Archive for May 2014

Learn about saving for college

Edward Jones Financial Adviser Mark Mayeski will host a 529 Day to help educate Quad-Citians about college savings options.

The meet-and-greet event will be from 11 am to 2 pm, May 10, at his office at 2524 18th Ave., Suite 2, Rock Island. Children may attend and participants are encouraged to wear college apparel to get in the college spirit.

The workshop is part of a firm-wide Save for Education Day. Edward Jones is recognizing May 29 (5/29) as Save for Education Day, a company holiday that derives its from the college saving tool called a 529 Plan.

According to Mayeski, seven out of 10 families do not have 529 college savings plans. We are hoping to build awareness of the many options families have to help pay for college expenses, Mayeski said.

The plan gets its name from Section 529 in the Internal Revenue Services tax code.

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Tips on paying off credit card debt

There are several steps you should take to get out of credit card debt. Paying off credit card debt thats several thousand dollars or more takes time, so you must discipline yourself. I usually find setting a goal of paying down debt in 60 months or less works best for people. Anything greater than 60 months and people tend to lose their focus.

Want to pay off your credit card debt? Heres how to get started

Laddering is your friend: If you have several cards, your first goal is to pay off the card with the highest interest rate. This process is called laddering. Pay more money toward that credit card and slightly less toward the other cards, until the card with highest-interest debt has a zero balance. Then you move onto the next card, and so on and so on. Resist the temptation to close the account when its at a zero balance. Doing so will only hurt your credit score.

Use the calendar to your benefit: One proven way to pay more toward the card with the highest interest rate — and to get rid of it faster — is to make a separate half-payment every 14 days to the credit card company. Mark your calendar every 14 days and write that check or send your online payment that day. Making a half-payment every 14 days equals one extra months payment youve made at the end of the year. Work these payments around your statement cycle to avoid paying late fees.   

Forget about debt-settlement firms: If you watch bad late night TV, youve probably seen those ads being run by the debt-settlement outfits. Their promises scream out in the night about reducing your outstanding debt to just pennies on the dollar without making you file for bankruptcy — no matter how much outstanding debt you have.

That promise, however, is just an illusion. The debt-settlement firms typical modus operandi goes like this: You pay an upfront fee to them, plus a monthly retainer. They then tell you to stop paying on your bills, stash the money you would have used to pay bills into a bank account and just sit on it. The idea is to make the credit card companies so desperate that theyll cry uncle and want to settle with you at a reduced rate. The reality, however, is that too often you wind up just damaging your credit.

In the worst-case scenario, some people complain that the more unsavory players in the debt-settlement business will take your upfront fee and first months retainer and then put you on ignore when you try to initiate further contact with them. Beware! Its so easy to want to believe that somebody has a magic bullet to solve all your problems. But thats simply not the case.

Get help from a legitimate source: Get in touch with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) at or call 1-800-388-2227 to find a local affiliate office near you. NFCC affiliates offer free or low-cost debt counseling. About one in three of NFCC clients just need some budgeting help to get their lives back on track.  Beyond simple budgeting, they can also get you set up on a hardship debt-management plan (DMP) if you qualify.

See if you qualify for a hardship DMP: In the case of a hardship DMP, lenders agree to modify the terms and conditions of their repayment policies. That means they may waive late and over-the-limit fees, in addition to reducing interest rates. They will not, however, agree to a reduction of your outstanding balance. But it could be worth a look if you meet the eligibility requirements. Get in touch with a local affiliate of the NFCC today to find out.

Additional resources: You may also want to check out the book Invest in Yourself: Six Secrets to a Rich Life by Marc Eisenson,  Gerri Detweiler, and Nancy Castleman. Good luck to you in paying off credit card debt!

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Instead of Saving for College, We Invested in Our Kids

This spring break, I sent my 17-year-old-son and his dad off on a three-state college tour with a dozen hard-boiled eggs, a rolled-up tent and tears.

I turned away when Judah sat on my bed to say goodbye. Our oldest son is nearly 6 feet tall, and all I could think of was the ache I had felt holding him one dark winter night soon after he was born and realized that someday he would grow up and leave.

