A Heartfelt New Year’s Resolution: Show You Care

I heard the sirens behind me before I saw the flashing lights of an ambulance, followed closely by a fire truck. Like everyone else on the roadway, I looked around trying to figure out where the ambulance was heading, and as soon as I saw the lights, eased my car over to the right side of the road. Only the ambulance wasn’t traveling in the direction of traffic, the ambulance was heading for whichever side of the roadway was clear, if only for a few car-lengths – much to the surprise, no doubt, of those in the oncoming lane of traffic.

I figured it must be a truly urgent emergency for the ambulance and fire truck to be commandeering both sides of Pacific Coast Highway. Nonetheless, drivers on either side were nudging their cars onto the side, out of the way. At no time did the ambulance have to blow its horn, slow down, or do anything else to get where it needed to go.

We care. We really do. In moments of crisis, large or small, our respect for one another simply as human beings, shows up. I am reminded of a very touching video posted in the final weeks of the chaotic Presidential campaigns, which featured a woman trying to find the owner of a lost dog found wandering in a parking lot. It was an “equal opportunity” posting, in that the same situation was played out in both Trump and Clinton rallies. The woman wore a “Trump” t-shirt in the Clinton situation, and a “Clinton” t-shirt in the Trump situation. Didn’t matter. People in both rallies, without exception, treated the woman with respect, and tried their very best to help her find the dog’s owner. Small crisis, true, but oh-so-telling.

We care. We really do. So what if, this New Year, we made a resolution to show our caring, our respect for our shared humanity, when it isn’t a matter of a lost dog or tragic accident? What if, just as a matter of course, throughout our most ordinary of days, we made the effort to give people the benefit of the doubt, to assume people are doing their best (including ourselves!), and to respect them, regardless of whether or not we agree with them?

I know, it’s easier to do with lost dogs than it is with co-workers or family, much less strangers who are rude to us or ignore us altogether. But heck, we’re still all in this together, and a little bit of respect and consideration goes a long way.

And who knows? Someone may give you some of that respect and consideration when you least expect it, in a most delightful way.

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3D Scanning – What You Need To Know

3D scanning is a process of capturing digital information of object shape using equipment that has light or laser to measure distance between the object and the scanner. The non-destructive and non-contact scanning technology uses lines of laser light capturing the exact shape and size of the object. The fine details of even the smallest objects are captured and the process comes in handy in so many industries and fields. Some the areas that 3D scans are commonly used include automotive, manufacturing, medical and aerospace.

3D laser scanners capture thousands of points per second, allowing quick inspection of parts. It is a process that is ideally suited for measuring and inspecting contoured surfaces and also complex geometries that require lots of data for accurate description and where traditional measurement methods are impractical.

What are the advantages?

3D scanning has become very popular among business people in different fields. You can now easily find 3D scanning services for all needs you might have especially as far as accuracy and high quality productions are concerned. The popularity of the process is as a result of the many advantages it has over other traditional options. Some of the advantages that come with the process include:

1. Quick capture of all physical measurements of any given physical object; with 3D scanning, the size of the object does not matter.

2. Saves time when designing. The high definition details of objects make it possible for designers get it right with the first trail, hence saving time, even with productions that would have otherwise proved to be complex and time consuming.

3. Ensures perfect fit of parts with the first try. 3D has literally taken the guess work of production processes, especially for those dealing with prototypes and creating parts. The detailed information collected from an object is accurate and hence it is very rare to have parts that have any functional defects.

4. It captures engineering optimization that is necessary in manufactured parts. The process offers more confident to manufacturers in terms of meeting standards and any set objectives in the manufacturing process of parts. Using the scans, it has become even possible for manufacturers and designed to compare between designed and built models conditions so manufactured parts are top quality.

How does it help the design process?

3D scans are largely used in the design process of various products. Model scanning proves beneficial in the design process because:

· It increases effectiveness when working with shapes and parts that are complex

· It provides updated versions of CAD models that are outdated

· It makes it possible to replace missing parts or older parts

· It helps product designing so that someone else’s part can be accommodated

Which areas can in be used in?

