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Introduction
Computer forensics is the practice of collecting, analysing and reporting on digital information in a way that is legally admissible. It can be used in the detection and prevention of crime and in any dispute where evidence is stored digitally. Computer forensics has comparable examination stages to other forensic disciplines and faces similar issues.

About this guide
This guide discusses computer forensics from a neutral perspective. It is not linked to particular legislation or intended to promote a particular company or product and is not written in bias of either law enforcement or commercial computer forensics. It is aimed at a non-technical audience and provides a high-level view of computer forensics. This guide uses the term “computer”, but the concepts apply to any device capable of storing digital information. Where methodologies have been mentioned they are provided as examples only and do not constitute recommendations or advice. Copying and publishing the whole or part of this article is licensed solely under the terms of the Creative Commons – Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 license

Uses of computer forensics
There are few areas of crime or dispute where computer forensics cannot be applied. Law enforcement agencies have been among the earliest and heaviest users of computer forensics and consequently have often been at the forefront of developments in the field. Computers may constitute a ‘scene of a crime’, for example with hacking [ 1] or denial of service attacks [2] or they may hold evidence in the form of emails, internet history, documents or other files relevant to crimes such as murder, kidnap, fraud and drug trafficking. It is not just the content of emails, documents and other files which may be of interest to investigators but also the ‘meta-data’ [3] associated with those files. A computer forensic examination may reveal when a document first appeared on a computer, when it was last edited, when it was last saved or printed and which user carried out these actions.

More recently, commercial organisations have used computer forensics to their benefit in a variety of cases such as;

Intellectual Property theft
Industrial espionage
Employment disputes
Fraud investigations
Forgeries
Matrimonial issues
Bankruptcy investigations
Inappropriate email and internet use in the work place
Regulatory compliance

Guidelines
For evidence to be admissible it must be reliable and not prejudicial, meaning that at all stages of this process admissibility should be at the forefront of a computer forensic examiner’s mind. One set of guidelines which has been widely accepted to assist in this is the Association of Chief Police Officers Good Practice Guide for Computer Based Electronic Evidence or ACPO Guide for short. Although the ACPO Guide is aimed at United Kingdom law enforcement its main principles are applicable to all computer forensics in whatever legislature. The four main principles from this guide have been reproduced below (with references to law enforcement removed):

No action should change data held on a computer or storage media which may be subsequently relied upon in court.

In circumstances where a person finds it necessary to access original data held on a computer or storage media, that person must be competent to do so and be able to give evidence explaining the relevance and the implications of their actions.

An audit trail or other record of all processes applied to computer-based electronic evidence should be created and preserved. An independent third-party should be able to examine those processes and achieve the same result.

The person in charge of the investigation has overall responsibility for ensuring that the law and these principles are adhered to.

In summary, no changes should be made to the original, however if access/changes are necessary the examiner must know what they are doing and to record their actions.

Live acquisition
Principle 2 above may raise the question: In what situation would changes to a suspect’s computer by a computer forensic examiner be necessary? Traditionally, the computer forensic examiner would make a copy (or acquire) information from a device which is turned off. A write-blocker[4] would be used to make an exact bit for bit copy [5] of the original storage medium. The examiner would work then from this copy, leaving the original demonstrably unchanged.

However, sometimes it is not possible or desirable to switch a computer off. It may not be possible to switch a computer off if doing so would result in considerable financial or other loss for the owner. It may not be desirable to switch a computer off if doing so would mean that potentially valuable evidence may be lost. In both these circumstances the computer forensic examiner would need to carry out a ‘live acquisition’ which would involve running a small program on the suspect computer in order to copy (or acquire) the data to the examiner’s hard drive.

By running such a program and attaching a destination drive to the suspect computer, the examiner will make changes and/or additions to the state of the computer which were not present before his actions. Such actions would remain admissible as long as the examiner recorded their actions, was aware of their impact and was able to explain their actions.

Stages of an examination
For the purposes of this article the computer forensic examination process has been divided into six stages. Although they are presented in their usual chronological order, it is necessary during an examination to be flexible. For example, during the analysis stage the examiner may find a new lead which would warrant further computers being examined and would mean a return to the evaluation stage.

Readiness
Forensic readiness is an important and occasionally overlooked stage in the examination process. In commercial computer forensics it can include educating clients about system preparedness; for example, forensic examinations will provide stronger evidence if a server or computer’s built-in auditing and logging systems are all switched on. For examiners there are many areas where prior organisation can help, including training, regular testing and verification of software and equipment, familiarity with legislation, dealing with unexpected issues (e.g., what to do if child pornography is present during a commercial job) and ensuring that your on-site acquisition kit is complete and in working order.

Evaluation
The evaluation stage includes the receiving of clear instructions, risk analysis and allocation of roles and resources. Risk analysis for law enforcement may include an assessment on the likelihood of physical threat on entering a suspect’s property and how best to deal with it. Commercial organisations also need to be aware of health and safety issues, while their evaluation would also cover reputational and financial risks on accepting a particular project.

Collection
The main part of the collection stage, acquisition, has been introduced above. If acquisition is to be carried out on-site rather than in a computer forensic laboratory then this stage would include identifying, securing and documenting the scene. Interviews or meetings with personnel who may hold information which could be relevant to the examination (which could include the end users of the computer, and the manager and person responsible for providing computer services) would usually be carried out at this stage. The ‘bagging and tagging’ audit trail would start here by sealing any materials in unique tamper-evident bags. Consideration also needs to be given to securely and safely transporting the material to the examiner’s laboratory.

Analysis
Analysis depends on the specifics of each job. The examiner usually provides feedback to the client during analysis and from this dialogue the analysis may take a different path or be narrowed to specific areas. Analysis must be accurate, thorough, impartial, recorded, repeatable and completed within the time-scales available and resources allocated. There are myriad tools available for computer forensics analysis. It is our opinion that the examiner should use any tool they feel comfortable with as long as they can justify their choice. The main requirements of a computer forensic tool is that it does what it is meant to do and the only way for examiners to be sure of this is for them to regularly test and calibrate the tools they use before analysis takes place. Dual-tool verification can confirm result integrity during analysis (if with tool ‘A’ the examiner finds artefact ‘X’ at location ‘Y’, then tool ‘B’ should replicate these results.)

Presentation
This stage usually involves the examiner producing a structured report on their findings, addressing the points in the initial instructions along with any subsequent instructions. It would also cover any other information which the examiner deems relevant to the investigation. The report must be written with the end reader in mind; in many cases the reader of the report will be non-technical, so the terminology should acknowledge this. The examiner should also be prepared to participate in meetings or telephone conferences to discuss and elaborate on the report.

Review
Along with the readiness stage, the review stage is often overlooked or disregarded. This may be due to the perceived costs of doing work that is not billable, or the need ‘to get on with the next job’. However, a review stage incorporated into each examination can help save money and raise the level of quality by making future examinations more efficient and time effective. A review of an examination can be simple, quick and can begin during any of the above stages. It may include a basic ‘what went wrong and how can this be improved’ and a ‘what went well and how can it be incorporated into future examinations’. Feedback from the instructing party should also be sought. Any lessons learnt from this stage should be applied to the next examination and fed into the readiness stage.

Issues facing computer forensics
The issues facing computer forensics examiners can be broken down into three broad categories: technical, legal and administrative.

