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There Are More Million Dollar Hamptons Rentals Than Ever


Georgica Pond compound East HamptonIf you think your rent is high, consider summer rentals in the Hamptons.

Brokers say there are now at least a half dozen homes and estates in the Hamptons that are renting for around $1 million—just for the summer.

That works out to $9,803 per day, or $408 an hour. And the $1 million lease doesn't include utility bills or other charges, which can run in the tens of thousands.

Brokers say the number of million-dollar rentals marks a new record.

"It's unprecedented," said H. Dolly Lenz, a Manhattan broker who also works with buyers and renters in the Hamptons. "The demand is not just strong, it's unbelievable."

Most of the million-dollar rentals are unofficial listings, which means they don't show up on the Internet or on broker databases. Brokers generally offer the properties only by word-of-mouth to super-rich prospects.

Yet realtors say at least two properties have already rented for at or close to $1 million for the summer and several others are in active discussions.

Lenz and others say the surge in Hamptons rentals is being driven by hedge funders, the stock market and the super-rich from Russia, Germany, Italy and other countries.

(Read More: Wealthy Give Tax Coffers a Big Boost)

Pat Petrillo of Sotheby's International Realty in Southampton said the people who rent their homes for $1 million or more are generally "very wealthy themselves," but plan on spending part of the summer in Europe or elsewhere.

"They say, 'Look if someone will pay $1 million for the summer, we'll consider it,'" she said. "They'd be crazy not to."

And who are the renters? No one will name names. But brokers said the renter of one million-dollar rental in Southampton is a wealthy Russian who has rented in the Hamptons before. Another renter in talks for another million-dollar rental is "in finance," according to one broker.

What do you get for your $1 million summer?

Try a property in Water Mill that's renting for around a million for the summer that includes a 14,000-square-foot main house, with eight bedrooms, 10 baths and a home theater. It also has a tennis court, pool and a large guest house.

(Read More: The Booming Business of Shipping Yachts)

An estate in Southampton that recently rented for close to $1 million has an 18,000-square-foot house with 12 bedrooms and 12 baths along with a sprawling guest house and pool house. A tennis court and heated pool are on the 10-acre property. For those who like to do their swimming indoors, the estate has a massive indoor swimming pool with waterfalls and a water slide.

Of course, some million-dollar rentals will never find actual renters. Harald Grant of Sotheby's International Southampton said that "there are really only a few properties that can command that price and the rest are just hoping."

He added that while the Hamptons rental market was on fire in the early spring, it's since cooled a bit after prospective renters decided to buy instead.

"There are a surprising number of properties still available," he said. "Even some oceanfront properties are still available. For a price of course."

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There Are A Few Factors To Blame For Broadway's Terrible Attendance Record


Annie final party scene photo

The lights are looking dim on Broadway, which suffered its worst attendance record in eight years during the 2012-2013 season, according to Bloomberg's Philip Boroff.

The total box office take was similar to last year's, but ticket prices were up $6 from last year, to an average of $98 a ticket.

The Broadway League, a trade organization, is expected to report that about 11.6 million people saw shows in 2012-13, the lowest tally since 2004-05, according to Bloomberg.

There are a few factors to blame for the dip in attendance:

  1. Hurricane Sandy: The Superstorm shuttered theaters for four days, costing shows more than $8.5 million in lost revenue, according to the AP.

  2. The increase in ticket prices: “There is no goodwill left among theatergoers,” Michael Taustine, treasurer of the Lyceum Theatre, told Bloomberg. “They are resentful and angry at the arrogance of Broadway pricing policies."

  3. Dark theaters: 13 of Broadway's 40 theaters are currently dark, an "unusually large" number for the weeks before the Tony awards, according to Bloomberg.

 Even stars like Tom Hanks and Bette Midler, who drew big crowds, couldn't save the season, noted Boroff. 

Shows including "Orphans," ''The Testament of Mary," ''Hands on a Hardbody," ''Jekyll & Hyde" and "The Performers" opened and closed quickly, making it hard for sales to recover, noted the AP.

SEE ALSO: I Just Shelled Out $513 To Take The Kids To See 'Annie'

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Europe Has Better Sunscreen Products Than America


Tori spelling beach mothers day

Want to protect yourself from the sun?

You may want to consider taking a trip to Europe, where you can buy sunscreens with active ingredients that adhere to strict European Union standards, but are still not approved for sale in the U.S.

According to Sumathi Reddy in The Wall Street Journal, there are currently eight sunscreen ingredient applications pending before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Some have been on file for up to a decade, and almost all of the ingredients are readily available in brands sold outside the U.S. Most are also considered "highly effective" by the strict European standards for sunscreen, the WSJ reports.

Most American sunscreens protect from UVA rays using benzophenones, which largely work by absorbing the sun's rays but have a variety of shortcomings including allergic reactions and negative affects on hormone levels.

Some types of benzophenones even break down in sunlight and reduce the potency of UVB filter ingredients.

Of the eight pending ingredient applications, doctors say ecamsule, Tinosorb S, and Tinosorb M are the most effective with long-range UVA protection, according to the WSJ.

SEE ALSO: You Can't Get Closer To The Belly Of A Flying Plane Than At Maho Beach

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5 Home Renovations That Could Hurt Resale Value


gatsby house

Unlike the homeowner of 25 years ago, today’s typical buyers plan to live in their homes for just five to seven years. So it’s more important than ever to consider resale when making home improvements.

Even if you’re a buyer, it’s important to think like a seller, too, from the time you sign the purchase contract through any home improvement or renovation projects.

The goal: Think about how your improvements might affect the sale of your home down the road.

Below are five home renovation/ improvement projects that could actually hurt your home’s resale.

1. Going overboard on landscaping or gardens

A homeowner/seller may have a green thumb and be really proud of the time spent on the garden, the hedges or landscaping. But the next buyer might see it as too much maintenance, especially if you went overboard with your green thumb. Potential buyers may not be willing to pay for it (as part of the home’s overall price), hire a gardener or do the work themselves. This is especially true with Millennials and Gen X-ers. Of course, your property needs curb appeal, and nice landscaping does sell. But it could be just as easy to do a quick, inexpensive yard once-over before going on the market.

