Beginning Retirement in Vermont

August 13, 2019  
Filed under Aging Parents, Feature Stories, Mature Matters

According to recent studies, Vermont is one of the best states for retirement. A beautiful state with close-knit communities, there’s no doubt that this state offers a peaceful atmosphere.

But are you ready to retire?

If you’re ready to begin considering retirement, there are many different things you’ll have to begin looking into. The cost of health care services, Social Security benefits, Medicare eligibility, and where to retire are all huge factors when making this decision.

Typically, people have looked at 65 years old as the ideal age to begin retirement. While in most cases this can kickstart your Medicare eligibility, it can also kick Social Security into high gear.

Thus, beginning one’s retirement journey.

Beginning Retirement in Vermont

The decision on when to take advantage of your retirement options is a big one to make.

There are several different options to investigate when making this choice, and you’ll want to really take your time in making these decisions carefully. These decisions could very well have a direct impact on your monthly benefit amount that you’ll receive.

Let’s look below at the three withdrawal options for these benefits:

Collecting Benefits Full Retirement Age

At this age, an individual may receive a full allowance of their monthly Social Security benefits. This age is determined by your birth year.

Full retirement age is typically considered 65 years old for anyone that was born before 1937. Anyone who was born after 1938 could have a full retirement age of 67 years old.

Collecting benefits Early Retirement Age

Beginning at the age of 62 years old, you may begin to collect your early retirement benefits.

However, by choosing to begin receiving benefits earlier than your full retirement age, your monthly benefits received will be lower every month.

You May be Eligible for Delaying your Retirement

By going with this option, you’re choosing to delay your retirement benefits. One of the benefits of going this route is that you could potentially inflate your monthly benefits if you’re eligible.

These increases do end at 70 years old.

With several different options available to you for a retirement plan, how do you choose the best retirement options suited for you? Retirement is about relaxation, not about worry.

Be sure to go with the plan that will allow you to pay any and all expenses that may arise, while still feeling comfortable enough to enjoy these glory days.

 Affordable Healthcare During Retirement

An important thing to keep in mind when exploring your retirement options is the healthcare. Will you still be able to afford healthcare services needed?

Healthcare costs can add up quite quickly and while Medicare may help with many of your healthcare costs, it doesn’t always cover everything you may need it to.

Medicare supplement plans can be incredibly beneficial in picking up those extra costs that may not have been fully anticipated.

The best thing retirees can do is to create a plan for savings and stick with it. By saving funds for retirement early in life, you’ll have a much greater chance at living comfortable in retirement.

Social Security & Retirement

Social Security is a financial safeguard for retirees. The program was established in 1935 and is based on earnings that employees make and contribute into the system.

Throughout the course of your employment, you’ll pay into Social Security, so that you’ll be able to receive those benefits later in life when you are ready to retire.

You can sign up to start the application process for Social Security benefits by:

  • Going online to SocialSecurity.gov and applying
  • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213
  • Applying in-person at your local Social Security office

Medicare & Retirement

Medicare coverage while retired is full of benefits. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) may help cover a lot of medical services and procedures while you’re retired but may not cover everything. You will be faced with plenty of out of pockets costs.

Prescription drug coverage and supplement plans can help assist with those copayments, deductibles, medication costs, and any coinsurances to help ease a bit of financial burden associated with not working anymore.

You can sign up to join Medicare by:

  • Going online to SS and apply
  • Calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213
  • Applying in-person at your local Social Security office

Retiring in Vermont

With your retirement plans now moving forward, you’ll have a clearer picture of what to expect with retirement-related costs. Medicare coverage, Social Security benefits, rising healthcare costs, and choosing a location in which you love.

Are you ready for retirement in Vermont that are filled with lots of maple syrup, cheddar cheese, and plenty of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?

Tech Items Every Savvy Baby Boomer Needs

July 31, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

Lisa Cini

 

By Lisa M Cini

 

As you get older, daily tasks can become increasingly difficult. There are many gadgets on the market that can make life easier for baby boomers. The following are a few interesting gadgets you may want to have to make your daily life a bit easier.

 

Have a Security System Installed

Being home alone can be scary for many older people. Even if their spouse lives with them, there will be times when they will be at their house completely alone. Having a security system installed can help give you peace of mind that you are as safe as you can be at all times. The system will ensure that no one gets into your house when you are away from home and provides you with an easy way to get emergency assistance if you need it, without even having to dial a phone.

 

Have a Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Installed

There are many older individuals who are living on a fixed income. They need to save money wherever they can and reducing electricity costs can be a great way to save. A Wi-Fi smart thermostat may be the best way for you to easily decrease your heating and cooling costs right away. Once the thermostat is installed, you can lower or raise the temperature on the thermostat to a cost-effective degree. Twenty to 30 minutes before you come home, you can go to an app on your phone to set the thermostat to a temperature that you feel is more comfortable. This means that the house will be at a comfortable temperature by the time you arrive, but you will not have to pay to maintain that temperature at all times.

 

Wear a Smart Wearable Device

A smart wearable device allows you to track your sleep cycles, heart rate, and the steps you take each day. It can also help you to know how many calories you are burning throughout the day. Smart wearable devices connect wirelessly to your cell phone so that you can look at the results on a larger screen and track the data for an extended period of time. This can be great information to have when you go to see your doctors because you will have tracked data you can show them.

 

Add Voice-Controlled Devices to Your Home

There are many times when it can be difficult to do things in your home simply because they require you to read very small print. Instead, you can have voice-controlled devices in place that will make it easier for you to do the things you want to do. There are now televisions that can be voice controlled, so you can find any programming you want to watch and even change the volume with your voice alone. There are also devices that you can use to research a topic that interests you, listen to your favorite music, or even have a recipe read to you.

 

Trying new gadgets can seem overwhelming or scary to many older people. It is important to realize that most devices that are on the market are designed to be easy to use and do not take long to master. This is because the manufacturers know that anything too complicated will not be popular with elderly individuals. These gadgets can help you live a more fulfilling, comfortable life for as long as possible.

 

 

Seniors’ Health Faces Risks From Vulnerable Technology

July 25, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

 

By: Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac.com

 

People worry about smart devices like Alexa, Google Home and connected televisions listening to everything they do. But seniors who rely on mobile personal emergency response devices (mPERS), like the buttons that can be pressed to call for help in the event of a fall or another medical emergency, could truly be at risk for hackers listening-in on their daily lives.

