Thursday, 26 November 2009

Structured Settlement

One of the most useful things that you will find is structured settlement. At one point in your life, this article probably would prove to be most relevant for you!

Firstly, what is structured settlement? When you a plaintiff settles a court case for a big sum of money, a structured settlement is proposed as a means of paying the settlement in installments over a period of time, instead of one big lump sum of cash. This is typically created through one or more annuities which provide a stream of fixed payments over a predefined period of time usually.

There may be tax advantages in structured settlement which, with the appropriate set up, can reduce the plaintiff's tax obligations. In some circumstances, it may be tax-free! Structured settlement can be used also surprisingly as a means of protecting the plaintiff himself against he or she may be able to manage the cash available to them carefully, therefore protecting them against unnecessary squandering. Other people may also benefit from structured settlements - the young, injured, disabled for example. If you get into an accident, auto insurance may also do this.

However, there are some disadvantages of course. Those who need the cash immediately may not have access to all the cash as it is being spread over a long period of time. Those better with cash could actually get a higher return from the single lump sum if invested wisely in bonds, stock markets or property. Therefore, over the long run, the effective cash is higher if paid all upfront than spread over a period of time.

There are other things that you need to worry about when it comes to structured settlement. Firstly, the insurance companies can charge a large amount of commissions on the annuities or overstating the value of the structured settlement. Certain lawyers are not totally independent, and may have self interest in their insurance business at the same time.

There are also cases where structured settlement can be sold! For example, if you are receiving $20,000 every year for the next 10 years, by the end of the period, you will be receiving a total of $200,000. If you are in need of a big lump of cash, you can sell to a willing buyer for $150,000 (for example) for the cash upfront - so it is a win-win situation for both parties. However, depending on where you are, local laws may restrict such practice, and also you would most likely require court approval for the sale.

In summary, we have covered the basic of structured settlement, and also the following:

  • Selling Your Structured Settlement
  • Cash for Structured Settlement

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Blackberry Tip #1 - Search all your mails from blackberry, instantly!

This article is written out of years of frustration with Microsoft Outlook. Even now, running the latest Outlook on Windows 7 is still a painfully crawling and slow process, probably because the gigabytes of pst outlook storage. Against advice to archive and shrink existing active pst Outlook file to megabytes, all mails are kept so one could continue to search and read through for references. Also important to keep them active for desktop search such as Google Desktop. Although moving all .pst online means that one could search all on gmail, the preference may still be to search locally so that one could reply or forward using the original e-mail if needed.

However, what if you are on the move with only your Blackberry (or iPhone), and you need to find a particular important e-mail from 3 years ago? This is where the power of Gmail + mobile devices come in! All you need to do, is to point your blackberry browser to, and gmail should recognise your blackberry device and provide a simple to use interface that looks something like this:

After you logged in, you can search for whatever you need through the search page. However, this web-based approach is still slow compared to downloading a dedicated mobile gmail application, from here. Then, with just one click, you can log into gmail effortlessly, and use the Option button to bring up the search prompt. Instead of a slightly awkward and flimsy mobile web interface, it will be a much more solid, dedicated blackberry app that looks a bit like this:

If you leave this gmail blackberry app running in the background, it will also alert you of any new e-mail messages (though you can also use your blackberry service to automatically retrieve your gmail messages!). However, being able to search *gigabytes* of years and years of your e-mails with such simple application really saves lives (a few times to be precise)!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Disentangle from Microsoft Outlook - make the migration now !

For those of you who are stuck with Windows, one of the primary worry is how to leave Microsoft Outlook behind. A necessary evil, and most of you trapped, handcuffed, and imprisoned by what should be making life easier! Not!

The first thing you should do, is to sign up for a Gmail account. Trust me, it's probably one of the best thing you will do in years to come. Then, do the following steps. Most instructions can be found by simple google search online, but the general steps are as follows.

Step 1: Post your outlook data in .pst to gmail
First, you need to find where your .pst file is, and make a backup. Then, you can use a number of applications to import .pst into gmail, and this is quite a useful application to use. Gmail can also import e-mails from a range of from non Outlook e-mails in their help manual.

Step 2: Configure gmail to check your existing e-mail account
Configuring your gmail is quite straightforward. You need to be able to use gmail check your existing e-mail account, but make sure that you leave all your e-mails in the server, unless you totally would like to abandon your Microsoft Outlook. It does not matter whether you are using POP or IMAP, asking gmail to leave all e-mails in the server means that you can continue to use your Outlook as usual, but all having a backup in gmail.

Step 3: Automatically forward all sent e-mail in outlook to your gmail e-mail address 
Since all your incoming e-mails are now automatically backed up into gmail, the sent e-mails from Outlook needs to be somehow archived into gmail as well. Have not found a way to do this using Outlook rules, and there does not seem to be an easy way to do this. For those slightly more technically savvy, there is a way though. If you are using IMAP, you can set Outlook to save the sent e-mails to your outlook IMAP server sent folder as instructed here.

Step 4: Sync your outlook calendar with gmail calendar 
One of the favourite features of Gmail is the ability to sync calendar with multiple accounts and devices. For Outlook, simply download Google Calendar Sync and install on your windows machine. Follow the instructions, and preferably use 2-way sync. Therefore, anytime your calendar events in Outlook changes, it will be automatically reflected in your Gmail calendar and vice versa!

Abracadabra! That's it! Let gmail crunch everything in the background for you - your emails will always be backed up in gmail, and your calendar service available for not just your Outlook, but for your other computer, PC or Mac, and your mobile devices or cell phones! Check out my other posts on how to do these!

Pimp your Blackberry

Tips and Tricks for a better Blackberry

Being an avid user of Blackberry for years now, have the luxury to own the newest and latest blackberries as they are freshly rolled out from the production lines. This to include:
  • Blackberry Curve 8310
  • Blackberry Pearl 8100
  • Blackberry Storm 9500 (never a blackberry so unfriendly)
  • Blackberry Bold 9700
Blackberry saved lives! Ploughing back time from creaky, squeaky and rusty Microsoft Outlook on an even shaky Windows PC.

In the next few posts, tips and tricks for those who are keen! Watch this space!

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