2. Converting a garage into a family room

Converting a garage into a family room may make sense if you don’t have a nice car or you simply want a bigger family room. Some people think a driveway is enough. But this is a huge “no-no” in real estate. A garage is expected, especially in the suburbs. If you take it out, you lose a huge chunk of buyers who simply won’t consider a home without a garage.

3. Taking out a bedroom

It’s common today for people to transform a bedroom into a huge master closet or into a home office with a built-in desk and cabinet. If you do, make sure the room can be easily turned back when you put the home on the market. Buyers with kids may need that bedroom. They’ll see the room you converted into a home office or closet as more money they’ll need to spend to turn it back into a bedroom.

A home office is the easiest to undo, as long as you haven’t built in intricate desks, shelves and cabinets. A large closet generally goes within a master bedroom, which includes taking out a door or putting up a wall — all of which is harder to undo.

4. Adding a swimming pool

Similar to landscaping, a pool requires maintenance and is an even bigger liability. This is very particular for certain parts of the country. If you’re in the South, in a warm environment, you can get away with it much more easily. A pool would be a common “must-have” on many buyers’ wish list.

If you’re in an area where it’s only warm a few months a year and pools aren’t common, adding one could be a big mistake. Then again, it’s your home, and if you plan to be there a long time, add the pool. Just know that it may be a turn-off to future buyers. When in doubt, consult your agent.

5. Adding highly personalized colors, finishes or fixtures

Often, homeowners put in tile, sinks, vanities, countertops and floor coverings that are hard to replace, and yet are specific to their tastes.

For example, you may be obsessed with the Moroccan tile from your Marrakesh vacation last year and want it in your kitchen. But the next buyer may not be so enthusiastic. Similarly, installing ceramic or marble tile all over the floors may be a costly mistake that others won’t want to pay for. Some homeowners assume that because they spent $50,000 in such upgrades, their homes will be worth so much more. But what may be a highly personal touch could make your home look like a “fixer-upper” to others. The end result: You’ll turn off a lot of buyers who don’t like your taste and don’t want to do the work to undo it.


Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor and one of the nation’s leading real estate experts.  He has collaborated on multiple real estate books and his expert advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and Forbes. An avid investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the US and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. You can find Brendon on Facebook or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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The Latest Beauty Fad In Korea Is A 'Bone Cutting' Jaw Surgery


korea jaw surgery

South Korea's obsession with plastic surgery is moving on from standard eye and nose jobs to embrace a radical surgical procedure that requires months of often painful recovery.

A stream of celebrities boast on TV shows how it gave them a "new life," while advertisements extolling its cosmetic benefits are everywhere from street billboards to subway stations, magazines and popular Internet sites.

But there's nothing really "cosmetic" about double-jaw surgery.

A radical solution to congenital facial deformities or for people unable to chew properly due to excessive over or underbite, the operation involves realigning the upper and lower jaws.

One result of the bone-cutting procedure is often a slimmer jawline -- and that's what caught the attention of South Korea's booming beauty industry.

A small face with a "V-shaped" chin and jawline is considered a mark of feminine beauty in much of East Asia, along with a high-bridged nose and big eyes.

"This surgery alters your look far more dramatically than, say, Botox or a nose job because it changes your entire facial bone structure," said Choi Jin-Young, a professor in dentistry at Seoul National University.

"But it's a very complex, potentially dangerous surgery ... it's disturbing to see people with no real dental flaws daring to go through it just to have a small, pretty face," Choi told AFP.

The procedure, which involves general anaesthesia and takes months to recover from, carries the risk of various complications including permanent facial numbness or even paralysis.

Data from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons suggests South Korea has one of the highest per-capita rates of plastic surgery procedures in the world.

Cut throat competition among the growing number of plastic surgeons has driven some to promote more radical procedures that others might not offer.

A number of celebrities, some reportedly paid by doctors, underwent double-jaw surgery and later appeared on TV talk shows saying it had provided a "turning point" in their career and personal lives.

There is no official data on how many double jaw surgeries are performed. One recent study estimated the annual figure at 5,000, but it did not differentiate between cosmetic and medically prescribed procedures.

Some 52 percent of those who had taken the surgery suffered sensory problems such as facial numbness, the study said.

Seoul's consumer protection agency saw the number of registered complaints surge from 29 in 2010 to 89 last year, though many more cases of post-operative problems are believed to go unreported.

"My mouth keeps moving leftward and the jaw area has gone numb," wrote one user of a medical consumer online forum, showing photos of her skewed mouth.

"I can't even feel when saliva keeps dripping out of my mouth," she said.

Last August, a 23-year-old college who underwent double-jaw surgery killed herself. She left a suicide note explaining her desperation after the surgery left her unable to chew food or stop crying due to nerve damage in a tear duct.

Shin Hyon-Ho, a medical malpractice lawyer in Seoul, said he had seen cases where the surgery had resulted in chronic jaw pain, a skewed mouth, misaligned teeth and an inability to chew or smile.

"The number of plastic surgery-related cases is growing ... with complications becoming more serious," Shin said.

A doctor with the Korean Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons said the procedure took off around four years ago when a Seoul dental clinic ran a major ad campaign promoting the cosmetic benefits.

As it became popular, plastic surgeons began offering the surgery, causing the price to fall and making it more affordable to more people.

"If we are seeing more complications, that's largely because the sheer number of people getting the surgery has increased rapidly in such a short period of time," said the doctor, who declined to be identified.

"Yes, it was originally invented to correct a dental deformity, but you can't blame someone for getting the surgery to look good, especially in a place like the South where beauty, especially for women, pretty much trumps it all," the doctor said.

Advertising for the procedure is prevalent and unambiguous.

"The double jaw surgery clinic chosen by the pickiest ladies," reads one typical poster on a Seoul subway station wall, with large before and after photos.

"Everyone but you has done it," admonishes another on a metro bus.

A Seoul lawmaker in January proposed setting a minimum age limit for plastic surgery, noting the danger of "bone-related surgeries" in particular.

