Mountain Mama: I Need to Escape Winter. Any International Travel Tips?

first_imgDear Mountain Mama, I’m over winter. One day the temperatures plunge to below zero and the next day is gray and rainy. I want to escape somewhere sunny and 70 degrees. A lot of my friends are headed to the southern hemisphere for some warmer outdoor play. I’d like to plan a trip of my own, but I’ve never traveled abroad. Any international travel tips?Yours,Dreaming of Warmer Weather——————————————————————Dear Dreaming of Warmer Weather,The shorter days and colder temperatures can take the wind out of your sails. Booking a plane ticket to somewhere warm can break up the winter into manageable chunks of time. For a lifetime of memories, follow these three tips:1. Research as much as possible before leaving. Daydream about destinations and try to find a place that offers your favorite outdoor recreational opportunities. If you’re a climber, pack your rope and fly to Thailand, where you can climb in the morning, snorkel in the afternoon, and eat delicious foods in the evening. If kayaking floats your boat, check out heli-kayaking in New Zealand. A helicopter will pick up you and your boat at the take-out and shuttle you into remote wilderness.Find out if your preferred destination requires a visa in addition to a passport. Apply for your travel documents well in advance to prevent a last minute border-crossing crisis.The internet also makes easy work of determining what outdoor gear you need to bring. Traveling with a kayak can be expensive and a pain to transport. If you’re going to a paddling destination that rents boats, consider reserving your favorite model. Check to see what, if any, supplies are impossible to buy once you arrive, and prioritize those items on your packing list.2. Once you board the plane, let go of any expectations. The more rigid travelers are about checking off their to-do list, the less open they are to whatever experiences arise. Don’t force anything, and let the journey unfold.For example, one of my good friends traveled to Australia, hoping to learn how to scuba dive. The strong winds made underwater visibility poor. Instead of diving in lackluster conditions, she found a captain who needed an extra hand and spent three weeks sailing for free – the perfect use of all that wind.3.  Accept food that locals offer you. Leave your self-imposed dietary restrictions at home. Saying no to a homemade meal because you are following a gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, or low calorie diet is considered rude in many countries. Food is an invitation to connect with people on a basic and universal level. Breaking bread together symbolizes good-will.Safe Travels!Mountain Mamalast_img read more

For financial institutions, the solution to helping customers during COVID-19 is simple, literally

