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Retirement Guide for Teachers

By Alan Haskvitz, national motivational speaker

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Horace Mann Companies

Test your retirement knowledge

Retirement Resource


Includes financial decisions, legal concerns, and aging and health links

Retirement IQ test

Earning test for early retirees

Test your knowledge on retirement

Life expectancy calculator

Estimating Your Retirement Income Needs

Steps in Retirement Planning

Ten Steps to Retirement

Before you accept an early retirement package

Ten questions to ask before retiring

Steps to take when you are 60

Printables for how much you need to retire and estimating expenses

Tax Benefits for Teachers

Women and Retirement

California Retired

Teachers Website

Regardless of what state you work in this site has excellent insights into the issues of retirement.

NEA retirement site

The impact of Social Security on Teacher Pensions

Social Security news

Understanding Social Security Benefits

Social Security Retirement Earning Table

Research immigration and family histories

By Alan Haskvitz,

National Motivational Speaker

For quality educational resources go to

This is a great way to get a family or a class involved in history. I have placed the best sites I could find on this topic here. The include Canadian, Chinese, Irish, Jewish, and other links as well as immigration resources and statistics as well as poetry.

I have them posted here.

Canadian settlement & history

Chinese, Irish and Jewish immigration

Family history resources

Immigration activities & lessons

Immigration data & statistics

Immigration information

Immigration literature & poetry

There is no certain way to fight a traffic ticket, but this site has the best information. Also included are vehicle reviews, a marketplace, chapter locations, links, and a step by step how to guide to use protect yourself.

This is truly a good site for any motorist. For more information click on

For reviews click on

“The National Motorists Association Foundation is dedicated to finding innovative ways to improve and protect the interests of North American motorists. The foundation provides NMA members, and others, the opportunity to make tax-deductible contributions to fund a variety of activities geared toward expanding motorists’ opportunities to drive, travel, and just enjoy the gift of mobility.”

The family friendly gas mileage champions

The Car Family

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What a difference a year makes. In 2004 there were only a handful of cars, largely subcompact or hybrids that could crack the desirable highway and into combined 30-mpg mark. Today there are dozens from the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner SUV to the Toyota Prius that can be fun to drive, especially if it is to the gas station. In addition, a great many new hybrids are due out such as the Toyota Camry. Just off the pace of these economy champions is our family favorite, the four cylinder Honda Accord with a manual transmission that delivers 26/34 on regular fuel with a list price for the Value edition of just over $18,000.

Contrary to what has been a constant in the past, good fuel mileage no longer equates to poor performance, The Car Family is proud to report that the 2006 gas mileage leaders are peppy, ride well, and can hold a family of four. Although some of these fuel misers are diesel powered and thus may not be available in all states, a great variety run on unleaded and are for sale most everywhere. Even better news awaits the consumer as these fuel sippers as a whole cost less than the national average of about $25,000 for a new car meaning you can have your cake and eat it too.

We didn’t test the Honda Insight because it only has room for two, but it is the champion with a combined 60-mpg average. Others in this category come are our two-time car of the year, the Toyota Prius that averaged 55 mpg and competes for most interior room with much larger cars. There are no SUV in the high mileage category with the Saturn Greeline Vue and the Ford Escape having the best at arouund 27 mpg in real world operating conditions.

Honda’s Civic Hybrid is a great highway car, but does not have the utility of the Prius. It is quick and handy and gets over 50 mpg. Next in line come the many diesels from Volkswagen. We tested last year’s Passat diesel wagon and were extremely impressed. We got over 38 mpg in mixed driving and the car was downright energetic. However, they are not currently marketing this model. Other Volkswagen diesels getting over 30 are the New Beetle, the Golf, and Jetta.

Gasoline powered sedans that are fun to drive, economical to operate, and are definitely worth a test drive are the Toyota Corolla, Scion xA, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, the non-hybrid version of the new Honda Civic, the MINI Cooper, Hyundai Accent, Mazda 3, and Nissan Sentra. Interestingly, the Corolla and Sentra are being redone this year meaning you can count on the 2007 models being even better. If you want handling, the Mazda and MINI are in a class of their own.

If you need more room the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix can get you over 30 mpg with a standard transmission and are quite frisky. However, our favorites in this sized category are the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner with two-wheel drive. They are easy to drive, love to please, and come well loaded with standard equipment. On the other hand, they are at the top of the price level of fuel-efficient vehicles coming in at about $28,000. If you spend more you can get the larger Toyota Highlander hybrid.

