We all need our daily dose of caffeine to wake us up in the morning, but it turns out that, thanks to us, our kids may be getting a caffeine habit too.

Seventy-five percent of children surveyed consumed caffeine on a daily basis, and the more they consumed, the less they slept, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

More reason for watching the kids caffeine intake:

Caffeine blocks a calming chemical in the brain, heightening stress hormones, which can increase

1,200 cases of caffeine poisoning were reported in kids under six in 2009.

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Does Having Choices Make Us Happy? 6 Studies That Suggest It Doesnt Always

Making decisions for yourself might not be all its cracked up to be. According to an amazing talk by marketing professor Baba Shiv, sometimes its a good idea to give up the drivers seat. Shivs seemingly counterintuitive thoughts have led to a number of studies and research on choice, all trying to answer the question Does having choices

Flexing this important emotional muscle is a key to lifelong success but its probably not what youre thinking. Gratitude is the answer to all your problems when it comes to success. Its important to program your brain to be grateful, even if youve had a bad day. That means training your brain to look for more reasons to feel grateful. Try flexing this muscle to see how it affects your life.

Weve always been told by our parents to respect our elders, keep our elbows off the table, and most of allto be polite! But the final warning may not hold value any longer, at least not when it comes to our health. Being polite has been shown to cause harm in a number of ways from forcing you to give in to peer pressure to overeating to please a host. Are you guilty of these polite faux-pas?

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The most powerful ideas in human history have one thing in common theyre all based on words. From religious doctrines to political constitutions to famous speeches that have broken down walls and created worlds, words have a long history of forging futures.

So, what is it about words that give them the ability to shape perspectives?

Rooted in oral tradition, words have always communicated importance. From oral traditions to the written word, words were luxuries available only to the elite. That is, until the printing press made it possible for them to be distributed almost as soon as they were written.

Today, words are shared as theyre conceived, and technology has made it possible to fire these thought-rockets around the world at devastating speeds.

That same technology has quickened the pace of the world. We do more, say more, share more but does that mean were thinking more?

Among social media, digital media and broadcast media, words are hurled randomly into cyberspace with meanings twisted and distorted. Indeed, were littered with words, but how many of them actually matter?

Ironically, even though were exposed to more words today than ever before, fewer move us as did the words and works of the great orators of the past. Are words losing their magic?

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

In North America, we obsess about hand sanitizer and scrub our fruits and vegetables until every vestige of mud in an effort to protect ourselves from bacteria we believe will make us ill. Well, as it turns out, our preoccupation with cleanliness may actually be making us sick.

The project, involving 200 scientists and 80 institutions, also discovered that as many as 1,000 bacterial strains exist in each person, that everyones microbiome (their collection of bacteria) is unique, and that disease-causing bacteria found in a humans microbiome not only dont cause illness, but they also co-exist peacefully. In short, bacteria isnt evil.

Jeff D. Leach, founder of the Human Food Project, wrote in the

Increasing evidence suggests that the alarming rise in allergic and autoimmune disorders during the past few decades is at least partly attributable to our lack of exposure to microorganisms that once covered our food and us.

So how can we refamiliarize ourselves with those microorganisms? According to Leach, the answer lies in reintroducing organisms found in plain old mud.

While you may not want to eat spoonfuls of mud, you could consider trading artificially shiny grocery store produce for veggies and fruit from the local farmers market. And that dirt clinging to them? Its good for you, so dont be too quick to scrub it all off.

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Pesticides and fertilizers are of growing concern, and more and more people are aware of their potential dangers. But now there are ways of learning just exactly whats in the produce you eat.

A new website and accompanying app ( will help consumers make informed choices by explaining just what and how many chemicals and pesticides your food contains. Now you can opt for pesticide-free products instead of a nonorganic alternative.

Meanwhile the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group, which specializes in research into toxic chemicals, has listed a dirty dozen of produce with the highest pesticide load. These include apples, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, celery, potatoes and lettuce. Some, of course, may be peeled to dramatically reduce pesticide residue, but what do you do about others?

Its worth considering. According to experts, even small doses of chemicals can lead to poor health, especially for the most vulnerable the elderly and the young.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Buying Life Insurance? Ask These Six Questions

Are you considering a term life insurance policy? If so, its important you do your homework to ensure that you get the policy you need.