Encryption – Encrypted files or hard drives can be impossible for investigators to view without the correct key or password. Examiners should consider that the key or password may be stored elsewhere on the computer or on another computer which the suspect has had access to. It could also reside in the volatile memory of a computer (known as RAM [6] which is usually lost on computer shut-down; another reason to consider using live acquisition techniques as outlined above.

Increasing storage space – Storage media holds ever greater amounts of data which for the examiner means that their analysis computers need to have sufficient processing power and available storage to efficiently deal with searching and analysing enormous amounts of data.

New technologies – Computing is an ever-changing area, with new hardware, software and operating systems being constantly produced. No single computer forensic examiner can be an expert on all areas, though they may frequently be expected to analyse something which they haven’t dealt with before. In order to deal with this situation, the examiner should be prepared and able to test and experiment with the behaviour of new technologies. Networking and sharing knowledge with other computer forensic examiners is also very useful in this respect as it’s likely someone else may have already encountered the same issue.

Anti-forensics – Anti-forensics is the practice of attempting to thwart computer forensic analysis. This may include encryption, the over-writing of data to make it unrecoverable, the modification of files’ meta-data and file obfuscation (disguising files). As with encryption above, the evidence that such methods have been used may be stored elsewhere on the computer or on another computer which the suspect has had access to. In our experience, it is very rare to see anti-forensics tools used correctly and frequently enough to totally obscure either their presence or the presence of the evidence they were used to hide.

Legal issues
Legal arguments may confuse or distract from a computer examiner’s findings. An example here would be the ‘Trojan Defence’. A Trojan is a piece of computer code disguised as something benign but which has a hidden and malicious purpose. Trojans have many uses, and include key-logging [7], uploading and downloading of files and installation of viruses. A lawyer may be able to argue that actions on a computer were not carried out by a user but were automated by a Trojan without the user’s knowledge; such a Trojan Defence has been successfully used even when no trace of a Trojan or other malicious code was found on the suspect’s computer. In such cases, a competent opposing lawyer, supplied with evidence from a competent computer forensic analyst, should be able to dismiss such an argument.

Accepted standards – There are a plethora of standards and guidelines in computer forensics, few of which appear to be universally accepted. This is due to a number of reasons including standard-setting bodies being tied to particular legislations, standards being aimed either at law enforcement or commercial forensics but not at both, the authors of such standards not being accepted by their peers, or high joining fees dissuading practitioners from participating.

Fitness to practice – In many jurisdictions there is no qualifying body to check the competence and integrity of computer forensics professionals. In such cases anyone may present themselves as a computer forensic expert, which may result in computer forensic examinations of questionable quality and a negative view of the profession as a whole.

Resources and further reading
There does not appear to be a great amount of material covering computer forensics which is aimed at a non-technical readership. However the following links at links at the bottom of this page may prove to be of interest prove to be of interest:

Glossary
1. Hacking: modifying a computer in way which was not originally intended in order to benefit the hacker’s goals.
2. Denial of Service attack: an attempt to prevent legitimate users of a computer system from having access to that system’s information or services.
3. Meta-data: at a basic level meta-data is data about data. It can be embedded within files or stored externally in a separate file and may contain information about the file’s author, format, creation date and so on.
4. Write blocker: a hardware device or software application which prevents any data from being modified or added to the storage medium being examined.
5. Bit copy: bit is a contraction of the term ‘binary digit’ and is the fundamental unit of computing. A bit copy refers to a sequential copy of every bit on a storage medium, which includes areas of the medium ‘invisible’ to the user.
6. RAM: Random Access Memory. RAM is a computer’s temporary workspace and is volatile, which means its contents are lost when the computer is powered off.
7. Key-logging: the recording of keyboard input giving the ability to read a user’s typed passwords, emails and other confidential information.

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With Europe travel packages available to the tourists easily, they can make a readymade choice which suits their needs. This way they can have a great holiday and at the same time, stick to a proper budget as well as time frame.

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. And what a past this bitter black beverage has had. The dancing goats, to high volume commodity sales, to the near extinction of the finest of quality coffee beans, the art of growing and handling coffee berries has never died. It has only been altered though out time.

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. One must hand it to that little coffee shop from Seattle that now encompasses the globe. They sure did take the world by storm. In one fell swoop that little coffee company took a commodity beverage and cast it back into the exotic drinkable realm where it was born from as well as distorting the beauty of specialty gourmet coffee for future generations. What is now perceived as a quality coffee bean has traveled back to the art of commodity coffee. The competition on the street corner for a drinkable cup of coffee has become fierce. Each brewer says that their brew is the “perfect cup of coffee”. However they all grab from the same commodity level stocks. Of course without these commodity grown stocks coffee would be in greatly diminished supplies. Yes, coffee is in diminished supply. That is the supply of good quality coffee beans had almost vanished over the last couple of decades as corner boutiques converted to the ravishing corner coffee shop.

There is a change! Finally there is a change in the air. The very small boutique coffee shop and coffee roaster is finally allowed the glory of finding high quality coffee beans once again. Small farm and niche green coffee beans are now becoming available to the fair trade coffee market. Quality organic coffee is being selectively grown just for the small independent coffee roasting operations.

Finally we have coffee drinkers who care more and more about the people of the Earth and the planet that we live on. We now have coffee drinkers who care about the survival of coffee farmers and the lands on which the coffee bean is grown. There are specialty coffee drinkers who cherish the survival and health of our mother earth.

Sustainable Organic Fair Trade Coffee is finally becoming a household request. Fair trade is good for the people. Organic coffee is healthier for you as well as giving health back to our planet.

Fair trade coffee provides a fair platform for the whole supply chain of this wonderful drink. Fair trade coffee beans mean fair prices for those who drink it. It may not be the cheapest coffee to buy however for the quality and sustainability the prices are equitable. It also provides better wages and living conditions for those who grow and produce the sought after bean. Fair trade is an agreement between farmers, workers, shippers, and consumers to care about each other and everyone involved. After all that is what community and health is all about.

Foresight by coffee growers proved beneficial. The few that saw a future for renewed exotic demand set course with new direction. Armed with a brighter knowledge these coffee plantations moved away from the distorted massive commodity market left to flounder by that little coffee shop from Seattle. These foresight seers set their sights on a smaller specialty marketplace. This knowledge was that there would be a need for finely grown and carefully cared for coffee beans. They knew that the land was important, that their community was important, and the survival of quality coffee was important. There would be a need for carefully grown, hand selected, artistically roasted, and rushed to the discerning consumers waiting coffee grinder and brewing system coffee. Out of the fair trade coffee supply grew the expertise to market the perfect cup of coffee. Quality fair trade organic coffee beans are available. Still a consumer can find the organic coffee they seek for their cup of coffee at the corner commodity brewer. Astute coffee drinkers find it a poor substitute for the real experience of fine coffee.

Those coffee drinkers with the discerning desire for the perfect bitter tinged elixir must still seek the out of the way roasters to fulfill their needs. They must discover the hidden gems in the coffee roasting world. And, yes, there are those little gems and merchants, imports, roasters, and sellers. And yes there are many who like yourself desire their cup of coffee to stand out as the pure enjoyment of a cup of coffee should be. After all tingling taste buds and allowing your senses to dance around the flavors of coffee is what life is all about. Allowing your mouth to wrap around the delicate chocolate or nutty earth flavors of the coffee bean and the smoky power of a fine roast is what we seek as a coffee drinker.

If, and when, you find that little quality niche coffee shop hold onto it tight allowing it to grow and become sustainable. Seek out the online coffee merchant that has done the leg work of finding the best roasters and fastest service. Get that cup of coffee. Get your organic blend. Get the roast you desire. Get the fair trade coffee beans you deserve. Don’t let go.