If you are looking for the gas mileage champions by category the minicompact field is lead by the fun MINI Cooper with a 28/36 rating. We love this car, but don’t expect much room to haul anything. The MINI is probably going to be offered in a longer version soon and we recommend you seriously consider it if you like to drive rather than be driven. Subcompact cars are lead by the Volkswagen diesel propelled New Beetle at 37/44. We like the Beetle and it has good safety ratings, too. In the compact field the Honda Civic hybrid is our favorite. It runs smoothly and the new model is very competent on the highway. The government claims 49/51 for this model, but we averaged about 43. The Toyota Prius rules the midsize grouping with at 60/51 rating. We recorded 46 mpg in mixed driving. If you really want a bargain latch onto a Hyundai Elantra with 27/34 ratings and a base price under $14,000. Hyundai’s Sonata also claims a top listing for large cars with a 24/34 rating. We tested both the V6 and four-cylinder version and really liked the latter. It was responsive, roomy, and is priced around $18,000 with an excellent warranty.

The station wagon winners were the Matrix, Vibe, and Scion xB. The Scion is quite fun to drive, but it lacks the utility of the other two. Toyota is coming out with a larger version soon. Look for prices around $15,000 and up in this grouping. If you need a touch more room the venerable Ford Focus provides 26/34-mpg figures and is a workhorse. You can get exceptional deals on this model as they have been around for a long time. If you live where snow and rain rule the roads the Subaru Legacy wagon is a winner with a government highway listing of 30 mpg.

If you need more utility the Ford Ranger pick-up offers 24/29 figures as does its sister model, the Mazda B2300 with the Toyota Tacoma just a step back at 21/26. Although not listed as a leader by the government, our favorite is the Isuzu I-280 and Chevrolet Colorado with 20/27 fuel mileage just beating out the Ford Ranger. We were impressed by the ride of these trucks and there were some great deals out there for these models. The SUV non-hybrid category winners are the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute. We like the handling of the Mazda more, but they both are easy to maneuver and offer good family space inside. As for the vans, despite the fact that the Mazda MPV having nearly identical consumption ratings, Honda’s large and powerful Honda Odyssey is the best here with 20/28 ratings. If you travel in town a great deal the MPV is going to be a better performer and easier to park and maneuver. If you have children and carry a great deal of odds and end get the Dodge Caravan with the Stow and Go option.


Mom’s view: I really am not into small cars, but the Toyota Prius is a joy to drive. The folds down seats offer plenty of versatility and I can drive over 500 miles without refueling. I also liked the Dodge Caravan and think that every mother should check out its storage options.


Dad’s view: I loved the Ford Escape. It handled very well. I also was totally surprised by the Isuzu and Chevrolet Colorado pick-ups. Except for some poorly placed tie downs in the bed they have a pleasant ride and with the manual transmission can keep up with traffic when loaded. I have seen fabulous prices on these models.


Young working girl’s view: I did like the diesel Passat wagon we tested, but since they don’t have a new model this year my choice would be the Hyundai Sonata. It surprised me with its quality interior, great warranty, and acceleration and room. The handling wasn’t what I liked, but the pricing is good.

I also found the Prius excellent and the Dodge Caravan was dog friendly and easy to drive.

College going male’s view: The Scions are my favorite. Easy to park in the smallest parking spaces on campus, capable of carrying my adopted English Mastiff Brutus to the dog park, and trendy, they deserve attention. The Honda Civic non-hybrid would be my second choice since I like the interior and its legendary quality reputation.

Family conference: If you car about the environment and aren’t into conspicuous consumption all of these should be considered for daily driving. For a list of all vehicle websites go to and click on business.

Best gas mileage popular cars by manufacture with government highway estimates.

Acura RS, 34; Audi A3, 31; BMW 325i, 29; Buick Allure, Lacrosse, 30; Cadillac CTS, 27; Chevrolet Aveo, 35; Chevrolet Cobalt, 34; Chrysler Sebring, 30; Chrysler PT Cruiser, 29; Dodge Stratus and Charger, 30; Dodge Magnum, 28; Dodge Caravan, 26; Ford Escape, 31; Ford Focus wagon, 34; Honda Civic Hybrid, 51; Honda Civic, 38;Honda CR-V, 29; Honda Odyssey, 38; Honda Accord, 34; Hyundai Accent, 35; Hyundai Elantra, 34; Hyundai Sonata, 34; Infiniti G35, 26; Isuzu I 280 truck, 27; Jaguar S-Type, 28; Jeep Liberty diesel, 26; Kia Rio, 35; Kia Optima, 34; Lexus RX 400h, 28; Lincoln Zephyr, 28; Mazda Tribute Hybrid, 29; Mazda 3, 35;Mercedes Benz E320 Diesel, 37; Mercury Mariner Hybrid, 29; Mercury Milan, 32; MINI Cooper, 36; MINI Cooper convertible, 35; Mitsubishi Lancer, 34; Nissan Sentra, 35; Pontiac Vibe, 36; Saab 9-3 SportCombi, 31; Saturn Ion, 31; Scion xA, 37; Subaru Legacy AWD 30; Suzuki Aerio, 31; Toyota Prius, 51; Toyota Highland Hybrid, 28; Toyota Corolla, 34; Volkswagen New Beetle diesel, 44; Volkswagen Jetta Diesel, 41; Volkswagen Golf, 44; Volvo S40, 32; Volvo V50, 32.

