Your 401-K: How to Make Money Investing in 2014, 2015 and Beyond

Some people make money investing in 401-k plans consistently, while most make money and then give most of their profits back in a bad market. In 2014, 2015 and beyond, good money management and asset allocation are the keys to investing money in 401-k plans if you want to KEEP the money you’ve already accumulated in your plan. Here’s how to do it.

Investing money in 401-k plans is the key to a successful retirement, but for over a dozen years it’s been difficult to make money and KEEP IT. Twice investors have been clipped for 50% or more investing money in 401-k funds. Good money management in 2014, 2015 and beyond and a change in your 401-k asset allocation could help you protect your assets. After all, if you take a 50% loss, you’ve got to then double your money just to get even.

If your plan is typical you could have a dozen or more options for investing money in your 401-k plan, and all but one or two of these are mutual funds: mostly stock funds and bond funds. Do you know where your money is? Money management is your job if you want to make money over the long term, and step one is to review your 401-k asset allocation (your portfolio) from time to time, at least once a year. If you haven’t reviewed your portfolio lately do it now. You might be taking more risk than you think.

Stock funds have outperformed all other options for over 5 years running. This means that if you had about half of your assets in stocks 5 years ago, you’ve likely got the vast majority of your money there now. And this means that a big decline in the stock market in 2014, 2015 and beyond could severely hurt your plans for retirement. Sometimes it pays to be heavily into stock funds. Other times it’s best to be more conservative when investing money in 401-k plans.

If your 401-k asset allocation shows that you are more than 50% invested in stock funds consider cutting back. After 5 very good years, the stock market could be running out of steam. If your plan offers a safe STABLE ACCOUNT that pays interest, take advantage of it. It could pay 3%, 4% or more, and you won’t find interest rates like that anywhere else. Remember, investing money in 401-k plans is a long-term proposition and your future retirement income will depend on whether or not you make money investing consistently.

Bond funds need your attention as well. These have been good options for over 30 years because they perform well when interest rates are falling. When rates go up they LOSE money; and in 2014, 2015 and beyond rates are expected to go up after falling for more than 30 years. In other words, bond funds are NOT safe options. If you want to lighten up on risk, your plan likely offers one or two safe options: a stable account and a money market fund.

Consider the stable account first because it will pay a higher interest rate. As for your 401-k asset allocation: equal allocation to a safe option, stock funds and bond funds makes good sense, both for the assets you hold and for new contributions going in from your paycheck. With this asset allocation average investors you can still make money investing in 401-k plans if present trends continue. If the stock market tanks or interest rates rise, money in the safe options will soften the blow.

Investors need to understand that both the economy and market trends change. You can make money investing in 401-k plans over the long term without taking undo risk. The key to success for 2014, 2015 and beyond is good money management and more safety in your 401-k asset allocation. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry, and to keep some powder dry in safe options, awaiting future opportunity.

B2B Content Marketing Statistics and Trends: How Do You Measure Up?

The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently published their annual B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America report. Looking back at 2013 and ahead to 2014, the study revealed many intriguing B2B content marketing statistics. You will definitely want to check it out for yourself, but below are a few key findings to help gauge how your content marketing efforts measure up to your competitors.

Not surprisingly, B2B marketers who had a documented content strategy were more likely to consider themselves successful (66 percent compared to 11 percent), and the majority of the most effective marketers (86 percent) said someone oversaw their strategy.
Key takeaway: Your business needs a leader to own your B2B content marketing activities. Whether you outsource content or manage it internally, give one person the primary responsibility of executing your plan.

Marketers used an average of 13 B2B content marketing tactics last year. Seven tactics surpassed 70 percent in popularity, topped by social media, articles on their own websites, eNewsletters, blogs, in-person events, case studies, and videos. The most successful B2B marketers rated blogs as the most effective tactic (79 percent), while infographics have seen the largest year-over-year increase in usage.
Key takeaway: Your business needs to use a diverse set of tactics to connect with prospects and customers. While blogs and social media will likely continue to be the best B2B content marketing tactics, you should also consider repurposing content as eNewsletters, case studies, white papers, videos, infographics, and online presentations.

B2B marketers used an average of six social media platforms. SlideShare, Google+, and Instagram saw the largest increase in usage, but the top three platforms are still LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook (in that order).
Key takeaway: While you should continue to engage with prospects and customers on the most popular social media platforms, branch out to other sites on which your target audience hangs out. The most effective social media sites will, as always, depend on your industry and type of business. They can range from video-sharing sites like YouTube to presentation-sharing sites like SlideShare to Google’s favorite social networking site (its own, Google+, of course!).

At 82 percent, brand awareness has been the number one goal for marketers for the last four years. After brand awareness, the top B2B marketing goals were lead generation, customer acquisition, thought leadership, engagement, and customer loyalty.
Key takeaway: While you are undoubtedly trying to achieve many goals with your B2B content marketing strategy, they all start with creating and sharing high-quality content your target audience wants. If you don’t provide it, they will find it with a competitor.

On average, 43 percent of B2B marketers use a combination of in-house and outsourced resources for content creation. Although large companies outsource content creation more often than small companies, more small companies plan to increase their budgets over the next twelve months.
Key takeaway: B2B content marketing spending will inevitably continue to rise as businesses of all sizes–and in virtually every industry–reap the benefits of implementing an effective content marketing program. With so many options available and competition steadily increasing, you need to define a specific strategy that is tailored to your goals. An unfocused approach will likely result in spreading yourself too thin in too many different areas.

How does your business measure up to these B2B content marketing statistics and trends? Which tactics have been most effective? How do you plan to outperform your competitors this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Critical Mass on the Russian Internet

The Internet holding Rambler Media is known to every Russian-speaking user of the World Wide Web. It’s the first and the oldest Russian search engine. Search, news, an introductions service, mail on rambler.ru, the famous Lenta.ru, the goods catalogue on price.ru – for many years all these maintained Rambler as the market leader on the net. However, in the last few years, the company has been losing turnover. Certainly, the company has remained in the top three companies on the Russian net – Yandex, Rambler and Mail.ru – but reliance on old projects has become harder and harder to sustain, and fireworks from new ones – except the purchase of a block of shares in the contextual advertising company Begun – have not been remarkable. Their TV channel brought a series of losses, and was consequently sold. Mobile content initially generated decent profits, but then also began to stagnate. This spring, the company witnessed a change of all its top management. We invited one of the new team, Artur Akop’yan, Financial Director for the Rambler Media Group, to an online interview.

