Skin Cancer what they don’t tell you

Skin Cancer risk from sunbathing tanning and beachesI’m switching gears here for a public service announcement about Skin Cancer.

I had a 10 mm spot of basal cell carcinoma removed from my left temple near my hair line last week. After two rounds of a Mohs procedure and 12 stitches later the spot was cancer free but I was sure I found about four more spots like it for next time.

Everyone knows you should wear sunscreen when you are outside. Everyone knows that pale light haired people with blue eyes have the most risk. Most people also know the Ozone layer has been thinning and disappearing over most cities so the amount of sun radiation getting through is much higher than it was 20 years ago. And lastly, never tan at a tanning salon with those horrible tanning beds.

Most people don’t know these things I learned at the Dermatology Institute where I had my Skin Cancer removed:

1. You can still get sun damage through windows of your house and car. They mention that men usually have spots on the left side of their face and left arms while women usually do on their right from lengthy car rides with the sun. There is some sun blocking coating on automotive glass but not nearly enough to protect you from damage, although you won’t get a burn immediately like being outside. It is kind of deceiving because you don’t feel the damage and assume none is happening at all.

2. There are two kinds of sunblock. The chemical kind (liquid) and physical kind (powder).

3. The liquid (chemical) kind of sunblock doesn’t start working until it is absorbed by your skin. About 20 minutes. So put it on 20 minutes before you go outside.

4. The physical kind (powders) stick to the skin and have facets that reflect the sun’s rays away from your skin. This is the kind of skin spf they recommended for me to use daily rather than an oily lotion.

5. Skin cancer can look like anything but be particularly wary of spots that are bumpy and growing. My spot had a raised texture that differentiated it from my freckles and spots.

6. People catch most of these skin cancer spots themselves, the yearly full body skin check is too quick to notice most things and people being aware of the changes in their skin every day are better observers, yet you have to go in for the skin check to get them removed.

7. After you have skin cancer removed like this the scar will turn discolor permanently (for me that would be a bright white color) if it gets sunburned even once. So daily SPF is just going to be the way I roll from now on. They recommend a SPF 50 in summer and SPF 30 in the winter.

8. It takes about 20-30 years for your skin to show the cancer damage that happens. Most people get the majority of their skin damage as kids and teenagers playing outside. The results show up for the first time in your 30’s-40’s.

9. People are getting skin cancer earlier and earlier now. Most of the people in the Dermatology Institute getting the Mohs procedure were older, over 65. But they did remark that I was the second 35 yr old appointment in a row the day I got the stitches out.

Can ordinary people manage the risk in the stock market for their retirement?

I am beginning to think there is no way an average American can invest in the market and make any money for their retirement in a 401K. I was reading this morning that 5 and 10 year returns in the portfolios of most mutual funds are negative now when they calculated in the huge losses from recessions in 2001 and 2008 and the beginning of 2009. (Q1 hasn’t been kind) 

As an investor (for my 401K) I look at that and say: yuck! Why would I put my money in something that has no long term value?

My fiance sent me this article saying that now 20 and 30 years are the benchmarks for best overall performance in mutual funds and stocks in the market. Yikes! 20-30 years? Who has that much time before retirement? Who can invest for that long anyway?

When you consider that most people’s salary starts dropping when they reach their 50’s (because employers don’t value old employees and can’t spend time/money updating their skills) you really have 25 years max to work with as far as investments for retirement.

You start your first real paying job with a 401K at age 25 and you may not be fully employable by age 50 although you will likely live to the age of 80 or 90.  There’s your 25 years to save and invest for 30-50 years of retirement.

I also think there is something else going on here affecting the 20-30 year market profit numbers. The US Markets benefited from a long term technology/innovation and growth curve from WWII to the 1980s. Personally, I think that was a one time deal and we will never see that kind of long term prosperity again.

Why? 1. Because we don’t understand enough about technology to innovate on that level again to create that much growth. 2. Because the US has higher paid workers than anywhere else in the world and everything gets manufactured and produced (and serviced) somewhere else. 3. Because we’re too complacent and have too much entitlement as a country of workers. Work creates wealth, not shell games with securities.