Yes, people drink coffee to stimulate their minds for the long stress filled hour of the day. Stimulating the senses is more important as well. Awakening the olfactory system with quality flavor from specialty hand selected coffee puts the shear aspect of the lowly commodity coffee production into a totally insignificant perspective. Hum drum becomes the everyday ordinary cup of coffee sold at all of the corner coffee shops. Taste bud boredom is a crime of depriving the human senses of ecstasy that we all crave and deserve. Alive taste buds cause the human being to be alive, excited, and adventurous in our every day activities. Start your day with an eye opening sense grabbing cup of coffee and know that your day will be brighter more enjoyable and full of experience. And further know that when you purchase great organic fair trade coffee that you are caring for the planet that gives us our daily life.

Any business (and affiliates and marketers) that engages in interstate commerce will be subject to federal laws. Interstate marketing and advertising practices are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) under the FTC Act. Services and goods offered through the Internet are considered to be a “use in commerce” since the services are available to a national or global audience. The FTC regulates Internet advertising, marketing activities and sales to consumers as the watchdog agency. The same consumer protection laws that apply to commercial activities in other media apply to the Internet. Under Section 5 of the FTC Act, illegal advertising practices are categorized as either an unfair method of competition or an unfair or deceptive act or practice.

Any activity that is likely to cause consumer confusion as to source, sponsorship or affiliation of any good or service is essentially an “unfair” act or practice under the FTC Act. However, the real culprit for interstate businesses, affiliates and other Internet marketers is avoiding advertising claims which are unfair or deceptive. There is no hard definition of what practices are considered “unfair” or “deceptive,” under the FTC Act.

But, in the simplest terms, all advertisements:

must be truthful and not misleading;
must have evidence to back up any claims made in the ad; and
cannot be unfair.

Complying with FTC laws really boils down to a single standard that your advertisements or marketing practices will be judged under. This “standard” is known as ‘materially misleading.’ This is basically the crux of website advertising law and the standard by which all Internet claims and representations are measured to determine whether they are deceptive. Either an ad or claim is materially misleading, or it isn’t deceptive. This standard is defined by a series of guidelines, rules and policy statements published by the FTC. The FTC rules and guidelines illustrate what the FTC believes is illegal under the technical language of the FTC Act.

The principle guidelines on advertising are contained in the FTC’s Policy Statement on Deception. Under the FTC’s Statement, an advertisement or marketing practice is deceptive if there is a representation, omission of information or some other practice that is likely to mislead a reasonable consumer and which is likely to influence or otherwise “affect the consumer’s conduct or decision with regard to a product or service,” to that customer’s detriment.

In terms of Internet advertising, an unfair or deceptive act or trade practice is usually made by publishing a false advertisement. The Act specifically states that using a false advertisement in commerce is unlawful and doing so is also categorized as an unfair or deceptive act or practices. The term false advertisement means an advertisement, other than labeling, which is misleading in a material respect. As you can imagine, flat out lies about your products or services, or those that you promote or endorse, are going to be misleading and illegal. Simply stated, you cannot make any false claims. However, a claim can be misleading in many other ways and this is where most Internet businesses land into trouble.

If you don’t understand the nature of what is considered materially misleading, you could very easily violate FTC laws. You MUST understand all the ways a claim may mislead a consumer and you MUST know what is considered a claim or representation in the first place. This is really the key to understanding FTC laws. For instance, a claim can be literally true, but if it is only true in limited circumstances, or if it is subject to more than one interpretation, one of which is not true, or misleading in its overall effect, it is deceptive. I am going to take you through each element of an advertisement from the FTC’s point of view so you can master this understanding. Again, either you can pay an attorney to look at your specific ads, throw them up blind, or take the time to learn the fundamentals yourself.

A. Overall Context Matters

A claim can be suggested by the overall context of an advertisement. This means a representation or claim can be made or suggested by any “statement, word, design, device, sound, or any combination thereof”. In other words, the FTC won’t just look at the words of an advertisement by itself to determine if it is misleading. Other than the words of the ad, the name of the product, the nature of the product, any visual or audio depictions or symbolism can all provide the context to establish a claim. Even the website name or metatags can provide the context for a claim. The overall experience conveyed by viewing the ad in relation to the rest of the website sets the context for a particular claim.

The U.S. District Court, Third Circuit stated the FTC standard regarding context of an ad clearly. “The tendency of the advertising to deceive must be judged by viewing it as a whole, without emphasizing isolated words or phrases apart from their context.” Beneficial Corp. v. FTC (1976). Using illustrative pictures on your website to demonstrate the effectiveness or results of a product is a common example. Without stating some direct, express claim in words, these pictures would be just as effective in suggesting some claim to your visitors.

EXAMPLE: You operate a website called homesavers.com which offers loan modification and “foreclosure rescue” services. The title of your webpage is labeled as “save home” and your home page contains a picture of a “happy and relieved” couple sitting at a kitchen table looking at their laptop which shows homesavers.com on the screen. The website advertisements include a heading titled “Begin the process of saving your home now” and other claims of “if you act now, we can save your home.” Without any qualifying disclosures, the overall context of the website may imply that consumers can expect to save their homes by using homesavers.com.

B. Express and Implied Claims

If an ad makes either express or implied claims that are likely to be misleading without certain qualifying information, this information must be disclosed. You must determine which claims might need qualification and what information should be provided in a disclosure. The important thing to understand is the fact you can make an implied claim through your advertisement and that you cannot suggest any claim which you are not permitted to make expressly by law. An express claim is an obvious one. For example “This product will stop bullets from penetrating your body in an advertisement for a bullet proof vest. Similarly, the claim “removes every type of stain from your carpet” is an express claim that the advertised product will remove all stains from your carpet.

An implied claim is one made indirectly or by inference and causes the most problems for Internet advertisers.

EXAMPLE: In an ad about the innovative bullet proof vest, it claims the vest is “used by law enforcement officers and professional body guards.” Since the ad claims law officers and security professionals use the vest, it implies they use it to stop bullets. It may also imply reliability to the average consumer.

EXAMPLE: “2 out of 3 mechanics prefer mighty wrench to any other wrench on the market! Besides having to substantiate that 2 out of 3 mechanics prefer mighty wrench, this claim implies that the tool is adept at working on cars. This is an implied claim even though the ad does not expressly state that “mighty wrench” is suitable for cars.

EXAMPLE: In an advertisement for sprinting shoes, your website claims “Joe Sprinter wore these shoes during his Olympic 100 meter Gold medal run.” This implies that the shoes are made for, even particularly well-suited for, sprinting and running fast. This ad implies a particular quality about the shoe.

EXAMPLE: Your website sells household carpet cleaning products. You use an ad promoting your “wonder-clean” carpet cleaner, stating that it “removes the toughest household stains.” Directly below the ad, there are a series of illustrations depicting a dog standing on a carpet next to an obvious wet spot on the carpet and the product then being applied by a woman. Then, that same woman is depicted with a smile on her face and the wet spot has disappeared. The ad suggests that it removes dog stains from your carpet (maybe even common pet stains in general).

EXAMPLE: An ad claiming “experts agree our product beats our competitors hands down” probably implies that there is actual proof that most if not all experts have made such a proclamation.

C. Leaving Out Important Information

A claim can be misleading if relevant and material information is left out. An advertisement cannot leave out facts which are material in light of any claims made or material in light of how the customer will use the product under the conditions stated in the advertisement (or under ordinary conditions). If a claim is only true in limited circumstances or a benefit only applies sometimes, this must be disclosed.

