Friday, September 28, 2012

Pieces of Retirement

One of the great adventures in life is seen as the transition to retirement. This is usually considered by most to be the best time to enjoy many of the things we’ve been putting off throughout our working years. The opportunities to go on long vacations, to see the different wonders of the U.S. and the world, to volunteer with charitable organizations and enjoy new hobbies sound like terrific ways to spend a retirement. Why wait until retirement to enjoy them?

There are many reasons we may put off such great adventures. The lack of money, time, and the inability to get away from particular obligations can be some of the reasons why we stick to our daily routines. We keep these dreams in our back pockets, hoping that someday, when we’re retired we’ll be able to enjoy everything we’re putting off. The only catch to that is the uncertainty that comes with the future.

We never quite know what to expect from the future. Will we be healthy enough to enjoy these adventures? Will we have additional responsibilities in retirement that will continue to keep us from pursuing our dreams? Will we really have the money we think we will in retirement? The reasons we have now for putting off our desires today may continue to consume our time and resources in the future.

There are things we can do now to enjoy small pieces of retirement without breaking the bank. These can include taking small weekend trips to parks, zoos, museums, air shows, and festivals. We can take an online course in an interesting subject at a local community college to learn about something new and exciting. We can volunteer our time in small increments to worthwhile organizations that we’ve longed to support. We can take up painting, drawing, writing, gardening, and other hobbies that can be enjoyed whenever we want in whatever increments of time we choose.

It’s easy to say we’re going to do something in the distant future, and then never get around to actually doing it. The real trick is to enjoy pieces of retirement now before time is no longer on our side.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to enjoy a family vacation as inexpensively as possible?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scammers Target Your Investment Dollars

There are many new and creative techniques thieves are using to get their hands on your money. One of the latest scams, however, doesn’t directly involve you at all. It involves those who manage money for a living, and thieves are seeking big dollars from these professionals that have access to their clients’ money.

Instead of contacting those with money directly, scammers are sending fraudulent e-mails to money managers posing as their clients. The ‘client’ then requests to have cash in their investment account transferred to an account elsewhere. Unless money managers verify this request with contact information on file at their firm, cash in an account could be unwittingly transferred to an unscrupulous individual.

For federal employees with money in the Thrift Savings Plan, this isn’t an issue. The TSP has many layers of security that prevent unscrupulous people with a slick e-mail or a convincing phone call from gaining access to money in these accounts.

There are still precautions you should take when setting up any account online. Here are a few tips you can use to help keep scammers out of your affairs:

-         Never use the same password for two or more accounts. Make each one unique.
-         Never use a password that someone can guess by checking out your social media profiles.
-         Never click on any link sent in an e-mail.
-         Never open a file sent to you from an unknown individual.

While these tips may not completely shield someone from a focused attack by a thief, they could potentially limit the damage. To learn more about some of the latest Internet scams, go to:

What additional ways can you suggest to protect others from Internet-based scams?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

There’s a New Shutl Coming to Town

Soon to make its debut in the U.S., Shutl is a delivery service that gives its customers the opportunity to receive an item purchased online within 90 minutes of ordering it. It’s a large boast from a service that has yet to begin operating in North America, but it’s a strategy they’re counting on to increase revenue.

Shutl currently operates throughout the United Kingdom. In addition to a quick delivery, the company offers customers the opportunity to choose a specific one-hour block of time in which to receive their packages. The service is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week including holidays to make deliveries more convenient for customers.

Unlike most of its competitors, Shutl doesn’t maintain a sizeable distribution network. Instead, the company chooses to partner with couriers to pick up deliveries from retail stores and deliver them to customers nearby. It’s a system designed mostly for short-range purchases close to a customer’s home, but it’s a tool people can use to get what they want from a local store without the burden of carrying it home themselves.

Do you think this would be a potentially profitable service in the United States?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Noble Guardians

Mailboxes in Lake Minnetonka, MN, by Jelieta Mariveles-Walinski Ed.D

Can you imagine a more picturesque landscape to deliver the mail? This beautiful location in Lake Minnetonka, MN, is home to lush landscapes, a gorgeous lake, and these terrific rustic mailboxes. The original design for these tunnel-shaped boxes was created in 1915 by postal engineer Roy Joroleman to standardize the more unstable and dysfunctional mailbox designs that scoured the land. 

