Thursday, March 31, 2011

What States Do Not Have State Income Tax

It is often ask in forums that I visit and in other conversations about the cheapest places to live and cheapest places to retire, ‘what states do not have state income tax’. This is a concern to many as it is viewed and is, a huge financial bonus when a state does not levy a state income tax.

There are many different combinations of sales tax, income tax (or lack of it) and property taxes in the 50 states that comprise the United States. It is understood that the income to run the state funded programs and services has to come from somewhere but it vastly different from state to state. Some are lucky enough to have rich sources of income and can diminish the burden on the individual, while others spread it’s income burden (tax burden) to all citizens in a number of ways.

There is a organization called the Tax Foundation, and every year since 1941 they have produced a document called Facts & Figures; How Does Your State Compare? (ISBN – 978-1-88409-6-22-8) that addresses how states rank in terms of taxation rates compared to one another. There is some controversy about their methodology from time to time but it is generally accepted as an accurate representation of the facts as they relate to state taxation of individuals and businesses.

In one of their comparisons they show how much residents pay as a part of their income (not individually but per capita). They include local sales taxes, property taxes and other local taxes. Here is the result of that comparison:

Lowest Tax Percentages of per capita income by State

• Alaska is 6.4 % of per capita income
• Nevada is 6.6% of per capita income
• Wyoming is 7% of per capita income
• Florida is 7.4% of per capita income
• New Hampshire is 7.6% of per capita income

Every state in the United States has created its own set of taxes that will be applied to those that live within or visiting within borders. Because every states tax mix is different it does present some challenges in compiling this data. It is sometimes difficult to compare data without unintended bias. In some of these debates about methodology over the years between the Census Bureau and the Tax Foundation, there have been fierce disagreements and the Census Bureau now publishes its own list. The Tax Foundation has specifically taken the Census Bureau to task for announcing the best state to live in without looking at the amount of tax collected and not talking into account if the person that was paying the tax was a resident or not. The Census bureau does publish a disclaimer (as of the date of this post) on their website that warns readers that the data could be misleading and uses the example of Florida where much of the state’s sales tax revenue comes from out-of-state guests on vacation or visiting there and making purchases that are taxed.

There are arguments for both sides that have credibility and that point to the difficulty in gathering data as well as interrupting it to reflect things like the actual tax burden paid per capita in a state. These arguments may be somewhat related to the saying of ‘splitting hairs’ and although they are important and significant, they may not ultimately reveal the best states to live in.

Each situation that you consider important that is effected by the amount of state tax should carefully be considered and you should subsequently devise a plan or formula for making a decision. Then hopefully their data will be pertinent to you in that decision. Until and if our data collection methods become more detailed, it will be hard to determine the best place to live for tax purposes and as inferred above, needs to be determined on a case by case basis.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best State to Live in 2010

OK this is going to be one of my quickest - possibly my shortest post ever! I've had a few people ask me What was the Best State to Live in 2010? Now how can I just ignore a question like that?

I did write a an article just a short time ago about The Best States to Live in where according to StateMaster 'Livability Index'the Top State to Live in was New Hampshire. But of course that isn't the only organization ranking the Best Places to Live.

Yahoo Real Estate says Eden Prairie, Minnesota is the Best Place to Live in America 2010 according to MONEY Magazine. Does that make Minnesota the best state to live in? I don't know. It's a bit chilly up there for my liking!

And the Cheapest State to Live in 2010 according to AnswerBag is Arkansas.

2010 Best Places to Live - Forbes chimed in with their report on America's Best States To Live and says Utah earned top marks as the best state. Utah residents are very satisfied with their work, their emotional health and their local communities. Another big factor for Utah's number one spot may be related to the low unemployment rate.

Well there you have it - a clear answer or winner? Not so much! Looks like there are probably as many differing opinions as to which is the Best State to Live in as there are states. And I'm sure there is data that can be presented to justify everyone of those positions! Be sure to leave a comment and let me know which State you think is best and why.

Editors Note: Here's an update you may want to know about. Check out our November 2011 series on the Best States to Live in for a more thorough look at the nations greatest be it the cheapest or the best place to retire we've gone coast to coast to find the best. Check it out and let us know if you agree or disagree with our findings. Also, you can see our picks for the Best Places to Live in the World for 2012.

Cheap Hotels in Orlando

When I asked Anne Marie to tell e about her favorite Cheap Hotels in Orlando she opened my eyes to other accommodations which would save me money while maintaining my high standards for a quality place to stay. Here's what Anne Marie shared with me:

"Stop looking for cheaper hotel rooms in Orlando! If you're planning a trip to Disney or any of the other Central Florida theme parks you really want to be checking into renting an Orlando vacation home. To start, vacation home rentals are surprisingly cheap. They allow you as a visitor to save a lot of money over nightly rates you might pay at five star hotels in Orlando but they offer a standard of accommodation that is the same if not better.  You get so much more value for your money compared to any hotel stay.