EXAMPLE: In ad for revolutionary new speakers your sell from your discount stereo web store, your website boasts that the speakers “can achieve a 98% efficiency rating.” But, this rating cannot be done with every type of stereo receiver. In fact, a few different models of speakers can achieve the same rating, but only if they are used in conjunction with certain receivers. These are considered “high-end” receivers and are not common. Since the stereo receiver required is uncommon, this should be disclosed.

D. Material Claims

In order for a claim to be materially misleading, the claim or any information left out must be important or significant to the consumer’s choice to purchase the product or service. If the average consumer would not find the claim to have any significant influence on his or her decision to purchase, the claim is not material. The FTC has stated that examples of material claims include representations about health or safety, a product’s performance, features, price, effectiveness or other central characteristics. But, these are not the only types of claims which are material. Information is also likely to be material if it concerns durability, performance, warranties or quality. Information pertaining to a finding by another agency regarding the product may also be material.

The FTC presumes that express claims are material. As the Supreme Court stated recently, “in the absence of factors that would distort the decision to advertise, we may assume that the willingness of a business to promote its products reflects a belief that consumers are interested in the advertising.” Where the seller knew, or should have known, that an ordinary consumer would need any omitted information to evaluate the product or service, or that the claim was false, materiality will be presumed because the advertiser intended the information or omission to have an effect. Similarly, when evidence exists that a seller intended to make an implied claim, the FTC will infer the claim is material. The FTC might also look at other evidence that the claim or omission is likely to be considered important by consumers, such as testimony or customer surveys.

If a claim is material, it also means that injury is likely to exist because of the representation, omission, or practice. Injury to consumers can take many forms according to the FTC and it exists if consumers would have chosen differently but for the deception. If different choices are likely, the claim is material, and injury is likely as well. The statement on deception states that injury and materiality are different names for the same concept.

E. Substantiating Your Claims

Advertisers must have sufficient evidence to support any claims made, or the claims are deceptive. In order to avoid deception, you must have a “reasonable basis” for any factual or objective claims you make in any advertisement. (FTC vs. Pfizer, Inc. (1972)). This is also referred to as the doctrine of “substantiation.” This reasonable basis must be based on objective, credible and reliable evidence. You can use surveys, statistical evidence (studies) and expert opinions to substantiate any claim you make and otherwise prove a claim is true.

If the advertising claim suggests a level of support, it is obvious that the advertiser must have evidence of that support. For example, if a marketer claims that “three out of four customers prefer our brand”, then the marketer must have reliable survey evidence backing this statement up. If an advertiser claims “clinical studies show,” the FTC requires that clinical studies must show what you claim.Where a claim is not specific, the FTC will look at a number of factors in reviewing substantiating evidence to determine whether there is a reasonable basis for the claim including: 1) The type of claim; 2) The product involved; 3) The consequences of a false claim and the benefits of a truthful claim; 4) The cost of developing substantiation and 5) The level of substantiation experts would believe is reasonable.

EXAMPLE: A website that sells energy drinks and related energy products makes clams that its products give its customers energy lasting “all day” or “gets you through your work day.” Those claims need to be true and need to be backed up by an actual clinical study showing that the drink or other products boost energy levels for the duration specified.

The FTC will look at a number of factors to help determine the appropriate amount and type of substantiation necessary, including:

The Type of Product. Health and safety claims are subject to the most scrutiny by the FTC as they pose the most risks to consumers. Also, alcohol and tobacco are particularly put under the microscope along with dietary and herbal supplements, weight loss products and nutrient claims since these are related to health. These types of claims require competent, credible and reliable scientific evidence. I discuss scientific evidence in much more detail under the discussion of substantiating health claims.

The Type of Claim. Technical claims and claims that consumers would have trouble or cannot possibly evaluate themselves are subject to much more scrutiny. For instance, “reduces your energy costs by 30%” “kills germs on contact” or “environment friendly” are claims consumers cannot easily substantiate on their own. As a matter of policy, when consumers can easily evaluate the product or service this has historically attracted less FTC attention than those claims that consumers would have difficulty evaluating directly, such as “e-cigarettes contain none of the harmful ingredients of tobacco cigarettes.” Also, if a product is inexpensive and it is frequently purchased, the FTC will examine the practice closely before issuing a complaint based on deception. According to the FTC’s view, there is little incentive for sellers to misrepresent in these circumstances since they normally would seek to encourage repeat purchases.

General Results Claims

Stating that your products will deliver certain results may also be misleading. You must be able to substantiate any results you claim. If you make any specific claims of product results, you must also disclose that the product will not deliver the same results to everyone and may not even be effective for some purchasers, unless this is absolutely the case. Of course, if you can substantiate that the product would achieve the results claimed in each circumstance of use for all purchasers, you don’t have to worry.

For instance, a website that instructs businesses on how to establish and build a good business credit rating and makes the following claims on its website: “Instantly obtain multiple credit lines” and “establish a top credit rating fast.” How about a website offering SEO services that claims “our customers usually see double the traffic within 2 months.” These are results based claims. If the average client is not likely to achieve these results, you should disclose these facts. Otherwise, these ads may be misleading and thus deceptive.

If your business is offering a new product, then you can’t make a general results claim if no data on the results exists. As burdensome has this seems, the FTC’s comments on the matter of substantiating claims are pretty clear. I get a ton of questions on this issue. Section 5 of the FTC Act requires advertisers to have substantiation for the messages that consumers reasonably take from their ads, which means they must first know what messages consumers take away from those ads.

F. Reasonable Consumer Standard

The FTC will always evaluate any advertisement from the point of view of the “reasonable consumer.” This basically means looking at how the average reasonable person would interpret or respond to any claims or representations you make. Your business will not be liable for every interpretation or response by a consumer. This is actually a fairly well-stated principle in the context of advertising. Advertisers are not liable for every possible misrepresentation, no matter how outlandish. Misconceptions occurring among the foolish or feeble-minded are not reasonable.

The FTC provides the example that all “Danish pastry” is made in Denmark. The fact that some unreasonable individuals may believe that all Danish pastry is actually made in Denmark is not reasonable and does not cause liability to the advertiser. A claim is not deceptive only because it will be unreasonably misunderstood by an insignificant and unrepresentative segment of people.

When representations or sales practices are targeted to a specific audience, the FTC will look at how a reasonable member of that specific group would interpret the claim. For instance, terminally ill consumers might be particularly susceptible to exaggerated cure claims, children would likely believe claims adults would not, claims toward the elderly may be viewed by differently than the general public, etc. Similarly, “claims directed to a well-educated group, such as a prescription drug advertisement to doctors, would be judged in light of the knowledge and sophistication of that group”(FTC Policy Statement on Deception).

In addition, part of the reasonable consumer standard means that an ad may be capable of more than one reasonable interpretation by a consumer. So, if your ad conveys more than one meaning, or is interpreted differently and that meaning is misleading, you will be liable. This is true even if the main meaning of the ad is not deceptive. The critical question is determining what overall impression consumers would take away from a given ad when looking at the ad as a whole.

