Mandatory Provident Fund


Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession throughout their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the workforce of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong ‘s population are living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Unless some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the demands. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection—Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank have outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called ‘three pillars of old age protection’. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillars recommended by the World Bank are

Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.

Publicly managed, tax-financed social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debate it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was considerable argument as to the best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillars for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Ordinance requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee’s monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer’s MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which starts in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for forcing individuals to plan for their retirement. Besides helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attitudes and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong’ needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy have drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions they are better placed to make alone.

Other claim many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by frequently changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more criticisms and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these criticisms and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; if it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worrying live under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts—high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possesses some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $20,000 a month can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK$15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK$771429, that would leave him just HK$4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life expectancy in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are earning only around $10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would merely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can’t provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in the construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total workforce in the SAR). Some employers were ‘playing tricks’ to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to breach the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers’ contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had changed staff into self-employed contractors to avoid responsibility. The affected construction workers would no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers they are also undermining the effects of the SAR government to build a provident fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice are coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depend on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement cannot afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $10000 a month might get only $1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers cannot take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen’s right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires ’employer’ and ’employee’ contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either causal workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to rely on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.

Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will definitely affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company’s MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company’s provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong’s biggest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the biggest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees’ opinions when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF’s introduction, insisting they cannot afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resent the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong’ economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and thereby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers cannot take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and elderly poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong’ needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and supervision is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the workforce. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members ultimately.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one things should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

What is Natural Living?


Natural living has a nice ring to it.  There are many organizations, businesses, web sites, articles and people that are into natural living or natural health in one way or another. There are also many ways of practicing  it.

  1. Nutrition:  Consuming it;  Producing it
  2. Health: Alternative medicine;  Herbs;  Antioxidants;  in natural form or supplements
  3. Environment: Eco- consciousness;  Active participation;  Recycling;  Reducing waste
  4. Energy sources: Solar;  Wind
  5. Lifestyle: Family; Consumer
  6. Sharing, writing, working, filming, talking.

There are many ways of looking at natural living depending on the degree of involvement, participation and even creativity.

The interesting thing is that it is a fact of life today because people are aware of it; there is a positive attitude towards nature and our relationship with it; it is an emotionally charged subject; there is fear of “nature’s revenge” if we continue the way we do.

At the same time we have to accept that synthetic development (to coin a phrase) has brought material quality of life and is an economic consideration in our society.

Having said all that, what do we mean by “natural” and by “living”?

  • Natural:  “free from artificiality;” “in accordance with nature;” “relating to or concerning nature;” “functioning or occurring in a normal way;” “existing in or produced by nature;” “not artificial or imitation”; “being unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes;”
  • Living:     “pursue a positive and satisfying existence;” “the experience of being alive;” “the course of human events and activities;” “condition of living or staying alive;” “inhabit or live in;” “be an inhabitant of;” “lead a certain kind of life;” “live in a certain style;” “in its natural state and place (not mined or quarried);” “still in existence;”

Natural living would have to take into account these definitions, but above all it must come under the umbrella of “Harmony” and “Balance”.

So after all that, how does natural living sound with this definition?

“Pursuing a positive and satisfying existence, in a style that respects and seeks to achieve harmony and balance with nature, ourselves, and the future”.

Future Scope of Psychology


Psychology deals with the study of the human mind and soul, their phenomena and influence upon the body. Many great minds have contributed to the growth and development of the society. Only the human mind can produce such thoughts for advancement. In fact the unique factor which distinguishes human beings from animals is their capacity to think. There is no dearth of resources in this world. But there is lack of ideas. Creating ideas is the difficult job. Executing or implementing ideas can be done by a skilled worker. But producing it requires creativity.

But this creativity can at times be dangerous also. The human mind travels at a great speed. It does not remain stationary. But Nature is always slow and steady. All the technology which humans have developed are contrary to the law of Nature. The human mind is in hurried, confused state of mind, where as Nature has its own time to produce every thing in its own way. All the problems which humanity face these days are due to this disharmony with Nature. Owing to this hustle and bustle they become mentally upset and sick, thereby falling ill and turning out to be unproductive. Here is where the study of Psychology has its role to play. Psychology teaches us to live in harmony with Nature.

