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"Forty-Seven Percent of Americans Pay No Income Tax"
April 15th found me at the Post Office, grumpily mailing my tax return. So a message from Henry in the WALL STREET JOURNAL caught my eye. Henry, by definition, is a "high earner, not rich yet". Henry describes himself like this: -- In the 32 percent federal, 10 percent state income tax. -- Pays a one and a half percent property tax on inflated bracket value of his house. -- Pays the alternative minimum tax. -- Self employed and pays a payroll tax. -- Pays investment tax on any savings or retirement funds; by the way, money on which he's already paid as income tax. He worked as a kid -- lawns, shoveled snow, delivered papers. Went to college on loans, working nights to pay back the loans. Now, twenty years later, Henry has a new car. -- Lives in a good neighborhood. -- Has retirement savings. Henry feels that maybe he does have much more than others, but he also worked harder -- building his business 60 to 70 hours weekly. He's asking: Why does the government feel entitled to take his money and give it to others? He's a believer in personal responsibility. Henry is not a believer of equal outcomes regardless of effort. He is a believer of the American dream -- the opportunity to work and get ahead. Really trying Henry's patience is the news that 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. Henry's tired of being the mule.

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   Themes: Finance, Taxes, Freedom

"Tips for Applying for Student Aid"
Getting your money's worth advises: be careful when filing for student aid. Understand that nearly everyone, regardless of circumstances, is eligible for aid from the $8,000 plus program. Tips for applying: apply early in January. It's not necessary to file income tax first. An accurate estimate of adjusted gross income is acceptable. Reminder: adjusted gross income is not taxable income. Be mindful of deadlines. States, colleges, federal government -- all have different dates. Don't count your house. Your primary residence isn't considered an asset for student aid purposes. Neither is a family-owned business with fewer than one hundred employees. And, lastly, be accurate. Check and double check. Common errors are transposing numbers, mistyping. List your name exactly as it appears on social security card.

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   Themes: Higher Education, Finance

"Who Saw Wall Street Debacle in Advance"
We're told that our economy is in a slow recovery. I guess that's akin to being off "life support". But lots of us are still angry. Angry that all the people in finance and government that should have been watching, didn't. No one watched out for John or Jane Citizen. But we are told in a book out by Michael Lewis about a small group of folks who did see what was happening. Among them was a twenty-two year old Harvard student who left Julliard to study economics at Harvard. After interning during her junior and senior years at an investment bank, she wrote her thesis on mortgage securities. She discovered what everyone else chose not to see: in no way could those undocumented, no money down loans be repaid. All that purposefully "complicated financial paper had as it's foundation loans that would never be paid back. This young woman graduated Summa Cum Laude with an "A" in economics. She now works as a financial analyst. When asked, "Why?" She answered: how will Wall Street ever change, if the people that work there don't change.

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   Themes: Finance, Recession

"Tips on Investing from Warren Buffett"
Warren Buffett, America's most famous investor, is confident. And he's on a buying spree. He used the past eighteen months to pick up value. He made a wise statement for stock purchases. When you see value and when it's raining gold, reach for a bucket, not a thimble. Buffett did have strong words for leaders whose companies created disasters, but who still themselves live in grand style. They need to be held accountable and they should pay a heavy price. Speaking of price by the way, anyone who invested $2,000 in Berkshire Hathaway in 1965, would today have $80 million. Buffett's rule for investing? Rule number one: Never lose money. Rule number two: Never forget rule number one.

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   Themes: Money Tips, Finance, Investing

"Nothing Replaces Face-to-Face"
I don't know if you noticed, but of late, more and more emails have those smiley faces showing up in the message. Maybe those symbols are okay on a handwritten note, but if you're depending on them to make a statement in business or to resolve any kind of dispute, "forget it". Let's just say it: "conveying emotions through e-mail sucks." Never engage in disagreements -- personal or business -- electronically. And, if possible, not even by phone. Nothing replaces face-to-face. Younger folks, who have grown up with email and Text, may think I'm nuts. But email allows misunderstandings to ratchet up. In person, you can see how someone is reacting. You can pause, re-assess and adapt. You can even say, "I'm sorry", eyeball to eyeball.