And it's not just about rate as there are many additional ways you cut costs by staying in a Vacation Home Rental. You can truly enjoy at home comfort while on holiday and even with a low budget. For example - you save on extra baggage fees. Almost all vacation homes rentals in Florida have in suite laundry facilities. So, you can pack light - maybe even just bring a carry on as you know you will be able to wash your clothes throughout your stay. Dining and food costs are another huge savings. Normally you rack up huge charges for breakfast, lunch and dinner on your hotel bill from always eating in the convenient hotel restaurants. By shopping and cooking for yourself in your vacation home you can spend in a whole week on groceries what it might cost for just one meal dining out! Not only hat but you can control your diet better. Meaning less weight gain and a healthier you. Your costs can be reduced further by finding a vacation rental in the ideal location for the places you want to visit. It's easy to get a home close by to the attractions you are interested in which saves on transportation costs when visiting the theme parks.

For Orlando vacations the ideal location will be 5  to 15 minutes from Disney World or Universal studios. Floridas Orange County area vacation homes include Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista. It's important to note that the highest demand for central Florida accommodations is in the summer so these prime properties are in high demand. Remember to shop around and book well in advance to find the cheapest and best places to stay.

Your typical rental property will have 3 bedrooms and be big enough to sleep six to eight people. But there are also plenty of vacation homes that can handle tour groups and large families. These homes are much bigger and can have up to 6 or 7 bedrooms. It's quite easy to do your research online to find the best place for you and your family or group. Of course the bigger the group often the better deal you can get because you're spreading the cost across more people. Often you can get luxurious vacation homes that rival even the finest five star hotels. Amenities can and typically do include: your own private pool and jacuzzi; large gourmet kitchens; laundry facilities; in house recreation rooms with big screen TV's, pool tables, etc.  It's important to confirm the home your renting has all the necessities you want for your vacation.  And remember you're getting all of this while saving a bundle of cash that you would typically spend just on meals out. - Vacations with more room.

Orlando has been receiving millions of vistors over many years. Sure there are plenty of cheap hotel rooms in town but why not live in the lap of luxury for the same price? The vacation home rental industry in Central Florida has developed into a professional well oiled machine that offers extensive listings suitable for any size family or group - from a romantic get away for a couple to a big family reunion. So, if you're planning a trip to have some fun in the sun in the Central Florida play ground choosing one of the cheapest places to stay can translate into one of the most luxurious holidays you've ever taken!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Best Place to Live in Florida

Recently we reviewed a few of the best places to live in Florida. It's a broad question as our last post on Florida pointed out because 'best' is different for everyone and varies depending on your age, marital status, career, lifestyle, etc.

In coming posts we'll take a closer look at the best places to live in Florida for those different demographic groups - one I'm itching to research and write about is the best place to live in Florida for families. Of course I also hope to check things out for singles and seniors too.

Editors update: Recently we've explored some of the Best Cities for Singles in the world. Check out our latest post!

Money Magazine Best Places to Live 2010 says that Coral Springs is the winner among Best Cities to Live in Florida. It's the second year that Money ranked Coral Springs as the #1 city in Florida. It's the third year they made it into the top 100. Money ranks cities across the nation on items like business opportunities, average income, job growth and housing affordability, Quality of life, quality of education and other factors.

Money gives high marks to Coral Springs for having a variety of leisure and sports facilities including ice rinks, skate parks and more. Coral Springs also offers a vast selection of dining options with restaurants for pretty much every taste and ethnic background.

Mayor Scott Brook commented on the honor, “It is very gratifying to be recognized as one of the best cities to live in the country as it signifies a mission accomplished in collaboration with our citizens. We're committed to being a Community of Excellence.

Coral Springs also ranked high in terms of safety and was acknowledged for excellence in public schools, diversity, affordable house prices and air quality. The city has been the recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and is twice received the Governor’s "Sterling Award" for quality excellence. Coral Springs was the 1st "City of Excellence" to be named by the Florida League of Cities. And if you thought Coral Springs was one of those U.S. cities for retirees, think again - it's also been recognized as one of the "100 Best Communities for Young People" by America’s Promise Alliance for Youth.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Where is Belize?

Belize - The Best Place to Retire?

Many times we have compared and contrasted the Best Places to Retire in relation to cost of living. Now more than ever those approaching retirement or recently retired are concerned about if or when their financial resources may run out. The ups and downs of the stock marketed combined with advances in health and longevity make this a real concern. So it's important for retirees to consider cheap places to live abroad in retirement. Places where they know their savings and retirement nest egg will last.