 

A security flaw in the design of some devices has security experts recommending they be recalled because they can expose real-time locations and let anyone remotely listen in by activating the built-in microphone. The Chinese-manufactured white-label location tracker was rebranded and sold by more than a dozen companies — including Pebbell by HoIP Telecom, OwnFone Footprint and SureSafeGo – according to researchers at Fidus Information Security.

 

While most people have smart phones with them at all times these days, they are not always the best option for reaching help if an emergency does occur. mPERS devices are not only to detect a fall they go beyond the capabilities of a cell phone and are able to auto-dial family or a response team for help if a fall occurs. The battery life of mPERS devices is far superior to smart phones, lasting up to 30 days in sleep mode, and most devices feature an SOS button that can easily be pressed in an emergency without the need to focus on dialing numbers.

 

Beyond the features of the mPERS device, seniors, caregivers and family members comparing these devices need to also consider the technology in the device and the platform on which the device operates. Research any previous recalls, security breaches, find out how often the software will be updated and if the hardware will be replaced if it becomes obsolete. These steps will help ensure safety and peace of mind at all times.

 

Miracle-Minded Empowerment: A Simple Guide to Getting Out of Your Own Way

July 25, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

by John J. Murphy

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you feel like you’re in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right people? Almost seems miraculous, doesn’t it?

Well, guess what? You’re having that experience right now. Right where you are. Reading this article. With me. And this is no bizarre coincidence or synchronicity. It is meant to be.

How do I know this? Because it’s happening. It’s happening now and it’s happening all the time, every minute of every day. We are always right where we are supposed to be – in the eternal now, the only time that ever matters. This is the first step toward true empowerment and ultimately, enlightenment: Knowing where you are, and knowing you are here for a reason. In other words, being present.

If this sounds a bit heavy or “out there,” relax and take a deep breath. It gets deeper.

According to many great spiritual teachers, past and present, we are always reaping what we are sowing. Judgement Day is not a future phenomenon. It’s on-going. Better known today as the “law of attraction,” like energy attracts like energy. We get what we give. What goes around comes around. And yes, misery loves company. Joy does too.

So, imagine this. You are about to give a keynote speech at a big event or take an important exam in school. How do you feel? What “vibe” are you putting out? Are you anxious and afraid? Or are you poised and calm, like an experienced quarterback under great pressure? What signal are you sending the universe – including the people around you?

Here’s the key. If you’re stressing out, it’s because you aren’t present. Your mind is thinking about all the things that might go wrong. What if I screw up? What if I say something stupid? What if I flunk? What if I embarrass myself? What if people laugh at me, or ridicule me? What if I lose? It’s happened before. I’ve made mistakes. It could happen again. Whoa boy!

Projections of the mind (typically based on the past) trigger reactions in the body (e.g. the release of stress hormones) and the body emits – through the heart center – an energetic frequency. This frequency can “light up the room” or suck the life out of it. It’s all about energy. Think of this like radio signals. You have the power to change channels. You can tune into dark, depressing, attack thoughts or you can dial into positive, healthy, healing thoughts. You hold the dial. And the thoughts you think influence the vibration you send from the heart.

The HeartMath Institute calls this vibration heart coherence. They even offer a software with a sensing device that “reads” your heart coherence, which changes depending on what you are thinking and how you are breathing. Change your thoughts and control your breathing and you change your energetic signal. This is very similar to the mood shift people often experience when they listen to soothing music. Again, it’s about energy and vibration.

You can change your heart coherence using meditation and deep breathing techniques – coupled with positive thinking. One technique, developed by the HeartMath Institute, is called the Quick Coherence Technique. This meditation practice involves deep, heart-focused breathing coupled with thoughts of gratitude and appreciation. It is very simple and something you can do anywhere. I use it throughout the day.

Now imagine that instead of giving a big speech or shooting a game-winning free-throw, your alarm clock goes off in the morning. It’s a new day. The day is uncertain, just like the speech or free-throw, but you know you get to choose how you feel. You govern your heart coherence. What will It be? Will it be one of faith or fear? Enthusiasm or anxiety? Eagerness or stress?

Now you might ask, what difference does this really make? How can someone’s heart coherence influence anything else in the world? Is there any evidence of this?

The answer is yes. There are some very interesting and compelling scientific experiments on this topic, including studies from the HeartMath Institute. Gregg Braden, a world-renowned author and scientist, references several experiments that show how our thinking and emotions influence our DNA, and our DNA influences light particles (i.e. the “stuff” the universe is made of). Put simply, we affect the world around us by how we feel. We are all putting out signals that attract similar frequencies back to us. We are reaping what we are sowing – energetically.

So, miracle-minded empowerment begins with awareness. We pay attention to how we feel – in the now. We mind our minds. We pay attention to what we pay attention to. We choose positive things to think about and we let go of any emotional baggage weighing us down. We experience world peace through inner peace and forgiveness. We recognize that we are always right where we are supposed to be, here and now, with the people we are supposed to be with. No regrets. No grievances. No shame. No guilt. No grief. No fear. Everything is in perfect harmony and balance. We let go and we let flow!

So You’re Not The Boss? Here’s How You Can Still Be A Leader

July 23, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories, Money

Are leaders born or are they developed? It’s a subject that’s long been debated.

 

And in the workplace, can an employee who holds no supervisory job title be an effective leader — before being entrusted with managing people?

 

Grant Parr, a mental sports performance coach, says yes — and adds that it’s almost mandatory if someone hopes to be ready as a leader when promoted to a bigger role in an organization.

 

“Leadership is a choice,” says Parr (www.gameperformance.com), author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. “It’s not a title, position, or rank. You don’t have to be a department head, manager or CEO to be a leader.”

 

“Leadership is a group of characteristics, and you can acquire them even if you’re not the boss. You’ll never be a leader when you assume that primetime role unless you have developed the qualities of leadership as part of your preparation for the next big step.”

 

Parr offers five ways to become a leader at a company without holding a leadership-type position:

 

Listen to others’ ideas. “Leadership is about others, not about the self, and it starts with listening,” Parr says. “Being a leader isn’t putting yourself above others, interrupting them, or acting like your ideas are more important than anyone else’s. True leadership brings out the best in others and your culture, and you do that by making them feel valued and giving them a voice.”

 

Be accountable for mistakes. “Own your errors,” Parr says. “It sets an example of accountability that is good for the culture. Too many people, when told of a mistake, assign blame and make excuses. A leader corrects constructively and surveys for solutions. As a subordinate, staying positive and offering ways to fix your mistake, and showing the humility of asking for help, is a path toward being a leader people can trust.”