Now, that day was nearly here. Judah has worked his way to summer camp and stayed with family, but visiting colleges was his first real foray into manhood. I couldn’t believe the best I had to give him was leftover Easter eggs and the hope of finding an open campground.

“It’s pathetic,” I said, wiping away tears. “It’s pathetic that we are sending you to look at $40,000-a-year colleges with a dozen eggs, one pair of good pants and a tent.”

Granted, I had forgotten to buy snacks for their 30-hour, 5-day car trip, and they had a credit card should they need it. But despite my decision to work at home as a writer while raising six children in an economically depressed state – Maine – I truly believed my husband, Dana, and I would be better prepared to send Judah to college.

We began saving for Judah’s education soon after he was born, squirreling away $25 a month. Together, Dana and I earn slightly more than the median household income for Maine, which is $48,219 a year, according to the most recent census data. But when Judah arrived, Dana was working toward an associate’s degree while frying eggs as a breakfast cook and cleaning a day care center at night.

Thanks to money from my grandparents, I had graduated from a private four-year-college with a degree in English. After marrying, I worked as a small-town newspaper reporter before our family grew to three from two. Then I buckled Judah in the backseat of our second-hand Mazda and drove up and down the Maine coast reviewing bed-and-breakfasts while writing a travel book.

Saving was a priority, but some months even $25 was too much. As Judah grew (and so did our family) it became even tougher. What was more important, sending our son to preschool or saving for college? Swimming lessons or college? Art camp or college? Chorus or college?

Essentially, the choice came down to this: Do we save for the future or spend our limited resources preparing our son for that future? We chose to prepare him, homeschooling for six years before eventually sending Judah (with scholarships and by working in trade) to private schools, nurturing his musical interest with piano, chorus and guitar lessons, and encouraging him through six years of Boy Scouts.

Despite that Dana was laid off twice during the economic downturn, we’ve strived to do the same for our other children, investing in everything from sports and attending the local ballet to gerbils, hamsters and even a rescued rabbit all in the hope that our children would discover their individual gifts and passions. Sometimes we’ve done this with the help of grants and generous friends. Sometimes through hard work. Sometimes by emptying our bank account.

Years ago, Judah’s college savings account topped out at $250, most of which we eventually spent to buy him a guitar. In that time college costs have continued to rise well beyond our means – even had we continued saving. Grants and scholarships hold potential, and we plan to pursue them. But when Judah and his dad left to look at colleges, he carried the bulk of our investment with him.

Not the hard-boiled eggs and the tent. Not the good pants. But as a talented musician who plays guitar with our church worship team, as a budding outdoorsman on his way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout, as a two-sport athlete who earned most-improved-player this year in basketball, and as a book lover who ranked among the top juniors in the country in reading comprehension on his PSATs.

Only time will tell if these activities will open the financial door to college. But wherever Judah goes, so will his gifts.

Meadow Rue Merrill writes from her home in midcoast Maine and is the author of a coming memoir about her daughter. She blogs about faith and family at Follow her on Twitter @meadowruewrites.

Motherlode is featuring Parenting After Senior Year this week. Come back all week long for more on college and other options, and read Far From My Tree, Choosing a Scholarship Over a College Name Brand, College Admissions Season: When the Answer Is No and Not Every Parent Chases College Prestige.

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Melanie Duquesne: BBB’s six tips should help you to improve your credit score

Like it or not, your credit report and credit score have a great deal of power. They measure the financial risk you pose to lenders.

The higher the score, the lower the risk. Credit scores and reports determine whether you are approved for a mortgage, loan or even a bank account.

It is extremely beneficial to do what you can now to improve your credit score and resolve any errors on your report. If you don’t, it can haunt you for the remainder of your financial life.

The FICO credit score system, developed by the Fair Isaac Corp. is a common measure. A FICO score below 560 is considered to be poor, and above 760 is rated as excellent.

FICO scores are the result of several factors:

Payment History (35 percent): The first thing any lender wants to know is if you pay your bills on time.