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   Themes: Communication, Relationships

"Secrets to a Happily Married Man"
February is the month for lovers. So this is a wife's "to do" list for her husband. I call this, secrets to a happily married man.
- tell your wife you adore her
- do your share of child care
- do your part with chores
- listen without judging
- praise her
- support her interests
- say, "I understand"

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   Themes: Relationships

"Ruth McBride Jordan, A Remarkable Mother"
Ruth McBride Jordan died in the early days of January. Her name may not ring a bell, but her son's book, A BLACK MAN'S TRIBUTE TO HIS WHITE MOTHER, was on the NEW YORK TIMES best seller list for 100 weeks. Ruth, an Orthodox Jewish woman, was twice married to a black man. Her first husband died leaving her with eight children. She raised those eight children for fifteen years alone, arranging for them to be bused to better schools. With her second husband, she had four more kids, prior to his death. All twelve children graduated from college. Two are doctors, two professors, two teachers, two engineers, a finance director, a social worker, a nurse, and a journalist, make up the dozen. Mother McBride, herself, earned a social work degree from Temple University at 65. Questions about racial identity were always answered the same. Mom would only say, "I'm light skinned." She ignored stares, snide comments and cackles. All that really mattered to her was her kids and their education. There is no power greater than the force of a mother's will and a strong public education system.

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   Themes: Inspirational, Family, Kids, Quality of Life, Education

"Teen Takes Family Conflict to Facebook"
Tess, a 15 year old when grounded for drinking and missing her curfew by an hour, took to Facebook to complain. She organized an advocacy group of over 1,000 teens to protest her punishment. Her defense was that she made an honest mistake. Parents have also joined the fray. So now we have a full- blown child-rearing debate 2010 on the internet. In fact, one parent started a Facebook group, "1,000 to Support Parents Who Believe in Consequences for Serious Lapses in Judgment and Care Enough about Their Kids to Enforce the Rules". So far, Tess's parents remain unswayed by any Internet suggestions and have not reduced her punishment. Personally, I add my support to the Facebook site, "1,000 to Support Parents Who Believe in Consequences for Serious Lapses in Judgment and Care Enough About Their Kids to Enforce the Rules." How about you?

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   Themes: Communicating, Kids, Family, Networking

"Just Google!"
I traveled over the holiday internationally so was subjected to the new security coming back to the U.S. Personally, I'm not offended by pat down, but I am offended by the inability of all security organizations and all of the powers that be to have been so incompetent. The new politically correct excuse: "failure to connect the dots". If I failed to connect the dots, I'd be out of business. So Getting Your Money's Worth has suggestions. Disband all the alphabet security organizations, send the head of security (who incidentally should have been fired) back to her state, and Google. Yes, Google. Any search engine would have done better.

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   Themes: Emergency Preparedness

"Memory Loss?"
The average American consumes thirty-four gigabytes of data each day. That's the equivalent of about 100,000 words both read and heard. Tolstoy's book, WAR AND PEACE, which is approximately 1,500 pages, contains roughly 150,000 words. So every day and a half, we're reading or hearing the equivalent of a 1,500 page book. Most of this happens in front of screens watching TV content. Second is radio, and third computers -- and for computers, it's mostly video games. What a relief. No longer am I going to fret about memory loss. A 1,500 page book every day and a half is pretty good.

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   Themes: Communication

"Kids Should Come First"
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has hundreds of millions of dollars to dispense in Race to the Top grants. This money is meant to encourage education innovation. For states to participate, there can be no cap on the number of charter schools. But here we go again with adults first and kids last. Kids should come first! There's a movement to force charter schools to unionize, to accept so many Special Ed., so many English as a Second Language -- anything to starve charter schools of flexibility and fresh thinking; the very reason they exist in the first place. No sooner does something good happen in education than it gets shot down. Charters are more effective. Long waiting lists exist. Parents and taxpayers want them.