 

Learn flexibility. “This applies in so many ways,” Parr says. “If you’re stuck on doing something one certain way, you’re headed toward being a micromanager who few would like and fewer would want to work under. Leadership is about tapping into your broad base of workplace talent, expanding knowledge, improving systems and raising the ceiling.”

 

Interact and network. Networking isn’t only about finding jobs, it’s about connecting with people in a way that enhances important relationships and the work environment. “As you learn to interact with different types in the workplace,” Parr says, “you’ll learn which relationships are most effective, how to help those people with their career, and show your ability to direct and lead.”

 

Develop a thick skin. To become a leader, Parr says it’s vital to rise above annoyances and petty slights from others and let them roll off your back. “HR isn’t the principal’s office,” he says, “and if you vent every time about someone doing something irritating, you’ll get the reputation of being a whiner. Don’t complain behind closed doors, gossip, or criticize people behind their backs. No one who does those things can be viewed as a leader.”

 

“People want to be led,” Parr says. “But they don’t want to be bossed around. Great leaders can learn this as underlings on their way to a management position. Then when they get there, they’re ahead of the game — and everyone’s in step with them.”

 

Turn Your Genealogy Hobby Into a Side Business

July 2, 2019  
Filed under Business, Feature Stories

To View the full story, CLICK HERE

If you have a passion for history and get as excited about spending the day deciphering historical documents as some people do summiting a mountain, you may be just the person to start a genealogy business.

This guide to starting a home-based genealogy business will focus on four main areas:

Validating your business idea
Figuring out whether you’ll need funding and how to get it
Steps to making your business legal and operational
Ideas for additional training

Launching a genealogy business: First steps
A genealogy business is not for everyone, especially if you’re hoping for a lucrative income stream. “Only a very tiny percentage of us actually support ourselves full time on genealogy,” said Barbara J. Ball, CG (Certified Genealogist) of Copestone Resources LLC.

But it is a relatively simple business to start. You don’t need official certification to call yourself a genealogist. It helps, though, if you already have some of the attributes needed to be successful in the field.

In an article for the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly entitled “Transferable Skills: You’re Quitting Your Job to Do What?!”, author and professional genealogist Pam Anderson identified these five skills as key attributes that successful genealogists and business owners have:

Self-starter
Goal-oriented
Analytical
Effective communicator
Client-centered
If this describes you, you’re off to a good start.

Depending on your level of experience, you may want to gather additional expertise before you start. The National Genealogical Society offers American Genealogy Studies as an online course developed by certified genealogists. The course is self-paced.

Boston University offers a Professional Education Certificate in Genealogical Research online. These classes are only available at specific times.

Genealogists we spoke to also recommended the ProGen Study Program, which is based on the textbook Professional Genealogy. This program covers both the practice of genealogy and the practical aspects of running a genealogy business.

A good next step is defining your business.

Craft your mission statement
Define what you will do for people in a few interesting words. This can be the guiding star of your business. It will help you stay focused on the problem you want to solve without defining how you’ll solve it.

Here are some examples for a genealogy business:

I help people of Panamanian descent find out more about their ancestors.
I rediscover the past for people who want to understand their history.
I solve historical mysteries for people who hit genealogical dead ends.
Define your revenue model
How will you make money? There are many different ways to generate revenue. It will help focus your efforts if you decide on one model that makes the most sense for your genealogy business. These three models are the most likely to succeed for a genealogy business.

Fee-for-service model
The fee-for-service model is the most common for people with specialized skills and the most common in the world of genealogy.

Think of doctors, lawyers, fitness trainers. You pay them all (typically on an hourly basis) to provide you with their unique skills. Why? Because you don’t have these skills yourself.

Or maybe you do. Think of a house cleaner or a babysitter. You can clean your house or watch your kids, but sometimes you just want someone else to help.

Sometimes it’s specialized equipment that requires a fee-for-service arrangement – think of a plumber or a photographer.

Genealogical research is another example of a unique talent. Most genealogists use the fee-for-service model.

Asking clients to pay by the hour is the most common method of billing. Being a genealogist is a little like being an auto mechanic in that you don’t know for sure what the solution is until you “pop the hood.” Genealogists never know for sure whether they will find what their client seeks.

Many genealogists start projects with an agreed-upon set of hours meant to address a particular question such as, “Where was my mother’s father born?” If that research provides a tidy answer to the client’s question, so be it.

But if more research is needed, the client can agree to pay for an additional block of time. A client might agree to additional time to get records from an overseas archive, for example.

“I like to do it in small phases,” said Pam Anderson, a genealogist in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. “I don’t like to do more than 20 hours at a time so that we can see how we work together.”

Production model
The production model is very simple. You make something, and someone pays you for it. Think of a car manufacturer, or a jewelry designer … or a farmer!

Genealogical research itself is not a product, but you could turn it into one. You could set a standard price for a 20-page family history or for a family tree going back at least five generations.

Subscription model
Subscriptions are an increasingly popular model, thanks to the advent of automatic renewal billing. A fitness gym is another business that runs primarily via the subscription model. The basic idea is that you pay for access to a service, whether you use that service or not. The benefit to the consumer is convenience. It’s there when they need it.

Ancestry.com has proven that the subscription model is appealing for folks interested in genealogy. But subscribing to Ancestry.com only gives customers access to their resources – the customer still has to do the research.

Perhaps potential customers would be willing to pay monthly for access to your expertise – if they have the curiosity but not the time.

What’s the competition?
When people think of competition in business, they tend to think of two companies battling it out for supremacy, like Coke vs. Pepsi, but competition for most businesses isn’t as simple as that.

Your competition isn’t just other, similar services. Your customer can also be your competition, or your competition could come from completely different industries. Before you answer the question of who your competition is, you have to understand the customer’s problem, your solution and how to make that solution unique.

What is the problem your customers have?

They have no information about their family background and are concerned about medical issues.
They are researching family members and hit a dead end.
They lack fulfillment in their life and seek a deeper connection with their past.
These are all “problems” that can spur a person to seek a genealogy expert, but your competition is very different for each issue above.

For example, with the first issue, you are competing with tests provided by the medical profession. For the second issue, you are competing with other genealogical researchers as well as online services like Ancestry.com and Family Search. For the third, you are competing with nonfiction books and online learning courses.

There is another category of problem: problems that people don’t know they have.

A silly hypothetical: what if you discovered a forgotten daughter of Henry VIII who has thousands of descendants? These people have a problem they never knew about – how to prove they’re royalty!