G. Subjective Claims, Opinions & Puffing

The FTC generally will not bring advertising complaints based on subjective claims that consumers can judge for themselves (i.e. claims based on taste, feel, appearance or smell), opinions or obvious exaggeration or puffing. For example, if a seasoning salt boasts on its website that the product is “delicious” or an ad claims a particular candle “smells great” these are general subjective claims regarding the taste and smell of the products. Stating a product has a “handsomely finished exterior” or comes complete with an “attractive carrying case” are examples of subjective opinions. Just because not everyone might find the exterior of the product in question handsome or that the carrying case is attractive does not make the ad deceptive.

Since these types of claims don’t pose risks to health or safety even if they were deceptive, they really are not scrutinized by the FTC anyways.

Similarly, a product endorsement that proclaims the product to be “the best product I ever used” is a subjective opinion. The claim is not a statement of fact or some claim about some result, quality or characteristic of the product. In general, if the claim is a subjective one and does not contain an objective component, it is not unlawful.

In contrast, claiming a product is superior based “on all the latest research and data” is not subjective any longer. It’s misleading if the product really is not superior based on the most recent research and data. Claiming a flashlight “outlasts all other major brands” or “more customers prefer our hand lotion to any other” is an objective claim which must be supported with some credible evidence of what is claimed. Opinions are deceptive only “if they are not honestly held, if they misrepresent the qualifications of the holder or the basis of his opinion or if the recipient reasonably interprets them as implied statements of fact”.

Advertisements involving obvious exaggeration or puffing are not unlawful. These are claims that the reasonable consumer would not believe. For example, claiming a child’s wooden sled that is “handcrafted by Santa’s elves” is obvious exaggeration, or claims that a product is “superior” to all others is a general statement and is puffing. Vague statements such as “the breakthrough the Industry has been waiting for” or “this could be the opportunity of a lifetime” are also examples of puffing and are lawful. These statements are really more in the nature of boasting than making an actual factual claim.

EXAMPLE: American Italian Pasta Co. vs. New World Pasta Co. (2004). The court stated that in order for a claim to be false, it must be “a specific and measureable claim capable of being proved false.” The Court in this example found that American Italian Pasta Co.’s use of the phrase “America’s favorite pasta” was not a statement of fact, but was considered subjective and vague puffing. This case provided a very good definition of what is considered puffing: “puffing is exaggerated statements or boasting upon which no reasonable person would rely or vague and highly subjective claims of product superiority.”

Looking for an interior designer or interior decorator can be overwhelming if you are not sure which designer you need for the scope or your project. Are you building, renovating or moving and need professional advice? Are you planning to sell your property and not sure how to get ready for the first inspection?

This document gives you answers to frequently asked questions in regards to interior design, interior decorating, colour consulting and property styling.

It will help you finding the right designer for your interior design and decorating projects and eventually create your individual style in your home.

What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior stylist?

You may have asked yourself this question already when facing a building or renovation project. Do I need an interior designer, an interior decorator, a colour consultant or an interior stylist?

The answer is that it depends on the scope of the project.

An interior designer is a skilled professional who is designing interior environments according to your briefing. The interior designer either modifies what already exists (renovation) or provides an entirely new design for a space (new build). In this case the interior designer works closely with the architect and comes in at an early stage of the project. Interior designers work either along a team in design firm or on their own.

What is the job of an interior stylist? An interior stylist is a designer or consultant in a field subject to changes in style, especially fashion or interior decoration. An interior stylist cultivates or maintains any particular style and in most cases stylist are finders, keepers and collectors of beautiful objects.

The interior stylist can help you finding your own style, creating beautiful interiors that are unique and meaningful. This can be achieved with the simplest things and does not have to be expensive. The only thing you need to do is keep your eyes open to beautiful things in nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel. There is only one rule: Only collect or buy things that mean something to you!

How does a colour consultation work?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

Prior to designing a colour scheme for you the colour consultant should always talk to you about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve in your space. He will explain to you the differences between the paint companies and their products and choose the right product for your needs. After designing the colour scheme you will receive a written recommendation including a specification sheet and brushouts ready for your painter to start.

Why is it important to seek advice from a designer when choosing colours?

Colour is the most powerful tool when it comes to non-verbal communication and the design element that makes a space come alive. Colour brings individuality in a space and it is one of the most useful tools to master when finding your own style.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, says in her book Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color: “Among other uses, color stimulates and works synergistically with all of the senses, symbolizes abstract concepts and thoughts, expresses fantasy or wish fulfillment, recalls another time or place and produces an aesthetic or emotional response.”

When choosing a colour for a room or house it is important to think about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve. Is it a dark room or flooded with natural light? In which direction is the room facing? How are the proportions? Do you live in a small apartment or a contemporary newly built house with open plan living areas? All this needs to be considered when choosing colours for a space.

If you are overwhelmed by the choice of colours available – yes, there are thousands on the market – how can you start finding your personal colour scheme?

For some people it is a longer journey, for others it comes more naturally. The most important thing is to take some time, open your eyes, walk around your home and absorb the colour combinations you see. Then start gathering all the pieces you love. This can be anything from old porcelain, travel souvenirs, photographs, artwork, clothes, tear sheets from magazines, fabric swatches, stationary, a collection of stones, feathers or glass objects.

And don’t forget nature as inspiration for a colour scheme (interior or exterior). If you live near the ocean, shades of blues and greens can be used to link your interior with its surroundings. Flowers, butterflies, stones, shells, driftwood are fantastic inspirations for colour schemes.

Once you have gathered all your beloved treasures in one spot, play around with the pieces, group them by colours and you will see a colour palette emerge. This “moodboard” is a great starting point for your interior designer, interior stylist or colour consultant to help you creating an individual and personal space, a home that reflects who you are and a place that you love coming home to.

Stylist’s tip: Before you start painting always buy a test pot and paint a large sheet of paper or cardboard (one square metre) with your colour. Tape it to the walls in your room and study it for a couple of days. Look at it in daylight and artificial light. This is very important as colours change depending on the light, the orientation of the room, other colours in the room and spatial elements like furniture and artwork for example.

What is the difference between a colour and a styling consultation?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

The styling consultation focuses on creating a certain (Your) style in your home or simply on answering all your questions about colours, style, furniture sourcing and placement, art sourcing and placement, displays of your collections, accessories, proportions in a space, lighting etc.

Again it is vital that the designer listens to what you would like to achieve (briefing) and makes sure that he understood what you want (debriefing). Don’t let the interior designer or interior stylist talk you into something you don’t like!

How do I maximise the output of my styling consultation?

Are you planning to colour, redecorate or renovate, but don’t know where to start? Do you have lots of questions about colour schemes, furniture placement, how to display your collections, books or other beloved things? Are you not sure whether to redecorate with your old furniture and accessories or to renovate and create a new look? Do you need inspirations where to source furniture and accessories, second hand pieces or antiques?

If you prepare your first consultation with your stylist properly, you will get answers to all the questions you have. Here are my tips how to maximise the output from your styling or colour consultation:

• Be clear what you would like the outcome of the consultation to be.

• Decide which room or space you would like to focus on. Is it only one room or the whole house?

• Prepare yourself with tear sheets from interior design magazines like Real Living, Inside Out, Belle or Vogue Living. There are plenty on the market so choose the one that speaks to you most and start collecting pages of everything you like: colour schemes, furniture, accessories, room layouts, rugs, flooring, wallpaper, decorative items and everything that speaks to you. If you do this for a couple of weeks you will clearly see what you like and find your own personal style.

• Keep your eyes open to the beautiful things around you: nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel.

• Make sure that your stylist is listening and explain what you want to achieve with your styling project, what you would like a room to do for you and what mood you would like to create in your space.