first_imgThroughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have been inundated with information that is constantly changing and sometimes even contradictory to what we were told previously.The result is a whole lot of confusion, frustration, and overwhelm. Financially, many people are uncertain and afraid, and more than anything, they just want to understand what’s going on.Even outside of COVID-19, money is an inherently complex subject. Part of the problem is cultural: we simply don’t talk very much about money. It’s a taboo subject in a lot of ways, but it’s time for that to change.Financial brands must commit to removing as much complexity as possible from the way they position their products and services. By making things as simple as possible for your consumers, you can reduce their anxiety and increase your conversion rates, both during and after COVID-19.Let’s take a closer look at why complexity is such a problem and how you can simplify.For consumers, money = confusion, frustration, and overwhelmIn the research studies we’ve conducted at the Digital Growth Institute, we’ve asked consumers the question, “How does money make you feel?” More than 1,200 studies later, we’ve distilled the responses down into three negative emotions people tend to have around money:Confusion: “I know money is important, but I don’t know what I need to do to keep it, save it, and make more of it.”Frustration: “I feel like I’m always behind with my money, and there’s nothing I can do to catch up.”Overwhelm: “It just seems like the more in debt I get, the harder it is to get out.”This confusion, frustration, and overwhelming emotions lead to stress. A study by fintech found 62 percent of people find money to be a major source of stress. Another study by Northwestern Mutual found 85 percent of Americans feel stressed about money.This stress has an impact on our physical and mental well-being, with the study also finding that 31 percent of consumers are losing sleep over financial stress.With COVID-19, unemployment numbers have skyrocketed, and people are worried about their financial stability. For many, the stress around money is at an all-time high.Understanding cognitive loadIn this kind of environment, given the level of stress people are feeling, does it make sense, in digitally positioning your financial products, to highlight their complex functionalities?Of course not! Consumers are already dealing with a heavy cognitive load when it comes to money. For those unfamiliar with the term, “cognitive load” simply means the mental energy a task requires for completion. Digitally, we can break cognitive load into three different types.There is the intrinsic cognitive load, meaning the inherent difficulty of the subject. Obviously, there’s already a lot of intrinsic cognitive load built into money and finances.There is also the extraneous cognitive load, which is the complexity added by how we communicate and present ourselves digitally. This is what we’re going to be looking at when it comes to product positioning. The way financial products have traditionally been positioned is around great rates, amazing service, and look-alike laundry lists of commoditized bullet points.Finally, there is the germane cognitive load, the schemas or frameworks helping us organize and interpret information quickly—for example, a website’s user experience and the frameworks in which information is visually constructed, presented, and communicated.Time and time again, our studies have found when a financial brand reduces cognitive load, conversion rates on their website increase exponentially. Similarly, we’ve seen that with any minor addition of complexity, conversion rates begin to drop.The power of simpleSo how do you go about reducing the cognitive load? The answer is simple.A study from Financial Brand found banking websites actually score the lowest for usability and conversions across all industries. A big reason is too much complexity and too many choices.For instance, with one financial brand I worked with, we found a tremendous amount of inherent complexity had been added to the website through the course of its existence. Their website was about four or five years old, and over time, new pages and content were continuously added without any oversight or due diligence from the perspective of the consumer’s digital shopping experience. The website had grown to over 300 different product pages alone!One of our key strategic recommendations was to go through and take a chainsaw to those product pages, chopping away at all that were extraneous and unnecessary. We also recommended consolidating the remaining content, bringing everything together in a more unified and simplified view.With their simplified website, they increased conversion rates by 1,500 percent. From a growth standpoint, their website went from their most underperforming acquisition channel (compared to their branches) to outperforming all of their physical branch locations in just eighteen months.During this global pandemic, an easy way to implement this strategy is to place a link on your homepage that leads to a COVID-19 “help center,” where you have a consolidated, up-to-date list of links to the most relevant information consumers want.Another tip is to transform all those old bullet points and long text paragraphs into headlines and related iconography. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does written text, and 93 percent of all communication is visual. By replacing text blocks with pictures and iconography, you make your website easier to use for consumers.Simplify, Simplify, SimplifyWe’re already overloaded with information in our lives, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, that overload has reached new heights. If you can simplify the inherently complex nature of money, you will differentiate yourself from your competition.Ultimately, people don’t buy financial products and services; they buy shortcuts and solutions to solve their problems. And one of consumers’ biggest problems is the confusion, frustration, and overwhelm they feel around money. By simplifying the way you position your products and services, you can help consumers while also improving your own outcomes.You can find more advice on simplifying how you position your products and services in the bestselling book Banking on Digital Growth. 3SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,James Robert Lay JAMES ROBERT LAY is one of the world’s leading digital marketing authors, speakers, and advisors for financial brands. As the founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, he … Web: Detailslast_img read more

