Friday, May 26, 2006

Nine Days to a Lawsuit-Free Life, Day Two: Driving Away Lawyers

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

if we all drove tiny cars, there would only be tiny accidents

After day one of this series, you should know the basics of avoiding accidents in your everyday life. Now let’s apply that newfound awareness of our surroundings to one of the most dangerous places of all: inside an erupting volcano.

Or rather, here are some ways you can help avoid the wrong end of civil law while you’re on the road.

  • Don’t cheap out on driver’s ed. Most states require completion of some form of accredited driver’s education course to obtain a license. From my own experience, I have to wonder how some of these driving schools get or keep their accreditation. I went with the cheapest school in town, and I didn’t learn a thing about driving. (I believe that driving school has since gone out of business.) For a skill you’ll need your entire life, take the time to investigate schools in your area and find the best one, not just the least expensive one.
  • Keep the kids away from the wheel. This is far easier said than done in today’s world. If possible, resist your children’s pleadings to let them drive around town until they’ve demonstrated a high level of proficiency. Even then, try to limit their time on the road to work and school commuting. And since you could be liable for any injuries your child causes while on the road, you may want your keep your kid from driving with passengers.
  • Drive a vehicle that’s safe for all. Sure you can cart you and your family around in a Hummer or monstrous SUV and you’ll absolutely plow through any passenger car that runs a red light in front of you. But if you’re at fault for that accident, you could see your financial future plowed through instead. So instead of driving down the road in eight tons of metal, look into a more sensible mid-sized car or light SUV instead. There are several such vehicles with high government safety ratings (*cough*MINI*cough*).
  • Take a defensive driving course. A handful of hours in a driving improvement class can not only make you a better driver, but it can also save you a bit on your car insurance premiums. Also check out the list of defensive driving tips at Wikipedia.
  • Drive comfortably. Before you even start your car, you can optimize your ability to avoid accidents or unsafe situations by improving your comfort level. Especially for long drives, be sure to properly adjust your seat, seat belts, mirrors, and steering wheel. Adjust climate control features so you won’t be overly hot or cold. Use sunglasses or your vehicle’s visor when driving into the sun. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that don’t restrict your movement while driving.
  • Maintain your vehicle. Your car is a precision instrument that needs to be able to respond to your actions as soon as you make them. Regularly check your fluids, lights, and safety systems so that they’ll all be in optimal condition when you need them most.
  • Assume every other driver is stupid. You’re not psychic (if you were, I could sense it), so you have no idea what the other drivers on the road could do at any moment. If you’re at a stop sign and you clearly have the right of way, don’t just zoom out into the intersection because someone else might think they have the right of way… or they might not even know the meaning of “right of way.”
  • Beef up your insurance. Especially if you have significant assets like a home or sacks full of money, you’ll want to crank up the coverage protecting you from legal liability in an at-fault accident. If you have significant levels of protection, you can often avoid a lawsuit and skip straight to the settlement. Also consider an umbrella insurance policy that will cover damages in excess of your standard car insurance limits. For the amount of coverage these policies offer, they’re relatively inexpensive.
  • Shorten your commute. Common sense says that the less you’re on the road, the fewer opportunities there are for you to get in an accident. Moving closer to your workplace can mean the difference between a long, nail-biting commute along busy highways and a short jaunt on local streets. If a shorter drive isn’t possible, look for alternate routes that avoid high-traffic thoroughfares, or simply avoid peak traffic times so there are fewer drivers sharing the road with you.
  • Be a better pedestrian. Just as important as the rules of the road are the rules of the sidewalk. Make sure you know the laws for walking in your area, and pay as much attention to the vehicles on the road beside you as you would if you were driving.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, and feel free to comment or e-mail any other tips you have for lawsuit-proofing your driving habits. Next time, we’ll explore the ways you can keep your pets from getting you into legal trouble.

Punny Money Hosting the Festival of Job Hunting on May 30th

Author: Nick
Category: Money

admit one

There’s still time to get in your submissions for the Festival of Job Hunting which will be located right here next week. If you’ve recently written a piece relating to finding a job, starting a job, keeping a job, losing a job, what to do between jobs, or making the most out of a job, then it belongs in the Festival of Job Hunting. I’m sure you remember how much fun was had by all when the last carnival rolled through these parts, and I promise this one will be at least 7% more exciting than that one.