3D scanning is very effective and has become a popular option in various fields including:

· Historical artifacts

· Prototyping or reverse engineering

· Entertainment industry for games, TV and movie productions

· Medical and dental

· Inspection

· Marine

· Construction and architecture

A 3D scan can prove highly beneficial in different sectors. If you do not have what it takes to enjoy the accuracy of 3D scans, you can get help from service providers who offer all kinds of scanning services.

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The Best Places To See If You Go To Italy

Ravioli, Tiramisu and lush red wine- we all know how amazing all of these things are in Italy. But another thing that Italy is famous for are its beautiful and renowned travel destinations. This country is filled with remnants of the Roman Civilization and extraordinary architecture from the past. What most of us don’t know is that Italy is actually home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Literally everything in this country is worth seeing. But for those of us, who don’t want to or don’t have enough time to go through the whole countryside, here is a list of places you can visit to ensure you get the best of Italy:

1. The Leaning Tower Of Pisa:
This architectural beauty is actually a mathematical phenomenon that still confuses many brilliant minds. The tower of Pisa, famous for its incline is actually a wonder of the world which the most important reason for you to see it. And if you’re a fan of archeology then that’s an added bonus as well. People from all over the world come here all year round to view this. And if you’re planning to go to Italy as well make sure you book your tickets using Alaska Airlines.

2. The Colosseum:
The Roman Colosseum is also one of the Wonders of the world and is the largest amphitheatre in the world. This was created by the prehistoric Roman Leaders and is one of the biggest mementos of the Roman Civilization. It has more than 80 entrances and can house more than 50,000 people at one time. This amphitheatre was actually made as a center of sports and entertainment and has hosted several such events throughout history. However, its condition has deteriorated significantly over time due to natural disaster and climatic conditions.

3. Venice:
The city of Gondolas and water, Venice is a sight to behold for anyone who loves water. The city is famous worldwide for its beauty and the fact that it has been built completely on water. If you’re a romantic at heart, then this is the one place that you should definitely not miss out on. The structures here are comprised of over 150 canals in such an intricate manner that further enhances the beauty of the city.

4. Piazza Del Campo:
The city of Tuscany is home to one of the most beautiful and magnificent medieval squares – The Piazza Del Campo. This seems to be very common in Italy, but this structure also has some of the beautiful architecture that has been seen in the world. Twice or thrice a year a horse race is hosted here which involves circling the Piazza Del Campo and that is definitely a sight to see.

So book your ticket to Italy today using Alaska Airlines and remember to have a lot of fun and stress less holiday!!!

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7 Tips to Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Windshield Wipers and Fluid – Fog, snow and rain will cut down your visibility in winter, causing you to use your wiper blades and washer fluid much more than normal. An antifreeze solution along with winter wiper blades will help to fight ice build-up. Keeping extra windshield washer solvent on hand is helpful too!

Battery – A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals and fluid will help to make sure your car is ready for winter. The cold weather puts more stress on your battery. Many automotive parts stores will test your battery capacity free of charge.

Inspect Your Tires – If you’re not mounting winter tires on your vehicle, be sure to examine your current tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing and cupping as well as checking the sidewalls for cuts and nicks to help you to know if your tires are ready for the harsh weather. The colder weather will also reduce the pressure within your tires, causing them to perform poorly in the snow. You should frequently check your tire pressures.

Coolant – Along with regulating the engine temperature, a vehicle’s coolant system is responsible for protecting your engine against corrosion. For the winter season you will want to make sure that you are using the right ratio of coolant to water in your system as well as using the right type of coolant for your car. If you are unsure, you can check the effectiveness of your coolant with a simple and inexpensive test found at any car parts store.

Ice scraper – Keep your ice scraper in your vehicle and always clean off your car completely, not just a little peephole in the windshield. You must be able to see all your surroundings, your side mirrors and through your back window. Snow on top of your car could slide down and cover your windshield while you are slowing down or fly off onto someone else’s vehicle while you are driving. In some states it is the law that your vehicle is clear of snow and ice.

Survival Kit – Especially during times of slick road conditions and below freezing temperatures, you will want to keep a survival kit in the car at all times in case of emergency. Some items to consider include extra gloves, boots and blankets, flares, tire chains, a flashlight and extra batteries, car charger or portable cellphone charger, and a whistle. Also check your spare tire and make sure that your car jack is in good, working condition.