On a more serious note, as medical research continues to uncover the genetic causes of many serious diseases, reliable genealogical research could alert people to potentially serious health risks.

Once you’ve identified your competition, next you need to identify how your service is a better solution for your customers than the solution offered by your competitor. Winning products and services are often:

Simpler
Faster
Higher quality
More efficient
Less expensive
Some combination of the above
Which of the above benefits are you uniquely positioned to provide to potential customers?

If you have 30 years of experience in the genealogical research field and a Ph.D. in American History, you may be able to provide a higher-quality service than your competition. If you’re a fast researcher and writer, you may provide research more quickly than your competition could, or you could charge less. If you have specialized knowledge about Portuguese immigration in the 1830s, you may fill a niche that no other genealogist is addressing.

Pam Anderson, the genealogist in Pennsylvania, lives in a rural part of the state. She’s the only person in her area who offers genealogical services. When people from outside the state want to research an ancestor who lived in the area, Anderson is the best resource they have.

Why would someone choose you over the other options they have to solve the same problem? If you don’t have a reason, you don’t have a business.

Once you come up with a solution that gives you a competitive advantage, you’ll want to adjust your mission statement to align with your niche or advantage.

Marketing
You’ve already thought deeply about the problem you want to solve for customers. Now, it’s time to think about the customers themselves.

Creating a customer persona
Customer personas are a key tool that the most successful marketers share. A company like Nike creates detailed customer or buyer personas about the people most likely to buy athletic shoes and apparel. When Nike creates products, plans advertising campaigns or writes social media posts, it does so with these personas in mind.

Creating personas for your business maximizes your marketing efforts. These 10 free customer persona templates can help you get started.

To complete them, you’ll need to answer questions about your potential customers such as these:

How old are they?
What is their education level?
What is their salary?
What motivates them?
You’ll probably find that you have more than one potential customer, but keep your number of total personas manageable. Three to five personas is a good starting point.

Reaching potential customers
Now that you know who your customers are, it’s time to find them.

Where does each segment of your genealogical research customer base hang out? Here are some possibilities:

On social media sites
In front of the television
Listening to the radio or to history podcasts
At gathering places like churches, malls, parks
At community events like festivals and parades
At gatherings of groups dedicated to genealogy or history
And where do they go to get information to solve the problem you’ve identified? Here are some of the most likely options:

Search engines
Online genealogy forums
Genealogy or history magazines
Local historical societies and archives
Once you know where your customers are, you can go about delivering your message to them.

Advertising
Advertising is the most direct method of sharing your service with customers. Most advertising is interruptive, so your message must be clear and direct.

Social media
On social media sites, you can target potential customers based on their demographics and their interests. For example, if one of your customer personas is women in their 40s who live within 10 miles of you, you can create an ad that’s shown only to them. Or you could target anyone in your state with an interest in African history.

Facebook is the social media network that has the most extensive and effective targeting.

Television
Television ads are expensive to produce and place. They usually only make sense for companies selling at a high volume (like fast food restaurants) or companies selling an expensive product (like car dealerships). A genealogy business doesn’t fit either of these criteria.

Radio
Radio ads are less expensive than television ads, but they also reach a broad audience. You’d likely reach people in your target audience, but you’d reach many more who aren’t. Radio advertising is unlikely to be cost-effective for a genealogy business.

Podcasts
The podcast industry is flourishing. There are more than 500,000 podcasts, and most of them are targeted to niche groups.

History podcasts are among the most popular categories, and people who are interested in the past are likely interested in their own past as well. Podcast sponsorships are also relatively inexpensive. The right podcast might help you reach your audience.

Search engines
The most popular search engine, Google, lets businesses display ads that appear when people search a certain term. To get the lay of the land, Google these key genealogical research terms and note which advertisers appear:

Family tree
Census records
Find ancestors
We’ll bet you saw some of the main players in the genealogy field. Common search terms can be the most expensive for advertising (try searching “buy a car” or “fly to Paris” if you want more evidence).

Alternatively, you can put your search engine ad on any term. Think about your customer segments. What specific genealogical search term (or phrase) might they put into Google? It might be something like “church records Sonoma County” or “ancestors Korea.” These are called “long-tail” terms. You can target your advertising to these specific phrases to reach the customers most likely to need your service.

Direct advertising is the fastest way to generate customers, but it is also the costliest.

Direct referrals
The most profitable customer is one you don’t have to pay to acquire. If you can figure out how to attract customers for free, your business will be much more profitable.

Local genealogy spots
Pam Anderson, the genealogist in South Central Pennsylvania, got her start partly by accident. While volunteering for the local historical society, she answered queries for people researching their ancestors. Sometimes, those people needed a record that was only held at the courthouse. “I started feeling bad for these people because there was no one else who could do this for them,” said Anderson.

She began offering these services herself, and direct referrals from the historical society are still the backbone of her business. She said that of a dozen new clients she added in 2018, six were referrals from the historical society.

Genealogy directories
If you join the Association of Professional Genealogists, you can be added to their directory. The directory is searchable by location and research specialty.

Content marketing
You don’t have to advertise in order to be visible on social media and in search engine rankings. Content marketing is the practice of making your own website, blog posts, e-newsletter, graphics, videos and other assets gain exposure for your business.

With content marketing, your potential customers find you. For example, you could create a Guide to Finding Greek Ancestors on your website. Through the use of search engine optimization, you may be able to get this page to rank high in Google for “finding Greek ancestors” and related terms. In this way, people who cared about the topic would be introduced to your services.

Content marketing is an effective way to reach customers, especially for knowledge-based businesses like a genealogy research service. However, it is a long-term investment, because most content marketing programs take at least 18 months to show results.

Word-of-mouth advertising
You’ve probably heard that word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising. It is very powerful when a trusted friend or associate recommends a product.

However, this is no way to start a business. You have to first get a customer before you can get a recommendation from one.

Word-of-mouth advertising will help grow your business. As you complete projects for customers, consider how they might help you meet your next one. Is there someone they could introduce? Don’t wait for word of mouth to happen on its own. Be a catalyst.

Business expenses: location, equipment, resources
You need a place to work, and you need certain items and services to do your work successfully. It’s wise to determine these needs initially so your first few months run smoothly.

First of all, where will you work?

Home-based businesses
The beauty of a home-based business is that you don’t need to budget for office space. You’ll have a quick commute, too. But there are drawbacks.

Working at home can be distracting, even overwhelming, depending on your home environment. You may want to meet in person with potential clients. Are you OK having them come to your home? You can always meet in a coffee shop, but does that send the right message about the stability of your business?