Amount owed (30 percent): Having credit accounts and owing money on them does not necessarily mean you are a high-risk borrower. However, if your debt load takes up a high percentage of your available credit, it could reflect an inability to properly pay off lines of credit.

Length of credit history (15 percent): In general, a longer credit history will increase your FICO Score. But people who haven’t been using credit long may have a high FICO score, depending on how the rest of the credit report looks.

Types of credit (10 percent): The score will consider your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.

New credit (10 percent): Research shows that opening several credit accounts in a short period of time represents a greater risk — especially for people who don’t have a long credit history.

These tips can improve your credit score:

Establish credit: A good credit history is essential. If you don’t have any credit cards, you might consider opening an account, using it sparingly and paying it off at the end of the month.

Visit Consumers are entitled to one free report from each of the three companies in the government-sanctioned website It is vital to check these reports for inaccuracies and dispute any errors. Doing so won’t hurt your credit score.

Pay off debt, don’t move it around: Debt is debt, and shuffling it around from one line of credit to a new one can weigh down a credit score.

Pay off highest balances first: Paying down a large balance on a particular line of credit can raise your score because it represents the freeing-up of a larger portion of your available credit.

Don’t hide: If you are over your head in debt, contact your creditors. If you can start managing your credit and paying on time, your score should increase over time. Seeking assistance from a reputable credit counseling service will not hurt your FICO score.

Set up bill-pay reminders: Being late or missing payments tells lenders that you are not reliable with money.

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6 Steps to Move From College Debt to Financial Success

Here are six wealth-building strategies and principles that I applied to build my financial foundation. Use them to build yours.

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Why Early Retirement Seminars Are Scams

* Taxes Will Be a Huge Factor. Keep in mind that any money you take from a retirement plan is taxable — except for Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) plans. Early retirees, at least those withdrawing money before age 59 1/2, are subject to an additional 10-percent penalty from the IRS.

The IRS gives you a break on the early-withdrawal penalty if you take “substantially equal periodic payments,” also known as the “72(t) rule.” But you’ll still pay income tax on all non-Roth withdrawals.

* Annuities Could Help, But are Misunderstood and Oversold. Annuities are holding tanks for your money, not ideal wealth-building vehicles. While money inside of them accumulates tax free, both contributions and withdrawals are taxable.

While I can see the need for fixed annuities in guaranteeing a monthly payment — you may consider investing your 401(k) lump-sum into them — their benefits are oversold when it comes to their “variable” cousins.

Variables contain mutual funds and may offer any number of “guarantees” such as “lifetime benefits.” For every extra feature, though, you pay more in terms of annual fees. Although I like inflation-adjusting features, there are only a handful of these products on the market. Before you buy a variable, consult with a fee-only financial planner who has no financial stake in selling them to you. They can be minefields.

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Your Inevitable Transition

Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake
62nd Airlift Wing command chief

5/16/2014-JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.–Its been said that lifes only two certainties are death and taxes. However, for those of us in uniform, Id also add to the list our inevitable transition from military to civilian life. It doesnt matter where you are in your military career, at some point, each and every one of us will make that transition and if you havent already started, the perfect time to begin planning for it is right now.

Sometimes we dont get as much time to prepare as wed like. Maybe a family issue, a health problem, educational opportunity or a force shaping initiative might alter or even derail your current career plans – life is uncertain, be ready! The more effort you put into the planning and preparation, the smoother your transition will be, and there are two main areas Id suggest you concentrate on – your education and financial security. Both are an investment in yourself and will pay you dividends while youre on active duty and later in life as well.

If you havent been saving money regularly for your inevitable retirement, be it from active duty or a civilian occupation, youre missing out on the single biggest wealth-building factor – time. Time plays a huge factor in how your savings will grow. For example, if you start saving just $50 per pay period at age 20, assuming a 10% return, you could be a millionaire by the time youre 65 years old. Thats less than $3.50 a day! Maybe you could pack your own lunch rather than eating out, eliminate trips to the vending machine or skip that fancy coffee drink.