Danish pensions: A small and medium-sized victory

first_imgRecognising that the long-awaited national implementation of the EU’s Solvency II regulatory regime for insurers is still a way off, the Danish government and the country’s pensions industry have now extended a deal on the discount yield curve.It is the latest – and, regulators surely hope, the last – national exercise to tweak the curve used by pension funds and insurance companies to calculate the amount they need to set aside to cover pension guarantees.But this time, the government has incorporated other measures from its own agenda into the agreement.It has won agreement from the pensions industry to work towards increasing the financial help funds offer to Danish business. Back in December 2011, the Danish financial regulator, Finanstilsynet, acted to save pension funds from the pressure stemming from the yield differential between Danish and German government bonds, which was depressing their on-paper solvency levels.It brought in a new alternative discount yield curve based on a 12-month moving average of the yield differential between Danish and German government bonds.Six months down the line, however, the government stepped in with a new deal to help the pension funds out of the bind they found themselves in – this time as a result of generally low bond yields.In a pact signed with pensions industry body Forsikring & Pension (F&P) and Finanstilsynet, the Ministry of Business and Growth bundled changes to the discount yield curve with measures to bolster pension fund reserves – including restrictions on the level of bonuses and dividends they were allowed to pay out.Under that June 2012 agreement, the long end of the discount yield curve was raised to a level said to equate to normal market conditions, and be in line with long-term projections for growth and inflation.For maturities of more than 20 years, yields were extrapolated using an ‘Ultimate Forward Rate’ (UFR) of 4.2%, based on long-term growth and inflation expectations.This use of the UFR matched the EU Commission’s proposal for Solvency II, it was argued, therefore taking the national regulatory system towards its inevitable destination.The other points inserted into the June 2012 agreement were steps the pension funds had to take to avoid cross-generational redistribution, statements that the funds should cut the use of nominal guarantees on pensions and make more effort to consolidate.Specifically, pension funds were banned from setting account dividends at more than 2%.The latter point has since caused some friction between industry and government, with some funds insisting on their right to set higher payouts to customers, and others seeking individual clarification on whether they were permitted to do so.While extending the yield curve for a further two years to dovetail with expected implementation of Solvency II in January 2016, the new agreement reached just before Christmas 2013 reiterates the account dividend cap – but clarifies the circumstances under which pension funds may exceed it.The deal also includes a pledge to promote pension fund lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the parties agreeing to work to strengthen SME access to capital resources, while giving pension companies an acceptable return.F&P has agreed to make members aware of the potential of new investment products based on pools of corporate loans.Minister for Business and Growth Henrik Sass Larsen said he was glad all parties in the talks had supported boosting SME access to financing – partly by promoting the options available through the new law on corporate bonds.“The agreement benefits pension customers and the companies that pension funds invest in,” he said.F&P chairman Christian Sagild declared that the association was very pleased there was now clarity about how the discount yield curve would be in the period before the European rules came into force.On the business financing initiative, he said there is no doubt the pension funds will be very interested in investing for the benefit of society.But the right conditions have to be in place, he stressed, and pension savers have to make a good return from these investments.“That’s the case for corporate bonds as well,” he said.last_img read more

Live: Clippers vs. Rockets, Game 1 of NBA West Semis

first_imgLive updates from Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets from Los Angeles News Group staff in Houston, including Clippers beat writer Robert Morales and sports columnist Vincent Bonsignore.Viewing on mobile? Click here. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

New balls, different spin: Roger and Rafa exchange shots

first_imgNadal: I can’t say it’s a bad ball.Melbourne, Australia | AFP | The Australian Open’s new balls this year are dividing opinion at Melbourne Park, with even the two greatest men’s Grand Slam winners of all-time failing to see eye-to-eye.Roger Federer, winner of 20 Slams, says the new Japanese-made Dunlop balls behave differently in cooler night conditions and do not allow players to “out-spin” rivals.But Rafael Nadal, the 17-time major winner renowned for his huge top-spin groundstrokes, countered: “I can’t say it’s a bad ball.”Australian John Millman reckoned “they’re a bit heavy” after losing on Wednesday night while his big-mouth countryman Bernard Tomic pulled no punches, saying they were “dead” and “really shit” before he lost in the first round.Tournament director Craig Tiley has defended the change from Wilson balls, claiming earlier in the week he had heard only “positive feedback”.He might have to change his mind after defending champion Federer offered a different opinion on Wednesday.“Well, they definitely play a touch different to the ones we’ve had the last couple years,” said the Swiss master, who is going for a third consecutive title and record seventh in all at Melbourne Park.“At night the spin is not taking off tremendously,” he added, noting that the semi-finals and final are played at night. “It’s hard to out-spin guys here. I just feel like it’s really important to have fast enough courts for night session conditions. If you keep it slow, slow, at night the ball doesn’t move.”Nadal, who is bidding to become the first man in the Open era to win each Grand Slam on two or more occasions, acknowledged the ball was different but reckons it is “fair for everyone”.“The ball is big. With colder conditions, especially during the night, the ball is bigger,” said the Spaniard, who won his lone Australian Open title in 2009.“Yes, the ball is going a little bit more slow, no? Not the high bounces that sometimes we used to have here. But the ball is what there is. it is fair enough, a good quality ball. I can’t complain.”Federer was characteristically diplomatic with his criticism. “Look, one year ago it was too far back. Honestly it’s still early in the tournament to exactly tell you how it feels exactly,” said the maestro.“I definitely have to go through a minor adjustment maybe from Perth, which was a faster court.“I still feel like you can serve your way out of trouble. It is true, you can’t out-spin a guy here. I think that’s clear.”Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more