Keep Your Gas Tank Above Half – If you get stuck or stranded, the car’s engine will be your only source of heat and you will want to be sure you have enough fuel to keep you warm. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove snow from behind the tailpipe and keep it unobstructed to prevent lethal gas from accumulating in the vehicle.

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Ethernet Cables – Red, Yellow, Or Blue?

Ethernet cables come in many colours, it’s common to see red, green, blue, yellow, white and grey leads in every office. A lot of people get confused when they are buying a new lead as they wrongly believe the different colours do different jobs. A coloured Ethernet cable is used for identification. If you have an office network that has many connections, it can be difficult to know which cable goes where. This is why coloured leads are used, you can easily identify that the blue cable is connecting computer A to the network whilst the yell one is connecting computer B and the green goes to computer C. It’s not uncommon to see leads being sold in twenty plus different colours.

Another reason to use coloured leads is to help set up new equipment. Many internet service providers will send a free modem to the customer when they take out a new connection. Not everyone is confident at setting these modems up, they can come with two different types of lead, an RJ11 ADSL lead and an Ethernet cable. Both of these cables look very similar and many people try to connect the RJ11 lead into the Ethernet socket. Internet service providers use coloured leads for this very reason. The instruction book will advise the customer to connect one end of the blue Ethernet cable (or whatever colour is supplied) to socket A on the modem and then to your computer, this avoids any confusion and probably saves them from thousands of technical helpline calls each year.

Whatever the reason for replacing your Ethernet cable, maybe you need a longer length as you have moved the computer, the dog may have chewed your original, you may be trying to increase the speed with a better quality cable (we cover that in another article) or you may simply have lost the lead when you moved house. You can rest assured that you can use any coloured Ethernet cable. The only caveat to add would be to ensure you do not buy a Crossover cable, these are used to connect two computers together without using a router, they are always clearly advertised as Crossover and it would be difficult to buy one in error.

If you are looking to upgrade the speed of your connection, an easy and cheap upgrade is to opt for a Cat6 cable. Cat6 cables are cable of faster Gigabit speeds and are backwards compatible with standard Cat5e systems.

When buying a new lead it’s a good idea to look online, there are big savings to be had. Many online stores can sell at a fraction of the price a high street store as they have less overheads. For a short two meter cable, you should expect to pay around three pounds.

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Stability, Predictability, Consistency, and Standardization in the Flow of Commerce

The best of all possible worlds is for the government to stay out-of-the-way of commerce, industry and business, and very rarely institute regulations. There are some times when government and businesses, industry associations should collaborate for the sake of standardization, but again, very rarely. The tendency to allow industry collusion, create monopolies, duopolies or quasi-cartels is just too easy. Further, once you create one regulation it’s hard to prevent the add-on affect, the temptation is just too great to add exceptions, additions, clarifications as lawyers, unions, and consumer groups work to lobby legislators to intervene with the regulatory apparatus.

A few years back this was a big conversation at our Think Tank, and one think tanker Andrew stated: “I would have to agree that businesses do need some form of standardization, but we must also understand several concepts! A business must have the capability to micromanage for maximum efficiency. I believe states should be granted the power to standardize businesses, not the federal government.”

Okay but, where I see the definite need for standardization are with things like Internet Protocols, railway track width, freeways for intrastate travel, airport runway markings, frequencies used in communication, food safety, etc. In a big state like TX you could get away with doing almost everything counter to the overall prevailing way of doing things, it’s practically large enough to be its own country, and some Texans would prefer it to be still. Pretty independent minded, even with the population’s mindset of succession from the union. It even has its own electrical grid.

Still, with regards to the flow of energy, transportation, distribution, communication, currency, etc. we need standardization. And to the point of having each state decide, what about every county, every city, or every HOA, down to every person, where do you stop the breakdown of centralized standardization.

The argument for state level standardization could be argued against by someone who is a County Supervisor telling the State to go to hell, we want to do it our way, especially a county like the County of Los Angeles, with 16 million people in it, also larger than most countries. How about a city telling the county where to go, again as an example, let’s take the City of Los Angeles VS County of Los Angeles, see the point.