That brings up another point: We’ve been playing a shell game with our economy since the 1980’s. De-regulate, re-regulate, stimulus, fix, fund, trade, outsource, sell, leverage, whatever… It’s all a shell game to us worker bees and the internet has been the only significant improvement in technology to create new industries and jobs in the last 20 years. We need more than that to survive and prosper as a nation and a world.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stand to take that much risk with my money. I have some in a 401K but mostly my retirement is locked in a 5 year CD IRA at 5.25% that was a promotion this fall when banks wanted more cash reserves. I changed companies in 2006 and rolled over the old 401K to a bank in 2007 because I knew the 10 year recession was coming soon and I didn’t want to risk timing it.

There will always be people who game the market and come out ahead, but those of us without finance degrees, huge money to invest in undervalued markets or inside scoops will never really profit on the whole. Many of us will get out exactly what we put in and maybe less considering our lack of  investment prowess. So, in that level of risky why not just put it in the bank? Positive 3-5% sounds a lot better than negative 40%.

I hate the inflation argument that says that 3-5% isn’t enough to make money after inflation. Guess what? Inflation has been very low and inflation doesn’t stop when you have negative returns either. I’d rather have some money dependably than none at all when prices are higher. 

You may be asking why I want more innovation and less investment in the market? Doesn’t investment in the market lead to more innovation?

NO. Most of the mutual finds and stocks you can buy that are highly rated are in huge old (one trick pony) risk averse companies that have already peaked and can’t figure out how to do anything new. They sell shares to raise cash and then have old people make decisions like the old days. Venture Capital,  new small businesses and Universities are the place where innovation happens. If I could invest in those, I would. But then again I don’t have millions of dollars and apparently I won’t any time soon.

What are the best proven ways to fund your retirement and create wealth then?

1. Have a side job for extra income you can save (part-time weekends or evenings a few nights a week)

2. Own rental property for extra income (you need to live near it for this to work)

3. Have fewer kids if you’re contemplating having a family (ok we don’t always control this, and we love kids, but nobody is going to debate that they are expensive) 

4. Own a smaller home (smaller mortgage = smaller amount in interest paid (lost) to the bank)

5. Don’t go into debt on credit cards or car loans (hello! 25% interest, MONTHLY! on some cards)

6. Live frugally generally, keep your cars 10 years, don’t buy new clothes every month and don’t buy big ticket items like TVs and Computers every few years. Spread out the expenses over the long term.

7. Share what you have with others. Seriously, knowledge, help with projects, donating time and donating items you no longer need, as well as hand me downs between families help kids and neighbors live better within their means and help the community live better too.

8. Take care of your health. Eat less junk, lower fat, lower salt, lower carbs. Exercise daily. Take vitamins. Don’t work in an industry that has a side effect of cancer. Visit the doctor regularly and if something comes up treat it early, it will cost so much less in the long run. Heath issues start in your 30’s and get more frequent in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Expect to pay more every decade for health costs in your life/budget.

These are all real tactical changes we can make to save more money monthy and yearly that will get better returns than the stock market and help prepare for inflation. What else do you think can help?

Google is not making us Stoopid in the Attention Crash Its Productivity Stupid

This article by Nick Carr in the Atlantic last month brought up some interesting points about the attention crash and Google in regards to whether these innovations are hurting us more than helping in productivity. This article on marketing brought up some more points today.  I have been through this internet addict cycle and back again and maybe some of my experience can help those looking to prune back the hedges of web information overload (or overlord) in their life.

Is Google Making us Stopid? I think not!

Is Google Making us Stopid? I think not!

First off, I don’t agree that Google makes us stupid (or stoopid) but I do think it influences how we consume information and creates a false sense of know everything because we are plugged in every day, searching on every idea that comes to mind and reading a million blogs, emails, widgets and feeds every day. If we have full Internet access at work, good luck getting any work done if your company doesn’t block perezhilton and facebook.

We live in an era of information overload and we skim everything and really read and absorb nothing. No one can consume at this rate. People are stressed out by the number of media sources they have to keep up with daily (and on weekends) and we feel constantly inadequate because of all the bragging that goes on about successful products launched, and big money made on the net.  It’s no surprise then that we are constantly driven to consume more information and media to fill the brain with more discovery serotonin and yet we feel that we aren’t getting anywhere since most of us aren’t paid to consume this information and analyze it for a living. It is very contrary to most of our life goals with our jobs and families.