Safest Family Cars:

They’re not Large SUVs

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This just in:

A Greyhound bus  carrying 36 people, struck an SUV that had overturned in front of it, slammed into a concrete center divider and reportedly killed six.  Large SUVs are more easily flipped. Here is yet another example, and in this case all of the SUV passengers were killed.

And more:  In California, a driver lost control of a SUV and crossed into an on-coming traffic and hit a van carrying a young college coach and other university students. The toll wast hree people dead and 16 injured. Again,  SUVs are difficult to control and do not respond as well as station wagons or sedans in emergency handling situations. Stability control can only do so much. You can’t overcome the laws of physics.

Look at the startling number of SUV accidents and deaths listed on Google:

Let’s start by debunking the great myth that large SUVs are safer than smaller vehicles. They are not. What is worse is that people sometimes confuse them with the very safe mini-van because they can hold seven passengers. They are not. Some people feel that the high seating position makes them safer to drive. They are not. In fact that trait makes it easier for them to tip over. If you are looking to buy a large SUV you need to be prepared to pay more for insurance because of claim losses for these vehicles as well as the damage they do when involved in an accident. In essence, you are more likely to die in a compact pick-up, small sedan, or large SUV than any other type of vehicle. In addition, about one child every week is backed over and killed by the drivers of SUVs. So large SUVs are among the most dangerous family vehicles not the safest. What is worthwhile knowing is that several manufacturers have developed crossovers with SUV looks that provide a nice alternative to large SUVs. Both are easy to drive, have good visibility, are not expensive, and get good gas mileage while offering abundant interior room. Now, we are talking about the large, truck based SUVs here, not the lighter and more nimble crossover style ones. For some eye opening facts about SUVs go to

Each year, about 40,000 Americans lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions. Statistics report that one in 8.5 drivers is involved in an automobile collision and one out of nine hospital beds is occupied by an individual who was injured by a vehicle. So the selection of what to transport your family in goes far beyond fuel mileage, options, deals, or looks. It is literally a matter of life and death to many.

Before we get started on which vehicles are the safest you need to know that every model year brings out new crash testing figures. Since this article is based on an accumulation of research it is not current for this year’s models. Thus you should do your own checking using the insurance industry and government websites listed below.

There is no safest car. There is a safer driver. The more classes you take in how to drive the better you are going to be. For example, many people at an intersection when waiting to make a turn have their wheels turned in the direction they want to go. This is suicide. If another driver just taps them from behind their car will be shoved into oncoming traffic. Such accidents are extremely dangerous with high death rates. Another item you pick up from attending classes regardless of your age is following distance. You need to leave at least one car length for every ten miles an hour you are traveling. Although in today’s world that means people are going to be cutting in on you it does provide you with a guideline. Riding someone’s rear bumper is dangerous, especially in large SUVs and pick up trucks that require 30 to 50 or more feet to stop than sedans because of their greater weight.

Here is what to look for when buying a safe family vehicle. First, when you take a test drive don’t be sidetracked by gimmicks. Check emergency braking, handling, side and rear visibility, driving position, and night lighting. We highly recommend that you test-drive the car both in the day and at night. It may be time consuming, but it could save your family. Keep the radio off and don’t just stay on smooth roads. Making a short stop on a rough road could open your eyes to shortcomings with the vehicles suspension and brakes.

Safest car ratings

In the field of large sedans the Lexus ES300, Audi A4, BMW 330i, Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry XLE, Nissan Altima, and Subaru Legacy did quite well. Small cars that did well on crash tests were the little Volkswagen, the Honda Civic EX and the Volkswagen Jetta. Pick-up trucks, as large SUVs do not do well in crash tests. They are not subject to the same safety standards to begin with, and they are by their nature, difficult to control because of the lightweight of the bed and their great girth. Other recommendations are to always buy a pick-up with ASB and, if available, traction control. The best performers were the Toyota Tundra, the Dodge Ram, and the Ford F.150. Crew cab rating had both the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier doing well.