And finally one of the most important things: Don’t let the stylist talk you into something you don’t like! You have to live in the space and you need to feel comfortable and at home! It is all about creating your home with your personal touch.

How do I find my own style?

The answer is as simple as this: explore the world around you and appreciate the beauty that lies within everything you discover!

Keep your eyes open and your mind excited! Discover and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you every day! Find inspiration in nature, buildings, shops, exhibitions, museums, art, events, markets, magazines and of course books.

One of my favourite books I spotted in a museum shop is called: How to be an explorer of the world by Keri Smith. On the back it says: “At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting.”

A stylist’s tip: always carry a little notebook and a pen with you in order to be able to sketch, doodle and write down what you discover.

Keep all your findings, notes and pictures in a folder or box and keep searching for at least four to eight weeks. Then start to group things by colour or theme and you will discover what your style is. And there are no rules. It is all about finding what you like!

Books for your inspiration

This is a list of books that I personally own and love! They are all a fantastic source of inspiration and creative ideas for your home.

Sibella Court: Bowerbird

Shannon Fricke: Sense of Style

Megan Morton: Home Love

Holly Becker: Decorate

Susanna Salk: Be Your Own Decorator

Geraldine James: Creative Walls

Hans Blomquist: The Natural Home

Is it necessary to seek advice from a stylist when I want to sell my property?

If you plan to sell your house it is worth investing in a styling consultation. A professional property stylist can help you to achieve maximum impact when presenting your home to potential buyers. A property stylist will help you to get ready for the first inspection by giving you advice on how to style your house with what you have. He will help you with colour schemes that attract potential buyers. He will also advice if you need rental furniture to style each room according to its function and help potential buyers to envisage themselves in the space. Property styling is all about creating a wow factor in key areas of your home and help the buyers to envisage themselves in your space. Once the styling is done don’t forget to book your stylist for the real estate photography shoot to make sure everything looks perfect on this day!

Santorini has many beautiful volcanic beaches with sparkling blue water and skies, which bring thousands of visitors every summer. The most popular beaches offer a variety of attractions and amenities: something for everyone.

Paradisos Beach is located on the northern tip of the island, below Oia. It is a large, organized beach with clear water, black sand, pebbles and a backdrop of chiseled pumice rock. It is good for families with children since the waters are shallow, which is unusual for Santorini. A canteen and several restaurants and tavernas nearby serve lunch. Sun beds and umbrellas are available for hire.

Vourvoulos Beach is located on the East coast of the island, south of Xiropigado Beach. It is an organized beach with a small harbor, umbrellas, a small wooden playground, changing rooms and a restaurant. The road is lined with beach trees offering shade. The beach consists of a mixture of sand and pebbles, with clear blue water. While it is popular, it is one the least crowded organized beaches on the island.

Monolithos Beach is located on the East coast of the island, south of Karterados Beach. Monolithos is a very long, quiet, family friendly, well organized beach with black sand, shallow waters and a sandy sea bottom. It is very good for swimming, and a life guard is on duty. Part of the longest continuous stretch of beach on the island, it continues to Kamari beach and further to Perissa beach. Organized activities include beach volleyball, basketball, football and a playground. There are fish restaurants and traditional tavernas, changing rooms, showers and public toilets. Trees at the back of beach provide shade.

Kamari Beach is located on the southeast coast of Santorini, north of Perissa. It is one of the most popular beaches of the island, and has been awarded the Blue Flag. The long beach connects with Perissa to the South, with the impressive mountain of Mesa Vouno and the archaeological settlement of Ancient Thira between them. It has deep, clear water, black sand, and there is a lifeguard on duty. The beach is organized, with sunbeds, umbrellas, water sports and diving. A paved pedestrian promenade runs parallel to the beach, providing a place for strolling and shopping. Kamari offers numerous cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and supermarkets, as well as a lively nightlife. The area landscape is beautiful, especially at night, when Mesa Vouno is lighted.

Perissa Beach is located on the southeast coast of Santorini, below the village of Emporio. Perissa is a very popular beach resort that has been awarded the Blue Flag. It has an impressively long, black sand beach, with a view of the mountain of Mesa Vouno and the archaeological settlement of Ancient Thira. The water is clear with a sandy sea bottom and a few occasional submerged rocks. The beach is well organized with sunbeds, umbrellas, restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars, souvenir shops and a life guard. The area landscape is beautiful, especially at night, when Mesa Vouno is lighted. Two diving schools, a water park and a natural rock climbing wall offer other activities nearby.

Perivolos Beach is located on the southeast coast of Santorini, below the village of Emporio. It is a long, black sand resort beach with deep blue waters and a sandy sea bottom connected to Perissa beach and Agios Georgios Beach. The beach area is naturally protected from the summer North Winds, which can adversely affect other beaches on the island. It is well organized with life guards, sunbeds, umbrellas, restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars, supermarkets, showers, public toilets and a playground. Numerous beach bars playing club music, DJ guest appearances, volley ball tournaments and special events creates an experience of Santorini nightlife by day. There are also many water sports facilities nearby featuring windsurfing, scuba diving and jet skiing.

Agios Georgios is located at the southern tip of Santorini, half a kilometer from Perivolos Beach. It is a large, sandy organized beach. It is more quiet than nearby Perissa and Perivolos Beaches, and the water is more shallow. A few small tavernas offer lunch. Sun beds and umbrellas are available for rental, and there are many opportunities for water sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, windsurfing, paddleboats and banana boats.

Vlychada is located at the southern tip of Santorini. It is a quiet, organized beach with black sand and a stunning backdrop of wind eroded beach cliffs resembling the surface of the moon. Despite its popularity, it often feels uncrowded and even secluded, because the beach offers ample space to spread out. Nudists tend to favor the far end of the beach. A nearby marina for moors private yachts and is also home to Santorini’s Sailing & Yachting Center. Umbrellas and sunbeds can be rented, but only near the beginning of the beach. There is a canteen and a few tavernas near the harbor, but it is recommended to bring supplies with you, because the beach is long.

Eros Beach is located at the southern coast of Santorini, near Vlychada. Eros Beach is a fairly small, organized beach area with umbrellas, sunbeds and volley ball and facilities provided by Theros Beach Bar. It shares the same beautiful landscape with nearby Vlychada beach, with stunning eroded beach cliffs as a backdrop. You can take meals, coffee or snacks from the bar. There are some evening events and DJ music.

Red Beach is located at the southern coast of Santorini, south of the village of Akrotiri. Red beach is one of the most beautiful and most famous beaches of the island. It is named for the iron-rich rocks in the cliff face towering over the beach above you, as well its the red sand. It has a small beach area, and due to its popularity, it can be quite crowded in the summer season. It is an unorganized beach, with no cantinas or refreshments offered on the beach. There is a small cantina near the parking area, where you should buy anything you will need. The first few meters of the water near the shore are gravel. Many distant yachts can be seen from the beach, and the view of the sunset is stunning. Visibility for snorkeling is good, but you will have to bring your own equipment.

White Beach is located at the southern coast of Santorini, south of the village of Akrotiri. White Beach is very similar to Red beach, with black pebbles on the shore, but the surrounding cliffs are white. It is only slightly organized, with a few sunbeds and umbrellas. The surrounding rocks do provide some natural shade. It is harder to reach than nearby Red Beach, and therefore more quiet. Bring any supplies you may need with you, as there is no place to purchase them on the beach.White Beach can only be reached by boat or by walking from Red Beach. Boats leave from Red Beach or from Akrotiri. There is no pier, so to reach the beach by boat you must walk through waist high water, but the experience will not disappoint.