In its struggle to improve readership media spread sensational news items. The human mind has the tendency to enjoy such sensationalized stuff in the drawing room. But the result is that they affect mind in an adverse manner. Mental shock, disorders, frustration etc would be the end result. The competitiveness of media has thus become a social problem. In this situation Psychologists have to be vigilant in giving proper guidance and counseling to people on time. This to some extend can help people to live in a hopeful manner avoiding nervous break down.

If we analyze the problems of the society, we can find that mental disorder is the cause of every problem. Behind every crime one can notice a mental disorder or character flaw. The society has devised many ways to deal with these issues. Different agencies like Police Department, Crime Cell, Vigilance so on and so forth handle the situations. But, unfortunately we do not have complete solutions. The need of the hour is to treat the cause not the symptom.The real solution lies in approaching every problem psychologically, with a vision of the future.

For dealing problems scientifically and systematically, concerted efforts from the part of government and society are needed. Society should be made aware of the fact that anti social activities come out of perverted human minds which are not disciplined through training. Hence blaming or punishing criminals would not be the most suitable measure to so away with crimes.

Only psychological approach can bring lasting and fruitful solutions regarding this issue. If the thinking community of the society can be brought together under one umbrella, in tackling activities corroding the social fabric we can remain as a well knit unit, contributing significantly for the growth of the nation and humanity in general.

How To Write A Farewell Speech


Good byes are touching. The memory of good byes while taking leave from our relatives after a great get together, a yearly meet with friends, reunion good nights and relocation farewells are all emotional experiences. This is one time, when we regale through all the experiences gained from this outset. Farewell speeches are not a compulsion but a gesture of showing your feelings. Farewell tones go on from Thank you notes, recounting experiences shared, first time meetings and also clarifying misunderstandings.

Formal farewell goodbyes are necessary in office culture. Generally the dress code is formal and the ambiance gives it a ceremonial feel. It is highly necessary to Thank all your peers, colleagues, associates and blue collar profiles too. Keep the list minimum and a long list of thank you notes can render the speech as tedious.

Keep a general line, ‘ I thank all those people who have stood by me, my associates here and other peripheral support, for the recognition I have gained in these twenty years.’ Complete by shaking hands with each person, recognize team effort. Go across to senior colleagues and if you notice that someone is an introvert, make the first move to bid goodbye. This is not the time to harbor old grudges and make up with someone you have not been cordial with.

The photographs, send off gift and citation is a life time award and will always be green in your memory. Office farewells, can also be marked with humorous lines enumerating instances. However, it is best to judge the nature of the gathering and if the atmosphere is congenial to such one liners then one can try this example, ‘ The first day, I entered office, it was pouring and no one was around. I came in dripping wet with a crumpled umbrella to find Mr., Albert squeezing his socks’. This sure will lighten the atmosphere if it has turned serious with your introduction, ‘ This is an overwhelming moment for me. As many times I have stood in this podium to deliver speeches and presentations to bag a project, this one is a sentimental expression from me.’

Long years of friendship end when students finish their high school studies. The memories reflect sharing, merits and little meaningless fights. This is the time to go forward to someone whom you have disliked or had a brawl with. If you are appointed to give a farewell speech, write a few lines yourself. Make sure to thank all your teachers and helpers in the school. Appreciate the overall support, the extra help at math and the cultural programs.

Be natural, spontaneous with ‘I did not realize that I have grown up enough to leave school. Miss Bridget would be happy today, since she always kept telling me to ‘Grow up’ whenever I whined at homeworks.’ ‘I remember the support when I my baseball team lost the match and Coach Edward remarked that he could see the fighting spirit in me which is the mark of a sportsman. Looking in the direction of Mr. Edward you could take a bow and say, ‘You have been real special.’

Thank your friends. ‘I am wondering if I would get lonely at the graduation college, since am so used to leaning on your shoulders (pointing to your group). The base for honing my personality has been this institution and the continuous support of my all my teachers. (addressing the dean). On behalf of all the students, I thank you.’