For 2005, the safest cars were the Mercedes E Class, Volvo S 80, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Galant, Chevrolet Cobalt, Toyota Corolla, Acura MDX, Lexus GX 470, Volvo XC 90, and Honda Odyssey, according to the Department of National Highway Transportation and Safety and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Interestingly, one of our favorite medium sized SUVs, the Chevrolet Equinox, did outstanding in the crash tests. In past years SUVs from Saturn, Honda, and Hyundai were joined by the Lexus RX 300, Acura MDX and the Toyota Highlander as the safest in this category. We also highly recommend the Subaru Forester. However, remember that not every vehicle is  tested every year.

Minivans should always to safe and all of them performed at the top or next to the top in all categories. On the other hand, the greatest risk of death came from driving small sedans, SUVs and compact pick-ups.

Safety Related Features

Children and airbags. These are some rules to follow when driving with children in vehicles that are equipped with air bags. First, never put a rear-facing restraint in the front seat because this puts the child’s head too close to the passenger airbag. Children should always ride in the backseats. If this is impossible, the seat should be placed as far back as possible. Some vehicles, such as the very handy Chrysler/Dodge minivans, have built in child seats and restraints that are the easiest to use. Because of the danger of side impacts, especially from SUVs that have bumpers that override the safety beams required in family cars, it is best to place children in the middle back seat.

The proper use of head restraints. The purpose of a headrest in a car is to prevent the head from being snapped back in a collision and injuring the neck, especially in rear-end collisions. Head restraints should be adjusted, if possible, so that it is directly behind and close to the back of your head. If you are buying a vehicle, make sure they are adjustable.

All or four wheel drive does not improve stopping and, in reality, the extra weight, may cause longer stopping distances. On the other hand, they may provide more stability while driving on slippery ideas. Overall, unless you live where there is significant rain or snowfall the advantages of four-wheel drive are minimal for family travel.

There also have been some question as to the value of antilock brakes that make it possible to steer while applying full pressure on the brakes. We feel that this is because most drivers have never been educated as to how to stop and maneuver their vehicles when they are equipped with ABS. We feel it is necessary to practice with this option and to make sure every driver in the family knows what it feels like when the system starts to pulsate, and how it enables you to steer away from danger. It is absolutely necessary to have this option on slippery roads.

Daylight running lights have detractors, but they make it much easier to see oncoming vehicles regardless of the lighting conditions. Dark cars driving on black paved roads coming out of tree shaded lanes are almost impossible for someone to see when wearing sun glasses. Running lights prevents this. While we are on this subject, please note that in most states it is illegal to use your fog or driving lights unless visibility is limited. These high-powered units create a great deal of glare. Driving with them on just because it is night is a violation in most areas. If you find it necessary to use these lights for night driving we highly recommend you have your eyes tested and that isn’t a joke.

Teenage drivers

Teenage drivers are always a problem because they do not have the experience to drive well. They have quicker reactions, which is sometimes a problem, especially when driving a top heavy SUV. It is very dangerous to have a young driver in one of these because of their poor handling characteristics in reactive situations. This warning also applied to small Jeeps, too.  Teenagers are prone to one-car accidents and rollovers because of their inexperience and reactions. Teenagers are more than twice as likely to be involved in a rollover in SUVs than an older driver. Coupled with this instability is the fact that teens tend to use the power of these vehicles and speed. Adding a distraction such as a cell phone is asking for trouble. If you have to have a SUV the Lexus RX, and Toyota Highlander and 4Runner were involved in less fatal accidents than the others. The brochure is available from

Family conference: We think that large SUVs are very dangerous and not at all environmentally friendly as a whole. Unless you own a farm or ranch where their attributes can be put to good use other vehicles can do a safer job and reduce your maintenance costs and treat the environment a lot better. The worst offender we have found it the Hummer H2 with its 6500 pounds, poor fuel mileage, poor rear visibility, and lack of interior room they are out of their element in town. You might also want to check the Hummer’s low customer satisfaction ratings, too. General Motors, which makes the H2, has a great SUV in the Chevrolet Equinox that we highly recommend. In addition, the Saturn Relay deserves a test. Other than that the Subaru Forest, Lexus RX, Toyota Highlander, and Acura MDX are worth testing and the Lexus and Highlander are available as hybrids to save fuel costs. Big sedans such as the Toyota Avalon, Ford Five Hundred, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, and others are also well worth a long look. Take your time; your family’s lives may depend on it. We think that your best bet is always going to be a minivan from any of the major manufactures.

Helpful safety links

Top Vehicle Safety Ratings Page

Highway Crash Data

National Highway Safety Safe Car Information

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Public Broadcasting Story on SUV Rollovers

SUV rollovers

Car Safety Seats

Minivan Safety Data

Large link site to safety related data

Links to all manufacture sites

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