10 Best U.S. Cities to Live Without a Car

biketoworkAccording to the 2015 edition of AAA’s Your Driving Costs, the average annual cost to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. is $8,698. This includes fuel, maintenance, tires, auto insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges – but not the cost of vehicle storage or parking your car at a meter.
 
Even a small sedan like a Honda Civic or Ford Focus can set you back $7,606 annually, while a large vehicle like a Ford Explorer or a Jeep Grand Cherokee has a yearly expense of $11,931. The cost of owning and operating a single car can exceed the monthly food costs for a family of four, while operating two cars in a family can generate costs greater than the average mortgage payment in the United States.

Benefits of Car-Free Living

Aside from the considerable monetary savings of being automobile-free, there are many other advantages:

Less Environmental Pollution

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operating automobiles is the single greatest cause of air pollution. Pollution results from the combustion process and spills hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, carbon dioxide is considered the primary greenhouse gas contributor to recent climate change. Automobiles are also major causes of of smog and acid rain.

Increased Personal Safety

According to U.S. Census data, there are approximately 11 million automobile accidents each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that this results in more than 30,000 deaths, 2.3 million injuries, and, according to a separate report by the NHTSA, an almost $1 trillion cost of productivity and loss of life. Living without a car dramatically reduces the likelihood of death or injury related to cars, as pedestrian deaths are far more unlikely than those of car drivers or passengers.

Better Health

Without an automobile, people increase the time and distance they walk each day when commuting to and from work or when shopping. Health authorities from the American Heart Association to the Arthritis Foundation recommend daily walking as the key to long-term health. The benefits can include weight loss, longer life, better sleep, and reduced Alzheimer’s risk.

Less Stress

MIT’s Sensible City Lab and automaker Audi did a study on driving and learned that stress levels for driving in city traffic and skydiving from an airplane for the first time were about the same. Karl Greco, one of the project leaders, claims, “Certain driving situations can be one of the most stressful activities in our lives.”
 
A 2014 article in TIME magazine noted several studies about drivers who commute more than 10 miles each way to work and the deleterious effects upon their mental and physical health. John Casada, a psychiatrist who specializes in anger issues, says, “Sitting in traffic all boxed up in your car, running late and feeling powerless to improve your situation, is a perfect recipe for stress… As our society spends more time commuting amid more and more traffic, it’s no surprise that rates of aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise as well.”
 
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How to Teach Kids Good Manners

girl-please-sign1-918x516“Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” Those words of American economist Thomas Sowell from his book “A Conflict of Visions” sometimes offend new parents who, looking at their precious bundle of joy, can’t imagine the stubbornness and temper tantrums that await them. Infants are born demanding their parents’ full attention. They are easily frustrated and often defiant. Fortunately, as they grow, they are capable of learning empathy, cooperation, and sharing – skills that are essential as they mature and interact with others.
 
You are your child’s first teacher. The years between two and four are the “age of imitation,” according to Phyllis Magrab, Ph.D., director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. “Toddlers watch you closely and mimic what you say,” she explains. For better or worse, parents are the earliest and greatest influence upon children’s behavior, and that motherly and fatherly impact extends far beyond childhood into adulthood.
 
When the Christian Bible talks about the “sins of the father” afflicted upon his children, it may be referring to the significant impact parents have upon the actions and feelings of their children and the adults they become. Countless adages reflect similar thoughts: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” “A chip off the old block,” and, “Like father, like son.” As poet Maya Angelou said, “I became the kind of parent my mother was to me.”
 
The greatest lesson that parents can teach their children is respect for themselves and others. Manners – actions that exhibit self-restraint, soft speech, and thoughtful gestures – are visible expressions of respect. Manners affect and define character, the essence of who we are inside.
 
Good manners are not the province of the wealthy, the educated, or the gifted. Rather, they are available to every person, regardless of social or economic circumstance.

