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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playing highly competitive video games may lead to aggressive behavior

 Psychology & Psychiatry 
While most research into video games and aggressive behavior has focused on violent games, competitiveness may be the main video game characteristic that influences aggression, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
In a series of experiments in which video games were matched on competitiveness, difficulty, and pace of action, researchers found video game violence alone did not elevate aggressive behavior. However, more competitive games produced greater levels of aggressive behavior than less competitive games, no matter how much violence was in the games, according to research published online in Psychology of Violence. The study was conducted by lead author Paul J.C. Adachi, M.A., a PhD candidate at Brock University in Canada.
In one experiment, Adachi had 42 college students (25 men, 17 women) play one of two video games, "Conan" or "Fuel," for 12 minutes. "Conan" is a violent game in which the main character battles for survival using swords and axes. "Fuel" is a nonviolent racing game. In a pilot study, both games were rated evenly in terms of competitiveness, difficulty and pace of action, but differently in terms of violence. After participants finished playing the game, they were told they were going to take part in a separate food tasting study. Participants had to make up a cup of hot sauce for a "taster" who they were told did not particularly like hot or spicy food. The participants could choose from one of four different hot sauces (from least hot to most hot) for the taster to drink. The authors found that there was no significant difference in the intensity and amount of the hot sauces prepared by the participants who played "Conan" and those who played "Fuel." The authors concluded that, in this study, video game violence alone was not sufficient to elevate aggressive behavior.
In a second experiment, Adachi had 60 college students (32 men, 28 women) play one of the following four video games: "Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe," a violent fighting game rated as highly competitive and very violent; "Left 4 Dead 2," a violent, moderately competitive first-person shooter game in which the main character battles zombies using guns; "Marble Blast Ultra," a nonviolent, noncompetitive game where players control a marble through a series of labyrinth-like mazes as quickly as possible; and "Fuel," the highly competitive, nonviolent racing game from the first study. Afterward, the students completed the same hot sauce tasting test from the first study. Electrocardiograms measured the participants' heart rates before and during video game play.
On average, students who played the highly competitive games, "Fuel" and "Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe," prepared significantly more of a hotter sauce than participants who played "Marble Blast Ultra" and "Left 4 Dead 2," the least competitive games. They also had significantly higher heart rates.
"These findings suggest that the level of competitiveness in video games is an important factor in the relation between video games and aggressive behavior, with highly competitive games leading to greater elevations in aggression than less competitive games," wrote Adachi.
More information: "The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence?" Paul J.C. Adachi, M.A., and Teena Willoughby, PhD, Brock University, Canada; Psychology of Violence, Online First, August 17, 2011.
Provided by American Psychological Association
"Playing highly competitive video games may lead to aggressive behavior." August 29th, 2011.
Comment:If you want to see real violence, try forcing your teenage son to play 'Barbie Horse Adventures' when his mates are due to drop around...
Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek

Study links bilingual babies' vocabulary to early brain differentiation

 Psychology & Psychiatry 
Bilingual babies' vocabulary linked to early brain differentiation
This is one of the babies in the experiment wearing an EEG cap that measures brain activity. Credit: University of Texas at San Antonio
Babies and children are whizzes at learning a second language, but that ability begins to fade as early as their first birthdays.
Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences are investigating the brain mechanisms that contribute to infants' prowess at learning languages, with the hope that the findings could boost bilingualism in adults, too.
In a new study, the researchers report that the brains of babies raised in bilingual households show a longer period of being flexible to different languages, especially if they hear a lot of language at home. The researchers also show that the relative amount of each language – English and Spanish – babies were exposed to affected their vocabulary as toddlers.
The study, published online Aug. 17 in Journal of Phonetics, is the first to measure brain activity throughout infancy and relate it to language exposure and speaking ability.
"The bilingual brain is fascinating because it reflects humans' abilities for flexible thinking – bilingual babies learn that objects and events in the world have two names, and flexibly switch between these labels, giving the brain lots of good exercise," said Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study and co-director of the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
Kuhl's previous studies show that between 8 and 10 months of age, monolingual babies become increasingly able to distinguish speech sounds of their native language, while at the same time their ability to distinguish sounds from a foreign language declines. For instance, between 8 and 10 months of age babies exposed to English become better at detecting the difference between "r" and "l" sounds, which are prevalent in the English language. This is the same age when Japanese babies, who are not exposed to as many "r" and "l" sounds, decline in their ability to detect them.
"The infant brain tunes itself to the sounds of the language during this sensitive period in development, and we're trying to figure out exactly how that happens," said Kuhl, who's also a UW professor of speech and hearing sciences. "But almost nothing is known about how bilingual babies do this for two languages. Knowing how experience sculpts the brain will tell us something that goes way beyond language development."
In the current study, babies from monolingual (English or Spanish) and bilingual (English and Spanish) households wore caps fitted with electrodes to measure brain activity with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, a device that records the flow of energy in the brain. Babies heard background speech sounds in one language, and then a contrasting sound in the other language occurred occasionally.
For example, a sound that is used in both Spanish and English served as the background sound and then a Spanish "da" and an English "ta" each randomly occurred 10 percent of the time as contrasting sounds. If the brain can detect the contrasting sound, there is a signature pattern called the mismatch response that can be detected with the EEG.
Monolingual babies at 6-9 months of age showed the mismatch response for both the Spanish and English contrasting sounds, indicating that they noticed the change in both languages. But at 10-12 months of age, monolingual babies only responded to the English contrasting sound.
Bilingual babies showed a different pattern. At 6-9 months, bilinguals did not show the mismatch response, but at 10-12 months they showed the mismatch for both sounds.
This suggests that the bilingual brain remains flexible to languages for a longer period of time, possibly because bilingual infants are exposed to a greater variety of speech sounds at home.
This difference in development suggests that the bilingual babies "may have a different timetable for neurally committing to a language" compared with monolingual babies, said Adrian Garcia-Sierra, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
"When the brain is exposed to two languages rather than only one, the most adaptive response is to stay open longer before showing the perceptual narrowing that monolingual infants typically show at the end of the first year of life," Garcia-Sierra said.
To see if those brain responses at 10-12 months related to later speaking skills, the researchers followed up with the parents when the babies were about 15 months old to see how many Spanish and English words the children knew. They found that early brain responses to language could predict infants' word learning ability. That is, the size of the bilingual children's vocabulary was associated with the strength of their brain responses in discriminating languages at 10-12 months of age.
Early exposure to language also made a difference: Bilingual babies exposed to more English at home, including from their parents, other relatives and family friends, subsequently produced more words in English. The pattern held true for Spanish.
The researchers say the best way for children to learn a second language is through social interactions and daily exposure to the language.
"Learning a second language is like learning a sport," said Garcia-Sierra, who is raising his two young children as bilingual. "The more you play the better you get."
Provided by University of Washington
"Study links bilingual babies' vocabulary to early brain differentiation." August 29th, 2011.
Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek

Laughter has positive impact on vascular function

Watching a funny movie or sitcom that produces laughter has a positive effect on vascular function and is opposite to that observed after watching a movie that causes mental stress according to research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
"The idea to study positive emotions, such as laughter came about after studies had shown that mental stress caused blood vessels to constrict", says Dr. Michael Miller, Professor of Medicine and lead investigator.
In their initial study more than 10 years ago, 300 men and women with or without heart disease completed a questionnaire related to situational-humor. For example, if you went to a party and saw someone wearing the same clothes as you, on a scale of 1 to 5 (ranging from not funny at all to very funny) how would you respond? The volunteers with heart disease were 40% less likely to find these situations funny. Even though this study was unable to prove whether a humorous response to situations in daily life may protect against heart disease, (or the lack of such a response is more common after a heart attack), it led to the next series of studies testing whether laughter may directly affect vessel function.
In this manner, volunteers watched segments of a funny movie, such as "There's something about Mary" on one day and on another day watched the opening segment of the stressful movie "Saving Private Ryan". Each volunteer served as his or her own control.
When study volunteers watched the stressful movie, their blood vessel lining developed a potentially unhealthy response called vasoconstriction, reducing blood flow. This finding confirms previous studies, which suggested there was a link between mental stress and the narrowing of blood vessels. However, after watching the funny movie, the blood vessel lining expanded.
Overall, more than 300 measurements were made with a 30-50% difference in blood vessel diameter between the laughter (blood vessel expansion) and mental stress (blood vessel constriction) phases. "The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise or statin use" says Dr. Miller.
The endothelium has a powerful effect on blood vessel tone and regulates blood flow, adjusts coagulation and blood thickening, and produces chemicals in response to injury and inflammation. It also plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
"The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, so it is very possible that laughing on a regular basis may be useful to incorporate as part of an overall healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease. In other words, eat your veggies, exercise and get a good belly laugh every day" says Dr. Miller.
Although the results of the brachial artery blood flow measurements appear to make a connection between laughter and vascular health, more studies are needed. "What we really need is a randomized clinical trial to determine whether positive emotions reduce cardiovascular events above and beyond today's standard of care therapies", concluded Dr. Miller.
Provided by European Society of Cardiology
"Laughter has positive impact on vascular function." August 29th, 2011.
"if you went to a party and saw someone wearing the same clothes as you"
Overalls with no shirt and a straw hat...everyone!!...never been to a barn dance?
But its different for women ~ men are only annoyed if someone is caught wearing your clothes, particularly if they are the clothes you arrived in...
Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek

UCLA memory fitness program improves memory abilities of oldest adults

 Psychology & Psychiatry 
Who hasn't forgotten someone's name, misplaced their glasses or walked into a room and not remembered why they entered? Normal age-related memory decline affects more than half of all seniors, and those over 80 are the most vulnerable.
A new UCLA study has found that a memory fitness program offered to older adults in their senior living communities helped improve their ability to recognize and recall words, benefitting their verbal learning and retention.
Published in the September issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the study also found that as a result of the program, seniors' self-perceived memory improved, an important factor in maintaining a positive outlook on life while aging. The average age of participants in the study was 81.
"It was exciting to see how much older adults participate in a memory fitness program and improve," said study author Dr. Karen Miller, an associate clinical professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "The study demonstrates that it's never too late to learn new skills to enhance one's life."
As people get older, it takes longer to learn new information and to retrieve it, including names, dates, the location of household objects, meetings, and appointments, according to the study's senior author, Dr. Gary Small, UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
The six-week, 12-session program differed from other cognitive training courses in that it offered not only memory-training techniques but also education about lifestyle factors that may impact memory ability and overall brain health. Participants learned stress-reduction exercises and were instructed about the importance of daily physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants.
"Lifestyle and environmental factors may play a role in cognitive decline, so our program included education about healthy living in addition to memory-training techniques," said Small, who is also a professor at the Semel Institute.
Although the UCLA team has offered similar programs in other settings, such as at senior centers and on the UCLA campus, this is one of the first times that such a comprehensive memory program has been designed for and offered in a retirement living community. This made participation easier, since seniors in most cases simply walked down a hallway rather than having to drive to a class off-site.
The study involved 115 seniors at two full-service retirement communities in Maryland that are part of Erickson Living, a leading continuing-care community developer and manager. Participants lived in the "independent" level of care in these communities and had memory complaints, but they had not been diagnosed with dementia and were not taking any medications for memory loss.
Half the participants were enrolled in the memory fitness program and received memory testing before beginning the program and after completion to assess improvement. The other half were placed on a waiting list for the program and acted as study controls.
Miller and Small developed a scripted curriculum for trainers who led the classes, and they provided a companion workbook for participants. Trainers in the study were employees of the Erickson Living retirement communities and had backgrounds in academia and health-related fields.
The one-hour education sessions focused on memory enhancement. They included explanations of how memory works; offered quick strategies for remembering names, faces and numbers; and provided basic memory tools such as linking ideas and creating visual images. Trainers also discussed the role of a healthy lifestyle in protecting and maintaining memory.
Among the older adults attending the classes, the researchers found marked improvement in verbal memory, as well as improvements in how they perceived their memory, compared with the controls.
"We found that the memory fitness program was readily accepted by residents in our senior living communities and that it directly benefited many of them," said John Parrish, Ph.D., executive director of the Erickson Foundation. "In fact, we are now offering the program in nearly all of our 16 communities across the nation."
"The study suggests that the memory fitness program may be a cost-effective means of addressing some of the memory-related concerns of healthy older adults," Parrish added.
Provided by University of California - Los Angeles
"UCLA memory fitness program improves memory abilities of oldest adults." August 29th, 2011.
Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek


It’s the weekend and you cannot wait to get out of the city! The only obstacle between you and the freedom of the road is that you do not have a car! There is the option to rent or you could also try out the new hip option Zipcar.
Zipcar is another form of rental car which has quickly distinguished itself from the competition. Its traveling via word of mouth fast and gaining volumes of customers who appreciate the ease and broad availability of the service. Want to know how this company achieved such success? Find out here!
U.S. News Money leaks Zipcar’s formula for success…
Keep it simple. This is a self-service business that requires no face-to-face interaction, so it’s got to be hassle free. To join, customers pay a $25 application fee and choose between an hourly plan and a prepaid driving plan. Within a few days, a Zipcard (which serves as a car door key) arrives in the mail, along with a three-step instruction book explaining how to activate the card, reserve a car, and unlock it.
Invest in technology. It’s often easier to buy technology than to make it. But Zipcar chose the tough road, says chief executive Scott Griffith, because “nothing out there came close to what we wanted to deliver.” The result is a unique system that uses radio frequency identification to lock and unlock the cars, as well as wireless technology to monitor such information as miles driven, battery voltage, and fuel level.
Go where your competition won’t. Zipcar is courting college students, a population that car rental companies have largely ignored because of liability concerns. The idea, says Griffith, is to gain early adopters who will continue using the service when they graduate

