NASA Discovers Two New Planetary Systems with Earth-like Planets
If you’re looking for life on other worlds, a good place to start would be finding planets that are similar to Earth. Earth’s orbit around our star, the Sun, keeps us within a “habitable zone” that allows water to stay liquid, a key life ingredient.
If our orbit were too close, Earth would be too hot and water would boil away. If our orbit was too far from the sun, our water would freeze.
Earth is also just the right size. If a planet is too big, it’s likely become a gaseous giant like Jupiter. If it’s too small, it wouldn’t have the gravity necessary to hold an atmosphere close to it. An atmosphere is necessary to trap some of the heat we get from our just-the-right-distance-away star.
These are some of the factors that astronomers use when when scouring the universe for habitable planets. Unfortunately, the distances to other solar systems from Earth makes finding just-right “Goldilocks” planets like these a real challenge. In addition, little planets are much harder than big, bright stars to see in the darkness of space.
Recently, NASA scientists have used the Kepler spacecraft, a special telescope in orbit around the Sun, to discover habitable zone planets that are similar in size to Earth in two different solar systems. A few other habitable zone planets have been found before, but these are the smallest yet. Scientists don’t know if these planets are actually capable of supporting life, but these discoveries are a step towards identifying actual Earth-like planets.
Kepler discovers planets in other solar systems by pointing at one area in space for a long time and measuring the brightness of stars. Kepler watches to see if the stars temporarily dim, which is a sign that a planet is passing in front of the stars and blocking some of the light. Using a calculation that includes how much the starlight dimmed and how long it dimmed for, scientists are able to determine the mass of the planet and the size of its orbit.
While Financial Capability Month reminds us all that we could do a little bit more to be in charge of our finances, it is also a good time to talk to your kids about how they too can begin to understand finances and how it affects your family. Kids.gov has smart money sections for kids of all ages, and tips for parents and teachers on how to teach kids about understanding money.
Get your kids to write down where they spend their money or allowance so they can see how it adds up
Talk to your kids about “used” versus “new” and how borrowing a book from the library, or a game from a friend, is smarter than buying something new every time
Teach your kids to take good care of their games, books, DVDs and other purchases because it costs money to replace these items
Kids.gov also has a series of comic strips to teach younger and older children about how they can help their parents save money. Children can follow along in a fun and engaging way to learn simple tips such as turning off lights or helping clip coupons to help save money in the long run.
April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and everyone can play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children.
Child abuse prevention includes activities that stop a certain behavior or action, or promote positive action for the well-being of children. Research has shown that child abuse prevention must reduce risk factors and promote protective factors that ensures the well-being and safety of children.
Public awareness and creating supportive communities can also be a part of preventing child abuse. The Administration for Children and Families provides details on crafting an effective message for your community, tools for sharing your message, and ways to build community support.
Things to Think about when Choosing a Financial Advisor
By Eleanor Blayney, CFP, Consumer Advocate for CFP Board
I often speak to consumers on all sorts of financial planning issues – budgeting, debt management, saving and investing for retirement, financing education, and estate planning. But no matter the topic, there is one question always asked: “How do I find a good financial advisor?”
Frequent as the question is, it’s not asked nearly enough. Many individuals who might benefit from financial advice do not seek out an advisor, believing it will be too expensive or they can do it themselves. Those wanting to work with an advisor often do little more than ask their friends for a name. Choosing a financial advisor may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family, but most consumers spend less time looking for an advisor than they do deciding where to go on vacation!
It’s important for consumers to understand they’re in the driver’s seat when choosing an advisor. They need to determine what’s most important to them – do they want a long-term relationship, or do they simply have a few immediate questions? Are they willing to pay commissions, an asset management fee, or an hourly fee? Individuals often think they are not the “right” clients for financial advisors, perhaps because their net worth is low, or they’re not looking for investment advice. But that’s the wrong approach. It is not whether they are the right clients, but who is the right advisor?
When looking for that right advisor, remember this phrase — I COME FIRST! This is an acronym for the ten most important things to be thinking about.
I = INTERVIEW
Be sure to interview at least 2, preferably 3 advisors, even if your first contact with an advisor has you convinced that he or she is “The One.” By talking to several advisors, you will learn how various advisors work, and will appreciate the differences between them. It is customary for these interviews to be complimentary. Make certain you ask, however, if there is any fee associated with this meeting.