1. Can Rambler at last become competitive and marketable? Will it at last be possible to be proud of the company? Why does Rambler, unlike Yandex, not sell a full range of contextual advertising? How are you going to position Rambler?

- Rambler is a multi-service information Internet-portal offering a wide range of opportunities for work, information searching, communication and entertainment in the modern world. Rambler should be a portal that’s convenient and interesting to use every day. As for marketability, the company’s core business, its Internet division, has been profitable for several years already. In the future, we hope to bring you a number of pleasant surprises, so that you can be genuinely proud of us. We see our task as being to retain Rambler’s market position. Our priority is to increase traffic and the number of users, and also to improve the quality of our services.

2. How successful do you consider the existence of the Rambler-TV television channel? Has the investment justified expectations?

- From a purely financial perspective, Rambler-TV was very successful. We sold it at a significant profit (in January 2007 a deal was finalized for the sale of the channel to Prof-Media Holding for $23 million, the initial investment was considerably less). The question of expectations in terms of audience ratings is not so relevant for us now. In 2006, Rambler’s board of directors took the decision to focus exclusively on Internet development and, in that context, the sale of non-core business has been very successful.

3. Right now, hundreds of new companies are trying to “catch the spirit of Web2.0″, to “create a social network”, and are generally full of hope that a start-up in this field is going to garner then success. As a financial expert, and as a representative of one of the leading Internet companies in Russia, could you give your considered opinion on the prospects of such start-ups?

- As far as source of income goes, in a market like Russia’s, the preference for business models connected with profit from advertising is going to be with us for a long time. For Rambler, and for other major players, it will be a long time before other means of attracting income (including direct provision of services), play more than an utterly insignificant role in our financial results. As a financier, when I hear of yet another plan to “create a social network”, the main question that I want to ask is: how deep are the investors’ pockets for this project?

4. I’ve got an idea for an Internet project, but surely if I take it to web-development specialists there’s a good chance that they’ll develop my idea without me, or work with me, but then create a clone, a perfected version, already knowing all the plusses and minuses of my project. How can I protect myself from outcomes like this? What is the minimal sum needed to create an Internet portal from nothing, and are there financial structures that might actually be interested in start-ups?

- As I see it, at the current stage of market evolution, to create an Internet portal from nothing, especially a portal for a large public with a horizontal line of services, is practically impossible, or at least demands the investment of tens of millions of dollars. On the hand, it’s possible to develop a specialized service with the outlay of only a few tens of thousands of dollars. There are investors of that type right now, but, as far as I can tell, there are far more people interested in investing than there are realistic projects. As to your question about the protections of ideas: certainly there is that type of risk, and it all depends of the choice of partner. I should add, however, that it’s very rare to find a project that is genuinely unique, and that offers something that can’t be found anywhere else or can’t be realized by other people.

5. It’s often said today that there’s more money in the Internet than there are interesting ideas, and that all more or less interesting projects are snapped up. If that’s true, then what types of buyer are there around? What kinds of site generate buyer interest? Do the current profits of a project have decisive significance, or are the idea itself and the prospects for development more important?

- It’s almost impossible to give a clear classification of the types of investor. Individual investors can be swayed by current profitability or by future prospects. To answer that question would require separate research. I’d like to warn against following general trends. There has been a lot of talk recently about social networks, about blogs, about instant-messaging systems and Internet messengers. In fact, the market for such resources is already saturated. The pioneers in that market have already had the chance to take the pickings, or to sell out to the biggest players, and further new investment in that type of project is pointless.

6. What do you think about SEO (search engine optimization)? How long will it take for search engines to come up with a personalized information search on the Internet, which will take into account individual requirements, search history, etc. And will that not spell the end for SEO?

- There have been several estimates given recently for the size of the market in search-result optimization. According to some of them, it has reached $50 million dollars per year in Russia and the CIS. It’s a big industry. The battle between the human intellect and search engines reminds somewhat of the chess games with artificial intelligence (the battles between Kasparov or Kramnik and Deep Fritz or Deep Blue). Obviously, search engines are going to get more intelligent and more relevant through personalization (through narrower settings around users’ interests), through more intelligent setting of parameters, through better quality filtration of spam (doorways), and through a host of other algorithms. But it’s a little too optimistic to predict the end for search optimization. It’ll get harder for them, but there will still be opportunities for flashes of human intellect.

7. What do you think of advertising on blogs, and how good are the prospects for this sector?

- It is possible to make money from your own blog, but not much. I would point to three basic means: contextual advertising, hidden marketing and sponsorship. For personal blogs in Russia, as a rule we’re talking about tens or, in the best case, hundreds of dollars per year. As an example, take the recent noisy announcement of a contract between Soup Fabrik and Alfa-Bank ($50,000). Obviously, the commercial potential for that type of project can’t be compared with the opportunities or budgets for media, banner or contextual advertising. There is only really potential for projects that have existed for more than a few years and have a strong original concept with specific content. Good examples are Alex Eksler’s original project, where there are always numerous commercial advertisements. Also, Internet Things, the authors of which are looking for “favorite sponsors”. Secret marketing is, of course, secret, so it’s impossible to point to definite examples of its successful use. Although you could use the example of the recent post on the Norwegian Woodsman’s blog about the Macdonald’s factory. Most bloggers think of him as a hippy. There is an enormous public living in the blogosphere and, undoubtedly, that public is interesting to advertisers. But it’s still questionable whether or not there exist the tools or even the spaces to meet the requirements of those advertisers.

8. How much longer are the prices for banner advertising going to continue rising?

- The Internet in Russia is only just beginning to develop, growth for Internet access penetration is forecast for the next five to six years, but it’s already realistic to talk about the Internet having reached a critical mass to be of interest to advertisers. For now it is only 1.6% of general advertising budgets, while in developed countries that figure is closer to 5-6%. That suggests great potential for growth. Rambler is trying to unbalance the market by unnecessarily increasing prices for advertising. Nonetheless, thanks to the growth in our audience and the increase in interest in our advertising users, we have been able gradually and slowly to increase the price for a thousand displays.