Its important to consider your familys income needs over the course of your policy, including expenses such as mortgages, college tuition, medical bills and funeral costs.

The length of your term will depend on your long-term income outlook. For example, if youre working for 10 more years and then have retirement benefits

and Social Security, a 10-year term may work for you.

If you outlive your term life insurance policy, you may want to convert it near the end of the term without needing another medical exam. Be sure to read the fine print on the conversion option, as there can be time limitations for conversion.

Riders such as disability waivers that pay your premiums if you become disabled are more common on whole life insurance policies than on term life insurance policies. But they are available, so look into them.

Even if youre relatively healthy for your age, the rates promoted in online or newspaper ads may be based on an applicant with exceptional health. The price quoted may not be applicable to you.

Life insurance companies are usually in excellent financial health, but you should still check out their rating. Agencies that rate life insurance companies include A.M. Best Company, Fitch Ratings, Moodys Investors Service and Standard & Poors Ratings Services.

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Its one of lifes great ironies that planning a fun party can be stressful. But it doesnt necessarily have to be.

Learn from the experts. Keep these party planners tips top of mind and youll have rave reviews from the partygoers while staying calm, cool and collected yourself.

A theme makes planning your party a little easier and a lot more fun.

This will be your lifeline for the party. Remember, its not about how much you spend but what you do with your budget.

Try not to invite people who hate each other; make sure its a fun mix.

Hopefully everyone will have RSVPd by now.

Decide on a seating plan. Know where the coats will go. Make sure you have enough glasses of all types.

Have everything ready well ahead so you can relax.

Your guests are probably having too much fun to notice.

Its the best part of throwing a party!

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The rise of careful craftsmanship is one of the more interesting trends that has gained traction over the last few years.

You can see it in the repurposing of vintage furniture and found objects, which become unique home dcor objects in the hands of a skilled craftsman. You can see it in the 100-mile movement, with its emphasis on local, home-grown food and its extension into handmade crafts produced by local artisans. And you can see it in craft circles, artists collectives and local artisans markets, which are thriving across North America. Even interior designers are seeking out craftspeople for special projects, and the website which connects clients to craftspeople, boasts some 36,000 completed projects.

The trend does in fact reflect a desire for unique items, but another possible stimulus is the decline in the quality of todays manufactured goods, which has sparked consumer interest in well-made and long-lasting products.

Todays consumers want to know what theyre purchasing, where it came from and how its being made. They demand to be informed of every step of the process, for it is the only way to be sure that you are purchasing a quality product, comments CustomMades Heather Bailey on

Their products may have a modern twist, but todays artisans channel their colleagues from the crafts movement of the early 20th century. While modern technology offers them easy access to information and networking, their passion for creating and pride of workmanship reflect the values of bygone days, with unique and amazing results.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Is It Time to Consider Inflation-Protected Annuities?

The guaranteed payments that annuities offer can help protect investors from troubled times, providing the value of the annuity isnt being whittled away by inflation.

Many economists are worried about inflation. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a widely used gauge of consumer spending, decreased 0.3% in May 2012, and core inflation (which eliminates volatile food and energy costs) rose 0.2%. For the one-year period ending May 31, 2012, the CPI rose 1.7% and core inflation rose 2.3%. That places core inflation above the U.S. Federal Reserve Boards target of 2%.

Inflation can be problematic for annuity owners. Thats because the annuity payouts are dependent on interest rate levels at the time the money is invested.

One way to address this problem is to invest in an annuity that adjusts for inflation. Some annuities raise payments based on changes to the CPI; others raise payments by a fixed percentage per year; and still others increase payments only if interest rates rise by more than a certain percentage by a certain date.

While this may be appealing to many investors, there are downsides to inflation-protected annuities. First, inflation protection can add to the cost of the annuity. Second, inflation-protected annuities may offer lower initial payouts. Third, annuities that increase payments when inflation rises often also reduce payments when inflation declines.

Investors may therefore want to consider other ways to address this problem. One option: Consider investing in several

immediate payment annuities at several points in time; this allows you to potentially capture different interest rates. Another option: Invest part of your assets in an annuity and part in stocks and bonds.

Of course, deciding which approach makes the most sense for you depends on your individual financial situation and tolerance for risk; we can help you make the choice thats right for you.