But Lim In-Sook, professor of sociology at Korea University, said legislation couldn't tackle the root causes that push some women to risk their health for a prettier face.

"This is a highly male-dominated nation where women need both brains and beauty, or often beauty more than brains, to get a job, get married and to survive in all aspects of life," she said.

Plastic surgery, according to Lim, has become just another accepted way of giving yourself an edge in what is a super-competitive society.

"So every single part of our bodies becomes an object for nip and tuck," Lim said. "Today it's your jaw, but who knows what we'll have to fix tomorrow?"

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They Might Put A Ladder At The Top Of Mount Everest Because It's Too Crowded


Hillary Step Everest

It was the final obstacle, the 40 feet of technical climbing up a near vertical rock face that pushed Sir Edmund Hillary to the limit. Once climbed, the way to the summit of Mount Everest lay open.

Now, almost exactly 60 years after the New Zealander and his rope-mate, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, stood on the highest point in the planet, a new plan has been mooted to install a ladder on the famous Hillary Step, as the crucial pitch at nearly 29,000ft has been known since it was first ascended. The aim is to ease congestion.

"We are now discussing putting a ladder on the Hillary Step but it is obviously controversial," said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who runs commercial expeditions on Everest and is a senior member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal.

This year, 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest. On 19 May, around 150 climbed the last 3,000ft of the peak from Camp IV within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers queued to descend or ascend harder sections.

"Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature," said Sherpa, who co-ordinates the work to prepare the traditional route up the mountain for clients who pay between $45,000 and $75,000.

The plan has received some support from the world's mountaineering authorities.

Frits Vrijlandt, the president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), said the ladder could be a solution to the increasing numbers of climbers on the mountain.

"It's for the way down, so it won't change the climb," Vrijlandt told the Guardian.

It is unlikely, however, that tired ascending climbers close to their ultimate goal will spurn such an obvious aid at such an altitude.

After the climb, Hillary described his concern at seeing the steep cliff so high on the mountain during the first ascent. He managed to climb it using a crack to one side. Tenzing Norgay followed and the pair continued to the summit. The news of the successful ascent by the British expedition reached London in time for Queen Elizabeth's coronation three days later.

There are also plans to introduce more rigorous traffic controls on the so-called fixed ropes, which run almost from base camp to the summit and are fixed by specialist sherpas. One rope for climbers on the way up and one for those descending are to be installed.

But though such innovations are anathema to many purist climbers, they are welcomed by some sherpas.

Paid around $7,000 for guiding a client to the summit, the sherpas, almost all from local villages, are regular casualties on the mountain. Nine people have died on Everest this year, including two veteran sherpas. A brawl involving western climbers and sherpas at over 20,000ft on the peak made headlines.

Apa Sherpa, who climbed Everest a record 21 times before retiring in 2011, described the Hillary Step as "very hard" and said a ladder was a good idea.

Pertemba Sherpa, who played a key role in the British expedition led by Sir Chris Bonington, which climbed Everest's south-west face for the first time in 1975, said that the security of the sherpas working on the mountain should be paramount.

"The route is changing, there is more rock, less ice and snow. it's very dangerous. For [the] safety of sherpas, this is good," the 65-year-old said.

Many Sherpas and other Nepalis want to develop the industry of guiding clients to the top with minimal risk to all involved, while many mountaineers want to preserve Everest as a climbing challenge that demands a significant level of experience, technical competence and acceptance of risk.

"The mountain has become a commodity, to be bought and sold like any other," Stephen Venables, the first Briton to climb Everest without oxygen, told the Guardian.

One further suggestion is for the Nepali authorities to vet climbers to ensure they have a basic level of competence.

"We must be inclusive but Mount Everest is not a place for training people who only know ice as cubes in a glass in how to use an ice axe and crampons," said Vrijlandt, the UIAA president.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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Art-World Mysteriously Emerges From Smoking Rubble Of Iraq


Iraq Anniversary Bombing

"You have no idea how difficult the biscuits were," said Tamara Chalabi, one of the commissioners of the Iraq pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as she described her idea of providing traditional cakes and tea for visitors along with the best of the nation's art. "We couldn't bring them from Baghdad, because of EU regulations. It was too expensive to import them from London.

"So I put out a message on Facebook asking if anyone knew an Iraqi living in Italy who could bake them (kleytcha bil joz– sesame seed biscuits stuffed with walnuts, cardamom and rose water). I even contacted an Iraqi nun living in Rome. We found someone, but she couldn't get a visa. Finally an old family connection appeared out of nowhere, and she had a Swedish passport. She came to Venice and gave a three-day workshop to a Venetian bakery."

The biscuit problem was only one of innumerable obstacles standing in the way of the creation of the Iraq pavilion – the second time the nation has fielded work at the world's most important international art event, but the first time it has showed artists living and working in the country, rather than those exiled overseas.

The first challenge was finding artists in a country where making paintings or sculpture might seem at best a secondary concern compared with keeping body and soul together. But Chalabi, one of the figures behind the Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq, was determined to dent the mainstream western "Newsnight version" of the country: "Tanks, bombs, rockets, blood. It's not about whitewashing that – but rather about giving a voice to human beings that have been overlooked."

Chalabi described an art world that is painstakingly emerging not only from the crippling effects of invasion and the struggle to exist in a postwar world of fragile security, but from years of the dead hand of the Saddam regime, when the only art training available was deeply conservative and tinged by a prevailing social-realist aesthetic. "Even self-respecting artists will have had to do portraits of the leader," she said.

But she and British curator Jonathan Watkins, director of Birmingham's Ikon gallery, went on the road to find and meet artists from Kurdistan to Basra and Baghdad, ranging from the caustically witty political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir to photographer Jamal Penjweny, whose series of photographs Saddam Is Here shows ordinary Iraqis in everyday situations holding an image of Saddam over their own faces like a mask. The latter work is a reminder, according to Watkins, that the "mentality of the regime lingers in the mind".

Hashim Taeeh, from Basra, is one half of an artistic duo called WAMI. Together with Yassen Wami, he makes sculpture from discarded cardboard boxes. A whole room of the exhibition, titled Welcome to Iraq, in the exquisite Ca' Dandolo on the Grand Canal, is furnished with furniture made from old packaging: a cardboard bed with cardboard pillow and eiderdown; a cardboard lamp, clock and a whole bookshelf loaded with cardboard books.