9. What is the growth potential for regional and highly specialized segments on the Internet? Will they be able to escape from the shadow of big-budget projects like yours? As far as I can tell, they have two possible paths of expansion – to stop being targeted or to come under the umbrella of the strongest players on the Russian Internet.

- Highly specialized projects can live very well in their niche, if their concept is in demand. If the project is a copy of some competitor’s and there is a strong desire to beat them, then the deciding factor is really the support of the portal. Regional projects are a different matter. In many respects, they exist in a different world. In fact, it’s less that they need the portals, and more that the portals need them to increase their penetration in the provinces. From an economic point of view, access to regional and to national traffic in the regions is slowly leveling out, although nothing is going to change the fact that local resources know their area better, and that makes them more interesting to local users. The local listings business (a good American example would be Craigslist), undoubtedly has a definite potential. Neither Rambler, nor Microsoft, nor Yahoo! are capable of, or interested in, providing an information resource for the timetable of turning off the hot-water supply in Ussuriysk. And there are users who want not only to take pride in Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, but also to find suburban train timetables for their local station, and cinema listings for their neighborhood. A resource like Rambler should consolidate those resources – through searches, through special projects, and through promotion. But we don’t want to swallow up all regional resources and, what’s more, we can’t.

UK Mortgage Market Review

The Mortgage Market Review

Getting a mortgage is no longer as straightforward as it used to be and is increasingly becoming difficult. Add to this, the difficulty of raising a sufficient deposit. Unfortunately, it may become more challenging to get a mortgage from 26 April 2014 when new rules come into effect, commonly known as the Mortgage Market Review or MMR.

Background to the Mortgage Market Review

Partly due to the property boom, in particular 2005 to 2007; and the severe financial consequences faced by some; the Financial Services Authority conducted a full review of the mortgage market as highlighted in its discussion paper of October 2009. In particular, the Financial Services Authority looked at the regulatory framework to ensure that risky and sometimes, irresponsible borrowing of the boom years is a thing of the past and that consumers are better protected.

Shelter fully supports the changes. Interestingly, in Shelter’s Consultation Response it highlights that the “FSA’s own data shows that nearly half of mortgagor households have either no money or a shortfall after living costs and housing costs, a stark statistic which further highlights the extent of our affordability crisis.”

The Mortgage Market Review Implementation

Buy to let is not affected by the Mortgage Market Review and buy to let lending remains unregulated. The Mortgage Market Review only applies to residential mortgages.

Borrowers will need to satisfy lenders of their income. Effectively, an end to self-certified UK residential mortgages which were popular in the boom years. Evidence of income must be provided by all borrowers.

A significant change is a move away from income multiples in assessing how much a borrower can lend to strong affordability checks to check expenditure versus income to see if a borrower can really afford the mortgage applied for.

Any application for an interest only mortgage will also require the lender to delve a bit deeper than simply taking the word of the borrower. Lenders will looks closely at the proposed repayment strategy and its credibility.

With some exceptions, all face to face and telephone mortgage sales must be on an advised basis (in a nutshell, this where the borrower is advised on the best mortgage).

Some lenders have already announced their changes whilst other have already implemented their new stricter lending policies.

Conclusion

The Council of Mortgage Lenders Director General, Paul Smee, states:

“The introduction of MMR regulation will bring the largest change to how the mortgage market works in over a decade. The industry has shown that it is ready, and we anticipate a smooth transition into the new framework. We hope and expect the new rules will provide a robust and stable framework for the long term. We hope that any transition issues can be managed in a way which minimises their impact on the borrower, and the CML is ready to assist the FCA in this task.”

The Council of Mortgage Lenders has been working closely with the Money Advice Service to produce online guides for anyone wanting to apply for a residential mortgage under the new rules.

The Mortgage Market Review is designed to protect consumers. Borrowers should check revised lending criteria that applies from 26 April 2014, be prepared for a longer mortgage application process compared to previously and should be fully prepared to provide evidence of income and expenditure.

A Quick-Start Incubator Model for Hybrid Math and Science Programs in Kentucky’s School Systems

Abstract

An educational program “incubator” is comparable to a business incubator in that it is a start-up program that may be implemented on a larger scale if it is deemed successful. “Success” may be measured by a number of parameters: the participating students’ standardized test scores, end of course exam scores, ACT/SAT scores, number of students meeting college acceptance criteria, and/or the general perception of the program within the school district/community. A more subjective measure of success, but no less important, is the sustained interest of students (with a focus on young women) in the sciences throughout their primary/middle/and high school years. It is this subjective measure of success that led to the development of this particular “incubator” model’s concepts and strategies.

Introduction

The “incubator” model that I present is not from the perspective of a life-long educator, but from the perspective of a career scientist, an application specialist, an operations manager, and a middle school/high school science teacher for only the past seven (7) years. I readily admit that I am not an expert on pedagogy. However, I believe I have mastered thinking out-of-the-box and applying those revelations to systems that may require a different approach to achieve mandated outcomes. I do not believe the system of education in Kentucky is broken, far from it; there are many great minds and passionate, dedicated people in all levels of Kentucky’s educational system. Nevertheless, I do believe that any company/industry/system that does not embrace an investment in research and development is destined to stagnate. As we have seen with the United States’ status in math & science education in comparison to say that of Finland’s, I believe an evaluation of alternative concepts is in order.

Target Audience

This three (3) year incubator targets a student population from 8th grade through 10th grade – providing accelerated online curriculum, college affiliated dual-credit coursework, water quality and biodiversity fieldwork, science-themed monthly public presentations, and student mentoring at local elementary schools. Students would have the option at the end of year three (3) to start taking college courses full-time in year four (4), having earned enough credits to graduate from high school. The other options available to students in Kentucky would be attending the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University, or returning to their home school and take AP level coursework plus electives (ideal for athletes with 2 years of eligibility remaining).

Student Selection Reasoning: The eighth grade student population selection is based on the following reasoning: in Kentucky, an eighth grade student’s science exposure is minimal at best. Since science is not tested in Kentucky’s middle schools at the eighth grade level, some middle schools do not offer science classes in order to double up on social studies which is tested in eighth grade. By incorporating these students into an incubator, it provides greater continuity for science students and a focus on retaining young women’s enthusiasm for the sciences.