Latin American countries have been the darlings of the media and many retirees for the past decade. It started with Costa Rica in the '80's and '90's and then spread across the central American map as more and more of these places developed infrastructure and services specifically targeted at the retiring American Baby Boomers. For five years in a row Panama ranked number one in lists of the top retirement places while countries like Nicaragua, Honduras, Roatan and Belize often made the top 10 lists.

Recently we have been writing about retiring in Belize as one such place where the pace of life is slow and easy and the cost of living more than reasonable for most. I've been getting some feedback and questions about Belize and it makes sense the first and most popular question is...

Where is Belize Located?

That's a pretty important question! After all ow will you get there if you don't know where Belize is? Seriously though, when it comes to retiring abroad one of the most important issues is location - how close will I be to my children? My grand children? My home country? Other countries and places I may want to visit?  It's not atypical for a retiree living abroad to make numerous trips back to their homeland so moving relatively close and with easy access is of paramount concern. Thuis is probably one of the biggest reasons Latin America has become so popular for a seasonal or full time retirement home and Belize is located smack dab on the middle.

Belize is found on the Caribbean Coast of Central America with Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west.

It is easy to get to from the United States with flights of less than two hours from Miami, Houston and  Dallas. You can also fly a little long from Atlanta, Newark, and Charlotte.

More about Belize

Formerly Belize was a British Colony so the official and common language is English. This makes it quite easy for retirees from North America to communicate and quickly feel at home. The 'Retire Belize Program' was modelled after other successful retiree incentive programs in countries like Panama. The incentives offerred to people who wish to live but not work make for a very attractive lifestyle by cutting the cost of living even further. The population is estimated at 300,000 persons residing in eight urban areas. Over 30% of the people live in Belize City. Belize is quite small at just 8,867 square miles but it is still one of the lowest densely populated countries in the Americas.

Weather in Belize

The Belize climate is subtropical, with an average annual temperature around 80°F. Highs can reach over 90°F while night time lows at cetain times of the year may fall as low as 60°F.   Belize is also an attractive destination for suba divers as it is home to the longest living Barrier Reef in the world which stretches along the entire Eastern Coast of the country.

Belize boasts large areas of unspoiled jungles and national parks, amazing rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, caves, and even archaeological ruins. Living in Belize as an American you will immediately notice the vibrant blend of cultures, including Mayan, Hispanic, Garifuna, East Indian, and Creole.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Retire Belize Program

Recently the finance division of Yahoo quantified Belize as one of the top retirement destinations for 2011 and it probably is in no small part due to the "Retire Belize" program. It is formally called the Belize Qualified Retired Persons Incentive Program and sets out to make it easy and attractive for retired persons that have some reasonable way to support themselves, to spend their golden years retired in Belize. When you discover where Belize is located you'll understand why so many Americans are finding it an attractive place for a seasonal or retirement home.

Of course those folks that want to participate in 'Retire Belize' (my name not theirs) program do have to jump through some hoops and prove that they have a secure income from either a retirement program, pension or from investments but for many Americans that is not an issue at all. Belize Tourism Board, who administers the program, has done a pretty reasonable job putting an attractive group of benefits together for the retiree that is looking for more than cheap places to go on vacation

Let’s look at a few of those benefits and you can be the judge.

1. Belize generally has a stable 'dollar'
2. Not far from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and the USA
3. Really Nice People
4. Magnificent Natural Beauty
5. Tax Breaks
6. Belize is Peaceful
7. Speak English
8. Warm year round sub-tropical weather
9. Good Schools
10. Import tariff waivers

There are some important qualifiers for a person that might be interested in the benefits of the best country to live in. By far, the most important filters are age and income. One must be forty five and have a verifiable income of at least $2000 a month. An added benefit is that only the person qualifying has to meet these requirements. Their dependents do not. Dependents in this case can be both spouse (no age requirement) and children up to 18 years old or up to 23 years old if they are still in College.

There are some legal requirements to prove that a pension is valid but these, although tedious and detailed, are not hard to provide. In a ironic sort of attempt to streamline the process the Belize Tourism Board will waive some proof requirements for fortune 500 companies. I find this loophole somewhat ironic since in the present economy, (post 2008), the size of the organization does not seem to necessarily correlate to financial stability but that is purely personal conjecture and I certainly understand why the board may have acted in good faith in its attempt to make the process of application easier for these pensioners.

In a not too surprising attempt to keep trouble out of Belize , the Tourism Board requires a background check for the 'Retire Belize' program by the Ministry of National Security of Belize.
There are several more qualifications that address other details and stipulations on the "Retire Belize' program and here we will take a look at a few of the more minor ones.