The 8 P’s of Success


Every time I try to cook rice, I either end up having mini popcorns or my rice end up turning into a thick paste of porridge. Trust me, I have tried and you can say I haven’t succeeded yet. Success, according to Oxford dictionary, is achieving something that you have been trying to do or get. Though this is not exhaustive, here are the 8 P’s of Success.

1. Purpose

Find and have something worth living and dying for. Your purpose could be raising your children or making a difference in other people’s lives. When you find your purpose, life takes on a new and different meaning.

2. Passion

Sleep, walk, talk and see yourself achieving your vision and goals. Say you want to be a better parent or salesperson, the more you repeat and affirm this to yourself and those near you, the better off you are. Constant affirmations help to remind us of our goals.

3. Persistence

Don’t give up even when you don’t see results. Most of the time, results don’t appear in relation to the efforts you might be putting into achieving your desired goals. The good thing is; something is happening beneath the surface and you need to keep doing your best in order to see your desired results.

4. Practice

Keep working. We have all heard the saying, if at first you don’t succeed; keep trying, again and again. Constant practice helps teach us how to do it better. Make sure you keep going whether there are results or not.

5. Patience

Be patient with those who should (but don’t understand) your vision or goal. And above all, be patient with yourself. Often when people don’t affirm us or fail to recognize and appreciate our efforts, it isn’t cause we are failures. It could be because they don’t understand know how best to encourage or affirm us. Look at it this way. The fact that you are having an umbrella doesn’t stop the rain from falling from the skies! You should, in like manner keep going.

6. People

Have people around you, even those you cannot stand because they will help you to improve. Seek their opinion, listen and soldier on knowing that no man has succeeded in becoming an island. Read books, listen to audio tapes, ask questions and attend motivational speaking engagements.

7. Prayer

Involve God in everything you do by seeking His guidance, provision, wisdom and the grace to keep going on.

8. Plunge in

Launch into what you want to do and just get it done. Do not give procrastination a foothold in your life. Do not wait for the perfect and ideal situation, environment or time. Just go for it and give it your best. Remember, you don’t have to see it on your family tree to attempt it.

The person you struggle with the most, has the most to teach you… about yourself.” – Shawne Duperon

Your Homeowners Insurance May Not Cover Woodpecker Damage


Meet Amy, City Girl that became a small town resident upon her marriage to George. The stark difference between living in the very center of urbanized civilization and township dwelling was somewhat of an adjustment for Amy. Sure she loved the sights and sounds of nature exposed: the lake, the trees, grass, flowers and the vibrant color of winged birds. Nonetheless, how she missed the hustle and bustle and – yes – even the noise of what she had always recognized as the center of commercial shopping, auto and bus traffic – honking included – and life as she had been bred to appreciate!

Though noise has always been the core of her existence, the incessant pecking on the side of her roof in small town America where she currently had set up residence did absolutely no good for her nerves. Five o’clock in the morning, you see was far too early for a woman of the world such as she to be rudely awoken from her slumbering state. And the fact that the pecking was coming from a fine feathered ‘friend’ known most commonly as the woodpecker did little to placate her uneasiness.

Then came the crunch that really threw Amy off. It appeared as the bothersome woodpecker had begun to incur damage on her lovely home! But nothing could appease Amy when she discovered that her standard homeowners insurance policy did not even cover the damages and losses she now suffered!

“You see, Ma’am,” explained the nice insurance agent, “insurance companies simply do not cover general home liability that has been wrought through negligence. In fact, they view woodpecker damage as something that could have been avoided through proper home maintenance.”

If only Amy had known! She most certainly would have confronted the little peril with a vengeance. Now it appeared that it was too late and she and her husband would have to bear the losses through out of the pocket expenditures.

They say life is a great teacher. Amy knows better than most.

“Learn from me,” says Amy, former city dweller. “Don’t let pests get the better of you or your home risks will!”

How does one tackle a woodpecker problem? There are a number of hands-on methods:

• Go out and purchase a tool that’s on the market in regard to woodpecker deterrence.