Annuity guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer. The IRS may also impose a 10% penalty on withdrawals prior to age 59 , depending on the circumstances

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Smarter Smart Phones Usher In Cashless Society

Sick of lugging around cash? Dont worry. The cashless society is just around the corner.

Thanks to smart and smarter cell phones, the days of wallets, cash, even credit cards may soon be over. Already customers are flashing their phones to purchase lattes in some Starbucks locations or lumber at Home Depot.

A survey by Washington-based Pew Research Center asked 1,000 technologists and social scientists about the wallets fate in 2020. Two-thirds felt both cash and credit cards will have disappeared by then, to be replaced by smart devices. In fact, even now, smart phones hold all the information we need to transact business: payment methods and identification.

transition to the post-cash economy. Both Visa and MasterCard now offer wireless payment options, and the government of Canada is moving away from plastic, as it plans to stop issuing social insurance cards in March 2014.

Meanwhile, Square, Inc. ( has found a way for small merchants, such as the local hot dog seller or a dog walker, to accept credit cards via a smart phone.

The downside, of course, is concern about privacy and security. The Pew survey found that one-third of respondents felt consumers would worry about the security of their transactions and the misuse of personal data, as advertisers will be able to fine-tune their pitches to

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With a fixed annuity, you make a payment to your insurance company and you then receive a set or fixed payout. While many investors like the idea of a guaranteed income stream, for others the fixed part seems just a little too rigid. But thats not necessarily the case.

All annuities operate in essentially the same way: You sign a contract with an insurance company. You pay the insurance company, and the insurance company then makes payments to you at regular intervals either for a specified period of time or for your lifetime.

From there, annuities differ dramatically. Some annuities have variable payouts, meaning theyre dependent on the performance of a portfolio of assets. Some investors, particularly those nearing retirement and needing some stability, dont like the sound of a variable payment. Instead they opt for a fixed annuity, which provides a set income.

A fixed annuity payout may seem meager when the stock market is rising and investors with variable annuities are receiving greater payouts. However, fixed annuities may not be as fixed as they sound. For example, some fixed annuities are now available with payments that rise to adjust for inflation. Other fixed annuities allow an investors heirs to continue to receive payments if the investor dies earlier than expected.

We can help you determine if a fixed annuity is right for you. If it is, we will also be able to advise you on the appropriate balance of income and flexibility for your financial circumstances.

Annuity guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.The IRS may also impose a 10% penalty on withdrawals prior to age 59 , depending on the circumstances.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Gas Prices Rising? Dont Worry – Start Biking!

If there was a simple way to be happier, more active and save money all at once, would you do it? These days you cant surf your favorite news site without encountering a study showing that those who have chosen bikes over cars are happier and healthier.

The New Economics Foundation, a British-based think tank, has reported that studies comparing the experiences of commuting by bicycle and car report that cyclists find their mode of transport at least as flexible and convenient as those who use cars, with lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement.

A survey of Portland, Oregon, businesses found that bicycling is the fastest-growing mode of transport for downtown employees work commutes, and Canadian researchers found that 66% of people who commute by walking or biking are very happy with their commute, compared to 25% of transit users and 32% of drivers.

But the benefits dont stop there. By biking to work, you avoid being stressed out by gas prices and, of course, youre doing the right thing environmentally. If you think bike commuting is right up your lane, here are some tips to help you start:

Ride a bike specially designed for commuting.

If there arent designated bike lanes, stay to the right as much as possible.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Whether its the best foods to grill, the comfiest furniture to lounge on or the perfect backyard setup, heres to getting the most from summer 2012.

One of todays hottest trends is stuffed burgers. Create your own by forming patties around fillings like cheese, bacon, even chutney.

Try this restaurant trick at home. Add mesquite or hickory wood

chips to charcoal to add a subtle smoky flavor to meat.

Grilled pizza can become your new go-to dinner. Make or buy your

dough, add your favorite toppings and throw it on the barbecue.

permit it, add a fire pit to your outdoor living space. Theres nothing better than inviting a few friends over on a Sunday evening for a nice, relaxing evening by the fire.

Outdoor pillows look great on your wicker furniture or patio set. Better yet, they make great floor cushions. You can get them in fun, bright colors and materials specially designed for the outdoors.