Budget

The initial funding required for this incubator model is dependent upon the availability of resources: classroom access, classroom amenities (calculators, chairs, computer workstations, lab workstations, SMART Boards or tablets, tables, white boards), curriculum, laboratory supplies, teacher salaries, and transportation. If existing teachers are used to staff the model and a location for the program already exists then initial start-up cost may be 50-75K dollars. Annual costs, if just for resupply of used equipment and materials, are approximately 25k-40k per year.

Staffing

Full-time teaching positions: This incubator uses a POD concept. The POD concept is a middle school team model using four (4) Highly Qualified designated instructors (these are the strongest in Language Arts/Math/Science/Social Studies pedagogy and content knowledge available, regardless of certification (high school/middle school)). Project SCALE-UP is designed to support ninety (90) students within a classroom, in this model a cohort, therefore each of the four (4) facilitators will mentor fifteen (15) students per session during the school day.

Location

Location(s) for this incubator could be: an Alternative school campus, or one (or more) of the existing high schools. The selected location(s) should have sufficient space for two large classrooms with multiple electrical outlets and internet access (wireless or LAN). The classroom need to have multiple large-volume printer/scan/fax devices to support student work. One of the classrooms will be used for laboratory activities, so extra water/gas access points will be needed as well.

Transportation

Transportation to and from Incubator Site: Transportation of students will be defined by the decision for the location of the incubator site. If the site selected is on the campus of the district’s alternative school program(s) or a separate magnet school facility, then consider the transportation plan 1.

Transportation Plan 1: In the morning, students are taken to their home high school, where they are transferred to the incubator site in a second bus – arriving at the incubator site prior to the incubator school day starting time. In the afternoon, students will need to end their school day early, in order to catch the transfer bus back to their home high schools prior to the end of the normal high school day. Students will then take the normal bus route home from each high school. Depending on the number of high schools in the district, additional transportation costs will be the costs for running the transfers to and from each site. School day hours for the incubator site will need to be adjusted to allow transportation of students to and from their home high schools.

Incubator located within the High school locations: If the incubator site(s) are located in the existing high schools, then consider transportation plan 2.

Transportation Plan 2: Students will follow the normal transportation routes to their home high schools in the mornings and in the afternoon. There are no additional transportation costs and no changes to the hours for the incubator’s school day required in this model.

i. Program Transportation Needs

Depending upon the size of the school district, and the number of students included in the program, there are a number of options for program transportation.

Option 1 – Dedicated School Buses (Eminence Independent School District Model): The model employed by the Eminence Independent School District is ideal for a Project SCALE-UP design program with cohort sizes of up to 90 students. In this model, two (2) school buses equipped with A/C and WiFi capability are dedicated to transport program students to all activities during the school day; the buses are used in normal district transportation be- fore school and after school. This concept provides flexibility in transporting program students to field work activities, on-campus college courses, and student mentoring activities, with WiFi access for coursework and research during transportation and on-site. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the vision of the leaders in this district; the simplicity and versatility of their program is exemplary.

Option 2 – Using School Vans (Bullitt County Model): The model employed by Bullitt County’s Advanced Math and Science Program is ideal for cohort sizes of 24 or less students. School vans, in this case 8 passenger vans, where used to transport students to research sites, other schools for mentoring, and to local museums/college campuses for presentations. Use of vans requires that one or all of the instructor’s undergoes driver certification every two (2) years, and there is competition for the use of the van with fall/winter/spring sports and other school groups. If all 24 students where to attend an offsite program or event, then a school bus would be required.

ii. Other Considerations

School programs, student testing and extracurricular activities: It is necessary to plan to transport students to their home schools for events such as concerts, pep rallies, and state exams. This may be as simple as transporting the students one-way, either to home school from the program site or from the home school to the program site. School buses will be required for this transportation.

Sports/Band: Students who participate in sports and/or band require special consideration. It is extremely important that these students do not feel like they must decide between participation in the program vs. participation in sports or band. Although, these students may find as they continue in the program that academic success may be inversely proportional to participation in extracurricular activities. Participation in marching band will require some creativity in scheduling, however since most high achieving students participate in band, I would address that reality early.

Curriculum

Online Curriculum: My teaching experience in the disciplines on math and science have left one indelible impression, printed curriculum is the weakest link in our system of education. From that point in time which it is printed and then distributed to the classrooms, it is out of date. Our foundation of knowledge changes too rapidly during the three to five year textbook selection cycle for the curriculum to ever be relevant. Online curriculum, with yearly cycles of content review is the best option we have at this point.

I readily admit I am not an expert in textbook funding, so I apologize for any wrong assumptions in this treatise. However, I am expert at the scientific analysis of issues and implementation of solutions, so it is from this perspective that I present the following for your consideration:

Research into textbook adoption for the students in Kentucky, yielded the following information: The budget, according to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), for FY2015 textbooks is $21,700,00.00; the number of high school students in the public schools in KY is approximately 400,000 – this number works well in this incubator model. This yields approximately $54.25 per student for FY2015 available to purchase curriculum. Based on my experience and relationships with the online curriculum vendors (Apex Learning, Edgenuity primarily) at a volume of 400,000 licenses the $54.25 per license is very reasonable. I feel very comfortable that a contract could be negotiated without issue. Please keep in mind that online curriculum would be for ALL disciplines – not just math and science.

Flexibility for course selection is a topic that requires a mention in this discussion. I personally found that an online offering of languages (Spanish, German, French, etc.) offered without dedicated instructors to be difficult for students to master. A district may consider offering the language component to the college/university partner to facilitate; also increasing the number of languages available as well.

An additional positive for the implementation of online curriculum, an A.P. certified teacher may not be required to teach their A.P. level courses. This is very beneficial, especially during the program design stage, when addressing the needs of Gifted and Talented students.

A final point for consideration is this: as school districts invest in technology for student use (iPads, laptops, and such) is the use of online curriculum not the next logical step in the evolution of our classrooms?