1. Must follow the rules for bringing in personal goods on the move into Belize
2. Can't look for a job or be employed while in the program.
3. You have to let the board know if your situation changes in a way that would affect qualification for the program
4. Must follow Belizean laws
5. The benefits of the 'Retire Belize' program are only for qualified person and dependents
6. Board has the right to do their investigation on all the documents you provide to them.
7. If you leave Belize indefinitely you must tell the board so your assets can be liquidated.
8. Documents in the application for the program become property of the board.
9. You can have no outstanding criminal issues at time of application
10. You have to provide required information about dependents
11. Must show proof via yearly bank statement, that you have the required income.
12. Must live in Belize at least one month a year to continue to qualify for Retire Belize program.

Although one would want to familiarize oneself with these and the other rules they don't present too much of a burden to gain the benefits shown before.

The normal type of documents will be required beyond the application form itself like birth certificates, marriage certificate, police record from most current location, passport, proof of income as stated before, medical exam results including the results of an AIDS test and four passport size recent pictures. All of these are quite reasonable for this sort of application and to be expected.

Although this process is quite involved and in this authors opinion it would be best approached with a local attorney, it is like many such involved applications. It is very detailed and detailed but with attention to those details it is a step by step process that takes a fair amount of time and should not be rushed. The good news is it is done all the time and has been completed by many before.

Hopefully this post has been educational and informative in giving you an overview of the "Retire Belize" program as I call it. As stated before there are many benefits that the Belize Tourism Board has put together for living in Belize as an American but please do yourself a favor and seek professional advice to undertake this process. When you are successful you will end up in one of the cheapest places to live and retire in Belize and with a lot of personal advantages besides living in a tropical paradise.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Teaching Jobs Overseas For Americans

Teaching jobs overseas for Americans might be the perfect job for you if you really like to teach and have an interest or curiosity about foreign cultures. Your successful job search is not based on cheap places to go on vacation but location is a major concern most likely and should be one of your major concerns. Because there are so many different types of teaching jobs all over the world, surely you can find one that will mesh with your desires and passions. Most teaching jobs are for people that speak English and would find it attractive to teach to students as a second language.
There are a wide variety of qualifications depending on where you might teach and who the employer is. Sometimes a bachelor’s of Education degree is required and other times it is not necessary that your degree be in education at all. Sometimes it is not even necessary that you have a University degree as long as you speak English as your native language. Extensive experience is not necessary in many cases either but can be helpful to secure an attractive job. If your degree has a concentration on instructing English as a second language, your chances are increased exponentially. The pay you can command can also be greatly increased when your degree fits that job.
Martial status or life partner issues sometimes will play a roll in determining the eligibility of a person. In some cases the school will look at a couple as a more stable situation and prefer that, while others will look for primarily single teachers. If both partners are teachers this can be an advantage for the school system as the housing requirements will be less for a couple and in essence they only have to provide one residence for two teachers. Not surprisingly, most school systems no not tolerate dating of the student population and a stable relationship may be looked on as a help in this regard.
Being able to speak the local language is not usually required and it is sometimes preferred that you do not. When my friend was living in Belize as an American it forced her to learn the local language faster since many only spoke Spanish. Likewise, I am sure it will force your students to acclimate to English faster if you don’t speak the local language for them to fall back on. It is looked upon as an advantage that you do not rely on the local language and your students do not usually expect it either. Sometimes you will find there are programs provided by the school to help the teachers in their own interaction but as far as the classes are concerned the local language is usually not required.
A year teaching is the standard assignment for teaching in most foreign schools but there are exceptions to that especially when it is a volunteer job. The volunteer jobs are far more flexible with commitments than are those that are paid.
As with any job the pay depends on several factors and when you ask the question ‘what city should I live in to teach’, pay will be different. The job / contract length, what is required of you in terms of qualifications and where the job is located all make a difference in pay. The latter is primarily due to the cost of living. It would behove you to do some serious research about the cost of living before you accept any teaching job so you have a good idea what you are getting yourself into.
Something that you may be surprised to find out is that certain locations prefer certain English accents. It is generally whatever has become acceptable in the school location. In turn, that is what they want from the teachers that they hire. For instance in Mexico they want American accents but in Europe they mostly want the British accent. It really makes sense as it is what the locals are more accustomed to hearing.
One primary concern that people have about teaching abroad is around getting set up in the new location and the cheapest places where they can stay. It is often the case where the school will either provide the teacher with housing or if not, at least provide them with help in securing the cheapest place to live. Just be very careful that there is a clear understanding (in writing) about what sort of arrangement there is and who is to provide what. There is nothing that can ruin your experience faster than uncomfortable or unsuitable accommodations.
Another thing to be clear about before you make any real commitment is to figure out who (what group) you will be teaching. It could be professionals; it could be housewives, children or other age groups. Each of these groups will take a different focus and skill set so you will want to know what you are getting into.
Because you will be signing a contract in order to get these jobs you will want to be sure and research every aspect of the position and that you understand exactly what you are getting yourself into. Spend an appropriate amount of time researching every aspect of the arrangement and know exactly what it means for you to find international jobs for US citizens and then you will be able to help others along the path to finding teaching jobs overseas for Americans if you want to.