Contributing to the Thrift Savings Plan through direct deposit, another benefit of your military service is about as easy as it gets and the sooner you start, the more you stand to gain through time and compounding interest. For more info or to start saving through the TSP, visit

Hopefully youve already taken advantage of your generous education benefits your military career offers. The Community College of the Air Force is the largest multi-campus community college in the world and offers fully accredited associate in applied science degrees in your Air Force specialty and gives credit for the training youve already completed. Tuition assistance can help you reach further educational goals while youre still on active duty while offsetting the majority of the cost along the way. Certainly, continuing your education will make you a better Airman and will make you more competitive in the civilian job market when it comes time to separate or retire. According to a recent report from the US Census Bureau, a bachelors degree is worth almost a million dollars more in lifetime earnings over a high school diploma.

If youre a supervisor, its incredibly important that you learn as much as you can about transition so that youll be prepared when your time comes and so youll be able to educate and counsel your subordinates as well. Right here at JBLM there are some amazing apprenticeship opportunities available to transitioning service members.

The Veterans in Piping program is an 18-week, full-time industrial welding, pipe fitting or heating, ventilation and air conditioning training program offering direct entry into a 5-year paid apprenticeship program.

The 6-week Veterans Entering Trucking apprenticeship program offers full commercial drivers licensing training with all endorsements.

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades program is 3-week, full-time training program offering direct entry into a 4-year paid apprenticeship.

Finally, the Microsoft Software amp; Systems Academy is 18-weeks of intensive computer programming training offering graduates college credit and a guaranteed interview with Microsoft.

For more information on these and other programs, visit the JBLM Transition Program Website at

The bottom line is the more you know, the earlier you start and the more effort you put into planning and preparing for your inevitable transition, the smoother and more successful it will be. What are you waiting for?

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How Emirati debtors are receiving help from the UAE’s Debt Settlement Fund

A few years ago Hassan Al Nuwais was living a financial nightmare.

More than Dh3 million in debt, the then 29-year-old father was paying up to 85 per cent of his salary each month just meeting his minimum payments.

All of his debts #x2013; including eight credit cards #x2013; were in dispute. And he was too afraid to pick up the phone at his office in case the call was from a collection department at one of the many banks he owed money to.

Yet today he is on the way to being debt-free, helped in part by a fund set up to rescue Emiratis struggling to meet payments on loans and credit cards.

The Debt Settlement Fund was launched with an initial budget of Dh10 billion and created under a decree issued by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, to mark the 40th National Day on December 2, 2011.

#x201c;The minimum thing I could say, which means a lot, is that they are paying half my debts. This is more than enough. No one pays half your debt. Where else will you find this? The Government is supporting you but not encouraging you to take more loans,#x201d; says Mr Al Nuwais, now 31,who is waiting to have Dh375,000 of the debt the fund agreed to take on settled.

#x201c;It#x2019;s done with discretion where you are not allowed to borrow from any banks and they make sure that your name is centralised in all banks. You cannot apply. You are done. I will not be able to borrow again until I am 35.#x201d;

And the list of those who are barred from borrowing is growing, with the debts of 2,700 Emiratis settled by the fund as of January this year.

All banks are required to cooperate, Sultan Al Suwaidi, the Governor of the Central Bank, said earlier this year, and uncooperative institutions will face penalties.

Some, however, signed up voluntarily early on.

#x201c;We were one of the first banks to sign the agreement and we have been actively working with the Government to help reduce the debt level for Emiratis,#x201d; says Jamal Alvi, business head of assets for Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB).

Under the auspices of the agreement, the bank writes off half the outstanding amount of the debt, which must be in dispute.

However, in turn, the bank gets closure on a debt that is stuck in litigation, says Mr Alvi.

#x201c;We were carrying that non-performing asset on our books so we are getting, if nothing, at least 50 per cent recovery on that amount,#x201d; he adds.

The catch is that it does not apply to all heavily indebted Emiratis.

Anyone who has been taken to court by a bank on account of default as of the date of the launch of the initiative in 2011, qualifies. But anyone taken to court subsequently cannot apply.

However, there is also help out there for them.

#x201c;All the banks are running some kind of debt relief programme where, for example, we have looked at our internal customers who are overleveraged,#x201d; says Mr Alvi.