• Surround outside home spots that connect to the roof with wired fencing.

• Attach colorful tape below roof and around the roof’s gutters.

• Seal attic holes and house siding with caulk or other materials.

• Hire a pest eliminating firm to take care of the problem.

• Explore your own creative to tackle the nasty wood-pecking problem.

Ask Amy. She’ll tell you forearmed is indeed forewarned: speak to an independent insurance agent about your homeowners insurance policy to make sure it is tailored to your needs.

What Are the Advantages of Using Custom Stickers?


Many people degrade the importance of custom stickers for product promotion. Probably, small-sized stickers don’t have any practical use for them. Due to this concept, only few businesses use promotional labels to create their brand advertisement. They don’t even realize that these little ornaments can in fact do great things for them. The use of printed stickers will definitely escalate the popularity of their services and products.

Benefits of custom-tailored stickers

1. The use of tailored stickers for business logo provides the effective tool of marketing. They can be seen and found everywhere and anywhere. You can stick them on mugs, bags, books, laptops, notebooks, and on other things. Compared to other popular marketing items, these stickers are unlimited. They can market your product, brand, and business in unthinkable ways. You can stick them on any visible product you want.

2. Because custom-made stickers are neither handy tokens nor gadgets, the cost is not really expensive. Furthermore, stickers and decals will last for years compared to other corporate giveaways like calendars, hats, and umbrellas that get worn out in time. Once these labels are attached to any item, they will stay there for a long time and can’t be easily destroyed.

3. They can be used on any matching product you like. Never underestimate what they can do to advertise your products successfully. What is required is a small amount only and you can already produce huge marketing materials, allowing your product to be recognized for years. Indeed, giveaway marketing items like stickers is a perfect way to spread out your business brand name instantly.

4. Personalized stickers are also useful during political campaigns. The greatest benefit they provide is that they are not wasted when being used. The moment they are glued at one area, they start doing your promotion and will be kept in place for some time.

How to make your own stickers?

Making your own production of stickers is not even hard to do. Most printers have options to produce custom labels and stickers just instantly. There are even free templates available to create your own design.

First, avoid cluttering your labels with bunch of photos and words. The human eye can understand the information fast if there is a white space surrounding the graphic design. Also, people will not forget what message is set on, rather than packing them with loads of information. Be sure that the purpose of the marketing is conveyed on the label. If you want to promote a certain product, concentrate on that particular product. Avoid combining irrelevant messages that will bring confusion to the people. If you wish to stick them to a certain surface, have matching colors and designs to complement the item.

Many online companies have presented stickers as a tool for sales and marketing. They have different types of printing for various kinds of advertising purposes. They have decals designed for walls, doors, automobiles, and outdoor and indoor promotions. Stickers are also durable and can withstand the environmental effects like the cold, wet, and hot climate conditions.

People have always been using stickers for personal needs and business requirements. Their use and application are both domestic and commercial. Who wouldn’t use them for inexpensive marketing and yet giving effective approach for sales and marketing!

Christmas – Unique Celebrations & Traditions in Alaska, Africa & Australia!


Christmas is a celebrated event in many countries world-wide. Here are three countries, Alaska, Africa and Australia all located in vastly different regions of the world and each has their own unique traditions and celebrations. Here are some of their fascinating traditions and celebrations.

Alaska – “Carrying the Star” is a traditional Christmas procession. Young and old carry elaborately decorated tinsel trimmed wheels with eight points, usually as big as umbrellas. They are highlighted with a centre picture of either an angel or the nativity scene. They are carried for three nights from January 7th over icy snow topped roads. The stars represent the angels who announced the birth of Christ. Families lovingly maintain the stars. Some are more than a hundred years old!

Africa – There are approximately 350 million Christians in Africa who celebrate Christmas. Emphasis is more on the religious celebrations of Christ’s birth rather than gift giving. Although the most common gift (if nothing else) is new clothes which will be worn to the church service. People in many countries of Africa such as Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo believe it is an absolute must to attend church on Christmas day, even if they never attend the rest of the year. An annual Christmas pageant as well as groups of carolers singing Christmas carols within villages is now part of the festivities.