Best Country to Live in 2010

A few months ago we launched the New Year with a discussion about the Best Places for Quality of Life. The list of countries came from International Living Magazine who rate over 100 countries for quality of life. Of course the data is collected over the entire year so when we look at the list it's historical, meaning the best places, in this case the best countries for quality of life  would be from 2010. As we all know a lot can happen in one year and even during a year. Ratings will fluctuate particularly in lessor developed countries. As I look back at the countries who made the list for 2010 I notice some interesting things that very likely have changed up the order and ranking quite a it. But let me pause and recap for a moment.

What was the Best Country to Live in 2010?

If you read my post back in January, Where Should I Live in 2011, you would have learned that the United States was the best country for quality of life in 2010. Looking back over the past year, even over the past few months you can see that a lot has changed in our crazy world. Has it changed enough to dislodge the U.S. for that #1 postion - probably not. In fact I would say recent world events have probably solidified that decision even more. The U.S. is still one of the healthiest and wealthiest countries to call home. Relative to recent international turmoil be it earthquake, Tsunami or revolution the states is also one of the safest and most stable countries on the planet, save perhaps Canada which one most certainly rank up their as one of the best places to live.

Best Places to Live in The World

But lets have a look at what may have changed over the past few months in terms of the Best Places to Live in the World. Canada for one was suspiciously absent from the Top 20 Countries for Quality of Life in 2010. I'm certain that was some kind of oversight or typo as Canada ranked #9 on the 2009 list. Given the rising cost of oil and the strength of the Canadian dollar I've got to believe Canada would now move quite close to the top of the list. If market indicators are any measure it may very well be number as the U.S. dollar has slipped to a value of 95 cents compared to the Canadian Loonie. Japan is another country that we have all been watching closely. Sure it has had soem economic woes over the past few years with a crippling debt and aging population. However, this small island nation still ranked 7th on the 2010 list of best places for quality of life. The recent earthquake followed by a devastating Tsunami and now an ongoing and as yet unresolved nuclear reactor problem will surely have pushed Japan well down the list if not even off the list altogether.

All in all the events of the past few months have certainly confirmed that we are living in challenging and constantly changing times. Lists are fun and interesting to read but current events tell all. For me I'm  thinking a peaceful little place like retiring in Belize may just be the solution - it may even bring me right back to finding the cheapest places to live!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living In Belize As An American

Some people get really excited about the "Retire Belize" Program (Qualified Retirement Program) when they think about living in Belize as an American but the reality of making that happen is that they have to go through a long drawn out procedure to get this special retired persons visa. It is probably best to get an attorney to handle it for you as it is not a simple matter for even the most patient of Americans living in Belize. We are just not used to things being quite this complicated and drawn out. Nothing in Belize is simple and here are some reasons why that might be the case.

Before I even tell you this, just understand it will be a shock. Things in Belize are not computerized. Just let that sink in for a few minutes. The government is not computerized. The banking system between branches is not computerized. The local law enforcement is not computerized. Rewind back to the 60s and 70s and think about how things were done in America. Everything had to be written by hand or typed. 

Bookkeeping was by hand on ledgers. Records were created in duplicate and everything was filed in a filing cabinet and if you wanted to have the information you had to contact the person or organization that had it and ask for a copy of it or to verify it with a form. The result was that everything was form based and was very slow moving. And if there were not copies when all record were lost of what had transpired then it was just lost. Can you even imagine going back 40 years in time?

This country is very behind in terms of technology and they seem to be perfectly OK with that. This country is the definition of relaxed and laid back. No one gets too excited about anything much. They have a high rate of unemployment and a very high rate of poverty too. They live very simple lives with very small homes often crammed with several people and little furniture. Tiny homes with 5-10 people and one shower and it is OK. Many walk everywhere because they don’t own a car and getting upset is a waste of energy for everyone. Now if you're into all of the modern conveniences and speed of access to everything we enjoy in A,erica than this may not be the place for you. However, these qualities are also what is attracting many retirees to this wonderful, simple little country. It truly is a great way to escape the rate race and live the 'tranquillo' lifestyle. 