What do you think mailboxes of the future will look like?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Passport to Adventure

For anyone looking to travel abroad, getting a passport is a must to gain entry into a foreign country. The Postal Service offers these passports to adventure in distant lands at many of its offices nationwide. The cost is a reasonable $135 plus an additional charge if someone also needs their photo taken. We know how valuable these documents are when travelling, but let’s take this opportunity to learn a little more about their history and why they were originally created.

Passport use has been in existence in one form or another since before the year 0. The documents back then usually consisted of a letter written by either a government equivalent or a ruling leader authorizing the holder to safely enter certain lands, cities and regions.

The passport name itself is believed to have originated from medieval times when the documents authorized the holder to pass through the gate, or porte, of a territory. It was also during this time that passports were used as a form of privilege, granting individuals who’ve paid their taxes the right to travel to other lands.

Earlier versions of passports included a written physical description of the bearer. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that photos were attached to the documents for easier identification. Passport use during this time had evolved into a tool to keep out spies from foreign countries and to control emigration.

Unlike the passports of today, passports used to vary widely in look and size from country to country. That changed in 1980 when the United Nations set the standard on passports through its International Civil Aviation Organization agency.

Since August 2007, passports issued domestically include an embedded chip in the back cover that contains the biometric data of the bearer as well as information contained in the data page of the passport.

What technological advances do you think will change the passports of the future?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Going Public

In the corporate world, one of the best ways to raise capital needed for the expansion of operations is by completing an Initial Public Offering. Through an IPO, corporations sell chunks of their ownership to the public. The public gets the opportunity to enjoy a stock price increase if the company is successful and the company itself gains the money to promote its growth. The process is lucrative enough for China Post Group to consider it for two of their subsidiaries.

China Postal Express & Logistics Co has already filed a prospectus (financial status report for potential investors) for an IPO sometime this year. The company, responsible for domestic and international package services, hopes to raise $1.6 billion from the process to fund the purchase of additional trucks, airplanes, distribution centers and personnel. The infusion of cash is intended to improve both operations and management of the company and make it more competitive in a market packed with rivals.

On a similar IPO path is the Postal Savings Bank of China. Their primary goal is to service the financial needs of individuals and small businesses. The additional capital will allow them to expand their operations and service more loans.

Is an IPO something the USPS should consider for some its business segments?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Transparent Mail

When cell phones were first released many years ago, could anyone have envisioned the capabilities they would eventually offer its users? Many businesses have been quick to jump onto the digital screens of these mobile devices as their many functions continue to increase in leaps and bounds. One of those businesses is one we’re all familiar with.

The Postal Service is already on the screens of many cell phones around the country through the USPS Mobile App. Another digital possibility is the addition of text messaging services when mail is delivered to someone’s home. With this option, mail recipients could receive a message with information on what’s inside their mailboxes.

This potential service could provide transparency into the contents of someone’s mailbox without having to leave one’s home or office to do it.

Do you think this would be a popular option with cell phone users?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Collection Box Design

In the United Kingdom, Royal Mail has recently honored its Team Great Britain gold medalists in the Olympic Games by painting a collection box gold for each gold medal won. It’s a positive way to show the spirit of pride for members of the community that have excelled in great achievements.

Changing the paint scheme of collection boxes for certain events or individuals isn’t something new. In 2007, the USPS graced many of its boxes with the likeness of R2-D2, the famous droid from the Star Wars movie franchise. The temporary makeover sparked great interest and enthusiasm for fans of the poplar character as well as the Star Wars themed stamps issued that same year.

Alteration of a collection box skin doesn’t occur with great frequency, however. The standard blue design is seen as the beacon of an institution that stands behind its “We Deliver For You” motto. As prominent as these stalwart boxes are, a temporary makeover isn’t completely out of the question as a possible promotion campaign for a new Postal Service product release.

If a new promotional skin were to be developed for collection boxes, what do you think that design should be?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Invasion of Privacy or Good Business?

Many individuals enjoy the privacy of searching their e-mails, social network sites, and other computer activity without prying eyes observing their every move. When personal activity is conducted on business computers however, should an individual be entitled to the same level of privacy as they would on their home computer?

