Sunday, April 25, 2010

Answer questions with questions on incoming phone calls


Here’s what one of the readers of How to Be Invisible does when she does not recognize the name on her Caller ID:

“First of all,” she says, “I never answer by saying ‘This is Sandy Banks.’ Today I got a call that went like this:

Caller: "Hello, who is this?"

Me: "Who were you calling?"

Caller: “What number did I call?"

Me: "I have no idea, you were the one dialing."

Sandy says the woman then hung up. Note that every question was answered with a question. I use the same system when a caller is unknown to me.

Caller: “Hello there, this is John from the so-and-so company, and—”

Me: “What are you selling?”

Caller: “I am not selling anything but I just wanted to make you aware of —”

Me: “Then what is the purpose of your call?”

And so on. This business of answering a question with a question works well in any number of fields, especially when you are asked for your telephone number or for your date of birth.

No one ever answered questions with questions better than did a young man from Galilee, some two thousand years ago. So then, here is your homework for today:

Read the 20th chapter of Luke. At least twice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stranded by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull? Got cash?


I wonder how many victims of Eyjafjallajökull are planning to carry extra money on their next trip?

I learned about the consequences of not carrying extra cash back in 1964. We flew from Minneapolis to Lisbon, where we had reservations on a small ship to take us back to the Canary Islands.

To our dismay, we discovered that our reservations had been switched to the following week—another family had taken our place on the current sailing!

“You failed to check in with us 24 hours ahead of time,” was the excuse we were given, so there we were. A family of five, stuck in Lisbon for an entire week, and with very little cash.

We survived by staying in a flea-trap pension, scrimping on meals, and walking everywhere rather than taking a bus. (We had a small account in a bank in the Canaries but there was no way to cash a personal check in Portugal.)

Next fall, we will travel to Lisbon again and stay for a week before flying down to the Cape Verde Islands. This time we’ll be staying a few steps up from a pension, travel around the city in taxis, and I will have extra 500-euro bills in a money belt. If Eyjafjallajökull blows up again, and the wind carries the ash farther south, and ATMs are unavailable for any reason, we will still be able to bribe our way onto a ship heading west or south.

Credit cards and traveler’s checks are good, but cash is king.

Monday, April 12, 2010

PRIVACY 101: Never receive mail at your home address.


This is not only the first step on the route to privacy, it is one of the easiest. Also one of the most economical so if you haven’t already done so, start today.

The problem with a PO Box is that the USPS will not accept shipments from FedEx or UPS. Therefore, check the Yellow Pages under MAILBOXES. Look for a small Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA) if possible. If not, as a last resort, rent a box at a UPS Store. (I don’t like them because they keep all names in a national database, but it’s still better than getting mail and UPS or FedEx packages at your home address.)

Once this is done, put in a temporary forwarding address with the post office. (This will keep the USPS from selling your new address to junk-mailers.) At the end of this temporary period, cancel the service.

If possible, remove your mailbox. Otherwise, put a notice on or in it that this box is NOT IN SERVICE.

In the future: Never give out your home address again. (Obvious exceptions: friends who come to visit you, and the company that insures your home.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Will a Nevada corporation or a Nevada LLC save you money on state taxes?

Many Nevada incorporators talk about “no state tax in Nevada,” implying (without actually saying) that although you live in a state with an income tax, you can save that tax by using a Nevada corporation to domicile your business in that state.

Not true, but thousands of businessmen have jumped to the false conclusion that by using a Nevada corporation or a Nevada LLC, they can avoid the state tax where they live. Can that be true?

No, because they will be taxed in the state where their business is located, where their inventory is located, and where they actually accept payments.

Some incorporators advertise that “Nevada does not report information to the IRS.” Big deal. Since Nevada does not have a state income tax, they have nothing to report.

As readers of How to Be Invisible well know, I recommend New Mexico LLCs for holding title to property, primarily vehicles and real estate. This—which is for privacy only—is entirely different than running a business. If you plan to go into business for yourself, and if you feel that a legal entity is necessary (although I sometimes dispute that), then my advice is to form a corporation or a limited liability company in your own state.

Will this still protect your privacy? Probably not, but neither will a Nevada corporation or a Nevada LLC.