These are questions only you can answer. If you believe you can stay focused at home and don’t feel you need an office to meet potential customers, you’ll have lopped a big expense off your monthly startup costs.

Office or coworking space
An office is a dedicated space for you to get work done and conduct business, but that luxury comes with a cost. Besides your monthly rent, you have to supply things like phone service, internet access and, of course, a coffee maker. You’re an office manager as well as a worker, so you’ll likely have to sign a lease that ties you to the space whether your genealogy business makes money or not.

A coworking space is a relatively new option for startup businesses. Most offer basic business services like internet and coffee, as well as the opportunity to network with other business owners. Typically, you pay month to month rather than assuming the burden of a long-term lease.

If working at home isn’t an option, a coworking space could be a good option for a startup genealogy business.

Genealogy business equipment and expenses
You’ve decided where to work. Now you need to decide what you need to do your work. These are some potential items that might be on a genealogy researcher must-have list:

A laptop computer
Internet access
Printer and scanner
Research notebooks
Filing cabinets or drawers
Subscriptions to the major genealogy research sites like Ancestry.com
Transportation to local archives via private car or public transportation
Marketing collateral: Business cards, website, brochures and flyers
Advertising expenses
Taking the monthly expenses and your anticipated income into account, develop a basic budget for your business.

Writing a business plan
Now that you’ve identified what you’ll sell, how you’ll sell it, where you’ll reach customers and how much running your business will cost, you’ve got just about everything you need to write a business plan.

The U.S Small Business Administration hosts an excellent online business plan builder.

Why create a business plan? For one thing, it’s a good exercise that helps you answer key questions about the foundations of your business and how it will grow. A business plan is also a requirement for getting any type of formal funding from banks or other investors.

Funding your business
Every new business has upfront costs. They can be huge – say, starting an airline – or relatively small. In the case of a genealogy research business, your initial expenses are quite low. That list above may include things you’ve already purchased when genealogy was just a hobby.

Some potential funding options for a genealogy research business follow.

Bootstrapping
Bootstrapping means using your own money to start and grow your business. The benefit is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to start.

However, depending on how much you feel you need to spend on marketing, you may not have enough to keep going. That’s fine if you want to start as a side business while you have income coming in from other sources, but you can run out of funds quickly if bootstrapping is your only funding source.

Bootstrapping is a good option for a genealogy research business because your startup costs are so low.

Personal loans
Businesses that require substantial initial investments in equipment or marketing may need additional capital to provide a runway for launching the business. Typically, personal loans have lower interest rates than credit cards, which makes them a better choice than maxing out your Visa.

For someone starting a genealogy research business, a personal loan could help cover expenses while you focus on building your reputation and customer base.

Government funding
Loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help get a business off the ground. The loans aren’t offered directly by the SBA, but instead by private institutions like banks, community development organizations and microlenders. Use the SBA’s online referral tool to connect with participating lenders.

An SBA-approved loan requires much more documentation than a personal loan, so it isn’t the fastest way to get funding. For a business with startup costs as low as a genealogy research business, the time might be better spent focusing on marketing.

Venture capital
Venture capital firms invest in lots of different companies with high growth potential. They take part ownership in the company, and then profit handsomely if the business hits it big. The SBA connects entrepreneurs with Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC), which offer loans or purchase equity in companies.

A venture capital firm isn’t likely to be interested in a genealogy research company unless you have a plan for high growth (we’re talking revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars range).

Crowdfunding
Business owners with a unique idea can often generate public support through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe. These “investors” don’t receive any equity in the companies they support, but they often receive rewards, like the company’s first product.

If your genealogy research company targets a specific audience, or you plan to develop a written product, crowdfunding might be an option. Many authors have used crowdfunding to support them during the research and writing of books.

Vendors
Many businesses can’t function without the support of reliable vendors. Coffee shops need paper cups. Architects need drawings printed. Gardeners need potting soil and mulch.

Any product you’ll need on a regular basis is key to the success of your business, so identify a reliable, trustworthy and cost-efficient vendor to get it to you. Vendors are experts at what they do, which saves you time and likely gets you the best possible product.

For instance, as a genealogical researcher, you may decide to deliver printed reports to your clients. Rather than taking time out of your day to produce these at the local copy shop, you might identify a good local printer who can do the work for you. They’ll probably be able to suggest improvements to make your reports look even better.

Consider the vendors you might need and develop these relationships before you need them.

Naming your business
Your business will need a unique name for tax record purposes, but also to set it apart from your competitors.

Your business name must be available in your state, and your state business licensing office will give you a way to search online so you can see whether your preferred name is taken.

You may also want to choose a name for which a website domain name is available. Having your domain name match your business name makes it easier for people to find you online. This lightning-fast search is a good way to see available names.

Choose a compelling name
Your business name should be more than just a couple of words that no one else has put together. Ideally, it should emphasize something unique about your business that your customers will care about and want.

For example, Speedy Plumbing is a popular name for plumbing businesses. What do people care about when their toilet is overflowing? They want it stopped fast.

Think again about the unique facet of your business that makes it a better solution than your competition. Is it that your business is the only one in town? Maybe you want to call yourself [Name of Town] Genealogy Research.

Is it your own unique skills or personality that will make your business successful? Then a good name might be [Your Name] Genealogy Research.

Maybe you specialize in finding ancestors from a specific region. You might consider calling your business Irish-American Genealogy.

Do you believe you deliver results faster than your competitors? In that case, maybe you’d take a page from the plumbing playbook and call your business Speedy Genealogy.

Licensing requirements and business organization
All businesses require a license to operate. The licensing requirements are different depending on where you live. You will probably need a state business license, but you may also need a city or county one.

If you are registering as a sole proprietor – meaning that you assume all liability for the business operations, and you’ll report all the income on your personal taxes – registration will be very straightforward.

Other forms of organization
Most businesses start out as sole proprietorships, but you may consider starting out by incorporating your business as an LLC or C-corporation. There are benefits and drawbacks to incorporation you should consider.

The main advantage of incorporation is that it may protect your personal assets from liability if the business fails or if you are sued. The main drawback is that it requires extra paperwork, such as filing articles of incorporation, and it costs more.

If you’re dipping your toes into genealogical research as a side business, a sole proprietorship might be the best way to get started quickly. If you intend to make your genealogy business your main source of income, consider a more formal structure.

Also, check the sales tax requirements in your locality. You need to determine whether to charge sales tax (and how much to charge) based on the type of product you sell and where your customers live.