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   Themes: Education, Kids

"Little White Lies"
The NEW YORK TIMES says there are lies, damned lies and lies you tell your spouse. I'm not talking about big, deal-breaking lies. Rather, I'm talking about the little white lies that help relationships run smoothly. After all, is there a man dumb enough to tell his wife she looks fat? For women, they fib about the cost of their hair highlights or botox. A favorite trick, the new clothes out of a shopping bag in the cleaner's plastic bag. Men do fudge: how much they drink; how fast they drive. Guys said they always tell their wives they look beautiful. Over one bad hair day, I don't want to make her mad. Most spouses know that they've manipulated the truth. They don't ever consider it lying. For me, my standard lie: "Oh, you're so smart!"

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   Themes: Relationships, Communication

"You Can Do It!"
I just interviewed Don Young, YOU CAN DO IT! And he convinced me that You Can Do It!. The best thing he said is start with a road map. You wouldn't get in your car, you wouldn't drive from Chicago to New York, without putting it into the GPS system or having a map in front of you, or certainly knowing what major highways you're going to go on. So it is with financial security. And understand and appreciate after you get your road map what the value is in compound interest. It's just like making a 7-layer cake or a 9-layer cake -- the first dollar you put in starts to earn interest and every dollar on top of that earns interest as it goes along. It's really like building a house -- a stack of bricks -- one on top of the other. Secondly or thirdly, Risk and Reward is a really important issue and certainly all of us have lived through Risk and Reward. But what I didn't know about was Target Date Funds, which are funds you can start investing in at any age and are broad based like Index Funds. And you can put it on auto pilot so at different stages of your life -- for example, when you're thirty and you're on the bottom rung of the career ladder, where you're going to want to play a little bit more with stocks -- so maybe you'll have a 70/30allocation. Meaning 70% of your money in stocks, where there's more risk, and maybe 30% in fixed income bonds, where there is a guaranteed interest coupon -- much less risk, also much less growth. And so, then as you get into your 50s or 60s, and you're pre-retirement, you're going to want to think about going back to 50/50. In real retirement, you might be 70/80. But this auto pilot concept which doesn't' sound so interesting, sounds very safe. It was Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha, who said, "The best holding pattern is forever." And John Bogle, who's also very well respected at Vanguard Fund, who said, "While you're sitting down and trying to figure out what to do, the best thing in your investments is to do nothing."

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   Themes: Investing

"Interview with Ron Tabano: Pockets of Progress In Education After Twenty-five Years"
Many of you know that I've been an advocate of education reform even before Getting Your Money's Worth. In fact, my show, GYMW, was an outcome of my advocacy position on education equality. The label of "education reform" is close to twenty-five years old. Yet, we are still talking about education reform. But there are pockets of real progress. An outstanding one is Wildcat Academy -- a school that lives up to its name! Webster's and Wikipedia define "wildcat" as someone who drills (for oil) where others haven't with the expectation of striking it rich. Well, Ron Tabano, founder and principal, has "struck it rich". His student population is high, at-risk urban teens -- suspended, truant, even in trouble with the law -- fragmented homes common -- but to walk the halls is to view a miracle. Students wear their pants around their waists, they are hatless, they are friendly and courteous. Walls are covered with art, poetry, essays. To look in a classroom is to see order. Students graduate and go on to education or a job. Curriculum consists of work/study (50/50) and meets New York State standards. How does Wildcat Academy accomplish what so many others can't? Let Ron Tabano tell you on Getting Your Money's Worth:

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   Themes: Education, Rehabilitation