I started blogging and consuming massive amounts of media in 2002 and was completely burnt out by  2005 from a mix of Scoble, MicroPersuasion and every social networking site available plus news, alerts and emails. (plus following every move of the google monster as it grew) I did not really get much done at work, luckily I was very good at my job so I could get it done in less than the time allotted and I tried to move my real job towards this social media category. I was consumed by all the feeds, blogs, feedbliz emails, IMs, regular emails, networking sites and Flickr. It didn’t get me anywhere I wanted to go though, except the inside track on some new things I could talk about socially before other people knew about them.  (big deal) I ended up looking for a new job instead. My job seemed uninteresting and unimportant compared to the new, exciting and really important things happening on the web. This despite being the one thing that paid my mortgage.

So,what’s an internet marketing girl to do when all this media does relate to your job somewhat but it is also crushing your life? 

1. I did find a job with greater flexibility and more use of my media knowledge. But I also turned a lot of the media off.

2. I abandoned RSS feeds. Too many to keep up with. Too little importance to my life.

3. I stopped blogging everywhere for nothing and just maintained a few blogs that really mattered and one that provides some small side income.  

4. I cut out radio, TV, papers and magazines with the exception of TIME Magazine (because I need something to read on the train) and Netflix (because I don’t have cable and like to have something decent to watch once or twice a week after work). (radio was cut out because of the train also, if I was still driving to work I would listen to NPR)

5. I won’t lifestream (too invading of my privacy) and dislike twitter (I don’t need another internet addiction). This means I miss a lot of info and some trends but I don’t get worked up about it because I found that most of these super mini-micro-trends never make it to mainstream anyway.

6. I unsubscribed to a boatload of emails and started a new email account that was less spammy.

7. I also stopped reading a lot of blogs. The only ones I read now are bookmarked as links in my browser and if I don’t find something useful there for a few weeks I delete them. (or if they are friends they get linked into LJ) And I can’t read the buzz building blogs of Forester, Scoble and Giga Om. Scoble is great but no one can keep up with that man. (he is a 24 hour blogging machine!) Forrester and GigaOm are always wrong. I am sick of being led astray into an area that doesn’t fit or benefit mainstream business. I did start reading PerezHilton though. Its quick, about 5 minutes, scan through what looks interesting/funny and skip the rest.

8. I also have kind of cut back on signing up for every site beta that comes up because there are millions of them and the purpose of these sites has gotten further away from positively influencing my life in the past few years and more about distracting me. I still sign up for some, but by the time the beta password comes in, I usually find it wasn’t that relevant after all.

9. I stopped checking in on social networks daily. Once a week is enough. And flickr gets updated maybe once a month.

10. Oh yea, I also got a boyfriend and found that being with him was much more rewarding than being online all the time consuming information about everyone else’s successes.

I have come back from the attention crash and maybe some of these tips can help others. Yea, some of these blogs are going to see traffic drop but we will all be able to sleep better at night and work better during the day as a result. And when your family and mortgage are counting on it isn’t that really what is most important?

Some things I still do that have survived the internet pruning:

1. Subscribe to feedbliz emails for about 10 blogs directly related to the media I work with and personal finances. (frugal living type topics since we are in the middle of a recession)

2. I keep up with emails from work and friends.

3. Use IM to converse quickly and the phone (gasp!) for longer conversations.

4. Read TIME magazine weekly. It has evolved into a much hipper, savy, snarkier mag than you think.

5. Check the news on the yahoo login page for my personal email for news.

6. Keep up with google alerts on terms related to my work, friends and family. I guess this is super targeted and as behavioral as one can get. You would have thought they would have put ads in Google alerts by now.

7. Blog on my personal blog, marketing blog and other blog about once a week. That is about all I can keep up with.

8. Most weekends I am offline entirely. If I want to spend time with real people it has to be out of the house and therefore offline. Plus laundry and dishes need to be done sometime!

