tough economic situation.

Start interviewing right away.  As is true of all things practice makes perfect.  If you have your eye on a certain job at a particular company then do interviews with your 2nd and 3rd choice first.  The reason is that most likely your first interviews may not go as smooth as you would like.  After going up to bat a few times you will feel a bit more comfortable and confident.  This will help your chances of making a stronger impression with the company on the top of your list.

If you are looking to change industries then you may want to volunteer.  This will give you the opportunity to test the waters and see if this is something you will want to do full time.
I once volunteered at a library and it opened up my desire to read heavily.  Helping out is always a win win situation even if it doesnt lead to a job.  Connecting with people is probably the best way to get a job.  Employers like to take in people who are recommended by friends or employees.  It offers some type of insurance to them.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

Do research on the company

Reach out to people/get a mentor

Prepare answers to common questions for the interview

Prepare questions for the interview that show you did your research

Make good eye contact with interviewers

Give a firm handshake

If interviewer is female don't shake her hand any stronger than she does

Bring a few copies of your resume

Send thank you notes after the interview

Get to the interview 15 minutes ahead of time no more no less

Don't hold back sell yourself !!!






Saturday, August 13, 2011

Interest Rates

On Tuesday August 9th the Fed took an unprecedented step and announced a definitive time frame for low interest rates (0.25%) they stated they would stay at the low rate at least through mid-2013.  With the guarantee that rates will be low for two years, the 2 year treasury yield reached 0.17% which is a record low.  That is the equivalent of leaving your money under a mattress.

But what do low interest rates really mean?

This means that people have limited choices as to where to put their money to protect themselves from inflation which has been at about 3.6% over the past 12 months.  Clearly fixed income tools such as bonds and CD's will pay very little interest and will provide no protection against inflation.  Checking and savings accounts offer low rates that will not protect against inflation either. Sure these options seem safe since the money won't be lost but low yields are not beneficial.

That is why low interest rates are good for stocks, investors who wish to fight inflation will have to go to the market because every other financial instrument will bear low yields for the next 2 years. 

With the market as volatile as it has been investors may delay their entry but when they do come back they will want higher returns.  High yield dividend paying stocks will most likely be their choice.  With some stocks paying 4.00% in dividends this will not only be a strategic move to fight inflation it will be a capital gain opportunity. Stocks are fairly cheap from where they where a few weeks ago. 

I like to follow baby boomers and their trends they are a large market and typically move in a similar pattern.  Dividend investing is hot among retirees and others who wish to live off their savings.  It is obvious that fund managers/certified planners will see dividend stocks as the investment choice to fund the retirement of baby boomers.  In our present economic state this has to create a huge demand for these stocks. Where else will they find attractive yields?  Boomers will be looking for solid companies that will increase yields, companies that are sitting on a lot of cash.  They will need this extra hedge to fund their lengthy retirement due to their longer life expectancy as a result of modern medicine.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dow Falls Dow Soars Dow Falls Again

On Monday August 8th the market got its first shot at reacting to the S&P's downgrade on U.S. debt. The 635 point drop was the markets 6th worst point loss ever. Europe's financial situation also contributed to the day's losses.

The blood bath spared no one.  Even stocks like Proctor and Gamble were down, P&G sells goods that people buy whether the economy is doing well or not. Although Gold was up to about $1,710 gold stocks were down. 

"Not only is the economy not growing as most would like, but there is a concern that fiscal and monetary authorities are powerless to do more for the economy," said Michael Pond, co-head of interest-rate strategy for British bank Barclays

On Tuesday August 9th the Dow Jones shot up 430 points, due to the Fed's announcement that it will keep interest rates at its record low level of 0.25% for at least 2 more years.  According to the FOMC economic growth has been slower and household spending has flattened. The only strength has been seen in business investment. The Dow's 430 point ascent was its 11th-largest point gain ever.


On Wednesday August 10th the Dow Jones erased the gains from Tuesday closing down on 519 points.  The Dow has now lost more than 2000 points in less than 3 weeks. These black swans are occurring too often. This type of activity may be here to stay at least for the coming weeks.

European debt problems caused the severe drops in the market.  Although low interest rates are great for stocks, traders focused on the Feds view that the economy won't improve substantially by 2013. 

Financial stocks were the big losers for the day. Investors are uncertain how much European debt problems may hurt American banks.

Investors are afraid; if European governments default on their bonds, this will take its toll on the European banks that own bonds.  As a result that could start a domino effect that would hurt large U.S. banks.

What will the U.S government do now?

The U.S. may start another stimulus package and start buying treasuries this would add a little goose to the market. On Tuesday the Federal Open Market Committee did not mention it would start buying more treasuries. It may wait till the wild movement in stocks dies out.  As of now the Dow futures are up in Asian markets at 10,800.00







Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dow Jones Falls 513 points

On Thursday August 4th, the Dow Jones had its worst one-day loss since December 2008. The usually high traffic streets of Wall Street looked like a ghost town.  You could sense the pain and fear through the silence.