C = CREDENTIALS
Find out what the prospective advisor “brings to the table” in terms of training and experience. There are many advisory designations and certifications. Some are primarily for marketing purposes. Others, such as the Certified Financial Planner certification, carry some real heft, in terms of the requirements to earn the credential. You may want to know, for example, if the advisor had to go through an extended course of study and/or take an examination. Ask, too, if the advisor is required to abide by a code of professional ethics and standards.
O = ORGANIZATIONS
Ask potential advisors what organization regulates them. For example, brokers are supervised by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) whereas investment advisors are under the eye of the SEC or their state securities commission, depending on their size. Those licensed to sell insurance are regulated by their state insurance commission. Some advisors are dually registered and are supervised by more than one authority. Certified Financial Planner professionals are regulated by CFP Board – the non-profit organization responsible for their certification that imposes public disciplinary sanctions, including suspension and revocation, to those CFP professionals who are found to have violated its code of professional conduct. Contact these organizations to ascertain whether the advisor is in good standing.
M = MINIMUMS
If you are looking for an investment advice, be aware that some advisors take clients based on the size of the client’s investment portfolio. Ask about this up front. If you don’t meet an advisor’s minimum, don’t assume there is no one who will take you. Keep looking for those advisors offering advice on a different basis.
E = ENGAGEMENT
What would an engagement with the advisor entail? Find out not only what services would be provided – such as tax prep, retirement planning, investment management – but also how you would work with the advisor. Will you be working with one advisor, or are there other team members you may be interacting with? How often will you meet? Can you call the advisor whenever you have questions without creating a new and separate engagement? Will the advisor be calling you when there are changes in the economic or tax environment?
F = FIDUCIARY
A financial fiduciary puts a client’s interests ahead of his own when providing advice, and makes full disclosure of any potential or existing conflicts of interest that could influence the basis of his advice. For example, Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are legally required to be fiduciaries; CFP professionals providing financial planning are also required to act as fiduciaries as a condition of their certification. But there are many financial practitioners who are not held to this standard. The simplest, most direct way to find out if your advisor will be acting as a fiduciary in his engagement with you is to ask: “Are you a fiduciary?” You can also ask to see this in writing.
I = INCOME
All financial advisors earn income, one way or another, but it is important that you understand how the various compensation arrangements work. Generally speaking, advisors are distinguished as either being “fee” or “commission,” or some combination of the two. Commissions are earned on product sales or transactions. These commissions are sometimes paid by the client, sometimes by the product provider. Fees can mean an hourly fee for advice; a set fee for a given project; such as preparing a financial plan; a retainer fee; and asset management fees, wherein an advisor is paid to build and manage a client’s portfolio as a percentage of the client’s portfolio.
R = REFERENCES
When interviewing an advisor, by all means ask if you might speak to some of the advisor’s clients. Be aware, however, that few, if any, advisors will give you the names of dissatisfied clients. Further, maintaining the confidentiality of clients is an important practice, so the advisor may be unwilling to ask his clients for permission for you to contact them.
S = SPECIALTY
Financial expertise covers a wide array of topic areas: cash flow and debt management; risk management; tax, education, investment, retirement, and estate planning, to name some of the most common. Discuss with a potential advisor which areas he or she may specialize in, and whether referrals are given to outside professionals for advice in areas where the advisor is not expert.
T = TYPES OF CLIENTS
Some advisors focus on particular types of client: divorced clients, retirees, professional women, doctors and attorneys. Sometimes the focus is defined by levels of wealth, such as middle income, affluent, or mega-affluent. Find an advisor for whom you are the “norm” — right in his or her sweet spot of practice. You do not want to be the advisor’s biggest, nor smallest, client, nor do you want to have a life situation or profession that the advisor is unfamiliar with.
Yes, there is a lot to think about when choosing an advisor, and there are many, many different styles of practice and business models. Nevertheless keep the focus on yourself, remembering that you and your financial needs COME FIRST.
Visit www.LetsMakeaPlan.org to find a Certified Financial Planner professional who fits your needs and for additional consumer resources on financial planning.