And realize I am not making an argument for a global government here, but we also need some standardization there too, for aviation, which we do have, maritime, trade rules, and having the Central Banks work together so no one Central Bank doesn’t destroy the entire global economy. See that point. We need SOME standardization, but we MUST retain regional variation. We do this at the Global Level, but we don’t do it enough at our Federal Level with regards to the states in the US and that’s why we have issues now. Think on this.

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Online Shopping for housewarming and weddings in Lebanon and Middle East Where does it stand today?

Why is Lebanese e-commerce so dormant?

The retail sector has evolved drastically over the past decade. Buyers are no longer limited by the physical presence of inventory, nor are they forced to vent into their overheated cars, get stuck in hours of traffic, only to find out that the overcrowded shopping center has run out of their favorite item.

E-commerce has allowed users to purchase anything they would like with the click of a few buttons and a couple of days of delivery time. Lebanon, with its increasing internet and credit card penetration, as well as its tech-savvy and trendy shoppers should be one of the region's first e-commerce adopters! Neverheless, Lebanon still relies very heavy on bricks-and-mortar shopping, while online shopping is only given a second (third, fourth, or fifth) thought! So why has e-commerce in Lebanon and the Middle East lagged behind the rest of the world? Below are the three major reasons why Lebanese e-commerce has been struggling to catch up:

1. Lack of viable payment portals:

The country has two reliably out-dated payment portals that do not integrate with the websites. As such, customers are directed to external links and forced to re-enter their credit card data for every purchase. This is highly impractical and reduces the ease of second purchases.

In addition to the out-dated nature of the payment portals, they command a monopoly on the market and charge exorbitant fees: $ 350- $ 500 initiation fee, 3.5-4.0% transaction fees, as well as $ 35- $ 50 / month "maintenance" costs .

Furthermore, the lack of Paypal and other online payment portals in Lebanon creates an incentive challenge for e-commerce businesses.

"Ease of payment" is ranked as one of the highest conversion factors for e-commerce businesses. Lebanon provides dismal options, and then online businesses struggle to provide dynamic options such as one-click purchasing and Paypal.

2- Lack of practical online shopping:

Most new e-commerce businesses in the Middle East have been set up to cater to the "trendy" and "hip" crowd. They offer flash sales of highly priced designer items, indexing of exclusive local boutique designers, or niche gift items that cater to niche consumers. Furthermore, the "old guard" of e-commerce in Lebanon provide the typical online gift selections flowers, chocolates, teddy bears, and other "one-off" emotional gifts.

With the exception of very few sites, most Lebanese websites have a very basic design with little attention to practicality and detail. Menus pop-up in impractical ways, data entry is challenging, and most products are not searchable.

Examples of these "old-guard" websites are:

Exotica flowers: This site charges high shipping costs, overcharges for its bouquets, and tends to deliver smaller and cheaper bouquets than it promises online (it's happened to me on multiple occasions!). Furthermore, they only deliver flowers! They are one of the highest ranking e-commerce sites in Lebanon at 1.3M globally (www.alexa.com). They also take credit for adopting the online delivery system early, although they have not felt the need to improve due to lack of a sizable competitor.

Buy Lebanese: Colors, fonts, sizes, photos, and boxes are not user-friendly. Neverheless, they rank pretty high on Alexa.com: 2.5M globally. This group takes credit for being one of the early adopters of e-commerce in Lebanon! Hat-tip to their foresight!

961 gifts: not sure about the website name, the design looks basic, but menu items are clear. Their product strategy is broadly based on flowers, perfumes, cosmetics, and brandless accessories – 4.2M global ranking

Examples of the newer "niche consumer" sites are:

Lebelik, Eezmeez, Marka VIP

Some of the newer websites have focused on great design and have achieved relative success in the hip and young markets. Nearheless, away from Marka VIP which is based in Dubai, none have managed to truly achieve a sufficiently large market.