Taeeh, a self-taught artist and poet, who also works in Iraq's agriculture ministry, said: "I started using this material in 1991, the year Iraq was under economic punishment [sanctions]. Everything immediately became extremely expensive, including artists' materials, so I was not able to buy oils or acrylic paints or canvas, and I was obliged to use this cheap cardboard. It is also a fragile material, like our fragile life. Our democracy is very fragile."

Watkins added: "A lot of the art is about making do and getting by: how to improvise in this difficult situation."

Furat al Jamil, who lives in Baghdad where she works as a film-maker, has one piece in the show: a sculpture of a broken, 300-year-old Mesopotamian ceramic vessel hung over with honeycombs. The pot, she said, might be seen as "symbolic of a broken culture, or of a broken life". The idea of honey and the beehive, she says, "in mythology represents the soul" – there is, she says, a sense of healing or reparation, however tentative.

Chalabi believes "it will take another generation to process what has happened over the past decade: there needs to be more time and distance to discuss the war artistically". For some artists, making work is a retreat, rather than a place for commentary on politics: "You'd be amazed by how many people are doing flower paintings," she said.

"An artist lives in his or her own world," said al Jamil. "You create your own environment and keep the outside world at bay. I live in Baghdad in a house with a garden and big walls: I can somehow separate the outside world with what's happening inside. Of course when you leave and try and get around the city, you get upset: when you stop at a checkpoint you wonder if an IED is going to explode. But after a while you begin to ignore it. It becomes part of life."

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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Chinese Authorities Are Turning Their Noses Up At Fake Champagne


China Champagne Wedding

Chinese authorities are adopting a French attitude about the making of Champagne.

In other words, "It’s not Champagne if it’s not Champagne."

On May 27, Chinese authorities registered Champagne as an official label (link in French) to be used only for wine hailing from the French region for which the sparkling drink is named. 

Some analysts think China is using the Champagne deal to cozy up to France and put pressure on the UK. Chinese-British relations have been cool since British prime minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama last year.

Champagne producers and president Francois Hollande have been lobbying countries to restrict use of the name. In France, only wine made in officially designated vineyards in France can be labeled Champagne.

But in the US, up to 50% of sparkling wine (paywall) sold is labeled Champagne despite not being from the region, according to the US Champagne Bureau.

By banning Chinese Champagne copycats, French producers hope to gain an edge in China’s growing luxury wine and liquor market as sales slow elsewhere. Last year, global sales of the sparkling wine fell 4.4%, mostly because of a 9% drop in France, where half of all Champagne is consumed.

Still, Chinese citizens are less taken by the beverage than other imports like Cognac and red wine. Sales of sparkling wine account for only 0.5% (pdf, registration required) of Chinese wine consumption (even though sales are expected to grow 27% between 2012 and 2016, according to Vinexpo, a wine trade fair, and International Wine & Spirit Research).

 “The Chinese ignore the sparkling wines right now,” Robert Beynat, chief executive of Vinexpo, told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) in March.

The hitch, according to some, is temperature and taste: cold, acidic Champagne doesn’t fit mainland tastes for Chinese drinks like baijiu, a white grain liquor that is served at room temperature.

There’s also a language barrier. The term for sparkling wine, qipao jiu, could also be translated as “blister wine.”

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13 Hot Tips For Renting An Apartment In New York City


brownstone, Brooklyn, NYC, real estate So your lease is up in June? Welcome to the club: the lunch-break-apartment-hunting, Google-Street-View-ing, StreetEasy-bookmarking, income-divided-by-40-calculating club. 

Yes, this is by far the busiest, most competitive, and most expensive time of year to rent an apartment in New York City. And we know it’s totally daunting. 

After all, this is a city where a dishwasher is considered a luxury amenity and a sixth-floor walk-up is worth considering, given its proximity to an express train. But, it’s also a city where taking that express train just a few extra stops can land you in an up-and-coming neighborhood with spacious, chic, and affordable homes.

And where, if you’re able and willing to pay for it, you can have white-glove concierge service at your door, any hour of the day, sending out and picking up your dry cleaning, or refrigerating your FreshDirect deliveries while you’re stuck working late. 

In short, this city can be pretty great. The trick is finding a place to house your bed, your clothing, and occasionally, yourself — that doesn’t completely suck.

Diamonds in the rough exist, of course. But getting in the door usually requires a bit of luck and someone in the know to ensure your rental application rises to the top of a very tall pile. Here, we break down the basics for how to make that happen. Here are some tips of the trade from veteran leasing brokers who were kind enough to offer up their secrets. 

Click here to see some great apartments currently available in Manhattan and Brooklyn >

7 Things To Know When You’re Looking For The Apartment Of Your Dreams

1. If price is your number-one concern, hold out until the winter to hunt for better deals. But if you’re going to be picky, bite the bullet and shop around in the spring, when there’s a better selection. 

“Most leases are strategized to end [in the late spring] because landlords know it’s the busiest time of the year and probably the most expensive,” says Mark Menendez, executive vice president and director of rentals at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “If an apartment comes available in June as opposed to November, the difference [in price] could be as much as 10 percent. The dichotomy is that… there could also be as much as a 50 percent [increase] in available inventory.” 

2. For the most part, brokers all have access to the same apartments. 

“You’re not doing yourself any favors by making multiple appointments,” says Julia Brzygalina, director of sales and leasing at the Wall Street branch of Platinum Properties. “If an agent knows you’re only working with them, they’ll treat you like royalty. People think agents only have access to their own exclusives, but that’s not the case.” 

3. Fact: The New York City rental market isn’t very pet-friendly.

According to Menendez, only about 20 percent of New York City’s available rentals at any given time will allow dogs, and if your dog is above 20 pounds or an aggressive breed, your options will be few and far between.  