Three fourths of fatalities from direct exposure to a chemical or biological agent can be traced back to the first 15 minutes of an event. The Naval Research Laboratory’s CT-Analyst provides instant 3D predictions of agent transport, so first responders can spend more time saving lives.
Learn how the technology works to protect us in a video from NRL.
By Jessica Orquina, Social Media Lead, Environmental Protection Agency
Earth Day is Monday! What are you going to do to protect the planet and celebrate? Here at EPA, we work to protect human health and the environment every day. On Earth Day to celebrate, we continue our work and take a moment to appreciate our planet.
Here are some things you can do online and in your community:
Get information, event listings, and learn about how you can help protect the planet on April 22nd and every day on our Earth Day website.
Want to volunteer or attend an event on Earth Day? Check out our events page to learn about opportunities across the country on our local events page.
Environmental action can mean taking simple steps in the different places where we all live. Start making a difference today by joining Pick 5 for the Environment!
Sign up for GoGreen! (our monthly email consumer newsletter) for news, activities, or events you can use to make a difference at home, in your community, and at your workplace - Earth Day and every day!
April 20th - 28th celebrates National Park Week across the United States when the National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with the National Park Foundation, honors our nation’s heritage. There is free admission to all national parks from Monday, April 22nd through Friday, April 26th.
With 401 National Parks across the country, many of these sites include battlefields, historic homes, and seashores. You can plan your own visit or look at the events calendar to see special programs offered throughout the week at national parks near you.
National Junior Ranger Day will be held on April 20th, which invites young visitors to “explore, learn and protect” our national parks, and includes being sworn in as a Junior Ranger.
For adults, April 27th is Volunteer Day, where you can help on a variety of national park projects across the nation.
How can I get a scholarship for a masters degree program in one or your colleges in the USA?
Asked by an anonymous Tumblr user.
EducationUSA, a Department of State website, has helpful information on the steps international undergraduate and graduate students should take to study in the U.S., including information about financial aid.
By Nisha E. Smalls, Consumer Education and Outreach Specialist, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission
If you’ve ever traded in precious metals, you’ve traded in commodities. Commodities are physical products that people trade in the marketplace. If you’ve been thinking about trading commodities, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recommends you follow some basic principles and be on the alert for possible fraud.
Always follow these basic principles before you trade in the commodities markets:
Ensure that you can lose all of your investment and still be financially secure because it is “risk capital”
Check to make sure you have your risk disclosure documents
Determine if you will rely on advice from a broker or make your own trading decisions
Understand your financial obligations in commodity futures and option contracts
There is a great deal of fraud in the commodities markets. Fraudsters steal money from unsuspecting investors and traders. These are a few ways that fraudsters try to beat you out of your money:
Downplay the importance of the disclosure statement
Tell you to borrow money to invest
Guarantee profit or boast about past performance
Promise profits due to “predictable” seasonal or market cycles
Make “can’t miss claims” based on information already known to the public
You can beat the fraudsters by checking their registration status and background at the National Futures Association’s Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC).
If you have questions, are aware of suspicious activities, or believe you have been defrauded, please let the CFTC know immediately at www.cftc.gov/TiporComplaint.
How to Report Tips Related to the Boston Explosions
Monday afternoon, two explosive devices detonated in Boston. Three people were killed and more than 150 people were wounded.
If you have any information or visual images related to the explosions, please contact the FBI by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (prompt #3). No piece of information or detail is too small.
Looking for a Spring Family Activity? Plant a Garden
There’s no better time to plant a garden than spring, when the weather is just right for plants and flowers. But you don’t have to do it alone. Planting a garden can be a great family activity that also promotes the environment.
There are several things you should consider before getting started.
Before Planting a Garden
Figure out how much space you have and what type of plants you’d like to have. There are different types of gardens for houses or apartments. Do some research and pick the one you like the most.
Once you are ready:
Select the plants you want. If you’re not sure which ones to choose, go to a gardening store and take your family with you. Everybody can help pick the plants, flowers or fruit trees for your home.
Make a budget for plants and materials to help you stay on track.
Be careful with drainage holes as too little water or too much water can affect the growth of your plants.
Make sure the soil has the right nutrients. Ask a specialist to recommend the right type of soil for your garden.