One other important thing to ask is, Where is Belize? When you discover that Belize is located right in the middle of Central America you can relax a little. It's easily accessible from numerous U.S. airports, some less than two hours flight time away. So, if you find yourself getting a little island fever it's simple enough to hop on a plane and get your city fix in Houston or Miami. Or you may even want to use your new home as a base to spring board south to discover Panama City or other south American destinations. 

If your thinking about moving to Belize and especially if you haven’t spent much time there, will be a shock but it will be a slow shock. One that may ultimately make living in Belize as an American a frustrating experience if you are not prepared for it. You just need to talk a breath and go with it if you intend to be in Belize for very long. Darling, you’re not in Kansas anymore!

Best Places to Live - UK

Finding the Best Places to Live in the UK

If you ever watch HGTV's House Hunters than you know UK property expert Phil Spencer. He says,

"Picking an area to live in isn't just about a budget, it's about finding somewhere that suits your family and lifestyle."

I came across Phil's solid tips on On where he writes about:

How to choose where to buy in the UK

Phil advises buyers in the UK to:

1. Think about transportation hubs and connections. The closer you live to a train station or major highway or airport the more popular the Real Estate - you'll have to pay for that convenience though. But convenience aside there are some negatives namely noise pollution and less privacy. It's a good idea to check train schedules and flight paths for where you are considering. Sometimes agents will pick optimum times to show a property - when the train is not running or the airport is quiet. It can be quite a shock if you're awakened at 5:00 am to the whistle of a commuter train passing through your backyard!

2. Look for places with useful amenities. Shopping, restaurants and entertainment close by can really turn a house into a home. It's about lifestyle and living. Also look for trends. If you spot small shops being renovated and new ones being opened it's a good sign the neighbourhood is moving in the right direction. You can also review current and past issues of local newspapers and magazines for announcements. You may even want to visit the local planning department to get an idea of the future for the community your considering.

3. Be alert to places that offer open spaces likes parks and water features. If you have a pet or children it's important to have recreation areas close by where you can walk and simply enjoy the outdoors. The best places to live are often associated with nature.

4. Check out the education system, even if you don't have children. Research has revealed that crime rates are in direct correlation to the quality of education in an area. Where a community is focused on developing the potential of their youth there is less chance you will find school drop-outs who pick up a life of crime. Well educated people believe in themselves and are contributing participants in the community they live in.

Of course as you read through this list of tips for finding the best places to live in the UK you've probably notices that they are applicable to finding the best country to live in and then using the same questions and criteria to find the best spots within hat country. After all we share the human condition regardless of our nationality or where we chose to live. Even when timers are tough and you need to find the cheapest place to live these tips can still help you skew the odds in your favour for finding the best place.

Cheapest Time To Go To Vegas

Determining the cheapest time to go to Vegas is not really as difficult as it might appear. You don't have to have any sort of inside connection in order to figure out that there are certain times of year and certain seasons where it is cheaper to visit sin city then other times. Plus Vegas is a cheap place to go on vacation.

Las Vegas room rates are the place where one can most easily negotiate savings if in fact you are flexible about your travel dates. Of course, things like getting plane tickets cheap and Vegas deals from places like Expedia, Orbitz or Southwest airlines will need to be factored into the equation but because cheap air fare is so difficult to predict it is best to start with what is predictable and work backwards. Besides, plane tickets prices don’t vary that much, it may become secondary to the hotel rates that can be as much or more for one night as it is for one plane ticket. Because hotel room supply and demand has such a strong effect on Las Vegas room rates it is relatively easy to figure out when the demand will be low and in turn the room rates will also be reduced.

There are three factors that generally dictate the number of rooms available at any given time in Las Vegas and in turn the best time to travel to Las Vegas. The first factor is the number of conventioneers in town. Conventions are the lifeblood of Las Vegas hotels and when they are absent, hotel rooms can be a bargain. The second factor is the weather. Because Las Vegas is famous in the summertime for extremely hot weather, this can play an important role in determining when people decide to visit the gambling mecca. July and August generally are the hottest months with temperatures sometimes reaching near 120°F and lots of visitors will stay away. The third factor that heavily influences the traffic in Las Vegas is the time around what traditionally have been family holidays. Primarily holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas will be slower times in Las Vegas and in turn the cheapest time to go to Vegas.

In order to figure out the cheapest time to go to Vegas one can take any of the aforementioned circumstances and with a little research generally come up with considerable savings on hotel rooms to make your visit the best time to go to Las Vegas. For instance, planning a vacation to Las Vegas might involve first checking the cheapest flight and then checking the Las Vegas convention schedule (available from the Las Vegas convention Bureau) to find out the gaps or periods of time when few conventions, if any, are in town. Overlay that with either the hot months of summer or traditional family holiday periods and you usually will come up with the least expensive time to visit Las Vegas.