Project SCALE-UP: Project SCALE-UP [1, 2], initially introduced by Dr. Robert J. Beichner (North Carolina State University) as “Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs” and now renamed as “Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs”[1, 2], is the foundational model for this incubator program. Utilizing a cafeteria-style classroom, round tables seating anywhere from 6-9 students, up to 10 tables per classroom, upwards of 90 students can be accommodated at one time. Project SCALE-UP introduces the use of tangibles, ponderables, and concept inventories in the classroom along with large classrooms (in square footage) that accommodate lab activities and classroom activities in the same physical space. Combined with the aforementioned POD teaching concept, a unique synthesis in hands-on learning plus online curriculum and facilitation by the teachers can occur, and be very successful. And, may be easily adapted to fit the facility, even within an existing space at a high school.

“Flipped Classrooms”: Isn’t this just a model of a “Flipped Classroom”? The short answer is “no”; an explanation is required however. The “flipped classroom” concept revolves around the implementation and use of online curriculum in a standard classroom, usually with a student population equipped with iPads or laptops. Project SCALE-UP and in-turn this incubator takes the “flipped classroom” to the next level by surrounding the students with purposeful, targeted activities that exponentially increase the rigor and inquiry-based learning opportunities.

Suggested Curriculum Themes: As a vocal critic of too many disciplines (Astronomy, Astrobiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, etc., etc., etc.), I continue to seek thematic units that require students to master the Liberal Arts (Language Arts +Mathematics + Sciences + Social Sciences) to successfully complete the unit. There are three (3) that I have used (I’m sure there are others), that I offer for your consideration: Astronomy (recognized as a super-science), Pond/Stream Water Quality & Biodiversity studies, and Sustainability. These three (3) thematic units may be used individually as the subject for one school year’s study; incorporated into public speaking opportunities, science fair concepts, student fieldwork, and student mentoring activities.

Concept Inventories, Ponderables, and Tangibles: How to implement each in the classroom, I remember their implementation sequence in alphabetical order.

Concept Inventories [3], alphabetically leads the list and should lead-off the school year as a pre-assessment (an inventory) of a student’s prior knowledge of common sense concepts and ideas. For example: why are there four (4) seasons? – draw the relationship between the Earth and Sun to support your answer. It is through the implementation of concept inventories and the data obtained that I chose to redesign my incubator to include 8th grade students. Do not fret, one does not need to reinvent the wheel, there are a multitude of research-based concept inventories that may be accessed on the Internet. Concept inventories are traditionally multiple-choice format.

Ponderables [1, 2], teachers may be familiar with the term bell ringers or openers, however these two “concepts” do not meet the rigor of a “ponderable”. A “ponderable” is a pencil and paper thought exercise for students, no guidance for a solution is given and the rigor of the question is such that student-research is required to complete the activity. The timeframe for a “ponderable” may be 10-15 minutes, it measures a student’s ability to research, conceptual knowledge, creativity, and organizational skills. I’ve had success in the past creating “ponderable” questions by taking “missed” questions from a concept inventory and deleting the multiple-choice answers. “Ponderables” are more subjective than objective measurements of student abilities.

Tangibles [1, 2], consider a “ponderable” that is not a pencil and paper tool but a measurement tool for a student’s hands-on abilities and understanding of concepts. For example: using a single sheet of notebook paper, fashion the tallest, free-standing object possible. “Tangibles” gauge a student’s creativity, and application of concepts to a hands-on activity.

Suggestions – Student Laboratory Activities: Think college-level and career-oriented activities. The implementation of online curriculum in the classroom, specifically the science disciplines, comes complete with a set of “dry lab activities”. These activities are useful for the most part, however given the amount of lab time available, these were the first thing I scrapped. I am a firm believer that for students to be successful in college labs and in careers where lab proficiency is a necessity, you can never start too early. When developing start-up and operating budgets for your program, this is not the area to be conservative or short-sighted. Consider the industries in your area, possible collaborations, college/university special- ties, and latest trends in employment. My suggestion – think biotechnology (electrophoresis/PCR/DNA analysis), think instrumental chemistry (gas chromatography/polarimetry/melting point apparatus), think electronics (circuit boards/programming), and think robotics. Select lab benches and tables that give you the most flexibility and bang-for-your-buck. Consider electricity, gas, and water requirements; safety needs; and ventilation requirements. If you have funds left over, purchase a high quality reflecting telescope, a remote data transmitting weather station for the roof of the school, and lots of plasticware and consumables for the labs. Consider purchasing pre-packaged lab activities to avoid storage of large volumes of solvents and acids/bases, and they have readymade student activity outlines. Do not forget to research activities at NASA to incorporate as lab exercises as well, especially in your Astronomy unit. I am an experimentalist at heart so this is my passion.

Student Fieldwork – Collaborations and Topics: Arguably, students take-in and retain more information and master more skillsets outside the classroom than inside. I find that I can teach more, across all disciplines, in the field – especially “observation”. And, if those skillsets are applied to a curriculum that captures their attention and imagination then it is a no-brainer. I can provide two examples that were a tremendous success for our program in Bullitt County; I am sure that these can be replicated elsewhere.

During year one of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Dr. Mark Woorms, Claude Stephens, and Andrew Berry ) in Clermont, KY. The students in our program performed biodiversity studies, GPS mapping, and water monitoring studies (pH, temperature, conductivity, BOD, fecal coliforms, flow rate analysis) on a multitude of streams and ponds throughout the forest. Student’s developed databases for the information interfaced with GPS mapping software, and presented their data to parent and professional groups in our area. Students monitored the streams and ponds Fall, Winter, and Spring – it was never too cold or too wet to discourage participation.

During year three of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with the Kentucky Science Center (Andrew Spence) to allow our students to present science topic demonstrations to visitors at the Center. Our first experience with the students was “DNA Day” at the Kentucky Science Center where students from our program facilitated electrophoresis analysis of “pseudo-DNA” for 900 elementary, middle, and high school students. The student attendees inoculated their own gels, followed the migration patterns in the electrophoresis baths, and then made an educated interpretation of the results. Our students enjoyed themselves more than the attendees.

Scheduling

Hybrid school week plus hybrid school year: I am truly an advocate for changing how we look at the school week and the school year; having the tools mentioned in this article just allows for implementation of the changes more efficiently.