"Is anybody paying attention anymore?"
Is anybody paying attention anymore? At a recent family gathering, the teens were "I'ming", the baby boomers were texting and the senior citizens were tweeting. Yes, tweeting -- the fastest growing users of the 140 character contact, Twitter is senior citizens. I've never seen so many thumbs in action in my life. I often tell my own family members. "Use your ears twice as much as your mouth, after all you have two of them." I have to say, I never spoke much about their thumbs. Seriously, is all this good? No one here is knocking technology. About a year ago in an interview on Getting Your Money's Worth, Maggie Jackson, author of DISTRACTED, highlighted this obsession we have with connecting. We said then, and we say now that the connecting wasn't focused, wasn't friendly and certainly isn't intimate; instead it is and feels stressful. A year later now, we hear about a movement to cultivate attention. That's right -- a movement to encourage paying attention or, in the lingo of the researcher, "to re-cultivate attention". And, one step further, researchers say: to provide a less-frenzied culture for our children. Sounds like what I used to say as Mom: "One thing at a time. When you do your homework, no TV and no telephone." If you agree to a return to paying attention to the task at hand, spread the word -- you know how.

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   Themes: Family

"Eating Out In Today's Economy"
Today's economy is part of everybody's thinking, so getting your money's worth when eating out has become even more important. Now, more than ever, I appreciate good food in a civilized environment. By civilized, I mean being able to talk to another couple, or the person I'm with, without screaming. Another thing -- personally, I refuse to go to restaurants requiring reservations a month in advance. As far as I'm concerned, if they're that busy, they don't need me. Speaking of reservations, I also get very turned off by the person answering the phone who, after I ask for a reservation for 7:30, comes back with "I can accommodate you at 5:45." I get it. New Yorkers all want to eat at 8 o'clock and I understand restaurants have a problem. Maybe with the economy being in a reduced state, lesser prices for eating earlier could take off. But a word to the restaurants, don't call them "early bird specials." Call them, like my show, Getting Your Money's Worth. Owners and celebrity chefs invite us to pay and enter their homes, treat each of us as an honored "guest". A mistake in the kitchen can be forgiven, but not an arrogant attitude. Lately, I've really been getting my money's worth -- I'm eating more at home.

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   Themes: Food

"Interview with Robert D. Manning"
I just interviewed Dr. Robert Manning, author of CREDIT CARD NATION; but, importantly, he is founder of an organization called Responsible Debt. And in talking to Dr. Manning, who's an economist and sociologist -- kind of a behavioral economist -- I realized that so much of our debt comes from the attitude. How you feel about what you should spend. He brought this up. Like, how do you feel when you use your credit card? What are the thoughts that go through your head? Do you say to yourself, "Ummm, maybe I can't afford it right now, but I'll be okay. By the time I have to pay it, I'll save some money. I'll be okay." Or, I sometimes say, "Oh, I've been working so hard, you know what? I really deserve to treat myself. This is my gift from me and I charge it." Sometimes you see a sale and you say, "Gee if I buy this now, I'll save so much." I learned my lesson there. Somebody once told me -- well not once -- recently told me, "Never buy anything on sale that you wouldn't pay full price for." And that's certainly worth remembering. Sometimes you'll say, "Okay, I have plenty of money left on my credit limit, so I'll do it." Or sometimes you're just disgusted, you've worked hard, you look around and you say to yourself, I mean, what is that idiot doing -- that. He or she can afford those designer clothes and I can't. I'll never have enough money anyway; I might as well just spend it. That cumulative stress can be very much reversed if you could start to think about the difference -- the other side of the coin -- the flip side of the coin. I got to tell you -- instead of saying, "I deserve that", how about saying, "I deserve to be free of debt. I deserve to be free of the burden of the stress of the bills." Or, "I'm going to spend all the money I make on me and not on throwing interest away." I mean the interest rates -- especially if you're paying only the minimum payments -- the interest rates go on and go on and go on. We said it -- you could have paid for a $15 pizza -- by the time you're done, if you're only paying minimum payments, you could own the pizza store. The other thing is, how about looking in the mirror and just saying to yourself, if you could get to that point, "I enjoy. I'm proud -- I'm proud that I have learned to live within my means." Credit is an addiction like any other addiction and, honestly, one of the best ways to rid yourself of a lot of stress is to simply say to yourself, "I'm paying this off and I'm not buying anything other than absolute necessities until I can afford them. Send me your thoughts on the use -- or maybe in the lack of use -- of credit cards.