So either e-mail your submissions or use this sophisticated form by noon EDT on Monday, May 29th, and be sure to check out the Festival of Job Hunting the next day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nine Days to a Lawsuit-Free Life, Day One: Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Author: Nick
Category: Money

punny money is slippery when wet

Here’s a startling statistic for you: the average American will be sued 943 times in the next seven years. While the majority of those lawsuits will be against people who make up blatantly false statistics, some of them can be easily avoided by taking some simple steps. This series will focus on nine easy ways you can help lawsuit-proof your life and ensure that your net worth is protected from money-hungry lawyers.

But first, my lawyer is making me display the following disclaimer.

I am not a lawyer, and the tips provided in this series are not legal advice. Should you become injured, disabled, or sleepy as a result of the information contained heretoinforthwithly, don’t go blaming me because I’m telling you this right now: I make this stuff up as I go along.

One of the most basic improvements you can make in your quest to stay free of lawsuits is to know your surroundings. Specifically, you want to heighten your awareness of two kinds of objects: other people, and things around you that can negatively affect other people. Identifying how these two can interact is an important part of avoiding accidents and, thus, avoiding potential liability ensuing from those accidents. Here are some ways you can increase your awareness of what’s around you.

  • Slow things down. The pace of today’s world is hectic, and it seems like everybody is always in a hurry to get where they’re going. But with higher speed comes less time to react to your ever-changing environment. The difference between a careful walk and a wreckless run can mean the difference between bumping into someone and staying out of harm’s way.
  • Use all of your senses. Our ability to avoid accidents relies heavily on our sense of sight; if we see an object, we take action to avoid it. But all too often, if we wait to act until we can see the object, it may be to late to avoid it. That’s because sight generally operates in a straight line. While keeping your eyes open for potential dangers is important, your other senses operate in different ways to help augment your awareness of your surroundings. For example, your sense of hearing is useful for picking up approaching footsteps around the corner, while your sense of smell can help you determine that the approaching person is carrying a hot cup of coffee.
  • Identify accidents waiting to happen. There are only so many ways a person can get hurt, so picking up on those ways the first time you see them can help you avoid them in the future. That swinging door people usually just plow through–be as careful when going through it as you would when first approaching it. If possible, point out dangerous situations to someone who can do something to correct them.
  • Don’t let down your guard. Accidents can happen in a split second, so all it takes is a momentary lapse in judgment to turn a non-incident into anything but. Just because you don’t sense anyone standing behind you doesn’t mean you should take two steps back without looking first. Being ever-vigilant is simple and not at all time-consuming, and it can save you from major legal headaches down the road.

Got a tip for helping people be aware of their surroundings? Look both ways, then comment here or send it to Punny Money.

Tomorrow, we’ll go over some steps you can take to help lawsuit-proof your driving habits just in time for the busy holiday weekend.

Carnival Round-Up: Week of May 22, 2006

Author: Nick
Category: Money

You can catch Punny Money in the following carnivals this week.

Of special note is the second edition of the Festival of Job Hunting created by Find a New Job. Punny Money will be hosting the Festival of Job Hunting next week, so send in your articles related to finding a job, starting a job, keeping a job, losing a job, what to do between jobs, and even making the most out of a job. If it’s work-related, send it in to the address on my contact page or using this handy dandy submission form. The submission deadline is high noon Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, May 29th, and the Festival will appear on Punny Money the next day.

Why Your Next Car Must Be A MINI Cooper

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

emma, my 2004 liquid yellow mini cooper

In a perfect world, we could simply think of a place and we would automatically be whisked away to our destination. But since we live in such a perfectly inadequate world, not only do we need to work to get ourselves from one place to another, but we need to bring along two tons of metal for the ride! And on top of that, we’re expected to pay money to buy that big piece of metal and pay even more to feed that piece of metal with an overly-priced fuel.

When I write it like that, driving a car sounds about as disgusting as eating the gunk in your belly button. Once you add in the wasted time and money with the aggravation of being stuck in traffic, you’d think “car” and “enjoyable” would have no place in the same sentence… unless “a sack full of money” were also in that sentence.

What if I told you that there’s a fun, safe, affordable vehicle just waiting for you to drive it? You might say, “I have $83 in my wallet, so it better not cost more than that” or “How much are you getting paid to tell me this?” Well, my friend, you’ll probably need a bit more than $83 to buy this car, and the only payment I’m receiving is the happiness experienced by people like you whose boring, painful commutes are transformed into a commute right out of a fairy tale!