Hybrid School Week: Is there an advantage to mirroring a college weekly schedule? A resounding “YES”. Students leave the comfort of their homes and the familiarity they have with high school classes and curriculum to participate in an alien and at times overwhelming environment called college. If students are not prepared, armed with the study and coping skills necessary to succeed – I believe we are setting them up for failure. I encourage you to design your incubator in such a fashion as to gradually push students outside their comfort zone while they still have the support structure around them.

For example: establish class schedules that are Monday-Thursday, Tuesday- Friday with Wednesdays open for labs, fieldwork, and study halls. Assign work on Mondays that is due the following Thursday; Tuesday’s work to be submit- ted the next Friday. And, most importantly keep an updated syllabus for every class online and do NOT accept late work unless due to an excused absence. For labs, prepare a lab exercise manual listing all the labs to be completed that semester requiring completion and preparation of lab reports in the appropriate, documented format. Prepare your lab stations prior to the start of the semester, allow students to organize their time and efforts to complete all labs by the established deadline. Hold the students accountable for the submission of their work on time. You are in the classroom to facilitate their success, not to spoon-feed them knowledge.

Hybrid School Calendar: The advantage to using an online curriculum is the ability to prepare a syllabus that implements year-round school scheduling. An instructor can use the summer months to reinforce student weaknesses: reading and writing techniques, study skills, and the preparation research papers. Instructors may also schedule refresher courses to keep students on top of their games prior to returning in the Fall, especially math skills. I am also an advocate for utilizing discussion boards and cloud technology for students to submit commentaries on books in the reading lists I assign for the summer. This keeps students from writing the dreaded book reports that they procrastinate writing and I wish to avoid grading. The discussion boards’ generate conversations that I can monitor and contribute to in real-time.

Conclusion

This article addresses just the tip of the iceberg when considering the establishment of an “incubator” for a hybrid education program in your district or within a single school. Without a tremendous initial capital outlay and using existing teaching resources, an “incubator” could be established within an existing high school to determine the viability of such a program with your student demographic. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of faculty selection; the teachers must be facilitators of knowledge not merely instructors. Having access to online curriculum does not minimize the role of the teacher in the classroom, it enhances it. And, finally, always remember “transparency” is critical in the success of your program incubator. Your administration, parents, students, and teachers must have input. And by soliciting input you can, in the best of all world, ensure that you have buy-in from all groups. Establishing ownership at all levels of the program contributes to the success.

References

[1] “Beichner, R., Saul, J., Abbott, D., Morse, J., Deardorff, D., Al- lain, R., Bonham, S., Dancy, M., and Risley, J. (2006). Student- Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Pro- grams (SCALE-UP) project. In E. F. Redish and P. J. Cooney (Eds.), PER-Based Reform in University Physics. College Park, MD: American Association of Physics Teachers

[2] “R. Beichner, and J. Saul, Introduction to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) Project. In Invention and Impact: Building Excellence in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, proceedings of a conference by the Am. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, April 2004, Washington DC, 2005.

[3] “Development and Validation of Instruments to Measure Learning of Expert-Like Thinking.” W. K. Adams & C. E. Wieman, 2010. International Journal of Science Education, 1-24. iFirst, doi:10.1080/09500693.2010.512369

Kelly Cleavinger, Eruditio-Demutare.com

April 25, 2014

Role and Responsibility of an IT Project Manager

Working on and leading a project would seem to have a lot in common, so selecting competent contributors to lead and assign work packages seems fairly logical. A milestone is a date when you expect a specific part of a project to be done. A good project manager will have the skills required to make the most of a limited budget and also to minimise risks within such a role. All must be managed together if to be a success. There are many ways in which a deliverable can be carried out and the way in which it is executed.

Upon approval of scope changes by the Change Control Board and Project Sponsor the manager will update all documents and communicate the scope change to all stakeholders. The manager executing the project will be involved in the entire lifecycle, from beginning to end. Any delegation of approval authority to the project manager should be done in writing and be signed by both the sponsor and manager delivering the project. Within the overall organisation, there will probably be teams defined as functional, project, or matrix structures. The project manager will deliver change requests to the owners for his/her immediate attention, and produce/obtain baseline schedule after approval from the sponsor.

A project is considered to be temporary endeavour because the goal is to deliver a specific product or implement certain process(es). A project is a temporary organisation, established to fulfil a specific remit. Project management is more than knowing how to build a team. Emphasis lies on the core methodology, risk management process, and contract management process as well as other aspects of the lifecycle. A successful project process must address the various phases of the overall lifecycle. The final values have to be agreed upon in a negotiation between the project delivery manager and the customer.

Students interested in earning higher degrees in project management often have undergraduate degrees. Degrees in project management have become an option when choosing a degree, which many institutions offering a wide variety of project management degrees requiring full-time attendance or part-time correspondence courses, making project management a career choice for many people with a through grounding in management and project methodologies and strategies such as IT project manager using PRINCE2 that sets out to separate various aspects of projects from planning, authorisation and execution to closing down a project.

Benefits derived from successful projects are not always straight forward as some projects endeavour to save money and others to simply processes. The term is highly relevant in a Project Management environment since most projects do not make any revenue and spend their initial capital in their execution phase.

Due to some major problems, some projects are abandoned during execution stage. When evaluating options, the whole-life value should be considered and not limited to the short term initial investment. Sometimes it’s best to spend a little and save a lot if the project is discovered not to be feasible proposition for the organisation early on. Projects within large organisations are almost always started in response to solve problems or fulfil a newly identified need.