4. Just because one of your must-haves isn’t listed, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be.

“A lot of times you just need to ask the question,” says Alex Saltalmalacchia, director of leasing at brokerage aptsandlofts.com. For example, if you’re looking for a two-bedroom, a one-bedroom-plus-home-office, or even a large one-bedroom that allows you to put up a temporary wall might suffice. “Ask, ‘Is there something [in the building] that isn’t a two-bedroom that might still work for us?’”

5. Better deals are almost always found a few subway stops past where the beaten path ends.

“There’s a large community out there that no longer wants to be the first stop on the L train,” Saltalamacchia says of Bushwick’s growing popularity. “They want to be further out there, and they’re getting much, much better deals.” 

6. Renting from a condo or co-op owner (as opposed to a landlord in a rental building) can either be awesome or awful. Know what you’re getting yourself into.

Apartments in co-ops and condos typically have nicer finishes and the buildings are often better-maintained, Bryzgalina says. In addition, you might see more room for negotiation here, because individual owners tend to be more motivated than large landlords. However, in order to move in, you’ll have to submit a board package, the cost of which depends on the building, but could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, she says. The fee is non-refundable even if you get rejected, and the process could take up to a month and a half. 

7. New developments may be offering freebies, even in a tight market.

Brand-new rental buildings are a good bet if you’ve got your heart set on a no-fee apartment, Saltalamacchia advises, and sometimes landlords will offer rent concessions in these buildings, even during the busiest times of the year. “In order to get the absorption rates high, they’ll offer that one month’s [free rent] concession to get folks in the door,” he says. 

But when it comes to concessions, beware of a major rent hike in year two. Often, Bryzgalia says, landlords won’t allow you to amortize that free month over the entire lease length, so when the renewal comes around it’ll go up by a percentage of the original listed rent, not the net-effective rent.

6 Things To Know Once You’ve Found The Apartment Of Your Dreams

1. Treat it like a job interview.

“Sometimes landlords will look at how organized the person is, rather than how qualified they are,” Menendez says. Prove to the landlord that you’ll be a great person to do business with by walking in the door prepared, with your employment-verification letter, your tax returns from the last two years (the first two pages of each are fine), your three most recent bank statements, and a copy of a legal photo ID. It’s also a good idea to know your credit score, he advises. 

2. You don’t have the luxury to mull over your decision.

Apartments don’t really last on the market for more than a day or two at this time of year, brokers say, and one of the biggest mistakes renters make is thinking they have time — even a couple of hours — to make up their mind. “One of the biggest mistakes is not understanding urgency in New York City,” Saltalmalacchia says. “You may have to make a decision right there on the spot. You may not have time to go and talk it over with your roommate or your boyfriend or girlfriend.” 

3. Go above and beyond what’s being asked.

According to Bryzgalina, if you want your rental application to stand out, don’t just provide the minimum amount of paperwork required. “Show as much money as you can in the bank…show all investments, savings bonds,” she says. Also, “make sure you warn you employer that your landlord may be calling to verify so that their phone call will not get ignored,” she cautions. Sometimes, if a landlord doesn’t get a response from your employer within a couple of days, they’ll move onto the next application.

4. Negotiate for extra time, not for less money.

According to Menendez, most property owners are looking to show the highest possible rents on their balance sheets. So instead of asking for a break on the monthly rate, he suggests asking for a half-a-month free at the end of the lease. But be careful not to over-negotiate and risk losing the apartment, especially during the busy spring season. “In this market, with so much activity and competition, it’s important to know what your limits are,” he says. Brokers say a landlord may be more willing to negotiate if an apartment has been on the market for a couple weeks or longer, or if the apartment is vacant. 

5. For the first time since grade school, handwriting counts.

It sounds silly, but Menendez says many people just scribble stuff down on their rental application to be efficient and may not even fill it out completely. The few applications that are written neatly and legibly, with each field filled out, quickly rise to the top of a stack of applications. 

6. Avoid taking your current landlord to court, if at all possible. 

“The worst thing you could have on your credit check is a landlord-tenant court history. They never want to see that. It’s almost always a rejection off the bat,” Bryzgalina says. “If you do have one… you may be better off applying for condos or sublets by owner. There, you only need to prove your case to one person who may be more amenable to your situation.”

SEE ALSO:  DEAR NEW YORKERS: Check Out The Amazing Cheap Rentals In The Rest Of America

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The 10 Developed Countries With The Worst Quality Of Life


turkey protestorsWant to live a better life? Then don't move to Turkey, which ranked dead last on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's new Better Life Index for the second year in a row.

The OECD — an international economic organization — analyzed its 34 member countries in 11 categories, including income, housing, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance. (You can read the full methodology here.)

These are the 10 countries with the lowest overall scores, and we highlighted a few of the criteria on the following slides so you could see why.

#10 South Korea

Average household disposable income: $17,337

South Koreans are hard workers — so much so that they risk burning themselves out, working an average of 2,090 hours a year, much higher than the OECD average of 1,776 hours.

They also have 33 micrograms per cubic meter of atmospheric PM10 — tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and damage the lungs — which is considerably higher than the OECD average of 21 micrograms.

Researchers compared data from 34 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They based the rankings on 11 factors including income, safety, life satisfaction, and health, and then rated each country on a 10-point scale. Income is net-adjusted and in USD.

#9 Portugal

Average household disposable income: $19,366

There is a big gap between the richest and poorest people in Portugal: The top 20% of the population earn six times as much as the bottom 20%.

Only 32% of Portuguese adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high school degree, and the voter turnout in recent elections was as low as 58%.

Researchers compared data from 34 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They based the rankings on 11 factors including income, safety, life satisfaction, and health, and then rated each country on a 10-point scale. Income is net-adjusted and in USD.

#8 Hungary

Average household disposable income: $13,858

58% of people aged 15 to 64 have a paid job in Hungary, even though 81% of adults have earned the equivalent of a high school degree.

Life expectancy at birth is 75 years (5 years lower than the OECD average), and 69% of Hungarians say they have more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones.

Researchers compared data from 34 countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. They based the rankings on 11 factors including income, safety, life satisfaction, and health, and then rated each country on a 10-point scale. Income is net-adjusted and in USD.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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It's High Time America Did Away With Senior Discounts


senior woman shopping in a market grandmaYou’ve seen them on the bus, in museums, and at movie theaters: senior discounts.