When Planting a Garden
Consider these tips as you begin:
Separate your flowers and trees so they are not too close to each other.
Figure out how much water and shade each plant will need.
Make a layout of your garden so you know which plants need to go where.
Once you’re ready to start, get your family together and assign tasks such as spreading the soil and placing the seeds in the holes.
After Planting a Garden
Taking care of your garden regularly will help your plants grow healthy. Give family members weekly tasks to help maintain the garden. For a healthy garden, make sure to:
Water your plants according to their needs. Some will need more water, some will need less.
Add fertilizer to the soil to make sure your plants get the nutrients they need.
Developmental Disabilities in Children – Early Screening and Intervention Can Help
About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. has one or more developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, fragile x syndrome, and others. Some conditions can be identified before a baby is even born while others may be identified in early childhood.
If you’ve noticed that your child isn’t reaching milestones for his or her age, speak to a doctor. It’s important to share your concerns as soon as you notice a problem because early screening and intervention can positively affect a child’s ability to learn.
By Gail Cunningham, National Foundation for Credit Counseling
April is Financial Capability Month. You probably won’t find any greeting cards celebrating that fact, but don’t let that stop you from taking a closer look at your personal economic situation.
It’s always fun to see how we stack up against our peers, and the NFCC’s hot-off-the-press 2013 Financial Literacy Survey is a great way to do that.
This year’s survey results provided somewhat of a mixed message. More than one in four respondents indicated they are spending more than last year, yet 77 percent admitted to having financial worries, listing insufficient savings as their top financial concern. Yes, you read that correctly. Americans (that means you) are spending more, but at the same time are worried about a lack of savings.
Taking a closer look at consumers’ top financial concerns, check out the following. (Respondents were allowed multiple responses, so don’t worry about the percentages not adding up to 100.)
Not enough savings – Overall, 57 percent of Americans indicated they are worried over a lack of savings, including 43 percent who are concerned about not having enough “rainy day” savings for an emergency, and 38 percent concerned about retiring without having enough money set aside. Although fairly evenly divided, the data suggest that having enough money to resolve daily emergencies takes precedence over the longer term retirement planning.
Not being able to pay financial obligations – A total of 26 percent of those responding, or roughly 61 million people, were worried about servicing their debt commitments, including concerns around paying credit card debt (13 percent), repaying student loan debt (8 percent), an inability to make monthly vehicle payments (7 percent), and not being able to pay off existing medical debt (6 percent).
Health insurance – One in four (25 percent) are worried about health insurance – either not being able to afford it (19 percent) and/or not having any (17 percent).
Credit – While 19 percent were worried about their credit score and/or lack of access of credit overall, 16 percent were anxious about their score, with 9 percent concerned over their lack of access to credit, suggesting that consumers continue to realize the importance of credit in their lives. However, most adults have neglected to review their credit report (65 percent) or score (60 percent) in the past year.
Job loss – Eighteen percent, or more than 42 million Americans indicated fear of job loss as a major concern, a number that is disturbingly high.
Foreclosure – As the least of consumers’ concerns (among those listed), a comparatively small 4 percent of Americans are worried over losing their home to foreclosure, undoubtedly a positive signal for the housing industry and the economy as a whole.
The good news is that 20 percent of U.S. adults indicated they do not have any financial worries, a strong sign of consumer confidence.
Remaining stubbornly consistent over the past three years, 40 percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance. How would you grade yourself? Should you put yourself in financial time-out?
Based on this poor report card, it is not surprising that nearly four in five (78 percent) agree that they could benefit from additional advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional.
Know that there is ample opportunity for you to improve your level of financial literacy and take steps to resolve any financial problems. Not surprisingly, most adults indicated that if they were having financial problems related to debt, they would first turn to their friends and family for assistance (28 percent). A similar number (27 percent) also said they would reach out to a professional nonprofit credit counseling agency for help, demonstrating a high level of confidence in the value of credit counseling.
So, how did you fare? If any of this data hits too close to home, take action. Ignoring a financial problem rarely solves it, and looking the other way only makes the problem harder to solve. To get started, consider renaming April My Financial Capability Month and resolve to make positive changes that will move you into a more stable financial future. Then start planning your Financial Capability Month 2014 party!