Churches in Africa start intense preparations for Christmas many months prior. Nobody escapes the yuletide feeling as it has been said that it feels like the whole country is preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus with so much joyful and active community preparation taking place! The streets are alive with music as well as on the radio, television and just about where ever you look! People joyously visit their friends and relatives in the spirit of community celebration regardless of religious persuasion. It is usual to see brightly colored and decorated trucks, cars and buses as well as homes, schools, churches and neighborhoods often boasting creative festive displays made with colored crepe papers. Colorful and alive with joyous celebration is Africa! Ancient and spectacular masquerades locally called “Agugu” now play a major part in Christmas celebrations. Usually held after the Christmas Eve service is a joyous procession of dance and music through the streets lead by local bands with dancing masqueraders (usually young boys dressed in fancy and colorful costumes) and Christmas revelers. People parade with large intricately made lanterns called “fanals” usually in the shape of houses or boats.

In Ghana Christmas dinner is not complete without fufu (a thick dough like food) and okra soup and in Liberia rice, beef and biscuits are the order of the day. Zimbabwean’s make sure there’s plenty of bread, jam and tea to eat with their prized goat meat which is their traditional Christmas roast. On the west coast of Africa most homes have an oil palm for a Christmas tree.

Austria – St Nicholas is widely honored and appears on his feast day December 6th. In Austria this is a holiday separate from Christmas. He appears in his traditional dress of flowing robe and tall Bishop’s miter carrying a shepherd’s staff and a thick book. It is believed the good and bad deeds of children are recorded in his book! It was once tradition to hold an elaborate Christmas Eve ceremony where St Nicholas and the feared Ruprecht (demonic creature, who wears a hide, has glowing eyes and a long red tongue) both appear on Christmas Eve. Children gather together and sing a hymn to welcome the Saint. Then one by one the children join the Saint at a family table where he checks their lesson books then asks them to repeat a prayer he says. This ends with the children kissing his Bishops ring while he tells them to go place their shoes outside then look at them when the clock strikes ten! Ruprecht stands over the door watching the childrens every move! Before St Nicholas leaves he blesses the children as he sprinkles them with holy water then quietly and swiftly departs. The children with great excitement then hurriedly run to place their shoes outside their homes. At the stroke of ten children run outside to find their shoes filled with treats of apples and nuts!

Austria is a predominantly Catholic country renowned as the land of the sound of music and home of Mozart, Strauss and Schubert. Included in Christmas celebrations is the “Advent Concert Series” in Innsbruck. It features groups of family singers and instrumentalists similar to the famous “Trapp Family” from “The Sound of Music”. Another famous Christmas festivity is in Salzburg where the hottest ticket for the season is for the “Salburger Adventsingen”. It is a program of advent music and folk lore which began more than half a century ago. They get more than a 100,000 requests each year for the prized 30,000 tickets available for admission. The fish carp is served for the traditional Christmas dinner.

Austria is famous for its miniature crèche figures. Nearly all families have a crèche with miniature figures of the holy family and often a few animals are included. Many creches are hundreds of years old, treasured heirlooms handed down from one generation to the next!

Austria’s Epiphany celebrations – boys and Girls on the day of the Epiphany (which remembers the Three Wise Men from the east who were looking for the newly born Jesus) dress in oriental costumes and sing traditional songs. They move from house to house receiving small gifts including gifts of money. They carry a lantern referred to as the “lighted star of Bethlehem” to guide them on their way. It is popular to see people chalk the initials of the wise men “CMB” (Casper, Melchior, Balthasar) on the transoms of their doorways!

Austria’s fun Krampus Day tradition – in Salzburg December 5th is known as Krampus Day. Krampus is believed to be an evil spirit. He is usually clad in frightening fur, wearing deer horns, a mask with a long red tongue and bulging red eyes and carries a birchwood rod. He storms down the street with a loud racket using huge cowbells and rattling chains as he shouts menacingly at the onlookers. Thousands, including many children crowd the streets to watch the medieval event. With much laughter and merry making, whenever children and adults see Krampus, they throw snow balls at this menacing figure. In the city each year a “Krampus Run” is held with fun and much teasing, poking and laughter. It is said that the purpose of Krampus is to remind children to be good!