Because the hotel casinos do their very best to keep their guests entertained inside their own properties you will find it very conducive to remaining indoors the entire time you are in Las Vegas. It is a hotel owners dream to have their guests never leave the property so they work very hard at making sure you have every opportunity to be catered to without stepping foot outside their door. And even should you find it necessary or desirable to leave the property it will be a quick taxi ride to another equally entertaining property a short distance away.

As a 10 year resident of Las Vegas and frequent visitor to the Las Vegas strip I would not hesitate at all to recommend Las Vegas in the summertime for a visitor who plans to take advantage of the things Las Vegas is most famous for. These mega-resorts that make up much of the Vegas strip have spent billions of dollars making sure their guests will not only be comfortable but happy for the entire visit.

In conclusion, you can see that determining the cheapest time to go to Vegas is when it is generally being ignored by large groups of people. This can be a vacationer’s window of opportunity to visit the world-class resorts of Las Vegas on a budget.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What City Should I Live In?

What City Should I live in?

On the weekend I got news that my landlord had decided to sell the house I am living in - time to move again! If you've been following me and this blog for any amount of time you know that an event like this stirs up that crazy adventurous spirit inside me. So, you know I'm like to not just move down the block. No these are the times I jump on line and start surfing this amazing planet of ours. At this point in my life I'm definitely not into the calm and quiet of rural living. No this time round I'm asking myself, "What are the Best Cities I should live in?"

Google is so cool! After I typed in my search one of the first sites to pop up was a quiz on called, 'Which City Should You Live In?'  How cool is that?

Where Should I Live Quiz
The BrainFall quizz starts with four interest categories: Classes - how you like to learn; Celebrities - your personality type; Family - how you like to relate; and Schools - what you like to learn. The quiz then goes on to ask questions in similarly grouped categories - drilling down to find out what your interests are, how you like to socialize, live, love, etc.

This is one fun little quiz. I liked the questions. They got me thinking a lot about my likes and dislikes - some surprises there with things I haven't thought about for a while. On the critical side I would say the quiz is tailored to someone considerably younger than myself. If I were to guess I would say the, 'Where Should I Live Quiz' is geared towards a fairly recent high school or college grad who is single and looking for a place to make their mark or get their start.

Which City Should I Live In?

I'm sure you're now curious to know which city the quiz suggested for me. And the drum roll please...Survey says,

"You should live in Paris.
The city of lights will appeal to your appreciation of beauty and romance. You are a lover and a poet by nature, and Paris' sensitive charms will be a perfect match for yours."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Best Places to Eat in Miami Beach Florida

Even if you've found the Best Place to Live in Florida you'll want to get out and explore the wonderful culinary delights all over the state!

The Miami coast has almost limitless opportunities to fulfill an appetite. Visiting restaurants along Miami Beach gives the diner the chance to experience some of the most interesting dining in the United States. Not only that but you enjoy beautiful ocean views while indulging in the vast selection of international cuisine. Many people even find a celebrity owned restaurant keeps them coming back for more.

Emerils Miami Beach

Emeril Lagasse, the Food Network celeb owns Emerils Miami Beach. This Cajun style restaurant provides an elegant dining and is located in the Loews Hotel. With a pleasing ambiance and a high class look, you'll comfortable and invited as soon as you enter. Emerils menu boasts some of the most popular southern dishes that will keep you coming back for more.

Joes Stone Crab Shack

All up and down the Atlantic Ocean beaches Stone Crab is an abundant and delectable treat for those who enjoy seafood. The Crab season in Florida goes from mid-October to mid-May. Joe's Stone Crab offers a selection of seafood dishes including crab as it's obvious specialty. ut you'll also find the perennial American favorites of steak, ribs and chicken on the menu. In fact Joes is known for some of the best crab and best seafood dishes in the entire Miami Beach area. Quick dining tip - avoid the sometimes long lines by ordering to go - Joe's offers take out so you can grab your Joe to Go and enjoy it right there in the beach!

The News Cafe

You'll find The News Cafe right on the ocean front walkway across the street from Miami beach. The popular menu includes all-day-breakfast and menu items that are not hard on your wallet. Grab your favorite magazine or newspaper from the newsstand and wander into the News Cafe for the best place to sit, relax in the warm weather with a spectacular view of the beach all while enjoying good food..

Capital Grille Miami

Got a craving for steak but your companion wants seafood? Have no worry the Capital Grille will completely satisfy. This popular Miami spot is recognized time and again for excellent steak, seafood and a number of other specialty dishes. The Capital Grille has an intimate atmosphere which is perfect for a romantic evening on Miami Beach.