This question has sparked more than a few debates on whether a business can record every move a person makes on their networks and computer systems. The federal government, one of the largest employers in the country, has many agencies within it that see such recording as an absolute necessity. These agencies seek to determine if government information is being used inappropriately by installing software that logs the activity of anyone using their computers. This includes recording any personal information that comes across these systems.

Government agencies are not alone in the quest to regulate the release of confidential information to outside parties. Many other businesses, such as technology and pharmaceutical firms, have their own version of such software to protect their interests.

In a world where information espionage is easier than ever using digital means, some argue that recording all information flowing across a company network can prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands. Others say that personal e-mail accounts and other activities clearly personal in nature should be off limits to monitoring software.

Do you think business computers should record all of an individual’s activity on their network?

Monday, September 17, 2012

National PCC Week

This week is national PCC Week where Postal Customer Council members get together with USPS officers in Atlanta, GA, to exchange ideas and viewpoints and learn more about current events and opportunities within the mailing industry. While this is interesting information to have, what exactly is a Postal Customer Council and what does it do?

There are more than 200 PCCs across the country. Each one is made up of members of the local business community, both large and small, as well as government agencies. Membership in the organization represents an opportunity for businesses to get together and learn about marketing their products and services in the mail, discover where to find mailing lists, and share knowledge and experience with other members of the mailing community. It also offers members the chance to earn professional certificates by learning more about postal products and services.

Prior to this year, PCC was a day-long event. It expanded this year into a week-long event to offer PCC members more flexibility in scheduling and greater opportunities for networking.

For more information on PCC Week, go to:

Have you participated in a PCC event?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flags of our Nation

Seattle District Manager Yul Melonson, Shanna Stevenson from the Washington Women's History Consortium, and OIC Chuck Roberts from Olympia, WA, participated in the unveiling of the Washington State Flags of Our Nation Forever stamp at the Capitol Rotunda on Friday, Aug. 17.

The sixth and final Flags of our Nation stamp series was unveiled on August 16, 2012. The stamps depict the flags of Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the Stars and Stripes. This release completes the Flags of our Nation series.

Former stamps in the series were released on:
-         August 11, 2011 – Northern Marianas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
-         April 16, 2010 – Stars and Stripes, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and North Dakota.
-         August 6, 2009 – Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, and Stars and Stripes.
-         September 2, 2008 – District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Kansas.
-         June 14, 2008 – Stars and Stripes, Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Which stamp in this six-part series do you think is likely to be the most popular?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Self-Defense Class Teaches Discipline and Safety

As a mother, Lenka Harris was troubled by what seemed like nightly news reports about college-age girls being assaulted. When she learned that a friend of her daughter’s had become the victim of an assault (she was not seriously hurt), Harris knew she needed to do something.

Harris, a clerk at the Plains, MT, Post Office, came up with the idea of making self-defense training available for local high school seniors.

Hearing Harris’ idea, one of her friends put her in touch with Noah Hathorne, a Plains police officer. Hathorne, who was a close combat instructor during a stint in the Marine Corps, volunteered to teach the class.

The local high school supported the idea and provided the venue and the scheduling.

During the class, Hathorne emphasized fundamental defensive skills, telling participants that there are no rules when being attacked; personal safety is the only thing that matters.

Harris said that she received a lot of positive feedback following the class, including a thank you letter sent to local newspapers. She plans to continue with next year’s seniors and hopes, with more lead time, to increase participation. Hathorne has already said he’ll sign on and the eventual hope is that the class can be expanded to include boys and possibly be rolled out to other communities.

“I just want our girls – and boys – to walk confidently, knowing that they possess the strength and knowledge to take care of themselves.” Harris said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Call for More Revenue

Diversification is seen as a way for businesses to ensure future success by making more products and services available to more customers. Postal Services around the world have been introducing many new products and services not typically associated with the business of delivering mail to accomplish this very idea. One of the latest opportunities is cellular phone service.

Correios, Brazil’s Postal Service, is working on a business plan to buy airtime from other cellular phone providers and resell it to their own customers. The organization seeks to use its strong brand name to introduce the new service and generate an additional source of revenue. It’s a move that’s currently in the development stage of production, but has potential if it comes to fruition.

Do you think the USPS could offer cellular services in the United States?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Service and Remembrance

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an Act designating September 11 as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. This special day brings people together in the spirit of cooperation and unity as it did on the day of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and encourages individuals to volunteer in their local communities.