As a reward for being old, senior citizens pay a quarter less for bus fare, a small fortune less for movie tickets, and receive discounts generally all over the place. 

If you’re a twentysomething, or part of what some journalists have colorfully called “the screwed generation,” you may be wondering: why not me?

The idea that seniors are a group in need of help and protection dates back to the thirties, when America’s senior citizens were disproportionately poor and affected by the Depression wiping out everyone's savings.

In 1935, President Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act, which gave federal assistance to the elderly. This became the norm. Aid to seniors increased over time, in particular with the creation of Medicare in 1965 and the passage of an amendment indexing social security to cost of living increases and creating an additional Supplemental Security Income for seniors in 1972

As two poverty economists note, “One of the most striking trends in elderly well-being in the twentieth century was the dramatic decline in income poverty among the elderly.” This can be seen in the graph below.

The United States only began measuring poverty in the 1960s, so we lack standard figures dating farther back than that. But it’s recognized that the trend of decreasing poverty among seniors dates back to the thirties and forties. 2011 Census figures place poverty among Americans aged 65 and older at 8.7%, well below the national average of 15%. 

Today it is the Millennials, the youngest generation, that finds itself poor, vulnerable, and screwed by financial storms caused by another generation. Unemployment among 18-29 year olds is 11.1% and has been over 10% for 53 months. The rate for people age 16-24 is16.1%. Poverty is highest among teens and children - 27%

Graph from the National Journal

There’s also good reason to think that Millennials' hard luck won’t go away soon. Besides carrying around $1 trillion in student debt, Millennials have to deal with the fact that entering a poor job market has been found to be a drag on income over one’s entire career.

It's Millennials, not seniors, that are vulnerable today. Yet it's still the seniors that receive discounts on public services and benefit from price discrimination by private companies.

So if you’re a twentysomething, the next time you see an adorable old lady paying less bus fare with her senior discount, demand that you receive the discount instead of her. Tell the driver it’s the screwed Millennial discount.

This post was written by Alex Mayyasi. Follow him on Twitter here or Google Plus. To get occasional notifications when we write blog posts, sign up for our email list.

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Aston Martin Just Revealed One Of Its Fastest Cars Ever [PICTURES]


Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

Aston Martin is celebrating its 100th birthday this year with a series of special editions and even a 100-car parade on the world's scariest racetrack.

The latest announcement from the British luxury maker is the arrival of the V12 Vantage S, the fastest road-going Aston Martin ever, with the exception of the very limited edition One-77 hypercar.

Top speed: 205 miles per hour.

Based on photos and info provided by Aston Martin, the new Vantage has everything the automaker is known for: gorgeous design, top-quality materials, and a ton of power under the hood.

Here's the new V12 Vantage S in profile. Aston Martin cars usually look best in silver, but the yellow is great here.

Except for the One-77 hypercar (of which only 77 were produced), it's the fastest road-going Aston Martin ever.

The new grille is inspired by that of Aston Martin's CC100 Speedster Concept, which debuted earlier this month.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Hedge Funder Buys Madonna's Cavernous Manhattan Duplex At A Discount


After six months on the market, Madonna has sold her 6,000-square-foot Central Park West pad to hedge fund manager Deepak Narula for well under the $19.995 million asking price, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The apartment had initially been listed for $23.5 million, a figure that was lowered months later. The final sale price was not disclosed, but it was "considerably less" than it was listed for, according to the WSJ.

The apartment, which Madonna had owned for years, has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and 110 feet of Central Park frontage. It was once featured in a spread in Architectural Digest and we can see why: The simple decor was done by her younger brother Christopher G. Ciccone.

The apartment is in a co-op that was built in 1907, and has 10'3" foot ceilings, a library, and five wood-burning fireplaces.

madonna central park west apartment


madonna central park west apartment


madonna central park west apartment


madonna central park west apartment

SEE ALSO: Madonna Also Lived In This Fabulous Mansion

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Get Lost Inside The Medina In Tangier, Morocco


Woman selling pottery in the Medina in Tangier Morocco

Located in northern Morocco, Tangier is easily the country's most diverse and international city. Locals speak a combination of Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese, while international newspapers and advertisements cater to the diverse crowd.

Despite the assimilation, the city remains vibrantly Middle Eastern. The smell of spices, sweet tea, and cigarette smoke mingles in the air with street vendors hustling at every turn.

The Medina—the old walled city within Tangier—encompasses the city's vibrant spirit. Dating back to the 14th century, this walled area is overflowing with meat and produce stalls and vendors selling everything from spices and flowers to rugs, textiles, silks and more.

Click here to go straight to photos of the Medina >

It’s this area of the Kasbah where Morocco comes alive. The noise of negotiation and conversation is drowned out only by motor bikes making deliveries down the narrow, steep and winding streets.

Two days per week, farmers from the outskirts of Tangier proper travel to the Medina with their harvests. These peasants stick together in groups around the Medina’s major intersections, laying out produce on tarps and waiting quietly for six or eight hours to sell out the haul before returning home.

As dark approaches, storefronts shutter, the peasants vanish, and people return to modern houses built on the hills of the city far outside the 700-year-old walls.

The entrance to the Medina is marked by a grand old arch.

Inside the Medina's ancient walls, farmers and peasants lay out their wares—fresh vegetables, fruits, spices, flowers—on tarps.

And they wait patiently for customers.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Lexus Has Finally Made A Killer Performance Sedan


Lexus is getting ready to introduce the latest generation of its IS sports sedans, and the lineup, including the IS250 and IS350, looks great.

The star of the show is the IS350 F Sport — a car that took the crown in Car and Driver's recent Sports Sedan Comparo issue. The win was a huge upset, since BMW's 328i was also in the running, and the German automaker has a "nearly unblemished comparison-test record."

It was also surprising given Lexus's tendency to make sports sedans that are great for serene highway driving, but not for ripping around a track.

Last week, I headed down to North Carolina's Rockingham Speedway — the scene of NASCAR races and the filming of Will Ferrell's "Talladega Nights" — to take the F Sport around the track and see if I agreed with Car and Driver that it's a "delightfully capable" car.

