Business Digest - May, 2008

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How to display the American flag    Taming the Paper Beast   

Firing Up the Grill

Backyard barbecuing is a familiar American tradition. But before you fire up the grill, you will need a full tank of propane. If you purchased your propane tank more than two years ago, you may find that you have a hard time filling it in most states. New regulations state that propane tanks unequipped with overfill-protection devices (OPDs) cannot be filled by anyone. OPDs are placed on propane tanks to ensure that the tank is not filled to more than 80 percent capacity. The use of this safety device is designed to prevent accidents relating to overfilling a tank.

There are between 40 and 55 million 20-pound propane grill tanks in the United States, so chances are you might have an unequipped tank. In most cases, consumers can tell if a propane tank has an OPD valve by looking at the handle. If the handle is round or star-shaped, your cylinder may be outdated. Cylinders equipped with OPD have a triangular handle. You also will see the letters "OPD" on the valve handle.

What do you do if your tank is unequipped with the new valve? Most propane dealerships will outfit your tank with the valve for around $25. You may also consider purchasing a new tank. In both of these cases, you will still need to pay the cost of filling your tank.

If you are looking for an even simpler solution, you can use a propane cylinder exchange service, such as Blue Rhino or Amerigas. Often located outside of home improvement centers, grocery stores, or convenience stores, these kiosks allow you to bring in your old tank for a new, filled cylinder. All of the tanks available through these services offer the new up-to-date valves. Generally the cost for these tanks is around $20.

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How to Display the American Flag

The Flag Code was adopted in 1976 and outlines the proper etiquette for displaying the American flag. Before you head out to your flag pole with Ole Glory, review these tips for proper flag-flying:

- You may fly the American flag 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you wish. The custom is to fly the flag from dawn to dusk. If you fly the flag after dark, it should be illuminated and never left in total darkness.

- To display the flag horizontally or at an angle, keep the stars of the flag at the peak of the staff.

- A flag displayed in a window should be hung vertically, with the blue star field to the left of the person viewing the flag from the outside.

- When flying other flags with the American flag, the American flag should be at the peak of the pole, with the other flags flown under it. If you are using multiple poles, the American flag should be in the center of the arrangement and should be displayed higher than those from other countries.

- On a stage, the American flag should be placed to the speaker's right. Other flags should be placed on the speaker's left.

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Taming the Paper Beast

If you are like most people, you have drawers full of old bank statements, financial records, and other important documents. This paperwork does need to be saved for a period of time, but not usually indefinitely. Here are some guidelines for knowing when to keep or when to toss that piece of paper. If you are going to throw out any personal financial documents, you should shred them before placing them in your trash.

- Keep tax returns, bank statements, mortgage statements, and other records documenting tax deductions for seven years.

- Pay stubs only need to be kept until you receive your annual W-2 and have verified that it is accurate.

- Keep records of IRA contributions indefinitely, along with your retirement and savings plan statements. If you receive quarterly statements, keep these until you receive your annual statement, and then keep only that.

- Receipts and bills for large purchases should be kept for the life of the item, in the event you need documentation for a warranty or insurance claim.

- Records related to your mortgage should be kept permanently, including your mortgage contract, receipts for home improvements, contracts with your real estate agent, and other documents related to the sale or purchase of your home.

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