Singing the Glories

Lord Rama“Shri Rama personally gave liberation to Shabari, the vulture Jatayu and those who performed wonderful devotional service, whereas the holy name has liberated countless wretches; a fact well-established in the Vedas, which sing of its glories.” (Dohavali, 32)
sabarī gīdha susevakani sugati dīnhi raghunātha | 
nāma udhāre amita khala beda bidita guna gātha ||
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, have many branches of information, fruits of knowledge which illuminate the path to success in various ventures. Look in one direction and you’ll find information on how to maintain a successful business, what it takes to earn a profit and produce a steady output of the good or service that you are trying to sell. Look in another direction and you’ll find information on how to stand up to enemies, how to remain firm in the face of fear and trepidation. Any type of enjoyment you covet is covered by this wonderful set of guidelines for mankind, information which emanates from the original person. Despite the comprehensiveness of the information contained, at their core the Vedas are a collection of songs. These songs don’t speak of pain, misery, or scorned love. Rather, they simply glorify one person, whose good qualities can never be fully enumerated. This still doesn’t stop the Vedas from trying. In this effort the key ingredient is the holy name, a sound vibration which has liberated countless individuals, including some of the worst people.
train tracksHow is liberation secured? Moreover, what is the difference between saving someone who is a wretch and someone who is pious? Liberation in the spiritual sense refers to the future destination, the place someone is going. Think of boarding a train headed for a specific place. The passenger being kind, envious, or foolish has no bearing on whether or not the train will reach its target. In this respect, no one is above anyone else; all the passengers are in the same boat. Where there is a difference, however, is with discrimination, the ability to think critically and decide which train to board.
A wise person may know a lot about the nature around them and how to manipulate things in their favor, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they will know where to go in life. For instance, I may know what it takes to succeed in politics. I can look at the current political landscape and figure out what it takes to get elected to office. This pursuit requires creating a contrast between myself and the opposing politicians. If the present conditions in society are favorable, the best course of action is to resist change. Double down on the current policies and say that I will do them even better. If things aren’t going so well at the moment, the best choice is to offer change, a different approach. I will say that I’ll do things differently and that I won’t repeat the same mistakes.
electionsOne who can figure out how to continually get elected to office using these techniques certainly will be considered intelligent, but what about actually governing? What if the intelligent campaigner doesn’t know where to steer the country, where to direct the citizens that kindly offered their votes? In this sense the intelligence used to gain personal favor really has no lasting benefit. Any person can find their own temporary happiness, for in many instances just the absence of distress brings a positive condition. If the sun is shining brightly on a particular day, scorching its rays upon the ground, a way to gain relief is to find shade. But does this represent a permanent positive condition? If we sit all day in a tiny corner that is shaded, will we be happy?
The wretched person is one who flaunts the laws of society and pays no concern for even their own temporary wellbeing. Thus they are considered worse off, for they don’t even have the ability to assess whether or not a particular path will lead them to the proper destination. The intelligent person finding temporary comfort can at least make the proper assessment if they are presented with enough information. The wretched person mired in ignorance will not accept any sound advice offered to them, no matter how sincere the person who is offering it is.
Goswami TulsidasThe Vedas, which emanate from the wisest person, whose home is the proper destination for every single soul, are relevant to every type of person. This means that even the wretches can be sent to the sugati, or supreme destination, provided they take hold of one particular aspect of spirituality. When this aspect is ignored or wholly rejected, then the requirements for finding the ultimate destination are much stricter. In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas nicely illustrates the difference.
In the first section of this verse, the Vaishnava poet mentions Shabari, the vulture Jatayu and others who performed wonderful devotional service. They each found the supreme destination directly through the personal influence of Shri Raghunatha, who is also known as Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. The Supreme Lord, the person from whom the Vedas emanate, has a spiritual form. Though He is described as formless and attributeless, these descriptions are meant to show that He is never limited in His abilities in the way human beings are. To give a glimpse into His spiritual bliss and the completeness of His qualities, He appears on earth every now and then in wonderful forms. His appearances are not like those of the spirit souls, who assume material elements and then discard them through the laws of karma.Reincarnation only acts upon us living entities looking for the right train in life. For the Supreme Lord, He is never beholden to karma, for He is the conductor of every train operating within the material existence.
Shabari greeting Rama and LakshmanaAs Lord Rama, God shows us His sweet smiling face and His dedication to dharma, or piety. The main benefit of seeing God is having the ability to serve Him. Service is what takes place in the supreme destination anyway, so those who are given the opportunity to follow the same path in their present home are thus granted tremendous favor. This opportunity is not exclusive to the human beings or even the most intelligent class of men. Shabari was a female sage who lived a life of austerity and penance at the guidance of her spiritual teachers. While Rama was roaming the forests, He and His younger brother Lakshmana met her and ate the kind berries she offered. As a reward for her austerities, Shabari got to meet Rama, who subsequently granted her liberation.
“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord KrishnaBhagavad-gita, 8.21)
Final liberation, or mukti, is the release from the cycle of birth and death. This comes about by finding a home that never gets destroyed. If the area we reside in never goes away, the body types we assume also never change when we live there. In the material world, everything must change, as the land itself is ultimately destroyed after many millions of years. In the supreme destination, however, there is never destruction. This land is described as unmanifest because it is beyond the perception of the senses, just as the Supreme Lord’s spiritual form is described asadhokshaja, or incapable of being observed by ordinary sense perception.
Lakshmana and Rama with JatayuThe vulture Jatayu was given liberation when he died in Rama’s arms. Rama’s wife Sita Devi was taken against her will to the island of Lanka by a Rakshasa king named Ravana. Ravana perpetrated the iniquitous deed when Rama was not by Sita’s side to defend her. Almost getting away without any opposition, Ravana’s journey home was abruptly interrupted by Jatayu, who was a friend of Rama’s father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Though he tried his best to stop Ravana, Jatayu ultimately was mortally wounded in the battle. While taking his last breaths he met Rama and died in His arms. Seeing the Lord’s divine vision before him as he breathed his last, the vulture was given the reward of ascension to the supreme destination.
Others were similarly awarded liberation when they performed wonderful devotional service, susevakani, for the Lord when He roamed the earth. While it may seem like personal association with God is the only way to break free from the cycle of birth and death, it is not. The holy name has actually liberated countless wretches throughout history. This fact is well established in the Vedas, which constantly sing of the glories of the holy name. Rama’s name is not different from Him; we only see a difference because we don’t know any better. Just as we say that the sun is not in the sky on a particular day, while in fact it hasn’t gone anywhere, we perceive that the Lord has different aspects, such as His name, form, qualities and activities, when in fact none of these things are different from one another.
The holy name is especially potent because it can be invoked by any person. There are many mantras in the Vedas aimed at furthering specific purposes. If you want to bless your home with auspiciousness, you call a priest over and he performs a special sacrifice. During this ceremony, he must recite the specific mantras perfectly in order to get the intended effect. Just as someone is sworn into an office by reciting an oath, the sacrifice matures once the required words are uttered perfectly by a qualified priest.
Lord RamaWith the holy name the purpose is to increase attachment and love for God. Therefore it doesn’t even need to be recited in a formal setting or by someone who is trained in the process. Rather, simply by saying sacred formulas like, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the mind can gradually be cleansed of all impurities. The worst wretch can be cured of his mental ailments, his sinful behavior and his tendency towards activities driven by ignorance. Most important of all, the sinner is placed on the train headed for the supreme destination.
This train doesn’t require any entry fee except love for God. Thus the wise and the unintelligent are both allowed entry, provided they have purified themselves through devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. While those who directly offered their service to Rama were blessed with the supreme destination, this doesn’t mean that the service and its benefits are kept from those who don’t have the luxury of meeting Rama face to face. The holy name facilitates the exchange of blissful emotions with the Supreme Spirit for any person, regardless of their particular spiritual tradition. Real religion is meant to bring one to the platform of loving God, so there can be no question of sectarian boundaries when dealing with divine love, which is best practiced through chanting the holy names.
The Vedas continue to sing the never-ending song, which is made up of the holy names and its glories. There are countless names for the Lord, with each one addressing a specific feature or pastime. Just reciting the name “Rama” over and over again brings the kind husband of Sita into our consciousness. As Rama is glorious, so are those who are intimately associated with him, the liberated souls who never give up His service. The holy name brings with it Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. With this spiritual family residing always in your consciousness, how can any destination except the supreme abode be in your future?