The answer is a resounding yes.

The 2014 IS350 F Sport is different from its predecessors and clearly the automaker's best performance sedan to date. To see the difference, I took the outgoing IS around the track, too, and it was not nearly as capable or fun.

On straightaways, the banked track, and tight turns, the IS350 F Sport is a joy to drive and makes you feel like a pro — even when you make a brief run through some grass, like I did.

Watch the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport take on Rockingham Speedway:


Disclosure: Lexuspaid for our travel and lodging expenses to drive the IS.

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People Are Overlooking One Of The Simplest College Savings Tools Out There


pretty girl student looking at viewfinder

Americans have invested a record $179 billion in 529 College Savings Plans, and yet what may be the most accessible and simplest way to save for college is still incredibly misunderstood. 

Fewer than one-third of Americans say they know what 529 Plans are, according to a recent survey by financial services firm Edward Jones. That's a six-point dip from last year. 

True, a 529 plan isn't the only answer to soaring tuition costs, but from the looks of this survey, consumers are sorely in need of a refresher.

Here's what you need to know:  

What is it? In short, a 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings fund that can be set up for anyone heading to college (in-state or not). There are two main plan types: a prepaid tuition plan, which lets you pay for tuition ahead of time based on today's costs, and a "savings plan" that functions like an investment account, growing (and falling) with the market. Every state's offerings are different. There are pros and cons to each. Head over to the College Savings Plan Network to compare the benefits of various plan features.

What can you use it for? The best perk of 529 plans is the ability to pay for a host of college-related expenses, including tuition, room and board, books, computer equipment, and even Internet access, all tax-free. The plan beneficiary has to be enrolled in school to qualify for the computer and Internet perks, though. 

Who can open one? Anyone in the country can open a 529 Plan in anyone else's name –– from your niece or nephew to your best friend's kid or that friendly neighbor next door. There's no limit to how many plans you can open either, and you can even change the beneficiary whenever you want. 

How are they funded? Each state offers at least one form of a 529 savings plan (see a full list here), but there was some doubt as to whether cash-strapped state governments would be able to meet demand in the wake of the recession. However, a recent report by the College Savings Association showed plans were successfully funded at a rate of 93% in 2011 –– up 2 points from the prior fiscal year. Not everyone investing in plans necessarily taps into them at the same time.  

Is there a catch? The only downside is that there are limits to tax-free contributions. Generally, you can put as much cash into the fund as the beneficiary needs to meet college expenses, which will take careful calculations to figure out (use your school's tuition calculator as a gauge). Any contributions that exceed $13,000 in a given year might incur a federal gift tax. 

Don't be afraid to shop around. Just because your state offers its own 529 plan doesn't mean you can't sniff around for better offers in other states. Students aren't required to attend college in the state where their plan is funded. MorningStar's interactive state-by-state map is a great way to compare plans.

They're not for everyone: Before deciding to invest in a 529 plan, seeking advice from a financial planner or tax consultant would be a wise choice. Basically, treat them like you would enrolling in a company retirement plan. Keep tabs on them over time and adjust your investments to reflect your risk tolerance as time goes on. The IRS and the College Savings Plan Network both offer helpful starter guides as well, which will give you talking points to cover. 

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Upper East Side Dad Slams Bankers That Let Their Kids Run Wild Because They Were Geeks In High School


gossip girl

The New York Observer has a new column called 'Isn't That Rich?' chronicling the social lives of the Upper East Side of Manhattan's uber wealthy — this may sound familiar.

In the latest installment, one dad, Richard Kirshenbaum, laments how increasingly, wealthy parents are using their drivers to fill the role that too-busy-dads have left empty. Chauffeurs are meteing out punishments, confiscating phones, and hauling too drunk 16 year-olds out of clubs.

The parents, Kirshenbaum says, find that doing this kind of parenting can force them to miss spin class, come home from St. Barth's early, and/or engage in other undesirable, socially disturbing activity.

Better to let precocious Upper East Side kids drink early (age 15 or so) in front of their parents, and let the staff (ideally retired cops as they make the best drivers) deal with the consequences.

Now, there are three types of fathers that relegate their responsibilities to drivers, according the Observer — the "me time" dads, the divorced and then the worst kind...

From the NYO:

The last subset—perhaps the chief offenders—is a group whose own deficiencies as teenagers fuel their kids’ social lives. They’re the formerly uncool high school students who want desperately to live vicariously through their children. The men tend to be Napoleonic and, having conquered the world of finance, they often have unlimited cash and credit to dispense to their progeny. They populate New York campuses with incredibly indulged and well-dressed children and believe that money and power are the keys to popularity. For them, drivers are less chaperon es than enablers: helping kids gain club access, bottle service, fake IDs and, yes, romantic partners.

 So the point is people — sometimes TV is real.

For the full horror, head to the New York Observer>

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Inside The Swanky New Delta Terminal That Cost $1.4 Billion To Build


jaunted deltaThis article originally appeared at Jaunted.

10:30am and already Shake Shack has a line.

That's far from surprising for the many locations of the popular burger & fries joint around New York City, but this is Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport, which, up until Friday, May 24, didn't have a Shake Shack.

Click here to see photos of the terminal >>

It also didn't have the Funfetti cupcakes of the new Cake Tin bakery, the gift-perfect candles in the Jo Malone shop, the fried yardbird and cornbread of Marcus Samuelsson's Uptown Brasserie or the sweeping views of a busy tarmac from the first outdoor deck at a Delta SkyClub.

Now it's a challenge to imagine JFK without it all.

Welcome to the brand new extension of terminal 4, a $1.4 billion project bringing in 16 new gates, updated security and baggage screening, a slew of new food and shopping options, plus the aforementioned ginormous SkyClub (which we'll detail tomorrow).

As Delta increases international routes out of JFK and pushes to unseat JetBlue as "the airline of New York," all eyes are now on how they'll woo you away from their competitors, who've also all recently dumped major moolah to make their aircraft and terminals more attractive to travelers.