3. Purchasing power is in the expat community

Businesses that focus on the local online purchasing power will struggle in the short term. Hopefully this will change as Lebanon progresses ( hopefully) . However, until then, the buying power for Lebanese e-commerce sites will be coming from Lebanon's expat community seeking to provide gifts to their families and loved ones in Lebanon. This creates a rather challenging market for e-commerce businesses. How do you target your Diaspora? Who is your target consumer? Is the market over-fitted with one-time gifts such as chocolates, flowers, and niche designer items?

How to fill the gap

As such we identified the need for the establishment of a practical well-priced website that provides customers practical and quality options for gifts or personal use. The reasons I believe that such a model will overcome the sector's challenges are:

A- The payment portal technology will inevitably improve, along with the market's trust of online payment

B- The market is arranged with one-off gift items that typically fall under the flowers, chocolates, and traditional gift items. Therefore, competition is minimal

C- The market has seen high quality designer boutiques pop up online, but these only cater to a niche market segmentation. Highlighting the fact that the adoption of online purchases is on the rise

D- There is no website that provides practical useful household gifts with high quality branded items

In summary, there is a gap in well-priced high-quality branded items online in the Middle East and Lebanon. There is a gap in websites that provide quality household items such as Riedel, Nambe, Pip Studio, Bodum, Greenpan, Images D'Orient, Voluspa, as well as many other global brands. Rather than sending flowers, chocolates or highly-priced niche products, the consumer would not want to have an online option for:

A- Housewarming gifts to Lebanon

B- Wedding registries in Lebanon

C- Wedding gifts to Lebanon

D- Lebanese gifts that do not involve cheap chinese products, high-priced niche items, or flowers and chocolates!

Thanks!

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Tips To Help You Plan A Fulfilling Cruise

Cruises are some of the most exciting vacations you can choose to enjoy. They offer unbeatable value because you do not have to think about constant transportation needs from place to place and neither do you have to pay costly airfares to your destination. The cruises give you the chance to enjoy refreshing sea air helping you relax and simply enjoy the warm ocean breezes whenever. With so many ports scattered around the world, you can place a cruise travel to visit areas that you have always wanted to visit.

If you love water and water activities, then cruises will prove to be most rewarding to you. But then to enjoy the most pleasant experience you still need to plan properly for your cruise. When everything is in order from the initial stages, then you are bound to enjoy a fulfilling vacation on a ship.

1. Know the number of people cruising with you

If it is just a few of you, then planning should be easy, but you will need a lot more planning and coordination when you plan to travel with more family members and friends. If you are bringing children along, then you need to make sure that the cruise package has plenty of activities for them too. You can plan for a private kind of cruises or you can choose to pay for cruises that accommodate lots of other people headed the same direction you are. The important thing is to choose what works for you and the people you are tagging along.

2. Choose the best cruise length

Cruise packages differ in length and the vacation time you have available should help you select the length that is most suitable. A cruise can be only a few days or you can choose one that goes for a week and more. A weekend cruise can be a great choice for those with little time to spare. With so many destinations and packages, you should be able to plan a cruise length that you can afford and enjoy to the fullest.

3. Pick the best stateroom

People have different preferences when it comes to cruises and your stateroom choices should be guided by your vacation preferences. For instance, if what you dream of is lounging in a private balcony as you enjoy the gracious tropical views, then a balcony stateroom is the ideal selection. Couples can cruise in a suite or a penthouse to get the most from the cruise vacation. If you are a little pressed on a budget, then you can always settle for an inside stateroom. Some cruise packages can offer you additions such as 24 hour butler for your luxury experience.

4. Consider onboard activities

Even when you are going on a romantic cruise vacation, you will definitely need activities to fill your time on board. Find out what activities you will find on-board and how exciting they will make your cruise. Spa services, wine tasting, bingo, culinary demonstrations, live entertainments and others are some of the most popular on most cruises.

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Crony Capitalism – How Bad Has It Gotten In The US?

We all know the problem of the revolving-door in our political leadership and bureaucracy. Folks are in and out of government, keep their contacts and make a fortune from the known reality: it’s not what you know but whom you know. The problem with all this is exactly what Adam Smith warned us about; the incestuous relationship between government and business. Corporations in the US are large and powerful, and have and hire the best talent, retain and control endless resources – these corporations do not NEED government favors, nor does their executive leadership, they are doing fine.