Ammoudi Bay Beach is located below Oia, at the northwestern tip of the island. It is accessed by walking or mule ride down the 214 steps from Oia castle. It is a charming and popular unorganized beach, with high red cliffs and a view of the endless blue sea. It does not have a sand beach, but it has a swimming area. It is most recommended for strong swimmers. There is a small harbor dotted with famous fish tavernas. It is possible to swim in the harbour, but the best place to go is along the path past the tavernas on the waterfront, where you will find an excellent place for diving off the rocks. From the port of Ammoudi you can also take a small boat to the opposite island of Thirassia.

There is a simple but undeniable truth in the financial consulting and wealth planning industry that Wall Street has kept as a “dirty little secret” for years. That dirty little, and nearly always overlooked secret is THE WAY YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR IS PAID DIRECTLY AFFECTS THEIR FINANCIAL ADVICE TO YOU!

You want, and deserve (and consequently SHOULD EXPECT) unbiased financial advice in your best interests. But the fact is 99% of the general investing public has no idea how their financial advisor is compensated for the advice they provide. This is a tragic oversight, yet an all too common one. There are three basic compensation models for financial advisors – commissions based, fee-based, and fee-only.

Commission Based Financial Advisor – These advisors sell “loaded” or commission paying products like insurance, annuities, and loaded mutual funds. The commission your financial advisor is earning on your transaction may or may not be disclosed to you. I say “transaction” because that’s what commission based financial advisors do – they facilitate TRANSACTIONS. Once the transaction is over, you may be lucky to hear from them again because they’ve already earned the bulk of whatever commission they were going to earn.

Since these advisors are paid commissions which may or may not be disclosed, and the amounts may vary based on the insurance and investment products they sell, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the financial advice given to you and the commission these financial advisors earn. If their income is dependent on transactions and selling insurance and investment products, THEY HAVE A FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO SELL YOU WHATEVER PAYS THEM THE HIGHEST COMMISSION! That’s not to say there aren’t some honest and ethical commission based advisors, but clearly this identifies a conflict of interest.

Fee Based Financial Advisor – Here’s the real “dirty little secret” Wall Street doesn’t want you to know about. Wall Street (meaning the firms and organizations involved in buying, selling, or managing assets, insurance and investments) has sufficiently blurred the lines between the three ways your financial advisor may be compensated that 99% of the investing public believes that hiring a Fee-Based Financial Advisor is directly correlated with “honest, ethical and unbiased” financial advice.

The truth is FEE-BASED MEANS NOTHING! Think about it (you’ll understand more when you learn the third type of compensation), all fee-BASED means is that your financial advisor can take fees AND commissions from selling insurance and investment products! So a “base” of their compensation may be tied to a percentage of the assets they manage on your behalf, then the “icing on the cake” is the commission income they can potentially earn by selling you commission driven investment and insurance products.

Neat little marketing trick right? Lead off with the word “Fee” so the general public thinks the compensation model is akin to the likes of attorney’s or accountants, then add the word “based” after it to cover their tails when these advisors sell you products for commissions!

FEE ONLY Financial Advisor – By far, the most appropriate and unbiased way to get financial advice is through a FEE-ONLY financial advisor. I stress the word “ONLY”, because a truly fee ONLY financial advisor CAN NOT, and WILL NOT accept commissions in any form. A Fee-ONLY financial advisor earns FEES in the form of hourly compensation, project financial planning, or a percentage of assets managed on your behalf.

All fees are in black and white, there are no hidden forms of compensation! Fee-Only financial advisors believe in FULL DISCLOSURE of any potential conflicts of interest in their compensation and the financial advice and guidance provided to you.

Understanding the conflict of interest in the financial advice given by commission based brokers enables you to clearly identify the conflict of interest for fee-based financial advisors also – they earn fees AND commissions! Hence – FEE-BASED MEANS NOTHING! There is only one true way to get the most unbiased, honest and ethical advice possible and that is through a financial advisor who believes in, and practices, full disclosure.

Commission and Fee-Based financial advisors typically don’t believe in or practice full-disclosure, because the sheer magnitude of the the fees the average investor/consumer pays would surely make them think twice.

Consider for a moment you need to buy a truck specifically for towing and hauling heavy loads. You go to the local Ford dealership and talk to a salesperson – that salesperson asks what type of vehicle you’re interested in and shows you their line of trucks. Of course, to that salesperson who earns a commission when you buy a truck – ONLY FORD has the right truck for you. It’s the best, it’s the only way to go, and if you don’t buy that truck from that salesperson you’re crazy!

The fact is Toyota makes great trucks, GM makes great trucks, Dodge makes great trucks. The Ford may or may not be the best truck for your needs, but the salesperson ONLY shows you the Ford, because that’s ALL the salesperson can sell you and make a commission from.

This is similar to a commission based financial advisor. If they sell annuities, they’ll show you annuities. If they sell mutual funds, all they’ll show you is commission paying mutual funds. If they sell life insurance, they’ll tell you life insurance is the solution to all of your financial problems. The fact is, when all you have is a hammer… everything looks like a nail!

Now consider for a moment you hired a car buying advisor and paid them a flat fee. That advisor is an expert and stays current on all of the new vehicles. That advisor’s only incentive is to find you the most appropriate truck for you, the one that hauls the most, tows the best, and is clearly the best option available. They earn a fee for their service, so they want you to be happy and refer your friends and family to them. They even have special arrangements worked out with all of the local car dealerships to get you the best price on the truck that’s right for you because they want to add value to your relationship with them.

The analogy of a “car buying advisor” is similar to a Fee-Only financial planner. Fee-Only financial advisor’s use the best available investments with the lowest possible cost. A Fee-Only financial advisor’s only incentive is to keep you happy, to earn your trust, to provide the best possible financial advice and guidance using the most appropriate investment tools and planning practices.

So on one hand you have a car salesperson who’s going to earn a commission (coincidentally the more you pay for the truck the more they earn!) to sell you one of the trucks off their lot. On the other hand, you have a trusted car buying advisor who shops all of the vehicles to find the most appropriate one for your specific needs, and then because of his relationships with all of the car dealers can also get you the best possible price on that vehicle. Which would you prefer?

Truly unbiased financial advice and guidance comes in the form of Fee-Only financial planning. You know exactly what you’re paying and what you’re getting in return for the compensation your Fee-Only financial advisor earns. Everything is in black and white, and there are no hidden agenda’s or conflicts of interest in the advice given to you by a true Fee-Only financial advisor!

The fact is unfortunately less than 1% of all financial advisor professionals are truly FEE-ONLY. The reason for this? There’s a clear and substantial disparity in a financial advisor’s income generated through commissions (or commissions and fees), and the income a financial advisor earns through the Fee-Only model:

Example #1 – You just changed employment and you’re rolling over a $250,000 401k into an IRA. The commission based advisor may sell you a variable annuity in your IRA (which is a very poor planning tactic in most cases and for many reasons) and earn a 5% (or many times more) commission ($12,500) and get an ongoing, or “trailer” commission of 1% (plus or minus) equal to $2,500 per year. The Fee-Only financial advisor may charge you a fee for retirement plan, an hourly fee, or a percentage of your portfolio to manage it. Let’s say in this case you pay a $500 retirement plan fee and 1.25% of assets managed (very common for a Fee-Only financial advisor in this situation). That advisor earns $500 plus $3,125 ($250,000 * 1.25%) or TOTAL COMPENSATION of $3,625 – FAR LESS THAN THE $15,000 THE COMMISSION (or Fee-Based) financial advisor earned! In fact it takes the Fee-Only financial advisor over four years to earn what the commission (or fee-based) advisor earned in one year!