That car, in case you somehow missed the title at the top of this article that you’re undoubtedly reading now if you didn’t in the first place, is the faaabulous MINI Cooper. Yes, the adorable but practical go-kart from The Italian Job has made a comeback of epic proportions in recent years. With virtually no advertising campaign, more than 100,000 MINIs are flying out of the manufacturing plant in Oxford, UK annually, and the wait to purchase one can sometimes last half a year or more.

So what is in its tiny package that makes the MINI Cooper so irresistable? Here’s the not-so-hidden truth straight from a MINI owner–me!

The Top Ten Reasons Why A MINI Cooper Should Be Sitting In Your Driveway

  1. The Quality. When you drive a MINI, you’re driving the culmination of almost 50 years of quality British Motor Corporation craftsmanship. The new MINI is built by a subsidiary of BMW, so it’s often referred to as a “poor-man’s BMW.” From its flashy but top-notch paint to its award-winning Tritec engine, the MINI isn’t just another cheaply made wannabe.
  2. The Price. While there’s nothing cheap about the quality of the MINI, you wouldn’t know it from the price tag. At around $17,000 MSRP for the base model, you can pick one up for less than a standard-equipped Toyota Camry.
  3. The Resale Value. Combine that high quality, high demand, and low price and you’ve got a vehicle that has no trouble holding its value. While other cars usually lose half their residual value after three years, the MINI Cooper’s typically drops less than 10% over the same period. So if you’re worried that buying a new car is a foolish use of your hard-earned dollars, but you’re still looking for the reliability and status only a new car can provide, then look no further than the MINI.
  4. The Fuel Economy. If you think the MINI’s 28-city and 36-highway MPG is impressive, then you’ll be blown away by plans to bump that up another 10% for the 2007 model. And here’s hoping that the rumors of a hybrid or all-electric MINI on the horizon are true.
  5. The Features. The MINI comes standard with delicious features like 15-inch wheels, leatherette or cloth upholstery, tilt steering wheel, A/C, CD player with six-speaker stereo, and power everything. Also standard is a great ride; sexy steering and handling are a cornerstone of the MINI Cooper. For a few thousand more, you’ll have access to a slew of amazing options like a cold weather package, sports suspension, navigation systems, power sunroof, moonroof, and the most important feature of all–stripes on your hood (which MINI owners call the “bonnet”). There’s even a convertible version of the MINI!
  6. The Safety. One other piece of standard equipment is really six pieces: a half-dozen front and side airbags that will almost make an accident feel like a run-in with a cloud. Despite its small size, the MINI Cooper consistently earns a four-star crash test rating. From personal experience, I can tell you that this vehicle can take a beating, too. When an SUV rear-ended me a couple years back, my MINI just laughed the incident off while the other driver’s front end needed some major TLC.
  7. The Community. Being a MINI owner is an experience all of its own. Few other cars garner as much enthusiasm from their drivers as the MINI, and it’s evident from what happens when two MINIs drive by each other on the road. Whether it’s the proper British thumbs-up greeting or a more American hand-wave, rarely do MINIs cross paths without their drivers acknowledging one another. If that’s not enough, MINI owners frequently participate in meet-ups all over the world. With such strong pride of ownership, it’s no wonder the classic Mini was ranked as the second most influential car of the 20th century (the #1 spot went to the Ford Model T).
  8. The Warranty and Maintenance Plan. MINI Coopers come with a 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty along with a 12-year, unlimited-mile rust and corrosion warranty. Maintenance is also covered for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles.
  9. The Space. As small as the MINI looks from the outside, they’re surprisingly roomy on the inside. I’m 6 feet, 4 inches tall and have no trouble fitting in the driver’s seat. As for storage and cargo space, the rear seats fold down so you can fit a generous amount of stuff.
  10. The Future. MINI has been tossing around a bunch of future concepts lately, so you can probably expect to see new versions in the next couple of years that will provide more seating capacity (like this MINI Traveller concept), four doors, and even better fuel economy. While the future of MINIs looks especially exciting, there’s no reason to wait to pick up one of your own.

Without fear of contradiction, I can honestly say that the world would be a better place if everyone drove a MINI Cooper. At the very least, you can make your world better if you trade in your Japanese monstrosity for a bit of British awesomeness.