How to Borrow From Your Life Insurance Policy

1.Determine your policy's approximate cash value by looking at your last annual statement from the insurance company, and plan on borrowing no more than 90 percent of that value.
2.Find the policy's contract number on the title page of the policy or on your annual statement.
3.Call the insurance company's home office during regular business hours, usually 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in each time zone. Earlier in the day is usually a better time to call.
4.Choose the key prompt for "customer service" or "policy owner service."
5.Give the customer service representative your policy's contract number and indicate that you want to borrow against the policy.
6.Ask the customer service representative for the policy's exact cash value and how much of that amount you may borrow.
7.Ask when you can expect to receive a check in the mail, and write down that date.
8.Document your call by writing down the first and last name of the customer service representative and his or her direct phone number or business extension. 
Your local insurance agent or agency will have the insurer's home office contact information if you're unable to find it.
During your call for the loan, be prepared to answer a number of questions that will help verify your identity as the policy's owner.
To ensure that you get the policy's maximum loanable value, ask the customer service representative when the insurance company credits your policy's cash value with dividends, interest or other gains. You may want to wait to borrow until those credits have been added to your account. 
Though you don't have to repay a loan against your policy, any unpaid loan balance and accrued interest will be subtracted from what the policy's beneficiary receives at the death of the insured.
Outstanding loan balances may trigger a "tax event" (typically the issuance of an IRS Form 1099) if you choose to cash in (or "surrender") your policy at a later date.
If a high percentage of the policy's cash value is borrowed and premiums are not paid on time, the policy may lapse, resulting in the loss of coverage (the "death benefit" paid to the beneficiary) and possibly triggering a further tax event.
Certain types of "cash-rich" insurance policies have been designated "modified endowment contracts" (or MECs) by the IRS. Loans against MECs are not tax-free. If you suspect that your contract might be an MEC, be sure to ask about the loan's possible tax consequences before you borrow. 

How to Choose Personal Financial Management Software

1.Check reviews in computer magazines and on the Internet to narrow your choices.
2.Compare features and prices of programs.
3.Stick with the basic versions of programs unless you want to use a program to monitor investments.
4.Compare planning and budgeting features and investment tools if you will use them.
5.Buy Quicken if you want convenient integration with Intuit's TurboTax.
6.Buy Quicken if you want integration with Intuit's QuickBooks, a popular accounting program (mainly used by small businesses).
7.Find out which program your bank recommends or requires if you wish to integrate with your bank.
8.Look for billing, payroll, and invoice features if you need them for business.
9.Compare options for exporting your information.
1..Compare ease of use.  
Microsoft Money is included in Microsoft Works suite (formerly Microsoft Home Essentials), and is bundled with most consumer-model computers.
Do not buy upgrades of personal finance programs unless they offer a new feature that you will use.  
Warnings: Make sure your computer meets the system requirements of any program you download or buy.  

How to Pronounce Basic Phrases in Mandarin Chinese

The Tones
1.Remind yourself every time you learn a new phrase to learn the tones as well, since saying a syllable with the wrong tone might convey a meaning you don't intend.
2.Acquaint yourself with the normal pitch range of your speaking voice; think of "5" as the high end and "1" as the low end.
3.Think of each tone as tracing out a pitch contour that can be represented by these numbers.
4.Learn the tones: "1st tone" is high and stays high (5-5 on the pitch scale); "2nd tone" is a rising tone (3-5); "3rd tone" falls and rises (2-1-4); "4th tone" falls (5-1). 
Don't stress too much about the tones for the basic phrases you're about to learn. Just try your best. 
Key Phrases

5.Greet people with "NEE (2) HOW (3)." (The numbers represent the tone numbers. If there's no number, pronounce the syllable quickly and lightly with no tonal contour.)
6.Say thanks with "SHYEH (4) SHYEH."
7.Bid adieu with "DZAI (4) JYAN (4)."
8.Apologize by saying "DWAY (4) BU CHEE (3)."
9.Convey your incomprehension by telling the person you don't understand: "WOH (3) BU (4) DONG (3)."
1..Explain "I want that one" with "WOH (3) YOW (4) NAY (4) GUH."
1..Let someone know that something is too expensive by saying "TAI (4) GWAY (4)." 
Never underestimate the power of body language. It makes an excellent and effective supplement to spoken language.
Find a native speaker to coach you on pronunciation, especially the tones.
Buy a set of audiotapes to help you learn by listening and repeating.
Buy a book of basic phrases for travelers. Be sure to get one with Chinese characters, so that you can point to the phrase in the book if all else fails.
Take a class on Mandarin: If you learn it well, you'll add 1 billion to the number of people with whom you can communicate! 