That included Mr Al Nuwais, who began building up debt when he was 18. At first, he was able to easily make payments on his car loan, but the temptation to borrow more became too much and by the time he joined ADIB as marketing manager two years ago he owed Dh3.2million in credit cards and loans.

#x201c;I was the media face of ADIB. I was the shining star, but boom I#x2019;m in debt, I can#x2019;t focus. I said #x2018;either you give me another loan or I am going to start looking for another job#x2019;,#x201d; says Mr Al Nuwais.

While the Debt Settlement Fund is taking on a chunk of the outstanding debt, the executive#x2019;s employer was the first institution to step in and help with his financial woes two years ago.

#x201c;They said: #x2018;OK listen we have this new programme. You are lucky. Come sit with us and we will tell you what you have to do#x2019;,#x201d; he explains. #x201c;They helped me approach my other banks. They helped me do scheduling. They helped me see what my expenses are, what my priorities are.#x201d;

Mr Al Nuwais was one of the first customers to sign up to ADIB#x2019;s Al Khair facility, which helps those with heavy liabilities reschedule their debt by reducing their monthly repayments.

He now pays 50 per cent of his monthly salary towards his debts, compared to about 85 per cent before. And for the first time, he is saving.

#x201c;Recently, I was calculating my total debt; from Dh3.2m three years ago I have actually gone down to Dh1.9m and that includes my house. It requires patience. I can#x2019;t wait for my 35th birthday because I will be debtless,#x201d; he says.

He is now the face of the bank#x2019;s Al Khair initiative and carries out financial education presentations.

#x201c;Whatever question is offered up I can answer it because I was there in that situation. Yesterday I had my latest presentation and a woman said #x2018;I have this credit card#x2019;, #x2018;I have this finance#x2019; and #x2018;I have this …#x2019; I said #x2018;did you use your credit card on things that you actually needed or wanted?#x2019;#x201d; he says.

#x201c;She was quiet because there is a big difference between the things you need and the things you want.#x201d;

But ADIB is not the only organisation trying to re-educate people in the wisdom of being prudent through financial planning.

The Emirates Foundation for Youth Development has launched Esref Sah, a financial literacy programme aimed at young people aged between 15 and 35 to help prevent the next generation from becoming indebted. It has reached more than 16,000 young people since it launched last September.

Dr Sabah Al Shamsi, director of social inclusion at the Emirates Foundation, said the body launched the programme after noticing many young Emiratis were getting themselves into debt without thinking of the consequences.

#x201c;We thought [the Debt Settlement Fund] treats the problem at the end of it where people go to jail. We decided to do something to prevent it before it happens.#x201d;

Together, the two initiatives are key to tackling the problem of indebtedness in the UAE, she says.

#x201c;We both have the same goal, to help our people be debt-free.#x201d;

Follow us on Twitter @TheNationalPF

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Upcoming business events in the Lehigh Valley

GREATER LEHIGH VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE will host Raising Funds with Charity Golf, 1-4 pm at Iron Lakes Country Club, 3625 Shankweiler Road, Allentown. Speaker will be Christine Cleaver. Cost: $20. Registration: 610-844-4323. A Linked at Corked event will also be held 5:30-7:30 pm at Corked Wine Bar and Steak House, 515 Main St., Bethlehem. Cost: $20. Connect with fellow Chamber members. Support the Leukemia amp; Lymphoma Society. Info: Tony Cioffi, 610-266-9461.

FEDERAL CREDIT UNION will host the seminar Balancing Your Budget at 6:30 pm at its Bethlehem branch, 257 Brodhead Road. Developing a spending plan, learn to read a credit report and re-establish credit. Free. Advanced registration required: 610-821-2400, ext. 6777.