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee comprises of some of the most distinguished politicians in Russia. The committee will take the responsibility of managing all events related to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, including execution of financial plans for the Sochi 2014 budget. The committee will not only monitor and manage the course of the Olympic objects’ development, but resolve all issues around the environment, public relations and political image. The committee is spearheaded by three members:

  • Alexander Zhukov is a former deputy prime minister of Russia who was recently elected as President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in May 2010. Before entering politics, Zhukov successfully finished his Economics and Mathematics degree at the Moscow State University. He also finished his master’s degree from the Harvard Business School in 1991. Zhukov served as vice president of the AVTOTRAKTOR Industry and became a board director for East-West Bank in 1992. He formally began his political career in 1994 when he was appointed by former acting Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to serve as deputy head for the State Duma Financial Committee. A decade later, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov appointed Zhukov as the first Russian deputy prime minister under his rule. Prior to his appointment as head of the ROC, Zhukov has played an active role during the initial preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games last year. He will take over Leonid Tyagachev’s seat after his voluntary resignation as 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee head.
  • Dmitry Kozak is the current deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation. He is famously known to his countrymen as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kozak served as chairman of the Putin’s campaign team when the latter ran for presidency during the 2004 Russian Presidential Elections. He also became an active member of the media committee administered by the Russian government until 2008. Born in the remote village of Bondurovo located in the Kirovohrad region, Kozak served as the head of the legal department of the Monolit-Kirovstroy Company and chief legal consultant for the Russian Association of Trade Ports in 1989.
  • Alexei Kudrin is the country’s deputy prime minister for finance. He entered the world of politics in 1996 under the presidential rule of Boris Yeltsin. With more than ten years of service, Kudrin’s highly-reputed status in approving budget reforms and intensifying the country’s “free market” rule earned him the “2010 Finance Minister of the Year” award from Euromoney magazine and World Trade Organization. Born in October 12, 1960, Kudrin graduated in Finance and Economics.

Debtors Can’t Be Hoarders

To some people, great art is more important than anything, including food and shelter.

For most of us, though, no matter how moving we find a piece of artwork, the choice between parting with it and meeting our basic needs would really be no choice at all.

The conflict between preserving culture and survival has recently played out on a national scale. Portugal, a country that remains desperately short of cash, partnered with Christie’s to prepare 85 pieces of art by Spanish surrealist Joan Miro for auction this month. However, in part due to the efforts of Portugal’s Socialist Party to challenge the sale, Christie’s withdrew the art just hours before the planned London auction. Even though the High Court in Lisbon dismissed the challenge, the auction house still cited concerns about legal complications that could affect future ownership rights.

The incident has been an embarrassment for Portugal and also leaves the government in a bind. Jorge Barreto Xavier, Portugal’s secretary of state for culture, said the government would have to consider next steps. “If we want to hold onto these works, we will have to find money for them somewhere,” he said, possibly in the form of additional cuts to the already slim budgets for education or health. (1)

The Banco Portugues de Negocios, the bank that formerly owned the artwork, was nationalized in 2008. The bank purchased the Miro collection from a Japanese investor in 2006; the collection was never displayed in Portugal. Though The Wall Street Journal reported that it is not yet certain whether the works will be auctioned by Christie’s in May or if they are destined for another fate, Portuguese opponents of the sale have lauded Christie’s decision as a cultural triumph anyway.

Pedro Lapa, the art director of Lisbon’s Berardo Museum, said “The Portuguese people should have the right to keep and enjoy what is now theirs.” (2)

His sentiment is understandable but deeply misguided. Portugal still relies on other members of the European Union, and other international sources, for support. But somehow it has become vital that this collection of artwork remain in the hands of the government, which never set out to acquire it in the first place.

If it is truly of great importance to the people of Portugal to retain this art, and if they would rather pay higher taxes, forego even more services or sell some other government property instead in order to keep it, that decision is their business. I don’t object. But it seems crazy to imagine that most of the people who have suffered through five years of crushing austerity will say their government’s top priority should be to collect artwork on their behalf.

The channel of art from private collection to collapsing bank to government to auction, in all its variations, is nothing new. The Bank of Ireland was among several Irish banks to sell their art collections during the height of that country’s recent austerity. Seized artwork from a collapsed South Korean bank went to auction in 2012. But the gap between critics’ reaction and financial reality is most closed mirrored by a situation here in the United States.

As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Detroit hired Christie’s to appraise the value of the portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection owned by the city. The auction house valued the 1,741 works of art in question between $421.5 million and $805 million. Some of the city’s creditors claimed this was a low-ball estimate. Either way, it is dwarfed by Detroit’s $18 billion debt.

Detroit is literally broke, making its situation even more outrageous than that of Portugal. The city barely functions. A lot of people to whom Detroit owes money are not going to get paid in full, or anywhere close. It is the duty of the bankruptcy court to get creditors paid as much as reasonably possible while allowing the debtor to clear the slate and go on with life.

Art lovers who have visions of Detroit someday becoming a world-class city again are loath to part with the city’s collection. But when the streetlights don’t work, ambulances don’t come and pensioners don’t get paid, it is at best a case of grossly warped priorities to insist on holding the art.

If some wealthy philanthropist – or a group of them – wanted to buy the art at fair market value and arrange to lend it to the DIA indefinitely, or establish or endow an independent museum in Detroit to house the art, that would be a great answer. There would be nothing more to talk about.

For now, a group of private foundations has stepped forward to try to preserve the art. Instead of purchasing it from the city, however, the group would pledge its funds toward Detroit’s pension obligations directly in exchange for the city leaving the art alone. So far, the foundations have pledged $370 million – not enough to meet even low end of Christie’s estimate. Officials at the museum have pledged to raise an additional $100 million, and Gov. Rick Snyder has asked the state Legislature to provide $350 million to reduce possible pension cuts and, at the same time, leave the museum’s art collection whole.

Art is important, but it is hard to argue that it is more important than reducing Detroit’s 58-minute average 911 response time or meeting its pension obligations, believed to be underfunded by up to $3.5 billion. Any outcome that leaves Detroit’s artwork in the hands of a city that can’t afford to maintain it, much less do without its value, or that underpays the city for what the art is worth and thus underpays the city’s citizens and creditors, would be almost grotesquely unjust.

Being broke has consequences. One is that you have to liquidate some assets and carefully set your priorities. Debtors can’t afford to be hoarders.

Sources:

1) The Washington Post, “Legal concerns foil Portugal’s art sale ambitions”

2) The Wall Street Journal, “Christie’s Pulls Auction of Joan Miró Art After Uproar”

What’s Forecast for 2014? 5 Predictions for the New Year

What’s Forecast for 2014? 5 Predictions for the New Year

1. The Gamification of Education – connecting like-minds to consolidate learning.

It’s a well known fact that gaming captures a teenager’s attention for hours whilst the traditional, listen-and-learn, lecture-theatre environment is failing to capture imagination with quite as much vigour as once did. 2014 will be the year when inspired educators seek to have fun with existing technology by way of making their material more captivating in its consumption. This will further open up the accessibility to advanced learning material. It will give Further Education Establishments a competitive challenge that will see them specialize with strong unique selling points or struggle to stay alive as information created by learners for learners, in practical, digestible terms – finds fun ways to reach its audience.