How to Enjoy Being Alone During the Holidays

1.Treat yourself to a vacation you've always wanted to take, whether it's a cruise, a week at a ski resort or a New York shopping-and-theater binge.
2.Cook your favorite dinner, light a fire, curl up on the sofa and watch a feel-good video.
3.Start that book you've been meaning to read, or reread a childhood favorite.
4.Pick up the phone and call a friend who always makes you laugh.
5.Write in your journal, or start one.
6.Get around to projects you've been putting off, such as making a scrapbook of last year's vacation mementos, painting the bathroom or refinishing that antique dresser Aunt Louise left you. Most likely you'll find the process meditative, and you'll have lasting results to show for your efforts.
7.Take your dog for a long walk. If you don't have a dog, borrow someone else's.
8.Grab your sketchbook (or buy one) and head outside. Drawing, even if you think you can't, makes you see the world in a whole new way.
9.Plan a special treat for every day if your solo period will be an extended one. Choose things that please you: a visit to the art museum, dinner and a play, a hike in the woods or a walk on a wintry beach.
1..Assemble a solo-party emergency kit, especially if you live alone in snow country and your plans include holiday travel. Stash some favorite delicacies in the pantry and freezer: bottles of your favorite wines and spirits; books, CDs and videos you know you'll enjoy; firewood, bubble bath, candles - whatever makes you feel indulged and contented. 
Tips: If enjoying your own company doesn't come naturally, it may take some practice. But it's well worth the effort.   

How to Time Your Trip to London

General Considerations
1.Join in on the Brits' national pastime and agonize over the weather. Actually, compared to many climes, the British Isles are quite mild.
2.Avoid the cold winter, when days are short and gray. The best weather occurs from April to September. The average January low is 36 degrees F; the average July high is 74 degrees F.
3.Check out what festivals, expositions and live performances are happening (see Section 2 below, and the Related Sites).
4.Book your flight, transportation and accommodations (see Related Hows).
5.Check the weather forecast for London shortly before leaving, and pack accordingly. 
Attractions and Seasonal Events

6.Treat your eyes and nose to the horticultural highlights of England's gray, moist climate. Visit the Chelsea Flower Show in late May. Advanced tickets only; call Ticketmaster at (44) (0171) 344-4343. (Don't forget to first dial the international access code, 011.)
7.Shake yer booty at the Notting Hill Carnival, the largest of its kind in Europe. Live soul, rhythm and blues, and reggae music combined with Caribbean food makes for a fun time. The carnival is usually the last Sunday and Monday in August; you can check at (44) (0181) 964-0544.
8.Select from a huge variety of concerts and other productions at the City of London Festival in June and July. Call (44) (0171) 377-0540 for details.
9.Probe the depths of human cruelty at The Tower of London. Once a castle and palace, the Tower now exhibits the cells of famous prisoners and the instruments used to torture them.
1..See the architectural brilliance of the Houses of Parliament. Lines for tours inside are shortest around 6 p.m.; check Big Ben for the time.
1..Transcend time and distance at the oldest museum in the world, the British Museum. Well-organized artifacts from nearly every age of nearly every civilization are on display here.
1..Pay your respects at Westminster Abbey, where English monarchs have been crowned and buried for most of this millennium. 
Overall Warnings:
London is so big that the "tube" (subway) is a must. Beware: This complex system bears little resemblance to the streets above, making the transition a confusing one.
London is a world-class city with innumerable sights. Unfortunately, these sights attract world-class crowds in July and August. 

How to Call Slovakia From the United States

1.Determine what time it is in Slovakia. Slovakia is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, which means it is 6 hours later in Slovakia than it is on the East Coast of the United States, and 9 hours later than it is on the West Coast.
2.Keep in mind that the Slovak language is similar to Czech, but differs in some respects. English is spoken widely, though not universally, as is German. If all else fails, try French, which is also studied by some Slovaks.
3.Dial 011, the international access code.
4.Dial 421, the Slovakian country code.
5.Dial the city code. Some city codes for major towns in Slovakia include 7 for Bratislava, 88 for Banska Bystrica and 95 for Kosice.
6.Dial the remaining digits. 
Calling between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or on weekends will often cost up to 50 percent less than calling during business hours. Call your long-distance carrier to find out which hours are cheapest to call internationally with your long-distance plan.
If you're having problems getting through, dial 00 for the international operator and ask him or her to place the call. 
Warnings: If you're calling from a pay phone, you'll need to have a calling card or charge the call to a credit card - you won't be able to feed the phone with coins fast enough to keep yourself connected. Follow the instructions printed on the phone for placing the call.   