Benefits of Good Manners in Children

Aside from the pride parents feel when their children make a good impression on others, the benefits to the children are immense. Those who have been taught proper manners are better prepared to cope with stress and adversity gracefully. Manners help build social skills that are essential when meeting new people or behaving properly in new situations. Further benefits include the following:
 
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5 Keys to Job Promotions, Raises & Bonuses

ethical financeIn 1931, historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream as the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” The growth of America’s middle class, especially after World War II, seemed to validate the premise that wealth and security were within the grasp of anyone who worked hard. Between 1945 and 1979, gross domestic product growth averaged 10.69% a year, and the number of families in the middle class exploded. According to figures from the Economic Policy Institute, productivity and worker compensation grew together until 1979 when the link between productivity and wages and salaries was severed. For decades, the formula worked.
 
Since that time, productivity has increased 64.9% while compensation has grown just 8.0%. To add insult to injury, the compensation gains went primarily to the top 1% of wage earners, growing 153.6 % – greater than the rate of productivity increase, and four times faster than average wage growth. As a consequence, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the top 1% of American families have captured the bulk of the gains of productivity, increasing their income and wealth, while 80% of American families have not kept pace with inflation.
 
Is the American Dream out of reach of most people today? Many things are becoming out of reach for the middle class, including new automobiles, college educations, and a secure retirement. CBS Money Watch described the situation as “America’s incredible shrinking middle class,” noting that the proportion of residents described as middle class in every state has declined over the past decade.
 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority (82.5% as of June 2015) of American workers are employees. As a consequence, their income and position depend upon their ability to successfully climb the corporate ladder. In other words, most workers must compete with their fellow employees for job promotions and salary increases. It is a Darwinian environment where a select few gather the top rewards – position, community status, high income, and security – while the majority share the leftovers.
 
If you aspire to the upper levels of management – with its rewards of high income, perquisites, and benefits – you should recognize that luck is not the only factor that separates winners from losers. There are specific techniques that can be mastered to separate yourself from competitors and achieve the American Dream.

1. Own Your Destiny

Many people are passive about their careers, either due to a belief that management will recognize their superior talents, or due to a lack of understanding about how promotions and benefits are rewarded. They believe that doing their job consistently is enough to justify additional compensation and higher position.
 
As a consequence, they receive minimal pay increases and few promotions. Within a few years, they become disillusioned and disgruntled, trapped in unsatisfying jobs, but unable to leave the security of a regular paycheck. Rather than controlling their future, they are dependent on the whims and generosity of superiors.
 
The era when an employee could exchange time and effort for long-term security and a decent retirement has long passed, if such conditions ever existed. The march of technology, the growth of borderless markets and competition, and the erosion of corporate social responsibility has changed the workplace forever. Forbes recognized that “the old ways just don’t apply anymore in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace… The economy is too uncertain; the business cycle has accelerated too much – and people have changed. That old contract is gone, never to return.”
 
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Understanding Why Budgets Fail – 8 Steps to Fix a Broken Budget

woman with piggybankA Pew poll from March 2015 reports that more than 80% of Americans are concerned about their savings, and seven out of ten worry whether they have enough money to cover their expenses. Yet since 1960, the personal saving rate in the United States has been inconsistent and generally trending downward, ranging from a high of 17.0% in May 1975 to a low of 1.9% in July 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis as reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In April 2015, the rate clawed its way up to 5.6%.
 
However, failure to reach financial goals is not necessarily caused by lack of effort or desire. Despite the best of intentions to save money, adhering to a personal budget can just as easily lead to a cycle of deprivation and overspending as it can a hefty bank account.
 
Some have suggested the reason that Americans live beyond their means is that there’s simply a dearth of available information to guide them. However, a recent survey of Amazon.com indicated the availability of more than 58,000 books dedicated to saving money. Likewise, television and radio shows about saving fill the airwaves, and sample budgets abound on the Internet.
 
Additionally, 223,400 personal financial advisors provide advice as of 2015, and the field is growing “much faster” than average relative to other professions, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. It seems clear that there’s another reason budgets are not as successful as they ought to be.

Why Budgets Fail

A budget is a plan to reach a theoretical level of financial health in the future, with a focus on reducing spending and growing income. Budgets tend to fail because they are improperly planned, poorly implemented, or both. More importantly, the roots of failure can frequently be traced to our natural human tendencies that have been evolutionarily hardwired into our psychology.
 
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