Typically for a professional service like genealogical research, sales tax isn’t required, but if you provide a specific product, it could be. Consult the department of taxation in your state to make sure.

Training and special licenses
Some businesses, such as restaurants and day cares, require special license requirements. Certain jobs, like hair stylist or commercial truck driver, must pass certification requirements as well.

We are not aware of any special requirements for genealogical researchers. There is a certification offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, but you can still legally charge people to research their family history without it.

Registering with the IRS
Having an EIN (Employer Identification Number) is required if you incorporate, if you plan to hire employees or if you plan to sell certain products. It’s also a common expectation if you’re applying for business loans or doing other advanced business paperwork. A sole proprietor may not need one (though they can still get one). Contact the IRS directly if you aren’t sure.

You can apply for an EIN online.

Open a business bank account
A business bank account will help you keep track of costs and revenues associated with your business. This will be a big help at tax time. Most banks offer a business account and a business debit card for a reasonable fee.

Marketing materials
Make a list of the basic marketing materials you need for your business and get started on creating them.

Logo
A logo is a unique visual representation of your name or brand that will add consistency and professionalism to all of your marketing materials.

The cost of a logo can vary wildly. You can make your own logo online for free. Another option is to hire an online freelancer who can create one for you. Many print shops offer logo design services. A professional graphic designer will cost more, but they can deliver a more polished, unique logo.

Speaking with a professional designer is always a good place to start. Ask around in your personal or professional network.

Basic messaging
A few standard messages will help you spread the word in person and on social media networks. At the very least, have a 15-second elevator speech for when people ask you what you do for a living. Your elevator speech should touch on what you do, how you do it, why you’re unique and finish with an ask.

Use your mission statement as the starting point for these basic messages. For example, let’s say your mission statement is “I help people of Panamanian descent find out more about their ancestors.”

Your elevator speech might be something like, “I’m a professional genealogical researcher. I specialize in helping people of Panamanian descent identify the towns their ancestors emigrated from. I speak fluent Spanish, and have personal contacts at all the main museums and archives in Panama. Do you know anyone of Panamanian ancestry?”

A tagline is a sentence or less that encapsulates the purpose of your product, service or solution.

Example: “Helping Panamanians connect with their past.”

You may also consider creating FAQs (frequently asked questions) specific to your new business. This could be a resource for you, or it could be a page on your website. The FAQs save you time by answering basic customer questions when a client would otherwise have to call or email you.

Some FAQs for a genealogical research business might be:

How much does it cost?
How long does the research usually take?
How will I know what you found is accurate?
Do you need my DNA?
Remember to update your FAQs when you get new or surprising questions from customers.

Website
If you have a website, customers can learn about your services whenever they want and, thanks to smartphones, wherever they are. Many services exist that make getting a website a quick and relatively painless process.

As a genealogist, you’re running a knowledge-based business. You may want to put your website on a platform that’s optimized for creating content. WordPress, an open-source blogging platform, is the most popular of these. WordPress.com offers low-cost web hosting and creation tools to get you started.

Social media pages
Social networks are a popular place for people to gather and to connect one-on-one with each other and with businesses.

Facebook has the widest audience. Most people will expect to find you on Facebook. You’ll also need a Facebook page if you plan to run Facebook ads.
Instagram is a photo-sharing-based social network that is best for businesses selling visually appealing products (clothes, artwork) or luxury experiences.
Snapchat is a video-sharing-based social network popular with people in their teens and 20s.
Twitter is a news- and opinion-sharing social network, ideal for spotlighting unique voices and personalities.
LinkedIn is a professional development social network where the conversation is focused on business and careers.
For a genealogy business, Facebook is probably the most important social network to direct your focus. If you have a unique, funny, controversial voice, Twitter could be worth considering.

Business cards and other print collateral materials
A business card is the one critical piece of printed material you’ll need. It should include the name of your business and logo, your name, your contact information, and your website address.

You may also want to design (or have designed) a basic invoice for billing your customers.

Some businesses need additional print materials to get started. A restaurant needs a menu, a contractor needs a quote sheet. Consider your requirements, because additional printed materials like brochures may not be necessary at launch.

For your new genealogy business, a business card and an invoice template are good places to start. If you plan to present your findings in the form of a report, consider hiring a designer to create an attractive layout template you can use.

Employees, contractors and timesaving services
Running a business means wearing many hats. Some people enjoy it when their day consists of being a salesperson, office manager, financial planner, bookkeeper, social media manager and administrative assistant, in addition to whatever their business actually is.

Others do better when they focus on what they do best, or when they can cherry-pick a few of the more interesting additional tasks.

Think about some of the things you’ll have to do and whether you’d rather have someone else do them, such as scheduling appointments, bookkeeping and writing social media posts

You have many options for delegating these common business owner tasks to employees you hire, contractors you pay or, increasingly, subscription software services.

As you launch your genealogy research business, you aren’t likely to spend substantial time on administrative tasks. You may want to keep monthly expenses low by handling these things yourself and then outsource them as the business grows.

Tips for a successful genealogy business
If you’re thinking of leaving your current career to transition into genealogical research, you aren’t alone. Nearly everyone who becomes a genealogist started out doing something else.

Your business will be stronger if you find others like yourself who are starting out in the genealogy world. “You work by yourself so much,” said genealogist Pam Anderson, “it’s important to develop a network.”

Anderson stated she’s met many valuable contacts at conferences and at research institutions. Such contacts can turn into resources if you get overwhelmed with requests, or if you need help with specific issues that arise. “It’s good to have people to bounce ideas off,” said Anderson.

Most importantly, be prepared to continue learning. Genealogy is a study of the past, but the tools that genealogists have are constantly growing. DNA research is relatively new, and yet some genealogists completely specialize in it. If you don’t have your niche now, you may develop one over the course of your career. At least you won’t be bored.

Vermonters at Risk from Robocall Scams, Says AARP Survey

June 3, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories

 

Many Unaware of Caller ID Limitations and Are Underusing ‘Do Not Call’ Registry

 

While a large majority of Vermonters suspect that most of the automated telephone messages – or “robocalls” — that they receive are attempts at scams, few are taking actions to protect themselves, according to results of a new survey from the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

 

An estimated 48 billion robocalls came into the United States last year. More than half of Vermont adults surveyed by AARP said they receive seven or more robocalls per week.