Recent worries about a credit downgrade, double dip recession, high unemployment, slow economic growth, European debt, and a deteriorating housing market has taken a toll on the stock market.

The drop in stocks "will have repercussions back on the economy," stated Barry Bosworth, who is an economist at the Brookings Institution.  Bosworth has studied the link between consumer spending and stock market performance .

Michael Niemira who is a chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers states that 40% of consumer spending comes from the richest 20% of Americans. This is important information because the decrease in stock prices could slow spending by upper-income Americans.

The wealthy have gotten used to the violent swings the market has had.  But when will they start to question the economy and start cutting down on their spending ?


The future doesn't look too bright as of now, most average consumers have been spending less.  Companies are holding on to their cash and are not hiring.  Only 19% of small business owners plan to add employees during the next year.  Is this hinting to a double dip, a lost Japanese decade or slow growth?


Who can say if the 10% free fall the Dow Jones had since July is a short term trend or a sign of what's to come ? Will investors who didn't get phased by this week's one day 513 point drop be rewarded or punished for not exiting before the market drops harder? What should they do now ?


There seems to be many issues that can hurt our economy in the next few months. But a savvy investor knows what to do in a time of uncertainty and keeps his calm.




Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Budget Yourself

It is important to be active and in control of your finances.  With our economy in a state of panic and the job market scarce now is the worst time to be idle about money matters.  The first thing on the list is to create a budget and stick to it.  Start with your total after tax income and subtract your living expenses.  These are necessary expenses such as food and shelter.  How much money do you really have to work with? While doing the math ask yourself whether changes should be made.  If you are barely making it with your present salary then this is a sign that you should be cutting costs.

Our situations and creeds vary therefore there is no universal formula only suggestions on how to save and spend.  If your goal is to take a vacation then save and spend responsibly.  Dont take the vacation until you can actually afford it.  Never sacrifice health and happiness in order to live a certain lifestyle.  If you have enough money to invest then consider what you are comfortable investing in.  When the recession hit many baby boomers put their money into CD's to hedge for their retirement and to protect themselves from the violent market swings.  But if you are young then stocks is something you may want to try. 

When it comes to credit cards I suggest being a bit extreme don't buy anything that you cant afford to pay at once.  Only use it for things you must buy like groceries and to pay bills.  Most people will spend more than usual if they pay with a credit card instead of cash.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Credit Cards & Debt

According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. 1 in 5 adults worries about debt most if not all of the time. These consumers say that if they bought an item on a credit card in the past month, more than one third will not pay it off when the bill comes.

The individuals that suffer the most anxiety over their debt are at risk for stress-related illnesses, such as depression, ulcers or heart attacks.

The poll indicates that more than 40 million Americans are feeling serious stress due to the money they owe, whether it's for credit cards or other forms of debt.

The AP-GfK poll stated that the median credit card debt in June was $800. Approximately 4 in 10 people surveyed owe more than $1,000 in credit card debt. 1 in every 10 owes $10,000 or more.

Americans who reported the highest stress levels were more likely than others to say they had debt due to medical bills, that their financial situation was "very poor," that they purchase things on their credit card that they know they cannot pay in full when the bill arrives.  These victims also stated that they don't trust themselves to manage their credit cards.  They are pessimistic about their future because of their personal finances. 

The AP-GfK poll was conducted June 16-20 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. 1001 adults nationwide were interviewed through cell phones and landlines.  Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Freedom

At some point we all feel that we don't have control of our lives or that the freedom we once had has been taken away.  People work a 9 to 5 yet they may feel undervalued or underpaid.  Or they may feel miserable in their current position but feel that they have no other choice but to stay.  Otherwise they will end up in the street and in debt. 

There is always hope all you have to do is take control and stop whatever it is that binds you.  The good thing is that we don't need to do it alone there are family and friends that are willing to help us.  If the person you need is not at your reach go and look for them.  If your job is the problem then get better educated in whatever field you want to move into.  If you don't know how to handle your finances  attend conferences and seminars.  Register for a class that will help you take control of your finances.

The point of creating wealth is to find freedom. Start being happy the moment you take that first step.  Don't let money become your new worry to a point where you are enslaved to the almighty dollar.

F.W. Woolworth lived his whole life trying to establish a good name and fit in with the cream of the crop.  His granddaughter ended up losing the wealth he so diligently worked for.  Your wealth will most likely only go down a few generations that is why philanthropy is a great way to preserve it.  Through philanthropy it will serve a greater purpose, evade its destruction and help those in need.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Risk

Some people view risk as something dangerous, they might picture someone in a motorcycle doing a stunt or a skydiver flying off a plane.  Yes, both are risk takers but risk can me manifested in many other forms.  Being stagnant is a form of risk it can be of the worst kind. People who don't go to the doctor or take care of their health also take a big risk.  The patient that knows he has high blood pressure and refuses to change his lifestyle.  The cancer patient that will not get treatment.  The innovator who fails to take his idea to the market or get it patented.  These are all forms of risk and all of them involve taking no action.