In recent times in some communities the Krampus actors have to wear a number so they can be identified under their masks in case they loose control. It has been known for some to get carried away after downing a few too many schnapps or beers. A prominent Austrian child psychiatrist has been arguing for a ban on Krampus. He suggests he’s “a jolly old fright” for children. However there have been few known cases of “Krampus trauma”!

Australia – Christmas falls in the middle of summer and the heat can be more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is common for people to hold out-door barbecues for the main Christmas feast and often parks and beaches are alive with family feasting taking place. It is not uncommon to see thongs, shorts, a beer in hand and a Santa hat on the head chef (usually the father in a family) at the Christmas day BBQ which is almost always followed by Australia’s best loved desert “Pavlova”. It is as light and delicate as Anna Pavlova the famous Russian ballerina for which it is named after.

Australian Carols by Candlelight – an Australian Christmas Eve carol service started in 1937 by radio announcer Norman Banks. Famous performers gather to sing at “Carols by Candlelight” held in Melbourne each year. A hugely popular annual event televised throughout the nation. Carols are performed on a stage to a huge audience where thousands attend outdoors holding lit candles.

Beach visits Christmas Day in Australia – up to 40,000 people visit Bondi Beach in Sydney on Christmas day! It is the middle of summer in Australia and with soaring heat levels beach barbecue lunches and swimming is popular while waiting for Santa to arrive on a boat on Christmas day!

Chinese Customs In Gift Giving


Purchasing a gift is not always easy especially it is for someone from a different culture. This article provides some interesting information if the gift is for a Chinese.

As China is a big place with many provinces, the culture can vary depending on which province the person comes from; but there are some general themes that can be followed to avoid some embarrassments.

What you need to know?

To the Chinese, anything that brings prosperity, longevity or good fortune are fine and anything related or ‘sounds like’ death must be avoided. This rule applies to both numbers and colors that are being used in almost any occasions.

Note: The pronunciation is referring to Cantonese.

Bad numbers – number 4 is the most unwelcome number simply because it has a similar pronunciation as ‘death’.

Good numbers – number 8 sounds like prosperity and number 9 for longevity. Series of 8’s or 9’s such as ‘888’, ’99’ are even better. Numbers ‘168’ and ‘138’ are also very popular for they sound like ‘continuous fortune’.

Bad colors – black and white are usually for funeral or mourning. Therefore, you should only send white flowers to a funeral and the gift wrapping paper should not be plain white or black.

Good colors – red and gold are for celebrations such as birthday and wedding.

Items to avoid – sharp objects such as knives or scissors as they would ‘cut-off’ a relationship. Umbrellas resemble separation. Clock sounds like “attend a funeral”. Handkerchiefs are for mourning. Books are not for Cantonese people who love gambling because it sounds like “loss”, otherwise is fine.

Exceptions: although wearing black or white to a wedding is not a tradition, it is acceptable if the wedding ceremony is held in a church which follows the western style.

Do not be offended if your hosts do not open the gift in front of you as it is not polite in the Chinese culture unless you insist. Also, they do not normally accept your gift immediately in case you feel they are greedy.

What are the popular items?

Cash

Cash can be used in almost all occasions. For happy occasions, it should be put inside a ‘red envelope’ that has some words of blessing pre-printed on it. Red envelopes can easily be found at most Chinese grocery stores; always check with the staff to find one for the occasion you want if you do not understand the Chinese characters on the envelope otherwise you might give away one for the wrong occasion.

The amount inside the envelope should follows the numbering rules as mentioned before i.e. use even numbers except number 4. Also, if you are a couple then you should give two envelopes instead of one to cover for both.

If it is used in a funeral, which is normally used for donation to the charity or assist the grieving family financially, you can put small amount of cash in ‘odd’ number in a normal ‘white envelope’.