In building the T4 extension, Delta finally moved on from the former Pan Am Worldport, now "third world" facility of Terminal 3 to embrace space, light, technology and comfort.

Even the bummer of possibly having to switch terminals to board a Delta flight at Terminal 2 is soothed with a ride on the connection bus—dubbed the "JFK Jitney"—as it drives a scenic course across the tarmac and behind the massive tails of jets ready to depart for distant destinations.

Thus far only phase one has debuted, but it's more than enough to delight. Look for additional restaurants and shops to open nearer the center of the terminal. Even better? The fresh facilities (with the exception of the SkyClub) are available to travelers on any airlines out of Terminal 4, should they be motivated enough to walk down to the Delta concourse.

Bonus: check out the menu at Uptown Brasserie before you travel.

Signs direct departures to the Delta terminals (though not all domestic flights leave from T2).

Terminal 4's new check-in area.

Terminal 4's new check-in area for Sky Priority flyers.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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8 Ways To Eat Organic Food On A Budget


Whole Foods

You know organic is better—better for your body, better for the environment and better for any animals that may have been involved.

But that doesn’t mean that organic is better for your bank account.

In fact, organic foods are on average about one-third more expensive than conventionally produced foods.

Fret not, says Linda Watson, author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet—All on $5 a Day or Less ($11.67 at Books-A-Million), which was heralded by foodie giant Mark Bittman and Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey.

“People worry that they can’t afford to feed their families safe, nutritious food,” Watson says. “But with some planning, budgeting and a little understanding, you can eat very well on little money.” (Get 20 percent off gift books and cookbooks when you shop at Books-A-Million.)

Watson suggests these guidelines for maximizing your organic food budget:

1. If you can peel it, it doesn’t have to be organic. Citrus, mangoes, onions and kiwi all have rinds and peels that go in the trash—along with the majority of any pesticides that they may have collected.

“If you can remember any one thing, remember this rule,” Watson says. (Get fresh fruits and veggies delivered to your door courtesy of FreshDirect, and take 15% off.)

2. Make organic a priority when shopping for butternut, winter and acorn squash. “Those vegetables are planted by farmers remediating their soil that has been doused with chemicals, and those hard squash suck up the toxins,” Watson says.

3. Invest in buying the organic version of any animal products you consume, especially milk for children.

“Kids drink so much milk, and conventionally raised animals are injected with growth hormones and antibiotics,” Watson says. “It has been proven that those chemicals lead to early puberty, compromised immune systems and other issues.” If organic is not an option, look for “hormone-free” labels.

4. Skip paying the organic premium for foods you eat in tiny quantities, such as spices.

5. Don’t assume that organic is always more expensive. Look at the price per pound.

“People are often surprised to find that garlic and onions are exactly the same price for conventional and organically grown,” Watson says. (Suburban Organics lets you enjoy fresh organic produce delivered to your doorstep. Get $10 off your first delivery.)

6. Shop your local farmers’ market, because seasonal foods are always cheaper. Even organic eggs are more affordable in the spring—the natural time for hens to lay eggs.

7. You may feel overwhelmed by the many labels attached to eggs at your supermarket. Watson places them in the following order, from most nutritionally desirable to least:
—Pastured or free-range
—Conventionally grown

8. When shopping for prepared foods, aim for items with the fewest and simplest ingredients.

Many prepared foods, including crackers, cookies, frozen meals and even bread, are often full of mysterious ingredients, even if they are marked “organic,” Watson warns. “Read the label,” she says. “You want the food that has the fewest number of simple ingredients. Organic does not automatically mean ‘healthy.’”

It is preferable, she says, to bake a cake using simple, everyday conventional ingredients than it is to eat a store-bought cake labeled as “organic” and sporting a mile-long ingredient list of items you cannot pronounce.

(Get $10 off your first box order at Full Circle, a farm-share style home delivery food service)

9. Consider broader changes to your eating habits. Even organic dried beans like kidney, pinto and garbanzo cost just 17 cents per serving, while chicken and red meat cost many times that.

Plus, many people opt to eat legumes over meat since meat has far more fat and calories, and, in the case of traditionally produced meat, more chemicals and hormones than organic varieties. Watson points out that the average American throws away one-third of the food they buy.

“If you plan ahead and don’t throw away as much food, you can afford to buy more organic,” she says.

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15 Essential Life Skills The Class Of 2013 Should Master


Dave Kerpen

There is no shortage of graduation advice this month, but when push comes to shove, what are some actual skills college graduates should acquire?

Dave Kerpen, CEO of social media software platform Likeable Local and chairman of Likeable Media, put together a great slide deck to answer this question.

Kerpen graduated 15 years ago from college this month, so as part of LinkedIn's Thought Leader Program, he named 15 simple skills he thinks college graduates should learn as they enter the real world. They range from the practical (learn how to talk on the phone) to the high-level (love hard). 

As Kerpen says himself, "In an increasingly complex world, I, for one, prefer simplicity in my life — I like knowing what to do and not to do."

Dave Kerpen gave us permission to re-run his slide deck, along with his commentary, which originally appeared on LinkedIn.

After I graduated from BU, I had a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Education. I had an incredible college job as a ballpark vendor under my belt. But one thing I didn't have was a clue about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. After four years, and a lot of money, that's a really scary thing. For several months I floundered -- as a life insurance salesman, a pizza delivery guy, and a tutor. Then I found a book which changed my life - What Color Is Your Parachute (incidentally, the best-selling career book of all time). The book essentially says: Figure out what you're passionate about, and then go find an industry, organization and job through which you can pursue your passions. I was passionate about marketing, and media, and children, and I loved the Disney brand. So I found Radio Disney, called them up and asked to meet with them, and even though there was no job posted, I got a job there.

A year later I was the top salesperson in the country, and while I have changed jobs and careers several times, I've always pursued things I'm super passionate about. If you don't have a job yet, and take away just one thing from me today: Get the book.

By the way, I met another really passionate person at Radio Disney -- pictured above with me is the person who dropped me from being the No. 1 salesperson in the country to No. 2 within three months of being hired. Her name was Carrie, and a few year later, I happened to marry her and go into business with her. I've learned that when you pursue your passions, things tend to work out.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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