To secure the most optimum efficiency in our economy, we must keep the free-market as free as possible, when we allow a skew due to political favors or inside information, or allow lobbyists to the run the table, often at the expense of the people all we do is prove the cynics correct that; the game is rigged. Perhaps this is why Donald Trump has promised to; Drain the Swamp. And, he’s human too, I have no doubt he will drain the left-side of the swamp first, but it’s still a good start. The trick is to set a new set of rules, lay down the letter of the law, and move forward.

In Harvard Business Review, December 2013 Issue, there was an interesting article titled; “Unwinding Inequality” and in that article was a quote by Angus Denton; “When people use their success to change the rules in their favor, that success is no longer to be celebrated.”

“Yes,” I say, “Indeed.” But let’s take this argument to a higher level shall we. First, I find it rather hypocritical to read of this in the Harvard Business Review, as most there believe in the concepts of Adam Bellow who wrote the book “In Praise of Nepotism” which might explain why all the Supreme Court Justices went to Ivy Leagues, Harvard or Yale, some both. Worse, look at the academic records of the last 5-presidents of the US, and a darn good many senators, and heads of major bureaucracies, corporations and NGOs.

Second, if we dissect that quote, it talks about “success” and the concept of changing the rules once one, a group or corporation gains in the synergy of their own success. Well, isn’t this really the same challenge with guerrillas or terrorists attacking the status quo, authority and government – if they succeed, they are then in control and then they inevitably seem to use the same so-called tyrannical methods of ruling that their predecessors had before they ousted them – thus, the word “revolution” as it just goes round and round as another group comes along to then unseat their new authority.

Now, one can see a similar process in business and industry. For instance, read;

1. “Rule Makers and Rule Breakers,” by David Garnder
2. “First Break All the Rules,” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
3. “The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business,” by Clayton M. Christensen

Once the company garners market share synergy, and industry status, it moves to change the sector’s associations to lobby to get the rules and regulations changed to its way of doing things blocking future disruptive competitors from coming along to change the industry just as they had to get to where they are today.

The easiest way to do that is through crony-capitalism, campaign contributions, public-private business partnerships, which also leads to selling goods and/or services to the government and secure a free flow of money to further continue their dominance by playing with the political elite – who all went to Ivy League schools. Thus, I find it so fascinating that HBR (Harvard Business Review) had the gall to even publish that article – due to the obvious hypocritical nature of the norm which comes from that elitist institution. Please consider all this and think on it.

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Best Tips to Avoid Squandering Your Inheritance

When you receive an inheritance, it is important to figure out what will you do with that money. If you do not plan properly on how to spend that money, it will slip out of your hand within no time. If you have already got the cash, or you are about to inherit the money, here are some five tips for using it properly.

Don’t Rush Your Decision

People generally do not allow the money for a cooling-off period, after receiving the cash. This is one of the worst mistakes that people usually do. They are always in a hurry of spending the money without thinking twice. You can save the money either in a money market account or savings for at least two months in order to plan your options. You can also put the money into a short-term deposit for saving it, because you have to pay penalty if you withdraw it before time.

Assess Where You Are

If you analyse your present financial situation, you can get an idea about your future move. You can plan to start a college fund for your children, add the money to your retirement savings or keep it as an emergency fund. Make a goal in life, so that you can achieve it with the help of your inheritance.

Be Realistic About Your Inheritance

A sudden chunk of money will you lead to towards a changed lifestyle. The things like a new car or a luxury vacation that you could not afford before will now seem to be very tempting. You have to be careful to control your temptation and save your money for future needs.

Establish Boundaries

It is evident that when you receive an inheritance, many people come with a try to have a share in the money. Bank or financial sales people may call you so that you invest your money in their products. You may also be asked to make a huge donation by any charitable organisation. So, it is very important to set boundaries and prepare yourself for saying no to the people.

Be Proactive

You may need some professional help to figure out how to save your inheritance. It is absolutely fine to hire a financial advisor, but do not make your decision solely as per his guidance. In the end, it will be you who will take the final decision. Do some research and set your goals before taking professional’s help.

Thus, though an inheritance is like a blessing to you, but along with it comes responsibility. Plan properly to make sure that your money lasts for a longer time.

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