Food

There is no doubt that Chinese love foods, this is always a good bet especially for older people. When visiting someone in person, it is always a good manner to bring a food basket containing fruits, biscuits or nice table wine. If he or she is a smoker then a good brand cigarettes is also fine. In the upper range you can give away food such as dried oysters, dried seafood, mushrooms or bird’s nests. For individual fruits such as oranges or apples, count them in even numbers e.g. 6, 8 or 10 pieces.

Jewellery or ornament

Normally given in big celebrations such as wedding, new born baby, 21st birthday, 60th birthday, 90th birthday and so forth.

Baby – parents like to host a banquet for their new born baby after one month of birth. Jade, gold or silver bracelet or necklace is a good gift, otherwise baby clothes.

Birthday – If you know the person’s Chinese zodiac sign, another hot item is a gold plated Chinese zodiac figurine represents the animal sign of the person.

Wedding – jade or gold bracelet or necklace resembles long lasting relationship.

What sort of gifts for festivals?

There are many festivals in China, but you will most likely be invited to join a family celebration in the following festivals:

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) – this is the most important festival for the Chinese people which brings family members, friends and relatives together. It is a custom to give money in a red packet from married couple to single people or children. If you are single it is considered to be polite to bring a food/fruit basket to your hosts.

Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival – This is the day when people would sit down with family and friends to watch the full moon and serve moon cakes and other type of food. Therefore, bring some moon cakes or food along to your hosts is the best gift you can offer.

Dragon Boat Festival – Rice parcels as big as a purse are made during this festival to honor a patriotic scholar named Chu Yuan who drowned himself to protest against the emperor. Before his body was recovered, people make the rice parcels and threw them into the water to stop any fish eating his fresh. Another saying is dragon boats were used to scare away ‘water spirits’ because dragon is the God of the oceans. Rice parcels are made out of glutinous rice, pork and egg yolk wrapped with bamboo leaves which are sold in most shops during the festival.

If you are interested in cooking, bring along some home made rice parcels will surely impress your hosts.

Other occasions

Return from a vacation – small souvenirs to your neighbors, friends, colleagues and relatives when returning from a trip.

Farewell – cash in a red packet or small gift such as a sailing boat meaning smooth sailing to the new destination.

Visiting someone at home – food basket.

Visiting someone in the hospital – food plus health drinks (e.g. Ginseng) that will help speedy recovery.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, dealing with people from a difficult culture requires understanding. Some of the traditions have been practiced for a long time but are diminishing in the new generations. Chinese people are normally understandable in terms of culture conflict since they have over 2000 years of history and have different culture from different province. It is beneficial to know the customs but do not need to be strictly followed so long you stay away from the ‘death’ business you should be safe.

Secret Mission Impossible Theme Party Ideas for Kids and Adults


Want to hear a secret? Mission Impossible is all the rage. Ever since the Mission Impossible series of movies, the secret agent genre has seen a revival. James Bond had become dead and dull, no one had thought of making Frederick Forsythe’s Bourne series into movies yet and there was no action in the secret agent game. But ever since Tom Cruise toned up and put on a wireless headset, a tight black tee and slick smile, secret agent movies are everywhere. Spies never had it so good. And people love it – for teenagers and adults, the secret agent Mission Impossible lifestyle is the definition of cool.

For your Secret Mission Impossible party, make sure you get everyone to wear ultra-fitted clothes – tight long pants or pencil skirts and fitted shirts or tees for both the men and women. If you go to a spy party, you have to dress the part. Slick back hair or tie it in a simple pony tail. Food should be classy and casual, such as cocktails with little umbrellas and plates of cucumber sandwiches.

Try a party game for your secret Mission Impossible party – invent one or buy one at your department store. Make sure that everyone participates. Invites should be cryptic and give only enough information for your guest to get there. Choose a simple theme like black and white. Play the theme from spy movies as a soundtrack to your party and to stand out as the host, you can even wear dark glasses (as long as you don’t trip over something indoors). Use your mobile phone headset to look more like a cool secret agent from Mission Impossible.

If you pull it off well, a Secret Mission Impossible party has the potential to be a great night. It doesn’t take much to capture the atmosphere and plan a fantastic party.