In the security business, risk is what gives you the opportunity to make a profit.  The more risk one takes the better reward one should be able to get.  The opportunities to make easy money are out there but it is the risk that holds a lot of people back.  Risk averse individuals won't take on risky investments they prefer to leave their money in a CD or savings account.  Once you become better at investing you find ways of managing risk and protecting yourself from taking on too much of it.  One way to protect yourself is to educate yourself on what can go wrong and how to evade those circumstances and develop an exit plan. 

The "No Dutch Book" assumption states that people won't lay down bets that will certainly result in a loss to them. 

One should not hold back ones life by evading risk or fearing it, unless one is positive that taking that risk will surely result in a loss.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Financial Questions We Should Ask Ourselves

Can I afford to buy that? Can I live without that?

Should I buy a home or rent? Is it always better to own a home?

Should I give a big down payment? If I have the money to pay for the house in full should I do so?

Am I living above my means? Am I living below my means? Am I trying to act wealthy?

Can I afford to take a vacation? Should I put in on my credit card?

What is the financially responsible way to use a credit card?

Is my money gaining interest? Is it keeping up with inflation? How do I fight inflation?

Do I know what is going on with my 403B? 401K? do I feel confident with the ratio in which my money is being diversified in my retirement fund? Should I be contributing tax free money to my account?

Would it be better for me to invest on my own?

Am I ready to start a family?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What If I'm Poor?

The same road of success is available to anyone but if you are at the bottom you have to be ready to take the short and narrow.  For example if you are poor the contacts may not be there and the educational level you have received has been inferior.  But these are not excuses just obstacles.  The principle behind creating wealth is the same for a poor or middle class person. Let us suppose that a poor man has a great idea and wants to start an online business to sell his new product, he may not have the money to do so.  That may be true for the middle class person as well but in his case he is wondering if he should leave his job to pursue this venture and if he does so he may end up losing his home.  In that sense the middle class man has more to lose and the poor man has nothing but opportunity. 

The poor man can use a credit card to pay for the business to make it grow, he may work for a while and save and then start the venture on credit and have his saved money as a back up or to buy inventory.  The problem with this is that sometimes economically disadvantaged people don't feel comfortable with these ideas because they have never had much money or ever used a loan in a strategic way.  Some people are used to spending more than they can afford.  Most people don't feel confident with money because they have not acquired good money skills.  When I first started working I didn't view credit the way I see it now, the more money you have the more comfortable you feel with loans and using them in strategic ways.  The point is that although you have the money to pay for the venture you don't pay for it with your own money, you use credit and let the business pay for itself.

In the stock market credit this is called leverage you get a margin account and you utilize the firm's money to multiply yours and increase your position (amount of stock held).  In the stock market this can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.  From my experience traders that are wealthy don't have the same level of panic that a novice and underfunded trader has because the underfunded trader knows if something goes wrong he will not have the money to correct his mistake and his position will be closed before he has made money therefore it will lead to losses. Having money gives you confidence and experience to a point where even if you lose it you know how to make it back.  Each time it becomes easier to a point where people will help you because of the knowledge you possess.  Therefore if I wanted to create wealth I could do so with a job at burger king and a small loan. The knowledge is what gives me the ability to create wealth. But it took a lot of work and experience to get that confidence and knowledge. So if you are poor all you have to do is learn how to save and take risk.  Mimic the strategies of those that are wealthy build your confidence through other peoples stories and testimonies.  All you have to know is that it is possible.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Networking

Why is it important to network?

 It is obvious that in this tough economy most of your job leads will come from friends or physically present people not from ads or online applications solely.  Yes ads and online applications may land you a job but your odds are much better when you meet with people or have actually met the person recruiting. It is not only about landing a job, networking can also be used for other purposes.  Networking can open the door for you to publish your book or to get your dream home.  Whomever it is you are looking for they can be reached within six degrees of separation.  So you may not know a literary agent but from your pool of friends and contacts all you need to do is look to your friends' friends and so on.  Most people are introduced to their future spouse; only a small percentage of the population will get married to someone by introducing themselves to a stranger. Therefore it is important to keep a good network not only for business purposes.

It is not necessary to have a huge amount of friends on your social network but quality and good relationships are important.  For marketing purposes it may be to your advantage to have thousands of friends on fb or twitter.  I view networking in a different way, to me it is not enough to have great contacts but what really matters is if you know how to use them to your advantage.  I view it as a game of chess. Sometimes just one single piece may be necesssary to guard against disaster and eliminating that piece can lead to ruin.

When you have something to offer that gives you more bargaining power and makes you stand out to others in the network.  This is where you have to flex a little bit of muscle.  This is when your skills must be shown to persuade your contact to help you. It is important to note that the people at the top of our network are aware of it.  For that reason they may need a bit more courting to get them to cooperate.  Networking will work out best if you see it as a two way stream where you offer help to others and in return they will help you.