How to Purchase Homes in Foreclosure

1.Visit a loan agent and get prequalified for a loan.
2.Find a realtor that specializes in foreclosures. Ask for referrals from friends or family members, or find ads in real estate booklets and newspapers. If you are interested in government properties, make sure the agent is HUD-, FHA-, or VA-certified.
3.Tell your agent how much you can spend. (Consider fix-up costs too.) Bring your prequalification letter.
4.Ask your agent about real estate auctions, if you can afford to pay in cash.
5.Go see what's out there. Ask your agent to help you determine what your up-front costs would be, what your fix-up costs would be and what the resale value would be for each property. Crunch all the numbers to the last detail, even considering resale costs such as advertising and commissions.
6.Find out what the property would rent for, if you plan to lease it out.
7.Make a bid on the property.
8.If you get the bid, have a thorough home inspection and appraisal done.
9.Use a reliable title company to check for any liens on the property.
1..If the inspections turn out okay, buy your home and enjoy - or fix it up and sell it for profit. 
If you just want to browse and see what's out there before contacting an agent, go to, or search online real estate listings.
Consider subscribing to a foreclosure listing service if you are in the investment business. Enter "foreclosure" into your Internet search engine.
Some subscription services list distressed homes, others list properties already repossessed. Make sure you know what you're signing up for.
Many books on buying foreclosed properties contain cost/profit worksheets. Use the worksheets faithfully.  
Warnings: Be careful of costly foreclosure seminars and courses that teach the same principles that you can find in books at your local library.   

How to Search for an Apartment Online

1.Make a list of your requirements for an apartment, such as the amount of rent, number of rooms, security and location.
2.Log on to the Internet.
3.Go to a search engine or portal such as Yahoo or HotBot.
4.Type "apartments" or "apartment locators" into the search engine.
5.Go through the list of different apartment-hunting Web sites that appears.
6.Narrow your search by using search engines to find local newspaper Web sites, then use these local newspaper sites to hunt for apartments in your area.
7.Print out or write down anything that looks promising.
8.Call to set appointments to view your selections. 
Warnings: Sometimes searching online is a headache, especially if you get tons of irrelevant links. Narrow your search as much as you can.   

How to Sign Up to Take the ACT

1.Consider the ACT if you want a test that's more oriented toward actual classwork than to scholastic aptitude. In general, if you've done well in your math, science and English classes, you'll do well on the ACT.
2.Pick up a registration packet from your school's guidance counselor. If he or she doesn't have one, call (319) 337-1270 to request one.
3.Choose a test date. Usually, there are six dates per academic year, all on Saturdays. The first is in September; the last one is in June. Register early so that you can have the widest choice of testing dates and test centers.
4.Consider registering online or by phone. You can generally register online if you're taking the test within the U.S., you don't require any special accommodations or waivers and you're paying with Visa or Master Card. You'll pay an extra fee of $10 to register by phone.
5.Find the test center nearest you, either by looking through your registration packet or by visiting ACT's registration site (see Related Sites).
6.Choose four colleges where you'd like the official score reports sent.
7.Send in your registration form along with a check for the appropriate amount.
8.Contact the ACT if you're still waiting for confirmation of your registration six weeks after you signed up.
9.Remember that you can take the ACT as often as you like. One good strategy is to take it first during your junior year and then re-test your senior year if you're not happy with your scores. 
If you aren't confident you'll score high, consider not listing any colleges to send scores to; you can always send the scores later (though it will cost a little money).
If you can't afford the registration fee, you may be eligible for a waiver. See your registration packet for instructions.
Special accommodations are possible for home-bound or otherwise confined students. Special arrangements can also be made for students whose religious beliefs or extremely remote locations keeps them from taking the test on a Saturday.   

How to Select a Gift for an 8-Year-Old Girl

1.Consider her interests: Does she like baseball? Ballet? Books? Search out something that will help her develop her passions.
2.Indulge your inner child: Browse a toy store, real or online, and find something that you think might please her: A kid's magnetic poetry kit? Inflatable pool toys? Electronic memory games?
3.Go for an old favorite like Twister or a cool, new hi-tech watch.
4.Talk to her parents if you're at a loss. They'll know best what's likely to make her happy - and they'll also know what she already has.
5.Take her out to the movies or a children's museum. You'll get a one-on-one visit, and her parents will have a lightened parenting load.
6.Give a gift certificate and she'll be able to choose her own present.
7.Look to the future: Buy a bond for her education fund. 
Tips: Avoid adding to that stack of unused items in the garage - make sure whatever you get is returnable. 
Warnings: Check labels and packaging carefully - whatever gift you choose must be child-safe.