It would be nice to retire early, but it’s also important to have enough to survive on assuming you live to a ripe old age. So when is the best time to quit the job and enjoy life? This article explains some pros and cons of different times to retire so that you can make the best possible decision for you! recommends…

Right Time to Retire

Figuring out the right time to retire is not an easy decision.  We could make detailed retirement plans, and work those plans hard for 20 years, only to fall victim to health problems that might cut our retirement years short.  We’re going to take a more upbeat approach to retiring, and start out with a very simple assumption:  We’re all going to live a full and rewarding life in retirement.  So let’s figure out when is the right time to retire.

Retiring Early

One of the ways we can try to place boundaries around the early, on-time, and late retirement timeframes is by using Social Security retirement benefits as a guideline.  With that guide in mind, we’re going to define early retirement as retiring before age 62.  For many of us that will mean retiring from work between the ages of 55 and 62.

Pros and Cons of Retiring Early

The biggest benefit of retiring early is that it provides you with more time to pursue hobbies, and enjoy the “fruits of your labor.”  Even at age 55, many of us will have worked hard for 30 or more years.  It’s nice to be able to relax and enjoy ourselves after spending all of that stressful time in the workplace.
Unfortunately there is a big downside of retiring early.  If you go this route, then you need to consider the following:
  • Retiring early means having less time to accumulate retirement benefits.  You will need to save more each year to make this a reality.

  • Income will have to last longer if you retire early.  For example if you retire at age 55 instead of 65, then you’ll need ten more years of retirement income.

  • Pensions and Social Security may not be available right away.  Even if you have a pension plan at work, your employer may restrict or reduce benefits before what they consider “normal” retirement age.  In addition, Social Security benefits will not be available until age 62, and if you start collecting benefits right away, then they will also be reduced.

  • Finally, if you retire early, then you’ll need to find, and pay for, health insurance until you qualify for Medicare.

The challenge with retiring early is you need more money in your retirement accounts, and a shorter timeframe to accumulate that money.

Pros and Cons of Retiring “On Time”

We’re going to define “normal” or “traditional” retirement age as those years between age 62 and 67.  In general, these are the years when you will qualify for early or full Social Security benefits.  Most employees also seem to use the age of 62 as a guide for normal retirement age.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of retiring on time is that it allows you plenty of time to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling retirement.  Other benefits of retiring on time include:
  • More time to create a substantial retirement fund.  Putting money aside for retirement will be less painful as you watch the power of compounding interest grow your funds.

  • Paying for the expense of health care insurance is no longer a concern as you’ll qualify for Medicare right away.