 

Automated call technology has brought efficiency to mass telephone notifications, with companies using robocalls for flight or school cancellations, polling and other legitimate purposes. AARP itself uses robocall technology to reach its members with educational programming, including how to stay safe from scams and fraud. The technology, however, has also made it easier and cheaper for con artists to reach millions with their fraud schemes. Telephone scams cost U.S. consumers $429 million last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

 

AARP’s survey verified that nearly all consumers rely on caller ID when deciding when to answer a call, even though three in four say they know the information that shows up may be fabricated, or “spoofed.”  About half of respondents are likely to ask for more information on one of these calls.

 

Spoofing has given the criminals the upper hand: The survey found that half of Vermont adults are more likely to answer a call seemingly from a local area code (49%), an area code where friends or family live (37%), or an area code and telephone exchange that matches their own (28%).

 

“Be wary when you pick up the phone. A number that looks familiar or local may be neither familiar nor local,” said Kathy Stokes, director, fraud prevention programs, AARP.  “Con artists have become increasingly sophisticated and devious, and once they connect with you and get you talking it’s far too easy to fall prey to their schemes.”

 

AARP’s survey for Vermont shows that people are more likely to be victimized by scam pitches involving threatened losses – “You owe unpaid taxes” or “You are facing jail time for missing jury duty” – than those promising rewards – “You’ve won the foreign lottery” or “You qualify for a free vacation.”  Respondents (47%) said they would respond to a negative or fear-based call scenario than those who said a positive or promise-of-wealth pitch would prompt them to engage (40%). Some 10% of Vermonters surveyed have been victimized by a phone scam, although that number is low as many do not report the crime. However, most have not taken action to prevent these calls – 88% do not use a robocall blocking service,  and most have not reported phony calls. Nearly half have not signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry.

 

To help protect against illegal robocalls, the AARP Fraud Watch Network recommends that consumers add their telephone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry.  Only about half of the survey respondents said they have done so.  Registering your number will not put a stop to fraudulent calls, but it will make them easier to recognize since most legitimate telemarketers do not call numbers on the registry.

 

The FWN also recommends exploring free or low-cost call-blocking apps, and urges consumers to report all scam calls to the proper authorities.  For a complete list of “do’s” and “don’ts” regarding illegal and scam robocalls, visit www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork.

 

Ninety-three percent of Vermont adults said they want the lawmakers to do more to reduce the number of fake and misleading robocalls, and efforts are underway on the federal level:

 

·        A bill with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act or “TRACED Act,” would require telecom providers to use call authentication technology that would block many illegal robocalls.  The legislation, endorsed by AARP, has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and a vote by the full Senate is pending.

 

·        A rule proposal by the Federal Communications Commission would similarly require phone companies to implement technology to detect and block illegal robocalls.  The FCC will vote on the proposal at its June 6 meeting.

6 Ways To Stay Energized During the Winter Months

January 31, 2019  
Filed under Feature Stories, Health & Wellness

When it’s cold outside, and the weather is frightful, it can be truly delightful once in a while to hole up with a good book, a blanket and a cup of tea. But equally important is keeping up your energy, staying active and maintaining your mental well being through the shorter days of winter.

One of the reasons people are affected seasonally is a lack of sunlight, which not only disrupts your body’s internal clock, but impacts the levels of serotonin: the hormone which affects mood. SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—is a serious condition that is in fact considered to be a subtype of depression. It’s effects are wide ranging, including things like irritability, social withdrawal, difficulty with concentration, sleeping and a general feeling of lack of energy on the mild end, to serious mental health issues like suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression.

Even if you’re not afflicted with SAD, staying active and keeping up your energy levels is a key way to deal with the long winter months. Here’s how:

Do what you usually do

It’s important to keep to your normal routines, as much as possible, despite the weather. If you’re a runner, keep running! Maybe take it to a gym treadmill on icy days, or when the temperature gauge hits a new low, but keep running! If you’re a walker, bring it indoors and take up mall walking when the roads and pathways won’t permit an outdoor jaunt. There are countless ways to alter your usual activities so that they are safe and enjoyable, even through the coldest of winter days.

And keeping to your routine has healthful benefits. Most people who have habits and routines that they stick to feel less stressed and more like they’ve accomplished something from what the brain sees as a task list. It can help to reduce anxiety and encourage a general feeling of well being.

Get some energy from nature

Communing with the great outdoors, even in less than perfect weather, can have a tremendous impact on your mood and energy levels. When you feel house / building bound, it’s harder to summon the get up and go that you need to enjoy the everyday moments. Spend a little time outside, among trees, whether that’s on a nature trail or your local park: it will remind you that there is a greater world out there and that you should enjoy every bit of it!

 

Choose the right food and drink

Fatty, salty foods, or alcohol in excess are never a good idea but even more so during the winter. You want to have stable blood sugar levels and minimal spikes from sources like caffeine, in order to stay happy and healthy. And it probably goes without saying that one too many spiked toddies may not be the best route to maintaining good health. Instead, look for vitamin rich foods:

  • Legumes and nuts – beans and lentils, all vitamin, protein and fiber rich, with just the right types of fats contained in nuts like walnuts.
  • Dark green leafy veggies – kale, spinach and the like are chock full of all the good vitamins and minerals your body craves, including iron.
  • Lean meats – turkey, chicken and pork are good options, in moderation.
  • Fish – particularly varieties with high Omega-3s, like salmon. The healthy fats are good for your brain and its chemistry.
  • Eggs – a good protein boost with a healthy dose of vitamin D.
  • Dark chocolate – if you have a sweet tooth, stick to chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher for your fix.
  • Avocados and bananas – while you might not choose to eat these together, either have a good amount of B6, the vitamin necessary to produce serotonin, which is your mood hormone.

Keep in mind too that while you might still be active, it’s possible that you are less active during the colder, winter months than in the middle of summer, so temper your usual eating habits, in line with your workouts!

Make sure you iron levels are stable

Of all the important levels to maintain in your body, iron is vital. If you’re feeling sluggish and tired, a leading culprit for many is low iron levels. Since most of us cannot get the amount of iron we need from our diet (only about 10% is absorbed that way), iron deficiency anemia is a widespread issue. Iron supplements have historically been difficult to absorb and even harder for to tolerate, but a new formulation called Active Iron can give you 138% of your daily dose, without the usual side effects. Active Iron is absorbed quickly and easily through the small intestine, thanks to new technology that binds it to whey-protein, making it easier to tolerate, even on an empty stomach.

Keep moving and dress for outdoor success

Part of enjoying the great outdoors, even in winter, is being dressed for it. If you’re warm and dry, you’ll enjoy it a lot more! Layer your clothes with a moisture wicking layer next to your skin, a layer for warmth and a third layer to block the wind and wet. In warmer weather, you can always drop a layer, but this is the best way to ensure that if you’re active outside, you won’t get cold too.