They dont call it an outdoor living room for nothing. Jazz up your backyard space with fun accents. Raid your living room for decorative planters and mirrors. Dont forget bright linens and unbreakable tableware and glasses for the outdoor dining room.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Fund Your Retirement Dreams Through Annuities

When it comes to funding your retirement dreams, its important to look at all available investment options and then structure a portfolio that provides regular income for as long as youll need it. Annuities could be a good option, but how do you know how much to allocate to annuities as compared with other investments?

As you know, creating a portfolio usually involves allocating assets to a mix of stocks (so your assets can keep pace with inflation) and bonds (so youll have a steady income stream). Youll probably also want to have some cash on hand, and you may want to consider an investment in annuities.

To decide how much to allocate to an annuity, you could consider it a part of your bond allocation. Thats because allocating some of your nest egg to an immediate annuity creates a stream of income you cant outlive, helping you overcome longevity risk the risk that youll run out of money before you die.

Ask yourself what you think the stock market will do, and decide what your tolerance is for investment risk. Also consider whether youre likely to burn through your assets earlier than youd planned.

A significant allocation to an immediate annuity might be a good option under the following conditions:

When the stock market appears to be peaking or in the

When your tolerance for investment risk is low

When theres a high probability youll exhaust your assets

Annuity guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.The IRS may also impose a 10% penalty on withdrawals prior to age 59 , depending on the circumstances.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Buy Diapers and Soap With Your Smart Phone

Their goal is nothing less than reshaping the retail industry. And with the growing popularity of smart phones and other mobile computing devices, tech-savvy retailers may wind up doing just that.

Whereas previous generations thought of shopping as requiring a trip to the local mall, buyers in recent years have become increasingly comfortable making their purchases online: letting their fingers do the walking via keystrokes on a computer. But now, e-commerce innovators such as the online drugstore Well.ca are taking that idea one step further.

By strategically locating so called pop-up stores in key commuter hubs, retailers are finding new ways to bring goods to shoppers. Using their smart phones, busy commuters simply scan the quick response (QR) codes (those black-and-white square patterns youre seeing everywhere these days) on images of products, such as brand-name diapers or detergent, to place their orders. Purchases are delivered to their homes as early as the following day.

Shopping by smart phone while on the go may be a relatively new notion for many, but the appeal of such a system is obvious. With the ease of pressing a button on their pocket-sized device, time-pressed commuters can cross off items on their to-do lists that otherwise would have required a far more time-consuming trip to the local store.

And with PC World reporting earlier this year that smart phones are already more popular than PCs, such e-commerce innovations are sure to be around for a long time.

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A major benefit of choosing an annuity as a retirement savings vehicle is tax deferral, which is simply the means by which the payment of taxes on certain assets can be delayed until some future date. Heres why tax deferral can be beneficial.

Tax-deferred assets, such as investments in annuities, grow untaxed, meaning that interest earned on the investments in the annuity appreciates until they are withdrawn.

Thats called compounding. Compounding is the process by which the money you make from an investment can be reinvested to make even more money. As a hypothetical example, lets say you have invested

$10,000 and it earns interest of 10% per year. In the first year, you will earn $1,000 in interest. But in the second year, you will earn $1,100 in interest. Why? Because not only does your initial investment of $10,000 accrue interest, but so does the additional $1,000 you earned in the first year.

Because your investment isnt reduced by income taxes every year, you experience potentially higher overall returns in your annuitys accumulation phase.

Its also important to note that through tax deferral you may receive a lower tax rate upon withdrawal. Since you probably will not withdraw the assets youre accumulating in your annuity

until later in life (when you may be in a lower tax bracket), you also may minimize the taxes you have to pay when you withdraw your investment.

Your advisor can help you determine if an annuity is a good tax-deferred investment vehicle for you.

The legal and tax information contained in this article is merely a summary of our understanding and interpretation of some current provisions of tax law and is not exhaustive. Consult your legal or tax counsel for advice and information concerning your particular circumstances. Neither we nor our representatives may give legal or tax advice.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

While it may seem counterintuitive, its true; purchasing a more expensive home in an urban neighborhood could actually wind up costing you less than a home with a smaller price tag in the suburbs.