When going about your business today, be sure to honor those we lost 11 years ago in your own special way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Franking isn't Free

For most Americans, the price of a First-Class U.S. Postage Stamp is 45 cents. While this is still a bargain considering that many other countries around the globe charge more, and in some cases a great deal more, there are some individuals who have the option of sending mail without cost to them.

Since the founding of the Postal Service in 1775, members of Congress have been able to send official business mail without a postage stamp. This practice, called franked mail, allows an elected official in the House of Representatives or the Senate to use their signature, either handwritten or facsimile, in place of a stamp on an envelope. Franked mail can only include mass mailing of material for the area they were elected to and not campaign material or other personal reasons. There are many regulations on what an elected official can send as franked mail, as well as penalties for misuse.

Although members of Congress can send this mail without cost to them, the Postal Service is still paid for its services by the U.S. Treasury. The amount of franked mail that passes through the system is counted and recorded by control mechanisms in the Senate, House of Representatives and the Postal Service. The cost for each piece is reimbursed to the USPS.

What do you think about franked mail?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Everyday Hero

There are many people all around us that manage to accomplish extraordinary things every day. Whether it’s a school teacher who goes the extra mile for his students, a soldier who bravely serves her country with honor during tough times or someone who just happens to be at the right place at the right time when someone else needs his help.

Everyday heroes are a big part of why this country is such a great place to live. To honor their accomplishments, the Postal Service released the 2012 Everyday Cards for Everyday Heroes collection. The cards provide a way for people to express their gratitude for the tremendous contributions of those who deserve recognition.

The cards are available for $2.95 at select Post Offices or online at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Neighborhood Mail

When a neighbor receives an item addressed to you, that usually means it didn’t end up where it was supposed to. A new plan, if implemented by Royal Mail, will make such deliveries a common practice.

A new strategy, tested successfully by Royal Mail, hopes to permit its carriers to leave items with a neighbor if the actual recipient isn’t at home. If implemented, the process should enable the recipient to take delivery of their items on the day of the attempted delivery. The new policy also has the potential to reduce re-handling and delivery costs for the mail service.

Royal Mail hopes to begin full-scale implementation of the new process later on this fall, just in time for the Christmas season.

Do you think this process is something the USPS should consider?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It Pays to be Upside Down

Standing on our heads isn’t something that’s usually seen as a way to make money. For this one particular stamp release in 1918, however, being upside down eventually became a million dollar sensation.

The popular Airmail Stamp, released on May 13, 1918, had a flaw with its first production run. The image of a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” bi-plane was inadvertently printed upside down. The stamp release was supposed to commemorate the first airmail flight on May 15, but the printing flaw forced the destruction of the first eight sheets of stamps, each containing 100 of the 24 cent mistakes.

The Postal Service didn’t catch all of the misprints, however, as nine of the sheets were produced prior to the discovery. One sheet of stamps, sold to William Robey, leaked out before the flaw was discovered. He sold the sheet to a collector soon after his purchase and the special release began circulating through history.

Today, a single inverted Jenny is worth an estimated $1 million.

What special stamps have you come across in your travels?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Banking on Growth

Japan Post is banking on its customers for its future growth. Literally.

Japan Post Bank Co, LTD is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan Post Holdings, LTD. It began operations as a bank on Sep. 1, 2006 and offers more than just standard savings accounts. Japan Post Bank provides a variety of banking services including housing loans, card loans, credit cards and retirement planning. They also offer investment products designed for low cost, long-term holding, encouraging people to save for their future.

Is the banking industry worth getting into with so much competition already out there? Let’s delve into the numbers and find out.

After tax net income for Japan Post Bank for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012 was 334,850 million yen. That’s the equivalent of $4.181 billion in U.S. dollars. That’s quite a hefty sum after being in operation for less than six years.

Dr. Sheldon Garon, professor of History and East Asian Studies at Princeton University, stated that such additional services could increase revenue during a time when the Postal Service is facing declining mail volume. Such “creative” ideas could be a way for the organization to experience greater revenues.

Japan Post banked on their customer loyalty to gain market share in the financial services industry, and that gamble paid off. Do you think the Post Office would have similar success if it did the same?

Monday, September 3, 2012