Not quite sure of what your taste buds are longing for, but one thing you know they want for starters is a great glass of wine? Azul is your place. Azul is known for having one of the Best wine lists in all of Miami. With more than 700 labels Azul has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence three times in a row. Another wonderful spot to enjoy a romantic evening with amazing views of Biscayne Bay all the while sipping on award winning wines.

Tobacco Road

Take in local culture and flare while in Miami at the Tobacco Road. The oldest bar on Miami beach this is the best place for uncovering and discovering Miami history. Tobacco Road has specialty food nights which are always a hit with locales and vistors alike. Many go here simply for the great beer, excellent pub grub and wonderful live entertainment.

Whether you've found the best place to retire by the beach or you're just visiting, its hard to find a restaurant on Miami Beach that doesn't have a great view and diverse cuisine is offered everywhere you look. Whether you're looking for a breakfast place to sit and read; a lively bar with excellent entertainment, or some of the Best Seafood Places in America, Miami has it all.

Best Cities To Live In USA; Unemployment

The United States was ranked the Best Country to Live in 2010. But lets face it the U.S. is one big and vast country! There are a lot of internal factors one needs to consider when choosing the best cities to live in the U.S. In trying to find the best cities to live in USA one definitely needs to consider the employment rate or as it is more often defined by the opposite, the unemployment rate. As of January the unemployment rate for the United States as a whole was 9.8%. There are many factors that go into the figuring of that rate and it is often argued as to how accurate it really is but the rate does serve to accurately rank different areas since the same formula is applied to each locations.

First let’s take a look at the ten best ranking cities for unemployment in the USA:

Lowest Rates of Unemployment in the USA in January 2011
Lincoln, NE
Fargo, ND-MN
Bismarck, ND
Ames, IA
Iowa City, IA
Grand Forks, ND-MN
Midland, TX
Burlington-South Burlington, VT
Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
Portsmouth, NH-ME
Sioux Falls, SD

Following on the heels of this chart it is interesting to note also the ten worst U.S. cities for unemployment in the USA:

Highest Rates of Unemployment in the USA in January 2011
Ocean City, NJ
Visalia-Porterville, CA
Fresno, CA
Modesto, CA
Hanford-Corcoran, CA
Stockton, CA
Yuba City, CA
Merced, CA
Yuma, AZ
El Centro, CA

It would take a doctorate dissertation to truly discover or at least theorize as to why these areas have such a wide difference in employment but there are some things that standout when you look at them and make some surface pronouncements about why they weathered the recession contrary to one another and might give you a good idea of what could be a best place to retire in USA a location but that will be a whole other where to retire post all together.

For the purposes of this post let’s just look at one city that might be a good place to retire. Lincoln, NE and see what they may have going for them to insulate them from this and other downturns in the economy. And just in case you are thinking this is a fluke that they survived this recession unscathed, their unemployment has never been above 5% since unemployment statistics have been kept. They apparently are doing something right.

Lincoln is the place where several large companies house their national and regional headquarters and in that research it was determined by some to be the best place to retire. In it can also be found a major research university. Plus the entire region is encircled by farms that export all over the world. These things bring a disproportionate amount to national and international jobs and income to the relatively small region.

Additionally there are about 24,000 university students that attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln is the home to the state capital and all the government jobs that brings and as pointed out earlier the surrounding farm enterprise provides many stable jobs.

One other thing that may have led to the stable economy is the fact that the housing boom just seemed to pass right over Lincoln. It may be the conservative nature of the people that live there and taking speculative risk just isn’t in the makeup of the residents, the businesses or their lenders, so there was no real estate bubble to recover from.

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at #7 on our worst cities for unemployment, Merced, CA. It, like Lincoln is surrounded by farm land but unlike Lincoln this was a poor farming community before the housing boom of the 2000s. It was attractive for the cheap land (by California standards) and easy credit so the building industry skyrocketed. Unfortunately many of those jobs have disappeared and subsequently those people that moved here with the dream of reasonable housing and jobs are now out of both.

To add fuel to the speculation fire, in 2005 the state built the Merced campus of the University of California with a projected enrollment of 25,000 but as of now there are only about 3,500 students. The builders translated the school into even more reason to be confident about the future and speculation went wild in anticipation of filling those units with the people attracted by the University. It all fell apart and the local economy is devastated with a unemployment rate consistently more than 20%. With no industry or manufacturing here of any significance and because of the collapse of the construction industry it only leaves the farms and some service industry jobs that generally don’t pay much or provide anything in way of income taxes for the state and local government.
It is not hard to ascertain from just these two little snapshots into these very different communities as to why the unemployment is different. Hopefully this will give you some insight into how to pick what might be the best cities to live in the USA, or just the cheapest places to live as you go about your quest for your perfect spot where ever it might be.