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   Themes: Finance, Consumer

"Interview with Laura Mattia: The Economic Crisis"
We spend a lot of time on Getting Your Money's Worth talking about finance. No one really knows what happened in the state of economic crisis. The economists don't know, the university professors don't know, government doesn't know and surely the rest of us don't know. There's a lot of thinking that it was caused by panic -- news -- the news media. And it's true that the speed of news travels very fast today. But it's also true that a lot of good judgment was suspended. Folks believed that one man knew how to invest and make money when no one else was doing it. And they forgot that, you know -- none of us remembered -- that trees don't grow to the top -- that trees don't grow to the sky -- that we know. And if things sound too good to be true, they probably are too good to be true. Who should we blame? Well, I suppose at the end of the day, we should blame ourselves. First off, we believed that things were almost fairy tale like. And second of all, my old boss used to say, nobody manages your money the way you manage your money. If it looks too good, it probably isn't. I just interviewed Laura Mattia who's going to be manning Your Money Bus in New York City from October 19th to the 21st answering questions about investing and financial planning. Visit that Money Bus and get answers for some of those things that either you were mislead on in the past or that you want to know for the future. And, also, after watching my show and listening to me, please send me your comments to Judith@gettingyourmoneysworthnyc.com.

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   Themes: Finance

"Health Care Reform and Obesity"
Listening to all the noise and clutter of health reform makes you think that all that matters is fixing the system. Michael Pollan, author of IN DEFENSE OF FOOD, presents a powerful argument for focusing on food reform. Three-quarters of all health care spending goes for treating preventable, chronic diseases. Listen to this: we spend over 150 billion dollars to treat obesity; 115 billion to treat diabetes and who knows how many hundreds of billions for cardiovascular diseases. Thirty percent of all health care increases were caused by Americans getting fatter. You think obesity can't be cured? Think about smoking. Where there was a will to attack smoking, it happened. Also the food industry. Whatever that food industry says about highly processed foods, they are not healthy. But Pollan's IN DEFENSE OF FOOD. He does have some pretty good, easy tips to follow and some of them are like this: Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Don't eat anything with ingredients you can't pronounce. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket. Shop on the edges where the real food is. Don't eat anything that won't rot. And leave the table a little hungry. Enjoy meals with people you love. And, lastly, don't buy food where you buy gasoline.

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   Themes: Food, Health

"Interview with Mary Mattingly: The WATERPOD"
I just interviewed Mary Mattingly, founder of the WATERPOD. The WATERPOD is a barge that floats around the waters of New York City. And, it's about life on the water -- a lifestyle based on self sufficiency, use of natural resources -- they grow their own food -- and a do it yourself way of surviving. It sounds Pollyannish. But in this high-tech, over commercialized, highly processed food world, parts of the project sound interesting: being around some freedom; being able to do the things you want to do; talking to people instead of texting them. You know, these are friends. There are companies that now sell FaceBook friends. Also, eating natural foods -- what they grow -- not fully practical, but certainly isn't Cocoa Krispies and Fruit Loops (which by the way have received a Seal of Approval for their fiber content). What captured my fancy was the idea of individual coping and a respect for Mother Nature. Send you comments to Judith@gettingyourmoneysworthnyc.com.

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   Themes: Environment, Quality of Life, Conservation

"Interview with Catherine Sollman: Women Returning to Work"
I talked to Catherine Sollman, founder of Women@WORkNetwork. I learned that, and you probably know too, that in this recession many more men lost jobs than women. It really forced stay-at-home moms and women who didn't want to work to return. She told me that from Wome@Work that those women that wanted to go back -- their single biggest problem is that they lack confidence in themselves -- even women who are well qualified. After all, if you've been a successful homemaker -- you've budgeted, you've negotiated, you've managed the kids, you're responsible for flexibility, you know how to shift gears -- those are the very traits that are important in the business world. So, those of you that have gotten back, give us some tips to help those who are trying to return back, especially women who have been out of the work world for a while. Email us your tips at judithwest@gettingyourmoneysworthnyc.com.