Example #2 – You’re retired and managing a $750,000 nest egg which needs to provide you income for the rest of your life. A fee-based financial advisor may recommend putting $400,000 into an single premium immediate annuity to get you income and the other $350,000 into a fee-based managed mutual fund platform. The annuity may pay a commission of 4% or $16,000 and the fee-based managed mutual fund portfolio may cost 1.25% for total compensation of $20,375 first year (not including the “trailer” commissions). The Fee-Only advisor would possibly shop low load annuities for you, possibly put the entire portfolio into a managed account, possibly look at municipal bonds, or any other variety of options available. It’s hard to say how much the Fee-Only advisor would earn as their largest incentive is to keep you the client happy, and provide the best planning advice and guidance possible for your situation. BUT, in this case let’s just assume that a managed mutual fund portfolio was implemented with an averaged cost of 1% (very common for that level of assets), so the Fee-Only financial advisor earns roughly $7,500 per year and it takes that financial advisor THREE YEARS to earn what the fee-based financial advisor earned in ONE YEAR!

The prior examples are very common in today’s financial advisory industry. It’s unfortunate that such a disparity in income exists between the compensation models, or there would likely be many more truly independent and unbiased Fee-Only financial advisors today!

Now consider for a moment which financial advisor will work harder for you AFTER the initial consultations an planning? Which financial advisor must consistently earn your trust and add value to your financial and investment planning? It’s obvious the financial advisor with the most to lose is the Fee-Only advisor. A Fee-Only financial advisor has a direct loss of income on a regular basis from losing a client.

The commission or fee-based financial advisor however has little to lose. You can fire them after they’ve put you in their high commission products, and as you can see from the examples they’ve already made the majority of the commissions they’re going to make on you as a client. They have little to gain by continuing to add value to your financial and investment planning, and little to lose by losing you as a client.

Wouldn’t you prefer a financial advisory model where your financial advisor must continually earn your trust and add consistent value to your planning?

It’s clearly more difficult to earn a living and run a profitable financial advisory firm through the Fee-Only financial planning and guidance model. For this reason, most financial advisors take the easy way and sell products for commissions and charge fees on assets managed – that way they can make a nice living on your investment portfolio and still have an ongoing stream of revenue every year. For this reason also, less than 1% of financial advisors are truly Fee-Only, yet it’s that 1% that is truly objective and unbiased, and that 1% whose only incentive is to manage your financial plan, investments, and overall wealth to accomplish the goals you wish to achieve!

The real “dirty little secret” Wall St. has is the undeniable truth that the commission and fee-based financial advisory model has inherent conflicts of interest, and your advisor may be “selling you investment products” rather than “solving your financial problems”!

Software applications have been explored in a wide range of activity domains significantly simplifying the workflow, however this advancement has taken a particular sphere of interest to the uttermost, more precisely, financial service companies. This division has experienced a tremendous expansion simply because online solutions perfectly match the basic functional principles governing all financial transactions. All three main segments: capital management, banking, and insurance, have taking advantage of large-scale implementation. In essence, the major change relies on the fact that traditional transaction methods have been successfully replaced by truly advanced computer-based and web-based applications.

The classic approach has undergone major transformations due to the fact that initial means have been optimized to enable transactions in real time. Besides this facet, IT solutions in the financial services field, have opened the path for new services. For instance, financial services technology has set higher standards in the financial world, as experts confirm the fact that instant access and secure financial procedures can be adjusted to the global evolution of the financial market. Without going into detail, financial service technology has literally set in motion the overall activity of the financial market, and every single branch has taken advantage of easy-to-use financial software applications. Firstly, these advanced tools have set the basis for full control over financial instruments enabling faster transactions. We all know that online approach has refashioned the entire financial service industry because this service has broken physical and temporal barriers. Therefore, we can access services from anywhere in the world as long as we have an Internet connection.

For many years now, financial operations and, implicitly financial services, have been considered a sophisticated process, as, these days, a click may synthesize all complicated procedures on the condition that we make decisions. All financial services departments have experienced this ascending trend based on ultimate technology. At first, we may assume that such platforms help professionals streamline their entire activity, however, by taking over demanding operations, experts have the opportunity to focus on the strategies they should develop to reach higher performance standards.

To sum up, financial solutions rely today on advanced software applications and the emphasis still falls on the integrated services, as the financial sector is extremely volatile and permissive regarding financial operations. Moreover, customers prefer a provider who can take care of all their needs when IT comes to financing. Thus, we are very likely to witness for the years to come innovative solutions that might take the financial market to a higher level.

Home interior decorations is one all about making your house into a home. With colors, style, theme, furnishings and different decor elements a house gets its character. Starting with the living room right to the bathroom, home interior decorations looks into all the aspects of the house. The main goal for interior decoration of any room of the house is to give it an individual personality. Interior decor generally concentrates on finishes like wallpapers, wall paint, window coverings and furnishings. Along with it comes the balance of the various decoration items like wall hangings, showpieces etc. So let’s take a quick look for home interior decoration ideas for different rooms in a house.

Big Spacious Rooms

There are many ways to make a room look spacious and large. The first most important element is the room lighting. Go for soft and even lighting so that shadows don’t divide your room into smaller sections. Avoid putting ceiling lights as they make the ceiling look lower. By having a diffused and ambient lighting the room will look large. The next thing to keep in mind is the texture used in the room. Smooth surfaces tend to reflect more light as compared to heavy textured flooring. For interior decoration one can also use mirror and chrome as the reflection and shine give depth to a room. The wall colors of a room are also important in giving a spacious look to the room. Go for cream, beige, gray or cool pastels for walls. Also while selecting colors keep in mind that the ceiling should be in the lightest color in the room. The next thing comes the furniture. Place the furniture in a manner that it leaves adequate space to move around. Push the largest piece of furniture against the wall. Let the furniture color be similar to the wall and floor color of the room.

Cozy Rooms

Just like spacious rooms, cozy room interior decoration is also very much possible. Get the comfortable and settled in feeling as interior decoration creates an intimate space for you. Once more lighting will play an important role. There are many modern lighting trends that will help your room to look cozy and comfy. Avoid ceiling lights, instead lamps with down shades will help the room look compact. For room colors, go for strong wall and floor colors. This will create a feeling of closeness in your room interiors. Heavy soft textures are great for cozy room interiors. Try rough textures for the hard elements in the room. If you are trying to attract attention towards any particular piece of furniture then dark finishes and fabrics will surely tempt you to sink into that favorite sofa set. Use tall pieces for the room decor, as it creates a cozy world of intimacy.

Theme Room

A theme room is working on a particular idea and developing the home interior decoration accordingly. One can have the entire house decorated in one theme like contemporary home decor or Asian home decor or go room by room. Like the master bedroom can have a different theme, the teen room a trendy interior decor and so on. Once you have decided on the theme of the entire house or a particular room, select the decoration pieces for it.

Colors and Fabrics

In interior home decorations color and fabric are very important. When we say color, then it is not just wall colors. Select colors for fabrics, linen, pillows, curtains etc. complement it with the wall colors and give your room a vibrant look. The same concept applies to fabrics as well. Today there are so many different kinds of fabrics available. Select fabric that goes well with your room decor.

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