Thats largely because of the high cost of transportation. When shopping for a home, many people who choose to live far from the core and commute to city jobs often neglect to factor in transportation costs.

The ever-increasing price of gas is not the only consideration. Regular maintenance, higher car insurance rates due to the longer drive, simple wear and tear, and vehicle replacement costs all need to be considered when calculating the cost of living far from where you work.

Given that suburban living also typically requires the use of a vehicle for everything from taking the kids to school to quick trips to the grocery store, you could also be looking at adding a second vehicle.

Whereas city dwellers who benefit from better transit options and from being within walking distance of

many amenities may get by with one car or none at all.

Something else to consider if youre weighing the pros and cons of urban versus suburban living: according to research, health benefits such as lower rates of obesity, hypertension and diabetes are associated with the increased physical activity (primarily walking) that comes with being a city dweller. And that could translate into both lower medical costs and a longer, healthier life, which wed all agree are priceless.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Are You a Procrastinator? Find Out How to Change

There are more distractions today than ever before, thanks to the influence of the Internet. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are among the online time wasters that lure us from the task at hand. But heres the disconnect: even as the opportunities for procrastination grow, so does the demand for fast, creative, motivated workers.

So why do we procrastinate? Some experts, like Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at Chicagos DePaul University, believe we procrastinate because we were overregulated as children or because we feel anxious about a task. But virtually all authorities on the subject agree that procrastinators are made, not born. Procrastination is a learned behavior that can be changed.

Making a to-do list can be a great first step in managing procrastination. Cross each item off as you complete it.

Knowing what your biggest distractions are can help you avoid them. If you check email every five minutes, try to reduce it to a few times an hour. If you feel compelled to read and reply to every text message you receive, put your phone out of reach.

Look at your work environment. Get rid of clutter, hang or post items that inspire you, and find a spot to keep your to-do list in plain sight.

If you find yourself procrastinating regularly, you might want to consider talking to a therapist. Professional advice can help you determine whats at the root of your procrastination and eliminate it.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

Eating well used to be pretty easy; just eat lots of fruits and vegetables. But todays on-the-go lifestyle has resulted in a plethora of processed and packaged food with huge opportunities for on-package marketing.

Food producers know that consumers regularly scan packaging to find out whats inside so they litter it with phrases like fat free and high source of fiber. Yet fat free products may be packed with sugar, and fiber sources may be heavy on salt and other nutritional no-nos.

To avoid being a victim of on-package marketing, skip the claims and go straight for the Nutrition Facts section, which includes not only the calories and vitamins contained in the product but also the sodium and sugar content and the percentage of daily value. Sodium should be less than 500 milligrams per 250 ml serving, and sugar (in any form) should never be listed as one of the first four ingredients.

While its best to stay away from processed foods altogether, if that doesnt work for you, ensure that you know what youre buying. Read the labels.

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The purchase of a fixed annuity may be a hard sell, given todays ultralow interest rates. But that doesnt mean investors who are worried about the negative effect of a volatile market on their savings shouldnt consider these investment vehicles.

When you buy an immediate income annuity, you essentially skirt two big retirement risks: first, that a market crash will destroy your savings, and second, that youll outlive your money.

The problem is that insurers base monthly payments on current interest rates. If you buy now, when rates are low, you lock in a lower payout than you would if you bought when rates were higher. So the question is: will a fixed annuity pay you enough?

The answer depends on how much youve saved. While an annuity can protect you from running out of money, it isnt a solution if you havent saved enough.

If you are concerned about a market crash or fear you may outlive your money, one strategy is to use a portion of your retirement savings to purchase a fixed annuity that will generate sufficient income to cover your fixed monthly costs such as housing and utilities.

Its likely that annuities may soon become more available, thanks to rules proposed by the U.S. Treasury and Labor departments that encourage more employers to offer annuity options in retirement plans. So you may want to give them a second thought.

I or your advisor can help you determine if annuities are right for your and can explain your investment options.

Location:10800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA 23235, USA

If youve picked up a newspaper, surfed or watched TV recently, youve probably heard about Pinterest

The new social media kid on the block is growing so quickly that its popularity has been touted as Pinsanity.

The moniker for its success is well deserved; the site has more than 11 million unique visitors, and its growing. It gets more referral traffic than YouTube, Linkedin and Google+. The demographics of the s