Chinese Delegation Examines Brookdale-Rutgers Partnership

first_imgA delegation from a Chinese college visited Brookdale Community College as part of a tour of U.S. institutions of higher learning. Associate Professor Yun Zhou of Zhejiang College of Construction meets Brookdale President Maureen Murphy during the Chinese delegation’s visit.LINCROFT – An 18-member delegation of directors, deans, and faculty from Zhejiang College of Construction in Hangzhou, China, was welcomed earlier this month to Brookdale Community College’s main campus, here, by new Brookdale president Maureen Murphy.The group also visited the Freehold campus to specifically witness the Brookdale-Rutgers partnership through which students holding associate degrees can earn a Rutgers degree at the Freehold branch.The visit to Brookdale focused on the delivery of academic and learning opportunities and how two-year degree programs transfer to four-year degrees. Brookdale professors Edward O’Neill and Mike Qaissaunee discussed Brookdale’s architecture, engineering and technology associate degree programs. A campus tour of the classroom and laboratory facilities followed, led by Dr. Janice M. Thomas, director of Brookdale’s International Education Center.The Chinese delegation also spent a week at Rutgers University, hosted by Mike Finkelstein, senior adviser for strategic partnerships, International School of Sports Marketing and Business.Yun Zhou, leader of the delegation, said through an interpreter that their monthlong study tour would provide participants a better understanding of the U.S. higher education system and the relationships between two- and four-year institutions. Zhou is library director and associate professor of library science at Zhejiang College of Construction.The delegation’s U.S. tour began at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. After visits to Rutgers and Brookdale, the delegation continued on to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Their tour was to conclude at Washington State University, Bates Technical College, and St. Martin’s University, all in the state of Washington.last_img read more

Selkirk College Saints Add Leadership to Blueline

first_imgBruce-Fuoco’s strength is strong positional play and a great first pass. In the KIJHL regular season campaign, the defenceman scored eight goals and added 21 assists which was best amongst blueliners on the Thundercats. He finished his junior hockey career as the team’s captain.“We’re very excited for Jackson to have the opportunity to move on and play for a winning program at Selkirk College,” says Creston head coach and former Selkirk College bench boss Jeff Dubois.“As a person, he’s one of the best guys I’ve worked with. His commitment level to his team and teammates are tremendous, and he brings a great attitude to the rink every day. On the ice he’s mobile, skilled, and he can contribute in all three zones. He’s earned this commitment with an incredible amount of hard work and the Thunder Cats wish him all the best in the future.”Prior to playing in the KIJHL, Bruce-Fuoco spent time in the Central Canadian Hockey League, a Junior A league out of eastern Ontario.Last season the Selkirk College Saints captured their fourth straight BCIHL crown when they defeated the Trinity Western University Spartans in the league’s championship series before a packed house at the Castlegar & District Community Complex.Two key members of last year’s blueline brigade have graduated — captain Tanner Lenting and Arie Postmus — but Bruce-Fuoco joins a Saints defence unit bursting with talent.The BCIHL season will get underway in September where the Saints start pursuit of their fifth title. The four-time defending British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) champion Selkirk College Saints are building towards the upcoming season with the signing of Jackson Bruce-Fuoco.An Ontario native, Bruce-Fuoco has committed for the 2016-2017 season and beyond. A skilled two-way defenseman that possess exceptional leadership, Bruce-Fuoco played for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in the 2015-2016 season.”We are very happy to have Jackson join our program for the 2016-17 season,” says Selkirk College Saints head coach Brent Heaven.“I was able to see Jackson play quite a bit over his last season in Creston and believe he has all the tools necessary to be a contributor at the BCIHL level.”last_img read more