9. I have a cut off time whether all the stuff is done or not because sleep is more important to me than you might think. I try and got to bed by 10 or 11 but 12 is the cutoff for sure.

10. I remain anonymous and aliased online because I want to be able to say what I think when I want without the fear of someone’s difference of personal opinion affecting my professional or personal life.

So, in summary I think my findings indicate that it’s not Google that is making us Stupid (or Stoopid) it’s ourselves and the decisions we make about how we will spend our time (and money).

Online Christmas Shopping Coupons

I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done even though it is not even December yet. I was smart and got online and got things bought the easy way. (without standing in long lines and driving all over the place) I do like shopping online more that shopping in malls this time of year and it’s much more productive. Luckily there are also great sales online and coupon codes for even better deals. Coupon Chief has been a site I have used before that I like because it has coupon codes to stores I actually shop at. One I shop at for myself more than others is Old Navy. They have great deals to begin with and then with a discount it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free. I also shop a lot at Target for gifts because they have something for everyone. I have been able to find sports stuff for my brother, small kitchen appliances for my mom and well my dad is impossible to shop for. Check them out if you are stuck for what to get your family and friends this Christmas. They might give you some good ideas.

Kids and allowances have evolved to PayJr?

When I was a kid I didn’t get an allowance. I just had to do what my parents wanted me to, regardless of whether there was money in it for me or not. (there usually was not any incentive except to not get in trouble) I know though that in the 1980s a lot of kids did get allowances and the amount varied more by how much money your parents made than by the chores you did around the house. Now I think paying kids allowances is even more mainstream than it was then. And apparently there are consumer products built around it that I was not aware of. Apparently parents no longer give a kid cash, they give them these rechargeable credit card type cash cards good at certain stores. I guess the point is that you know your kid can go out and buy video games with it but not use cash pay for drugs or something. This new payJr company lets you select how much to pay your kid per chore and reimburse the card in savings and in cash that can be used at Target or other retailers. This is all still just a little foregin to me. I can’t figure out why kids would ever do anything just because it was the “right” thing to do if there was no money in it for them?

Family Fun

I was at a family function today and it was fin to see everyone there and catch up a bit. It is always interesting to see what people have been up to although I am not the best person at being social. I admit I am more like my dad in that I am quieter and don’t like to get into heated discussions, which sometimes happen at these functions. But even my dad is better at socializing now than I am. I just really wonder how much I have in common with these people? They’re nice and we’re related, but I wonder how many know what I do for a living? And how many would really be around if not the connection through my parents? Maybe some, I don’t know. Families aren’t nearly as close as they used to be in past generations and I can see why. We’re all busy working and we have a ton of things we have to do. And most of us don’t live anywhere near one another. I wonder what creates a bond between people now? I have been told through research that the most important determining factor in who your friends are and who you marry is proximity. So, without proximity can family stay close? We don’t have family businesses or professions in common anymore, and the lifestyles we lead is more and more diverse. In fact I don’t think many people I am related to share many of my views or would really want to know that I differ from them on a lot of them. But then again maybe that’s why I don’t speak up at these functions…

Holiday Christmas Shopping Target

I am one of those people who like to have all the Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving so that I never have to deal with huge mall crowds or long lines wasting my weekends in December. Plus aren’t there a million holiday parties to go to in December? They start early in the month with the work related ones and then continue to friends, family and your own household. So do yourself a favor and start your shopping now.

The first step is writing a list of people that you have to buy gifts for. If you are unsure if a neighbor or coworker would be getting you a gift or not, err on the side of caution and get them something small even if they don’t end up getting you something. It’s always better to be generous than not.

Then there are a million sites online that can help you shop and some even have online coupons for extra discounts. Most guys on your list will be interested in electronics and gadgets. The best place for those is Amazon and there are Amazon coupon codes here. Target is also a great place for shopping for kids gifts. I have to send some cute gifts to both my honorary nieces this year and plan to look for educational toys at Target. They also have cute clothes and books for kids that are great too. There are some Target Coupons here.

It’s never too early to start planning because when December comes you will have enough to deal with for the parties you have to attend and the food and decoration preparation you do in your own home. Why not get all the shopping done now, and check that off the list first?