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   Themes: Working Women

"Interview with Susan Samtur, Coupon Queen "
I recently interviewed Susan Samtur, Coupon Queen. Boy, does she save money on coupons. In my house, coupons litter the kitchen counter and expire. She has a system where she really, I have to say, not only saves money, but makes money! What's your system for organizing coupons and using them. Email us at Judithwest@gettingyourmoneysworthnyc.com.

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   Themes: Money Tips

"Interview: Errol Louis"
I just interviewed Errol Louis, political columnist for NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. I planned on asking him what's wrong with politicians these days? Though referred to as public servants, it's hard to tell these days who is the servant and who is the public. But Senator Ted Kennedy's death intervened. In the Senator's life, he fell from grace, badly. But maybe falling from grace paved the way for his legacy. Americans understand mistakes -- even dreadful mistakes -- and forgive. Especially when remorse is shown. What we voters don't forgive is falling from grace with arrogance. Send your comments to Judith@gettingyourmoneysworthnyc.com

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   Themes: Politics

"Interview: Robert C. Dinerstein"
I just interviewed Bob Dinerstein, chairman of Everybody Wins. Everybody Wins is a mentoring organization based on the concept of one volunteer, one child, one book. I read about him in a Letter to the Editor where he mentioned that all we hear about lately is how much money there is in Washington to spend on education. He was the first one I read in a while who said we're not accomplishing basic things like teaching kids reading without spending more money. That's why I had him on my show, Getting Your Money's Worth. It isn't about spending more money. After all, haven't we been spending enough? "It's about the quality of what happens in the classroom," says he, and he starts with the basic concept of interesting kids in reading as a method of giving them self confidence and an interest in learning. This Everybody Wins is a very good organization and concept. Now, if you've got any time to volunteer, think about it. You could do worse than spend an hour a week reading to a kid in the New York City public schools -- or any schools, actually. Think about it and let me know what you think.

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   Themes: Education, Volunteers

"Interview: Catherine Kaputa"
I just interviewed the author of The Female Brand -- and you know what? This female brand, I've been there and done it. She had a point of view that men don't leave their gender at the door when they're doing business, why should women? I sold for a living and I used to get very frustrated when men buyers (most of my buyers were male) didn't call me back and I had to call them back. And I used a little femininity. I would say, "Gee, I was wondering, are you okay? Everything alright with your family? Cause you didn't call me back. And it's not like you." Or, "I sent you a sample and I'm really surprised I didn't hear from you." Now, I call that using your femininity to your advantage. What do you think?

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   Themes: Marketing, Working Women


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More about "Getting Your Money's Worth"

As the title of the show, "Getting your Money's Worth" implies, the show concerns itself with gaining value as a consumer of education, health services or, indeed, as a tax payer. Everyday consumer spending will be included. The dialogue may not present solutions, but certainly will present alternatives in an entertaining and colorful way with experts in their respective fields.

Ms. West, a former educator, is president of Westco, her own privately held company. Westco designs and manufactures fixtures for such blue chip companies as Disney, Universal Studios, the NBC Experience Store and many others. Business people, authors and journalists, educators, politicians and actors will be interviewed in 15-minute segments with civility and dignity. "I don't care what your politics are, if you have a point of view and have a story to tell that is timely, you'll get a chance to freely air your opinion," says the attractive New Yorker.

For more information, please visit JudithWestNYC.com. You may also contact Judith West at 212-685-5050, ext. 228, or Judith@GettingYourMoneysWorthNYC.com.

Opinions stated in the interactive areas and discussion forums of Getting Your Money's Worth are not necessarily those of Westco Media or its principal members and operators.