LEHIGH VALLEY REAL ESTATE ACADEMY, 10 S. Commerce Way, Bethlehem, will offer a Forms and Agency course, 8:30 am to 5 pm, about forms for residential real estate. Cost: $40. Registration:

GREATER LEHIGH VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE will host a Will a Lehigh Valley City/Borough Become the Next Detroit? luncheon, 11:30 am to 1 pm at Lehigh Country Club, 2319 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Lower Macungie Township. Registration at 11 am Speakers: PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, state Reps. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland) and Seth Grove (R-York), Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez, Easton Mayor Sal Panto and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. Cost: $30. Info:

WHITEHALL AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, 1457 MacArthur Road, will host a Business Forum Small Business Financing is Big Business 3:30-4:45 pm Panelists: Rob Mineo, Lehigh Northampton Counties Revolving Loan Fund; Chris Hudock, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund; Kim Edwards, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Minority Loan Fund; and Howard Lieberman, Whitehall Township Industrial amp; Commercial Development Authority Community Loan Fund. Free. Registration: 610-432-4130,

KUTZTOWN UNIVERSITYS SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER will host First Step to Starting Your Business, 6-8:30 pm at 450 Exton Square Parkway, Exton. Legal issues, accounting, insurance and more. Info: 877-472-7232.


GREATER LEHIGH VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE will host a Before Hours presentation on the Route 412 construction project, 7:30-9 am at Hellertown Borough Hall, 685 Main St. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation speakers: Ronald Young, district press officer; and Tim Penrose, inspector-in-charge. RSVP to 610-739-1520.

LEHIGH VALLEY REAL ESTATE ACADEMY, 10 S. Commerce Way, Bethlehem, will offer an Ethics and Etiquette course, 8:30 am to noon. Looks at ethical issues that confront licensees and consumers in the marketplace, as related to the code of ethics. A Financing in the Brave, Old World educational session will also be offered 1-4:30 pm Learn financing methods to protect consumers, discuss pros and cons of various types of loans and more. Cost: $29.99, each class. Registration: 610-882-4100,

HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE LEHIGH VALLEY will host Marketing to Hispanics, 11:30 am to 1 pm at the Holiday Inn Conference Center, 7736 Adrienne Drive, Breinigsville. Gain insight to marketing and advertising messaging thats necessary. Cost: $35; $25, members. Registration begins at 11 am Info: Dan Diaz,


LEHIGH VALLEY REAL ESTATE ACADEMY, 10 S. Commerce Way, Bethlehem, will host a Value of Green educational session, 8:30 am to 5 pm Understand the principles of green, including sustainability, energy savings, health issues and more. Cost: $50. Registration and info: 800-893-9969.

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Evolving Gold Debt Settlement

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – April 28, 2014) -Evolving Gold Corp. (TSX:EVG)(OTCQX:EVOGF)(FRANKFURT:EV7) (the Company) announces it has entered into a private placement agreement with certain related parties of the Company. The Company will issue a total of 16,250,000 common shares at a deemed price of $0.02 per share in consideration for settlement of debts of $325,000. The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, and the common shares will be subject to a four-month hold. In connection with the settlement of debt for shares, Bruce Duncan, CEO and Chuck Jenkins, CFO have agreed to forgive certain amounts owing and to amend their existing management agreements to remove bonus and RRSP contribution obligations, reduce change in control benefits to 6 months and reduce management fees to $7500 and $5000 per month respectively. These amendments to the management agreements, together with the settlement of outstanding fees owing are intended to improve the financial position of the Company and ensure that there are sufficient cash reserves to maintain operations while the Company considers strategic options to increase shareholder value.

The Company intends to enter into additional debt settlement agreements with certain vendors, and to take additional steps as part of a repositioning plan to ensure the future viability of the Company.

For more information about Evolving Gold please visit:

On Behalf of the Board of Directors


Robert Horsley, Director

FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS:This news release contains forward-looking statements, which relate to future events or future performance and reflect managements current expectations and assumptions. Such forward-looking statements reflect managements current beliefs and are based on assumptions made by and information currently available to the Company. Investors are cautioned that these forward looking statements are neither promises nor guarantees, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause future results to differ materially from those expected. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date hereof and, except as required under applicable securities legislation, the Company does not assume any obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances. All of the forward-looking statements made in this press release are qualified by these cautionary statements and by those made in our filings with SEDAR in Canada (available at

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