Get a little light

A little light therapy can really help deal with the general feeling of unwell that comes from a lack of daylight sunshine. Posited as a treatment for SAD, light boxes are designed to provide a replacement for sunshine, fooling your brain chemically into thinking you’ve absorbed some restorative rays. Look for a light that is designed specifically to treat SAD, if you’re looking for an effective mood booster.

You should always check in with a doctor before applying any type of therapy in your life, but most will tell you that a little light in the dark of winter can go a long way.
With all the ways that you can boost your mood and your energy through the cold winter months, there’s no reason to not enjoy them, snow and all!

Feeling Unmotivated? Remove this Word from your Vocabulary in 2019

December 13, 2018  
Filed under Feature Stories, Health & Wellness

By Carol Tuttle

 

I want you to pause for a moment and think of that thing you needed or wanted to do this year—but it’s December and you still haven’t gotten around to yet, and you keep putting off.

The idea or project is just sitting there, and the unfinished-ness of it is weighing on you. But when it actually comes down to doing it, you seem to have lost all motivation.

So how do you recover motivation to do something you think you should do?

You can start by giving up this one word in 2019—and replacing it with something much more powerful!

 

Say goodbye to the S-word

Should.

That one word can zap your motivation to do something faster than anything.

I’ve found that whenever I used the word “should” I would procrastinate and avoid the activity or project I thought I “should’ do. That’s because the word “should” in the dictionary indicates a meaning of obligation or duty.

Notice how often you might say something similar to these:

  • I should go work out.
  • I should eat healthy.
  • I should lose 10 pounds.
  • I should get out of debt.
  • I should clean that closet.
  • I should learn how to ____.

Why ‘Should’ can sabotage your success

Whatever it is for you, it might even be a necessary or good idea (organize a closet, clean out the car, take a class, plant a garden). But if you’re trying to force it, you either just won’t make the time or have the energy, or you’ll probably keep putting it off because you don’t enjoy it. Or it might be a good thing to do, but maybe not for you to do. Or maybe not at this time.

 

Get clear on what you want first

Now, for every “should” statement you say, ask yourself, “Is this what I want?” Or do you think you should do it because someone told you to or you feel under some obligation to do it? Sometimes our choices are influenced more about what others want than we want.

Although they might all be great choices, until we personally own them for ourselves we will not be motivated to follow through.

So, the first step to healthy motivation in the new year is to examine your “shoulds” and get clear on what it is YOU want.

You can also clarify what it is you want so it matches the outcome you want to create (i.e. I want to clean the closet so I can always find what I need.)

Once we claim a choice for ourselves, we then can declare them with “I am” statements.

Then replace “I should” with “I am”

  • I am working out
  • I am eating healthy.
  • I am losing 10 pounds.
  • I am debt free.
  • I am cleaning that closet.
  • I am learning how to ____.

Take your choice even higher with gratitude

An even higher vibration of belief is to act as if you have already accomplished it and imagine your success with these statements of gratitude:

  • I am grateful I choose to workout.
  • I am grateful I eat healthy.
  • I am grateful I lost 10 pounds.
  • I am grateful I am debt free .
  • I am grateful I cleaned the closet.
  • I grateful I have learned  how to ____.

This simple but powerful shift can make a world of difference!

Remember, when you declare your intentions you uplift your energy so it can support you with the motivation to do it when it is right and timely for you.

Keep Holiday Plants Looking Their Best

December 6, 2018  
Filed under Feature Stories, Home & Garden


By Melinda Myers

The holiday season has arrived.  That means you will be on the giving or receiving end of a poinsettia, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, amaryllis or other holiday plant.  Extend the beauty and longevity of these holiday beauties with proper care.

And that starts the minute you leave the florist or garden center.  Always protect your gift plants from the harsh outdoors.  Professional florists and garden center staff will provide a care tag and wrap your plants in a plastic or paper sleeve.

Remove the wrap as soon as you arrive home. This is especially important when caring for poinsettias. The upturned leaves emit ethylene, a ripening hormone, that can shorten the longevity of your poinsettia’s colorful display.

Rewrap your holiday plant anytime you move it outdoors and never leave it sitting in a cold car while running errands. A chilled plant looks fine until it thaws. By the next day the plant turns grayish-green, wilts and may die.  Not such a nice gift after all.

Once your plant arrives home, place it in a cool, brightly lit location.  The cool temperatures and indirect light help the blooms last longer.  Avoid drafts of hot and cold air.  These can dry or chill the plant, resulting in leaf and blossom drop.  Fold down the foil wrap to allow sunlight to reach all the leaves.

Keep the soil moist, like a damp sponge, but not wet. A quick touch of the top inch or two of soil will let you know when it is time to water. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and just slightly moist.

Pour out any water that collects in the foil, basket, decorative pot or saucer. Or place pebbles in the bottom of the container or saucer to elevate the plant above any sitting water.

Plant your amaryllis bulb in a container that is slightly larger than the bulb and has drainage holes. Set the bulb in a well-drained potting mix with 1/3 of the pointed end exposed. Water the potting mix thoroughly and place the container in a cool sunny location. Continue to water thoroughly, but only often enough to keep the soil barely moist.

Or go soilless. Place several inches of pebbles in the bottom of a glass vase or watertight container. Cover the pebbles with water. Set the bulb on top of the pebbles, adding more stones around the bulb to hold it in place.  Leave the top one third of the bulb exposed. Add water as needed to maintain the water level just below the bulb.

Now relax and wait the month or more needed for your amaryllis bulb to wake up and start growing.  Water more often once sprouts appear.

Keep your floral display looking its best by removing spent flowers from azaleas, Christmas cactus, cyclamen and kalanchoes. This keeps the plant looking fresh and often encourages more blooms. Remove the true flowers, those yellow knobs in the center of the colorful leaves of the poinsettia. This extends the longevity and beauty of the poinsettia plant.

And once the holidays are past, keep enjoying these plants through the gray days of winter. Move the plants to a sunny window, fertilize with a dilute solution of complete or flowering plant fertilizer and water as needed.

Add some artificial berries, cut flowers in water picks or silk blooms to replace the faded flowers. Use colorful stakes or natural twigs for added beauty and to support floppy leaves and stems.

Be sure to add a few holiday plants to this year’s gift list. They’re guaranteed to brighten everyone’s holiday celebrations.

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