2. The Internet of Money – leaving behind the legacy of the recession – will it bite again?

#Bitcoin is gaining attention as financiers and entrepreneurs ask whether or not this currency is worth investing in. When I spoke with Andreas M. Antonopoulos, a leading #Bitcoin pioneer, his answer was clear. “Bitcoin is more than money for the internet, it’s the internet of money”. When you think about what the internet has done in terms of decentralizing communication, levelling the audience reach of a growing talent pool and increasing the accessibility of advanced learning materials as inclusively accessible – suddenly you can see how a currency with such a strategy as its raison d’être could implode the money markets as we currently know them to be.

The recession left us very slow at making decisions – whether we’re able to push past the cold-climate mindset the financial dip collectively caused remains a challenge for 2014. Analysts predict a potential market collapse as interest rates rise in May/June and we’re far from completely out of the dark days. The future is open to innovators and entrepreneurs willing and able to embrace the open doors such dramatic shifts in the sands of society – create.

3. Pinpoint Marketing and SOCIAL Engine Optimization – building on mobile, location, sensory and diverse data technologies to accurately target you at your most receptive.

Adverts dotting the sides of our screens and positioned as banners on pages are no surprise to us – quickly we’ve learnt to largely ignore them. Adverts disguised as cleverly positioned posts from our friends – entertaining, enlightening, captivating in their ingenious designs… infiltrating our social networks, pinpointing our needs with alarming accuracy and stimulating us into sharing them with our friends… 2014 will see the rise of directly targeted marketing. Created for social sharing, such advertising will blend with peer posts and leverage the trust you have in your network by way of enticing you into to a sale.
It’s scary. If you’re selling something you need to know how the power of such promotion works if you intend to retain your market share. Your search field will narrow as analytics get “better” at giving you what they think you want. Search Engine Optimization matters but SOCIAL Engine Optimization will matter more in 2014.

4. “Mean Green” (selfish shockers we thought we’d all out grown) – giving rise to an environmental agenda of growing economic interest as viable business models emerge.

A friend of mine’s 19 year old daughter asked for a real fur scarf for Christmas. I’ve been a vegetarian for 27 years – and an active feminist all my live – what I mean is I live to expect equality between men and women and give nature my full respect. We have had all of these debates endlessly; the environment, equality, poverty etc. – “Green” – as this colour has come to mean. I predict 2014 will sadly shed light on selfish acts we thought we’d outgrown with regards to disrespecting minority groups and disadvantaged individuals as well abusing nature and the environment. Such behaviour, seemingly unacceptable a few years ago will go relatively unreported and openly tolerated throughout the year.

This bad behaviour will be counteracted by Green communities, further incentivised by a noticeable decline in support for their cause. Suddenly the Green movement will gain momentum and accelerate in the right direction as re-innovated technologies become cost effective and viable business models emerge – particularly in respect of the supply of Green Energy.

5. Cross-cultural collaboration like we’ve never seen – driven by Millennial minds; people around the world, connected by a common cause, sharing and transferring know-how on a large scale.

The bottom-up revolution in the restructuring of society will gain momentum as the millennial generation empower ways of collaborating, creating together, sharing and transferring knowledge and skills in ways the baby boomers could never imagine. 2013 showed us how huge groups of people can quickly be pulled together through the power of social media – and how first hand facts, recorded and shared from the scene will spread faster than the information reported by mainstream media. Quite where this collective force will carry us throughout the year – remains to be seen.

There is a lot of positive energy surrounding 2014 and I am very excited about the prospects the year ahead has in store. Furthermore, I get the feeling that I’m not the only one caught up in such emotion.

We’re realizing more and more how much our state or mind, our mental well-being – how we feel, emotionally and intelligently – makes a massive difference to the quality of our health and wealth.

As you move into 2014 – my approach is to embrace the year whole-heartedly. Be aware of targeted advertising and the narrowing of your search field that will ensure. Work openly to broaden your interests.

Follow what excites you – make a point of meeting more like-minds, and be open to unexpected opportunities. It is with certainty AND surprise that TOGETHER we will thrive!

Have a great year!

To be included in the 7 part email series celebrating the start of 2014 – PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Can a Property Buyer Really Help You Financially?

The property market can always be a difficult area to follow. With the predicted increase of UK house prices by 7 per cent over 2014, many buyers are looking to invest. But what does this mean for home owners and sellers? As a home owner this means now is the best time to sell.

With more people desperate to buy, home owners and sellers can look to sell their properties for as much as 95% of asking price whereas on average sellers tend to sell for as little as 80% of asking price. This benefits any home owner you can gain more for your property than before. Home owners can also expect to achieve a quick house sale.

Although property prices have been increasing steadily over the recent months; studies show that the rate of property transactions have not increased at all. This means that despite the recent surge in property prices, the amount of sales has not increased which could prove worrying over the coming years. The fact is, mortgages are harder to gain and the government scheme ‘Help to buy’ has yet to be seen.

“House prices and the number of transactions remain well off their pre-crisis peak: we are not seeing an all-consuming bubble with prices running out of control and buyers snapping up anything at any price.” Said Nicholas Ayre, managing director of Home Fusion.

Many property experts are predicting a house price bubble. This means even if the prices are increasing now, there is a chance that property values will eventually decline and crash.

So how can a property buyer help you? A property buyer can help you in many ways, the first being landing you a large sum of money. With mortgage interest rates increasing, a property buyer can help to take away any mortgage payments you may currently have and save you from any debts. If you are looking to sell your house fast, there is no better time than now. Selling now will help you to avoid a housing bubble and help you gain maximum value for your property. With some buyers offering cash for property, there is no reason to wait. Selling now ensures a safer route out of any debts and mortgage payments giving you a comfortable future.

To summarise, rising house prices aren’t always a good thing. With recent problems in the British economy, many people are struggling; with wages at a standstill. Many people are stuck with low equity and are unable to progress. Increase in property prices in the short term may help, but with the fears of a possible house price bubble, it is advisable to not to take any risks. If a thought on your mind is “buy our house”, then look into a property buyer.

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