  • By retiring in a more traditional timeframe, you’ll usually qualify for un-reduced pension benefits and Social Security.

On the downside, retiring on time means you’ll have less time to pursue a potentially rewarding second career.

Retiring Later in Life

For many of us, remaining in the workplace past age 67 is a choice we will make because we simply enjoy what we do for a living.  We will view maintaining a productive role in our companies and the daily interactions with our co-workers as a benefit that’s hard to resist.
The biggest advantage of retiring late in life is that we have more time to save for retirement, coupled with fewer years over which we need retirement income.  For example, if you decide to retire at age 70 instead of age 65, then you have five more years to save money, and five fewer years that you’re using retirement income.
Other benefits of retiring late include:
  • Immediately qualifying for Medicare – although you might want to consider signing up at age 65.

  • By retiring late, you’ll also continue to build up your pension plan, and in some cases qualify for higher Social Security benefits.

The down side of retiring later in life is simply that you’ll have fewer retirement years.  You’ll want to take into consideration “quality of life” issues if you decide to go this route.
Get more retirement information at!

Real Entrepreneurs Exit If Their Startup Goes Public

Bill and Melinda Gates during their visit to t...

Image via Wikipedia
Many entrepreneurs still dream of “going public,” making billions of dollars, and playing with the big boys. They don’t realize that this option would likely be their worst nightmare, since it costs millions for the road show, usually dilutes your equity to a tiny fraction, and takes away all your entrepreneurial control.
Even though the Initial Public Offering (IPO) alternative for a successful startup seems to be coming back into vogue, it is still extremely rare. Only about a dozen U.S. companies made the IPO transition in 2009, out of thousands of startups. Even in most of these cases, the original startup founders were pushed out, or heavily supplemented, with “experienced” executives.
Sure, there are examples of founders who have survived and prospered, such as Bill Gates and Larry Page, but these guys are the exception, not the rule. More importantly, you should never even start down this path unless you can really use a large infusion of $150 million in cash or more, and have $3 million in the bank and up to 18 months to dedicate to the effort.
I recently reviewed a good summary of the advantages and disadvantages of an IPO exit strategy for startups in a widely-used textbook “Entrepreneurship,” by Robert Hisrich, Michael Peters, and Dean Shepherd. Their synopsis of the key risks should make you look hard for an alternate exit strategy:
  • Increased risk of liability. With Sarbanes-Oxley, the CEO, CFO, and the Board of Directors are all assumed to have full knowledge of all government standards of compliance and reporting. All are charged with personal responsibility and liability for reporting and public disclosures, backed by huge penalties, fines, and prison terms.
  • Higher administrative expenses. Most estimates of the expense for compliance and accounting procedures of a public company are at least double, or maybe quadruple those of a private company. Expensive new IT systems, consultants, and investment bankers are usually required.
  • Increasing government regulations. Just to keep track of new regulations and changing compliance requirements, many companies have added a new bureaucratic tier and a chief compliance officer, as well as more expensive lawyers. Annual reporting and audit requirements continue to increase.
  • Disclosures of information. With public shareholders and high liability risks, every public company must disclose and answer to shareholders and the press on all material information regarding the company, its operations, and its management.
  • Pressures to maintain growth pattern. Opening your company to the public will change the way you do business, from reinvesting returns for the future, to maximizing growth each quarter. The pressures to maintain growth patterns and meet the expectations of the investment community are typically real and intense.
  • Loss of control. When shares are sold to the public, the company starts to lose control of decision making, which can even result in the venture being acquired through an unfriendly tender offer. With the more popular Merger & Acquisition (M&A) exit strategy, the control stays with the new entity.
On the other hand, if you are looking for major financing to expand manufacturing capacity, or need major marketing efforts to build your brand, an IPO may be the only way to get you there. Of course, IPO funds can be used to finance a big development effort, but the delay in payback will likely cause a quick stock price decline, which invokes the challenge of continuous growth mentioned above.
In any case, an entrepreneur in one who likes to build new products or services, and works ON their company, while a public business executive works IN the company. Once the new startup is “proven,” most entrepreneurs are happy to exit, before being forced out or burned out, to start again with a new and even bigger vision. Don’t be driven by greed to the wrong alternative.